Friday, June 24, 2016

We Must Respect Mother Earth

There is nothing to do to stop corporate rape of the land... there is no way to stop corporations from doing anything they choose to do and the latest is a Wind Turbine Farm 1/2 a mile from my homestead.

I am so sad and tired of corporations thinking that our countryside is something they can just use and discard when they are through with their nasty business. It is Mother Earth... the giver and sustainer of life and I love and respect her.

Disrespect is shown in every action taken of late. In recent memory, the hideous corporate animal feeding lots that treat animals in a deplorable manner arived in the '90's. Then the gas/oil industry shuffled in and drilled then without thought poured toxic black chemicals over formerly pristine farmland.

Next as a direct result of drilling came fracking as chemical and salt water was pumped into our inner Earth to dispose of it after using it with great force to break the rocks within earth to find new pockets of gas. With it injection of this waste water came earthquakes; I just helplessly fill cracks in my walls and straighten pictures each day.

Although they are not new, who thought the wind turbines would take over the state. They are everywhere, and not hidden in uninhabitated farmland as they were originally. They have been shoved down our throats and they are not sitting well... we are choking.

All of this is a true blight on Mother Earth.

There has been no conscious respect of her or us from the city-born corporations... the Earth is not seen as a living entity to them, and they are killing her as we watch and weep.

They are due a smiting... one which is long over due. They deserve one... I am waiting and watching.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fantastic Ferns








Ferns are possibly the oldest plants known to Earth, with the first of this family appearing eons ago in water settings. It took 60 million years for them to leave water to appear in marshlands and many more eons for them begin life standing upright on land. They were on land long before the dinosaurs, making them unbelievably ancient and by the time trees began to flourish, ferns already occupied the forest floor.


Ferns are specialists in adapting to marginal habitats, often succeeding in places where environmental factors limit the success of flowering plants. They may be seen growing in moist shady woodland nooks, remote mountain elevations, dry desert rock faces, bodies of water, or in open fields.


Since the fern is flowerless, reproducing has adapted by producing feathery or leafy fronds which release spores from their undersides. *A spore is a unit of reproduction arising out of a single organism and is used as a mechanism for survival in unfavorable conditions. Ferns also have a self sustainable vascular system for the transport of water and nutrients so they are not as over-simplified as they may appear.


Naturally Ferns figure in folklore with legends about mythical flowers or seeds. In Slavic folklore ferns are believed to bloom once a year during a Mid-Summer night and one who comes upon a 'fern flower' is thought to be guaranteed happiness and riches for the duration of their life. Finnish tradition holds that one who finds and holds the 'seed' of a fern in bloom on Midsummer night will be able to astral) travel to the location where an eternally blazing 'Will o' the wisp' marks the spot of hidden treasure. This spot is protected by a spell that denies access to anyone but the seed bearer, who alone knows of the location.




Among the Native American culture ferns were eaten as greens, boiled into herbal teas, and woven into mats.  Different species were used to treat everything from digestive problems to arthritis and childbirth pains. Virginia moonwort, a type of fern known as 'rattlesnake masterpiece,' was said to cure snakebites and placing it about ones dwelling was said to ward off snakes. Australian Aboriginals used tree ferns to construct dwellings and when dry they harden to the strength of light weight lumber.


Recently there has been a horticultural effort to introduce unknown ferns to gardeners everywhere and this lovely gal is one of them... she made her way into my kitchen this spring and makes me smile everyday.


*Photo: Twisted Lipstick Fern

Monday, June 13, 2016

Celebrate Cannas





The fantastic Cannas have begun their foliage show this year. The spectacular foliage is special for its showy leaves, which arrive at the garden party to provide visual interest before blooming begins. A faithful flower, they will bloom from spring until early frost if spent flowers are removed to prevent formation of seed pods.

 

The Canna has been the subject of hot botanical debate for years with each continent hoping to take credit for its origin. However it belongs to us alone as it has never been unearthed during archaeological excavations anywhere but on our North American continent. Mentioned in exploration documents in 1576, it was formally introduced to Europe in 1856 where it was named for the Celtic word for cane or reed.

Rather ominously, on our continent the Canna was once called 'Indian Shot' as their small, hard, round seeds resembled the home-made lead shot used in shotguns prior to the twentieth century. The unusual seeds were also used in making jewelry and many attractive antique necklaces contain them, either dyed or natural. Because of this impenetrable seed, the Canna is the only plant in which hibernation of seed is known to occur.

Typically in hot red, orange, yellow, or combinations of the three, hybrids have produced a dazzling array of colors and heights for this exotic and exquisite species. They are natural pollinators and attract both hummingbirds and butterflies making them a welcome addition to every garden. An additional plus is the fact if they are left undisturbed they will bloom faithfully for many carefree years.

Of note is the underground rhizome which contains the largest starch particles of any plant, allowing its agricultural use. Its leaves may be made into paper, its stem fiber is equivalent to jute, its seed provides a lovely natural purple dye, and its flowers have also been fermented to produce alcohol. Smoke from its burning leaves is said to be an insecticidal, and with the Zika virus arriving in
Oklahoma, perhaps sacrificing a few leaves to stave off mosquitoes would be a worthwhile endeavor.


I imagine a pioneer lady making this natural necklace to wear!
Can you see the Canna seed pods?





Horn Canna Farm, located on 120 acres outside of Carnegie in Caddo County, Oklahoma boasts the largest collection of Cannas in the world. Founded by Neil and Louise Horn in 1928, it is truly remarkable and will be hosting its 30th Annual Canna Festival on September 24, 2016. The gardens will be open for free visitation with over a million breathtaking Cannas in full bloom. I highly recommend a tour of the gardens…remember to mark your calendars for it is indeed fabulous.

Photo: Dwarf Pink Sunburst with show stopping foliage!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Scented Bloomers





Datura, or Moonflower, chose the pasture... Lovely.

