Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Meanwhile back in the Greenhouse

Every year I tell myself that I need to toughen up and start admiring plants from a distance. Then spring comes and the first one or two greenhouses I visit I'm good, but by the third or fourth I walk out with my hands full with some orchid or other blooming plant that is new to my collection.  Last spring it was the Epiphyllum virus that hit.  It just so happened that it was the second year that my own greenhouse had been up and running and all the plants were blooming their best year ever, including my Night Blooming Cereus, Epiphylum oxypetallum.  I was in Southern Oregon with my father on our "annual father and son fishing trip" and we happened by this nursery and decided to stop in.  I put on my tough face, the one that says looking not buying and went in.  Ten minutes later I returned to the car with this absolutely gorgeous Epyphyllum "Padre" which of course translated means "Father".  How apropos... "Padre .....father and son fishing trip".  It sounded like a good reason to me, but when I brought it home MeMa just shook her head.
Epicactus 'Padre' Epiphylum
It is the most brilliant pink and unlike the night bloomer which blooms and wilts in one evening, this one stays in bloom for about four or five days.  The flower is about six or seven inches in circumference and the plant itself is quite large.  Later that summer we were attending the annual Laurelhurst Neighborhood Garage Sale which is a fund raiser to maintain one of Portland's oldest and historic landmarks.  While MeMa browsed for things we probably didn't need I found a comfortable place to sit and rest.  Anyway as I sat and looked around the landscape I noticed a miniature Epiphyllum that someone planted as an annual, and a couple of pieces just happened to break off and jumped into my shirt pocket.  At the time I will just call it the mystery Epiphylum until it is mature enough to bloom and I can identify it.  I think this is a great genus of plant and I am enjoying the four that I have.
Epicactus 'Deutsche Kaiserin'

My Night Bloomer
 Epiphylum oxypetalum

The mystery epiphylum, growing well and waiting to be identified.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Getting Into The Holiday Spirit

As I mentioned in an earlier post the lovely MeMa and I have decided to spend the upcoming Holidays on the island of Maui. We have always made a big to-do of Christmas and New Years at the Manor but they were such an ordeal last year because the daughter's -in -laws were not speaking to each other which resulted in even more hard feelings. So right then and there we looked at each other and said "next year a warm tropical island", and Maui it is. All is well between the two now but our trip is entirely paid in advance and the house sitter is gnashing at the bit to move in so why spoil plans? We will have a family celebration on our return giving the "Little Terrorists two Christmas's, what fun!
I can't but feel a bit like an old scrooge though as I normally decorate the outside with masses of lights and ornaments. This year I put a string of lights in the front gardens Monkey Puzzle tree and MeMa purchased some over sized ornaments.

And in place of the large tree we normally have in the dinning room we placed this ceramic tree that was a family memento of MeMa's, and we splashed a few other decorations around to give a little Christmas cheer.

The nativity

Christmas photo's of our son's above the mantle, a good friend framed and mated it for us.
Last night Mema and I picked up Little Terrorist # 2, Brooklyn and drove downtown to the Macy's store to have pictures taken with Santa. The plan was that we would meet Little Terrorist # 1 Taeya and her parents and auntie and two cousins at Macy's and all have pictures together. We of course arrived at the scheduled time only to get a call that the rest would be another half hour away. Even with the best efforts at distracting Brooklyn he spotted Santa and took off running, climbed into Santa's lap and told him that he wanted a Helicopter. The photographer being well versed in the art of capturing Kodak moments when Kodak moments are made available started snapping shots immediately.

"I want a helicopter"
We didn't even get a chance to remove his jacket.
 Forty five minutes later the rest of the family showed up, and all was going well until Taeya was plopped next to Santa. Even with her cousin Olivia's best effort to hang onto her this was the only picture we could get.

