Friday, July 13, 2018

The Clash of Colors

There's a lot of talk in the garden world about how to or how not to put certain colored flowers together in your garden.  It's especially talked about with daylilies.  I'll give you my take on if there are "Clashing Daylily Colors":  None - nada - zero! 

Have you ever visited a commercial daylily nursery?  Their fields are usually arranged in single rows of daylilies and go on for yards.  Putting them in single rows allows mowing between the rows where people walk and the clumps can be viewed from both sides.  I've never, ever, seen them arranged because the colors might clash.  
One of the commercial daylily nurseries I visited at the Region II Daylily Conference.
I'm way (as in WAY) too undisciplined to worry about clashing daylily colors.  Here are some of the reasons:

Daylilies bloom at different times:  Very early to Very late.  Some of them will never be blooming at the same time making color a moot point.
"Middendorfii" last blooms are by the end of May.
"Lilting Belle" doesn't start blooming until the end of July.
I've bought daylilies over many years so there's more of "where can I put this new one" rather than a grand overall plan.

As much as gardeners are encouraged to have a grand plan in the very beginning, it is impossible if you buy more daylilies every year.  At least impossible for me and the area I have to work.  

I'm in love with certain types of daylilies only to change my love every few years.  One year it was yellow/gold, another reds, then tall, another was large blooms and now crazy patterns.  I can almost  tell you what year things were planted by what I had been loving at that time.
This is from my "love them large" stage:  "Ruby Spider" measures in at 9-inches on 34 inch scapes.  
Some of the best combinations of colors have been an accident.  I planted the glowing "Orange Vols" near some hosta.  They never bloomed at the same time until the last few years.  Now I have orange and lavender flowers at the same time and it's beautiful and totally not a typical color combination.
"Chicago Star" and "Blue Diana"

"Orange Vols" & Hosta Flowers
I've put the beautiful orange/blood red "Oriental Ruby" next to the deep purple velvet "Wayside King Royale".  Should not work but does.
There is also the seasonal factor where a daylily will look different from year to year depending upon weather, moisture, early/late spring and a million other factors including "who knows why".  Along with this is the plant you put in your garden may have looked one way at the nursery or in their catalog but seems much different in your zone, soil or care.  

I grant you it's difficult for people who must have things perfect or must control.  Gardening isn't a finite hobby and it's seldom in our control.  

My advice is to discard any and all worries concerning colors that might clash. 

The only advice on color I might offer is to add near white (there is no pure white daylily) here and there to provide escape and balance.  And put short scapes towards the front or they will not be seen and may die from being in the shade of other perennials.       

The mish-mash of colors has been going on for ages and is captured in the Claude Monet painting "The Water Lily Pond" aka "Japanese Bridge2".  Seriously, if Claude embraced it, who am I not to love a riot of color!  

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Talk About Suicide

Adult suicides and what it means to their loved ones.

Without going into all the details of a life lived in sadness and depression, I'll offer a perspective on the ramifications of an adult's suicide.

I was a young adult when my mother committed suicide.  My folks were raised in that era where people didn't talk about things.  Since not much of her inner suffering was discussed, I've pretty much had to patch together her situation and the reasons.  In the end, no one really knows how another person's mind works nor how they come to make the suicide decision.  Even if there are indications, treatments, doctor visits and a life lived under the vail of depression, how it's all put together and why that one person chooses suicide will always be somewhat unknown.

What I want to talk about today is the ramifications of a loved one's suicide on those close to them.  People with like circumstances or perhaps even worse may not choose suicide - the contributing factors for each are often a medical mystery.  Because that complicated path to suicide is often an unknown, survivors are left to their own conclusions.  Those conclusions and how they're coped with are as varied as the number of survivors.

Mom committed suicide on Mother's Day weekend.  I doubt she was aware of the sad coincidence but it forever put a dark cloud over that day for her children.  It fostered the question:  If her children were important to her, how could it have escaped her very intelligent mind that it was a harsh burden to place upon them?

That distancing of her emotions and mind from her family had been happening for many years.  Looking back, I realized from the time I was a sophomore in high school, she was seldom there emotionally.  Her entire thought processes revolved around her depression.  Eventually, her entire physical being revolved around her depression.  Since little was known about the treatment of depression other than to give large amounts of mood altering drugs, medieval shock treatments and hospital stays where they simply drugged her to oblivion, her physical dependency upon depression treatment became as strong as her depression itself.

In looking back, I realized after 1959, I knew little of my mother personally other than the shell that was her treatments.  Should any of us have realized her fate better or sooner?  Maybe, but it wasn't something that era discussed.  The Victorians soldiered on and kept it from being discussed especially with children.

As the years have passed, I've been around others who have tried or actually committed suicide.  There has always been some other issue besides depression factoring into the decision.  Often it's addictions.  I don't profess to understand why some people step over that line and others don't.  I won't even profess to understand the complicated reasoning.

What I do have is some familiarity with what their surviving loved ones deal with throughout life.  

Most loved ones will question why they weren't enough.  Why would someone chose to die rather than chose to live with them.  That can be especially hard on children.  It boils down to their questioning if they were loved.  We are told our parents want to protect us, love us, nurture us, assure a good future for us and get us through bad times.  On a more young children's level:  parents are to tuck us in at night, comfort us when we are scared, feed us, provide for us, physically hug and make us feel secure.  A parent's suicide speaks loudly to their child that their needs just weren't all that important to the parent.  Having that kind of lesson at an early age can cause many problems for a child especially as they try to cope with something they aren't mature enough to handle.  

Older children, perhaps adults themselves, will also have these feelings.  I think, personally, I was able to realize her suicide was more about her demons.  I refused to take on the guilt.  But I assure you the sadness of missed opportunities stayed with me through life.  

With children's suicide, the parents have the additional burden of guilt that they didn't do enough, they did it wrong, they should have prevented and more.  There will be children who make sure their parents are wrapped in this guilt as a punishment.  

That same guilt can creep out to friends and other loved ones such as grandparents.  Little cousins, nieces, nephews, school friends - all will carry some kind of guilt and sadness.

I often hear people say "I didn't see the signs."  She was great when we last met.  He had so much going.  She just got this big promotion.  He sent me a message about tomorrow.  

The other side we hear is "They threatened or tried suicide so many times we thought it was all manipulation."  Every time they didn't get their way, they threatened.  Every turn of events that other people take for granted, they make all about them.  

I think the reasoning for attempted or finalized suicide is too complicated, too varied and not understood by the medical profession let alone the average person - we may never know the reason for sure.

I do believe, for sure, the lasting emotional ramifications upon loved ones is predictable.  When the media waxes on about his little 13 year old child handling things really good, or she left her eleven year old a note explaining, or her husband was coping, or the parents were strong, I know it's fiction.  It lets the potential suicide believe they have covered their bases and left everyone taken care of; relieving them of guilt.  

If this article does anything, I hope it may speak to anyone contemplating suicide.  I hope it lets you know your individual suicide has wide reaching ramifications on people that love you, strangers who may emulate you and children who are afraid.

The media may idolize suicide as the ultimate act of self gratification and bravery.  They applaud their ultimate escape from responsibility.  They are wrong.  Suicide is a very personal inward self involved act.  The results cast a very wide and outward ripple that may grow into a large tsunami of sadness that will last lifetimes for the people it touches.          

Sunday, April 29, 2018

2018 - Water Conservation and You

The 2018 Long Range Weather Forecast for Peoria IL from the Old Farmer's Almanac:

"April and May will be warmer and slightly drier than normal. Summer will be hotter and drier than normal. The hottest periods will be July and mid-August. September and October will be warmer than normal. Rainfall will be below normal."

The last frost is predicted for May 2 and the first frost October 3 or translated to a growing season of 153 days.  Any of the long range predictions from the OFA has a 30% chance of being correct.  Gardeners play the odds more than gamblers in LasVegas.  

The Weather Network is predicting normal amounts of precipitation for spring and a dryer than normal summer.  The north/west edge of the severe drought plaguing the Plains and southwest is around the Mississippi River.  For the last several years, the drought conditions have worsened and edged East.

