Thursday, March 29, 2012

Buzzin' Along

Eldridge Cleaver and others are quoted as saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”  None of the quotes referred to gardening, but, it’s the perfect comment about today’s topic:  Bees. 
The state of Illinois has 500 native bee species.  Although we often think of fuzzy, black and yellow, bees come in many sizes, colors and habits.  In addition, bees have loyal followers:  beekeepers, bee spotters, fruit and vegetable producers, scientists, bee associations, botanic gardens, universities, horticulturists, and a loosely phrased title “bee people”. 

With so many people interested in bees, you may be surprised to know the bee population continues to decline.  I’m not even close to an expert on bees; I read and I observe. 

If every one of us (rural or city) isn’t a part of the solution to protect and encourage bees, we are part of the problem.  Not the whole problem, but, enough of the problem to seriously need a little info buzzed out to encourage us all. 

Number one is know how or what products harm beneficial insects.  Insecticide, herbicide and fungicide use is not specific to one nasty insect.  It often kills every insect it touches.  And as the “Successful Farming” Bee-Savvy Garden Tips tells us, “Some pesticides still can be used, as long as the application is timed to avoid working bees.”  A bigger impact is the “systemic Nicotine-based pesticides, which means they’re taken up into the plant, producing toxic nectar and pollen.”  “Any bee that collects from such a plant will die.”  (I might add:  not only bees but all other beneficial insects that frolic on these flowering plants and trees.  If they take the toxic pollen back to the nest, the entire population may be killed.)

The second best thing you can do is create a bee friendly environment in your yard or farm.  Plant their favorite flowers.  If possible, plant native flowers that bloom from early spring to the first hard freeze.  One of the earliest in my woods is a version of wild gooseberries.  The tiny bells hang upside down even before the leaves develop.  They are covered by a wide variety of native bees.

If you're a farmer, consider planting a few acres of clover.  I'll talk more about the benefits of clover in another article. 
Bees need a study supply all summer of nectar and pollen.  Native plants provide a wider range of pollen and nectar plus sustain the bee’s habitat.  A few native plants to attract bees can be found at    (if you have trouble accessing from this link - just type it in and it will go to the site.)

Even though most of us don’t have the equipment to raise honeybees in our back yard, we can provide the habitat for native bees.  It can simply be plants that provide protection from wind and rain.  Leave some areas of soil bare and untilled for the soil dwelling bees (and wasps.)

Worried about getting stung?  Native bees are busy doing what they do best and won’t bother you unless you accidently squeeze or step on them.  Bees are a photographer’s friend.  They will pose for hours while you click away on one flower photo after another. 
Emily Dickinson said, “To make a prairie it takes clover and one bee, One clover and a bee, And revery.”   And might I add, it takes more than reverie to help that one bee.  It takes knowledge and a willingness to be part of the  solution.              

(All photos are mine except the bee with a mask - I got that from a high school classmate, Don Y., who knows more about bees than the Queen Bee.)                                                                                    

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Are you a wine aficionado?  Are you a regular at the wine tasting bar?  Do you tend to wear clothes in the color maroon?  Have you considered building a wine cellar even though you live in a cement slab ranch-style house?  At the tour of homes, do you scope out what wines they keep in their wine racks?  Yes?  Then do I have a deal for you!

The attributes of wine are so numerous, it was destined to be used in the description of daylilies.  I love daylilies much like a sommelier loves wine.  Put the two together and here's some perfect daylilies for the wine lover's garden:  These daylily names are:  "Vintage Bordeaux", Wineberry Candy",  "Summer Wine", and "Raspberry Wine".  

All of these daylily photos are from Oakes Daylilies and are currently available for ordering.  (I don't recommend commercial garden stores unless I've personally experienced great products and customer service; Oakes always hits 100%. )  There are many more daylilies with wine topic names and other retail stores that carry them.  Back to topic:

Love wine?  Consider developing a small garden bed devoted to all things wine.  Daylilies require full sun (with some exceptions), good drainage, mulch, fertile soil (although they withstand less) and your share of sweet talk to make them feel good. 

