[Cross-posted at My Left Wing
Good morning, and may your experiments bear fruit. Welcome to Saturday Morning Garden Blogging.
Well, Denver's weather is dry, seasonal but not too cold, too damned windy, and there's more snow pounding the mountains. Predictions are that the ample snow pack will leave us with full reservoirs for the first time since 1999. We had a couple of days this week where, temperature wise, it would have been nice to have gone out and poked about in the garden, but with the biting wind, it just wasn't feasible.
And as promised, today I'll update on the "hyacinth experiment".
Here's the container pictured last week, with the remainder of the bulbs in bloom. I am pleased how this one turned out.
A lot of you folks have attributed to me a level of expertise which, humbly, I do not deserve. Instead, I'm pigheaded stubborn (Iowa stubborn -- yup, I was born in Iowa), and an intrepid experimenter. If I really, really, really
want to do something, I'll keep bashing my head against it until I either make it work, or run out of new ideas; then I'll pick up the mission when I have a new inspiration.
Thus it goes with the "hyacinth experiment". I've played with forcing bulbs for years now, trying to figure out what doesn't work, what kinda works, and what works even better. This year has been a lot of fun, because I finally had space to be able to process and store a large number of bulbs. This is also the first year that I was able to buy specialty giant-sized hyacinth for forcing. I've learned a lot, but have also come up with some real puzzlers.
A couple of my efforts have been stunning; the problem is that those stunning results have been accidental, and I'm not sure what differentiated them from the adequate or downright weird results.
Take these hyacinth. They weren't among the giant-sized bulbs; they were a new variety I bought to plant in the yard, and I was dying to see what color they were, so I threw some in a container for forcing. Here's the result:
Looks good, huh? Except... one of the bulbs never put out roots, or a top, while they were in cold storage, while the other two did great. When I finally brought them into warmth, the "dud bulb" did put out a small amount of top-growth, but never did form a flower. Hmmmmm.
Another problem was the water tended to go stagnant in this container (as it did in the blue bowl). So, put charcoal (the kind for fish tanks) in the bottom of all the containers to help keep the water sweet and, if the water does become brackish, push a piece of rubber tubing in to siphon out the old water and flush with clean water.
And then there's the dilemma of the yellow hyacinth. A couple of weeks back, I was really psyched for these to finish blooming. They looked like this:
In the end, though, the result was disappointing.
They opened unevenly. Two got way ahead of the other two. Two opened from the bottom, two from the top; some areas were fading before the remainder opened. Just not a good, even result. I'm wondering if perhaps one side of the container was slightly colder due to being next to an exterior wall. So next year, the hyacinth in cold storage will be rotated every week.
With what remains of the bulbs (yes, I still have a few left, hanging out in the fridge), I'm experimenting with how to get the damned things from opening too early in some spots, and not in others -- staying in the dark longer? Bringing into the light sooner? I'm thinking that perhaps I should put them under grow lights to even out the light exposure when they come out from the cold. Perhaps that will help.
And I think next year I'll put everything in "testers" -- set them up to start rooting in water, where I can select bulbs that seem to be sending out roots at about the same rate to be forced in the same container. Or, perhaps, doing the "testers" at room temperature for just a few days, to jump-start the process. I'll continue experimenting.
Like I did with lace knitting. I started knitting lace about 11 or 12 years ago. I was fascinated that knitting could look like that. The patterns I found were for tablecloths, knit on size 2 needles with crochet thread. Nice, but not something I'd use. Instead, I decided to miniaturize the process by using smaller needles, and smaller threads, so I could hang them up.
The first piece I did that way was on size 000 (1.5 mm.) needles, using size 50 cotton sewing thread. The results were impressive:
Since that 1996 effort, I did another piece for my mother-in-law, on size 00000 (5-0; 1 mm) needles, with size 100 cotton crochet thread. Again, it was impressive... but the thread was still too bulky to knit on smaller needles, and, in any event, I couldn't seem to get the hang of knitting on anything smaller than 5-0's. I'd drop stitches, and be unable to execute decreases without making a hash of it. I knew it must be possible; why else would they sell size 000000 (6-0; .75 mm.) and 00000000 (8-0; .5 mm.) needles?
A couple of years ago, I decided to try again on the 6-0's. First, I found even smaller thread -- size 100/2 ply thread was much finer. It took me many hours to get the damned thing started (they are knit in the round, on double-pointed needles); even more to be able to get those first few, exquisitely difficult rows done. I must have started over a dozen times.
Finally, I figured out how to adapt knitting techniques, to never handle more than one stitch at a time -- that was my problem! The stitches were so small, and the thread so fine, it was too easy to lose one. So, rather than knit two together -- knit one, slip back onto the left needles, then slip the next stitch over it. A decrease with the correct slant, without the risk of dropping a stitch!
This is the daffodil pattern from Marianne Kinzel's Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting. It was written to be a "tea cloth" measuring 38 inches in diameter. Knit in miniature, the piece measures 13.5 inches. The gauge is about 36 stitches per inch on stockinette stitch -- the dime gives you an idea of the scale.
I've also had to learn to improvise on equipment. After much frustration-using small loops of colored thread as stitch markers (they'd fall apart after a few rows), I hit upon the idea of using the brightly-colored rubber bands they make for braces. The work well -- especially after being split in half. Instead of buying "lace needles" at $8 or $9 a set, I purchase lengths of stainless steel "music wire" at the hardware store ($4 for a tube of a half-dozen yard-long pieces), clip it to the desired length, and use my electric knife sharpener to put points on it. I've been able to make my own miniaturized stitch holders, custom-length needles and, because the wire is so flexible, circular needles.
So, that's how I do what I do.... I'm goddamned stubborn. If I want a plant to grow, I'll kill five of them before I get the sixth to thrive. If I want forced hyacinth, I'll find a way to fill my house with them for months without breaking the bank. If I want to hang something pretty of which I can be proud on the wall, I'll take the hundreds of hours it takes to knit it (and the year and a half of procrastination it takes to finally get it mounted. I hate doing finishing work... but I'm almost done). And if I want a picture of this morning's beautiful Colorado sunrise, I'll run out in my robe and slippers to get it.
So, what have you been banging your head against this week?