Thursday, June 30, 2011

OOeee OOeee Baby

Garden walks and public garden tour events are  "heating" up - along with the temperatures and humidity. 

Here's some hints that might make your experience a little better, more comfortable and healthier.
  • Check out the forecast for the day you plan to be touring, then be prepared.
  • Some events are in the evening hours when it's a little cooler. 
  • Take a light colored umbrella to provide shade.  A small one that folds with a loop handle.
  • Don't carry - pull.  Use a wheeled small carrier for all your stuff.  Call ahead of time to see if it's allowed.
  • Drink LOTS of water.  Nothing else hydrates better than water.   Alcohol causes dehydration.
  • Have a light colored hat that allows air to circulate; loosely woven with cotton inside binding.
  • Use sunscreen and re apply.  The non greasy ones aren't as hot.  Some come with insect repellent.
garden symposium

  • Tennis shoes with white cotton socks.  Sandals with leather not plastic insides.
  • Put baby powder on after your morning shower especially in creases and where clothes bind.
  • Cotton clothes and underclothes absorb moisture.  Synthetics seldom breaths.
  • Dark colored anything absorbs heat and you'll be hotter. . 
  • Lot's of hair products lay on the scalp and your head will be hot.
  • Putting loads of cream on your body is akin to wrapping yourself in plastic wrap - it doesn't breath.
  • Fragrance intensifies when you sweat and attracts insects.
  • A large cotton handkerchief has many uses.  Draped over the back of your neck, wet and laid on top your head, wipe off sweat and clean off sticky hands.
  • Disinfectant (no water) hand wash is mostly alcohol.  Cleaning your hands with it will make them feel cooler.
  • Consider taking one of those little portable folding fans.
  • Sunglasses help protect the eyes from the glare and damage by too much sun.
  • Take a lot of breaks in the shade.
  • If the option is available, walk on soft surfaces instead of concrete. 
  • Eat regular light meals or snacks.  Relax and sit in the shade while eating.
  • Stroll instead of rushing. 
  • Understand your medications and how they react with heat and sun. 
  • The older and the younger a person is, the easier it is to be bothered by too much sun & heat.
Get out of the sun and drink lots of water if you: 
  • stop sweating
  • get a headache
  • are dizzy or weak
  • urine is dark and strong smelling
Seek first aid if you have:
  • Severe pain
  • Severe blistering
  • A headache that's very painful
  • Are confused
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Faint
  • Your existing medical condition becomes acute.
Scare you?   Hopefully, not.  Visiting and touring gardens is some of the best fun for gardeners.  Being prepared is a good way to have the day perfect from sun up to sun down. 
Photos from top to bottom:  (Evening Island at the Chicago Botanical Gardens) (Missouri Botanical Garden) (Colonial Williamsburg VA historic gardens) (Oakes 2011 Daylily Festival)  (Hollister House Garden, Washington CN). 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Issue of Jerry Garcia

I don't know how grateful a dead daylily bloom is (Grateful Dead ~ Jerry Garcia - Get it?).  I'm going to visit the subject of good manners and deadheading daylilies.

"Seriously?"  OK, this issue doesn't rank up there with global bank failures - unless you're the owner of a garden full of daylily plants.

Obsessive gardeners (are there other kinds?) simply cannot walk outside in the summer without bending to pull a weed, pinch off a dead flower, or defeat a bad insect. 

"Sittin' Here In Limbo":  This is true in their own garden and it's sometimes true in every private garden, city scape or public garden they visit.  Who doesn't appreciate a little help - right?  Weeeelllll - not always so right.

"Pig's Boogie": Let's put this in perspective:  Do you reach over with your finger and pick spinach out from between your friend's front teeth?  Really?  You don't do it because it would be terribly impolite and invade their personal space and eeewww anyway.

"Think":  It's a little like that with deadheading without permission.  Here's the rationale:

"The Thrill Is Gone":  Hybridizing daylilies requires the seed pods be allowed to develop.  A well-meant deadheading will stop the seed heads from developing and end an opportunity to develop a new daylily.  And I might add, end a friendship.

"Shady Grove":  Deadheading another person's daylilies (or any other flower)  insinuates, by that very action, another gardener isn't quite up to snuff - at least up to your standards. 

"Wayfaring Stranger":  Deadheading another person's garden is like finding fault with a child's painting because they didn't stay in the lines.  It's their creative process that you are inferring is somewhat lacking because it doesn't meet your own high standards.