If you want to take it over the top, add a bottle tree, candle holders made from old wine glasses, wine cork art - yes, only your imagination and resources can limit how much you want in your little wine garden. 

And last, a place to sit and enjoy a perfect glass of wine while you enjoy your perfect little wine garden.  Aw, the joys of a summer day!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Great Pretenders

I was reminded of "pretenders" after seeing a picture of Johnny Depp's venture out of the garage and into a song collaboration with Marilyn Manson.  Johnny Depp has acting ability to make you believe a roll and enjoy going there.  Any time I've seen him speak "off the cuff" it appears he walks a tight rope between Jack Nicholson doing crazy and the aftermath of someone smoking too much.  The whimsical charm appears to not be there in real life.

That takes me to some very lovely nursery plants that become less charming in the garden.  They look and sound good in a catalog.  They have the prettiest foliage or flowers in the nursery.  Bring them home and they look so just right that first year - maybe even the second.  And them "BAM" the plant shows it's real personality - the one the publicity pictures didn't show.

One of those "pretenders" in my garden is "vinca".  Known as Vinca minor or periwinkle, lesser periwinkle, or myrtle, this native European plant has many beautiful attributes:

It is a trailing (meaning it sends out runners) sub shrub.  It roots along the stems to form large clonal colonies from 4-12 inches high.  The leaves are a beautiful glossy true green.  The pretty blue/violet flowers are produced from early spring to midsummer.  Occasionally it will bloom all summer into fall. 

It's always advertised as a ground cover for "hard to get anything to grow" places.  That should be the first warning:  If it grows where nothing else will grow - you've got a problem Houston.

It says it will form a dense mat that will prohibit weed growth.  Truth is - it will still let grass and weeds grow and it's a difficult process to get through the blanket of stems to pull.  It will also prohibit many perennials from being healthy; leaching out nutrients and moisture.  Fertilize and water your perennial and you've successfully fertilized and watered the vinca. 

It's impossible to rake and it must be cleaned up by hand. 

It's almost impossible to pull vinca and if you try, you better be wearing a heavy pair of gloves because the vines will cut your fingers in the process.  Using a pair of sharp trimmers works somewhat for keeping it within bounds except the fruit contain numerous seeds.  Any plant that can start from more than one way should be considered cautiously.  Do not compost. 

Weather:  I've seldom had any winter kill even during the harshest winters.  What does kill vinca:   Drought - nope.  Floods - nope.  Foot traffic - nope (other than the vines can trip a person).  "Round-up" herbicide - nope (it may kill some leaves but not the plant).  A more powerful ground sterilizer - perhaps, but, then you have an area where nothing will grow.

It is resistant to disease and insects, has widely naturalized and is now classified a noxious invasive in North America.  How did I get mine?  I was offered a bunch of plants from a garden that was going to be bulldozed.  I rushed in and that's where many of my hosta and some of my beautiful heirloom plants came from.  Along with beautiful plants, came bits and pieces of vinca.  And, it stayed for dinner...

Yes, this plant is the Johnny Depp of plant world.  Love him in the movies (catalog), just don't bring him home to meet your mother (or your garden)!
(photos of Johnny Depp and Johnny & Marilyn from publicity web)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Bouquet Garni (bō-kāz' gär-nē') is a French term literally meaning garnished bouquet.  It is a group of herbs used for seasoning sauce, stew, broth and soup.  Traditionally, it includes fresh parsley, thyme and bay leaf.  Others may include basil, burnet, chervil, peppercorns, savory, tarragon, dill weed, oregano, rosemary,and  marjoram.  Vegetables such as carrot, celery, celeriac, leek, onion and parsley root are sometimes used in the bouquet although this is not the traditional recipe.  

Herbs are tied together with string so they can be removed easily at the end of the cooking. Some people wrap the herbs in a bit of cheesecloth. Others will use a small tea strainer or coffee filter.  Various bagged bouquets may be purchased ready made.   Bouquet Garni is a way of taking the herbs out of the dish before it is served.  It is easier to tie fresh herbs and bag dried herbs.  Purists argue bagging inhibits flavor.

When you're out shopping for seeds or plant sets, consider herbs for use in a bouquet.  Herbs can be picked at peak times, bags assembled and frozen for use all winter. 

Recipes will usually list the herbs to put in your bouquet.  Recipes that call for herbs as a visual addition or want the pungent taste when munching, will not want to use the bouquet.  Here's an example of a recipe using Bouquet Garni, compliments of Alton Brown:

French Onion Soup

  • 5 sweet onions (like Vidalias) or a combo of sweet and red onions (about 4 pounds)

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 cups white wine

  • 10 ounces canned beef consume

  • 10 ounces chicken broth

  • 10 ounces apple cider (unfiltered is best)

  • Bouquet garni; thyme sprigs, bay leaf and parsley tied together with kitchen string

  • 1 loaf country style bread

  • Kosher salt

  • Ground black pepper

  • Splash of Cognac (optional)

  • 1 cup Fontina or Gruyere cheese, grated

  • Trim the ends off each onion then halve lengthwise.  Remove peel & finely slice into half moon shapes.  Melt butter (300 degrees) and add a layer of onions and sprinkle with a little salt.  Repeat layering and salting until all onions are in the skillet.  Do not try stirring until onions have sweated down for 15-20 minutes.  After that, stir occasionally until onions are dark mahogany and reduced to approximately 2 cups.  This will take 45 minutes to 1  hr.  

    Add enough wine to cover the onions and turn heat to high, reducing the wine to a syrup consistency. Add consume, chicken broth, apple cider and bouquet garni. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

    Place oven rack in top 1/3 of oven and heat broiler. 

    Cut country bread in rounds large enough to fit mouth of oven safe soup crocks. Place the slices on a baking sheet and place under broiler for 1 minute.

    Season soup mixture with salt, pepper and cognac. Remove bouquet garni and ladle soup into oven proof crocks leaving one inch to the lip. Place bread round, toasted side down, on top of soup and top with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

    And that, folks, is reason enough to plant herbs this summer!    

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    You Raise Me Up!

    Today at 5:14 AM, the Spring Equinox started and now our weather and our official spring have caught up with each other.  We're heading into our 7th day of record breaking warmth and gardeners are having the time of their life. 

    Beautiful music and the expectations of all things beautiful in our gardens certainly go together.  Before heading out today, listen to Andre Rieu's orchestra play "You Raise Me Up" with the beautiful gardens at Castle Island Mainau in Lake Constance mit.  Almost makes one want to put on a hoop skirt, plant dahlias and waltz.  Have a Blessed spring day! 

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    Ouch and More!

    It's the perfect time to be in the garden:  insects are at a minimum!  I'm talking about the ones that bother humans - you and me - the gardeners - the outdoors man/woman - little innocent children!  OK, that might just take me into hysteria...

    Some insects are just pesky.  Others can be real threats to the human population.  A little knowledge and prevention can go a long way.

    The northeast is gearing up for a significant increase in Lyme disease.  Apparently, it goes like this:  mice eat acorns, acorns have yearly cycles of plenty and less, ticks infest mice.  When there are few acorns, mice die, when mice die ticks look for other warm blooded mammals - IE:  humans.

    This area has it's share of Lyme threats from deer.  I know we certainly have our share of ticks.  It's important for every person who is in contact with nature to understand how to prevent ticks from making you their best meal of the day.

    "Use a repellent with DEET (on skin or clothing) or permethrin (on clothing and gear). Products containing permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear which can remain protective through several washings. Repellents containing 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can be applied to the skin, and they can protect up to several hours. Always follow product instructions! Parents should apply repellents to their children, taking care to avoid application to hands, eyes, and mouth."  The website has additional information on the application of DEET on children.

