Thursday, March 31, 2016


Places and Things That No Longer Live up to Their Hype:

Steak and Shake – They used to have the food, taste and service thing down.  Now it’s routine to have none of these.

Holiday Inn – They carried the banner of excellence when motels were a new and exciting alternative to hotels.  You can pretty much count on a stay at any of their establishments to be a walk in inferior rooms, service and cleanliness.

Snickers candy bars – Do you remember the melt-in-the-mouth creamy nugget, caramel and crunchy peanuts?  Now the size & quality has diminished although not the price.

Continental breakfasts – Remember when continental breakfast meant fresh awesome pastries, real coffee and perhaps some fresh cut fruit?  Now it’s factory donuts and cheap coffee. 

Folgers coffee – I’m not sure where the big name coffee brands get their coffee or how they refine it but it’s no longer “good to the last drop” or even the first drop.  It all tastes stale. 

Hot tea – Tea needs to be poured into a hot cup, from a pot of boiled hot water and with loose-leaf tea.  I understand micro waving a cup of water, a teabag, a packet of fake sugar and skimmed milk.  But none of that comprises a good cup of hot tea.  None.

Cub Cadet – When you cannot find parts for your machinery, the product is no longer a good buy.

Fat free dairy products – After all these years of the dairy industry making fat free products wouldn’t there have been an opportunity to make it taste good?

Sullivan’s Groceries – We have been blessed to have Sullivan’s Groceries in our area because they have always carried things we couldn’t get in our small towns and they had the freshest produce.  Lately both have suffered. 

News reporters – Unbiased and unendorsed journalism is almost a thing of the past.  Even those who do exposés, do so from an unabashed bias often from perks. 

Surveys – Does anyone really believe the results of today’s surveys?  With so many ways to skew the results, I am a skeptic.

Car designers – Unless you’re a car hobbyist, you’ll have a hard time discerning make, year or model of today’s cars.  I understand comfort, aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, and cost to manufacture.  I don’t understand why cars have such boring designs.  Sameness:  yawn.

Sports bars – It was trendy to cater to those who no longer play sports but want to pump up some testosterone outside the bedroom.  No acoustics, uncomfortable seating, grease-saturated menu items and loud conflicting TV sport channels is simply not going to make it on the long haul.  Even guys who have loved this will start to realize their home recliner and having their kids learn sports from dad is more fun.

Fish and Chips – OK first we have to realize we are not British.  That being said we also have no clue on how to make good fish and chips.   A greasy premade fish patty and frozen greasy potato somethings are not F&Cs even if you wrap them in newspaper.

Reality TV – I’m only hoping these are soon going to be a thing of the past.  Every single one has been exposed as “rigged” and staged.  Stop the madness!

Medical Customer Service – Some medical office personnel don’t understand they’re in the customer service business.  Many do and they do it beautifully.  Others act like you’re an imposition upon their day, you should be glad they give you an appointment and they will tell you what you are going to get no matter what you need.  If you can’t treat even the most trying person with respect you need to find other work.

Full Service – What does it even mean anymore?  It should read:  Full Service Except…

Novel – Just because it’s a long fictional story in book form doesn’t mean it’s a novel.  A novel has merit and a storyline.  Does anyone use the word “claptrap” anymore?

Televangelist - I’m a Christian but there are some televangelists that actually scare me.  And not in a bring them to Jesus kind of way.

Chicago Cutlery - Although never top of the line, it was always the good knives for those who didn’t want to spend thousands.  I have some from almost forty years ago and they sharpen up well and stand up to use.  My new ones “won’t cut hot butter.”

Keurig – I love the premise of single cup brewing but the rising concern about plastic in the landfills can’t be ignored if this company wants to stay in business.  And the whole price gouging on the cups leaves a “bitter taste” in my mouth.  What started as 18 cups for x amount is now 12 cups for that amount or more.  And Keurig making their machines so you can’t use certain brands just adds to the displeasure.  

Country music – I’m not even a country music fan but listening to country radio is a venture in “what the heck” kind of music are they playing.  I’m not saying this music is wrong or bad, it seems it’s a whole other genre.

Note:  Sometimes I don't have any specific pictures that match up with what I'm saying in an article that's not about gardening.  When in doubt?  Use spring flowers!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Say It Isn't So!

My garden friends and I were discussing "short-lived perennials" and I decided to do more research.  The reason being is most gardeners take it personal when a plant dies.  We stew about: What did we do wrong? Are we no longer skilled gardeners?  Have we lost our gardening mojo?   Perhaps it wasn't meant to be!

