Monday, February 28, 2011

Ice Equals Spring?

A night of thunder, lightening and heavy rain.  Waking up to a heavy coating of ice outside.  It can only mean:  SPRING?
March 1st is the official first day of the Meteorological Spring.  Not the same as the Spring Equinox which arrives this year on March 20. 

February 2011 is one for the history books - literally.  Our area tied with 1994 for the snowiest February coming in at 20.7 inches (give or take according to where you live.)  Average snowfall is 4.9 inches.  So far this winter we have had 46.6 inches of the great white fluffy stuff. 

What the March 1st day gives us is the realization that the days are getting longer and that means the little internal plant systems will begin the process of wakening.  On March 1st, daylight will be 11 hours and 18 minutes long.  On March 31st, daylight will be 12 hours and 39 minutes long.   When you live in an area where February is typically gray and more gray, you count the minutes of increased sunshine.  

Wildlife begin their spring rituals, too.  Opossums, wild turkeys and turkey vultures, coyotes, ruffed grouse, flying squirrels, muskrats, chorus frogs, raccoons, minks and skunks breed.  Chipmunks end hibernation.  Resident Canada geese nest.  Duck migration peaks.   Turkey vultures, non resident doves and bluebirds return.  Pheasants start crowing.  You may see some Sandhill cranes migrating overhead as they head farther North.  Great horned owls eggs hatch.  Rabbits will bear their first litter of the year.

Before the month is over, red maples will start to bloom.  You may see some spring flowering bulbs sprout.  (Yes, it's the time of the year when you congratulate yourself that you got those spring flowering bulbs planted even if your fingers were numb.)

We will probably see a few really warm days, some more snow and definitely more thunderstorm and ice.  All the while we, too, know our internal "spring" clock is making us anxious to get gardening.  Today, one of my Amaryllis bloomed and the other is almost ready.  These are the two from last year.  A surprising success!  The beautiful and bright flowers are a reminder of things to come. 
If you'd like to see the photos in a more dramatic size, double click on them.  Meanwhile ~ happy Meteorological Spring!   Does this call for a cake and balloons????  I'm sure it does.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dinner on the Grounds

Been scouting out recipe books for a project for one of our kids.  Went to an auction today and bought over 40 cookbooks for $12.  They had belonged to a older farm wife and reflected much of that life.  The above "Albert E. Brumley's All Day Singin' and Dinner on the Grounds" recipe and song book was an interesting little find.  

Albert Brumley wrote over 600 gospel songs - one of his most recognized is "Turn Your Radio On".  This song-cookbook is a trip down the southern church memory lane.  

All day singin' and dinner on the grounds was most often on a Sunday starting with preaching, Sunday School, followed by a bounteous feast on the grounds with singing starting about 2:00 p.m. and lasting until time for folks to get home and do evening chores.

The meetings produced good music, good food and good fellowship and often brought visitors from miles away just to hear the gospel with friends and family.

Some groups would pack "box" lunches for their own family and then bring extra for those less fortunate.  Other groups brought quantities of the homemaker's specialities and it was served buffet style - typically with boards on sawhorses out in the church yard for serving tables.  

The day was filled with games for the children while adults caught up on all the news.  But, the highlight of the day was the dinner.  

Women brought their special dishes - often the ones that had been handed down through families.  You always knew whose lemon pie was the best, which plate the heavenly angel food cake would arrive on, and which cookies always had fresh walnuts.

If you were in the deep south, tradition always had several ladies bringing pimento cheese, pineapple and tomato sandwiches.  Every woman had her own special version of potato salad and other produce either direct from the garden or from produce she had preserved.

I'm convinced children learn more about life, manners, friendship, family and God at these church dinners than most anywhere else.  You also learn to enjoy good food.

A list of just a few of the recipes is a good example of the end result to growing your own produce:  Pickled Vegetables, Kraut Salad, George Washington Cherry Cake, Molasses Cookies, Peach Dumplings, Pecan Pie, Green Tomato Preserves, Green Beans and Hog Jowl,  and Fried Cucumbers. 