Often descriptions in a book stand out and become sensually very real. The novel 'Love in the Time of Cholera' written by the late Gabriel José Márquez, a Colombian novelist, is among the best for descriptions of scent. As one walks through the iron gates of his imaginary court yard, the bustling, odor-filled, turn of the century South American village disappears and his garden is filled with delicious scent described so well that one travels on a journey of wonder.




Since gardens are created for enjoyment, one must not forget the pleasure of an evening stroll filled with the night bloomers scent gently wafting through the moonlight. There is still time to plant a few to enjoy through out the summer into fall. And although scent has given way to form in recent years, there are still some old fashioned flowers available that have retained this charm.





Many of the marvelous evening bloomers are white to attract the night flying moths who feed on their nectar and pollen. Datura, or Moon flower as we call it locally, can still be planted to establish itself for next year. It will bloom a with few trumpet shaped, lemony smelling flowers by late August but the tuber will establish itself over the season. If started now, next year it will bloom by May and last through fall. Remember that it is poisonous so plant it where it may not be ingested by children or pets. Pick a place where it has room to grow to the size of a medium shrub in light shade.





Sweet Autumn Clematis can still be planted and since it blooms in the fall, you will have it to enjoy when other flowers are spent. The white starry flowers are intensely fragrant and beautiful. Four O'Clocks may be planted all season as well. They too become very large over time so planting a few new 'babies' now and again will give fragrant filler at a low level in a garden spot. Nicotiana may still be found at nurseries and although it looks rather tired and spindly in the two inch peat pot, it will fill out in your garden and bloom all summer, filling the evening with sweet scent.





Still available as well is Garden Heliotrope. Growing up to five feet tall with blossoms that exude fragrance after dark, it is always a hit. Some say it smells like vanilla, others say apple pie. Regardless, it produces one of the sweetest fragrances and its tiny flowers, in a range of pink to deep purple, add a splash of color.




Lastly is Evening Primrose with such a delicate sounding name for a rather weedy looking plant. Their large yellow flowers begin to exude an outstanding aroma by evening, making them an absolutely stunning addition regardless of their rag-tag appearance.



Take an evening walk, listen to the winged night fliers, bask in the moonlight; it is Summer and it will be gone before we blink twice.

Monday, May 30, 2016

There is Still Time to Plant Herbs

To the Left: Rosemary, Spearmint and Oregano~
This year consider the legendary uses of herbs and perhaps select a few to include in the scope of your garden. Selection should include herbs for making tea. Tea is second only to water as the most consumed beverage in the world. Herbal teas made from dried fruit, flowers or herbs that have been collected from the garden are lighter and more flavorful than traditional tea.



Legend says the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was boiling drinking water one day in 2737 B.C. when some leaves from a tea plant fell into the water. The emperor drank the mixture and declared it gave one "vigor of body, contentment of mind, and determination of purpose."


In 400 B.C. the Greeks included herbal teas in their regime of wellness. By 50 B.C. the Romans were collecting and cultivating herbs and by 200 A.D., Galen wrote the first classification system that paired common illnesses with their herbal remedy.


By 800 Monks had taken over the care of the sick and had herbal gardens at most monasteries. Herbalists were promoted and supported by Henry VII in the 1500's by the Parliament while apothecaries (drug stores of the time) were accused of giving substandard care. Charles Wesley gave his endorsement in 1700 when he advocated sensible eating, good hygiene and herbal treatments for healthy living.



In 1800 pharmaceuticals become popular and herbal treatments were designated as cures used for the poor. However as the side effects of drugs began to be documented, herbal remedies came into favor again. The National Association of Medical Herbalists was formed, and later renamed the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH.) By 1900 and the first World War pharmaceutical drugs were unavailable so herbal medicines were once again used.


After the war pharmaceutical production increased and penicillin was discovered. Herbal practitioners had their rights to dispense their medications taken away and then reinstated. The British Herbal Medicine Association was founded and produced the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. People began to express the concern over the large number of side effects and environmental impact of the drugs of the 1950s so herbs once again gained importance. Herbs are an outdoor pharmacy provided to us by the Almighty. Simple grow and easy to make, an herbal tea from the garden is a natural health drink.



Spearmint would be a lovely addition to the herb bed. Used in ancient Rome, the ensuing drink made from dried leaves was said the ‘stir up the mind’. Since it is caffeine-free, an afternoon cup could be savored as valuable ‘pick me up’ that has no side effects.



Chamomile is another lovely plant. Originally from the Nile region of Egypt, it was believed to cure almost any ailment. It has remained a favorite as its true properties relieve anxiety and promote calm. It was the tea Mrs. Rabbit made for Peter as she gently tucked him into bed following his harrowing escape from Mr. McGreggor. In these stressful times a sweetly scented evening cup would be a wonderful way to end the day. The list of herbs and their medicinal qualities is endless... and as close as your garden.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

WWI and WWII... Images of my Father from childhood on.


My Daddy in 1918, at age six, in his WWI uniform...
He was destined for the Military



In the field circa 1940's
He is the one with the cigarette

Thank Everyone For Their Service

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Parekeet and the Frying Pan



Another story: One time when the twins were about 14, meaning Lize was two with everyone else between two years apart, Marshall had trained his parakeet Whitey to do fantastic tricks. As I was frying chicken (!) he brought him in to show me he could do a flip. Well, Whitey took off and landed in the frying pan... with the chicken. I immediately grabbed him and put him in a cup of cold water... he seemed very alert so I thought maybe it was okay however when I checked he was NOT. Everyone was horrified so I made them wait until Michael got home from work so he could check him out. to check him out. He had the kids stay at the house and took him to the barn... he lifted him from the water, noting his legs had fallen off. Whitey 'flew away' down by the barn. Mercifully!


The kids were heartbroken so the next day after Michael left for work I told them to load into the station wagon and we would run to Walmart to get another. Unfortunately, I had not renewed my drivers license for about 6 or 8 years since I never drove... too busy with the 7 kids to drive. It was before seatbelt laws and the mood in the car was excited... Mom was driving!