I thought this was so important that I considered making it a newspaper article.  However, lists of things doesn't transfer well to newspaper copy.  And so it remains here for those of you who want to know.

The definition of Short-Lived Perennial:  "A self-renewing plant that has a shorter life expectancy than most perennials, and only lasts a few years.  New seedlings will typically take the place of the parent plant (in some species) with proper care. "

Bee Balm
Occasionally you’ll see some of these plants described as self-seeding/reseeding perennials or biennials/bi-annuals.  They may be called annuals or short-lived perennials according to the company's whim.   

Self-seeding/reseeding perennials have a life expectancy of from one to three years but they throw off seeds at the end of the season, creating new plants while the old plants die out. 

Biennials/bi-annuals require two years to complete their life cycle.  The first year usually has a basal rosette of leaves close to the ground and the next year they send up flowers.  They die after flowering.  (Examples are Hollyhocks, Sweet William, Money Plant and many Foxglove species.)  Most self-seed.    

Garden blogger, Larry Hodgson says, “Perennial doesn’t mean eternal.”  That's a hard concept to swallow when we've read the label "perennial" and believed we had a long-lived plant.  There's a discussion that plant manufacturers never say "short-lived perennial" because they don't want to loose a sale.  Others say it's because consumers aren't capable of understanding the concept so they just leave it off the description.  Today we'll understand the concept.    
Dame's Rocket
The average life span of an average perennial, planted perfectly, would be about 7-8 years. Long-lived perennials will probably live at least 20 years and sometimes more. 

Short-lived perennials will probably bloom a maximum of 3 years and then disappear. 

It’s normal and not your fault!

If you take cuttings, divide or even take seeds, ever two years, you may have these short-lived plants year after year. 

Although impossible to guarantee in every locations and situation, the following should be considered short-lived perennials:

The * at the end of the variety indicates they can self sow or self seed.  It may appear they live forever when actually you're seeing a new plant every year.

1  Agastache (Agastache spp.)*
2  Astilbe (Astile simplicifolia)  Divide every 3 yrs.
3  Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata)
4  Basket of Gold (Aurinia saxatilis)
5  Bearded Iris (Iris Germanica)
6  Bee Balm (Monarda spp.) *
7  Blanket Flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora)*
8  Blue vervaine (Verbena hastata)*
9  Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrhynchium angustifolium)*
10           Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)
11           Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia trilobata)*
12           Bugbane (Dimicifuga ramose)
13           Butterfly Milkweed (Asciepias tuberosa)
14           Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
15           Cardoon (Cynara spp.)
16           Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)*
17           Hybrid Coneflowers (Echinacea)
18           Coral Bells (Heuchera spp.) 
19           Coreopsis (Coreopsis Grandiflora, C. lanceotlata) *
20           Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis)*
21           Delphinium (Delphinium spp.) (longer-lived in cool climates)
22           Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) (some cultivars are short-lived)
Gallardia "Sunburst Tangerine"
23           English daisy (Bellis perennis)
24           Flas (Linum perenne)
25           Hardy Geranium (Geranium spp.) *
26           Goatsbeard (Aruncus spp.)
27           Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)*
28           Gloriosa daisy or black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)*
29           Goatsbeard (Aruncus spp.)
30           Helleborn (Hellborus spp.)
31           Hollyhock (technically a biannual) *
32           Hybrid Tulip (Tulipa spp.)
33           Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis)
34           Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule)
35           Knautia (Knautia spp.)*
36           Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
37           Lupine hybrids (Lupinus x russellii and Thermopsis villos))
38           Maltese Cross (Lychnis chalcedonica)*
39           Mauve (Malva spp.)*
Dianthus "Raspberry Parfait"
40           Hardy Mums (Chrysanthemum spp.)
41           Orange jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)*
42           Painted Daisy (Tanacetum coccineum)
43           Perennial Flax (Linum perenne)*
44           Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa spp.)
45           Pinks (Dianthus spp.) (some species self-sow)*
46           Prairie Clover (Dalea carnea-Pink)
47           Red Hot Poker or Torch Lily (Kniphofia spp.)
48           Rose campion (Lychnis coronaria)*
49           Scabiosa
50           Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum x super bum) * (‘Becky’ is long-lived)
51           Tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora)
30.     White corydalis (Corydalis ochroleuca, now Pseudofumaria alba)*

Shasta Daisies
One of the things that will prevent some of these self-seeding varieties from being in your garden year-after-year is keeping your flower beds full, perfectly neat and totally mulched to discourage weeds.  That pretty much eliminates self-seeding perennials. 

