Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lipstick Red

Go to your wardrobe right now and pick out something red to wear this coming Friday, February 5th. Right now - go on - I'll wait. . . .

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. Wear red and speak up against heart disease for yourself and others. Say "No" to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and lack of exercise. Know the signs of heart disease and heart attack in women - they are often different than for men. Listen to your body and be aware. Heart attack symptoms:

Wearing the color red does catch your attention and it does the same in your garden.

Red looks good as a single show or mixed with other colors.

I've shown three easy reds in my pictures. The red burning bush, daylily, and bee balm.

I have two burning bushes. One is a stand alone beside my wildflower patch. It adds a punch of color when the rest of the garden is winding down. The other is part of a crescent of trees and bushes all having shades of red leaves. This group forms a backdrop for many other colored flowers.

I have bee balm (both red and pink) scattered here and there among other perennials. They are a major attraction for butterflies and hummingbirds. Mine aren't invasive and look good for the cottage style.

Red daylilies are everywhere. Amazingly, they look good with every other color. They brighten an all green space and dull areas. They contrast nicely and come in many shapes and sizes.

Besides true red it comes in shades varying towards pink, purple, and orange. It warms and brightens the garden. Red draws the eye towards where it stands (or away from something more unsightly.)

As you think about things for your spring 2010 garden, think some red. As you wear that red clothing Friday, thing about your heart. Both will benefit you for years to come.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nose Twisters

Images of two annual Nasturtiums in my garden. Every year I tuck a few plants here and there among the perennials - they never disappoint.
When is the last time you had a "nose twister"?
The popularity of flowers come and goes, but, the nose twister needs to stay. Nose-twister is the literal name (in Latin) for nasturtium. It was named for the peppery taste and it's effect on your nose.
Back in the late 1500s, famed herbalist John Gerard was just being introduced to the "Vertues" of nasturtiums from the area of the Andes from Bolivia north to Columbia. At that time, there was no distinction between what we grow today, Tropaeolum majus, and the Nasturtium watercress, which is in the mustard family.
Sometimes when an annual flower is so very easy to grow and has so many benefits, it is overlooked for the new and unusual. Let me share why you should consider putting nasturtiums in your flower and garden spaces this spring.
The flowers are beautiful. If they are viewed up close, the form resembles a very bright orchid. They now come in shades of cream, reds, oranges, and yellow plus variegated. They are mostly singles but the Jewel Series are doubles. They brighten the garden and make beautiful small bouquets. Cut flowers in water last about a week in the house.
The leaves are almost round and range from solid dark green to the Alaska Series which are white mottled. They form clumps and some vine, climb, or trail. This makes their use in borders, cottage gardens, pots, window boxes and handing baskets all viable.
The nasturtium plants do better with no fertilization (too much and you will have all leaves and no flowers.) They are simply not picky except they prefer sun (a little shade will not kill them but it will decrease the number of flowers.) They may stop producing flowers during the very hottest parts of summer. Given a little shade in the middle of the day, they will usually keep blooming right through the heat. Deadheading prolongs blooming.
Organic farmers may use nasturtiums as a black fly aphid buffer circling their fields. A free lunch in hopes they won't move on to their cash crops. Aphids are the one pest they may bother them although I've never had this happen. Aphids can be hosed off or picked off. It is thought nasturtiums repel squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and several caterpillars.
The nasturtium is host for the Dot Moth, Garden Carpet moth and the pest, Cabbage White Butterfly.
Nasturtiums have no poisonous parts which make it a food product as well as safe around children and pets. Flowers are used in salads and the young leaves have a stronger peppery taste.
The flowers can be used in cream soups, herb butters, cheese spreads, and flavor white vinegar. Pickle the buds as a substitute for capers or grind the seeds and use like pepper. The flowers make a beautiful garnish for salads, vegetables and cakes.
Push aside your mulch and plant a few seeds or purchase plants from a nursery. Add around your vegetable garden or cutting garden to add form and beauty. Use to entice hummingbirds and butterflies. Whether you use old heirloom varieties or new hybrids, nasturtiums will be stunning.
Aw, but the flowering plants tucked here and there in a cottage garden, as Monet did in his home in Giverny, France, are the draw for me. They seem capable of snuggling around the perennials and ornaments as if their one mission is to please.
NOTE: Locally, I've seen nasturtium plant sets for sale at Prairie County Gardens, Galva, and Sunnyfield Nursery, rural Kewanee. The largest selection of some amazing varieties, colors, and habits was at the Red Barn Nursery, rural Sheffield, Illinois.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dearly Beloved

Alright you can tell it's cold, it's January, and I'm needing a good ironic garden laugh. The following are real life (or death) cemetery inscriptions. Some ARE funny and other may just be sweetly sad.

"Beneath this grassy mound now rests

One Edgar Oscar Earl,

Who to another hunter looked

Exactly like a squirrel."

- Edgar Oscar Earl, England

“The grass withered - The flower Fadeth" (Isaiah XL 7)

-E.F.H. Hall, 1869

“Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted.”
-Sylvia Plath Hughes (Heptonstall Churchyard-Yorkshire, United Kingdom)

“Leaves have their time to fall,
And Flowers to wither at the North wind's breath,
And Stars to set—but all,
Thou hast all seasons for thine own O Death.”

“We know when Moons shall wane,
When Summer birds from far shall cross the Sea,
When Autumn's hue shall tinge the Golden Grains,
But who shall teach us when to look for thee?”
-James William Morgan 1803–1847 - Old City Cemetery, Lynchburg VA

“So fades the lovely blooming flower,
Frail smiling solace of an hour,
So soon our transient comforts fly
And pleasure only blooms to die.”
-William Percy Morgan 1829–1833 Old City Cemetery, Lynchburg VA

"Here lies a knave,
Where in the grave,
His first good deed,
Was feed the weed."

Ron Obvious from Monty Python's Flying Circus

“As the flowers are all made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew,
so this old world is made brighter by the lives of folks like you.”
-Bonnie Parker (Crown Hill Cemetery; Dallas, Texas)

"Under the sod and under the trees

Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.

He is not here, there's only the pod:

Pease shelled out and went to God."

-Jonathan Pease, Nantucket Mass.

“Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
-Edgar Allan Poe (Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery; Baltimore, Maryland)

“Oh Lord, I reckon I'm not much just by myself.
I fail to do a lot of things I ought to do.
But Lord, when trails are steep and passes high,
Help me to ride it straight the whole way through.
And when in the falling dusk I get the final call,
I do not care how many flowers they send--
Above all else the happiest trail would be
For You to say to me, "Let's ride, My friend."
-Roy Rogers (Sunset Hills Memorial Park, Apple Valley, California)

“We All Do Fade - As A Leaf”

-Martha Rolls, Bryanston Square London 10-28-1858

"Death is a debt to Nature due
Which we have paid and so must you."

-Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

"Sunset and evening star,

And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have crossed the bar."

Alfred Lord Tennyson (written by himself)

“A rose and rosebud half blown
Late flourished near this ground.
A while they bright and lovely shown
And shed their fragrance 'round.
The scythe cut down these flowers fair,
To earth too briefly given.
Though here they fade, their sweetness rare
Exhaled, ascends to heaven.”
- Maria Ball Carter Tucker, 1784–1823, Great-niece of George Washington, and her daughter, Rosalie Tucker, 1804– 1818 Old City Cemetery, Lynchburg VA

"Do not walk on the grass"

Peter Ustinov 1921-2004 (by himself)

"Here lies one Wood

Enclosed in wood

One Wood

Within another.

The outer wood

Is very good:

We cannot praise

The other."

-Beza Wood, who died in Winslow, Maine, in 1837

"That's All Folks"
Mel Blanc

The Art Continues

The pink bouquet is from Jane Wells Loudon and called "Belladonna Lily".

The red flower is from illustrator Alois Lunzer and called "American Scarlet Rose-Mallow".

I contacted Burpee and asked who had done their late 1800 illustrations and a 35 year employee thought it was Alois Lunzer.

He migrated from Australia to Philadelphia prior to the time period where the catalogs were published, he specialized in botanical painting and the technique seems the same. Burpee was headquartered in Philadelphia.

Many old botanical prints, such as the two shown here, are from books that featured many paintings. Someone has removed the 11 x 7 inch sheets and are selling them individually. They are in the one-hundred dollar range, as is.
On a follow-up with the squash - 20 quarts - we will either be very healthy or we will take many years to eat that much squash. Next year I think I'll skip the butternut plants.
More very cold weather and wind today. More seed and plant catalogs have arrived. The positive and the negative of winter weather for a gardener.
Another side note: It appears on-line and mail order seed, garden, and plant outlets seem to be struggling to stay in business. When spring comes, we may see much of the same for our locally owned centers. I sincerely hope they can weather this "don't call it a depression/recession" depression/recession. Many are small operations and it could be difficult if not fatal.
Many are offering sales - some with drastic discounts. If you trust the source, now is the time to purchase things you have been needing for your garden. It isn't taking advantage of them, these big or small purchases may be what they need to weather the storm. Do make sure you know the source - it's also a time for the unethical to play that game, too. You've heard it before, but, it is no less true today: "If it looks too good to be true - it probably is."

Last of the Winter Squash

Since it was doing nothing but snowing, blowing and temperature dropping today, I decided I'd freeze the last of my butternut squash. I found several going bad and figured it would be the same as apples - one bad apple (or squash) spoils the whole bunch.

I started early and am just finishing up the baking (at 1:00 am). I had three in the oven at a time but since they take three hours, it's been an expensive bunch of squash. If I wanted to punish myself, I'd have measured the amount of gas I used today and compared against store bought.

I don't do that because homegrown tastes so much more flavorful - almost like a different vegetable. And if I was to admit the truth, I just like putting up my own food.

My method of doing this is on the Thanksgiving 2009 post labeled "Butternut Squash".

Since butternut squash can be a bit stringy, this time I whipped it before bagging and freezing. Last time I left it in chunks and I ended up whipping each batch as I went anyway. It's a beautiful orange gold color. It is naturally sweet tasting, dense, and good for you.

