Thursday, January 31, 2013

Stevia My Sweet

Fragment Library: Shared: Product FragmentsI raised the herb Stevia a few years ago (see my article "Seriously Sweet" about Stevia - on the side bar listing labels #459).  I'm wanting to curb my use of refined white sugar because I tend to over indulge to the point of stupid.  Refined white sugar turns into carbs and for me it turns into high HDL. 

I knew these things and like any person who over indulges, I thought I was exempt from the negative results.  Wrong-O. 

As I was in Cornucopia health food store in Galesburg yesterday, I saw Stevia products.  Since one of the difficulties I have is the craving for the flavors of candy (my weakness), I was happy to see the Better Stevia (made at the NOW FOODS company in Bloomington IL) had a little bottle of Dark Chocolate liquid extract with it's own little stopper.  Oh! Be still my beating heart!

Since Stevia is so incredibly sweet, the little eye dropper is perfect to measure and not over add which would totally ruin a good thing. 

A cup of coffee or tea after a meal with a few drops of this extract will solve the craving, has zero calories, fat, sodium, carbs/sugars and no nutritional benefits.  EXCEPT:  it will help me with my reduction of refined sugar.  A win in my book.

Not exactly an inexpensive substitute ($11 for 2 fluid ounces) but it has 460 servings per container.  Did I fail to make you understand just how very sweet Stevia is?  If I compare the cost of this bottle with the bags of jelly beans I've bought in the past; suffice it to say I'm coming out ahead on the money angle.

Stevia is on my list for plants this spring.  It was a good addition in the past and I think I'll need this little sunflower family herb more in the future.  For now, I'm happy with this purchase.  I may just have to get the other flavors:  hazelnut, lemon or French vanilla. 

Note:  As with all natural health food products used for human consumption: do your research, ask your doctor if it's safe for you to use if you're currently under medical supervision or taking prescription medicines. 


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Emeralds Darling

Pantone 2013 color of the year

Pantone's color of the year 2013:  Emerald!

Taken from Pantone's 2013 announcement:  "Most often associated with brilliant, precious gemstones, the perception of Emerald is sophisticated and luxurious. Since antiquity, this luminous, magnificent hue has been the color of beauty and new life in many cultures and religions. It’s also the color of growth, renewal and prosperity – no other color conveys regeneration more than green. For centuries, many countries have chosen green to represent healing and unity."  "For the most part, (emerald) really reflects the era we're living in," said Pantone's vice president, Laurie Pressman.

The Pantone yearly color choice has the fashion industry all a twitter.  It drives design in everything from clothes to cars.  Fortunately the garden industry has been all over Emerald Green since Adam and Eve found the need for fig leaves. 

It brings about the coolness of shade, the backdrop to bright flowers, or the frame for sculpture.  It highlights football jerseys and makes a good bounce for a tennis ball.  Back in the day, it was the substance for croquet, badminton and horseshoe.

Foliage greens are often used as a backdrop for flowers both in the garden and in a vase.  And then there are the oh so beautiful green flowers.

I've especially enjoyed green zinnias, bells of Ireland, hydrangea and flowering tobacco.  Examples:
Green Envy Coneflower
Michigan Bulb Co. "Green Envy Coneflower" 

Living Succulent Wreath
Proflowers "Living Succulent Wreath"

One of my evergreen trees.

My garden:  flowering tobacco


Green and White Laced Bouquet
Bottom:  Martha Steward "wedding bouquet"
Top:  Sweet bell pepper photo refusing to let go of Martha Stewart

An unknown named hosta from the Galesburg preacher.   
If you've never tried emerald green as a focal point in your gardens, scout out nurseries this year and experiment with them.  It's a color we take for granted in this part of the country and it's about time we shout out GO GREEN! 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Self Indulgent ing

Gold shag carpet  - goodbye

I suppose I'm being self indulgent and totally off gardening while I do my little history of our old house remodel.  I've been wanting to chronicle some of the "events" and while writing, it will remind me of other things I'd forgotten. 

The very first thing we did to the old house and the thing that continued for months was clear out all the trash from the house.  And this is the story of trash or the "Are you kidding me?" period of the renovation.

