A look back to the past year brought grateful thoughts and many thanks for the abundant rainfall that helped make autumn 2015 a blaze of foliage and color. And a review of some old-fashioned weather forecasting observations brings some humor and perhaps a bit of truth to the outlook for the months ahead.
Skip's quest to continue the tradition of a live Christmas tree takes her back to Brandt Nursery in Boise City, Oklahoma. A Douglas Fir catches her eye, and she takes it home with Gunther Brandt's words echoing in her head, "Now that Doug Fir is kind of a foreigner, so keep his feet moist and give him a shower bath as often as possible. And, put him some place where he's protected from this dry wind."
Today Skip shares how her potted Christmas tree tradition beautifies her home during the holiday season, then goes on to function in her shelterbelt. The living trees give protection from High Plains winds, add splendor to the landscape, and serve as a reminder of Christmases past.
This holiday season that is generally dedicated to cooking and eating has brought on the need for a bit of research into the art of canning, serving, and naming fanciful fruit spreads. So before setting down to a series of Thanksgiving feasting, we'll look for answers to questions about the differences among jams, jellies, preserves, compotes, conserves, marmalades, and fruit butters. Though they do have their differences, take it from me that they can all be delicious.
Just when I should probably be cutting back on the size of my horticultural investments, and planning a smaller and more manageable homefront, I've decided to plant some more fruit trees! After a summer of no fruit, due to late hard freezes last spring, and after taking a hard and realistic look at the fading health of the old trees, I couldn't face a future with no peaches or nectarines. So now I'm filling in the gaps, extending the drip system, and getting ready to face some fabulous fruit in the future!
A trip to Italy brought me to the beautiful Val d'Orcia in the hills of Tuscany, and more specifically to the gardens of Villa La Foce. My tour focused on the house and grounds replete with terraces, fountains, and native landscapes, and also took in the surrounding farmland. But one of the things that stayed with me most was the area's survival of the terrible battles fought during World War II. The will to survive and maintain some semblance of order while providing care for others is surely mirrored in the solitude and majesty of the La Foce gardens.
A search for fall foliage color doesn't always have to be high in the trees. This week we'll lower our sights and investigate a succulent plant that brings many of the colors of the rainbow during its three growing seasons of the year. Sedum seems to have so many positives for growing in sometimes difficult zone 5 gardens, and it definitely thrives in a zone 6 habitat. Low water demands and a preference for slightly alkaline soils make it a winner, even without the striking rusty red color that comes around in autumn.
This week we'll look at some historical herbs that have reportedly been a part of witchcraft for centuries. But many of the plants have both a good and bad side in history, Modern medicine has adopted and adapted some of the plants from the dark side into treatments for various diseases, and today's gourmet table can feature food from plants once thought inedible.
A review of some of the things the home gardener can do to be a part of the solutions to looming ecological dilemmas. Some of the things we'll look at concern soil additives, use of aerial sprays, and the growing amount of plastic that has become a part of a gardener's world.
This week we'll visit about companion planting, and more specifically about what's probably the most famous coupling of a threesome of vegetables. Based on an ancient Native American technique called the Three Sisters, we'll explore the support system provided when you plant beans, corn, and squash together. And we'll throw in a couple of extra 'sisters' for good measure.
The hum, whine and buzz of flying insects is something most gardeners learn to identify as a good thing in the garden. With a couple of exceptions, most of those sounds signify a pollinator who will help provide more bounty from your garden. Today we'll talk about the b-list bees that don't produce honey, but do help produce your squash, tomatoes, strawberries,and good things to eat. We'll also look into ways to keep these essential assistants happy and healthy as they work for you.
One thing that keeps me in the annual gardening go-round is the idea of growing and creating good food for a good cause. This week we'll visit about the incredible amount of work that goes into dealing with the harvests of August, and the friendship and camaraderie of canning that all that work creates.
This year my husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversay, and the week of festivities brought to mind a GHP story that I felt we needed to repeat. So without further adieu, here's the scoop on what happened at the dinner table when a Yankee boy met and married a distant member of the sister sorority known as GRITS - Girls Raised In The South.
We'll finish out our special series on weeds with a look at plants that could sometimes be mistaken for regular residents of a flower bed or border.
Their blooms can be colorful, but for the most part they will ultimately try to take over your garden space. They also sometimes grow to ungainly proportions, so best to stay with basic well-known blooms and keep these interlopers out of your flower beds.
