Consider….. the container (for gardening)



From Flora Forager


Consider the container

I am lucky enough to have a decent sized garden. And yet, I am drawn to container planting for a variety of reasons.  Containers allow you to grow (and contain) plants that might be invasive (or aggressive) in your zone.  They let you play with color combinations and plant combinations easily, mixing up hardy plants and annuals, or let you have half-hardy lovelies that you can winter over year to year (if you’re lucky enough to have a space to do so).  If your limited in gardening space, they allow you to have some kind of garden. And containers themselves are lovely, so many options in colors and sizes.

Plain containers (basic black plastic pots) can help you extend and expand your vegetable gardening possibilities.  And decorative containers, obviously, give you room for playful development of your gardener/artist sensibilities.

I’ll  come back to using plain containers and other methods of vegetable gardening in a later post (closer to when you can safely put your vegies outdoors). For this post, I want to focus on making the most of your decorative pots.

First of all, where to get these.  Decorative pots can be very expensive.  If you have the money, any decent garden stor3 should have a good selection of decoratives.  Check with store personnel to be sure that the pot is sturdy.  In some climates, you may be able to leave your pots outside through the winter. I don’t recommend it for Portland (Zone 8) because of the potential for the plants in your pots to freeze  but it is possible to overwinter some things outdoors (I have roses in half-whiskey barrels to prove it).

If you’re looking for more affordable options, garage sales, neighborhood swaps, big box stores, and outlets (like HOMEGOODS) might be worth a look.  As I said, you can spent a lot of money on pots depending on the size.  Be sure in all cases, that they have a drainage hole in the bottom. Your plants will thank you.  If there is no drainage hole, you can drill one, or try the trick of not potting directly into that pot, but elevating a plastic pot inside (see illustration).  This is also a trick if you are not ready to commit a plant to a pot just yet. You get the effect, but not the commitment.

Now, obviously, right now you may not be pot/container shopping in person. On-line is another possibility especially if you are interested in lightweight pots.

Now for the fun part, one might even say the creative part — planting out the pot.

If the pot is a flamboyant color, and even if it’s not, you have some decision-making to do as to how closely to link the plant colors to the pot color.  For some colors, this is easier and others, easier said than done.

Once you’ve done that , you need to work up how you want the plants and plant colors to relate to each other.

                                                                   Here’s your basic color wheel:

And your color mixing choices —










Color harmony


Color echo


These fancy artists words simply put:

Complementary – opposite sides of the color wheel. We are familiar w/ Red/Green at Christmas

Analogous – Three or more hues in sequence on the color wheel (say yellow paired with yellow/green and yellow/orange)

Triad – Three colors equidistant on the color wheel (yellow/blue/red)

Color harmony – Colors all in the same family but different intensity, say dark blue to sky blue

Color echo – a color that occurs in one flower (or plant) picked up buy another flower (or plant).  For instance I used an example above, of a flower arrangement I did where yellow, green and orange are picked up and repeated in other plants.

Of course you’ve got to be careful (a bit) when doing all this matching! Yet I think we instinctively know when something looks pleasing (to us anyway, not everything looks pleasing to everyone)

Let’s illustrate a few pots from my yard.  I am a big fan of color echos.  But a note, I don’t quite have the variety of examples to show you this time of year.

In this example, the plant echoes the pot with its coppery color. Not much else going on though.


This example is more of a contrast. But if you look closely at the blossoms on this unusual camellia and  you’ll see a little smatter of off-white, like the pot.


And finally this pot – with its green, turquoise and reddish scheme led to my choice of these plants, where the reds echoed each other and the color of the pot.  The reds themselves are an example of color harmony.


Now for some additional tricks. I already mentioned the pot within a pot trick. This is great if you want to be able to change things up or if the plant really needs to be overwintered, or if you are not sure what you want in the pot permanently. You can see the example below…. it is the pot the pink camellia (above) is in.


Another tip is to pick up remaindered pots that may have flaws or chips. Depending on what you put in them, the viewer might never know. Just be aware that some of these flaws may affect the structural integrity of a pot and make it more prone to breaking.

Well, that’s probably enough of pottering about for this post!


