Monday, December 8, 2014

DIY Upcycled Coffee Bags - Gunny Fashion

DIY Upcycled Coffee Sack Pouf (Footrest)
I have a few friends that are just head-over-heels for burlap. One is doing her whole wedding around this fabric - yes, it's even in her bridal bouquet! Thus, when I came into a large supply of jute coffee sacks, I just had to explore the opportunities to up-cycle, recycle, reuse and repurpose them!

Gunny sacks, Burlap, Jute, all very fun to use for crafts and DIY projects.

Coffee sack burlap/Jute is a great sustainable material. It’s a natural, biodegradable, and strong fabric.  In my garden I use it to layer-in a weed barrier prior to planting in the flower beds or vegetables. I use it for mound gardening and mulch with it too.  I drape some of the old fabric and threads on shrubs for birds to use for nesting. Using the coffee sacks for crafts was a little messy - so I have been cutting it outside. 

The most ambitious project was the creation of the burlap pouf - footrest shown in the photo on the right. I really like the look of the item and custom made to just the right height. This project required precision so that all the pieces matched up and the writing on the coffee bags all faced the same direction :) (BTW that beige chair was rescued from curbside and my neighbor reupholstered it!) 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

DIY Holiday Ornaments

Folded Fabric Ornaments
Over the years I have been inspired to create homemade holiday ornaments. My grandmother was exceptional at this creative effort! I think this year it was a combination of things - first I'm feeling nostalgic, next I continue to want my children to have reminder each Holiday, and lastly, I wanted to clean out my craft room :)

Please see below come of the items created! All are fairly easy to make with simple tools such as glue gun, sewing machine, and scissors!

Transplanting Large succulents: Christmas Cactus

My Great Grandmother's Christmas Cactus,
ready for repotting
I have been graced to own my great grandmothers Christmas cactus.  I tell myself that it’s over 100 years old – but I have no idea of its age, only it’s provenance. As a mature succulent, it needs to be transplanted periodicaly without increasing the post size. Most cacti and succulents do best in pots that are quite small in proportion to the size of their top growth, my Christmas Cactus is no exception.  The plant grows over 8-10 inches over the soil top, and a 18 inches wider all around the container. It’s already so big and heavy – there is no need to increase the container size. If you have a smaller succulent, when you decide to repot them, move up one size larger than the one they are in. always use plenty of drainage material in the bottom of the pot.  Leaving succulents in small containers works  - they may dwarf and slow in growth.
How do I know when it’s time to repot my succulent?
Failing health - time to repot! 
I have a few general rules I use to determine when to repot my succulents. You know it's time:

When roots come out the bottom of the pot. 

When the succulent start to pup (Put off new growth at the base)

When growth slows down or plant health fails

When if flowers off cycle

When you have to water much more  frequently 

My poor Christmas Cactus was off color, not holding water, and blooming off cycle. So unhappy and screaming for a new pot and some TLC!

New Year's Resolutions - Avoiding the Epic Fail

Silver Linings - Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago 2014
I have been pondering the "New Year's Resolution" history and success rates. Very interesting reading on history from my sites. 

New Year's Resolutions track to the Babylonians who used the new year to try to make amends for their wrongdoings of the past year or to purify themselves for the new year. These days New Year’s celebrations are elaborate parties and drinking, as well as the custom of making resolutions for a fresh start the next year.  More people make New Year's Resolutions than ever before. 

