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Bumblebees, butterflies and thistle

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Bumblebees, butterflies and thistle

I told you just recently how the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee was set to be on the Endangered list.  Well… it’s on a limbo list right now.  With the changing of the Presidential office, a freeze is on for a litany of actions regarding natural resources and the environment.  The bee could still get protection but it’s not clear when.

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

In the meantime, let’s talk pollinator plants.  And, if you can, just lay off the pesticides.  A gardener’s trade-off is allowing nature’s creatures to have a few feasts from the banquet you serve in your landscape!

Don’t be frightened but I’m going to suggest a Field Thistle!  I hear shrieking…  it’s okay, this is not the nasty invasive Canada Thistle I just recently talked about!  This may not be the highlight of your home garden, in fact it’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it’s really a great addition to the outskirts of your landscape offering a place for bumblebees, digger bees and butterflies that include painted ladies and swallowtails.

Field thistle aka pasture thistle

The other wonderful thing about the Field Thistle, aka Pasture Thistle, is that it flowers later in the season when other natives are fading out.  Colors range from purple to white.  Minnesota wildflowers

It is a biennial, which means that it grows the first year, flowers the second year and then dies.  But there’s no need to replant, this baby drops seed which sets the whole process in motion for the next years and soon, you have flowers every year from the different plants.

Field thistle with rusty patched bumble bee

You’ll want to plant pasture thistle with other natives, grasses are a wonderful choice, to hide some of it’s less attractive qualities, like dying leaves late in the season.  The pure beauty of this thistle is it’s ability to bring in a wide range of pollinators.

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Eating a rainbow

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Eating a rainbow

Different colored veggies have different nutritional values!  I find that quite fascinating…  I hope I’m not alone in my fascination as I’d like to share it with you.   Nature has provided us with much of what we need.

Pepper - Thunderbolt 2
“What Color is Your Food?” [NDSU]  This article is as loaded with information as our veggies are packed with nutrition.  Here’s a quick overview of what the colors offer:
  • RED – lycopene and anthocyanins – may reduce risk of cancer and heart disease
  • ORANGE/YELLOW – carotenoids – good for your eyes, good for your heart
  • GREEN – lutein – good for your eyes, protect against some cancers
  • BLUE/PURPLE – anthocyanins – antioxidants – reduce risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease
  • WHITE – anthoxanthins – lower cholesterol, blood pressure; reduce stomach cancer and heart disease

Kaleidescope slaw!

Vegetable lentil minestrone soup


There’s red cabbage, carrots, spinach, zucchini, onion, garlic, chickpeas and red and green lentils in this soup!  Stir in tomato sauce and V8 juice, I also added some vegetable broth.  Add basil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste.  I also added some sirachi sauce.  I like a little heat.  Throw it all in the crockpot for about 6 hours, add pasta for the last hour.

Consuming whole foods is really what our bodies were made to eat.  That’s not to say I’m a freak about it but adding more whole foods to your diet and ditching some of the fried foods and sodas isn’t a bad thing!!  ?

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What’s old is new again

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  What’s old is new again

As I pondered what to talk about today, I was struck by a gorgeous lily I just have to share with you.  White Flower Farm sends me emails enticing me to purchase their plants.  I rarely do, not because they don’t have a good reputation but because I try to buy locally.  However, this beauty has me thinking…  It’s a rare find of an old lily that I likely didn’t pronounce correctly in my podcast!  It’s called Lilium auratum var. platyphyllum ‘Gold Band’, it’s from the golden rayed species and it’s a stunner.

Lilium auratum var. platyphyllum

‘Gold band’

Touted as  intensely fragrant, this Species Lily has huge, 10? bowl-shaped blooms with broad gold stripes and a light sprinkling of crimson spots.  It would appear that the crimson spots vary but the bold gold stripe does not.  This plant grows up to 4 feet and blooms in July and August.  It is zone 5 hardy, so you’ll need to give it some protection.  Underplanting to keep it’s roots cool is a good idea too.  Wild geraniums would work well.

Wild geranium aka Cranesbill come in shades of purples and white

Now for something newish, an Astilbe that hails from Japan.  An award-winner, this native of Japan is easily distinguished by its dark foliage. The rich chocolate-maroon leaves provide a high contrast background for the blushed pink, white flower spikes. It’s called ‘Chocolate Shogun’ and it thrives in part shade.

Astilbe ‘Chocolate Shogun’

Astilbe 'Chocolate Shogun'

Astilbe ‘Chocolate Shogun’

The leaves are reminiscent of a ninebark shrub but it’s a herbaceous perennial hardy to zone 4.  It really is grown for it’s deep burgundy foliage, the flowers are more of an afterthought.  With all astilbes, it needs moisture.  Make sure it doesn’t suffer through a drought or you won’t have a plant left.

