Thursday, February 27, 2014

It's A Fact Jack

A gardener’s net worth does not always correspond to their garden’s net beauty.

Grandparents have at least one tchotchke in their garden – do not judge.

Geese will begin to move North through Illinois in February.

That brief period between cool spring and hot summer when all things are possible.

Gardeners live in four-season regions to give their backs a three-month rest.

Most gardeners have one atypical tool in their bag.  Mine's a putty knife.

The amount of fertilizer needed on a garden is less than dished out by many product claims.

Maple sap starts to flow in February.

Weeds are like potato chips:  Bet you can’t pull just one.

Sparrows figure out the feeder has been filled faster than any other bird.

If a hawk can eat a medium sized squirrel or three big rats or a medium rabbit every day, why do I still get mice inside the house? 

An adult will react like a little kid tasting chocolate when viewing eagles for the first time. 

Eating a diet with substantial roughage equals flatulence – guaranteed.

A garden friend is one that makes excuses for the problems in OUR yard.

The only redeeming thing about February is chocolate.

When walking on pure ice, we all look like Tim Conway doing the old man routine.

Love is in the air.
Raccoons, groundhogs, mink, skunks, screech owls, squirrels and bald eagles all mate in February.  And you thought nothing much happens those cold winter nights.

Most weather events cause good and bad.  Examples:  A deep hard long winter freeze may kill the Japanese Beetles but it may also kill winter ground crops.  When rivers flood the water smothers vegetation but the rich silt left behind fertilizers.  

Other than the awesome power of nature, I can find no redeeming thing to say about tornadoes.

The severity of drought we will experience each summer is in direct response to the number of new trees I plant in the spring.

Give a plant start to someone and what is left in your garden will prosper.

Seldom does the person who buys your home appreciate your garden or landscapes.

I’m thinking garden nurseries pump pheromones into the air making gardeners need way too many plants each spring.

The difference between passionate and obsessive gardening is one is me and the other is you.

Baby owl we found on the ground 
Mother nature wasn’t fair when it handed out different voices to owls and crows.

If you didn’t make at least one joke about the drivers in Atlanta during their 1 1/2 inch snow event, then you’re a better person than me.  I must admit my winter sympathy kicked in during their second storm due to ice, accidents and outages.

When the wind chill is minus 37, it’s hard to take global warming seriously.

If you didn’t loose trees or branches this winter, they are pretty darn healthy.

You will have lost some perennials over this winter; let’s just hope they're the ones you don’t like very much.
1955 Howard County IN 4-H county fair - I know:
I've always been a fashion diva...but that's one good looking
show calf!

Fellow farm community: did you laugh out loud at the barn explosion caused by methane gas from a barn full of belching/tooting cattle?  (Pardon me for two gas related comments in one article – it’s the twelve-year-old boy talking.)

“And now as my garden quietly sleeps
I pray to Lord my plants to keep
If they should die before spring wakes
I pray someone comes in and plants all new
And weeds and mulches for free.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Who Invited the Millers?

Part of the memories about summers as a kid was millers (moths) flying around light and bumping into the screens at night.  There are some moths that are beautiful even being mistaken for butterflies.  And then there's the flip side:  the pest, miller moths.

I'm copying this article straight from Clemson University and the USDA because it says it all.  Well, it says it all except "UGG" which is what I'm saying.   

In Colorado and the high plains, pest specialists say it's going to be a banner year for cutworms and their adult form, miller moths. Most non gardeners think miller moths are a nuisance because they fly in every open door and window on summer evenings, hovering around all your lights. Gardeners however know cutworms as the horrid creatures that spend their late Spring nights decapitating your young garden plants. They especially like broccolis and cauliflowers but are happy to eat through the stem of your young tomato plants and peas too.
The easiest way to control cutworms is to pick them up and throw them out to birds to eat or dispose of them in some way. These larvae are quite large and light colored so they are easy to see if you happen to be crawling through your garden. They are most fond of overwintering under broadleaf weeds in your weeding your garden thoroughly in Fall is a good deterrent.

If you've had problems with cutworms in the past, you may want to grow broccoli and cauliflowers indoors to transplant rather than direct seed in the garden. When it's time to plant out into the garden, a small collar around the stem of the plant is all it takes. Saving all those empty toilet rolls is the most common collar, although plastic collars cut from water bottles or yogurt containers are also popular. Simple Dixie cups with the bottom cut out works well. Why do collars work? The cutworm doesn't just start eating at one end of the stem and eat wraps itself around the stem and then chews. All you have to do is keep it from wrapping around the stem and your plant is safe.
If, alas, you go out and find some plants decapitated, take a moment to look through the top inch or so of soil around the plant. You should find a nice fat cutworm resting from its big meal. Pick it out so that at least that cutworm won't be a threat to the neighboring plants.

