Posted by: containedobsession | February 9, 2009

Does this thing still work?

So I have not been updating my blog. Regularly, or even at all. Life was too cold and depressing for me and I did not want to whine online. But. Now I have moved to the DC area. I have an apartment. The husband is employed. I should be employed soon.

And the apartment does not have a balcony or any outdoor space whatsoever!

I can be mature and reason that now is not the time to cry about it. And the apartment does get a decent amount of light. So I will grow my plants indoors. Here are my plans:

Create a terranium for ferns.

Grow orchids again.

Experiment with exciting houseplants.

Succulents, anyone?

Windowsill herbs?

Th biggest disappointment with this situation will be not growing tomatoes. Not going outside and picking little Sungolds and popping them into my mouth before leaving for work.

All the more reason to join a CSA.

Posted by: containedobsession | October 30, 2008

In an attempt to keep cranky thoughts at bay

New Jersey is not all bad, I keep telling myself. After all, it’s temporary and we won’t be here forever. Central Jersey is the worst, with its strip malls, but the beach is a lot closer now than it was in Tucson. Being unemployed is also not terrible. We are young, healthy, educated and something is bound to come up for both of us. And now is a good time for posting regularly in my blog.

It’s also a good time for more cooking, reading library books, visiting the beach, spending time with family, watching and criticizing The Food Network, updating my LibraryThing, exploring the East Coast, napping with the cats, learning how to sew, and daydreaming about what I want to do with my life.

It is not a good time for gardening. It is getting cold and that is startling news for me. I can do some indoor gardening but I don’t want to start until I am more stable, with a job and my own home.

Now is a good time to distract myself from my non-garden and write about my other obsession: food.

Posted by: containedobsession | September 7, 2008

Moving back

Since my last post, a lot has happened. We have decided to take charge and move back east, where we will continue to apply for jobs and hopefully get more interviews. We will settle in the DC area.

Right now, I have no garden. I have sold it, bit by bit, through Craig’s List. All my plants except for one lone yellow pepper plant, have found good homes. People have bought out the plant stands and pots too. A large octopus agave and three smaller agaves remain, and they are coming with us in the car for the long drive back home. With a “roadkill cactus” named Clive. And three cats.

I will post again, and hopefully more regularly, once I am settled back east. I have great plans of getting involved in the active gardening community there, and impressing people with my burgeoning agave collection. I can’t wait.

Posted by: containedobsession | August 3, 2008

The Impermanence of Gardening

This has been a very hard summer for gardening and me. Besides the fact that it’s over 100 degrees most days, with a relentless sun, other possibilities in my life right now makes it hard for me to care. Lately I realized that I have detached myself from my garden. Oh, the watering gets done, and leaves get checked for bugs. I deadhead when necessary, and pick vegetables when they are ripe. My heart is not into it though, and that is because I have said good-bye to my Tucson garden 6 months ago.

Tucson is an amazing place, beautiful in ways that I could not have imagined, living as I had all my life in the temperate East and Midwest. The palette is completely different, the skies much bigger and bluer. There are mountains-real mountains-all around the city. Because of Tucson I have come to love the beauty of succulents, and cacti, and sharp silhouettes. Now I understand the feel of desert air, and especially desert sun. I can see more shades of silver-green, and I realize how shocking a green lawn can be.

I have also come to appreciate humidity, and soft balmy air, and not having to put tons of lotion on my naturally dry skin, because of their absence here.

Despite Tucson’s many charms, it is far from our families, and everyone we love. We had decided we would not settle here after my husband finished graduate school. So the past 6 months have been spent in job-hunting and trying to strategize how we will leave Tucson. I have not bought any more plants, or pots, or even let myself daydream about how to improve my little garden. What’s the point? We’ll have to get rid of everything anyway, before we move.

So it’s been hard to separate myself from my garden. It doesn’t give me pleasure anymore. I try to live in the present, but really, it’s not so easy when the present is so uncertain. And so hot.

