July 31, 2013


In the event you go on vacation whilst your coneflower is in bloom...
or if for ANY reason she seems lonely and in need of companionship...

may I humbly suggest

the lovely ROSALITA Cleome
as a partner? They harmonize beautifully, and she is really QUITE undemanding.

No deadheading, drought-tolerant, heat-swooning, no stickiness or prickliness...

and in that lilac-pink so prevalent in the late summer border.

A select few Rosalitas in just the right spots...with just the right neighbors is nice...

as is a large swath of them in an area where you can really saturate the landscape with their loveliness.


Give her a whirl!

July 30, 2013

Preserving Dried Coneflower Seed Heads

Truth be told, I like purple coneflower more for their orange-y, perky, prickly seed heads than for the petals themselves...

as do the bees and butterflies apparently.

Consequently when I saw bunches of them selling for ten dollars a bouquet at Whole Foods...

it reminded me to cut and preserve some from my own garden...

a pleasant task, made even more delightful with the companionship of said butterflies and bees. 

(Let's take a moment to appreciate how the orange hues on both match exactly, shall we?)

To help the dried cones last even longer, give them a spritz of spray. Hairspray.

Hold the can about six inches away, making sure you spray the entire seed head...from above and below. Do it several times, allowing them to dry completely in between coats.

I prefer the species, thistle-like cones over the flatter hybridized varieties. More heft and interest in my opinion.

Of course, you could just leave them to dry in the garden...

and drop their seed to ensure future generations of the darlings.

Both the floral AND fauna of your summer scape.

July 26, 2013

Sluggo Plus and Mosquito Beater

My weatherman just told me that this month has been the second wettest July on record. To which I say ALLELUIA!!! and miracles DO happen. So after the rainy miracle of a month...what next?

Garden pests and diseases, that's what.

I use Sluggo Plus (find it here) to combat snail, slugs, and my worst pest, pill bugs. An effective, easy, shake-to-apply solution.

Mosquitoes love this rain as much, if not more (well, maybe that's not possible...) than we do. Try Mosquito Beater to treat these annoying buzzers...convenient application in a hose-end spray.

Time for a garden feeding too.

All of that life-giving rain will leach nutrients out of your garden soil, especially in your container plantings. Give your plants a boost with a good organic feed.

For more on these products and additional information on the artillery fungus (that I was scheduled to talk about last week, but got preempted by... myself),  please watch 4 Your Garden today at 4:30. If you miss it, view it and other past segments here in the KFOR archives.

July 18, 2013

Artillery Fungus and Joseph Heller

"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you."

~ Joseph Heller, Catch-22

When this miraculous summer rain let up a couple of days ago, I did my routine tour and look-see about the garden. I was looking for germinated seedlings of zinnias, cockscomb, peppers...a leftover cleome perhaps from last year.

While on these garden rounds, particularly if the weather is pleasant and I have adequate time for such amenable activity,

not a whole lot will escape my attention. 

So when I saw these galactic-looking colonies of what looked like small, up-turned acorn caps, I was not unsurprisingly...interested.

And then concerned. 

Because in my gardening experience and, yes, gardening paranoia, these kinds of observations...

are seldom auspicious. 

I remembered hearing an episode of You Bet  Y O U R
G A R D E N (read more here) with Mike McGrath expounding the virtues of leaf vs wood mulch, and the horrors of the artillery fungus:

"Those wood mulches are more frightening than the most gruesome ghoul--especially when they breed the fearsome 'shotgun' or 'artillery' fungus. Those nasty creatures breed in wood mulches, producing spores that permanently stain cars or homes within 30 feet of the mulch."

In his own inimitable style, of course...and to which I said yuck! and then said, in my horticultural, hypochondriacal way...I bet I have that!

And, sadly, my paranoia was justified.

For what was growing on the wood mulch in a very shady area of the garden, that had just received record amounts of rain for July


the dreaded artillery fungus...the first I've ever seen (or heard tell of) in Oklahoma. (Though fortunately I see no dreaded spots on my home or car.)

