Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Walking On Sunshine

I have this kind of love/hate relationship with dandelions and I'm betting you do too. They're the sort of thing that you can't live with because they irritate you so much and you can't live without them because they just won't let you.

At this time of year, they're fairly innocuous, and to be honest, they've got a lot going for them. We've just emerged from winter and seeing the first dandelion bloom pretty much makes each and every one of us smile, even if it's only on the inside. And one or two of them won't hurt anything anyway. Unless you let it go to seed.

One dandelion bloom produces 54 to 172 seeds and one plant will produce more than 2000 seeds. A single acre of dandelions is estimated to have the capability of producing 240,000,000 seeds a year. Not only that, dandelions do this all on their own because they are apomictic. In other words, no sex is required for them to reproduce. No wonder they pop up anywhere and everywhere.

Even though dandelions don't require pollination to produce seed and thus reproduce, they are well-visited by pollinators such as bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies, beetles, and moths. Dandelions are one of their earliest sources of nectar and far be it from me to deny the bees their breakfast.

But you could be enjoying dandelions for your breakfast too. Every part of the dandelion is edible, with the roots tasting a lot like parsnips, the young greens making a tasty leafy salad, and the blossoms as the basis for a delicate-tasting jelly. And there's wine.

Dandelions pack a punch when it comes to nutrients. According to nutritiondata.com and the USDA, “This food is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol. It is also a good source of folate, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.”

One serving of dandelion greens (1 cup) has 35 calories, provides 112% of your daily value (DV) of Vitamin A, 32% of Vitamin C, 10% of calcium, and 9% of iron.

We've never had a perfect lawn. Far from it, for several reasons. First of all, we live on an acre that has a lot of grass. We don't weed and feed, and as far as dandelions go, I'm perfectly fine with seeing them peppered throughout the yard as yellow flowers. I don't mind clover either but that's a conversation for another day.

Do we battle dandelions, in spite of all the facts about them that are in the pro column? Sure, because we don't want an entire lawn of them and I don't want them in my gardens. We're not trying to raise them as a crop.

So we dig out the larger ones and we try to mow before they go to seed. We keep just enough around for grandkids to make daisy chains and bring us sunny bouquets. Just enough to provide pollinators with nutrition when it's in limited supply. Just enough to make us smile when we that's exactly what we need.

Kara, age 6, in 1986

The article, "Walking On Sunshine," first appeared in my weekly newspaper column in the Paulding Progress, published in Paulding, OH.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Snow and Sun: A Simple Lesson in Physics

An early spring snow in April survives in shade, but even though the ambient temperature is 27°F, the sun is warm enough to melt it. Radiant heat – the kind the sun gives – heats objects. The grass and earth are warmed, causing the snow to melt. And you thought the sun heated the air, didn't you?

Monday, April 4, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Amaryllis As a Cut Flower

I recently posted a photo of my 'Ambiance' amaryllis (Hippeastrum) on Facebook and happened to mention the fact that amaryllis as a cut flower lasts longer than if it remains attached to its bulb. A few people were surprised to hear that.

There may be a couple of good reasons why this comes as a surprise to some. (It surprised me the first time I heard it, too.) For one thing, most people who buy amaryllis bulbs do so just prior to the holiday season, they follow the planting instructions on the box or tag, and then dispose of it all once it's done blooming. I think more people throw them away than keep the bulbs from year to year.
All my amaryllis bulbs spend the summer in two galvanized
fire ring raised beds, where they gather nutrients and energy
from the sun to form next year's flowers. I dig them back up
in late September.

There's really nothing wrong with throwing the bulb out, I guess, other than it seems a shame to do that when they can give you so many more years of enjoyment than just a few weeks at Christmastime . . . for one year.

The other thing is that you almost never see amaryllis sold as a cut flower, so it probably just doesn't occur to people to cut them and put them in a vase.

If you don't cut them, the blooms will normally last about a week. If you cut them, you can often get two weeks out of them, sometimes more.

Here's how to make your amaryllis blooms last longer:

  • Prepare your vase ahead of time by filling it with water. You can add a floral preserving powder to the water if you want, but I usually don't.

  • Take cotton balls and make smaller balls that will fit inside the cut flower stalk. 
  • Cut the flower stalk at the base, taking care to not cut any emerging foliage. It's best to cut them when the buds are just beginning to open. Immediately turn it upside down and fill the hollow stalk with water.

  • Take the cotton and wet it, then stuff it into the bottom of the flower stalk.

  • Place the flower stalk in the vase of water. Replace the water every 2-3 days, both inside the flower stalks and in the vase.

  • As with everything, your mileage may vary.



    Hippeastrum 'Ambiance'

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