Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jack and His Bean Stalk

A few gourd seeds sprouted at the base of my metal tree. Photo taken June 26, 2010.

The rain aided the gourds. Photo taken July 12, 2010.

Photo of "gourd tree" taken July 23, 2010

Jack has nothing on me this year, except mine are gourds – not beans.

Because we had to tear out all the plants in our North foundation bed last year, everything in this bed had to be started fresh.

My husband had given a tall metal tree to me a few years ago and it was also reinstalled. I’ve always planted a few annual vines and this year decided to include a perennial clematis. It’s sitting there establishing its root system and not doing much. To quickly cover the metal tree, I planted a few gourd plants.

With the large amount of rain, it’s the year for water loving gourds. They quickly climbed the ten foot tree and have reached for the sky. It’s a daily task to take reaching and winding stems and reposition over the tree. Otherwise, they reach for anything where they can climb and twine – like the shutters, bushes, and other flowers in the bed.

For those of you who have never planted gourds, they are bee magnets. Without the bees, they wouldn’t pollinate and I’d have no gourds. The blossoms are beautiful golden yellow flowers and this year they are plentiful.

I planted the small decorative gourds and the much larger “birdhouse” gourds. In the past, my gourd vines have been adequate but not rampant. Thinking (best laid plans) only a few seeds would germinate, I planted full packs. Thinking (best laid ideas) it would be a meager crop, I then planted morning glory seeds and moon flower starts. Morning glories, strangely, haven’t liked the wet soil but the moon flowers were at the top of the metal tree early in the season.

And then the whole gourd experience: I have gourds that are already as big as my hand and setting many more every day. It’s always fun to discover what a plant likes about what nature throws at us each year. To realize no matter what a gardener may lavish on a plant, it'll still have definite perfect conditions and seldom thrive as well as when its conditions are perfectly met by natural means.

I may not be Jack with his beanstalk but I’m certainly Diane with her gourd vines. The magic on my vines doesn’t come from a fairy tale, but, from Mother Nature’s record setting rainfall this year. And the only giant I’ll find at the top of my vine is a huge bird house gourd.

Side Note: A Bishop Hill gardener would like to (informally) get with other area gardeners in the afternoon now and again. Call 309-927-3356 if you are interested in discussing gardening and related topics. There's nothing like visiting with others to add to our friendship gardens.

You Bring the Sun

Helianthus mollis "Downy Sunflower" This picture is from "Annie's Annuals and Perennials" at A native Midwest perennial sunflower rated for Zone 4.

In my garden is Heliopsis helianthoides "Summer Sun". It's know informally as False Sunflower or Ox Eye. This Ox eye cultivar is compact, clump-forming and about 2-3 foot tall.

This photo is an annual sunflower, in my garden, that sprouted from bird seed. They are often farmed as a crop product. A tall plant with large blooms that provide nectar for insects and many delicious seeds for birds in the winter.

Sunflowers are often overlooked by gardeners - perhaps because they are so easy.

The annual sunflower needs no other help besides feeding your birds sunflower seeds in the winter or a quick throw of some seeds in the spring. Or, plant if you want them in specific spots. I have them sprout from many places and some are pulled because a plant would cause problems but most are enjoyed as a surprise treat.

This is the time of the year when sunflowers come into their own. When most other flowers have finished blooming, a sunflower puts on a show to brighten the landscape and feed the beneficial insects. A field of sunflowers is a beautiful sight as they face the sun with military precision.

In late summer after blooming, the annual will typically have untidy leaves (they may mildew), sometimes bend over from the weight of the head and turn brown. Either pull the plant and cut off the head to dry - or - let it dry on the stem and you will be rewarded with American Goldfinches hanging upside down plucking the seeds. I sometimes do both. Once the cut heads are dry, I lay them outside where I can watch the birds. You can also save the dry seeds and use them in the winter.

Other perennial sunflowers and false sunflowers are more garden friendly but most will gradually increase in clump size so read & plant accordingly. They are ideal late summer cut flowers.

Both annual and perennial sunflowers have been hybridized and size, color and form are many. Not only the beautiful golds, but, now there is maroon, lime green, bright yellow, doubles, frilled, and more. Size of flowers vary and plants are dwarf to ten foot high.

Bees love both the annuals and perennials although they don't frequent the doubles as much. If insects intrigue, you will be amazed at the many different kinds of bees these attract. From a tiny little bee to the large bumble bees. Some are red, others metallic green, and fortunately the honey bee.

Speaking of bees: I have never been stung by a bee unless I've accidentally trapped it on my person (such as bending my arm as it sat on the elbow curve.) I can work in my garden with them buzzing all around and they ignore me. I am simply aware and try not to bother. I also keep children out of those areas during heavy blooming.