Here are the most resolutions that I've made in the past that have actually stuck! 
- Become more involved in volunteering
- Become more environmentally responsible
- Taking a trip (usually expeditions :)
It's very interesting that with all the intentions and "shoulds" not many people actually succeed. Wiki says "88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants were confident of success at the beginning."  Other studies say 92% fail. Success comes when the resolution is paired with a measurable goal and when the goals are made public and involve support from others.
What's in the cards for me this year?
Stay Tuned.
Singing Christmas Carols :)

Teresa Marie

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Historic Fern Room Construction Update - Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory

The historic Fern Room at Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory is undergoing repairs and
Historic Fern Room At Garfield Park Conservatory
renovations after the 100+ year old roof was destroyed by Hail in July 2011.  While the room was open after a temporary (plastic) roof was in place, only recently was the roof returned back to glass.
Currently (Fall 2014) the Fern room is undergoing redesign and replanting. The stone walls, originally placed by Jens Jensen, are all easily visible now as moss and liverwort have died back or been pulled away.  The new design for the Fern Room will have more cycads and a wider diversity of ferns. It will also have no philodendrons climbing up the pillars.  This will create a very different feeling!

Here is a photo of the Fern room from before the hails storm and then immediately afterwards.  The removal of the glass from all the beds took lots of time. The process of restoring this historic room at the Garfield Park Conservatory has been ongoing for years. You can see my other posts about this wonderful place and the renovations.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Container Gardening - Inspiration from Rick Bayless Garden, Chicago

Architecture: containers
adding height to the garden
In an earlier post I highlighted the urban agriculture and leisure areas in Chef Rick Bayless' farm/garden in downtown Chicago.  I was also very pleased to see all the containers used in the garden.

I've captured a few of my favorites here for your consideration and inspiration.  I use quite a few containers in my own garden and teach others on the subject. So I'm always on the look out for tips, examples, and motivation. 

One thing that I find interesting in this case is that many of the plantings seem to stay consistent over the years - as I compare photos from prior tours and blogs.  Hitting on something that works and sticking to it is not a bad thing at all! I'm still in trial and error state in many parts of my garden. 

Some interesting aspects of the use of containers:

Architectural elements along pathways and within/raised gardens. For example the raised pots in the photo just above right. We were told that the sun hits the top of the garden much more than the floor - hence the high sun items raised up to greet the day.   Another interesting use of containers was to add strong vertical structure to the porch area. These large containers create an effective screen from prying eyes looking into the house, beautiful colors, and vegetables too. The climbing vine is a spinach variety!  This photo also transitions well to my next point which is clustering more than one container together in one vignette. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Review - Chihuly at Denver Botanic Garden

Chihuly - Blue Spiky Glass at
Denver Botanic Garden, 2014
Denver Botanic Gardens presented an outdoor exhibit artwork by celebrated American artist, Dale Chihuly.  The Glass from Chihuly's sculptures – ranging in size and form – added bold colors and dramatic beauty to the Gardens' 24-acre urban oasis.  Chihuly first exhibited glass within a garden setting at Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory - which houses a permanent exhibit of Chihuly glass in it's Aroid House. 

The glass in Denver was on such a large scale. In some cases the glass over took the surroundings it was so overbearing, beautiful, creative, and yet at times not in sync with the surroundings.  Which is not to say that I didn't love the exhibit - I adore the Denver Botanic Gardens, I think I just had very different expectations.  There was a piece of art glass almost around every corner - so much to take in.  

Take a virtual tour, see what you think from the photos below. 

Creatures of the Night - Halloween @ Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory

Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory hosts an special Halloween themed evening called Creatures of the Night each October.  The event showcases nocturnal animals in the Conservatory's living collection.  It is a unique opportunity for kids of all ages to get up close and personal with some very interesting creatures!  The range of animals has included fruit bat, owls, spiders, wolves, big snakes, cockroaches, even a raccoon and more creepy crawlers. 
Creatures of the Night, Chicago, 2014

I took my children when they were much younger - in the 5-12 year old range. They had a blast and it really supplemented their classroom learning.  Not only did they get to touch the animals and observe them up close, but also ask the handlers questions about what the animals eat, how they behave and more. My kids, now driving and on their own, continue to go to the event with their friends. It's an unexpected tradition in our family now.

Kids and adults come in costume. There are treats to enjoy and often music. It's an experience not to be missed (and well worth the small donation requested.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mosquito Repellent Container Garden Plants and Plans

Mosquito - Garden pest! (wiki)
Did you know that certain plants naturally repel mosquitoes? I should have put in more of these "Mosquito Repellent" plants into my container garden this year.  If more of these mosquito container gardens were on my porch - maybe I would be out there more too! I just created several container garden plans for a client who's children are allergic to mosquito's. While they also contracted with a spray service to control these pests, they wanted to naturalize the garden, lawn and container garden with some easy to grow plants which will also repel mosquitoes. 

Here are plants to use to reduce mosquitoes nibbling on you and your guests. Below, I've also included a few suggestions for container gardens with these, and crafty ways to use them as party decorations too. 

    Marigold (wiki)
  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria). A perennial for an annual depending on your location, catnip is more effective than DEET at controlling mosquitoes. Cats love the plant and will rip into it if it's in an unprotected garden bed. Plus the plant has a tendency to become invasive. Keep a couple of plants in hanging containers to avoid both problems.
  • Marigold (Tagetes spp.). This sun-loving annual also repels other pests and is an excellent border plant for your vegetable garden. Marigolds are easy-to-care-for and you can easily collect seeds for the next year. 
  • Rosemary in Bloom (wiki)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).  I love this herb and keep one in a large container and over winter it in my cold climate garden. The oil is pleasing but disgusting to mosquitoes. It’s attractive for container or herb gardens which requires little water.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Urban Gardening / Farming - Tour of Rick Bayless Property, Chicago

In August I toured the Chicago urban farm and garden owned by Rick Bayless - chef and restaurateur. The garden features a mix of traditional beds, raised beds, containers and vertical garden space.  It hosts annuals (Tropical), herbs, vegetables, Citrus, fruit, succulents, and "farm" animals.

The garden was started over 15 years ago - as a hobby, but also as a demonstration of urban agriculture and to support organic greens and vegetables for his culinary needs. Since then it's grown to cover three city lots.  The vegetable growing space is over 1,000 square feet and includes indoor and "alternative growing spaces."  By alternative I'm referencing porch grow-box, vertical gardens, as well as indoor space utilizing grow lights.

Chicago Urban Garden (see the beehive)
At the start of the tour the guide and full-time gardener stated "don't try this at home" indicating that the garden has evolved overtime and is a business with nearly 6-8 part time

Carnivorous Plants - Fun "interactive" display

The Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago currently has a plant bog full of carnivorous plants. It was very fun to not only see the plants - but to really watch them at work. It only takes a few moments to see flies swarm and crawl into these beautiful flowers - never to return. 
Carnivorous plants in Chicago

Carnivorous plants derive some or most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming insects. Carnivorous plants grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic bogs and rock outcroppings. Thus their adaptation to consume insects for nutrients.  Charles Darwin wrote the first comprehensive book on carnivorous plants in 1875 - Insectivorous Plants, the first well-known treatise on carnivorous plants, in 1875! This is about the same time that plans for the park, gardens, and first conservatory in now Garfield Park in Chicago were forming. 

The conservatory recreated a bog in a shady area in a nice elevated bed. The display does a nice job of sharing different trapping mechanisms - and placement makes it so easy to see.  There is also a nice range of various "fly catching" techniques."

I did see a sign that said do not touch, but I didn't see a sign that said "no feeding the plants!"

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Urban Children's Garden Revisited - Harvest time

In spring I had the pleasure of touring an after-school programs urban garden - which was growing along the fence between two buildings. The photo at the right shows you the location of the garden along the fence.

The kids were so excited to be growing their own vegetables and herbs when I was here in the spring. I was skeptical that there would be produce at the end of the journey - I'm pleased to say they were so successful!