"There Ain't No Bugs On Me":  Some well-meant folks feel if they "show" others how to do things right - the other person will be grateful.  I've never seen anyone grateful of unsolicated advice.  Discuss with them if you must and offering might be fine.  If you discuss and offer and the result is "no", then take it with good grace and find something else to do.

"Up From The Desert":  I've had daylily friends prefer a certain method to their deadheading.  That method is important to them and their gardening: In a bag, on the ground, between rows, in the a.m., at dusk, or compost.

"Nine Pound Hammer":  The issue of public gardens is one of risking getting kicked out or worse.  It's not your land and you can be charged if they so choose.  Granted they may be happy for the help - the trick is to ask first.

"One Kind of Favor":  The issue of city maintained gardens and pots is a little more loose.  Most are hurting for volunteers to help.  I would still call to offer help. 

"Knockin' On Heaven's Door":  The deal is if you can't resist the urge to help others - call and ask to help FIRST.  (Freedom House, the women and children's domestic abuse shelter, lost their garden volunteers this summer.  Let me know if you'd like to help them.)      

Jerry Garcia

More on dead heading daylilies:  Freakin' At The Freakers' Ball - Article #179.

"American Popsicle":  If your allergies are making your sinus hurt around your nose and eyes, eat frozen fruit.  I freeze on a cookie sheet:  individual grapes, blueberries, strawberries, slided peaches & pineapple.  Put in the feezer in ziplock bags.  A few in a bowl and the cold apparently makes the swelling go down.   It doesn't take much, good nutrients and low calorie.

Daylilies photos - top to bottom:  Lunar Max, Night Beacon, and Chicago Star.  J.G. photo from open net pages.   

Monday, June 27, 2011

We Do The Walk

I made this little apron from fabric and trim scraps.  Originally, I planned to use it for a homemade version of Leman's clothespin bag.  But (there's always a "but" in garden stories), one day I grabbed it when I did my morning garden walk. 
Especially during daylily season, I like to start the day with my camera for the latest beautiful shot.  I keep a semi-decent recording of when something blooms in the yard and my thoughts.  I take my photos and post them to my external hard drive.  It's a (one of them) garden obsession.

Even though my camera hangs from a strap around my neck, I was always dropping or fumbling with the other stuff. The morning I grabbed the apron, easier set into the routine.

I usually carry (in addition to the camera) a small notebook, pencil (writes in rain), an OFF clip-on mosquito repellent, my seasonal allergy handkerchief (sigh), small clippers/scissors, sunglasses and whatever.  And everyone knows a gardener can't step into their garden without bending over to do something.  This apron falls forward and things don't empty out of the pockets.

If I was making another, I might add a small loop on the waistband to hold the Off clip out of the way of the pockets.

In case you are wanting to make a similar apron this is my best shot as describing:

  • 14 inches from top of waistband to bottom of hemmed seam.
  • 14 inches from side to side.
  • 2 inch deep waistband (I didn't line it since I was using a sturdy fabric)
  • 6 foot long waistband (This allows a coat to be under it)
  • 5 inch inset for pocket tops and 5 inch side drop.  (If you have large hands make larger.) 
  • 5 inches between top of pockets
The entire back of the apron is the back of the pockets.  I used 1/2 inch seams to make cutting/measuring/and turning easy.

2 - pieces of apron fabric the same size for the body of the apron.
  •   Fold both the top and bottom in half and cut the rounded  bottom edges in equal measurements. 
  • Fold the front in half and cut out rounded pockets at the top.
Cut out the waistband.  Press all pieces.

I used some cotton lace to trim the pockets and give them strength.  The bought version uses seam binding.  I recommend one or the other since the pockets will get quite a bit of wear & pull.

I double stitched everything for strength.  First hem and trim the pocket openings.  Put wrong sides of the apron body together and stitch around the outside (do not stitch around the pocket openings).  Turn and stitch the entire outside edge.  Where the pocket cut out is will have to be rolled and stitched. 

Press the length of the waistband in half.  Press under the edges 1/2 inch and the end under 1/2 inch.  Stitch the back side of the apron to the backside of the waistband.  Fold the waistband over towards the front and pin entire waistband together including turning in the ends.  Stitch together. 

I know I'm not very good at describing the sewing process - hopefully you will have some knowledge of patterns and sewing and can visualize what I'm describing. OR, there is always the Leman's product. 

My fabric was a durable heavy cotton canvas type.  Denim or any tough outside materials would work also.  Lightweight materials will not hang stiff enough to be easily used.  It should be washable.  Because of the waistband, it can be looped over a hook when not in use.  

