Archives for 2013

Happy New Year!

Turning the calendar page to a new year always makes me feel guilty – at least, when I start making all those resolutions. There are the perennial ones, of course: exercise, eat better, save more, spend less. Those are the intentions that last a good week or so, only to sink slowly out of sight, like a ship gliding off into the horizon.

I re-resolve to read all the books I’ve bought; pray more and listen a whole lot more; be slower to anger, and quicker to show kindness. I mean to volunteer more, attend church regularly, and step up my donations to a couple of worthy causes I believe in.

I promise to walk the dogs more often; stop biting my nails; and hey– isn’t it time to organize the linen closet and get all those fitted sheets folded properly?

And how about this biggie: finish the middle grade novel I started? It’s a book that won an agent’s attention in a writing contest, an agent who asked me to send the manuscript to her when it was completed. That was years ago, and I never sent it.

A big part of that problem had to do with believing in myself. What if it never sells, I wondered, and I’ve spent all that time on it when I could’ve been working on and selling other things?

It’s time to have a little faith, even if it’s missplaced. Time to waste some effort, even if it goes unrewarded. Time to trust that you can learn from the journey, even if you never get to the destination.

Is it time for you to tackle something special, too? Let’s not waste another year. Not even another minute.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
– T.S. Eliot

Happy New Year!






An Apron for Your Garden – The Roo

Roo apronI’m one of those people who wander around a lot. I can’t seem to help myself. Put me in a garden, rain or shine, and I’ll find something to look at or to do.

Sometimes I go out to water a plant and wind up harvesting an armful of tomatoes or banana peppers. Or I’ll start out to prune some branches, and end up stuffing my pockets with interesting acorns, hickory nuts, and pine cones. (Of course, poking around and seeing what’s out there is part of the charm of a garden.)

Recently I was offered the chance to try a Roo, a nifty garden apron that comes with its own built-in, handy pouch (think, kangaroo). I love this apron. Aprons are making a comeback, you know; they’re not just for Donna Reed and all those 50s’ TV moms.

The pouch is the best part of the Roo. If you’re out weeding, you don’t have to leave a pile to rake away later. Just drop the weeds in, and head over to the compost pile. Open the pouch, and it acts like a funnel, dropping the weeds where you want them.Roo apron

Now when I’m wandering around the garden, I can pick tomatoes or cucumbers and carry them in the pouch. It’s sturdy cotton canvas, so it’s strong enough to hold them. No more stretching out the bottom of my tee-shirt to put my veggies in! No more splattered tomato juice and seeds down the front of my shirt! (If you’re a gardener, you’ve done it, too. Admit it.)

Roos come in purple (my fav), green, blue, and red. They’re “one-size-fits-all” and washable.

Joe Gardener, of TV’s Growing a Greener World, picked the Roo as one of a gardener’s “must-have” products. I’m giving it a big, green thumb’s up, too.

Fair notice: Thanks to Tamara Cullen for sending me a sample Roo apron. Images are courtesy of Roo Gardening Apron.






Summer Sage – How To Dry Herbs


Does it seem too early to think about roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving? (My local craft store doesn’t think so. August has barely arrived, and they’ve got holiday decorations out—but I’m getting off track.)

I started thinking about turkeys today when I went to water my herbs. The sage was ready to pick, so I snipped a big handful of stems and brought them inside to save. The leaves are so fragrant, and they’ll be delicious in my dressing recipe.

It’s easy to save sage and other summer herbs. Just pick from your plants early in the day, if possible, and bring the stems in to sort. Discard any bad leaves, and rinse them thoroughly under running water.

Next, let the herbs air-dry on paper towels. When they’re dry, tie them into small bundles, letting the leaves face in different directions. This will help with air circulation while they’re drying.

Make slits in the sides of small, brown paper bags, and slip one bag over each bundle of herbs. Hang the bags upside down in a warm, dry place. They’ll keep dust off the leaves, and prevent sunlight from bleaching the colors.

Check the bags every few days, to be sure the sage is getting enough air flow to prevent mildew or fungus. The leaves should be nice and dry in about two weeks. Take them out of the bags, and crumble them over a sheet of wax paper. Toss the stems, and pour the crumbled leaves into an airtight container.

Store it as you would store any spice jar, in a dark, dry cabinet or in your freezer.

Be a little conservative when you use dried sage. Unlike other herbs, it retains much of its flavor, so you probably won’t need to use quite as much as usual.

Hope you didn’t cut your sage plants to the ground. They’ll keep producing leaves, so you can keep harvesting into early fall.

New Oriental Lilies

Talk about lucky–I was offered some new lily bulbs to test-trial in my garden this year. Of course I said yes! And you can see how beautifully they’ve grown in these pictures.

These are so new, they aren’t being offered for sale yet. What makes them unique? Look closely, and you’ll see that the breeder has developed lilies that don’t have stamens, the parts of a flower (technically, the anther and filament) that contain pollen.

This is a big deal because Oriental lilies are beloved for their gorgeous blooms and sweet fragrance–but not for their stamens, which dust everything that comes in contact with them with yellow-orange pollen. That pollen stains clothes and skin. The stains on your hands last for a couple of days. If you get the pollen on your clothes–well, hope you like wearing orange polka dots. These lilies avoid that problem altogether.

I’m trialing these lilies in white, too, and they are absolutely spectacular. Haven’t seen a bug or a sign of disease on them. I can’t tell you who’s going to be selling them yet, but I hope to spill the beans soon. In the meantime–feast your eyes here. Wish this was scratch-and-sniff, so you could enjoy their perfume, too!