Take a look back at where they started in this blog in May 2014 - and see the results in August in the photos below. This is a wonderful example of maximizing small urban spaces as productive growing areas. I would have never thought that some of the vegetables would grow under these low light and small container conditions.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lily and Daylily Flower Show

Daylily Flower Arrangement
This past weekend I attended the Day Lily and Lily show at the Chicago Botanic Garden sponsored by Sponsored by the Northshore Iris and Daylily Society and Wisconsin-Illinois Lily Society respectively

At Chicago Botanic garden flower shows - there is placement of only one stem with one flower each submitted by member of the sponsoring society. In the lily show they had also purchased some for display. The layout gets you close to each flower to see the differences up.

I have been jaded by the overwhelming plantings of tawny daylily plants which are considered invasive in my area and many surrounding states. This is 
Ditch Lilies in Illinois
Hemerocallis fulva here is a shot of them in my garden.  Included in this are the Stella De Oro variety. They are pretty but, for me,  no longer pack a "WOW" in the garden.  They even varry the name "ditch lilies" because they can be seen by roadsides. It seems every year there are dozens of people giving them away for free - which is exactly where I pickup up most of mine. I was super pleased to see the potential and so many different varieties of both Hemerocallis and true lily (Lilium) . 

Please  enjoy the photos.  I'm not sure the colors are 100% true, but here are the shots of my favorites :)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Invasive Plant: Buckthorn identification and control

Common Buckthorn Hedge  
Buckthorn trees are taking over the woodlands and hedges around my neighborhood, my town, my state and the country. Darn invasive species are so good at that. 

While some people love what a robust hedge Buckthorn can make. I hate them and enjoy ripping them out. Many states and towns have designated Buckthorn as a restricted, noxious weed. My town has an active free removal process and will haul away any Buckthorn cut down.  For me clearing out buckthorn is an effort worth undertaking. I love seeing a nice forest with Oaks and other native plants. 

Why remove Buckthorn trees?  I'm taking them out to restore a woodland area.  I've posted a few blogs on my woodland restoration.  Some of the pictures here are from that process. But long before I started that restoration effort I had challenges removing Buckthorn from my yard. They were creeping in at the corners, under the phone lines, along the house line all the places that nothing else wanted to grow - these little beasts were thriving! I never liked how they looked as trees. So many other great options. 
Buckthorn crowding the woodland

Here are some reasons why you might consider removing buckthorn too:
  1. Buckthorn squeezes out native plants for nutrients, sunlight, and moisture. These invasive trees choke out surrounding vegetation including other trees and makes it impossible for any new growth to take root under its cancerous canopy of dense vegetation. They leaf out earlier in the spring that anything else and they hold onto their leaves longer in the fall. That means less light and water for everything around it. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Garden Inspiration - Residential Wonder

Front entry - circular drive
I had the opportunity to tour a residential garden in Northern Chicago area today.  The home was built in the early 1920's and was one of the largest in the area.  Over the years the estate was subdivided, but this home maintains nearly 2 acres of grounds.  It felt a bit like a European estate - maybe Italian  or English.  The old brick work, bit of moss, vibrant color all welcomed me.

I was so appreciative of the opportunity! The homeowner says that it is her garden that makes her happy - and I could tell. While it looked wonderful to me, I'll tell you that she had a little project for each area I photographed.  Like all of us who continually move things around in our gardens - that's half the fun! 

I hope these photos inspire you as they did me.

Pear trees, hosta and groundcover along roadway

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Urban Vegetable Gardening - Grow Your Own

What do you need to grow your own vegetables - space, soil, water, light. Sometimes that can be a challenge in the middle of a city. A few solutions are container gardening (see prior posts and links here) as then there are raised beds. If you have any trepidation about what may be in your soil or the composition of your soil - there are steps you can take to get in the right direction. These include "lasagna gardening", "raised bed gardening", and "vertical gardening."

