Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween! Great day for a hot tea

Warm Wicked Witch Tea… just for you!

A perfect beverage for your Halloween holiday:  WWW tea… made BY you… FOR you!  A few simple, natural ingredients plus boiling water and you can experience this hot and spicy treat, which may offer health benefits as well. 
This concoction utilizes both GINGER powder (genus: Zingiber) as well as CAYENNE (genus: Capsicum) pepper.  Although I learned of ginger tea from an herbal publication, I’ve altered to make it more palatable. I think my tea would make a witch proud!

Warm Wicked Witch Tea
ONE quart boiling water (bring to a boil; turn down to simmer; then add ginger and cayenne)
TWO teaspoons ground GINGER powder
1/8 teaspoon ground CAYENNE pepper
Simmer five minutes and turn off heat; then add 1/3 cup HONEY plus juice from ONE LEMON.
OPTIONAL: If you prefer an ORANGE appearance for this witch’s brew, add TWO drops red food coloring plus TEN drops yellow food coloring.     
NOTE:  If you have candied bits of ginger on hand, I like to add a few to each mug for extra sweetness.    YIELD:  4 – 5 servings

Possible health benefits:  Cayenne can assist with chest congestion and reduce inflammation.  Ginger also has anti-inflammatory qualities. This tea can have stimulant properties and encourage healing.  Brew a quart of WWW tea… it will warm you up—right down to your toes—at Halloween time or during the cold weather months ahead.  Serve warm and enjoy!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
 A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Back to school - back to your Garden!

Plays Well With Others!

By late September local school children have returned to their classrooms and are adapting to new teachers, new challenges, new friends.  Parents share concerns for their children, hoping they perform well academically, as well as socially.  Socialization and cooperation are valuable attributes to develop, both inside and outside the classroom.  Each child must learn to be compatible with their peers and teachers and, hopefully, learn to play well with others

In a home garden environment, certain plants also exhibit desirable characteristics, like compatibility.  While some plants have aggressive tendencies and encroach on the space occupied by neighboring plants, other plants remain “close to their roots.”  A favorite of mine… a polite little plant… is ornamental oregano ‘Kent Beauty’ (Origanum rotundifolium).   ‘Kent Beauty’ has delicate, fragrant foliage and drooping pastel pink-lavender flowers, and it always plays well with others!

Although ‘Kent Beauty’ is considered an herb, it is not intended for culinary purposes; there are several other oreganos for use in cooking.  ‘KB’ can be grown in a pot and tucked in with sedum plants; it loves a sunny location and will also thrive if grown directly in the ground (prefers well drained soil).

At Chicago Botanic Garden, I noticed a large vertical garden display that included several ‘Kent Beauty’ plants, which were quite lovely with their trailing, drooping flower heads. The vertical display contained a variety of other annuals, which combined nicely for an attractive design.   ‘Kent Beauty’ might also be used in beds and borders… a versatile, compatible little plant that usually flowers June through September.    If you haven’t yet enjoyed ‘KB’ in your backyard, try it next season, and you will observe that it plays well with others!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Zucchini - The August Garden's Bounty!

The August Garden’s Bounty… ZUCCHINI !

Whether this squash develops dark green skin or pale green skin, ZUCCHINI is an interesting and delicious summer crop for the home gardener.   When harvested at four to seven inches long, the squash is tender and seeds are small—perfect for  use in a stir fry.  When harvested at seven to ten inches long, zucchini should still have soft, tender skin and can be shredded with a box grater or food processor;  drain—then use in zucchini bread recipes or in a variety of casserole dishes.

A favorite is my Zucchini Simple Sauté, which requires one fry pan, a few basic ingredients and just twenty minutes prep/cook time:

two zucchini  (pale green or dark green skin, 6” – 7” long, sliced 1/4” thin)
1/2 cup chopped onion
one tablespoon chopped garlic (3 or 4 cloves)
1/2 cup sweet yellow peppers, sliced thin
two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
two tablespoons Italian flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. Italian spice blend (can substitute a pinch of oregano and marjoram)
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Heat fry pan; pour in olive oil.  Add all items except parsley and yellow peppers, and sauté two minutes or till crisp-tender.  Stir in parsley and yellow peppers and cook one minute longer; serve hot with a side of crusty Italian bread. (serves two)

There are a few challenges to growing zucchini in a home garden—it needs some space, fertile soil, lots of sunshine, pollinators, and sufficient rain.  If plants are moisture deprived, they might abort their blossoms; squash will not develop!  Also beware of the dreaded SQUASH VINE BORER!    This larva winters over in the soil and bores into the base of the vine.  Munch, munch!  It chews its way through the vine’s interior, and entire plant can collapse in one day!   
Google on: squash vine borer for more info on how to prevent destruction from this insect.)

