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Air Plants

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Air Plants

Most of our outdoor chores are done and it’s time to bring a little more life indoors!  Air Plants aka Tillandsia are lovely little plants that take little effort but you need bright indirect sunlight for them to thrive and, of course, they need some moisture., especially with our drier indoor air during the winter months. They’ll need water 2 to 3 times a week.  Either dunk the entire plant in tepid water for up to an hour or mist the plant until it’s dripping wet.

air plants

Air plant - Ionantha Guatemala

Air plant – Ionantha Guatemala

Air plants from Air Plant Supply Co.

Air plants from Air Plant Supply Co.

The finer the leaves the more frequently you’ll need to mist.  Green-leafed types also need more moisture than those with silvery foliage.  If the leaves are curling or shriveling, they need water.  these plants need no soil, in fact, if you plant them in soil, you’ll kill them.  Many garden centers or floral shops carry air plants but you can also order online.

Air plant - the little plant on the side is called a pup

Air plant – the little plant on the side is called a pup

The containers you place them in are vast.  I’ve seen them in everything from galvanized pipe from the hardware store to an embroidery hoop.  Use a piece of wire to hold the plant against the fabric.  Organic Gardening magazine suggests an old candlestick holder, a wine cork with one end hollowed out  or even in an eggshell sitting on a napkin ring.

air plant in cork

You can even use a hot glue gun to glue these plants onto anything glue sticks to!!  It won’t harm the plants.  Check out pinterest and google images.

air plant cork ball

Air plants



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Soothing salts

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show: Soothing salts

Ahhh, soothing bath salts!  Another hostess gift idea.

Bath salts - lavender and rosehips

Historically baths were a way of treating ailments..  Holistic practitioners  use salt and herbs for a number of maladies.  There are different types of salts as well.  Epsom is probably the most popular and the one we’ll focus on. It’s actually magnesium and sulfate, minerals known for their medicinal value as well as beauty and garden products.

Bath salts - types

To make a bath salt, start by measuring the salt into a glass or stainless steel bowl.  Add the essential oil, adjusting the amount for a lighter or stronger scent.  Mix thoroughly.  Stir in the herbs, reserving a few for decoration.  Pour into a pint jar.  Place reserved herb sprigs or petals on top of the salt before sealing the jar.

Bath salts - making

Epsom salt, lavender, rosehips

Bath salts with essential oil

Lavender, rosehips and lavender essential oil

For invigoration:

mix 2 cups salt with 4 to 8 drops of peppermint essential oil and 1 or 2 tablespoons dried rosemary leaves.

For sore muscles:

Mix 4 to 8 drops of wintergreen or lemongrass essential oil ( or a mix of the two) with 2 cups salt and 1 to 2 tablespoons of dried lemon verbena leaves.

For relaxation:

2 cups salt mixed with 4 to 8 drops of essential lavender oil and 1 or 2 tablespoons of dried lavender flowers and rosebuds.  I was able to use the lavender from my own garden as well as the rosebuds.

You can add beet powder for festive color.  It won’t stain you or your tub!

I found this site that has a lot of information about Bath Salts and other simple home products to add to your bath for a variety of reasons!  Salt Works

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Infused sugars

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Infused Sugars

This time of year our calendars start to fill with party dates.  Hostess gifts are sometimes one of those last minute thoughts.  Today I thought I’d give you a little prompt and suggest some fun, easy  yet thoughtful ideas.

Infused sugar - lavender essentials

Infused sugars.  A sweet small token of appreciation in a cool looking jar.  Start with organic sugar and a dried herb or spice.  I buy at our local coop.

Infused sugar - lavender

Combine the sugar and herb or spice into an airtight container in a 2 to 1 ratio of sugar to spice.  Approximately.  Some of those herbs/spices do not need to be that strong!  Experimentation is the key.

After about 2 weeks, the sugar will be infused and it will keep well for at least 3 months.  There are lots of herbs and spices that go well with sugar.

  • Vanilla, use vanilla bean
  • Mint, dried any kind
  • Orange or lemon peel
  • Dried rosehips (although I’ve heard people using the petals and didn’t like it)
  • Lavender
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Nutmeg
  • Cayenne
  • Juniper berries
  • Chili pepper
  • Fennel seed – tastes like licorice
  • Whatever you can think of!

