Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Magic Garden Glitter

Have you noticed the trees and bushes that are normally orange in the fall are deep red this year?  The trees that are normally gold just dropped their leaves without much color.  I'm guessing it might be from the lack of an early freeze or maybe the summer drought or then again perhaps the heavy spring rains.  That's why there's always new opportunities for taking pictures.

For my friends who like shabby chic or recycled Victorian, I found a new Facebook site:  ~Romantic~Vintage Home~     It's packed with pictures (as in the one below) of re purposed and frothy clothes, gardens, homes and baked goods.  It's especially loaded with pink. 

This garden lighting is fun and a good use for all those cheesy decanters you've collected but never really use because - well, they're cheesy.  Seldom do any of us have ones made of cut glass lead crystal with sterling silver trim.  We have $1.00 at the thrift store or it came with stinky bath salts on our "earlier birthday" decanters. 

Seriously, can you imagine how these must sparkle if they were hung in the garden - yep, it a project!

Occasionally, I break the foot off a pretty wine glass - they are perfect with the stem pushed into pots of flowers or even along paths and in with the flowers.  A simple tea light and the flame is shielded from the wind.

Granted it's officially time to bring garden things inside - away from freezing and breakage.  It's not time to put away your imagination and inspiration.  Maybe - just maybe it's the perfect time to make some changes in your gardens. 

Catalogs, web sites, and most botanical gardens are available year round.  Slip on your warmest slippers and sail that fantasy garden wheelbarrow over the snowy skies until you find winter's magic garden glitter.  A hand full is all you need to find the most beautiful garden you've ever had - at least until Spring.    

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Big Freeze

We've been warned - it's suppose to freeze tonight.  Not just frost - a full scale freeze.  I debated just how much I wanted to save. 

The odd weather this summer contributed to a very late burst of blooming on annuals as-well-as confused perennials.  Was so enjoying them.

My yard's too big to cover everything in blankets, therefore, things are going to die back.  My husband moved potted things into the garage as a first step towards getting them either inside the bay window or down in the basement for dormancy.  Other pots were left outside to bring an end to the flowering and the next warm day I'll get them winterized, too.

I picked every rose on my Julia Child and have a beautiful bouquet.  The rest of the perennial flowers will probably die.

Last week I had picked the garden of all nice sized tomatoes (both red and green) and any decent sized peppers (pictured below).  After finishing that huge mess, I made up my mind I was done canning and the rest was just going to either rot or someone else could have them.  

Today I had to take one more look - mistake.  I simply could not leave smallish peppers, tomatoes and butternut squash.  It somehow seemed ungrateful.  Not sure what I'll do with this last batch of green tomatoes and peppers - I'm thinking I'll try something totally different. 

Since we're having family over for our "Let's celebrate every one's birthday" cookout Sunday, I've left some things in the yard - chairs, candles, and decorations.  Next week needs final winterizing tasks completed. 

And so, this evening I've put away the flip flops, brought out the sweaters and slippers and I'm sure there's a cup of hot cider calling my name.  I'll continue working my way through "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris. 

Tomorrow I'll tackle the garden produce. . .

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Julia Child Cook Off

I have one rose that beats all the contenders in my garden every time.  It's the Floribunda Rosa "Julia Child"  Registered by Carruth in 2006, it has everything I want in a rose.

It's one of the flowers that simply insists I take it's picture every time I'm in the garden.  With it's butter gold medium, very full, old-fashioned blooms and a petal count of 35 plus, it's beautiful.  It has medium glossy green foliage.

It has a strong licorice candy spice fragrance - often depending on the weather. 
It grows to about three foot in height and is rounded and bushy - more so in full sun. 

It's disease resistant and although the Japanese Beetles found it tasty, it bounced right back as soon as they stopped feeding. 

It is consistent, hardy and floriferous in our Zone 5.  Blooms continually from June through September.  Mine is currently putting on the biggest show of the season.

Plant in full sun (although it will take afternoon shade) and keep mulched.  It does not require extra winter protection in my yard although I do have them in a spot that gets plenty of winter cover.

The roses do not cause the stems to droop and it is vase worthy.  My little cat thinks the petals make the best dessert - lesson learned the hard way.

I've never had a rose that is more dependable and is still beautiful.  It's the perfect rose for someone who never quite takes care of roses well enough to keep anything but the extremely tough.

As Julia Child said, “Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”

I think that applies to gardening as-well-as cooking.  Apparently, this rose is as passionate about it's qualifications as Ms. Child was in her life.  No other rose could have handled the name "Julia Child" without being robust and interesting.   

Friday, October 14, 2011


Life has seasons as surely as nature.  It’s a story told throughout history since Noah’s flood receded.   I must have been in a pondering mood this past week since I reflected on these comparisons. 

I spent a good part of this beautiful fall week driving places and it was a chance to watch farmers in the fields, the trees turning and yards full of harvest decorations.  At one four way stop, a gust of wind brought a whirling of gold leaves all over us.  As a group of drivers, we looked up and all of us broke into a laugh at the same time.  We had been awed and we knew it showed on our faces.

I’m enamored with fields in the process of being harvested.  Be it a huge flat expanse or terraced and hilly.  It’s akin to a beautiful painting, the proportions, the colors and the story.

I’m not close to the first to expand on nature’s seasons as a parallel to the human lifetime.  My little analogy is:

Fall, for me, compares to the age when our bodies are slowing.  It’s how we visualized grandma and grandpa.  It’s perhaps, where we look down at our own hands and see skin no longer soft and unblemished.

As a leaf, our hands show if the summer has been kind to us.  This year’s leaves on many trees have little blemishes reflecting the huge population of Japanese Beetles.  The early rains and then the summer drought have caused the beautiful fall colors we so love in the Midwest.  The bark on our old walnut shows where it was struck with lightning.

Our hands reflect the amount of work we’ve done, scrapes and scars.  Misshapen, perhaps, by an accident.   Spots from too much sun, whether from gardening, farming or sports. 

Like the leaves, our skin no longer is soft as it changes from summer to winter.  It is more easily damaged as it becomes more fragile. 

 Some folks mourn the loss of youth during the fall season of their life. I don’t.  I look at my friends, family and myself in this phase and celebrate resilience, the stunning fall beauty and know that life has shaped us to be perfect at this time in life.

Society tends to worship all that is young and supple.  It’s a never ending focus and source of worry, not to mention the billions of dollars spent to keep us all young.

I would hate to think of my maple trees green all year.  Or, our woods full of five foot catalpa trees never growing into the stately fifty foot beauties.  No branches or trunks reflecting the effects of wind, lightening, pests and disease.   I’d hate to think I had trees where bird or wildlife would be afraid to snuggle into the branches to have their babies or seek shelter from storms.

It’s the same with the human race.  I’d rather be around someone whose veneer shows they have lived life.  The wrinkles from laughing, the movements from years of doing something productive, and having a lap and arms where children come for snuggles and shelter. 

I’ve heard more than one person lament, “I love the fall but hate the coming winter.”  Just remember our spring would not be so wonderful or appreciated had we not gone through the seasons to come out on the other side of winter.
As we look at our “elders” or as we look at our own hands, honor and celebrate the seasons that brought them to this place.  Take time this fall to enjoy this beautiful season of the year. 

“Ere, in the northern gale,
The summer tresses of the trees are gone,
The woods of autumn, all around our vale,
Have put their glory on."

 William Cullen Bryant
Autumn Woods

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shopping the Windy City

Sponsored by and benefiting the Henry-Stark 4-H Program (administered by the Henry-Start Extension office):

Holiday Shopping Trip to downtown Chicago.
Oh Yea - Oh Yea
Bring it on - Bring it on
Uh Hah - Uh Hah

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Harvest Home

Today's just a bin full of photos I've taken of harvest - as a farm girl, a writer and what I loosely call an artist - I love this time of this year here in middle America.

This is a pumpkin face I just happen to notice in the soybean field beside the house.  Is this too cute?
I don't think the sky is any more blue than in the Fall over harvest fields.
The gentle hills of this area make a quilt of beans, corn, trees, sky and roads.
The leafless walnut tree overlays the golden fields.
Yesterday's combining of the next door soybeans.  A dusty business necessary to the process. 
 This photo was taken by someone else at a location in Pennsylvania.  It applies to all farm communities.  On my drive to Princeton IL yesterday, I got behind many farm machinery.  The fields were full of farmers and equipment.  Lots of turns into fields, ethanol plants, elevators and homes lanes.  Don't become impatient, leave a little early because you can just bet your drive will take longer than normal.  Take time to enjoy the scenery and the farming process.  Say a little prayer of thanksgiving and protection for our farmers and their families. 

"Our deep respect for the land and its harvest is the legacy of generations of farmers who put food on our tables, preserved our landscape, and inspired us with a powerful work ethic."
 by James H. Douglas

And from our little hill in rural American, I say "Amen to that!"

