Sunday, January 29, 2012

Keeping That Poinsetta

It’s soon time to start my seedlings.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s January. Are you nuts?

No. I love flowers and want to enjoy them as soon as possible and as for all as possible, so I start my seeds in early February and transplant them outside in early May. But since I have a few weeks before I start, I decided to take on another plant project--my Poinsettia.

My DH and I received this poinsettia as a gift from the Cancer center of which he is a patient. I’ve never had one this big. It is absolutely gorgeous and I want to keep it year around, and hopefully enjoy it again next holiday season, so I did a little research.

Poinsettias (euphorbia pulcherrima) are actually desert plants and are native to Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs called them cuetlaxochitl. Poinsettias were introduced in the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, and quickly caught on as a popular Christmas plant.

Poinsettias are not poisonous. However, the sap is a little caustic and may cause skin irritation, and certainly can cause indigestion if digested. So if you’re handling the plant, it would be a good idea to wear gloves.

You can keep your poinsettia in full foliage well into February if you place it where it will get at least six hours of bright indirect light and where it is out of drafts, both hot and cold—not near windows or heaters. The flower of the poinsettia is actually the yellow centers. The red or white are actually leaves. After the flowers start to drop off, gradually decrease watering the plant until the bracts all drop, then allow the plant to dry out completely (the poinsettia is a desert plant). Now, store the plant somewhere with a cooler temperature around 50 degrees. Remember we are trying to recreate a Mexican Winter, so a 50 degree basement or garage makes a fine location.

When the temperature in your area warms, around 50 degrees overnight, you should repot your plant, using the same pot with fresh soil and start to gradually water again. Remember, gradually is how you stopped watering. Also, start to fertilize every three weeks.

In mid-August, cut the plant back. Cutting back to three to five stems will produce a bushy plant with big flowers. Don’t prune your plant any later than September, if you wish it to bloom for the holidays. Bring plant inside when temperatures become too cool.

To get a poinsettia to reflower you have to keep it in total darkness at least 14 hours a day for eight to ten weeks in a cool place (55-65 degrees). If you start this procedure around October 1st, color should return to the bracts by mid-December. IMPORTANT; Any exposure to light will prevent flowering. Cover the plant using a light-proof bag or place it in a closet. Night time temperatures above 70-75°can decay the plant or prevent flowering.

Here are some tips for making your poinsettia last during the holiday season.

• Place the poinsettia in a sunny window.
• Do not let any part of plant touch cold window panes.
• Indoor temperatures, from 60 to 70°F, are ideal for long plant life.
• High temperatures will shorten the life of the colorful bracts.
• Water only when the soil is dry.
• Placing your poinsettia in a cool room 55 to 60°F at night, will extend blooming time.
• Do not fertilize when plant is in bloom.
• Avoid temperature fluctuations and warm or cold drafts.

There you have it, all that I’ve learned. Now, to put it to practice. We’ll see if I have the same beautiful poinsettia next Christmas season.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In My World

In My World

Winter. I love this time of year. I always have. Why?
My answer; why not?

I know many look at the winter as being gloomy, filled with empty trees limbs, often cloudy skies and bone chilling weather. I see those things, and more, in a different light.

I mean look at this tree. It stands in my front yard. I love studying its bones. How they reach up to the sky. How they bend and give away to a northern gust. You can’t see those bones in the summer.

And here is a picture of an early morning sky (same tree). Magnificent! It’s like royalty waking.

I love throwing on my huge, cuddly sweater and taking a hike on mornings like this…..
…. and on mornings like this, with the snow falling, filling the branches of the pines. There’s nothing like walking, feeling the brisk air kissing your skin.

I love watching nature enjoying the winter scene too. My Irish Setter loves to dig his nose deep into a snow drift and sniff out what is underneath.

And the birds surround my feeders like it’s a banquet.

And the quiet. There is nothing as peaceful as a crisp morning or evening. Most times, the only sound I hear is the crunch of the snow beneath my feet or only my breaths.

And there is nothing like coming inside and warming yourself up with a cup of hot chocolate by a fire. Especially, if your sharing that fire with someone.

I love winter and I guess that is why many of my stories are set in the season. In The Presence Of Evil is. Let me share an excerpt with you. I hope you enjoy.


Copyright protected by Autumn Jordon

Rusty left the same moment they had, hopefully drawing the attention of anyone watching the house.

Under the cover of a blinding snow squall, Gina and Cole crossed the open field which stretched for several acres behind the house. Cole kept his gaze sharp. Even though they’d slipped from the house without incident by way of the backdoor, he wished he had more weapons other than the ski poles in his hands and his Glock with two clips.

He looked over his shoulder, checking on Gina. She was off to his left, a hair behind him. So as not to deepen their tracks, her ski imprints banked his.

She saw him looking back and did the same.

Through the driving snow, he saw the faint glimmer of the oil lamp they’d left lit on the kitchen table. A soft glow cast against several of the windows. It would extinguish on its own in approximately thirty minutes, making it appear they’d gone to bed. Anyone watching the home would see Gina’s car in the garage and his snow-covered jeep still parked outside. They’d naturally assume they were still in the house.

In the morning, when they didn’t appear at the very least to clean off his jeep and for Gina to prepare to go about her normal routine, their enemy would enter. Cole had no doubt they would, and they’d find them gone. By then the wind and snow would cover the tracks left by their ski blades.

As they neared the wood line, Gina sprinted next to him. “Let me take the lead. I know the path. We’ll make better time.”

Cole hesitated a moment, not liking the idea, before he nodded. She was right. They had limited time, and it was ticking away. “Go ahead.”

Cold air burned his lungs as they skied through the forest. He flexed his fingers around the metal poles. Because of his injuries, he hadn’t come to Mountain Pine prepared for outdoor activities. The only pair of gloves Gina had that would fit his hands was an old pair of gardening gloves. They provided little protection against the frigid air, but he’d endured worse.

The black markings of the birch trees reminded him of hidden faces and made him second-guess more than once his judgment to let Gina take the lead. The forest was filled with dark murky shadows anyone of which could be David’s killer who had turned his sights on Gina.

Cole stared ahead of her. He should be shielding Gina.

His senses remained on high alert watching, waiting for an attack to come.
Within fifteen minutes, the snow squall capped the mountain to the east, and the moon threw their shadows onto the snow in front of them as they topped a ridge.
Cole pulled up alongside of her.

With a finger, Gina tugged the scarf covering the lower half of her cheeks and pointed down into the valley below. “There it is.” Her breath spiraled off on a gust.
The two-story log cabin built in the late forties, right after World War II, was flanked on all sides by fifty acres of perfectly coned evergreens ranking in size on the hillside. A barn, which had seen its better days a long time ago, stood off to the home’s rear. A few small buildings, which Cole took as a tool shed, a chicken coop and possibily an out house dotted the white landscape. A road snaked among the trees to the south and disappeared from view over the mountain side. Snow drifted across the lane at places, and provided a good sign no one had been here in the last few days or would have easy access to it now.

This was the place Rusty wanted him to buy. A place where he could find peace. His gaze drifted to Gina. A place where he could raise a family.