Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Random Musings

A daylily (and other things) flower bed going crazy.

A Monarch Butterfly sampling the nectar from the hosta flowers.
This week in central Illinois has been a gardener's gift: No rain or storms, mild summer days, little wind, sun and cotton clouds - it's what we all want all summer long. Yes, I know we can focus on the insects and weeds but why waste this beautiful week being negative?
If you don't have your own beautiful yard or flowers, take a walk or drive and borrow the pleasure from neighbors. Even a roadside wildflower makes a beautiful bouquet.
Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.”
~ Elizabeth Murray
A side note: The Galva Arts Council's 4th of July photo show/contest will be this weekend. Check out the local paper or the GAC website for details. There are always beautiful pictures, many featuring things in nature.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

This is a Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) on a sage leaf. In the past, they have been on my Queen Anne lace, parsley and rue. This year they were on my dill. I never mind offering up some of my herbs to caterpillars because the end result is a beautiful butterfly. If one can get over the "wormy" issue, this caterpillar is quite beautiful, too.

The next two photos were taken in the fall and the favorite food choices were phlox and bee balm.

Some people find phlox too informal for their gardens but I let them self seed with abandon. Among the last flowers to bloom, they offer nourishment in the form of nectar for butterflies. That and the fact they are beautiful in their array of pinks, whites, and lavenders.

Often the most desirable food for butterflies are the native and more casual looking plants such as bee balm (pictured above.) Each little point is a source of nectar. As the plant dries in the fall, butterflies still eat again and again from the remaining parts.
As I've said at least a blue zillion times, if you want beautiful butterflies, you must have host plants for the eggs, caterpillar, chrysalis and the butterfly. AND, not use insecticides - butterflies are very sensitive to insecticides.
The Eastern Black Swallowtail is common in this area. Right now is the time when I first see them flying - the caterpillar was easy to photograph a few weeks ago as it lazily munched dill.
I've never been very good or very attentive to finding the yellow eggs or brown wood like chrysalis.
The 1963 hit song by Nat King Cole, whose lyrics go, "Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer - those days of soda and pretzels and beer" came to mind as I watched a butterfly floating from flower to flower and then flutter over the house.
I've seen more butterflies this year and the season is just getting started. While mowing this week (between rains), the roadside was simply shimmering with so many different butterflies. I'm thinking it has to be attributed, in part, to the lack of roadside mowing. Yes, our poor Illinois fiscal situation is actually benefiting at least the insects of our state.
Now everybody join me - a one and a two...

"Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Those days of soda and pretzels and beer

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer.

You'll wish that summer could always be here.

You'll wish that summer could always be here."

OH YEAHhhhhh!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What to Do?

A picture of Designer Gown daylily after a heavy rainstorm.
Incoming storm.

Daylilies to be enjoyed even when it storms.

What do you do when there's a (1) severe thunderstorm warning (2) flash flood warning (up to 5 inches) and a (3) heat advisory? Pick daylilies before it storms and enjoy a day's worth of perfect blooms!
Because storms are predicted all day, I wouldn't be able to enjoy them blooming in the garden. I can now walk by this table, on our porch, during the day and enjoy the looks, the fragrance and throw away right after dark settles over us. Nothing lost - much gained.

Thorns and Sweetness

This picture of Blackberry Jam and recipe are from

Blackberries are producing like crazy this year thanks to all the rain and humidity. I have to be really fast to beat the birds to the day's bounty.

I transplanted a few blackberry bushes to this home in 1997 and I'll never be without them again (both by choice and thanks to birds).

I had planted them under windows as they did in Victorian times. They were used as prowler deterrents. Little did I know they were also house painters, husband weed-eater guy, and running children deterrents. By the time I could admit to my error, they had been seeded throughout the property and I was able let them go close to the house.

Blackberries and raspberries are much easier for me to grow than blueberries because of the walnut trees. Although my blackberries are from some long lost strain (more wild than hybrid) they suit my taste just fine.

Blackberries aren't easy for a small property because of the spreading by birds and every branch that hits the ground roots. They spread quite readily and pruning is a fight with thorns every time. I'm a lackadaisical pruner so mine thrive in spite of my efforts.

Some of the new hybrids have more controlled habits and the size of the berries are much larger. Flavors vary somewhat from tart to sweet and from seedy to meaty.

Here's Paula Deen's recipe for Blackberry Jam. Always good but I must admit I go outside in the morning - pick a cup of berries (what doesn't go directly in my mouth) and have them on my cereal. Good stuff.

Blackberry Jam
by Cooking with Paula Deen Magazine July/August 2010

Paula says the secret to the tastiest canning boils down to one simple rule her Grandmother Paul taught her…use only produce just picked from the field.
Support your local farmers and your pocketbook this summer by buying your produce when it’s at the peak of freshness and coincidentally most affordable. Following Paula’s simple recipes and canning techniques will guarantee you some of your own “Summer in a Jar” come December.

Blackberry Jam Yields: 6 (½ pint) jars

5 cups blackberries, washed and drained
1 tablespoon lemon juice
7 cups sugar
1 (1.75 ounce) package dry pectin6 (1/2 pint)
Canning Jars with lids

In a large saucepan over high heat add blackberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir frequently while bringing to a rolling boil.
Stir in pectin and continue boiling for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim any foam from the top if necessary.
Sterilize jars and lids directly before using for 10 minutes in simmering water or in the dishwasher. Remove one at a time when ready to fill.
While blackberry mixture is still hot, ladle into the hot sterilized jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth and seal jars with lids and rings.
Process in a boiling water bath (making sure water level is 1 inch over the top of the jars) for 10 minutes. Remove from water bath and allow to cool on the counter.

Courtesy of Cooking With Paula Deen Magazine July/August 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Humor is good meds.

This was on the WQAD weather facebook page. So funny!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Freakin' At the Freaker's Ball

This is a picture of Stella de Oro daylily. A sloppy photo at best, but, I wanted to show (clockwise starting at the top): blooming flower, a bud not opened, a spent flower and a seed pod.

I've often been asked, "Is the only reason to deadhead daylilies to make the plant look better?" The answer to that is, "Yes, it does make the plant look better." And, "No, there is a more important reason for deadheading."

If a daylily is allowed to set seed heads, the plant will put energy into developing those seeds and preform as if it's the end of the blooming season. At the end of the season, a plant will not concentrate on blooming. For an continuous bloomer like Stella, that will limit the new flowers and the length of the bloom season.

Even the non-continuous bloomers will put more energy into making fully developed flowers over an extended bloom period if they are deadheaded daily.

For the meticulous: carry a sack and slip the spent flowers inside. For the rest of us: simply toss on the ground and know they will go to mush in a few days.

Another reason for deadheading every morning: Photographs will never have a glob of dead flower to spoil the look.

____Freakin' at the Freaker's Ball____
I have no idea where I got that phrase but I immediately thought of my crazy daylily madness. Must be my latent heavy metal past catching up with me in the garden.
_____Peak Daylily Shows_____
Our early spring and heavy rains have contributed to an early bloom season - daylies and others. Commercial nurseries are no exception. Hornbaker Gardens' newsletter says their daylily fields will be at peak starting around June 25 and some varieties will start the end of July.
Here's a break for those who live around professional daylily gardens: It is much better to see the daylilies growing up close and personal than in a catalog. Seeing a group of daylily freakers in a daylily field is surely a daylily freaker's ball.
And if you see multitudes of daylily freaks freakin' at the freaker's ball, try to ignore us - we're harmless and you just might become one...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Head - Heart - Hands - Health

"I pledge my Head to clearer thinking,
My Heart to Greater loyalty,
My Hands to larger service,
My Health to better living -
For my club, my community, my country and my world."

The 4-H pledge says a lot about the members, how they live their lives and the projects they bring to the 4-H Fair each year.