I haven't tried this recipe, but, it sure does sound like it would be a dinner on the grounds kinda cake: 

Company Time Lemon Cake
2 C     Sugar
1/2 C     Butter
6     Egg Yolks - Beaten
1     Egg - whole
4 C     Flour
1/2 tsp     Soda - dissolved in
1/2 C     Milk
Zest of one lemon - chopped fine
Juice of one lemon

Cream sugar and butter.  Add eggs, flour, and milk (with soda dissolved in) beating well.  Add lemon juice & mix.  Bake at 350 degrees in 3 greased and floured round pans.  Bake until middle of cake comes out clean when a pick or knife is inserted.  Makes 3 layers.  Ice each with:

Candied Syrup
1 1/2 C     Water
1 lb.     Sugar

Cook syrup (stirring) until it becomes thick like pancake syrup.  Ice between layers and grate lemon zest/rind over the tops of each and assemble.  Cover and refrigerate until meeting time. 

You may not have a lemon tree in your backyard but wouldn't one of these Dinner on the Grounds recipes be wonderful!  Consider planting some produce this year which would make great "feed" for all the family and visitors.  Maybe you can be the one who gets these dinners re started at your church.  We're never too contemporary or busy that a few hours of good eating wouldn't be fun for everyone.  An opportunity to influence another generation with the benefits of Singin' and Dinner on the Grounds. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Heigh-Ho Heigh-Ho

It's off to work in snow!  Heigh-Ho Heigh-Ho.  Heigh-Ho.  Heigh-Ho.  I've got ya rockin' now!

Yes, it has snowed again in beautiful wintry Illinois and all fairy tail creatures are busy clearing the walks - again.  Snow White's loyal little friends are trying to drive their tiny SUV to the mine while our pure princess is washing the floor of those puddles of wet footprints.  All in a winter day's work in the forest.

It's been a busy week on "The Hill" we call home.  For retirees, having multiple tasks and appointments each day is a thing of the past - most weeks.  As we finally sat down last night to watch the weather forecast, it was with a realization if I didn't go up to bed I would fall asleep somewhere between "Good evening folks" and "We'll be right back with tonight's weather forecast."   Alas, my body, pleased I had heeded it's early sleep call, rewarded me with fully waking at 3:30 a.m.   

3:30 a.m. can be a reward (if rationalization is your thing).  I looked out the window and the wintry scene, highlighted by our nite lite, was a picture of serenity and beauty.  Enough fluffy covering to hide the mud and crud of the last melting snowfall.  The light glittering off small stacks of snow on each seed head, a little hat on my garden path solar lights, a white roof coating on the bird feeder - the moments before dawn breaks and life begins it's hustle and bustle.  A beautiful moment in the day. 

Maybe Snow White and the little guys will take the day off.  After all, they have been heigh-ho ing since 1937 and it's time for them to kick back and retire.  This wintry morning, have a cup (granted they would have a very little cup) of hot coffee and know the serenity of simply enjoying this morning's snow.

“Winter came down to our home one night

Quietly pirouetting in on

Silvery-toed slippers of snow,

And we, we were children once again.”

- Bill Morgan, Jr.   


Monday, February 21, 2011


I've grown Brugmansia, on and off, for years.  It's about the only tender or house plant I make the effort to overwinter.  The two (on the right) in this photo were last winter's victims of overwintering in the garage.  Victim as in died from the cold.  The pots containing mature Brugmansia plants were so very heavy they didn't get hauled to the basement or into the house. 

They may be cut down to make moving easier.  Done regularly, it will keep it more movable.  Do not prune until the plant has formed a "Y" stem (they bloom next year on stems above the Y.)   Otherwise, it will do well each year after pruning.  The roots may also be pruned to keep it in a smaller pot.  Not a small job. 

 A native of the subtropics of South American, they need the warmth and humidity of that climate to flourish and survive.

In full bloom, they are heavenly - which must be why they were nicknamed "Angel's Trumpet".  Not only the beautiful flowers but many have a very sweet strong fragrance, especially in the evening.  Once they start blooming, they are full of blooms for a couple of months.  Under the right conditions, they may bloom year round.   
They are offered in several different colors (yellow, peach, white, and pink) - the yellow seems the most fragrant.  Some are double and several have new color combinations such as the purple and white variety. The trumpet flower can be 12-20 inches.  They become a tree and are long lived in the right conditions.  My longest lived ended up touching our 8 foot ceilings (may top out at 20 feet). 

