Skip Mancini

Producer and host of High Plains History and Growing on the High Plains

Home community: rural Haskell County, KS (PO Box 699, Sublette, KS  67877)

Phone: (800) 678--7444 (Garden City studios)

Ways To Connect

Red, White, and Blue

Jul 3, 2013

It's not too late, even in midsummer to plant a flowering Old Glory.  Petunias are the flower of choice for high plains conditions. 

Last Rites

Jun 27, 2013

I've finally given up the ghost in terms of trying to grow azaleas in a climate where they are not meant to be.  I don't really know why some of us who like to garden on the High Plains won't take no for an answer, and stick to the plants that are meant for our near-desert terrain and weather.  As I write this the calendar has just moved past the first week of June and the thermometer is edging above 104 degrees at early afternoon.  Azaleas are Southern belles, needing moisture, reasonable winds and more acidic soil than we have in Western Kansas.  If I want azaleas in my life from now on, they'll come in pots with foil wraps and big bows that put a touch of springtime on the Easter buffet table or a Mother's Day brunch.

English peas are a challenge for High Plains gardeners.  To increase your chances to taste the color green from the garden, I've discovered these keys:

  • Plant early
  • Stake against the wind
  • Water continuously
  • Check often because they go from tender orbs to hard marbles almost instantly

Arizona Cypress

Jun 18, 2013

What began as a decorative planting in a city park has developed into a love affair with an evergreen tree that may hold one of the keys to solving a major problem on the prairies and pastures of the High Plains.  Three years ago, we planted a memorial garden for my mother in our local city park.

Prairie Invaders

Jun 5, 2013

A trip to the Red Hills southwest of Medicine Lodge, Kansas, can be an eye opener for both beautiful countryside and an invading horde of Eastern Red Cedars -- a good tree gone bad.  Red cedars have been a part of the history of the Great Plains from Texas to Canada, and were once controlled from over-population by natural wildfires.  But with the advent of civilization, fires have been controlled to the point that the tree is taking over grazing lands and disastrous results are being reported.  Reduced cattle forage, numbers of grassland birds (especially the prairie chicken), lesser numbers of other wildlife, and decreased stands of  wildflowers are a result of the forestation of the prairie.  One of the most serious side effects is the drain on water supplied from natural aquifers and annual rainfall.

Skip rescues a parking lot plant and then reminisces about past experiences centered around the scent of patchouli.  The aromatic herb has a rich history, beginning with ancient civilizations who used it for medicinal purposes, or as a practical packing for the transport of treasured fabrics from the Orient.  Its moth-repellent properties gave a heavy, spicy odor to the silks and brocades that signaled the wearer was from the wealthier classes.  It soon became an important ingredient in perfumes, oils and lotions for the upper classes.  A look at a modern use of patchouli leads us through

Peonies

May 22, 2013

Peony blossoms are one of the favorite offerings at memorial gardens and cemeteries, as well as a popular declaration that spring has sprung and summer is getting into gear.  They take a bit of planning and effort when planting, but with proper precautions and care they can most likely be a part of your memorial day garden for the next fifty years!  If you want to add them to your landscaping layout, plan for a fall planting or division from existing plants, when reddish buds appear at the base of the plant.  Depth is a major issue when planting peonies, as a shallow planting may mean free

Windbreak, Part II

May 15, 2013
NRD

In addition to the role windbreaks play in decreasing soil erosion, these valuable elements of modern day agriculture can increase crop yields, act as environmental buffers, improve air quality, and provide valuable pollinator habitat for bees and other beneficial insects.  Windbreaks can be multifunctional, providing not only protection from the wind, dust and snow, but serving as economic stimulators through the marketing of tree products.  To learn more about the importance of windbreaks and the design basics needed to develop a functioning shelterbelts, take part in the Southern Plains Windbreak Renovation and Innovation Workshop to be held in Dodge City, Kansas May 21 - 23, 2013.  Call the K-State Extension office in Ford County 620-227-4542, or contact Andrea Burns at: aburns@ksu.edu.

