Before returning to Italy, let’s review last winter…

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About last winter, well, it was divine. Between the fair weather, a class in horticulture, and time spent with friends over long meals, it was a time to indulge in additional personal growth and discovery while lingering to get to know those around me better.

What I mean to say here is that my new mast cell medication was working mightily well—as were all of the other therapies. This plant of mine felt like its backbone was strengthened and buds began to form. (Now months on, I can see the growth.)

When we left for Italy, my health was better than it had been in some ways for years, but I know now that the neuropathy medication I was just given upon my return should have been instituted before our departure. Years of swelling have definitely taken their toll on my nerves.

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Agapetes serpens.

This winter was about propagation. Much joy was had when these Agapetes serpens cuttings taken from my friend Kate’s plant continued to bloom and bloom under lights in my basement.

They’re still alive and have hardened off outdoors and I look forward to potting them up this week or the next. Bloom on little troopers!

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Not such a bad year on Instagram.

This winter I continued to socialize on Instagram with other garden and plant lovers. It was through this platform we ended up meeting my new friends in Venice.

For anyone who has a difficult time falling asleep it can be a tool that can successfully create thoughtless thoughts. You can count sheep, or scroll through plant pics. Take your pick!

Many of the people I chose to follow are in Europe and I look forward to seeing their mornings as I slowly let the weight of my head really force itself into the pillow. Ok, maybe seeing their delicious morning repasts may sometimes widen an eye and a growl may grow from somewhere deep inside of my stomach, but then I move on to the next photo and set aside that fleeting idea of a sunny morning in Greece.

This past winter Kate and I decided to take a little coastal garden tour in January. We met up with Flora our friend over at Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal. (If you follow the link, you can read more about the gardens we saw that day.) Surprisingly, the weather was decent for us and in the end I was able to eat my beloved oysters.

From there we travelled south to Yachats and the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve.

If you’d like to read a great blog post about that location I suggest this post from my friend Evan over at the The Practical Plant Geek. (He wrote several posts about it and of course I’ve yet to post any photos at all.)

While preparing for departure, the garden grew and things bloomed while more botanical Latin was memorized and I worked to pass my plant ID course in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College.

Friends were made, I hosted a talk here in my house about rare ferns given by an expert in such things, and the anticipation of the impending journey grew in me, the deviation from my medical routine grew more exhilarating, and soon we crossed the big pond.

More on that next time…

My Friend’s Houseplant Blooms

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This past weekend I visited with one of my plant friends and I asked her if I could share some pictures of her blooms. We spent some time catching up and it was great to see how much her garden had grown. Gardening friends are great, right?

We purchased many of these plants together just over a year ago and it really is a lot of fun to watch them grow and bloom. Gesneriads are simply so amazing when in bloom and I recommend that everyone have at least one.

Unknown Chirita.
Unknown Streptocarpus.
Unknown Streptocarpus.
Thunbergia grandiflora.

Houseplants in Bloom and One Ripe Pepper

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This last week has proven to be more than I’d expected. The house is abuzz with blooms, the Norfolk Pine lights are twinkling, the Espelette pepper is finally ripe, and we made some unexpected headway on my rare illness.
In other news, let’s bring on the blooms while I recover, yet again, from my most recent health flare-up. This little jewel we purchased up in Seattle last year when we went to the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. I neglect it all of the time and yet it rewards me again and again with its blooms. I highly recommend these for dependable re-blooming houseplants. Not everyone loves the color fuchsia, but it does work wonders during the dark of winter.
Monkey Plant (Ruellia makoyana)

I posted a single bloom from this little gift a week ago but since then it has been joined by a friend.

Streptocarpus, Butter Blues, with 2 blooms!

This is a single bloom on a rather sprawling plant that seems to be in bloom almost continually just so long as I listen to its needs. My friend gave me this plant in the form of a cutting and it grew really well and quickly. I will have to post pictures again when it is covered in these tiny little hovering lilac kisses.

Sinningia, not sure which

We bought this Norfolk Pink years ago to use as a small Christmas tree. It was very small when we purchased it and now it is large enough to wear 20 battery-operated lights all on its own. They are so cute.

Twinkle, twinkle little star!

The Black Jewel Orchid and I have not been great friends though I have read that these are easy plants to live with. This picture makes the leaf look really dusty, but it wasn’t that bad. Notice those amazing pinstriped lines. Even if these are a bit picky, the leaves alone make them worth it. They really add to the plant’s year-round interest.

Leaf of the Black Jewel Orchid, (Ludisia discolor)

This is our very first bloom on our Black Jewel Orchid. When the plant grows larger, there will be many more of these spikes. I hope that it will add more than one spike per year though. They bloom during winter so I guess no matter what I should not complain right now. It really is beautiful to look at when it is so cold outside.

First blooms on our Black Jewel Orchid (Ludisia discolor)

Lastly, the Espelette Pepper I wrote about a post or two ago is finally ripe. I am so happy that I brought it inside and gave it a chance. Sometimes we too don’t make it on time and need a bit of encouragement to keep up.

Ripe Espelette Pepper ready for Christmas harvest!

Hopefully I will be able to keep up with all of the seed catalogs coming in the mail. Nothing makes me happier at this time of the year than my seed starting! Hope you are all excited for the coming season too. We have planters to plan, structures to straighten and so much to do.

Winter Crafts, Houseplant Blooms and Loss

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The month of December is flying by and for the most part my little slew of Christmas orders on Etsy is over and I am very content. Folks were happy with their garden oddities, and I kept up with the shipping. Considering how busy we have been, this a big accomplishment for me and I couldn’t be more happy about it.
These are some wooden spoons someone ordered for a gift.

I have been making these simple accordion books, but I have not completed one yet for sale or for Christmas presents but I am getting close. So many layers of glue can take a long time to dry. I intend to glue a few envelopes inside of them too, add some seeds, and voilà, you have a little seed book.

These are the envelopes I have been making. The chicken wire paper is so cute I could not pass it up. Usually when I sell seeds I make origami envelopes but this time I used a template. It seems to work ok, but I wish that I could get the wire links to match up consistently. I plan to paper over them anyway, but I will keep working away at these.

While I work, I get to adore my little winter treats on the houseplants. Hopefully I will have more blooms this winter than ever. Whatever the plants need to look their best, I will help.

African Violet, not sure
African Violet, Genetic Blush, standard
Streptocarpus, Butter Blues
African Violet, not sure, given to my mom when she had breast cancer for the second time about 10 years ago.
African Violet, Kentucky Strawberries, semi-miniature

Lastly, we lost a very dear feline friend this week and I am still mourning his untimely death. Meng was a neighbor’s cat who also lived at another neighbor’s house, and often spent time sneaking into our basement to sleep and eat. He was also the guardian of my garden, the cat who claimed and protected my turf, saving my 3 cats from the trouble. He lived outside and so was on guard 24/7.

He was struck and killed by a car this week on a dark and rainy night. It was not unexpected, but that somehow does not make it any easier. We will miss his so much around here.

Meng the Cat, RIP, you will be missed

Gesneriaceae: Streptocarpus "Spin Art"

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This amazing little bloom has cheered me up immensely. I purchased the little start back during the fall with a friend at one of the Portland African Violet Society sales here in Portland. Up until then, I’d always enjoyed African Violets, but now I really love them, and their other family members too. This is Streptocarpus “Spin Art”. It was hybridized by Thompson and has been available for some time now. It is very popular and I can see why. The gourd planter it is currently housed in is a vintage Red Wing Pottery hanging planter I bought a year or two ago. I love how it showcases the bloom.