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Shady Place... My Favorite Space!

Often people are self-proclaimed SUN LOVERS, although some are SHADE LOVERS.  Plants might be sun lovers or shade lovers.   Most people and plants will thrive with some sunshine and some shade; many have a definite preference.   But during the warmest days of July and August… a shady place is MY favorite space!

During a recent visit to a nearby botanical garden, I photographed a tiny haven of vibrant shade-loving plants nestled below a clump of birch trees.  The foliage of ferns and caladium, begonias and heuchera offered a delightful scene, with dappled light providing twinkling highlights.   
It was a peaceful, serene place… this is where I wish to spend a toasty summer day!

With the numerous varieties of ferns and caladium, begonias and heuchera available, this scene could be altered by changing to different cultivars of each of these plants.   

Although I appreciate the versatility of the colorful cultivars shown here, there are so many more that I love, and as a Horticulturist, this is what I do:  I LOVE PLANTS!  (both shade lovers AND sun lovers!)

When a summer day offers only oppressive heat and humidity, find a nearby shady place and make it YOUR favorite space!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Tangy Treat from your Garden!

Chive Vinegar ~ A Tangy Treat from Your Garden

Vinegar infused with chive blossoms is a tart, tangy treat to make during June.  When chives are in full bloom, simply harvest and rinse a few dozen blossoms and place them in a clean glass jar.   Fill jar with French white wine vinegar, which can be purchased in the vinegar section of your local grocery store.

Place jar in fridge for three weeks to allow vinegar to fully “ripen”  (blossoms will impart flavor and color to the vinegar).   The magic takes place during this ripening process… vinegar turns a lovely shade of bright pink!   The acidity of the vinegar reacts with natural colors in chive blossoms and yields a tangy, flavorful chive blossom vinaigrette to be used on salads or as a component of a marinade. 

Simply strain the liquid through cheesecloth and store in fridge.  Try it—you’ll like it!

(Thanks to my Ozaukee Master Gardener friend, Sharon P., who taught me this delightful recipe—it’s quick, easy, and fun to make. )

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A different flower idea for MOM!

A Veggie Flower for Mother’s Day!

Only SIX types of vegetables were used to create this clever veggie flower: cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, broccoli crowns, a stalk of celery and colorful pepper rings.   Any mother or grandmother would be pleased to receive this delightful veggie platter from her child or grandchild; it could be the focal point of the dinner table on her special day!

Many thanks to my cousin’s young daughter, Ava, for inspiring today’s blog… she looked at a few examples online—then used her own creativity to complete the design and present her mother with this edible flower!  (Mom was both pleased and proud of her daughter!)  Ava selected colorful, crispy veggies for her creation, but I believe you might also incorporate herbs and other veggies into your own version.  Moss curled parsley, Genovese basil, zucchini slices, Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ and whole jalapeno peppers could be incorporated into your design to create a flower or two.  

Even very young children can assist with placement of the sliced veggies, and they’ll delight in the finished product… Mom or grandma will too!   Bon appétit!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Friday, April 3, 2015

"Pines & Palms"

Pines and Palms

Pine trees are prevalent throughout our home State of Wisconsin, but the genus Pinus is also prevalent in the southeastern part of our country—particularly in Florida and Georgia—where native soils and warm temperatures nurture pines.  Pine trees in Wisconsin look delicious when frosted with fresh snow, but look stately in the south, poised against a blue sky backdrop.

Complementing pine trees in the southern landscape is another beauty: the palm tree!  After traveling throughout Florida and Georgia during February, I discovered a variety of pines and palms which thrive in Florida and southern Georgia (some natives, some non-natives).  Each species of pine and palm provides a dramatic flair to accent the landscape. 