Keep in mind the home had been vacant for about three years.  The last folks to own it had been youngsters who didn't have the means to keep it repaired and eventually the utilities were shut off.  It had been used as a party house by both humans and animals.  It had been used and abused.

Leftover mink shed

My husband took nine (NINE!) pick-up truck loads of abandon appliances (washers, dryers, refrigerators, stoves - big stuff) to the junk yard.  NINE!  These appliances were in the house and in the yard.  It's how we discovered where the well was located:  under a refrigerator. 

Two large piles of "things" that weren't harmful to the soil and water were buried.  We planted our beautiful golden weeping willow on top of this and it has thrived.  An entire semi trailer was filled with metal things for recycling:  old corn picker, enough car parts to build a Grand Am from scratch, pots and pans and assorted stuff.

A semi trailer and another large truck of carpet, all the furniture and stuff left behind.  The shag carpet was in shades of olive green, burnt orange, and gold.  A clear indication of the era it was installed.  The shag was so long it contained a whole Eco system of items, mostly pennies, straight pins and gunk.  Gunk is really a word as you find out when you remodel.

I know this will set off some folks but in the country you can burn.  We burned a lot of things.  No, we didn't burn tires but it's pretty difficult to find a way to dispose of them.  We did find a source.

Junk and gunk

We both wore steel toed leather boots and always wore gloves.  Gunk isn't something you want on you.  Plus, used syringes and various personal protective latex things scattered the floor.  Need I say more?

We found huge construction sized trash bags and filled them so full at times we had a hard time getting them out the doors.

Fifteen rooms, closets and hallways, basement and yard were all covered with trash.  And gunk and stuff. 

And animals.  Our first indication of animals was the little paw prints on the old claw foot bathtub in the downstairs bathroom.  No wonder they felt at home, it was the perfect place:  easy to access, lots of protection and bedding.  When we got a call from our electricians that a mother raccoon wouldn't let them in the attic, it was time for removal. 

Mice ate the newly installed wiring in the basement as fast as it was installed and it was time to send them to their maker.  The resident snakes just weren't holding up their end of the deal.

We ripped out all the carpet, paneling, window treatments and plastic covering, gutted the kitchen, entry and breakfast rooms to the studs. 

We replaced 29 windows.  Most were beyond repair or totally destroyed.  We did think about the historical significance of the old windows and instead opted for custom made double paned.  I do not for one second regret that decision to be warm when the wind starts blowing up here in the middle of winter.  Same with the five outside access doors and the basement door. 

Steel toe boots and gloves fashion attire 

We immediately had a new roof installed on the house.  As we could get contractors scheduled, we had the foundation repaired, installed all new electrical, plumbing and a new heating system. 

I was driving by the Methodist Church in Kewanee one day and saw an array of radiators sitting in the yard.  Since some of our rooms didn't have radiators, I asked if they were for sale.  They were converting to forced air and we were able to buy enough to complete every room.  The original ones are beautiful with a wonderful design of the era of the home.

This house was pretty advanced for it's era.  It originally had it's own electric generator in the basement, rain fed cistern, hand dug well, and arranged to take advantage of winter sun and summer shade.

Grandpa and Max working at the dunky house

That's enough of grunge and gunk and trash and mechanics for today.  I have this subtle need to go wash my hands..          

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Busy With Inertia

I enjoy my electronic devices and appreciate how they’ve made some portions of my life easier and more enjoyable.

  • Typing this column is easier to do, correct, save, send and retrieve with my computer and the external hard drive.
  • Saving, enhancing and sharing my photos are all easier with my camera, external hard drive storage and programs to manipulate the finished products.

  • Phones, note pads, music, movies, and literature are all instant and occasionally trouble free.

  • Correspondence and photos with family and friends all over the world helps me stay in contact like never before.

  • The applications are never ending and improvements are almost daily. 

  • Gaming has become such a big business it drives the devices used to run them.  It has fostered toys, movies, sub cultures, and industry.

Has anyone but me noticed there’s a down side?