The shimmer of the world through poetry

It may be day ‘whatever’ of our new abnormal (not willing to call it new normal) but it is Day 5 of National/global poetry writing month.  My group of poets has been hard at work collectively creating from around the globe.

Apparently because I have time on my hands, I seeded another small poetry boom with two other friends.

Here are two tastes of what we’ve been up to:


we are not ourselves —
broken by the tides
waves bigger than a volkswagon
bigger than a house
slap us to enfeeblement.

the two children hand in our hand
have floated out to sea
you grasp for them, understand the sea foam in a new way
reach the cold undertow, not for the first time
you know its presence
but for first time, it knows you
its ownership stark, its knowledge
clinical —  it weighs your calculation
against the dead reckoned value
of two small souls.

They have floated, buoyant on the coming swell
the soft sand a gentle bed.



The forget-me-nots remembered
Spilling from a meager gap
Between weathered steps and frigid sidewalk slab.

The forget-me-nots remembered
With petals blue as a crayoned sky,
Winter’s dripping shrouds wrung dry.

The forget-me-nots remembered
The riot of verdancy, bounty of Fall,
The pale grief of Winter’s passing thrall.

The forget-me-nots remembered
For me, when the world felt far too bleak,
And walking home, head down, I found Spring was at my feet.


It’s not too late to join in.  Or commit to  any other kind of writing you’ve been longing to try.

Check out



Drinks you can count on, adult version

Besides discovering and rediscovering the joys of cooking, baking, crafts, sorting and cleaning, happy hours just got happier for some as people also explore the joys of home bartending*. While I myself am on a temporary alcohol retreat (picked a perfect time didn’t I?) not everyone is.  And for that I raise a glass to fellow liquid experimenter Robert Lockwood.

I met Robert a good twenty five years ago when he joined the Portland Revels.  Little did I know at the time that lurking beneath that musician’s exterior was a mixologist par excellence (and fabulous chef, but that is for another time).

He’s taken his housebound opportunity to come up with more lucsious libations. I think Robert may be a supertaster because his potions are extraordinary.  This is one of his latest: The Caribbean Queen


How to mix a Caribbean Queen

1 1/2 Oz white rum (in this case Banks 5 Island Blend)
3/4 Oz Dry Curaçao (the real thing) or Cointreau
1/2 Oz Falernum syrup (BJ Reynolds or see the recipe below)
1 Oz lime juice
3 dashes Peychaud Bitters
1/4 Oz grenadine

Dash bitters

Shake with an ice cube and serve in a coupe with one cube.


And if your abstaining like me, try The Virgin Queen

  • 3 oz orange juice or sparkling water w/ orange
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz Falernum syrup
  • Dash of bitters
  • 1/4 Oz good grenadine (or pomegranate syrup or concentrate)


If you want to try to make the Falernum syrup yourself (a fancy-assed ginger based simple syrup) try this recipe:

1/4 + 1/8  cups blanched almonds, preferably with the skin removed, coarsely chopped or sliced
1/8 cup peeled, roughly chopped ginger
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. whole allspice
1 star anise pods
Zest of 1 lime
1 cup sugar

2 cups water

Place almonds in a large glass jar, cover with 1 cup of water let sit for 30 minutes and then strain out the water.

Put the strained almonds back in the jar, add the second cup of water (1 cup again), refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours. Rinse out the jar.

Place the cloves, allspice and star anise in a large saucepan over medium heat, tossing frequently for one minute. Then add the almonds and water to the pan. Be sure to use whole spices otherwise the mixture will get muddy.  Then, add ginger and sugar to saucepan, stirring continuously. When mixture nears a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, add the lime zest and stir.  Refrigerate until used.


Have fun and enjoy responsibly.