According to one source - one cup of butternut squash:

63 calories

150% of your daily need for vitamin A

High in powerful antioxidants

Helps lower cholesterol

32% of daily need for vitamin C

25% of daily need for potassium

6 grams of fiber

Manganese, iron and magnesium

Not all sources agree on the exact amounts, but, they do all agree it offers many nutritional benefits - so much so butternut squash is specifically recommended to help prevent some diseases and alleviate painful symptoms of others. I'll not get more specific because this isn't a medical story, and research facts and issues are available if you are more interested.

We again had the wonderfully rich and beautiful squash dressing for supper tonight. I added Indiana Hickory syrup and it was certainly yummy.

Now, at 1:30 in the morning, I'm ready to call it quits. I'll need energy tomorrow to finish all the rest of the baked squash waiting to be frozen.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is It Art or Is It Gardening

Images: "Tree Clubmosses", "Ipomoea Tricolor Heavenly Blue" morning glory and a wine colored iris all by the famous botanical illustrator, Maud H. Purdy. The cover of "Dreer's" seed, plant, and bulb catalog with an illustration of crocus.

Old catalog and early botanical illustrations provide beautiful art.

They were often done in watercolor and ink, and most done from live specimens.

Burpee has a section of their web site devoted to pictures of their old catalogs. Those prior to 1900 have a delicate and lovely accuracy that are only seen in the work of skilled artists. I would have copied a few of those here but they are copyrighted. If you enjoy this sort of thing (both flowers and vegetables), their site is Go to "Garadener's Corner" and then their Catalog Cover Gallery.

Another aspect of these prints is they show what was popular in that era. This is especially nice if you are creating or restoring a historic or period garden.

Of all the old catalog pictures Burpee features, the top flower was the sweet pea and the top vegetable was the tomato. Followed by the pansy and beans.

Today sweet peas are a nearly forgotten garden plant. It was introduced for commercial sale in 1670. Next, in the 1800s, the grandiflora or old fashioned sweet pea was bred. In the middle 1800s to early 1900s, the varieties were so numerous and varied they often featured more than ten new ones a year. The "Spencer" variety, introduced in 1901, is consider the new variety. One thing most valued about the early sweet peas was the strong fragrance. Today, it is difficult to find a sweet pea with any fragrance. You must go to a company that carries heirloom quality plants and seeds and even at that the variety has been limited.

We might have lost the names and descriptions of these old plants (along with the plants) if it hadn't been for the artist's renderings.

The royals and wealthy commissioned artists to draw flowers anatomically correct. It provided accurate and recorded pictures for scientific study and better understanding of plant life. Many of these original drawings are priceless.

There are quite a few old botanical and herbal books in libraries, public botanical garden gift shops, university files & studies, e-Bay and used book stores. Botanical and art museums might also be a possibility. Some are colored but the very old will often be black and white. Occasionally, there will be exhibits of some of the old and beautiful illustrations at some of the bigger universities or musuems.

I enjoy incorporating an old fashioned plant into my garden. It gives a slightly Victorian look and they most often have a stronger scent.

I am not dismissing modern botanical drawings; there are some beautiful ones, too. I just happen to like the old ones for the artist's technique and the historical record.

Rock Star

Images are from the 2009 "Howard Hite Award for Hybridizing Excellence" winner, James (Jamie) Gossard.
The green daylily is "Green Inferno", a 2010 introduction in the spider class. ($150)
The cream daylily is "Pattern Maker", a 2010 introduction in the pattern class. ($200)
The wine purple daylily is "Supernatural", a 2010 introduction in the pattern class. ($300)
Jamie and Diana Gossard are the owners of "Heavenly Gardens" in Galloway, Ohio. Like most who hybridize, they have specific areas where they concentrate their time and money. The Gossards explore the genetic possibilities available in the daylily to produce vibrant colors, intricate patterns, teeth and eyes and edges of different forms. Jamie's most extensive work is to pattern his flowers.
Although none of today's breeders could be where they are now without the hundred(s) of years prior breeders have contributed, Jamie has taken it to a whole new level. Not only beautiful and different shapes but they must be hardy. There are many more innovations he uses but it gets into daylily hybridizing and may be too much information for the average reader.
Now to the rock star thing:
I've been recording garden and daylily displays which are open to the public. Then, when my husband and I travel, we can incorporate these into the trip. Most breeders and many display gardens are private and must be called prior to visiting.
The ones that are private, I wrote and asked if, when and how to visit. As are most gardeners, they were kind in their replies. Then I get a personal and casual reply from Jamie Gossard. I reacted like a kid at a Rolling Stone concert when Mick Jagger asks them to come back stage (without the sexual overtones mind you). That's when I realized to a person possessed of "Daylily Madness - IE: me" it was like getting a note from a rock star.
I do know I'm going to have to work at not being star struck if we get to his gardens - the whole autograph, picture and giggling is so inappropriate at my age.
Would it be odd to have my picture taken with a lily - this is probably where my husband will roll his eyes.
To read more about "Heavenly Garden" and James and Diana Gossard's work, visit:
or the American Hemerocallis Society, Winter 2009 "Daylily" Region 2 Newsletter at

Friday, January 22, 2010

Not the "Clubie" Sort

After years in a corporate environment, I seldom get involved in anything where I must vote, raise my hand, or keep to an agenda where I have no interest. If it's not for the "greater cause", it takes away too much time from the things I do want to accomplish.
There are so many worthwhile and/or interesting things we can help or enjoy, we must pick and choose wisely.
I try to balance helping others with some things that are purely for personal enjoyment. My daylilies don't help mankind in any life altering way. But, I'm not of the school that feels if you aren't in a hair shirt 24/7 then your life is wasted.
From years of mentoring young people in the work place, I've found people are generally better at their jobs and improving mankind if they have a healthy balance with between their work life and their home life. With no outside interests (such as home, family, spiritual, volunteering, hobbies), the scope of an employee's ability to contribute value to a business is more limited.
With my need to explain all that done, I proceed:
I've inserted a picture of the American Hemerocallis Society's poster encouraging daylily lovers to join the organization. I do belong and have received value by the enjoyment it brings to me. Now, I'm contemplating another step in my daylily mania: a local group.
There is no Daylily Society located close to me and I'm really sure I don't want to drive a long distance just to attend meetings. I've been mulling it over - the benefits - the down side.
I'm just sure I don't want this to become something that needs a mission statement, dues, or other formal organizational fundimentals. I don't want the expectations of an orgnaization to outweigh the benefits of daylily enjoyment.
I do know daylily lovers are friendly and caring individuals from the most well known hybridizer to the newbie. It might be fun to visit some daylily gardens, share information, and enjoy this hobby with others.
If you live in the vicinity of Bishop Hill, Illinois and have any interest in this, please let me know and you can "mull" with me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Snow Fairy Was Here

Images of this morning's Hoarfrost.
Have you ever noticed there is a fine line between adults wanting to believe in the mystic stories of youth and the desire for scientific data?
WARNING: If you still believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, stop reading now!
Was this morning's crystal coating because the Snow Fairy visited last night? Perhaps, but then again:
Fog is a cloud that is touching the ground. When water vapor condenses directly into ice, you get snowflakes and frost. Frost is not frozen dew.
Frost on the ground comes from minute ice crystals. The larger crystals are called Hoarfrost crystals.
Hoarfrost grows whenever it's cold and there is ample water vapor. It can be on objects or it can be the sparkle we see some mornings on top of snow (called surface hoar.)
When the crystals collide with water droplets in fog and it's droplets are supercooled (below freezing), they freeze on anything they contact.
Best conditions are cold clear nights with a very light wind. The wind circulates the humid air around the surfaces. Because fog (clouds) contain moisture (humidity) and there is snow on the ground and it was certainly freezing, we woke this morning to Hoarfrost.
On a bit of another topic, but related: Have you ever noticed just when you think you have at least a surface grasp on most subjects of this world, you find there are people who are involved in something so remote to your world it's like opening a new door to the nature of humans?
Maybe not - but, I do this sometimes when I'm researching a topic. Because I'm naturally curious, I always go beyond the topic if there is something interesting. Today, I found one of those sites. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
The NSIDC is scientific - scientific to the point at times I was thinking - huh? To realize there are my fellow humanoids so "into" snow and ice they are living, breathing, and studying all things ice/snow in that northern post. Cool! Both in truth and in comment.
I did notice there was no mention of the Snow Fairy. They probably save that for sitting around the igloo's fireplace at night.

Monday, January 18, 2010

State of Affairs

The governing bodies of each US state has voted to have certain symbols that they feel represents their state the best. Some are interesting or obvious - others are fun or funny. I've compiled the ones for Illinois and Indiana (where my garden articles are published). Illinois will be identified in RED and Indiana identified in BLUE.

State Bird: Both states have the Northern Cardinal "Cardinalis cardinalis".

State Flower: Blue Violet "viola sororia" - Peony "paeonia"

State Nickname/Slogan: Land of Lincoln - Hoosier State

State Motto: State Sovereignty and National Unity - The Crossroads of America

State Tree: White Oak "Quercus alba" - Tulip "Lereodendron tulipifera"

State Insect: Monarch Butterfly "Danaus plexippus" - Say's Firefly "Pyractomena angulata" (proposed)

State Mineral/Stone: Florite - Salem Limestone

State Soil: Drummer's Silty Clay Loam - Miami

State Song: "Illinois - Illinois" - "On the Banks of the Wabash Far Away"

All the following are Illinois and Indiana does not currently have designations:

State Fish: Bluegill "Lepomis macrochirus"

State Prairie Grass: Big Blue stem "Adropogon gerardii"

State Snack Food: Popcorn "Zea mays everta"

State Animal: White-tailed deer "Odocoileus virginianus"

State Reptile: Eastern Painted Turtle "Chrysemys picta"

State Amphibian: Eastern Tiger Salamander "Ambystoma tigrinum"

State Fossil: Fully Monster "Tullimonstrum gregarium"

State Fruit: Apple

Illinois has a State flag, seal and dance.

Indiana has a State flag, seal, beverage, language, pie (Hoosier Sugar Cream), poem and river.

