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Your USDA Hardiness Zone

Featured Articles!

Dappled Willow Worth Pruning Tasks

One of the more popular ornamental trees for the Midwestern landscape is the dappled willow (Salix integra 'Hakuro-nishiki'). It appears to have everything going for it: a weeping appearance and grayish green foliage that is highlighted with streaks of pink and white. It is also fast growing, offering the lure of instant gratification.

Let’s not forget it is also a willow, which as we well know, can get a little unruly. Which is not to say you shouldn’t plant dappled willow, but rather a-gardener-beware warning appears to be in order. Dappled willow sprouts branches and shoots from just about every possible growing point. Despite it having the discipline of a young puppy, it is still a worthwhile plant for the landscape and will withstand the most brutal winter Mother Nature can throw at us. It is also listed as deer resistant.

The Japanese cultivar of dappled willow, ‘Hakuro-nishiki’, has been growing in my backyard for about three years. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t part with it anymore than I’d discard my favorite gardening tool. I just need to accept a few realities about growing this beautiful dappled willow. Following are a few tips ...

>> read “Dappled Willow Worth Pruning Tasks”    
Small Fruits to try in the Midwestern Landscape

When the summer fruits start appearing in the farmers’ markets, everyone goes into a frenzy. We love the sweetness of strawberries, raspberries and currants, but many of us are daunted when growing our own. The good news is that it’s not very hard, and you can actually incorporate some of them right into the landscape. Most of

>> read “Small Fruits to try in the Midwestern Landscape”       #Edibles   #Fruit
A Grass for the Masses
Pink muhly grass

It stops traffic in our small Southeastern Tennessee town. In the middle of fall, cars come to a screeching halt as the driver casts a glance towards the stand of pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) rimming the upper left curbing of our circle driveway. It must be the unexpectedness of seeing a swath of pink cotton candy backlit by the soft angle of fall’s lower light that causes this reaction. In early mornings, it is often sprinkled with dew or sparkled with frost, giving the appearance of glistening pink diamonds that would have caused even Elizabeth Taylor to feel intense envy. It is a thing of wondrous awe.

>> read “A Grass for the Masses”    
Kylee’s Pumpkin Torte Recipe

Mix 1 cup cake mix, sugar, cinnamon and ¼ cup butter. Sprinkle on top of the pumpkin mixture. Bake at 350° F for 45 to 50 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with whipped cream. Store in the refrigerator. Pumpkin torte may very well become a new favorite at your house! It’s delicious served warm from the oven or after it has been refrigerated.

>> read “Kylee’s Pumpkin Torte Recipe”       #Recipes
Leaf Castings Capture the Beauty of Leaves

The first time I saw a leaf casting was in the garden of a friend. It was a heart-shaped hosta leaf preserved forever in concrete. Painted a light blue-green, it had intricate veining and was just deep enough for a birdbath. I knew then and there I had to have one.

Leaf castings capture the beauty of leaves. They're made from leaves fresh from the garden. My own garden didn't have any large-leaf plants. So I added some elephant ears this spring and waited for them to grow. When the leaves were big enough, I made my first casting. Leaf castings can be a bit tricky to make, but even a beginner can turn out a good one ...

>> read “Leaf Castings Capture the Beauty of Leaves”    
The Rosenbaums’ Garden
Veggies in a Big Way

Debby and Ken Rosenbaum have built their garden from the ground up. Literally. Ken was raised on a farm and is a machinist by trade; Debby’s a city girl. They shared a common love of fresh vegetables and grew what they could while raising a family. After their two daughters left home, Debby found she had more time on her hands. Now she has a full-time summer job growing fruits and vegetables.

>> read “The Rosenbaums’ Garden”    
Winter Sowing
Seed Starting Made Easy

Most people probably think the only way to start seeds in January is to pot them and place them on racks under special lighting in the basement or dining room. However, there is an easier and cheaper method called winter sowing. The snow may be falling, the wind may be blowing and the temperature definitely dropping, but that is the perfect time to winter sow some seeds, put the containers outside and forget about them.

>> read “Winter Sowing”    
Come on Life ... Give Me Lemons
As long as they’re lemon herbs

Oh ... the clean, fresh smell of lemons, who can resist a tall glass of lemonade? It seems I always have a few lemons on the counter, but inevitably I don’ t use them quickly enough and they become shriveled and tasteless. So my alternative to getting that fresh lemon taste is to run out to the herb garden and choose from one of my many lemon herbs.

>> read “Come on Life ... Give Me Lemons”    
Get The Taste of Tarragon with Mexican Mint Marigold

The flavor of French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa) is highly prized by world-famous chefs and weekend culinary gurus alike. True tarragon can be tricky to grow, but we do have a very suitable alternative, Mexican mint marigold. Though not quite as complex as true French tarragon, Mexican mint marigold does possess the same strong, sharp and sweet anise flavor associated with tarragon and shared, to some extent, by other plants such as anise and fennel. It is easy to grow and loves our hot, dry summers and mostly mild winters.

>> read “Get The Taste of Tarragon with Mexican Mint Marigold”    
Cream of Cauliflower and Chive Soup

This soup is easy, fast, crazy inexpensive and pretty enough to serve to the fussiest dinner party guests. You can make it a few days in advance without the half and half, salt, pepper and chives. Then, just reheat it until it is warmed through, adding the half and half, salt, pepper and chives just before serving. What more could you ask of a soup?

>> read “Cream of Cauliflower and Chive Soup”       #Recipes
Chive and Bleu Cheese Dressing

Combine buttermilk, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and garlic in the blender and pulse until smooth. Add parsley and pulse until chopped. Then add the cheese and only pulse a few times. You want the cheese to stay chunky. Stir in the chopped chives and pepper at the last minute, before serving. After pouring dressing, grind fresh, cracked pepper over your dish.

>> read “Chive and Bleu Cheese Dressing”       #Recipes
Grains + Fruit = Tasty Granola Recipe

During the winter months, the avalanche of seed and plant catalogs I find in the mailbox reassures me that there will be fresh fruit again next summer. Still, to get these catalogs, I have to trudge through 2 feet of snow. And for too long, in my opinion. So how do I keep the faith? I celebrate dried fruit instead by making mounds of granola.

I have tried countless recipes for homemade granola. Trust me, this is the one my family and friends like the best. It was first inspired by Sarah Chase’s Open House Cookbook. Ina Garten then added more dried fruit to it for the The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

>> read “Grains + Fruit = Tasty Granola Recipe”    

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