In case you are living in a cave, you might not be aware of the latest craze of 6-30 year olds. I’m speaking of the Minecraft computer game. Initially, as a Christian homeschooling mother who doesn’t want her child’s brain to rot from mindless addiction nor his soul to go to hell, my response was, “a computer game? No way.”
But since I pre-read 99% of the books he reads and check out movies and videos on Pluggedin.com and other such sites before he sees them, I decided to not give the knee-jerk reaction of your typical, skeptical parent and check it out.
Minecraft’s interface is appallingly unsophisticated. Everything is pixely blocks (just the opposite of what you want in your images when online). My first reaction was, “Seriously? This is awesome to you?” But here, it works. It’s all about building and creating.
You can create buildings with stone, brick, wood or wool, iron or whatever material suits your fancy. You create pickaxes to chop down the trees and/or to mine the stone. Want light? Put in sky lights or a flaming torch on the wall. However, that’s in Creative Mode. All your tools and materials are free, you don’t have to mine anything. In Survival Mode it’s a different game.
Here is my water-front home on a peninsula. Across the bay is a jungle view. If only real life were this easy!
As with most games, there is a ‘violent’ aspect (although I would say it’s comical and not to be feared). In Minecraft you can be in either Creative Mode where you just build fantastic places/cities/underground realms or Survival Mode. In Survival Mode you will have to fight off Creepers (goofy-looking green guys that blow up next to you), giant spiders, Endermen (tall, skinny black creatures that steal your blocks) and other wacky creatures to survive. And in Survival Mode you have to mine and make everything you want. Want a door for your house? Chop down a tree, take your planks to the crafting block and make it. But while you are doing this crafting and creating, you have to watch out for baddies in Survival Mode. For me, I just want to make fun homes in great locations. I stick to Creative Mode.
Sunset from the roof of my house. Even the sun is square!
When my son first started, we had the sound on and it was Survival Mode. With his tender heart, it was too much. We turned the sound off and switched to Creative Mode. Now he plays survival mode but usually with the sound off. (Creepers hiss and some creatures make weird sounds). These days, one of our fun bonding times is playing the Pocket Edition on our iPads (sharing a world/landscape) and learning stuff together. He shows me how to get wool, build sofas out of steps, tame a cat (spawn an ocelot and offer it raw fish) and other cool things.
Inside the house: sunset and my tamed cat
If you want to be a hero to your kids and understand what the latest craze is, let them teach you Minecraft. That is, if you want to keep the door of communication open as to what is capturing their hearts and why.
And I don’t mean Christmas! For gardeners, the arrival of spring catalogs is as exciting (if not more so) than the Christmas catalogs. Inside are pages full of dreams that with a little effort, can come true! An English cottage garden full of blowsy, charming flowers nodding their heads in the breeze? Easy peasy. A bountiful vegetable garden in a small space? Can do! A fast-growing screen to block out my neighbors view? Oh yeah.
The arrival of spring catalogs makes my heart beat faster, my dreams seem reachable and my imagination soar. Inside are new color combinations I could try, new kinds of plants, disease-resistant hybrid vegetables and long-forgotten heirloom seeds. With a piece of graph paper and my catalogs, Gertrude Jekyll has some competition. Even without the graph paper, my mind is busy at night creating gorgeous, private retreats. Here are some of my favorite sources for gardening fantasies.
The Cook’s Garden
Mainly aimed towards “seeds and plants for gourmet gardeners.” All this means to you is: quite an extensive selection of lettuces, herbs, heirloom tomatoes and things like that. (There is a small selection of flowers). They also have everything you need to grow from seed successfully.
Like the name, Gardener’s Supply is more based on supplies. I have used their seed-starting kits for years and they are AMAZING. I’ve never had any failure with starting seeds (even old ones!) with their self-watering seed-starter kits. They also have great trellis and plant support collection (and much more).
This catalog states, “The finest fruit & berry culivars from around the world.” Even if you don’t have a lot of acreage to start your fruit orchard, you will find a wonderful selection of rare, old and hard-to-find fruit and berry plants for great-tasting results. And for those of us who are space-challenged, they have dwarf varieties. Who knew there were Russian, Italian, Swedish, French and Japanese plums?? Five pages of pears, gooseberries, lingonberries, alpine strawberries, and all sorts of yummy things you’ve never heard of are in this catalog.
Klehm’s Song Sparrow
Klehm’s farm and nursery is for the peony-lover. Bush and tree, they have a great selection. Although I’ve never been a fan of daylilies, my sister and mother are crazy about them. This catalog has 4 gorgeous pages of them. I do love Hosta and there are 8 pages of unique and captivating varieties. This is sort of the Park Avenue of selected varieties. Luscious.