Infused sugar - orange peel with peeler

You can package your  sweet treat in any number of containers.  The only must is that they be airtight. well, clean too!  Thrift stores are great for finding fun stuff.  Do sanitize the jars.  PS I dried the orange peel and zest in my dehydrator.

Infused sugar - orange

After your sugar has been infused, you can either sift out the herb or spice or leave it in.  I like the way it looks left in the jar.  Add suggestions on the use of the infused sugar and be sure to add that they should sift the sugar if there are large pieces.

  • Sprinkle on sugar cookies
  • Sweeten coffee or tea
  • Sprinkle on fresh fruit
  • Fold into cookie, muffin, cupcake or bread batter
  • Rim a cocktail glass

Infused sugar - vanilla

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Moonlight Garden

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Moonlight Garden

“Walking… after midnight…  in the moonlight… “  I wonder if Patsy Cline enjoyed the flowers in the moonlight?

A moonlight garden can lift your spirits on a gloomy, cloudy day as the flowers stand out best during those days as well as in the moonlight.

Lillium ‘Casa Blanca’

White flowers and light foliage are stunners for the Moonlight Garden.  Here is a comprehensive list of plants that would make “…walking in the moonlight…” garden even lovelier

The Moonlight Garden

This list of plants was compiled by Shirley Mah Kooyman from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum:

Shade (in order of bloom time)

  • Helleborus orientalis – Lenten rose
  • Dicentra spectablis ‘Alba’ – white bleeding heart
  • Astilbe japonica ‘Deutschland’
  • Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ – Japanese anemone (invasive)
  • Tricyrtis hirta – toad lily

Sun (in order of bloom time)

  • Muscari album – white grape hyacinth – very fragrant
  • Anemone blanda – windflower
  • Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’ – snowflake – likes boggy areas
  • Iberis sempervirens – candytuft (part sun)
  • Tiarella cordifolia – foam flower (part sun)
  • Narcissus ‘Thalia’ – white daffodil – very fragrant
  • Narcissus ‘Mt. Hood’
  • Narcissus ‘Erlicheer’ – double flowers, fragrant
  • Galium odoratum – sweet woodruff (part sun) mildly fragrant leaves when dried
  • Iris siberica ‘White Swirl’ – Siberian Iris
  • Aruncus dioicus – goatsbeard (part sun)
  • Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’
  • Lilium ‘Casablanca’ – lily
  • Phlox ‘David’ – mildew resistant – wonderful fragrance
  • Leucanthemum ‘Becky’ – Shasta daisy

Shade – leaves

  • Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White’, ‘Majesty’, ‘E.B. Anderson’ (3 varieties to start!)
  • Hosta ‘Patriot’
  • Hosta ‘Grand Master’
  • Carex siderosticha ‘Variegata’
  • Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ – Japanese painted fern

Sun – leaves

  • Salvia argentea – sage
  • Stachys Byzantine ‘Big Ears’ – lambs ears
  • Artemisia absinthium ‘Lambrook Silver’

This is by no means a complete list but it is a great start!! Try Lilacs too and don’t forget the Malus ‘Doldo’ or ‘Sugar Tyme’ – white crabapple

Malus 'Dolgo'

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Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Permaculture

By now you’ve likely heard the term permaculture but perhaps you’re not really sure what it is.  The word is derived from two words PERMAnent agriCULTURE.



What began as strategies to growing food in a sustainable way has become a movement that, and I quote “encompasses all aspects of how we as human beings can live harmoniously in relation to our Earth and it’s finite resources”.   Putting it more simply, it’s moving more to nature’s rhythms than trying to manipulate nature.

There are MANY ways to permaculture, sustainable living.  For me, it’s about growing all kinds of edible plants and that includes plants for wildlife.  Also planting certain types of plants to attract good bugs, the kind that eat the bad bugs!

Below are pictures of ‘Edelweiss’ and ‘St. Croix’ grapes and ‘Summercrisp’ pears from my former home.

