Sunday Dinner: Joy

Flowers bloom on Main St. in Gloucester, earlier this week.

“There is not one blade of grass,
there is no color in this world
that is not intended to make us rejoice.”
John Calvin
“The same stream of life
that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world
and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy
through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves
of leaves and flowers.”
Rabindranath Tagore
“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life,
the tidal wave of being,
the perfect joy of
each separate muscle, joint, and sinew
in that it was everything that was not death,
that it was aglow and rampant,
expressing itself in movement,
flying exultantly under the stars.”
Jack London
“Sorrow prepares you for joy.
It violently sweeps everything out of your house,
so that new joy can find space to enter.
It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart,
so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place.
It pulls up the rotten roots,
so that new roots hidden beneath
have room to grow.
Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart,
far better things will take their place.”
Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi
“When you do things from your soul,
you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi
“Joy does not simply happen to us.
We have to choose joy
and keep choosing it every day.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen

From the “River City 3  Railers” Train Club train show at The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond, VA this weekend.

“Joy is strength.”
Mother Teresa

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WPC: Warmth

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Boxing Day dawned warm and bright, sunlight flooding through the windows. 


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We have a respite before wintery wet weather returns on Sunday.



May your home be warm and bright, bathed in love and happiness this Christmas weekend.





The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:  Warmth

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


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Dress Up Your Poinsettia

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Beautiful poinsettias turn up at every grocery, garden center and hardware store in early December.

There are so many beautiful and unusual varieties from which to choose.  And as much as I love the flowers as a part of my December decorations, I don’t care for the foil wrapped pots in which they are sold.

In fact, leaving the plastic nursery pots in the plastic or foil sleeves they are sold in can be the kiss of death for the plant, since the soil can’t drain after watering.

Poinsettias, Euphorbia pulcherrima, are native to Mexico and Central America.  Like all Euphorbias, poinsettias won’t abide water logged soil.  They like evenly moist soil, but their roots must be able to breathe.

Transplanting the poinsettia from its plastic nursery pot into something more attractive is an easy solution.

I use deep baskets, lined with plastic, as often as I use porcelain pots such as this one.  Since there is no drainage from these containers either, I fill the bottom inch of the container with pea gravel and water only when the soil’s surface begins to feel slightly dry.



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This container, intended as a serving bowl, sold at a discount housewares shop for under $10.  It is only about 2″ deeper than the original nursery pot.  After adding a layer of pea gravel in the bottom, I added a thin layer of new potting soil to both bottom and sides, checking the depth with the still potted poinsettia.

These Christmas poinsettias are rarely root bound when you buy them, so it’s easy to tease off some of the soil from the bottom and sides if you must, to make the plant fit well in your container.

Two small pots of ivy cuttings, purchased at the hardware store, dress up the awkward stems of the poinsettia.  You can see that the variegated ivy echoes the colors of the white poinsettia.  A second pot of dark green ivy, with more delicate foliage, provides contrast.

The individual ivy cuttings can be easily teased apart into several small clumps.  Space these clumps evenly around the edges of the plant, backfilling with fresh potting soil as you go.

I’ve made many of these arrangements over the years in baskets large enough to also add an Amaryllis bulb or Cyclamen.  All of these are easy to find and affordable winter bloomers, and all enjoy the same cool temperatures and bright light that the poinsettia prefers.

You can also fit three or four poinsettias into a very large container to make an impressive display for a large room.

Although many people buy poinsettias as disposable plants, expecting to pitch them in January, it is easy to keep them growing through the winter and set them outside in early summer.  Poinsettias will grow into small shrubs, given the opportunity, and can bloom again the following year.  This is why I add Osmocote fertilizer to the soil’s surface as I work.

Finally, give your arrangement a finished appearance by dressing the soil.  I’ve used preserved reindeer moss, which can be found at most crafts stores in the floral department, and more white pea gravel.  Use moss and stones to cover all visible soil.

You might also consider glass beads, sea shells, aquarium gravel, or living moss harvested from your own garden.  If you use living moss, remember to mist it every few days.  It will need water more often than the poinsettia will.

