How To Make A Shabby Chic Wicker Basket Planter

Basket Planter 1Goodmorning and a good day. How have you been holding up? If you are into gardening and live in a small apartment- which means if you are interested in shabby chic apartment gardening- there is a how-to-make-a-basket-planter in the house: It’s all old wicker baskets and some beach white love and some roses planted for winter. There is also some plant fertilizer dope, do’s and don’ts. Interested?

basket planter 3I got these wicker baskets for a throwaway price in one of the flea-markets, here in Mumbai and since then it has been on my list to turn them into a planter. Its not always that I buy something with such clear goal for the buy. Believe me, I don’t. I buy impulsively and turn one thing into another and re-turn it into something else if I don’t like the result. But this: I knew it from day 1 that they becoming planters. Worst part is for the longest time I did not have a home to myself or even a balcony! There were roomies and dirt and squafle over a pot of milk and which half of the fridge is it supposed to be in because the other half belongs to someone else: Oh My God! Those were the doom days.

So I let it sit in my storage/balcony forever (count 4 years) until today when I could actually get around to turn them into planters, and when i actually HAVE a home to myself and a balcony too. No good people, no good I tell you is your life without a balcony.

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Anyway! Moving on, making a basket planter for you home is as easy as a pie. Well, the procedure is similar too! It requires you to do just 3 things:

1. Take a large polythene that sits in the basket and also have an inch or two to spare at the sides.

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2. Poke holes in the polythene and add some soil to make it sit before you transfer your plants in

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3. Transfer your plants in and pack soil. Before you pack in soil, mix a tablespoon of a good neem-based compost fertilizer to the soil. This will promote good health of the roots and stem.

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You would also want a water soluble NPK fertilizer to spray every 1 day/week. For blooming season: 1 tbsp to 1 liter water. N-P-K stands for Nitrogen Phosphorus and Potassium. These 3 elements are responsible for better growth of the plant. I am pasting an excerpt from a website I closely follow:

Nitrogen helps plants make the proteins they need to produce new tissues. In nature, nitrogen is often in short supply so plants have evolved to take up as much nitrogen as possible, even if it means not taking up other necessary elements. If too much nitrogen is available, the plant may grow abundant foliage but not produce fruit or flowers. Growth may actually be stunted because the plant isn’t absorbing enough of the other elements it needs.

Phosphorous stimulates root growth, helps the plant set buds and flowers, improves vitality and increases seed size. It does this by helping transfer energy from one part of the plant to another. To absorb phosphorous, most plants require a soil pH of 6.5 to 6.8. Organic matter and the activity of soil organisms also increase the availability of phosphorus.

Potassium improves overall vigor of the plant. It helps the plants make carbohydrates and provides disease resistance. It also helps regulate metabolic activities.”

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Once your plants are fed and happy, they will produce beautiful blooms in your apartment garden: All you need to do then is sit back and relax and have a cup of tea.

Easy right?

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Apartment Gardening, How To Grow Garlic Chive At Home

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Well, hi! What’s going on? Who’s cooking what and how has it been since I left? Tell you what? No matter where I go and how pretty the place, there is absolutely no place like home. It is the best place on earth. What a relief it was to be back to all this old white and own bed. It was heaven! But guess what made me the happiest? My little garlic chive plant overflowing with flowers. I swear on garlic pods that I jumped like a little baby. What a welcome that was: it now rests beautifully in my old peanut butter jar. It’s important to snip the flowers for better growth of the chive plant- and man, was it heartbreaking- or I would have never.

I get so much joy out of seeing my plants flower and fruit: I actually clap my hands and jump and get the husband out of his nook to see my achievement. I’ll agree he finds it funny and I love him that he’ll throw in an advice or two. Oh you gotta listen to this. When I was adding compost to my plants last Saturday, I noticed a few tiny, green bulb like things in all of them. I rooted one out to find out that they are the tiny greens that appear on potatoes. Hahahahaha…the husband put them in. The day before he collected them off an old potato and asked me if they would turn into potato plants. I think I was doing something and said yes. Poor boy planted them. Its the boy in him that makes him my favorite person.

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I am still laughing.

Anyway, as you can see the girl has settled down and all with her bits and bobs and is doing her gardening too and she thinks she should talk about her successful chive growing process. Because its very complicated (not) and not (not) everyone can grow chive in their tiny apartment garden, she thinks its a good topic to talk about and share 😉

Garlic chive is one of my favorite. It’s not too strong in flavor like the usual ones we have. I had it first, incorporated in herb-butter, and slathered on a grilled Basa and it blew me floors. Once I came home, I did a little research to find out that it is also called Chinese Chives owing to its extensive use in Asian cuisine: Apparently Japanese Miso Soup is incomplete without these. ooh la la! This herb needs to make it to trumatter’s kitchen!

Unfortunately, not many grow garlic chive to eat here in India. It is not one of the common “Bhaji” or green that you’d find on a menu or even in day to day cooking. In my pursuit of eating conti & Chinese, I ended up buying a bottle of dried chives. Soaked it in warm water and incorporated in butter but nope: not a hint of the beautiful pungent garlicky taste.

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I heard from a friend that there is a big plant nursery in Vile Parle, Mumbai called Vriksha nursery which grows and sells exotic herbs. My next plan was to get home a plant. I went all the way to find out that they ran out of garlic chive but the owner was too kind to tell me how to grow them from garlic cloves and seeds. She is a wonderful woman, the owner of the nursery and she’d talk of chives like she is talking about her children. I love that. I love people who talks like that.

So I came home with a pack of seeds and followed her instruction to the T. Its just a bit of love and patience really: In 2 months you’ll be able to harvest your chives. Believe me you, since then I have had an unending supply of garlic chives: all you need to do to ensure it keeps on growing is snip the longer leaves and flowers. It’ll be heart breaking- everytime- to see the chives so short but trust me, in no time you’ll have an unending supply of garlic chive that you can incorporate in garlic butter, garlic infused oil, and dishes that call for a handful of it.

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Here’s What you’ll need to grow garlic chives in your apartment garden:

Chive seeds or 4-5 large garlic- peeled

Compost

Fertilizer (Neem based will do)

Potting soil

A tub

How to grow garlic chives or Chinese Chives at Home

If growing from Seeds

Before planting, incorporate 4 to 6 inches of well-composted organic matter. Apply 2 to 3 tablespoons of all-purpose fertilizer (16-16-8) per square foot of planting area. Work compost and fertilizer into the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Start sowing in spring and plant seed 1/4th inches deep and 4 cm apart.

Water thoroughly and give it full sun.

Your plant will be ready in a month and ready to harvest in 2.

If growing from cloves

Pack garlic pods with their narrow end up in a tumbler and cover it with enough water to just reach its base.

Give it full sun till green chives appear.

In a well composted and festilized soil plant your pods with shoots above the soil.

Give it full sun and water regularly.

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Harvest as soon as it flowers. On an average, you’ll need to harvest it every 30 days.

Enjoy your own homegrown organic chives.

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How To Grow Roses In Containers & Bits and Bobs

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Hello and morning! We have a bit of Floribunda Roses in here this morning and one which drive away midweek blues. We are also talking about how to grow roses in containers if you are staying in an apartment and have very little time to care. We will be throwing in a bit of info, the joy in snipping flowers from your own garden for your home and how this little rose plant is making me jump like a 2 year old. Sounds okay to you?

So glad to be back from my weekend in Goa: believe me there is no place like home. Nestled in clean white sheet and unending cups of tea: oh, my wannabe beach home, how I love thee. It took me only a night out to realize. This is a little off-topic but I think I do not like 5 star hotels. I have been to a couple in my life and I am excited too before I check in but I have repeatedly felt claustrophobic. I mean I do like a bit of pampering in my life and some high teas but where is the joy is sleeping on the grass? Where is the sand in your shoes? Where is the shack side glory? When I went to Goa this time, I was put up in Zuri, in Varca. It’s a sprawling place of god knows how many acres, replete with its own private beach and villas that open to the pool among other luxe inclusions. I loved it. But somewhere it just killed my excitement of being in Goa. I just felt great and comfortable but not in Goa. I was in 7th heaven but I wasn’t in Goa. I really think these resorts and 5 star properties kill the very essence of a particular place: they are so same that its hard feeling being out of your home and your comfort zone. Verdict: If you are staying in a 5 star while you are in Goa, you are a loser.

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Clearly, happy to be home and digging my hand in leech and soil and sippin’ from my favorite cuppa and thinking about how important it is to grow roses in your home. I have a bean-bag near the little spot i call garden and there is where my philosophical thoughts brood, breed and nurture themselves. There is something about that space you know, that makes it so inviting: the perfect spot for thinking. All it needed was a nice rose shrub.

So I went in to check, early this month, whether i could get my hands on some English rose or the closely packed variety for my little garden. Didn’t find them but fell in love with these little cluster blooms. On a sunny Sunday I gave a little rose plant a beachy home and look what she is giving me! Constant supply of super blooms, as white as I want it to be. Although a touch of pink would have been nice too but I am not unhappy. At all.