This was my inspiration:  Lehman's clothespin apron.  It sells in the red, a blue or black and for about $25.  In case you haven't visited their web store, it's one of the best for quality functional and mostly non-electric devices for home and homesteads. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Who? Me Worry?

Was talking about worry last evening with a friend and it made me think of gardening worries.  That wonderful gift of gardening that I so love - could it be connected to anything worrisome? 

Anytime, you are dealing with nature, there is the unknown.  As much as humans have learned over generations, the scientific community has discovered, and nature has revealed - something new (good or bad) has always changed the course of our gardens and landscape.

We have a a problem, we research the available options, and we try to control the problem with one of the options.

Realistically, we don't have all the solutions and not all solutions work.  Not all solutions can be accomplished for one reason or the other:  There's finances and the physical limitations of the gardener or the plot of land.

It can be as disastrous as tornadoes and as tiny as the Japanese beetles. 

So, now we realize we are not singled out by Mother Nature for garden disasters - right?

The next logical step is the realize if these things happen, and many can't be totally stopped, are we to worry about keeping everything perfect?  Perfection and control - Folks: "GIVE IT UP".  You can't control nature's destructive forces and you will constantly have to deal with lack of perfection.

Even those gardens where there is no limit to the amount spent on solutions, the amount of garden employees/volunteers, or the horticultural help of professionals - you will not be able to totally control or perfect.  Gasp!

How do you know enough about yourself to admit you worry about your garden?

  • Do you not invite people to your home in the summer because everything isn't just like you want?
  • Do you feel weeds are a direct reflection upon your gardening skills?
  • Do you mourn the loss of a plant as if it was a member of your family?
  • Do you physically keep working in your yard long after you start hurting? 
  • Must you always have one better or more beautiful than what is currently thriving?
  • Is your yard totally weed free, insect free, and damage free?
  • Are you buying every new gadget and chemical advertised to make a yard perfect?
  • Do you feel it's alright to use products that endanger the environment if it works especially well?
  • Do you judge other gardens by their perfection or can you enjoy the spots of beauty?
  • Do you tend to compete with other gardeners?
  • Would you rather not invite children, rowdy adults or pets into your yard for fear they might mess it up?
  • Do you feel guilty throwing away a half dead plant because it might have feelings of rejection?

Have I hit any of your secret control and perfection issues?  I know I've hit a few of mine!

All a gardener has to do is experience something major life altering to understand the quest for garden control and perfection is not at the top of life's needs.  It causes us to worry too much about the impossibly inconsequential (The II factor). 

I have preached my Saturday sermon and I might add that I thank God for the good gardening life and pray I understand the bad portions of life can be teachers that make us strong - much like a well-pruned bush.   

Note the promise: “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

A reminder:  by clicking once on a picture in the blog's text, it will enlarge enough where you can see the little garden details:  insects, a small plant, or perhaps an imperfection that I've learned to simply ignore or embrace.    

Friday, June 24, 2011

Butterfly Magnets

I don't usually write an article after reading someone's text because it always seems a little uninspired.  This time, I'll give credit to the inspiration to Annie's Annuals  Annie's is in California and at times she gardens a little outside of my conservative Midwest farm roots.  (Roots - is that a pun??)  I love her wild abandon in the garden and her love of interesting and unusual plants.   She advertised milkweed today and she was spot on the money with her advice to grow more milkweed in our gardens.

Milkweed is seen on most of our (if it's not sprayed or mowed too early) road sides. Because farmers have their own reasons for mowing and spraying, the answer to attracting Monarch and other butterflies is planting your own milkweed.  Here are the first two suggested by Annie and I use parts of her descriptive quotes:     

Asclepias speciosa "Showy Milkweed"
Undeniably stunning in bloom, everyone who can should grow at least one of our native perennial "Showy Milkweeds" as it is THE native host for our western Monarch butterfly, which lays its eggs on the stems and leaves. Thriving in poor, dry , well-drained soil, it's tough and vigorous with gorgeous large silvery-green, soft-to-the-touch leaves. Atop the 3' to 4' stems, the remarkably FRAGRANT large round clusters are 4" to 5" across and made up of lovely velvety pink and white star-like flowers. Bloom season occurs late Spring to late Summer. Sometime after bloom it will go deciduous but not to worry, it will certainly return next Spring with more stems. Grow it next to your driveway, parking strip, somewhere your hose won't reach, on a hillside and especially in a xeric or native garden. Does well in a large pot, too, 5 gal. & up.When planted it will temporarily go dormant. Once it's established, you'll be delighted with the fruits of your patience. And so will our Monarchs, who can smell a milkweed a mile off. Look for their incredible chrysalises, glossy turquoise and emerald ringed with unbelievable glimmering gold beads.  Perennial in our Midwest zone 5.