Mia....Brooklyn.....Santa.....Olivia....and "I want my mum" Taeya
Hope you all have a fun Holiday season however you celebrate it and an even better New Year....Aloha!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Office Staff

Ten years ago I suggested to the office staff that we create a more homey atmosphere for ourselves. I suggested plants and an aquarium, the plants were easy since I had a large collection at home. Everyone said they liked the idea of an aquarium so we pooled our money and off I went to the local aquarium store and filled the car with all that I would need. I was advised by the shop owner to purchase just one inexpensive fish to "test the waters", a sacrificial fish if you please. When setting up a new aquarium one almost always has a few losses and since this aquarium was going to be monitored by a bunch of folks that would be a bit of a handful if there were any great losses I agreed with the shop owner and purchased one small orange fan-tailed Lion head Oranda (fancy goldfish). She didn't look like much but the staff soon fell in love with her and I kept praying that I set everything up correctly and she would survive the whole process.

That was ten years ago and the little lion-head has grown to quite the flamboyant office entertainer.

A couple of weeks ago it was brought to my attention that our finny staff member was still the only finny staff member in a very large aquarium. So once again I went to the store and we now have a new member of our staff.

Not as flamboyant as the old girl but they hit it off well these two staff members. I was also informed that they should have names......any ideas would be taken into consideration.

Name The Staff Members

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2nd Annual Halloween Parade

Two years ago neighbor and artist Ann Storres asked if I would be interested in growing some giant pumpkins as she was offered seeds from a professional grower. I offered to start them in my greenhouse and successfully raised a couple of flats full. Ann planted several experimental hills of the starts in her front garden. As the giant pumpkins started to appear in the mounds they started attracting a large following. We spent many an hour out talking to neighbors and complete strangers about the pumpkin project. Soon the idea of a Halloween parade came to a discussion and evolved in what we have today, one of the most fun neighborhood draws that we could have imagined. I have a friend that has lived in the same house for more then 25 years and only knows one other neighbor, that is so sad to me. I chose to stay in the city in a community oriented neighborhood, it is also a very diversified neighborhood that we all take pride in.

The Pumpkin Queen
Artist and neighbor
Ann Storres

Giant Pumpkin
Not as big as last years but we had very little growing season this year.
Most everyone came in costume.
The marchers were led by a young trombonist who played "When the Saints Go Marching In" as it was the only complete tune he knew.

The rain held off for the parade.
We had over forty marchers.

Next year we are going to award trophy's for different categories of pumpkins and costumes.


After the parade which started at 5:00 pm, the trick-or-treaters started making their visits. Our son's and their family's came over for several bowls of MeMa's homemade clam chowder which has been the traditional Halloween meal of our family, yummmmm!

Friday, October 29, 2010

From The Garden History Book - Monkey Pod Tree

On our 2007 trip to Oahu we visited the Iolani Palace. After touring the inside we went on a self guided tour of the grounds. In the very upper left of this photo you can see a bit of the leaves from the giant Monkey Pod tree planted in the front lawn of the palace . I was taking pictures of  some of the plants and noticed that there were a great number of pods laying in the lawn under this giant old tree, so I slipped one into my camera case. After arriving home from our trip I planted a couple of the seeds and two of them germinated. One dried up while still in the sprout stage, but the other one continued to grow. I pull it out of the pot every couple of years and trim the roots in order to maintain it as an indoor bonsai tree. I keep it in the greenhouse during the summer months and then bring it to my office for the winter.

Albizia saman "Monkey Pod Tree"

Not your usual office plant material

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Tree Grows For Brooklyn

"It was way too small of a house", "There was so much yard work". These are the type of things said this past weekend as the whole family all joined forces and helped move my oldest son and his family out of the house they called home for almost three years, and into a rental house.

It was a cute little Bungalow with a huge yard. It needed lots of work and the yard was sadly neglected but it was in a great neighborhood that they enjoyed very much. But they paid far too much for the house and when the economy went south the value of the property dropped to half its original value. So they went the "short sale" route in order to get out from under the payments. Life! The new place is basically in the same neighborhood, has about twice the room in it, very immaculate and has a thumb print back garden big enough for the little terrorist's sand box and a few other things. They both look relaxed and comfortable for the first in a long time.
After the move I returned to the now vacant bungalow to check around the place and make sure nothing was overlooked. I passed through the back gate and came around the corner leading into the garden and there it stood calling out for help. Brooklyn's tree, his birth tree.