A video from Oklahoma on controlling cutworms:
Photocredit: Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Blues

It's the little things that make joy in this world.  Today I have a rock with various paper things taped to it making it into a bird from my granddaughter, Grace.  Saturday, another granddaughter (1 year) was trying to whistle - and very proud of herself I might say.  Another little thing is one very beautiful blue hydrangea flower on my Endless Summer.

This is the first time it's bloomed.  Although it is classified hardy in Zone 5, it will not bloom if the tips of the branches have frozen because that's where next year's flowers form.  Seems rather a stretch to say it's hardy but won't bloom.

Gardeners can protect those ends with wrapping and insulating like a hybrid tea rose.  There's a reason I don't have hybrid tea roses.  I've been content (in a non-content way) to have this lovely bush in my flower bed without blooms.  The leaves are pretty, the shape is nice and it isn't bothered by pests.

This pretty little flower head is everything gardeners want in Endless Summer.  To have the blue color (instead of pink) the soil must be acidic and apparently mine is perfect.

I just might have to think of insulating this bush and see if next year it will be covered in these beauties. What do you do to make sure your  Endless Summer blooms?  I could use an idea or two.


The above was written midsummer and not published.  In September/October the bush was covered with blooms.  Some didn't get very big before the first frost and none got as large as the first.  Encouraging at any rate. 

RIP Impatiens

I wrote on April 19, 2013 about impatiens mildew in my garden article "Impatient with Impatiens" #118 in the Galva News.  Looking down the right side of this blog to article label "Impatiens" and reread if you're an impatiens flower lover.  The information in this article still holds true.

And now the update:

Monica David of the University of Illinois Extension office told us the fungal disease is as bad as they had predicted.  Not only is it not contained or eliminated, it has decimated the impatiens industry.  We can no longer hope new plants won't be infected.

If no more impatiens are planted this summer in the US, this disease will still be in the soil for at least another five years.

Is your yard infected?  If you planted impatiens in the last 2-3 years and had the leaves and flowers fall off before the end of summer, the answer would be almost assuredly "yes."  Hopefully, you raked up all the plant debris and disposed by burning or in a trash bag.  Do not compost.  If you had this die back in pots of impatiens, you should have disposed of the potting soil in the same way.  Both of these suggestions will not have saved your soil from harboring the fungus, it may have prevented it from being spread.

This particular fungus can not be controlled or eliminated with the commercial or homemade products for mildew.  This is different than the fungus you battle on plants such as lilac, bee balm, phlox and etc.

If you did not plant impatiens in the last few years, do not plant them now.  There will be a few places that still carry them and you will be tempting the mildew fairy to bring in a long lasting fungal problem for your gardens.


  • Do not buy impatiens (New Guinea impatiens are not diseased and may be used.)
  • Keep impatiens out of your yard for the next 5-8 years.
  • Removed diseased plants.
  • Do not compost.
  • Use alternative plants.
I will add another warning:

This particular mildew is also hitting basil.  I know!  Basil is one of my favorite herbs of summer!  Blue Spice Blue and Blue Spice Phil are both mildew resistant varieties.

 If you experience gray-green, yellow or purple lesions on the upper leaf surface, white gray fuzzy mass of spores and hyphae on the underside of the leaf, the new grow dies first and defoliation, leaf drop and death of your basil plants, the U of I extension office would like you to put your entire plant & root system in a baggy and bring it into the office for testing.  In this way they will be able to tell where the fungus has spread.

And you ask:

Why do we see both of these plants (impatiens and basil) in stores this year and they look healthy?  Because the nursery where it was raised used powerful chemicals to keep it controlled (not eliminated but controlled.)  We, as gardeners, are not licensed to have these chemicals.  When these chemicals are no longer used after we bring the plant home and put it ever so artfully in the soil,  the fungus will again start growing.  I tell you this so you will realize seeing a healthy plant in your favorite garden store does not guarantee it will not be infected and die once it's planted at your home.

The bottom line:

Listen to mama:  do not buy impatiens (except New Guineas) and do not buy basil (except powdery mildew resistant varieties.)

Part of gardening is adapting to nature's twists and turns.  This is one big twist but at least it isn't about the horribly expensive tree you planted twenty years ago.  The truly sad part of this story is what it has done to the impatiens industry and if they can survive this disaster.

Ask your reputable nursery owner for impatiens substitutions.  They will have an enormous variety of shade loving plants that just might become your new favorites.  They will also have basil suggestions.  Reputable nurseries want you to have healthy plants - work with them - make them your new best friend.  Win~win.    

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Not So Basic

Thanks in part to the influx of food TV shows, blogs, web sites and celebrity chefs; people are trying new ingredients and recipes.

