Memorial Plantings

Head stones and photos are not the only way to honor someone's memory.

Over the years, our family has had a number of trees planted in memory of loved ones passed. There's a plum tree blooming on Leavenworth in San Francisco with a placque in memory of my Aunt Lenore. Along Rolla's Acorn Trail, an oak tree was added in memory of a fellow City Councilmember who died while in office.

In my one-acre hillside garden, a number of plants bring back memories of loved ones; iris for my Mom, who had lovely iris flower beds in our farmhouse in southern Illinois. Miniature fruit trees among flower beds are in memory of my father, descendant from a long line of Hungarian farmers. He also added a fruit orchard on our southern Illinois property but I don't recall picking much fruit.

To some, visiting a grave is a way to honor those no longer with us. All I have to do is walk into my garden.

Mom, I miss you.



How to Pick Blackberries

There are so many fruits available in summer from cherries to watermelon. One of my favorites are so tempting, little dark berries at the tips of arching shrubs available in north America mid-summer. Little does one realize how thorny these plants can be!

Blackberries grow in almost all continents, a plant so flexible it has adopted to a wide range of climates. Regardless of where you are planning to pick them, make sure you are:


  • Wearing a thick pair of pants to catch thorns before they hit skin.
  • Boots if you're walking into a blackberry patch after a rain. Some plants grow shoots that can't be seen above soil but you sure can feel them when you step on them.
  • Don't wear a long sleeve shirt, it will just get caught in thorns.
  • Gloves are optional but if you do wear them, select a pair with good finger dexterity.


When picking, go slowly and focus on berries at the ends, away from thorns. Some berries look ripe but may not be so make sure you have good lighting on the plants.

Worth the effort?

You bet!


Thought for Today

There are a lot of ways to successfully garden but one of the basics is to have, and know how to have, good soil.

Soil is an amazing ecosystem with millions and millions of microbes. A teaspoon of soil has more micro-organisms than humans currently living on earth, each group of microorganisms with a specific contribution they make to the health of all.

A garden is only as successful as the soil in which a garden grows. Gives new meaning to this charming concrete garden sign, don't you think?


First Lettuce

There are a number of ways people mark the arrival of spring. Purple crocus; yellow daffodils in bloom; maybe a favorite tree blooming. In my world, it's lettuce.

In addition to a dedicated vegetable garden spot, I keep a series of pots on my back deck where I can easily access herbs and greens. Sometimes the potted garden grows faster. It's on the equivalent of a second deck surrounded on three sides by glass. It also faces west so the soil warms up faster than the vegetable garden.

To get an early start on vegetables and herbs, I usually have a pot share lettuce seeds on one side and an herb on the other. I use shards from broken pots to set up growing guides. This year, lettuce is sharing space with sweet basil.

When I harvest my first greens for a salad marks the official beginning of spring for me.

It's a healthy, delicious and easy way to start!



How to Start Nasturtiums

One of my favorite summer flowers, nasturtiums, can be hard to get started. The round seeds have a hard cover, making germination difficult. One year out of a packet of 25 nasturtium seeds, only three sprouted.

To more easily get nasturtiums germinating, soak seeds in water for 1-2 days. Seed coverings will soften so that seedlings can more easily pop through. Once I started soaking seeds, I had 100% germination.

Why nasturtiums?

Besides being bright and pretty, nasturtiums are wonderfully edible, adding a spicy flavor to salads and desserts.

Pretty and practical?

Now that's my kind of combination!


To All of the Moms

It's Mother's Day, time to honor the wonderful women in our lives. Maybe a bouquet of flowers out of a garden, and a poem:

"On Mother’s Day I have written a poem for you. In the interest of poetic economy and truth, I have succeeded in concentrating my deepest feelings and beliefs into two perfectly crafted lines:

You’re my mother,
I would have no other!

~Forest Houtenschil

Happy Mother's Day!


Spring Sunset

I love sunsets. Spring ones are particularly pretty.
The Missouri countryside has turned green and there's a promise of so much more fresh still to come.
Since I live on a limestone hill, finding a sunset is relatively easy. The back of my house faces west so if the horizon is clear, I can sit on my deck and watch the sun setting. 
It should be required watching. So relaxing. So easy to get a new perspective on one's day.
No special equipment required.

Hoppy Easter

One of my professional colleagues lives close to our office. Sometimes on my daily walks, I cruise by her garden to see what she has growing.

We had a bad winter 2014-2015. Besides record cold weather, spring was late arriving, which gave us all a good dose of cabin fever and bad moods.

Not at Becky's house. This year, she added two visitors obviously celebrating the advent of spring and warm weather.

Another side view so you can better see the bunny shapes. These look easy to make from painted wood.

Anybody have an extra pair of sunglasses, or two?

Happy Easter!


Hello, spring!

"I love spring anywhere but if I could choose, I would always greet it in a garden."

                                       — Ruth Stout

I love the four seasons, each offering a new perspective on life if we are only smart enough to slow down enough to enjoy it.

Sometimes I think winter is the beginning of a new year, freezing temperatures and grey skies cleaning the landscape palette to make room for the anticipation, and expectation of sunny spring days.

Of all of the favorite garden flowers that mark the beginning of spring in my garden, the one I anticipate the most is the crocus.

In fall, I plant new stashes of bulbs along my garden paths dreaming of them popping up in spring with a burst of color.

