According to the Simon & Schuster blog, I rank number 9 (for “You Grow Girl“) in Simon & Schuster’s list of top selling Canadian authors so far in 2007. That’s only 3 places behind Canadian artist/writer/designer mega star Douglas Coupland (for his two S&S published books “Shampoo Planet” and “Life After God.”)
My mind is officially blown.
Over the years, I’ve made a tradition of both putting together a new succulent window box idea every spring, and posting about it here. Since planting up this year’s box a few months ago, I’ve been taking photos as a prelude to a write-up here. But just when I begin to write, something in the box changes and I convince myself the box is even better and requires new photos. Now that I have broken my digital camera and am in gear purgatory I will just have to settle for the last batch of images and write this thing up already.
Sun-loving and exceptionally drought-tolerant succulents are just about the only plants that can survive the growing season slugging it out in a window box on my painfully hot and dry fire escape. I grow sun loving plants in larger containers on the fire escape as well but the succulents are the only plants that can withstand a day or more without attention and a long drink of water. They are hardy too, some like the ‘Goldmoss Stonecrop’ have been living in the same box for four seasons straight surviving straight through our cold, sporadic city winters. Many assume that because succulents are easy that they are also boring yet mine put on a good show, growing, draping, evolving with the seasons, changing colours, and eventually producing wacky alien-like flower forms.
From the Front (Photographed in May):
Clockwise from right front: Goldmoss Stonecrop (Sedum acre), Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, Sedum spurium Probably ‘Red Carpet’ , Sempervivum ‘Pacific Sexy’, Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’, Sedum sieboldii
Sure we’re already mid-way into the growing season but it’s not too late to plant seeds and it is certainly not too late to buy seeds with pretty packaging. I found these Asian seeds by Kitazawa Seed Co. at Soko Hardware in an Francisco’s Japantown and could not resist their understated but well-designed packages for my collection.
I plan to try out the watercress seeds immediately as an experiment and will use the daikon seeds in my sprouter. I already have my shiso crop in place for this year and being hardy self-seeders probably won’t need the seeds next year but I thought, What the hey, and bought them anyways.
Browsing through the website I can see that they have a huge selection of Asian veggies and herbs that I have never seen anywhere else. Check out ‘Tankuro’, a black seeded soybean, ‘Japanese Long Scarlet‘ an elongated, red radish, and ‘Kurogoma‘ black sesame seeds! Too late and too much for this year but possibles for next year’s experiments.
This is one of those ideas that is insanely simple yet effective. Grow a couple of lettuce varieties with pretty leaf shapes and bright colours. Put them together in a container that sets off their leaf colours or grow them in individual pots of a contrasting colour. In this case I have two leaf lettuce varieties with very curly leaves and contrasting colours (‘Ruby’ and ‘Henderson’s Black-Seeded Simpson’) set off by a black metal container. Hint: Chartreuse and yellowish greens always looks good when paired with deep reds or purple.
The key to keeping lettuce happy on a hot deck is to move the container to a less intense spot when the heat of summer kicks in and make sure to keep the soil moist — they’ll get bitter faster if they experience too much drought. You can cut each leaf off individually (remove from the outside if you want to keep a nice rosette) or just chop the whole thing off about an inch or so from the soil line and set the plant aside (somewhere less visible unless you’re comfortable with the stubby bits on display) until it grows back a second harvest.
By the end of the second round the leaves are usually too bitter to eat. Don’t toss it out into the composter just yet! You can still get some use out of your lettuce by setting the plant into hotter sun (don’t forget to water!) and allowing the plant to bolt. Bolting is when a plant produces flowers and then seeds prematurely in a mad rush to reproduce itself when the growing conditions become too extreme. This is usually caused by the increasing heat of summer and intense sun. The colour will often deepen in hotter sun and some lettuce varieties will grow into crazy, alien towers with pretty flowers perched on top. Don’t bother trying to eat it at this point since it will taste horrible and ooze a gluey substance when cut, but it makes a very cheap and easy bright spot when set amongst boring edibles like tomatoes and potatoes.
The grafted cactus is a bewildering but charming touch for Southern Ontario. Zone 5b. Or 6. Or whatever they’re saying our zone is this week.