Monday, July 30, 2012

Dead Shrub? Problem Solved!

Before I started doing projects for Lowe's Creative Ideas Garden Club, I blogged about a problem that developed last year with one of our Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') shrubs. This one was more in the shape of a two-trunked tree and half of it died. Since we put it where we did to create interest in a large blank area of the east side of our house, this was unfortunate.

I collected ideas from other gardeners and friends as to what I should do there. Romie voted to remove the dead part and let the live part remain. I nixed that idea pretty much before he got it out his mouth. Some suggested I paint the dead part a bright color, just to be whimsical. I entertained that idea, but just couldn't visualize it as looking good.

About two months ago, I was tired of mulling over the idea and decided to go with an idea I'd seen in the Lowe's Creative Ideas Home & Garden magazine. I loved the trellis and thought it might look good in place of the half-shrub.  So out the shrub came.

We went to Lowe's and got the materials we needed and I supervised as Romie cut the pieces of wood needed to construct the trellis. He cut the hardware cloth while I stained the pieces of wood.

After those were dry, we put the pieces together, and the trellis was complete.


Holes were dug in the ground for placing the legs of the trellis.


We used pieces of black PVC tile down in the hole and used Portland cement poured into them as a means of not only anchoring the trellis, but protecting the wood from decomposing.

Once we had them leveled and let the cement set up, we backfilled the spaces in the hole with soil and then used gravel around the legs so that water would drain and not soak into the base of the trellis legs.

I planted a Mandevilla vine at the base, because it's fast-growing and will fill the trellis before summer's end. I might plant a perennial vine, such as a Clematis, this fall, so that I don't have to plant it anew each spring, but I love the annual vines for their constant color.


I think I like the trellis here even better than Harry!

For a complete list of materials needed and instructions on how to construct this freestanding trellis, see the Lowe's Creative Ideas site.

*Though I do receive gift cards with which to purchase materials for my participation as a member of the Lowe's Creative Ideas Garden Club, I purchased the materials for this project myself.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bumper Crop of Shriveled Blackberries

This year's blackberry crop was really looking good there for awhile. It appeared as though we would have a bumper crop. We planted six of them a couple of years ago - 3 'Chester' and 3 'Triple Crown'. We had a nice round of plump berries last year. In September and October.

Clearly, things are different this year.We started out with lots of blooms. Early. Then there were the berries. Early. We tried to keep things watered in this nasty droughtish summer with its extreme and prolonged heat. Berries like plenty of water during berry formation. But apparently, we just couldn't keep up. Boo.

All the wonderful, loaded thornless canes now look like this:

It's sad and such a waste of berry potential. There are a few berries that have managed to plump up and be juicy and we're racing the birds to pluck them. (Yes, we have nets, but there aren't enough berries to bother with them.) 

Better luck next year.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How to Have Spring Wildflowers All Year Round

A few years ago, my friend Diana showed me a print that she and her husband had purchased at the Village at Winona (IN) for his study. We share a love of wildflowers and she just knew I would love the print. She was right.

"Spring Wildflowers'
Click on image to see a larger version

I wrote about the print in September 2009 and about my search for it so I could have one, too. I thought maybe there was an outside chance that someone might see my post and have some information about it. And someone did.

If you read through the comments that were left at the bottom of that blog post, you'll see one dated December 17th by Andrea:

So it took three months, but the right person saw the blog post, I got in touch with the artist, and just a few months after that, I met her for lunch and bought my print. Because of the size of it, it took me awhile to figure out just where I was going to put it and there was the matter of having it framed. A print that size takes a custom frame and those aren't cheap! But patience and a fabulous Michael's sale (plus getting the dining room-to-office conversion completed) led to the print now hanging on our wall.

Deb Wright doesn't practice her talent much anymore - life has a way of getting in the way of such pursuits sometimes - but she does still sell her work. She's got several other prints available, as well as note cards with her artwork.

"7 Great Lakes Lighthouses"
28" x 21.5" Limited to 900 - $125.00

"Great Blue Heron"
22.25" x 33" Limited to 600 - $135.00

"7 Barns"
21" x 28.75" Limited to 1100 - $125.00

It's been a little while since I've been in contact with Deb, but she's got several prints available if anyone is interested. She can be contacted at or at 574.551.7517.

"Spring Wildflowers" is 36" x 16" and is limited to 950 copies. It's printed on heavy fine art paper, comes with a wildflower identification chart, and costs $150.00 plus $10.00 for shipping. (Indiana residents must pay 7% sales tax.)

*For the curious: I purchased the print from Deb and offered to share some of her other work and contact information here because I love what she does and would like to see her be compensated for it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Kale Chips: There's a First Time for Everything

I don't even remember where I heard about kale chips, and it was only a couple of years ago. The first time I saw kale growing in a garden was on a garden tour somewhere and it was that frilly type called dinosaur or Lacinato kale. Gorgeous plants, they were, and I didn't really care if I liked kale or not, I wanted to grow it in my garden.

