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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Bought another aloe at Plantagen last weekend. Can’t have enough of these guys, I think.
I will definitely have to invest in more fall bulbs if they all do so well here.
Did I mention some tulips made a guest appearance? I suppose we do have the sort of weather they enjoy.
View of my cleaned-up greenhouse interior. Still looks pretty tame.

White dicentra, which will go where there pink one goes.
Pink dicentra I got on sale last week. Don’t know where it’s going yet.
Repotted peony. Still don’t know where it’s going yet.
My 2 year old calamondin has once again been repotted and is enjoying its new greenhouse home.

The clivia T’s granny gave us has been repotted and is now also in the greenhouse.


The droopy lavender I seeded last spring is now looking much happier in the greenhouse.
I put in 9 rows of “cold weather crops” the first weekend of May. We’ll see when they sprout.

Parsley, purple carrots and cilantro.
Leaf lettuce, spring onion and salad dandelion.
Leaf lettuce, mixed carrots and spinach.
I also plan to plant my cucumbers directly into these bags once the weather warms a bit more.

My first (and probably temporary) raised garden bed. Made from… bed frames :-)
There’s a few different types now, but I totally will continue adding varieties starting this fall.
I love narcissi. Can’t get enough of them. Always wanted a giant bed of them in my garden and now I have some!

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

The evenings are still just a couple degrees above 0C, but daytime temps are now between 10-20C and very sunny, so it’s definitely spring. Everything is budding, flowers are starting to appear and butterflies are everywhere. I’ve started cleaning up the garden and grounds best as I can, though I’m sure it will take at least a few years before everything is under control. So far, I’ve cleaned up the dead matter from the perennial beds around the house, pruned two raspberry hedges and a grapevine. Definitely have the beginnings of a huge new compost heap in the corner of our lot as a result. Most of the seedlings I started (as well as a good portion of my houseplants) have been moved to the greenhouse and we broke ground today on a new raised bed.

Small narcissi (pretty sure they’re Tête à têtes) alongside our driveway.
Larger narcissi alongside our driveway. There are also white ones.
Another view of the daffodil bank.
Not sure what variety these big ones are other than some sort of trumpet. We’ll see next week.

Siberian squill circling one of our fruit trees.
Snowdrops ringing another small tree trunk.
My greenhouse! It will need a bit of patching up and repainting in the next few years, but it is made of window glass, so it’s pretty sturdy.
Rhubarb, starting to grow leaves. Last week, they looked like bright red dinosaur eggs.

Two days later and you can see how much they’ve grown. Soon, they will be in a pie!
The buds on the grapevine in the greenhouse are about ready to break any day now.
Some of my cucurbit seedlings.
More seedlings. I always plant double since they are prone to dying when transplanted.

First leaf on my baby pumpkin :-)
Pumpkins moved to the greenhouse.
More baby squash in the greenhouse. They look so happy!
Baby squash at my kitchen window prior to the move.

Tommi’s grandmother gave me this clivia our first year here. Finally, it has a chance of flowering again.
I seeded this lavender last spring and it hung on to dear life all winter. Now it’s starting to perk up.
I bought a new pink peony but still haven’t decided where to plant it.



There is a little pond with a bank of iris and daylily along the sides. Need to clean it up still.
Currant and gooseberry bushes all in a row, starting to break bud.
More currant bush buds. We’re going to have a LOT of fruit.
Our covered strawberry patch, in need of a bit of TLC. Plants are starting to leaf out so need to fix soon.

The left side of the raspberry thicket. Pruned down to the just the one year canes after a day’s work.
Right side of the raspberry thicket. LOVE raspberries, so am happy there are so many.
Raspberry buds.
A horsetail shoot — these have been popping up amongst the right raspberries.

Pepe, the neighbor’s cat. He hasn’t quite grasped that his family moved next door.
…so he still keeps coming to our door instead and following us around.
He’s a sweet little guy, though, and will hopefully be taking care of any rodents for us.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

I did the last batch today, so now all my cucurbits/melons/squashes and tomatoes/eggplants/etc. are cozy in their little plastic incubators. I already can see a few germinated pumpkin seeds from the ones I planted Monday! I’ll wait until they actually sprout before proclaiming it a milestone, though :-) But still, pumpkins in Finland! I’m so excited.







