CES Jr: Before the Freeze

So, yes, this year is CES Jr’s fourth winter, I think. Something like that. I potted her up this past season so she’s got plenty of space for roots and insulating soil. And yes, last winter I kept her in the garage. And this winter I figured she’d probably grown enough to be okay outdoors.

And then I got scared. Tonight’s forecasted low in my area is 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and where CES Jr currently sits is shaded by the house for most of the warming afternoon sunlight time. This means it will probably get cooler there than the forecasted low, and let’s be honest how accurate are those ever, really. So I figured there will probably be some frost around or on her in the morning. But I still wanted to keep her outdoors this winter. Sooooo…….

I put a translucent plastic bag over her, container and all. In theory this should provide a greenhouse-like effect. And then, because maybe I was panicking a little, this happened.

This container holds the bonus blackberry plant that split from the larger shrub’s rootmass when I potted up all of my berries last week. I also grow blueberries and blackberries, you know. But that’s a different story. Check out my Instagram page if you want to see more about that. https://www.instagram.com/nicolerordway/?hl=en

Anyhow, I also covered up the wee bonus blackberry. You’ll notice it’s next to, but not in, my cold frame. This is because the container area I had set aside within for this winter is already full to capacity. I wanted to grow plenty of kale. Looks like, in exchange, I might have compromised some tiny plants in containers. But hopefully it’ll survive. Blackberries are notoriously good at surviving.

CES Jr Fall 2021 Update

So you know the repotting was a success. And if you don’t, there’s a post a month or so ago about that; scroll for it!

So you know my CES Jr (or Camellia effing sinensis II) had tons of flower buds on it.

But you haven’t seen the results yet! And they’re delightful, wondrous results of big, clunky, nonscented, messy flowers that are truly beautiful to me.

They look like sunny-side-up eggs!

CES Jr Update: She’s FLOWERING!

And it’s looking like the best flowering season she’s had yet! Repotting this Camellia effing sinensis Jr made her very happy indeed. Here’s the picture proof:

You know, seeing the success of CES Jr now going into her…fourth year, I think, or fifth…I can’t help but think of her predecessor, my first Camellia sinensis, which didn’t make it through its first winter. There’s a line in the Witcher TV show that I think readily applies here: “Sometimes the best thing a flower can do for us is to die.” I learned a lot from my first Camellia sinensis. Heck, she didn’t even get a cute nickname like CES Jr, but she did teach me a lot about growing tea plants. I almost dishonored her memory by waiting ALMOST too long to pot up CES Jr, and then we’d have to have a CES The Third and that just doesn’t roll off the tongue as well, you know?

But just look at those glossy green leaves piling in together in a mad rush to GROOOOW. Just look at those chunky white petals and the yellow stamen (stamen? pistils?) so thick that they bust those petals right open to scream COME AT ME, YOU BEES! FEAST UPON MY NECTAR! Here are some lovely perfectly round spherical flower buds and then BAM STAMENS ALL OVER THE PLACE HAHAHAHAHA.

It’s rather a rude plant, now that I think about it. But that’s why it’s Camellia EFFING sinensis, Jr.

There’s a moral here somewhere. If you’re a budding gardener (HAHAH!) don’t be discouraged if/when your plants die. They will, you know. Guaran-fucking-teed. But don’t be discouraged. Learn from it. I learned from my first Camellia sinensis how to get my second one through its first winter; and its second winter, and its third winter because I was scared okay?! But now that she’s potted up, I think she’ll be alright through this next winter.

Nah, no, I’ll still bring her inside if it looks like a random frost. Because she’s in a pot! Yeah. Not because I’m scared. Anyway, learn from your dead plants. They’ll be very helpful ghosts.

CES Jr Repotting! (IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME!)

Ok, y’all, anyone who’s been following this blog knows I’ve been meaning to repot my Camellia effing sinensis (CES) Jr for around 2 years. Well, today I finally did it. I read a thing while researching something else, and it said as how you should repot your container-ground Camellias about every 3 years, and realized this shrublet is probably around 3-4 years old. And has NEVER been repotted. So I finally got off my butt today and did something about it.

AND THEN I DECIDED TO VIDEO MY PROCESS FOR YOU!

Check it out!

Please give it a watch, and maybe check out my other videos too, they’re all on the channel there. And hey, while you’re scrolling around, click Subscribe! 😀 It’s like that bit in Peter Pan where you cheer and clap to make Tinkerbell survive. Subscribing is just like THAT.

Treees! And CES Jr Update!

I’m excited to announce that the separation and repot process of the Japanese maple seedlings was a total success! Of the 5 that survived early spring’s squirrel assault, all 5 seem to be very happy in their 1 gallon nursery trade pots. Check out the beautiful leaf buds on this one!

Also, CES Jr is doing even better than I’d thought: SHE SELF-SEEDED THIS SUMMER! There are 4 wee Camellia sinensis seedlings in her pot! And about a gazillion seed pods are on her branches. Get ready for some propagation updates in spring when those turn brown.

CES Jr Update: December

ERMAGHERD!!! There was a frost last night! A goddamn frost! Last night!

And did I have for-warning by our beloved weather service so I could bring my Camellia effing sinensis Jr inside and shield its delicate self from frost-slaughter?

NO.

So here’s a photo of it from this morning. Here’s to hoping it wasn’t a hard enough frost to shatter this fragile little life form. Will let y’all know.

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Tea Growing: Chapter 3: Winter

(This is part of a series of posts. For a preparatory class, check out the post “Tea Growing: Intro Post.” This particular post was written in January 2019.)

Winter, already? You might be asking. But I started writing this manuscript in November, and it’s January now, and you too might have started to get into gardening in fall without realizing you were going to be REALLY BORED during the next few months.

