Category Archives: Porch Swing

Happy Equinox and Supermoon!

Ready for a change of season? The March Equinox will occur on Sunday, March 20th this year, marking the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and fall in the southern hemisphere. The exact time is 23:21 (or 11:21 p.m.) at Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which is 4:21 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, 7:21 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time).

Equinox” means “equal night” in Latin and, twice a year (in March and September), the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of day and night are nearly equal in all parts of the world.

In addition, the full moon that heralds the Equinox on the night of March 19th will appear especially large and bright, due to its closer-than-usual relation to Earth. This supermoon, or perigee moon, is due to rise in the east and be the biggest in almost 20 years. If you are blessed with clear skies tonight, you will probably want to have a look.

The Farmers Almanac calls the March full moon the Full Worm Moon and notes:  “As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins.”

Northern Native American tribes knew this moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter. They also used Full Crust Moon because the snow cover became crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night.

The Dakota Sioux named it the especially poetic Moon When Eyes Are Sore From Bright Snow. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is a Colonial American variation. More than one other culture calls it the Windy Moon. In Medieval England it was known as the Chaste Moon.

I’ve long been quite entranced with the full moon names and their variations. Of course, they reflect both the need to mark passing time and the way that time was experienced by people who were living close to the land. Lunar time-keeping pre-dated our modern calendars (and some calendars, like the Jewish and Chinese calendars, are still lunar-based.) The Farmer’s Almanac has a good list of Native American full moon names and how each came to be.

Other, even older, cultures have had moon naming traditions, too. This site lists full moon names from Chinese, Celtic, Pacific Island, Native American, Pagan, and other cultures.

Lots of people garden using the phases of the moon. The good news is that there isn’t one best time to plant — Each aspect of planting has an associated moon phase, based on how much moisture is pulled up through the soil by the monthly pull of the moon (much the way the moon influences the tides.)

The time just after the full moon is an especially good time for planting root crops, as the gravitational pull is high (adding more moisture to the soil) and the moonlight is decreasing, contributing energy to the roots. For this reason, the waning moon is also a good time to plant bulbs and transplants.

The Farmer’s Almanac offers a wonderful moon phase calendar for the U.S. that allows you to plug in your location and get the exact time of your local full moon.

Enjoy the new season and the supermoon!

Photos: NASA (Moon), Susan Sachs Lipman

Top 10 Vegetables for Home Gardeners

Tomatoes top the National Gardening Association‘s list of the Top 10 most popular vegetables grown by home gardeners. A whopping 86% of gardeners said they planned to grow tomatoes, when surveyed.

Here are the Top Ten and the percentages of people who said they planned to grow them:

1. Tomatoes (86%)
2. Cucumbers (47%)
3. Sweet peppers (46%)
4. Beans (39%)
5. Carrots (34%)
6. Summer squash (32%)
7. Onions (32%)
8. Hot peppers (31%)
9. Lettuce (28%)
10. Peas (24%)

On the bottom of the list? The lowly Rutabaga only had 1% of gardeners’ support.

Looking for other Gardening lists? See these for ideas about:

Top 10 Heirloom Vegetables to Try

Top 10 Vegetables for the Urban Garden

10 Shade-Loving Vegetables

Once you’ve been inspired to plant, you may want to check out my earlier post, How to Get Growing if You’re a Total Beginner. Tomato season may be winding down (though hope remains for my Oregon Spring cherry tomatoes and a relatively warm fall), so the Gardening Association suggests planting fragrant fall annuals such as snapdragon, stock (below), and sweet alyssum.

Photos: Jean-noël Lafargue (top), Susan Sachs Lipman

Poster: University of N. Texas Libraries

Summer Inspiration

It’s time to celebrate Summer! If there is a slow season, this is it. Schedules relax a bit, and the lucky ones can stay up and awaken late. It’s a season of sun, relaxation, memories, play, family, friends, fresh air, and fresh food at its peak.

Here’s hoping you enjoy the season of long days and star-filled family nights. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Snapshot: Flight

Spotted this week .. in a very prolific butterfly season, a Painted Lady butterfly in repose (in San Francisco, city of “Painted Ladies“, the name for its colorful, ornate Victorian homes.) This video shows the lifecycle of the Painted Lady butterfly.

