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Pre-tour planning

June 22, 2017
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Our tour planning committee met this morning and carpooled to Oklahoma to look at some potential sites for the pre-tours for the 2018 State MG Conference.  It looked like rain, so we all warded it off by taking umbrellas and rain coats.  Our first stop was Greenleaf Nursery in Park Hill, OK.  This is one of the top 5 wholesale production nurseries in the country and it has gotten way bigger than when I saw it annually in college.  I have been back two or three times since, but it is an impressive site to be sure.  This is one of four of their sites now, with 600 acres in production.  There are greenhouse, high tunnel ranges as far as the eye can see,  with propagation sites along with field-grown areas.  Their personal line of plants is the Garden Debut series, but they grow for all the major plant lines including Proven Winners, Knock-out, Endless Summer and more.  The plants and grounds were pristine,  with some beautiful beds showcasing what they grow.   I have never seen groundcover juniper beds so clean. 

Their new plants development guy gave us the grand tour. and I think everyone was impressed.  Their top sellers are roses, bigleaf hydrangea and crape myrtles. They ship everywhere east of the Rocky mountains so they cover a wide territory.

After lunch and a bit of a drive, we were at the Kerr Center in Poteau, OK. This is a center for sustainable agriculture where they are trialing several new methods of growing, including pollinator gardens,    

plasticulture and an elderberry trial. 

It was a full day and we have much to plan for.  We never had rain during our tours, but I ran into rain on the drive home.  I had spits along the way but pretty good downpours off and on from Russellville.  More is predicted tomorrow.

Whats up Wednesday, Van Buren & Fort Smith

June 21, 2017
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This was our 4th zoom session for our agents on What’s up Wednesday’s.  we had a good session once we managed the technical difficulties, which were thankfully handled before we went live.  We covered blackberry issues, tomato diseases andinvasive plants. 

Then I finished up a bit at the office before heading north. First stop was Van Buren to look at a few potential gardens which were great.

While we walked the garden a head popped up from the steep rocky bluff. 

After a few minutes stare down, he jumped up and ran off. The other garden was a wealth of plants and whimsy. 

We had just enough time to make it to the Learning Fields for our monthly planning session for the 2018 State MG conference. 

It is going to be a great conference, so mark your calenders now May 31 – June 2. Tomorrow we get the lowdown on a potential pre-tour, then it will be a drive home tomorrow night.

A day at the office and hot and dry

June 20, 2017
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I was glad I was inside today, and I got a lot done at the office–from columns and letters, to catching up on phone correspondence and much more.  By the time I made it home tonight, I spent the whole night watering. My garden was dry.  I had an email question today from a newspaper reader about how much people water.  I  responded by saying that it depends on what is being grown, the type of soil, the amount of sunlight and how old the plants are. There are parts of my yard that I almost never water and the plants survive–yet others dry out almost daily in full sun.  A pet peeve is when a sprinkler system is running and it is pouring down rain.  Knowing the needs of your plants and your yard will make watering much more efficient and effective.

As I was watering and walking the yard I was also comparing what needed water and what looked fine.  The cuphea Vermillionare has not wilted once.  Cuphea is a drought-tolerant genus of plants and I like them.  I also have some tropical mandevillas planted in the ground that have shown no stress either.   Even some of the panicle hydrangeas that are in full sun keep going with no signs of stress.  

You will typically see more signs of drought stress in full sun than in shade gardens. In my partial shade area the torenias and dragonwing begonias have not wilted at all, when common impatiens do need water.

I have been quite impressed with the hot pink Supertunia Vista Fuchsia petunia.  

I was also surprised that my fuchsias are still going strong and I had a new bloom on the columbine today!  My corn is sprouting and my okra is growing.   I also have peppers coming on strong–with an interesting one that I got from a MG plant sale but I don’t know what it is–it has variegated foliage and variegated fruit with a mild hot flavor.  

I don’t think we have any rain in the immediate future, but hot, dry conditions are here. I am headed to Fort Smith tomorrow afternoon and won’t be home until late Thursday so I needed to make sure things are well-watered.  Tomorrow morning is our What’s up Wednesday zoom session with agents and then I head north.

A mutual admiration event

June 19, 2017
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Chair and co-chair of the 2017 State MG Conference,  Joellen and Valerie, hosted a thank you event at Joellen’s house this afternoon and it was amazing.    The food was quite impressive, but the company was even better.  This event  was their way of thanking the chairs of all the committees for all their hard work.  The committee chairs in return gave them beautiful vases engraved with the MG logo in honor of their outstanding leadership.    These conferences take dedication, planning and good teamwork, and this county had it in spades, along with two outstanding chairs.  They were organized, efficient and they pulled together a great team.  The results were an outstanding and organized event.  The evaluations bear that out.  It was a joy working with all of them, and their agent Randy.  They also gave me a beautiful gift as thanks for helping them.  While not necessary, I am very touched.  I enjoy getting to know members of the counties as they host these conferences as we work together so closely for a year or two.  I am blessed to have such fabulous volunteers.  They make me look good and I couldn’t do it without them.  I think this conference also brought their 140 county volunteers who worked on the conference closer together.  They have much to be proud of.

Thanks to everyone for the kind words and condolences on Reeses, and your thoughts and prayers for Clay. He came through his latest surgery with flying colors and is hopefully on the mend with no more pitfalls.  Life is good.

It was the best of times . . .it was the worst of times

June 18, 2017
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Let’s start with the best.  I was on a high yesterday.  Our contractor came and did the last finishing touches of trim and paint in the hallway and helped me hang pictures. Job 100% complete and one very satisfied customer.   Just in time for our first supper club in the renovated kitchen.  I spent almost the entire day cooking and had a ball making a whole host of new dishes.     Clay really listened and took it easy watching golf all day, occasionally with company.  Supper club was a huge success.  We had a feast with tons of fresh fruits and vegetables in the mix–it was a very seasonal meal, and fun showing off the kitchen.   The purple cauliflower was a hit served two ways.  An appetizer of hot wings cauliflower with a taziki sauce to cool it down and then roasted cauliflower with the lamb chops.  In addition we had watermelon cubes with a balsamic reduction, broccoli cheese dip and grilled vegetables with pearled couscous, homemade bread  followed by a dessert of peach schnapps cake with fresh peaches and whipped cream.

We were having a great time discussing some potential upcoming trips and our next events.  Clay excused himself after eating and went to lay down.  The next thing I knew he was having one of his syncope episodes only much worse than normal.  We were lucky that we had doctors and nurses with us, but I called 911 and paramedics and the wonderful fire department folks were there in a jiffy.  We ended up on our way to UAMS where he was tested and examined thoroughly.  They really can’t find a cause, but this is the 4th episode since 2007 and never a cause is confirmed.  They almost kept him overnight (and it felt like it) but we made it home at 3 a.m. He is tired today (but so am I) but otherwise feels ok.  Very weird and hope we can find a reason soon.

To add insult to injury, our 14 1/2 year old dog Reeses had a stroke last night and we had to put her down this afternoon.     Very sad afternoon.  She will be missed.

 

In spite of it all, we did have a good Father’s day, albeit somewhat muted.  Instead of breakfast we had brunch and Kyle and Katie cooked.     Then Katie and Ben helped me do pizzas tonight. 

I am hoping for a bit less excitement the rest of the week.  Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there.

A hot and humid Friday

June 16, 2017
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I think we were all grateful we could be inside today. It was hot and humid all day.  It is amazing how fast things are drying out. I need to get my sprinkler system worked on, so I am dragging hoses and watering where needed.  The main thing that dries out are the containers and the vegetable garden, even though it is mulched well.  The pots on the deck needed water too, so I got that done.  My afternoon activities got a bit changed this afternoon, because Clay had a bit of a set-back and had to go to the doctor.  He did not want to go and thought he was fine, but when I saw blood I didn’t let him have a choice.  It seems his stitches opened up and he has to have another small surgery on Monday to be sewn back up.  He is feeling fine tonight and I think maybe is convinced he shouldn’t be doing anything for the weekend.  I did take a picture, but it would gross too many people out!

