Lavender Farm

This week the garden gals visited Lavender Acres in Meridian, Idaho. We were allowed to help harvest the lavender and then hang some in the barn. We learned lots about lavender, the harvest and we all came home with a couple of bundles of the their wonderful fragrant lavender.

Lavender Landscape
Lavender Landscape



Buzzing bees, warm fragrance, aurrounded in purple!

Bundled lavender
Cut and Bundled lavender

lavender in wagon
Hauling in the lavender for drying

Hanging lavender bundles
Lavender hanging in the barn to dry

Here is an example of the hand scythes we used to cut the lavender.

Hand scythe for cutting lavender
Hand scythe for cutting lavender

After cutting the lavender, we bound the bundles with rubber bands. Once we had bound a wagon full of lavender, it was time to head off to the barn to hang the lavender to dry.
The bees were happy, we were covered in fresh lavender scents.
All in all it was a beautiful fragrant day!

Spring Plants That Repel Animal Pests

GBtulip2Today, I have a guest writer on Vicki’s Garden Tips:
Her name is Trisha Miller, from


You can find more about Trisha at twitter @thatdangvegan, or email her at thatdangvegan (at) gmail (dot) com.
Thank you, Trisha for your timely article! Thursday, this week, I had a gopher tunneling through my front door flower bed, eating my tulip bulbs.

Spring Plants That Repel Animal Pests
Animal pests are inevitable when growing any fertile garden. However, some early spring plants actually attract critters much more than others. Often times, pesky intruders will chomp on just about anything living – seemingly without purpose. Even if this seems the case, annoying animals always leave behind clues of their identity and exactly which plants are their favorites to nibble on. We are here to show you that there are steps you can take to ward off any trespassing animals that intent to destroy or eat all of your hard work this spring.

Quickly identify the Culprit

If flowers, bulbs, and veggies are going missing early in the season, it’s definitely the time to spring into action. It can be so disheartening to see plants being destroyed after caring for some starters indoors for weeks only to have them eaten by animal pests. Don’t fret, there are ways to tell exactly what is demolishing your plants. Once you are sure about what is wreaking havoc on your sprouts, you can effectively rid them from your garden and make them never come back. Here is a quick breakdown of spring plants and the critters they could be attracting:

● Deer love to enjoy a tasty snack of luscious flowers from any garden. You’ll know you have a pesky deer when the tops of the plants are being chewed off and the stems are left alone. Plants at risk: Early blooming flowers like tulips and pansies.
● Rabbits can swallow up most of a garden quick, fast, and in a hurry. They aren’t terribly picky eaters, but leafy greens are their absolute favorite. Rabbits tend to leave behind clean and angular bite marks on all the produce they nibble on. Plants at Risk: Leafy greens like lettuce, kale, arugula, and cabbage.
● Gophers and moles both dig and live in the earth. So, it can be extremely hard to spot the culprit when they are constantly hiding. Yet, before you know it a gopher or mole can ruin an entire garden by digging it up. Gophers like to chew on roots under the soil. On the surface it will look like plants are just mysteriously dying unless you can happen to find a nearby mound. Moles do eat some roots, but mostly like to dig up loose and damp soil in search for bugs and worms – a garden is the perfect place to look. Plants at Risk: Just about any visible roots, but especially nutrient rich roots like bulbs, carrots and potatoes.

Plant Pungent Herbs & Flowers Around the Garden

Even if you do happen to have a pest tearing up your garden, there is a silver lining. Some early blooming flowers and herbs can be used to scare away destructive animals who might be lurking nearby. Here are some ideas to ward off specific animal intruders:

● Not only are bleeding heart flowers gorgeous to look at, they are also quite bitter tasting and stinky to deer. One bite and they will steer clear of the area surrounding that plant.
● Lavender is a great plant to keep in any garden. It is a versatile herb for cooking and smells just as great. It even attracts bees that are incredibly beneficial to any blossoming garden. The best part is, rabbits hate the smell and texture of this herb.
● Gophers can be deterred by keeping areas surrounding the garden well weeded and mowed. They dislike revealing themselves in open areas. However, gophers can be quite tenacious. Try planting some marigolds or daffodils near your garden. They do not like the smell or taste. They are mostly interested in water rich roots. Moles on the other hand, can be tricky. Both Marigolds and daffodils are suggested as organic deterrent as well as castor beans and mole plant. Although, castor bean and mole plant are considered poisonous to pets and could be harmful to children. They should only be used under extreme circumstances. What’s more, these plants should only be used under strict supervision while wearing protective wear. A better option would be to use some castor oil directly on the soil where moles are living or have been known to dig.

White bleeding heart- I love them and the deer do not!
White bleeding heart- I love them and the deer do not!

Wild Ginger (Asarum europaeum) with sprouts of lily-of-the-valley in the background. Both of these plants are not appreciated by deer.

Use Animal-Safe Repellents

If none of the above seems to deter these animals from gnawing at your garden, animal repellents will usually do the trick. Of course, putting up fences, plant coverings, and nets can keep out many tenacious critters. However, some of these animals are truly intelligent and persistent and can’t be persuaded to leave. If this is the case look into some non-harmful, but serious animal repellents.

Strong scents and tastes are an easy way to rid your garden of any animal pest. Many folks swear by strongly scented soap, perfume, and even predator musk that scares away just about any vulnerable animal. Just make sure that if you choose to go use an extreme method, such as predator musk, that you won’t be attracting more of that predator to start hanging around.

Lastly, garlic and pepper spray or granules seem to be a crowd favorite for those who are growing a garden year round. The mixture is pungent and spicy enough to stop many animals (and even bugs) from even thinking about coming near. Be sure to do your research if you are purchasing or making your own repellent from home. Something that is too severe could end up damaging the mouth, eyes, or stomach of an unsuspecting animal. Many companies sell an animal-safe and vigorously tested formula that is just strong enough to deter an animal from the area, but won’t cause them any physical injury.

The joy of growing delicious spring vegetables or alluring early budding flowers can be obliterated by irritating animal thieves. These critters seem to come out of the woodwork as soon as the first spring blossom appears. But anyone can arm themselves with the knowledge to know which plants could be attracting notorious animal offenders. In addition, investigating the signs of the common suspects will keep anyone ahead of the usual furry crew. Taking some time to add a few herbs, flowers, spices, or scents around a garden can be just the thing to make any animal think twice about snacking on all your hard work.

Centaurea montana - a deer resistent perennial.  They just don't like those fuzzy leaves!
Centaurea montana – a deer resistent perennial. They just don’t like those fuzzy leaves!

A reliable resource to find if your plants are deer resistant, check out this site: Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance

Tour a Peaceful Boise North End Garden


Last summer, we filmed a beautiful North End garden in Boise, Idaho. The tranquil sounds of water from the stream and waterfall greet you upon entering the backyard.
Take the tour of Gail’s garden.

Or follow this link to the vimeo site for full page viewing:

Here is a listing of the perennials in the video, just in case you want them identified so you can plant them in your yard.

    At 2:05:17
    Hosta, 'Paul's Glory' (just a guess on the variety)
    Hosta, ‘Paul’s Glory’ (just a guess on the variety) with bergenia cordifolia in front of the frog.

    2:36:24 Heuchera, commonly called Coral bells ‘Green spice’

    2:42:16 Liatris, commonly called Gayfeather or blazing star

    2:46:21 Hosta ‘Blue Angel’

    2:53:20 Anemone; Japanese anemone

    2:58:20 Hosta: ‘Irish eyes’ the green leafed hosta with creamy white border

    3:01:08 Buddleia davidii: Butterfly bush- unknown variety

    3:12:06 Phlox paniculata ‘David’

    3:17:26 Clematis unknown variety

    3:24:07 Centranthus ruber; commonly called false valerian or Jupiter’s beard

    3:30:28 Coreopsis lanceolata; commonly called coreopsis or tickseed

A Simple Guide to Pruning Hybrid Tea Roses in Spring

Double Delight

I said simple, so I’m gonna make bullet points for those who skim read only. For you who want more detailed info, it will be after this text.
1. Clean all your pruning tools.
2. Prune all the canes for height. You determine the height you want. More info below
3. Cut to the base of the plant all canes that are damaged, diseased, broken. Also any canes that are growing towards the center of the plant or that are crossing over another stem.
4. Cut to the base any stems that are smaller than a pencil.
5. Thin the rose plant buy cutting more canes so there is room for each remaining stem to move with the wind and to grow. Leave the center of the plant uncrowded.
6. When pruning the stems develop good pruning technique — see below.
7. Rake up all the refuse under the plant and dispose by burning or putting it in the trash. Don’t compost rose cuttings.
8. Fertilize


Here is one way to clean your pruning tools, I am sure there are many others.
In a small container mix a small amount of bleach and water – a 1 to 10 mix is recommended or about 2 Tablespoons of bleach and 1 1/4 cup of water. Wet a rag in the solution and wipe down all your tools. Or immerse your tool in the bleach water and then dry. Roses can harbor diseases and if you have more than one plant, you do not want to spread whatever may be ailing one rose to the other.
Prune for Height

In this part of the country, (the intermountain west) you can prune your hybrid tea roses to about knee high or 18 inches. But what I have decided over the years is to prune and take notes to remember the height you pruned and decide if the rose bloomed in the way you wanted it to. Generally, the fewer stems you leave after pruning means you will get fewer flowers, but they will be larger flowers than if you allowed most of the stems to remain on the plant. If you prune to about knee height your rose may bloom a week later than those who pruned their roses to a higher point.
I have a hybrid tea rose (Double Delight) that is right in front of my brick faced garage facing south. The brick and the southern exposure cause the rose to bud out sooner than any others. I prune that one the shortest of all my roses – 18 inches or so. It is a very old and vigouous rose ( about 25 years old) and has a large healthy root system so I know it will grow to about 40 inches tall during the season.

The rose before pruning. It is a scraggly garbage collector
The rose before pruning. It is a scraggly garbage collector

The same rose after cleaning and thinning.
The same rose after cleaning and thinning.

I have another hybrid tea (Mr. Lincoln) that grows in the back yard and each year as the trees around it grow, the plant gets more and more shade. This plant is about 7 years old and because of the shade, is not very fast growing. I prune it to about 36 inches, so when it does bloom I can actually see it out my dining room window.

So, you decide how you want your roses to bloom, take into consideration their health, where they are planted, their growth habit. If you keep notes on how you prune it one year and then what you thought of the results (flower size, flower number, plant height) you can decide if you want to do it differently the next year.

My work bucket with essential cutting tools and hand rake.
My work bucket with essential cutting tools and hand rake.

Cutting out canes
I like to cut all the canes to an approximate final height and then start to prune for shape and thinning, etc. First thing to cut out are all the DEAD and DISEASED canes. These should be pretty obvious, the dead will be woody, dry and brown and break if you try to bend them. The diseased canes will be black or purple with holes or soft spots on the stems.
Now, check for stems that CROSS OVER another stem. Cut them out. The crossing stems will rub and open up the cane and make it susceptible to pests and disease.
Raking out the leaves that collected over the winter.
Raking out the leaves that collected over the winter.

Black or purple canes may indicate that your roses have bacterial cane blight.
Black or purple canes may indicate that your roses have bacterial cane blight.

Cut out any BROKEN stems.
It may be that not all of these canes have to be cut to the ground, maybe you will just want to cut to an outward facing bud to encourage that cane to grow outward and away from the center.
Look for stems that are PUNY, smaller than a pencil and cut these out. The general idea is that you want to allow for air circulation in the plant, so by cutting out the smaller stems and the crossing stems and the stems that are growing towards the inside of the rose, you will open it to more air circulation and, thereby, have a healthier plant!
I like to add compost around the base of the plant and, then an organic fertilizer after pruning, then after the first and second blooms. Don’t fertilize in late summer, early fall.

I hope I have made the idea of rose pruning easier for you. Pruning is not something to be overly concerned about, nature has a way of producing beautiful flowers while you learn the techniques. Roses are hardy plants and it would be difficult for you to kill the rose by pruning it incorrectly.

See my Pinterest page on rose pruning here

Spring is almost here!

Sometimes, I dread the approach of spring. There is so much work to be done, raspberries, blackberries and grapes to prune, cleaning out the old garden scraps that were left over the winter. Once I get outside, though, it is a different story. I love the sunlight on my body, the fresh breezes, the solitude of being outside alone.
If you have grapevines, time to get on with the pruning in February. This is also the time to consider what went right or wrong with the grapes from last year. In the past few years, I have kept a garden journal, writing notes about the type of pruning, size of my harvests, the month I pruned, etc. I never remember this stuff from year to year, even though I often tell myself I will. I think, “How could I possible forget how I pruned the raspberries this year”. Then, next spring I will have no idea at all.