Besides being interesting, gardeners may want to incorporate some of the flora that is a State symbol and may want to work at attracting some of the State critters.

To those that proposed the specific categories, I tend to enjoy many. I put out sunflower seeds and corn for the Northern Cardinals. I have a woods full of old blue violets - where the white-tailed deer visit occasionally. I have the old fashioned peony in many of my garden beds. My tulip tree is doing just fine and this is the second winter for my oaks.

I'm sure a bowl of Illinois popcorn is just what I need (it is a big farm product here). Hoosier Sugar Cream pie is perhaps the most luscious of all pies to the point it is in a category all it's own!

Couple of political observations:

The State of Illinois has many many symbols - I kinda wish they would spend that much time working on ethics and budgeting. . .

The State beverage of Indiana is water - kinda makes you go "hummmmm."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Fickle Finger of Fate Isn't Green

Edit Image: 01-22-2010. The pink orchid pictures were sent to me by a friend who lives in Florida. He said he had the plant for awhile before it bloomed with no "orchid green thumb" from him. At any rate, it's a beautiful plant.

I don't know if you've noticed, but, I don't often talk about indoor plants. It's because it's not something I enjoy doing and I have little success.

I don't believe it's lack of capabilities, it's more like lack of ambition. Even though I find the routine of caring for houseplants b o r i n g, I do enjoy the beauty of other people's houseplants.

Right now I have an amaryllis and poinsettia blooming and looking beautiful - soon, very soon, they will be toast. The kind of plant toast caused by "oh my it's been two months since I last watered" kinda toast.

I've had "takes no care" to "takes expert care." No matter, both die of neglect.

For the many of you who do enjoy nurturing houseplants, there's an "Orchid Event" Saturday February 6 at Green View Nursery.

If you currently have orchids, want to have orchids, or just like to learn something new, this should be a good seminar. It's free but they want reservations - Call: 309 243 7761.

And, when you have orchid successes, take a picture and send it to me. Let me live in the vicarious houseplant world through you.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Come Sit a While

Here we are in the middle of snow and minus zero wind chills and I'm thinking of outdoor structures. Hot chocolate today - lemonade this summer.
If you don't have a place to enjoy the outdoors, let's think about some options.
It's nice if they are large enough to position furniture. Today, we see fully furnished porches. It's much like decorating a living room.
Porches are covered and should provide shade in the summer and a measure of protection from the elements in the winter.
A front porch should complement the home's style. Porches are not an inexpensive project. It take good carpentry and design skills to construct a sound and pleasing porch.
Screened porches allow outdoor use during the "buggy months" of summer. Obviously, they also require a door.
Decks are often at the back of a home because they tend to be constructed more informally and in conjunction with other entertainment. They complement a more contemporary home and are less expensive than a full porch.
A deck without a solid roof decreases cost. If built low enough to the ground, it doesn't need sides. Some urban buildings have roof-top decks which require significant investment and skill to construct.
Pergolas can be rustic and simple or formal and imposing. Most often, they are not attached to another structure. They don't have screen or a solid roof although most provide some kind of material for plants to climb up and over.
Gazebos are much like a pergola except they have a solid roof and may be screened.
A patio is usually a part of the landscaping and seldom is higher than ground level. As with a deck, they are sometimes used in conjunction with pools, cooking and other entertainment. Patios can be at either end of the price range.
Three or Four Season Rooms:
Cost is similar to adding another full room to your home unless you convert an older porch. The room has two or three walls with a large expanse of windows.
A three season room uses less energy saving materials and often has no heat/AC. Four season rooms are basically built the same as the rest of the house in all ways except it has more windows.
Sleeping Porch:
These are typically found on the second floor of older homes. They were used on hot nights to catch the breezes. Most people used folding cots. I've only seen a few of these added to new homes but as energy costs sour, they may become viable again.
The Commentary:
Our grandparents simply took a dining room chair, a glass of homemade lemonade and sat on the porch after supper in the summer. It was the coolest place to relax and visit with family and friends.
The decoration was perhaps a bench used to take off your shoes and maybe one of mom's house plants. It was on the south side of the house and had a big shade tree on the west side.
The porch was where you watched your children use the last bit of the day's energy while catching fireflies or playing tag.
If it was the weekend, mom usually brought out some homemade pie. And if you lived in the country, you could bet that your big city friends and family would be there on those hot nights to catch a little breeze they couldn't find on their porches.
It was where your teen's date called and was inspected by the entire family. It's where families laughed and talked to each other as the source of the family's entertainment.
It's where town neighbors waved or stopped to catch up on the latest gossip or just good visiting.
May I venture a question for you to ponder? Outdoor "sittin' places" have evolved into elaborate expensive entertainment centers. Could we have enhanced ourselves right out of the benefits?

The Paradise of Haiti

A photo of a Haiti beach and background mountains prior to earthquake.

As I researched if there was anything I might offer on Haiti in a Garden Blog, it became all too apparent that it might end up sounding so shallow as if I had worried about the pots of flowers outside the World Trade Center on 9-11.

