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2015 annuals

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  2015 annuals

I love this time of year!  I stroll around my yard, willing my plants to all return healthy and happy.  That doesn’t always happen… that’s okay, there are some fantastic new annuals to play with!

Caladiums are gorgeous in part shade and this year’s Artful Heartfire does not disappoint!

Caladium 'Artful Heartfire'

Caladium ‘Artful Heartfire’

It grows to 20 inches tall and 14 inches wide.  This is a thriller for the container!  Caladiums do not like cold soggy soils.  They’re best planted in containers in cooler climates.

Coleus are a true stunner for the shade.  One of the newest members of the Under the Sea collection, ‘Seaweed’ has finely divided chartreuse-and-black foliage that looks like something you’d see on a underwater trip in the Caribbean.

Coleus 'Seaweed'

Coleus ‘Seaweed’

Delightful in containers mixed with other ‘Under the sea’ coleus, by itself or anything your imagination dreams up!  Plant in part shade, avoid afternoon sun.

If you want to lure hummingbirds to your garden, a new cuphea called ‘Vermillionaire’ is the ticket.

Cuphea 'Vermillionaire'

Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’

It grows to 28 inches tall and 24 inches wide in full sun.  Cuphea container

White flowers have a unique position in the garden.  They make a gray day sparkle and illuminate the night.  There’s a new salvia called ‘Summer Jewel White’ and it’s lovely.  Note some salvias are perennials – this one is not.

Salvia 'Summer Jewel White'

Salvia ‘Summer Jewel White’

This salvia grows to 20 inches tall and 15 inches wide in full sun.  It tolerates most any soil, even clay!

My favorite new annual is an osteospermum called ‘Blue Eyed Beauty’.  It grows 14 inches tall and wide in full sun and the flowers bloom for up to 8 weeks!

Osteospermum 'Blue eye beauty'

Osteospermum ‘Blue eye beauty’

Osteospermum - Blue eye beauty in pot


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Ground cherries

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Ground cherries

A friend of mine was recently reminiscing about his grandma’s garden.  He said he missed her ground cherries and the jam she made.  Having no idea what they were, I did a little research.    Don’t let the name fool you—ground cherries have very little in common with those juicy red treats we all know. In fact they’re part of the nightshade family and are related to tomatillos and Chinese lanterns.

Ground cherry

Ground cherry

The marble-sized, orangey fruits have a unique flavor, which is sometimes described as tasting similar to anything from pineapple or cherry to kiwi and tomato, mostly they’re tart.  As you can see from the pictures, there are 2 types of ground cherries.  Virginia Ground Cherry and Clammy Ground Cherry.  The flowers are nearly identical, the leaves are different.

ground cherry flower

ground cherry flower

Ground cherry plant

Ground cherry plant

Ground cherry plant

They’re called ground cherries because the fruits fall to the ground before they’re ripe beginning in July for most areas and continue up to frost.  The plants grow like tomatoes so you may want to stake them.  One site says to let them ripen with inside their papery shells or husks for about a week until they turn gold.  In the photo below you can see a few lying in the bottom of the container.

ground cherries ripening

ground cherries ripening

Plant seed after all danger of frost is gone.  These annuals reseed themselves, which means they can become invasive which leads me back to my friends grandma’s farm where the plants started to grow wild around her house!

The most popular to plant (and eat) is Physalis pruinosa – Aunt Molly

ground cherries in husk

Ground cherries can be found at Rareseeds, Territorial Seeds, Seedsavers

Five ways to eat Ground Cherries [Smithsonian.com]

ground cherry dipped in chocolate

ground cherry dipped in chocolate

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Earth Day!

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Earth Day!