Let's explore these last options - and I'll use photos taken June 2014 at the Garfield Park Conservatory and prior blogs to illustrate.  The outdoor Urban Demonstration Garden at the conservatory is a purposeful example of an Urban Vegetable Garden.
Panorama of Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory, Urban Demonstration Garden June 2014

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Children's Urban Gardening - Making do with small spaces

Urban Children's Herb & Vegetable Garden
I had the opportunity to visit Creative Little Minds, a bilingual day care on Chicago's Northside. I was pleasantly surprised to see how the owner, Gloria, is incorporating gardening into the regular activities for everyone. This is with very little space in a city block. Here's the integration of Urban Gardening, Community Gardening, Children's Gardening and education all in one.   

Maybe these are some best practices:
1) Select clear garden spot with easy access for kids.  There is no threat to other garden plants or outdoor furniture or breakable objects. I think the use of the fence and walkway on the side of the house (pictured right) is a great idea. Although I wondered if there was enough sun for mature plants. 

2) Plants, pots, and tools are all placed within easy reach and at their level. I can imagine that it is easy for kids to inspect their plant growth every day.  The planters on the fence are at multiple heights - based on each child's abilities.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Piedra Blanca Eco-Park - Medellin

Medellin, Colombia
I've made several trips to Colombia over my lifetime and I am always happy to explore the vast diversity of the country.  I recently had the pleasure of exploring Medellin which is located in a valley of the Andes Mountains.  This create great vistas of the mountains as well as lush environment surrounding the city (and rain!)
One day my friends suggested an adventure out of the city to Piedras Blancas and Parque Arvi, a nature preserve located some 50 miles from the city center.  To get there we took the Medellin Metro to one of the MetroCables.  You cannot imagine how clean and well maintained these facilities are. The Colombians are very conscientious of maintaining these public transportation services. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Harvesting Herbs for perfect flavor

Do you want to know when to harvest herbs from you garden? Here are tips I've garnered over the years. 

First off - is the herb something that you grow for the leaves, flowers, or seeds. That matters. For example, when harvesting (the evil) mint, pick the leaves you need. For thyme or rosemary you may take a whole sprig for putting with a roast. In other cases, like garlic, wait until the plant practically dies away and dig up the bulb. 

Tips for harvesting leafy herbs:

  • When: Harvest as soon as the plant is established and frequently to encourage plants to produce new leaf growth. (Chicago would say early and often!). I like to cut herbs in mid-to late morning when they are no longer moist from dew and after I've figured out dinner plans in early evening ;)   In the heat of the day, if it's really hot, plants may droop a bit and harvesting at that time may harm the plant.  Especially with the hot summer's we've had lately.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Make Your Own Herb Flavored Oil, Butter & Vinegar

I harvested my first crop of spring chives which is quickly followed by a flurry of kitchen activity making compound butters, flavored oil & vinegar and drying chopped chives.   The compound butter in particular makes a fun gift for foodies, it's easy to make, and comes in handy for quick / delicious meal preparation.  Below I've captured my thoughts on using fresh herbs in this way featuring chive blossom vinegar.
Spring Chive harvest - Using all parts to make Compound
butter and flavored vinegar

Compound or Herbal Butters

A great method for using fresh herbs is to make them into flavored butter. 

I've tried two techniques - 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Fern Spore Patterns - Sori, sporangia arrangement

I call them spores but that's not right. Scientists would use the word sorus (pl. sori) which is a cluster of sporangia, which produce and contain spores in ferns and fungi. Spores of ferns are very small (perhaps 50 microns in diameter) so we don't see the spores per se - we see the sori (clusters). Sori form a yellowish or brownish mass on the edge or underside of a fertile frond.  Different ferns have different sorus patterns, the shape, arrangement, and location of sori are used in the identification of fern taxa.  It's also just darn fun to see all the different pattern - which I share here.
Sori may present themselves as a circular or linear form. The sori circles or lines may be arranged in neat rows, parallel or oblique to each other, or  be random. Their location may be at the edge of the frond or set away on the frond blade (flat portion) usually on the bottom side. Sometimes the sori is wrapped in a protective layer which impacts its color and texture.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Propagating Herbs - get more for less!

