Saturday, December 20, 2014

Is There a Category for the Ugliest Christmas Hat?

Have you ever received a 'white elephant' gift?

What did you do with it?

Most of us save them for our next 'white elephant' gift exchange, send them to the thrift shop or simply throw them out.

Well, my teenage daughter, Ruthie, did none of those things.

She decided to wear her latest white elephant gift...


This is what Ruthie wears around the house when she is cold - her 'white elephant' hat along with a mismatched pair of gloves.

Needless to say, she wouldn't be caught outside wearing this getup, but she is perfectly happy wearing it around the house (which by the way, is not that cold).

I think that in addition to 'ugliest Christmas sweater' contests, that there should be one for Christmas hats?

What do you think?

I love that Ruthie is comfortable wearing her unique Christmas hat... it brings a smile to those who see it ;-)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Adventures in the Produce Aisle and Baby Countdown

Earlier this week, my husband and I were doing some last minute Christmas shopping, which included as stop at one of my sister-in-law's favorite stores.

Next door, stood a grocery store - but not just any grocery store.  No, this grocery store describes itself as a "boutique, gourmet market" and it has the prices to match.

My husband wanted to go inside to see what types of food they had - I think he was hoping for samples.  He is also much more adventurous than I am when it comes to food and gets excited when he hears the word 'gourmet'.

So we ventured inside to the fancy grocery store, which looked like anything but a grocery store.  There were pine scents being wafted about and I saw about thirty Christmas trees decorating all the aisles.

What really got my attention while walking through the store was the produce section.


This section of the store was rather dark, except for the produce, which had bright lights showing the perfect-looking vegetables.

I've never thought of the produce section of a grocery store as beautiful, but this certainly was.


The vegetables were perfectly displayed and I must confess that I almost wanted to eat kale because of how nicely it was arranged.

Seriously, there was not a single wilting leaf or blemish to be seen.  It was almost as if the vegetables were airbrushed and Photoshopped.


The other side was arranged with brightly colored citrus fruit.  

I would be afraid to pick any fruit, or vegetables for that matter, in fear that I would cause a cascade of produce falling to the floor.

Needless to say, we didn't see any samples and the prices were so high that we walked out after looking through the store.

I did enjoy seeing how fancy a grocery store could be.

How about you?  Have you ever shopped at a "boutique, gourmet supermarket"?

************************

The baby countdown has officially started!

My second-oldest daughter is having her first baby in January and we are so excited.

She is going in for weekly monitoring right now since the baby is underweight from where it should be.  But, the doctor isn't worried and as long as they are monitoring her closely, I'm not too concerned - just a little bit concerned ;-)

Sadly, our daughter can't come home for Christmas (she is in the Navy and stationed in California), since she is too close to her due date.  But, we sent off her packages to her and my aunt and her family, who lives near the base, will have her over for Christmas.


In the meantime, I am getting ready for my annual Christmas cookie baking with my kids, granddaughter and nieces and nephews.

Every year, we make and decorate cookies that we serve at our family Christmas celebration.  The kids love showing their parents the cookies the decorated.


Last year, we make sugar cone Christmas trees.  The kids loved spreading buttercream frosting on sugar cones and then decorating them.

This year, we will be making chocolate, peanut butter Christmas trees - Yum!  I'll be sure to post photos and a 'how-to' next week!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Most Unusual Shrub With a Shocking Secret...

Whenever I am not writing, you'll often find me out in the field helping others learn how to grow and maintain their landscapes.

Usually most landscape consultations are fairly routine.  However, I sometimes see something truly unique.

Earlier this week, I saw something that is probably the most unexpected thing that I've ever encountered.

Here is how it unfolded...


I met with a very nice couple who had a new landscape installed a year ago.  While they were very happy with the design, they wanted to learn how to care for their plants and needed help with some problems with dead plant(s) and some failing to thrive. 

Other than a dead Valentine bush, some iron chlorosis, over fertilizing and a few plants growing in the wrong exposure - it was all fairly routine until I saw an unusual shrub off in the distance.


I must confess that I had no idea what the shrub was from this distance.  Now every once in a while, I am faced with a plant that I am not familiar with, but I was hopeful that as we got nearer, I would be able to figure it out.