Bring a little sunshine into your garden next year by planting or allowing sunflowers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Late Bloomer

White Temptation Daylily

This daylily has a long bloom time. The advantage of a near white daylily, it gives so much contrast and light to the beds. For those of us who tend to have lots of daylilies, planting near-whites among the strong colors really makes the differences show. Plus, this daylily has strong features of it's own. To date, there is no all white daylily, hence the "near" title.

Posh Design Daylily

Most of us don't think too much about daylily bloom times until the majority have no more flowers. We lament, "No more daylilies - they're all done." to each other and get a sad wistful look in our eyes.

Crimson Sword Daylily

UNLESS, we have "late bloomers" or a few rebloomers or continuous bloomers. I've never been very good at documenting which of the categories my late bloomers belong. Aside from the ever faithful Stella de Oro, a continuous, I'm just thrilled at any daylily flower lasting late in the season.

Along the Way Daylily

Typically, we in Zone 5 are too far north and have too short a summer to have daylilies rebloom (even if it's bred into their DNA.) Along with other differences in 2010, the early spring coupled with such a moist year has enabled us to see daylily reblooming.

Stella de Oro Daylily

The commercially strong Stella de Oro will bloom on and off most of the summer, especially if it is deadheaded and the seed pods are removed regularly. This characteristic is why many landscapers use it in many of their business designs.

Parade of Peacocks Daylily

Parade of Peacocks is a large spider type and is classified a "late bloomer". Late bloomers for Oakes Daylilies is classified June-July.

Green Flutter Daylily

This beautiful daylily was not bought from a nursery and planted in too much shade. Seldom blooming and looking totally average, I dug it up this year, divided and now have three beautiful lilies in the sun. The green center (eye) glows and it's become a real standout. A great color for late blooming daylilies because it's a time of the summer where a color splash is needed.

Olin Criswell Daylily
Sometimes a bed of all one color makes a statement. I have a bed of several light yellow daylilies out by the red shed. Lots of green/blue grasses and shrubs behind it and it is a nice mellow look. They have been mid to late bloomers.

Lilting Belle Daylily
This is perhaps my last daylily to bloom - stay blooming in my garden AND it has always been my favorite.

Chicago Apache Daylily
Chicago Apache was my first hybrid daylily and still a favorite. I've given starts to many friends over the years and it responds by being even more beautiful. Plant late blooming reds where you can view them all day (mine is right in front of our front porch swing).

Superlative Daylily

Superlative daylily has been blooming since June 12th and it's been divided many times. I'd term it mid to late season. Not an expensive plant but it increases in size quickly, is reliable and always beautiful.
Several garden friends and I laugh at our ability to quickly change gears and forget the gone blooms of the past several weeks and have new blooming favorites. Are all gardeners undiagnosed attention deficit adults - I wonder. . .
As you consider daylilies for your fall purchases, consider a few late bloomers. Many years this will extend the bloom times to the end of August.
Daylilies bought at local nurseries in the fall will be showing the same signs as those in the garden: The bloom time will be over, the leaves will be starting to turn yellow and flop.
I'd resist the urge to trim the leaves back because the sun will help the leaves take nutrients down into the roots and establish the plant.
Keep new daylilies watered this fall. I know it seems crazy that anything would need water but all new plants will need water until winter. As an example, we had over one inch of rain this week and my new hydrangea was dry and had started to wilt.
Side note: To check out more on most of the above mentioned daylilies, see "Daylily Madness" in the index of articles and the look for the daylily name.
AW - the daylilies are done.
OH LOOK, something's shiny over there!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Chanticleer Pear Tree in bloom in the Spring.
Chanticleer Pear in the fall.
When my father passed away in 2004, our church friends gave us a gift certificate for a tree in his memory. We chose this Chanticleer Pear. It's a permanent reminder of him and a thoughtful way for those who chose to honor his memory.
I don't know if you've sent flowers to a funeral service recently, but they are very expensive. Most often they are beautiful but they are either put upon the grave, sent to a nursing home, or occasionally taken home by a family member. Still - they are fleeting.
In recent years, other options have become popular: stone statues (often angels), fruit baskets and house plants are often sent to the service.
If you have friends who will be receiving sympathy remembrances, and if they are gardeners, I suggest a gift certificate at a local nursery. If you use the same amount you would have spent at a florist, it will be a substantial offering.
In addition, it will live in their yard as a sweet reminder of the person they have lost.
Today, we will be giving our friends a gift certificate from Sunnyfield Nursery for our remembrance of his father/her father-in-law.
Sunnyfield is under new owners and right now they have a selection of beautiful hydrangea bushes and other trees and bushes. I'm sure our friends can find something that suits their taste and location. At this sad time, I hope looking forward to planting something in memory of this good old farmer will bring a memory of the years he tended the soil.

Gramma, the sun is shining!

My almost three year old granddaughter (pictured eating strawberries) stayed all night with us last night. When she awoke this morning at 5:55 a.m., she immediately sat up and said, "Gramma, the sun is shining - it's a good day." Out of the mouths of babes!"