We were almost to El Reno when I saw the flashing lights of a police car... I was being pulled over. The officer came to my side and asked to see my license because of the 'activity' in the car. The kids looked horrified since they knew I didn't have one, but I persevered grabbing my purse, looking through it, exclaiming, 'Where is my license... did one of you kids take it out of my purse'. I kept looking, under the seat, in the side pocket, in the glove box until he had me get out of the station wagon, now swaying with kids jumping from seat to seat, and come to the cruiser. I got in the cruiser with him, he ran the plates and my name and announced, 'You don't have a license do you? Why did you lie to me'. I told him it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

He told me he could arrest me and put me in jail. I said, 'Officer, do you see that swaying bouncing vehicle with seven crazy children in it? Well, go ahead and send me to jail, that will be fine with me... I could use a rest'. He answered, 'Well I'm not going to arrest you, I'm going to ticket you for no license. Go home now.' (Which I did not!)


As Michael got home from work, the kids rushed to the gate joyfully shouting, Mom almost got sent to the slammer!, the Police are after her, and so forth... over and over again. Michael was in shock... I think maybe he grounded me for a week over that fiasco!
*I had to take a test and get a license the next week.




Update on the story:
Update on the parakeet story: Naturally I defied the officer and went to Walmart to get a new Whitey... who was green! (If I had the guts to drive without a license, I would of course defy the officer.)
I had to see him in Court and present my new license, which was traumatic to get... imagine taking the written/driving test again!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

More on Pollen... Tips for Survival





More on Pollen

It must be noted that early buds on the trees arrive with considerable pollen. Without going into intricate scientific explanations, it may be simply stated that the pollen of most trees, shrubs, and grasses is lighter than the pollen of flowers. It may be carried by the wind as high as three miles up and as far as 100 miles from the original plant. Easily inhaled, it is the culprit of the condition called hay fever (or allergies) as it may irritate an individual’s throat and nose.
As way of compensation, the pollen on flowers that arrive later in the season is generally much heavier… meaning it does not tend to blow about with such a vengeance. Thus as the season progresses, misery may ease a bit.

Tips to Survive:
*Do not invite pollen inside by opening doors and windows for fresh air on pretty days… there is no fresh air during pollen season.
*A thorough spring cleaning of the house, top to bottom to remove dust.
*Postponing morning coffee in the garden until after ten when overnight pollen has settled.
*Stay inside on hot, dry, windy days if at all possible…
*Do not hang laundry, especially sheets, on the line as allergens collect on them.
*Wash your hands after playing in the yard, wash your hair before bed, and change your pillowcase daily.
*Be aware of high mold spore counts after a heavy rain or in the evening. Dizziness and/or blurry vision are clues the spore count is high.

*Hydration is very necessary... and since allergy compounds tend to dry out the system, an increase in water is a total necessity. I read of an account during the war in Iraq where soldiers were in confinement when one had an allergic reaction and was unable to breathe. Another soldier provided him with water and told him to keep drinking it until he could catch his breath... it worked and he totally recovered in several minutes. If going outside take a glass of water with you and sip it often.

If necessary, take a medication for Allergies: 
For basic relief, take an Antihistamine. There are many kinds of antihistamines, most of which do not require a prescription. The antihistamines that have been around for a long time are called first-generation antihistamines which have been used for many years and are considered safe and effective. Some of the best-known ones are Benadryl, Demeaned, Chlor-Trimeton and Zirtec-D. The main negative to these antihistamines is that they cause most people to become sleepy, however this effect may be modified if one takes a low dose headache remedy containing caffeine, which combats the drowsiness with no ill effects.
A Decongestant such as Sudafed opens up the nose, makes breathing easier, and reduces drainage. The decongestants tend to be a stimulant for many people so when using combination of antihistamine and decongestant, the decongestant helps to counter the sedating characteristic of the antihistamine.
Note:
Second-Generation Antihistamines such as Allegra and Claritin do not cause drowsiness, but are much more expensive with Allegra requiring a prescription.  Loratdine does not require a prescription, is easily available, and the site suggests it as one of the first things to try when having allergy problems.

Scientists assure our species will adapt to the ‘new’ environment and survive. I certainly hope they are correct... if they are not, the plants shall inherit the Earth.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Super Pollen

Last week National Public Radio news reported an incident which occurred at a Western Oklahoma school involving students on a playground suddenly having difficulty breathing. They were of various ages, playing totally different outdoor games so there was no interconnection between them. They began gasping, several collapsed, while others were transported to the hospital on oxygen. After initial investigation by authorities, environmental scientists were called in for an official opinion.




The incident was caused due to a strong wind blowing over an adjacent wheat field causing wheat pollen to be blown to the playground. Experts hurried to explain it was the new and improved 'super pollen'... the wind had provided a pollen tsunami. In 2011 scientific articles on the effects of Global Warming were published by experts who predicted pollen will increase to the status of 'super' in the coming years... and thus it has.


In spite of many gardeners (myself included) who resisted the notion of genetically modified seeds with the dramatic increase of world population it has been necessary to improve production of crops lest millions of people starve. However the natural evolution of our scientific efforts to boost production has been that crops are two steps ahead of us. It takes but six generations for wheat to adapt and produce seeds which are unaffected by roundup, a chemical herbicide which should ordinarily kill them. For self preservation, plants have super activated their 'immune system' and are producing pollen which will ensure their survival... this pollen is far more potent than the pollen of yesteryear.


Additionally, experts conclude increased emissions of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by fuel propelled autos, airplanes, and large machinery have aided in plant adaptation. Since plants and grasses utilize carbon dioxide in the production of their food, the theory is that plants and grasses are now receiving the equivalent of daily doses of fertilizer. Gardeners who supply fertilizer in regular intervals know their plant life is rejuvenated by such applications so the theory is not off base.


Government research on Ragweed, the major culprit of allergens in the fall, indicate it produces more pollen and larger pollen as the growing season lengthens and the carbon dioxide levels rise. According to the US Agriculture Research Service, Ragweed already produces 131% more pollen now as opposed to a hundred years ago. Their projection was that by 2050 the percentage number would rise to an alarming 320% however this research has been modified and this percentage number will be reached by 2017.


Research also indicates trees and grasses, the prime sources of allergy misery in the spring and summer, also are in the process of becoming super pollinators.
Information is best utilized to protect our young and elderly who are our most vulnerable... perhaps stay inside during one of our new 'super wind' storms.
Photo: Blowing pollen

Friday, May 13, 2016

My Day in the Garden... where did I leave stuff?

I wrote this a good ten years ago, but it still rings true today... I'm still hanging on!




                                                My day in the Garden


This is how my gardening days usually go lately; I can’t find anything in the yard anymore. I spend all my time looking for lost tools. I’ll prune something, stack it then drop the pruners to carry off debris, planning to return momentarily. I see something else on the way back to the pruners and become distracted from the pruning job.


A large clump of grasses or weeds lurking amongst the flowers catch my eye. I weed a bit then I begin to look for the rake to rake the weeds and grass I’ve just pulled before they can rebound and reroot. On my way to find the rake I see a lily with a heavy head that needs to be staked. I remember a stake is on the spent Iris so I go looking for it. I finally locate it then stake the plant.


Then I remember, as I see the wilting weeds, I am looking for the rake. I finally find it in some obscure place then rake the weeds into a pile. I need my gloves to pick up the pile so I go to the garden table to get them. Not there. I remember I took them to the house so they would not get rain soaked, so I go to get them on the ledge on the porch. Bingo. Gloves on I now pick up the weeds. 


As I am carrying them off I see a six pack of wilting Petunias that desperately need to be put in the ground. I need my trowel. Hmmm? I look for one of my three trowels and finally find one in the herb bed where I was digging grass days ago. I plant the Petunias then notice something that needs to be pruned. I can't remember where I left the pruners, it’s getting hot, I’m beginning to sweat and need a drink of water.  I’ve gone full circle so no wonder I'm tired at night.


Now if I could get an uninterrupted night’s sleep! **Eyes fly open at two in the morning....riddled with guilt. I forgot to water-in the damn petunias!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Majestic Magnolias




 

The weather of late has produced the most beautiful long-lasting flower show we have had in many years. The Redbud bloomed for a full month, followed by the Flowering Quince and various Weigela. The Jonquils and Tulips were spectacular as well with the early and late blooming varieties providing glory to excite us about every aspect of spring. The marvelous iridescent Iris, with their spectacular form and colors are still filling gardens with their sweet scent. The Poppies are swelling and the Larkspur have begun to produce tiny bunny rabbit flowers dancing along their delicate stems.  In spite of the storms, it has truly been a spring to relish!

 

The flowers on the majestic Magnolia have begun to swell and soon their marvelous scent will fill the air. Traditional in the deep South, the marvelous Magnolia is well suited for Oklahoma. Their deep green leathery leaves have a slightly fuzzy taupe underside and remain evergreen all year... as with most hard wood trees, their growth is slow. . The oldest Magnolia on record is 136 years old and lives in Cleveland Ohio.

 

Asian species were introduced to the Americas in 1780 where they were carefully cultivated to produce superior creamy white flowers with a deep lemony scent. In spite of their sturdy appearance, the showy flowers are quite fussy and must be handled without touching the petals to avoid discolored bruising that will inevitably occur. For this reason they do not fare well in arrangements but are rather cut with a short stem and ’floated’ as a single specimen in a large shallow bowl or vase.

 

The leaves of the Magnolia are prized as no other species of tree. They are traditionally used decoratively... most importantly during December festivities. The large leathery leaves may be cut at their peak and perfectly preserved with glycerin. Glycerin is an organic emollient that may be absorbed through the stems of the leaves to preserve their freshness.


 I remember my Mother going on quests for perfect leaves… driving about neighborhoods then politely asking complete strangers if she could have ‘a few leaves from their lovely tree‘. Perhaps it was her sweet low-country Carolina drawl or her charm that made people pleased and even flattered to gift her batches of their leaves!

 

To preserve the leaves use one part glycerin to two parts very hot water. Put the glycerin solution in a short plastic wastebasket, cut the magnolia leaves with suitably long stems and pound the bottom of them to open the major artery before submerging the stems in the liquid.

 

The Magnolia leaves will ‘drink’ the glycerin and slowly change from green to a gorgeous chestnut color. It takes three to five weeks for the leaves to absorb the glycerin and when the leaves begin to feel flexible it is time to remove them. They must be hung upside and allowed to dry completely before use.

The stunning painting by American artist Martin Johnson Heade is titled 'Magnolia on Red Velvet' circa 1885

Monday, May 2, 2016

Ladybugs and Aphids




Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Aphids...and Ladybugs

Happy May! The lovely spring weather has been absolutely perfect this year with 'April showers bring May flowers' as our motto. The cool mornings with the nice slow warm-up throughout the day has been the gardeners dream!

 Unfortunately the cloudy days have been the impetus for rapid aphid reproduction... bright daylight tends to impede it. Aphids are known throughout the world as perhaps the single most destructive pest known to both farmers and gardeners alike. They arrive in the spring and with the damp and favorable conditions this year they seem to be in great abundance, making their presence known throughout all of central and western Oklahoma.
Known as plant lice, greenflies, or blackflies they are small sap-sucking insects who will literally suck the life out of plants. A little known species of the aphid family is the white or wooly fly, that tiny dab of white thread-like fluff that jumps when you jiggle the plant they are resting upon. Fossils indicate that Aphids have been present for 280 million years and today there are approximately 4,000 aphid species found throughout the world. These monsters can migrate great distances by riding on winds looking for a fresh food source... one of our lettuce aphids arrived on the wind from Australia.