As we got closer to the shrub, I still didn't know what it was.  I'm starting to feel a bit uncomfortable because I have no idea what this shrub is.

It did have dark, dusty green foliage that started to turn red with cooler winter temperatures.

The homeowner had carefully staked it upright and it had an attractive vase shape growth habit.


At this point, the homeowner complained about a mesquite tree volunteer that was coming up at the base.

I took a closer look and discovered that the so called 'mesquite tree' was actually a Baja fairy duster - that was a MAJOR clue about the identity of this unusual shrub.

At this point, I looked closer at the leaves of the shrub, which did look rather familiar - just not on a shrub...



Does it look familiar to you?  

At this point, I knew what it was, but I couldn't get my head around what this unusual shrub actually was.

Can you tell what it is yet?


The base was quite large and I could see the Baja Fairy Duster, to the left, trying to grow.

I told the homeowners that what they thought was a mesquite tree volunteer (basically a weed), was in fact the plant that was supposed to grow there.



So what was the 'unusual shrub' then?

Belive it or not, the shrub that the homeowners had carefully staked and fertilized over the past year was actually a WEED!

So what kind of weed was it?


That large shrub that was 4+ ft. high and 2 ft. wide was really a spotted spurge weed!

Can you believe it?

Spotted spurge is the bane of many gardeners and is a low-growing weed that spreads.  I hate this little weed.  I've spent hours battling this weed during my time as a horticulturist for golf courses and now in my own garden.


So how did the homeowners mistake this weed for a shrub?  Well, I suspect that the nursery container, with their actual shrub, had spurge already growing in it (not uncommon).  

The new shrub was quite small when first planted and the spurge, like most weeds, grew quickly - much more quickly than the shrub itself.

The poor little Baja fairy duster had little chance of growing afterward since weeds are famous for being vigorous growers and out compete other plants for water and nutrients.  

So what did the homeowners think, you may wonder?

Well, they were shocked, but then got a good laugh out of it.  The wife was having a lot of fun teasing her husband about his 'unusual shrub'.

Have you ever seen an unusual plant that turned out to be a weed?  This one is definitely one for the books in my career.

**If you have problems with spurge, you can treat them with homemade weed killer that uses natural ingredients - vinegar and soap - that's it.  


Monday, December 8, 2014

To Overwinter Peppers & Tomatoes Or Not - That Is The Question...

One of the benefits of growing vegetables in zone 9 is that we are able to grow vegetables all year long.  


However, despite our relatively mild winters, warm-season vegetables such as  peppers and tomatoes can't handle temperatures when they dip below freezing.  So just before freezing temperatures hit, I run out to the garden and pick off all our tomatoes and peppers before pulling out the plants.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with doing this - I've done it for years.


I allow my green tomatoes to ripen indoors - click here to see how.


I then dice my green peppers, place them in a freezer bag and keep them in the freezer where I can use them whenever I make my kid's favorite Mexican rice for dinner.

A few years ago, I decided to try to overwinter my tomato and pepper plants instead of pulling them out. 


This is what my tomatoes looked like with no frost protection.  That was no surprise.

But the next year, I decided to protect my tomatoes & peppers by covering them with old sheets when temperatures dipped below 32 degrees.  

I even went one step further and hung an outdoor light underneath the sheets.  

To my surprise, both my tomato and pepper plants came through the winter just fine, with a small amount of frost damage, and I had an early start to the growing season.

It was a lot of work though - having to cover them and uncover them whenever temperatures dipped below freezing.

Also, that winter was a relatively mild one and temperatures never strayed below the upper 20's.  However, we do occasionally experience temperatures that dip in to the low 20's and in that case, protection or not, the peppers and tomatoes would most likely die whether or not they were protected.

So, do I still try to overwinter my peppers and tomatoes?  

The answer is "yes"and "no".


I do throw sheets over my peppers, but not my tomatoes.  The reason is that tomatoes are slightly more sensitive to the cold.

If we were to experience temperatures in the low 20's, my 2-year old pepper plants would most likely not survive.  But, that is what it is like to grow vegetables - you try your best, but sometimes it's not enough.

**Have you ever successfully overwintered a warm-season vegetable?**

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails