Wednesday, September 28, 2011


The highest temperature recorded in North America was in 1913 when Furnace Creek Ranch CA (Death Valley) was 134 degrees F.

The world record is in Libia at 136 degrees F in 1922.

The coldest temperature in North America was in the Snag, Yukon Territory, Canada in 1943 at a -81.4 degrees F.

The coldest in the world was in 1983 in Antarctica at -89.2 F.

The most rain in a 60 minute period in the world was in Holt MO in 1947 with 12 inches.

The largest hailstone weighing 2.25 pounds was in Bangladesh in 1986.

The longest dry period was in Chili and lasted 173 months in the early 1900s.

The point?  Extremes can point out several things: 
(1) Right Here - Right now - Things aren't all that bad.
(2) Extremes have been around for a long time.
(3) There's always someplace worse than here.

And remember these tried and true folk sayings:

A warm November is the sign of a bad Winter.

Onion skins very thin,
Mild Winter coming in;
Onion skins thick and tough,
Coming Winter cold and rough.

Flowers bloomin' in late Autumn,
A sure sign of a bad Winter comin'.

As high as the weeds grow,
So will the bank of snow.

Thunder in the Fall foretells a cold Winter.

If there’s ice in November to bear a duck
There’ll be nothing after but sludge and muck.

On All Hallow's Day cut a chip from the beech tree;
If it be dry the winter will prove warm.

Sunny, windy and 74 degrees here tomorrow - I'll be a happy little Midwesterner.  Hope it is where you reside, too.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Producing Help

Gardeners Unite!  When is the last time you were asked to unite?  Perhaps the 1970s?  As we move into winter, now is the perfect time to unite around sharing the produce from your gardens and pantries.

All food pantries need help.  The guidelines and what they will accept may be different in each area, but, I guarantee there is something you could donate and that includes cash.  The cash is typically used for bulk purchases from the Food Bank.

Our local Galva Emergency Food Pantry, 311 N.W. 4th Ave. (back of the old F.U. White school), will accept excess garden produce, such as tomatoes, sweet corn, potatoes, onions, green beans, carrots, squash (and in season strawberries, cherries, apples, pumpkins and other).  All items need to be clean and free from damage.

Contact your Food Pantry (local contacts:  Pete V. 309-932-2317 or Terry W. 309-337-1214) from 9 am to 4 pm weekdays.  Contact your local ministerial association (or your pastor) to volunteer to work/staff the food pantry.

As you bag up some clean fresh produce, consider including non-food items such as diapers, feminine hygiene items, paper towels, toilet paper, dish washing liquid, laundry soap, etc. 

Seriously:  No one in the USA should go to bed hungry, but, many do.  No child should have to go to school without breakfast, but, many do.  No elderly person should have to decide between medications and food, but, some will.  No young family should have to decide between shoes and food, but, some must.

I've always maintained gardeners are the nicest and most generous of the people I know.  Not only share that beautiful garden plant with a friend, share your garden produce with a local food pantry.  Donate your garden bounty, your financial gifts, and your time.  Do so on a regular basis.  Make it a monthly project for your garden club or other group.  Teach your children and grandchildren the joy of helping others by your example.  Share the bounty!

Side Note:  Galva Food Pantry is usually looking for good used upright refrigerators.   

"A friend may well be the masterpiece of nature."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Good as Old

"Good as new is easy
Good as old takes talent."
- Edson Construction Co. advertisement in 1988 "Old House Journal"

Although this advertisement is talking about remodeling homes, it applies quite well to gardens.

Seldom do we exclaim over a new garden.  We save our "ooh" and "ahhh" for established yards.  We want to copy yards and gardens that have character - the kind you can only get from years of growing, loving and attention. 

What this little quote refers to is making something new look, feel and behave as if it was done perfectly years and years ago.  Putting a row of little shrubs around the foundation of a new home is easy.  Putting a foundation planting together that resembles an established home is much more difficult.  And, it takes talent.
A few of the talents needed is know yourself, vision, define your style, horticultural knowledge, a good diagrammed plan, a budget and buying the right plant for today and tomorrow.  It's not necessarily hiring a professional (although that is one way to help) and it's not necessarily spending huge quantities of money (although that's an option, too.)