As with many tropicals, all parts of the plant are highly toxic.  It is a member of the nightshade family. It is used for shamanic intoxication but can often be fatal.  I don't recommend it if you have small children, puppies or cats.

My plants enjoyed their summer vacations outside.  As outdoor dwellers, they required daily monitoring and watering.  It's essential that the plant is in a large enough pot from the beginning because they become difficult to transplant later in life.  The tops will become so heavy, the pot will tip over if it isn't adequate in size. 

This beauty is located in the UC Davis Arboredum.

Pots need drainage holes - they need heavy watering but will rot if they stand in water.  They also need a very large saucer to sit in if they are in the house.  In an effort to keep them moist, they tend to overflow.

The perfect spot for this plant is near where ever you will be able to smell it during the evening hours.  By your porch, patio or outdoor seating is perfect.  They should be located out of high wind simply because of the damage wind can inflict on the leaves and flowers and the danger of tipping.

Plants need fertilized on a regular basis in the summer.  They will develop a large root system and are heavy feeders.  Although they enjoy full sun, they also need protection from the really hot sun during the middle of the afternoon in the hottest of summer - or in more southern climates.  If you are growing in hardiness zones 9 or warmer, they may be planted in the soil outside.  There are other instructions that will help you do this optimally.

As with any tropical and houseplant, they may have some pest issues.  Keep an eye on them and spray them with water before bringing into the house.

Do these sound too complicated or require too much work?  Not really.  They are much like every houseplant we may have up North.  If you like spectacular, perfumed and tropical looking plants - this is certainly a must have.  Most nurseries carry at least one variety - obviously the more mature specimens are more expensive.  A smaller plant may not bloom the first year although mine have.
Side Note:  The annual datura is not a Brugmansia although offered in many nurseries and has many lovely qualities.  It is also highly poisonous.   As a wild flower, it is known as Jimsonweed/thornapple and considered a pest weed and poisonous in fields if eaten by livestock.

Friday, February 18, 2011

J Is For Jacob's Ladder

This is a photo of Polemonium caeruleum L."Jacob's Ladder" the year it was planted. 

I bought this plant from Prairie County Gardens in Galva IL.  Diane Nelson often has an assortment of unusual Perennial plants hardy to our zone.  Most varieties of Jacob's Ladder is cold hardy to Zone 3. 
I typically give plants that enjoy shade a try.  This one has not disappointed.   

In the Spring, it sends up flower stems about 18 inches about the plant that produce blue flowers and yellow stamens.  Note the little bee at the bottom right enjoying a sip of nectar.  A wide range of bees will visit this plant. My particular variety forms a nice clump and looks especially natural in an informal garden.  There are some 30 different types in this family.   
Jacob's Ladder originally came from the Biblical story, described in the Book of Genesis, where Jacob envisions a ladder to heaven during his flight from his brother, Esau.  Versions of the story and artistic renderings are bountiful.  As bountiful, are the interpretations of the meanings of the story both in Jewish and Christian cultures.  An amazing amount of pop music has been written about the theme.  Not to be outdone, there was a thriller Vietnam movie, and episodes of Walker Texas Ranger and LOST using the story of Jacob's Ladder.
Botanical Drawing

Aside from the cultural and Biblical Jacob's Ladder, my little plant has a history worthy of a good story, too.  The foliage resembles the rungs on a ladder - these are a bright green - one type is variegated.  This plant enjoys only partial sun to part shade, moist well-drained soil with a neutral pH.  It's not fond of humidity.  In other words, make sure it has moisture by providing shade from hot sun, mulch, water when the ground becomes dry, don't spray the leaves and never let it stand in water.  

