Dahlias and Then Some

The dahlias at Detroit Abloom and also my house (yippee!) are exploding with blooms.

I was concerned that the one sunny spot in my backyard wasn’t sunny enough for them, but most of the tubers I planted have survived and are going to produce flowers.

Some, however, got nibbled on by bunnies or aren’t getting enough sun and aren’t going to make it. I haven’t cut the plants down on these because you aren’t supposed to take the tubers out of the ground until late fall, early winter, and if I cut the plant down, I won’t know exactly where to dig, even with a marker.

However, this morning I noticed several evil beetles eating the leaves of my precious Cafe au Lait variety and my heart sank. I killed it of course, but I’m sure another one took its place soon afterwards. You can’t tell from the photo, but it’s pretty eaten up. Still so lovely.

I’m obsessed with this variety, because of its pale pink, creamy color. In all their stages, they are stunning. And you never know what you’re going to get color-wise until the bud opens, which is always exciting.

The most perfect Cafe I got was this one (also the close-up first photo). No bugs, beautiful blush color and crazy huge.

Just this week I’ve had five Cafe buds open and I spent a zillion hours photographing them with my new camera. Speaking of new camera, some of these flower photos are slightly out of focus and no, this isn’t on purpose. I’m determined to shoot in manual mode (vs auto), so it’s going to take me a while to figure it all out.

I have at least two purple varieties, one in the front and one in the back. A bunch of the ones I planted were unknowns, as in most cases, when they were digging up tubers at the end of last season, weren’t sure what was what. This year they have a much better labeling system in place, but it IS kind of fun not knowing what you’re going to get.

I can’t remember the variety of the flower in the first photo (Lavender Ruffles?) but the second one is a Vassio Meggos.

I visited Detroit Abloom and the Hoop House (also Detroit Abloom, but a different property) last week with the intention of volunteering, but ended up mostly admiring and taking photos of the flowers.

Their dahlia garden is insane, as you can imagine.

These two are seed dahlias, the bottom photo called Black Beauty.

Aside from the Cafe au Lait, one of my favorites is the cosmos. I love the white ones, and am also a fan of the cupcake cosmos (last photo above).

Other flowers in bloom are Morning Glory,

Japanese anemone,

Zinnias, celosia and a bunch more. There are a few weeks left in our CSA bouquet program. I’m surely going to miss getting mine every week.

The Garden Detroit and Detroit Abloom is having our annual fundraiser next weekend on Sunday, October 1st from 3pm to 7pm, so if you are in the area, please come by! For details Click Here. And if you can’t come, you can still make a donation online.

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The August List – 2017

I feel like I say this every month, but this has been the busiest month of the year by far.

Not counting the awesome vacation we took to upstate New York, which I failed to post about save for one photo last month. sigh I do hope to post a New York list, but in case I don’t get around to it, know that it was amazing. We swam, we read, we played, we gathered, we had pie on my grandmother’s plates. What could be better.

But I press on. I must not fail “The List,” even if it is fast and furiously put together.

1)  This photo pretty much sums up my August. It’s blurry because top secret holiday catalog information, but welcome to my world. Coffee. Eating meals as I stand and type. And papers everywhere. Apropo because that’s how my brain feels.

After landing a couple of freelance writing gigs, I was asked to take on more responsibility and hours at my job at the school. GAH. I am not complaining. I am grateful. So grateful. BUT. Momma needs a cocktail.

2)  Speaking of cocktails, my friend Renee, cocktail maker extraordinaire, whipped up a version of the to die for concoction we enjoyed at Detroit City Distillery. It consisted of a mixture of mango habanero and lavender simple syrups and couple other secret ingredients and it was soooooo good.

And aren’t we so healthy with our sliced veggies, but this is before I asked her to please go get the Chex Mix already.

3)  We had peaches at The Garden! Last year we were only able to enjoy a handful, as many succumbed to disease or an animal of some sort. This season we had a whole bunch and I made peach cobbler with blueberries. Happy happy.

4)  There was a meet and greet on Belle Isle for the Detroit women who participated in the FEMALE photo project. I’m so very glad I went, as I get so nervous about these things. But it was just lovely.