  • Know yourself:  What level of self involvement will you want?
  • Vision:  How do you want your planting to look today and at maturity?
  • Style:  Do you want a particular style and will it match your home's architecture?
  • Horticultural Knowledge:  Do you know enough to do this project and will you be able to continue?
  • Plan:  Having a diagram on paper/computer will help you visualize and keep the plan on track.
  • Budget:  Knowing what you can spend prior to starting keeps your plan viable and is a must for both you and if you hire help. 
  • Right plant:  Make sure your plan will transition into the future years and not outgrow it's beauty and function. 
I think we've all seen a new house with the little puff ball shrubs dotting the foundation every two feet or the twenty year old ranch home with bushes covering the windows.  Both examples show lack of the above steps.  Too bad since a planting gone bad typically costs as much in labor and material as a good planting. 

Probably the last comment:  If you have made a mistake, take it out.  This is my personal difficult rule.  I have feelings akin to disowning a child. 

I've made my share of mistakes when planting.  The hybrid Eastern White Pine Pinus strobus "fastigiated" that was to get a maximum of 15 foot wide and 50 foot tall.  It sounded like the perfect tree between my four eastern facing windows - a blank spot on the house visible to the road.  The thing is HUGE and starting to cover the bottom windows.  It's just too beautiful a tree to remove and is said to live up to 400 years.  I just can't kill it and it's way too big to move.

I've been fooled by "dwarf" varieties, "slow growers" and "maximum growth stats" several times.  Some have been successfully moved, some have stayed and are awkward and some have left us.  I try to rationalize:

Successfully moved:  The HUGE H U G E  forsythia bush by the front picture window was moved (thank you husband) and we were able to divide it into at least fifteen bushes now located away from windows.  It seemed like a beautiful yellow addition to that area, where we could enjoy the flowers and birds and insects who frequented.  Alas, it blocked all other views.  
Stayed:  The above mentioned White Pine.

Left us:  Raspberry bushes as foundation plants.  This was a method of keeping "peeping Toms and intruders" away from windows in Victorian times.  I thought, "How perfect for my old Victorian home!"  Not so perfect for the guys who were painting the house. 

ask questions,
research and
make your gardens as good as old!
It's worth building your talents.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Harvest Home

Here's a great letter from the Indiana USDA office regarding farm safety and it applies to Illinois, too.  I call farmers the "Big Gardeners" and many safety hints relate to little gardeners, too.  As we see and hear farm equipment during this harvest season, let's all make an extra effort to be safe.

Farm Safety: A Serious Business

"As harvest is underway in the Hoosier heartland, how fortunate we are to benefit from the hard work and dedication of America’s farmers.  National Farm Safety and Health Week is this month. As we reflect on the agricultural abundance we enjoy in Indiana and this Nation, let’s acknowledge the risk inherent in this occupation. As these hard working men and women are creating this agricultural abundance – food, feed, fuel and fiber – over the next several months, they must be ever-vigilant for their own safety.
From their toil on farms, we have an abundance of healthy food to sustain us and make our lives enjoyable and a wealth of materials for clothing and manufactured products.   Every day our lives are touched and enriched by the fruits of their labors. 
Indiana’s farm families are among the most productive in the world.  An amazing bounty is produced on the idyllic family farms we picture in our minds.  But while living and working on a farm might seem like an entirely wholesome and stress free existence, there are few jobs in America that are more dangerous. 

The National Safety Council consistently ranks agriculture as one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States. A recent survey by USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service showed 200,000 work-related injuries occurred on U.S. farms annually. Farm family members accounted for 65 percent of those injuries.

We often think of dangerous jobs as firefighters, police officers, or miners.  But according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, agriculture faces an extremely high fatality rate of nearly four for every 10,000 farmers.  Only fishermen, loggers and aircraft pilots have occupational fatality rates that are higher.   
Dangers built into agricultural work include harsh weather, difficult environmental conditions, operation of heavy machinery and equipment and working with dangerous materials and chemicals.  Tractor roll-overs and ATV accidents continue to be responsible for a great number of adult and adolescent farm fatalities on our Nation’s farms.  Accidents happen in any field, but in agriculture, accidents frequently can be fatal.
I fondly look back on my childhood on the farm and cherish the hours spent riding on the tractor with my dad, or taking care of the Angus cattle herd.  I still marvel at how quickly he then, and still today, can plant a crop, bale a field of hay or sort cattle. I also remember the fear I have had many times with the “close calls” on the farm with either the crop or livestock operation.  He could easily have been severely injured. Our family farm does its best to practice farm safety every day.

My dad has been lucky, but others have not been. For every serious agricultural injury, the victim will have experienced 10 close calls and 30 cases of personal property damage. It is so easy to become complacent in daily farm work that safety basics can be overlooked.  Farm safety has to be constantly reinforced.
Please join with me in expressing our appreciation and gratitude to our farmers and farm families for their phenomenal contribution to our very well being.  At the USDA Farm Service Agency, we are taking this opportunity during harvest to raise the awareness of farm safety to help them stay safe, healthy, and on the job.  After all, it is the very practice of farm safety that sustains the health of our Nation’s farm families.  Here’s wishing all Indiana (and Illinois) farmers a productive and safe harvest!"
Indiana Farm Service Agency
5981 Lakeside Blvd.
Indianapolis, IN 46278
Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services
United States Department of Agriculture
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Op-ed by Julia A. Wickard (copied by permission)
State Executive Director, Indiana Farm Service Agency

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

OOoo La La Nina

OK, it's not even officially fall and the Climate Prediction Center issued a forecast that Le Nina "will garner strength during the coming winter."  That's the weather pattern bringing us both drought and record snowfalls in the U.S.

"While it is not yet clear what the ultimate strength of this La Nina will be, La Nina conditions have returned and are expected to gradually strengthen and continue into the Northern Hemisphere winter (of) 2011-12," the CPC said in a monthly update.

La Nina was blamed in part for the severe snow storms which struck the U.S. last winter and the worst drought in a century which has ravaged Texas and swathes of the southwestern part of the country.

Most of us in the Midwest prepare for a bad winter, La Nina prediction or not.  Here's a few reminder preparations for a winter of heavy and deep snow:

Arborvitaes usually have two or more trunks.  Loosely tie them together about 2/3 of the way up with old nylon stockings.  Heavy snow will often weigh those down and cause them to split open - often no repair is possible.

Make sure you have your snow blower serviced and make sure it will start.  If you don't own one, make sure you have a functional shovel, clean, sharp and oiled.  Keep one at home and keep on in the trunk of your vehicles.

Clean out the debris from your gutters.  Debris is heavy and added snow can rip them off the house.  In addition, the melting and freezing of snow on the roof needs to be able to run off and away.

Remove and store all garden ornaments near paths and driveways that will be buried in snow and be broke or trip someone.

Get an extra supply of kitty litter to put down on ice covered walks.  Put another bag/box in each trunk in case you need traction.

If your winter machines run on gas, make sure you have full gas cans in a place where you can access but not where they are a hazard.

Use large covered storage tubs to store quantities of bird seed.  The tubs keep mice out and keep repeat shopping at a minimum.  A heavy snow cover prevents birds and animals from reaching food on the ground.  Consider putting up bird shelters where they can roost away from the wind.

If you can afford the electric expense, invest in a bird bath heater.  Make sure the extension is placed where it isn't a hazard (tripping, cut with snow blower, whipped by wind) and for outside use only.  Wrap the connection with electrical tape.

Put up outside Christmas lights while it's still decent weather.  Maybe not the twenty foot Santa balloon but certainly lights on trees, bushes, fences, etc.  It will allow you to check them out without freezing.  It will also allow you to have a plan for placing the plug-ins.  The same warning goes as with the above extension cord.  Make sure all outdoor extensions are free from nicks to the rubber coating and have no frayed wires.  Remember electricity and moisture do not mix safely!

Tie down or weigh down any yard ornament, holiday decorations, tables, chairs, or other yard things.  We tend to forget the brute force of winter winds especially when in conjunction with a winter snow storm. 

Cover your grill or take inside.  Fall is the best time to wash and store screens.  Both last longer if they don't have to winter outside.  Take in all fabric accessories:  curtains, cushions, and pillows.

Any porch equipment, even if weather resistant, will last longer if you can store in a protected space.  Rattan and wicker will rot away after a few years exposed to winter weather. 

Wash all garden gloves and throw away those you can't save.  No one needs twelve left hand gloves with no right hand gloves...  Wash your ball caps and that stinky pair of garden shoes.  THROW away anything ripped and uncomfortable.

Wash and dry all garden tools, oil metal and wood and store in a dry place.  THROW away the tools that are simply past working right.  If you can't throw away - hang them on the shed wall as decoration, but, stop moving old broken tools while your looking for the one that works.

Oil the rollers on your garage door, put up snow fence where it drifts (before the ground freezes), service the lawn mowers, weed eaters, blowers and any other machines with a gas engine.  Add Sta-Bil to the gas tanks. 

Add any raked leaves to your flower and garden beds.  They make great insulation from the cold, they compost right into the soil, and they're free.

When adverse conditions are predicted, be prepared with a full tank of gas in your vehicles and generator.  Have emergency medications, baby and elder care supplies and a plan if you loose your source of heat.  Have your cell phones charged, extra batteries, a good flashlight, emergency band radio and perhaps candles and lanterns.  (I always like to have a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies but that's just me.)  Have your firewood dry and close to the house if you have a wood stove or fireplace. 

And lastly, make sure your pets are able to have warm shelter from the winter winds and snow.  My measure is if I'm not warm, neither is my pet and that's just not right.  It doesn't mean they must be inside pets, but an insulated house, with a flap door that is protected from the wind, always fresh unfrozen water and plenty to eat.  A nice layer of straw for an insulated bed and covered with a blanket.  If it all gets wet, remove and replace with fresh.  Bales of straw will make great insulation around a dog house and come spring they can be torn apart and put on the garden as mulch.

You know:  one purpose of fall is to get all the winter preparations done that you've been putting off all summer.  Since La Nina has been invited to the party, perhaps it's the perfect time to get your cha cha in gear and be prepared.     


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Annual Fall

With cooler weather, even drought suffering annuals are rebounding.  We had half an inch of rain the other day and although it didn't solve the drought, it did refresh most of the plants.  Grass has greened, annuals have stopped wilting, the garden vegetables are pushed along, and hopefully, all perennials have a bit of a boost.

(Impatiens:  Super Elfin "Parfait Mix" is  placed along the North path to the woods.)

Next spring when you're in the nursery, remember what annuals are rebounding with the cool weather.  Impatients will never looked as good as in the cooler fall weather.  Grasses are thick and most have blooms.  Vines have a combination of flowers and seed pods.

(Zinnia:  "Old Fashioned Pink" - grows to about four foot tall) 

Vegetables are heavily producing.  Tomatoes should put on a final batch - even if you have to pick them green come frost.  Winter squash vines have begun to dry and ornamental squash is still blooming big and beautiful.

(Dolichos Lab Lab:  "Ruby Moon".  Self seeded from last year.) 

Sunflowers are beginning to dry and the little Goldfinches are busy eating upside down.  After the shower, my yard has been filled with Robins eating at the insect buffet.  Squarrels are feasting on and hiding my bumper crop of walnuts.

(Cleome:  "Mixed Pink" - self seeded from last year.)

These photos are some of the pretty annuals currently enjoying this beautiful fall day. 

(Morning Glory:  Pink self seeded from last year (yes, I know..) and a huge dusty pink hybrid called "Chocolate".)

“By all these lovely tokens
September days are here
With summer's best of weather
And autumn's best of cheer.”
Author Unknown

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Tulip "Claudia" is a dramatic purple-violet pink with light pink-white edges.  Blooms Mid-Spring and is 16-20 inches tall. 

These are two of the tulips I planted this afternoon.  Walmart and EuroBlooms have partnered to give $0.30 to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure from each pack sold with a guaranteed minimum donation of $100,000. 
Tulip "Hope Blooms" is a variable white and pink with pink mottling.  Blooms in Mid Spring and is 12-16 inches tall. 

Hadn't thought about tulips for the cure, was simply focused on planting pink tulips under our big old walnut tree.  Many of my tulips have run their course and I was glad for the nice day to plant.  I've often been outside in early November digging holes while battling nasty weather.

If you'd like to buy some of these pink flowering bulbs that benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure cause, check out your Walmart store, garden section. has the complete selection.

In addition to the two EuroBlooms, I planted tulip "Pink Impression" which grows to 18-24 inches.  There are now about 50 bulbs of pink tulip under the tree.  Towards the front of the bed I planted  36 crocus "Goldilocks" bulbs and they will bloom in early spring.  The late emerging comfry will eventually cover all the area where these bulbs are planted.
One of my favorite tulips is "Apricot Impression" - a dreamcycle colored large Mid-Spring bloomer on 22 inch stems.  I've had this one in my garden for years and replant as they begin to stop blooming.

All I have left to plant are about 50 daffodils ("Smiling Twin" and "Carlton").  I started planting daffodils in the woods a few years ago and hope to see WAVES of them in the years to come.  They are considered a long lasting perennial plus they naturalize.

If I gave you the impression I "color theme" my spring flowering bulbs - I sure don't.  I'm so color and flower starved come Spring, I love every color of flower that emerges.

I do manage to have complementary colors close together, but that's about as themed as I get.  My only theme is the thought, "I've never regretted a single bulb I've planted come Spring." 

Next month will be the official Pinktober - grab a few bags of bulbs along with your other donations to the Susan G. Komen For The Cure!  We all know a woman who has suffered and won the battle and a few who have suffered and lost.  We need a cure!        

Friday, September 16, 2011

Goings On

Hoerr Nursery, 8020 N Shade Tree Dr., Peoria, IL 61615 | 309.691.4561

Free! This Saturday - Sept 17
10am » Love Your Lawn this Fall - Shirley Litwiller
11am » Color Coordinated Fall - Ella Maxwell
12pm » It's All About the Bulbs! - Ruth Clelland
Everything you need to make and take your first mini-garden home with you.
$30/person - Please reserve your spot by Sept 17

Christmas Celebration at Old Mill Gardens, 108 E Exchange St., Atkinson IL
Nov. 18 - 8:30 am to 8 pm
Nov. 19 - 8:30 am to 4 pm
Nov. 20 - 11:00 am to 3 pm

They have some really great garden themed items, unusual pumpkins, flowers, sale items and obviously Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations and gifts. 

Emma's Bloomers, Inc., 303 W. Front St., Annawan IL is really packed with a variety of holiday and garden items.  This little store has some quality locally-created items in addition to their flowers, decorations and gifts.

Hathaway's Gift Barn, along side Hathaway True Value Hardware, is always a excellent place to do your gift shopping.  Mary Hathaway carries holiday and gift items in addition to things for the garden.  Her inventory changes almost daily.

Market Alley Wines, #59 Public Square, Monmouth IL has an excellent selection of wine in addition to gift baskets (custom or already composed) and many new and vintage wine accessories.  And the owner is perhaps the most beautiful and friendly person you'll ever meet in retail - well that and she's my daughter but I'm sure you'll agree. . .

All shops have friendly caring owners and service - plus nice products.  Start your holiday decorating and gift buying locally.  It supports your neighbors and gives you good value for your money.   

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Excessive Moderation

Everything in moderation; we hear that about most everything.  Moderation is sometimes preached, taught, politicked, diagnosed and gardened.  At first blush, it sounds like it might be an “always”.  Think of it in depth and it just doesn’t hold a moderate amount of water. 

Knowing when to break out and get excessive is a key gardening technique.  Some examples where moving out of moderation makes sense:

·         Watering for half an hour every other day.  That’s moderate.   It also causes a shallow root system which causes weak stability, less nutrient intake, and an inability to reach moisture at a lower level during drought.  Plants NEED deep watering to become established.

·         Putting a moderate one inch of mulch on your flower beds.  It looks nice in the beginning but it defeats the purpose of mulch – to hold moisture in the ground and keep weeds out.  A minimum of four inches is necessary.

·         A moderate amount of insecticide only to deter pesky insects isn’t really harmful.  Some beneficial insects, birds, amphibians/fish, wildlife and humans are severely sensitive to any amount of insecticides.  Investigate and be prudent.

·         Breathing herbicides a few times a year won’t be all that harmful; that moderation can be a killer.  Poor health is often cumulative; meaning it happens after repeated exposure.  Are you willing to bet “the farm” that you will be able to stay healthy from years of moderate herbicide exposure?  Wear protective equipment every time.

·         Know more than a moderate amount about your soil.  Understand that many things make or break good soil and good soil is the basis for a healthy garden, lawn, flower beds, trees, and bushes.

·         Paying moderate attention to safety practices will eventually insure an injury.  Safe work habits needs every bit of your attention whether in the yard, garden or farm field.

·         A moderate amount of reaping or taking from the ground with little nutrients returning will eventually deplete your corner of the world.  Be aggressive about fertilizing, cover crops, crop and plant rotation, and composting.

 For many years, anyone who actively talked about preservation, conservation, and safety was automatically labeled a “tree hugger” and scorned.  Today gardeners, farmers, and universities are out front on all of these topics.  Their influence (and buying power) has begun to swing big business suppliers towards those goals, too. 

My garden practice is to not jump in with both feet on the new and wonderful; let a little research and time prove the benefits or hazards first.  Think kudzu and you realize some things needed further research. 

Is a wait and see philosophy moderation?  No, I tend to think of it as aggressively wanting proof of the benefits and safety of an item. 

Now, I’m off to get aggressive with some crabgrass.  It’s either that or buy some goats!

Photos are from the road side plants near our home. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You

Photos of the World Trade Center taken by Astronaut Frank Culbertson, the only American who wasn't on Earth during the attacks.

"Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)"
By:  Alan Jackson

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out in pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell
you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns?

Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Did you stand in line and give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?

And the greatest is love.
And the greatest is love.

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?

25 Most Powerful Photos
Photo: 2001 by Thomas E. Franklin

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

V is for Viola

The violet family Vioaceae has around 500 species world-wide.  The viola species, commonly called violets, pansies and heartsease, are often seen in this area.  African violets and dogtooth violets are not of this species.

The spring flowering violets are either treasured by land owners or considered an invasive weed.  I tend to lean towards loving my wild violets and the little color changes in the batch within our woods.  When they pop up where I don't want them, they are easily pulled. 

There are others that can't get enough of our common blue violet Viola sororia; It's our Illinois state flower along as-well-as  Wisconsin, Rhode Island and New Jersey.  

Violas and pansies are among the top three bedding plants in the United States.  Another little tidbit is it is widely used in the culinary world.  Decorative when sugared and as a flavoring in such things as liquors, tea and desserts.  All parts are rich in vitamin A and C. 

The most obvious color is violet.  They also come in shades of blue, yellow, white and cream.  Some are bi colored.  As you have probably noticed in your nursery, cultivars and hybrids have been bred for many other colors.

Bouquets of violets have been treasured for centuries and one reason is the scent.  Along with terpenes, a major component of the scent is a ketone compound called ionone.  Ionone temporarily desensitizes the receptors of the nose, preventing any further scent being detected until the nerves recover.  This was why it was so widely used by women prior to such niceties as deodorants, clean streets, sewers and the like.

Violas are the topic of many artists and their little "faces" are tempting cartoons.  They look great planted in mass, in pots, hanging planters, window boxes, as edging, and in rock gardens.  They have an exceptionally long vase life and keep their color when pressed.

