Saturday, November 25, 2023


homemade and crafty.

The Jack-O-Lanterns have made their way to the compost pile.  You know what to do with the leftover leftovers, make soup, of course.   Now it's time to have some fun planning holiday decorations.

Last year I turned my tomato cage into a Christmas tree.  The directions have been in my file for many years.  It was either time to create the tree or throw the directions in the recycle bin. 

In tomato culture, the largest rim of the cage is at the top.  In creativity culture, the largest rim is the bottom.  The photo indicated a red metal cage had been used.  My cage had many years of faithful tomato support.  I decided it was time to give it a new life by wrapping all the rims in green yarn.  When all the rims are covered, you pull the legs together to form the top of the tree.

Wide wired ribbon is used to enhance the shape and give your tree a personality.  I did learn one thing.  The material I used was too stiff, and I couldn't create the draping effect that I wanted.  A better choice would have been a wired ribbon that was softer, like a taffeta ribbon.  I decorated the tree with favorite ornaments. You could also add some miniature lights; stores were all sold out last year.

The tomato tree inspiration I had was for a container porch or patio setting.  If you plan on using it outdoors in a container attach a bungee cord to the bottom ring from one side to the other.  Weight the cord down with bricks, pavers or rocks.

Holiday time can be an exciting time to recast your garden in new roles.  Pinecones can be dipped in wax or glue and sprinkled with glitter, then added to a basket of greens.  

Styrofoam balls from the craft store can turn into magical spheres with the help of Elmer's glue or a glue gun and a little imagination.  Maybe you have some garden seeds that you meant to plant a few years ago but are now expired.  Use the seeds to cover a ball, add some decorative rickrack or trimand you will have a one-of-a-kind treasure.  A moss-covered sphere doesn't mean you have to collect from the forest floor, craft stores have all you need.

Think of the grey branches of our rabbitbrush with just a touch of silver glitter and arranged in a burgundy, or other rich color container, can be an eyecatcher.   A bundle of small twigs wrapped together with a decorative trim can be just as attractive as a spendy bundle of cinnamon sticks. 

Gardeners can incorporate the love of gardening into holiday decorations.  Our resources are somewhat limited but with the spritz of some gold paint or a dab of glitter, the weeds we hate in the summer could possibly be the star of the winter.

Look outside and be appreciative of what we do have.  

Saturday, November 11, 2023


 last year's saved waxed Amaryllis bulb.

At the end of the 2022 holiday season, friends talked about cutting the spent Amaryllis bloom, removing the bulb from the soil and storing in a paper bag in the garage or a closet.

The "what if" side of the brain kicked in.  I decided to try the same process with the waxed Amaryllis bulb I had been gifted.  After blooming, the waxed bulb was put in a paper bag and stored in the garage.  On the first of November I brought the bulb in.  Then the question was "now what"?  I found the answer in a fact sheet from the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension from January 10, 2022.

The process starts with carefully removing the wax.  Try to leave as much brown covering on the bulb as possible.  The wax removal on the base can be a little delicate.  My bulb had actually started growing roots along the base so I was extremely careful not to damage the area where I could see growth.

Next step was to find a suitable container.  Suggestion was to use the lid of a bakery box from the store.  I am using a berry box.  A paper towel should be at least a double thickness and should be folded to fit.  The towel should be barely damp.  Place the container in a sunny window and monitor the towel dampness 
every few days.  After one-week, white roots are starting to appear.  When 4 or 5 roots are approximately 3 inches long, I'll transplant to container with potting soil.  The soil level should be just slightly below the top of the rounded part of the bulb.

Now that the recovery effort is under way, the wonder begins of how to turn a 2024 purchased bulb into a waxed Amaryllis bulb.

The magic machine knows everything.  I was hoping to find a research-based educational source.  What is available are blogs, some with more involved details than others.

The basic process is to soak the bulb in water for 4 to 6 hours, soak should only cover half the bulb.

Dry for approximately 2 hours.

Cut off the basil plate (the flat area where the roots will grow).  That will shock the bulb into a survival mode thinking that it is dying which forces it into trying to reproduce itself.  Let the bulb dry for a few hours. Regular household paraffin is used, also candle stubs.  Now you know why you saved the old candles.  Wax is melted in a double boiler (water in the bottom pan, wax in top pan), or in a clean tin can placed in a pan of water.  

Paint the wax on the bulb using a narrow brush or it can be dipped into the hot wax.  Process should be repeated several times for good coverage.  Application should be from the neck down covering the sides and the base.  Bulbs can be decorated with craft glitter, spray painted or gold leafed.

