Thursday, August 20, 2015

How Old is Old

You know you’re getting old when you see this romantic beach scene with a table, chairs, lace cabana, hanging lights, tablecloth, napkins, wine glasses, twelve course meal and all you think is “It would take three mules and a land rover to haul that back and forth.”

I’ve never seen a picture of a dog or cat dressed in a costume that it didn’t look like it wanted to bite the hand that feeds it.

Scott Caravello rocks!  Cares enough to manage his customers’ entire prescription needs when they either don’t know how or are too sick AND cares enough to volunteer and support others.  

I hope I never grow too old to love clouds.

I’m thankful my internal brain to mouth filter works and for the times it doesn’t I apologize.

How old do you have to be before you know sleeping outdoors in a hammock isn’t romantic, its painful and buggy?

Do you ever talk to a perfect flower and ask it to never go away – ever? 

Have you stopped to realize just how many local people volunteer for worthy causes?  We are a society of caring people – at least in our neck of the woods.  Take the test:  Name fifty local people who have volunteered in the past 12 months.  I’m betting you could up it to a hundred.  Telling them “thanks” never hurts.

Here’s a shout out to all those preservationist who keep our beautiful prairie plants from disappearing.  Talking about you, Kathy Huffman!

I’m excited about the new Illinois state vegetable:  Sweet corn.  How obvious.  How perfect.  How corn fed.  How like every little farmer kid roadside stand.  How the best summer vegetable EVER.

You can tell the Midwest is into eating because every festival is centered on the local food of choice:  Hog, rhubarb, bacon, beef, corn boil and more.

The reason old people get discouraged is they see things coming around again – those things they did when young and learned the hard way.

A repeat:  Never enlarge your gardens and flowerbeds when you’re young larger than you can maintain when old.

Taking a Sunday sightseeing drive still appeals to those that love a relaxing interlude at someone else’s backbreaking work.

Talcum powder was used by the Victorians prior to deodorants and air conditioning.  It’s still a wonderful product on days when the humidity and temperature is in the 90s.

It’s about Northerners thinking Southerners are crazy for living in all that heat and humidity and Southerners thinking Northerners are crazy for living in all that snow and cold.  Both are a little bit right.

If you have a good township road commissioner, you are fortunate.  We are fortunate to have Ron Werkheiser.

Trees are not planted for us; they are planted for our grandchildren’s generation.

Just because an old person’s garden is a little ragged doesn’t mean they don’t know gardening.  They have common sense knowledge you can’t have without living it; it’s the body that’s letting us down.

Jason Bates is the kind of example of a good man every child should hear about.  He’s made caring for people, who can do nothing for him, a passion and our area is better for having him.

We may have been in the older crowd at the Back Road Music Festival but we sure did have fun.  Thanks to  Nick Grafelman and Tyler Glazer and their many hard working volunteers.

A parent that instills fear instead of knowledge of nature is robbing their children of a lifetime of wonder and joy.

DNA testing is all the rage for both medical and fun reasons.  I’m sure every died-in-the-wool Midwesterner has DNA indicating a love of four seasons.  It’s the gene that speeds the heart at the first snowfall, first spring tulip, first autumn leaf to fall and first neighborhood wiener roast. 

That Midwestern gene is the same one that makes an old person put up a Christmas wreath every winter, plant tulip bulbs every fall, put annuals in a pot every summer and plant pansies every spring.

I’m good with the new state pie being pumpkin.  I composted my Halloween pumpkins last year and now have a very healthy vine adorning the fence.

If you are “into gardening” and are getting old, consider digging up divisions of some of your beautiful perennials, asking some young gardeners over and letting them pick what they want.  Legacy can mean giving a living plant from your heart to their garden; It’s a special kind of love. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Going to Phlox

There’s a small-unincorporated community in Indiana by the name of Phlox.  It’s so small it’s described as being at the intersection of two roads.  It was named after the plant “phlox”.  It’s this plant’s variety “Phlox paniculata”, that I’m going to talk about today.

Historically, phlox is Greek for flame and there are 67 species of perennial and annual phlox.  The seeds explode out of the capsule although it would take a patient person with a good camera to catch this event.

This phlox talk is about the good, the bad and the spectacular.

Phlox plants feature bunches of small flowers with a strong fragrance.  You either love or hate the smell as it resembles a fragrant woodsy musk.  

The individual flowers are small star-shaped growing in a pom at the end of the stem. 

Phlox varieties have red, pink, orange, blue, lavender, purple or white and many have different colored eyezones.  In addition to the variety I’m describing (fall/garden/border phlox) there are:  woodland and low mounding phlox species.

Fall phlox is a perennial and once established one of the easiest to grow.  They prefer full to partial sun, may be divided and some varieties are mildew resistant. 
I’ve never lost a plant due to cold.  

They are perfect for the back of a border or spaced throughout your gardens and yard.  Most are from 36 to 40 inches.  There are hybrid compact varieties but the spring creeping phlox is a different variety.  

This variety blooms continually from mid to late summer.  If you don’t care about self-seeding, remove the seed heads after blooming and it may rebloom before frost.  For this specific species:  Pretty much any loamy or clay soil will do as long as the roots don’t sit in water.    

One reason it does so well in our area is it’s a native wildflower.  There is still wild native phlox growing in ditches, prairie gardens and other uncultivated ground.  I have a white/pink flowering phlox along the old fencerow north of the house.

Native Americans called April’s full moon the “Full Pink Moon” because it was a sign wild ground phlox would be blooming – one of spring’s first flowers.     

I tend to dislike phlox most of the summer months because I have the old variety that mildews in hot humid weather. I pulled the worst, cut down the semi-worst so it could come up healthy and left the mostly decent.  Because I’ve had phlox for years, I didn’t need to worry about not having enough since it had self-seeded in most every area of the yard.

It’s preferable to plant it where it can get good air circulation, which may help with the mildew issue.  Cut it down after the first killing frost if you don’t want it to self-seed.  Leave up all winter if you want to feed birds.  If you have an especially bad mildew year, cut down and burn (never compost mildewed plants.)   

I find my phlox cross pollenates and I always have a wide variety of colors and blends. It’s easier to grow hybrid phlox from plants rather than seeds although the birds seem to know just how to accomplish with my old varieties. 

You may find hybrid phlox a little difficult to get started and I recommend buying potted plants locally instead of mail orders where they are likely bare root or small.  Or, get some seeds or a start from a friend.  Some of the newer brighter crazier hybrids are more difficult and may take longer to establish and multiply.   Worth it but wanted you to have reasonable expectations.

The foliage is food for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species (moths) including the Hummingbird Hawk-moth.

Now for the spectacular:  Butterflies will come to your fall garden in mass for phlox. Bees and other pollinators will love them, too.  Phlox works as good as any butterfly bush.  It’s especially attractive to the large swallowtails.  There’s a lot of good, some bad and it’s all worth it for the grand spectacular butterfly show.