I bought this plant three years ago and planted it in My mom’s garden. This year, for the first time, it sprouted some flowers. Touted as the only two-tone peony one can buy, the blooms were certainly impressive! Hard to go wrong with $3 flowers, but these are particularly gorgeous…
I bought a set of screw on macro filters to play with. I was buying an intervalometer to enter in to time lapse photography and adding the filters to the order made it qualify for free shipping, for cheaper than the shipping cost. At twelve dollars, this four piece set made by AGFA is a steal! They simply screw on a lens like a UV, or polarizing filter and allow You to get physically closer to what You are trying to shoot. Not without a hitch though. This 77mm set has been mated to my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 OS to reduce the minimum focus distance from three and a half feet, down to eight to twelve inches with the +4. The extreme curve of the +4 and +10 filters, dramatically reduces the amount of light intake. So You are pretty much required to shoot in full sun light. On My first try, I used a portable L.E.D. to augment the fading evening light. It worked okay, not great though.
Over the weekend, I was musing pretty hard on My friends garden, so I popped on the +4 filter and had a go in full sun light. The filter reduced the depth of field to nearly nothing. I had to run very tight apertures to get a range of one inch into focus. Using shutter speeds of 125ths, to 400ths of a second, with apertures from 16-22 and My ISO at 400 and 800 in broad daylight was very odd. It did yield some rewards, at a better ratio than the first time, but still only 1 in every 15 shots was acceptable. Half of those were still not quite sharp, but I think I am getting the hang of using these things. Who would have thought that a $12 set of filters could turn a telephoto lens into decent macro shooting optics. It is not as good as buying a 200mm macro lens, but at one, or two percent of the price, WOW. None of the images in this post have been cropped…
The tropical Minnesotan attic jungle is producing again this year. This orange was a pleasantly sour punch in the taste buds. The room was filled with a lovely citrus aroma when I peeled away the skin. Can’t wait for the rest to be ripe.
Last year, I tried growing a variety of tomato called Cherokee Purple. Sadly, last year, spring was quite late and I had a pathetic harvest of one tomato, as noted in the post on this site called ‘Love at First Spite.’ This year I tried them again. Much like the previous year, spring was late, but I got them planted about 2 weeks earlier than before. Thankfully, I have a lot more to eat this time around. Varying in size from 3 to 6 and a half inches across, they have grown in such thick clusters that I’ve had to do a large amount of thinning to prevent rot, due to over crowding. The key to these tomatoes is the taste. They are simply better than most, if not all of the other varieties available. Even the under-ripe 6 inch 1.7 pounder pictured below is tastier than any other tomato I’ve ever grown, or gotten from a grocery store. I never thought I would actually like tomatoes, but I do now… Thank goodness some plants will still give us seeds that will grow into more food.
I have expanded the ‘tropical Minnesotan attic jungle’ again. I bought six new dwarf citrus trees from Four Winds Growers out in California. I probably shouldn’t have ordered them during the hottest time of the year thus far. The two younger trees arrived looking good. Some of the others seem to have suffered from the heat of being trapped in an unventilated box, inside a baking semi trailer for two and a half days. The little ones are a Valencia orange and a new Kieffer lime to replace My old one that had an unbeatable scale infestation. I aquired a second Improved Meyer lemon tree as well.
Due to many favorable reviews around the web, I also opted to get an Oroblanco grapefruit tree. They don’t get pink/red, but are said to be very pot friendly and unlike most citrus, doesn’t need a lot of summer heat to sweeten the fruit. Sounds like a no brianer to Me.
Then there is the Gold Nugget mandarin orange tree. Which is very bushy and compact, but has been in a state of perpetual drooping since it got here. It doesn’t appear to be dying, but has yet to show Me any signs of changing it’s current mood.
Rounding out the order is a Mexican Sweet lime tree, which does not look the greatest either. All of the most recently grown leaves are curled up really tightly. I am assuming for now that it was heat during shipping that caused these little trees to look so glum. They have been here for 10 days now and none of them look like they are going to die. Maybe they will bounce back after this 90+ degree weather passes. Hopefully I can take better care of these trees than I have with some of My older ones. Having ordered trees from the same grower a couple of years ago and gaining My own growing experience over the last few years, I believe that things should be ok. So long as I can keep the scale away from them.