While he rested and watched television the rest of the afternoon and evening, I started getting ready for supper club (plus watering).  I am so proud that I still have fuchsia blooming and I have several hydrangeas on the deck in bloom in pots.   In spite of the heat, the garden is looking pretty good.  My yellow butterfly weed milkweed is covered in seed pods.   I normally deadhead it right after bloom, but I got busy. Since they are so far along, I figured I would let the seeds ripen and then cut them off.  Since it isn’t blooming it is a good thing the tropical ones are.    I haven’t seen many butterflies lately, but I did have a bunch earlier in the season. I hope they come back. I do have quite a few bees though.  My caryopteris which normally blooms in the fall has quite a few flowers on it now.    Bees adore this plant as well.

I am also open to guesses as to what this plant is:    It is about 24 inches tall and the leaves are somewhat fuzzy.  A MG bought it two or three years ago from the silent auction at state conference. She is pretty sure it is a tree, but it looks tropical to me.  It has not grown much.  I am open to thoughts.

Tonight I spent the night cooking in my new kitchen. I had stuff all over every counter and still had room to move!  I do have a small problem with some ants around the sink so I bought some Terro.  You put it out on a square of cardboard, and then boy do the ants come calling!   It is like they are ponying up to the poison saloon.  While sometimes it takes a few days, I am hoping they will be gone tomorrow.  This attracts them and then they feed and take it back to their nest, hopefully wiping out the colony.  Since they were on one side of the kitchen, I did all my prep on the island.  Tomorrow night is our first supper club with the new kitchen. I have the lamb chops marinating in Greek yogurt, saffron, lemon zest and garlic, the taziki sauce is made, a broccoli cheese dip is made and a balsamic reduction done.  I also made homemade pizza dough for Clay’ fathers day dinner on Sunday.  He could live on pizza.  I had a great time in the kitchen, and will spend more time tomorrow, and will probably do more watering!

 

 

 

June 15, 2017
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It has definitely been hot and humid the past two days and while there have been showers, they are very spotty throughout at least central Arkansas. I was at a store today and it was raining but not a drop fell at my house which was about 2 miles away.  This is why a rain gauge is important. Know how much rain your yard is getting. I have had a couple of days off  because my husband had some hand and arm surgery yesterday.   He is doing very well but trying to do too much already. Taking it easy must not be in the Carson vocabulary.  He will be in a soft sort of cast for 10 days and then we will see. I did try to get some things done around the house once we got home yesterday afternoon, and today went to a funeral, but time flies.  I have my supper club here at the house this weekend, so I did have time to shop and get everything in that we need. I have also been watering like crazy.

Every day I seem to get more and more weed questions.  Right now a weed to be on the lookout for is chambers bitters. This noxious annual weed loves warm weather and can grow in some of the most obscure places.  If it can grow in this rock bed, just think how well it will grow in your garden.

My herbs are growing well, and I have let my parsley start seeding trying to attract some butterflies.  

Parsley is a biennial meaning it grows foliage in one season, blooms, sets seeds and dies in the next, so it is on its way out. I am still using all the foliage underneath.  My cilantro is about to play out as well, but it is an annual which doesn’t like heat in the least.  

While the cool loving herbs are playing out the basil is coming on strong.  The more you pinch it the bushier it will grow. 

I do have quite a diverse mix of herbs growing in my yard. One that I love for fall color is pineapple sage, which blooms with beautiful red flowers for me in September and October.   My plant right now is green as a gourd, but I have seen it already in bloom in several gardens. Is it blooming in your yard yet?

 

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