Best holiday song ever

Robert Earl Keen‘s Merry Christmas from the Family. While this bears little resemblence to the Christmas’s I’ve known, it brings me nearly to tears every year during this season. I mean this is what getting together with family is all about. Bloody Marys ’cause we all want one!

My nomination for worst: National Republican Senatorial Committee’s version of the 12 Days of Christmas. I thought it was a spoof.

Update: Jill Sobule’s cover of Merry Christmas from the Family, which Graham promises he’ll play tomorrow (12/22) on his radio show, The Brit Mix.

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Last-minute gift idea

rutland farmer calendarI think I beat those prurient gals over at GardenRant to the punch on this one. From the Rutland Area Farm & Food Link:

Local Exposure Calendar Released

“Your favorite farmers have posed in the buff to raise awareness of the amazing array of local farm products grown right here in Rutland County.

“The calendar, both artistically beautiful and amusingly cheeky, is designed to bring a little humor to your schedule. In addition to profiles of each highlighted farm, the calendar is filled with tips on how to support local agricultural and sustainable food production in your community. You’ll find the start days of local farmers’ markets dappling the pages and important agricultural tidbits from the global to the local perspective.”

Go buy a calendar. And resolve next year to be a better supporter of local farmers in your own neck of the woods. The calendar will help remind you.

Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners

vegetable varieties for gardeners websiteLest you think that I’ve gone into houseplant rehab, be forewarned that posting will be light over the next few weeks. What with the holidays, some other looming deadlines, and the fact that not much is growing around here, I won’t have much to write about.

But before I go, one quick recommendation: If you pull out those veggie seed catalogs and are starting to pull together your list of what to order this year, be sure to check out the Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners website. (Full disclosure: I work on this website as part of my duties in the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University.)

We’ve got descriptions of more than 5,000 varieties at the site. The whole idea is that you visit the site and rate and review varieties, and read the ratings and reviews of other gardeners. We’ve got a whole lot of improvements we’d like to make to the site to harness the power of veggie gardeners. But right now what we really need is for more gardeners to review more varieties to help build the knowledge base.

I’ll post more about it later this winter. But if you find yourself pulling out the seed catalogs before them, please check out the site first.

Hope you have a good holiday and will stop back in again after the New Year’s.

My name is Craig and I have a houseplant problem

With all of us in the northern climes being driven inside, there’s been a lot of blogging about houseplants.

When I read that Kim over at A Study in Contrasts had nearly 50 pots-worth, I said to myself, “I’m glad I’m not saddled with that burden during the winter.”

You see, we live in a lousy house for houseplants. Sunny south windows are few. The windowsills are narrow. And when it comes to nuance houseplant care, I’m not your guy.

Any plant that can’t go a week (or two) without watering is a goner. That said, I’ve killed my share of plants from overwatering.

So there’s no way I’d have as many pots as Kim.

Then I figured, maybe I should take an inventory just to make sure.

When you come into the kitchen, you’ll notice the burrow’s tail (apologies for my lack of precision in naming these plants). It’s a great pass-along plant because it roots so easily. I got my start from a neighbor more than 15 years ago and it’s been repotted or restarted from cuttings numerous times. That’s 1 pot.

On the kitchen table, three poinsettias from the sale last week on campus by the Hortus Forum student horticulture club, and a bromeliad someone abandoned at work. 4 more makes 5. (I gave one of the poinsettias away to my mother-in-law already, but I’m still going to count it.


On the kitchen windowsill, a couple of violets, a couple of florists cyclamen from the Hortus Forum plant sale, and an orchid given to me by a friend that I haven’t yet killed. 5 more makes double figures already.


On to the sitting room: The cactus pot (wow, that cactus really doesn’t like frost) and my Ficus religiosa, which I cut all the way back this year in an effort to get the scale under control. (OK, so that’s one plant I will fuss over. But hey, this is the tree under which Budha gained enlightenment. I want a stone Budha for the garden, but I’ll settle for the tree.) In the west window, 5 more pots including the calla my friend Billie Jean gave me for helping to move plants into her sunroom and a pot of amorphophallus. That’s 7 more pots or 17 all together.


On to the living room: Not much here. Just the hanging fern that was given to Elly by her co-workers when my mother died about 15 years ago, and a pot of aloe. 2 more makes 19.


The foot of the stairs with bright north and east windows is a crowded spot. Some big philodendrons, a spiralling Dracaena from a rooted cutting 20 years ago, some overwintering lantanas, and some smaller pots on the plant stand. Oh, and the spider plant hanging in the stairway. Another 11 makes 30. I’m getting into Kim range, but there’s only one room left to go.


Upstairs spare bedroom: These shouldn’t really count, should they? We keep the door short and it’s really just a holding area for pots with mostly dormant plants in them. Brugmansia, Abutilon, geraniums, etc. 13 all together. That makes 43, so I don’t have Kim’s houseplant monkey on my back. At least not as firmly on my back.


Oh yeah. I forgot about work. The Plant Science Building where I work has great big windows with wide sills, and while my office faces north, I scatter a few plants around other offices with south-facing windows. The dozen raggedy plants (most prominent, another amorphophallus) in my office window shoots me past the Kim-zone to 55.


Four more in the back office makes 59.


There’s the 12-foot tree (I’ve forgotten the name, but one of our Mexican grad students tells me it’s common in the deserts down there) behind my desk, and the snake plant in the main office. Up to 61.


The south-facing windows in the lunchroom (right over the radiators) are great for cacti and succulents. Three on each sill. That’s 67.


There’s the monster aloe in my friend Annie’s office. (68)


And the euphorbia in the weed science folk’s office.


So if my math is right, that’s 69 — not counting the dozen or so plants I sent to school with my daughter or the bananas, brugmansias and tropicals I’m trying to overwinter in my sister-in-law’s cellar.

Thank goodness I’m not into houseplants.

Jah have mercy, I think I have a problem. But it’s a good problem. These plants bring me much joy, and they’re not all that hard to take care of. They get me through the winter.

And in the darkest days at work, I don’t have to depend on these plants alone. Just down the hall is the Libery Hyde Bailey Conservatory, where it’s always warm and where some incredible plants reside waiting to educate the next generation of botanists.