Asclepias syriaca “Virginia Silk”
Very possibly the most stunningly beautiful of all Milkweeds and the most fragrant! Adored by gardeners & Monarch butterflies alike, this species, a native perennial to much of the US (including here), bears large 4” pinky-mauve spherical bloom clusters from early to mid-Summer that are powerfully & deliciously scented of lilacs & hyacinths. Un-branched in habit with strong upright stems 3-5’ tall, it also sports attention grabbing broad rich green foliage that creates a nice contrast against finer leaved plants. EASY, TOUGH, LONG LIVED, tolerant of drought & poor soil, this wonderful Milkweed attracts all manner of nectar seeking creatures including the beautiful Sphinx Moth. Deciduous in Winter, it spreads slowly by rhizomes which can be controlled by chopping the roots, or plant in an area where that’s not a concern or use as a thrilling container subject! Rich loamy soil for most outrageous show! Cut to ground in Winter.  Potted it must be either moved indoors or it will probably die in the pot.

Asclepias curassavica “Bloodflower”/ “Mexican Milkweed”
I planted this annual last year and it was surprisingly wonderful in the garden.  Flowers will be orange/red on this particular one and there are others that are yellow - some with both.  Sadly, it didn't come up from scattered seeds this year so it's officially an annual in my garden.  They should be planted early (plant inside or protect until the last frost is over) so you have a long bloom season for the butterflies.  These are 2-3 foot tall, don't get too wide and tend to flop a little towards the end of the season.  Planting in with other perennials would help support them.  They don't stop blooming until hit with pretty hard frost. 

Milkweed is a good teaching experience for children - the caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly are a nature demo waiting for observation and discussion.

The genus was named after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, because of the many folk-medicinal uses for the milkweed plants.

Pollination is accomplished in an unusual manner. Pollen is grouped into complex structures called Pollinia (or "pollen sacs"), rather than being individual grains or tetrads, as is typical for most plants. The feet or mouth parts of flower-visiting insects such as bees, wasps, & butterflies, slip into one of the five slits in each flower. The bases of the pollen sacs then mechanically attach to the insect, pulling a pair of pollen sacs free when the pollinator flies off. Pollination is effected by the reverse procedure in which one of the pollinia becomes trapped within the anther slit.  Now how cool is that!

Milkweeds are an important nectar source for bees and other nectar-seeking insects, and a larval food source for monarch butterflies and their relatives, as well as a variety of other herbivorous insects (including numerous beetles, moths, and true bugs) specialized to feed on the plants despite their chemical defenses.  Now this is REALLY a cool study in nature:  Milkweeds use three primary defenses to limit damage caused by caterpillars: hairs on the leaves, cardenolide toxins, and latex fluids. Data from a DNA study indicate more recently evolved milkweed species use less of these preventative strategies, but grow faster than older species, potentially regrowing faster than caterpillars can consume them.  About the time humans begin to think we are the only way nature can survive, we are again proved we are not the biggest dog in the lot. 

So today - thanks to Annie and her wild enthusiasm for milkweeds and the realization it's a plant beneficial for most areas of our country.

Top two photos are from the net - bottom three are from my collection.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dusting of Silver

Aster "Frost" 
 Although we aren’t in the late season “Dog Days of Summer”, we can prepare our gardens now.  Dog Days refer to it being so hot the dog just lays in the shade and sleeps. 

Along with the heat, many of our beautiful summer flowers end their bloom period.  Your yard may become hot, bare and boring.  This is where WHITE comes into play in the garden.
With some planning, you can have a white garden in the fall (plus all summer) that brings a cool and soothing view.  This may be in flower beds or in pots. 

