Friday, April 14, 2017

In the Easter Parade - Sort of...

In rural Indiana in the 1950s, we never had an Easter Parade but we certainly knew how to parade our Easter finery at church.

It was an exciting time for this little Tom boy since I was given a new summer dress and matching Spring coat, new white (always) Mary Jane shoes, new white anklets, white gloves and best of all a new Easter bonnet.

All Easter hats for women and girls were straw and decorated with flowers and ribbons. All women and girls wore hats to church. Most often our hats were either white or died to match our dresses. My favorite was a pink one my mom had where the top was cut out and the brim covered in roses. 

Because I didn't get new clothes except fall school clothes, maybe one piece at Christmas but a whole outfit at Easter - it was a big deal. 

My mom often made my clothes and I always loved them. One year she made a pink dress but all I really remember is the taffeta-lined pink cape. Really, what rural kid had a pink cape - ME!

As I got older, I would get a white purse to carry my hanky and small bottle of Evening in Paris perfume.

It was also the time of the year my mom felt the need to give me my biannual Tonette permanent. Therefore, every picture of me and my Easter finery includes the dreaded corkscrew style she so favored. Children had no say in these things. I'm just grateful mom did better in the clothes portion.

Easter was an opportunity to wear the strand of imitation pearls Santa had brought one Christmas. Amazingly I still have those pearls and they still look imitation and they hold great memories.

The men and boys wore suits. Plus, hats they had to balance on their knees during church. I suppose my brother's attire was new but who cared in the whole fashion scheme of things.

We always gave mom an orchid corsage (every grocery carried them in a clear plastic box in the produce section.)

I suppose there were young girls dressed much better and in more expensive finery but I sure didn't know. It was a happy time and on the way to church I'd sing:

"In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade."

Monday, April 10, 2017

To Be or Not To Be

It is ALWAYS a best guess on what each new spring will bring.

  • Will it be too wet - too dry - or just right?
  • Will it be too cold or too hot at the wrong times?
  • Will we have an unusual amount of damaging insects or will they be under control or within normal limits?
  • Will we have a late freeze?
  • Will there be hail or wind damage?
  • Will the growing season be shortened by an early fall?
  • And the list goes on...

Here are some of the predictions for 2017 from the folks who do the best job of best guessing:

Professor Tony Lupo to RFD Radio Network:  "Another El Nino is currently developing in the Pacific Ocean..."  "El Nino generally means good yields for farmers...because we tend to have milder weather conditions - temperatures that are close to normal and precipitation which occurs on a somewhat regular basis."  

The Old Farmer’s Almanac says, “Last Spring Frost will be April 22 and the First fall frost will be October 13. (50% probability for each.)  Growing season will be 174 days.” 

According to UW Madison Department of Entomology: “The mild el Nino weather conditions may have bolstered the number of Japanese beetles.”  “Some scientists have predicted high tick and Lyme disease in the eastern US in 2017.”  While others think it will stay about the same.  About the same is approximately 30,000 documented Lyme disease cases across the country per year.  That boils down to gardeners need to prevent tick bites.

Invisiverse’s Cynthia Wallentine, “A boom in mouse populations (due to the mild winter) could cause a surge in cases of Lyme disease.  The White-footed mice serve as a reservoir for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.  In the two years following a good acorn crop, we see a high abundance of infected ticks on mice and other hosts.”  “The mice, ticks, acorns and weather for 2017 predict a bad year for Lyme disease.”  

There are 13 and 17-year Cicada species.  Then there are two brood groups.  This equals 4 emergences.  Cicada Mania says, “The next periodical cicada emergences in Illinois will be in 2021, 2024, 2028 and 2031.

The National Pest Management Association’s information, “Wetter than average weather with a record-breaking warm December can jump start ant and tick activity.  Also the premature mosquito population increase is already occurring.   Termites are swarming earlier.”

The Grower Talks Magazine, Paul Pilon the Perennial Production Consultant and editor-at-large of Perennial Pulse newsletter, says “…I do anticipate more insects and mites will survive than usual.  If I’m right, it’s likely many growers will observe pests, particularly aphids and two-spotted spider mites, earlier than a typical year.”    

It’s too early to predict if there will be lots of powdery mildew but it can be expected if the wet spring becomes a wet summer.

Dr. Raymond Cloyd, entomologist at Kansas State U. believes, “…biggest pest issues for Spring 2017 will probably be the same as previous years, which includes Western flower thrips (WFT), aphids and whiteflies.” “Since there are fewer active ingredients for pesticides being introduced…WFT will continue to be a primary insect pest due to the current resistance to insecticides and the ability to transmit viruses.”