I think I was the oldest one there which…not that it matters really, but I’m usually NOT the oldest person there, so I took note, but anyway I loved being surrounded by all the positive energy. We’re going to try and make it a monthly or bi-monthly thing. I’m in.

FEMALE photographer and meeting organizer Kacy brought a bunch of rose (too lazy to make accent over the E) single serves she found at Trader Joe’s and guess what? They were pretty stinking great! And I love the can’s shape.

5)  We viewed the eclipse the old fashioned way (thanks to my husband, otherwise we would’ve had nothing) and it was actually pretty cool and very fun.

Noticed all the trippy shadows, but it didn’t cross my mind  to take a photo. I’m so bummed about that, but those make the best memories, right?, where you are just in the moment.

6)  I love all the murals at Eastern Market, especially in early evening when the shops have closed and the sun is going down. I keep meaning go down there one day for the sole purpose of taking photos, but it hasn’t happened.

I did made a quick pit stop at Detroit City Distillery after boxing one night (because now that I am a cocktail snob, I need to only drink very expensive vodka) and got a couple pics.

7)  Our Rose of Sharon plant exploded with blossoms this month, as it always does in late summer. The only way to enjoy it is out my daughter’s bedroom window or by walking to the side of the garage. I could cut off some branches to bring them inside, but they don’t last long in a vase. Beauties.

8)  My dahlias from Detroit Abloom have begun to open and they are gorgeous. I wasn’t sure how they would fare in the backyard because we don’t get much sun, (and admittedly some plants will not produce flowers), but I am pleasantly surprised at how well they are doing.

Also admittedly, I don’t love orange flowers (I’m sorry, nature! I’m working on it!), and a few of the dahlias I have are orange (many of the tubers I planted were marked “unknown” variety, long story).

And yes, they are pretty, too, in their own right, and to spite me they look extra pretty in this photo, but the Cafe au Laits are just magnificent. Wait until you see the latest one (which I picked yesterday, which was technically September, so it doesn’t belong here).

9)  The beekeeper who takes care of the hives at The Garden Detroit and Detroit Abloom held a fundraiser this month. It was at the Detroit City Distillery warehouse (can’t seem to get away from that place), which is housed in the old Stroh Ice Cream building. Which by the way if you haven’t read “Beer Money” it’s a really interesting read.

It was very loud, so it was hard to hear Brian’s speech, but the parts I did hear were fascinating. Bees are amazing. Please support them in any way you can!

10) I forgot to bring my book one day to the Yacht Club. Luckily, my 3rd grader brought hers and it was not a Rainbow Fairy or Geronimo Stilton, but this one about a boy who rents a room at a house where miniature dragons come to life. I only got a few chapters in (girls still not great swimmers, so I have to keep an eye out) and now the book has been returned to the library, but I do hope to finish it some day, it had potential.

11)  I finished “A Gentleman in Moscow” this week and I highly recommend. Take a little while to get into if you don’t know your Russian political history, but it was intelligent and wonderfully written and the characters are deep and fleshed out. Story line is interesting as well. I wondered how such a long book could be based in one very centralized location, but the author tackles that issue with ease. Bravo.

12)  Woo-hoo! I did it! Number 12. On a more somber note, my heart is with Houston and the surrounding areas and states affected by Harvey. Our girls have been so fortunate, so it is difficult to explain certain things, but we talked about it quite a bit and at my suggestion they made cards for some of the families.

If you have not yet donated, please consider it. There are many local organizations who will make sure your money 100% goes to helping Harvey victims specifically. One being www.legacycollective.org (a sorority sister’s organization).

Over and out, August! Sorry you got the shaft. It’s not you, it’s me. Happy September! Back to school yeesssssss!

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The Flowers of Detroit Abloom

If you’re new to the blog, I work with a nonprofit neighborhood revitalization organization called The Garden Detroit. Last year we had a beautiful garden on several vacant lots, and a seasonal CSA vegetable program. This year we have less manpower and our wooden arbor fell during a winter storm, which really set us back in terms of being able to grow vegetables for a bunch of people.