Do you wonder if anyone has an original thought or are we only pulling cute or profound preprinted posters from the past?
 Do friends and family spend more time “pinning” cute ideas and photos on Pinterest than actually accomplishing those things?
tHas reality slid into what the fictional character in the game, TV show, movie or song did rather than what the people you know accomplished or needed today?
Has a tweet, twitter, message or text replaced the time needed to foster a good relationship?
Do most people know the difference between fact and commercial advertising?
Is it becoming harder to differentiate between the unbiased and hidden agenda reporting?
Is the sheer volume of information contributing to desensitization to things needing attention? 

This article isn’t about left or right wing politics.  It’s not about age, sex, or religion related preferences.  It’s not about a disdain for the new or holding on to the old. 

It’s about have we considered if our use of devices, and the absorption of information they provide, to the best advantage possible.  Or, are we letting ourselves (and our family) become an open vessel for any agenda.

In a free nation, the responsibility doesn’t lie with the provider as much as with the consumer. 

Use of these items is much like gardening.  Yes, you knew I’d tie this SOMEHOW to gardening!

 A wildflower can be beautiful.  Put it in the middle of your front flower bed and it can take over and kill all the flowers you especially love. 

  • Wildflower positive and negative attributes need to be considered before moving them into your personal space.
  • You need to read more than one advertisement, research what independent experts say and understand the long term impact before purchasing a wildflower.
  • Assess if there’s negative qualities:  is it poisonous, is it toxic to other plants, or is it considered invasive.
  • Can it be easily removed if you find it’s unsatisfactory?
  • Is it necessary and difficult to keep it away from children and pets?
  • Can you monitored to make sure it doesn’t take over where it shouldn’t be.
  • Does it take more care than you’re available or willing to provide.
Yep, see the parallel?  Substitute the name of your current application and it applies.  It’s not about an item being bad or good; it’s about taking responsibility for how and how much it’s used.  And that folks is good advice for electronics and gardening.
  • Side Note:  A funny on this post - I could not get the bullet points to show up in the right places.  Aw yes, an affirmation on how much technology is serving me.  Sigh!                  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Shut the Barn Door

When we bought the property, an old barn stood across the driveway.  It was on farmland owned by a non resident, managed by White Farm Management and rented by local farmers (I affectionately call them "the boys") for corn and beans.
The barn was still solid, plum and put together with wood pegs and joinery.   

The foundation was large field stones.  The basement or lower level was underground in the front and exposed to the farm lot in the back.  This portion was used to house animals.

The main floor was opened with both sliding and walk-in doors.  The top a large two tier haymow. 

We were told it was one of the Bishop Hill Colony barns.  They were erected in outlaying areas to make the movement/housing of grain, equipment and livestock easier.  With approximately 15,000 acres belonging to the Colony and oxes, horses and manpower the only mode of transportation, they needed these farm buildings.

The area around the barn had wells and several trees.  It had the earth berm drive to the front doors and an old fence between the lot and our drive.

Being a farm girl, I have a special love for old barns.  And it was easy to love this one especially because of it's historical significance, the age and the craftsmanship.  We inquired on a Monday about buying the land where it was situated.  On Thursday, when we arrived at the house, the barn had been pushed down into the basement and was burning.

We asked if we could gather the old foundation stones and we were told we could if we did it immediately, otherwise they would be buried with the debris after the burning stopped.  We lifted stones only cranes should have lifted (sorry back) and managed to save enough for a good many projects.     

To this day, tearing down this old beauty makes me sad but it wasn't our property and we had no say.  We had no time to negotiate or recommend.  I've always assumed it was done quickly to prevent any historical inquiries and preservation injunctions.

The photos are from when we saw the barn, with a large pile of trash we had been hauling out of the house in the front of the photo, after it was down and an oil painting I did some years later.

This was certainly one of the sad things we experienced during this house remodel.  It changed the landscape and view.  One that still gets my head to shaking when I think about the historical loss.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Dunky House

Old sink in upstairs bathroom discovered
after trash was removed. 

Here are some pictures I took as we moved through the house the first few times.  Moved might be a bit exaggerated because there are four rooms upstairs we couldn't get to because stuff was piled so high.