    Then there is the West Nile Disease problem transmitted by mosquitoes.  West Nile is a tricky little disease because some people seem resistant while others may become seriously ill.  It appears the older the person, the more apt you are to become ill if bitten by an infected pest.  Again, I use the US CDC as my source:

    "What repellent should I use? CDC recommends a variety of effective repellents. The most important step is to pick one and use it. There are those that can protect you for a short while in the backyard or a long while in the woods. DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and the plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus are all repellents recommended by CDC. All contain an EPA-registered active ingredient and have been evaluated for efficacy and safety.  There are good repellents for every budget, age and preference. Excuse gone."

    The bottom line for insect transmitted disease prevention is to wear protection every time you're in the garden (or where ever your activity takes you.)  Know the symptoms and seek immediate treatment if you think you've been infected.

    You may want to read my previous article #41 "Dem Bugs, Dem Bugs, Dem Bad Bugs" regarding natural prevention and control.

    And that's another thing you may want to consider this spring:  What can I do in my gardens to ease the chances of it being a perfect habitat for insects who need warm blood to survive?  And the second step is what can I do in my gardens to entice insects and birds that love to eat these "bad bugs"?

    The first step is to try your very hardest to NOT use pesticides on your gardens.  That may sound like an odd recommendation when you want to kill every last one of those little suckers - literally blood suckers.  The problem and it's a huge problem, you will kill all the beneficial insects and perhaps the birds in the process.  You'll have less problem insects if you stop using pesticides and start enticing good insects.  It takes time to develop your land into this peaceful habitat where there's a balance.  Weather and the natural cycle of some plants will also be a factor.  We can never totally control nature.  We can learn to help.

    One of the beautiful things about this early spring (or whatever we are having this year) is working outside with few insects to bother.  My daffodils started to bloom yesterday and I'm so outside with my camera today! 

    "May your blessings outnumber
    The shamrocks that grow,
    And may trouble avoid you
    Wherever you go."

    Irish Blessing

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Crocus Anyone?

    I was in a bit of a quandary about a story topic until our granddaughter, Gracie, and I walked the yard.  Although things are definitely coming up spring, it’s still a rather drab messy time of the year in the gardens.
    When what to my wondering eyes should appear?  The bright golden crocus I planted last year!
    Like all spring flowering bulbs, crocus leaves need to absorb sunlight to enhance the next year’s growth.  Crocus naturalized in the lawn grass doesn’t work for me because the grass always needs mowing prior to the leaves dying back naturally. 

    I’ve planted here and there in the flower beds only to forget and dig them up later in the season.  Still I’ve refused to give up on these little beauties.  This current batch is planted under the old walnut tree where the comfrey will grow later in the summer.

    Crocus are among the first spring flowers to bloom.  They’re like a rainbow after the winter storm.  They come in a mass of brilliant colors:  shades of blue, gold, purple, white, mauve and stripes.  There’s a few new varieties pushing the old boundaries of color and form.   

    Crocus are carefree:  Plant them in this area of the Midwest and forget until they put on the show.  Plant in sun or partial shade (during bloom time) and well drained soil.  They have good drought tolerance.  They are disease, deer and pest resistant.  Cover with screen wire if squirrels dig up bulbs in your yard. 

    Spring-blooming crocus should be planted in the fall. Fall-blooming crocus should be planted in late summer or early fall. Plant the corms with the wide side down and the buds facing up. Place them 2 or 3 inches deep and about 3 or 4 inches apart; they will spread.
    Crocus look best when planted in drifts or patches.  Because they only get eight inches tall, they will get visually lost if not planted in groups.  I dig one hole, plant several, and dig another hole and repeat.  Don’t much too deep. 

    Unlike this year, crocus often bloom while there’s still snow on the ground and the weather freezing.  Plant where you can see them from the window if you want full enjoyment each year. 