* Please note I do not mean to minimize the challenges people with addiction  issues are having at this time. Please feel free to skip this post if this is an issue for you or try to virgin version

Every body has a gift

Even if you are not a poetry lover, you might be interested, in this liminal time, to take a look at NAPOWRIMO given over to the power of poetry for the month of April. NAPOWRIMO or National/International Poetry Writing Month, encourages all of us to turn our gazes and our pens to examining life through a poetic lens.  While being cooped up may not be your idea of inspiration, what is exciting is the likelihood that every one of us has talents and possibilities that we can discover right now, as we are in a different time/space.    My kids’ school, an arts focused school open to all kids – not just the ‘talented –  had the motto ‘every child has a gift’. I like to turn that over to ‘every one’ has a gift. We just don’t always know what the gift is until we get over our obstacles and try stuff.

  • Maybe you had a teacher who told you, you couldn’t sing?
  • Maybe you overheard your parents (or siblings) talking earnestly about your lack of talent in drawing?
  • Maybe you compared yourself to your best friend when her writing won a prize? And yours didn’t even though you encouraged her to submit to a context along with you.

I could go on but you get the idea. Our inherent comparison with others takes the air out of our creative room and deflates not just our spirits but our childhood (and childlike) willingness to believe in ourselves.

Now maybe you don’t have the luxury right now of ‘exploring’ anything let alone an art form or latent ability.  Of course that’s okay. We are in an odd time and place where what we need to do to keep body and soul together (and tend to our families) is of utmost importance.  That said, can you sneak 5 min., 10 min., trying something out…. write a haiku, make a cartoon?  If you have kids that are more or less sentient beings, try it with them.  Don’t just give them something to do, do it with them.

Take a deep breath and have fun with it.

Oh and if you do like poetry, just write one. No one is grading you after all.



Some author/artists I have found especially helpful in my journey are Lynda Barry and Twyla Tharp

A fun exploration of Lynda Barry  here

And Twyla Tharp’s website here

They both have books in creative practice and I encourage you to see if your local bookstore can order and deliver or arrange for pickup.


Look for the Green

Because I am a floral artist, designer and gardener (and work in a garden nursery part time) I am definitely keeping my eye on the current greening of my environment.  Zone 8 (where I live) is bursting with springtime that I know some of you in other, colder parts of the world,  may not yet be seeing.  I want to encourage you, as I did in my first post, to observe what might be going on around you, even amidst the housebound-ness we are experiencing.

I am lucky enough to be able to go round my garden and pick early spring blooms as you see in this small bouquet.  Most of the time I’m a gleaner/forager and when we have a big storm or spring blow, you’ll see me hauling branches home to grace an indoor display.  We are having such a blow today although so far, I haven’t seen anything on the streets I can safely gather.

So what if that’s not possible for you? Maybe you are stuck in an apartment or your climate is yet too cold for anything to bloom.

Or what if you want to show your kids something really neat?

Before I started this blog I did a small FB post about growing vegies (I will have a longer post on this soon)….  and then hunted around the internet (of course) for fun vegetable ‘facts’. I found this crazy idea of growing lettuce and celery from discarded hearts of lettuce and celery and I’m here to tell you it works.  I haven’t harvested any yet, but I suspect there is a harvest in my future.

Lettuce, probably 5 days old


Small sprouts are beginning to form in the middle of the celery


Take the bottom of a lettuce ‘head’ (leaf seems to work well, probably romaine too) or celery

Plunk it in a small dish in a small amount of water you will change daily.

Be patient.

You can also sprout a myriad of other things — Mung beans, alfalfa, adzuki, cabbage, k, garbanzo, lentil, mustard, peas, radish, and black sunflower.

In a glass jar, put a handful of beans/peas.  Rinse the beans in water and drain (I have a handy mesh screen top that fits on the jar but really you don’t need this). Do this every day after maybe 3-5 you will have sprouts. Apparently, you can sprout nuts but I haven’t tried this.

Whether you are sprouting lettuce or pea seeds, this really is a magical regenerative process of nature. Letting a bit of this lifeforce can be an antidote to being stuck in your house or apartment.

And, bonus, if you are homeschooling or trying to keep kids occupied, this can be the basis of science!  Sprout a few things at the same time, chart their growth. Guess which one (make a hypothesis) will sprout first, and then practice observation to verify.

Whether you’re able to pick a full bouquet or have a small celery growing, look to the green.


I’m thinking of…. chicken soup.