Sometimes I forget the beauty of things like "the sun is shining". Gardeners, above many others, have the up front seat to the beauty of nature. Something I shouldn't take for granted and shouldn't be too busy to notice.

And so, what's pretty in your garden this especially beautiful Sunday?

I have an unknown variety of hosta that is just beginning to bloom. The flowers are white and have a very strong jasmine fragrance. It's a hummingbird and butterfly attraction.

The cleomes are spreading and have filled in next to the daylilies that have stopped for this summer. They're so light and airy with pink and white flowers.

Just beginning to bloom is the bright yellow and very tall Rudbeckia called Golden Glow. The leaves are dark green and it will now bloom until about frost.

The Amaryllidaceae (called Naked Lady by locals) are blooming about a month ahead of typical. They bloom a lavender shade of pink (or a pink shade of lavender) and have a heavy fragrance.

Coneflower, black eyed Susan, bee balm, turtle head and some varieties of sedium have all begun heavy bloom time.

And last but not least, the humidity has lowered and I have the doors and windows open. Even though my hotsy totsy weather gauge says it's 112 in the sun, it is a beautiful sunny day.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Serenity Now

I'm a Board member at Freedom House, the women and children's domestic and sexual abuse shelter and advocacy center. It serves five counties: Henry, Bureau, Marshall, Stark, & Putnam.

The calming effect of gardens, both decorative and vegetable, can help those who have suffered from violence, both physical and emotional. The sounds, the labor, the colors, and even the arrangement can add to the soothing effect.

Sometimes we don't take the time to soak up the benefit to our emotional well being a garden can bring. Not only those who suffer the effects of abuse but for the many who suffer from noises, stress, and pressures of everyday life.

Water features have become extremely popular again. Always a fixture in gardens even back BC, water features come and go in style and popularity. Today, there is something for most every garden: A small table top device for the office, a wall-hung unit for an apartment balcony, a bird bath, a fish pond, a water fall, or a lake are all options depending on space, funds, and how much work you want to do to maintain.

The sound of a water feature can mask out irritating noises of the city, apartment & suburbia neighbors. For some, the sound of moving water is soothing. For me, I find it similar to fingernails on a chalk board but I'm probably the exception.

Another benefit of a water feature in a garden setting - it typically attracts birds.

The colors of a garden may determine the calming level. Hot colors tend to excite - cool colors tend to calm. If your landscape is big enough, having pockets of both may fit your changing moods.

Here are some suggestions for a "serenity space":

  • Soften the background with tall trees & bushes in green. A mix of shade and sun is optimal.
  • Provide a place for insect free shade.
  • Pastel flowers on bushes and perennials typically take less care.
  • A water feature that will add serenity and not add to your work load.
  • If you enjoy gardening, a bed of flowering annuals and perennials.
  • Make sure you have flowers & herbs that have a scent mixed into your garden. Consider Oriental Lilies for years of carefree enjoyment. Lemon Balm, Basil, Oregano all have heavy scents. Place those plants close to where you will sit/walk.
  • Provide comfortable seating.

This may sound like a lot but it doesn't need to be huge or lavish. Here are some ideas for simple or small:

  • If trees and bushes aren't an option, consider a screen made from lattice, metal or blinds.
  • If you have no grass, consider a rug made from anything that won't rot: bamboo, plastics, wood, or painted.
  • Curtains made from material. Heavy for rain and sun protection - net for insect or semi protection. Something as simple as stitching together material from bright used clothes and hung on a piece of clothesline will suffice.
  • Lights: Candles, twinkle lights, oil lamps, solar powered - the list is expansive.
  • Pots of flowers: Situated around the seating area. Although they must be protected from freezing in the winter, small trees and shrubs can block views and noise.
  • Take all your old bed pillows away and get fresh new ones. THEN, cover the old ones in pretty covers to fit your mood and have available for lounging. Throw in a large trash bag and return to the closet or garage until the next time. (Rain & insects do ugly on these.)
  • Do not listen or watch the television, computer or radio in the serenity area. If you must have externally produced sound, consider soothing music but remember your music may not sooth others and that should be a consideration.

Serenity now? It's possible!

Freedom House hot line: 800-474-6031 or call 911 for emergency situations. The local police work with FH and abuse victims.

To learn more about Freedom House or to contribute:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What's Up?