Here's what you might take into consideration:

If you plant water demanding annuals, you will probably have to water at least once a week - probably daily in the fall.

If you're planting trees, bushes and other perennials, plant early so they can get natural moisture from spring rains.  Expect to have to water them throughout summer and fall and possibly the next three years.

If the perennial plants you're choosing demand lots of moisture all their life, will you be able or do you desire to give them that much attention - forever.

If you're considering a pond, make sure it's deep.  Shallow ponds of any size can go dry or get boggy when they don't get ample rainfall.

Consider water features that recycle water such as fountains or recirculating water falls.  
Ballerina fountain by Malgorzata Chodakowska

Now might be the perfect time to consider replacing the water hogs in your yard.  Turf grass being a BIG hog.  You don't have to give up green lawns, but there are now drought tolerant grasses that don't take as much care.  Here's a clue:  If you're using irrigation of any kind on your grass lawn just to keep it green, you need to replace it with something more drought tolerant.  Nature is telling you it's not the right plant for your yard and you're wasting water.

As a side note, golf courses use more water and chemicals than any other entity.  If you're a member of one of these, consider suggesting they start adapting a more drought tolerant landscape.  Look at the old European golf courses and note how they're landscaped.  It might make the course more of a challenge but isn't that the point - overcoming challenges on the course?   

Consider replacing some water hogs with an area just for specific drought tolerant plants.  
Drought resistant Sedum "Autumn Joy"

If you're able, use rain barrels to catch water from your downspouts.  This is an old method and why most old homes had cisterns.  Then don't forget to use the water in the rain barrels.  Many local extension offices or our local NAGS, have rain barrels for sale.    

Cement (drives - patios - walks) cause large quantities of rain to flow away from your plants.  In town, it goes into the storm sewer and serves no drought relief purpose.  Consider using other surfaces for these hardscapes:  Stepping stones instead of walks.  Wood or poly decks and patios allow water to seep through the cracks.  Gravel, if used right, causes water to percolate slowly into the soil.    

Check out the internet or call your favorite landscaping firm to learn all the methods to redirect rain into your garden beds.  

None of the drought relief measures for your gardens/yard need be expensive or all encompassing.  It's all about the little things that adds up to big things.  Oddly enough, most drought relief measures need to have water in it's initial stages to get a plant's roots established.  Now is the time to begin.

Consider using plants that are native to your area - they survive much better than introduced varieties.  A native plant area can be a wonderful habitat for native insects, birds and animals.  AND, it can be beautiful and more drought tolerant.
Drought resistant Native Coneflower "Great Yellow"

Do not put any plant that become highly flammable in the fall close to buildings.  Native or ornamental grasses should always be well away from buildings.  Evergreens with high sap content (such as yews) are highly flammable any time of the year.
"Big Bluestem" Native Grass
Don't use stationary spray waterers.  Instead water only at the base where it touches the roots.  Spray waterers put water on soil where there are no roots, much of it evaporates before it hits the ground and it must run longer/using more water.  Drip irrigation devices also conserve more water but it does take buying equipment and landscaping to do it right.

Soooo: how about starting with one thing in your yard that makes it less of a water hog and less work for you.  You may find you absolutely love the look.    

Friday, April 27, 2018

Garden Rationalizations at Their Best

“Only fools view their gardens in monetary terms…. 
The real point of a garden is to increase the value of our lives.”
Anna Pavord, British garden writer,
The Curious Gardener, 2010

Aw yes, every gardener can use rationalization and they come aplenty!

Rationalization:  Many perennials cost about the same as a nice geranium, an annual ornamental grass or many other annuals we lavishly put in pots and borders and mostly dump in the fall.  We are surely being frugal by spending that amount on a plant that will come up yearly.  

Rationalization:  A bag (or thirty) of daffodils bulbs planted in the fall is like free plants in the spring.  

Rationalization: Planting a tree (or hundreds) is planting for future generations.   The money we spend on trees is actually philanthropy.  Shouldn't it be tax deductible?   

Rationalization:  Is one enough - is a thousand too many?  Never!    

Rationalization:  Everyone loves my yard and gardens!  