Place the bulbs in a warm area that receives sun to encourage growth.  Bloom time is 4 to 6 weeks.

Seems like we just put the gardens to bed and already we are thinking of Holiday decorations.  Time flies. 

Saturday, October 28, 2023


a conifer?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines conifer as "a tree that produces hard, dry, fruit (cones and evergreen needle-like leaves". 

Is the conifer I'm looking at a pine, a spruce or a fir?

Homeowners and even some well-versed gardeners have difficulty keeping them straight.  Often, I have been asked which is my favorite Christmas tree.  My answer has always been a stare into space and a dumb sounding 'dah'.  I tribute the non-answer to the fact that we lived in so many different places, that wherever we were, we purchased what was available.  It could have been a pine or a spruce or maybe a fir.

To distinguish one from another we need to start looking at their needles.  Are they attached to the branches singularly or in groups?  Are the needles flat or angled (3 or 4 sided).  Other considerations would be needle length, color, scent, and sharpness.

Pines (Pinus spp.)

Pines have slender needles (leaves) arranged in bundles of two, three or five with a permanent or deciduous papery wrap or sheath at their bases called a fascicle.

Spruce (Picea app.)

Spruces have needles attached individually to the branches via short wooden, peg-like structures called pulvini.  Spruces retain their needles for four to ten years before shedding them.  Spruce needles tend to be stiff and sharply pointed making them somewhat unpleasant to work around when doing yardwork, pruning or removal, or decorating.  Spruce needles easily roll between one's fingers and have a distinctive square (four-sided) shape.

Fir (Abies spp.) 

Firs also have needles attached individually to branches via a short wooden, peg-like structure.  These 'wooden pegs' (circular leaf scar) remain behind after the needle drops making the branch look and feel rough.  Fir needles are soft, flat (two-sided) and cannot be rolled between one's fingers.  Fir needles release a citrusy scent when crushed.

Now to the value of cones in addition to adding glitz to holiday decorating.

Cones belong to a group of plants called gymnosperms meaning that they have naked seeds not enclosed in an ovary.  The main function of the cone is to keep the seeds safe and protected from cold temperatures and animals.  The seeds are released when the temperatures are warm.  

Cones can be used as a mulch.

Cones can become a 'bug hotel'.  Cones are an excellent place for lady bugs and other insects to overwinter. 

Cones can be crafted into a bird feeder.  A large, round and wide cone provides the best surface.  Remove a few of the scales to provide the best surface area.  Slather the cones in peanut butter or suet, roll in your favorite bird seed.  Tie with twine and hang from the bough of a tree.

A word of caution.  If pinecones show small black specs or other fungus-type spots, do not use in any of the suggestions as this could infect your landscape.


Saturday, October 14, 2023


when I needed you?

I decided this fall to add excitement to my life by switching some of the traditional fall canning recipesto explore more freezing recipes of fresh fruit and veggies.  I entered the guessing game of finding the answer to how many, or how much of the fresh ingredient equated to the commercially canned variety enabling me to convert some recipes.  I have always wondered about substitutions, above and beyondthe herbs.  One thought always leads to another.

All of this was available in a long forgotten, hidden on the bookshelf, publication from Oregon State University in 2012.  The publication is titled 'The Healthy Recipe Cookbook'.  I have no idea what guided my hand there.  The publication turned out to be the answer to so many of my questions.

Winter is approaching and we wonder will it be tolerable, or will we be questioning if we should be out shopping.  Maybe it's time to take stock of our pantry and just be prepared.  

On this day I wanted to use the last of the fresh tomatoes from my garden.  I was curious about the tomato sauce recipe because it had a list of ingredients that were different from my traditional recipe.  It included fennel seed, red wine, bay leaf, honey and balsamic vinegar in addition to the traditional Italian seasonings.  In this case it wasn't a conversion of canned tomatoes to fresh but the equation of 2 cups fresh, chopped, equals 3 medium fresh.   I cooked the tomatoes with skin on, then blended the finished sauce.

 Finding the Substitutions List and the Equivalent Measures List was like finding gold.  In guiding me to the approximate measurement, I also found the following very helpful for future use.

BROWN SUGAR - 1cup  --  1 cup white sugar, plus 2 Tablespoons molasses

BUTTERMILK - 1cup  --  1 Tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus milk to make l cup

GARLIC CLOVE, small  --  1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, or 1/4 teaspoon instant minced garlic

HERBS - 1 teaspoon dried -- 1 Tablespoon fresh, finely cut 

MILK - 1 cup  --  1/3 cup nonfat dry milk+ enough water to make one cup or 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water 

TOMATO SAUCE - 2 cups  --  6-ounce tomato paste, plus 1 cup water 

As I started going through my spice selections I regret I didn't plant basil this year.

