Green Thumbs

Passion for growing plants

   Jul 02

Wonderful West Coast

Finally, we’re settled once again back home in Gothenburg. There are tons of work to do, cleaning out the cupboards, washing all the china again and generally lots of cleaning to do. Our renters weren’t very clean or hygienic. The shower looked like it hadn’t been washed at all in the three years we have been gone and there are small repairs to be done everywhere. At the same time we’re trying to be social and catch up with relatives and old friends. My parents have been super helpful with offering their time and car to go to IKEA and loaning us their drill and all the tiny things that makes the days easier.
The balcony was in a sorry state with lots of algae growing on the railing and the old paint on the floor is flaking so we had to get wooden flooring for it to look nice again. And of course a shelf for me to put some of the potted plants. Things are shaping up a bit now though, I have planted the sunchokes in a huge pot, the herb pot is in place and I have put up new hooks on the wall to replace the old rusty ones.
The two large windows in our living room are facing a wooded slope where I once put in some spring bulbs and a rhododendron. A maple sapling had done a good job at totally hiding the bush so it had to be cut out to see the rhododendron again and once the area was cleared I found a columbine I had planted way back in 2011. The Spanish bluebells have done a decent job at spreading and can be found here and there. I have to do some more clearing to plant more bulbs in fall but like everything else that is a work in progress.
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Sunchokes are thirsty!
All of the houseplants survived the move but some are looking a bit worse for wear, right now I’m trying to get them to perk up but they are many and mom and dad were here and dropped off even more plants that had been living at their place.
Apparently I was a hoarder when I moved out from my parents and said yes to literally everything offered to me so I have had to do a lot of clearing out, throwing away and giving to charity. I have even decided not to buy any more plants right now since I have way too many, the ones I have have to be spaced out and properly cared for in their new setting before I can add more the the collection.
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Madagscar vine, Stephanotis floribunda. Before and after repotting.


   Jun 11

After Rain Comes Sunshine

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Update: I wrote this post prior to the move but never got the chance to post it until now. I’ll have a new post up soon about my new life in Gothenburg!

We have had a cold and rainy spring here in Stockholm but it is finally warming up enough to wear a t-shirt for a short errand outdoors. The tulip season is the longest one I can ever remember and we have an odd mix of spring flowers and early summer ones.
But shortly we’re going to change Stockholm for Gothenburg and moving back home permanently. I passed my important math course and am hopefully done with studies at that level and can move on to University soon. Yay me! I had honestly not thought that I’d pass the exam and had planned to take up math once again back in Gothenburg. The “congratulations!” from my teacher was one of the best things I have heard in a long time, I almost cried with joy! And a special thanks to my teacher Anneli.
Now I have what feels like a void in my life, a happy void but still a void. I don’t know what I’m going to do next, apply for a job or take a summer course at Gothenburg University? Guess time will tell!

I also did my last day at work this Sunday, I felt sad to say goodbye to my wonderful colleagues at Doctors Without Borders Médecins Sans Frontières. It has truly been a great experience and if I ever get the opportunity to work with the organization again I will.
Now all that remains is to hand in the paperwork for changing address to Skatteverket and do my best to pack up my plants and clean out the apartment. Mom and dad gets here Friday by car and Johan will take the train down to the west coast when he has handed over the keys to our landlord.
In terms of plants there’s not much happening, I haven’t planted much really because of the move. We had a farewell party for our closest friends Saturday and I saved the tiny pot of chives from when I made a potato salad. Yesterday I planted the leftovers down in the communal yard so it can live on and be useful for our neighbors.
Also as I have previously showed I had a pot of sunchokes that I planted way back when we hadn’t decided to move, I still have lots of tubers in the fridge so I decided to give away that single pot to a colleague with an allotment. I hope it thrives and that he gets lots and lots of wonderful sunchokes.

Disclaimer. I’m not in any way educated in medicine, I worked in the Stockholm headquarters during my time studying. But for anyone thinking of joining MSF I can wholeheartedly recommend it, they have a way of taking care of and appreciating every employee no matter what your position is. Not much beats the knowledge that your work saves lives.