Also seen: a busy female Anna’s hummingbird, enjoying the nectar of a Meyer Lemon tree in Mill Valley. This is a good general hummingbird site.

Happy gathering!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

This Moment

{this moment}

“A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.”

Inspired by Amanda Blake Soule and legions of lovely bloggers.

I hope you’ll be similarly inspired and leave a link with your own “moment.” I’d love to see it.

Have a great weekend!

Tulipmania 2010, Part 2

In my last post on tulips, I featured the Parade and Apeldoorn tulips and gave some background on the Tulipmania that gripped otherwise sensible people in 17th century Netherlands. This post will continue to highlight the beauties that graced my spring container garden.

I highly recommend planting tulips, as an easy individual or family project. It’s one that will bring you a lot of joy for relatively little effort.

Apricot Beauty

I love apricot-sherbet colored tulips, and the early-blooming Apricot Beauty did not disappoint. A single tulip with a nice classic shape on an 18″ stem, the Apricot Beauty looked great with its companion flowers, the Beau Monde and the Negrita, and, in particular, really helped welcome Spring.

Beau Monde

I find the delicate, bi-color Beau Monde to be very painterly. An early Triumph, with a pleasing shape on an 18″ stem, it featured wonderful blush-colored swipes on bright white petals.

Negrita


Accompanying the prior two in their early spring box was the Negrita, which, interestingly, lasted much longer than the other two. This is a beautiful Triumph tulip, with a great shape and distinct deep magenta color. It’s a good performer, and stands 22″ high, with a wonderful drama and color to it that allows it to mix well with lots of different flowers or stand on its own.

White Parrot

The lovely White Parrot tulips were the last of all the tulips to come up. This is a great, late-season creamy white tulip with varying brushes of grass green traveling from stem to flower. Fairly large flowers sit on 20-22″ stems. Though I found the typical parrot “frills” to be a bit more subtle than they are on other types, this is just a very pretty flower.

Until next year!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Tulipmania 2010, Part 1

A few centuries ago — before the peak of the dot-coms and the housing market and, well, banks and investment companies — it was a flower that caused a giant investment craze and its subsequent crash.

Drawn by their intense color and beauty, wealthy 16th and 17th century Dutch and Germans paid increasingly extravagant prices for the Turkish exports. In 1634 a Dutch man paid roughly half his fortune for a single bulb, solely for the purpose of admiring it. The mania continued to increase. More and more people sold their houses and land to purchase tulips, until their money was fairly worthless, goods and services were priced beyond what people could afford, and people had to barter in the bulbs. Still, they threw themselves lavish parties, with beautiful tulips everywhere, until at last a tulip deal, for 10 Semper Augustus bulbs, went sour. On that first default, people started to panic. Prices dropped precipitously, and people found themselves in financial ruin.

This is the Semper Augustus bulb:

Luckily, today, in the U.S. in 2010, I can get beautiful tulip bulbs for under $1 apiece, refrigerate them (through our mild northern California winters), plant them, and have a deck full of lovely tulips in spring. All but the last of this year’s tulips are a memory. But, what a memory they were!

Parade


Pictured at the very top of this post and above, is the Parade tulip, which performed extremely well. The bulbs are huge, and the bright vermilion red flower sits atop a sturdy stem that rises to a great 22″-24″ height. They seemed to last a long time, too. I planted them to alternate with the Golden Apeldoorn tulips. Both are Darwin Hybrids that came up at the same time, in the middle of tulip season.

On sunny mid-afternoons, their petals would fly open in the sun.

Golden Apeldoorn


A beautiful companion to the Parade, the Golden Apeldoorn matched it in size, color and majesty. It has a wonderful rich yellow color, a beautiful shape and a sturdy 22″-24″ stem.

You can’t beat this bright, cheery color combination for welcoming spring.

My next post will feature my other spring tulips: Apricot Beauty, Beau Monde, Negrita and White Parrot.

Tulip history is from the excellent 1841 (reprinted in 1980) book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds, by Charles Mackay.

More information about choosing, storing and planting tulips can be found in my earlier post here.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman, Drawing, Public Domain.