June 6, 2020

The highlight of the gardening season for master gardener volunteers in west-central Nebraska was our garden tour. This all-day event, complete with potluck, was not to show our gardens to visitors but for us to visit each other’s gardens. Our group members came from several counties encompassing about 180 square miles. We gathered shortly after dawn to form a touring carpool.

On my first tour, we drove to a town 40 miles away...

May 30, 2020

Did you know that June is Iced Tea Month? June 10 is National Iced Tea Day. Let’s celebrate by learning a trivial factoid about tea:

Before World War II, about 40 percent of tea drunk in our nation was green tea. During the war supplies of green tea from China were cut off while India and Ceylon continued shipping black tea. Americans made the switch, a simple matter of supply and demand. 

Whether sweetened or not, iced tea is t...

May 23, 2020

Origanum, the botanical name of the oregano family, contains 45 species and six sub-species of perennials and sub-shrubs. They are native to the mountains of the Mediterranean and Near East. Ancient Greeks called the herb “oros ganos” meaning joy of the mountain. Legend has it that Aphrodite created its fragrance  as a symbol of happiness. It was used to make crowns for bridal couples and placed on graves to give peace to the...

May 16, 2020

Looking for a low-maintenance, problem-free, long-lived shrub? Look no farther than the viburnum. Know as “cranberry bush” in Europe, this family of over 150 species has plenty of members that are native to the woodlands of eastern North America. They are all quite cold tolerant but vary in their adaptation to hot weather.

Arrow-wood, V. dentatum, is quite heat tolerant. It is found from Maine to Texas and Florida. It thrives i...

May 9, 2020

As my first Mother’s Day in this area approached, I was amazed by the fabulous bouquets families were bringing to cheer up hospitalized loved ones. The bouquet bearers found it odd that this nurse was unfamiliar with peonies, but I had never seen these fragrant beauties before.    

(Photo: Festiva Maxima)

Named for Paeon, a student of Asclepias who became physician to the gods, peonies are native to the temperate zone...

May 2, 2020

We may call them French or African but marigolds are native to Mexico. The Spanish who came to the Americas took them home where they flourished in North African and Iberian gardens. Eventually they arrived in England where they were called “marigolds” because they resembled calendulas, which the English called pot marigolds. The great taxonomist Linnaeus named them Tagetes after Tages, a grandson of Zeus who taught the Etrusc...

April 25, 2020

I have often promoted the use of heirloom roses in the landscape. They are easy to grow, rewarding the gardener with vigorous, long-lived shrubs. Unlike most modern roses, they require little special care. There are five classes of Old European roses. These are the elegant albas, compact gallicas, fragrant damasks, musk roses, centifolias and their sport, moss roses. All of these  bloom once in the spring. Blooming on old wood...

April 18, 2020

Milkweed is a North American native plant that is a food source for hundreds of small creatures but critical for monarch butterflies. Monarchs lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves and nowhere else.

The plant’s name comes from its milky sap which contains toxins called cardiac glycosides. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed foliage. Ingesting plenty of the toxins renders them toxic to predators.

Most a...

April 11, 2020

Every gardener has an irresistible favorite flower. Mine is the lily. I buy lilies from catalogs and on impulse in garden centers. With a little planning, they can grace the garden from spring until fall.  

Native to the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, lilies require a cold dormant period and so do poorly in USDA Zones 9 -10. Most require well-drained soil in a sunny site. As the old saying goes, lilies want their fe...

April 4, 2020

Until 1856 when Sir Henry Perkins accidentally discovered a mauve-colored coal tar product, all dyes were from natural sources. Most (but not all) of these were plant based. Famous Tyrian purple was derived from a mollusk found in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Interestingly, two cochineal scale insects were used as sources of red. One of these is native to Mexico and the other Southeast Asia. In 1900, a substitute for indigo...

March 28, 2020

Herbs are plants valued for their usefulness. Cooking with herbs certainly comes to mind, but they are also used for fragrance, decoration and to attract or repel insects. Citronella may be used to keep mosquitoes out of the patio while fennel, dill and parsley attract butterflies and beneficial insects.

Before the mid-1800s, most dyes were plant-based. At one time, herbs were the only source for medicines. Today, almost a quar...

March 21, 2020

The famous garden designer Gertrude Jekyll grew containers of flowers to fill in dull spots in perennial borders. As a longtime perennial gardener, I can testify that few are blooming by the end of July. I use containers of annuals to provide visual interest during the dog days of August.

I prefer annuals that do not need much deadheading. Impatiens and vinca are self-cleaning profuse bloomers that come in a terrific array of c...

March 14, 2020

Growing garden-fresh veggies gets more popular every year. It allows us to experience truly vine-ripe tomatoes and other fruits harvested at the peak of perfection. Vegetables in the produce department are harvested before becoming fully ripe so that they can be shipped to a distribution center and then on to your grocery store.

Growing vegetables in containers makes small-scale gardening easy. It also allows us to take advanta...

March 7, 2020

Container gardening has much to recommend it. It allows those of us with few sunny sites to make the most of what we do have. It brings herbs close to the cook. Raised containers make gardening easy for those with mobility issues. Lastly, containers can beautify the home inside and out.

Step one is choosing the container. No matter where you plan to place it, make sure that it has adequate drainage holes because sitting in wate...

February 29, 2020

I confess that I’ve always loved peas. When I was a young child, frozen peas were sold as rectangular bricks that were a tad bigger than the diameter of Mama’s pot. A corner or two of peas flew off whenever she tried to force them into the boiling water. I ran around picking up and eating every runaway pea I could find.

During the mid-1690s, peas were all the rage around the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King. HIs main squeeze, M...

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