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The variety I have is called “Floribunda” which means abundance of flowers. These are typically characterized by low growing clusters and flower through out. Floribunda roses are small and grow well in containers as opposed to the large variants. If you are container gardening and don’t find these, you can try miniature and mini-flora rose bushes too. The good thing about these varieties is they are also disease resistant.

So here’s how to grow rose in containers:

The pots/containers I have used for container roses are approximately 20 inches across at the top and 14 to 20 inches deep. Roses have deep roots which calls for taller containers.

I used a dark plastic container but in a month I’ll have to shift it to a glazed ceramic container owing to the extreme heat. Its the monsoons, I am taking a chill pill with watering and heat.

Regarding the soil, a good, draining potting soil is fine. You can use slow-release rose fertilizer as per instructions.

If you are not facing heavy rains, in which case keep it outside but away from where the droplets can hit it hard, water your newly potted rose plant everyday for a week and then water twice a week. Keep in a place where they receive 5 hours of direct sunlight. Rose plants are prone to root rot. An inevitable sign that your rose plant is getting more water than it should is yellow leaves on top of the branches.

Prune in spring for better growth.

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Apartment Gardening: Regrow Bokchoy From Its Stalk

IMG_1296Gardening is pure Spa. Atleast for me on a Saturday and one where regrowing bokchoy or bokchoi from its scrap is involved. Dirt under my nails beats a fancy manicure by lengths and I am collecting experiences here on this earth and not praises, nor materials nor money. If my mother reads this, she will be really concerned as to why am I behaving like a hippie. But honestly, I think we have come to that point where sustainable living is of prime. I’m heading towards it with a happy Bokchoy!

Not so long ago the husband and I went shopping and picked up two bunch of Bokchoy: we love it in our oriental. The discussion was can we grow Bokchoy at home so we never have to buy it at an exorbitant price? I’ve heard Bokchoy is a winter crop and doesn’t thrive well in summer but it was worth a try.

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I’ve read that Bokchoy is from the Celery family and practically regrows itself from its stalk or roots. All you need to do is cut out the leaves from the top leaving about 4″ stalk below. Fill a bowl with water {the level should reach half of the stalk} and place the stalk face up. Keep in partial shade for a week and your Bokchoy should start leafing. I followed instructions. BUT, this is what my Bokchoy looked like after 1 day. Yes, 1day.

1526308_633875883362348_1549323450117195377_nI’ll have to tell this. I was so darn excited to see it really happening that I sort of went overboard with the word of mouth publicity. Everybody who knows me knows that I now have a Bokchoy plant in my house. I also became so very concerned about it that I think I almost killed it by over watering. The phenomenon of it growing almost magically was so very exciting and also satisfying for someone who is not so much known for having a green thumb. It’s cheat gardening at its best.

I let it sit there till I saw the outermost stalks catching a bit of brown before plonking it in a flower pot.

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The best part of having a wee garden? The joy of snipping a leaf or two and the joy of knowing where your food comes from. Plus, you’ll see jolly eager volunteers taking part in your cooking where otherwise they give a ****. Like a little boy my husband tells me, “Please let me cut it” and then “It feels wonderful to have a kitchen garden”.

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So much better than buying, right? But there are certain DO’s and DONTs here which I think should be told before you start growing your own Bokchoy:

DO’s

Partial Shade is the key is you are staying in a hot climate like ours {Im in Mumbai}

Well drained moist soil works best

On very hot summer evenings ice cold water works best

Harvest leaf in a week: in a climate like ours growth is faster. Start from the outer

DONT’s

Do not over water or your Bokchoy root will start to decay and smell

Do not keep your Bokchoy root completely under soil. I have done this bit wrong and lost it.

Talking from experience: If you do these things right, you should have an unending supply of Bokchoy and volunteers 🙂

I’ll be growing carrot greens, Mustard greens, garlic chives, Spring onions and Ive replanted some Bokchoy to see if it survives. I’ll be back next Saturday with plant updates. Till then, bask in the glory of being able to harness the power of the universe in one single leaf.

Take care!

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How to preserve flowers & Nominee for a prestigious blogger’s award

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Morning and welcome to this funny little space I call home! What started with being a “bhangarwali” {Trash collector} ended up as “one of the top blogs in India” under the category “art, craft & design”. Now, when did this happen? Can I digress a bit from preserving flowers?