Black-eyed Susans
What's happening in July in our gardens:

Young Canada geese fledge.
Wild turkey hens re-nest.
Second squirrel litters are born.
Weasels breed through August.
Cicadas and katydids start singing. (Started this past week here)
Black eyed Susan and Prairie Blazing Star bloom. (Mine started last week)
Young bald eagles fledge.
Young raccoons leave their dens.
Rattlesnake master blooms. (Been blooming for several weeks)
Tiger salamanders change to adult shape.
Young hummingbirds visit feeders.
Blackberries and mulberries ripen (Mine are about done.)
Quail (bobwhites) hatch.
Lizard eggs hatch.
Wood ducks fledge and biologists start banding them in the open.
All this thanks to Jeff Lempe, Peoria Journal Star

What's happening in my yard:

The walnut trees have started to loose their leaves.
Curly cabbage and horseradish have been severely eaten by earwigs.
Red cabbage is doing good.
The first tomatoes have started to turn red/ripen. Many garden plants are about a month late.
Blooming plants are still about a week to a month ahead of typical.
White Turtles head is just starting to bloom.
Except for a few very late bloomers, daylilies are about done blooming.
Many annuals are just starting to get really robust - most do well with dryer weather.
Some hosta have finished blooming and others are just starting.
Many ornamental grasses have already set seed heads.
There are little frogs and toads everywhere.
Trumpet vine blooming - clematis finished. Some honeysuckle still blooming.
Dusty mildew on phlox, honeysuckle, lilac, dogwood and other things to a lesser degree.
Japanese Beetles are going full bore - earwigs have slowed.
Phlox that I didn't pinch back are blooming - others are just budding.
Some areas are dry and ground cracked - others are still wet.

Here's something to watch for:
Humidity comes and goes this summer - mostly comes. It encourages mildew and mold. There are powders and sprays for plants, but to be effective, it must be applied early and often (after every rain) and on both sides of the leaves.

If you don't have air conditioning or run dehumidifiers, watch for both in your home and on wood furniture. Mildew is white/gray and mold is black. Both in the house and outside, they can cause allergic reactions - sometimes serious in the vulnerable.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back Home Again

Back home again from Indiana. My family always laughs when we cross over the Illinois/Indiana border, I break out in song, "Back Home Again In Indiana." I do love my Indiana roots and childhood farm-kid memories. I still have lots and lots of cousins and I managed to visit many this trip. A mixture of sweet/sad as my closest cousin's husband had passed away unexpectedly and I attended the services.

One of the things I've noticed is we have reached the age where family get-togethers are more at funerals than just for visiting. I decided this spring to make the trip to my home area and visit family just because I want to stay connected. Many of my cousins are in their 70s & 80s (my dad was the youngest of eight children.) My visit reaffirmed how much I care for them and enjoy our visits.

Although mid-Indiana is typically a little ahead of us on crop and bloom times, our weather conditions parallel. Their sweet corn, tomatoes and muskmelon were at many road side stands and I made sure to bring back some. YUMMY!

In talking to others and my own experience, it seems vegetable gardens are doing strange this year. Tomatoes are slow to bloom, mature and ripen. Pepper plants are just sitting there and only this past week set blooms. Some cabbages have almost been destroyed by earwigs. Sweet corn in many places have been stunted by standing water depleting nitrogen. All these are from the huge amount of rain we've received.

On the up side, if you planted squash or gourds of any kind they are taking over the world. Moisture lovers, this has been their perfect year.

I'm willing to wait on the corn, tomatoes and other fresh vegetables - the Midwest does grow some of the best.

Just to brag: We had tomato sandwiches, fresh buttered corn on the cob and for dessert, cut up muskmelon last night. Heaven! It was a great quick meal after spending most of the day weeding my flowers. Yes, this rain has encouraged bind weed, water grass, and other weeds to go crazy, too. I know it's a lot of work, but pull those weeds prior to their setting seed or you will find next year's weeds will have multiplied ten fold. After pulling weeds, add another layer of mulch (not over 4 inches) and perhaps you will have it licked for the rest of the 2010 growing season.

Side note: This is the perfect time to buy annuals. The cost is drastically reduced, can be pinched back and will be doing great for the rest of the season. They seem to take hold even better when planted in midsummer and tend to last much longer. Because they are so cheap, you can get enough to tuck into any bare spot in your gardens.

Another side note: Even if you used enhanced potting soil, it is now the time to start applying fertilizer. Water hanging planters at least every other day and if they are looking stunted, water every day. Once a pot or planter dries totally out, the plant never fully recovers and never becomes as healthy/vigorous as it should. Use a light solution of commercial fertilizer dissolved in water or an organic fish emulsion at least once a week.

A little late but just saw this and had to add to my post:

"Back home again in Indiana,

And it seems that I can see

The gleaming candlelight, still shining bright,

Through the sycamores for me.

The new-mown hay sends all its fragrance

From the fields I used to roam.