The low to the ground imported bulb flowers are also honeybee favorites, a source of much-needed protein for baby bees soon hatching in nearby hives.



These little plastic garden dragons where a gift from my brother many years ago. They make their way around every garden season, sometimes munching fall leaves or mid-summer, dining on impatiens.

For years I moved them into a storage space over winter, only to bring them out in spring to keep my spring garden full of tulips daffodils company.

Garden decor like this are wonderful gifts. In addition to adding whimsy to the garden, they are a wonderful memento of the person who gives them.

This past fall, I forgot to bring my little dragons in so they spent this winter outside. They are not any worse for wear; I found one of them as I was filling my bird-feeders, the little open mouth apparently taking in newly-fallen snow.

Hummm, at this rate, getting rid of all of the snow on my garden could take awhile!



Dueling Woodpeckers

So cute, downy woodpeckers enjoying suet feeding stations right outside of my living room window.

The chair faces the garden so I can easily pop in for a few minutes and watch my feathered garden visitors.

In winter, many birds show up that I don't see in summer, not just because of leaves on trees but because this is not their summering spot.

During winter, one of the main visitors are woodpeckers, although they are in the garden all year around removing insects from tree barks.

Birds in a garden help to keep insect populations in check but not right now, everything is still quite frozen so suet is the next best thing.


What a lion!


The saying goes something like "March comes in like a lion" and did it ever in 2015.

In Mid-Missouri, we ended up with at least seven inches of snow over a sheet of ice, encouraging us to stay home where it was safe and warm.

The snow was a welcome layer of insulation and a source of moisture. Our water tables are still quite low and need to be replenished through snow and other precipitation.

The best part?

The saying goes on.

"March comes in like a lion, leaves like a lamb."

Something to look forward to, for sure!


Snow Blanket

It's easy to think of cold, icy, snowy wintery weather as being unpleasant. To a garden, it is a much appreciated blanket of insulation.

Much like an applied mulch, snow insulates plants, and bee hives, from bitter, fluctuating temperatures. When temperatures vary, it causes bees to break from their cluster and consume more honey. It also causes plants to heave out of the ground. 

As snow melts, the additional moisture keeps plant roots hydrated and alive until spring, when they seem to turn green overnight.

My bees, and new raised bed vegetable garden, are nicely tucked in.

Is your garden covered in snow?


Mystery Guest Solved

It's snowing February 16, 2015 in the Missouri Ozarks, a wonderful day to be tucked in at home with a pot of homemade soup on the stove and a pile of favorite bird books nearby.

It's also one of my favorite times to watch my garden and see what visitors come in and fly by.

One of the mysteries I wanted to solve was what birds have been using my tiny ront porch outside my front door. Over summer, I found shelled sunflower seeds scattered under my swing. Then earlier today, I saw several birds flying off before I could reach a window.

After tucking a camera in my pocket and waiting for calm to resume, I caught this bird comfortably settled on my porch swing.

Do you recognize it?

It's a mourning dove, with the most beautiful feathers when it settles in the sun. There is a bevy of them usually in my garden, sometimes just roosting on a tree limb outside my living room window.

Of course, as my brother David would suggest, but then again, maybe this bird isn't the one that has been on my deck...


Easy Gift Flower Vases

Sometimes I don't have a flower vase available when I want to give flowers as gifts.

Thank goodness for my love of asparagus and other canned vegetables. The skinny tall cans, once the identifying paper is removed, make handy gift flower vases. Easy way to recycle and be trendy with vegetable can clean lines as home decor.

I had about 5 minutes to re-cut flowers stems and find a vase before sprinting off as a dinner guest. Having a couple of these cans stashed away for quick use comes in handy.

Add a little ribbon at the top to cover the identifying batch numbers if you don't like seeing them. I would have, too, if I could have quickly found my ribbon box but I didn't want to be the late dinner guest!


Are Mums Dead?

And since I was just sharing how to pull mums through winter, don't think your mums are dead because the top looks all dried out.

In photo, three mums fronting the sidewalk bought on sale and planted last fall look ready for the compost heap.

When looking under the dead branches, green sprouts are starting to show.Most mums, and most flowers in the right growing conditions, will start leafing early spring at the bottom of last year's plant.

Leave the dead part top on so you can easily locate the plants in spring and check for new growth. If then you see the roots are dead, remove them. If you do it now, you may be killing a perfectly good plant!


Pulling Mums Through Winter

Did you plant chrysanthemums last fall? Autumn is the most popular time of year of the four seasons to plant them but not necessarily the best time for the plants.

Chrysanthemums are one of the most hardy cut flowers. It's why most florists use them to fill up flower arrangements and bouquets. They do need a little special care and are well worth it.

To help your mums pull through winter, make sure the plants are kept moist. Water the plants 1-2 times a month by pouring a good gallon of water around roots.

Keep mum roots mulched to minimize changes in temperature causing the roots to literally heave out of the ground.

Here are a couple of mums I bought for 25-cents last fall that are making it so far through our Missouri winter by getting water and being mulched.

From the top it looks like the plant is dead. Plant starts, however, are peeking out from the sides.

By keeping roots moist, plants will be ready to grow as soon as temperatures warm up. The full season of growth will make them stronger for fall blooms and you should now have repeating blooming chrysanthemums.