As with most invasive garden pests, aphids are extremely adaptable to ever-changing conditions. In fact if a host plant becomes ill or conditions become overly crowded, some aphids are able to spontaneously sprout wings to fly to a new food source. They have specialized mouth parts that enable them to stick a straw-like mouth piece into a plant stem and begin sucking the protein from it, therefore making it ill. They secrete a chemical that allows for free flowing fluid from the plant while exuding droplets of a quick-hardening fluid that surrounds their body with a shell for protection.


During feeding Aphids also produce a fluid called 'honeydew' which is a sticky goo which may be found on any surface where aphids have resided. An unusual side effect of this substance is that when it hardens it turns black creating a sooty mold fungus... roses are the most frequent victims.
This honeydew is a food source for several  species of ants who actually 'farm' the aphids, causing them to produce honeydew by a process of 'milking' by a stroke of their antennae. These ants manage thousands of aphids which are called herds and to assure survival of their food source, the ants gather aphid eggs and protectively store them for the winter. In the spring, the ants carry the newly hatched aphids back to the plants to settle in and once again become their grocery store. (*Sarcastic note: 'Thanks ants'.)

Heavy aphid infestations will cause leaves to curl, wilt or yellow with stunted plant growth and  aphids can actually cause a plant to die a slow death of dehydration, since liquids have either been drained or compromised. Aphids are simply not allowed in the garden as they provide nothing but destruction... unless you are an ant.


Therefore they must be exterminated and instead of spraying a pesticide which will kill beneficial bees, butterflies, Praying Mantis, beetles and everything else, purchase a flat of lady bugs. Each Ladybug will eat over 75 aphids a day and are able to discover them in their secret hiding places... plus discovering ladybugs in the garden is a delight every child as well as those of us who still retain childish joys!
Photo: Just released Lady bugs here on May Day... they are getting to work!
*They may be ordered online for as little as $12 for 1,200 voracious ladybugs... get some this week.  





Monday, April 25, 2016

Flowering Shrubs and Annuals


An heirloom Spirea from Grandpa Dougherty's (circa 1935)


 

The rains have been a blessing, the countryside is green once again and we are recovering from the drought. Over time as the drought intensified, many of us lost favorite flowering shrubs and since Friday is Arbor day, perhaps plant a new one.

 

If the lovely selection of shrubs is reviewed, it becomes evident that one can have scented and flowering beauty all season with very little effort. One of the nicest things about shrubs is after flowering they continue to look splendid for the duration of the season, some with berries which appear from the flowering, some with simply exquisite foliage.

 

The Viburnum species are a marvelous addition. They flower early and fill the garden with the first breath of spring and following flowering they still appear attractive dressed in their verdant finery of bold and interesting leaves. For a late spring bloomer, some Spirea would be a nice addition. With her sweet little clusters of flowers and the tendency to survive extreme temperature, this gem survived the Oklahoma dust bowl and makes a lovely focal point. Later, the Heavenly Bamboo or Nandina would bloom and look divine. With the cream-colored flowers replaced by berries which turn scarlet by Christmas, they have long been a staple in Southern gardens.

 

A few Crape Myrtle would add texture, color and a stunning flowering display for all of August through September and the relatively new Black Diamond is striking with her dark purple foliage. If cut back in the early spring, they will bloom as a shrub rather than become a tree. If the tips are trimmed after the first flowering, they will flower again. Pyracantha make a perfect Halloween display as miniature 'pumpkins' dance along the stems. The list is endless!

 

It is time to plant annuals, those seeded darlings who will provide riotous color all summer, but last only one season. In planting for visual interest it is important to remember to layer by height from the front to the back of the bed. Plan for low growing flowers to be at the front and gradually increase the height to give the visual feel of ‘movement‘.

 

In an area which receives full sun, tiny low growing Rose Moss or Portulaca are both perfect in front, love it hot, require little care and will provide an ever-blooming cheerful spot of color all season. Behind them, perhaps plant the short variety of Marigolds; they do well in the heat and will also help with insect control as they are a natural pesticide. *Note their funky smelling leaves. Next could come some intermediate then tall Zinnias, and the new varieties have an amazing spectrum of colors. Allow the imagination to run rampant and have fun... the bees will thank you!

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Native American Gathering of Nations



We watched 'Dances With Wolves' last evening and it brought back bittersweet memories of our time within the Native American culture of the 1990's. The magic of the culture still existed... the elders were still living and tribal spirituality was an everyday way of life. The open generosity of Native Americans was to be envied for it included the belief that the measure of a person was not what you could amass personally, but rather what you could give to others. To admire a possession belonging to a Native American was for them to bestow it upon you. Condemnation was not in their vocabulary and laughter ran freely. I learned that Pow-Wow's were not a benefit where the promoters made money, but rather an event where they gave all that they could to each person attending asking only for collective prayers for the honoree. 

 

I would arrive at a camp with smoke drifting to the sky in the darkness above tepees, the drum beat as background music of another time, and my heart would leap. It called to me in an unimagined way and I felt at home there. To have been called to the grandstand to be honored and gifted by the Head Lady Dancer before the Gathering of Nations and a crowd of 5,000 Native Americans was truly one of the highlights of my life. The welcoming, the polite introductions, the respect and old fashioned manners reminded me of my childhood in its sense of propriety.

 
However there is another story about me being honored at the Gathering of Nations. Honoring me came as a complete surprise to me and I was totally unprepared.


