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Friday, July 30, 2010

Flower markets and garden centres in Amsterdam

One of the things that most people (including myself) would want to see in The Netherlands are the Tulip gardens that the country is so famous for. 

As much as I complained about my trip to The Netherlands this year, I was hoping that I would be able to go see the Keukenhof gardens. As luck would have it, my trip got delayed and I ended up flying out in the end of May and the gardens were already closed for the year.

To console myself of my misery and disappointment, I managed to get out and check out some local garden centres in the city of Nijmegen. I was surprised to see a wide variety of plants and here are some of the interesting ones I saw.....

In the football ornamentals

and these were not just orange flowers but berries or the like that were like small orange soccer balls

Amazing Orchids that seemed to grow and survive on thin air (I am an Orchid killer and am always envious of folks who can grow these)

some pretty pinks

and a very interesting looking flower that looked ominous and sort of cat like

And some amazing vegetable sapling

and Eggplants

and my all time favourite the Hibiscus

I also drooled at the variety of flowers at the flower market in Amsterdam

and some really cheap bulbs that you can't bring back to the US (never mind that it is not Tulip season. If I had it my way...I might have planted them indoors)

And I spotted a black Calla Lily which was truly black unlike the ones in our house that are blooming pink instead (Read that post here)

I also shopped around quite a bit to see if I could get some interesting seeds....and I did. I haven't started any of them as yet. But I will report on the progress (hopefully next spring/ summer when our irrigation system is fully set in the garden)

The Amsterdam experience

These posts on Amsterdam are a few months late. I was in the small town called Nijmegen (in The Netherlands) for 2 weeks in early June when California was still cold and people were still skiing in a few resorts at Lake Tahoe. There were a lot garden chores to do and a ton of little plants to take care, but I HAD to go. I was happy about the 2 quarter hiatus (thanks to the economy and the spending freeze that was announced at my Company) in discretionary spending.

Here are some pictures...

The world cup fever was evident throughout the country.

Ended up eating at some random Indian restaurant AGAIN. I spotted it as I walking around and exploring the streets of Amsterdam. Lesson learnt....never try Indian food at unknown places outside India. And oh my god....the prices where exorbitant.

And what a lovely picture of a sunrise from my plane as I struggled to sleep on the aircraft yet again.

A day at de hortus in Amsterdam

On one of the weekends when I was stuck in Nijmegen, I decided to pack bags and head to check out Amsterdam and check out the botanical garden there ...the de hortus

It felt nice to see some flowers that were commonplace in India

Some lovely butterflies

and some not so lovely (to me) cocoons

and some very interesting flowers

some wonderful Fuschia's

The Smyrnium Perfoliatum (for which I managed to get seeds)

And a giant Rhubarb. Would anyone believe that I haven't eaten this Rhubarb thing as yet?
It was a coincidence that I read this post today and it sounds like it isn't easy to grow Rhubarb's in California. But I should try to find it at a store and try making something out of it !

It did feel nice to kick back and enjoy some peace and quiet amidst a bustling city

All the pictures were taken with a small point and shoot Cannon that I could carry around with little excuse for the not so good quality pictures.

The Luffa Gourd

"Norai Peerkangaai" as I knew it growing up was something I used to look forward to buy at the monthly "Mayabazaar" (the pay day market). And even today it is on my list of things I request from India. I make sure I have a big stash at home at all times, because these are a million times better than the plastic Luffa’s available in the market and they are sustainable

So when I discovered that park seeds carried some seeds called Luffa Gourd, you can only imagine my excitement.

There were about 5 seeds in the packet from park seed and I decided to start all of them this year.
The Luffa Gourds were one of the well developed among the seedlings that were started. I also managed to harvest about 15 seeds from the "Norai Peerkangaai" my parents brought recently, and set them out in the planter bed along with the Luffa seedlings from Park Seed.

I am happy to report that the Luffa Gourd vines are thriving and have been the most orderly climbers in the garden.

How many luffa’s will I have by the end of the season? 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Weirdo stuff from our garden

A weird Cucumber with a leaf growing out of the Cucumber

And the not so weird tomato from Baker Creek. I had completely forgotten about these seeds and was thinking that these weird fruits were as a result of our attempt to artificially pollinate the tomatoes with an electric toothbrush.(Read that post here)

And an Eggplant plant that has thorns. I have seen Eggplant varieties in India where there are thorns on the Sepals. These have thorns on the plant and the leaves.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Was it the Rapunzel story, or the TamBram legacy that fueled my fascination for long hair....I sometimes wonder. Supposedly,..... I went to the temple every morning with a neighbor and pray to god to give me "long hair". And this craze, in the teenage years translated to trying every possible suggestion the "Maami's" had to offer.

The love for the "shoe flower" (as I knew the Hibiscus in my childhood) was in my case driven by the care and maintenance of my locks and one of the common ingredients that made it into the home made Shikakai that was used to wash ones hair. Talk about using natural products....I think growing up in India in the 80's gave us the best of both worlds. The craze for shampoos took over pretty soon...enticed by the catchy ads that were aired and the ease with which one could use them.