If you have a mature herb plant, multiply the joy and get more plants from the one you already have.  One way is with seeds - but I find collecting seeds challenging so I use cuttings, division, and layering to get more for less.   also included below some photos of very inspirational herb gardens!

Here are the recommended techniques for some common herbs. 
  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – stems will sprout roots in water. See the photo of sprouting basil. Check out this post for easy steps. 
  • Bay  - take semi-ripe cuttings in late summer or early autumn. Divide suckers in spring. 
  • Chives  - Divide bulb clumps in spring or autumn.
  • Lavender - take softwood cuttings.
  • Marjoram  - Take softwood cuttings in summer or divide in spring.
  • Mint - Take softwood cuttings in summer. Rhizome cuttings in spring. Divide in spring.
  • Oregano - Take softwood cuttings.
  • Rosemary  - Take semi-ripe cuttings in late summer or heel cuttings in spring. Can be layered or mound-layered in summer.
  • Sage  - Take heel cuttings or softwood cuttings in early summer. Layer after flowering. Mound layering in spring.
  • French tarragon - Underground runners for root cuttings taken in spring. Divide mature plants every two to three years in spring
  • Thyme  - Take softwood cuttings in late spring or summer. Simple layering in early autumn. Mound layering in spring.

Below is more of description of each of the techniques mentioned above. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Maximizing Your Herb Garden - Maintenance

Formal Herb Garden (Photo from St Louis Mag, by JJ Lane)
If you've put in an Herb garden or started them up in containers - a little maintenance can really improve your harvest.  While I envy a large formal herb garden like the one shown on the right - I need to maximize a much smaller place. That means some work year round. Good news is that herb plants, general have low maintenance requirements. All one needs to do during the growing season is remove weeds, provide water, perhaps mulch or fertilize, and prune/harvest.  Below see more details on these steps and other considerations.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Selecting and hiring a Landscape Designer

What front entryway design will complement my home
and add curb appeal? What will the design cost?
I like to do yard work and gardening, but over the years I sometimes need an experienced, trained landscape designer,  a strong set of hands, or just large equipment I don't have. I needed help with a major redesign of my home’s landscape, working with large overgrown plants, and working with hard-scaping.  Then there is taking down and maintaining trees which needs a professional too. What with the cost of landscape design, minimum fees, and more - this was not a decision I took lightly. That said, I know that curb appeal can add value to my home, so I didn't want to be disappointed either.
So what do I look for in a landscape designer / landscaper? What's a good selection process and decision criteria for landscaping help?

The above picture is one and example of a project where professional help can save you. Here there is hard scaping removal and installation, the need to manage water flow away from the house, curb appeal, buried power lines, and building aesthetics to consider. This could be a DIY project from hell. So if you've got anything like this that has many facets and gives you pause as a DIY - start the process to find the right help.

Here’s my list of must haves:

Monday, May 5, 2014

Wildflowers and Native Plants - Southern California Desert; A Tourist View

Native Plant: Joshua Tree - Spring 2014
I celebrated National Park day hiking around Joshua Tree which is about 2.5 hours west of LosAngeles, California. The trip and these photos were taken April  19-20, 2014.
Blooming Yucca - Joshua Tree, Spring 2014

I've wanted to visit Joshua Tree National Park after seeing photos - very Suessical landscape! I wanted to also see the desert in springtime bloom. The flowers, the Joshua Trees, large cactus, and the rock structures - without any one, it wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable. Check out the Wildflower bloom report provided by the Park.  The Joshua Tree was named by Mormons after the prophet Joshua because it reminded them of Joshua waving his people toward the promised land. These trees are native only to Southwest USA in the higher and cooler Mojave Desert, at above 3000 ft. It's Yucca Brevifolia, very tall (40 ft) and it can live for 1000 years.   Visiting the desert in April meant the weather was warm enough to wear less layers - but it didn't mean don't bring water, wear hats or sunscreen!  We did several hikes including 49 Palms Oasis, Cholla Cactus Garden, Octilla Patch, Ryan Ranch, Wall Street.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Invasive Plant: Garlic Mustard - Identification & Control

Garlic Mustard should have been on my list of the dirty dozen plants that I try to keep out of my garden.  Here's a quick take on Garlic Mustard, how to identify, and importantly control it. 