Brooklyn was born at home, a water birth in the living room, in a large pool. After the birth they buried the placenta in the yard and planted a white birch over it to commemorate the birth.

Brooklyn's tree transplanted

 I called Grace who was ecstatic that I was going to dig Brooklyn's tree and give it a new permanent residence at Menagerie Manor. It is almost in line with the Giant Sequoya that I planted 28 years ago to commemorate the birth of our two son's. ( Post from 2/03/2010- "History of Our Redwood")

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Still Alive and Kickin

I'm still alive and "kickin", I have had a good time reading every-one's blogs but have had little time to post anything of my own.
Every October our two son's and the lovely Mema would leave their spouses and go on a mother and son's "road trip" for Mema's birthday. This year they decided to stay at Great Wolf Lodge, which is an indoor water park that for the most part is geared to children but there are many adventures for the adults as well. Mema decided to change things up a bit and asked that I join them this adventure. Our oldest son came down with a horrible sore throat the day of the trip so was a bit under the weather but managed to join in for a portion of the fun, but by the evening of the first day was miserable so went straight to bed. The evening was still young, Ian our youngest found a shuttle service from the Lodge to the local Casino, so at 11:00 pm Ian and Mema hopped on the shuttle and I stayed behind to keep the ailing Nathan company.  At 3:00 am the two gamblers strolled back to the lodge with their winnings, Ian flopped into bed exhausted but Mema had consumed enough casino coffee to keep an army awake. She tossed and turned for a time when we decided that breakfast was the alternative of choice. After a hardy breakfast Mema and I dressed in our swim attire and returned to the water park while our two son's relaxed in the lounge. We went on every slide including the "howling tornado" which sucks you into a whirl pool and then after tossing you back and forth drops you ten feet before shuttling you down the last portion of the slide and into the pool were an attendant grabs the corner of your raft and guides you to the edge of the pool. I'm sure we brought some chuckles to the staff as our son's sat on the bench sipping their coffee's while their somewhat agile parents screamed and laughed down the next water slide.

Monday, October 11, 2010

How does he do that?

We Chambers come from a long line of "Crazy", it does my heart good to see that it has carried into the next generation. Meet my youngest son Ian, father of little Terrorist #1 Taeya. He was supposed to be installing a program on my wife's computer and decided to leave her with this little clip.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

October ??

Miss Betty says "its October, time to get that garden calendar out".


Our Sophie, always willing to lend a hand er paw.

The Koi are looking great after their near death experience while we were on holiday

First task done, Halloween decorations up.

Since the addition of grandchildren into our lives we have had to tone down the Halloween decorations, so just a few pumpkins and a nice potted plant will meet with their approval. The full sized mannequin dressed as a witch and the scarecrow sitting in the glider met with screams and tears from the little terrorists, so those decorations are hidden away for later years.

.......if Charlotte here brings tears then she will crawl back into the attic as well.

October Calendar

Lawn  - Apply last application of fertilizer. Keep lawn trimmed and raked of leaves before winter rains start.

Geraniums - Before the nights get cold move them into the garden house.

Roses  - Let hips form, no pruning other than to keep shape.

Tomatoes  - Pick and wrap in tissue paper. Store in coll dry place.

Bulbs  - Time to plant for indoor use.

Orchids  - Apply liquid iron.

Evergreens  - This is an excellent time to transplant evergreens.

Christmas Cactus  - Move into the garage under dim light; water only enough to avoid wilt - when a few pinpoint size buds appear, (in 2-4 weeks) then water normally. Bring indoors and make sure they don't get any light after 6 p.m. - if not possible then cover the plant at night. Should bloom for the holiday.

Houseplants  - Move houseplants indoors. Leave Cymbidium Orchids outside until Thanksgiving as long as temp. stays above 32 degrees. (they need a cold snap to set bloom)

Hydrangeas  - Remove only dead wood and old bloom, otherwise don't touch!

