Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Decorate Candles with Homegrown Flowers
Decorate candles with flowers and foliage that you've grown and pressed yourself. Place small flowers, leaves, and vines between paper towels, and weigh down with a heavy book overnight. Pieces should be limp but not moist or crispy. Use a glue stick to tack them into place on candles. Mix and match colors, or use white candles to highlight the colors of the flowers and leaves. In an empty coffee can tall enough to hold the candle, melt six cakes of paraffin by setting it in a pan of boiling water. Dip the candle, with its tacked-on flowers and leaves, into the liquid paraffin, and hold it or set it upright until it's cool. Dip again if a thicker coating is desired.
Favorite or New Plant
California poppies provide nearly year-round bloom. Sow them as nature does -- in the fall. Choose a sunny location with poor or clay soil with good drainage. (They germinate less readily in "good, rich" garden soil -- just like nasturtiums.) Turn the soil several inches deep, and break up big clods, but leave surface somewhat rough for nooks and crannies to catch the scattered seed.
Don't cover seeds, but keep the surface of the bed moist for good germination (winter's coolness and moisture from periodic rains is all that's necessary). They'll take about two weeks to germinate. Poppies don't transplant well because of their long tap root, but you may want to try with really young ones during cool weather. Poppies are drought tolerant, but they don't compete well with weeds, so remove the offending growth while it's small and won't disturb poppy roots when removed. They're seldom bothered by diseases or insects.
Blooms last for three or four days but are constantly replaced by fresh blooms. With natural reseeding and reprouting from the "mother" roots, the color lasts till frost. Minimal maintenance is necessary to remove the dried-up stalks, although mid-summer through fall may look a bit sparse and rangy.
You can also wait until late winter to sow seeds, for spring color.