Monday, January 30, 2012

UPDATE - Tiny Piny Pineapple Lilies

UPDATE  –  'Tiny Piny Pearl 'will not be available this year after all, the bulbs being harvested are too small to be blooming size – so the breeder, Eddie Walsh,  is holding them back for another year of growth.   
The other three cultivars will be coming into the USA sometime in mid March.  To read more about Eucomis in general on this blog, click blog or to go directly to the website click websiteThose of you who have ordered the 'Tiny Piny Collection' (one each of the four varieties) will receive a second package of 'Tiny Piny Opal' – the most popular cultivar thus far – if you have authorized substitutions, if not then we will be contacting you. 


If you are in the Seattle area next week (Feb. 8-12), come see us at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show at the Seattle Convention Center.  

We will be in two locations: our 6-booth island space at the entrance to the plant market where we will have our bulbs and other plants, as well as our Abbee Hats and Gifts boutique, where you will find our garden and fancy hats, hat pins,  handmade jewelry, original acrylic artwork by Dianna, wood turnings by Bob, Max-nip catnip, hand creams, and those terrific silk lanterns displayed at the Tacoma show over the weekend - shown on right.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bright spot at the Tacoma Home & Garden Show

Hello Lily Fans,

Anne Marie and Dianna are exhibiting at the Tacoma Dome (in Tacoma, WA) this week.  We decorated our booth with lovely silk lanterns and of course, our wonderful forced-out-of season lily floral arrangements.  We were so bright setting up that the fire department stopped by to check that we were using low wattage bulbs in the lanterns ("Yes Sir, only 13 watts.").

If you are in the Puget Sound region, stop by to say Hello and see what goodies we have on display - the Tacoma Home & Garden Show runs through Sunday. P.S. The lanterns are for sale, although not on our website, if there are any left after we finish the Northwest Flower & Garden Show show in early February, and if we can find a suitable box, we hope to upload a few for our "out of town" friends.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Eagles, Quail, Weasel & Mr. Bobcat

(View in our front yard.)
Eagle Adventures 
This pair of American Bald Eagles have been constant visitors to our farm for over a decade.  Each winter as Snow Creek hosts spawning salmon, they take advantage of the abundance of easy food.  We have never seen them take a live fish, but when they see one floating down stream there is no hesitation in taking advantage of “free home delivery”.   The tree in this photo is one of their favorite for watching the creek, and woe to any other eagle who should try to pick a spot to land on one of "their" branches.

In the late spring and early summer when Bob is mowing the oat cover crop in the field, one bird will stop by to see what goodies might be moving in the freshly mowed areas.  Our 15 acre farm is 660 feet from side to side and fenced.  As Bob reaches the mid-way point in the field, the watching eagle takes flight and perches on a post on the opposite side to wait for a snack, letting Bob get within 20 feet or so before choosing another post.  When a shrew or mouse runs out of the oats or grass, he pounces and takes his fresh catch back to the nest for the waiting fledglings.  The other eagle is more timid when it comes to sharing field space with Bob, the male (we assume) will even hop along the ground following the tractor, hunting all the while.  Should Bob stop the tractor and get off, he will fly to a fence post and start to squawk and grumble.  When Bob remounts the tractor and resumes mowing, all is well in the world and the 'Snow Creek Rodent Buffet' is again open for business.We have had as many as 9 eagles on our little section of Snow Creek at one time, but with the exception of this pair, they come and go.  We don’t know where they nest, but a round trip with a fresh mouse takes about 5 minutes. 

Many years ago, while Dianna was showing a visitor the display gardens, they spotted an Eagle flying upstream along Snow Creek carrying what appeared to be about a 3 pound “fresh caught” salmon from Discovery Bay, where Snow Creek empties into salt water.  Both marveled at how the eagle was carrying the salmon: nose first into the wind with the least amount of resistance. 

Out here on the farm, we have the rare opportunity of watching nature on a daily basis and do marvel at just how intelligent so many of “our” critters are.  When you see a wild bird or animal display problem solving it is awe inspiring.  Many are not just animals or birds acting on instinct, they appear to think, reason, and form conclusions.  

