Growing on the High Plains

Airs Thursdays at 10:30 am CT and Saturdays at 8:35 am CT

Years ago Skip Mancini left the rocky coast of Northern California to return to her roots in the heartland. Her San Francisco friends, concerned over her decision to live in a desolate flatland best known for a Hollywood tornado, were afraid she would wither and die on the vine. With pioneer spirit Skip planted a garden, and began to learn about growing not only flowers and vegetables, but hearts and minds. If you agree that the prairie is a special place, we think you'll enjoy her weekly sojourns into Growing on the High Plains. 

Contact Skip Mancini about the program. 

Nothing dampens winter doldrums like that first purple peeper pushing up through your still-chilly garden or yard. (Or maybe she's white or gold?)

Whatever petals she's pushing, the first crocus remains an annual celebration of the hope and promise of the lush Spring to come.   

Today's installment of Growing on the High Plains takes a long look at these punctual pals. With their knack for tackling the gale-force gusts and dry climate of our region, there's no denying the mighty crocus will ever emerge triumphant -- especially in the hearts of the winter weary.

Mash them. Hash them. Slice, dice, or fry them. No matter how they're prepared, the potato remains one of the world's most popular side dishes. However, a little research will unearth quite a history.

On this week's edition of Growing on the High Plains, we'll dig up the dirt on this radical root vegetable -- from it's little-known origin story to it's controversial reception across the globe.

Whether whipped into wig dust, carved for a crime, or impaled for juvenile amusement, this shape-shifting spud has certainly seen a lot through its many eyes.

You wouldn't think anyone's grandmother would take their grandchild into the woods to pluck a poisonous plant for a noonday snack.

However, today's edition of Growing on the High Plains takes me back to my childhood memories of foraging pokeweed, also known as pokeberry, inkberry, and Phytolacca americana.   

This potentially toxic foliage has applications ranging from succulent side dish to a berry-based dye to a handy home remedy.

 

We all have one: that list of  garden chores we scribbled down with good intentions.

It's that back-burner list that is far less pressing than the imminent "dig in the dirt" directives.

Though each year, some of those stagnant "to-do" items never seem to get "to-done." 

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I share my experiences with the daunting task of prioritizing what must be done and what can linger a little longer. 

Today's  installment of Growing on the High Plains  might feel a bit like an audio submission to the Antiques Roadshow, as I share with you the history of my prized collection of authentic McCoy pottery.

More than a century ago, Nelson McCoy  founded his famed stoneware company in Roseville, Ohio. The vessels were noted for their simple, utilitarian design, as well as their durable, high-quality construction. In fact, I can attest that these puppies are indeed resilient -- even in the face of a potential catastrophe.

Scroll down for some snapshots of my assembled assortment of antique McCoy planters. As you can see, they're almost as pretty as the plants they present.

Valentine's day is coming, and love is in the air. So today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll tell you about an enchanted, amorous bloom often referred to as "Love in a Mist." 

You know how that special someone makes you feel like you're walking on air? Likewise, these bright, ethereal blooms appear to levitate over a frothy, feathered bed of foliage.  But watch out! Like lovers, they'll grow thorny with time. Thankfully, like love, they're always worth the trouble.

To some people, a plant is a plant is a plant. But to the phytophilous (or plant-loving) High Plains gardener, identifying our native flora can often be as fun as tending their beds.

Today's installment of Growing on the High Plains compares two competing conventions.

First, we'll discuss the often-complex botanical naming system used to identify various species of plants. (Sometimes, it's all Latin to me.)

Next, I'll share a few of the delightful "common names" often used as shorthand when describing three of my favorite house plants.

We've all seen them.

Those curious mirrored balls, perched among the pansies, gracing the gladiolas, and reflecting a fish-eye panorama of the garden in which it resides?

Well, these ocular orbs have a long history! On today's Growing on the High Plains, I'll round out your knowledge of these garden globes, including a personal story of how I acquired my own.  

