Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

Check out this gorgeous new rose from our friends at Proven Winners that will be released through their Oso Easy line of roses exclusively through the pages of our magazines in 2016. Tim Wood tells me that this rose is “very fragrant, very floriferous, with a high degree of black spot resistance.” What would you name this rose? Who knows, if we like your suggestion, we’ll be sure to send you a free specimen of your very own.

My three sons helped make polymer clay plant markers for the garden.


Sometimes, the do-it-yourself projects we attempt do not turn out exactly as seen on the internet or television. At least in my experience.

While editing the 2015 issue of Easy Garden Projects, I watched dozens of DIY ideas materialize into useful and interesting garden improvements under the expert hands of our contributing editors. I vowed to tackle a handful of the projects featured in the magazine to see if my skills matched those of our experts. To start, I picked a project my kids could assist with – plant markers made of polymer clay.

My three elementary-school-aged boys helped me select the colors of polymer clay at the craft store. They also helped roll out the clay (once I kneaded it to soften) and cut out the markers using a template. After arguing over letter stamps and puzzling over the correct spelling of “thyme” they also stamped herb names into the clay. According to the teeny-tiny print on the clay packaging, I baked the finished markers at a low temperature until hard.


Many hands make interesting work – my boys crafting their own plant markers for herbs and flowers.

The kids were thrilled with the finished product. It doesn’t quite look as perfect as the ones made by Marty Ross and her husband for the Easy Garden Projects photo shoot, but my kids were thrilled with the results.

For detailed instructions and other inspiring ideas, check out Easy Garden Projects, on sale this summer at newsstands across the nation.

Plant markers made by very enthusiastic boys.

The plant markers made for Easy Garden Projects magazine.

Spring is definitely Cardinal Season…and I’m not just speaking for my steadfast baseball-loving friends and family in St. Louis—where I grew up during my junior and senior high school years—but for red-bird-lovers everywhere. Every evening as I walk my good dogs Scout and Finch on the sidewalks of our turn-of-the-century neighborhood here in Central Iowa, I’ve noticed at this time of year that a ruby-red male Northern Cardinal’s defended territory seems to encompass about every other property. There he is, in every other front yard, perched on a prominent branch with his head thrown back and singing his territorial song. The male sings in a loud, clear whistle from the top of a tree or other high location to defend his territory. He will aggressively chase off other males entering his space. The Northern Cardinal learns its songs, and as a result the songs vary regionally. He is able to easily distinguish the sex of another singing Northern Cardinal by its song. So while we were on our stroll the other night, I noticed a pair of cardinals perched in a full-on blooming redbud. The distracted couple didn’t seem to notice me or the dogs from a few feet away as we witnessed an endearing courtship ritual: the red-robed male would flit to the ground and return to his prospective mate with a single seed which he would proceed to feed to her beak-to-beak in a simulated kiss. Mate feeding is thought to be part of the pair-bonding process; it gives the female an inkling of how well her suitor will provide food for their eventual young. Makes sense, right?

So imagine my surprise when I opened my mailbox and discovered Into the Nest: Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds by Laura Erickson and Marie Read from Storey Publishing (2015). This is such a cool book! I immediately turned to page 177 to find the image above of a courting male Northern Cardinal as he feeds his mate. Organized by species, this book focuses on the details of courtship, mating, and parenting that are so often hidden from our view. With the support of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the authors bring the diverse personal lives of raptors and hummingbirds and woodpeckers and wrens into stunning focus. Buy the book!

Excerpted from Into the Nest (c) Laura Erickson and Marie Read. Photography by (c) Dave Welling. Used with permission of Storey Publishing

Be sure to check out the Today Show this Friday (between 8 and 9 a.m.) and watch Country Gardens build a garden for Tamron Hall’s mother in Texas in honor of Mother’s Day. Editor James A. Baggett and Art Director Nick Crow worked with Tamron to create the garden her mother had always dreamed of…in honor of her late husband. Set your DVRs!


Nothing has served as a better “welcome home” greeting this spring than my  Suncatcher tulips.  The tulips began blooming in mid-April and continue to dazzle my slowly-waking front yard with petals of brilliant yellow and cherry red. They are the first thing I see as I return home, sparking life into the southwest corner of my front yard where all passers-by stop to admire their rather optimistic cheerfulness projecting above the brown pine needles and hesitant green spikes of new spiderwort.

Last fall, when I hastily poked a dozen holes into the slope of my front garden, I gave little thought to the fat tulip bulbs that had just arrived from Longfield Gardens. Pressed for time, I covered the bulbs with soil and promptly forgot all about them until pops of color announced that winter was over. Even my young sons noticed the tulips after they first bloomed. “They should have named these ‘Rainbow Tulips’” decided my 8-year-old. “Because these tulips have the first three colors of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow.”

For those who live in the colder climes, where months of gray and brown prevail, a clutch of tulips planted along driveways or front entrances makes an ideal greeting. Returning from work at the end of the day seems like arriving at a little spring party (and shouldn’t it be that way this time of year?).





Our friends at Ball Horticultural invited me to attend their impressive Spring Trials for 2015 at their growing facilities in Santa Paula, California, last week. This is when plant growers and breeders show off their new introductions for next year—and I was given a sneak peak at cool new plants from Ball Flora Plant, Selecta, Ball Ingenuity, Burpee, Wave Pansies, Wave Petunias, PanAmerican Seed, Kieft Seed, Darwin Perennials, and Ball Ornamentals. Here are some of the highlights:

Here’s a sensational new macrophylla hydrangea, L.A. Dreamin’ Hydrangea (Ball Ornamental), the first macrophylla to bloom in blue, pink, and everything in between without any aluminum sulfate or special fertilizer.

This great-looking new Scabiosa Flutter Series (Darwin Perennials) boasts larger blooms, deeper colors, and a superior compact habit. This one is Scabiosa Flutter Deep Blue.

Double Zahara Series Zinnias (PanAmerican Seed) produce fully double flowers and a tidier habit in some really interesting colors, like this new Double Zahara Salmon Rose Zinnia.

Considered a designer collection of grandiflora petunias, the Petunia Sophistica series (PanAmerican Seeds) are a little out of the ordinary with large blooms in special one-of-a-kind colors and patterns. This is Sophistica Lime Bicolor Petunia.

I’ll leave you with a shot I grabbed of a hummingbird feeding on a leucospermum. So nice to spend time with friends Katie Rotella (Ball Horticultural), Jerry Gorshels (PanAmerican Seed), Karl Batschke (Darwin Perennials), and Anna Ball herself, the third-generation leader of Ball Horticultural Company.



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