A “Moon Garden” is near white flowers and foliage that show up and have fragrance at night.  If the bed is located near a patio or porch, the evenings are wonderfully scented and you can see the flowers reflected by the moon light.
Columbine - UK White

A few well placed solar lights or candles in the beds may also throw just enough light to really make the flowers glow at night.
Here are a few suggestions for a white (moon) garden.  Marked with an A for annual, P for perennial and F for fragrant. 
Summer:  Clematis vine “Gillian Blades” (P), Coneflower “White Swan” (P), Daisy “Shasta” (P), Spotted deadnettle leaves (P), Rose “Alba” (P & F), Lamb’s Ear leaves (P), Dusty Miller (A), Loosestrife “Gooseneck” (P), Dianthus “White (A & P), Yarrow “Achillea millefolium” (P), Baby’s Breath (A), Moonflower (A), White Impatiens (A), Cleome, and “White Queen” (A).  There are white petunias, zinnias, lilies, astilbes, liatris, dahlia, and many more.
Shasta Daisy
Fall:  Phlox “David” (P & F), Hosta “plantogeana” (P & F), Aster pilosus “Frost” (P), Clematis vine “Sweet Autumn” (P).  There is Queen Anne’s Lace, Sedums, turtlehead and hydrangeas.
There are several bushes and trees with white flowers or needles such weigela and Korean Fir.

This list is only a few of the many selections for moon and white gardens.  If a plant is labeled “Alba” it will have a component that is white.
Phlox "David"
Seldom are the leaves of any plant pure white because they need the green (photosynthesis) to live.  The many dual colored leaves do bring light to flower beds or pots.  Some varieties have near whites (such as daylilies) and others have white with a touch of another color (such as Hosta).  Some blues will have a frosty or silver color that enhances or accents a white garden.
Gooseneck Loosestrife
White flowers need to have a dark contrast to stand out, especially at night.  Plants with dark green leaves will make an almost black
background at night.  Planting a moon garden’s plants close together hides the mulch which tends to glow a bit at night.
Hosta "Patriot"
A starry night, the fragrance of sweet flowers, layers of white flowers glowing in the moon light:  aw yes, sweet summertime, summertime. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Soldier Defenders

The Pennsylvania Leather-wing Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus (that's a mouthful) is from the Soldier Beetle family.

This beetle is 3/8 inch long and brownish yellow with broad black lengthwise mark on the rear of each elytron.  It's head, antennae, legs and underside are all black.  It looks very much like our common "lightening bug" but it doesn't light up at night.

It's common to our area and seen in meadows, fields and gardens.  I've seen many this summer.  I'm often surprised when I enlarge a photo of a flower on my computer and there's several PLWs frolicking about.

They're soldiers and adeptly named.  Adults eat pollen, nectar and small insects.  Larva devour grasshopper eggs, small caterpillars and beetles.  They are considered hugely beneficial insects, especially for the control of Corn Earworm caterpillars and cucumber beetles. 

Some of the many plants they take pollen from are goldenrod, milkweed, hydrangea Queen Anne's Lace, Ox-eye daisies and many others.  They have been pretty thick on my speedwell and typically like more flat surfaced or small Fleurette's.

Do NOT destroy these beetles by spraying insecticide on your flowers.  They will do the work of destroying nasty insects and it will not hurt you or other beneficial insects. 

You will often see two in a rather intimate embrace while mating on top of your flowers.  The eggs are deposited in soil among ground litter.  The Soldier Beetle produces two generations each year. The larvae overwinter in the soil or garden trash - another reason to let your garden have some decaying leaves and mess throughout winter.

The PLWs family are found worldwide, with 5,000 species in 135 genera.

Although they are slow moving and fliers, they have chemical defenses.  Unlike many other beetles (which have a pair of defensive glands)  These soldiers have two paired on the prothorax and one on each of their eight abdominal segments.  They are consistently rejected as food by birds, mice, other beetles, ants, mantids, assassin bugs, centipedes, solpugids and jumping spiders.  The chemical they secrete is (Z) - dihydromatricaria acid. 

 I just know you will use this insect chemical information at your next wine tasting party - thank me now or thank me then.

Happy First Day of Summer!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The "Eyes" Have It

Take a vote and the "Eyes" should be a top priority. According to a study published in "The Archives of Ophthalmology", research linking diet to eye health is growing.

One of the easy and established diet staples for healthy eyes is leafy green vegetables. And, here is where gardeners can have a steady supply all year.
"Spinach is king of the green leafies", according to Dr. Steven Pratt in his book "SuperHealth". See my previous article "Popeye Rocks!" #321 for additional spinach info.

Other greens such as kale, Swiss chard, turnip, mustard and collard greens are also rich in lutein. Lutein is a carotenoid compound that is found in colorful fruits and vegetables and they protect cells from damage.

Eating a diet rich in green leafy vegetables helps shield your macula (the center of the retina) from cell damage that can cause both age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. The time to start eating your green leafy vegetables is not when you are aged - it's NOW!