Harvesting Stock

Because our flower farm project, Detroit Abloom gained a lot of popularity in its first year, coupled with the fact that the lots that project is housed in are actually owned by our organization (no fear of the city taking the land away), we decided to concentrate on that project this season.

One of the CSA bouquets.

Detroit Abloom has CSA bouquet shares, special events, farmers markets and also sells their bouquets at The Farmer’s Hand in Corktown. I believe we still have a couple slots left on our second CSA season, so go to www.detroitabloom.com for more information and to sign up if you live in the area!

Julia watering Larkspur and other flowers in the hoop house.

We held a fundraiser last winter and made just enough to install our new hoop house, which the plants are thriving  in.

Cut flowers for CSA bouquets

It’s been amazing to work more with flowers this year. I’m learning so much about cultivation and the different names and features of the flowers from Nancy and Julia, who run the program. It’s difficult to work without stopping to take photos. I have taken hundreds already this season and here are some of my favorites.

Purple stocks – doubles and singles

Doubles, with some singles hiding in back.

Doubles.

Before this year, I didn’t even realize Stock was the name of a flower. If you told me to guess what a Stock flower looked like, I would have zero idea. The gals planted doubles and singles in the same bed (the seeds came all mixed together, if I’m remembering correctly) and it’s interesting to see the differences between the two.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the iris, but our varieties are unusual and stunning. Still not in my top ten, but I have much respect for these elegant flowers.

Sunflowers are just so….sunny and fun and happy.

While sweet peas are wispy and wild and delicate.

Nutmeg the cat roams the hoop house during the day, often taking a rest in the Larkspur.

Chantilly snaps are also lovely, and abundant at our Manistique property.

We’re only a few weeks into our first season and I’ve already seen so much beauty. Can’t wait to see what unfolds over the course of the summer into early fall!

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Getting to Know Our Plants

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Crabapple

As I mentioned in my May List, when we moved in, we didn’t really know what kinds of plants we had because all but one of the flowering trees and plants were done blooming. We had an exciting Spring, watching all our plants awaken  (among my favorites were our magnolia and lilac trees). But now we have to take care of them all and oh my gosh.

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Our flowering pear tree made it through winter (last summer, a huge chunk of it came down in a storm).

The post I wrote about our first big gardening day was written just before our wedding anniversary. Coincidentally, both of our moms got us plant-related gifts: my mom bought us a serviceberry tree to cover our utility lines and my husband’s mom got us a one-hour consultation with her friend and expert local gardener (and North Carolina native) Mil Hurley.

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Leafy hastas, day lilies and a bunch of dead holly bushes along the back fence.

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Our dogwood above the hot tub shouldn’t get much taller than this. It has delicate white flowers in early Spring.

IMG_0735 (1024x928)Mil came over one afternoon (and I’m so bummed I forgot to take a photo of her!) to assess our backyard and give us tips on pruning, upkeep and some ideas for new plants. She also gave names to the plants I was unfamiliar with.

We have a several varieties of hastas, which are hearty perennials. Bunnies love them, however, so many of ours have holes in them.

IMG_0748 IMG_0724 (768x1024) IMG_0732 (768x1024)This blossoming tree that gave us beautiful light pink flowers is a crabapple. The blooms later turned white.

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Dogwood, azalea, juniper bushes (flanking the dogwood) and Japanese maple (purple leaves)

IMG_1198 (766x1024)We have several small dogwood trees, one of which has been pruned, giving it a manicured look. I usually prefer the natural, wild look of plants, but I rather like the bushy quality of this particular tree.

IMG_0638 (839x1024) IMG_0514 (769x1024) IMG_0730 (768x1024) IMG_1104 (908x1024)We also have a handful of flowering bushes. A few of them looked pretty scraggly, but they all bloomed and the azalea bushes (or are they rhododendrons, I forget) in the backyard were spectacular (I pretty much lopped them to bits a week or so ago, per the pruning info I read online. I am holding my breath. At the very least, I did not kill them, but we may have to wait two years for more blooms. Curses!).

IMG_0738 (768x1024)We have loads of ferns, which seem to attract mosquitos (our whole backyard is mosquito heaven, really) and other bugs, but we like the rugged look of them. Ferns are apparently a very hearty plant that will come back (and spread) every year.