This entire arrangement cost less than $30.00 to construct.  You can bring the price down even lower by re-using an old container and by rooting your own ivy a few weeks before making the arrangement.

I’ve given these arrangements as Christmas gifts in past years, made them for a church sanctuary as part of their Christmas display, used them as a centerpiece in my dining room, and made them for the counter in my school’s main office.


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Kept moist and in bright light, the arrangement will look good into January, at the least.

Poinsettias often begin dropping their leaves in late winter.  If you can move the plant to a less visible spot until danger of frost is passed,  then your  poinsettia can live on in a bright spot out of doors for the summer.  Prune the poinsettia to about half of its size in late January, and begin feeding it when you put it outside in the spring.  You may be surprised at how beautifully it grows over the summer.

Enjoy dressing up your poinsettia this year.  These plants are affordable, beautiful, and are easily cared for.  Poinsettia arrangements make a welcome gift in most homes for the holidays.


Arrangement and photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


More on poinsettias and their care, here….

Visiting the Homestead Garden Center

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We visited Homestead Garden Center today to pick out one of their beautiful Christmas trees for our own.  We love the freshness of these trees.  They are  picked on a farm in the mountains and brought here early in the season, and then kept in water until sold.  Each tree has its own little dish of water.December 13 2013 poinsettias 002

Although there are only a few trees left, they are all beautifully grown.  The small table top trees are especially nice.

Wreath making is underway in the workshop and greenhouse, each a beautiful combination of evergreens and decorated with cones, fruit, and berries.

Poinsettias fill the shop.  There are so many hybrids now it is hard to choose which one to bring home.  Whether you love the creamy white ones, or prefer red, pink, spotted, or marbled; they are all healthy and ready to go home and bloom for the next month or so.

December 13 2013 poinsettias 003Poinsettias are members of the Euphorbia family, native to Mexico and Central America.  Poinsettias were introduced to the United States in 1825 by our first Minster to Mexico, Joel Poinsett.  In their native Mexico these plants grow as shrubs or small trees.  Some of the leaves, known as “bracts”, begin to turn red, orange, white, pale green, or pink when the days grow shorter.  They need several weeks of nights 12 hours or longer to change colors.  The actual flowers are actually tiny and yellow, located in the center of each bunch of colored bracts.

A light pink poinsettia in the Homestead Garden Center shop.

A light pink poinsettia in the Homestead Garden Center shop.

Poinsettias enjoy bright sunshine during the day, warm temperatures, and a steady supply of moisture.  They can live outside during most of the year, but are brought in to protect them from frost, which will kill them.

The poinsettia industry in the United States dates to 1900 when the Ecke family began raising poinsettias on their dairy farm near Los Angeles.   The family began selling them from street stands around LA, later developing a special growing technique to produce color on every single branch of their bushy, compact plants.  They were the only growers in the nation with the secret for growing florist quality poinsettias, until the 1990s when a university researcher discovered their technique and published it.  Poinsettias are now grown all over the United States.  They are also popular in Turkey, Egypt, Central and South America, Australia, and Malta.

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These Rose series poinsettias come in several different colors.

If you want to keep your poinsettia after the holidays, make sure to keep it watered and in bright light until the weather settles in spring.  Poinsettias prefer morning light.  Prune the plant after the holidays to remove all of the colored leaves and tiny yellow flowers.  Keep the plant fed and watered all summer, protected from afternoon sun, and watch it grow into a small shrub.  It will probably need a new, larger pot in early summer.  Poinsettias enjoy moisture, but must never sit in water.  They require good drainage.

Bring the plant indoors before first frost to an area where it will remain in darkness for at least 12 hours each night.  Soon, the leaf bracts will begin to turn bright colors again and you can enjoy it for another holiday season.

A whole new palette of plants comes available in December for those of us who love to keep flowering plants indoor during the winter.  Cyclamen are in their prime now, as they enjoy cool indoor temperatures.  They grow best near windows where they enjoy the bright winter sunshine and cooler air.  Christmas cactus are in bloom now as well.  And the first perennials of spring, little Primulas, have shown up for sale at Homestead.  The gardening year rolls on and on, with something beautiful close at hand to greet each new day.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

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