Minnie Goodbear     
As we entered the camp ground at the Gathering of Nations, I noticed that in addition to the familiar Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal members there were representatives of many Native American tribes I did not know. The regalia is quite different from tribe to tribe so various tribes may be identified by their clothing and bead work, shawls and embroidery, porcupine quills and feathers. The intimidating and traditional Sioux from North Dakota, the Grovan of South Dakota, the Winnipeg from Canada, the austere Pawnee of eastern Oklahoma as well as many other tribes were all gathered there. Since this was not an event for tourists, I was rather intimidated and hoped to blend in as inconspicuously as possible, which is no easy feat since I am so blond. Not particularly dressed for festivities, I moved to a group I knew well and sat down to enjoy the dances. The little girls in their waving shawls imitating butterflies, the men portraying the stampede of the buffalo and the flight of eagle, the women whose feet caressed Mother Earth… all beautiful and exciting.

When it came time for the intermission, I was totally unprepared for my name to be called over the loud speaker requesting for me to come to the front. The grandstand was located at the far most point of the dance grounds and is where the Master of Ceremonies, dignitaries, judges, special elders and chiefs from all the tribes gather to watch and judge the contests. When my name was called, I had to walk the center of an entire length of a football field with 5,000 curious eyes upon me individually! My throat tightened, my knees went weak, my mouth became dry and suddenly I was afraid I would pass out before I reached the front. Walking carefully with each step, head up, wondering if I appeared dignified, wondering if I should smile or look somber, hoping I would not embarrass myself or my friend who was honoring me. Step by step with all eyes on me. For the first time in my life, I was a true minority.

As I had stood to go, I had accidentally stepped on one of my trademark high top Converse shoe strings untying it; unbeknownst to me it was left to dangle and dance with each step I took. With abject horror Michael noticed immediately and watched as the shoe string whipped back and forth, back and forth with each successive step. Later he confessed that he prayed "Please God, don't let her fall, please don't let her fall" as a mantra hundreds of times...one prayer with each of my foot steps.

After what seemed to be a lifetime, I arrived at the grandstand and was greeted by my spiritual sister, Minnie Goodbear, who gave a small speech about me and introduced me to the gathering. Many very important Natives were being honored as well, so I was introduced to each of them. She placed a gorgeous sterling and turquoise necklace around my neck, hugged me, then all the dignitaries shook my hand and welcomed me. When the ceremony was over I was immediately surrounded by people congratulating me and admiring the necklace.

Michael appeared, smiled and nodded to everyone,  and gently took my arm, pulling me aside. He whispered in my ear….. 'For the love of God, tie your damn  shoe string; you almost gave me a heart attack!'

Earth Day, Arbor Day and Rachael Carson


 
This Walnut is embracing a Cottonwood



 “Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heavens.” Rabindranath Tagore

All of us who garden are acutely aware of our environment. As we dig in the soil, we connect with the magical realm of Mother Earth and the results of our work are the rewards bestowed upon us for our efforts. This April, we celebrate monumental efforts made by others to conserve our precious planet.

 

First to be considered is our oldest conservation effort, National Arbor Day, which is celebrated each year on April 22nd, the birthday of its founder Sterling J. Morris. Mr. Morris, the publisher of a Nebraska newspaper, began a campaign to encourage his community in the planting of  trees since the plains of Nebraska were almost treeless. By 1885 Arbor Day was declared a state holiday and now it is embraced by all of the states.

Arbor means tree in Latin. The Arbor Foundation annually gives away thousands of trees to individuals and communities. Many Native tribes planted a tree with the birth of a child and watched as both the tree and child matured... a wonderful custom we adopted.

 
We have Rachael Carson to thank for her efforts to bring to light the hazards of chemical toxicity. A marine biologist by profession, she noted unprecedented losses of plant and animal life and her research concluded it was the result of chemical poisonings. Following WWII,
America embarked on a path of chemical use that was unprecedented and unexplored. Finally banned in 1972, DDT, which killed all insects good or bad, was at first considered a miracle for with it the mosquito became a thing of the past. Neighborhoods full of children were regularly fogged and DDT is now considered one of the most hazardous chemical carcinogens ever created. Ms. Carson lived only a few years past publication of her monumental work ‘Silent Spring’ but her legacy of thoughtful research alerted a grateful nation. The title alone was an ominous prediction of a world without the buzzing of bees, the song of birds, the croaking of frogs, the splash of fish.

 

Following in her footsteps Senator Gaylord Nelson initiated the concept of ‘Earth Day’. By the early 1960’s America’s love affair with chemicals had begun to take a terrible toll. Environmental degradation was becoming astonishingly evident so Senator Nelson first presented his concerns to President Kennedy in 1962. The evidence was conclusive yet the environment would not be on the political agenda for almost a decade. Finally on November 30, 1969, the New York Times ran an article that began “Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation" thus setting the stage for the first official celebration of ‘Earth Day’. It is expected that Earth Day will be celebrated by over 500 million people in 195 countries.


The enormity of this grassroots effort was the impetus in 1970 for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency whose mission is to protect human health and the environment.

Short of planting a tree this April at least hug one!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Transplant Disenchanted Roses




 

Throughout history, mankind has had a love affair with roses and they are perhaps one of the oldest flowering plants. Roses have been found in fossils dating 70 million years ago, indicating that they were growing where the dinosaurs tread.

 

Roses were in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, and their image appears on Egyptian tombs. Roses were a significant part of Chinese medicine and by the Middle Ages they were used medicinally by Monks throughout Europe.

 

Now is the time to check your roses to assess if they are unhappy with their location in the garden. Often trees will grow and filter light and since roses love full sunlight perhaps it is time to transplant your disenchanted garden guest. The rules for transplanting, which means ‘lift, remove, relocate and reset in another place’ are precise:

Prior to transplanting anything, mark the north side of the plant with a string or piece of cloth. After it is dug, place it in the same direction and it will adjust to new surroundings far more rapidly and with greater success than if it is planted in an opposing direction. Additionally, do not apply fertilizer to newly transplanted specimens. To give fertilizer to a recent transplant is akin to giving a man in ICU a three course dinner… it is not a good idea.