To find out more about the the genus Sphaerobolus   

and the artillery or shotgun fungus, read an article here by Dr. Donald Davis of Penn State University and 

tune in to 4 YOUR GARDEN tomorrow, Friday at 4:30 with me and Linda Cavanaugh.

July 13, 2013

Basil, Garlic, and Olive Oil: Summer Magic

Four out of five days this  past work week, dinner started in my kitchen with the magical alchemy of three summer staples:

basil, garlic, and good quality olive oil...with generous pinches of salt and pepper, of course.

LC and I visited about it yesterday on 4 Your Garden. 

Watch it here if you missed it. We created a puree out of the garlic and basil, then added a golden stream of olive oil...

with the addition of other simple, but heavenly ingredients.

This magical trio can morph into so many light summer nibbles...(or frozen to enjoy its scent and freshness in the dead of winter).

The tiny-leaved boxwood basil 

with some companionably small grape tomatoes,

a few glugs of Balsamic Vinegar,

and generous shavings of Parmesan, heaped and melted on toasted crostini,

transformed itself into crunchy mouthfuls of basilica, summery deliciousness.

With nothing more than a couple of pulses on a small food processor.

Magical, no?

July 12, 2013

Basil, Essence of Summer

 "A man taking basil from a woman will love her always

Sir Thomas Moore

Well, I don't know that I can say that about basil, but I do know that basil

is the absolute essence of summer.

Heat loving, easy to grow from seed, heavenly scent, great variety,

and incredibly versatile and delicious in the kitchen. Probably the easiest

kitchen to table

plant you can grow in your garden.  

(No, it's not too late to plant now...I adore this tiny-leaved Pistou Basil. ) Find it and other varieties here.

For ways to store and preserve basil, watch Linda Cavanaugh and me today

on NewsChannel 4's FOUR YOUR GARDEN segment today at 4:30.

July 10, 2013

Washing and Storing Salad Greens

I find it ironic that just as  temperatures (and energy bills) start to skyrocket, the lettuces and greens in our gardens slow down... bolt and go to seed... or

simply melt...  

and just as the heat intensifies our cravings for the lighter fare of salads and minimally prepared dishes.

This morning I cut the last of the arugula, flowering and full-flavored...just this side of too bitter, but delicious to me all the same.

This spring, when leaf lettuces were at their peak, a friend of mine commented that her delicate cut lettuces seemed to turn to mush before she could enjoy them, then asked me to post my best cut-and-wash fresh greens technique. 

No doubt you have your own method, but here's mine:

*  Cut early in the morning before the sun hits the tender leaves and the heat sets in.

*  Wash greens immediately.  Begin to fill your basin with cold water.  If the amount is small, put the entire batch in the water, swish, then let the debris (and hitchhiking pests) settle.  Remove and lay out in a thin layer on a thick terry towel.

If you have a lot of greens to wash, rinse the leaves individually or in small bunches under a gently running stream of water as the basin fills. Lay out in a thin layer on a thick terry towel.

*  Allow the leaves to dry a bit, then use a salad spinner (find some here)

or try one of these nifty SPIN AND STORE SALAD AND HERBS bags (find and read about them here).  I bought these at my local SPROUTS store.  Added perk--good upper arm work out.

 * The key to crisp greens is removing all moisture before storing in the fridge.  Paper towels layered between greens in a paper or plastic bag works well, but offends my eco-sensibility (I have a thing about using paper towels...strange, I know. I also try to re-cycle the basin water and pour it on nearby potted plants...)

Instead, try one of these SALAD CRISPER DRAWSTRING bags (find them here), 

or if you're crafty, learn how to make your own here.  

My friend Sunshine made me a terrycloth one a while back...much appreciated. They make great homemade gifts.

Perhaps with a freshly- washed bunch of your home-grown greens?  :)

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