Viola and Violet have been popular girl names.  The ancient Romans consider the violet a sign of mourning.     In Christianity, it is said all violets were white until Mary saw her son suffering on the cross and they all turned to purple in mourning.  Medieval belief was viola was a protection against evil spirits.  The Victorians thought of it as a sign of modesty and innocence (a reason it was used by brides).  In modern time, if you dream of violets it's a signal of an upcoming marriage or a commitment.

Viola species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including the Giant Leopard Moth, some species of the Underwing and Fritillaries.

You may grow your violas from seed or from transplant sets.  Other than the native plants, most nursery grown violas are considered annuals.  Left to overwinter, many will reseed and surprise you with a little plant growing in unusual places. 

Plants do best in the cooler weather of spring or fall.  If your climate is very hot, it's recommended you plant in partial shade and water.  Deadheading prolongs blooming plus keeps the plant from getting leggy.
Now is the time to plant the fall blooming pansies.  Their beautiful faces and colors will help liven up a lagging perennial  garden.  Or - it may cause you to jot down a little poem about violets:

“The modest, lowly violet
In leaves of tender green is set;
So rich she cannot hide from view,
But covers all the bank with blue.”

Dora Read Goodale

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Eye of the Beholder

Remember the old saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"?  It is so applicable to the gardening process.  I often use this one when I hear people dishing another person's gardens. 

I've found another quote I plan to adopt into my gardening observations:  "I believe creative work is subconscious."  The quote is from a Charlie Rose interview with Steve Martin (the actor/comedian/musician/author.)

It was a descriptive moment for my writing.  I don't claim to be a great writer and maybe some days not particularly inspired.  There are times when I do get inspiration and I've never been able to properly explain how it develops.  I'll get an idea and it simply flows.  These are what I consider my better efforts.  It's also a surprise as I go back and read a topic and think, "Where on earth did that come from?"

This subconscious creative process effect is why there will be a flood of several topics and articles.  Blame the excessive amounts of coffee, the barometric pressure, or something visual; at times, it simply flows.

In addition to creative writing, gardening has a subconscious creative process.  As with writing, developing a garden says so much about the individual performing the process.  The motives and inner thoughts are as diverse as are individuals world-wide in any creative factor. 

That diversity of the creative subconscious is why I hesitate to criticize another gardener's plan.  A garden completely developed by a single gardener reflects their subconscious - something we should value as surely as we value other deep core personality idiosyncrasies. 

Let me explain: I'm not talking about the fellow who throws his trash, used appliances and junk cars in the back yard for the weeds to envelope.  I'm not talking the crazed person who burns doll heads, crosses, and garbage as a focal point of their garden personality.  I'm not talking about the resident that uses so many chemicals and practices the rest of the neighborhood is endangered. 

I'm referring to the lady who spends every spare dime on cement angels, the young man who not only paints his house orange, but, every flower, bush, & ornament is orange,  the family who has a particular fancy for all things plastic or the sweet little ol' neighbor who must have one of every new plant no matter how they blend together. 

It's all about the inner creativity that has been pulled from the subconscious of a gardener.  I understand it and I'm good with your inner self if it brings you happiness every time you look at your garden. 

It's the same inner creativity that produces a song, a painting or sculpture, an innovative business venture, or a plan for world peace.  Some are on the scale of a small side yard and some are world-sized. 

Next time you have that subconscious creative inspiration and there are those that point and laugh, criticize or mock - remember your very own subconscious inspiration is as unique as you are - one of a kind.  If you are sensitive to the opinion of others, use that creativity sheltered from prying eyes, but, at least try a bit of it someplace.

Steve Smith in character as Red Green. Smith is finished making episodes of The Red Green Show, but he now fills theatres throughout Canada and the U.S. with his one-man production.As another creative person, Red Green, says, "Remember we're all in this together."


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Garden Labors

Hope you're having a wonderful Labor Day weekend.  After a brief shower yesterday, it's a beautiful 65 degrees and sunny.  Although the meteorological fall started September 1st, we had unusual 100 degree days in this area.