When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash,

Then I long for my Indiana home."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Little This and That

Chicago Apache Daylily
Globe Thistle

Rolling fields of corn tasseling.
Was another beautiful day on the hill, beautiful weather and then a little rain in the evening. Daylilies are putting on a heavy showing, plus, most summer flowering perennials are in full bloom.
Without the heavy winds, huge downpours, and hail, most things are looking pretty good. We're finally able to mow all parts of the yard and the "streams" are mostly or almost dry. Was able to mow our walking paths in the woods after my husband cut up the large fallen branch from one of the many old trees.
I'm taking a bit of a trip over to Indiana this week to visit family. I've had the trip in the works for quite some time and then this week my closest cousin's husband died unexpectedly. I'll also be attending those service and grateful I can be there for them.
One of my favorite summer travel time enjoyments is putting in an Agatha Christy book on CD and enjoying the many pretty yards and farm fields along Route 24. See you when I get back home!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

No Work Produce!

Old Burpee illustrations

Blessing #1: The Midwest produces some of the best summer crops known ANYWHERE!
Blessing #2: There are Farmers' Markets in almost every town in the Midwest!

Wednesday and Saturday - 7:30 to 11 a.m. (or they sell out)
May 19 - September 29
200 Block 3rd St (old police station location)

Thursday - 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
July 2 - October 1
DT Sales Parking Lot on US Hwy. 34 221W
Thursday - 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
June 4 - September 24
Downtown Wyoming Corner of 7th and Williams St.

Saturday - 8 a.m. to 12 noon
May 15 to September 25
Simmons St., one block west of Seminary and south of Main Street
309-464-1035 or

Thursday - 4:00 - 7:00 p.m.
June 11 to October 22
Central Park Parking Lot downtown Aledo S. (College Ave.)
309-582-2751 or

Tuesday - 3:30 - 7:00 p.m. and Saturday - 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
May 23 to October 31
815-875-6468 or

The Illinois farm direct web site lists 21 Farmers Markets within a sixty mile vicinity of Galva. There are others that do not have their markets on-line, such as Kewanee. Many close when they are sold out for the day. The trick is to get there early enough that you have choices.

I stopped at the Princeton market last week and was amazed at the diversity of vegetables and fruits available. When was the last time you saw organically grown Bok Choy for sale?

Some markets have other food products: baked goods, fresh flowers and crafts type items.

Here's my Farmers Market produce recipe that's great for home use, canning or to take to a potluck. Diane's Veggie Dip:

1 1/4 lb. - Tomatoes - peeled, drained and medium chopped
1 lb. - Black eye peas (Can use a 15 oz. can) - drained
1 lb. - Corn - cooked and cut from the cob
2 Tbs. - Olive oil
2 Tbs. - Garlic - chopped fine
1/2 Cup - Dried cranberries - medium chopped
1/4 Cup - Granulated white sugar
1/4 Cup - Brown sugar
2 Tbs. - Kosher salt
1/2 Cup - Lime juice (fresh)
Zest - From one lime - chopped fine
1/2 Cup - White vinegar
1 tsp. - Dry mustard
1 tsp. - Cumin
1 Tbs. - Cayenne pepper (double & chop fine if using fresh peppers)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Cup-shaped corn chips

Heat oil and cook garlic and cranberries until soft - do not brown. Remove from heat and add liquids and sugars, stir until sugar dissolves. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, stir and cover tightly. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. Serve with corn chips.

Friday, July 9, 2010


"Friendship - Friendship - It's a perfect friendship. When other friendships have gone to pot - ours will still be tops." Now there's an old song from way back in my youth.

I've found friendships with other gardeners is pretty much tops. Serious gardeners or gardeners who are serious about their garden passions, are always interesting and fun. Most are seriously nice and enjoy talking gardening.

I visited a Bishop Hill (IL) garden this past week and enjoyed the beautiful daylilies. A peaceful setting, set in a mature yard, and tended by a mature gardener. I say that with respect because this gardener is what some might call a "senior" and he just stopped walk-mowing his acres this year.

He has quite a collection of daylilies on the 2 1/2 acres he tends and is doing some cross breeding of lilies. I doubt that I will ever do lily breeding and I find it interesting to hear the how and why of his interest.

You can always learn something new from a fellow gardener if your open to listening. Sharing information such as ideas, remedies, plans and such is as nice as sharing plants.

I find it most interesting to see how others landscape. Most of these daylilies in this garden were vibrant oranges and reds and variations thereof. Seen from a distance, the beds glow brightly. Seen up close and the varieties have subtle and interesting differences such as the ones pictured above.

The vibrant daylilies are especially effective against the shade and green of the mature trees and perennials.

I suspect this garden and it's beauty have not been seen by many because it's in a tiny town and down a dead end street. The lily gardens are to the far sides of the property from where others might travel. I'm especially grateful for the chance to see, visit and take my pictures. And, the cinnamon iced tea served by his Misses was so welcome on that really hot and muggy day.

Side Note: This Bishop Hill gardener would like to get with other gardeners on an afternoon now and again. Call 309-927-3356 if you are interested in getting together (informally) to discuss gardening and related topics.