I am privileged to again be a judge in the Horticulture and Floriculture divisions. It's an enriching experience. It brings hope for the future generation and pride in the many young people who want to learn and work.

The above picture was a Floriculture "D" entry. Her theme was the "4th of July" and she not only met the criteria for this category but did it superbly. You're looking at a blue ribbon winner.

I was expecting a poor turnout and poor quality of plants and vegetables this year because of the weather and how early our fair is held. It was the opposite - more kids and a surprisingly high quality of produce.

As might be expected, a good percentage of those participating in horticultural projects are from farm families but we have a good share of members who garden at grandma's house, in a small patch beside a city house, a greenhouse and even in disposable cups on the window ledge of the subsidized housing project. And, they all do it with enthusiasm.

Considering we had a huge storm last night (high winds, over two inches of rain in less than a half hour, hail) it was amazing how clean and neat the vegetables were in displays. They all talked of the "trails" of our wet spring and what they had learned. Bless youth: they all laughed and did their best.

The excess rain has even given some vegetables an earlier maturity: Many varieties of lettuce, radishes, huge broccoli, cauliflower, wonderful onions, rhubarb, peas, small potatoes, beets, horseradish, and others. Flowers were the same way. Green, yellow and wax beans were the only thing I saw that was less than perfect.

Judging at this level is not based on the perfect vegetable or flower. It's not really based on perfect anything. This judging rewards effort and there is verbal and written feedback from the judge that is meant to teach and encourage.

I have done this long enough I get a chuckle out of how garden philosophy is typical with different backgrounds.

Farm boys old enough to help in the field think about gardening in the big picture and not so much the presentation. They raise vegetables much like field crops, IE: they must be good enough to eat and/or sell.

Horticulture students (to be) will know a boat load about how it all works. They enjoy engaging someone who likes to hear "the story" as much as they like to display.

Some youngster's focus will be developing a beautiful display. The variety will be the same size, visually orderly and labeled. Perhaps even a basket lined with a country napkin.

Some kids are totally into taste and can describe in detail the little nuances of flavor in each variety they exhibit.

Can you tell I'm impressed? In total, there was not one entry or it's owner that was a disappointment. They each had their individual strengths and their enthusiasm was contagious.

Their ability to look at the positives of their efforts and laugh off what nature throws at them is a lesson for everyone.

It was a great day! Spend some time this week at the Henry County Fair and visit the 4-H exhibits. Rural American is alive and well! And, I'm thankful!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rollin' On the River

Tinker Swiss Cottage, Rockford IL

Gardens and tours in our area.

Blossoms At Butterworth
Taken from their web site: "Take a step back in time at Blossoms at Butterworth! When you enter our gardens, you’ll be transported to a genteel era of the past, where gracious plantings painted a rich backdrop for families spending leisure time together outdoors."

"Held each year on the fourth Sunday in June (June 27, 2010), our one-of-a-kind garden party features vintage delights and family-oriented activities: antique cars, lawn games of the 1800s, live music, guided bus tour through the Overlook Historic Neighborhood, tours of the Butterworth and Deere-Wiman homes and more. Held from noon until 5 p.m."

Butterworth Center & Deere-Wiman House, 1105-8th Street, Moline, Illinois 61265
(309) 743-2700

Tinker's Swiss Cottage
Taken from their web site: "Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum is a treasure trove of a time gone by. Rockford, Illinois businessman Robert Hall Tinker built the home in 1865, perching it high on a limestone bluff overlooking Kent Creek. His inspiration came from an 1862 tour of Europe where he fell in love with the architecture of Switzerland. Today the Cottage is one of only a handful of Swiss-style homes remaining in the United States from the 1800s."

"Tinker surrounded the Swiss Cottage, Rockford IL, with trees, vines, winding pathways and flower beds. A three-story Barn housed cows, chickens and in later years the family car. On the backside of the Cottage, a suspension bridge crossed Kent Creek and linked the Cottage with Mrs. Tinker's property on the far bank. In 1906, after the railroad bought her estate, Robert Tinker planted elaborate gardens at the end of the bridge."

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum, 411 Kent Street, Rockford, IL 61102
(815) 964-2424 phone
(815) 964-2466 fax

Weber House and Garden
Taken from their web site: "The garden tour begins at a handsome red gate which opens to reveal hundreds of flowers, shrubs, trees, statues and fountains. A crushed stone path leads the way through a series of "rooms," ending at Luther Hall for refreshments."

"The Weber House and Garden is open all year round.However, we do occasionally close for private events so please telephone ahead of your visit.
Admission Adults: $8.00 - Students: $5:00
Please allow an hour and a half for the visit to the Weber House and Gardens."
The Weber House is located at 1503 Baker St. in Streator, IL.
For reservations please phone (815) 672-8327
All of the above homes and tours are near waterways which also have numerous types of entertainment. In addition, there are museums and shops close to each.

June in Rainville

Daylily "Susie Wong"

Had to post a portion of Anthony Peoples "Weather or Not" Blog for the remainder of this week:

"...While there will be a daily chance of showers and thunderstorms for the remainder of this week, into the weekend, and even into early next week, we’ll see several dry hours each day, too.

The unfortunate news is that with all of the tropical moisture in place, any storms that develop could drop copious amounts of rain, which is the last thing we need.

Severe weather is also possible with these storms. Damaging winds will be the biggest threat, but large hail and tornadoes are also possible..."

"Copious" - not a good thing when referring to more rain in this rain-soaked Midwest!

__________________Other Things_______________

Oakes Daylilies has a great page on their 2010 Photo Contest plus tips on photographing daylilies. My daylilies are pretty awesome this year but beginning to show signs of too much rain plus earwigs are finding the petals especially tasty. Earwigs are another wet weather problem.

Earwig damage to the petals of a daylily. Usually, they wiggle into the prior day's bud and the damage is done by the time the flower opens the next day.

This past Monday evening, I was asked if I was having trouble with slugs because of all the rain. I bragged (yes, I bragged) that in the fourteen years I've lived at this home I've never had one slug. Never - Never brag... Yesterday, I found a slug which means I have SLUGS!

  • Some people sink a saucer of beer into the ground near plants being bothered by slugs. They are attracted to the beer and fall in and drown. Since I have two dogs that will slurp up most anything, I'm sure the beer isn't the solution I can use.
  • Another method, which requires a strong constitution, is go out early or late with a flashlight and a pair of scissors. Cut them in half and let them fall.
    The problem with most all commercial insect applications is they come off when it rains. With our weather, it would cost a fortune with little results.
_____________And then_____________
Now is the beginning of the perfect time to host a garden party or tea. Different than a potluck or Bar-B-Q, in that it's usually in the afternoon and is mostly about enjoying the beautiful garden and outdoors. Cucumber or tomato sandwiches, lemonade and iced tea, and cookies are the easy servings. Straw garden hats are a must. A good way to spend a day with friends with not so much work and plenty of fun.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sloshing and Slogging

Another day - Another rain storm

After trying to keep a positive attitude about the quantity of rain we've had this month, I've about lost my positive to the sloshing and slogging we've had to do lately.

1.50 inches in about fifteen minutes = flooding. I don't remember the last slow gentle rain; they've all been fast, hard and lots. The proverbial "downpour".

There's not much more a gardener can do about any negative flooding symptoms to plants than the farmer can do about the crops. It's an opportunity to sit around the coffee shop and talk about the weather. Which reminds me:

I've often mentioned I was born and raised in the middle of Indiana farm land. Most all of my friends and relatives (while growing up) were also farm people. To this day, no phone call, no casual meeting, no visit doesn't start with, "How's the weather over there?" Then a good fifteen minutes is spent trading weather data back and forth. And being good farmers, it is usually peppered with the dire consequences upon the fate of farming, how hard it is to stay farming and if the Republicans were just back in office...