This area has the Kewanee (IL) Hog Days - it's Midwest farming community at best.  Yesterday was the parade (shown is my grandson marching with his high school band for almost 1 1/2 hours), there are pork chops, rides, tractors, entertainment, and the kind of local silly we all enjoy.  

Below is my husband, with the American flag, marching with the local American Legion color guard.   

I'm not sure Labor Day was designed to honor gardeners, but, we all know we certainly should be included! 

Not to take away from those that are featured in parades, and here's another "but", but, I think gardening ranks right up there with noble professions.  Not as dangerous as our military, unless you consider a back thrown out or sore muscles.  Not as challenging as factory or production work, unless you consider getting out early to fight the latest insect invasion.  Not as necessary to have a specialized education, unless you consider hybridizing your favorite daylily.  Not a luxury spa resort, unless you consider the mental get away gardening affords.  Not as challenging as farming, unless you consider you can feed your family right out of your own back yard.  

Most of us have or have had other professions of labor and we still consider ourselves gardeners - the other profession. 

Two granddaughters taking advantage of the many parade entries who throw candy to the children.

Have a wonderful fall Labor Day where ever you are.  For those dealing with the recent effects of some of the nastier weather events, you're still in our prayers.


“If you wish, take learning seriously,
but take nothing else about gardening seriously.”
 Professor Allan Armitage
Author of Herbaceous Perennial Plants

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Spring Bouquet

Before all the foliage in your beautiful gardens die back, take the time to note where you want to plant spring flowering bulbs. A little spray of latex paint on top of your mulch or soil will mark the spot until it's time to plant.

You may want to plant where the dying foliage doesn't show as much: Where other plants will fill in around them (hostas for example), towards the back of the border, or in a wooded area.

Many catalogs have pictures of naturalized spring bulbs. Naturalized can mean different things. It may mean you plant a bulb and it reproduces & develops into a colony of flowers. It may mean you plant in such a way it will look like they came up of their own accord.

The problem with naturalized looking spring bulbs, you must wait until the leaves die back of their own accord. If you've planted them in lawn grass, that grass will be way past needing mowed before they die back. Cutting the foliage back or tied into those cute little bundles will not allow the plant to absorb the nutrients for next year's flowers. The leaves need light until they have finished this process.

The flowering of spring bulbs can be extended into several months by choosing varieties with different bloom times. Some bloom so early, they often come up in the snow.

There are many heights, many uses, many forms, some fragrant, all can be used in vases and in many colors.

Here are some thing s to ponder:

Color palates: All one color, different shades of one color, all pastel, wildly bright like Warhol, two colors or three, patriotic, or an artist's garden like Monet.

Size or form:   Fringed, doubles, tall, short, branched, parrots, and heirloom.

Flowers:  Mixing different spring flowering species can complement each other. 

Cost: The best way to figure cost is divide the number of bulbs by the cost per bag. Figure if the plant is short-lived or long. Does it make new bulbs? What is the cost for the enjoyment each bulb will bring to you? (This is like trying to put a cost on love.)

Cost vs. quality: Cheaper bulbs are typically smaller. This doesn't mean bad. It means they may be smaller flowers until they grow larger over several years. It may mean they have a few duds. It may mean they have a wrong color code. They may not live as long.  For most of us it simply means a bargain.

I've also enjoyed heirloom bulbs. They have a history that appeals to me in my old farmhouse yard.

Planting: Plant the exact depth in the directions, pointed end up, do not use bone meal if you have dogs, do not pack soil hard over them, mulch, water in if it's been dry, and do all this at least a month prior to the first hard freeze.

If you have voles or moles, one solution is to plant bulbs in a chicken wire cage. Just make sure the soil is loose enough to go into the cage so there’s no air pocket.

I also mark where I plant bulbs or I am forever digging them up in summer when I'm finding a place for new plants.

If you are a garden enthusiast, I guarantee the work put into planting bulbs in the fall will fade from memory when they become flowers next spring.

“The day the Lord created hope
 was probably the same day
He created spring.”
- Bern Williams