I look forward to the day when I can have a garden for more than 2 years at a time. I have never grown perennials because I never had the stability for them. I have bought smaller pots because it would be hard to move huge pots. Annuals, vegetables, and herbs are great but I am ready for something longer-lasting as well. Yes, I am completely committed to a garden. In the future.

Posted by: containedobsession | July 13, 2008


Well, I was tagged for a meme for the first time ever! As usual, I have waited almost a month to respond, but I am glad I was tagged. So here we go, and I hope Amba reads this.

1. Similar to Amba’s story about the almonds, I love picking through the chips at a Mexican restaurant before the meal and picking the perfect chip for the moment, much like winnowing through a pile of lentils, looking for stones. Yes, this means I touch every chip I reject. I used to do this all the time, no matter who I was eating with until my best friend (we had met recently so we didn’t know each other very well at that point) told me that she could see that habit of mine getting on her nerves the longer we knew each other. Ha. I never thought that touching each chip and discarding it would be impolite, but I saw the error of my ways and now I only pick through the chips when I am with the aforementioned best friend, husband, or family.

2. I didn’t start gardening until I was 26, starting with houseplants. I became entranced by orchids and African violets at first. I couldn’t believe that I could have flowers inside my apartment! I guess that means I’ve been gardening for about 6 years now. Clearly I have a lot to learn!

3. I believe that I will find my passion, whatever I am meant to be doing with my life, when I am older. As everyone says, Julia Child didn’t find her passion until she was 37, so I have some time. Until that happens, I might as well be doing what I’ve been trained to do, which is public health research.

4. Related to the above, I was not a very happy child. In hindsight, I don’t think I enjoyed being a child, although I had a relatively stable and loving childhood. I am much happier as an adult. I fit into that role easier than the role of a child. I am proof that sullen, withdrawn, and shy children can grow up to be as well-adjusted as me!

5. I don’t have any brothers.

6. I have fallen in love at first sight only once in my life–and that was with my second cat. When I saw him in the shelter, I knew I had to have him. Even now, just looking at him makes me happy. If you saw him, you would understand. He looks like a pure black furry owl. I love my other two girl cats too. However, they were difficult at first, and I had to grow to love them, which makes our relationship different, not worse.

7. Apart from gardens and plants, I am pretty much thinking about food constantly. I think about meals, grocery lists, new and familiar tastes, and textures constantly. Lucky for me, my husband is the exact same way.

That wasn’t that hard! I am not going to tag anyone, but if anyone is reading this, please share what you want to about yourselves.

Posted by: containedobsession | July 4, 2008

And now for something completely different…

I need to be packing for my trip to Santa Fe this weekend but instead I am updating my blog. I realized that I hadn’t written about the Brooklyn Botanic (what’s the difference between Botanical and Botanic?) Garden. My in-laws and sisters live in New York City, which is great for me because going to visit family includes gallivanting about NY.

We were there during Memorial Day Weekend, which meant we missed the cherry blossoms but got there in time for the bluebell wood.

Yes, it smelled as lovely as it looked.

I also cuddled with one of my favorite plants, the lilac. It occurred to me as I stuck my face in every lilac bush I could reach (I am short), that I had not smelled lilac in over 7 years. I lived in the Southeast before moving to the Southwest, and it’s too warm in the South for lilacs. I was shocked that so many years had gone by without smelling this:

We also saw alliums:

Finally, we went to Central Park and saw the conservatory garden. It was full of peonies and foxgloves.

and a glorious emerald lawn.

That would NEVER work in Tucson.

Next up, embarrassing details about myself. I was tagged for a meme oh, gosh, two weeks ago. I need to think of stuff to say about myself, for the first time, on this blog!

Posted by: containedobsession | June 15, 2008

June Update

It’s really really hot. The end.

Well, I guess I do have more to say. I haven’t updated about my vegetable garden yet, which I need to fix right away. This time of year in Tucson is where you struggle to keep plants alive, even “heat-lovers” like eggplant, basil, and tomatoes. Watering them every day is a must for container gardeners, otherwise they will let you know by browning their leaves and looking half-dead, crispy, and droopy in the morning.

Summer is the time to grow my favorite vegetables. This year we are growing a Sungold tomato, Cherokee Purple tomato, Japanese eggplant, tomatillo, and pattypan squash. This is my first year growing squash. Also growing are yellow bell peppers and Thai hot peppers.  In the herb area we have two kinds of basil (lemon and Genovese), two kinds of thyme (lemon and creeping), lemon verbena, lemongrass, chives, and mint. It’s obvious from my list that I love lemon scented herbs.

We’ve already harvested and eaten several eggplants, hot peppers, and tomatoes. Not bad for early June.

Recently I watched Greenfingers. I had noticed the name of the movie popping up in different blogs. The story was intriguing and besides, it had Clive Owen and Helen Mirren. How could you go wrong?

I had no expectations that it would be a great movie. It’s not, but the part that really enraged me was the dramatic climax of the movie. The team of prisoner-gardeners are forced to build a “rock garden” for the Hampton Palace Flower Show. They show the gardeners glumly building a spare, minimalist cactus garden. Of course, who wants a rock garden? Apparently, not people in England (according to this movie). Someone torches the garden in the middle of the night to sabotage that idea. They burned these beautiful agaves and cactus. I was so mad at that message. You think a gardening movie would be able to appreciate the incredible structure and beauty of agaves and cacti. In the end they got want they wanted, which was a wildflower garden. I love wildflower gardens too but did they have to burn all those lovely agaves? Couldn’t they show how to create drought-tolerant gardens, incorporating different styles and varieties of plants?

I guess not.

Posted by: containedobsession | June 8, 2008

Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

So apparently I can only manage one post a month. I feel like a bad blogger. The truth is, I can’t bring myself to write at the computer during the weekdays. There go my dreams of garden blogging world domination.

Anyway, enough of my guilt, on to the much more interesting world of plants!

The Desert Botanical Garden is not cute like the Tucson Botanical Garden. While the TBG looks like it could be part of someone’s extremely well landscaped backyard, the DBG is grander and more like an outdoor museum. My favorite part were the Cactus and Succulent galleries. These galleries were arranged like outdoor art galleries, with a separate gallery for cactus and for succulents. As you may know, they are not the same. I loved seeing full-sized forms of succulents. I didn’t know aloes could get so big!

Here are some of my favorite pictures.

Agaves all blooming at the same time (how do they do that?)

agaves blooming

The above picture is Mexican fencepost cactus. Love the straight lines against the red.

I had never seen this before: lithops in the ground–can you see them? There are many, all blending in.

I loved the colors on these:

This full-sized beauty is a cardon cactus. It’s the biggest cactus in the cactus family. It looks like a saguaro, but it’s much bigger, and has a lot of branches at its base.

Apart from the Cactus and Succulent galleries, the other section I enjoyed was the “many ecosystems of Arizona.” That’s not the real name but it basically encapsulates what was a meandering walk through “wilderness” where the environment changed to show riparian, grasslands, and desert ecosystems. It was pretty cool but I don’t have as many pictures to show from it.

All in all, the Phoenix Botanical Gardens was a fascinating place to see strange plants in their natural surroundings. For someone who is new to the Southwest, it is jaw-dropping to see huge aloes, lithops in the ground, cactus clumping, and massive cardons. Oh, and they have a boojum tree. It had leaves when we were there so we really couldn’t see its bizarre potential, but we could imagine it.

Next up, pictures from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Yes, a completely different environment…

Posted by: containedobsession | May 5, 2008

A Tale of Two Botanical Gardens

This will be my first attempt to review anything, but in particular, two major desert botanical gardens in Arizona: the Tucson Botanical Garden (henceforth known as TBG) and the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) in Phoenix. T and I visited the DBG for the first time at the end of April. On the other hand, I have visited the one in Tucson frequently, in fact, I am a member.

The last time I hung out at the TBG was in April as well, a fine time to go garden-hopping in Arizona. It was a glorious time to be at the gardens, the wildflowers were in their prime, and everything looked so spruced up and lovely. The temperature is just right in Tucson in April.