     The bulbs (actually called corms) are from the iris family.  Different kinds bloom in spring, winter or fall.  They are not native to the United States.  When buying crocus corms, the bigger the better.  The better the more expensive.  Now the reality:  cheap and small isn’t all that bad either. 

    One interesting little fact:  The spice saffron comes from an autumn blooming crocus.  Most original words for crocus mean yellow saffron.  It takes thousands of crocus flowers to make an ounce of saffron – hence the cost.

     If you’re looking for a little brightness to bring your spirits up next spring, plant a batch of crocus this fall!   (Or is it a covey, or herd, or gaggle?)         

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    Seriously Sweet!

    Do you have a sweet tooth you can't tame?  Dr. Diane's scientific data confirms that I think it's a part of my DNA.

    My dad sold feed to other farmers.  The feed companies would send us wonderful treats each Christmas such as crates of oranges or grapefruit.  Both were a luxury up north.  Those were good, but my true interest was the boxes of candy dad received. 

    We had a routine:  Dad would open one box (and store the rest some unknown place) and place it in the top drawer of his dresser.  The boxes of candy always had two layers.  Dad rationed out a piece of candy on his whim and that whim was not consistent with my desire for more.  I'd sneak into the bedroom and quietly lift the first layer of candy and take a piece from below.  I thought I was incredibly smart to take pieces he couldn't see.  And yes, obviously when he was done with the first layer and lifted the little white cardboard, he had to figure out my scheme.  I never thought that far ahead (typical kid logic) and he never called me on it.  Dad had a sense of humor and his own sweet tooth; I'm guessing he got a laugh out of it each time. 

    Back to sweets:  I tried something last year; I planted "Stevia rebaudiana".  Stevia is in the sunflower family.  It's grown (and sold) for it's sweet leaves.  The leaves of the stevia plant have 30–45 times the sweetness of table sugar.  The leaves can be eaten fresh, or put in teas and foods.

    It's been used for decades in many countries as a sweetener.  Not without controversy, the extract was banned in the U.S. in the 1990s and now must be labeled a dietary supplement.  The extract has 300 times the sweetness of sugar.  It has been a sugar substitute for people wanting to limit their carbs. or watching their blood glucose.

    Beverage companies are using sweeteners enhanced with stevia in soft drinks.  Some of the  names you may see on a can are:  "Purevia", "rebiana", "steviol glycosides", "Truvia", and "Rebaudioside A".  Interesting that along with the sweet drink industry, Cargill is involved in developing this product.  Part of the process for extracting the sweetener used in soft drinks typically involves the use of  ethanol or methanol as the solvent. 

    Once stevia extracts and components hit the US market, testing started and with mixed results.  Is it toxic?  Does it have adverse components?  Does it cause birth defects?  Right now, none of these are proven to happen because of stevia or it's components.

    It's been shown to improve insulin sensitivity on animals and the hope of reversing diabetes. "In addition, a 2009 FDA review study found that stevioside and related compounds have anti- hyperglycemic, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-diarrheal, diuretic and immunomodulatory actions."  

    Politically, it's been a bit of a hotbed of complaints, industry and legal maneuvering, and laboratory findings since it cannot be patented.  Leave it to large industry and the government to take a good thing and crush the sweetness right out of it! has some interesting research.
    What does the gardener need to know?

    You may find plant sets available at nurseries in your area (this is where I purchased mine).  I've seen it in catalogs and on the web.  Planting from seed requires more patience than most home gardeners have because of a low seed germination rate and varying sweetness of plants. 

    I planted mine in a pot and it was easy to grow with no extreme measures for care.  It's not a particularly outstanding plant visually - medium green leaves on stiff stems that can look like a shrub. 

    In this area, it would be considered an annual or plant in a pot.  Typically it has a one year life cycle.  It makes an excellent herb for those wishing to have an organic sweetener (assuming you do not use chemicals in your own environment). 

    Don't put outside until all danger of frost is over and ground temperatures are 50-60 degrees.  Plant in rich loamy, well drained soil, mulch to keep surface roots from drying, and fertilize with a low nitrogen organic based brand.

