Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring! Spring! Spring!

It's not yet Peak Rose, but all sorts of things are booming and sprouting and leafing out.

For example, 'Hot Cocoa' is putting on this season's first flowers.  Believe it or not, this is actually an accurate depiction of the color.  Matt hates it, but I find it strange and entrancing.  Even more than most roses, HC's color varies with the weather--cooler temperatures bring out the browny-silvery-lilacy tones that lurk under the orangey-red.

A lovely 'Hot Cocoa' bloom

'Green Rose' was one of our first roses to pop into bloom, and it's kept it up admirably.  Interesting, as the "flowers" fade, they turn kind of straw-colored, which is the only time they're terribly visible. 

'Green Rose'--what can I say? We like floral oddities.

Meanwhile, Tulipa clusiana 'Tinka' materialized almost overnight. I had no idea they had even sprouted, when suddenly, they were in full bloom.  Unlike many T. clusianas, this cultivar has warm golden yellow accents.

T. clusiana 'Tinka'

The Iris virginiana slip that I bought 2-3 years ago from Madrone Nursery has finally bloomed.  It's a long, leggy thing, with a bright blue bloom.

Iris virginiana--purportedly, an unusually salt-tolerant variety, which will come in handy when the sea levels rise, but not much before

Poppies!  Last year we sowed whole heap of Papaver somniferum from my Aunt P. I think we maybe got one small, sad bloom? Not a good year for the wildflowers--beastly drought.  But this year, all of last year's frustrated seeds went nuts, and we have an impenetrable thicket of poppies. I've been checking on them (almost) daily, but one managed to bloom without my seeing it. Nevermind--there are about 50 more buds in on the way.

A blue-green forest of poppies, heavy with buds

'Mlle Franziska Kruger'--I'm not actually nuts about the quilled, wadded look that Mlle FK specializes in, but the colors are so very pretty--she's almost as changeable as Mutabilis.

One of Mlle Franziska Kruger's scrunched up flowers

And I caught 'Isabella Sprunt' about 30 seconds too late.  Her flowers spend a long time as slender, elegant, very Tea-ish buds, then open into quite elegant and formal blooms... for about 5 minutes.  After which they turn into this rather untidy thing, and by the next day, half the petals will have dropped.  Still, that pale butter color is nice.  But if you have to choose between them, don't hesitate: go with 'Ducher.'

The mayfly-like flowers of 'Isabella Sprunt'

It seems like every spring, a different rose delights and surprises me.  This year, it's 'Kaiserin Friedrich.'  As a climber, she goes straight up--long, straight, limbs that withstand bending and weaving better than the average rose (I hate it when you're trying to thread a rose through a trellis and you have to bend... bend... bend--and at the last minute, it snaps).  But her upward tendencies mean the blooms are a bit thin around her knees--she has (so far--we're in her 2nd year) few lateral branches to break into bloom.  However.  She has a decent load of blooms at the top, and I think she's starting to do a little more branching, so hopefully the trellis will fill in.  But above all, how nifty are these flowers?  Check out the ruffled margins on the petals of these buds.

The precisely fluted petals of two 'Kaiserin Friedrich' rose buds

They'd be fussy if it weren't for the obvious toughness and vitality of the plant itself.  And look at the lovely range of colors: cream to soft yellow to peach to pink with darker pink margins.  And that complex array of petals!  It brings a real touch of sophistication to our otherwise rough-and-tumble DIY sort of a garden.

A fully open 'Kaiserin Friedrich' blossom

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pre-filter, New Doors

So our awesome new powerful pond pump has been pureeing fish and then getting clogged by their sad, lacerated corpses.


We've lost both Thor and Jupiter, veterans whom one would have thought had the age and wisdom to... not swim into a sucking vortex of doom.

So I decided to make a crude "pre-filter," as they're called in the pond biz.  I got a cheap black bucket and drilled holes in it using a small keyhole drill bit.  You want to make enough holes to give the pump unimpeded water flow, but not so many that the thing loses all structural integrity.

Ultimately, I'm planning to fill it with very coarse lava rocks to keep out the little fish; but as it is, it will at least keep the big fish, who are larger than these holes, from Vita-mixing themselves.

So far, it seems to be working fine.

Meanwhile, our favorite carpenter, Javier, made us a pair of swinging doors for the living room. We needed to be able to keep the cats in the living room with us without losing air circulation. Matt and I were stumped for years--we though of turning wooden screens into doors, but that's expensive and it's hard to find a design that would harmonize with the house and have small enough holes to keep the cats in. Then one day Matt spotted some decorative aluminum panels at our local hardware store and had a brainwave.

I'll be painting the woodwork and trim, but I think we'll leave the metal as is.  The paint would only flake off, anyway.

The cats are mayhem-prone, so we don't like to let them into the front of the house unsupervised.  But of course, they often run off to the kitchen to counter-surf while we're watching tv, the little hellions. Hence the doors. Now they can't escape bonding with us! Yay!

Thanks to Chuck and Ladonna, whose Christmas present funded these doors.

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