We later found out it was an apartment (kinda) for the young single school teacher who taught at the old brick school house north of us.  It appeared there was a bedroom, sitting room, bathroom with a sink and toilet and a large closet/storage room. 

Looking into the apartment's bedroom.
The original sink was still in place and we kept it for years until we had an epiphany and realized we were keeping a piece of history that was pretty darn inconvenient.  The room didn't appear to have had a bathtub or shower.  I'm guessing the teacher did the old "sponge bath".  The closet had a board around the side with hooks (as did all our closets.)  Remnants of what must have originally been beautiful wallpaper hung in dingy tatters from the sitting room.

If our source for historical information is correct, the owner/builder of our home was a life long bachelor.  Interesting the home was built with this apartment for the school teacher.  Would be fun to know the story. 

The school is about half a mile down the road and I'm sure it was a convenient walk.  The square brick school was occupied by a family when we moved to this house.  A few years later, it burned and has been sitting in that sad shape until about a month ago.  It's now been pushed into the basement and will be gone forever this summer.

It was a frightening night when I happened to look north out our upstairs window and the sky was orange.  We hopped in our truck and went down to see if we could help.  They had got out injury free, including their pet, but, it was freezing cold and little was saved from the house. 

One of the things you know when you live in a very old house in the country, if your home catches on fire, it's best to get out as quickly as possible.  We have excellent volunteer fire departments serving our area but time goes by fast when something this old burns.  I joke if our house is on fire, get people out, get pets out and get my hard drive out - in that order.  The hard drive is where I store all my photos, both new and scanned old.

An interesting thing about our walls, is they contain nubbing.  Nubbing was a Swedish insulating process.  They would put in the 2x4 studs, clad the outside then lay brick between the studs.  Next came the inside lath and plaster.  It is an early insulation practice.  It might be a bit of a help if it caught fire and might have been why it remained so sturdy over the years.  I use "might" because I really don't know for sure.  All the brick used in the house and sidewalks was Bishop Hill brick; made either in the Colony or done on site.  It's soft and often has odd shapes.
The hallway to the apartment.
One of my big regrets about this old house project was I didn't buy a really good camera from the start.  Hence (yes, hence) most of them are fuzzy and pretty awful.  Another regret is I didn't take more pictures of the process.  Something about both of us having full time jobs and it was really hard work.  But still I love having the visual reminders.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Crazy Old Man


The bay and porch
This is our house as it looked when we bought it. 

We had searched for a home in the country.  We found houses that had no redeeming character other than they were still standing.  Others were crazy expensive for nothing we wanted.  Some had too much land; others had odd tracts of land sometimes divided by other people's property, some had portions shared with the current owner even after sale, one near a commercial production hog business, and the stories go on. 

One day our realtor called to say there was an old abandoned home out by Bishop Hill, Illinois.  She told us we didn't need a key and it was so awful she wasn't going with us.  At this point, we perhaps should have been suspicious. 

Weeds were almost as tall as the second floor.  Windows were broke, doors boarded over, black plastic landscape fabric covered some walls.  And then, there was the smell...

The house had been vacant for about three years.  Prior to that it had been a party house for area teens.  Prior to that it had been lived in by various tenants who really didn't want or couldn't do the upkeep.  The last owners to actually love and keep the home were long gone but all their updates were still being used - some thirty years later. 

Raccoons lived in the attic, drug paraphernalia littered the floors, and for some reason the many inappropriate fires had not burned the place down. 

We entered the home through an "opening" and found the house looked like a family had simply got up from dinner one day and said, let's get out and leave everything behind.  Pans on the stove, plates on the table, clothes everywhere. 

The three acres held walnut, elm, wild cherry, soft maple, hawthorn, an apple and catalpa trees.  One old fashioned rose bush and absolutely no other flowers or evergreens of any kind.  The woods had trees harvested as some point and many old trees were damaged.  Someone had pastured horses in the woods and there had been a mink shed.  Yes, the kind of mink that's used for hides for wealthy ladies' coats.  The yard was littered with trash large and small. 

