Monday, February 27, 2012

Crocuses – They’re Up!

The crocuses are up! These are late winter, early spring flowers. They are early bloomers and hardy so that they can often be seen peeking out from a coating of snow. They come in purple, yellow, white, orange, and blue with variations of shading and spark an anticipation of the coming season even when the weather is still cold and gloomy.

This year, however, the weather has been atypical in many parts of the U.S. We have been having unusually warm weather here in the northeast. This may cause both a delight and a dilemma. The crocuses have come up earlier than usual and although they are certainly appreciated are the bees ready to do their part to pollinate the plants? And are the other flowers that are blooming before their natural time going to survive? Crocuses and daffodils probably will but others may not.

Plants usually take their growing cues from lots of areas such as the season, the amount of sunlight, how much rainfall, whether or not the ground freezes. Much as we can be confused by unusual weather, so can the plants. It will be interesting to see how this warm winter affects plant growth in general.

Mind you, I am not complaining. I love to see the burst of color from the crocuses and I look forward to the early daffodils and the late hibiscus and everything in between. Though, as the saying goes, they should live and be well. Us, too, so we can enjoy their beauty.

Something about crocuses:

Factors that affect plant growth:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thinking of Spring - Again

Thinking of Spring - Again

Lilies and irises are such beautiful flowers. They aren’t ready to grow around my way yet, though with this warmish winter the daffodils have put up leaves. So it was quite a delight for me to get an unexpected bouquet in the mail. It immediately brought to mind the prospect of spring. I actually like winter and particularly snow but if that isn’t happening then I am eager for spring to make its appearance.

We used to have lots of day lilies in our backyard adding early excitement to a sleepy flowerbed. There were also irises, tulips, snowdrops, columbine, daisies and a host of other colorful plants. That was when the garden was new. Most of them have succumbed to a) too much shade from now mature trees, b) bulb-loving squirrels or c) those wascally wabbits. That doesn’t stop me from dreaming, however, and trying new plants that a) grow in deep shade, b) are supposedly anathema to squirrels or c) are not traditionally known to attract rabbits. Only modest success so far. Did you know that rabbits like to eat hosta leaves?

The gardening catalogs are starting to come in the mail and I pour over them. What flowers will we plant this year? And what veggies will we grow? I think that tomatoes will be on the list again, maybe another watermelon plant, some carrots perhaps, and sweet potatoes, which I can start on my windowsill as I did last year. The plant itself is lovely. If anyone is interested in putting in a sweet potato crop, here is a great article from Neil Shelton at on the origin of sweet potatoes and how to plant them. It even gives recipes!

I’m also thinking about zucchini and green beans.

And lilies again.

And irises.

Any suggestions for easy, shade friendly, animal-proof flowers?

Spring isn’t here yet but it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead. I still hope it snows, though.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Nature of Nature

The Nature of Nature

I was placing the loaf of bread I had just baked, a braided raisin brioche, onto a serving platter when my husband came into the kitchen. “Wow,” he said when he saw it. I appreciated his obvious compliment but then he added, “Are you going to blog it?” Huh? “I write a blog about nature,” I said. “Well,” he said, “this is your nature.” That stopped me in my wash-the-pans, clean-up-the-kitchen, start-the-dinner tracks. It got me thinking about the nature of nature.

I looked up definitions in several sources. Nature is a noun with many connotations. What it basically comes down to is essence, whether of a person or thing. It takes in, well, everything. The concept embraces the microcosm as well as the universe. It defines the character of the subject, its makeup and qualities, the substance that separates it from other things and the spirit that differentiates it from related things. It doesn’t just refer to Mother Nature’s realm, as we usually tend to think of it, although one of its meanings is that which is separate from human habitation aka the natural world.

So I decided that he was right, I am part of the larger nature of all and baking is one of my attributes. It speaks to how I think of myself, which is as a supportive, nurturing person. I used to bake bread all the time but haven’t for a while though I do bake treats to have with our afternoon tea, a habit we adopted after we experienced it at a B&B in Maine one summer. And bread’s nature is that of a life-sustaining, fundamental product. What better way to express what I think of as my nature?

And not to be picky about it but bread is composed of the non-human part of nature, made of flour and yeast, eggs, sugar and butter. Yet it wouldn’t be what it is without the human influence to put it all together. Simple, right? I’m still thinking about it.

How would you define nature?