When I started this blog in 2010, I had no idea what I was doing. I was living alone, I ached for my home in the hills and its white, colonial setting, I was taking rounds of the huge second-hand market in Andheri picking up discarded furniture at half the price, painting stuff-mailing photographs of crafts I do in my free time, to my friends n’ family and was completely unaware of the whole blogging world. Utter confusion is where I began. I had absolutely nothing to keep me occupied, no one to share my crazy DIY ideas with and it seemed better than keeping a diary because I keep losing things. And there was so much happening that it was getting difficult keeping track of it all inside my head. Funny that I was totally opposed to the thought of being socially present! Soon after, a beautiful friendship happened.

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I met Janice Heppenstall. It was a coffee machine post and her beautifully worded blog just sucked me in. In no time I was looming all over her blog till I reached one particular blue door in the garden with sunflowers to guard it. She is the first bloggy friend I had and I am thankful I met her. I am yet to visit her in person and congratulate Lucy for her exceptional French. (Or is it Spanish, Janice?)

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Along the way to becoming who I was gradually becoming, I met all of you, headed to some very inspiring blogs, realized what I do is not something insane, people came over to say hi, valued what I did- inspiring me further to create. From a laughing stock, here I am. Honestly, winning or losing doesn’t matter anymore. The fact that I’m nominated makes me equally happy. Yes, there are several others who are equally good and have more votes than I do. You can check all about them here and also “like” the tiny FB button or tweet from in there. Extra blessings for those who wish to share it on their FB wall. If you don’t, I’m still with you!

May the best blog win!

And now to Preserving Flowers with Colours and Smell intact:-

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This will have to begin with a story too.

Not so long ago, we had a party at ours. Strangely, when we all sit together we end up discussing art and music and the word “art” in general. I don’t quite remember who was against George {Our friend with a crazy kitten, conscious, and a talent for photography} but I remember George pointing out at this set of flowers kept neatly on my table and telling: “So would you tell this is art? Some cheap plastic, beautifully manufactured flowers- would you deem this as art?”

After the whole thing was over, I pointed it out to him that as a matter of fact, this is art. The flowers are real. They have been dried neatly to be preserved just the way they were when they came. Its called oshibana 🙂

Just cracks me up everytime I think of this. These are same flowers you see.

My mother used to dry flowers- she learnt it from my grandmother who learnt it from a friend who was a pilot and was frequenting London in the golden era when drying flowers became a popular hobby and preservation method in England. Low-cut necklines were in fashion and with this trend came in the whole concept of  “bosom flowers”- not to forget their sensual concoction 😉 Dried flowers were also made into garlands to add to jewelry designs, fans and gloves.

And what’s up with the whole shabby decor and paris chic that’s embracing the beauty of dried flowers- getting it in vogue. I can bet my ass that Rachel Ashwell has one dried flower in her home, at the least. A peony maybe?

Nevertheless, this bit is pure art and you may like to know how its done!

IMG_0846Get your husband to get you a bunch of flowers- instruct him to get you blooms that are half opened. A fully bloomed flower may wither faster and lose petals in the process of drying. 

Consider the variety of flower you are using. Air drying will work for more robust varieties such as roses or lavender.

Step Important: Keep them in water for a day or two if you want to enjoy them just as they are. I do. When you’ve had enough, follow the next steps-

Step 1: Strip your flower of excess foliage and cut the stems. About 5″ stem is good.

Step 2: Keep away from sunlight. This will help them maintain their color during the process.

Step 3: Find a dry cool place that has plenty of air and circulation. Keep the flowers {whether in a cup, glass, hanger} in the spot and keep it undisturbed for a good 2-3 weeks.

Step 4: When they are crisp to the touch, spray them with a good hairspray to secure the color and for some protection.

Your dried flowers are ready to use as you please. Pure Art 😉

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Small Space & Apartment Gardening, Challenges and Options

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Wowza! long time huh?

As a matter of fact its been so long that i actually forgot how this back-end of wordpress looks. I logged in and wondered where’s what. Me be blogging often I tell you or I might just forget of this little property of mine altogether.

So much has happened in the past few weeks that I’d need a post or two to get it all to you. But to start off with, I started this little patch of garden in my rickety ‘verandah’, in my tiny-weeny apartment, in a space that’ll put you to shame. This is container gardening at its best!

Again, before jumping on to my prized plants and their requirements and why I chose them- there are two things you’d need to keep as center-point

1. How much sunlight does your veranda/apartment gets

2. How much effort are you ready to put in

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Depending on the above two points, your apartment garden would have to flourish. I am not very pro-active in nature and I am not the kind who’d put so much effort, hence, the choices-

Heirloom Roses

Roses do great in containers as long as you have abundant sunlight (for atleast 5 hours a day) and a container with good drainage. Another thing to pay heed to- because roses have deep roots, its best for you to go for a tall container.

