Fresh Strawberries


Too bad you can’t scratch-and-sniff this picture! I wish you could smell the sweet fragrance of these ripe strawberries. I hit the jackpot at my local farmer’s market when they put these beauties on sale, and I have more strawberries blooming in my garden that should be ready soon.

It’s sooooo easy to turn these into jams and pies, but I also like to freeze a bunch.  Then I can pop them out anytime to use as a topping on ice cream, cake, or cheesecake. They’re also great for whipping into smoothies and stirring into yogurt.

All you have to do is rinse the berries quickly in cool water, then let them drain and dry thoroughly. Don’t leave them in the water, because if they absorb too much, it will dilute the flavor.

I remove the stems and slice my berries, but you can leave them whole. Then arrange them on a cookie sheet in a single layer. I used a Silpat non-stick mat underneath, but you could use wax paper or freezer paper. (Paper towels tend to stick.)

Put the cookie sheet into the freezer until the berries are firm, then remove them and store them in freezer bags or containers. Use them in a few months, and enjoy!

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!


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!

Merry Christmas




Merry Christmas from Miss Paws!

Miss Paws and Molly and I, along with The Boy and his dad, are home for Christmas, safely out of the rain and cold and hoping that travelers on the roads and in the skies will be safe this season, too.

We’re watching the weather, since the forecasters are already warning of possible tornadoes for the next couple of days. You can never tell, here in the southeast, when the clash of warm and cold fronts will stir up violent winds, a la The Wizard of Oz. Needless to say, we’re hoping for fair, calm skies (we don’t want Santa’s reindeer facing any harsh headwinds, after all).

Blessings to you and yours for the coming New Year!