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.

Yellow plant Basket of gold

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.

After Caging


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.

Pink flower

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. Flowers in bloom spring, summer and fall- it includes 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

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!

Pink and purple petunias

It’s Budworm Time Again

If you have the budworm caterpillar (or tobacco budworm) attacking your geraniums or petunias, you’ll notice it now, in July. Here are some symptoms that will lead you to the conclusion of budworm infestation:

1. Budworm poop (small black dots, the size of a pencil lead)
2. Chewed foliage
3. Lack of flowers – what once was a beautiful plant full of color has become a drab plant with a few blooms.
4. Sexual organs chewed out of the flower- What?? A flower has a female part- the ovary and a male part- the stigma. There must be a lot of protein in these because that is what they go for first.
5. Small green or translucent caterpillars-or they could be the color of the flower they are gorging on! Good luck finding these, but if you really want to search look early in the morning on the plant. During the day they usually hide down low near the soil.

Sad looking pink flowers
Petunias in August, ravaged by budworm caterpillar

You might be tricked into thinking the plants need more water, or they need more nourishment (fertilizer). And, maybe that is the problem, but, if you

See these previous posts for more info and pictures: “Petunias-I am reminded again why I don’t plant these” “More on Petunias and Budworm” This article shows photos of what your blooms will look like when the nasty caterpillar has removed the good parts of the flower.

Petunia with evidence of budworm
Here you can see where the budworm entered the petunia, where he had some lunch before moving on.

1. Bt sprays (Bacillus Thuringiensis) a soil borne bacterium. Spray every 3-4 weeks. This will control the caterpillars without harming the beneficial insects including bees!
2. Stop growing geraniums and petunias! (which are most susceptible)
3. Hand pick the worms daily.

Beware, these will overwinter in the soil and reappear next year.

Return of the Elm Seed Bug 2014

Yes, it’s that time again when the elm seed bug invades our homes and garages. I find them on every window sill, hanging on doors, climbing into outside attic vents, window screens, in the rabbit feed storage. They really are everywhere. And when the temperatures get hot – in the 90’s or above they really are trying to get into the house where it is cooler.

One thing I know for sure, is DON’T DON’T Do Not squish or crush them at any time!! I have tested this theory over the last 2 years and it is absolutely true!! Last winter, I found one bug on the window in our study, so I picked it up with a kleenex and crushed it and threw it away. Within a few hours, there were more, so I did the same thing- crush and toss. See this article: href=”” title=”Elm Seed Bug” target=”_blank”> at “Living with Insects: Elm seed bug” by J. Neil. He states here that the Elm Seed Bug has scent glands that produce a noxious odor and when crushed, the bugs produce an unpleasant odor. I can’t smell it, but apparently the other elm seed bugs can and so they come out of the woodwork to see what’s going on. My favorite method of killing these vile bugs- drowning in soapy water.

Elm Seed Bug
Elm Seed Bug (Photo courtesy of ID State Dept of Agriculture)

I bought a small shop vac just for this purpose. I vacuum the bugs up and drown them in soapy water. That kills them without crushing the bug to bring out their scent.
Soon, I will go outside to wash the window sills, window frames and siding to remove the bug deposits (POOP) they have left around my house. Oh, why can’t these bugs be extinguished????

Another article to refer to by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture:

basket of raspberries

Raspberry Rant

The raspberries in my garden are crazy this year! I hope they are abundant in your garden as well. I have been picking every day and am so thankful for all the berries I now have in my freezer. I think some of the success is due to increased regular watering – they are on a soaker hose and I run it for 3 hours every other day. But, I think the greatest reason for the size and abundance of the crop is due to the spring pruning. A special thanks to the “garden gals” who came over this spring and helped to prune.

girl tying raspberry to fence
Raspberry pruning in spring
basket of raspberries
Three colors of raspberries: red, yellow and black.

I have divided my red raspberry patch into two parts, the north side and the south side, with about an 2 foot wide path separating the two parts. The patch is 8 feet wide and 20 feet long. This spring, I decided to try an experiment to see what pruning method would produce larger berries. In the past few years, the berries have been the (very disappointing) size of a small marble. The ones in the grocery store and in my friends gardens are much larger! Size matters! It’s no fun to be picking pea sized raspberries- there are so many to pick and they fall out of your hand. But the luscious large ones- ooh what a difference!

large and small raspberries
Comparing last years raspberries on the left, to the larger ones on the right

The north side I pruned all the canes to knee height (about 16 inches) and then thinned them out to approximately one cane every 4- 6 inches. This type of pruning should produce later berries, a single crop of beautiful large red berries. Most of the canes were not tied because they were too short.