I may be joking a bit, but, I also find it comforting to do what I call the "weather bonding" with family and friends. Sooooo, I guess I can just look at this mess of spongy soil and floating flowers as a new topic to share. No use crying over sloshing and slogging I can't prevent.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Jack of All Trades

"Jack of all trades ~ Master of none"
Although that description is sometimes used in a negative way, it is a positive/good description of the Master Gardener.
Master Gardeners (MG) don't profess to know everything about everything in the horticultural world. It isn't how they are taught nor the purpose of their education.
Master Gardeners may indeed have mastered many things, but, they don't profess to know it all. Nor is it necessary they serve others in every way others may desire.
~I thought a little tutorial on the Master Gardener program might be beneficial~
Usually a State University provides the education necessary for the Master Gardener program through it's Extension Offices. In Illinois, the University of Illinois and in Indiana, Purdue University. Contact your county Extension office for your specifics.
The MG classes may be held in each county or as funding for Extension programs are being reduced, the classes may be a cooperative effort between several counties. Typically, the instructors are University faculty. The University also provides the books, reserves the classrooms, and functions similar to in-house college courses. There is a charge for the MG course, books and supplies.

The program is very intensive, both in material and structure. It is graded and doesn't allow for failure or absence.

It teaches an in-depth overview (is that an oxymoron?) of all things horticulture - It does not specifically apply to farm and commercial businesses. It is updated as conditions, knowledge, and practices change.

One of the best taught courses of the program is where and how to find the correct information and answers. With this under a MG belt (or shovel), a MG becomes much more knowledgeable for their own benefit and the benefit of others.
Essentially, the MG program is offered to teach enthusiasts, which in turn allows them to help others. It is the main criteria for being accepted into the program.

Not only does a graduate MG walk away with their Master Gardener certification, they must agree to perform certain tasks for a certain number of hours yearly to keep their active MG status.

There are several misconceptions among the public:
  • MGs are not free garden labor. Volunteers may choose to do projects that involve physical labor but that isn't necessary to participate in the program. The MG will not be providing services that takes business away from area professionals.

  • MGs may choose what projects they wish to volunteer or they may develop ones of their own (with University approval).

  • MGs are not contestants from a horticulture game show. They can almost always get an answer but they may not always have that answer on the tip of their tongue.

  • MGs may not wish to host a garden walk, allow garden visitors, or showcase their yard simply because they have horticulture knowledge.
Some benefits of being a Master Gardener:
  • The immediate and expanded resources that are made available through the MG program is a wonderful thing to those involved in a broader gardening effort. Some may be people who have personal gardens on a larger scale, a nursery owner, a plant breeder or others with broader horticultural interests.

  • It will be a group of like-minded garden enthusiasts that will open doors to new interests.

  • It is often a place where you will make new friends and colleagues.

  • The books & supplies will be a home reference for years to come.

  • The MG program will help you find outlets to volunteer and give back to your community.

  • Resources, faculty, and information will be available to the MG for as long as they carry the MG title.

  • MGs are often invited to participate in more high level programs. A few of these could be: 4-H Fair judge, own a test garden for a breeder or nursery, and invitations to private garden tours.

  • The program teaches tolerance and appreciation for others' garden efforts and ideas.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Things To Do - Places to Be

Fun in the sun and perhaps some rain but that's why umbrellas were invented!

Please notice some of these are for my Illinois readers and others for my Indiana readers.

The Galva Arts Council (IL) annual Photo Show is July 4, 2010. Whether you enter your photos or come to look and enjoy, it's a good time. This year's theme is "Outdoor skills and creativity of photographers."

Notice of the Summer Garden series of Teleconference classes at the U of Illinois Extension office. Be sure to call the extension office for reservations and to make sure of the location. These are always good series and presented by the experts.

These notifications are from the Indiana Soil, Water and Conservation District.
Also, note the "save these dates" for the Howard County, Indiana, 4-H Fair on July 12-17.