   Apr 10

Sunny Sunchokes

I recently got some Jerusalem Artichokes, also called Sunchokes from my math teacher. She’s got tons of them at her allotments (yes, plural!) and gave away lots of them, after sorting and washing they went into a clean lunchbox with some damp paper towels to keep them from drying out. I plan on planting them in my raised bed when it’s ready later in spring. I have been a little worried they might not keep and go soft and mushy like some of the store bought ones did. These guys, or should I say gals since the variety is called ‘Bianca’ are already sprouting! The little “eyes” show some growth so I decided to put one of them in a pot on the balcony as a test. We have had temperatures up to thirteen degrees recently so I think it should be fine. I just have to remember to give it a sip of water since the balcony has a roof, and Stockholm has been dry recently anyway. I’m hoping to get some nice flowers come late summer and then the delicious tubers later on. Most Sunchoke varieties don’t flower up here in Sweden since our summers are a bit short, but this variety does.
The tubers are fantastic mixed with potatoes in a gratin or oven baked with other veggies. One just has to plan when to eat them, there’s a reason they are also jokingly called Fartichokes.
Bianca
Kruka m. jordärtskocka

Mom and dad were here for short visit Monday to Wednesday, it was nice to see them again as we haven’t seen each other since Christmas. Monday evening they came over for pizza night and Tuesday we had lunch at my favorite restaurant Indian Garden.
I have been collecting those semi rare Daffodils for mom, I enjoy them on the kitchen table and them let them wither down when the flowers start to look ratty and separate the dried bulbs for her. I had some pure white Grape Hyacinths, pure white large Daffs and some very small dainty pale yellow ones. I don’t know how she manages to cram in all those bulbs in her and dad’s tiny yard but somehow I’m sure she’ll do it.
I had some NOID Hoya cutting that have been growing in a vase for months, she got two and I kept one. I don’t have room for yet another enormous vine.
Easter was nice and calm with not much happening, studying and just generally puttering around and spending time with Johan and looking after the indoor plants. Our work schedules don’t really allow for much time together during the weeks. He gets off from work around the same time mine starts and we are often both tired come evening.
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Hoya
Katie Heath


   Oct 10

Darkness Crept back into the Forests of the World

To quote Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings movie, darkness is creeping upon us in this part of the world, the weather is chilly and the leaves have started to turn colour. It feels sad but at the same time I like this darkness. I’m feeling like the world is a darker place and more connected to all the evil spirits that populate the horror books and movies I so enjoy. The plants are shedding their leaves and everything goes back to the earth, slowly turning to humus. A sense of peace and quiet can be felt.

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Horse-chestnuts, aren’t they pretty?
The balcony has been emptied of tender plants except a passion-wine, a Bougainvillea and an olive tree. I have also made the unfortunate discovery that I don’t have endless space in my windowsills which has meant that some plants have been given away or sold. The windows in the stairways have been conquered by plants and I can only keep my fingers crossed that the neighbors won’t complain, I hope that’s hard to do with a tropical hibiscus blooming its socks off in two different colours.
Inside the apartment the Desert Rose has been given a new pot I bought the last weekend of summer and the Sarracenia has been moved indoors. Both seem to do well and the Desert Rose looks handsome in the new pot. The same day I got my very first Tillandsia, it does look a bit like an alien, doesn’t it?

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Tillandsia in the upper left corner of the second picture.
I do worry about the huge olive tree I have though, will I keep it indoors and hope for the best or find a corner in the staircase for it? I don’t really know yet but will keep it outdoors for as long as possible, which to be honest isn’t very long.
On the bright side my yellow Cattleya that hasn’t been re-potted for ages got a new clay pot today and I removed some of the leafless back pseudobulbs, hoping for the best but it seems like it should work. It has some really nice new shoots and needed a new heavier pot because it kept falling over all the time. The roots were a tangled mess when I cut away the pot and all the bark mix seemed to have been eaten by the roots.
This time of the year is bittersweet for me, I have to clean, weed my plants and check for pests, there is a lot to do and I can clearly say that I prefer to be bringing plants outside rather than inside. But when I can’t do anything more in the evening because of the darkness I can always watch garden series and dream of spring and one day moving to a more gardening friendly climate. I’d love to live in a Mediterranean climate some day. For now I have to be satisfied with watching my old favorites, like Monty Don and his Italian and French Gardens! Doesn’t Mr Don seem like the sweetest and most knowledgeable person one could listen to a gloomy autumn evening? Scroll down for more pictures.