Palm trees are classified within the botanical family Arecaceae and require warm temperate climates, so you may encounter a portion of the 2,500+ species while traveling in the South.   Smaller varieties of palms are often grown in Wisconsin as houseplants; you may also find larger specimens at botanical gardens where the necessary tropical environment can be recreated in greenhouses and atriums.  In nature, specific palms can thrive within their range, from arid deserts to rainforest climates. Florida and southern Georgia provide a “happy place” for palms!

Both pines and palms are economically important trees as well. They offer a selection of numerous species and cultivars. They can be utilized as landscape plantings.  In addition, pine is a renewable resource providing lumber for homes and building projects.  Palms are utilized to make certain food products.  Beyond their aesthetic value, pines and palms place their signature on our country’s economy...  both pines and palms deserve some respect!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ladybug Luncheon!

A Luncheon for Ladybugs

Ladybugs are plentiful in Wisconsin, but reside in other states as well.  Considered by some to be a nuisance (most notably in autumn when thousands are crawling and flying about) ladybugs are quite effective at fighting garden pests.

Adult ladybugs (Coccinella septempunctata), along with immature ladybug larvae, have a voracious appetite for those evil aphids which feed upon ornamental plantings, garden crops, and greenhouse plants.  A favorite houseplant of mine, tropical hibiscus, can develop aphids, spider mites and fungus gnats… all possible edibles for ladybugs!   
These insects seem to congregate on the hibiscus buds, or on the underside of each petal. The aphids and gnats sometimes remain even after the blossom has closed.

During a recent visit to a botanical garden greenhouse, I noticed the spent hibiscus bloom shown here— covered in aphids and fungus gnats.   The hundreds of insects clinging to the underside of the petals could provide a luncheon for ladybugs… but I saw none.   
The hibiscus blooms in this greenhouse were stunning, but I felt the greenhouse needed some beneficial insects (ladybugs!) to assist with keeping undesirable insect populations in check.  

Ladybugs are always welcome in my home garden; I hope you will welcome them too!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Training children ... training TREES!"

Training children . . . training TREES!

Who would guess there are traits common to a well trained CHILD and a well trained TREE?   Children raised in a supportive, nurturing, and nutritionally rich environment usually grow into healthy, productive citizens.   Young trees will thrive and flourish in a similar environment…

SUPPORTIVE:   A young deciduous tree will benefit from support provided by proper staking to protect the tree’s trunk.   Place two stakes on opposing sides of the tree being planted; secure the tree’s trunk by wrapping a non-abrasive strapping material around the stake and trunk, and tie securely.   On opposing side, repeat this step.  On a windy day when a tree’s foliage collects the wind, the trunk is stressed.  Staking should provide support and prevent the young trunk from fracturing.

NURTURING:   When a child requires guidance, I often observe a parent or caregiver utilizing a teachable moment to instruct or correct the undesirable behavior.   A tree may also experience a teachable moment… an optimum time when a young tree can be pruned and shaped to promote stronger limbs and a single central leader.  (My trees class instructor was a Certified Arborist who advocated the pruning of young trees to create ONE dominant central leader.  He discouraged extensive pruning of mature trees unless storm damage occurs.  Young trees can benefit from healthy pruning practices.)

NUTRITIONALLY RICH:   While children will benefit from nutritional choices that include complex carbohydrates, proteins, and foods containing a selection of nutrients and micronutrients, an organic soil surrounding the root zone of a young tree can contribute to long-term health of that tree.  (Nutrient-rich soil is recommended when planting.)

As a young tree sets roots deep into the soil —as well as growing lateral roots— the soil quality and structure will affect the tree’s health and well being.  Compacted soil lacks tiny spaces which provide crucial oxygen for the tree’s roots; instead, a loose nutrient-rich soil containing organic matter is beneficial. Eventually, the tree must adjust to the native soil where it is planted, so mix in some native soil when backfilling new tree.  

Some trees might develop chlorosis if the soil lacks iron and manganese, so these nutrients may need to be added to sustain a healthy tree.  Using a liquid fertilizer containing 10% phosphorous is also beneficial to tender root development. With quality soil, adequate moisture and sun, a young tree will develop foliage and photosynthesize, creating its own sugars to feed its roots. 

Whether raising children or raising trees, the nutrition and environment provided should result in successful outcomes!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture