I’ve been an Iowa State University Extension Master Gardener and member of the Story County Master Gardener Association since 2001. My favorite club activity is our annual Plant Sale on Mother’s Day weekend. I enjoy visiting with gardeners and helping them decide what plants would work best in their yards and their plan.

As a child I helped out with the family garden every summer reaping the fruits of my labor with joy. I also remember slipping away during visits to my grandfather’s farm to liberate some of his raspberries. However, gardening is more than just planting a flower, fruit or vegetable garden. We are conservators of the land and have a responsibility to protect the environment with a thoughtful plan for the land we manage.


Recent Blog Posts

May 09
Spring Plant Sales  

Apr 17
Hawaiian Ti Plant  

Dec 29
Garden Journals   (1 comment)

Dec 19
Fall Into Winter  

Nov 19
Winter preparations  

Oct 26
What I Did on My Summer Vacation  

Sep 23
Summer Garden Tour  

Jun 19
A Competitive Garden   (1 comment)




Spring Plant Sales
by Andrea Dorn - posted 05/09/14


It’s that time of year again. Perennials are poking their heads out of the ground. Crocuses, daffodils have bloomed. Tulips were just in time for the Pella Tulip Festival. I’ll bet the folks in Pella are thankful!

It’s also the time when Master Gardeners are madly preparing for their annual plant sales. The Story County Master Gardener Association’s sale is schedule for May 10th at Reiman Gardens come rain, shine, snow, floods or even heat.

While jumping around during the last ISU Cyclone men’s basketball game I managed to break my foot. I call it my homage to George Niang J I can still get around but for a few weeks I had to wear a “stylish” boot so I couldn’t do any digging in the garden. Luckily, fellow Master Gardener, Ann Wilbur, came over to help.

She dug up my daylilies, False Solomon’s Seal and Bishop’s Weed while I sat in my chair dividing and potting the plants. Doing yard work with a friend makes even the hardest chore more fun. And just as she loaded the last of her tools back in her truck and I put away my lawn chair the rain started. We could not have timed it better.

While we do sell a lot of plants from local gardeners’ yards, we also have commercially grown perennials, hanging baskets and annuals. We usually have some vegetable seedlings as well.

So if you’re looking for a great collection of a large variety of plants visit your local Master Gardener plant sale.

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Hawaiian Ti Plant
by Andrea Dorn - posted 04/17/14


I’ve found that not many people in the Midwest have heard of the Hawaiian Ti plant, Cordyline terminalis. Yet it is a beautiful, strong and resilient addition to any household. They can grow from 3 to 12 feet in height in the islands but in a pot that height is usually restricted.

I received my first Ti back in the ‘70s when my grandfather returned from a vacation in the islands. Even today they come in a log form prepackaged and pre-approved for export. However, you can start them from seeds or cuttings as well.

The Ti plant, or Ki to Hawaiians, originally came from Polynesia. Early Hawaiians used the Ki for many things, such as roof thatching, grass skirts, rain cloaks, sandals, and even wrappings for food. They also wrapped them around heated stones to use as hot packs.

The plant itself has large, green-leaves though you can also purchase varieties with red to pink leaves. I tried the red ones a couple of times but they never seemed to be as hardy as the green-leaved variety. But you might have better luck.

The most remarkable characteristic of the Ti plant is its almost Lazarus-like ability to rebound just when you think you’ve lost it. I’ve had this same plant for nearly 4 decades and it still amazes me. I’d post a better photo but at the moment my plant is growing through another of its reincarnations. I also have to keep my plant protected with a wire cage, not to keep it upright but to keep the cats away from it.

Though it is a healthy plant the Ti can be susceptible to some fungal, bacterial and pest-related diseases. Recently I read that it doesn’t tolerate fluoride but all these years I’ve always used tap water. I’m going to start using only distilled water now to see if that stops the periodic die back but it hasn’t killed mine yet.

I encourage you to add this beauty to your household and bring a touch of the islands to your life.

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Garden Journals
by Andrea Dorn - posted 12/29/13

Do you keep a journal? What about a gardening journal? If not, now is the perfect time to start. Use any type of notebook or even an actual journal. Or you can go straight to your computer or e-notebook (or pad or whatever you call them). If you’re crafty you might even make your own journal.

Look back at this past year. Record any perennials you added to your yard and their location (maybe even when you planted it if you remember). If you want to be even more detailed you can record what medium you added, where purchased, how often you watered or fed it, etc. Did you plant any trees or bushes this year? Record the same information for them also. You’ll want to record any information you recall about lawn treatments or reseeding you’ve done.


Journals are also good for keeping track of your successes and failures with annuals, vegetables and fruits. What grew or didn’t grow, what environment in your yard worked better, how well did the plants produce and was the produce good? This means flowers and herbs as well as edibles. A three-ring binder is good for storing receipts, plant labels and seed packets for future reference.


Even more important are your thoughts and feelings about gardening. Sure it is helpful to record the facts, but let’s also record how those facts affect you. Maybe you look at gardening and yardwork as a chore. Once you begin to journal force yourself to record at least one non-chore observation each day or week.

Perhaps it is the sweet smell of freshly mowed grass or the spring scent of lilacs greeting you at the back door. Maybe you saw an unusual butterfly wafting around the Rudbeckia or even a honeybee (we know how rare they are now).  Eventually you’ll find yourself writing down more profound thoughts about the world in general. We all know you have it in you!



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