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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

My miniature phalaenopsis is having babies! Here, it sprouted both a baby and another flower from the same node.
Another shot of the bonus flower. I’ve never had this happen with my orchids before, so hopefully it means I’m doing something right!
Another baby growing on the other flower stalk. This one has much bigger leaves, probably because it doesn’t have a flower as well.

And the beginnings of a third one :-) I’ll let them all grow until they have about 2 inches of root before separating them.
My rapidly growing seed germination tray.
I had a wildly successful run with these last year, so am planting them again. I’m faithful to those who treat me well :-) These produced bountiful, tasty cukes and were very happy doing it within the confines of the bag of potting soil allotted to them. 4 planted.

I admit to being attracted to weird cultivars. Plus, it would look so cool to have slices of various colored cucumbers on a salad, don’t you think? We’ll see what happens with these. 5 planted.
I hear melons can be tricky. Both the boy and I adore them, though, so I’m going to give it a try this year. They can get expensive at the store and we could probably eat one apiece if it weren’t so spendy. These might actually end up going in the greenhouse, since I’m not entirely sure they’ll crop fast enough otherwise. 4 planted.
I know I already planted the golden version of these, but you know how I get about have rainbow colors. And cucurbits really are some of my favorite plants. They make you feel really accomplished, with such large fruits. Anyway. 9 planted.

Classic summer veggie that I know I should be eating more of. I do like these roasted, so no hurt in planting some. This type in particular looks like it doesn’t even need to live in the greenhouse, which is a plus. 5 planted.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Just more chronicling of my gardening ventures, both indoors and out. The kitchen window has plants in it all year round, though they start looking a little peaky in deep winter. The sun’s back now, though, and I can’t wait to pop some fragrant narcissi and primroses into those hanging pots. Maybe as soon as this weekend!

Playing around with the color filter settings on my new camera.
Three different orchids decorated the window this Thanksgiving.
From left to right, a Miltonia hybrid, a mini Phalaenopsis, and a very prolific Oncidium.
You can see their pretty colors best in the morning light here.

The mini narcissi I had in the window last spring!
I took lots of pictures because i only got to enjoy them for a few days before leaving on a film shoot.
They smelled so nice. Can’t wait to have these again.
My lucky bamboo, numbering three for happiness. Sadly, one died over the winter.

My calamondin plant is going strong. This was from last summer and it’s almost time to find a bigger pot again.
Some chives in a pot for easy cooking access. I’ll have a nice big patch of these at the new house.
I started growing my own lavender in a pot — it’s actually survived all this winter.


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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Did some much needed work on the plants in the apartment this past week. The two backyard gardens thrive on benign neglect, since they have access to plenty of sun and rain, but the ones here need a bit more attention to be at their best.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

It’s been a month since I started my garden and things are growing in profusion. Which is good, since I’m having to play catch-up to make sure my food plants bear crops before the cold comes. I probably would have started my seeds indoors as early as March if we’d been here back then, but at least I know that for next year…

A close-up of my fuchsia, which is blooming profusely now. I don’t know if the hummingbirds and bees know yet that I’m putting out food for them up here on the third floor, but hopefully they will figure it out as time progresses and I have larger plants.

My first strawberry and the reason I’ve been saving all our milk cartons and juice boxes, behind the cut.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Garden update day! I did a bit of shopping and lots of planting this past week, so I’ll hopefully be harvesting my own salads in a month :-)

I bought this hanging strawberry basket because I’ve always wanted strawberries but didn’t have that much luck with them the last time I grew them on the ground. All kinds of critters got to my berries before me, despite trying all kinds of different deterrents. And it’s got pink flowers! I left two baby plants for it to grow out but cut off the rest of the runners so we’d get plenty of fruit. There’s actually one green berry on the right, but it’s kind of covered up by a leaf. If this thing survives over the winter (I think we might be able to keep it dormant in the cold cellar), then I’d like to get a strawberry pot next year so we can grow more plants in the same space.