More desert wildflowers:

TBG is a small garden, but I am a big fan of small spaces and gardens. The space originally belonged to a Tucson family back in the 1940s. Now it is a beautiful tranquil space off a busy intersection. Many urban gardens have that feeling of enveloping silence and sanctuary in the middle of traffic and noise.

This is the entrance to the herb garden. I love the herb garden at TBG. It has a beautiful blue tiled wall.

(I am absolutely crazy about tiles.)

The best word to describe TBG is intimate. Because the space originally came from a family, not a corporation, the garden feels achievable. While I love to be awed and overwhelmed by horticultural and design prowess, I know that I could never own that look with my monetary and physical limitations. The TBG’s style is more laid-back and friendly. It’s a great inspiration for people with small yards, or no yards at all. Many of its plants are in raised beds and containers. This is reassuring for people like me, whose whole garden lives in containers. They have beautiful bowls of succulents,

and courtyards.

I love their Barrio garden, where they create intimate spaces by using found objects in interesting and clever ways. Look at this mini raised bed. They used cinder blocks and rocks to create a small raised herb bed that goes beyond the obvious by using rocks to make four quadrants. A small garden design where one part is planted with nasturtiums, one with chives, and other nameless herbs. Even the cinder blocks are bursting with thyme, parsley, cilantro, and sorrel. I love this design–I would want to try out a small knot garden in here.

TBG showcases their courtyard gardens well. They have several patios, each with a sensory theme, such as floral, culinary, desert, and zen. They have ideas for plants and patio design that would do well in the Tucson climate. I always leave there inspired to try out different ideas in my own carport garden.

Up next, a review of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix–a completely different feel but no less awesome. I will leave you with this shot of glorious agaves and aloes.

Posted by: containedobsession | April 17, 2008

Happy Spring

This spring has been the most exciting one for me personally, in my garden. First, I cannot get over the long growing season in Tucson. As I had mentioned, my garden takes up space in the carport and the entryway to our apartment. The entryway stays quite warm. This winter I left almost everything out, for research purposes, to see what would happen. Well, the only plant that did not make it was the Cuban oregano, and to be perfectly honest, I was tired of that plant anyway. It refused to grow in a pleasing manner, it always got crazily lopsided and would topple over, even after I pruned it. Anyway. It did me a favor by dying. This winter I had petunias, geraniums, pansies, lobelia even, blooming like crazy all winter long. I grew kale, Rainbow chard, and lettuce. Technically, I have been gardening for many months now, unlike my family and friends up north in “normal” climates.

So even though I have not been wasting away from want of sunlight, warmth, and green things, I still have new springtime excitements to tell. For one, the lavender has two buds. I will have flowers eventually. I had planted this lavender last summer, and it barely scraped by through the summer and fall. Maybe it needed a rest over the winter because recently it started growing again. I have a little strawberry in one windowbox. Hopefully more flowers (and strawberries) will appear. My thyme (lemon and English) has not died yet, and that’s a miracle, seeing as I can’t keep thyme alive to save my life. Maybe this year will be my lucky year. Friends of ours gave us over 30 bricks and some old weathered planks of wood. We set up an “herb alley” under the shrubs to provide them with some shade. The thyme lives there, as does lemongrass, mint, chives, strawberries, and a geranium. The succulents are doing well, as is the lime green and dark purple coleus. And the biggest excitement: a little teeny Sungold tomato, just a nub of pale green.

The best part about this spring though is all the animal excitements and news in my little part of town. We have a baby bird on top of the pillar of our carport. It’s not a fledgling yet, but a branchling, which is the cutest word. The branchling sits all day in the nest, very still, willing itself to grow. Across the street is the agricultural extension of the university. This spring the horses had babies, so there are skinny-legged baby horses frolicking about. The cows across the street have been making babies as well. Adorable calves the size of large dogs are grazing alongside their moms. This farm is the reason I love living here.

As for my garden, I love it. I keep wanting new projects to do but honestly, it’s a little garden and there isn’t a whole lot to do, besides watering, fertilizing (organically), and deadheading. We do need space for our car, after all. Today I got two new succulents just because my love for succulents shows no signs of slowing down.

Now we wait for the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant to start their thing.

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