Van Gogh said “if you truly love nature you’ll see beauty everywhere”.  It’s true, even the weeds can be pretty amazing.  This photo was taken at a parking lot tollbooth in Minneapolis!  I love the tenacity of this petunia.

petunia in pavement

petunia in pavement

You can’t see an ounce of soil but those weeds don’t give up, life doesn’t give up!  I so appreciate the life that lives in our soil,  allows us to grow our own food, feeds the trees that offer us shelter, warmth and some really tasty maple syrup, as well as a myriad of mouthwatering fruits and nuts!  The flowers that bring a delightful scent to our gardens while also attracting beneficial bugs to help our veggie gardens produce.

daylilies, sneezeweed, monarda, salvia

daylilies, sneezeweed, monarda, salvia

The increased awareness of taking care of our planet Earth keeps us active in more physical pursuits as well.  Gardening is a great physical activity as well as a release for the mind.  I get peaceful when I’m out there digging around.  It lifts my spirits after a long, cold winter.



No need to go all “Ed Begley Jr.”, but ALL of us doing a few things green makes a significant difference!

  • Shopping without plastic bags is my favorite.  Not only are the bags recycled but they’re so much sturdier and I can pack more in them without worrying they’ll bust.  Plus, some stores give a nickel credit.  ;-)    Cotton, jute and natural fiber bags are washable!  Plastic bag statistics
  • TURN THE LIGHTS OFF.  This is the one my husband and I have a problem with.  He is notorious for not turning the lights off!
  • Quick showers with warm water – not hot
  • Recycle scrap paper at work for notes.  I don’t think we’ll put 3M out of business if we used scrap paper for notes rather than post-its.
  • Change the temperature on your thermostat 2 degrees in either direction depending on season and save on heating and cooling.
  • Compost!
  • When you mow your lawn, leave the cuttings, letting them settle and decay back into the soil.
  • Don’t rake leaves into the street.  If the storm drain near your home is loaded with debris, get some gloves and clean it out.  All that gunk goes into our rivers, streams and lakes and damages their ecosystems.

If you want to go all “Ed Begley Jr.” then check out Green Living Ideas for home energy use and a whole lot more.


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Sedums as groundcover

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Sedums as groundcover

Driving past historic homes in a neighborhood near my own, I was so enchanted by the yards filled with Siberian Squill.  There’s one in particular that’s outstanding!

Despite it’s name, it’s actually native to southwestern Russia.  It’s also not native to Minnesota… or anywhere in the U.S.  Oh well, I love it anyway!  Some call it invasive, I call it enchanting [as noted above!]

siberian squill in wooded area - picasa

The beauty of it calls out for us to enjoy Spring time.  Then I went home and looked over my own lawn of dandelions, plantain and Creeping Charlie, which will be blooming soon.  So where am I going with this?

my own contribution to the anarchy of Siberian squill!

my own contribution to the anarchy of Siberian squill!

Groundcovers can do wonders for a lawn, while there are many, many are not practicle for lawns where kids play or dogs romp.  However, in certain areas, sedums make a great groundcover.  They’re easy to grow and some spread easily.

There are more than 400 species of Sedums, that means a whole lot more than ‘Autumn Joy’ which I have and am, frankly, tired of!  Not that it isn’t beautiful.  Anybody want some ‘Autumn Joy’?

Sedum - Autumn Joy

Sedum – Autumn Joy

I also have SEE-dum kam-SHAT-tih-kum, a wonderful low grower that I’ve placed in a raised bed with grasses.  It has tiny yellow flowers from early to late summer.  The foliage is scalloped and fleshly and lovely all season.  Bonus, it’s filled in enough in 2 years that I can transplant to other areas.  Like the front lawn!  These sedums grow to about 4 to 5 inches tall and about 10 inches wide but they continue to spread.

sedum kamtschaticum

sedum kamtschaticum

Sedum 'Red Dragon' in a tub

Sedum ‘Red Dragon’ in a tub

Sedum 'Fulda Glow'

Sedum ‘Fulda Glow’

Sedum aka stonecrop is also lovely in a stone garden!

Sedum 'Dazzleberry'

Sedum ‘Dazzleberry’


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Buzz about the Flow Hive

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Buzz about the Flow Hive

Who loves honey?  I do!  I also love bees because they bring us honey and SO much more!  A friend of mine sent me a link to something that seems revolutionary, almost too good to be true.  It’s called the Flow Hive. [Please note that I’m not advocating sending them money, just sharing information!]