Olof Krans painting of Bishop Hill fields
The home had good bones.  It had the characteristics of many of the Bishop Hill Colony historic homes.  In fact, it was situated on some of the original Colony land.  The home was built in 1896 by Edwin Hedlin, a descendant of an original settler to the Colony.    Even though it was teetering on the very edge, it had not slipped over to where it couldn't be saved.  We made an offer and it was accepted.

At this point, the kids came out to view our great find.  We used the word "potential" often on the tour.  After a brief walk around, my daughter turned to my husband and said, "Crazy old man."  It's a quote we would often refer to over the next few years. 

Her son, Max, was only about 3 years old and had a little problem saying some letters.  He would get so excited to come out because of all the equipment and adventure.  He would yell, "We're going to the dunky house!"  aka the junky house.  Out of the mouths of babes. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hanging Around

Pink Mandevilla
A hanging basket is the answer to filling bare spots, for porch decorations, no yards, and purely decorative fun.

Most often seen with flowers or foliage, increasingly vegetables, especially tomatoes, are used.

A full lush hanging basket can be a thing of beauty.  It takes some specific tricks to accomplish.

First:  Aside from the beauty you wish to compose, retaining moisture and nutrients will be the focus.

Use the biggest basket you can lift and fit into your space.  Large ones hold more soil, more nutrients and more moisture.

Wave Petunias

If you fill your own baskets, line the inside and bottom with plastic or several layers of newspaper.  Punch a few holes around the lower sides of the plastic for drainage; no holes are needed for newspaper.  This helps keep moisture from evaporating as fast.  This is especially important if you live where there are hot winds blowing most of the summer.

I throw a hand full of mulch in the bottom of each basket.  It seems to hold the moisture.  Mix a moisture retaining substance into the potting medium such as 20 – 40% vermiculite or perlite.  For those who have access or make your own, worm compost is excellent.  Use potting soil (either purchased or make your own) because garden soil is too heavy.

Next think about the plants and what you wish to accomplish:

  1. Color
  2. Flowers, foliage, vegetables or herbs
  3. Trailing or compact
  4. Cost

Most of us have seen or had Boston (shade) ferns or Asparagus (sun) ferns in hanging baskets on our porches.  Both adapt well and provide a punch of green.  Both require continuous moisture and added nutrients during the summer.  Both over winter well.

Petunias are easy, come in many bright colors, and often trail over the sides.  Most require some serious pinching back in late summer or they will become leggy.

Impatiens are as common as petunias except they are especially well adapted for shade.  They need to be pinched back in late summer.

There are a hundred bazillion annuals suited for baskets.  Mostly the ones less than 8 inches in height are best or ones that vine.  Perennials work although you risk loosing them in the winter unless storage conditions are good.

Make sure all the plants in one basket have the same needs:  light, moisture, and nutrients.  After planting, fill to rim with mulch.  Bark, pine needles, shredded paper, cardboard, and dryer lint all work.  Don't skip this step - it will be a huge moisture saver in the hot days of late summer.

Fertilize every week with a weak solution.  I water my pot once and then come back with a fertilized water solution.  This allows the fertilized water to move evenly over the root system instead of running out the bottom first.  Exception nasturtiums; they stop flowering and only produce leaves when fertilized.

Red Mandevilla

Decide if you want a packed-full basket in the beginning.  These look lovely until later in the summer when they must either be pinched back or replanted. 

Most hanging plants need water every day and when it's hot and/or windy twice a day.  Can you fit that into your schedule?  I water each plant slowly until water comes out the bottom.  Then, I move on to the rest and come back and repeat it over again - each time.  Never - ever - ever - let a hanging basket dry out completely.  The plants will never recover. 

If you are going to be gone a few days, sit them in a bucket of shallow water in the shade.  Do this for more than a week and it will rot the root.  That's when you either hire someone to water or kiss the plants good-bye when you leave.

Once you've purchased good hanging baskets, chains and hooks - keep them clean and use year after year.  Even hanging planters made from unusual containers need care and good chains and hooks.  I also reuse my coconut liners for several years.  Caution:  mice love to make nests in them in the winter. 

Have fun with your hanging planters - they really are an extended garden joy. 


Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 Nursery School

Nursery School 2013- Lessons in Gardening

Saturday, February 16, 2013 from 8 A.M. - 4 P.M. i wireless Center, Moline, IL

Now in its 17th year, Nursery School is recognized as one of the Quad Cities' premiere gardening symposiums! University of Illinois Extension and the Rock Island County Master Gardeners bring together renowned local and regional horticulture experts to provide 13 different workshops on diverse topics. Nursery School is the perfect opportunity to get inspired for another successful gardening season!

The $45 fee includes continental breakfast, sit-down luncheon, afternoon snacks, handouts and outstanding lessons. You can register online at University of Illinois Extension, or call (309) 756-9978. Pre-registration required by Monday, February 11, 2013.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate, contact Rock Island County Extension 309-756-9978

During breaks and lunch, shop from gardening vendors. All participants are eligible to win one of the many fabulous door prizes donated by garden centers across the area!

Keynote Session One: 8:30 - 9:45 a.m.
Kelly Norris Horticulture Manager, Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens presents
"Dig This! Stylish Gardens for Savvy Gardeners". 
Gardeners need chic, sustainable, thriving plants for modern lifestyles. Plants after all are the very essence of fashionable gardening. Gardeners need to know the basics of gardening as well as have the opportunity to craft landscapes in their own unique style with plants that flourish sustainably for more than just a few seasons. The horticulture industry needs to re-shift and re-tool its focus on the style conscience of the young and young-at-heart, including how to market plants to a new generation of gardeners. Gardeners new and old have always wanted to make gardens that look like them and that reflect a personal, artistic ownership of the space outside their home, large or small. The 20-something plantsman Kelly Norris will take the audience on a journey through a world of hot, functional and head-turning plants–unusual, new, plus a few tried and true–that will inspire you to craft a stylish garden that's uniquely yours.

Session two 10:15 - 11:30 a.m. Choose one:
Bud LeFevre, Distinctive Gardens, Dixon, IL presents New and Trendy Annuals and Perennials. Get a sneak preview of plants new to the market this spring. We'll look at fun, easy and eye-catching ways to use annuals and perennials in container plantings. We'll also cover do's and don'ts for beautiful containers in every season of the year.

Cathy LaFrenz, Miss Effie's Country Flowers & Garden Stuff, Donahue, IA presents

Cut Flowers from Your Garden.  Discover the joys of growing your own cutting garden! With just a bit of planning and time in the garden, you can have fresh flowers in your home from May through October. We'll cover classic and popular varieties as well as helpful maintenance tips like dead-heading and supports designed to ensure a steady supply of blooms. Take a break from winter while we talk about pretty summer blossoms!
Peggy Burrows, Meyer Landscape & Design, Moline, IL presents Conifers: Dwarf, Small and Slender Varieties. Join in on this discussion and learn about many varieties of conifers, evergreens and some broad-leaf evergreens. Discover varieties that are better proportioned for smaller landscapes and those that work as wonderful sweeps and accent plants in any landscape area.

Darcy Rostenbach, Full Circle Soaps, Moline, IL presents Make-and-Take Laundry Soap. Make your own laundry soap using natural ingredients readily available in grocery stores. This economical and environmentally friendly alternative to commercial laundry detergents costs only pennies per load and really works! Whiter whites and colors that won't bleed! Discover how easy it is to help the environment and save money. Each participant will leave class with enough laundry soap to do LOTS of laundry and the knowledge to continue making more at home! Additional Cost per student: $12

Luncheon from 11:30 a.m. - 12:45 p.m
Take a break and enjoy a luncheon with your gardening friends! The menu will include lasagna (please choose traditional lasagna with red sauce or vegetarian lasagna roll with white sauce), fresh green salad, bread, dessert and coffee or tea. After lunch stop and visit with and shop at the Nursery School Vendors featuring garden art, crafts, horticulture groups and more.

Session three 12:45 - 2 p.m. Choose one:
Ken White, Corn Crib Nursery, Coal Valley, IL presents Fruits in Your Garden. Learn how easy it is to provide your family with the freshest, most economical fruit ever! When it comes to healthy, environmentally friendly fruit, you can't beat growing your own. We'll discuss care and selection of fruit trees, along with berries and brambles, and how to make them flourish in your backyard garden

Chris Enroth, University of Illinois Extension presents Xeriscaping: Make Every Drop Count. Tired of dragging the hose around and hauling buckets of water to parched plants? Learn how to incorporate xeriscaping into your home garden. Whether you're looking for a minimalist landscape approach or crave a lush garden, you'll gain useful design strategies and learn proper plant selection to minimize your water usage and make every drop count.