 

After choosing a new location dig the hole three times the size of the root ball. Make a small mound in the center of the new hole to prevent air pockets from forming as you plant. To enable you to move the transplant easily perhaps give it a good soaking several days before the dig and try to choose an overcast day when rain is predicted.

 

Dig around cutting in a circle,  lifting and probing occasionally to see if the plant is indeed moving and note where roots may still be anchored. Take as much soil as can be lifted so the root system is least disturbed.

 

 Place your rose slightly higher in the hole as it will settle several inches after planted. The bud system should therefore be an inch above ground level. Point the exposed roots and rootlets outward and add ½ cup of bone meal around the root system. Fill with soil, water well and wriggle to eliminate air pockets, which will bubble up. Lastly prune the spindly growth leaving good strong canes and prepare to enjoy the show later in the season!

*Photo: The Tea Rose I transplanted last spring blooming by July.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Edible Redbud Blooms and Darling Tulips




 

The current chill is exactly what we needed to assure beautiful blooms on the Peonies this year. They need a good dose of cold in order to produce bountiful flowers. Luckily, we lost only a few mid-blooming Jonquils that were in the boot last week.

The fabulous Redbud, our state tree, has begun to bloom and can be seen dotting the landscape everywhere. The delicate lavender and fuchsia flowers dance along the bare branches before the heart-shaped leaves emerge, thus making it one of the earliest signs of spring. The Redbud is an ancient species common in
North America, Europe, Japan, and Asia where it can grow as tall as 40 feet. A European species is called the Judas tree because of the belief that Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ, hanged himself on a Redbud tree. This mistake in species caused a heated debate over making it our State tree, with Oklahoma City resident John Y. Iskian, finally proving that although related, the two trees remained different. Concrete success came on March 30, 1937 when Gov. Ernest W. Marland and the Sixteenth Legislature signed Senate Joint Resolution Five, officially bestowing emblem status and extolling the redbud's historical role of welcome to the "sturdy and hardy pioneers." On June 24, 1971 the redbud became our official tree in a statute signed by Gov. David Hall

 


It is not a well know fact that the blooms are edible. Much like the honeysuckle, they contain one tiny drop of sweetness. The lovely color makes adding them to a salad positively knock out... a plus is the surprise so few know they may be eaten. Native Americans used boiled bark to cure maladies, including leukemia and bows were made of the wood as well.


The early tulips have begun to bloom as well. With over 3,000 varieties available at affordable prices, there are tulips for every taste. Gardeners can plan a continuous spring show by planting several varieties which bloom in successive intervals. The early pastel heirloom, the mid-blooming fragrant ruffled, and finally the late blooming sexy-scalloped parrot will provide continuous flowers for almost a month each spring.


Tulips make lively indoor arrangements and it is delightful to be able to bring cut flowers inside this early in the season. Do remember that tulip stems continue to grow several inches after they have been cut. This is the reason that many tulip displays tend to develop a droop over the edge of the vase after several days. This effect is quite attractive but choose a vase that will allow for dramatic flow.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

In Praise of the Potato




Many of Irish descent planted potatoes on St Patrick's day, in hopes for a blessed crop. Long considered the most perfect food, it is cultivated globally, and the potato has been credited with saving people from the brink of starvation. The failure of the potato crops in Ireland created a famine causing thousands of people to flee that tiny nation in search of food... the Irish immigrants arrived on our shores due to loss of the potato.  



Oddly, the potato is native to Peru with the earliest archaeologically verified tuber remains found in the mountainous central region, dating back to 2500 BC.  Potatoes provided the principal energy source for the Inca Empire and its Spanish successor. In Bolivia and Peru in altitudes above 10,000, tubers exposed to the cold night air are made into chuño. Making chuño, which means frozen potato in Spanish, is a five day process during which the potatoes are frozen for three nights then subsequently exposed to bright sunlight each day. By the end of the process the chuno is chopped and may be stored for years with no loss of nutritional value. Chuño was discovered by the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century and became the diet of the  native silver miners who were enslaved by the Spanish government. The potato was introduced first to Spain and cultivation traveled throughout all of Europe by yhe 1600's, reaching the American shore by 1621 when the Governor of Bermuda sent a chest of them to Jamestown, Virginia. 



Astounding potato news was released last week. A new scientific study is to begin in Lima Peru next month with NASA, the US space agency, aiding Lima's International Potato Center. (CPI) CIP is a nonprofit research facility that seeks to reduce poverty and achieve food security for millions globally. They have chosen the La Joya Pampas, a sector of the Atacama Desert in southern Peru, for an experiment in growing potatoes in harsh conditions. The La Joya Pampas are considered perhaps the driest place on earth... nothing grows and there is no insect or animal life. It was selected because it resembles Mars.



One hundred potatoes were selected for the experiment. Of those, 40 are native to the Andes Mountains, conditioned to grow in different ecological zones, to withstand sudden climate changes, and to reproduce in rocky, arid terrain. Sixty have been genetically modified to be immune to viruses and survive with little water and salt. The head of the experiment, Peruvian Julio Valdivia-Silva is concerned as our cropland disappears due population growth, millions may starve. He is hopeful that perhaps food may be farmed on Mars to feed our ever-growing population. *Vegetable news is rarely exciting, but this certainly is!



Further information on this lovely vegetable, which is truly a gift from God:

*A potato will draw poison from a wound. Michael had an bad toothache once and the dentist put an intricate drain in the wrong place. I had him put a slice of potato on the gum line above the abscess and after about 15 minutes it popped, and (grossly) filled his mouth with the rancid goo. After swishing with hydrogen peroxide, he was good to go.

 

Incas had many uses for the potato:

Placed raw slices on broken bones to promote healing

Carried them to prevent rheumatism

Ate with other foods to prevent indigestion.

Measured time: by correlating units of time by how long it took for potatoes to cook.

 

Other uses of the potato follow:

Treat facial blemishes by washing you face daily with cool potato juice.