Quail Tactics
Take for instance one of the three coveys of quail on the farm.  Dianna had sown her second crop of purple poppy seed for the late harvest one spring and immediately quail appeared to feast.  After running out the office door, screeching and waving her arms to chase off the birds gleefully despoiling the flower bed - and making no impact whatsoever, beyond a flurry of indignant chirping - her next solution was to make a barrier; bulb trays set about 4 feet apart and covered with bird netting. The Quail response?  The adults got together to stand in close proximity on top of the net, holding it at ground level for their babies to flock in and eat their fill.    Quail 1, Dianna 0.  Game, Set, Match.

Weasel vs. Momma Hen
A couple of years ago while tilling an area for fall planting; Bob noticed a movement in the grass at the fence line.  There is only one thing more boring than mowing grass, and that is tilling the soil at a blazing 1 mph (about 4.5 hours to an acre) carefully moving between the lily rows.  There is lots of time for meditation at that speed, but that day a weasel was making his move on the chicken house.  This little guy was like the sneaky weasel from the old cartoons but twice as cute. 

Our fence posts are 8 feet apart.  He would dash to a post and stop, carefully look around one side of the post and then peek around the other side to see if any chickens were watching.  With the coast clear, it was dash to the next post and repeat, searching for watchful eyes.  Finally, he makes his way to the hen house but couldn't find a way in.  All this time, Bob was sitting on the tractor - now in neutral, idling – and watching a real life cartoon. 

You could almost see his little ears perk up when a lone, week old chick appeared around the corner, having strayed from “the flock”.  Rather than make a dash for the chick, only the weasel’s little toes appear to be moving as he slowly crept forward, hunkered down as close to the ground as he can get, eyes locked and focused on the little chick.  Bob thought, “I need to rescue that chick before he’s eaten!”  But before he could act, Momma Hen came around the corner to gather up her stray and the spooked weasel literally folded himself in half to retreat - with an angry chicken clucking and flapping in hot pursuit.  Weasel no longer even considered stopping at each fence post to check his surroundings this was an all-out run for the cover of brush and safety – and yes, he made it. 

Mr. Bobcat & the Salmon
A few days ago, looking out the kitchen window shortly after daybreak, we were very surprised to see an unusual sight – a Bobcat was on our access road that follows the creek bank – just standing there, perfectly still, with a large spawned salmon hanging from his mouth.  Because we allow our stream bank to stay natural for erosion control and bird habitat, it is not an easy climb through the brush from the water’s edge and we doubt he simply used the path next to our private bridge, but there he was in broad daylight.  This was a heavy fish weighing at least 6 or 7 pounds and he appeared to be exhausted; walking 4 or 5 steps and then stopping, walk a few steps further, and rest again -  while looking longingly at our back hillside with it's boxcar sized boulders that was most likely “home”. 

By the time we thought “Grab the camera!”, he had disappeared behind a Rhododendron on his way to open field. It was obvious however that Mr. Bobcat, who probably only weighed 25 to 30 pounds, was having trouble with his catch, which would have run about $75 at supermarket prices.

We frequently see Bobcat tracks in our field and have replaced our one-inch wide white plastic planting stakes (complete with teeth marks) several times in the past because a playful feline would pull them out to bat around the field.  Cats are cats and they all like to play.  Until now though, we have never seen these elusive cats during the day, down from the rocky foothills that surround the farm.
(End of the Tale)

Many people express surprise that we have an outdoor chain link cage (top and bottom too) for our pampered household members to sunbathe.  Between Cougars, Coyotes, Raccoons, Bears, and Bobcats, it’s a tough world outside and our spoiled house cats have no outdoor survival skills.

However, our kitties do know how to lead Bob to the refrigerator and are quite practiced at opening the "cat treat' cupboard all by themselves. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Latest Lily Survey Results - Spring or Fall Planting?

In 2011 we began a offering short survey asking for customer feedback.  The result has been quite positive and since some of the comments may help new gardeners, we have elected to begin recording the results on our blog as well.

