domingo, 31 de marzo de 2013

Happy Easter!

Although it is not a Spanish tradition, my kids paint Easter eggs every year, and the Easter Bunny somehow does manage to find us.
Did you know that the word Hispania, which is what the Romans called Spain, is derived from a Phoenician word meaning "land of rabbits".  In La Mancha, they're everywhere!

They keep Luna entertained, but she's afraid to go after them because they're as big as she is!
My garden is slowly awakening.  Luckily, the rabbits don't like eating daffodils....
 ...nor do they care for iris.
The rabbits are also completely oblivious to weeds (I mean, wildflowers).
Most likely, many of you back home will be having a ham for Easter dinner.  Here in this little corner of pork-loving Spain, we usually have a cookout down by the reservoir...
  with seafood paella for 50 people!
 Happy Easter!

jueves, 14 de marzo de 2013

Sage cuttings

Well, while I may have had luck with hands-off rose propagation techniques this winter, I have found that the same lazybones approach has definitely not worked with my sage (salvia officinalis).  Sage does exceedingly well in La Mancha, or at least it does in my garden.  It withstands extreme sun and cold, provides healthy green color all winter long, blooms with pretty blue flowers in spring and is drought resistant but can also tolerate soaking wet clay soil (it kicks lavender's butt in this department).  To top it all off, rabbits can't stand it (although they might take a nap under it!).

So, my careless sage cutting scheme entailed simply shoving a 30cm sage branch into the ground.  The result was this:

Not one of the cuttings rooted.  Luckily,  I had so many cuttings that I also had planted some in pots with amended soil, et voilà!

Here you can see our lighter clay dirt layered with nutrient-rich potting soil.
Much better!


Painless Propagation

If you have ever tried propagating roses from cuttings, it can be frustrating business.  You can, of course, find all sorts of information online about different techniques and theories.  Some sites recommend using rose rooting hormones, while others recommend using plastic bags, greenhouses, cold rooms or even styrofoam ice chests to keep the cuttings from drying out, which is a big factor here in sunny Spain.  I can honestly say I've tried almost everything and have found no clear advantages of any technique over another.  In addition, the added expense and time consumed while following some of these propagation techniques make failures all the more frustrating.

My personal preference is called the "Fly by the Seat of Your Pants" technique, also known as the "Waste Not, Want Not" or the "Shove It In and Forget It" technique (developed, needless to say, by yours truly).  My theory is that the least time-consuming and costly system is most effective, even if percentage-wise the outcome may not excellent, because it provides a Frustration Factor of 0 (if you are unfamiliar with the Frustration Factor, in my world it's a big deal).

In this propagation system, the materials needed are: 1) dirt; 2) cuttings. 

Step 1: cut pencil-sized rose canes into 25-30cm section, and remove any leaves.
Step 2: shove into a pot of dirt moist dirt in a shady area and forget about it.

In about a year, you may be pleasantly surprised with new rose plants, but, if not, you will have invested no money and only about 10 seconds of your time.

Funny thing is, this winter I was so lazy that I didn't even get around to Step 2.  I simply brought home a branch from a friend's red climbing rose in early December, and left it in a bottle of water behind another plant on the porch, to be later cut and planted.  Then came the holidays (which is a 2-week affair in Spain), and I forgot all about it until cleaning a few days ago.

 My forgotten rose cutting
It's huge!
It now has roots...

... and rosebuds!

Now, how's that for painless propagation? 

viernes, 1 de marzo de 2013

Barn swallows

When the sun comes up in the morning, I often have 5 tiny visitors outside the kitchen window.  These little barn swallows primp themselves up on the fence while watching the world go by.   

We have quite a few around here, and in the summer time swarms of them come out at sunset to compete with the bats for their mosquito dinners down by the pond. It's amazing to see them all swerving around each other, never crashing into each other, although coming hair-razingly close.

I especially love their blue and copper coloring, which, when I think about it, are exactly the same colors as my kitchen curtains. Oh, am I being too matchy-matchy again?