Key West Butterfly Conservatory

I traveled to Key West for the first time recently, and went armed with a list of “garden-related” places to visit. Except then I ended up spending a lot of time by the hotel pool in a pretty posh cabana lounging around in Mrs. Roper muumuus and drinking Key lime coladas and feeling generally glamorous and purposely lazy. Basically my ideal vacation. I did manage to make it to the Key West Butterfly Conservatory the only day it rained, however.

(Yes, Helen Roper and Blanche Devereaux were my favorite role models of mischievous, charming, and lusty old ladies I still aspire to be like when I grow up.)

4/5 of the rest of my time there was spent practicing my very rusty French in the most marvelous little wine bar, eating gazpacho at the same restaurant on three different occasions because it was that good, and trying on a lot of giant estate jewels in a store on Duval Street. Then, it rained, so a trip to someplace enclosed was in order.

The place was absolutely magical. First you enter through a room full of butterfly related decor, then move onto the educational part of the tour during which the we were treated to the owner himself giving us a quick education on butterflies and the need for pollinators. Then we (gently) filed into the conservatory itself, which was beyond to large steel doors we had to be careful to make sure were fully closed behind us. No escapees!

Tons of butterflies were everywhere, and the blue ones kept landing on the dude in the blue plaid shirt. I was wearing blue also and none landed on me so I guess they thought he was more flowery looking or smelling.

key west butterfly conservatory

I wish I had taken more, and better quality photos, but  things with wings don’t stay still too long and I wanted to focus on the experience rather than view it through the filter of my phone. There were gorgeous plants everywhere, and can we talk about the resident flamingos, Rhett and Scarlet?? Beautiful birds, and my first time seeing a flamingo in real life!

key west butterfly conservatory

What an awesome experience. I felt like I was in another world the few moments I was inside the Key West Butterfly Conservatory. It was thrilling and heavenly and so peaceful. Just a very zen moment I’m grateful to have experienced. I highly recommend making sure this place is on your to-do list when you visit the Florida Keys. You won’t be disappointed!

Gardening Obstacles–The Overseer

When I decided to move into my adorable little rental house, a small but significant part of why I chose this particular location was the fact that the backyard had a large plot for gardening. Warning:  bit of a rant ahead.

At first I was told by (let’s call this person) The Overseer that the garden space, if used, was not to become an “eyesore.” No problem, I thought! That winter (2016-17) I mapped out the entire plot and purchased seeds accordingly. I was excited and so happy about the prospect of expanding my gardening experience and blogging even more, and even began putting out feelers for sponsorship opportunities. I started my cold crops (radishes, spinach, kale) and when little seedlings started breaking through the garden soil I was elated.

Then, Setback #1.

The Overseer announced one day that he would be tilling up the entire garden plot. Not only would he be tilling it all up, he would also be planting grass seed on two thirds of the plot, beginning at the western-most end I had carefully chosen to plant my cold weather seeds because it received the most sunny hours of the day during the shorter days of spring. This really deflated my motivation and took the wind right out of my gardening sails. I was already going through a very tough time (divorce, custody dispute, new and challenging job) and needed the therapeutic benefits and focus of throwing myself into gardening. After a few weeks, and a nosedive into a long break from blogging, I brushed my shoulders off and revamped my garden map to fit into the newly defined smaller plot.

Setback #2 came in the form of a snide comment from The Overseer. Let me back up for minute and preface this one with a few other incidents–just a couple among many. For Valentine’s Day I had hung a wreath on the front door, using one of those over-the-door hangers. A day or two after doing so, I was approached by The Overseer and was told I was defeating the purpose of the seal around the door and to take the wreath down. Let’s nevermind the fact that the door is not at all airtight, but that millimeter of space on either side of the inch-wide door hanger probably upped my heating bill by several cents! I internally rolled my eyes and took the damn wreath down. Backing up even further, when I moved in that previous November, I took time to organize all of my storage bins in the garage by category. One day later that month, I received an email from The Overseer stating that he’d kindly reorganized my bins to better utilize the garage space so I had more room. Can I just tell you how much unstacking and restacking had to be done to get out my Christmas tree/ornaments/decor a couple weeks later? And, boundary issues, much?

So, fast forward to spring. I have sown seeds, planted starts, and we’re receiving plenty of rain so things are coming along with the garden. Of course the weeds began to compete, and of course as I was working full time, out of town three days a week, I fell behind on weeding. One day while I was working remotely/from home, I ditched lunch break to go outside and spend some time weeding. When I weed, I pull up the entire thing, roots and all. I’m sitting there weeding, minding my own business, trying to get some zen time, when suddenly The (Ninja) Overseer pops into view and says, “Hey there, ‘Master Gardener,’ you’re never going to get all this weeding done the way you’re doing it. Here is a hand hoe, this is how it works:  you just scrape slightly under the surface of the soil and tear the weeds off. You can do this entire plot in an hour.” Now, perhaps I should’ve been grateful and thanked my hero profusely, but I was rather annoyed at the sarcasm in his voice as he said “master gardener,” and further annoyed at the mansplanation of how to use a tool since the implication/assumption was obviously that I neither knew what one was nor how to use it, despite my “master gardener” status.