Gardener friendships, they're the perfect friendships!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Those Pesty Critters

Yesterday's little trip into bug city brought this little info piece. There are insect repellents both natural based and DEET based. Here are but just a few of the newer ones:
OFF has been making insect repellents for years. I've always found the OFF products and CUTTERS products work the best for me although I don't use them on little children. This is OFFs new product, that isn't applied to the skin and simply clips on. I'm going to try this one soon because skin applied OFF tends to irritate my skin if it's sweating season.
The next two products are from Lyman's catalog of "non-electric products". This mosquito trap is insecticide free.

A fly trap. I've not used either of the traps but they are worth consideration. I will not use lawn foggers no matter the conditions or the number of visitors to my yard. Foggers are indiscriminate and kill good bugs as-well-as the pests.

This has always been my personal insecticide of choice because it works on most anything we find out there in the Midwest. This sportsman edition is more comprehensive than the older versions. It's also non-greasy which helps when the heat is also in high gear. Again, I don't use it on young children.
Many people use Avon's Skin-So-Soft as a natural repellent for children. Throw away last year's unused insecticides because they loose potency over time.
Heavy creams and lotions hold in the heat and won't let your skin breath thus making you more hot. Scented bath soap, deodorants, hair care products, lotions, cosmetics, fabric detergents and softeners all attract insects.
The Citronella based products have little repellent qualities for me personally. Coils, candles, and oils may work in the immediate vicinity of the flame but not much farther. They do keep insects from hovering or being attracted to the flame during the evening hours which may be worth something for entertaining.
Insect bites are not just an itching issue, many carry diseases which can be very dangerous. Although just a few instances - better safe than sorry by combating the risk.


This is a new daylily, Hemerocallis "Spiritual Corridor", that I purchased yesterday at Hornbaker Gardens, Princeton.

Visiting a large daylily farm is the "best" entertainment for a daylily lover and I had my plan going!

We worked the visit around several medical appointments my husband had due to his recent surgery. All good and well, he could sit in the air-conditioned truck (yes, we take a truck just in case we need quantities of space) if he was tired and/or bored. The plan is working.

It was slightly overcast with a little breeze - perfect for walking the many rows of flowers. I had my camera, my list of daylilies they have growing in the fields, a pen, a sun hat, and I'm workin' the plan.

About one-third of the way through the fields, it starts to sprinkle. Not a bad thing as it was like a cooling mist - and then it stopped. At this point the humidity, went up about double and seriously dark clouds are hovering. Walk the plan a little faster.

Two-thirds of the way through the fields, another and little harder rain comes down and I do a little duck into the truck and then on to the last third of the fields. Husband has mostly given it up to view the scene from the cool truck. By now the plan is getting seriously hot and humid.

The plan includes taking a picture of every daylily I might want to buy someday and make a sequence number and note on the catalog list. All very systematic, fool-proof, and a reference for my files later. UNLESS you are half running through the fields trying to get out of the various conditions. Hurry the plan.

Just as I finished and was sitting down at a tented table to order today's choices, a real downpour lets loose. We write out the order while every fly that had been in the fields are taking cover in the same tent and snacking on our legs. After slapping and writing, we sit in the truck until the rain stops a few minutes later. The sun is coming out again - the plan is moving sluggishly forward.

This is where we head for the rest of the nursery to check out some shade plants for the edge of our woods where my husband is wanting me to landscape. As we park, another heavy rain hits and stops. We hop out of the truck and tropical rain forest conditions have settled on the nursery like a wet wool blanket. Oppressive stifling heat on the plan.

As one woman said, she could feel the heat coming off the plants as she walked by them. At this point the flies had given over the human buffet to the mosquitoes - zillions of mosquitoes all needing food. No amount of bug spray or swatting could keep them away. Even the nursery workers were suffering mightily and they don't even know the plan.

At this point we gave up the camera, the paper and pen, the umbrella and almost ran through the displays. Grabbed a couple of hostas we hoped would work and ran for the check out. The plan is shot to pieces.

We get in the truck with our two hosta and receipt to pick up lilies in August, we're wet from rain and copious amounts of sweat, bug bites galore, and a rain smudged list of lilies. I whimper and my husband calmly pronounces it not nearly as bad as the two tours he had in Vietnam. OK, perspective is a good thing.

At least we have the last part of the plan to look forward to, supper at ZBest in Sheffield, one of the best little area restaurants and certainly a favorite. We pull up to a dark restaurant that is closed Sundays-Mondays AND Tuesdays. No plan...

In retrospect, we had a nice day, with lots of beautiful sights and saved a whole lot of money. Plans are just that - a "maybe we'd like to do this or that" and the key is to enjoy the moment. Well, perhaps the ones outside of the bug bites and humidity - whoops: perspective woman - perspective...


Sunday, July 4, 2010

More Buffalo

Native prairie flowers are a feature in Midwest Prairie plots. Right now is the peak bloom time for many.