Several more pictures behind the cut…

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

It’s been a little less than two weeks since I last took pictures of the garden, and some small but exciting developments have occurred.

The bushy flowers are filling in nicely and blooming like nuts. You can see the Dutch iris poking their shoots up in the space between the two big plants. I should have a nice cutting garden of them by next month :-)

It’s been very nice and sunny for the past few days, so all the plants have gone to town. The amount of pollen everywhere from the pine trees is truly insane. Luckily, pine pollen was not high on my list of allergies when they tested me last year — I get a little congested but it’s not nearly as bad as the reactions I’d have to smog + pollen back in Cali.

My mesclun salad greens mix started sprouting this past weekend, after being planted less than a week. I think this was from the first day they poked out of the soil on Thursday. They do best in cooler weather, so the the spring rains probably made them pop up faster than they would have otherwise.

By the following Tuesday, the majority had sprouted and were on their way to being on our plates.

And then we come to the basil situation. So, basil requires lots of warmth and moisture to sprout. I’d planted my initial pots of basil at mid-month, when it was getting pretty warm and we were wearing tank tops during the day. Then, we had a week of rain descend on us and I think that caused my little basil seeds to die. Nothing popped up, despite the plastic covering, at any rate. So after having had enough with waiting for the sun to come out again, I took matters into my hands on Saturday and started germinating them inside.

I popped each variety in a separate bag, sandwiched between two layers of dampened paper towel and sealed shut with enough air for circulation. Then I put them in the warmest room (the kitchen), on top of the warmest spot (the freezer vent). That’s about as good as you can get for constant heat and moisture, right? Yeah, taping them to the wall looks goofy, but it was the best way to get them near the heat without sacrificing counter space.

And bam, they sprouted. I detected some growth after the second day, but let them stay in until Tuesday to make sure the main root was looking strong enough to put in the soil. You can see from holding them up to the light how much they’ve grown. Some of them had even started growing their first set of top leaves already.

So on Tuesday, I popped the germinated seeds (gently, and with some paper still attached to avoid disturbing the new roots) into soil-filled egg cartons, put some more plastic on them, and back they went to sit near the vent. They are catching some rays in front of our western exposure kitchen window presently and should be popping out of the soil any day now! I’ve got three varieties growing — Thai basil, red basil and lemon basil. It’s easy enough to get sweet basil in pots from the grocery store, but other varieties are less likely. With all of these potted and available for snipping, we’ll be guaranteed a summer full of yummy basil in no time. Yay!

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

So a little over one week ago, I woke up bright and early to do my morning rounds. The birds were twittering, the air was clear and everything was looking dew-covered and freshly green and spring-y in the garden of Pierydys.

Then, I got to my miniature dahlias and discovered that something had gone horribly wrong. There were these little brown things all over the flower and bud stems! They looked like mites. Evil little mites. Eating my brand new flowers. It was springtime for them as well, I suppose. And woe to them, they caught me at my most unreasonable time of the month. Suddenly, on my things-to-do list between (1) have ice cream and potato chips for breakfast and (5) have huge mood swings at lunch, there was a new item: kill all things with more than four legs within a five mile radius of my house by dusk. I’m ambitious that way.

After getting the little hassle of a final examination in Restoration literature out of the way, I made a beeline for the Santa Monica location of Armstrong’s (they closed within an hour of my finishing the exam, so there was no chance to drive the forty minutes home through rush hour traffic and hit up my local garden center), which, to their credit, is staffed with very helpful and patient employees. Being also in LA, they weren’t particularly phased by having grimly-attired* girls with murderous gleams in their eyes ask for their most poisonous substance available in a spray form, please.

One lovely young man was kind enough to point me towards a bottle that was marked “50% Malathion!”, remarking proudly that it would probably be off the shelves by law in another few months. This option was discarded after short consideration because although I’m not particularly fond of my neighbor’s cat, Whiskers, and really could do without him trying to eat Wilbur and use our lawn as litterbox, having him keel over from just walking by my garden probably wouldn’t do anybody any favors. We consulted with a few more store clerks before I selected a large bottle of “Rose and Flower Bug Killer” with an acceptably high level of toxins that promised to (1) destroy all soft-bodied invertebrates and (2) not kill small children and animals, all in a single application.

