Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gossamer Wings

The Troy-Bilt company invited me to write an article on gardening with butterflies for their readers. I wanted to share it with you, too. 

Seven years ago, I did my flower shopping with a butterfly. It was more of a mesmerizing encounter than a planned outing.

While visiting a local nursery, a butterfly landed on one of the flowering perennials I'd intended to buy. That particular flower caught her eye, though most of my other choices were a big thumbs down. Off she went to inspect the rest of the nursery's inventory and I was right behind her!

Wherever she'd linger, I'd grab a pot of those flowering perennials. That butterfly happily blew my gardening budget, though I consider it one of the sweetest investments I've ever made.

Admirals, Emperors, Skippers and Snouts
These days, my gardens are a flutter of activity because ~ in addition to flowers ~ I plant a few veggies which encourage them to stay. Nectar-rich blossoms attract butterflies to your garden, though chances are, they were born nearby. Try offering plants that meet a butterfly's needs through all four life stages - egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult.

Mother Swallowtails (very popular in my area) are particularly fond of parsley, carrots, and parsnips. If she spots these goodies, you'll make a new friend fast. She'll lay her eggs in the leaves so baby caterpillars are well-fed, once they enter the world.

Monarchs, of course, are the most beloved of butterflies because of their epic journey from Mexico to Canada and back again.

Their survival technique of feeding strictly on Milkweed is very clever, indeed. Milkweed contains a poisonous substance palatable to butterflies, making them distasteful to birds and other predators. The Monarch's distinctive markings give predators fair warning that they won't make a very tasty meal.

Common Milkweed

Getting Started
Many places have identified a "state butterfly," one that already enjoys hanging out in your geographical area. This is a great place to begin. Once you discover the butterflies that frequent your backyard, simply plant a section in the garden to meet their needs. Visit The Butterfly Site to learn more about the many butterflies who will happily call your garden home.

To start a Monarch Butterfly Way Station consider planting these varieties of Milkweed (much loved by other butterflies, too!)

Showy Milkweed

Showy Milkweed – (A. speciosa) is a less invasive, western native. Grows to 4 feet with light pink flowers. Tolerates dry soil.

Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed – (A. tuberosa) is an eastern and southwestern native. Grows to 3 feet with showy orange, red, or yellow flowers. Prefers dry soil.

Common Milkweed

Common Milkweed – (A. syriaca) - grows 5 feet tall, with fragrant lavender flowers. Spreads rapidly by rhizomes and will happily take over in the garden if you allow it... [Somewhat invasive.]

* The typical life span for a Monarch adult is 3-5 weeks. A migrating Monarch, from the last generation in summer, can live to the ripe old age of 8 months.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Big Bob's Bodacious Bloomers

Ever had the sweet fortune of living in a small town? If so, then you probably have fond memories of a corner store that supplied the last minute necessities Mom needed when she was cooking supper.

This cute corner store is no more. 
It's now home to one of the coolest rose experts I've ever met. 

That's how I grew up ~ walking a block down our street to the Square Deal Corner Grocery ~ running errands for Mom and spending my precious allowance on all kinds of candy.

So, I felt extra warm and fuzzy when Bob, (who lives in this eclectic building that used to be a corner grocery) graciously unlocked the tall gate at the back of this place...

And, let us stroll the colorful paths of his astonishing secret rose garden!

"Don't be dainty," says Bob. "Shove your nose right into these blossoms. That's the best way to experience their fab fragrance!"

Enjoy the show:

Are you just dyin' to plant a rose garden?? I know I am!

Here's a list of his favorites - easy to find, easy to grow:
Betty Boop, Intrigue, Hot Cocoa, Abraham Darby, Fragrant Cloud, Eureka, St. Patrick, Wild Blue Yonder, Marmalade Skies, Frederick Mistral.

Even the dead ones were pretty cool...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Glorious Gardens from the Pessimistic Gardener

If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you. - Anonymous Clever Person 
 Do you celebrate what works or dwell on what didn't?

As I upload these pictures from a glorious two days of weed wackin' and perennial putzin' I'm a little frustrated with my own negativity.

Pink Evening Primrose

A glass-half-full kind of gardener might be thrilled with how these incessant rains have provided plentiful moisture.

Happy flowers dancing for joy...

Big bumbles soar from one bright blossom to another.

Every summer, I anxiously anticipate the loudest and proudest of my perennials. The Kniphofia Red Hot Pokers show up like clockwork for the 4th of July, decorating my gardens like bottle rockets.

But, my beloved Red Hot Pokers are missing. Their sad roots rotting in the soggy soil. Replaced by a creepy crop of mushrooms.