It’s not easy to get someone to taste a food they’ve never had before.  And since the invention of prepackaged foods, many folks have never been exposed to a whole array of vegetables, fruits, and seasonings. 

I’m not kicking the working parent (I was one) but quick and easy gave way to many a child turning up their nose at fresh foods because they weren’t exposed to them at a young age. (Granted children develop their own love/hate relationship with all foods based on some inner taste meter adults will never budge.)   A child exposed to a diversity of different foods at a young age will at least have the opportunity to experience (and hopefully enjoy) a larger array of food choices along life’s path.

It’s difficult to expect a school age child to voluntarily eat fresh carrots, from salad bars, or other fresh ingredients if they’ve never had them at home.  Any child may reach first for French fries and cheeseburgers but a child exposed to different vegetables, seasonings and fruit as a toddler may allow diversity in their diet as well.  (I use the word “may” because we’ve all had kids/grandkids who have had all the advantages and still rebel.)

Gardening provides busy families with fresh food as quickly as walking out the back door and picking a ripe tomato.  Letting children help with the planting, pulling weeds and watering can develop a sense of ownership encouraging them to eat what they produce.

Planting cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, cilantro, carrots and other summer goodies is not all that hard.  Planting easy-to-raise vegetables in a flowerbed or around the foundation of your home is pretty darn easy.

Exposing your child to gardening teaches them how the food looks, smells and develops throughout the growing process.  Cauliflower and cabbage are big heads.  Brussels sprouts and broccoli grown on a stout stem.  Pumpkins and gourds develop on vines.  Peas are inside a pod.  Carrots, beets, potatoes and radishes grow underground.  And no child should miss out on spaghetti squash.  Children don’t know these things unless they’re exposed to these differences.  

The color factor is important for children to witness.  Pumpkins and tomatoes start out green.  Purple, orange and gold tomatoes are all good.  The watermelon radish still tastes like a radish.  Purple green beans, cabbages and peppers are still good to eat. 

Will a child voluntarily take care of a plant throughout the summer with no adult encouragement?  Not unless you have that rare child who has the gardening bug early in life.  Helping a child to garden is an exercise in teaching responsibility, patience and perseverance to get a good end result.  Life lessons for sure.

Will all these foods score a hit with all kids?  Obviously not.  It will expand their world by opening possibilities to different cuisines from around the world.  A little Internet search prior to planting something like cilantro or dill can give a parent/grandparent a whole history lesson incorporated into gardening.  

You do your child a favor by exposing them to a variety of foods early in life.  The only thing more tiresome than a finicky child is an adult guest at a dinner party or in a restaurant who turns their nose up at most everything being served.   I feel sorry they’ve limited their palette by excluding some of nature’s most wonderful tastes. 

Bravo to the home cooks (both male and female) who are now trying those quirky different recipes we see posted on social media.  The current “buffalo wild wing cauliflower” bites recipe is certainly a fun way to introduce fresh food into the Super Bowl snack world.  And, bravo to the parents who put something new on the menu even when the effort is not rewarded with enthusiasm.  If you end up with a picky eater, well, mom and dad at least you tried!

As Robert Brault said so well, “Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

2014 Pantone Color of the Year

Pantone Radiant Orchid
Every year Pantone selects the fashion color of the year and 2014 is:  Radiant Orchid!

The exact color is a mixture of fuchsia and purple with pink undertones.  Not exactly an easy color to grab but it's influence will be seen in fashion everywhere.

This color will scream from the pages fashion and decorating magazines, runway shows, in department stores and will even flood the gardening markets.

You'd think orchid would be pretty easy to duplicate in garden plants but this particular shade is more than lavender and less than shocking pink.  It's rich like a beautiful wine.  Let's see if I can find some suitable garden choices in case you're a latent fashion diva just waiting to try the latest in what's hot! HOT!! H.O.T.

I'm sure if I wanted, I could come up with many daylilies with this particular color.  It's one of the many popular daylily colors and has been for years.  A little word of caution:  The tones of plant color often depend on the environment:  Nutrients, moisture, length of season, hardiness & heat zones and more.   Color of the flower may differ in different years. What may be radiant orchid in my garden may not be in your garden.  I'm sure as the fashion industry plows headlong into radiant orchid, they will develop many shades to further broaden choices.

Also, pictures of flowers are often misleading:  Time of day, location of the sun/clouds, type of camera and flash, photo computer program used and then there's enhancing colors.

With all the pretty radiant orchid colored flowers in my garden, don't forget the Chicago Botanic Gardens' Orchid Show running February 15 to March 16.  One of the many wonderful exhibits so close to our area.  Information on their web site.
Columbine "Ruby Port"

Old fashioned naturalized Hollyhock
"Trahlyta" Daylily
"Wayside King Royal" daylily

This one is enhanced but oh so beautiful radiant orchid.