“Dr. Jill Calabro, Research & Science Programs Director for AmericanHort., “A potential late spring frost (which is the hallmark of a mild winter) could predispose trees and shrubs to attack from pathogens such as anthracnose.”

Moisture plays a roll in how many ants will decide your home is their next best meal.  According to Termidor, “Termites, carpenter ants and the odorous house ant will seek areas where there is moisture.”

The US Federal Fish and Wildlife Service, “the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) has been placed on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife…effective 02-10-2017.” 

As a side note, if you want to see where your food is coming from, why it’s priced as it is today and what to expect, see www.usfoods.comFarmer’s Report Market Trends”.  And if you ever think we should stop trade from Mexico, it’s a good reminder we would then be without much of our winter produce.

For the good news, May Berenbaum, professor and head of entomology at the University of Illinois, “There are about 200,000 species of insect pollinators.  Two-thirds to three-fourths of all flowering plants depend on pollination.  Pollinators account for only a fraction of the insects in existence.  Insects also break down decomposing bodies, eat manure and serve as nutrition to animals.”  Her talk is asking all of us caring gardeners to talk about protection for beneficial insects and to educate others.

According to Monarch ButterflyJourney North, “Monarch Butterflies lay eggs as they travel; northbound butterflies are delivering the next generation.”  On March 30, 2017, it was reported the migration’s leading edge was approaching Oklahoma.  Most of the current migrating monarchs will reach the end of their lives by the end of April.  The size of the next generation will largely be determined by the quality of breeding habitat in Texas (and some neighboring states to a lesser extent.)”  This site has cool maps showing the reported sightings of adults, eggs, larvae and milkweed. 

Soooooo what do we know from all of this?  It's another year of gardening with another year of pests and problems.  But gardeners are nothing if not optimistic.  We are learning and changing as we need.  And we're not about to let a few pesky pests alter our love of gardening.  Right?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

I made one of my mom's cookie recipes yesterday and "wow" are they really good.  They might even be somewhat good for you in a high calorie kind of way.

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1 C - Crisco Butter Flavored Shortening 
1 1/2 C - Brown sugar
1 - Egg
1 1/2 C - Old fashioned oats
1 C - Shredded coconut
3/4 C - White flour
3/4 C - Wheat flour
1/4 tsp. - Soda
2 tsp. - Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. - Salt
1 T - Pumpkin pie spice
1 T - Vanilla

Cream shortening and sugar thoroughly.  Add whole egg and vanilla; beat until mixed.  Add oats and coconut; mix well.

Sift together flours, soda, salt and baking powder and add to mix.  

At this point, you can add any or all of the following and mix well:

1 C - Pecan pieces (or other chopped nuts)
1/2 C - Dark chocolate chips
1 C - Craisins or Raisins 

Make into 30 balls and put on un greased cookie sheets.  Flatten to 1/2 inch with a fork or your fingers.  They will retain the shape and size.

Bake for 13 minutes or until golden.  Let cool on waxed paper.

Glaze:  Mix 1 tsp. of vanilla, 1 T. of pumpkin pie spice and 1 C. of powdered sugar with enough water to make pourable.  Drizzle this over the cooled cookies.   

These big boys are chewy, filling and great with a big glass of milk or a bowl of vanilla ice cream.  


Saturday, April 1, 2017


There were so many bees on my hyacinths the noise could be heard across the garden.  If you ever wonder why you should plant early blooming flowers, this can be a lesson.  Bees break dormancy early and need to find pollen.  I've put out jelly and juice when we've had a very early spring but they want natural plants.  

And besides bees, the hyacinths smell sooooo good.  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Yellow in the garden seems a no brainer except when the marketing people have a color agenda every year and yellow is often pushed to the back.

Consider yellow a neutral because there are very few things in a garden or house paint that clashes with a nice clear yellow.  Then - if you add other colors and shades to yellow, it goes in so many lovely directions.  Orange/yellow - clear yellow - deep ocher yellow - near white yellow and so on.
I call this "Unknown Glowing" Daylily.  It blooms
in near-shade.

Yellow brightens shade, welcomes spring, glows in the sun, accents a spot and brings a garden cohesiveness.  
A sweet little annual Cosmos.

Yellows can be perennials or annuals.  They can be trees and bushes.  And they can be hardscapes.

It's pretty obvious I love yellow because the first thing you notice when you arrive at my house is it's painted yellow.  The yellow caused a bit of a neighborhood uproar in the beginning but I think they've learned to live with my choice after twenty years.  
Shrub rose bush "Golden Wings".  One of the
most fragrant roses I have in my gardens.