On the flip side... Mom's wild roses seem quite delighted. So, I suppose I should be, too. Though I just can't shake this paranoid feeling that Mother Nature is out to get me...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Red Greens @ High Star Farm

 Pea blossoms are edible ~ they're sweet and crunchy and taste just like the peas. Sweet Pea ornamental flowers are NOT edible. (TIP: Feed those to the dinner guests you don't particularly care for.)

This week's volunteer day at High Star Organic Farm involved a full day's interaction with the so-not-a-people-person supervisor who's tone of voice is enough to make me abandon my mild-mannered ways.

I was planning to crack him over the head with this 3-pound rogue turnip but then another volunteer walked into the greenhouse. Prompting me to postpone this root vegetable crime of passion until there are no witnesses.

It got me thinking about how it's all in the way we say things. If you graciously ask me to jump off a cliff ~ and, if you remember to say pretty please ~ I'd take that death-defying leap without giving it another thought.

If you throw a temper tantrum and say "I can't have you compacting the soil!" What's the first thing I'm gonna do? A fancy tap dance on your soil, of course.

Oh, I do love a good rant.

Okay! Back to the harvest... First thing on the agenda was 6 pounds of turnips. I don't know how to tell if a turnip is ready for harvest (and since I was mad at him, I wasn't about to ask.) If they're popping out of the ground, I'm guessing that's their way of saying 'eat me.' Would you agree?

Plus a whole bunch of red-green lettuce which makes for a pretty tasty summer salad:

Brown Butter Creamy Salad Dressing
  1. Melt 6 tablespoons butter and 2 chopped green onions in a saucepan.
  2. Stir like crazy as the butter foams and browns.
  3. Remove before the butter begins to burn. Cool a bit.
  4. Add 6 tablespoons lite sour cream and a drizzle of honey if you'd like it sweet.
* My salad consisted of greens, hard-boiled eggs and pea pods, garnished with pea blossoms but you can get all wild and crazy with these ingredients. Enjoy!


Every Wednesday, I volunteer at this very fun organic farm ~ located in Kamas, Utah. Locals can find their fabulous fresh produce at the Park City, UT Farmer's Market. Just tell 'em Kate sent you. I'm the gal that gives these goodies a bath!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesdays: The Shoe Tree

For more Wordless Wednesday participants, click here!

Bloom Day ~ Late Submission :)

3 Cheers for the Plumeria Blossom!

I forgot all about the fact that today is the 15th, Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. Time to show off our gardens. Since I hadn't gotten around to photograph anything I was planning to skip it.

Until this very minute, when I walked into the house and saw this!!!!

My little Hawaiian Plumeria giving forth her first flower! On the 15th no less! How cool is that?

* Carol of May Dreams Garden created this monthly tradition. Visit her to meet other gardeners who are on the ball with such things.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Marilyn's Magnificent Marvels

When it comes to Tall Bearded Iris, judges are looking for strong stems, upright flowers, big frilly presentation and fabulous fragrance. Or, so I was told. I can't tell a bad one from a good one. They're all too stunning for words.

Do you keep track of what you plant? I was all type A when I first started planting my perennial gardens.

I'd log every single flower into an excel spreadsheet and categorize them by cultivar, color, bloom time...  Good Lord! That was a lot of work!

Made Of Magic Tall Bearded Iris

Later, I opted for a more efficient method of garden bookkeeping. As in the ultra-arrogant, "Oh, I'll remember / Why waste time jotting this junk down?"

Guardian Angel, Tall Bearded Iris

That made life easy. Right up until some well-meaning garden visitor would exclaim: "Ooh la la! What's the name of that one?"

At which point I'd have to shrug my shoulders and say: I dunno.

Millennium Falcon Tall Bearded Iris

Suffice to say that when I visit more experienced gardeners ~ as in the gals who've done this for a good, long time and know full well that the devil is in the details ~ I'm forever ordering a second helping of humble pie.

Love Ballad Tall Bearded Iris

I'm talking, of course, about the hottest ticket in town last week.

The private showing of Marilyn's Magnificent Bearded Iris collection.  One ultra-special VIP party and ~ oh, yeah, I crashed it.

Now when you show up uninvited, you really need to act super nonchalant. Casually stroll around and behave as if this is nothing.

You do not drool all over yourself, as I did. That's a dead giveway.
Collette Thurillet Tall Bearded Iris

Not only do Marilyn and her flower-loving husband, LeVar, (he even hybridized a special iris for her!) have the most magnificent Tall Bearded Irises I've ever seen ~ they're perfectly arranged by bloom time and color combo, with nifty little tags that told me where they came from and how long they'd been living there.

Marching Band Tall Bearded Iris

* There are tons of wonderful aspects to the Bearded Iris. For one, they're amazingly drought-tolerant ~ to the point that they will continue to grace an abandoned home long after the humans have moved on. 
** Marilyn and LeVar have a fab collection of every predictable color of Iris one could imagine but her psychedelic beauties simply stole the show. :))

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sweet Baby Mache @ High Star Farm

Bees are diggin' the cucumber flowers.