Garlic Mustard Background:

Garlic Mustard Invasive - thriving in rock border
Garlic Mustard  (Alliaria petiolata) is an invasive biennial herb with a distinctive garlic/onion smell. First found in New York state in 1868, it was probably brought by Europeans as a medicinal herb. These days it grows in over 31 states and is labeled an invasive plant. It has no natural enemies of note in North America.  Garlic mustard grows in open woodlands, dense shade, driveway cracks, and your vegetable garden.  It's a biennial so in the first year it produces only leaves, the following spring the plant sends out white flowers on ugly stalks up to 3 1/2 feet tall. Each plant can produce 350-7000 seeds which are dispersed in late summer.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wildflowers and Native Plants of Peru - A Tourist view

Native Plants flowering at Machu Picchu, Peru
From adventure traveler to casual tourist, the Inca Trail provides an unforgettable experience. I traveled it over forty years ago and still dream of the cool, lush, humid Andean rain forest full of unusual flora and fauna. The mystery of the high city and long forgotten tales. If I was taking the trip today, I'm sure I would soak up all the bromeliads and orchids which are native to this area.  The native flower is an orchid! Peruvian native plants are often lusted after house plants :)  The abundance of unusual native plants in Peru is acute in the Machu Picchu Sanctuary and nearby areas. Peru hosts more than 3,000 known orchid species, and some experts claim that this is only half of the Peruvian native species; more to be discovered!  So just think, if you take this hike you might discover an orchid that you could call your own?!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Arizona Wildflowers - A tourist view

Hiking - Vermilion Cliffs, AZ
The desert can be so beautiful! This year I had the pleasure of spending time in Arizona and Utah during early spring. I just caught the beginning of the splendor of desert flowers - I'm sharing a few shots of those I encountered on the trail.  As we got off road on BLM lands and into Vermillion Cliffs, Grand Staircase Escalante, Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon - the little pops of color from mother natures blooms were unexpected and pleasurable. Hiking with the fragrance from sage and wide open spaces - Priceless!

While I'm tagging these are wild flowers or Native flowers - someone local with much more experience may say some of these are invasive. Like I say, this is a tourist view :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Container Gardens - Growing Herbs

Grow Your Own Fresh Herbs - Container Gardening
More recently as I teach Container Garden classes I'm asked specifically about growing herbs.  In particular small urban patio gardens and families with small children seem to enjoy this activity. I am an avid consumer of fresh, home grown herbs! Photo of harvest of mint, dill, parsley! Herb container gardening is a great way for new gardeners to dig in. There is a great satisfaction in serving delights from your garden. Plus the fragrance from herbs is wonderful. There are many herbs that I always grow in container (aka mint!) This year I'm putting more herbs and veggies in containers to make it easier to access from my kitchen! Planning container gardens is one of the many tasks on my Spring to-do list for my cold climate garden. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Alternative Deer Repellents - DIY

I'd previously blogged about the challenges I had been having keeping the Damn Deer out of my garden.  I keep a fence that works very well. However, as I started the woodland restoration that now hugs their trail, my love-hate relationship with this plant predator has continued.

Bad smells keep Deer Away. 
Recently folks have suggested some alternatives to the chemical sprays I have been using. This spring as tulips, hostas, iris, and chokeberry are starting to come out. I'm trying these out - the more potential deterrents the better!  If I can make my precious bits of green plants taste and smell terrible - unless they are starving, the deer should just move on (to my neighbors yard!)  One downside of a treatment that relies on taste (like the pepper spray below) is that the deer must taste the plant to discover they don't really want to eat more.  So there will be some nibbling with this method along. Another reason I like using combos.