Fine. I made the best of it. I used the tool. I created a YouTube channel for Her Emerald Thumb and did a demonstration of it there and on Instagram. But it was at this point I started to feel incredibly creeped out and like I was constantly being watched, and that this place was DEFINITELY NOT my territory. As if the significant chunk of my income I was giving The Overseer every month was like paying my rent to a parent. As if I were an incapable child. I didn’t enjoy the garden at all last summer. It was a source of stress and tension for me as every time I went out there I felt like I was being observed and critiqued. This year I vowed to myself not to let anyone make me feel weird and to choose my reaction and attitude. I bought new seed starting trays and began planning the garden again. This time would be different! This time would be what I needed it to be.

Record scratch. Setback #3 ensued two days ago when I received the following email from The Overseer: (This is in response to me asking proactively if I could use the same section of garden so I could go ahead with starting my seeds.)

“As far as the garden goes, I had kept the tiller behind at my place so I could till up that spot in March or April so I could plant grass seed. Couldn’t you just do container gardening? I’d rather just get that area back in grass seed.”

Bless your little heart, Mr. Overseer. Of COURSE I can just do container gardening! In fact, the more you paint me into a corner, the more I will use my industrious nature to overcome all of the obstacles you’ve set in place. I always did like a challenge.

Stay tuned, y’all, for some EPIC container gardening adventures. When life hands you garbage, make compost.

Houseplant Revival – The Jungalow Trend

I just came across an article on Facebook about Millenials and the Jungalow trend. #Jungalow, #urbangarden, #monsteramonday are all popular hashtags on Instagram. Why? Because Millenials have caught onto the houseplant revival. I was pretty stoked to read this, because I’m part of a microgeneration called “Xennials” that isn’t quite Gen X and not quite Millenial, and it made me feel super cool to know I’ve been ahead of a Millenial trend for once.

houseplant

Last spring one of my good friends, Joel, at stayheavyblog.com, gave me a beautiful monstera that he no longer wanted. It was in a tiny pot and when I went to repot it, the poor thing was so rootbound I didn’t know if it would survive when I carefully cut away the plastic pot liner. But that thing has absolutely fluorished in my little house in a big south-facing picture window in the living room. It’s kind of gigantic, and honestly I have no compunction about walking around naked with the curtains open because the plant is basically a window covering itself. It’s like I’m Eve in the Garden of Eden! Really all I need is a snake and some fruit and I’m set.

houseplant
My daughter’s first selfie!

After writing my last post on the DIY indoor potting bench, I’ve felt a renewed interest in blogging. I kind of lost my passion for gardening starting in March last year, which is a story I’ll save for another post. Right now I’m going to go with my rejuvenated creative flow and post about indoor gardening, which seems appropriate considering it’s almost winter here.

What’s your favorite houseplant? Were you around for the years of macrame plant hangers and other funky 1970s plant paraphenalia? I remember my mother having a few that I think she made herself. I’ve seen them on anthropologie’s site recently and that tells me they’re back in a big way. Do you consider yourself an indoor gardener? I’d love to hear about what you grow inside! (Yes, we can talk about cannabis as long as you don’t get baked and forget to use your burner account.) Seriously, though, if you have casual houseplants or an indoor herb garden, or hydroponic tomatoes please share in the comments!

Crates & Pallet DIY Indoor Potting Bench Reveal

Hey guys! I’ve recently partnered with Crates & Pallet to build a DIY project using their extra large crates. I decided to make an indoor potting bench for the fall and winter that doubles as a console to hold gardening books and knick knacks, so it has some aesthetic appeal as an indoor furniture piece.

crate & pallet

This was a really fun project, and easy! All you need is some paint, furniture legs, a drill, crates, and a couple days of enough free time to paint and assemble, and voila! You’re a brand new indoor potting bench maker and owner.

crate & pallet diy

Not only are crates good for storing things, they would also make a great seed starting station. My plan is to (come February or so) install a couple grow lights and start my seeds for next spring. How awesome will that be?! I did purchase a few new plants for this project–at a total of $17 for two orchids, ($5 each at Lowe’s in their houseplant clearance section) a couple small potted succulents, and two African violets. The violets were not in great shape, but came back to vibrancy with a good watering. The orchids may or may not survive–I took an orchid class a couple years ago but have since forgotten most of the material on how to care for them. I’ve added orchid care to my list of things to re-research!