Although I knew a level of history about the impoverished country, reading how Haitians have been crushed down over and over in every area of their lives only added to the emerging somber and sobering earthquake news. The image from NASA has a red line where the fault is located and the circles are centers for the quakes of January 2010.

In a paradise provided by the very location and nature of the land, man has continually stripped the citizens of their lives, their livelihood, and their will.

Ironically, the very fault line that caused this earthquake is named "Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault". I found no information why it might be termed "garden" but the paradise that was originally Haiti was certainly an abundant garden.

Haiti is a tropical mountainous country that has from 4-6,000 flowering and conifer plants. Since the human suffering and needs have always outweighed all other needs, the exact number and known species is poorly known or documented.

The area is very diverse with oaks and pines in the mountainous areas and the coast and lower slope has yucca, mahogany, bog wood and palm. Tropical fruit such as grapefruit, orange, mango and lime trees grow. 95% of the land has been deforested mostly to use as charcoal for cooking. It has the 2nd most diverse flora in the Caribbean.

Farmers cultivate vegetables, herbs, coffee and sugar. Again, the human factor tells us the farmers earn less than $2-3 a day and at least half the population is unemployed.

In a land where modern medical aid is seldom available to the masses, herbs are grown for medical treatments. Herbs are also used during Voodoo religious ceremonies and doctoring.

Even though many countries continue to mission and entrepreneurs start businesses, in hopes of improving life, Haiti is continually beat down by the powerfully corrupt. Areas of poverty are always open to the strong and evil.

The Katherine Dunham (1909-2006) Habitation LeClerc Botanical Gardens, located in the center of earthquake area, was one such well-meant endeavor. Ms. Dunham bought the fifty acres and structures and set about protecting and enhancing the native plant species.

Although the earthquake damage to the garden is unknown today, it had become a drug and gang infested slum, riddled with garbage, violence, and destruction. Little remained of the priceless natural flora, the structures or the wall of protection. What was meant to enhance the lives of the good citizens and their heritage, has fallen to the fate of so many endeavors meant to help.

As the world is struggling to provide immediate aid for the hundreds of thousands of citizens of Haiti, can we forget this is not a new struggle but only one much larger than the last. Can we dismiss the land and it's flora as inconsequential and not remember it must sustain a country in the future.

I remember riding in a car from the church to the cemetery when my mother died. I wondered why there were people going to work, laughing, going about their lives. Why weren't they suffering the grief that was consuming me? Later I realized it was necessary for people to go on with their lives. But in doing so, we take what has happened and contribute to the future of those less fortunate - those that must feel as I did that day.

When we put the natural paradise of Haiti and today's devastation in the same picture, we must contribute to their future. In a nation that has generations of sorrow and destruction, our opportunity to hold and build up our brothers and sisters is unlimited.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter Busy

There is open registration for:
"Mid-Winter" Horticulture Workshop in Geneseo Illinois
"2010 Winter Teleconference Series" Four Seasons Gardening at Black Hawk East Community Education Center in Kewanee.
The Charter Bus and Admission Trip to the Chicago Flower Show March 9, 2010, sponsored by the Henry-Stark County Master Gardeners.
You may mail or fax the forms printed here to register or call 309 853 1533.
I've been to previous teleconference series and they are casual, packed with informative material from the University of Illinois educators and are generally followed by a Q&A session.
The Geneseo Workshop will be fun for those interested in the topics and who enjoy the in-person presentations and demonstrations. I've enjoyed these in the past. They typically bring along some plants and garden items to see up close.
The bus trip is such an easy way to experience the Chicago Flower Show. If you are reading this and live in another area, call your extension office or a local garden club to see if they are providing a bus tour. The cost is kept minimal to simply provide a service for area gardeners.
I've gone with family and friends for several years and it's a great day of visiting, looking at new ideas and plants, enjoying Chicago and then put your feet up on the way home with none of the driving worries.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Flying in the Face

"Flying in the face of conventional horticultural wisdom."

Having successfully completed the Illinois Master Gardener program and been around ancestors who loved gardening, others who were farmers for generations, and myself having gardened for almost fifty some years, I've read and heard lots and lots of "you must never" and "you must always."

I've read and listened to advice, used a portion, but I have no qualms about pushing the boundaries of conventional horticultural rules. I'm sure a trained counselor could trace it back to teen rebellion gone unsuppressed but that's another topic.

I don't worry about counting the successes and failures with this practice because any gardener will have successes and failures - even with following every rule to the "T".

Another trick with the "rules" is they're often conflicting and/or confusing.

Experts are even at odds with exactly what is right and those odds change through the generations. Some guidelines and rules may be what's in vogue, what is financially beneficial to a merchant, or a lack of knowledge at that time.

Not to say all horticulture rules are wrong because that is far from a truth. We are blessed to have the university and corporate research and development available to private and professional horticulture enthusiasts.

Many horticulture rules have shades of gray surrounding them. An example:

The multi-colored map of the US is divided into hardiness zones. My little corner of the world is listed as a Zone 5.