I bought this indoor friendly vine three years ago, along with My first citrus trees. It pumps out interesting orange-red flowers that do indeed roughly resemble dolphins jumping out of the water. Plentiful amounts of two and a half inch long blooms have come in waves every few months the whole time I’ve had it. At first, it was just two, four inch branches. After about a year, I re-potted the vine, proceeding to drop it and break off two-thirds of the delicate branches. Left with only one, six inch branch, I got it situated and let it grow. Then, one day I came home from work and found My lovely, quite fragile vine, top down and pot up on the floor. Presumably sliding off its perch on a stool due to vibrations from the construction crews updating the 55-100+ year old sewers and water lines along My street. Again, all but one twelve inch branch had broken off the vine. This time, I gave the broken off bits to My Mom, which she rooted in water and has now potted two of these plants, a little larger than the one I got from the nursery to start with. In the 6 months since the last tumble, a couple new sprouts are coming from the base of the mother plant, but the lone remaining arm of the vine has more than doubled its size. Pictured here is that vine, now 2 feet long and a shot of the parts that were broken off, but are now rooted and growing just fine on their own. This plant should be a mainstay in My living room for many years to come. Such a neat variety of flowers to have around the house.
This has not been a good year in the garden for Me.. Most of the food stuffs I planted, did not take very well. Unlike last year, we didn’t work any compost or peat moss into the raised beds. I think that, in combination with the nearly two month delay in the arrival of spring, immediately followed by several weeks of extreme heat, really set things back. The carrots and parsnips have been puny and pathetic. The peas and beans have grown in a rather lack-lustre manor and the peppers, bak choi, spinach and tomatoes have been a joke. Even My citrus trees suffered from the odd weather. I started putting them Outside once the temps at night seemed to stop going below 55 degrees. Only to have My older keifer lime and younger blood orange bitten by frost. Happily, both have bounced back very well. Unlike the apple tree, which openned most of it’s flowers in a beautiful display, on a day temps dippped into the 30s. Needless to say, at least 75% of the pottential bounty promptly died off. With such slim pickings, the squirrels, who usually get most the apples, have taken nearly all of them.
I planted two varities of tomatoes for 2012, a cherry type called Gardener’s Delight and Cherokee Purple, which is often compared to Brandywine, but with a more robust flavor. Both were started in planters, indoors, late in the winter as usual. Then, spring didn’t bother showing up and they started dying. So I planted another round and waited for the weather to start warming, but it didn’t. Seven weeks after the ‘normal’ planting time, and 5 weeks after starting the second round of tomatoes, I finally put some in the ground. I should have just sewn in seeds, but I planted the best looking of the seedlings I had growing, even though they were stunted from being in tiny starter planters for 5 weeks. After 2 weeks showing no signs of change, both varieties started growing! The first flowers did not appear until the end of June. Both plants grew to about 2 feet, kicked out about half a dozen flowers and are yeilding 3 to 6 tomatoes. They have stopped growing taller and aren’t really flowering. It’s sad… Last Year I grew a pair of Hybrid Zebra Cherry Tomatoes, which are a cross of green and red zebra stripe cherry tomatoes. They grew taller than Me, delivering 1200ish amazingly yummy little morsels. Needless to say, I am quite disappointed in this year’s crop. Then, the very day I was going to pick My three Cherokee Purples, some hateful little critter stole two of them! Leaving them, partially eaten, on the ground nearby. So My crop is a solitary, scarred tomato that grew to only half the size of a usual C. P.
And so, in the twilight hours of the last day in July, I partook in the suprizingly delicious little thing. I’m not really a tomato person.. I grow them, mostly, cause they are good for You. But this thing was really good! I however, did it no justice. With My stomach growling, I broke out some tortillas, cheese, spinach and some ‘pulled bbq chicken’ from a plastic tub. It was pretty good, for a 4am food excursion. While eating it, I just couldn’t help but feel like I should have made something, well, better.. I wasted the best tomato I’ve ever tasted, the single fruit of My months long labor, on a bit of pre-packaged, over sugar’ed, microwaved, remnants of meat. At least I ate some of the tomato and snapped a couple pictures before constructing dinner. If things go better next year and they give more bounty and viable seeds, I’ll grow these Cherokee Purple Tomatoes forever!