I’m thinking of Chicken Soup

Why? Because it is the ultimate comfort food.  Chicken noodle soup is one of Campbell soups top sellers probably because it’s a go to for eaters seeking a little coziness (or even health). And chicken broth is the basis of a lot of different soups from your basic Chicken Noodle, to various Thai and Asian soups. Plus  your broth can goose up a lot of recipes that call for plain water.

But that canned version is a pale imitation of what a good grandma (or great-grandma) style chicken soup can be.  It takes some work, but you’re not doing anything right now are you? And besides it really is easy. Takes time yes, but easy.

First of all, you instapot and pressure cooker owners have a valuable piece of equipment in service of soup. Because those tools help lock in flavor. But you still have work to do like the rest of us.

“Rule” no. 1 – Save your scraps, chicken bones, chicken skin, chicken carcasses, celery stems, onion skins, carrot tops. All that stuff you would ordinarily throw away (my secret…. don’t be grossed out…. I save and use chicken bones that have been eaten. Cooking them sterilizes them). If you are not going to use these right away, freeze em.

“Rule” no 2 – You will buy and use chicken parts you’ve never dreamed of. Backs, necks, gizzards, wings (some of you I’m sure dream of wings).  These parts may be had at the butcher counter.  Or GASP, in the frozen section of PET FOOD! (really).  Two pounds (2 lbs) for each pot of broth/stock if you have scraps, 3 pounds if you don’t.

“Rule” no 3  – You will be concentrating flavors by re-cooking your chicken broth at least once over. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Stock aka Broth

Step 1: Fill your stockpot, Instapot or Pressure cooker with the chicken bones, vegetable scraps, and an additional 1 ½ to 2 pounds chicken parts as above (or 3 lbs if you have no leftover chicken scraps).   Add some coarsely chopped celery, carrots and onion. For those that need measurements – 1 onion, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks. A bit of salt and pepper.

Step 2: Add water if this is your first go around making stock.  6-8 cups should do it (don’t exceed your manufacturers recommended amount – my pressure cooker has a ‘not to exceed’ line for example). Process per directions or put on the stove top and let it simmer away for a couple of hours.

Step 3: Strain. Keep the golden good stuff.  Freeze it if you’re not ready for the next step. Refrigeration is fine if you’re going to use it in few days for Step 4.  I find it will take you a bit of time to gather your supplies again so freezing is best.

Step 4: Repeat from Step 1 through Step 3,  this time using the stock you made previously.  You may need to a little bit more water.  When you’re done, taste and adjust seasoning. When you are through with Step 4 you are ready to make soup.

Optional: to condense flavor even more, do this again.

For best results, use good chicken. But even Costco roast chicken makes a pretty good stock. You can also see if your butcher or grocer has chicken scraps. After all those boneless skinless breasts used to have bones.

Shortcut: If you don’t have homemade stock to begin with, you can jump start things by using a good canned chicken broth. I like Swanson salt free myself but other brands are good too.  You’ll need the equivalent of 6-8 cups (so 3-5 cans of  Swansons).

If your stock is too fatty or greasy, let it cool way down. The fat will congeal and you can just scrape or spoon it off and throw it away. The fat is the lighter, greasy stuff that floats to the top, it gets solid when cold.


Take all that luscious stock you’ve been making and hording. For 8 cups of stock your choice of the following veg (please adjust the veg to your taste – I like lots of vegetables)

1 onion, medium chop

2-4 ribs of celery, medium slices

2-3 carrots, medium slice

1 turnip, peeled and chopped (medium to small)

1 -2 parsnips same

1 rutabaga (not too big!), maybe ½ cup total

½ celeriac or celery root (again not too big maybe ½ cup total)

Bring to a boil and simmer til the veggies are soft. This might take a ½ hour or so keep tasting. It really depends on the size of your veg.  Ad the seasonings of your choice. Salt, pepper, thyme, marjoram. If you’re not use to using herbs use a light touch to begin with. Don’t have these. Don’t worry. It will taste fine without them.

Oh, you want to add chicken to that?  Well, let’s back up.