    Harvesting is not a summer long process, rather wait as late in the fall prior to a frost and cut the branches down, strip the leaves, and dry the leaves.  Crush dried leaves if using as a tea or powder to use in recipes.

    Chewed fresh leaves have a sweet licorice taste and long after taste. 

    Using stevia requires some trial and error because your plant will have it's own sweetness level.  The leaves can be made into a liquid that may help you measure into drinks.  There's a conversion chart on the stevia web site. 

    My little bit of advice:  Don't use too much at a time - although I can't imagine anyone able to tolerate large amounts in one bite or drink.  As with all natural supplements, use wisely.  

    All photos are from the open web.

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Windy in the Country

    The daylily "Country Fair Winds" has a name that's perfect for where we live: 

    In the country - check. 
    Fair amount of wind - check.

    Other check marks for this pretty daylily:

    Inexpensive - check!  Two-three fans from Oakes Daylilies for under $6.00.

    Dormant - check!  I often have the most success with dormant varieties.

    Hardy - check!  This means it will be hardy to Zone 3.  
    Late season bloomer - check!  Blooming in July and into August when other daylilies have finished.

    Medium big bloom size - check!  Consistently has six inch blooms.

    Good height - check!  Registered for 25 inches tall, mine is often more like 36 inches. 

    Solid breeder - check!  All my daylilies from Klehm are healthy, sturdy, and have many flowers.

     Pretty - check!  The flower is a light peach (some areas get a little pink) with a greenish gold throat.  The peach and gold make a beautiful and unusual combo.

    Unusual - check!  It has a thin gold, ruffled edge that glows like a strip of fine gold glass spun over the edge..

    Fragrance - check!  It has a strong scent.

    Photogenic - check!  This is one of those lilies where you will have loads of pictures because every day there's a beauty.  It's also one of those lilies that's even prettier in person.

    So:  check - check - check!  I bought this daylily because it looked good and was cheap.  Yep, nothing scientific or lofty.  No research, no color matching, no checking anything much.

    Isn't it a lovely surprise when all the checks are met without deserving on our part?  If you're new to daylilies or a seasoned collector, I recommend "Country Fair Winds" for all the reasons I've check!

    “Lone and erect,
    beneath light's primal flood,
    A lily! and pure as any one of you.”

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    Raise Your Rake

    Anyone else work outside these past two days
    while the temperature reached almost 70 degrees? 

    While shopping this morning for paint, I picked up some caladiums.  Caladiums aren't the cheapest tender bulb to have in our Zone 5 gardens.  It may be why I don't see many in local gardens. 

    The "how to" portion:

    Plant after all danger of frost is past and the ground has warmed.  They are native to the Amazon and the hotter the temps (both day and night) the faster they germinate and grow.  Either start inside, buy sets, or wait until June. 

    With most all bulbs, the ground should be well drained.  The other side of the coin is they like it moist.  Meaning:  Water often but don't let them sit in water.

    The bigger the bulb, the bigger the leaves.

    Fertilize every six weeks and they do much better if planted in fertile soil.  "Miracle Grow" may cause the colors to change - not the best idea.  Some varieties change color as they mature.

    Most Caladiums like some shade especially if it's a hot site or if you live in the South.  I typically plant them in shade although not total dark.  The deeper the shade, the more green the leaf shows.  Highly acid soil will cause the leaves to be darker in color.  If planted in too much sun, the leaves will get sun spots.

    All parts of the plant are poisonous. 

    Dig up before first frost and store like cannas and glads.

    And then the beauty of it all:  Caladiums varieties are strap, dwarf, fancy leaf.

    Fancy:  Large heart-shaped leaves. Height 18" to 22." Most prefer filtered shade or afternoon shade with morning sun. Some varieties are tolerant of sun all day.

    Strap or Lance:  Elongated heart and narrower shaped leaves. Height 12" to 14." Uses: hanging baskets, borders, plantings in front of fancy type. All varieties are tolerant of all day sun.