The top notice is for the Bi-County (Indiana) Pond Workshop. I would love to attend this seminar because it has about everything to make a good "pond loving" day.
The yellow bottom one is how to access the University of Illinois Web site - lots of good stuff no matter where you live in the Midwest.
And a final reminder for our Illinois gardeners:
The Henry County IL 4-H Fair is the week of June 21. Check the U of I Extension web site for exact dates and times of events.
I'll be doing one of my favorite garden tasks: judging the 4-H entries in Floriculture, Horticulture (garden) and Flower Gardening.
It's a pleasure. I enjoy a chance to encourage and coach young gardeners.
Pack up your umbrella, water bottle and head out for some good summer fun at any of the above events. It's the places to be for things to do.
I'm not sure why I feel the need to quote this song, but here goes, "Pack up your troubles in your old silk hat and smile smile smile." Just seems summer time right!

Likes Waves on the Dunes

This is a photo of my Leymus arenarius "Blue Dune" grass. It is an ornamental.

The little tag read: 3 foot strappy dusty blue leaves are really beautiful and have pretty wheat looking seed heads. It's tough and doesn't get beat down by wind or rain. It will grow in most any soil and conditions and light and moisture. Hardy to minus 30. And the clump will be 3 x 3 ft.

Unless you are wanting to cover a large area with nothing but this grass - DO NOT PLANT IT - IT IS INVASIVE. Not just invasive but hard to pull, destroy and kill. Because it is so dense and spreads by rhizomes it will kill most other plants in it's way; including perennials and bushes.

My reasoning for purchasing: I like a few blue flowers because I have a blue porch and accessories. I don't do too many because they aren't very attractive to beneficial birds and insects. When I saw this pretty blue grass (with no warnings attached) I thought I'd found another innocent pretty.

The lesson learned: Research before you buy an unknown. Perhaps in the dessert it would be contained. Perhaps in the sand dunes. But, place it in the good Illinois soil and conditions and "Katie bar the door" it is off and running.

I dug up the original patch that was threatening my entire southern bed and had to continue to pull starts for two years. I put the original patch out by a fence I didn't want to constantly trim around and a bare spot by my husband's shed where nothing would grow. Guess what - it is growing and rapidly.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Stitch In Time #2

As I write this, we have had abundant rain. Abundant, to plentiful, to flood warnings, to

As with all weather conditions, this year has its good and bad news. The good news is anything transplanted, large trees and bushes, and the spring growth have benefited greatly. The bad news is flooded basements, crop damage, and some things are not growing in sync.

We’re seeing plants behaving like an eleven year old boy: some things maturing before other things. As with that eleven year old boy, it makes for some visual disparity.

Here are some things that have happened and what you may want to do to help:

Hostas are loving the moist spring. Mine are huge, including the new transplants. It is alright to trim back hosta leaves if they are shadowing summer flowering plants. If you’d like to permanently solve that problem, dig up the entire plant, divide and transplant small portions. I have one hosta blooming which is way early.

Phlox, a fall blooming plant, are growing like crazy and may also be shadowing summer plants. It’s the perfect time to prune them. Not only will it keep them from shading other plants, it will make them less prone to falling over. Most phlox will begin to mildew because they need dry circulated air. Live with it or apply some mildew powder.

Bearded iris rhizomes will rot if they stand in soggy soil for any period of time. Either dig the entire clump, divide, and transplant to a drier area (good luck finding that place) or hope for the best (my plan.)

Remember, most summer flowering plants seldom do their best when shaded. Just yesterday, I had to “uncover” several daylilies from abundant hosta growth.

Weeds and grass (always a bane in my gardens) are growing fast but are much easier to pull right after it rains. Mulching helps deter weeds but also holds the moisture.

Insects are in huge quantities. Make sure you use a repellant when working in the garden. No sense tempting diseases or, at the very least, irritations. We seem to have more insect eating birds, bats, and insect quantities – it’s good when they increase proportionally.

Natural deep watering always trumps hand watering. The good news is plant roots reach downward making them more stable, drought resistant, and healthier. The bad news some plants would just as soon bake in hot dry sun.