On the south side, our “garden gals” garden club pruned most stems to 3-4 feet high and then thinned them to 6 inches apart. All the canes were tied to the line to stabilize the canes. Tying prevents loss of fruit buds during windy spring weather.

tall raspberries with fruit
Raspberries (south side) in fruit

Now, I have lots of raspberries and LARGER ones on the south side. The berries are at the top of the plants -since the primocanes were pruned to 3-4 feet. As expected, the north side has produced very few berries and the ones that are growing are way down low- that’s because all the canes were cut the same length- short. These berries are very small as well.
These raspberries were pruned less than 16 inches high. The primocanes are producing small berries, down low

I am so glad that we took the time to prune the raspberries the correct way this year. Already, I have several bags in the freezer! I will you updated on how the north side berries do- once they start producing.
How do you prune your berries? Do you tie them up? Do you thin??

Juniper Hedges and the New Fence

I wanted to add several more pictures to update on the juniper hedges and their removal and shredding, the fence building and the flower bed planting.
Here are the photos with a little bit of commentary.

See the hulking junipers lurking in the background? And even worse, the dead spot in the middle of the shrub???

The juniper that collected clothing, the neighbor’s trash, 3rd grade homework and someone’s cat.

The world’s ugliest shrub

We hired a neighbor with a back hoe to haul out the junipers and move them to our pasture to be shredded.

Junipers waiting to be shredded! Now that's good news.
Junipers waiting to be shredded! Now that’s good news.
Fence building.  Notice the junipers are gone!
Fence building. Notice the junipers are gone!
Front Yard without the Junipers
Front Yard without the Junipers

Another view of the front yard - without those awful junipers!
The other side of the front yard – without those awful junipers!

East side of the yard with the grasses and elderberry shrub

Right now, the fence area does not look that spectacular, but the perennials are new this year. Next year, they will be twice that size and the year after, even larger!
First year sleep
Second year creep
Third year LEAP!!
I have planted:
3 David Austin Roses (two are “Mayflower” shrubs, and one “Elegantyne” these bloom pink and will be about 4 feet high.
There are several self seeded annual red fringed poppies (they came in with the compost and I let several of the stay!)
2 Coppertina Ninebark (physocarpus opulifolius)
About 50 pink tulips
2 Serviceberry shrubs (amalanchier canadensis).
2 Russian sage
3 “blue mist” caryopteris
2 Creeping thyme “silver queen”
My idea was to have color for every season and to stay with blues, pinks and gray foliage. Of course, the surprise red poppies sort of messed that plan- at least temporarily.
The area I had to fill about 100 linear feet of fenceline- that’s a lot of room to fill. And from a distance, it looks empty.

On the east side, there are:
2 Elderberry (sambucus)- that have bloomed and are so pretty!
1 Miscanthus Senesis a tall ornamental grass
2 Panicum “Heavy metal” switch grass
1 Serviceberry

Can’t wait to see the progress in a couple of years. I know the shrubs will eventually crowd out some of the smaller plants, but that’s ok. Plants are like furniture- they were made to be moved!

purple flower

Best Perennials for Attracting Bees and other pollinators in Idaho – Part Three – Fall bloomers and Annuals

Fall Blooming

Here is a SHORT list of  fall blooming plants that grow well in

  1. Idaho heat 
  2. low humidity 
  3. alkaline soils 
  4. do not require a lot of water.    These are the best flowers I have found.  This is not a complete list by any means, and if you have some suggestions- I will add them!

Asters: Just try and trim an aster in full bloom on a sunny day!  The bees are all over them.  I am not sure if its the nectar or pollen or the lack of other plants available to bees at this time of year, but the honey bees just hang onto this plant by the (literally) hundreds.

Aster  in bloom
Aster in bloom



Caryopteris: I have several of these near my front door and some people have said they were apprehensive about walking past them in full bloom because the bees are all over the flowers.  These plants are great for Idaho because they don’t require a lot of water and love the hot sun.  Prolific and they will reseed.

purple flower


blue flowering shrub
Blue Mist Caryopteris

Goldenrod: Yes, it is a flower and a noxious weed! Don’t dig one out in the wild and put it in your garden.  So many species of goldenrod are available.  It doesn’t need a lot of water and bees will be hanging all over the plant.  It does reseed.

Sedum Autumn Joy: This tall sedum- 1 to 3 feet tall- has pink flowers that fade to a rusty color as the evenings get cooler.  I like to trim them in June so they flower at one  to 1.5 foot high and then they won’t droop over to the ground.  The flower heads can get heavy!

red perennial
Sedum Autumn Joy



2 different bees on sunflower
Bees on the sunflower. Sharing the pollen, playing nice!

Zinnias:  There are so many different varieties, colors and heights.  They don’t have to be heavily watered and will bloom until a hard frost.  According to Organic Gardening Magazine the profusion zinnias and common zinnias are the best.  Bees are all a buzz over these bright blooms.

Pink flower
Love those big flowered zinnia’s!