I have become dependent on that little garden journal, the entries are very helpful to clear out the mental cobwebs each spring.
If you had poor pollination of your grapes last year, this is the time to do some research and find out why. If most of your grapes didn’t ripen before the frost, maybe you need to change your pruning technique. Last year, I tried 2 different ways to prune raspberries. I left one row taller and thinned out and pruned another row at 6 inches or less. Then, I documented the amount of harvest. Now, I know in order to get the largest individual raspberries and the largest quantity my raspberries must be thinned to 3-4 canes per linear foot and the canes trimmed very little for height.

When I am looking for information on how to prune, I always check out Youtube, since I find it so much easier to understand while watching someone pruning, rather than just reading about it. But there are a lot of good and bad videos out in youtube land so I will watch a couple of individuals and see their methods and then I always look at a couple of Cooperative Extension videos. The extension videos are most often based on current research rather than wives tails or personal experience. Always check the accuracy of your information source so you can have the best garden season ever.

Bulbs for Spring- Plant now.

Pink and red tulips
Pink and red tulips
Somehow, it doesn’t make sense: We have worked through a long hot summer of weeding and deadheading
Now, processing tomatoes and peppers, pumpkins.
I want a rest!- But, if I want flowers in the spring (tulips), they have to be planted this month. It is so easy to talk yourself out of doing it and to put it off for next year…

You will be so happy that you worked a few extra hours in the fall and put in the bulbs. The long-delayed springtime reward is worth it!!
A few dreary cold months are spent looking out the window and brown and white, then almost magically, you spy a bright purple spot in the flower bed. You rush out with your camera and take a picture and smile. See, it’s worth it!

The crocus are the earliest bulbs in my garden and I love seeing them pop out of the ground. They are just happy and bright.

I love my crocus, yellow purple or white.  They are all beautiful.
I love my crocus, yellow purple or white. They are all beautiful.
Golden yellow crocus in the snow.
Golden yellow crocus in the snow.

This year, I have 180 pink Darwin hybrid tulips waiting to be planted. What a show they will perform in April! I selected this variety, because I am expecting them to naturalize- I mean, come back every year for years to come and multiply. Perhaps, I am a bit optimistic about the multiply part. But, they will return for years to come. I have some tulips I planted 15 years ago, that continue to produce bright flowers. That is what makes these bulbs worth the effort.
Planting hundreds of bulbs is not that difficult: plant in large drifts with 15 or 20 tulips in an area.

How I Plant Bulbs

Here is how I plant large groups:
1. Have the wheelbarrow close at hand and dig a trough 6-8 inches deep by 2, 3 or 4 feet wide. Put that soil in the wheelbarrow, then dump the bulbs in the hole.
2. Spend a minute or two organizing the bulbs with their root side down and spreading them out evenly.
3. Cover them up with the soil from the wheelbarrow and tamp down. Water, if the soil is dry. I like to tamp the soil firmly- I think it keeps the squirrels out. This is the time of year, those rodents are out preparing for winter and they would love to steal your fresh meaty bulbs.

Enjoy your bulb planting and you will be rewarded in spring! Thanks for reading. I hope to see you again soon!

Tulip in bloom.  I love the variegation!
Tulip in bloom. I love the variegation!
Discovering the first colors of spring, I have to run and get the camera.
Discovering the first colors of spring, I have to run and get the camera.


I love my flowers, but by August, I am worn out. It’s the heat, the vegetable garden that needs attention and running off to see the grandkids that keeps me away from the flower garden. Today, I finally decided enough is enough- the flowers are an unruly mess and I placed cages around the worst offenders and removed some that were not worth caging or done blooming.
It is wonderful to have some real height in the flower garden, to have some plants really stand out and make a statement. That is why I have planted Joe Pye weed, an amaranth and ornamental grasses. I like the height and the general wild un-ruly-ness of it all!

