Flowers coming. Hang in a little longer.

It’s getting cold again tomorrow (I am so tired of cold, this point of winter in Chicago is hard, when all you want is for the line to start solidly trending upward), but look. Flowers coming. We just need to hang in there a little longer.

(Hellebores, first blooming perennial.)

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A wall of green, with a little color

The tropical plants that I bring in for the winter are mostly a wall of green, which works just fine for me in bleak January, a bulwark against the snow.


But by February, I’m longing for a little color, esp. pink.  I’ve tucked a Trader Joe’s orchid into one pot (still in its separate little plastic orchid pot holding orchid bark, so the roots don’t get too soggy when I’m watering the other plant’s soil), and have an Apple Blossom amaryllis (blooms almost as big as my hand!) opening up as well.

Both of them will be in bloom for at least a month, which should carry me through to March and mini daffodils. When they’re done, I’m planning to move them to the basement and try to figure out how to get them to bloom again next winter (they both should, if you treat them right, though I’ve never really tried before, so can’t promise anything.)

February pink! Beaming a little garden love out into the world…


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Basement progress photos

Progress photos. I’ve accumulated a fair number of faux flowers over the years, and wanted a way to organize them that was also ideally pretty — I cut a big square of bird netting and nailed it to the wall, and that seems to be working fairly well, in a slightly haphazard way. Little floral punch as you enter the basement and head into the first area, for the garden.

That tall cabinet is still chock full, but at least it’s chock full of garden stuff. I’m going to ask Kavi to take all the pots out, sort them by size, and store them in the low grey cupboard (which the kids emptied for me last night). Then I can organize it more effectively with garden-related miscellany. Both of those pieces from Nadeau (our branch is in Ravenswood), btw, which is my go-to for relatively cheap Indian / Indonesian furniture. A good third of our furniture is from there. Solid wood pieces, often charming, not necessarily the most smoothly assembled, but if you can live with that, recommended.

The grow light assembly was a gift from Jed years ago, and I have only successfully used it once so far, because I somehow am often too harried to manage to get seeds started, but I cleared it off yesterday, and I am hopeful that I can actually start some seeds this week.

It’s not too late, right? I’ll be using leftover seeds from last year, because I still have lots and I know some won’t be viable, but it seems a shame to waste them. I stored some of them in the fridge… well, we’ll see. It seems worth a shot, though there is the problem of remembering to water them, and we had a leak, so the basement sink water is shut off right now, until I can get the plumber out. In the queue…

The bulb boxes are holding some of my dahlias from last year, but only the ones from the front, because I had an epic fail this year — the dahlias and glads from the back, I did manage to dig up, but then I left them out in the back yard, meaning to get back to them to finish prepping and storing them, and instead, got busy and forgot, gah, so they all got snowed on and froze and rotted. SO frustrating after I went to the work of digging them out. Felt v. dumb.

Ah well — let it go, Mary Anne. Try to think of it as an excuse to try out some new dahlias this year, yes? If the budget allows, or if someone in the garden club is willing to trade….

And the sewing table is clear again. I love this table, you know. It has come with me since college — not across the country, because Roshani stored it for me while I was living in other cities, but then she kindly returned it again when I moved back, and there’s something about it that I just really like. It can collapse into a more compact form, or expand into this L-shape, or even be angled, which was how I had it in my first apartment in college, in a bay window.

It’s also completely falling apart — the drawer backs have come off, the edges are raw and rough, it’s sort of a mess. But functional enough for a basement. I’ll hang onto it for now, and who knows? Maybe one of the kids will want it for their college rooms or first apartments as adults.

There are some pants there, waiting to be hemmed, as well as saris that need blouses (which I’ll get made by a professional; they’re just there as a place to keep them until I have time), and a host of other small mending / altering jobs that are within my skill set. Also a few pieces of jewelry that need chains mended, which I should be able to do with my little set of jewelers’ tools, and a couple needle-felting projects in process (stabby stabby), and even a little stuffed platypus kit that Karina gave me ages ago, if I feel caught up enough to be able to do a fun little recreational bit of sewing.

It makes me feel much calmer, going down and seeing at least two small areas organized now. I think it’s an ADD thing, that I just completely can’t work in chaos — my mind goes ARGHHHH. That kind of thing doesn’t seem to get to Kevin at all — he can just tune out what’s around him and just focus on his work. Jed too. I can’t even handle a crowded computer screen, or multiple browser tabs open, but those don’t bother them at all!

Well, at least I have had the time recently to be able to make some progress here. I’ll be grateful for that.


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Stephanie may have arrived for our work session yesterday morning to find me standing on my kitchen island, taking this shot of the amaryllis.  It’s just SO symmetrical! (Vaguely annoyed with self for not adjusting stake to make the stem completely centered in the pot…but that way lies madness, Mary Anne.)


Hm. Wish I’d paid enough attention to have the focus on the flower, not the background, for this shot. Oh well. I’m getting better with my phone photography, but it’s a slow process, esp. when I get distracted and rushed.




Amaryllis “Arctic Nymph.” I like that very faint blush of pink on the white petals. Good name for this one!

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Urban beauty

Milkweed pods in my back alley. When we repaired the cement here, I had them leave little squares of soil bordering the garage door, for planting. I planted climbing roses there (Blaze, which is lovely and does its thing with a couple flushes of roses every year without additional watering, for which I adore it), but the milkweed showed up on its own, and also comes back year after year.

I love the stark urban beauty of this — the prairie is here, waiting for us to let it back in.

My friend Margaret Treanor Frey’s artwork.

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So lovely outside yesterday

It was so lovely outside yesterday (high of almost 60) that I abandoned my work for three hours and walked the kids up to the Green line, trained over to the Garfield Park Conservatory, got ice cream, and wandered around. Kevin had too much paperwork and had to stay home on a beautiful day bent over the computer. Poor munchkin.

Anand admittedly found it slightly less exciting than playing video games and watching TV all afternoon, but he indulged me, and he did like the slide and the little waterfalls and the koi pond. Kavi discovered that she likes photographing her beloved succulents (I’m not posting those, as she took hundreds of pics) — and also got a few nice pics of me and Anand. 

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Craving flowers

I was craving flowers last week, after too many January days without sun, but we’re at the point where the flowers will be showing up outside soon. So I don’t really want to buy fresh flowers anymore, so while I was at Target, I picked up some silk / dried flowers and a vase — Target has really upped their game in this area. Their faux flowers are lovely. 

Fun arranging faux flowers from Target.  Must remember to plant sweetpea this year…

Look! I feel like the daffodils are coming up a little early this year, but y’know, I’m not complaining.

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Sunshine in January

The sunshine really helps, doesn’t it? In January, I tend to focus on greens and whites in the house, pulling back from all the holiday decor, starting the year with a clean simplicity to refresh the soul.

I trim away dead stems, finish repotting things I hadn’t gotten around to in the holiday rush, add decorative stones and moss to help retain moisture, see if any growing plants needs staking so they can grow up straight and tall, and try to be a little more regular with my watering. I even remembered to fertilize this January (in theory, I do every other month in winter).


Hellebore from Trader Joe’s. I didn’t do a good job watering it last week, and the leaves got a little battered as a result, so I’ve just trimmed most of them off. Hopefully there’s enough healthy leaves left to sustain the plant! When spring comes, I’ll plant it in the garden, and with luck, it may come back next year.

Orchid, also from Trader Joe’s. (That’s a theme around here in winter — their prices really are pretty excellent for plants.)

I bought it when it just had a few blooms but lots of buds, so it’ll be slowly opening for a month or two, needing almost no care — a little water every few days. I’m hoping to try to keep my orchids going this year, so they can come back; fingers crossed.


Second round of paperwhites for the season — I tried some with pebbles in the bottom of the vase, and some without — pebbles are definitely better for making them less prone to tipping as they get tall, since the roots entwine and hold on; I’ve got enough paperwhite bulbs to do one more round, and I’m going to put even more pebbles in next time!

The pebbles also give the vases a more solid base; between the pebbles and the museum wax, they’re not going anywhere, despite wandering curious cats who love to perch up here and survey their domain.

(Vases leftover from buying hyacinths at Trader Joe’s in previous years.  )


Ivy. 🙂 There’s something I find so pleasing about its enthusiastic growth. It makes me think of Sleeping Beauty, of disappearing into a fairy tale, like one of Patricia McKillip’s gorgeous novels. Oh, now I want to abandon my work for the day and go re-read a Patricia McKillip book. _Winter Rose_ would be a good starting point if you’re wanting to disappear into the wild right now…


Jasmine vine climbing vigorously; my other jasmine is blooming, but not this one. Still, I hold out hope! Come back and bloom for me, little jasmine. And in the meaning, I like the geometry of this green jasmine, and the contrast with the white egg chair on chilly porch outside, and the bird feeders hanging — which oops, clearly need more bird seed. On it.

A lot of gardening well is slowing down long enough to look, enjoy, and notice where a small improvement could be made, or where a task has been neglected…

Branch of curry leaf tree peeking over the top on the left, coming back nicely after having almost died due to neglect after coming inside this fall. Sorry, curry leaf plant! I do love you so, and you contributed beautifully to the seeni sambol I made this weekend…


Okay, so I’m not quite sure I remember what this one is — a hibiscus, I think? It also had a hard time — lost most of its leaves when a child knocked it over. But lots of quiet winter rest, a sunny window, regular watering, and it’s coming back nicely. Hang in there, little guy!

(With lantana below, also coming back from indoor winter transition, and cat water fountain.  )


Roshani laughed when she saw I’d gotten this stand, because it was rather 70s. Well, the 70s are back, baby. Macramé and plant stands for the win. Lots of little cuties here, along with a big tropical duranta, which will get lots of tiny purple flowers and orange berries, about twice a year. I’m trying to train it into an arching small tree form, which means it needs a little more pruning on top right now. It’s about 5 years old, I think? Coming along nicely.


One colorful cheat. This bougainvillea is live leaves on the bottom two-thirds, but silk flowers on top right now. It’s another one that had a tough time with my intense schedule last fall, and really struggled, but winter is calmer and I’m taking better care of the plants; it’s coming back strong. Eventually it’ll grow enough that I can tie it up to the trellis, and with luck, it’ll start putting out real blooms (or rather, colorful bracts) of its own, and I’ll put the silk flowers away. 🙂

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