Jeff Hawes, Black Hawk College East, Galva, IL presents Incorporating Fruits and Vegetables in the Flower Garden. Do flowers, fruits and vegetables get along? You bet! In this workshop, we will focus on creative ways to integrate fruits and vegetables into your flowerbeds – or vice versa. We'll discuss basic background, plant selection, compatibility and more.

Martha Smith, University of Illinois Extension presents Perennial Garden Maintenance. Cutting back, deadheading, pinching, layering bloom and dividing are common chores when maintaining a perennial garden. But which plant gets which treatment? Learn the basics of perennial garden maintenance based on common plant needs. Also – what should we expect after the 2012 drought in our perennial gardens? This session will help ease your maintenance anxieties!

Bud LeFevre, Distinctive Gardens, Dixon, IL presents New and Trendy Annuals and Perennials. Repeat of Session Two class.

Session four 2:15-3:30 Choose one:
Cathy LaFrenz, Miss Effie's Country Flowers & Garden Stuff, Donahue, IA presents

Canning for Dummies.  Canning may seem intimidating but it really is quite simple. We will discuss basic terms, equipment and safety. Walk away with lots of recipes and the knowledge that, "Yes, you can!" We'll even help you ease into food preservation with simple but delicious freezer jam we'll make during this class. Come get a taste!

Damien Parizek, Milan Flower Shop, Milan, IL presents Flowers for All Seasons. Learn how to design arrangements using flowers from your garden for every season of the year. From the first bright daffodils of spring to the fresh boughs of winter greenery, bring a touch of your gardens into your home year 'round.

Jeff Johnson, Sunnyfield Greenhouse and Garden Center, Galva, IL presents Sizing Up Your Landscape. Get acquainted with exciting new varieties of trees and shrubs for your lawn and garden! Learn how to ensure that you get the right plant for the right spot. We'll also discuss how to make new varieties complement your unique approach to landscaping and design.

Martha Smith, University of Illinois Extension presents What is your horticulture IQ? When is the best time to control powdery mildew? How well do you understand Latin or realize its importance regarding horticulture? Who is the father of horticulture? Are you up for a challenge regarding your gardening knowledge? This interactive program tests audience members through hand-held remote control answering devices. Don't worry – there are no grades given out!

Darcy Rostenbach, Full Circle Soaps, Moline, IL presents Make-and-Take Laundry Soap Repeat of Session One. Additional $12 fee.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Again

Everything old is new again.  Have you ever been in the car with teens when a current song, remade from your own youth, comes on and you sing along?  Only to note the shock and dismay from the teens because they thought the song was new; it belonged them them.  They do a little shudder, are at a lack for words and silently swear to never listen to that song again.   It totally creeps them out, you have somehow defiled a song by the hint it was cool back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Queen 1977 "We Will Rock You"
Five 2000 "We Will Rock You"

Each generation, as they run head long into youth, thinks their ideas are new. 

Same goes with gardening.  Alas, part of this is from the media hype for products.  All new and improved is shouted from every commercial: 

·         Never before seen. 

·         Exciting new colors. 

·         Newly developed. 

·         For the discriminating gardener.

There’s also “There’s nothing new under the sun.”  Fact is gardening is a little bit of both.

I enjoy looking at photos and visiting old gardens.  Each era has its specialties and design.  Its fun to see what was in style and how it was used.  It’s sad to note a beautiful plant allowed to die out from commercial availability. 

As I’m reading my garden catalogs (Isn’t every gardener in January?), some of the new introductions are spectacular.  Hybridizers are continually developing new colors, designs and traits making them different.   Other new introductions are old favorites brought back into the commercial market. 

Do you buy new plant introductions?  Must all your plants be heirloom?  Either way with any garden purchase it’s best to do your homework prior to buying.  Read what several nurseries have to say about the plant – not just the catalog in your hand.   Talk with other gardeners and see if they’ve tried the plant.  Check out your county extension or the state agricultural university’s web site.  The University of Illinois and Purdue University always have balanced information.

Visit public gardens in your planting zone and see what thrives from the professionals.  I also like to double check some of my favorite garden books: 

·         The National Audubon Society’s offers books on plants of all kinds. 

·         “Wicked Plants” by Amy Stewart.

·         “Gerard’s Herbal – the history of plants” by John Gerard

·         “Illinois Wildflowers” and “Forest Trees of Illinois” by IDNR  

These are just a few and your local library will have others.  Try the old; it may preserve a plant on the edge of extinction.  Experiment with new; it may become your new best friend.  Dan Bennet said “One of the healthiest ways to gamble is with a spade and a package of garden seeds.”  I tend to agree.
canon and fountain
Current "Galva IL Veteran's Park"
1906 "Galva IL Central Park - now Veteran's Park"

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Garden Bucket List

There's not a lot of difference between my "bucket list" and the "no chance in hell list", but, I'm going to give it a go anyway.  Does that mean I'm a pessimist or do I put impossible to accomplish things on my list?  Should a bucket list only contain things we can be assured of accomplishing or should shooting for the moon be included?  Does it include things we want as well as things we want to accomplish?  Am I over analyzing?  OK, probably...

Bucket List

  • Ride the Orient Express.
  • Have all my sidewalks cemented.
  • Explore Alaska.
  • Have a weedless lawn.
  • All grandchildren healthy and productive.
  • Throw one more large garden party with other people doing the hard work.
  • Have a cleaning person come in once a week.
  • Have a yard person pull weeds once a week.
  • Have my home's wallpaper removed and the walls re plastered and painted.
  • Leisurely do family tree research in Switzerland, Germany, Pennsylvania and Ohio. 

Yes, I've reached the age where my bucket list isn't as much about me doing things as having others doing for me.  Maybe my list of things I want to do is small because I have no imagination or maybe its because I've been blessed with already accomplishing many things one would consider bucket list items.  Or, some things I consider personal enough to be a goal and not a list.   

I also weigh in the hassle portion versus the pleasure.  This almost eliminated the cement walk item.  We've had some really excellent contractors during our home remodeling experience.  A few horror experiences happened but most are only a funny story today.  Not all but most.

As I reviewed my list, I realize all but one involves an outlay of considerable cash.  So much for memorizing the entire library or competing in the tough woman contest...

What's on your Bucket List?  Does it change with the years?  Have you eliminated items because they have been accomplished?

Starting with my next blog article, I'll take a walk down our big bucket list item:  A house in the country.

Until then - keep dreaming.

Note: It's been one of those days when the blog site doesn't work right...  Among other things, I can't insert photos.  Sorry - maybe tomorrow will be a working day for blogspot.  


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's a Doo Hickey

Websters:  doo hickey is a noun for dingus; thingumbob; gadget.

Do Hickey plant tags.
I use an actual doo hickey  for my daylily plant tags.  I like them because they are sturdy, I can reuse them, and they seldom get swept out with the rake.  I buy the stakes and tags from supplier:

I've tried numerous kinds - most never to be seen the next spring.  If you want a plant tag to last through the years, go with metal, a profile that won't get caught in rake tines and tall enough to read without laying on the ground.

Things that have not worked for me:  Venetian blind slats (come out too easy), wood sucker sticks (degrade), and painted rocks (grandchildren move.)

I saw some chain link fence connectors the other day at Menards made of twisted metal with a loop at the top.  They were about 3 ft. tall and would make an excellent plant tag holder if you want more height.  

I've copied some crafted examples and some available through retail.  Many are for small gardens or potted plants.  Some are simply fun projects.

This one can be found in most stores. 

Burpee offers a plastic envelop where you can
insert the seed packet.

Corks on sticks.
Corks on forks.

Painted wooden spoons.
Painted old silver.

Made from Pringle lids.
Carved sticks are certainly earth friendly.

Plastic spoons with glued on photos.

Silver spoons flattened and punch stamped.