This isn't always a plant that survives in every garden.  I've been fortunate it happened to thrive in the spot where it was "plopped".  It may selfseed with abandon although my plant hasn't and I'd be good with it if it did.  It's listed as surviving in the wild in Illinois, including most of the Midwest and over to the Eastern coast.  Cats are attracted to young plants and they will need protection (the plant - not the cat) until it becomes well established.  My cat doesn't bother my plant but then she has several acres to bother.

  There you have it - a Biblical named plant with a today's kind of appeal.  If you have the right spot - it will reward you with years of charm. And, I find I have this strange urge to go play my old Led Zeppelin IV album . . .  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What's In A Name?

Do people name their babies after flowers or are flowers named after people? The answers are yes and yes.

Even if they are another generation, we all know a Rose, Iris, Petunia, Sharon, Camellia, Cloris, Daisy, Lily, Flora, Heather, Violet, Jasmine, and who could forget Ruby Begonia and Hyacinth Bucket.

On the other hand, plants are often named after the person who discovered them or a noted herbalist, botanists, and benefactor.

To confuse matters, plants have the Latin botanical name and often many generic/common names. The common names are often different in different parts of the world, leave room for error and may be another plant altogether.

The Latin names will often be comprised of several different descriptive pieces. The scientific names of plants are Latin because that was the language of scholarship when they began describing plants during the Renaissance period.

As an example, I’ll use something near and dear to this area: Dwarf Red Oak tree.

First, all plants belong to a genus. The genus for oaks is Quercus and no other plant genus shares that name. If you see the word Quercus in the description of a plant, it’s an oak.

Latin plant names are generally comprised of two separate names. The generic name is listed first and it’s capitalized. It defines the group to which a plant belongs.

The species name is listed second and is not capitalized. The name of the red oak species is Quercus rubra.

When a plant is called a variety it’s because it’s the same Quercus but may have differences such as flower color or leaf shape.

The variety is typically capitalized and the third word and it’s enclosed in quotation marks. If it is listed Quercus rubra “Aurea” then it is a red oak variety with bright yellow young leaves.

The variant species which are created by gardeners and hybridizers are called cultivars. These are not Latin names. Cultivar names are also capitalized and enclosed in single quotation marks and in this case it would be "Dwarf".

In conclusion: “Dwarf” Quercus rubra “Aurea”

Variant = cultivar = “Dwarf”
Genus = Quercus = Generic Name = Oak
Species = rubra = Red
Variety = “Aurea”

Why should this make any difference for your garden? Knowing exactly what you’re purchasing may save money from mistakes. Most nurseries have detailed Latin and variety names on every plant. Understanding exactly what you’re getting helps you have the right plant, for the right spot, and for the right reason.


Growing Chocolate

Disclaimer for my gourmet cook friends:  "I know these chocolate products are not TOP of the line but they work well for many things."  OK, now that's out of the way - did you ever think about growing your own chocolate?  Wouldn't it be great to walk out the door and grab a handful of chocolate turtles, a bowl of M&Ms, a cup of hot chocolate or a handful of Donnelly's chocolate bonbons. 

And now the reality:  Farmers grow cocoa trees on small farms in hot, rainy environments, mostly in areas near the equator.  So much for the Midwest becoming the next cocoa production center of the world.  As an alternative to growing cocoa, there are several chocolate type plants available to gardeners.

Here are a couple of possibilities for our area:

Berlandiera lyrata (Chocolate smelling flower)  Perennial - cold hardy to Zone 3.

Cosmos atrosanguineus (Chocolate smelling Cosmos) An annual in our zone.   
Cosmos atrosanguineus (Chocolate Smelling Cosmos) also an annual in our cold Zone 5.

Visit the web site for more "all plants chocolate" experience.  Seriously, they even have chocolate infused bath crystals - talk about "yea babe" fun.

Many plants may have chocolate names and quite a few have colors close to chocolate brown.  Some chocolate called flowers are actually a dark maroon.  I've seen chocolate scented flowers at local nurseries.

Since many chocolate named plants are dark or in shades of brown, they look better when planted either with bright surroundings and plants, as specimans, or in a chocolate themed garden patch.

There is a fine line between rich chocolate toned browns and dead looking browns.  Know your plant. 