Grapes 'Edelweiss' and 'St. Croix'

Grape harvest 12 lbs

Pear 'Summercrisp'

I’m not talking about ripping out your entire lawn, unless you have a lot of ambition, but slowly, as you change your landscape, think about the broader concept of sustainability.  Rather than use chemicals to kill unwanted pests, plant plants that attract the good bugs.  Raise a few chickens that will keep the pest population down and provide you with eggs for a few years, then meat for stew or soup.  There’s a new book for those of us new to permaculture called “The Vegetable Gardeners Guide to Permaculture” by Christopher Shein.  It’s an easy to use, unintimidating guide for those who want to dip their toes into the movement of an edible landscape. This isn’t about working harder, it’s about abundant food with modest effort.

The vegetable gardener's guide to permaculture


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Festive winter containers

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Festive winter containers

I get excited to swing by my local nursery and purchase spruce tops, cedar branches, winterberry holly, pine cones or any number of fabulous finds.

winter container 2013

But I really love those interesting finds in my yard (or the neighbors!):

  • Twisty lilac branches
  • the winged burning bush branches with some berries left on
  • seed pods
  • ornamental grasses
  • sedum
  • hydrangea
  • smokebush
  • some funky lookin’ galls
  • papyrus grass (from annuals I dried out)

spray paint

They can be spray painted or left au naturel!  It’s tough to see in the pic below but I have  smokebush branches, burning bush, miscanthus grass, goldenrod gall fly homes, sedum and lilac branches that I spray painted in with the main feature – a Spruce Top.  I’ve also got cedar and pine branches stuffed in to cover up the soil.

Cedar with berries

Festive container

To build your beauty, start with soil in your pot, add the Spruce Top for beauty and height, secure it by adding more soil and tamping that down well.  Add water to help the process, but there’s no need to continue to water it!Then place the other elements (I used cedar and pine branches) around the base to cover up the soil and “soften” the look of the hard ceramic surface of the pot.  Then move up putting in elements of odd numbers.  Your display will last all season unless the winter winds and snow are allowed to take it out!

lighted container

The above pic is from last year.  I will post more as I continue to create them.  My week ran away from me and I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped!!  ;-)

winter container 2013 a


By the way, you can save a LOT of money by using the odds and ends you find in your own yard and being just a little creative.  Spray paints come in lots of colors and are not that spendy.  I also buy my pots at the end of the season and can usually get really good mark downs.

New glazed ceramic pot

And I discovered this fruit filled bird bath!  They’ve added cranberries, orange slices and, it appears to be peach slices and froze them in!   fruit filled bird bath small

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Amaryllis by mornin’…

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Amaryllis

Amaryllis is where I’ll stay… sorry for my singing!  ;-)

Amaryllis 'Flamenco Queen' - Colorblends.com

‘Flamenco Queen’

What are the holidays without Amaryllis?  Not quite as pretty!  And what a spectacular hostess gift!!

Amaryllis Bulb - Colorblends.com

  • Choose large, firm bulbs – grapefruit size will give you the most blooms for your buck
  • Before bloom, keep your Amaryllis in a sunny window away from cold drafts.
  • when the flower buds start to show color, move your plant OUT of direct sunlight to a bright, indirect sunlit area
  • water well, letting the water drain out the bottom, then let it dry out before watering again.
  • cooler temps in lower light levels will prolong the blooms
  • Once the bloom is gone, you can treat it like a sun-loving houseplant.
  • cut the blooms off so they don’t form seeds
  • leave the foliage till it’s yellowed
  • when it warms up in Spring, you can plant your amaryllis, pot and all, in a sunny spot
  • bring back into the house before the first frost
  • store in a dark closet with no water for 8 to 12 weeks, letting the bulbs rest
  • When new growth starts, repeat above process!

‘Ice Queen’

Amaryllis 'Splash' - Colorblends.com


Amaryllis 'Faro' - Colorblends.com


These beautiful Amaryllis’ pictures are all courtesy of Colorblends.  Most of them are also available for sale!  I have not yet ordered from Colorblends but my research shows they are in good standing.