USDA NRCS

During the 'Dirty Thirties' various methods of controlling soil erosion were tried to help end the blowing dust and keep precious topsoil in place.  In addition to different ways of tilling the soil, and the establishment of grasslands to hold the soil, thousands of tree rows, called shelterbelts or windbreaks, were planted to decrease wind erosion and to provide shelter for homesteads and livestock.   With the advent of large scale irrigation, and especially center pivot irrigation systems, plus the fact that the numbers of occupied farmsteads has decreased, we also see a decrease in windbreaks.   Today the Great Plains states are again facing critical droughts and blowing dust.  Many of the old windbreaks are dying of age, disease, and insects.  It is once again time to transplant tree seedlings and rebuild windbreaks.  A three day series of workshops presented by various forestry agencies, assisted by numerous state extension offices will be held May 21 - 23 in Dodge City, Kansas.  For more information about these meetings, contact Andrea Burns at the Kansas State Extension Office in Ford County.  Email aburns@ksu.edu or call 620-227-4542.  You can also get additional information on the following website:  http://nac.unl.edu/events/southernplainsworkshop.htm

A Winter's Gift

May 1, 2013

The lines drawn this year between winter and spring have been hazy at best.  Days of warm weather in March and April are typical, usually followed by some frosty days and occasional hard freezes.  But, this year took the cake and a few records, as the swing between winter and spring began to resemble a yo-yo championship.  Warm days invited gardeners outdoors just in time to get slapped in the face by cold rains that quickly turned to sleet, ice, and snowfall that was record breaking in many areas, and this weather pattern repeated itself not once but several times.  Some High plains communities were snowbound while others saw blowing dust and hard freezes that wiped out future fruit harvests and wheat crops.  But, into this made mix a little hope must fall, and it did this year, in my yard with the arrival of the Eastern pasque flower, also known by its old-timey name of Anemone Patens.

Up From the Roots

Apr 24, 2013

Today, I'm thinking about how the plants, in my garden, are similar to public radio on the prairie.  Some of my plants come from seeds, some are off-shoots of parents plants, some started as cuttings or grafts relocated from other gardens and plants.  Some are divisions, where I have dug up the parent plant, divided it, and then planted the "kids" in a new spot.  

Money Plant, or Lunaria is known for its silvery, white seed pods that resemble coins of the realm. It is a biennial.  Clusters of lavender flowers bloom in the spring, and the flat seed pods form the second summer.  The coin-shaped pods are beautiful in dried arrangements. 
To dry the pods, simply cut when they are fully developed, gather them into a bunch, and hang upside down in a place where the air circulates well until they are completely dry, usually two to three weeks.  The brown husks on the sides of the seed pods can be removed by gently rubbing the pod between your thumb and finger. 

Flowering Quince

Apr 10, 2013

Suffering from a bout of spring fever, Skip succumbed to the purchase of a plant that produced beautiful blossoms even before planting time.  However, balmy spring weather was quickly replaced by a spring snowstorm, forcing the shower of flowers indoors.  There it still brightened the corner where it was with scarlet colors and a promise of a garden show to come.

Lavender

Apr 4, 2013

This week we'll look at one of the oldest and most loved plants in the herb garden.  The numerous types of lavender are often named for their country of origin, with Spanish, French, and English lavenders among the top competitors in any popularity contest.  Originally used for medicinal purposes, it is now listed as the top aromatic herb around the globe.

A trip from the High Plains to the Coastal Plains of South Carolina brought Skip lots of new gardening images and ideas.  One of the most interesting botanical finds was Spanish moss, a wispy airplant  with an unusual history.  This week Growing on the High Plains will take a look at an area of the country that is as botanically different from the flatlands of Kansas as day is different from night.

Well Read Garden

Mar 20, 2013

The newscasts seem full of stories about the death of newsprint, and newsprint's replacement by technology.  There seems to be fewer and fewer of us who carry the genes of string-savers of the Great Depression- those who love the way the paper feels between our fingers, and the way the pages sound as we turn them.  There's a steady flow of the electronic version of the town crier- folks on little screens who type, text, or shout, gossip, advertising, facts, figures, and advertisements, even when we don't want them.

Lord's Candles

Mar 6, 2013

The desert yucca plan was designated as the state flower of New Mexico in 1927.  It was chosen by the school children of the state,  then recommended by the New Mexico Federation of Women's Clubs.

Controversy over the icons of the state of Oklahoma were not limited to the state tree.  In 1893, fourteen years before statehood, Mistletoe was adopted as the territory's flower.  Although, tiny and short-lived, the evergreen leaves and glossy white berries made it a favorite of settlers.  The issue some folks couldn't seem to get around was that mistletoe is a parasite.

