The Garden Buzz is on spring break, first stop, The University of Missouri, Journalism School. Apparently my daughter thinks it would be fun to have "take your mom to class" day. I'll be attending Egyptian Art this morning, but she 's on her own with that magazine editing test later in the day.
Tomorrow we head to Florida. Not for one of those wild and crazy breaks, sorry to disappoint you. We thought we'd check on the grandparents and it's just a coincidence they live close to the beach.
While I'm gone consider this; the Monarch Butterfly never gets a break. Add extreme weather and flooding to the usual challenges of long migrations and habitat loss. Storms in the overwintering region of Mexico decimated the Monarch population, according to Chip Taylor of the University of Kansas Monarch Watch program. It will take several years to rebound after 50% losses.
So now is time to plant milkweed. Monarch butterflies depend upon milkweed and only milkweed as a larval host plant. After they are adults they feed on a variety of flowers, but without the milkweed that won't happen. First things first.
Think about planting at least 10 plants of one species and get your garden certified through Monarch Watch as a Monarch Waystation.
There's a milkweed for every garden; Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) comes in orange or white, once established it is drought-tolerant; it can take clay soils as well. Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) is a pretty pink and tolerates wet soils, but grows in average soil too.
The list goes on, but hey, I'm on vacation. Do a little research and see how you make a difference for the Monarch.
I never went to proper journalism school like my daughter, where they teach you how to make catchy headlines among other things. I just throw stuff out there and see what sticks.
Apparently people love lists and better yet, numbered lists. I may be one of the last few people who knew this. But thinking back, I reviewed my own habits and yes, I like lists too. I think lists are for our lazy side; we appreciate someone else ferreting out the information and distilling it down to the essence.
In a previous post I discussed the importance of trees for butterfly gardening. Shrubs have high wildlife value as well, in the form of flowers, seeds and fruit, and all those things make for beautiful seasonal interest too. Shrubs are easy to grow, plant them, maybe prune them every now and then, but mostly they're just good to go.
So here we go...
Fothergilla "Mt. Airy" (The Garden Buzz)
Spring flowers of Amelanchier or Serviceberry (The Garden Buzz)
There are lots of other deserving shrubs that missed the list, buttonbush and coralberry to name a few. Are there others that you would like to add? Let me know!
The sap's running!
The call came yesterday. My husband's former boss, the consummate woodsman, canoeist, hunter and sportsman, now retired, would be boiling syrup the next day. Sap runs in the spring when the days go above freezing while the night temps remain below. So today we headed north to the woods...
The sugar bush refers to a stand of maples, typically sugar maple or black maple, used for making the syrup we all love on our pancakes, unless you've got a thing for Mrs. Butterworth. Today's post is more show than tell.
The Sugar Bush (The Garden Buzz)
Rustic sap buckets have given way to cleaner, more efficient plastic bags, note the tap in the middle.
The sap is collected in large buckets, strained with a milk strainer to remove any bugs or debris. Then it's ready for cooking.
Wood-fired cooker is used for the first phase, keeping the temp constant.
The next phase will finish the process when this goes into a roiling boil.
Ron and his 90 year-old father patiently and expertly supervise the process.
It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of finished maple syrup.
The gorgeous scenery, white trilliums will carpet the woodland floor in spring.
Hmmm...I wonder what creature lives in there.
Moss, lichens and bracket fungi. The forest is poised on the moment of re-birth while in decay at the same time. Once again, that whole circle of life stuff.
The syrup is not quite finished, but beginning to take on that amber hue. At this point a mildly maple taste to the product.
We had to leave before the final phase. I'm hoping for a small bit of the batch someday soon.
For more signs of spring read about the antics of my resident Canadian Geese in the Star Tribune
Right now you can pick up these cute little green gems in garden centers, gift shops and the grocery store then pop them in a pot to celebrate St Pat's. They're the closest thing to four-leaf clovers.
When I think of oxalis, (what an ugly sounding name for such a charming plant), I think of the smaller, yellow blooming ones considered weeds in California, otherwise known as wood sorrel. I remember it always growing in orange groves when I was a child, and being told it was bad. I found it endearing. I also found a few four-leafed specimens.
This variety is non-invasive; it can mingle among houseplants inside, hang out on the shady porch come summer and in warmer climes be used as a living mulch for spring bulb flowers. Useful, yes. Lucky? I hope so.
Happy St. Patrick's Day from the Garden Buzz!!!
In my haste to put out the Proven Winners post for Monday morning's e-mail bag, I left out important information.
"Snow Princess" is a Lobularia hybrid. "Pretty Much Picasso" is a Petunia hybrid. Although it might seem obvious, those names looked naked without the actual plant species attached.
Sorry 'bout that.
So here's a bonus photo of anotherProven Winners plant that is relatively new...
Anisodontea hybrid, Cape Mallow "Slightly Strawberry" (you'd think I was naming these, wouldn't you?), is a BIG plant, growing to 3' tall and 18" wide. The plants at the PW Extravaganza were easily that big, hogging the hallways where they sat.
I will admit I grew this last year, and badly. I don't think it was the plant at fault but the gardener. "Slightly Strawberry" prefers a cool night temp and average to dry soil, being drought tolerant once established. I love the mini-hollyhock look and will give it another chance.
If you purchase a Proven WInners plant and it doesn't grow well or dies, they will reimburse you with what they call an "Oops Check", once. Check their website for further info.
And that's all the Oopsies for today.