    Dwarf:  Leaves are heart-shaped like Fancy, but smaller. Height 15" to 17." The light requirements are similar to Fancy. Miss Muffet and Gingerland are unique speckled varieties. Fantasy and Moonlight are sun tolerant. 

    Typically, they are referred to as "reds", "pinks", "whites" and "mixed".

    Today, most large commercial growers are in central Florida.  Lake Placid FL has an annual Caladium Festival each August.   

    Use them in planters, hanging baskets, around trees, as an edge, and tucked in between perennials.  The cut leaves will keep a week in vases.  Make a point to try some this year.  Most nurseries (local and catalog) carry several varieties potted.  Big box stores are already carrying the bulbs and will later carry plants. 

    And today as you raise your rake in joy for warm weather - scope out sites for a few caladiums this year.      


    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Less Said

    Sometimes the less said, the better.


    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Eye Poppin Sculptures

    I appreciate artistic talent and I'm glad there's enough individuals with talent to supply the needs to the most common or eclectic. Here's some I've enjoyed, either up close and personal or on the web.

    This is putting the "flower child" description to the test.  Is it
    1.  an old car,
    2.  a yard sculpture,
    3.  a flower pot,
    4.  junk,
    5.  art,
    6.  or all of the above?

    I've seen several of these and most would take a farm sized back yard.  Some are arks while other's look like pirate ships.  This is just what we (our grandchildren) need in our yard!  I'm just sure it's another one of those projects that will only cost "a dime more than a dollar" or "a minute over eternity.."

    How cute are these herb garden markers made from wine corks?  Yes, I consider it art since it takes a creative person to come up with the idea.  Admittedly a wine drinking creative person!                                                                

    This old truck is out front of a car repair business located beside the Greentown, Indiana county fairgrounds.  Note the water  shooting out the radiator into the pond. 

    I've seen several of these tongue-in-cheek garden beds but this has to be one of the most perfected.

    This is my Praying Mantis.  I saw this at a local nursery and thought it would make a nice happy birthday present to me.  When we inquired, we were told the man who'd made them was retired and they wouldn't sell their last one.  My husband came home and made this for me - perfect!  Both of them! 

    Gardeners may not realize glass can be a beautiful focal point in flower beds.  The whole Dale Chihuly garden exhibits have opened up this garden art medium to the masses.  Perhaps you won't put a Chihuly in your garden but definitely some glass.  Mirrors on a fence or in a knot hole, glass art balls, or the old gazing balls. 
    And one of the most fun ~~ an art sculpture made from flip flops.  It's enough to make you want to skip!

     Image DetailSerene and modern, this beauty is an example of stainless steel sculpturing.

    Something for everyone - to buy or to make.  I'm sure you can get a little art mojo workin' in time for perhaps the final snow of the season.  

    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    Spring This and That

    The Van Bourgondien family has been growing and selling Quality/Heirloom flower bulbs for over a century. "The world of mail order nurseries suffered another hit this month with the bankruptcy of K. Van Bourgondien, which first filed for Chapter 11 protection on January 26.  It remains unclear at this time if the company can find a way to remain viable."  We don't always think hard financial times involves in the garden world - this should be an indication it's not insulated from the economic pressure of small commercial business.   
    Hort Couture: Flowers and fashion have a lot in common. Vibrant colors. Rich textures. The power to inspire—and make jaws drop. This year at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, March 10-18, 2012, the worlds of fashion and horticulture will collide, creating an experience that rivals the hottest runway show or A-list after party

    Chicago Botanic Gardens "Antiques and Garden Fair" Friday – Sunday, April 20 – 22, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.  Celebrating 12 years, the Antiques & Garden Fair continues to offer the best in classical and contemporary garden furnishings, botanical art, and home and garden design from more than 100 exhibitors from the United States and Europe. 