You've probably seen these curious little creatures before—perhaps on the periphery at a plant shops, woven into an indoor "green wall," or possibly dangling from an overhead glass orb at a specialty gift boutique.

Quite alien in appearance, these tropical treasures are called tillandsias, but you might better know them as "air plants." 

Today's Growing on the High Plains continues our conversation about 2017 New Year's resolutions.

Last week, I discussed how "working the land" indeed encourages physical activity, which leads to overall fitness, flexibility, weight loss, and heart health -- all of which are excellent goals for the new year.

But that's not all! This week, I'll explain how the benefits of gardening also lead to a healthy mind. Lucky for us, making a commitment to getting our hands dirty  will help keep our memories cleanly intact. 

As we embark on a New Year, it's hard to resist pondering the corrections we'd like to make moving forward. It's no surprise that "getting in shape" inevitably tops the list of most resolutions.

Pixabay

One can’t help but reflect on the past when planning for the future.

On today’s edition of Growing on the High Plains, I will share my gardening plans for the new year; plans that require me to cut back on some long-lasting loves to make room for some new ones. From making room for green asparagus spears, to pruning back fruit production, the upcoming new year is all about simplification.

Regardless of whether or not “the white stuff” falls from above, High Plains holidays always seems to sprinkle in great memories and offer an extra scoop of seasonal splendor.

On today’s edition of Growing on the High Plains, I’ll take you back to a time that shaped my appreciation for this special time of the year. Tune in and travel back to a time of milkshakes, penny candy, and a drug store jukebox that played both Bing and The King. Snow or no, these are the remembrances that set the scene for my High Plains holiday.

Today's Growing on the High Plains reflects on an annual event that, for many of us, marks the start of the holiday season: the inevitable expedition to select the season's centerpiece.

While it's easy to take the Christmas tree tradition as a December given, those who make a living farming and growing these festively-functional forests know the work is anything but seasonal.

Learn more about the year-round tilling and toil that goes into nurturing your treasured tannenbaum. 

I've been walkin' on the railroad...and it's not what you would expect!

Did you know that, in cities across the world, out-of-use elevated freight rail lines have been resurrected as rustic gardens and public parks? It's true! From Paris to Chicago to New York City, defunct industrial corridors have made for quite the elysian green spaces. 

It's autumn, so what better time to take a walk through a garden within a garden within a garden?

On today's installment of Growing on the High Plains, I'll zip you off to the Big Apple so we can explore the many wonders of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden—an incredible space that features phenomenal themed gardens, diverse pavilions, an eco-center, educational classes, and shade trees that seem to spread out as wide as our region's prairies.

Happy Thanksgiving  to all of our HPPR listeners!

To mark the holiday, I'm shaking free a few loose memories from beneath the pecan trees of my past. They say this holiday is all about reflecting on our blessings and spending time with family -- even if a few of our relations can be a little nuts.

Enjoy this Thanksgiving edition of Growing on the High Plains, and I wish you all a peaceful meal full of bounty and gratitude...and a big slice of pecan pie! 

On today's episode of Growing on the High Plains, mum's the word. (I'm talking about the flower, of course.)

Ask any gardener in our region and you're likely to hear a chorus of praise for the chrysanthemum. They're colorful, hearty, elegant, and resilient -- a real High Plains hero. But mid-November is a bit of a crossroads for these favorites, so learn how you can reuse and rescue today's mums for tomorrow's garden.  

While home gardening has certainly seen a rich resurgence in recent years, planting food crops for the purposes of conserving and preserving dates back to a time of meager means.  

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll share some history and context regarding the American "victory garden." Self-sufficient citizens that planted and maintained food plots helped supplement shortages in a time of war. Nurturing fresh food for the troops (and the family table) provided a sense of service, pride, and community.  

Finding enough space for a hearty garden is not a problem you would think affects most of us on the High Plains. However, gardeners all over the world have become increasingly adept at creating a manageable growing space in a compact area.