Though I am a big sucker for fragrant flowers like the Jasmine and roses, the Hibiscus holds a very special place. Over the last few years, every time I see a Hibiscus plant in the nursery, I have fond memories of growing up and collecting Hibiscus flowers. In the process I have managed to kill quite a few of them, when under the pretext of protecting them from the frost, I moved them into the garage (without much sunlight) and they ended up getting attacked by Aphids.

So I was all the more excited to find hibiscus seeds online and promptly ordered them. They are much cheaper and I would have a few good ones at the end of the process even after accounting for  the many slip ups that would happen in the course of raising them.

I followed the instructions and soaked them overnight.

I had no luck with te "Kenaf" seeds. The "Horizon Herbs" seeds were the most prolific. The "Baker creek" ones were not too bad. They are all now 5 inch plants and thriving in the hot summer weather that is coming up.

Here is how the Horizon Herbs plants are doing now. I am in the process of transplanting them individually to 5 gallon pots and eventually putting them into the ground in the next 2 months.

I only have 5 of the Kenaf plants but they seem more healthier and stronger than the ones above

The (north) side yard makeover- Part 1

When we got the keys to the house in April 2008

The dirt piled up in the farthest back is what we pro-actively obtained for FREE through Craig's list and it was a smart move :)

After the pool demo

And 130 ft of chain link fence that had to be taken down......

And now with the new fence going up and the planter beds in place, the side yard has gone through a massive transformation

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cinderella's Chariot

I have had some trouble with sizes this growing season.

When you plant a small sugar Pumpkin and actually end up with something that is not quite small, it spells trouble.

A 6 lb Pumpkin is massive compared to its 1.5 lb counterparts that grew on the same plant. Big enough to make our very own Cinderella's Chariot !

And why does this happen? Pumpkins on steroids......called compost !

Any ideas my non-existent readers ?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The veggie garden 2010-Tomatoes woes

Our woes with the Tomatoes began very early this season. Last year we got started with some 4 heirloom plants that a neighbour gave us. This was our first year of trying to grow Tomatoes from seed.

Pictures of our Tomato plants in 2009

And the post about what went wrong with them in 2009 is here.

With a vow to make amends this year, and as with all other things.... we started off big. I had 11 different types of seeds I had ordered and we happily picked up 4 "Beefsteak" Tomato plants at the CA Master gardener course we went to.

Sometime in late January or early February we started seeing tomato plants on the nursery shelves and began to wonder if we were falling behind in starting seeds. We quickly looked up our master gardener guideline and  scrambled to get our seedlings started. It still bothered me to see 5 inch tall plants on nursery shelves in late January.

I set them out in our sun-room which gets ample sunlight and is quite warm and patiently waited for them to germinate. As luck would have it ...California (the bay area) has had an extended winter this year. We had friends going skiing at Lake Tahoe during memorial day weekend ! We had very poor germination rates and just 2 plants emerged from all the seeds I started (at least 5 of each variety).

So when the heat picked up in June, we started the seeds directly in the raised planter bed we had designated. We neatly put down ice-cream sticks with the names of the types that went in the ground. And...the squirrels and the ravens have been having a field time with the ice-cream sticks digging them out and throwing them all over the yard.

So we had tomato plants coming up all over my planter bed and we have no idea what kind they are. It would matter because we have the "German green" tomatoes that would never turn red or ripen along with red's and black's that would ripen.

We also bought some really sturdy Texas Tomato cages, that were recommended at our master gardener workshop. Plus it was going to be hectic to build 8 more cages like last year. And the sweetest part about these Texas Tomato cages are that they fold away neatly for storage.

The germination rates in the ones planted outside directly have been fabulous, almost every seed we planted seems to have come out. And they have been growing at a pretty rapid pace thanks to the heat that seems to have kick-started it.

This is one of the beds where the seedlings have been a little slow to pick up.

And these are the ones that have really taken off

And we still haven't seen fruits set on any of the flowers, and we had a feeling that the plants didn't receive much light in the first place. We were personally wondering what to do with the Tomato plants and worried they were growing all over the place and out of bounds.

So when we read this article on Tomato pruning that was posted on the FB page of our favourite store (Peaceful valley Farms), it got me thinking. Interestingly, here is another article that argues otherwise. So I went and looked up the UC site for a more tried and tested result. So I am going to go with the UC's line of action.

As I was soaking in all this information, I stumbled on the pollination problem and found this interesting method of electric toothbrush pollination. The part that has been bothering me is that none of the garden books we own mention this technique. We are going to give it a shot on some of the plants and hopefully this does not do much harm.

As this article was being written (over a few days).....we spotted some new developments.......yes little fruits.

And NO....I don't know what kind they are.....I am guessing they are the Cream Sausage Tomato.