Flow Hive

Flow Hive

It’s honey on tap.  Seriously.  Turn a tap and watch as pure, fresh, clean honey flows right out of the hive and into your jar.  No mess, no fuss, no expensive processing equipment and the bees are hardly even disturbed.

Flow Hive 2

A father and son from Australia have worked on this for a decade…

Flow Hive 3 father and sonThe Flow’s newfangled contribution to the ancient practice is a plastic frame that serves as a template for the bees to build the cells of their honeycombs. When the combs are full, which the beekeeper can confirm by looking through little windows, the beekeeper turns a lever to crack the honeycombs lengthwise down the middle. The golden nectar flows into a channel and then out of the hive through tubes.

And now for the debate:

There’s a debate between beekeepers as to the good and bad of the Flow Hive.  Some are afraid it will make beekeeping too easy and thus only emphasize the production of honey rather than the salvation of the bees.  Others question the use of plastic for a hive, taking away the bees job of building a comb.  Honestly, I’m not sure…

Going Against the Flow – is the Flow Hive a good idea?

Simple Bees – this link takes you to several others

Here’s a video I did a couple of years ago with Professional Beekeeper, Victoria Ranua on my show Dig In Minnesota:


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Dig Rig – how to save your sole

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Dig Rig – how to save your sole

Wanna save your sole?  Then try the Dig Rig!  Let’s face it, digging’s tough work but two old farm boys thought up this little device to help us out.

The Dig Rig attaches to your shovel and rests on the foot rest.  Another cool tool is the Soil Scoop.   Check your local garden center to see if they sell the Soil Scoop first, there are several online places that sell it as well.   I’ve talked about both of these before but it’s always nice to have a reminder and for the new listeners!

If you’re like me, you might tend to leave your tools laying about busying yourself from one job to the next…  Consider wrapping your tool with some neon gaffers tape, it’s a vinyl cloth tape you’ll likely spot in the dark!

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Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Annuals!

Planting containers is a highlight to me.  I love having them on the deck and even scattered about the gardens.

Coleus, Guara, superbells

Coleus, Guara, superbells

Cool season annuals abound in nurseries.  You can easily plant them, so long as you still have the option of covering them or putting them in the garage during a cold snap.

Ahh, Calendula…

 The above photo is from the ‘Prince’ series of Calendula.  There’s also Pacific hybrids and ‘Touch of Red’.  They like sun to light shade.

bedpan of pansies

bedpan of pansies

Other cool season dandies:

  • pansies
  • impatiens
  • primroses
  • snapdragons
  • nasturtiums
  • petunias

                               Impatiens spilling out from a log container

chair container

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Sun/shade terms

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Sun/shade terms

What the heck is dappled sun?  Do you get confused by some of those sun/shade terms on plant tags?

Here’s an explanation:

  • Full sun is at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.  8 hours is best for tomatoes, peppers, melons.
  • Dappled sun is the lightest shade.  It’s full sun filtered through open-branched trees such as honey locust, aspen and birch.
  • Light shade/partial sun are interchangeable.  These plants need 3 to 6 hours of direct sunlight, usually in the morning or afternoon.  If the tag emphasizes shade, then plant in morning sun.  If it emphasizes sun, then plant in afternoon sun, which is hotter.
  • Medium/partial shade is 1 to 3 hours of sunlight, this could be dappled sun.
  • Full/heavy shade is could be a wooded area or on the north side of your house under eaves and generally receives no reflected light.

In the picture below, the front portion leans toward partial shade while the grasses in the background are full sun.


Sun from the west is hottest, followed by south, east and finally north.  How does your site light up?  Check the sun throughout the day, keeping in mind as the season continues, this changes.  Below is a Honey Locust tree, you can see the small leaves delivering “dappled” sun!

Dappled sun - Honeylocust is upper left

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Super Foods

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Super Foods

So called super foods are not new and neither is planting them.  But this year MORE people will be choosing to grow them.  What are they?  Here are just a few:

Kale is an amazing vegetable.  It’s part of the cruciferous family that includes broccoli and cauliflower.  Kale is easy to grow, loves cooler temps and sun to semi-shade.  Curly kale is on the left.  Red cabbage on the bottom with a purple dragon carrot.  yum.