Goldenrod is a wallflower, standing in the background, while other flowers in the garden take center stage.  It has been blamed for watery eyes and runny noses, when in fact, the true cause of those allergy symptoms is probably ragweed which blooms at the same time.  Goldenrod has taken the heat for years for, but its  blame without substantiation.  It is a rare gardener to take up the cause of the Goldenrod, but I like this plant.  It has a place in my garden. 

Sometime back I talked about our return to dryland farming.  One of the things I will miss with this change is being surrounded by fields of gold.  Some days, I would journey into the fields to be surrounded by eye-level orbs of sunlight.  I would stand quietly waiting for the sound of munchkins following the yellow brick road.  At the end of the growing season, I have been known to emerge with an arm full of heavy heads to hang in the evergreens to provide a feast for winter residents. 

Making Lemonade

Feb 12, 2013

Let’s give the mailman something to laugh about and send one of those exaggerated postcards of giant insects or oversized rabbits.  You can find them at the Finney County Historical Museum, along with information on their creator, a photographer named Frank ‘Pop’ Conard who found a way to make lemons into lemonade during the dark days of the Great Depression.

The Rocky Mountain Columbine was discovered by mountain climber, Edwin James,  ascending Pike's Peak in 1820.  It was officially names the state flower of Colorado in 1899.  Rocky Mountain columbine (Columbine Aquilegia Caerulea) is a beautiful flower with a rich aroma that attracts bees, hummingbirds and butterflies to it's nectar.

Sherman County Hero

Feb 5, 2013

Today we’ll visit the Texas Panhandle and stop by the Sherman County Depot Museum to hear the story of Sam Wohlford.  We’ll take a look at a  silver medal and a plaque that reads, “No greater love is there than for a man to risk his life for friend or stranger.”  And we’ll learn about Sam’s refusal to give up in his quest to save lives during the Great Blizzard of 1948.

The history of  the state of Texas is expansive and colorful.  It's boundaries have fluctuated.  It's flown six different flags.  It's background is steeped in tales of battles and wars, including the war with Mexico, the Civil War,  and many Indian battles that include the Red River War, but until recently, I was unaware of a battle that was waged for 70 years. 

A trip along the history trail that tells of the settling of the west is littered with the remains of hundreds of ghost towns.  The lives of many of these settlements were very brief, as they boomed when they bet on the tracks of the railroads and then busted as they watched from a distance as the trains pass them by.  One of the largest communities was called Ivanhoe, and was developed between the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers on what is now U.S. Highway 83.  Today we’ll visit what remains of this once-bustling community – the cemetery.

Pioneer Tree of Life

Jan 23, 2013

Can you imagine walking across an endless sea of grass?  Maybe your journey started along the Santa Fe Trail from a tree-lined river bank of the Ohio Valley, the forests of the Appalachian mountains, or the sugar maple groves of New England, and now you face a gale of hot, dry wind.  You think you must be on the edge of hell.. until... up ahead you see a shimmer of hope... a cottonwood tree.  

Hooves and Wheels

Jan 22, 2013

Audio Pending...

The saying ‘You can’t get there from here!’ must have been on the minds of many of the pioneers who tried to settle in far west portions of the HPPR broadcast area.  For a long time, road making was an individual task which involved taking off  in the direction you needed to go, and then hoping you would make it to your destination.  Eventually trails became roads, which then became highways as travel vehicles evolved from wagons to buggies to new-fangled automobiles, but it could still be a bumpy ride at best. 

One of the earliest trees to bloom in the spring is the redbud.  This favorite ornamental rarely reaches heights of greater than 20 feet.  The redbud comes in three color varieties: white, red, and purple.  They are self-pollinating and a fast grower, but that also means they have a shorter lifespan.  The redbud is a member of the legumes- their seed pods and flowers are edible.  They are forgiving of soil types, growing best in moist, well-drained sites.

A list of the movers and shakers who helped develop the city of Amarillo would have to include Guy Anton Carlander.  An architect who developed his own style by utilizing elements of design and decoration from the 1920s and 30s, his name is on the dedication plaques of many courthouses, hospitals and medical buildings, and office buildings throughout the Texas Panhandle.

The Colorado Blue Spruce was first discovered by botanist, CC Parry, in 1862, thriving on Pike's Peak.  30 years later, it was Colorado school children voted it the state tree.  However, it was not officially designated until 1939 when a resolution was passed by the state general assembly.  It has now become one of the most widely planted landscape trees in the U.S. 

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