Now, I suppose this is a huge fuss over a very small and commonplace home improvement situation, but you must understand that I’ve never used chemicals in the garden before, neither as insecticide or fertilizer. Not so much because we were being organic (well, on my part. my mom definitely leans that way), but because I just didn’t feel like spending the money. But as part of my front yard makeover, I was determined to have everything remain healthy and figured it’d be an interesting experiment in the effectiveness of various popular garden remedies. Okay, and there might have been something horribly satisfying about being guaranteed that “insects exposed to this stuff will shrivel up and become desiccated corpses while you watch”. Bahahaha. Icky tumor bugs didn’t stand a chance.

Below is a pictorial:

dahliabudbefore+killthemdead040404
dahliabudafter

The “after” shot was done a day later. Look at the dried-out husked remains! Pardon my slightly manic glee. We’ll see how long before they re-infest, if they dare.

Remember my schizanthus seedlings from last week?

schizanthussurvivors040404

Notice the 60% reduction since last update, which was, in turn, a 60% reduction from the total sprouted in the beginning. The good news is that the remaining plants seem quite happy and will probably reach maturity, having made it out of intensive care and into the recovery ward. As karinberry noted, the Santa Ana winds and the accompanying parching air did not help in the slightest. Still, the majority of the blame falls on me for even daring to move them. I am such a plant sadist.

Having encountered the standard algae bloom in the water garden promptly at the appointed ten-day mark, I set out to Petsmart and got myself a 3-inch plecostomus. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of him before we released him into the pond, so I gacked a picture off a random aquarium website.

pleco

Mine is a bit lighter in color and much prettier, in my opinion. His name is Hoover. Edgar Hoover. Much like the original, he’s a bottom-dwelling slimesucker. Only mine is much more endearing and doesn’t wear nearly as much lingerie. Hopefully, he will get along okay with Wilbur. Technically, they’re tropical aquarium fish, but according to the clerks at the petstore, several people had previously bought them for their outdoor ponds to marvelous effect and they adapt very well to our weather even in the winters. I’m crossing my fingers that no little fishy corpses will bob into sight in the next few weeks, since the skies have gone cloudy again.

An early (and huge) gladiolus that was hiding in the rose bed made its appearance known this week. I wanted to cut it and put it in the living room, but decided that the first bloom of any species should always be left to nature. Kinda like a Greek libation, only without the dairy products.

gladiolus040404

In the backyard, we have a huge tree that has been growing for over two decades. I never bothered to find out what it was until two weeks ago, and it turns out that it’s among the largest in the state. Go figure. This is our giant tree aloe (Aloe barberae). It’s over two stories tall and doesn’t get watered or fed at all, but still manages to pretty much steal the scene whenever anybody looks around back there. It’s kinda neat, in a prehistoric way.

gianttreealoe040404

Because you know I can’t ever go out without something following me back home. Sigh. Another fern for the shade area, nephrolepis or “Emerald Queen Fern”.nephrolepis040404

…and a pretty little orchid for my windowsill. It’s an odontoglossum intergeneric hybrid, which apparently has the same cultural requirements as cymbidiums, so hopefully will fare better than the tropical orchids that I’ve murdered in the past. Houseplants and me have never gotten along. The second spike has even started to flower since its arrival, so that was encouraging.odontoglossum040404

* Which, I suppose, requires explanation in and of itself, for anybody who knows me and my normal wardrobe tendencies. Normally, I’m about as “edgy” (gads, somebody needs to take that word out of circulation) as a pink Gap angora sweater. However, I hadn’t done laundry in a month and was out of options. It was finals time. Nobody cares what you look like during finals. Besides, there was something terribly amusing about slouching around in a black “angry little asian girl” t-shirt, baggy black trousers with more cargo pockets and buckles than were strictly necessary, and oversized black studded, cleated workman’s boots that could be used to stomp heads flat. Combined with the circles under my eyes (why bother with eyeliner when the haggard look is free?) and a pretty convincing pre-caffeine scowl, I was able to maintain a pleasingly wide berth from almost every human on campus that morning.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