Simple Summer Berry Cobbler – Le Creuset Challenge

I admit, I’m more gardener than cook, although growing foods, and preparing them for the table, often go hand-in-hand. But I had to rise to the challenge–as much as I’m able—when one of our wonderful Garden2Blog 2013 sponsors, Le Creuset, sent each gardener attending this year’s event a Round French Oven.

They asked that we whip up something yummy and post the recipe and pictures. I chose a berry cobbler, since I can’t pass for a seasoned chef, and anyway, I don’t usually make elaborate dishes (no time, when the beans are ready for picking and the squash are out of control! That’s when hubs hits the kitchen to slide a pan of cornbread batter into the oven and fry up a plate of sliced green tomatoes).

You can make this with a single kind of berries, such as blackberries, or a combination of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. It would also be yummy with sliced peaches. Just go for fresh fruits, if you can find them–but frozen fruits are fine, too.

Summer Berry Cobbler

You’ll need:

1 stick butter, melted
1 1/4 c. sugar, plus 2 T. sugar
1 c. self-rising flour
1 c. whole milk
2 c. fresh berries (or peaches)


1. Grease your Le Creuset baking dish with butter, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Melt the stick of butter in a microwave-safe dish for about 30-45 seconds.  Set aside to cool.

3. Whisk 1 cup of the sugar with the milk and flour.

4. Whisk in the melted butter.

5. Rinse your berries or other fruits and pat them dry.

6. Pour the batter into the baking dish and sprinkle in the berries or sliced peaches.  Sprinkle 1/4 c. of sugar over everything.

8. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with an additional 2 T. of sugar. Return dish to oven for 10 more minutes. Cooking time is 1 hour total (or less. It’s done when the topping becomes gold and bubbly.)

Cool and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Resist the urge for seconds and thirds!


Collard Greens

Oh my my….my friend Becky just sent me these pictures of the collards she’s cooking up today. A co-worker from the Tampa Bay area gave them to her; they were grown with the help of the Pinellas County Extension Office Master Gardeners, and they’re all organic. No pesticides on these babies!

Becky washed the leaves and stripped away the stems…

….then got out a recipe and some bacon and onions for seasoning. She’s making Kickin’ Collard Greens, a recipe from, that uses black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes for the “kick.”


This is where the pictures end. But you can bet she’s sitting down to a good dinner tonight. I’m enjoying them–in my imagination, at least–with a big glass of cold buttermilk.

Beck, thanks for sharing!


P. Allen Smith and Garden2Blog


I can’t wait! Spring is on its way and I’ve been invited to Garden2Blog 2013, hosted by award-winning garden designer and TV host P. Allen Smith.

I’m one of a couple of dozen lucky bloggers who’ll travel to Little Rock, Arkansas and visit the Moss Mountain Farm Garden. We’ll meet each other (really cool, since we’re coming from around the country and will have lots to share) and meet reps from the trade and garden industry.

G2B 2013 takes place on May 7 and 8. Start thinking about what you’d want me to find out about while I’m there, so I can tap into all the great gardening know-how!


Reach for the Sky: Grow a Vertical Garden

Out of room—always my problem.

In my closets, in my kitchen cabinets, and now in my garden. We have a small house, but I’m running out of space in the yard, too, which means I’ve got to get creative if I want to add more sun-loving flowers and veggies this year.  So I’m going to think UP, and grow up with a vertical garden trellis like the one we featured here, on the Home Depot Garden Club site.

This is super easy. You just use a section of garden trellis and some S-hooks. Lean the trellis in a corner or other spot that will keep it from falling over, and pot up your plants in lightweight plastic pots. Slip the hooks under the rims, and hang as desired. You could do petunias, lantanas, or any kind of colorful flowers, or plant herbs to keep near your grill or the kitchen door. I’m thinking of trying strawberries.

Is your garden “upward bound” this year?

Grow A Centerpiece

Easter comes early this year, and it has almost slipped up on me. I want to grow my own centerpiece, using an idea I saw once at Barnesly Gardens Resort in Adairsville, GA.  Talk about easy: this setting uses inexpensive burlap (some is left natural, and another length is dyed green) to hold an oval-shaped container sown with grass seeds.

Once the grass sprouted and grew a few inches tall, the table designer inserted handmade seed packets and a few small figures. You could make this more colorful by adding tiny Easter chicks, eggs, and bunnies, or by putting some pansy or daffodil blossoms into the scene.  On the left, you can see a short section of a log that’s been drilled to hold votive candles. I’d add some small garden hoes or trowels around the base of the arrangement for extra charm. If your grass gets too tall before the holiday, just mow it with scissors or garden shears.

You don’t have to spend a lot for a pretty Easter centerpiece–just start soon, so your miniature “lawn” will be ready to go!

Historic Garden Week In Virginia



I’ve been reading about Thomas Jefferson’s gardens at Monticello lately, and I’ll be writing about them for President’s Day for The Home Depot Garden Club. Now I’m itching to visit Monticello’s winding flower walks and 3-football-fields long kitchen garden. Jefferson was a passionate gardener and botanist who grew seeds and plants from around the world, and if you remember your high school history, explorers Lewis and Clark also sent him “exotic” plants from their travels during their Corps of Discovery Expedition in the early 1800s.

If you’re planning a spring trip, check out Historic Garden Week in Virginia. From April 20 – 27, 250 of Virginia’s most beautiful gardens will be open to the public for tours. Ticket prices vary, depending on which activities and tours you select, so see the website for more info. The only problem will be choosing which ones you want to see!