Scented flowers are excellent planted beside walking paths or where they may be touched and smelled up close.  Many scented leaves have to be crushed or brushed for the scent to be released.
Health Experts are now saying a little dark chocolate isn't unhealthy and does not cause the heart problems attributed to the fat content.  It is often the other ingredients (caramel, nuts, and other rich favorites) that cause health issues if eaten in excess. 

On this warm but rather dreary day, bring on a cup of hot dark chocolate - mmmmm yum. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

They're Everywhere!

They're Everywhere!  They're Everywhere! 

Sounds like a panic attack in a scary movie promo.  What's really on my mind is how we have created nature inspired visual arts in most every aspect of our life.  It's something we take for granted and mentally fail to acknowledge. 

Decorative art based on nature is everywhere in the public such as in architecture and great masterpieces.  Closer to home, take a moment to realize how much of your everyday interior space is decorated and patterned on what God has so masterfully designed for us.

I believe that God is the creator, but, you may believe nature's creator was "Mother Nature",  another higher being or the big bang.  Whatever a gardener's belief, we all agree beauty was created.  

Even the lover of minimal or contemporary design typically has incorporated the lines of nature if by none other than a large window framing a view of the great out doors. 

Study the trends of design throughout time and few haven't adopted a portion (and often most) of their inspiration from nature.  The Victorian and Art Nouveau periods grabbed it with a vengeance.  With a huge simplification on my part, each design period simply chose to express the use and love of all things nature in different ways.    
China, fabric, crystal, pottery, metal, books, wallpaper & paint, ceramics, lighting, and every room in the house can have nature inspired design.  Whether you are personally creative or simply admire the creations of others, realize by choosing to have nature inspired designs close to home you are gathering it's comfort and inspiration for yourself. 

I know of no serious gardener that hasn't observed a flower, tree, rock, bird, or other of nature's glories without serious awe and appreciation for the perfection.   Humans have spend centuries worshiping, imitating, and enjoying nature.  

Take a moment today to look around at the things you have gathered in your home that have been inspired by nature.  I think you'll be surprised.  Is it the gardener in you, the appreciation of beauty, the creative side of your personality, the need for the serenity of nature close to you?  Maybe one and all!
"All landscape design is an abstract or idealized imitation of nature."
- John Ormsbee Simonds (June 1967)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mish Mash

A gardener's review of "Gnomeo & Juliet".  Yawn. . .  My three year old grandchild  loved the really big "TV" screen, the incredibly loud volume and most of all the popcorn.  When gnomes were being broken aka killed, she was very frightened and didn't catch on to the concept:  gluing back together meant they lived.  Heard parents talking about it but most kids just sat there.  Yawn . . .   As far as the reviewer who said it promoted "green space" - well - so does a green crayon on white paper, but come on lady.
. . .______________________. . . 

Hope you all had a great valentine's day.  After a spinach salad at Rizzi's on State in Peoria, we headed around the corner for some antiquing.  I enjoy scouting out old books and today found one called "Freezing & Canning Cookbook" from 1963 Farm Journal readers.  Tells how, why and chats.  Then includes recipes.  Good old-fashioned farm women recipes. 

These recipes show how much our culture has changed especially in what we plant and harvest and what we consider good food.  Let me share a few:

Elderberry, Gooseberry and Mulberry Jams and Jellies.  The last time I worked with any of these berries, it took H O U R S and H O U R S just to pick those little babies.  I have all of these growing wild in the back woods and I'm happy to share with our birds. 

Others:  Liver Kabobs.  Sun dried corn.  Spicy crab apples.  Poke Greens.  Sassafras Root harvesting.  Sauerkraut preservation.  Grape Ketchup.  Gumdrop Bread.  Pickled Quince.  Sugar Curing.  Minted Onion Rings.  Old Fashioned Rag Pickles.  Lard Cake.  Boysenberry Jelly.  Keep in mind every recipe is for dishes that can be frozen or canned. 

The majority of recipes sounded just as good today as they sounded in the early 1960's.  Good, healthy (well most and a good use of our natural resources.  Some of the recipes bring back memories of when I canned more.  