This past weekend has been one of pure and utter carnage. All I needed was, like, a flaming sword or something, taking out swaths at a time. Often, I’d stop and wonder whether there wasn’t something sick and wrong about bringing tiny new seedlings into the world only to torture them to death within a week. And only in the world of horticulture would this be considered a common and recommended practice…

seeds031004

So remember these guys, from March 10th or so? The ones in the white pot are schizanthus pinnatus, butterfly flower. Usually grown in conservatories, but they do pretty well outside in the spring hereabouts. Cute little annuals that I grew on whim more than a decade ago and have been very fond of since, despite how fickle they can be (sensitive to frost and heat, need filtered shade, slow to germinate, easily bruised and hellish to transplant). That last part is what I’ve been giving myself guilt-wracked ulcers over for the past few days. I tossed an entire packet into that pot, y’see, because I knew that, out of the several hundred seedlings that’d come of it, by the time I was finished with the entire process, I’d be lucky if I got perhaps a dozen or so healthy plants. They’re that fussy.

schizanthusseedlings032104

So this is how they were looking as of this weekend. Now, I’m a pretty good transplanter. Kid gloves and all. I’m very careful, disturb as little of the root as possible, use totally sterile soil and water thoroughly with starter solution afterwards to ease the shock. That means bull to these guys. Starting with the big mass of sprouts up there, I’d fill several cells and pots and then basically leave the rest to survival of the fittest. The convenient thing being that if they’re going to die (and they do. in bucketfuls.) they at least die fast. I’d check back every other hour to pluck out the ones that had already decide life was too cruel and faceplanted in the dirt. Out they’d go and in went the next round, until something took for that particular cell.

transplants032304

As of yesterday, these are the survivors. I actually plucked out a handful more dead bodies this morning, but the rest seem to be upright and hanging in there. The clumps in the pots are the ones I’m going to progressively cull as they get larger, until there are only a few left in the pot. Deductive rather than inductive. Mostly a fallback measure in case the other transplants don’t make it. And after all that’s done, I might need therapy.

Moving right along!

amaryllis032304

The amaryllis is flowering. Always a good show.

ngimpatiens032304

Remember the new guinea impatiens in the shady pot from last time? You know how they say that if you plant in a container that doesn’t have drainage, all you need to do is put pot shards or pea gravel at the bottom so the water can gather there and not bother the roots? Liars, the lot of them. I did that and ended up with a rotted corpse of a plant. Well, those two in the back that are flowering did alright, but the one in the front you see is a replacement that the garden center was kind enough to furnish me with after I presented them with the pathetic remains of my last one. The entire stem had just become mush, despite my careful monitoring of moisture content. Rather than risk a repeat, I got out my screwdriver, pick and hammer and spent an hour drilling holes in the bottom of that rock-hard container. Lesson of the day: drainage is our friend.

There was a sale this past weekend, so a few more things followed me home than normal. I’m such a compulsive shopper.

cymbidium032104

Cymbidiums! They do very well outdoors here and now I have my very own potful of terrestrial orchids. I believe the flowers are rose, but it’s hard to tell until they actually open. I’ve had some heartbreak over orchids in the past, but am told that these are good for beginners, since you just plunk them outside and let them do their thing. They come from somewhere in Asia that shares the exact same temperature conditions as coastal Cali, so are somewhat foolproof. I’m snailbaiting and checking it vigilantly all the same.

cycad032104

I’ve wanted a cycad since first learning about them in biology class. Dinosaur food! I also remember seeing one in chiller‘s patio collection and thinking it was exceptionally neat. So I happen to be strolling down an aisle and there it was, going for $20 this weekend only. This one was the second to last one, so I’m sure they cleared all their inventory in the span of a day. It’s still a baby, so it’s hard to tell whether it’s a boy or a girl just yet. I want to get another one for the other pot, but would like to have a pair because it would amuse me. There’s a rare cycad breeder out in Riverside (about a forty minute drive), so I might go down there next month with some photos and ask his opinion on it. If the matched pair is a no-go, then maybe I’ll get something slightly more exotic than a sago.

drivewaybed031004
drivewaybed032304

Last of all, the front driveway bed, before and after. The soil there is crappy, so I’ve been clearing it out and replacing it with potting soil as I go. So far, I’ve got a pelargonium, some pansies, spanish lavender and petunias in place. The calla will probably stay where it is, with a bit of soil improvement. The nasty old cannas (high invasive — I swear I dug up five pounds of canna root before finding anything else) will hopefully not make a comeback.