SO--guess what is heading up the 2024 seed order list.

For healthy recipes check out  

Saturday, September 23, 2023


No, me either--but I did process over a peck of tasty Central Oregon grown peaches into 11 jars of jam, 12 pints of sliced canned, plus packets of sliced peaches in a light syrup for the freezer.  I weighed out the pounds as I progressed from one peach process to another.  The final weight added up to 29.5 pounds.  That didn't include the peaches consumed while deciding which process to start with.

Thinking of Peter and his peck of pickled peppers brought to mind the question of how big is a peck?  The magic machine always has the answers.  A peck is a dry measure.  In the U.S. it equals 8 dry quarts.  In Great Britian a peck can be either a dry or liquid measure.  The dry measure would equal one-fourth imperial bushel or a liquid measure would equal eight imperial quarts.  The term has been used since the 14th century as a measure for flour.

Starting the fall canning season for me is as exciting as planting the seeds in the spring.

We gave up on the big crock of sauerkraut when we realized our children didn't share our passion for kraut but we did continue for several years on a smaller scale following the OSU directions using quart jars.

Instead of the kraut, I use the fall cabbage for a frozen Cold Slaw.  The slaw is a combination of cabbage, celery, green pepper, carrot in a vinegar-based marinade.  I package the slaw in 2 cup packets and freeze.  Directions say keeps 6-8 months, I am currently using the last package which makes it a year from freezing and I haven't noticed any quality issue.

A gift of a bag of apples from a neighor lead me down a new path of wanting something different in addition to the traditional applesauce.  A recipe for Curried Apple Chutney caught my attention.  It is a wonderful combination of hot and red peppers, raisins, plus mustard seed, garlic, ginger, curry powder allspice, vinegar and brown sugar.

In 2018 I started making Tuscan Tomato Jam.  It is a sweet and tart jam with many different applications from breakfast toast to a sandwich spread and a cheeseboard at a party.

The last item on the canning list is to do the pickled beets. 

Unfortunately, I ate too many from the garden and will now have to head to a farmers' market to make up the difference.  Note for next year, plant more beets!

The Tuscan Tomato Jam recipe came from  It was a 2018 posting.

Denise's Award-Winning Pickled Beets came from a posting by National Garden Bureau in 2018.

The Frozen Cabbage Slaw was from my sister.

1 med head cabbage, shredded, 2 carrots grated, 1 red or green pepper, chopped, 1/2 cup celery, chopped, 1 tsp salt.

For the dressing: 2 cups sugar, 1 cup cider vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 1tsp mustard seed, 1 tsp celery seed

Add salt to cabbage, let sit for l hour.  Squeeze cabbage to bruise, add other veggies.  Combine dressing ingredients and boil l minute.  Let stand till lukewarm.  Pour over cabbage mixture.  Put in serving size containers or bags and freeze.  Keeps 6-8 months.  Thaw in refrigerator overnight.

Saturday, August 26, 2023


Most professions and hobbies require the use of technical terms or jargon that the average person may not understand. Gardening isn't any different.  In addition, gardening terms are compounded by knowledge of botanical Latin used in plant names.

Scott Aker, horticulturist at the Cheyenne Botanic Garden and former garden communicator with the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., confessed to misspelling spiracea (omitting the first a) on garden maps and emails for five years before discovering his error.  Over the course of years Aker encountered a number of cases where horticultural and gardening terms tend to be misused or misunderstood.  Based on his experience, here are some of the topics that seem to cause the most confusion.

One of the most common errors is confusion of the terms "variety" and "cultivar". which should not be used interchangeably.  A cultivar--the word is a contraction of the words "cultivated" and "variety"--designates plants that differ from naturally occurring plant populations in some way.  To qualify as a cultivar, human hands must have created or selected that plant.

Creeping Charlie weed
Cultivars are always designated either by using the word cultivar or by placing the cultivar name in single quotes, like 'Peace' rose.  You can't help but wonder if using Latin binomial names is more trouble than it's worth.  Aker urges us to persevere.  

Creeping Charlie houseplant
Common names are a cultural construct and have regional roots.  For instance, creeping Charlie is a common name for several different plants, and it may either be a weed or a houseplant.  The weed is  Glechoma hederacea and the houseplant is Pilea nummularifolia.  Latin binomial names are necessary if we want to be sure we are talking about the same plant.

There also seems to be a movement toward capitalization of all words in common names, likely because they stand out more in marketing materials.  In general usage the only part of a common name that should be capitalized is a person or place name, like "black-eyed Susans- or "Boston ivy".