In keeping with my January article "G is for Geranium", I'll give you the following recipe:

Apple-Geranium Jelly

6 C     Apple Juice
4 C     Sugar
12       Rose geranium leaves

Prepare juice by removing stem & blossom ends of tart, red apples (5 pounds).  Slice and put in kettle with water, barely to cover.  Cook until very tender.  Turn into a jelly bag and let juice drip into bowl.

Measure 6 cups juice into large kettle; bring quickly to a boil.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Boil rapidly until dissolved.  Boil rapidly until jellying point is reached.

Quickly place 2 small (or 1 large) rose geranium leaves in each hot jar.  Skim jelly and pour into jars; seal.  Makes 6 half pints.  They add the note:  If apples are not tart, test juice for pectin before making jelly.

And the farm wife comment:  "Gourmet shops report splendid sales of this old-fashioned delicacy."

. . . ..._______________________... . . .       

Side note:  Atkinson Township, Henry County, Illinois, is planning to start a Community Garden (much like a Victory Garden) this spring.  If you are interested in helping with this project, call:  309-936-7117 and leave your name and number.  

~ ;-)    

On the other hand, if you want to know how to cure tongue, render lard, or smoke fish - I've got the directions.  And I find this quote strangely appropriate:  “In the end, we conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”  -Baba Dioum

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Love Is In The Air

Love is in the air because I love flowers when there's a few feet of snow on the ground, the temperatures are in minus or single digits and there's still a couple of months until Spring graces us with warmth.
The coming commercial holiday, Valentines Day, is almost certainly a day for flowers.  Perhaps not bought by a sweetheart ~ I'm not above a quick trip to secure some flower love for myself. 

Fresh flowers bought in the middle of winter require no other care than a fresh bouquet picked straight from our gardens.  Only a little more care making sure they aren't nipped by being exposed to the cold air while making the trip from flower vendor to our homes. 

The Chicago Botanic Garden reminded me about flower care for fresh flowers and I'll give a brief summary below.  You may want to visit the Garden's web site - OH MY! OH MY! the offerings are a wonderful feast for all things garden, creative and beauty.  How fortunate we are close enough to visit their gardens several times a year.  
To keep cut flowers fresh, place them in room-temperature water as soon as possible. With a sharp knife or pruners, make an angled cut and remove 1 inch from each stem. Make this cut while the stem is under water. Cutting on an angle increases the surface area for water intake. Add floral preservative to the vase water.

Most preservatives contains an acid (to neutralize alkaline tap water) and an ingredient to discourage bacteria. Remove all foliage below water level. Cut flowers prefer a cool, humid environment and should be kept out of bright light and away from heating vents. Mist the air around the arrangement and change the water daily. Do not place cut flowers close to a bowl of fruit or vegetables since the ethylene gas emitted by ripening fruit can damage the flowers, as can cigarette smoke.

If healthy cut roses suddenly develop drooping heads, it may be due to air bubbles trapped in their stems. Float the entire stem in a sink full of warm water. Trim another inch from the stem, cutting on an angle below water level. Try to gently straighten the drooping flower head as the flower and stem continue to float and the cut end of the stem remains under water for at least one-half hour. When the flower head hardens to a straightened position, the roses may be placed back in the vase.

“Flowers are love's truest language.”

~Park Benjamin

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gnomeo and Juliet


Gnomeo & JulietYou either love or hate gnome garden ornaments - seldom are gardeners ambivalent about these little fellows.

My kids went through a stage where they would secretly deposit various unusual (and I mean unusual) garden ornaments around the yard.  That's how I become the owner of a little gnome.  He travels around the yard and woods at my whim.

Legends say the little round gnome was birthed in Germany around the late 1800s.  (Although some claim it's a Norse creation.)  They were made by a potter and were clay based.  The communists banned them in East German because they said they were capitalists. Come to think of it, I think Donald Trump might look a little like a gnome.  Perhaps it's his blue tie.

There are many gnome fables and superstitions repeated included luck, fortune, popularity, controversy, evil, dancing, spells and other witchery.  