In other news, the pollen count this season is obscene. Must go get a new prescription, because I’m rather fond of breathing…

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

My father is, quite simply put, a plant serial killer. He doesn’t do it on purpose, but he has not the first clue when it comes to gardening and always insists that he does. The end result is that he’ll take something in a pot, dig a hole in something brownish, toss it in, and forget about it within minutes. Then he wonders why nothing survives. I suppose, living as we do in one of the climate zones most suitable to year-round gardening, it’s something of a talent that he can do what he does. The best way to discover just how idiot-proof (or weedy) any given plant might be is to give it to him for a month and see what’s left by the end of that time.

So here’s the thing. We have a relatively large back and front yard. Back in high school, I took up horticulture as a hobby after a few positive experiences in biology class. Back at home, I started to keep little containers of this flower or that foliage and even cultivated some of the more promising spots out front. Things were starting to take on the vaguely healthy look that comes from regular attention and, say, watering. Then I moved away to school. By the time I moved back home, things were really kinda frightening. Some stuff was growing wild, other stuff was sickly-looking, and most were just plain dead. Not that I hadn’t expected it, but it was still rather traumatizing after all the time I’d invested in getting it to a pretty good point. I didn’t touch any of it, though, because I was both working and going to school full time by then. I haven’t even considered doing anything until this spring.

While cleaning out my bookshelves a couple of months ago, I unearthed a huge stack of old Sunset magazines and seed catalogues from several years ago and started flipping through them for the heck of it. Things being as gloomy and cold as they were outside, I automatically started planning out the elaborate fantasy gardens that I would years ago. Then I realized that hey, the only reason I couldn’t actually realize those plans back then was because I didn’t have either the finances, time or transportation. While I’m still not exactly independently wealthy, I would have a bit more time starting this spring quarter. If I scaled things down to a more modest and reasonable size, I could very well try to tame the front yard once again. Just to see if it could be done.

So that’s one of my big projects for this year, and something I try to devote time to every weekend both for the fun and challenge of it. The first thing I did, of course, was banish my parents from ever touching anything in the front. They have set up something resembling a vegetable garden in the back and that is as far as they can go. Two weeks ago, I hit up Armstrong Garden Center and Home Depot and started working on a few of the containers on the patio, which are in immediate sight of the front windows and therefore the most obvious targets for de-uglification. Last week, I went back and finished filling in the last few that were in need of contents.


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As you can see, it isn’t anything spectacular yet, but there’s at least a few signs of color now. This side gets full sun in the morning and afternoon, so I should be able to get a good variety of stuff going here.

Two containers of gerbera daisies surrounded by miniature dahlias, and two containers of calla lilies surrounded by pansies.

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The contents of the two clay-colored pots on the left.

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The contents of the two clay-colored pots on the right.

Two wooden window boxes of spring and summer bulbs planted a fortnight apart to stagger blooms.

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A couple pots of amaryllis, one red and one white, plus some leftover bulbs and seeds being started.

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This side will be interesting to work on because all the stuff here will have to deal with heavy shade.

So far, I’ve got fuchsias on the first shelf and new guinea impatiens on the second shelf of the wire rack.

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I didn’t think of doing before and after pictures or even documenting the project until yesterday, when I realized it’d be really cool to be able to look back after these plants were fully established and be able to chart their progress. Hopefully, it’ll also keep me from getting lazy and ignoring them if I have updates to look to.

Next up, I’m looking to fill in that bottom shelf with another shade plant and possibly get a water lily or lotus to occupy that tub in the middle which currently only holds one lonely fat goldfish and lots of wild aquarium plants.

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