This week's volunteer day at the organic farm involved counting to 9 about 900 times. I transplanted baby bok choy seedlings ~ spaced exactly 9 inches apart, in 3 perfect rows, in raised beds that go on for at least a mile.

Oh, okay, I could be exaggerating just a teeny bit. Bending over garden beds, for long periods of time, is not hard work. It's just one of those punishing torture sessions isometric exercises that remind me of how my flexible Gumby doll days are long gone.

Freshly harvested Mâche Lettuce

In the mornings, we do chores. In the afternoons, we harvest goodies.

This week, I discovered a brand new type of lettuce that's been around for 300 years. {In France.} It's called Mâche ~ a sweet, nutty, lettuce variety that might be perfect for mountain gardens because they appreciate cold temperatures. Mâche lettuce can even handle a mild freeze.

Why haven't we seen this in our grocery stores? Probably because Mâche needs to be hand-harvested so mechanized corporate farms could never offer such a delicacy.

Magnificent Mâche and Asparagus Salad
  • Mâche lettuce leaves
  • Shredded radicchio (the red/white head lettuce) - use about half as much of this as the Mâche.
  • Snipped tops of green onions. (Just the greens, not the white.)
  • Bite-size asparagus tips (gently steamed)
  • Toasted pine nuts (heat them in a small Teflon pan for a couple minutes to bring out the flavor.)
  • Mandarin oranges
* Toss these ingredients in a large bowl, with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
* Sprinkle with goat cheese and be dazzled.
Every Wednesday, I volunteer at High Star Organic Farm, located in Kamas, Utah. 
I get paid in carrots.
And, the girls are glad I do. :)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Wildflowers of Cascade Springs

Texans have their Bluebells. And, we Utahns have our Penstamons. The first time I encountered these stunning wildflowers along a hiking trail I fell madly in love. To see such bright beauties happily blooming in a pile of rocks was simply amazing.
For the first time in the 10 years I've lived in Utah, 
summer rains are so plentiful I've still not turned on a sprinkler.
Quite bee-zarre from the bone dry conditions we're used to. 
I'm not complaining! And, neither are the wildflowers. 
I simply could not bring myself to pull another weed yesterday. So, I tossed Bad Dog in the car and we took a short road trip to our favorite Zen-y place.
Cascade Springs, high in the Wasatch Mountains near Heber, Utah.

This bumpy gravel road is the scene of a wildflower celebration, with brilliant reds and blues speckling the countryside.
It's amazing to me that such breathtaking flowers happily bloom in such inhospitable conditions. Makes me think my garden perennials are wimpy gals, indeed.
Locals: Cascade Springs is along the Alpine Loop Scenic Backway ~ access through Heber City or Provo Canyon. Bring a good book and a picnic lunch. Because once you get there, you may never want to leave!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Jill of All Trades, Master of None

Mom's Bearded Iris

Jill of All Trades, Master of None -- that be me. During the frenzied month of May... I laid ceramic tile, hardwood floors, painted, sawed, pounded nails (and my thumb,) installed new doors, toted that proverbial barge and lifted the bale, too. 

Surprised to hear I can do all this stuff? Real world friends would be equally surprised since I never confess these skills. That's because I think there's something wrong with me.

Johnson's Blue (though, they look purple to me) Perennial Geraniums

I started out somewhat normal. In my previous life, I earned my keep at a big advertising agency in one of those super-sexy sky scraper type buildings. Working on t.v. commercials. The kind of job that makes other people jealous, though I never understood why.

It took me 8 short weeks to realize how much I hated it. And, five long years to extract myself from it. I found it hard to breath in that stifling, corporate environment.

Perennial Canterbury Bells

When we jumped ship and ran away to Utah, we spent every penny we had on 3 rental units and I became a not-so evil landlady. Instead of sitting in board meetings, debating the dumbest of things, I now spend a good bit of time working with my hands. And, loving every minute of it.

So, why don't I like to talk about that? Beats me. I guess I just don't feel my friends, with normal office jobs, could ever understand.


With one set of long-term renters heading out the door and a new pair anxious to move in, we had 4 short weeks to accomplish a miracle ~ as in a complete re-do on the most adorable of the 3 rentals - surrounded by an English Garden!

My poor, sweet daughter handled all the painting. (She's destined for a fine job in middle management, though, as she delegated most of those chores to her cute as a button boyfriend. :)

As of today this work is done.

And, now? With that joint, once again, deserving of a Better Homes and Gardens sign... my lonesome hammock is begging for attention.

Drifts of Perennial Geraniums