IMG_1199 (665x1024)This little vine with a bright purple flower is called a …..oops. Forgot to write it down. I’m surprised I can even read the notes I did take from that day.

FullSizeRender (1024x768)Mil suggested that we have an arborist come once every three to five years to make sure our trees are healthy and to trim them (the trees here are sooooo tall!). The cost would be a few thousand dollars or so, but definitely worth it.

She was suprised to see our birch tree, which she said is usually seen much further north. Most of the birch trees in this area came down with a disease, and you can’t always tell by looking at the tree that is is unwell. I love that tree and I would hate to see it come down.

maple maple2Our maple that sits in the middle of our yard is a behemoth. And there are a million shoots coming off of it. I’ve already cut off hundreds. I can’t keep up.

We have lots of ground cover plants, including pachysandra (shown around the maple), wintercreeper and some ivy. Had I known how many weeds we’d get without the ivy, I wouldn’t have pulled so much of it last Fall when we moved in. Ah well.

RoseSharonWe also have a rose of sharon, which was a surprise to me. It is a late summer bloom that can be one of several different shades. It will be fun to see what color our flowers will be. It normally needs more light than it’s getting, so hopefully we can keep it alive and happy where it is.

Having all of these great plants and a huge backyard is both overwhelming and exciting. I’m so glad we got expert advice. Mil suggested cutting plants a lot further back than I would have done on my own. I’m worry about chopping off too much and killing the plant (although I didn’t seem to have that worry when I went to town on my azaleas!), but as she says, they will always grow back.

We have our work cut out for us, but I’m grateful to have this responsibility. What kinds of plants do you have in your garden?

UPDATE: My friend Cindy texted me and told me that I got my azaleas and rhododendron’s mixed up. Oops. So…I think I butchered my rhododendron’s, then (although online sites do say you can cut them way back). She and my friend Mariana also told me the name of the purple flower on the vine: Clematis! Thanks, guys!

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My mom's house

Mom’s House

We’re back from our short Hawaii trip and I have lots to share! Even though my whole family (except me) was sick with colds, we had a great time. We didn’t leave the house much, but the purpose of the trip was to spend time with family, which we did.

Road to Kalihi Valley

My mom lives in a neighborhood called Kalihi Valley (you might know the area from HGTV. They recently featured a home there, which is currently for sale). The valley is nestled between a lush mountain range, so it gets lots of rain and is very green. She lives in the lower level of a cinder block house and my Auntie and Grandma live up top.

My sister and her family live a few blocks down from my moms, at the bottom of a really steep hill (that used to be steeper before the city paved it a few years ago), in the same house where my grandparents lived when they settled on Oahu. My mom, sister and I lived in the smaller back house until my grandpa had the duplex built (early 80s?).

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Loads of ginger flowers.

Looking up at mountain range

My grandpa was a natural gardener; it was in his blood. The plants liked him, too. They listened to him and gave back to him. Sadly, he’s no longer around to pass his secrets on to me, now that I’m willing and eager to pay attention. My 90-year-old grandma still tends to her plants when she can. She loves orchids especially.

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Grandma

Every inch of the small front yard has a flowering or edible plant on it and the perimeters around the house are filled as well. There’s ginger, ginger root (which my mom dug up for me to take home), papaya, malunggay (also called moringa. found in lots of Filipino dishes), tomatoes, bananas, eggplant, chives, green onions, edible ferns, bitter melon, bird of paradise, orchids, poinsettias, gardenias, succulents and aloe (I’m  sure I’m forgetting some!).

The green thumb gene may have skipped a generation (my mom is an excellent gardener. me, not so much), but I’m still going to try my hand at it in Michigan (we’ll have a backyard all to ourselves!).

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Papaya and bitter melon vines.

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Ginger Root

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Aloe

I never realized how different Hawaii was from the rest of the country until I left home and came back to visit. I know it seems pretty obvious. It’s an island with island culture, but it was simply just “home” to me. Each time I go back, I am more grateful that I grew up there and have roots there. It will always be home, just as San Francisco will always be home, long after I move.