Rationalization:  I'll only buy a few plants for my pots.

Rationalization:  These nurseries are locally owned; I need to support each one.

Rationalization:  I'll just change out the color on a few of my pots.

Rationalization:  I'll only pull one weed.

Rationalization:  I can control that ground cover.

Rationalization:  It's suppose to be a wet summer, I'll plant lots of impatiens.

Rationalization:  It's suppose to be a dry summer, I'll plant lots of succulents.

Rationalization:  Wouldn't a little gold fish pond be serene!

Rationalization:  I don't think the water pump needs any extra wiring.

Rationalization:  Those two-year old seeds are still viable.

Rationalization:  My soil can wait another year before it's amended.  

Rationalization:  I'll dig out that weed tomorrow.

Rationalization:  I'm sure "spreads freely" doesn't mean invasive.

Rationalization:  Cold Zone classifications aren't really all that important.

Rationalization:  If you build it - they will come.

Rationalization:  I'll dump the soil out of that pot before it freezes and breaks.

Rationalization:  My unheated garage is perfect for wintering annuals.

Rationalization:  My spouse/kids will want to work along side me in the garden.

Rationalization:  Oh look there's a cute little rabbit.  

Rationalization:  The tag said "deer resistant".

Rationalization:  My cat is always fed and full, it won't bother birds.

Rationalization:  If I get this done today - I'll never have to do it again.

Rationalization:  Spraying insecticide on a few plants won't really hurt the bees.

Rationalization:  The wind isn't blowing that hard/I'll put down Round-up.

Rationalization:  I can control a controlled burn.

Rationalization:  We can do that ourselves.

Rationalization:  Discount items/services are always a better buy.

Rationalization:  Isn't that tree with three different varieties of flowers perfect.

Rationalization:  I know it was grown in Florida but I'm sure it will still grow here.

Rationalization:  The sun isn't that hot, I'll go without my shirt, sunglasses, hat.

Rationalization:  I love sitting outside and watching the crop dusters.

Rationalization:  My dog/cat never eats outside plants.

Rationalization:  A suntan makes my skin look so much better.

Rationalization:  This article won't be all that long.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Garden or Bought Goodness

I'm not doing much actual gardening:

  • In Illinois
  • In February
  • Inside

That doesn't keep me from making garden-goodness recipes.

Sometimes recipes are developed because we just happen to have ingredients on hand and have no desire to go to the grocery in the snow, freezing rain or cold.  I could have made cookies, candy or cakes, but, I really do occasionally try to make something healthy and this recipe is that in a bowlful.

This is not traditional hummus nor traditional guacamole.  I had to call it something so there ya go.

Avocado Hummus


1 - Avocado - medium ripe (still firm), peeled and seeded
15 oz. - can of Garbanzo beans - drained
4 oz. - Low fat sour cream
2 - Garlic buds - peeled
1/2 - Lemon - washed - zested and juiced
1 tsp. - Kosher salt (to taste)
1/8 C - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/8 tsp. - Paprika

I used my Ninja smoothy maker but it would work in a food processor or blender.  I suppose you could even do it in a mixer or by hand but it would be difficult to get the smooth fluffy consistency.

Put everything but the paprika in the blender.  Pulse until blended, scraping the sides down until it's all the same consistency.  Then whip on high until light and fluffy - this doesn't take long.

Put in bowl, top with paprika, seal very thoroughly (it's very garlicky) and refrigerate until cold.  Will keep in the refrigerator about a week.

Side conversations: 

This isn't as dense as traditional hummus or guacamole and is better served in a bowl as a dip.   It will get runny and sloppy if used on top of other foods, especially if they're warm.

If you want a more pronounced lemon flavor, add more zest but not more juice.  More juice makes it too runny.

If you want less garlic, then don't make the recipe - I mean really folks, garlic breath for two days just shows you eat well!!!!!

This recipe is healthy, rich tasting, has layered flavors and is easy.

You can add other ingredients.  (a)  I tried one-half a red onion but it ended up the only flavor I could taste - good but not what I was wanting.  (b) I added black olives on top and it caused the recipe to get watery.  It looked bad although the flavor was still good.  (c) I tried smoked paprika but again it dominated the other flavors.  