*  Bring in outdoor furniture and garden ornaments for winter storage.

*  Water change on pond and check salt level

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yes Dear!

Have I mentioned that I love my wife? After 36 years of marriage she is not only still my wife but she is also my best friend, so that combination pretty much seals the deal when it comes to not questioning the thought process of some of the situations she puts me in. When a mood changes or an idea strikes, we just join ranks and get the deed done. Have I also mentioned that my wife is very superstitious? Yesterday morning she was rushing around getting ready to start her day, cries of woe emanated from her bathroom. The worst of the worst just happened she broke a mirror.

Not only is that seven years bad luck but the darn thing fell from the wall, that meant someone we know was going to die! " We have to stop this". My first instinct was to just simply take the mirror and toss it into the trash, give her a big hug and tell her it is just a silly superstition. When it comes to Mema there are times when I have to go with my second or third instinct ....if I don't want to become the death in the family. So what did we do........

First.......she spun three times counter-clockwise. This will confuse the bad luck spirits.

Second.........She tossed salt over her left shoulder because the devil is always standing behind you on the left so the salt should hit him in the eye which will distract him from making trouble for you. Well of course it would!

Third.......Hold mirror under running water in order to wash the evil away.

Fourth.......Press a shard of the mirror against a headstone, this will transfer the bad luck to the dead whom I hope don't mind.....because they are already dead.

And last but not least......dig a hole under the light of the moon..........

.............and bury the mirror.

Nut cases? Or Superheroes fighting evil before it happens, hmmmm?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Back From Sin City

Not a care in the world

Everything is bigger in Vegas even a Venus Flytrap
Hi everyone!  It is fun to get away but it is also good coming home as well.  Mema and I enjoyed Las Vegas very much.  We went there because the daughter of our good friends got married last Saturday at the MGM Grand Hotel, the ceremony took place on the 23rd floor in one of the party suite out on a lovely balcony that could hold many more guests then attended. 
After the ceremony, the lovely Mema enjoying the view

But the rest of the week Mema and I went traipsing all over every inch of the City.  We took in the Cirque du Soleil Beatles "Love" show which I would recommend to everyone going to Vegas.  It was beyond fabulous and we had fantastic seats and managed to snag half price tickets. 

There are many free things to do but you have to put a little effort in to do them.  We are not gamblers but did play some slots and came out ahead so no loss there.  The weather was excellent at 103 degrees, but that is a dry heat so very tolerable.  We stayed at a friend's lovely condo just a block off the strip.

Courtyard outside our door

The pool we had for ourselves most of the time

 On our arrival back at the Manor I walked into a bit of a mess that had to be taken care of right away.  The filtering system on our large koi pond had shut down and the bacteria level was at the death stage.  We have some very old and large koi that were all hanging at the surface gasping for oxygen and covered in open sores and fungus.  I first got the filtering system running again and then salted the water and ran tests until I had reached a good level then I ran a large four inch pipe from one end of the pond across the bridge and into the other end of the pond, plopped a large sump pump into the pond and ran a hose from that and into the pipe.  This pump shoots water out like a fire hydrant and created a super oxygenated flow of water into the pond. By the late evening all the fish were swimming madly around the pond and even accepted a little food. I still have the sump hooked up because this morning when I checked on them they were actually playing in the current created by the water flow from the sump pump. They would swim as hard as they could into the current then relax and let it push them back while another would swim madly into the current and do it all over again.  It worries me that if we had been even one more day away that I would have lost many of my oldest and dearest friends.  I have raised all of them from three inch young, many of them between 18 to 24 inches in length and as old as 23 years.  Everything else was fine, my orchid collection out in the greenhouse were all watered and happy.  The budgies out in the aviary screeched and clung to the front screen in greeting, and the dogs nearly peed themselves in excitement. 

His "Lordship" Max the cat" came to the top of the stairs and yawned as if to say "Oh, you're back".  We could tell he was happy to see us.  Yes, its good to be home.