You’ll want to go ahead and put plants to the ground because GARDENING. Don’t do it.

Trust me: they’ll die, and you’ll have wasted money and time on plants that were destined to die.

But what can I do while my green thumb is so itchy, you ask? PLAN FOR SPRING! For instance, this winter I have identified the plants I want to grow next year, and I’ve planned out what containers they’ll go in or what areas of the garden they’ll go in. I’ve also bought some seed packets, because I’m impatient like that. The biggest thing about winter gardening is to practice patience and to plan.

Next year I plan to get a greenhouse set up in time to overwinter plants. Because I hate being patient and not growing anything during the Danger of Frost season.

So: in spring I will sow lavender, chamomile, peppermint, and lemon balm. I chose these herbs because they are the stars of my favorite tea blends, with medicinal properties that I want to explore. Coupled with my existing raspberry, CES Jr and rosemary plants, these should be a good exploration into the tea-growing world.

I have also purchased a second packet of lavender seeds, these a different variety from the one I’ll grow for tea. This second variety is going to be my exploration into growing A FIELD OF LAVENDER. It’ll start as a row, at the side of the front yard. Looking out my window over a glorious field of lavender has been a recent obsession of mine, and if I can make a row work what, I ask you, what more can I do?!

I was also gifted a highbush blueberry plant this Yule, and have put it in the ground because its tag said it would be fine. There should be plenty of time before a hard ground frost (weeks at least, if we even get one in Zone 8 this year) for its roots to acclimate and recover from the stress of shipping and planting. I mention this plant because it is now my fifth blueberry plant (yay!) and because I needed to amend the soil before planting it. THIS IS IMPORTANT. If your tag, website, guide, whatever says your plant needs a certain pH or peat moss in the hole or WHATEVER, DO IT. Don’t think it’ll just be fine in normal soil. It might, but it probably won’t.

This is also relevant because some plants like to be mulched overwinter, some don’t care, some want pruning in fall, some like to be hacked down in the spring. The down-seasons are a great time to study up on your plants and learn what kind of maintenance they’ll need or what you can start doing to your soil NOW to make your plants super happy in spring.

Tea Growing: Chapter 2: Raspberry

(This is part of a series of posts. For the first one see Tea Growing: Intro Post.)

CHAPTER TWO: Red Raspberry, Queen of Blood

In the summer of 2018 I purchased a bundle of five red raspberry plants. I happily planted them in a wet, low area of my back yard, on the far end from the blackberry and blueberry shrubs. And there, O reader, I completely forgot about them for about a month.

You’ve done it too! Work gets busy, life gets hectic, and the yard maybe gets a little overgrown. Maybe you’re preoccupied by how terribly your acorn squash plant experiment is growing. Maybe the other berry plants are doing so well you forget to check on the new kids. Maybe it rains so much you don’t want to wade through the little stream running across your patio. Maybe it’s so damn hot and humid you don’t even want to touch the knob of the back door.

AND MAYBE THEY WERE FINE WITH THAT.

I can’t wax affectionate enough about these hardy little shits.

While mowing down the literally 15-inch tall grass I’d been cited by the city over, I rediscovered these wee canes. What had been bare sticks were laden with cute green leaves, and what had been five plants were now sixteen flourishing canes. Pretty good for some year-one plants that had been dirted and forgotted! I cleared the soil around them, dropped some fertilizer and soil acidifier down, and applied a completely useless layer of mulch. Well, not completely useless, I suppose. It did prevent my dog from eating the fertilizer.

Apparently, I purchased an “everbearing” variety of red raspberry, which I have since learned produces fruit in the summer and in the fall. And that is the last time I’m typing “red raspberry.” The only real raspberries are red. Get over yourself, fruit community.

So my year-one plants produced a delightful summer crop, right around the same time as the blackberries. And I thought that was impressive enough, because I didn’t know “everbearing” raspberries existed and I wasn’t expecting fruit until 2019.

I’m writing this particular sentence on November 8, 2018: THEY STILL HAVEN’T STOPPED PRODUCING FRUIT.

These hardy little shits are going bonkers. Either they love the day-long sun they get, or maybe it’s the fertilizer and the acidic, wet soil, or maybe they’re so relieved to be clear of weeds and bugs they just want to thank me over and over with one to five ripe berries almost every morning. Whatever has them so happy, I hope it never stops. But this blog isn’t meant to be about my fucking fruit plants. This book is about growing tea!

I’ve developed a penchant for drinking raspberry leaf tea during my menstrual cycle. YOU WERE WARNED WITH THE TITLE OF THIS CHAPTER THAT THERE WOULD BE BLOOD. Didn’t take the hint? Well, there it is in the open now. I’m a woman. Women bleed for a few days right around once a month or so, generally speaking. The theory claims that raspberry leaf tea helps with cramps and other fun (not) symptoms of the menstrual cycle, and whether that’s scientifically a thing or not I have personally found it to be true. So I drink the leaf for a few days every month.

I didn’t quite make the connection that I had my own raspberry leaf tea sources in my backyard until my recently-spayed female Rottweiler started trying to eat the leaves off the plants. And then it hit me. I could harvest leaves off those plants myself, dry them, store them and use them to make raspberry leaf tea!

Everything I have read states that raspberry leaves should be harvested in the spring or summer, in the early morning to mid-morning hours when everything is dew-covered and green and perky. So, naturally, I made my first leaf harvest in November around 2 pm in the afternoon. I like to test the tried and true. Spoilers: usually they’re tried and true for a reason.

PRO TIP: When you harvest leaves for tea (especially raspberry leaves) you’ll want to gather a LOT more than you think you’ll need. This is because tea leaves are dried before being used in making tea. And whenever you remove water from the structure of a thing that normally holds water, the thing shrinks. Leaves shrink when they dry. They shrink a lot.