vom_marlowe: (not best day ever)
I've been thin on the ground lately because I've been putting in a ton of overtime. 

It's also spring, my favorite time of the year.  I used to love autumn, and I still do, but spring is also glorious.  This year, I celebrated by ordering four cubic yards of compost for the garden.  What?  It's a whole two cubic yards less than last time!  I swear!

Gardening has been quite a challenge this year.  As other avid gardeners know, the zones and frost dates have changed in much of the states.  However, this year, things were quite off in the opposite direction, and I had snow and hard frost in May (yes, really).

Despite those challenges, thus far this year, I have planted:
Fruit trees!
I'm super excited about these fellas.  All were from Trees of Antiquity.  They get a huge thumbs up from me.  My mom helped me plant them, as she has taken certified arborist classes.  We planted:
Red Gravenstein (apples)
Sweet Bough
Arkansas Black
Kidd's Orange Red
Grimes Golden
Duchess of Oldenburg
Victoria Limbertwig
White Pearmain

Stella and Napoleon/Royal Anne (cherries)

Baby Crawford and Polly White (peaches)

Violette De Bourdeux/Negronne (cold hardy fig)


These were primarily planted for creating beneficial microclimates for our bird/animals and for enjoying.
Mary Rose (Austin, rich pink)
Wise Portia (dark pink, eaten by bunnies last year)
Tess (Austin, red/dark pink)
Queen of Sweden (Austin, light pink)
Peace (pink/yellow)
Pink Peace (pink with hint of yellow)
Chicago Peace (pinkier with bit of yellow)
I'd hoped to order Princess Alexandra of Kent, another rich pink Austin, but everyone but Austin US was out, and I just can't force myself to order from them, given the hugely mixed reviews they've gotten and the ridiculously increased prices (when you're more expensive than Heirloom by 30% that is a LOT). 

Perennials and Annuals
I'm putting in all sorts of perennials this year.  Last year, I experimented with several different online companies, as my local nurseries have somewhat vague stock.  I ordered from Burpee, Park's, Bluestone, Annie's, and a couple others.  Here are reviews of these folks.

Annie's Annuals and Perennials
I was surprised to discover that Annie's, which I had heard such wonderful things about, had the highest death rate of all (worse than Park's, which is kind of impressive, really).  They were also far and away the most expensive.  While their selection is unparralleled and their descriptions fun and funky, I also think they suffer from, well, excessive optimism and not in a good way.  It's fine to mention that some annuals will reseed given the right conditions, but in my case, despite solid care and following recommendations for location and yes, proper hardening off, the annuals just plain weren't suitable for my zone.  As in, the full sun hit them and in two weeks, they were dead.  Not a little wilty, not a little scruffy, dead

In my own garden, I often grow tomatoes more or less wild, as a self-renewing patch that requires only watering to get started.  Once I'm in a gardening locale, I can plant in my favorite tomatoes and be assured that, if I want, I can have that same (or similar) tomatoes show up in that spot the next year. 

It would be ridiculous of me to sell tomato seeds with the notation: "These little fellas self-seed regularly!  Plant two in a good spot and you'll be assured of plenty of volunteers come next spring!  Both tasty and delicious, this plant is easy to grow.  Recommended for anyone who has a 'black thumb'.' 

I can hazard some guesses as to why my tomatoes will reseed themselves like bizarre volunteers for a food army.  It could be that I use long slow good fertilizers in my soil (Fox Farm brand, for the curious).  It could be that I have chosen appropriate tomatoes for my zone.  It could be that I have what some more woo gardeners call a plant affinity (that is, there's a special spiritual connection here). 

But I can assure you all that perfectly respectable master gardeners in other locales (even nearby) do not have to regretfully rip out tomato volunteers that show up in random places in their yards.  They just don't.  A few might, but most don't.  Tomatoes are considered one of the jewels in the gardening crown, and nearly everyone I've ever known will say that these beasts must be started indoors. 

I do not doubt that Annie herself has more reseeding annuals than she needs.  I'm sure that her guesses as to zone appropriateness are well-intentioned and probably true for certain parts of a given zone (such as particular Cali micro-climate zones).  But her plants do not do well here, and except for a few particular plants I have no hope of getting anywhere else (larger dianthus, a plant that is practically unkillable and some native monarch-specific milkweeds) I will regretfully not purchase there again.  I certainly will not use her planting locale/zone guides in regards to me.


This is one of my favorite gardening companies, but they have their faults.  They produce excellent varieties, but their seeds have become more and more expensive over the years.  Prohibitively so.  I now only purchase seeds from them every other year, using the last year or two's seeds in larger quantities to make up for lower germination rates.  We're talking six or seven bucks per packet for some of their new varietals.  Ouch.  But for consistent seed quality in really hot summer appropriate hybrids, they cannot be beat.  I've never had their seeds fully fail on me.

They are going bankrupt--for good reason.  Avoid like the plague.  Please.  There were weird bugs in my cardboard and they sent the wrong plants.  I got a refund....eventually.   But not soon enough to plant what I'd wanted. 

Bluestone Perennials
This little company underwent a major change a year or two ago.  Instead of selling small plants they've switched to larger 4" coconut pots.  I was dubious, because I hate coconut pots.  I'd tried those pots years ago and they never ever broke down. 

However, I had a coupon.  So I tried a small selection of their plants.  Unlike Annie's, these plants trouped slowly and doggedly through heat, massive drought, clay soil, and a lot of slugs with no problem. 