Below is their guarantee:

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Blue jays

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Blue Jays

Isn’t it funny how we go to “exotic” places to view birds, when right here we have some beautiful birds!  Wood ducks, pheasants, cardinals, bluebirds and, of course, the bright, brash and beautiful Blue Jay.

Now that’s a stunning specimen!  No one knows fully about the Blue Jays migration.  Some leave for the winter, while others, thankfully, hang around.  Oh, they can eat a lot and may be mouthy, but they also warn smaller birds of dangers.  Blue Jays mate for life and are also responsible for seeding many of North America’s nut trees!

Attract Blue Jays to your landscape by building a nesting shelf in a tree about 12 feet up (make sure you can view them from a window).

For more information and some wonderful pictures click on the link to Cornell University about Blue Jays.

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Field Exercises – healing through nature

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Field Exercises – healing through nature

Today is Veterans Day and I want to honor all those who gave their lives for our Country and for those who have come back from war with injuries that include PTSD, I use that term simply because most folks understand it.  I will say, however, that there are many that disagree with the Disorder piece of it, and would prefer to call it simply Post Traumatic Stress.

pic from book a

The stress of combat and then a return to civilian life isn’t easy but experts are going back to lessons from long ago about the role nature has in healing.  Yesterday I talked with Stephanie Westlund, author of Field Exercises in another show I have called “15 with the Author”.  It’s a much needed look at the healing properties of being in nature, such as in gardening, for our veterans.

Field Exercises

What’s so interesting is how going back to the land, farming or gardening, being it vegetables or flowers or forests, can reduce the feelings of anxiety and stress so often accompanied with traumatic events in a persons life.  Being with animals, horses in particular, also has that effect.

Researchers studying mycobacterium vaccae in soil say that it acts like serotonin.  Gardeners inhale the bacteria, have topical contact with it and get it into their bloodstreams when there is a cut or other pathway for infection.  Early indicators of tests on rats are finding the natural effects of the soil bacteria antidepressant can be felt for up to 3 weeks.  This isn’t pseudo science, these are University based researchers discovering what ancestors may not have KNOWN but rather FELT as they worked and played outdoors.  In the book, Field Exercises, returning soldiers often don’t feel safe but as they walk through gardens, stroll paths through parks or work the soil, a sense of security often settles on them.  Westlund has a wealth of resources in her book.


soldier farming

 God bless our veterans and thank you for your service
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MDA November weed of the Month – Black Swallowwort

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  MDA November weed of the month – Black Swallow-wort

In the continuing series of weed of the month, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is featuring Black Swallowwort.  It’s more graphic name is “dog-strangling vine”.

Black swallowwort

Black swallowwort

It’s a perennial, herbaceous vine that can form large patches and crowd out native vegetation.  Black swallowwort has twining stems up to six feet long.  It has dark green, glossy foliage and star-shaped, dark purple flowers with a yellow center. The flowers are only 1/8 inch in size, and develop into a milkweed pod to disperse its seed by the wind.

black swallowwort flowers


Black swallowwort seed pods

Black swallowwort seed pods

Black swallowwort seeds open

The plant poses plenty of ecological threats to the Midwest. It outcompetes native plants by forming a large root system that exudes chemicals to prevent other plants, such as the native butterfly milkweed, from growing. That means it threatens monarch butterflies by crowding out native milkweed host plants. In addition, female monarchs will lay their eggs on black swallowwort but the plant is lethally toxic to the caterpillars after they hatch and begin feeding.  It can also thrive in wooded areas to form a monoculture in the forest understory.

Black swallowwort swallowing natives

Black swallowwort swallowing natives

Recommended management practices for black swallowwort include the following:

  •         Pulling the plants by hand can be difficult and cause resprouting.
  •         Burning and grazing have not shown to be effective.
  •         Foliar and cut stem herbicide applications can be effective. For specific herbicide recommendations, contact your University of Minnesota Regional Extension Educator.
  •         All management practices for black swallow-wort should include yearly monitoring to ensure the depletion of the seedbank.

To report infestations of black swallowwort or any other noxious weeds on the eradicate list, please notify MDA by email at arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us , or voicemail at 1-888-545-6684 (toll-free).

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