    The Chicago Botanic Garden website has a spot on page for a monthly checklist of things to be done in the garden.  For those of you chomping at the bit to get outside - March's list provides some tasks for those nice days. the fashion industry's "all things color" business has decided "Tangerine Tango" is the color for 2012.  Expect to see it in clothes, furnishings and perhaps garden flowers.  It does rather make me want to sink my teeth into some citrus.  As far as rushing out to pick up some vibrant orange for the garden - well maybe not in my garden.  Granted, it does pop.  The trick is ~ I have enough orange considering I'm not an orange fan.  Although, I do have a couple of stunning orange daylilies.  Then there are the some great orange annuals - OK OK OK - so maybe I don't dislike orange all that much.

    Don't forget the Galva Arts Council will be bringing back their garden walk this summer.   We have some pretty awesome gardens lined up with completely different styles located from Galva to Bishop Hill.  I'll have more on the dates and gardens.  More about other area garden walks and fun events for the summer. Fun in other gardens and in your own gardens.  Who ready?  Raise your hand and let's get this Spring show on the road!!!!
    Top photo is mine - other three are from open web sites.  Dress is available from prom stores should you want to purchase to wear at your next garden party - in theme, in fashion, in color - what more could a girl want?   Not the prom dress kinda person: orange tux?  Orange t-shirt?  Orange shorts?  Orange flip-flops?  Orange hair?  Perhaps just a really good Dreamsicle!  

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    It's A Combo

    I'm not talking cheeseburger and fries.  I'm talking about color combinations.

    Sweeping batches of same color flowers certainly make a statement.  It’s sometimes the best way to catch the attention of pollinating insects and birds.

    Using one color shouldn’t be your choice if it’s just because you’re afraid it will clash or be garish.  Let me help a little with color combos.

    Purple:  Surprisingly, purple will pair with almost any color in the garden including orange.  When paired with pastels, it becomes part of a soft visual wave.  When paired with bright colors, it often becomes the background that makes the bright color pop.  Lavender needs deep colors around it to make it show up.

    Orange:  Orange can be a feature or a background.  If used in quantity for a background, the best colors to plant with orange are:  Bright yellow – not gold.  White – not pale yellow.  Deep purple not lavender.  Lime green not blue green.  Royal blue not dusty blue. 

    Red:  Reds have more shades than most any of natures other flowers.  If you have trouble defining the shade, take a pack of basic color crayons and hold each color up to your red.  If the crayon and flower blend perfectly, you know that is the shade of red you have.  Most reds have either orange or purple.  Those two reds don’t usually look good placed next to each other.  Although this isn’t exclusive:  Orange red looks good with shades of orange, yellow, purple, green, and white.  Purple red looks good with purple, lavender, white, chartreuse, and pink.

    Yellow:  From soft butter yellow to rich gold, yellow is a great garden color.  It’s the sun, its energy, it can be sweet.  All yellows go with dark green.  Not as good with light green or chartreuse because they are too similar.  It goes with purple, orange, and red.  Bright yellow/gold makes a statement.  Lighter yellows hold a group of colors together.

    White:  White calms down a garden full of bright colors or can make a statement used in mass.  Lots of white will glow at night.  White will go with any color although it does different things.  White will weave other colors together.  It can make other colors stand out.  Against dark colors, it can be the feature.

    Blue:  Blue, much like purple, can go with most any color without clashing.  The only one I don’t like with blue is orange red.  Blue may get lost when combined with lots of green or in shade.  Blue is a great color to weave other brighter colors together. 

    Green:  Green flowers need a lot of other colors around it to be seen.  Many wildflowers are in shades of green.  Chartreuse will hold its own. 

    It doesn’t have to be a cottage or informal garden to have combinations of colors.  It doesn’t need to be expanses – try in a container if you’re timid.

    To get inspired, check out the two slide shows on my blog “Slide into Spring” #450.  They feature Claude Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France and Annie’s Annuals spring flower show. 

    Color combos are as delicious as a cheeseburger and fries and without the calories!