Just keep in mind that everything needs reapplication. Make sure to treat the plant completely! Rain and time take away the smell and taste. I do not put these treatments onto food crops by the way. My vegetable garden is safe inside a fence (mostly) - although the bunnies do make a mess. That's another blog. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring To-Do List for a Cold Climate Garden

I cannot wait to get back into the yard and garden this year. Especially given the amount of snow and cold we've had this winter in Chiberia. So many activities to get accomplished to both prepare my garden for a wonderful spring and start plants off strong!  I thought I would share the items on my list. Oh and please check out my Fall Cold-Climate Garden Checklist too.

Here's my spring to-do list for my Zone 5 /5b cold climate garden.  Check your frost/freeze dates by zip code on this website.

Spring Garden preparedness List:

  • Check the fence for repairs or digging (dogs :)  )
  • Check tools - repair, sharpen or replace
  • Check Garden machines for repair and maintenance (Lawn mower, rototiller, leaf blower, chainsaw)
  • Make sure I've got enough insecticidal soap, deer spray, dormant oil, fertilizer
  • Check repair or replace hoses (sprinklers, spray heads) and put out into yard. Order a truckload of wood chips (free from landscaping companies.)
  • Check that all drains are open and clear
  • Get free manure from local equestrian center
  • Find garden gloves and repair as needed
  • Check garden spray bottles used to apply chemicals

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Dirty Dozen - Plants to keep out of your garden!

Keeping invasives out - to make room for these beauties!
I'm making my spring garden to-do list and I notice that many of the tasks involve getting rid of plants rather than planting them! These are my "dirty dozen" of plants I wish had never rooted on my land. Managing these highly aggressive / invasive species is a major chore.  These plants expand via fast-growing roots or rhizomes or expel dozens of seeds annually. So over time you may get much more than you planned!  Many of these are plants I purchased at garden centers or picked up free online through Craigslist or similar sources. Getting plants free should have been my clue that these plants go CRAZY!  Others I inherited with the garden when I first moved in- nearly 12 years ago, this challenge started with Bishops Weed and honey suckle. I pulled them out, cut them down and still they return year after year. I spray them and abuse them. They can be very B-A-D. I'm still at it - and there is not much left. Man some of those roots are tenacious! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Clearly the former owner of my house LOVED her buckthorn and honeysuckle greatly. Fellow gardeners in my neighborhood love some of these and readily take up the debate as to why I'm pulling them out. My response is always that they are taking space, resources and time from the plants that I really want to flourish in my garden.
So, here's my "Dirty Dozen" of plants I would like to bite the dust and never return. Your experience may vary - but I encourage you to think twice about putting any of these in your garden.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Outrageous Orchids! (Flower Show Review)

I visited the Orchid Show at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This was a wonderful respite from the snowy day. As a friend said - this winter White is the new Black. :D  I very much enjoyed seeing all the bright colors of the orchids.  I recall the first time I ever saw an Orchid was at the Joaquin Antonio Uribe Botanic Garden of Medellin, Colombia.  I was 12 years old and the 34 acre botanical garden in the middle of the city was so impressive! More so was the massive collection of orchids in the unique architectural space called the Orchidiarium. All I can say is that it was simultaneously overwhelming, impressive and memorable.  While the exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden pales in comparison - it's much easier to get to than Colombia, and well worth the visit!
Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show - 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 Upcoming Flower and Garden Shows - Midwest

This weekend I visited the Orchid show at the Chicago Botanic Garden - which made me think about updating the list of events that culminate in the beginning of spring and ethnic fest etc. in Chicago. 

As I did last year, here is a listing of events from Iowa - Wisconsin - Illinois - Michigan.  All links and information was accurate as of 2/17/2014  If you find other shows or errors herein please note in comments! Thank you

Heart shaped leaf with promise of Spring

Even my dog is tired of the winter!

Today I'm recalling those beautiful orchids and thinking of spring!

Teresa Marie