There are a couple of ways to add chicken to your soup (and potentially up the flavor). You can get a whole chicken and poach it (without the vegetables). Poaching, which involves bringing the broth up to a gentle simmer, will take about 45 min – 1 hour.  Use a 4 lb chicken and 8 cups of broth.  Test for done-ness (I find an instaread thermometer best for poultry). Take out the chicken, add your veg and cook as above adding the chicken you have shredded off the bone just before you are ready to eat.

You can also poach chicken pieces. Breasts are nice this way. You can either poach whole breasts with a technique similar to a whole chicken. Add the breasts to the broth, bring to a simmer and keep on a simmer for about 45 min – 1 hr depending on the size of the breasts. Or slice your breasts into strips and simmer gently for 6 minutes. Same deal, take out the chicken, add and cook the veg and then add back the chicken.

Finally you can just buy another rotisserie chicken, get the good stuff off the bones, and add it to your soup!

Just be sure to save the bones for the next go round.

Now don’t get me started on home-made noodles.



Spring is not sequestered


Welcome to my rebooted blog.

At the urging of my sister and friends, I am rebooting my blog to give you give inspiration, hope, and ideas as we collectively face a pandemic.  Ordinarily this site focuses on my flower business and floral art.  Given the times we’re in, I’m breaking my own boundaries and expanding the topics for some time period (duration as yet unknown).

I live in Portland, OR, zone 8 in the gardening world about 450 latitude which means last Friday when spring came into the northern hemisphere, days and nights here were pretty much equal. Looking out my kitchen window, the sun rose between the house and maple tree behind us positioned almost exactly center between the two.

I know it snowed for some of you in other time zones and climes but I’m hoping the daffodils are peeking out and the longer days give you some measure of hopefulness. For those of you in denser cities, perhaps there’s a familiar tree you can look at more closely than usual. Is it budding? What do those buds look like.  Is anything growing in the cracks of the sidewalk?  That little bit of green, struggling as it is, has a life force willing it to live.

We can panic, hyperventilate, focus on the dark feelings.  But do we really want to live there? Wouldn’t  you rather look for the tree, even for a minute, and see what spring has given us?

In the days and weeks ahead I’ll be giving gardening tips, recipes, flower ideas and who knows what else.  I’ll take requests!

Thanks for joining me.



Mumvember: Focus on flowers

Once again (hooray) I was part of the Lan Su Garden Ninth Moon celebration, a juried show of floral design.  As usual there were some fabulous, fabulous pieces but I wanted to focus on the blooms themselves not the structure or cleverness of design.  For that reason, I highlighted just a few blossoms, some of which I acquired from the local Chrysanthemum Society. Using acrylic cases that might display art or jewelry, I put together an piece focused on flowers.


Week 45: New vessel

I can’t quite for the like of me figure out how I’ve gotten so behind on my 52 week challenge.  I know I missed some weeks for traveling and the like but had I been on track, the year would have been over in September.  Nonetheless, I still have some vases and vessels to feature and some items in the garden that I think I can highlight without too much repeat from last fall.

For this week  I am featuring a new vessel repurposed from a friend who is downsizing.  Copper is one of my favorite fall materials for vases and this one is a nice compact size and great shape.  The oranges, yellows and bronzes of fall dahlias and other materials slip nicely into this autumnal color scheme.

I’ve got a turquoise piece of pottery I think will go nicely with what’s left in the garden.  Look for it next.


Seasonal seedpods: caryopteris

Week 44 Unusual suspects


One of the things I love about this time of year is that it encourages (forces?) me to look at my garden differently, finding things that are not usually considered arrangement material.

This piece, in a hand made, raku fired vase, feature typical things and a-typical ones.  The Chinese lanterns are a very usual fall material with their glowing orange shapes. With this arrangement I’ve chosen only the lightest in color, and the green ones, to echo the light yellow orange of the abutilon.

Abutilon are not typically an arrangement flower but I’ve found they can survive for about five days or so, indoors.


The vertical greenery are seed pods of a hyssop, the purple/blue flowers having fallen off.


And the fuzzy green orbs are from a asclepias (butterfly weed) called either “Family Jewels” or “Hairy Balls”. I think you can see why.

Gomphocarpus Physocarpus