Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Spring Garden

Here it is January, and I've already started thinking of my spring garden. Living in an apartment, its quite difficult to have an actual garden. What counts as a garden for me is a ton of flower pots. I started the whole gardening thing last February and still have one plant left from back then although it doesn't look very good, and therefore, I didn't include a picture of it.

I am fortunate in the way my apartment is set up in that I have a large front porch area that I don't have to share with neighbors. Mine is the only apartment at the top of the stairs. I also have a slightly smaller back patio as well so places for plants aren't that difficult to find. What is a concern is finding the right plant for the right area. So here are some tips for those of you who are new to gardening like me.

The first thing to keep in mind is the lighting in the location you choose to put your plants. For example, my back patio is primarily shaded so picking shade plants is the best for that area. While it is difficult sometimes to find plants that are only specifically for shade, some plants say "Part Sun" or "Partial Shade" on the tags that come with them, and for the most part, those will still work out in a shaded area. Right now (and I haven't purchased any plants since October) I have petunias, violets, blue elf aloe, calathea (non-flowering, but decorative leaves), and a croton. Crotons by the way have quite a wide variety to choose from and are fairly easy to take care of.

My front patio gets morning light and afternoon shade which is perfect for the hot Bakersfield summers. In fact, if you live in a warm climate like I do, keep in mind that there are plants that are heat tolerant and are not desert plants. So it is possible to have flowering plants all year without having to have cacti or succulents if that's not a look that you want. Some of the ones that I have that survived summer with flying colors are gerbera daisies, ageratum, dianthus carnation, miniature roses (roses in general are very hearty), plumbago (resembles forget-me-nots quite closely), as well as celosia which comes in a variety of bright colors and shapes from spires to a curly-cue shape that looks almost like the mouth end of a clamshell.

Another great plant to keep in mind that thrives in hot summers is the Hibiscus plant. This puts out beautiful blooms of various colors. The one I have has peach colored blossoms, but is not blooming right now. They can live well planted in a pot or in the ground and its not uncommon for them to live beyond 10 years. If you have one in a pot, they can become root bound, but that is easily fixed by popping them out of the pot and trimming the roots, then putting it back in. The only drawback is that, while they are tropical plants and perfect for summer, they are not perfect for winter. If you have one and you keep it in a pot, move it inside to a sunny window during the winter and you'll have blooms during the winter as well.

Also, be sure to read all of the tags when you buy your plants because not only do you get the care and lighting information, but a lot of plants attract butterflies and will say so on the label. Many people have butterfly gardens, using only the plants that will attract them. And, red colored blooms will attract hummingbirds.

In the course of all of the plant purchasing I have learned the best places for buying plants as well as buying pots which is most important if you don't have a patch of ground to plant in. Price wise for plants places like Lowe's and Home Depot have the best plant prices. However, while your own local nursery is likely going to have higher prices, they will have an exceptionally wide variety of plants to choose from and most of them will also likely offer landscaping as well. For pots I've discovered that Rite Aid (only during the spring and summer months) as well as Big Lots have the best selection and prices for flower pots. I'm not, however, referring to the classic terra cotta pots that we see everywhere, but to the fancy decorative pots that tend to get expensive but that look great in a "Terrace Garden."

And one more thing to keep in mind that is very important to the health of your plant is proper drainage. Always be sure to buy pots that have a hole in the bottom and a tray to put under them. If you have a nice pot that doesn't have a drainage hole, you can always place gravel or moss in the bottom of it to help draw the moisture away from the roots. A good rule of thumb to go by is that the soil needs to stay moist, but not sopping wet.

And for those of you who buy spring plants for special occasions, but that don't last a long time, keep in mind that if they are from a bulb like tulips, you can take the bulbs and keep them in the freezer for planting next spring. Also keep an eye out during the fall months for crysanthemums as they are the flowering plant of the fall and have an amazing variety of flowers from huge white ones that look like snowballs to tiny daisy type flowers. And be sure to keep an eye out at your local grocery store for plant bulbs during the fall and winter that say "plant now for spring flowers" as these are a great way to get your garden started and are winter resistant.

The picture here is of a Garden Primula 'Pacifica' which I purchased in July and which survived the summer fairly well, but has been doing spectacularly during the winter.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Perfecting Your Craft

Yesterday, I posted in my shop my newest handbag. I've already made several of these bags. The first one, I kept for myself, the second one is still in my store, the third one sold (to my sister), the fourth one was for a friend, and the fifth one is what got posted today. I'm pleased to say that by the fifth time, I've gotten it right! Its very exciting.

It all started one day in late October when I was hunting around the internet for some crochet patterns, way before I even thought of setting up shop. I discovered something called Entrelac Crochet, which I had never seen before. It used the principals of Tunisian crochet, which I had seen, but had never attempted. I loved how it looked so I went in search of patterns and instructions, but to know avail. I found one site with instructions and pictures for what was known as Entrelac in the Round. Basically it started in the middle and went round and round, which is fine but the edges come out looking like the edges of a postage stamp, which is a nice look for blankets. I then found more instructions on how to get the edges straight, but that was all. There were no patterns anywhere for any objects yet there were photos of clothing items, etc.

I decided that it would make a really cute purse so I hunted up and down for a pattern and found nothing. I had to go it on my own! That was daunting in itself. I'd never invented my own patterns before, and I didn't know where to start or what to do. I set out to make a flat envelope purse and had almost finished the body of it when I decided that I needed to make it stand up some how. I didn't want my purse tipping over. So I decided to add sides and I even cut the back off of a notebook to put on the bottom to give it some stability. I then lined it and added a braided handle held on by keyrings. It came out totally cute and I get a lot of compliments on it everytime I'm out. Its my best advertising peice. But it wasn't perfect.

But now, after 5 of them, I'm there. I have a whole step by step process, I know what type of purse handles to use, I know what step to start with and every step in a specific order until the end. And, yes, its been frustrating, but patience pays off and the end result has been great!
Here it is in my shop! http://www.1000markets.com/products/22120

Also be sure to check out the great artists at 1000markets.com