Stuff and Nonsense


3.13.2020

Elizabeth Park: Spring Greenhouse Show


Who else can't wait for the end of this exhausting, gray winter? I had some time today after therapy and decided to do a little extra self-care with a wander through the Spring Greenhouse Show at the Elizabeth Park Conservancy in West Hartford. The colors! The scents! A half hour visit left me refreshed and filled with fantasies of the bulbs I will plant in my new gardens.

Elizabeth Park Conservancy hosts this show every year and it is a simply stunning display of flowering bulbs and other seasonal blooms. This year the floral display included varieties of French hyacinths, muscari, tulips, daffodils, pansies, trellised sweet peas, culinary herbs, and hanging baskets, as well as a collection of tropical plants and succulents. The week-long display concludes with a sale of everything in the greenhouse for completely reasonable prices. Admittedly, I have yet to make it to the post-show salad, because I forget to book the time off!

What I'm saying is, the Spring Greenhouse Show is well worth a visit.

Tulip 'Foxy Foxtrot' & Narcissus 'Tahiti'

Tulip 'Spring Green' look so striking next to bold, purple hyacinths

Multiflowering Tulip 'Shogun' are an inviting mix of apricot & melon

More Tulip 'Foxy Foxtrot' with its soft ruffled petals

Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant' looks like a great mashup of Snowdrops & Lily-of-the-Valley

Lathyrus odoratus 'Watermelon' (I think), an heirloom variety from Renee's Garden

3.09.2020

An Evening With Dr. Douglas Tallamy


Recently I had the good luck to attend a presentation by Dr. Douglas Tallamy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware and the author of many publications, including the recent Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard.

Dr. Tallamy spoke about the vital need for a homegrown approach to conservation. With eighty-three percent of the land in the contiguous United States privately-owned, we must integrate native plant species into our yards, balconies, or window boxes to create conservation corridors he calls "Homegrown National Parks."

Such parks would boost the wildlife diversity in North America tremendously by making suburban lawns and gardens more productive for insects. Insects eat foliage, birds eat insects. The more delicious bugs to nom on, the more populous and healthier the birds. If we don’t increase the number and quantity of native plants in our landscape, then the populations of insects will continue to drop and that is very bad for the birds and everything else.

According to Dr. Tallamy the best plant you can add to your landscape is the oak, because they support more than five hundred species caterpillars ("bird food"). Asters and goldenrod are also strongly suggested, as they support the most species of insect herbivores and pollinators. Conveniently, asters and goldenrods are usually drought-resistant and deers avoid them.

Overall, it was a fascinating evening and I recommend getting a hold of a copy of Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard.

3.07.2020

CliCK Willimantic: Beeswax Wraps

Beeswax wraps are all the rage at farmers markets and craft shows near me. Made of cotton, beeswax, jojoba oil, and pine resin these wraps are an all-natural, washable, reusable, and compostable alternative to plastic wrap and baggies. They're great for wrapping sandwiches, snacks, cheese, fruits, and vegetables. You can also use them to cover a bowl or casserole.

You shouldn't wrap raw meat in a beeswax wrap and expect to be able to use the wrap again -- they're not airtight and can't be cleaned the way you're meant to clean a meat container. You also probably don't want to use it to cover a bowl of something sloshy, like soup or sauce, as the wrap will grip, but not seal.

Anywho, 14th on my 43 in 43 list is to use less plastic. Beeswax wraps seemed like an answer to the plastic wrap and baggie problem, but the idea of purchasing such a basic product bothered me. I possessed a box of cute, high-quality cottons and knew Amazon could supply me with beeswax, pine resin, and jojoba oil. Surely, I could make my own beeswax wraps.


For months I thought about making wraps, but didn't act on the idea until I saw CLiCK Willimantic was offering a DIY class is their teaching kitchen. CLiCK is part local processing facility for small farms and business, part education center, and part community garden. It hosts ServSafe certification classes as well as classes for more domestic types -- jams, pickling, vermicomposting, and the afore-mentioned beeswax wraps.

Last weekend, nine or so of us learned to gently melt the wax, resin, and oil together over a double boiler, then brush it onto our fabric squares and pop it in a low oven for 3 minutes. Once the fabric looked evenly shiny and saturated, we hung them up to "dry" for a few minutes. And that was it, the whole shebang. Nine complete beginners made two wraps each in an hour.

While I clearly applied too much wax to my wraps, I'm still quite proud of them and have already put them to use. If I were ready to make more wraps now, I would place the CLiCK wraps in the oven until they warmed up and then lay them on unwaxed fabric to blot up some of the excess wax mixture.


CLiCK is part local processing facility for small farms and business, part education center, and part community garden. It hosts ServSafe certification classes as well as classes for home gardeners -- jams, pickling, vermicomposting, and the afore-mentioned beeswax wraps.