This recipe is fluffy and light.

Carrots, bell peppers, zucchini and celery sticks are yummy dippers.  They need to be dried with a paper towel or the dip slips off.

This makes an excellent snack while looking at all the garden catalogs, dreaming of all things possible next spring in the garden or between naps.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Prayer for 2018

I pray for the people who lack a sense of humor.

I pray for the people who must suck the joy out of every occasion.

I pray for the people who hang on to their grievances as if they were gold.

I pray for the people who read something negative into every thing.

I pray for the people who are still rehashing the election.

I pray for the people who haven't learned the difference between fiction and facts.

I pray for the people who would rather loose a friend than tolerate differences.

I pray for the people who have filed lawsuits simply because they're mad.

I pray for the people who enjoy and encourage violence.

I pray for the people who hurt children and animals.

I pray for the people who don't respect their elders.

I pray for the people who haven't the fortitude or desire to give up an addiction.

I pray for the people who have been hurt but can't forgive.

I pray for the people who haven't donated and helped those in need.

I pray for the people who don't think gossip always hurts someone.  

I pray for the people who have deliberately undermined family bonds.

I pray for the people who become teachers but don't like children.

I pray for the people who spend time and money making things that steal from others.

I pray for the people who open a business but don't respect their clients or customers.

I pray for the people who don't want to work for their pay/benefits/livelihood.

I pray for the children in communities where there are no honorable father figures.

I pray for the children whose mothers don't know how or don't want to be a mother.

I pray for rulers of countries who choose to let their citizens suffer hunger, disease, torture and death only to enhance their own personal life.

I pray for the people who disrespect the very people who protect them (police & armed forces.)

I pray for the people who use their positional & physical power to take advantage of others.

I pray for the people who enter the medical professions but don't like people.

I pray for the parents who don't love their children enough to teach them right from wrong.

I pray for the people who don't know how to love.

I pray for the people who don't know how or don't want to pray.

I pray that if I've been or am or will be any of the above people, I will change and rectify any harm I've done. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Leftover Ham - Oh Yum!

Most of us are tuckered out after all the fun and family of the Christmas holidays.  We grab whatever's in the refrigerator and make due for the next few meals.  If you had ham, here's one easy and great soup that is filling and flavorful.

Cheesy Ham and Potato Soup

Spray a large crockpot with PAM to keep the soup from sticking.  Turn to high cook.

Boil until tender:
5 pounds washed/unpeeled golden Yukon potatoes
Drain/let sit in cold water until cooled - with your fingers/peel off skin.  Add skin to your composter. 

Add to crockpot:
2 Cups Ham (Dice or pull into small bite sized pieces)
32 ozs. Chicken stock/broth

Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper (to taste)

Melt in fry pan:
1 heaping Tablespoon Bacon Grease
1 heaping Tablespoon Butter
And add:
1 Cup Finely Diced Carrots
1 Cup Finely Diced Celery
1 Cup Finely Diced Onions
Simmer until onions are translucent but not browned.

Add to crockpot:
Onion mixture and potatoes.  Lightly mash with hand masher/leaving bite sized potato hunks.  Cook until mixture begins to bubble at the sides.  Scrape down.

1 Cup Milk (Add more if it becomes too thick)
1 Pound Vevetta cheese - cut into squares
Stir and when cheese has melted, turn crock pot temperature to Low.

If this begins to bubble, turn it down to warm.  Cooking too hot will cause the cheese to stick to the sides and flavor won't be as good.  Everything in this soup has been cooked prior to the crockpot so it's just a matter of letting flavors blend and holding warn until you're read to eat.  

This makes a large crockpot full.  It can be made in a soup pan but you must stir more often to keep it from burning/sticking.  And when it's all warm and ready, it needs to be served rather than held.

This also freezes well.  Simply stir to blend ingredients while reheating.  Also, microwaveable but be sure to cover because it splatters.   

As they used to say on the farm, this soup will "stick to your ribs" these cold winter days.  It's good with a simple salad or fruit.  It's almost too rich and thick for crackers or bread.