Plural forms are sometimes confusing.  If you are using Latin names, the plural is always the same form as the singular. Example, I planted a single Rhododendron in my garden.  Tomorrow I will plant five more Rhododendron.  The plural in English usage is boxwood, not boxwoods, in the same way that a single doe is a deer and 20 like her are collectively also called deer.

 To add more confusion, in some cases more than one spelling is correct:  gladioluses and gladioli are both allowed, but gladiola is not the correct term for a single gladiolus.

If you really want to plan ahead for a deep winter study you should plan for a study of the difference between bulbs, tubers, and rhizomes.  If you want to talk or write about many of these different types of plant at once, the correct collective term for them is geophyte, with "geo" denoting earth and "phyte" meaning plant; think of them as plants that retreat into the earth when times are hard.

Amaryllis bulb
Iris Rhizome
Dahlia tubers

One of the pet peeves of Aker is seeing the word horticulturist rendered as horticulturalist.  The former is the preferred dictionary choice and is shorter and simpler.  However you do see the latter version quite often, perhaps people think that extra syllable makes it sound more impressive.  

There also seems to be confusion between a landscaper and a gardener.  If you hire someone to tend to our acreage, that person is often called a landscaper, but if you tend to it yourself you probably call yourself a gardener.   A landscaper is someone who focuses on tidiness-cutting the grass, mulching the beds, blowing debris off the paths and trimming the shrubs.  A gardener is more closely associated with more intimate tasks such as amending the soil, planting, weeding, deadheading and pruning.  It connects us with the natural processes, so be proud and boldly state that you are a gardener.

Saturday, August 12, 2023


       or maybe the question is--what is lovage?

In 1649 Nicholas Culpepper published 'The English Physician, or Herball', and it has since been reprinted in many forms and languages.  The copy I have is a 1985 edition.  The first sentence in
the description of lovage is 100 words long.  Within all those words was one word that sent me to the magic machine for a definition.  The word was "smallage", which means wild celery.  The usage was to describe the "shape of the leaf, large, winged leaves, divided into many parts like smallage, but much larger" (and then the sentence continues with another 60 plus words!).

According to Culpepper, the virtues are many.  "It openeth, cureth, and digesteth humours,, and mightely provoketh women's courses and urine."   In addition, it warms a cold stomach, easeth all gripings and pains, expels wind and resisteth poison and infections.  Did I mention it removes spots or freckles in the face?

Lovage came to America with early New Englanders.  New Englanders would candy the root and also chew on the seed during long church services to keep them alert.

Lovage, Levisticum officinate, from the Apiaceae (carrot, parsley) family is native to Southern Europe and the mountainous region of the Mediterranean.  Lovage is a perennial in zone 3 and is considered a pollinator.  I have grown it for over 10 years and each year it pops back up early in the spring, no matter what the winter has been.  Reports are that it can grow 6 to 7 feet tall.  The usual growth in my garden is 12 to 18 inches tall.  Descriptions are that the plant flowers in late June with umbel yellow greenish blossoms.  Although my plant always shows a robust growth, I have not seen it bloom.  I need to solve that mystery.  My original plan to use it was for winter seasoning to replace buying expensive celery that usually ended up going soft in the veggie drawer.

The plant looks like thin, dark green celery, with leaves that look like a combination of both celery leaves and giant parsley leaves.  The seeds look and taste a lot like what we buy labeled as "celery seed".  I checked several national packaged culinary seed sources and didn't find anything labeled as Lovage Seed.    Lovage garden seed is available at Nichols Garden Nursery in Philomath, OR and at The Thyme Garden in Alsea, OR.

Lovage can be used in salads, soups, also chicken or pork dishes.  A word of caution: lovage is strong so start with just a leaf or two of chopped fresh leaves.  The leaves can also be used in frittatas, egg salad and potato salad.  If you like bloody Mary's the hollow stalk of the lovage is for you.

In the Netherlands, it is served with white asparagus and salt.  In Romania it is used to add flavor to pickled cabbage and cucumbers, while in the UK it is made into an alcoholic drink called Lovage Cordial.

I started harvesting the young more tender stalks to dehydrate.  I strip the leaves onto a paper plate and microwave for 1 minute at a time until dry.  Usually it is 1.5 minutes to 2 minutes.  At 1.5 minutes, you can leave the plate on the countertop to finish off.   Storage is in a glass jar.

I found several recipes to add to the soup file that sound like fun to try on a cold winter's day.

Romanian Meatball Soup from: Joanna Cismaru website and Lovage and Potato soup from the Herbal Academy website.