 

 

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Summer tries to stay while being pushed back by autumn.

 


   Jul 10

From Manhattan to the Swamp

Phew! We’re having a heat wave right now, the weather is unusually warm and we’ve had several days with temperatures reaching 28 degrees! We poor Swedes aren’t used to having it quite this hot. The plants need lots and lots of water and I, their faithful servant need ice water.

 
In late May I bought a Canna lily with spent flowers, because of the lack of flowers it was marked down to 25 SEK, that’s quite a bargain! I recently had it repotted into a large bucket with drainage holes and the other day I saw a new bud forming! Right now it’s blooming its socks off. It feels good to get a great deal on a plant and then having it grow and flower.
Back to the Phalaenopsis orchids. I bought a new plant quite some time ago (also marked down from 199 SEK to 19,90 SEK) which I bet is ‘Wild Peach’ Since flowering is over I bought a simple but beautiful glass pot and put it in. Also the orchid where our former landlord broke the spike when she dropped a lamp on it was repotted. I figured it was for the best to give both of them some new space and growing medium. I have wanted to try a new thing with the orchids for awhile now. Planting in sphagnum moss and wine corks looks so pretty I had to give it a go. Friends have given me really weird looks when I have asked if it’s alright to keep the wine cork when at a party! I have to since the boyfriend doesn’t drink at all and looks at alcohol with disgust. Anyway, the project has been a success. The plants look very nice in their glass pots with the moss and wine corks.

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Last week when doing grocery shopping I was stopped dead in my tracks by a real beauty, it called to me in its speckled purple glory and as by magic suddenly I had a new Phalaenopsis in the shopping basket. Of course I never meant to buy yet another shopping mall NOID but I simply had to. Turns out it isn’t as NOID as I though, beneath all the plastic and paper stuff they put on the plants I got down to the original transparent pot which had a neatly printed text that said ‘Manhattan’ week 34. It made me super happy to get a confirmation of my suspicions on the cultivar name.

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Before I wrap up for this time I just wanted to tell that my Amaryllis ‘Cherry Nymph’ is flowering right now, with two stalks none the less. And the Penguicula that got a new home in a bonsai pot early this spring is also in flower, it’s so cute and also very reliable. It keeps the kitchen free of flies and ocassionally sends up some flowers. I even made a division that I brought as a house warming gift for some friends who have also recently moved to a new place. That’s all for now, I have to refill my ice water!

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The Canna leaves are very pretty with their dark colour. I also have some peppermint cuttings growing in an old strawberry container, they are made from the same material as jiffy pots.


   Jun 23

Relocating, Repotting and Changes

Hi there again! Long time no see. Spring decided to be a hectic time for us since our landlady decided to sell the apartment we were renting, and between trying to find a new place to live and school there wasn’t the time and energy for the blog.
But now it’s June and the summer has given me more time to spend gardening and blogging, at a new place, a new balcony with an amazing view of the lake Mälaren.
Now, after half a month of living at the new place I feel the balcony garden is shaping up, the herb garden is finished in the planters and some of the indoor plants are summering outdoors.

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What I don’t like is that we now live at the top of a hill, at the third floor with no elevator. It is torture to load a bag of soil onto a shopping stroller and take it all the way to the top and then carry it three floors. Doesn’t really make me motivated to repot my darlings. I bought eighteen liters of soil yesterday but it’s almost gone! Now here’s hoping for the weather to turn nice again, the weekend of Midsummer passed with grey skies, chilly winds and constant rain showers. The only thing actively growing in this sorry excuse for summer is the peppermint.

My Amaryllis bulbs have been refreshed with new soil and more space. Now I have a pot with only white flowering bulbs and one with reds and pinks. ‘Cherry Nymph’ has two buds! Look how juicy and nice it looks. When I was done taking pictures I realized that my favorite, ‘Aphrodite’ also has a bud, they are indeed spoiling me with flowers.
I’ll finish up this post with some recap pictures of spring.

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My oldest Adenium is in bloom!