White Flower Farm
This is another ‘step up’ in the catalog world. In the fall, the daffodil selection covers 6 pages. Forget the boring, yellow picture of a daffodil, they have pink and white ones, all white, yellow and white, yellow and orange, etc. etc. I also looooove David Austin roses (those huge, fat, cabbage types with rich fragrance you see in old Dutch paintings). They have a great selection of these too.
Small catalog but with a big message: with our color combination planter packs, you will be a success! (Or at least, the envy of the neighborhood). Pages and pages full of combinations that will suit full shade to full sun and everything in between. This is perfect for the patio gardener who uses mostly containers. Or anyone who wants outstanding planters near the front door or charming window boxes. They also carry a very hard to find plant that I only know of two sources for: the alpine geranium. This is not the “ivy geranium” so many catalogs or nurserymen point you to. This the real thing that you see cascading from flowerboxes in Switzerland and Austria. Three to four feet long and covered with small, delicate and charming flowers. (The other source—and probably better for their selection is Larson’s Geraniums http://larsonsgeraniums.com/pages/about-us). The Larsons took over this selection from Wheeler Farm Gardens (in the family- no hostile takeover). This is truly the best source of those illusive European alpine balcony geraniums.
Well, everyone knows about them don’t they? Huge selection, wonderful shrubs—mountain laurel, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and my favorite, old roses.
These are just a few of the ones I collect and salivate over. What are some of your favorite gardening catalogs? Post them here!
My friend had tears running down her face.
“I can’t seem to get this camping trip organized with my in-laws. And we have guests arriving tomorrow. I don’t seem to be able to get my household organized….”
She was floundering because she was dependent on others setting her schedule. If her in-laws would not give her a timeline of availability, she could make no firm plans. If her guests gave no indication of what sites they wanted to see, or what they might like to do, she could not plan anything.
Or so she thought.
When we were first married, there was a member of my extended family who would wrangle my schedule around to fit hers. If I protested I couldn’t do something, she would ask why not and then I would ramble on with my reasons and excuses. No matter what reason I gave, she had an answer to fix it so that I could do what she wanted. I floundered. I felt like lying I’m sure I have an appendectomy that day! But she probably would have called the surgeon to reschedule me.
While I was on the phone my husband would stand in front of me holding a piece of paper that said, “Just say NO!” It was hard. But I learned something from my relative.
When she couldn’t do something (or didn’t feel like it) she would simply say, “Nope. That won’t work for me.” No explanations. Just silence…..a long silence…. She didn’t feel the need to fill that air space with excuses. She refused to give any excuse or tell me what the reason was. It was just a firm, no. No excuses, no questions, no wiggle room. (It always made me feel like it was a super-important commitment she couldn’t break when she said it that way.)
Her no gave her freedom to do what mattered to her. Her no meant she got to set her schedule and not have others ruin her plans.
My friend Heather (an über-organized soul) responds to queries this way: “Oh that sounds fun! Well, here is when I’m available.”
Notice how she affirmed that she wanted to do it, but then told me when it fit in with her plans? (When pressed she admitted Monday wouldn’t work because that was when she had scheduled doing paperwork and filing at home!) I laughed because I knew that was why her life ran like clockwork. She wasn’t buffeted by the demands of others.
How many of us schedule self-appointments like that? Because Heather sets her schedule and then lets other know when she can fit them in, she gets her to-do’s done. She accomplishes more than most people I know. Her no (with a smile) gives her freedom to pursue what’s important to her.
Your no doesn’t have to be a doctor’s appointment or a funeral. It can simply be an appointment with yourself to workout, clean your closet or do paperwork. It’s still a valid appointment.
Learn to live with silence while others scramble to find a solution after you’ve said no. Smile when you say it. When pressed, answer: “I have an appointment.”
I’m not an expert, I tend to ramble with excuses. But after I shared my no stories with my friend she smiled with hope. “Well! That’s true, I could just say …no that won’t work—but here’s what works for me!”
No is not negative. No means yes to what’s important to you. No gives you freedom.
This Independence Day, join the free and the brave. Just say no.
I was inspired by the gardens in my neighborhood so I thought I’d post some more examples of discovering “what grows well in my neighborhood?” There are some amazing displays of creativity here!
This cute arrangement was up on a wooden garden wall. Not content to just hang some flowers, this gardener has included some variegated ivy for accent and bunnies for interest. Adorable!
Most walls—even chain link fences—can be improved with vines, hanging baskets, climbing roses and evergreens. Going up can add interest and beauty. And if your garden is small, going up—even with vegetables—can add some square footage for your growing concerns.
Pink petunias are common but when massed together like this, in white pots against a white background, they pack a powerful punch.
Forget that saying about life being a “bed of roses”! Obviously a bed of petunias is just as charming. This owner took an old iron headboard and made a bed of petunias out of it. Ivy graces the sides. I suspect that since petunias are annuals, she left them in pots so she could easily change them out when the seasons change? At least, that’s what I would do!