  • In truth,our woods is often a combination of Zone 4 to a Zone 6 due to windbreaks, hills and snow cover.
    The north side of the house, out to the edge of the woods, is most often a Zone 4. That is because of cold winter wind whipping over it for months.
  • The south side of my house between the fence, house and bay window is a Zone 6 and occasionally annual plants survive the winter here.
  • Then there are all those pockets of differences.
My point being: Don't be so tied to the rules of gardening that you don't try the wrong thing in the wrong place.

If you read the history of how some of the world's most beautiful gardens and the most talented gardeners developed that beauty, it is often by "flying in the face of conventional horticultural wisdom." They weren't afraid to experiment.

As with most Midwest country homes, I have what is called Orange Tawny and Orange Tawny Double daylilies (often referred to as ditch lily). Don't get me wrong, I like the tawny, especially the double - in the right place. It brightens places where no other flower will grow. It's impossible to kill with the strongest herbicide and spreads with abandon. For those reasons, it's not recommended and is classed as an invasive weed by some.

I accidentally dug a portion of the double Orange Tawny (pictured above) and put it in my flower bed. And it has been beautiful. It photographs as beautiful as any lily and the contrast to my "snooty little high class hybrids" is stunning. It "flew in the face of conventional horticultural wisdom" and it worked.

I planted coral bells for several years and they would slowly die - I'd move them - I'd try different kinds - I'd this and that and always a failure. It was time to STOP flying and face the fact I shouldn't waste any more time and money. Horticultural wisdom says do not plant coral bells around walnut trees and that is a fact!

Enjoy your garden dreams and experiments. Who knows, someday we may be reading about this Midwest gardener who pushed the edge of gardening reason and is now called an innovator! But, you have to be willing to fly first!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sarah Davis Heirloom Garden

These are images from the David Davis Mansion web site. The black and white images are from the 1800s and the color photo is how the mansion looks today.

Although the mansion alone is worth the trip, to tour and be a part of their many special events, it's the garden I'll focus on today.

A little history: David Davis was a friend and political colleague of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln appointed Davis as U.S. Supreme Court Justice in 1862.

Davis built the Italianate and Second Empire mid-Victorian home in 1869 for his wife, Sarah, who did not want to move to Washington. It was designed to bring genteel culture to the western frontier.

Sarah's garden is the feature of this story. Not because it's unusual for women to have gardens during this time, but because some of the original plants survive today. To those plants, the volunteers and Foundation added another seventy of the original 120.

The volunteers have committed to preserving the existing heirloom plants while establishing what is now known as Sarah's Garden. Some of these heirloom plants are over 130 years old.

The Foundation hosts the "Glorious Garden Festival and Garden Walk" every 3rd weekend in June. (check the exact dates as time gets closer) This allows a guided tour of Sarah's Garden plus many other private Bloomington-Normal gardens. Tickets may be purchased at the David Davis Mansion visitor booth.

The 36 room mansion is located at 1000 E. Monroe Drive, Bloomington, on 4.1 acres. Also on the property is the mentioned Sarah's Garden, an 1856 barn/stable, 1868 carriage house/barn, 1872 foaling shed, 1890 garage, and two privies.

The home is open for tours on the half hour (lasting 45 minutes) every Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30 am to 4 pm, except State holidays. Groups of ten or more should call 309-828-1084 for tour information. There are quite a few guidelines and rules about touring the property - it is a National treasure to be preserved.

Photographs may be taken of the garden for private use but a contract is needed for professional use photographs. There are no photos permitted inside the mansion.

One of the interesting comments made about Sarah and her gardening techniques was she brought seeds from her native Massachusetts, and obtained others from friends, dug in the wild and bought some of them. Gardeners in the 1800's were not so different from those of us today who wish to make our yards both beautiful and productive.

Add this site to your favorites and schedule a tour this summer. I've been there and it's a Midwest gem and only a short drive away - even in the western frontier town of Bloomington.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

We're Off to See the Wizard

Flower shows often give us ideas both grand and small. It's new things, construction of hard scapes and things for sale. Some are mostly for showing and others are mostly for selling.

Often local garden clubs and organizations will sponsor bus trips to some of the bigger shows. A way to leave the driving to them and bring some friends for a day of garden fun.

If you like this sort of thing, mark your calendars. I expect there will be many more shows and opportunities scheduled as the year officially gets started.

Chicago Flower Show - Navy Pier - March 6-14 - The theme this year will be Cultivating Great Performances - a collaboration with gardeners, builders and Chicago theaters. (Thanks to the reader who corrected the dates I had originally listed - appreciate your helping.)

Fleurotica 2010 - Garfield Park Conservatory - March 26 -

Midwestern Herb and Garden Show - Mount Vernon - Feb. 12-14 -

Gateway Spring Home Show - Collinsville - Jan. 22-24 - Includes vendors of all things house and garden.

St. Louis Builders Home and Garden Show - St. Louis - Feb. 25-27 - speakers, exhibits and vendors.

"Classic" Garish Garden Show - Peoria - Jan. 12 - Peoria Parks - What NOT to do in your garden.

Lily Show - Peoria Park Conservatory - March 19 - Lilies and other plants.

Orchid Show - Peoria Park - May 9 - Conservatory.

QCCA Flower and Garden Show - March 26-28 - Expo Center.

Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville - Feb. 10-13 - Nashville TN Convention Center. (January 1, 2010 page)

Indiana Flower and Patio Show - March 13-21 - Indiana State Fair Grounds, Indianapolis.

Pella Tulip Time Festival - May 4-9 - Pella, Iowa - Parades, tulip gardens, entertainment.

This is a site you might want to add to your favorites. It will have a running up to date list of shows. They are across the country and would be fun to incorporate into a vacation.

And now - as we wildly run down the yellow brick road towards a garden show slightly salivating at the prospect of the perfect and new flower - remember the wizard is waiting behind the cash register.

To diagram - that is the question.

The photograph has the actual bed that is shown diagrammed.

The hand drawn picture is of this bed in my yard. The drawing isn't fancy and might even be confusing to others, but, it serves me well.

The typed list is plants that I've identified and their placement per the diagram.

The best part of something like this is it really doesn't matter if it's pretty, well done, or draftsman quality; it serves my purpose.

To be honest, the main purpose is it's fun for me.

Note also the yellow and blue lines. These are important because they document where the underground gas and electric run. This documentation is pretty important when it comes to digging (I know from an embarrassing event a few years ago - thank you Pat Duystchaver and Steve Hart for the help!)

You don't have to draw well to accomplish a diagram. There are computer programs that do this but they are more expensive than I chose to pay. I used a small ruler and a piece of paper and most importantly a pencil. There will be much erasing on diagrams.

Being able to erase a plant symbol that is moved, has died, or was mislabeled is essential to a good plan. The typed list is on my computer and items can be deleted and added as needed.

I made up my own particular code for hard scapes. I did try to remember to make it simple enough for the next owner of this home to have a little idea of what they had purchased.

I make pencil notes on both sheets during the summer and then tidy it up in the winter. Like the big business deal that is recorded on the cocktail napkin - I may include a torn piece of dirty scrap newspaper with a note. Only proves I didn't want to take my shoes and gloves off to record my notes.

Professional landscapers will also color some of the picture diagrams.

Think of your garden and bed diagrams as a detailed photograph. If this is too detailed please realize the mind does wander in the cold evenings of January. Never one to use the word "bored", I consider thinking a valuable pastime.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Path to Organization

For those that would like to see the kind of plant documentation I use, I've attached an example.

The blank form, part of a PC program I use, can have any of the printed words changed to suit my needs.

At the top, I always put the "general category." In this case, it's "Daylily."

The "Common Name" is the one I would generally use when describing the plant or when researching.

The "Latin Name" defines the plant more in depth. The Latin name shows the family and that is important for understanding some plants. In parenthesis is the person who hybridized and registered the plant and the year. I especially like to have that information for daylilies because each breeder has specializations and trends.

The "Date of Purchase" helps me remember how long it's been in the ground and compare how healthy and hardy it should be by the current date.

"Obtained from" helps me compare what vendor and merchant has healthy long lived plants. This is also where I record how much I paid for the plant. I find that fun when I look back on how prices are increasing or was it a bargain or how bad did I really want the plant. This is also the place I record gifts from friends and family. That is a sweet reminder.

When you have a large collection of certain plants, it always good to have a current photo. Since plants can look different under different conditions, it gives a baseline visual description.

"Information" is the portion where I pretty much take the catalog or tag description and add that to the facts. Later, as I find or observe additional information, I simply write the note.

"Growing Notes" allows me to compare each year's growth to the norm. The norm is an average set by growers/catalogs. It may be very different in my yard, in it's current location, and etc.

My other little notes include:
  • The "sticker" represents the fact I have an identification tag in the ground by the plant.
  • The N43 represents the location. I have my beds diagrammed. That would be "Bed N" and "Plant number 43". Since the plant has been divided, I have also written "H18" and another note indicates the bed is south.
  • "Picture Book" simply means I have additional photos in my garden picture albums.


All of these identification sheets are in plastic three-ring covers, filed alphabetically by common name, and in books representing general terms. The book for this particular sheet is "Daylilies."


On the back of each plastic sheet I insert a sheet of lined paper where I record the year and things like bloom time, problems, conditions, if I moved the plant, and etc. I, also, throw pictures in this jacket during the year and sometime during the winter months, I move them to albums. This is also where I store the catalog picture or the tag that was included with the plant. Sometimes it's amazing the difference in my plant and these items.

Daylilies are my garden passion and my other books are more general, such as:
  • Trees and Bushes
  • Roses and Iris
  • Perennials (A-H) (I-Z)
  • Birds, Insects and Critters
  • Lilies
  • Garden General


It does take awhile to set up a system like this but it's worth it to someone who enjoys the process and benefits. For those of you who are shaking your head and going "is she crazy or what!", it's probably not worth the effort.

If you have many plants, start with one kind and work out the kinks. Make it useful to you. Make it a part of the joy of gardening. It can be a large project, so take your time and don't set deadlines.

Forms such as this can be from formal programs, such as mine, or can be developed by you on your computer or by hand. My first effort was on sheets of steno pad paper with a pen. Not particularly pretty but it was my start more than twenty years ago.