Note:  I did not attach each crate to the other. They’re simply stacked on top of each other so that they’re easy to disassemble and move, or reconfigure to make different setups. I love the versatility this project offers. I used Basic acrylic paint, some of which I already had on hand, and chose the color scheme to go with that super mellow Jerry Garcia painting.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments or find me on social media!

Kids Sunflower Art Project

This summer my daughter and I planted a dwarf variety of sunflowers, and when they reached maturity and bloomed we thought it would be a good idea to bring some inside. Then we decided it would be a good idea to paint them. Then I decided it would be a good idea to learn about a famous artist and his Sunflowers painting. The painting was inspiring; his wiki page was not. Van Gogh had issues, man.

Sunflower art

Miss Alexandra turned 5 this past May. I’ve never featured her much on the blog because she didn’t understand what it meant to give me her permission to post photos of and stories about her previously. It’s important to me that she’s cool with being on the internet and obviously I’d like to keep her safe from weirdos, but we live in a different age of technology now and I also don’t want her to feel left out if I’m NOT allowing her to have some sort of internet presence. Anyway, on to the art project…

Kids sunflower art project

We hauled our sunflowers and zinnias inside and made our little still life setup happen on the dining room table. That’s a $10 tablecloth from TJ Maxx, in case you were wondering if I was crazy enough to paint on some fancy flaxen table dressing. Next, we made our outlines with black paint and basically colored in from there. The blue background was applied last.

Kids sunflower art project
Pretty sure this was Van Gogh’s same technique.

Our paints were a hodge podge of Basic acrylics and children’s washable paints, and our brushes were some Crayola and whatever I’ve found at Michael’s over the years that were in my art bin, which is super well-organized; in fact, it’s so perfect I’m not even going to show it to you. Just look at Pinterest photos some other mom has taken of her perfectly curated art/craft closet and you’ll see what I mean, wink, wink.

The whole project took about an hour from start to finish. And I only know this because I was looking to fill my hour of anxiety on a Sunday evening before her father was due to pick her up. It worked, and we successfully avoided the yuckies while making something beautiful with things we had grown ourselves while spending quality time together. I hope if you have kids that sometime you can find the time to paint something from your garden with them. And if you didn’t grow anything this year, paint some rocks as plant identifiers for what you want to grow next year!

 

Garden Blogger Ghosting

Hi everyone. I feel like I ghosted this blog and its readers the past 12 months, and while I’m not ready to really discuss things, I thought I would just post an update about my current garden. Hopefully it will suffice til I start blogging regularly again.

So, it’s August here in zone 6b, and I would love to say I’ve had a wildly successful garden this year, that would be a lie. Here’s what:  I have zinnias that are off the chain, cilantro that wouldn’t stop until it did (no surprise), basil growing like weeds next to tomatoes I never staked, and peppers that are 1/3 still thinking about producing.

I’m going to continue the blog, but I’m probably not going to be all LOOK I POSTED about it for now. I do have a lot of updates I want to write about, so if you’re still following I hope you enjoy.

 

Japanese Hand Hoe — How to Weed Your Garden Fast!

Japanese hand hoe–it’s a legit tool that makes weeding super easy. I’m so enthralled by it that I took video with my phone and created a YouTube channel so you can see how it works. The Japanese hand hoe cuts under the soil and cuts the roots of the weeds. As a follow-up to prevent them from coming back you just need to cover up the soil with black weed paper, mulch, or straw.

japanese hand hoe

I didn’t know this tool even existed until my landlord, who is an organic farmer, saw me weeding by hand one day and took pity on me. He brought me his and loaned it to me. I’m looking at some on Amazon when I decided to get around to ordering my own. They’re not expensive; the ones I’ve looked at are anywhere from $10-$25. 

What do you think? Have you ever used one of these? If so, why didn’t you tell me about it?!

 

How Many Seeds Does It Take

To grow a garden? I don’t know; has anyone ever counted the number it takes to grow a garden in xyz amount of space? That seems unlikely.  Here’s what I do know:  I bought about 30 packets of seeds today. (4/6/17)

UPDATE:  (4/26/17) Shortly after I began this post, my landlord decided for me that I couldn’t handle a garden that large and seeded 2/3 of it with grass seed. I’ll leave you to your own conclusions as to how I felt about that.

I’m now working with an apparently much more manageable area and have seeded one plot with different varieties of zinnia, and sowed marigold seeds (that I saved the past two years) all around the border of this newest iteration of backyard garden plot.

This weekend I’ll be re-mapping this garden. I had everything mapped out about 8 weeks ago, but life happens and things change and landlords have other ideas and…there you are.