Years ago, when I was a news reporter at a weekly paper, an editor yelled in my face that I wasn’t fit to be a journalist because I was too easily “spun.” It wasn’t the first time this guy had wigged out at my inability to see the world in the same black and white way that he did. But it was the last. Maybe I am easily spun. I didn’t deny it. I prefer to think, that I can usually tell the difference between someone who is selling something and someone who is offering their informed opinion—whether I agree with them or not.
Sure, it does mess with a well-defined story idea when research and sources don’t take you in the direction you thought you were going to go. But that happens sometimes. In fact it happened with this story I’m posting here, which is a longer version of a recent article I wrote for Norther Gardener magazine about using weeds as soil indicators.
I have read and heard for years that weeds can be good soil indicators, and gardeners who understand what their weeds are saying can remedy soil problems accordingly. “Read your weeds,” people often say. I never paid the idea much mind. But last summer, after hearing that advice for what felt like the zillionth time, I decided to look into it.Read More»
As a master gardener, one of the things I’m supposed to advise people to do is get a soil test before they start plopping plants in the ground. I admit that I’ve chafed against having to say this forever because, honestly, I’ve had a garden for 15 years and I’ve never tested my soil.
Also, I once asked a big group of master gardeners if any of them had tested their soil and not one of them had done it either. Instead, we all admitted to relying on the lazy gardener strategy of putting plants wherever we wanted to and just moving them someplace else if they didn’t do so well. Second time’s not a charm? Move that plant again, we say. After three strikes, hey, give the poor thing away to a new home where it might luck out and get more doting parents.Read More»
Touting new plants always makes me a little nervous because, honestly, nobody really knows for sure how they’re going to do in their first few seasons. Still, I can’t resist trying a few each year, and most do pretty well as long as I mostly stick to plants that can survive in my hardiness zone (4).
Oh, I’ve tried pushing that zone with mixed success. Several different types of lavender have done surprisingly well in different spots in my yard over the years. But butterfly bush—dead, always dead, dead as a dead thing can be.
Oh, well. I remain undaunted. This season I plan to tempt fate with a pretty, carpeting pincushion flower (Pterocephalus depressus). This new introduction is native to Morocco and it’s low growing enough to be used as a groundcover or in between stones on a path. But it would also look good as a border or in the front of beds.
Foliage is gray-green and described as having a bit of a “crinkled” look, which doesn’t sound so hot but looks good in photos. Blooms are pink and mauve and they last from late spring through mid-summer. Gardeners are advised to let the flowers dry so we can enjoy the silver-tinged seed heads. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. Zones 5 – 9.Read More»
People often ask me what they can use to make raised beds and these galvanized troughs are the first thing that come to mind. Relatively inexpensive ($89 for a 4′ x 2′ x 2′ tank) and durable, livestock tanks make it possible for gardeners to create raised beds quickly and easily.
We got ours because we’d like to grow vegetables and herbs free from pee—and worse—and our lie that the backyard kitchen garden has an electrified fence around it no longer fools our dog, Lily. Troughs are also a great solution if you’ve got poor soil and you don’t want to have to amend a large area. Wall-to-wall cement outside your apartment? No problem. Plop a galvanized tank down, drill some holes in the bottom and you’ve got yourself a garden.Read More»
Every year, Macy’s teams up with Bachman’s, a local garden center, for a spring flower show on the department store’s eighth floor in downtown Minneapolis. I don’t recall how long the flower show has been going on, but I’m grateful that Macy’s carries on the tradition, which was started many years ago by Dayton’s and continued by Marshall Field’s.
It’s strangely warm in Minnesota this spring but, typically, the flower show comes at a time when seeing an actual plant in bloom is nothing short of amazing. This year’s theme is “Brasil: Gardens in Paradise” and admission, as always, is free.
There’s a lot to rave about this year, but I was most impressed by the gorgeous topiary toucan at the show’s entrance. Crafted by artists at Macy’s Parade Studio, the toucan features plumage made from “meticulously arranged” magnolia leaves. I’ll say! And what might all of those delicate flowers be on the bird’s beak and chest? Why those are thousands of Brazilian button flowers that were applied by Bachman’s floral designers.Read More»