What kind of soil

Plant boys at this awesome Nursery (yes, this is my husband’s find) told me Roses love Loam. Loam is basically 50% soil and 50% air. The soil should contain silt, clay and sand too. Thankfully, the soil around in here is similar.

What kind of container

Fiberglass, clay, ceramic or even cheap plastic will do. I say Ceramic because it works for permanent planting.

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Succulents

Now, you see its my climate that made me choose these. Succulents like the dry humidity and warm conditions and of course like direct light. They all prefer a fast-draining potting that’s not watered too often. Perfect for a clime like Mumbai’s and a girl like me.

What kind of soil

Succulents love soil that doesn’t retain water. A sandy mix is perfect.

What kind of container

Go for clay/terracotta. Clay dries out really quick giving your succulent that perfect atmosphere to grow in.

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Here they are, inside my home and growing.

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Kaffir Lime

These small citrus trees are native to Indonesia and as you all know, are used in various south eastern Asian dishes- count Thai curry, salads, fish marination and so on! In natural habitat, it can reach a height of 25 ft. But in containers, it wouldn’t exceed 10 ft. in total.

One thing that one must know about these fragrant, citrus trees is that it enjoys hot & humid climate and full sunlight. Without these conditions, the blossom will be scanty and therefore fruit.

What kind of soil

Like all citrus trees they thrive in rich, loamy soil conditions which, should also be well drained. If you are growing it in a container, a mixture of peat moss, sand and loam is perfect. Ask your local plant guys to do it for you

What kind of container

Again, Terracotta would be your choice or clay. They also grow well in Ceramic. Avoid plastic altogether.

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Good huh?

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Garlic Chives or Chinese Chives

Chives prefer full sun but plants also grow in partial shade, FYI. Again, the plant boys told me, if you want more leaves, pinch out the flowers 🙂

What kind of soil

A fertile, well-drained soil is more than alright to grow chives. Any soil that’s not very acidic would do

What kind of container

A container 6-8 inches wide and at least 6-12 inches deep is more than enough for your chives to grow. I got them as small sapling and I have no clue how you can grow it from seeds.

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Carambola or Star Fruit

I really don’t like this fruit but my husband does. He loves it so much that I had to go all the way to a filthy nursery full of mosquitoes and smelly dogs to get this entire plant in! But look what I found below the tree this morning! Yup- a ruddy good carambola. Though not ripe and possibly have met its end before its time, thanks to the little sparrows who visit my garden every morning but nonetheless! Fruit of my labour, it is!

What kind of soil

You see, these are made to thrive in a tropical or sub-tropical region and hence any well drained soil is good for them. Make sure the soil holds water for no more than 30 minutes. Note: These trees are not frost and drought resistant- if grown in colder climes, during winters its best that you keep it indoors.

What kind of container

Any container with depth would do well… half a hand is what i have grown mine in!

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Basil

Now, who wouldn’t know of Basil right! Best part is, it is also very forgiving. Whether you plant from seeds or a starter plant- they will grow. Of course, they won’t stand frost but if you grow them in summers

What kind of soil

If you are growing Basil in containers like I am, the container needs good drainage hole. A well watered, fertile soil with little or no sand works good for Basil.

What kind of container

Ah, anything, really… even a little ceramic holder will do!

 

And that my friends marks the end of my little apartment garden. If anyone’s benefited from this, come and leave me a message. And of course, suggestions and feedback are welcome too!

Ta!

From the lady from the tropics.

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Lemon tree, Oregano, Thyme and Succulents

IMG_7501Morning!

What a beautiful morning this day has brought- the sun is out but its not scorching and breathing down your neck; dark clouds are passing by and bringing in moments of shade. Looks like it’s going to rain, looks like the monsoons are here but you can’t tell. I’ve got my gloves on and there are little terracotta pots waiting to be filled with garden herbs- life’s looking really good this morning!

IMG_7502My keylime trees are in bloom and can you see the tiny lime eager to be the round lady? There are more! Can’t wait to pluck them off the tree and make key-lime pie!

For now, I have-

Oregano

Key-lime

Spearmint

Thyme

Curry

IMG_7485A bit of succulent too in enamelware! LOVE!

What are you doing this beautiful saturday? Cooking? Gardening? Shopping? sleeping?

come and tell me and lets get chatty!

Toodles