Astilbe 'Chocolate Shogun' flowers

Astilbe ‘Chocolate Shogun’ flowers

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Zone 5 coreopsis and chrysanthemum

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Zone 5 coreopsis and chrysanthemum

With the ridiculously warm weather recently, in fact, one the warmest overall winters we’ve seen, I’m getting a little giddy about perennial plant possibilities, although slightly nervous as I see trees and shrubs budding out already!  I live in zone 4b but with this warmth, I thought I’d take us through a little stroll around zone 5 perennials.

I love coreopsis for their carefree-blooming from early summer into fall.  Just give them some sun and let them produce!  The “Big Bang” series offers some great choices, such as ‘Cosmic Eye’ – gold centers are surrounded with a band of deep burgundy that reaches toward the sunny yellow tips.  This plant reaches 12 to 15 inches and would be a great border plant.

Coreopsis ‘Cosmic Eye’

‘Full Moon’ is a medium size plant at 18 to 24 inches with large canary yellow flowers that can reach 3 inches across.  ‘Full Moon’ is heat tolerant and would make a lovely compliment to ‘Cosmic Eye’.

Coreopsis ‘Full Moon’

‘Star Cluster’ is a stunner with Creamy white flowers with a gold button center but in cool weather, flowers have a deep purple eye and are faintly dusted on the edges with purple.

Coreopsis ‘Star Cluster’

You’re set for summer bloom, now what about the Fall!  Nothing says fall like Chrysanthemums.  There are lots of varieties for cool climates and now, you have even more choices!  A unique option is called ‘Matchsticks’,  The quilled petals are golden yellow with red  and they sparkle like matchsticks. The plants grow in neat, tightly branched clumps and need no staking. They’re easy to grow and look great with other fall bloomers like asters and sedums. Great patio planter too!

Chrysanthemum ‘Matchsticks’

Leucanthemum superbum ‘Aglaya’  it’s also labeled a chrysanthemum in some catalogs.  It is zone 4 but worth a mention for it’s double filled center with frilly snow white petals.  It grows to 28 inches tall with strong stems and has a mounding habit.




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To soil or not to soil

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  To soil or not to soil

There are so many soils and soilless mixes on the market, which do you choose for repotting or potting your new plants?

soil, perlite, fish emulsion

What’s the function of soil aka potting media?

  • to anchor the roots
  • provide nutrients to your plant
  • offer good drainage

Ideally your mix will be part pasteurized soil, organic matter like compost or peat moss and drainage material like perlite or coarse sand.  This mix works for MOST plants.  There are variations to this mix depending on the plant.  The cactus needs better drainage, so the mix would have more perlite or coarse sand in it.

Soilless mixes are lighter and almost always used for seed starting.  Seeds need no nutrients from soil to sprout, they carry all they need within them.  Orchids are an example of plants that use a soilless mix.  Be sure to check your plants preferences or ask the staff at your local nursery what would work best!

Don’t use soil from your garden for houseplants, it doesn’t drain as well.

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Reduce, reuse, recycle, REPOT!

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Reduce, reuse, recycle, repot

Now’s a good time of year to repot those houseplants that have outgrown themselves.  If their roots are coming out the bottom, or have circled around so many times they’ve formed their OWN pot, it’s time!

As you can see from the above picture taken from dummies.com, those roots have circled around themselves and are of no benefit to the plant.  They’re actually strangling it.  They can either be cut off carefully or unwind what you can.  Remove any mushy roots as well.  They will look yellowish or brownish.

Repot in a container that is just one size bigger than the one it’s in.  That means 1 to 2 inches.  Thoroughly water your plant 24 hours before you repot, carefully remove your plant.  Place a coffee filter at the bottom of your new container, this will let the water drain out but the soil will stay.  Fill your new pot with just enough soil to center your plant at the same depth it had been in.  Fill in the sides, tamping the soil and watering.  The fern below could be sliced up (divided) into at least 4 plants!

Water well and keep your plant out of direct sunlight for a few days while your plant gets used to it’s new digs.  For more information and pictures check out Our Garden Gang, this website has some other great information as well.

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Size does matter

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Size does matter

Vegetable garden size, that is!  It’s very easy to get excited about all the veggies and herbs you want to plant but it’s best to ask yourself some questions FIRST.

Raised bed out of control

This is my raised bed 10 years ago!  The nasturtiums went CRAZY from seed.  I planted too much and, although I did several things right, there’s always that last question you might forget to ask yourself!  Such as, in this instance, HOW much can I eat?!?