Planting green leafy vegetables in your vegetable garden is one of the easiest garden tasks and it's not too late to add a row or six. They don't take long to get to the "picking" stage and they don't take much room. They are ideal in the flower garden because they make such a pretty border or filler. Once they reach the stage where they are no longer producing - pull and plant more.

Most garden centers carry seeds or sets. Plus, most every Farmer's Market within this area will have a booth or several selling a variety of green leafy vegetables.

If the taste or texture of green leafy vegetables isn't something you like - incorporate them in other things. Add to a lettuce salad, soups, stews, dips, casseroles, bread, eggs, pasta, seafood and more. Chop fine and they will add to your health and go unnoticed.
Adding green leafy vegetables isn't a once in awhile thing - it should be every day. Using fresh grown produce will insure you have them at the peak of freshness and you will also be in control of using chemical free produce.

Greens will also freeze well if you have an over abundance. Frozen greens must be used in cooked food but it still has its benefits. I throw fresh greens into my home-canned tomato juices and sauces, chicken and beef stock and soup base.

If you have more greens than you can use at the moment, wash, drain in your salad spinner, pick off any bad portions or large veins and tear into bite size pieces. Pack in zip lock bags and freeze. As you are canning later, simply add a bag to the mix. This way you aren't wasting when the produce is coming on stronger than you can work and none gets thrown away or too old.

We used to have wilted spinach often during the summer when I was growing up. Here's how we fixed it:

4 slices bacon
1/2 c. chopped onion
3 tbsp. sugar
1/3 c. vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper
4 c. (1 lb.) fresh washed spinach leaves, torn in bite size pieces

Cook bacon until crisp in large skillet. Remove, reserving bacon dripping in skillet. Crumble bacon and set aside. Add onion and next four ingredients to drippings, stirring until blended. Cook mixture 10 minutes over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Pour over spinach in large bowl. Toss and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Notice the spinach is not cooked. This keeps it at a high nutrient level and it doesn't become tough and stringy. Granted the bacon may not be on your list of healthy foods but it's a must for this recipe to have the flavor needed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Eye Of The Beholder

Daylily "Bold Tiger" introduced in 1990 by Stamile.  It's 28 inches tall with a 4 1/4 inch mid season bloom.  Dormant.  Bright orange blooms with a bold red eye.  $20.

Daylily "Real Wind" introduced by Wild in 1977.  Receiving Honorable Mention in 1980, this dormant mid to late season bloomer stand 27 inches tall.  The light peach orange 6 1/2 inch blooms have a deep rose eye zone.  $10.

Daylily "Back Draft" was introduced by Dougherty in 1997.  A dormant mid to late season bloomer.  Standing on 27 inch scapes it has 6 inch brilliant orange blooms with a vivid red eye zone.  $50

If you are counting your pennies, here is an article that might show you some options.  Above are three beautiful daylilies (photos and available from Oakes Daylilies).  Although similar, each has their own particular appeal.  I'm not recommending one over the other.  Sooooo what's the point?

IF you have a limited budget and want the beautiful "Back Draft", you might be satisfied with either the $20 "Bold Tiger" or $10 "Real Wind".

  • All are dormant (and will do well in our area of the Midwest).
  • They are all about the same height.
  • They all combine orange blooms with large red eye zones.
  • Two have 6 and 6 1/2 inch blooms while the other has 4 1/2 inch blooms.
  • The forms are somewhat different.
  • The exact colors may be different shades of orange and red.
  • The cost of each.
Whether you think the differences are enough to justify the cost is up to you.  I suspect there are more distinct differences if we could see them side-by-side in the field.  As far as reliability, I've never (and I mean never) bought a plant from Oakes that wasn't healthy and just exactly what they advertise.

Sometimes you simply can't forget that more expensive flower and once bought, you never look back and never regret the purchase.  Other times you may be satisfied with the less expensive - you may even prefer the subtle differences.

In this particular set of flowers, I am the owner of "Real Winds".  Planted last year, I hope to see it in full bloom within the month and then I'll know if the more subtle colors of my purchase will satisfy my desire for this two-toned beauty.

This is one example for the daylily enthusiasts with limited funds or perhaps the thrifty gardener.  Even though there are new wowzer introductions every year, daylilies often have similar characteristics.  With a little shopping, you may find an acceptable substitute. It's in the eye of the beholder. 

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Q Is For Question

I know, lame way to use "Q" but there are only a few topics relating to the garden that would fit the Q category. 

Question:  "What North American moth is more famous for it's caterpillar stage than it's winged stage?"

Answer:  It's the Woolly Bear Caterpillar Moth  ~aka~  Banded Woolly Bear  ~aka~  Willy Worm  ~or~  Woolly Worm.  The moth is known as the Isia isabella  ~or~ Isabella Tiger Moth.  Is it any wonder children have simply called it a woolly worm?  

It's that caterpillar you see in the fall and used since Colonial times as a prediction for the severity of the coming winter.  Superstition says the wider the brown stripe on the caterpillar's bristle coating - the more mild the winter.  Actually, the coloration indicates how near the caterpillar is to full growth before autumn weather stimulates it to seek a winter shelter. 

As a kid, I remember the thrill of seeing the caterpillars (yes, during more simple times) and announcing to the world the weather prediction for the coming winter.  So much easier than going to meteorological school. 

We'd pick up the little fuzzy guys and haul them around.  They tend to "play dead" when bothered.  They are very docile and easily found basking in the warm sun.

The moth has a wingspan of about 2 inches.  Fore wings are yellow-brown with a series or row of small black dots.  Hind wings slightly paler, slightly pinkish with several indistinct gray dots.  The abdomen has 3 black spots above on rear edge of each segment. 

The caterpillar measures 2 1/8 inch long and covered by stiff bristles.  The caterpillar is actually considered black.  The bands (which typically increase in size as the caterpillar matures) are in the red/brown color around the middle. 
The moth is found in meadows, pastures, uncultivated fields and road edges.  Because of their lack of vibrant colors, we've all probably seen and ignored them.

They range throughout North American except in very northern Canada.  It is from a large family called Arctiidae with most having the hairy caterpillar.  Should you want to do everything woolly bear, there are Woolly bear Festivals in at least four US cities. 

The caterpillar feeds on low herbaceous plants of many kinds, mostly wild; it is seldom a crop or ornamental pest.

Not a pest - fun for kids - this moth is the perfect insect!  

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pie Is A Breakfast Food

When I left home at nineteen I swore I'd never eat cherry pie again. You know how great statements go at nineteen - about a month later I needed mom’s cherry pie.

I was raised in a farm family where women cooked for farmers; dinner was in the middle of the day, meat, potatoes and gravy was a staple, and at least a couple of pies would be made daily.

In addition, we hailed from Swiss German farmers aka Pennsylvania Dutch. The food traditions of this group were hardy and specific. Typically, we ate what we grew and we grew a bounty in that beautiful black Indiana soil.

Farm wives knew they had to have large hardy meals to keep their men strong and healthy for the many farm chores. AND all of us have a sweet tooth. Breakfast, dinner and supper ended with a sweet.  In our house it was pie.

I didn't even know you could buy pie because I took it for granted home-made pie was what everyone had on hand. Even better, I knew if company was coming the pie would include a healthy dollop of vanilla ice cream as the snack.
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Although Lemon Meringue pie is still my favorite, we always had at least one cherry pie made at all times.  It was Dad’s favorite and women made what their men liked best.

We may not have fresh locally grown lemons available, but, we certainly can grow cherries in our back yards.  Large spaces can accommodate many varieties.  Small spaces can accommodate at least one dwarf cherry.  All varieties have a beautiful shape, spring flowers, nectar for insects, and a bounty for the picking.  (Exception:  Some ornamentals, like weeping cherries trees, may not produce fruit)

What does a cherry tree need?
·         They must have a cold/dormant season.
·         Grow in full sun.
·         Well drained soil – they will die if they have wet feet.
·         If possible, add well cured manure to the fill hole when planting.
·         Sour cherries are usually self pollinating.  Sweet cherries need another cherry tree to pollinate.
·         Sweet is usually eaten raw – sour for cooking.
·         Make sure the variety you choose is for our hardiness zone – at least Zone 5.  Sour cherry trees are more cold tolerant.
·         Cherry trees require LOTS of water to establish and water during hot/dry years to help the cherries plump up.
·         Birds can strip a tree of ripe cherries in less than half an hour.  You must either net the fruit (and then check to make sure birds aren’t caught in the net) or use other means of protecting the fruit.
·         Don’t let mulch touch the trunk - it will cause fungal disease.  Fertilizing is usually a waste. 
·         Fruit will only come on spurs that are at least 2 years old.  Be careful pruning.
·         In some areas, cherry trees are prone to fungal attack, sometimes wood borers, and slugs.  Specific oil sprays may be all you need in this area.
·         They recover best from transplanting if they are planted in early spring or late autumn.
·         Stake the tree if you live at a windy site.  Remove the stake when the tree reaches one year to promote a healthy root system and strong trunk.
·         Plant late blooming varieties so late frosts won’t destroy blossoms. 