Keep on the lookout for plants that need trimmed, moved, pulled or their shade removed (a stitch in time) and you’ll have fewer problems as summer progresses (saves nine.)

Garden Things To Do In June 2010

A few garden things going on:

  • Hornbaker Gardens Open House, Princeton IL (address on web site) June 10-11-12. Typically, they feature discounts on some items for attendees.
  • David Davis Home Tour and the 14th Annual Glorious Garden Festival Garden Walk, Bloomington IL (see my 5-2-2010 article) June 18-19. 309-828-1084
  • Sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Bradley University (309-677-2523): Photography Experience II: Luthy Botanical Garden with experts Ray Keithley and Barb Hoffman. June 11-18. Cost is $29 and includes a breakfast buffet, admission to Luthy, transportation and supplies.
  • Plant propagation Workshop by Master Gardener and Hoerr Nursery Horticulturist, Ella Maxwell June 21 (free) - 6 p.m. MG Philip Adams will discuss growing hydrangeas at 10 a.m. July 24 and MG Sunita Shastry will discuss growing and using herbs at 10 a.m. Aug. 21. All in the demonstration garden on ICC's East Peoria campus. (309-282-6310 or 309 282 6310).
  • Princeville Garden Club garden walk June 19 from 9 to 2 rain or shine. 309-385-4590 or 309 657 3495 for more info.
  • Rock island Co. extension will be hosting garden classes from June 9 through Aug. 25. Check site for info. (registration and info
Many nurseries are already marking down the prices of some plants. It's not too late to plant annuals or perennials.

And I've mentioned before, but it is the time of the year for garden walks so a repeat is in order:

  1. Stay only on the paths marked for foot traffic.
  2. Do not throw money in ponds; this isn't a movie.
  3. Don't feed fish or animals without permission.
  4. Many places won't allow baby strollers.
  5. Take your own water, a sun hat, fan and comfortable shoes.
  6. Many walks will still be held in the rain - take an umbrella and boots.
  7. Never pick anything - plants, flowers, fruits or seeds.
  8. Do not critique others' efforts while on tour. It's hurtful and rude.
  9. Thank the host and those working the event - it takes a lot of work.
  10. Take a notepad and pencil to write down things that you want to remember.
  11. Ask for permission before you take pictures.
  12. Do not stay in a garden past the end time.
  13. Ask polite questions and engage in conversation with the hosts if they indicate they are willing. But, don't ask the hosts or helpers to explain in detail everything in the garden nor ask them to name every plant. You are not their only guest and they are not a paid instructor.
  14. Being in some one's garden is like being in their home - respect and manners are important.
  15. Don't ask to go inside their home or use their private bathroom facilities. It's a tour not a party.

Today is beautiful - humid and my thermometer in the sun is reading 105.0 degrees. Yes, there's a reason I'm inside right now. I was weeding and became so hot rivers of sweat were running down my sunglasses. After several weeks being gone on vacation, weeding has been an everyday task (except during storms).

An old Farmers' Almanac quote, "Give some weeds an inch, and they'll take a yard."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Highways and Byways

This is a street we traveled many times in Albany GA with the Spanish Moss hanging from the trees. Spanish Moss lives from the nutrients it obtains from the air and dust and not from the trees. Fortunately, we knew not to handle or try to bring home. It is infested with painfully biting insects. Plus, it simply can not live up North. But, oh so beautiful in it's natural environment.
Heading towards Mount Eagle with the lush country side. This area has extreme poverty in some places and tourism has been hit very hard in most places. Lots of "mom and pop" motels and restaurants are shuttered.

