LEARNING TO GROW THINGS – Marilyn Armstrong

I started to grow plants because my friend Mary was a crazed grower of potted plants. She lived in Brooklyn. Park Slope at the time.

These years, she has a house out on Staten Island. We haven’t seen each other in a really long time. Not since right after I got back from Israel — which was August 1987.

She was the first person to encourage me to grow things. I’d really never tried. But she gave me some of the cuttings from her plants. Told me to put them in a sunny window and water them when they got dry. They did very well and soon, all I wanted to do was haunt nurseries.

She taught me how to examine a plant, make sure it didn’t have any diseases or insect invasions.

Somewhere in the course of my conversion from non-growing to a wild-eyed enthusiast, basically converted the first floor of a really big house into a giant nursery. No curtains. Plants hung from the ceiling, lived on glass shelving. I put metal trays with gravel and water in the trays so when the radiators came up, they created a nice mist for the plants to live in.

They thrived. I was also the editor of the Doubleday Garden Guild. Because I’m me, I read all of the books we published, so whatever I hadn’t gotten from Mary, I learned from reading hundreds of books about growing plants. Indoors and outside.

I never took to outdoor gardening the way I did to indoor pottery gardens. For one thing, even way back then I’d already had major surgery on my spine and although I was a lot more limber than I am now, a lot of bending more or less did me in, even then. I left the outdoor gardening to husband and son.

So when I tell you that all you need to grow plants indoors is decent light and go easy with the watering can, maybe I’m understating where I learned what I learned. Mostly, it came from Mary and other friends who grew plants. We traded cuttings, sometimes passed off our huge plants for smaller ones.

My ceilings were only 10 feet high on the ground floor and once a plant started trying to dig through to the upper story, it had to move on. Which is why, now, I have a small but a good-size Norfolk Island pine in exchange for a Dracaena Marginata I had been growing for almost 20 years. It got too tall. In the wild, a Norfolk Island pine will grow hundreds of feet tall, but in this house, 7 foot 6 inches is as tall as it can get before it moves to another house.

I don’t have the volume of plants I did. Having an entire house full of plants became a job — at least an hour or two every night going from plant to plant, pulling off dead leaves, turning plants so they would grow evenly. And how many times did I fill the watering can before I finished with all 6 ground floor rooms? It was a big house with tall windows.

Today we were passing a house on our way to River Bend and there was a little house that had the most lovely garden I’ve seen in years. All the white picket fences were lined with sunflowers and a rather wild, yet obviously well-tended crop of bright flowers surrounded the front of the house.

I took pictures. It was just the way I’d make my garden if my spine would let me.

A SNOWY DAY WITH SUNFLOWERS – Marilyn Armstrong

A Snowy Day With Sunflowers – 02/28/2019

Garry came back from the grocery while the snow was softly falling. I already had flowers from last week, so I picked out the ones that were dead, left the chrysanthemums which were in good shape.

But I was grateful. We’ll be locked in the house for a day or two, depending on how much snow we get, though it’s supposed to relatively light and fluffy. That is my favorite kind of snow and I’m sure there’s a special word for it in some arctic language. There are a bunch and I don’t know any of them.

Sunflowers in the snow

FLOWER OF THE DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

Lacking garden flowers which are seriously considering budding any day now, Garry brought me the brightest flowers he could find.

You guessed it.

Sunflowers.

Flower of the Day – May 6, 2018 – Azalea

SATURATED: A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

A Photo a Week Challenge: Saturation

Autumn in New England is a total saturation experience. I often turn down saturation. Natural color is almost surreal.

Direct from the camera.
Direct from the camera. Will add one click saturation. More would be too much.

The original photograph is true color direct from the camera. The adjustments were cropping, exposure, and a single click (1%) saturation.

Just needs a bit of brightening.
I’ll give it a bit of brightening. The saturation is there. It could go just as is, but for the purposes of illustration …

The further north one goes, the earlier foliage peaks. We missed peak in three states, but I was happy with the color we saw. It was beautiful just the way it was.

No additional saturation. A bit brighter plus a touch extra contrast only. It's enough.
No additional saturation. A bit brighter plus a touch extra contrast only. It’s enough. Notice how by raising the contrast and brightening the whole picture, I also lost the second mountain in the background? There is usually a trade-off. When you modify one thing, other things also change.

In changing saturation, I feel that less is more. I am apt to lower saturation rather than raise it. Saturation, in theory, changes only the intensity of color, but in practice, it changes tones too. Gray becomes blue. Skies becomes pixellated. Everything becomes more grainy.

My suggestion? Adjust saturation using a light touch. It doesn’t take much to turn a pretty picture garish.

PAINTERLY SUNFLOWERS

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I love trying out various effects. Often my goal is to make a photograph look like a painting. If I were a painter, I would do it with a brush and canvas. Since I’m not, Photoshop provides interesting tools and Google’s NIK filters offer even more choices.

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You can judge for yourself. I certainly enjoyed doing them.

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SUNFLOWERS FOR ME

Garry thought it was high time I got a new bouquet and this time, he chose one of my favorites, sunflowers. Is there any flower that better symbolizes summer? That looks as if it contains its own sunbeam?

Here is my bouquet of sunflowers. On the last day of July, in the late afternoon sunshine on the deck.

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