Treat frostbite or sunburn by applying raw grated potato or potato juice to the affected area.

Help a toothache by carrying a potato in your pocket.

Ease a sore throat by putting a slice of baked potato in a stocking and tying it around your throat.

Ease aches and pains by rubbing the affected area with the water potatoes have been boiled in.

Place potato slices on the eyes after receiving welders flash to reduce pain and swelling.
*Photo Credit: The Smithsonian.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Art of Weeding




Over the weekend Spring entered the garden in all of her glory. The cool mornings and warm afternoons have provided the sort of weather which makes one rush outside to smell the newness of the season and watch as tender baby leaves unfurl in a time-lapse moment. One can smell the sweet scent of flowering shrubs wafting through the air with each soft breeze. Spring is truly a treat for all of the senses!

 

It is time to address the weeds, which seem to be crashing the garden party like a drunken, raucous crowd. To the novice gardener, weeding is simply the removal of unsolicited and untidy plant material which invades the garden uninvited, overpowering and bullying the true guests. All gardens must be weeded however there are many theories on how to achieve success without repeat effort. Chemicals aside, informed personal effort is the only answer. 

 

There are the die-hard pioneers who believe that hoeing is the only answer and that hoeing is manly. (It is!) Hoeing is primarily used in the vegetable patch to remove weeds in a crowded space; the hoe can get in and about the vegetables easily without harming them.

 

There is an art to properly using a hoe, which must be sharpened and oiled before use each spring. The hoe, like a good knife, is a balanced tool and this balance allows the gardener to literally drop the weight of it on the intruder without much physical effort.  A gentle rhythm is used and is almost like a dance…slowly lift-drop, lift-drop. Experts at hoeing are often amused by those who use a frantic chopping-action, which is not only a waste of energy but also has employed the human back to do the job of a expertly maneuvered hoe.

 

For the flower garden, hand removal is the only logical answer. To truly remove weeds it is necessary to trace the stem of the weed below the ground to the base of origin, follow the outlying roots with the finger tips, then remove all of it in a slow steady pulling motion, root and all in its entirety. It is difficult to feel the root system wearing gloves so many gardeners chose to weed gloveless, which will likely produce a 'green thumb' stain.

 

Weeding can be an almost a Zen-like activity, calming, unrushed, and quieting. When the soil is moist and the weather not too hot, it can be a perfect way to spend an afternoon. 


*Tip: Removing the unwanted finger stains is easy if one simply adds a tablespoon of sugar when washing hands with soap and water. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Living Simply


Living Simply: A Personal Choice


Each of us have a choice how we live our lives. Simplicity suits me and was relatively easy for us. Since 1983 my personal ’statement’ to save our planet was to shop carefully. I have found that clothing, household items, cooking utensils, decorating items, shampoo, cosmetics, or anything else can be foraged outside of a conventional store for a fraction of the cost. So I shop yard sales when they are in season, decent thrift shops, community sales and auctions... and sometimes you are rewarded.

At yard sales I meet new people, chat, and look at gardens while I browse, often coming away with the gift of a plant or cutting. I enjoy the limited selection and the feeling I am shopping an outdoor bazaar. I also find it amusing to ‘study’ people conducting a sale by looking at their books, which are a profile of their personality… like the little old lady who was selling the 'Harrad Experiment' or the Bible thumpers who read nothing but Satanic novels. Often I am amazed. The man who sold his great-grandmother’s rocking chair for $40 was an enigma, the one who sold the canon ball that removed his great grandfather's leg in a Civil War battle for $5 was as well. A clock belonging to a deceased maiden aunt and her 1930's Cuban Crocodile purse, both for $10 were a surprise as was the signed Houdon statue for $50.  


When I shop this way, I (purposefully) don’t pay taxes since taxes have already been paid on what I buy, which is a statement unto itself... and I pay about 5 cents on the dollar.
We can each make a difference in our own way… and sometimes, after many, many years...the garage sale gods may reward you as they did us with our Houdon, a once in a lifetime find.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Tasty Turnips... another miracle plant.




     Turnips originated in the Mediterranean region and spread from there to the Middle East and western Asia, with European cultivation predating the Middle Ages. They still grow wild in parts of eastern Europe and western Russia. Turnips arrived here early... they were first  cultivated in 1622 Colonial America.

     First described by Theophrastus in 400 B.C. and later by our favorite Greek, Pliny the Elder, turnip cultivation was well established by Greek and Roman times. Low in calories, high in nutrients, turnips were lauded by Pliny who described them as one of the most important vegetables, stating 'it should be spoken of immediately after corn, or the bean, for next to these two productions, there is no plant that is of more extensive use.' Besides human consumption, turnips roots and greens are healthy fodder for farm animals.

     The turnip is a close cousin of cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, argula and kale. This group of vegetables are often overlooked however they have a powerhouse of health benefits. Turnip roots are high in dietary fiber, vitamin C and B6, folate, calcium, potassium, and copper. The greens are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of calcium, iron, and riboflavin, all of which are important for maximum health.

     Turnip sprouts provide high levels of glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds which protect against some forms of cancer and provide antifungal, antibacterial and anti-parasitic benefits. They also contain a category of nutrients called indoles. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, indoles in turnips may reduce the risk of lung and colorectal cancers. A tissue culture study found that brassinin, a type of indole compound, killed human colon cancer cells... turnips may be a miracle cure. *Dr. Pauling was among the first to correlate cancer with diet.


For a nagging cough or at the start of a cold, boil some turnips, strain, then drink the cooled water to eliminate it almost immediately; this drink will also stave off other viral infections. 



     Turnips keep well either harvested and stored in a cool place and they may also be left in the ground and harvested as the need arises. Gowing in uremarkable soils, they have been historically used to staved off famine in turbulent times and they have long been a staple of rural dwellers. They grow well in cool soils so plant some now and they will be ready to harvest in three months...  more may be planted in the fall for an early spring crop.