Blogs full of Spring

March 16, 2010

I have just discovered a new pastime while I wait in desperation for Spring to let me outdoors to work.  It is called Botanical, a blog directory of garden blog writers, and it well may have saved my sanity.

Imagine – a site entirely devoted to gardeners and garden blogs from around the world!  A networking site where you can read garden blogs, and then pick your favorite posts and blogs to give the authors a warm fuzzy!  And not only that, but you can find gardeners with similar interests to follow, or do a map search to locate bloggers in a specific area or country.

In the past week I visited gardens from all around the United States; then I took a trip to Ireland, Australia, England, and Canada!  It was a busy week with a tight travel itinerary, but you know I’ve always wanted to travel and just can’t seem to get off the farm – problem solved.  While Spring might be in denial here on the back 40, other gardeners are reveling in snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils and happy to share the dirt!  I have come across some GREAT posts, funny jokes, and fantastic photography, and I’d like to share a few of my favorites.  They really are worth taking a peak at, especially if, like me, you are desperate for Spring!

Farm Kids and Ole and Lena’s New Car from Two Country Gardeners

Beautiful photography from Muddy Boot Dreams

Beautiful Mysterious Blues from Garden Paradise

A book recommendation from Kitchen 55

Those Fried Onion Things recipe from

Garden Tips N Ideas from GTNI

Maple Sugaring from Flower Hill Farm

It’s Maple Syrup Time from Garden Paradise

Click the Blotanical Banner below to meet a host of garden bloggers!

Green Lotus peony ~ A gift from a garden fairy god-person

I have never met a fairy godmother, but I once was visited by a garden fairy god-person, and I have a unique and beautiful peony growing in my gardens to prove it.   The story behind this peony might seem far-fetched, but it is a true example of the enthusiasm and generosity that gardeners share.

Quite a few years back, I was cleaning house and getting rid of old magazines and nursery catalogs.  My daughter, who lived in a city 30 miles away, offered to take them off my hands and donate them to the magazine exchange at her local library.  Off they went, and I thought that was the end of that.

And then – a month or so later my phone rings.  And some stranger introduces himself and says he picked up a copy of a Klehm’s Song Sparrow Nursery Catalog that was at his library’s magazine exchange, and was wondering if it had been mine because it had my mailing address on it.  And he had noticed that I had marked a certain unusual peony in the catalog, and he tells me that he himself has that same unusual variety and is wondering if I had purchased one for myself.  When he found out that I had not actually purchased it, he asked if I would like a start from his peony.  And that’s not all….. when I mentioned that we lived 30 miles away from each other, he said it wasn’t a problem and that he could drop it off for me the next day!

It was all a bit baffling, and I was a bit nervous about this stranger coming over.  What if he wasn’t who he said he was, how could I know?  And why would he drive 60 miles to deliver a plant gift to a complete stranger?  My doubts were ungrounded, for the next day he showed up with a nice, healthy peony division for me.  We chatted gardening for a while, and then he proceeded to go on his merry way and left me to plant my new peony.

Each year when the unusual blossoms of my ‘Green Lotus’ peony are in flower,  I am most humbly reminded of the generous gardener (or garden fairy god-person) who shared it with me.   I can’t remember his name anymore, but the experience is engraved into my heart.

Have you ever been unexpectedly gifted from a gardener or fairy god-person?

If you love pesto ….

March 7, 2010

Try growing Lettuce Leaf Basil for an abundant harvest of enormous basil leaves to make your own pesto with.

I ordered my seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds, but also found them in the Seeds of Change catalog.

Last summer I bought some of this flavorful basil at a local Farmers Market, and was convinced that I should add it to my list of  ‘New Vegetable Trials’ for this year.

Also on my ‘New vegetable Trial List’ for this year are:
Sugar Nut Melon
San Marzano paste tomato
Yugoslavian Red lettuce
Costoluto Genovese tomato
Carola potato
Marina Di Chioggia squash
Big Daddy pepper
Black Truffle tomato
Broccoli Romanseco Veronica

Experience Spring for an evening – attend the Meeker County ‘Gardener’s Gala’ Event on Tuesday, March 16th, from 6 – 9 p.m.   Held at Litchfield High School, in Litchfield, Minnesota, this garden event promises an evening of education, fellowship and planning for the upcoming growing season.  Cost is $5.00 which includes a keynote speaker, breakout sessions, snacks and door prizes.

For more information on keynote speaker Dr. Mary Meyer, a list of breakout sessions and directions:  Gardener’s Gala Event March 2010

This event is sponsored by the Meeker County Master Gardeners, Meeker County Horticulture Society, Litchfield Community Education, and the Litchfield Public Library.

Veronica can be a workhouse in the cut flower garden; it will provide a full second crop of stems if cut down completely to the ground after the first harvest. Veronica is a spiky or linear type flower that provides movement, action, or life to an arrangement, and is long lasting in the vase.  Available in blue, purple, pink, or white, I have found the blue and purple varieties to be the most vigorous and productive growers.

My Veronica Longifolia does require support to prevent flopping and bent stems; a simple light-weight wire tomato cage is adequate.  I also grow Veronica Spicata for cut flowers; they are shorter and don’t require any support, but the blooms are smaller and stems are thinner than the Longifolia, and the second crop is often too short to be useful as cut flowers.