The photos above are BEFORE I did any work on the flowers. It has endured about 2 months of being ignored and the thugs are taking over and it is just too messy.

flowers at different height
Joe Pye is the red flower at the top, fennel-yellow flower- Amaranth the dark red

This photo shows the area before the tall flowers were caged. Removing the ruby red amaranth calmed the garden color down a lot( see photo 1). There was just too much dark red in the back yard garden and many were flopping all over.
Then I placed an old extra large tomato cage and baling twine around the 6 and 1/2 foot tall Joe Pye Weed to hold it more upright. Gathering the blooms together produced a much more pleasing view, than having them sprawled and drooping all around.IMG_6876


The ornamental grass is about 5 feet tall and that was also caged up with some twine. The variegated grass was cut down and some was removed entirely. It was vigorously spreading through the daylillies and it had to be stopped!


Here is the after photo, with the 6 foot Joe Pye weed caged, the 5 foot tall grass gathered together and most of the 7 foot amaranth removed. There is still one specimen in the back of the photo and the plant behind the amaranth is 9.5 foot tall broom corn. See I do love TALL plants.

A Cutting Garden for South West Idaho

It is always fun to have flowers to cut and bring into the house. It is NOT fun when those flowers droop after a few hours in a vase!
So I put together a pinterest board of some flowers that do good to great in a vase- meaning they last longer than a day or two and they don’t droop. This is just a beginning of the board. There will be many add ons so keep checking!

I have tried to add the season or month they generally bloom- it will be a little different for everyone depending on your micro climate and your soil and water. But it gives you a general idea.

Fragrant, star of the show- lily
Fragrant, star of the show- lily

    Things to consider for a cutting garden in Southwest Idaho:

2. Fragrance
3. Endurance (once they are cut and placed in a vase)
4. How well do the plants survive in our hot dry climate.

Roses and a showy pink poppy
Roses and a showy pink poppy

SIX qualities for the best cutting garden:

    1. Plant a variety of flowers that bloom in diggerent seasons, include spring blooming, summer blooming and fall blooming- these can include perennials, annuals and some shrubs.
    2. Fragrance
    3. Color variety
    4. WHITE flowers are a MUST
    5. Flowers that have a variety of SHAPES: star-shaped, round, daisy-type, ovals, bells.
    6. Stem variety: Upright, drooping, cascading, “fireworking” Continue reading A Cutting Garden for South West Idaho

Bunny’s Garden

Instead of spending an hour working in the garden, Corie turned our May meeting of the “Garden Gals” into a special garden party. We toured Bunny’s garden and enjoyed an great lunch on the patio by the waterfall.

Gail’s Garden

Gail hosted the “Garden Gals” July meeting at her home in north Boise. First we toured her beautiful yard and vegetable garden, then we worked for about an hour in the vegetables, pruning shrubs and deadheading. After an hour of work, she thanked us with a lunch and many of the things were from her own garden – concord grape juice, zucchini bread and homemade ice cream with raspberry sauce! YUM.

Some photos:

The peaceful rippling brook in the back yard

The bridge over the stream
The bridge over the stream
Colorful coreopsis
Colorful coreopsis
Dividing the hostas-
Dividing the hostas-
The veggie garden
The veggie garden
Pruning the boxwoods
Pruning the boxwoods
Garden irrigation
Garden irrigation
A neighbor with his prize lily.  Have you ever seen one this tall? A neighbor with his prize lily. Have you ever seen one this tall? [/caption]

Thanks, Gail for hosting the “Garden Gals”!

Amy’s Garden

The “garden gals” got together to work in Amy’s yard in late June. Lucky for Amy there were 9 ladies working and so we got a LOT of work done. We weeded and wacked away at some stuff that had grown too tall.
Some of her perennials were in bloom, but flopping over because the flowers were too heavy for the stems. So, a tip to remember on perennials- if you need your perennials to bloom at a shorter height, then prune them before they produce flower buds and you will get a shorter bloomer without the flop!
Also, when your perennials are finished blooming, don’t be afraid to cut them down. Many can be cut all the way to the ground or their lowest leaves. This removes the scraggly looking stems and flowers and the plant will produce new leaves and some even will rebloom before fall- like salvias, and catmint.

Here are a few photos of Amy’s beautiful yard and some of the garden gals at work.

patio flowers
Beautiful flowers on the patio
The back yard and a gardener off to work!
Pruning in the flower bed
Pruning in the flower bed
Back yard bed
Back yard bed
The tour of the garden, looking down towards the lower level
The tour of the garden, looking down towards the lower level

The lower part of Amy’s garden contains her vegetable beds and many fruit trees. What a beautiful and abundant yard! Thanks Amy!

Gardening in beautiful Idaho!