Today's installment of Growing on the High Plains looks at one smart solution: straw bale gardens. They're raised, tidy, hospitable to seeds, and can yield a spectacular crop with care and attention. 

Have you ever wanted s'more information about the origin of those squishy, sweet puffs we all take for granted around the campfire?  

Today's Growing on the High Plains peeps at the ancient origin of the marshmallow, and it's hiding in plain sight. Join us as we tap the root of the "mallow plant," commonly found around marshy wetlands. 

From mucilaginous medicine to confection perfection, this treacly treat goes WAY back -- and the story of its cultivation is more than just fluff.

This week's edition of Growing on the High Plains features a regional bird of paradise that's both easy to maintain and brilliant when in bloom: the bromeliad. With minor maintenance, this sturdy plant will continue to grow, gracing your garden with its glory. So it's a lot like public radio! Please help HPPR continue to "pretty up" your days on the High Plains. Donate today during our Fall Membership Drive.  

Today's edition of Growing on the High Plains asks you to hearken to our High Plains history as we ponder the lot of early pioneers, especially what harvest time meant to them. 

Like our forefathers who settled this land, so must we all pitch in to ensure a bounty when it's needed. (Just ask the Little Red Hen!) Today, we ask YOU to take a moment and consider what it is that you reap from HPPR's programming.

This week's installment of Growing on the High Plains provides an inside scoop on how best to beckon bashful butterflies to your High Plains garden. 

  From deadheading your branching mums to seizing (rather than sneezing) rods of gold, these well-worn pointers will ensure an influx of "flying flowers" to your all-you-can-eat growing space.  Learn what to plant and how to prune so that you'll optimize unannounced visits from thirsty nectar collectors.   

Ripe, fragrant fruit from the orchard is the apple of any gardener's eye.

Too bad this year's crop of apples had an abundance of beady, little eyes of their own. 

This week's installment of Growing on the High Plains gets to the core of how to avoid "coddling" common uninvited guests that often make cozy homes in our summer fruit trees.

"The fairies break their dances and leave the printed lawn." —A.E. Housman

This week on Growing on the High Plains, I have an offbeat tale about odd circles that seem to crop up supernaturally on the grass. Rest assured: there's a logical reason for the peculiar presence of these "fairy rings," especially given this summer's peculiarities.  Whether they're marked by darkness or puffs of white, learn more about this serpentine fungus among us.  

They pray. They prey.

But pray/prey tell: why is it that gardeners have been seeing more of these elegant insects this year? Whatever the reason, they're a welcome sight -- not only for their alien-esque arabesques, but also because they feast on pests like something out of a horror film.

Hear more about mantids on this week's edition of Growing on the High Plains.

And it's a good one! (Don't forget your popcorn.) 

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

By Skip Mancini

It's back to school for kids across the High Plains, so I'd like to submit this audio essay about my summer travels.

As we revel in the centennial of the U.S. National Park Service, what better time to check out what Ken Burns's documentary calls "America's Best Idea?" Today's episode of Growing on the High Plains highlights our extraordinary trip to  Yellowstone National Park. 

Gardeners, when was the last time you had a young one at your side while you played in the dirt? Consider turning your next venture outdoors into a little life lesson for a child unfamiliar with our methods. When you plant a seed in the mind of a child, you never know what will grow.

Today we'll consider the many important lessons that can be learned from a visit to the garden. By encouraging a child's natural curiosity about plants, dirt, and how things grow, you teach them valuable knowledge about their world -- and where exactly they fit within it.

Children seem to experience a singular wonder when you put them in a garden -- something beyond the splendor of the grass, the blush of a plump pear, and the inviting smells and creatures. They also tend to tune in to what that garden says about its curator.

Today we'll take a walk through my garden, but please enter with a child's honest curiosity. As you survey the bean vines flanked with flowers, perhaps you'll see an unlikely shelter. I know I did. 

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