The great thing about gardens is that no two are alike; they are as individual as the gardeners that tend them. Well, unless it is one of those fraidy-cat front-yards playing it safe with a formula of green grass, one tree and three foundations shrubs. But then maybe I shouldn't say that, those people might be busy finding the cure for cancer or feeding orphans, and not have the time for something frivolous like flowers.
For the rest of us Proven Winners is in the process of introducing new plants for 2010. They are especially excited about these two:
"Snow Princess" looks like alyssum, but unlike it, This souped-up specimen blooms vigorously throughout the season standing up to summer heat. It forms fragrant mounds of white frothy blooms that work well in hanging baskets, window boxes and all kinds of containers. In addition I'm glad to tell you it attracts butterflies.
"Pretty Much Picasso" is described as violet with lime green edging, although in person I felt it leaned more toward deep pink. You decide. It has a trailing growth habit. Once established it is both heat and drought tolerant and just like an oven, it is self-cleaning. Plant this novel number at the front of borders and containers so as not to lose the green accent. Butterflies and hummingbirds will love it too.
Granted, the Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza was quite different from the Wild Ones Native Plant Conference last week, but both were fun and informative in their own ways. Of course the PW people were in heavy marketing mode, but hey, plant breeders have to eat too.
Like a horticultural version of the Oprah show, we listened to experts tell us how to "garden our best garden" in between giveaways that had the female-dominated audience squealing with delight. I came home with lots of info, helpful and otherwise, a swag-bag of goodies and three free outdoor plants I have to keep alive in the house for two months.
After my native plant push of last week, you might say, what, how can you promote these flowers that have been monkeyed with and manipulated to bloom to be-jesus all season long without setting seed? Well, many people wouldn't bother to plant anything, if it wasn't easy and guaranteed to grow with minimal effort. And some garden is better than nothing at all.
When you consider it, these plants are "green" in another way. Strong, healthy, dependable, fabulous-looking flowers won't tempt weekend yard-warriors to over-water, over-fertilize and spray when heaven-help-us, a bug happens to land on a leaf for a moment. After some success, getting out in the garden might lead to bigger and better things; any time we can grow a gardener, it is a win-win.
It's the ever changing nature of nature that makes it so precious. It's human nature to want to capture it and keep it; to hold tight to its beauty and wonder.
We attempt this feat with various methods. A photograph can show us the color and texture of nature as light falls upon it. A pantry of jewel-tone jars glows with garden bounty, like summer in a bottle. Pressed plants preserve the shape and form of leaf and bloom in a flat plane. Dried herbs contain the tasty heat of a sunny day. Perfume is a distillation of the ultimate fantasy garden. How many other ways do we seek to save the garden's essence?
Sometimes the short-lived joy is a bouquet brought indoors. Take it one step further and paint it, freezing that moment when a flower is fresh, perfect. Flowers are probably the most oft-painted subject of such still lifes, yet not always done well.
I happened across a talented painter the other day and thought I'd share a sample of her work. Diane Hoeptner is from California but now lives and paints in Ohio. She worked as a digital animator in her past life, and now puts that knowledge to good use with her new objets d'art.
I have a soft-spot for artists, starving and otherwise. You see, my mother was a painter (among other passions) of sorts, selling her "paintings on the sidewalk" so to speak, while as a child, I played nearby. A painting sold meant my new shoes. Diane is selling her paintings on a website sidewalk as artists like her take to the global gallery of the internet.
She participates in a "daily painting" to develop and inspire her work, much like I blog to flex and build my writing muscles. You meet the nicest people while blogging. Enjoy her work and visit her website.
Ah! Spring in Minnesota; black snow, playing pothole slalom and the smell of hot asphalt in the air. It's a little early this year. I'm betting on one more blizzard, about April. Meanwhile, those of you in more southerly latitudes are posting and tweeting; the crocuses are blooming! the robins are singing! yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah.
Me? I'm excited because I just saw a smidgen of green at my door, just in time for St. Patrick's Day. A leaf! Maybe more. The snow is melting, even the sedimentary layers on my deck that tell the story of early storms in October through bigger and better by December, until now. Other than soggy pine straw and anemic patches of lawn this is the first hopeful happening in my garden so far.
When I planted the 7 Tiarellas (Foam Flower) at the back-but-really-front door, it was a troublesome site, backed by a stone wall, probably 10 inches deep and 8 feet long, and not only narrow but a north-facing exposure. The variegated grasses had done a pathetic backwards stair step in height due to the increasing lack of light as you reach the door. Bare mulch or some kind of rock was the non-plant solution, but I thought I'd give it another try.
In spite of their cutesy name, "Sugar and Spice", the tiarellas called out to me in the nursery towards the end of the season. I love the dramatic leaf shape, deeply cut and bright green with a wine-red blotch for more interest. Even better the pink and white frothy blooms of this native cultivar attract butterflies, while giving some height to the ground-hugging clumps of foliage. Their shade tolerance helped with the difficult place they were planted. Supposedly distasteful to rabbits, squirrels and deer, I think I'm going to like this perennial more and more.
I harrumphed when I read that the foliage is evergreen. I thought, yeah, and how does that work? But there it is peeking out of the snow, among the gelatinous mess of mulch and rotted plant matter, ready to roll. To think they have been sitting there all winter long, hidden.
But that isn't the only thing showing from under the snow. A few ghosts of holidays past, long buried by the Christmas Eve blizzard, have revealed themselves in recent days.
Remember the blue pumpkin from my Halloween posts?
One of the carolers that sat on the front porch by the Spruce Tips Arrangement the had disappeared in the storm.