In my gardens I have found that Veronica attracts the tarnished plant bug, which causes unsightly damage to the foliage.  The tarnished plant bug can be easily controlled by hand picking or with an insecticidal soap.

Veronica spicata is also an easy perennial to grow in borders and accent gardens.   It is not fussy, and grows in a neat, tidy  clump that doesn’t need frequent dividing, and provides an upright and spiky contrast to mounding and round flowers or plant shapes.  Deadheading of spent blooms will provide subsequent re-bloom throughout the summer for continual color.

Growing information:

Height – from 15″ to 30″, depending on variety

Light requirements – full to partial sun

Bloom time – first bloom in early to mid summer, second bloom in late summer if cut back

Hardiness – zone 3 – 8

I am often questioned as to where I purchase plants and seeds.  Here is a list of internet/mail order resources that I have used and been pleased with.   Also, remember to check your local nurseries – by supporting them your dollars help to keep the local economy stimulated, and if any problems arise, it is handier to get a replacement.

When mail ordering perennials, try to order potted plants versus bare root.  I have consistently had poor luck with bare root perennials, and hardly no problems with potted perennials.  Order or purchase flowering bulbs in the largest size available.  When purchasing shrubs or trees, purchase the largest size you can afford.  Trees and shrubs usually do fine as bare root stock, as long as you plant and water them immediately.  Some seed companies give better seed starting information than others, and that can make your seed growing more successful.


Cook’s Garden
John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Harris Seeds
Park Seed – excellent seed starting information on packets
Pinetree Garden Seeds
Seeds of Change
Select Seeds
Stokes Seeds
Territorial Seed Company
Thompson & Morgan – excellent seed starting information on packets
Veseys Seeds

Perennials, shrubs and trees

Bluestone Perennials
Busse Gardens Perennials
Contrary Mary’s Plants
Jung Seeds & Plants
Klehm’s Song Sparrow
Nature Hills Nursery
Roots & Rhizomes


Brent and Becky’s Bulbs
Scheepers Bulbs

Local Nurseries full of fun surprises

Cattail Corner, Howard Lake, MN
Thomsen’s Green House, St. Peter, MN

What favorite seed or plant companies have you had great luck with?

Photos credit to Proven Winners Color Choice.

The Christmas rush is over, the nursery catalogs are coming in the mail, and my inbox is filling with exciting email offers from seed and nursery companies!  Now is the time to plan and dream about all the fun (hard work) I will have in my gardens this summer.

This new pink Annabelle type hydrangea, Invincibelle Spirit, has really caught my attention, and I must, must, MUST have it for my cutting gardens!  I can already picture a bouquet of these in the pink depression glass vase that came from Grandma Anderson.  Isn’t she a beauty, and doesn’t it get your fingers itching to dig in the dirt?

New in 2010. USDA Zones 3-9 (perennial in zone 3).
Breeder: Dr. Thomas Ranney.
1) Blooms each year without the special care or pampering required by other hydrangeas.
2) Blooms are always pink, and not affected by soil pH.
3) Blooms on new wood, so it develops flowers even if killed to the ground from harsh winters.
4) Funds breast cancer research; for every plant sold, $1.00 will be sent to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

More info is listed here:

Click here for detailed plant description and growing information.

Breast Cancer Cure

Photos credit to Proven Winners Color Choice.

Prarie Sun Rudbeckia

January 4, 2010

Rudbeckia hirta flowers are also known as Gloriosa daisies, or Black-Eyed Susans.  This specific variety, Prarie Sun, is an annual where I live, but a biennial in warmer zones.  I start mine from seed, but have seen them offered as starts in nurseries in recent years.  Letting them reseed in the garden is an option also, but note that if you have more than one type of Rudbeckia hirta planted, the seedlings can be a cross.  Easy to grow and low maintenance, the presence of this flower in any bouquet spreads cheer and happiness.

The green center is quite different from other Rudbeckias, and lends it to be a bit more versatile for various styles of arrangements.  The size of the flower varies, but are typically 4 – 6 inches across.

Growing information:

Height – 2 1/2 to 3 feet

Light requirements:  grow in full sun

Bloom time – mid summer through fall

Hardiness –  biennial in zones 5 – 8

blooming cherry brandy 1

This new introduction of annual Rudbeckia that I grew this past summer was well worth the effort.  There was a variation of colors, with most blooms being a dark maroon color, but a few red centers with yellow tipped petals –  a very interesting look!  The seeds were easy to start indoors, and performed well in the garden, despite an extremely dry summer.

Growing information:

Height – 24 inches, blooms 3 – 4 inches across

Grow in full sun

Annual – purchase as starts or start seed indoors; do not cover seed as light aids in germination.  Plant outside after frost free date.

blooming snow on mtn

The variegated green and white of this annual euphorbia make it an interesting cut flower and a wonderful filler.  Once cut, the stems bleed a milky sap that can irritate skin, so gloves should be worn when harvesting.  After cutting, the stems need to be seared; dip the stem ends in a small pot of boiling water for 20-30 seconds, then proceed with conditioning.  Has a long vase life.

Growing information:

Height – 36 to 40 inches

Annual – can be started indoors or direct seeded outdoors.

Harvest about 100 days after planting, foliage variegation occurs when days begin to shorten.