Keep these things in mind:

  • you need (mostly) Full sun.  As I’ve talked about before, there are vegetables that grow in part shade but if you want tomatoes/peppers, then you need full sun
  • close water source
  • close to your home for quick access and ease of maintenance
  • how much can you REALISTICALLY handle in regard to weeding, watering, harvesting
  • do you want to share your food?
  • do you want to have enough to freeze, can, preserve?
  • how much are you willing to let animals have?!?
  • how will you prevent critters from munching?  Bunnies love beet tops!  One year they ate 2 separate plantings till I bought Plantskydd (granules are best, they don’t smell as much, it lasts for 3 months)

You can see in the photo below that the loose leaf lettuce in the bottom right corner took over the little nasturtium seed… however THAT changed as the season went on!

raised vegetable bed

If you have left over produce, check with your local food shelf about donating!

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Valentine’s Day

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Valentine’s Day

Romantic love wasn’t even mentioned on St. Valentine’s Day until the poem “Parlement of Foules” by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382, however, the celebration of St. Valentine started in 500AD!

Flowers and chocolate became the “norm” of Valentine gift-giving in the 2nd half of the 20th century.  It all started here in the U.S.  thanks to some clever entrepreneurs!

Growing love

Roses aren’t the only flowers!  There are carnations, aka Dianthus, which stands for love.  The darling below is hardy to zone 5.

Dianthus ‘Coconut Surprise’ from Bluestone Perennials

Daisies and Peruvian Lilies.  Sunflowers and Calla Lilies.  BTW, Calla lilies were used to express sophistication and beauty!

Calla lily ‘Picasso Vermeer’

And, as always, there are Orchids!!


orchid 4

Phalaenopsis Orchid

THE most important thing?  SAY it and MEAN it!  ;-)   Happy Valentine’s Day…


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The message of Roses

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  The message of Roses

Most choose to give their Sweetheart roses  for Valentine’s Day.  (We’re not complaining, especially if there’s chocolate and a lovely card attached).   Red is certainly the most popular, but what do the other colors mean?  There’s a message in those colors you might want to know!

Easy Elegance Rose 'Kashmir'

The above rose is from Bailey Nursery in Woodbury.  They developed these gorgeous hardy roses.

  • Red, the most popular, means love
  • Coral represents desire
  • Lavender means enchantment.  This is a good choice for a newer relationship or love at first sight!
  • Pink stands for perfect happiness
  • Orange can mean fascination or new beginnings
  • Yellow has a couple of meanings too.  It could stand for decreased love and jealousy or joy.  Make sure she knows which one you mean!
  • White roses mean innocence and purity OR you are heavenly and I’m worthy of you.  Hmmm, not sure about that part.
  • Exotic Green represents fertility!
Easy Elegance Rose 'Music Box'

Easy Elegance Rose ‘Music Box’

If you want to make a lasting impression, then choose a Phalaenopsis, not the most romantic moniker but it’s more common name is Orchid.  Orchids offer exotic, delicate, long-lasting beauty.  To the ancient Greeks, orchids were a sign of virility and luxury.

Orchid - Phalaenopsis

Orchid – Phalaenopsis

Say it with roses, say it with Orchids, say it with Carnations, it doesn’t really matter just so long as you say it!    And let me feel the love by liking my Garden Bite facebook page.

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All in for Alliums

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  All in for Alliums

This week I talked about using the color wheel for planning gardens or checking out pre-planned gardens.  Today, though, I am all-in for Alliums!  The genus Allium (the Latin means ‘garlic’) offers colorful, distinctive, and long-lasting forms that really stand out in the early-summer garden.

Allium ‘Gladiator’

Alliums are sun-lovers and prefer well-drained, even sandy soil.  However, I do NOT have sandy soil and they still thrive.  Deer, mice, chipmunks, and related predators generally avoid this group. Alliums are tough and sweet!  Their blooms are like globe like and in shades of purple to white.  There’s a wide range of options that include giant flowers on tall leafless stalks to compact little beauties.

Allium schubertii from American Meadows

Their leaves are also variable.  They’re tough as they resist drought, critters and disease.   Northern Gardener magazine describes a showstopper in the bulb division… Allium schubertii, which blooms late in Spring.  It is aptly described as a Purple Fourth-of-July sparkler.  It’s flower head and stalks can be 12 inches in diameter!  All of the flower stalks are differing lengths with some of the flowers opening close to the stalks while others may bloom 6 inches away.

Allium ‘Summer Beauty’

While we’re mostly used to alliums coming from bulbs, they have relatives that grow from rhizomes.  They can often bloom later in the season.  In particular is a lovely called ‘Summer Beauty’.  It’s a sterile allium, which means it behaves in the garden slowly widening into a large clump over time.  It’s 3 inch lavender flower heads are tightly globular, and bob beautifully atop bright green foliage.  When the flower heads dry, they add beauty to the fall and winter landscape if left alone.  ‘Summer Beauty’ pairs well with echinacea, nepeta and agastache.

And just to show you a few more…

Hair allium from Brecks

Allium ‘Globemaster’


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