The Gillies Family Farm, northwest of Princeville, has guided tours of their 700 acre grassland and forb restoration. Tours are 6 p.m. on July 19 and 22 and 9 a.m. on July 20 and 23. Reservations are required by calling 309 671 7040, Ext 101.

Indianapolis Museum of Art (known as the IMA) has opened it's new outdoor sculpture and nature park. Covering 100 acres, it features eight large works of art throughout the woodlands, wetlands, and a meadow.

Some of these native fauna acres charge and others are free. Again - call them or check out the websites for needed information before making a plan.

Side note: Read the other day someone had used a small piece of duct tape to repair a daylily stem. They aren't broken but will never stand up again on their own and the flower buds may find it hard to open. Gently hold the stem upright, and at the point of the bend, wrap a small duct tape splint around the bend and ta-da "success". When it's through blooming, clip off the bare stem and throw it and the duct tape away. There's a little good ol boy in all of us!

Where the Buffalo Roam...

Munson Township Cemetery, 1300N and 1300E, 2 miles North of Cambridge IL. Five acres of native prairie plants including the Federally designated endangered fringed orchid. The annual walk was the last weekend in June but it is open to the public during daylight hours.

Heartland Prairie at Gordon Moore Park, Route 140, Alton, Illinois.
Features 150 prairie wildflowers & nine species of native prairie grass native to Madison Co and neighboring Illinois areas.
Open during park hours on Tuesdays April 13 through October 26, 2010 . Meet at the trailhead, located across from the main entrance to the park & make a right at the first road. Field guides provided. Wear comfortable shoes for this 1/2 miles walk and tick repellent. Bring camera and binoculars.

Prairie Ridge State Natural Area, 4295 North 1000th Street, Newton, IL 62448 (618-783-2685) Call for admission details.
A unique site in Illinois, dedicated to conserving the rarest members of Illinois’ native tallgrass prairie and marsh communities. It offers one of the most spectacular viewing opportunities for grassland wildlife in Illinois. The number of endangered species found at PRSNA is very high, and great care is taken to ensure the continued protection and presence of these species. As a result access to the interior portions of this site is restricted and wildlife viewing is limited to roadsides. Roadside viewing is often excellent for prairie-chickens, loggerhead shrikes, northern harriers, short-eared owls and dickcissels. By arrangement, groups and individuals can be given a tour of the site by site staff. The Illinois Audubon Society’s environmental educational area, known as the Robert Ridgway Grassland Nature Preserve, is open on an daily basis for wildlife viewing and hiking. This area has been restored to prairie and has a self guided interpretive trail and a wildlife viewing platform over looking a wetland surrounded by native prairie plants.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, approximately 55 miles south of Chicago, was established as the nation’s first tallgrass prairie in 1996 after the U.S. Army decommissioned the Joliet Arsenal at the site. Many areas of Midewin are open to the public. Visitors can enjoy more than 22 miles of open trails, escorted tours, volunteer events, and deer and turkey hunting. The Forest Service’s Welcome Center is located at 30239 S. Route 53 in Wilmington IL. For more information, visit www.

Taltree Arboretum: This 360-acre arboretum is located south of Valparaiso, Indiana. The arboretum offers beautiful trails that wind through woods and prairie which has been replenished with local and naturally grown plants, that would have been around when settlers originally came to the area. Taltree also offers a vast array of events, such as live music during the late spring and early summer.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana. Visit the National Park Service website for additional Dunes information. Following are Dunes sites and their attractions.
West Beach: dunes, woods, prairie, beach, Long Lake ponds
Bailly-Chellberg: historical structures, woods, river
Little Calumet River: woods, river, floodplain, old fields
Calumet Dune: woods, dunes
Cowles Bog: marsh, woods, dunes, ponds beach
Heron Rookery: woods, river, floodplain
Hoosier Prairie: wet prairie
Inland Marsh: marsh, woods, dunes
Ly-co-ki-we: woods, marsh
Miller Woods: dunes, ponds, woods, beach
Mt. Baldy: dunes, woods, vistas, beach
Pinhook Bog: classic bog plants (scheduled tours only)
Dune Ridge: woods, dunes vistas
Calumet Bike Trail: rugged trail along edge of woods and prairie
State Park: trails, dunes, beach, marsh, woods

All public gardens should be treated with respect: stay on paths, do not pick flowers, plants or seeds, do not leave trash, do not spray insecticide on yourself in the gardens. When you leave, the gardens and prairies should not have evidence of your presence. Many sites have "rules" so either call or visit their websites for information.

Independence Day

Taken from an old government "Victory Garden" book I found at my Dad's home.

Our 4th of July celebration is actually celebrating our independence as a self governing nation. It's been a long and often conflicted history (as all trails to independence) but, I never fail to be thankful for having been born in the USA.