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A Canna lily is relaxing in the reclining chair

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And now some pictures of the gorgeous spring we had

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   Apr 26

Easter Holidays

Our Easter holiday was bliss! It started out with chilly overcast weather accompanied by winds, but ended in sunshine, warmth and a taste of summer.
Dear boyfriend had the day off on Maundy Thursday so we decided to head off for Djurgården, a large island in the harbour connected to the mainland by a bridge. It was a long time since I had been there and I wanted to see the pretty springtime wildflowers.
After almost two years in the city I was confident I could find my way without the crutch of my smartphone, perhaps overly confident as I took the wrong bridge and we ended up at Skeppsholmen instead! Of course my boyfriend took the opportunity to tease me about my mistake.

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This is the place we were aiming for, right across the water.

Although not the place we had planned to visit, Skeppsholmen is a lovely place with old houses and laws strewn with flowers. In our search for a boat to take us to Djurgården we took a tiny bridge to Kastellholmen, yet another island, which is a bit rough and untended compared to Skeppsholmen. However, that didn’t bother me; I like gardens a bit on the wild side.

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Kastellholmen was for a long time a part of Stockholm’s defense and features a small castle which once had cannons pointed out to sea. On both of the islands there are many old and gnarly oaks growing in the rooks. I’m sure it will look lovely once they are green.
What I found most entertaining about Kastellholmen was the tiny castle, complete with towers, arched windows and blazon inlays. It is situated to the right of the bridge support at the island’s shore. It turned out to be an ice skating pavilion, built in the 1800s as a place where nobles could change and get a bit warm in the winters before venturing out on the ice again. Nowadays it’s used as a hotel and restaurant.
If one were to visit Stockholm I would really recommend taking the time to visit Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen. Even though they are close to the city there is a calm and quiet on the islands that is only occasionally broken by a car or a siren from the city.

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Friday and Sunday we went to enjoy the Sakura blossoms in Kungsträdgården, a park in the city centre, planted densely with cherry trees.
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Monday it was time to take the first run of the season in our woods. The weather had warmed up and we could run without wearing our jackets!
The Common Hepaticas are still going strong but have gotten competition from the Wood Anemones. The weather has been amazing and I hope we can get to keep the warmer weather; we could really use some greenery now!

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I can never get enough of cherry blossoms!


   Apr 12

Spring Symphony

So, spring has finally sprung. We had a couple of cold rainy days which were followed by glorious sunshine and birdsong. The buds on the lilacs are bursting in slow motion and one can see their tiny flower buds.  Other trees and bushes have bright green buds ready to finally meet warmer weather.
Behind our house there is a small forest where one can find masses of Common Hepaticas, which aren’t really that common in Sweden. Actually they are quite rare which makes it even more precious to get the opportunity to see them. It is a protected species in the whole country, meaning it is prohibited by law to sell the flowers or dig up their roots. In some parts of our contry the protection is even more strict. Best to enjoy them with eyes only.
Speaking of eyes, let’s see what spring looks like!

 

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Remnants of the farm which was once here.

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Looks like ‘Wild Peach’

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Our landlord is wants to sell the apartment and while trying to style it a bit she accidentally broke the flower stalk on one of my oldest Phalaenopsis. As a way to apologize she gifted me the green and pink one above.


   Mar 28

Adenium Obesum, Pretty in Pink Desert Rose

I didn’t get around to posting this piece until now, but the seedlings are already starting to branch out and the mature plant has been heavily pruned to correct uneven growth.
I haven’t posted anything about my Desert Roses, Adenium Obesum. Actually I have in my possession one mature plant and a couple of one-year-old seedlings. The old plant flowers in summer with large pretty pink flowers, the most prevalent colour in Adeniums. But the seedlings, they are going to be surprises! Apparently seedlings do not grow true to type; many times they revert back to pink, which is also nice, but not as exciting as some of the burgundy and double varieties I have seen.
Its native habitats are for example Somalia and the fascinating and isolated island of Socotra, located off the coast of Yemen at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Because of their desert like origins the Adeniums form a large swollen caudex to get them through life on scarce water resources. The caudex grows larger as the plan gets older and often takes interesting otherworldly forms.

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While other plants in more favorable conditions grow large and tall with age, the Adenium doesn’t get much taller than a dwarf tree. Instead it focuses on growing broad and round in order to tolerate the harsh sun, fierce winds and seasonal monsoon rains.
Desert Roses are very easy to grow, but they require a lot of water during spring and summer. To prevent root rot indoor gardeners and dark climates induce dormancy in the autumn by reducing water and letting the plant shed its leaves. If cared for like this and kept in a warm place the Desert Rose is an easy plant, even though it does look a bit odd with its bare branches in the winter.