For the best health benefits, the recommendation is to steam it for 5 minutes.  For detailed information about Kale click on the World’s Healthiest Foods or WebMD on Kale.  There are recipes too!  Ornamental red kale is also edible.

annual mums, flowering cabbage, kale

annual mums, flowering cabbage, kale

Kale types of

Talk about healthy smoothies!  The avocado really adds a nice creamy texture.



  1. Combine the apple juice, spinach, apple, and avocado in a blender and puree until smooth, about 1 minute, adding water to reach the desired consistency.



  1. Combine the coconut milk, ½ cup water, the kale, pineapple, and banana in a blender and puree until smooth, about 1 minute, adding more water to reach the desired consistency.

I interviewed Dan Buettner for another show I do called 15 with the Author.  He has traveled the world seeking out the secrets of the longest and healthiest lived peoples.  He calls them Blue Zones.  His interview will be available in May by clicking here .

Blueberries are the antioxidant superhero of the super foods!  And we can grow some dandies in Minnesota.  Thanks to the University of Minnesota.  However, blueberries need acidic soil.  In Minnesota, most of our soils are neutral having a pH of about 7 (the scale goes from 1 to 14).  Get a soil test through the University of Minnesota.  My Favorite Links tab has a link.

Lowbush Blueberry fall color

Lowbush Blueberry fall color

The above is the Fall color of blueberry!  Not only extremely nutritious (they rank the highest of any fruit for antioxidants) but beautiful!  For more on their value check out the World’s Healthiest Foods Blueberries

Blueberries grow best in full sun with amended soil with a pH between 5 and 6.  You may be able to achieve that by adding peat, but do have a soil test first.  Critters love blueberries too so you’ll want to fence them in!  For complete planting information and cultivars developed by the University of Minnesota check out Blueberries for the home landscape.

Blueberry 'North County'

Check out all these Raw Food smoothie recipes.   I’m already making  blueberry smoothies!  I’m using frozen berries for now.

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Rain barrels and compost bins

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Rain barrels and compost bins

 April Showers bring May flowers.  At least that’s the hope and that moisture isn’t in the solid form of snow!
snowfall on March 22nd

snowfall on March 22nd

That object in the middle of the photo is my rain barrel which was supposed to be thawing out!  That’s another thing to remember – empty your rain barrel before it freezes or the bottom bows out.  Luckily, I think it’s going to be okay.  ;-)

Rain barrels are always a good idea for several reasons.  Rainwater is the best kind of water for your lawn and flower gardens and capturing it is a good thing for several reasons.  First, it’s free!  It’s also a good storm water management practice.  Corralling that precious water before it rushes down the storm drain and carries with it phosphorous that is a major contributor to unwanted algae growth in our lakes and ponds.  

Rain barrel

The University of Minnesota Extension Rain Barrels – a way of collecting and using rain water.

I’ll be picking up my Rain Barrel from the Cannon River Watershed Partnership next week.  They offer the barrels and a quick class.  Where I live, my City offers a $20 rebate off my utility bill for verification of installation of a Rain Barrel.  Not a bad idea!

All Minnesota Counties have an online presence now. Albeit some better than others.  Nonetheless, here is a LIST of counties.  Check with them, your Master Gardeners and/or your City to find out what may be available to you.  Of course you can always just buy one or build one and place it.  Here are just a few ideas from TreeHugger.

One more thing, a rain barrel can save most homeowners 1300 gallons of water in one season!  Another good idea are compost bins.   They can be nearly any structure that can hold debris while allowing for air circulation, water and heat (as in some sunlight) to get to the pile. 

Compost bins The Self Sufficient Living

The above photo is from The Self Sufficient Living.  The University of Minnesota Extension offers homeowners a comprehensive Composting Guide.

Portable compost bin drawing

Portable compost bin with dimensions

The above compost is made from a garbage can and can be bungeed to a dolly for portability.

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