I've used many yellow daylilies all around my yard including one of the oldest, "Lemon Lily."

Every nursery and seed store has annual yellows:  marigolds, cosmos and petunias to name only a few.
Floribunda "Julia Child" rose
Roses are a great source for yellow as is attested by the oldie but goodie, "Yellow Rose of Texas".
Golden Rain Tree
I have two beautiful yellow trees:  A "Weeping Golden Willow" and the "Golden Rain Tree".  Keep in mind if a tree's leaves turn yellow in the fall for a late shot of lusciousness.

This Forsythia bush contrasts
against the red barn siding.
Spring flowering bulbs bring long overdue
sunshine to the garden.
This pretty Gold Finch is snacking on
sunflower seeds.  
A medley of annuals and perennial yellow
flowers is beautiful bouquet.
Bring a little sunshine into your life - add yellow to your gardens.  It's a smile waiting to happen.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Fish Gravel

One of the best ways to mark where you've planted seasonal bulbs is with fish tank gravel.  

Most every gardener, in the middle of summer, has sunk their shovel into a bare spot of soil only to discover it's where they planted tulips or other seasonal bulbs.

It's because of our NEED to fill every square inch of our flower beds with something new and beautiful.  If there's a square inch with nothing growing it calls our name and our shovels.

Seasonal bulbs do not like to be accidentally dug up.  Most likely they will come up chopped like a water chestnut heading for a stir fry.  All at a time when they should be storing up for next year's show.

Buy a bag of colored fish tank gravel.  Use a color that coordinates with your summer gardens.  Black, brown, white, clear or green aren't good choices.  

Buy cheap and average.  Thrift stores sometimes have them as do most big box stores that carry pet supplies.  

I've also used glass orbs meant for the florist industry when I've found in sacks at thrift stores.  Because they're smooth and round they tend to disappear faster than the gravel.

If you're into DIY, you could always use driveway gravel and spray paint it.  When doing DIY, remember whatever you use should be soil friendly and it will be there for a long time whether you see it or not.

After you've planted your bulbs and mulched the soil, ring the area with the gravel.  It needs to be pretty thick so it doesn't simply sink through the mulch or get moved about.   If all your bulbs are already in the ground, now is a good time to simply layer the gravel on the outside of the bulb growing patch. 

You may want to use two colors; one for spring flowering bulbs and another for fall flowering bulbs or tubers.

Example: Use blue gravel for spring bulbs:  tulips, daffodils and crocus.  Use orange for Naked Ladies, asiatic and oriental lilies.  All of these plants have periods during the growing season when they aren't visible. 

The cost is minimal, the task is easy, the look isn't intrusive and it works.  And it will help your bulbs survive another year.       

Friday, March 17, 2017

Green is Your Friend

You might think because foliage is often green you'd never want green flowers but then you'd be missing some real beauties.

St. Patrick's Day inspired the whole green flower thing.  Let's explore some of the top beauties this morning:


An annual but may self seed.  There are several kinds - old fashioned with smaller less developed petals and the newer hybrids like pictured.


An annual and easy to collect the seeds and replant next year.  I've never found the green zinnias in mixed packets nor in smaller sizes.

They are especially beautiful in bouquets.


"Sophistica Lime Green" petunia is a showstopper and looks especially good when mixed with other colors.

An annual.


Many hydrangea flowers start out green and then turn to other colors (white and pink are the most common.)  This picture shows the flowers from my Hydrangea "Annabelle"  mixed with the flower heads of sedum.

This is a perennial.


Hemerocallis "Green Flutter" is a near-green.  Quite a few daylilies have been hybridized to have enhanced green on the petals/sepals but are still short of a real green self.  Many have a green throat.  Daylilies are perennials.


"La terre Verte" Hybrid Tea Rose is lovely example of how green can be beautiful in an unexpected way.

The folks at Pantone always have their "color of the year" and this year it's Greenery.

Their choice influences the fashion and interior decorating industries.   Although slower to adapt, it will influence the garden industry as well.  An easy adaption since gardens are all about green.

Bringing in more green flowers is a rather recent gardening phase but expect more because it is so beautiful.  Beautiful alone and coordinates with other colors.

In the garden, most look best when they are in full sun as they can blend in with shadows to the point of being invisible among foliage.

In a vase, they can be alone but are really beautiful when mixed with other colors.

You'll find green flowers at your nurseries this summer and also available in seed packets.  Dive into greenery - green is your friend.