Though a far cry from cactus, today's weed entries definitely bring up some thorny issues. We'll examine this sticky situation by defining the difference between grass burs and goatheads. And then we'll take a look at thistles that have come from other countries to make their home in the heartland.
Let's set the table and see what's on the menu, weedwise. Today we'll discuss weeds that can function as spring tonics, or green and leafy vitamin pills. And some of the things I commonly toss on the compost heap could become the makings of a soup or salad course.
Broadleaf weeds are sometimes a walk in the park compared to controlling unwanted grasses. Our six-part series on weeds moves from flowerbeds to lawns as we look at some of the better known bad boys that can take over a front or back yard in a single season if given half a chance. We'll also discuss the dangers of some grassy grinches that can cause real trouble for man's best friend.
A look at perennial and annual weeds that vine, twine, and torment gardeners throughout the HPPR region. These creepy crawlers require almost daily purging, whether by hand weeding or a healthy spritzing of weed killer. And still they often return, like the cast of a bad horror flick!
Last week we visited about a weed called nutsedge that was relatively new to me until I put in a garden fountain and thus created an ideal world for this water loving bad boy. Today, we'll begin to revisit a series of stories about weeds- those pesky, prankish guests who come to the garden party without an invitation and can wind up taking over the entire homestead. Though originally aired 4 years ago, I think you'll find most of those bad boys of the garden world are still around and still causing headaches for gardeners.
There's a new weed at my place that has been making an appearance the last couple of years and shows no sign of leaving. It's a true bad boy of the garden, and it's called nutsedge, though some plant people commonly call it nutgrass. But be warned, it's not a grass but a true sedge which can replicate itself by segments, roots, seeds, or nut-shaped underground tubers. This week we'll try to get a handle on how to handle it, but be forewarned that it's a tough nut to crack!
A visit to San Francisco brought me to the historic estate and nationally recognized garden called Filoli, slightly south of the Bay Area. The day-long visit included tours of the 46 room country house and the magnificent gardens, orchards, fountains, and pools that surround the structure. Built by a wealthy family that survived the Earthquake of 1906, Filoli became a showplace during America's Gilded Age. Fortunately the entire estate was deeded to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975, and is host to visitors from around the world.
A favorite herb has responded to our recent rains and taken up an expanded residence at my place. I welcome it with open arms and nasal passages, as its aromatic aura clears my head and provides fresh potpourri all around the house. It's also a good keeper in the dried stage, filling in dried floral arrangements with lacy backgrounds that last well into the winter months. Though it has a somewhat colorful past in the wormwood family, its gentle fronds and somewhat spicy scent are best known by it's common name of Sweet Annie.
A trip to Northwest Kansas introduced my husband and me to a wildflower I hadn't seen before. Our destination was the Smokey Valley Ranch, a working cattle ranch in Logan County. Owned by the Kansas Nature Conservancy, the day-long visit began as a volunteer work session, as we helped remove invasive red cedars and clear old fence posts and barbed wire. But it also turned into a wonderful learning experience as we observed the flora and fauna of the native shortgrass prairie that is protected there.
This week we'll celebrate Old Glory by examining a popular way to 'plant the colors' in your yard or garden. With roots in South America, the colorful petunia provides a basis for the three colors needed to recreate the American flag. Though red and white flower blooms abound in our part of plains, blue blossoms are harder to grow successfully because they often need a more acidic soil than we can provide. But petunias seem to fill the bill for that blue color, and their relatively low cost and successful growth record make them a good choice for patriotic planting.
A look at a seasonal bug that's not really a garden pest but more of an outdoor nuisance at this time of year. Buzzing incessently around any bright light to be found, and then crashing into anything that stands in their way, junebugs are a favorite menu item for toads. So I put out the welcome mat for toads big and small, giving them right-of-way on garden paths and offering a cool dark hiding place during the day. When it's suppertime, I leave the light on outside and offer the toads the best table at the Junebug Cafe.
This week we'll look at some new doings in food production, as science makes the scene in both the garden and the fruit orchard. A brief history of efforts to produce grafted tomatoes and potatoes brings us from the early 70's to today's promise of a single plant with tomatoes on the top and spuds beneath. But this is nothing new to folks who have been grafting fruit tree limbs to produce tangelos, plucots, plumcots, and more.
This week we'll leave the garden and hop a train to the west to celebrate last year's Father's Day at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum on the coast of Southern California. My trip was the result of finding a final resting place for my Dad's World War II memorabilia, and then transporting the precious cargo on the same route the G.I.s took 70 years ago, when they fought the war in the Pacific.