These Bluestone plants sailed through our unexpectedly brutal winter with zero difficulties.  Even the ones I forgot to plant (hey, they were stuck in a kind of muddy patch, OK?  I got....distracted.  As you do.) did just fine.  I mean, lolwhut super plants.  I have a mum in such a tough spot that's so lush it should be wearing a cape and a sparkly superhero cape. 

Unfortunately, Bluestone plants are NOT cheap.  Their shipping is about standard for well-packed online plant companies.  But the good news is that in spring, if you have bought from them during the season at regular prices, you get to leap on their 50% off sale.  That's when I stock up on plants I need in larger quantities or try things I'm unsure about. 

A few weeks ago, I bought nine perennial sunflowers, a bunch of quince, some daylilies, and some dianthus, poppies, anemone, and hosta.  Bluestone thoughtfully chose NOT to ship over Memorial Day weekend.  Yes, it meant my plants were delayed a bit, but it also meant my plants arrived ALIVE.  Big thumbs up from me. 

They also have the best search engine for plants.  You enter your criteria (location, soil type, zone, color, height, etc) and voila.  They tell you what will work.  Brilliant.  Free.  Fabulous.  Great for planning dream gardens!

I will post comments about bulb companies later, if there is interest.

vom_marlowe: (Default)
I'm doing a bit better, but still feeling quiet.  However, I'm actually feeling genuinely fannish (gasp, I know). 

While working on yet another quilt on my best beloved new sewing machine of ADA awesome, I ran out of audiobooks saved to my ipod.  Which is kinda shocking, since I had to upgrade my ipod when I blew past the 16 GIG limit on my old one.  Ahahahaha.  (When a cousin asked me what kind of music I liked, and I answered, 'All kinds!'  he seemed skeptical so I handed over my tiny charcoal overlord.  Then he looked at my playlists and slowly shook his head.  'You really do like all kinds.  You have the Bee Gees and Alice in Chains and Sigur Ros and and folky stuff.  And classical.  And pop.  And grunge.  Is this Barry White?'  'Well, yes,' I said.  'You never know when you might need some schmoozy soul, I always say.'  'Huh,' he said, still flipping through the albums.  But he quit trying out-music-geek me, which is pretty funny, considering everyone on that side thinks I am the most boring person ever.)

So there I was, working on a simple fabric experiment (more on this in another post) and I wanted something fresh to listen to.  I'd just inhaled a few lovely recs and hadn't figured out what to download next.  Besides, I thought, it would be fun to switch to TV and maybe give my ears a rest from the earbuds.

I flipped up the laptop and started poking through various free series on Netflix (too weird, too dull, too creepy, too depressing, hmmm) and then Amazon, and found myself remembering that a buddy had mentioned that Lucy Liu was in the recent American adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.  I enjoy Sherlock Holmes and I love Lucy Liu. 

I wasn't sure about the whole drug addict thing, since TV gets addiction wrong so often (House MD I am looking at you, yes) but....  Lucy Liu.  I promised myself I could shut it off at any time and gave it a go.

And I really enjoyed it!

The setup is simple and straightforward.  Sherlock is a recovering addict, Watson is his live-in sobriety coach, and together they fight crime. 

Sherlock consults for a police captain at the New York Police Department.  The captain is played as a solid, thoughtful cop who is both ethical and smart.  The captain's semi-assistant is a detective who, while also smart, finds Sherlock deeply irritating (mostly because Sherlock is, in fact, irritating). 

In this show, Sherlock is a know-it-all asshole, but not actually sociopathic.  He treats people in general rather poorly but he's not cruel and he has some hidden caring.  He searches for justice in part because he doesn't like seeing people hurt.  As time passes in the show, he begins to care (in his own way) for Watson and to push her to re-engage with the medical practice she left behind. 

Watson, for her part, begins as a competent but distant, surgeon who has now become a sobriety coach.  She's shown as very honorable and deeply ethical.  She won't discuss patients unless she believes their lives are at risk, she thinks of others' well-being over her own, and she is shown again and again as sensible and competent.  The disgrace that caused her to stop practising medicine is revealed, over the episodes that I watched, to be a mistake not of hubris or competency or what-have-you, but just....a mistake, as all humans are prone to make sometimes.  She feels deep remorse over the mistake, as all ethical people would, and she makes penance as best she can.

I've read criticism of Watson, as her character, as showing her as fallible, as various things.

But I quite like her, and I think the show portrays her quite well.  I've met many medicos in my day.  Very few admit to human fallibility beyond it being a theoretical possibility that happens only to other people.  It takes the very best, the most compassionate, to admit they can screw up.  And only by admitting the possibility for those mistakes can such mistakes be prevented.  This is dealt with in one episode quite well.

Sherlock himself is brash, snotty, sarcastic, and difficult.  But since he always came off that way in the books, I don't mind. 

Personally, I'm planning to watch the rest of the shows available on Amazon and, if I get a good plot bunny, might happily craft a bit of Watson fic. 

Also, to tie this back to my beginning....  I instantly the recognized the music as it came on.  What's my favorite independent Canadian cellist doing on a mainstream TV show?  I have no idea!  But there she was and continued to be, from episode to episode, her haunting melodies creating great theme and set music.  Check her out here: http://www.zoekeating.com/

ETA: If you happen to have fic/vids/podfic about Joan Watson being awesome, I sure wouldn't say no. 


vom_marlowe: (Default)

March 2016

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