December 2011 Results

This question had to do with Spring  planting vs. Fall planting.

59.4% said they like to plant both in Spring and in Fall, 25% fall only.  Asking about fall delivery only, 87.5% the bulbs arrived for planting without any difficulty most years and 12.5% of the respondents said they had some frost but the soil was still workable.

 “I love digging in the dirt as soon as the ground is not frozen and snow has melted. [Spring planting] Fall, I am taking a chance as to when the weather turns so cold I can't work outside.”

“Well honestly, I live on the coast, RIGHT on the coast. It never gets Really hot, not over 76 in the dead of summer. And it never Really freezes. There might be frost on the ground in the morning, maybe 12 to 15 days a year. But the ground is NEVER frozen solid! [but] It seems like it's always a rainy day when my bulbs arrive. Thanks for asking!! Customer service is nice , but GREAT customer service is GREAT!!”

“Some years, I have more time and energy for fall plantings, but spring is a good time to spot gaps in my lily beds -- or to add more to a too-boring perennial bed. And sadly, sometimes my budget determines when I order lilies!”

“... it gives me the option to add or change my landscaping without making major changes.” [planting both seasons]

The next Newsletter is due to send next Tuesday, January 17th and the Survey will have to do with Organic Gardening.

Washington State overall "colder" in lower 48

Well, we finally had the first flakes of snow today.  After a dismal summer and an extended mild autumn, we were beginning to wonder what Mother Nature had in mind for the rest of winter.  Of course, the weather would turn to cold just before the Tacoma Home & Garden Show coming up in two weeks, but at least we've had a bit of luck so far.

An interesting news report on one of the Seattle Websites showed what those of us in the Pacific Northwest already knew - Last summer was COLD!  Tomatoes just sat there and barely even bloomed, but Cole crops like Kale, Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts grew sweet from the lots of even rainfall and cool temperatures.  The lower 48 states are represented on the charts, so take a look at your home state.  Here is the link to the report.

The "Scoop" on Star Gazer Lilies

[This posting is in part from the last Newsletter sent in December and since the question still comes up, we thought it appropriate to add it to our Blog for easy reference. -Dianna]

The heirloom variety 'Star Gazer' has become the most recognizable name for Oriental lilies.  For years, when florists would sell a fragrant lily, they would call it 'Star Gazer' even if it was a totally different clone.  In fact, the name has now become the generic term for Oriental lilies, like Kleenex® for facial tissue or Band-aids® for plastic personal bandages. 

At flower and garden shows we finally began asking, "What COLOR of Star Gazer would you like?" 
Because we realized that most people really had no idea what the original clone looked like and simply remembered the fragrance, it was easier to suggest all the Oriental lilies that smelled good and to let them make a choice.  Over a period of 15 to 20 years, there have been as many as 5 or 6 different clones being sold out of Holland as the original 'Star Gazer' - some good, some not so good.  

All purebred Oriental Lilies have a similar "spicy-sweet" fragrance and if you remember a 'Star Gazer' lily in your wedding bouquet more than a dozen years ago, chances are it was an Oriental lily.  The new OT (Orienpet or Oriental-Trumpet hybrids) have a more perfumed fragrance, such as the heavy scent of Easter Lilies in the store in spring.  This scent is lighter than Lilium regale and has very little essence of spice.  If a strongly scented lily was in your floral arrangement in the past 5 or 6 years and it was YELLOW, then the lily was probably one of the OT hybrids 'Conca d'Or', 'Belladonna' etc. 

Currently, both Purebred Orientals and Orienpets are being used interchangeably in the floral world.  Hybridization of purebred Oriental lilies is in decline as forcing houses are embracing the new OT hybrid because the flowers tend to hold up better in cold storage.  The increased substance of the flowers means they take a bit longer to open than pure Orientals.  When we use both kinds for the flower shows, in order to create the "full bloom" extravaganza of our lovely mass arrangements, we set the OT types into a warm room about three days before we bring the Orientals out of the cooler so that everyone is fully blooming.