Burgundy okra bloom
There have been other times when I grew vegetables for the pure pleasure of seeing the beautiful plants, with no intention of eating their fruits. Take okra, for example. One year I grew purple/red veggies and those burgundy okra plants were handsome things! Not just the leaves either; their flowers were like ivory hibiscus, giving evidence to their genetics. But I never ate a single okra.

Then somewhere along the garden path, someone mentioned kale chips. Chips? As in potato chips? Hmmm... I was told they were delicious and why, for goodness sake, would anyone pay their expensive price in the store when you can easily grow your own kale and make them yourself?  Well, alrighty then.

This spring, I decided it was the year I would grow kale and make those chips. I knew you could do them in the oven, but from what I'd read, they're much better done in a dehydrator. Maybe I'd just try them in the oven first, to see if I liked them.

Garden2Blog 2012 group photo courtesy of P. Allen Smith & Hortus, Ltd.
In May, I attended the Garden2Blog event in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the home of P. Allen Smith. It was my second time to attend G2B and I knew there would all kinds of shenanigans and merriment going on. Sponsors are generally very creative in the way that they introduce their products to the attendees and this year would prove to be no different than last.

QR Code for
Our Little Acre
Bonnie Plants was also in their second year there and having long been a Bonnie Plants customer, I was glad to see this. So what did they have in store for us this year? They incorporated social media with a scavenger hunt. We were to search among the rows of the one-acre vegetable and fruit garden for signs that had a QR (Quick Response) Code on them, scan it with our smart phone and tweet the message that came up. The message would tell us what prize we won. And there were good ones, too - t-shirts, caps, a garden apron, a garden hod, and a dehydrator, just to name a few.

Just part of Allen's one-acre vegetable and fruit garden

When I saw the dehydrator, I thought to myself, "That would be really cool to win that, since I want to grow kale and make chips." Soon, we were turned loose in the garden and though it took me a little while, I found one of the designated signs and ran to get it. My cell phone's battery was nearly dead and my reception at Moss Mountain Farm was dismal, to say the least, but I scanned it, the message appeared and I HAD WON THE DEHYDRATOR! I jumped up and down and was so darn happy; I nearly acted like one of those crazy people on The Price is Right.

When I got home, I planted my kale ('Red Russian') and in spite of the heinously hot and dry late spring and summer we've had, the kale grew and a couple of weeks ago I harvested it for the first. I'm organic here, so the kale suffered some effects from insects who apparently like the stuff, but it was good enough for us. Those insect holes don't have a whole lot of taste anyway.

Now it was time to put the dehydrator to use. It was a Nesco FD-61 Snackmaster Encore Dehydrator and Jerky Maker and ooh! I could make jerky if I wanted to, too! But first, the kale chips.

I cut the leaves, brought them in and washed them, and laid them out to dry on a cloth towel. I cut some of the larger leaves into smaller pieces, then coated them with a recipe I found online:

1 T. olive oil
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 t. salt

I spread the coated kale out evenly over three of the trays, about three leaves deep. They were loosely layered so that the air could get between them. I plugged in the unit and set the temperature at 135° F. for one hour. I then reduced the temperature to 115° F for two more hours and just like that, they were done.

Romie tasted them first, with some trepidation, but at first bite his eyes it up and he said, "Mmm, these are good!" I asked him to describe the flavor and he had a hard time doing that and said I'd just have to try them myself. I did, and immediately LOVED the texture. It's a very fine, crispy crunch that almost melts in your mouth. Eating these 'Red Russian' kale chips was almost like eating air.

Kale chips!

As far as the taste was concerned, it was hard to describe. I liked it while I was eating it, but the aftertaste reminded me of tea. I don't like tea. So Romie gets to eat this batch of kale chips all by himself. I don't think that will take too long, since they're so light. I'd like to make some more, but make them with more seasonings to give them a little more flavor. I also think the dinosaur kale would make better chips because it has thicker leaves.

I have other plans for the dehydrator, too. We grow grapes, but this is a no-grape year, due to the hot weather and no rain. I'd wanted to do my own raisins, and I still might, but I'll have to buy the grapes to do those. It was so easy using the dehydrator, I'm going to find all kinds of things to do in it.

Thank you, Bonnie Plants! This was one great gift!