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Last spring I ordered some Adenium Obesum seeds from the US. to try my hand at. They sprouted rapidly and had a fat caudex from the start. The purpose of growing Desert Roses from seed is to get some variation in the colour of the flowers, and the fact that seedlings often have a more pronounced caudex than cuttings. But oh, are they slow growers! Since sprouting last spring they currently struggle to reach even ten centimeters. This plant requires endless patience.
As of today when I’m writing this piece I pinched my seedlings just a few hours ago to encourage branching. This is important in cultivation to avoid a large caudex with one single spindly stem ending with a couple of sad leaves. Pinching should be done when the plants are in active growth. As I started to water again early February and we are currently fifteen days away from the vernal equinox I hope it’s the right time and not too early.

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It worked!
Some other plant related news; my Amaryllis ‘Aphrodite’ is in full swing right now! One open flower and a bud. I really like the delicate picotee and watercolour-like look of this frilly double. It looks like someone took a paint brush to the flower and gently brushed it with a watery raspberry red. I’m so grateful, my dear mother purchased her for me at the grocery store after I had spent two years looking for this specific bulb.
Also, my pot with two white ‘Jewel’ has started sending up stalks, I think I prefer spring flowering Amaryllises to the ones forced for Christmas. When the light returns the true colours and sparkle in the flowers are easier to see.

Last weekend I went to the garden fair at Älvsjö, this is something I normally look forward to all year but this time I was deeply disappointed. It was very scaled down and nothing was really exciting. Armies of NOID Phalaenopsis orchids stood like soldiers on rows upon rows on the shelves. The fair was littered with cheap garden ornaments and very few unusual or high quality plants, pots or tools. I got a nice pot apparently made in Crete, but that was it.

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Armies of NOID Phalaenopsis

The highlights were a little specialized orchid boutique, a stall with nice little old ladies selling seeds and the above mentioned Cretan terracotta pot. Let’s hope the next garden fair at Kista in late April is better!

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Phalaenopsis

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This is an idea of how a garden inspired by the tales of writer Astrid Lindren could look.

 

 

 

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Keeping hens has become popular!

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At last, spring has finally sprung!


   Jan 04

The Peculiar Pinguicula

The story of the Pinguicula began when I had lived on my own for a mere six months. Being new to doing all the work myself I had more than once found a blackened banana in the fruit bowl, and I think everyone knows what black bananas bring. Fruit flies, in hordes.

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See the flies?
As the plant geek I am, I found this situation to be an excellent excuse to try my hand at carnivorous plants (even though experiments I made as a child never lasted for more than just a few months as the plant inevitably didn’t get enough water.) So one afternoon spent at a plant crazy friend’s house (now with a degree in biology) I was presented to a few curious clumps of bright green rosettes with diminutive roots. My friend also promised me plants of my own if I could supply a pot or two. Of course I could.
It turned out that the rosettes were some kind of tropical Pinguicula, the name of the sub species being long lost. In essence it is a carnivorous plant that catches its prey with a sticky substance that is produced in the leaves. Once stuck the flies cannot escape and will slowly be digested by the plant.
The species exists in many parts of the world, but the one I grow indoors is a tropical one that thrives in swampy conditions. It can take drought but stops producing the sticky coating of the leaves if it gets to dry. The best thing to do is to place a deep saucer under the pot to keep it wet at all times.

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The plant itself is not very flashy but deserves the place on my windowsill anyway. At best it can be described as cute with its bright green leaves. If you take good care of it and are lucky, you might be rewarded with simple bright pink flowers in spring and summer. Flowering will be encouraged if the plant is placed in a bright to sunny location. The rosettes divide themselves freely and can quickly cover the entire surface of the pot and even start to fall out. The plant prefers a shallow pot since the roots are almost non-existent. A deep pot would dry out far too fast. Even though it is not a great idea to do this very often, the plant can be placed in the shower and gently washed with lukewarm water to remove the unsightly dead flies.
All in all, this plant is easy to care for and soon you could find yourself giving away plants because the pot is becoming crowded. This is a must for everyone who from time to time finds themselves with overripe fruit.

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