Think layers. Just like when you want to group a lot of people on bleachers, or have the choir sing at a concert, you use risers to showcase different heights and make sure everybody is seen. With different heights of plants, think about how to use multiple layers to group and stagger the eye upwards.
Here we have Matilija poppies (Romneya) at the base, growing up from the ground. Then along the fence (not in bloom yet) there is pink jasmine. Behind that you see Butterfly Bush, Black Knight (the dark purple blossoms). This shrub comes in pink or white blossoms as well. They attract butterflies like crazy (hence the name).
These lily-like flowers are one of my favorites. Alstromeria (or commonly called Peruvian Lily) is a fantastic plant. It comes in many colors (red, pink, oranges) and lasts a long time in the vase. It keeps blooming all summer. What’s not to like? Echoing the ‘think pink’ theme here is Cecile Brunner rose behind it. But New Dawn would work well too.
Here you can see alstromeria in orange and at the bottom of the photo, a bit of red as well.
I’m not crazy about succulents. These are those cactus-like flowers you see here. However, this home owner really did a great job of massing them together with a dry stream bed look for a total effect of wow
. These plants are very carefree, don’t need much watering (they are originally from desert/arid regions) and come in many shapes and colors.
So as you can see, by walking around the neighborhood you get a really good idea of what might grow well for you in your garden!
Next week I’ll be in the midwest and I’ll take photos of inspiring gardens there.
On Tuesday I’m going over to a friend’s house to help her decide on a garden layout and plants. Most people when confronted with these decisions go blank.
What to plant? How do I know? I don’t even know for sure what I like! What is the difference between perennials and annuals anyway—and does it matter?
Let’s break this down and make it easy. To find out what you like you can look through magazines and gardening catalogs. But a better indicator of what you’ll have success with is to walk through your neighborhood! Note the plants and flowers that appeal to you. Do you keep seeing a color that attracts you? Or is it a type of flower? Whatever grows well in your neighborhood will probably do well for you too. Taking this walk also gives you some ideas of how to combine plants and colors for maximum effect.
White picket fences and geraniums or roses are charming!
Now about perennials vs. annuals: a perennial is a plant that will come back and bloom for you year after year. Once in your garden and watered, it is there to stay. A good investment. An annual is only there for one year (or blooming season). When it dies, it’s done. You have to dig it out and replace it. In some milder climates, some annuals do repeat because they are such good self-sowers. Like cosmos. I usually buy annuals for containers that I can change out easily. Not a big deal to replace a few petunias every spring in the pot by the front door. But obviously, you don’t want a whole garden of flashy annuals, because next year you’ll have nothing to show for all that money you put into your borders. Perennials take patience. They don’t usually show their best the first year. But you’ll be glad you planted them when you see them coming back year after year, stronger and bolder with little effort on your part.
Let’s go on a walk in my neighborhood:
In the above photo you see the white picket fence. I see a tiny shrub rose with pink petals in there, that’s Ballerina. I love it, it’s hassle free (a perennial) and cute. Shrub roses are different from hybrid teas in that they don’t need nearly so much fussing, spraying and pruning. You can whack back shrub roses with hedge trimmers and they don’t mind.
The hot pink geranium is a nice bright, punch of color contrast. Geraniums are so charming and happy. They are annuals outside (unless you are in California or some other warm place) and they come in lavender, white, pink, red, salmon and combinations of those. In the ground or in pots by your door, geraniums are hard to kill.
Climbing Cecile Brunner is a fantastic climber, older varieties are repeat bloomers.
LOVE this rose! Climbing Cecile Brunner. Most catalogs have New Dawn as a choice, pink rose for climbing. It’s got bigger blossoms than C.B, but I like Cecile Brunner’s profuse display. It’s also less fussy regarding care and maintenance. But I live near the coast and it doesn’t mind foggy days and cool temperatures. If you are in Arizona, you’ll want a rose that can stand the heat. (That’s why you walk through the neighborhood—to see what’s growing well in your area).
Here’s an example of combinations I wouldn’t have thought of myself. The ornamental grasses look nice next to this…lavatera/mallow? (That’s what your phone camera is for- you can take a snapshot and show your local nursery the plant and they can identify it for you). Sometimes I have been known to knock on a door asking about a plant. Or if they are not home, I leave a message in the mailbox. What is that plant next to your driveway with the red blossoms? My number is: xxx-xxxx.
The blue agapanthus echos the swaying motions of the grasses.
You don’t have to use a fountain for water! This homeowner planted fuschia and ivy in her fountain. I wouldn’t have thought of that.
Here is another shrub rose. Possibly Bonica. I can tell it’s a “shrub rose” because it’s a big, bushy plant with tons and tons of blossoms. A hybrid tea rose looks more like this:
A single, large flower on long stems. Elegant, but needs much more care than a shrub rose.
A walk through your neighborhood will reveal to you the color combinations that invigorate you, the sights that delight you and the scents that inspire you. Take a walk!