*My travel, most accommodations, and most meals were provided by Hortus, Ltd. and P. Allen Smith for my attendance at Garden2Blog. I received sponsor samples and other products at no charge as a result of my attendance. All opinions stated here by me are my own and were not solicited.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Peace Tree Farm Was Far Out! at OFA

On Monday, Mom and I drove down to Columbus (OH) to spend the day attending the annual OFA Short Course trade show held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. One day is really not long enough to see everything you want to see, but we absolutely couldn't find one hotel room so we could spend the night. (After more than three hours of looking online, I gave up.)

However, we made good use of our time and we got to meet up with several people, including Danielle Ernest and Susan Martin from Proven Winners, Jessica Reinhardt from Dramm, and Maria Zampini from UpShoot/HGTV Home Plants. We didn't have much time to chat, but we briefly saw Katie Elzer-Peters of The Garden of Words (and other things). Kate Copsey of America's Homegrown Veggies Radio and Brenda Haas of Twitter's #gardenchat were there, too.

Leucanthemum x superbum 'Freak'
Blooms of Bressingham provided lunch for members of Region III GWA (Garden Writers Association) at Max and Erma's, and a short meeting was held. They also gave us plant samples of one of their new introductions, Leucanthemum x superbum 'Freak'. I'm a big fan of frilly white daisies, so I'll happily add this to  'Wirral Pride' and 'Aglaia'.

Speaking of trial plants, the prolific plant breeder Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries shared some plants with me - three heucheras and a Heucherella hand picked by him for our hot, dry summers. I'll be trying Heuchera 'Sugar Berry' and variegated Heuchera 'Galaxy' both of which are part of the Little Cutie™ Series, In addition, he gave me Heuchera 'Delta Dawn', which is supposed to be an improvement over 'Miracle', one I currently have in my garden. Heucherella 'Buttered Rum' also came home with me.

It's always fun at the Plants Nouveau booth. Angela Treadwell-Palmer won me over with her tutu at a garden writers event in Dallas two years ago. Well, that and her fabulous plants. This time, I met her new business partner, Linda Guy, and the two of them make for a powerful duo. I oohed and ahhed over the hydrangea blooms and of course, the echinaceas.

In addition to giving me some new brunneras to try (Brunnera macrophylla 'Sea Heart' and 'Silver Heart'), she sent me home with a fabulous Everlasting™ Hydrangea macrophylla 'Revolution'. I can't wait to see it bloom in my own garden. This plant is hardy to Zone 5 and is a repeat bloomer that's very prolific about it. Just look at the colors in its blooms!

Everlasting™ Hydrangea macrophylla 'Revolution'

I got to see my publisher - Paul Kelly of St. Lynn's Press - of the book that I'm writing with Jenny Peterson and met the graphic designer, Holly Rosborough, who put together the BLAD for it. Indoor Plant Décor will be published and released in April 2013.

Paul Kelly, me, and Holly Rosborough

Work is in progress and next week I'll be flying to Austin, Texas, for a jam-packed seven days of photography fun with Jenny. A trip to the Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center is planned, as well as visits with gardening friends Pam Penick of Digging and Diana Kirby of Sharing Nature's Garden.

How can you not love this? ♥

As far as booths were concerned, from what we saw, nothing held a candle to Lloyd Traven and crew of Peace Tree Farm, a wholesale nursery in Kintnersville, PA (that's just east of Allentown). Using all repurposed items in their design, they certainly appealed to my inner hippie with their living peace sign.


Even the flooring was a great use of pallets, the darling of the recycled garden products world right now. Groovy, Lloyd.

All in all, it was a fun day that we wrapped up with a stop at Oakland Nursery, where I couldn't leave without buying a red-blooming Passiflora that was nearly as big as the 'Clear Sky' one I lost over the winter. There wasn't an ID tag on this one, but I suspect it's 'Lady Margaret'.

The next gardening show will be in Chicago when IGC Show holds its annual trade show at Navy Pier in mid-August. That is always a good time!

More from OFA:

Osteospermum Sunscape® Daisy Cape Daisy Fireburst™ from Ecke Ranch

Zinnia Double Zahara Strawberry from PanAmerican Seed
Great repurposing by Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center at
The Ohio State University

Alcea Spring Celebrities Purple from American Takii

Pink Poinsettias!

I always love Hort Couture's distinctive displays.

Love the vertical gardening frame from Gloeckner. They had this last year, too.

This light fixture made from buckets was a big hit at the Braun Horticulture
display. Their booth is always a favorite stop for me.

Love these gigantic caladiums!

Bidens 'Sunbeam'
Lobelia Waterfall Light Lavender
Petunia Suncatcher Pink Lemonade
from BallFloraPlant

Another from Braun

Echinacea 'Supreme Canteloupe' from TerraNova Nurseries

Beautiful caladiums from Classic Caladiums

Achillea millefolium 'Strawberry Seduction' from Blooms of Bressingham

*My admission fee to the OFA Short Course was paid by the Region III Garden Writers Association.

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