There are also long-lived perennials that have some hybridized varieties that are short-lived.  You might see this with some daylilies and ornamental perennial grasses.

The point here is to help you understand the life cycle of these plants before they enter your garden.  Understand you will probably not have them forever.  Don't create unattainable expectations and then be utterly disappointed at the loss.  

Coneflower "Coconut Lime"
Factor in the cost of your short-lived perennial and is it worth it to have only a few years.  I don't mind paying a little more for a long-lived daylily but a new hybridized daylily that may only live five years just won't fit into my gardening budget no matter how hard I rationalize, covet and drool. 

You may have had some of the above for years and years.  You may have an old variety that is more hardy.  You may have a new hybrid bred to last longer.   The garden gods may have decided to rain their goodness on your parade.  Whatever, many of the above short-lived perennials are worth the trouble and eventual demise to have them in our presence if only for a short while.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016


My little helper 
Responsibility is learned.  We learn it through experience or from being taught.

How does responsibility transfer to gardening or working the land?  It’s in every phase of earth’s products.

To understand personal responsibility for the land, you either have to be taught how all phases of gardening and farming works or want to know bad enough to find out for yourself. 

Blessed are those whose family taught them how to use the earth responsibly.  As youngsters, my brother and I walked all the roadsides of our farm every spring picking up other people’s trash.  I still walk down our road doing this. Thanks to this early lesson, I don’t throw out trash for others to clean up.  As the British say, “It just isn’t done.”

Beautiful farm fields
Most farm families stress responsible land management and preservation.  Except for the greed factor of a few, American farmers will be among the most knowledgeable and responsible of protectors.  WHAT!  What about those chemicals? 

Because I was raised on a farm, I still have a strong conviction that American farmers do they best they can with what they know at the time.  No matter what line of work we pursue we must balance all decisions with giving the public what they want and what they need with information we have at that moment against how to do that without going broke. 

Provide lots of color to attract beneficial insects
Dad used DDT on his animals and around the yard to prevent serious pest problems.  When it was found to cause other serious problems, he stopped. 
Responsibility means keeping highly informed on proven extensive research to make sound decisions.

Gardeners have that responsibility because every little piece of this earth produces ramifications to the environment.  What can those of us living in this area do in our yards?

If you don’t want to kill beneficial insects you must stop using insecticides indiscriminately.  To understand that, you must know how and when beneficial insects use your plants.  There are times when insecticides may be targeted in a way to kill only the harmful insects and not beneficials but it takes knowledge and responsibility.

As a gardener, I realize my responsibility is for only a small bit of land, doesn’t have any impact upon my income and I can treat my vegetables easier than acres of crops. I still believe my responsibility is personally great. 

In spite of being totally surrounded by field crops, my efforts on this small plot of land have increased the number of beneficial insects in my yard over the last twenty years by enormous numbers.

To garden in a responsible way, provide the necessities for many diverse insects: 
Bee on a Globe Thistle

A water source: I had more bees at my birdbath this year than birds.

Do not use garden, yard or turf insecticides.  Try hand picking; dish washing soap and other natural remedies.

Use fungicides per directions – they were written for a reason.

Learn to live with some disorder and damage.  Birds, game and insects LOVE the disorder of wildflowers and native species.

Use masses of color and fragrance to attract insects and birds.

Plant herbs.  Many insects use herbs for part of their life cycle.  Plant enough that you have some and you can share the rest. 

Provide shade.  Many insects, birds and critters need some shade in the summer.

Scientists have seen 228 different bee species in Illinois.  Most will leave you alone if you don’t bother them.

Bees love a water source
Wasps are nature’s organic pest controllers.  They eat meat and that meat is in the form of spiders and insects.  They are more aggressive than bees but unless they are in your home or near where people can disturb, then leaving them alone might be the best idea.  Most wasps are loners and non-stinging. 

Insect predators and parasites such as Aphid Parasites, Mite Predators, Whitefly Parasites and others need to be encouraged.  These may be purchased for release in your gardens or fields. 

Encourage or at least tolerate bats.  As much as the media wants to scare us into thinking bats are bad, they are very beneficial in controlling insect populations.  If we hadn’t been frightened early in our lives, we’d notice their little faces look very similar to a teddy bear.  Teddy bears with tiny fangs but then nothing is perfect. 

Take responsibility, teach responsibility and act personally responsible on your neighbors and public properties.  It will guarantee a better tomorrow.