A gated garden behind a historic home in Savannah GA. This is a beautiful city to wander and enjoy. The seafood is wonderful and plentiful. Everyone in these southern states talks of the possibility of how the oil spill might affect their tourism, fishing, and lives. Even vacationers from New Jersey were concerned for their beaches and waterways. Most coastal cities are dependant on tourism and fishing and eliminating that would plunge them into financial chaos that might not repair itself perhaps for centuries.
Although 130,000 Savannah natives work the 2nd largest shipyard in the US, tourism is what keeps the town portion alive.
An instant waterfall in Nashville during a blinding rain storm on the interstate. Memorial Day traffic had packed the highway and we were all going 10 mph. The waterfall was coming from the road above. No wonder they had floods in Nashville with that quantity of water. Although we were not able to see the flood damage, it is so sad for the residents and businesses. They are tough and one could see billboards stating they will recover without making it a political nightmare. I had to admire that attitude.

Beaches at St. Simon Island, GA, looking at the ocean. The dunes (protected from foot traffic) in the front. This coastal area has mostly high end vacationers. Few weekly vacationers and more summer homes - very large and expensive homes. The downward economy hit very hard and building has almost stopped. Many building trade workers are unemployed and many huge homes in foreclosure as are businesses. We saw very few vacationers and the result is many of the small tourist businesses are struggling or out of business.
No matter how hard our area may be affected by the downward economy, it was a reminder we have not been hit nearly as hard as the beautiful coastline cities nor many of our south eastern states.

We just got back from a two week visit with family in Georgia. A wonderful time visiting with children, grandchildren and other family members.

As we drove through Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia, it reminded me my gardening in Illinois is so precious with the black soil and changing seasons. Each area we traveled had their own special plants and beauty but "there's no place like home!"

I used to try to bring a bit of other areas to my own yard but that is often tempting fate (fate being they die because they just can't adapt here). Now, I simply enjoy and take pictures. Isn't it grand we love our own area more than others? Kinda like grandchildren, there are none more beautiful than our own.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Those Silly Muffets

“Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet. Eating her curds & whey.” Good grief, it’s no wonder there were problems with the Muffet family; do you realize how uncomfortable those tuffets can be?

“Along came a spider. Who sat down beside her. And frightened Miss Muffet away!” Miss Muffet obviously hadn’t been schooled about beneficial insects, including spiders.

Of all insect species, over 97% of those usually seen in the home landscape are either beneficial or are “innocent bystanders.”

There are two categories: predators and parasitoids. Both can effectively control insect and mite pests in your home landscape.

  • Predators kill and feed on prey. They are generally larger than their prey.

  • Parasitoids are typically smaller than their hosts and lay eggs on or within them. When the eggs hatch into larvae, these larvae develop and feed on these host insects, causing their death.

If you’d like to attract “friendly/beneficial” insects, these plant families will usually do the most for you:

1. The Apicaceae - carrot family.
2. The Asteraceae daisy family.
3. The Fabaceae - bean family.
4. The Brassicaceae - mustard family.

About 90% of all flowering plants need help to move pollen from flower to flower for the production of fruits and seeds. Most pollinators, about 200,000 species, are beneficial insects such as bees, flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, and moths.

Insect pollination is critical for the production of alfalfa, almonds, apples, blackberries, blueberries, canola, cherries, cranberries, pears, plums, squash, sunflowers, tomatoes, and watermelons. In the U.S, honey and native bee pollination accounts for approximately $19 billion worth of crop production.

Following are suggestions to attract those beneficial native pollinators:
· Native plants are four times more attractive to native pollinators.
· Avoid horticultural plants bred as “doubles” that provide little or no pollen & nectar.
· Choose several colors & shapes of flowers to accommodate different species.
· Provide a succession of blooming plants throughout the growing season.
· Plant flowers in clumps.
· Plant host plants to feed caterpillars as well as nectar plants for adult butterflies.
· Choose non-chemical solutions to insect and plant problems.
· Provide nesting habitat for bees such as bare ground, wood and dried plant stems.
· Practice peaceful coexistence. Bees sometimes choose to nest in inconvenient places.

Rather than exterminating them, think of it as an opportunity to see & learn about them.

With this little bit of insect education, our Miss Muffet poem will say: “Along came a spider and sat down beside her and the spider was invited to stay!”