Monday, October 3, 2011

Second Hand Rose

Second hand garden books are a good deal.  My friend, Rebecca, donated this batch to Freedom House's  Upscale~Resale Shop.

While working in Decatur IL, I often would visit "The Old Book Barn" which specialized in used and previously unsold book store inventory.  It was a barn of a place and stuffed full - I could spend hours - days - eternity - perhaps too enthused at this point...

I doubt there's a town, large or small, that currently doesn't have a non-profit that sells used books.  Some of our local "book joints":
  •  Upscale~Resale, 214 w. St Paul St, Spring Valley, IL  (a women and children's domestic abuse shelter and services serving Henry, Bureau, Marshall, Stark and Putnam IL counties)
  • Abilities Plus Resale Shop, Kewanee  IL (309-352-4626 to find drop location and times) (benefits individuals with developmental disabilities)
  • Goodwill Industries, 137 W South St, Midland Shopping Ctr. (Old Kroger store), Kewanee, IL
  • Salvation Army, 115 N. Tremont St. (Old J.C. Penney store), Kewanee, IL
 All of the above accept books, including garden books.

In addition to these great non-profits, who often depend upon the donations of others to fund their many programs, there's often book deals at commercial resale and antique shops. 

While looking for garden books, note there are other closely related topics such as my new book "Botanical Drawing in Color" given to me by my friend, Marge.  Other garden topics include books about birds and other wildlife, how to build yard structures, crafting yard ornaments, historical gardens and landscapes, botanical and horticultural masters and more.

A side note:  Non-profit resale shops will gladly accept your used garden "stuff", IE:  decorations and tools.

2nd side note:  Many libraries have a book sale once a year.  Always a place to find something interesting.

And, I've added this photo just because it was such a pretty little view of my yard today.


It's time to start "laying in" your winter stash of reading material - why not benefit a non-profit by scouting their book sales.  Take along some of you own supply to donate.  Win-win!   



Saturday, October 1, 2011

Free Falling

What do you do with all those containers and pots once the summer and fall annuals have been thrown away or taken inside for the winter? 

(photo at left was not from my gardens)

There are a couple of options: 
  1. Dump the soil on a flower or garden bed.  Clean out the pot with a mild solution of bleach and water, rinse, and let drain.  Either bring the pots inside and store or turn upside down outside.  Don’t stack inside each other, as the freezing and thawing could cause them to break.  They will be ready for next spring.
  2. If the flowerpots have drainage holes, you can use with outside winter decorations.   Dump and clean as above.  Pack the pots with something that does NOT absorb water.  You don’t want it freezing and breaking your pot. Use something lightweight like Styrofoam or packing peanuts for window boxes so they won’t become too heavy.  Use small rocks, pea gravel, broken bricks for ground pots to keep them from blowing over.  Soil, sand and kitty litter absorb too much water.
Cut evergreens at a sharp angle and insert into the pots.  A variation of evergreen types adds visual interest.  Evergreens such as holly, boxwood, and yucca add interest.  We aren’t planting, simply using tips and leaves. Insert these into the pots.  Next, add a little color. 

In the late fall, add colorful leaves, nuts, a small pot of mums or flowering kale, corn, or gourds.  If you use corn and nuts, wild animals may think you are offering a buffet and raid your pots.

In the winter, change to colorful berries, red twig dogwood branches, pine cones, plumes from dried grasses and dried flower heads.   At this point, some folks will add Christmas decorations. 

Change out the greenery if it begins to yellow or brown although once it freezes (yes, it’s coming) it stays pretty much the color it was when you put it in the pot. 

I suggest you use “pot holders” for any pot left out all winter.  They are the little “feet” to keep the pot off the surface of your porch or other surface.  This keeps water from pooling under the pot and causing pot and porch damage from freezing/thawing. 

A pot holder that works extremely well in adverse conditions is one made of wine corks.  Take four clean corks, nail together and put under the corners of your flowerpot.  Works well, uses free materials, recycles and is easily completed.

As I write this, it is a beautiful fall day and I think I’ll remove some of those summer annuals from my pots and plant in my garden.  I’ll let them have one last hurrah before getting frost bit.  I’ll take my annual grasses into the basement when I hear predictions of frosts and freezes.  I’m just sure I can make a day of being outside – isn’t that what fall days call to us?  
 Come said the wind to the leaves one day,
Come o're
the meadows and we will play.
Put on your dresses scarlet and gold,
For summer is gone and the days grow cold.”
A Children's Song of the 1880's