As in the garden, one seed is important to make the garden. The individual effort of one plant helps make the whole garden more bountiful.
No less true: one American citizen's effort is what makes our whole nation more bountiful. Bountiful liberty, respect, and freedoms.

Thanks to all those who have made or continue to make this country a better place to live, work, raise our families, plant our gardens and celebrate our freedom!

Have a great day - in this great land; home of the free - land of the brave!

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Picture is Worth . . .

This is a picture of daylily "Pavlova".

This is a daylily called "Knickknack".
A picture is worth a thousand words? Maybe but then again if it's a picture in a catalog (either paper or on-line) words and pictures may be misleading. Even those little tags attached to a pot at the nursery can be misleading if the plant isn't blooming.
I used these two daylilies as an example. The top daylily is a spider form. The bottom daylily is more trumpet formed. Both forms come in large and small sizes.
If a customer doesn't read the description about flower size, you just might be in for a big surprise come bloom time.
This is one reason I suggest only buying from reputable sources. Sources known to guarantee their products and refund or replace if it turns out different than labeled.
Once you know the vendor is reputable, it is now up to you to know what your buying. Sometimes, reading descriptions and viewing pictures of the same plant from several different vendors allows you to compare.
Realize that your flowers, even with accurate descriptions, may be different. Here's how:
Your soil may be significantly different than the nursery where the plant was grown. This may cause flowers to vary in color. As an example, I seldom have daylilies in the color pink. Because of the nutrients in my soil, they always lean more to a peach or rust color.
The amount of light your plant receives may affect both size and number of blooms.
Different areas of Midwestern yards may vary quite a lot for plant hardiness. As an example, I have one area where annuals may come back for several years. Another spot where plants better be hardy or they will die over most winters due to the wind exposure.
And this is a very important one: realize your expectations may not be accurate for what the plant really will look like. The next picture is an example. It's a picture of the daylilies Knickknack and Pavlova side-by-side.
This is the description from the catalog of Knickknack:
"2 inch bloom, 14 inches tall, Early-Mid Season, Semi-Evergreen. Masses of tiny, bright golden orange blooms cover the clumps of Knickknack. Bright green foliage contrasts - making a really eye-catching display in the landscape."

I didn't read the size description of Knickknack very well and when it bloomed I was amazed there was actually a daylily that was so very small. It is the smallest I've ever seen. And truthfully, had I read it better, understood exactly what it was going to be, I would never have bought Knickknack. My yard is too big and too green for it to make a statement. In a small yard, perhaps a rock garden, it would be quite pretty.
Now when I read the size of a daylily, I take out my ruler and actually look at what "2 inch bloom" will really be in my yard.
I've moved Knickknack three times hoping for a better place. It's last move was out by my husband's shed. He made the casual comment, "I like that little flower" and now it's his! As for me, I like Pavlova with all it's huge splendor.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer Time & the Living Is Easy

“Summer Time and the Living Is Easy
Fish are a-jumpin’
And the cotton is high.
You’re daddy’s rich
And you mama’s good-looking.
So, hush, little baby, don’t you cry.”
By George & Ira Gershwin from “Porgy and Bess”

Monday, June 21st was the first day of summer and the opportunity to live easy. It’s the time we all dream about during those long cold days of winter. Granted, you just never know if the day will be calm & beautiful or stormy & turbulent – BUT STILL, it’s summer!!!!

Kids instinctively have the right attitude about summer: Run and play outside until they fall asleep like a dead rock at night.

Someplace, somehow or for some reason, American adults have lost the ability to relax and enjoy summer. It’s begun to rub off on our children with the over scheduling and permission to be constantly connected to something electronic. This isn’t a criticism, it’s a wake-up call that we’re allowing the Blessings of summer to slowly run through our fingers - making it only a memory of by-gone days.

Gardeners and farmers, perhaps more than the average, know the benefits of enjoying summer moments. A sight still relevant in all small rural communities: Two men in denim and caps, elbows on the bed of a pick-up truck, both gazing at the sky and discussing “conditions”.

We can’t successfully garden without taking time to see what is and what can be. The country song about taking time to smell the roses is often lost in the hustle to get someplace and do something.

As we celebrate the official return of summer, I am hopeful our readers will assess their busy lives and make a decision to return a bit of time to enjoying the summer. A realization that many of our need to do, get and go are self imposed. A realization that enrolling our children in every sport, class and camp may be generous but it may be robbing them of their youth. The youth that many of you enjoyed.

As for adults, it’s not a sin against the great higher being to do absolutely nothing for a time but enjoy the day. It takes a confidence in one’s self to go home from the rat race of work and relax. It takes an exceptional parent to go against the flow of organization and allow your children freedom this summer. It takes an independent nature to not mow the yard on Saturday when everyone in the neighborhood is mowing.

“Summer time and the living is easy.” Make it yours this summer!