The Traveling Gnome Game is when someone "borrows" a gnome from a yard and takes it on vacation.  They photograph the gnome in various exotic places.  The gnome and the pictures are returned to the owner - often secretly. 
Today, there is a resurgence of popularity although most gnomes are made in Asian countries from cheap plastics and resin.  Where the old world gnomes were sometimes bearded, grumpy, thin, and doing various work - the new ones are round little happy guys and girls. 

On the flip side, the Royal Horticulture Society of Britain has banned the appearance of garden gnomes from their official garden shows.  I could say a lot about this and make obvious comparisons but I won't today.  I may laugh at gnomes, but, gosh darn I respect the right to have gnomes in a garden or show if the owners want.  (That somehow came across sounding like Sarah Palin...I've got to watch my gosh darns...)  Who knew gnomes could be the center of such politics and debate.

As a side note:  I've heard Gnomeo and Juliet, in 3D, is a great movie for kids and adults.  I may have to borrow my three-year old granddaughter as my excuse for going to see this movie. 

As we laugh and play with our little gnomes, remember it wasn't that many years ago that people believed gnomes lived and had powers.  There is a whole culture about them based on the belief they are an actual race.  Maybe the kids didn't deposit my gnome - maybe he was living here all the time - maybe he moves around the garden at night - GOSH DARN I'm scarin' myself. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Is For Iris - Plan B

This is my beautiful Iris Synergy

Another photo on a different day.

Bending over the walkway in hope I will stop by and praise!

I had a double iris whammy this week:  (1) A Schreiner's Iris Lover's Catalog and (2) an article about the Longue Vue Estate and Garden in New Orleans LA.  So much for my not writing about "I is for Iris"!

Face it, most gardeners are just starting to get hyper about Iris season.  Not that we are alone in this love - the whole Art Nouveau era was madly in love with the iris.  The Longue Vue Gardens feature the newly renovated Iris Walk.  Newly renovated because 60% of the Iris were under a foot of sludge and destroyed.  

The Iris Walk is just one of the many beautiful portions of this southern estate - now open to the public.  Next trip to New Orleans - stop by for a visit - take pictures - smell the flowers - yum!

Whether you've a large collection of iris or a few old garden favorites, they're visually and fragrantly (whens the last time you heard fragrantly?) essential for a beautiful spring garden.  Enjoy your day - dream a little of Spring and go to someplace IRIS!
This is an old Art Nourveau Iris decorative tile.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I is For Iberis

I immediately thought of IRIS when I was writing about "I".  Since I've already done three other articles on Iris, I opted for Iberis.

You may be more familiar with the common name:  "Candytuft".  Iberis sempervirens is the perennial of this Herbaceous Perennial.  Winter hardy to Zone 3 it doesn't require a lot of fussing.  Plant in average well drained soil in a sunny location.  Wet standing soil will rot and eventually kill the plant.   White fragrant flowers (may age to pink) in April and May, then take off about a third of the plant to keep it pretty and perhaps bloom again.  It doesn't appear to be aggressive here although it may be in warmer climates.

Typically about 1 x 1 foot and it may root where stems lay on the soil or may self seed.  Gardeners can either let it spread, pull and throw away, or transplant to other locations.  It does require winter protection in harsh winters - mostly from wind damage because it's an evergreen.  I mulch deeply like my holly, but you may lay evergreen over the plants or burlap as wind protection.  

Iberis is good for edging, in rock gardens, where they can flow over a wall or as a ground cover.  They list several medicinal purposes which all sound pretty creepy and I'll not list.  Let's just say I'm a skeptic on this one.

There are other Iberis and some are annuals - know what your getting and make sure it's what you want.

It's attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.  Deer may find it tasty.

The up side to Candytuft is it makes a nice erosion control while providing a mat of pretty white flowers.  Either the white flowers or the dark emerald green leaves make a pretty backdrop for spring tulips and summer gladiolas. 

If you want to try a start, nurseries and garden centers usually carry small plant starts or many stores carry the seeds.  If you choose the annual Iberis, sow when danger of frost is past - even as the base for cascading flower pots.
And just to be fair, a picture of "Mother's French Iris" to get us in the mood for those beautiful "I" flowers.