Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer Questions & Answers, 2016

Orange butterfly picture by J.J.
Orange butterfly picture by J.J.
I made a hot-iron transfer from the Butterfly chart (June 1, 2016) according to your directions (October 6, 2013). I did the pattern with X's and did the embroidery in cross-stitch. My colors weren't all the same as the ones one the chart, but they were close. I put the butterfly on the back yoke of a denim shirt and I really like it. Now my 12-year-old daughter wants a butterfly on the back of her shirt and my pattern is too big. Do you have a smaller butterfly pattern I could use? It doesn't have to be the same butterfly.”

Thank you for telling me about the interesting way in which you used the pattern. I love to get information like that! I'll be glad to give you a pattern that should be small enough for your daughter's shirt. This one should be enough smaller to fit. I hope it does and that she likes it! This pattern is for the smallest of the three butterflies on the wall hanging (March 21, 2016). The colors represent those of a real butterfly, but you are free to use any colors you choose.

Small butterfly from latch hooked wall hanging
Small butterfly from latch hooked wall hanging
If your daughter wants her butterfly in the same colors as yours, you can do the following steps:

1. Leave the body of the butterfly (F) brown and the antennae black.
2. Substitute violet for the darkest brown (A) on the wings.
3. Substitute lavender for the light orange (B).
4. Substitute purple for the dark orange (C).
5. Substitute cream, white or whatever you used around the edges for the light tan (E) on the upper wings.
6. Substitute mauve or rose for the medium brown (D) on the lower wings.
Here's the chart.

Readers, look for a chart for the third (center) butterfly from the wall hanging on one of our autumn blog posts.

Butterflies come in a huge variety of colors, but the colors are not evenly distributed worldwide. Here in temperate North America, the main colors are black, white, yellow, orange and brown. Purple and blue are less common and true red and green are rare. However, those colors can be found on many butterflies from the tropics. In fact, you can make up a fanciful fantasy butterfly and later find out that a live one very similar to it exists somewhere on earth. I'm beginning to think that fact applies to flowers, too. A couple of years ago, I did a large needlepoint of a daylily, giving it all sorts of unusual shades of color. This spring I opened a garden catalog and there was “my” daylily being offered as a brand new variety!

The little lion on checked gingham (July 31, 2016) is so cute! What stitches did you use?”

Head of lion on checked gingham
Head of lion on checked gingham
Basic blackwork (October 6, 2013) is done with 4 small, straight stitches: a vertical stitch in the center of the squares a horizontal stitch in the center of the squares, a stitch slanting from lower left to upper right, and a stitch slanting from lower right to upper left. If you combine the first two, you get a plus sign (+). If you combine the second two you get an x (a cross-stitch). The more of these stitches you place in a given square, the darker the area of stitching appears. The darkest area of the lion is that of his back legs, which were made by stitching a cross-stitch in each square and then stitching a horizontal stitch across the middle of each x. All the patterned areas were designed this way. Each individual area was outlined with plain chain stitch. The eyes, nose, tongue and fangs are done in solid chain (October 31, 2015), sometimes called Beauvais embroidery. You begin by outlining, but continue stitching around and around inside the outline until the area is completely filled with stitches. I'm glad you liked the little fellow!

Finally, some gardening questions, which I will turn over to J.D.

What have you been able to grow in your straw bales? (April 30, 2016)”

Spice basil growing in straw bale
Spice basil growing in straw bale
The bale gardening experiment has had mixed results: in one batch of bales, I seeded summer savory, curled cress, sylvetta, chervil, and mustard spinach quite successfully and transplanted some fennel plants, all of which are doing pretty well. In another set of bales, things have not gone as well, though I do have one batch of a special spiced basil variety doing fairly well. In the third set, zilch. The limiting factor has been how thoroughly I could soak the bales regularly both before and after planting. The soaker hose setups popular in much of the literature simply can’t do the job in our arid climate. Fortunately, I can try again in the infertile bales next year with a new watering system.

Your irises are so beautiful, and seem to grow so well! I haven’t had much luck with irises, but you’ve inspired me to order some from a catalog – they’ll be here in the fall. Any advice for me?”

Well, if you saw the collage of iris pictures in our July 10, 2016 post then you probably saw my instructions for transplanting in the same article. The only things I would add are: 1) Make sure you don’t cover the rhizome (the thick, gnarly part) when you cover the roots (the skinny, dangly parts) – the rhizome needs to breathe; 2) Make sure your soil has good drainage, irises don’t like wet feet. If you have clay or other heavy soil, add some sand or other amendment to be sure excess water drains and doesn’t stand where you’ve planted; 3) Don’t baby the irises, they seem to thrive on benign neglect.

good gnus iris
Iris, out by the alley...
A couple of years ago, Annake got three fancy batik irises of different colors. Two of these were planted in selected special locations, and carefully nursed along. They do all right, giving us a couple of nice blooms each year, but that’s about all. There was no good place for the third plant at the time, so I stuck it out by the alley, just out of the gravel, in a location that gets irregular sun and absolutely no irrigation. Of course, it has thrived – it’s multiplied and needs dividing now, and throws up multiple heavy blooms from every stalk.

At one point you mentioned that you were going to try some new methods for starting plants. Did anything ever come of that?”

J.J., my sister, did forward me an article about starting cuttings in raw potatoes; so, I got a sack of cheap russets at the grocery store before I bothered to do any real research on the subject. I found out that many grocery store potatoes are treated in some fashion to keep them from sprouting in storage, and that these should NOT be used to start cuttings. Sure enough, not a single potato from that bag ever developed any ‘eyes’ (sprouts), and I tossed them all when they started to rot.


About the time I brought those potatoes home, we found a stem broken off one of Annake’s potted geraniums on the greenhouse floor. Since I didn’t yet know any better, I bored a hole in one of the potatoes and stuck the stem in to try to salvage it, and put the whole assemblage on the back of the greenhouse bench. After my research, I knew nothing would come of the whole exercise, but I never got around to tossing the stem and potato on the compost pile. So, I was flabbergasted when Annake showed me the cutting a couple of weeks ago, not only growing but blooming!

geranium in potato
Geranium cutting blooming in a potato
It seems that the geranium never bothered to read the articles that said you can’t use treated potatoes.

Until next time: go make something, grow something, and have a great summer,

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