Baked Fresh Cherry Pie RecipeIf you’ve never tasted a cherry pie made from fresh cherries – let me assure you it’s another whole eating experience from the sticky gooey tasteless mess some production pies offer.  Most good cooks have at least one favorite cherry pie recipe.  I’m betting our own Judy and Kay “Cookin’ with J & K” would be willing to share a few. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Herbals - A Commentary

A comment from Robert regarding comfrey prompted me to talk about herbals. 

Herbals have been used as seasonings, medicine, and foodstuff since man has been on this earth.  The value continues today in all those areas.

I enjoy reading Sharon Brown's stories on Dave's Garden.  Sharon was raised in a family where her grandmother was a herbalist to area families.  A herbalist was basically a combination pharmacist and lay physician.  They grew or collected their plants, processed them and prescribed or treated the neighbors and their families.  Sharon often weaves the powers of those herb treatments into her colorful stories. 

Some, such as our Native American Shaman, use herbs in the roll as spiritual advisers.  The use of plants and herbs in spiritual services is more about providing a path for the spirit than as a treatment for physical - although that's way too simple a description.  That's where I'll stop on this aspect because it's a large and many faceted topic. 

Herbalist deal with a large array of plants not necessarily just herbs as we have come to know in our gardening terminology.  As a minimum, plants used by herbalist can be simply an additive for taste enjoyment. At the other end of the ruler are plants that are physoactive and poisons.  In between is an array larger than you want to read.

So why do I bother to mention?  I have never been around the qualified Herbalist and I don't believe the unschooled should prescribe.  For all the benefits plants and herbs provide in our diets or in medical treatments, doing it wrong, can in some instances, actually harm or kill.

Herbal remedies, for the most part, are not USDA inspected.  Those advertised on the net or TV may work or they may not.  Many are imported and have less validation.  Some are merely an expensive hoax.

Contrary to a lack of reading on my part it is actually the opposite.  I've read enough to put out a warning when there is a valid question about an herb use.  I've read about the problems and the benefits.  What I don't know is your particular health, the other medicines you take, if you will follow directions, and if the products you buy or gather are reliable, toxin or pesticide free.

I may recommend using many plants and herbs as foodstuff, but, you won't find me advocating the use of same for health remedies.  I'm not qualified and that's not what I wish to do in this garden blog.  There are other Herbalist or Alchemist blogs and sites for those that wish to delve into it further.

Thanks to Robert for inspiring me to write about my method for handling the question of herbals.  It may not please those who have a particular herb or plant they use for health treatments, but alas, it pleases me to let you decide and for me to stay out of the subject. 
Herbs in photos from top to bottom:  chives, mint & dill. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

P Is For Paeonia

Here in this area, the Paeonia or Peony is blooming full guns.  (See article #10 "Beautiful at One-Hundred" for additional peony information.)

I often cut my peonies and bring them into the house.   Both of the above bouquets have a mix of other perennials.  Pink late blooming lilac on top and iris and daisies included in the bottom vase. 

The fragrant varieties will perfume an entire room for days.  I have a couple of peonies blooming for the first time (they take several years to become happy enough to bloom after transplanting).

This bloom is from Paeonia Herbaceous "Red Magic".  Although described as a double red, it has more of a pink/cranberry coloring in my yard.  It is large and fragrant.

With all the heavy rains we've had, most of my peonies are drooping from weight.  Many gardeners use peony support of one kind or another.  I never think of it until they are laying on the ground...
This is Paeonia Herbaccous "Coral Charm".  It bloomed very early and is considered a deep coral semi double.  It was winner of the American Peony Society's Gold Medal in 1986.  If you are interested in drama and not fragrance, this beauty fills that bill quite nicely.

This was given to me by my daughter, Susan, and I don't know the name.  I like to call it "fried egg" but I'm sure that unglamorous name isn't right.   Hornbaker Nursery has one called "Cheddar Charm" that looks close in description.  It has a lovely fragrance and long bloom time.  It doesn't flop because it doesn't have many petals to hold rain water.

And then there's Bitsey in her usual back porch summer relaxing mode.  She's hoping I'll stop with the peonies and bring in her favorite candy - a rose or two.