Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Posts about Seed starting

Veggie couture

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: April 27, 2012 - 10:27 AM


Flipping through US Weekly last night, I got a big juicy surprise. There, on the back page "Fashion Police" feature, were a bumper crop of celebrities dressed up as garden produce.


The glamorous starlets had been snapped at various red-carpet events wearing designer dresses in gigantic vegetable prints, including tomatoes. turnips and chili peppers.

Veggies have been trending up for several growing seasons. The evidence is everywhere, from urban microfarms and farmers markets, to crop mobs to tattooed hipsters tending their heirloom seedlings.

The new garden books that cross my desk overwhelmingly lean toward edibles and away from pretty flowers.

But the magazine spread was a  sign that simple veggies are now crossing from earthy/trendy to high-fashion chic. Which is kind of funny.

The Dolce & Gabbana tomato-print organza dress that Kirsten Dunst  was wearing retails for more than $2,000. That's a lot of Beefsteak!

Would you wear a veggie dress? I think I'll stick to showing my love for produce the old-fashioned way -- by digging in the dirt.

Corpse Flower opens: Smell it while you can

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: June 29, 2011 - 4:06 PM


What's big and rare and smells disgusting?


The Corpse Flower, an endangered Sumatran plant species with blooms that emit an odor similar to rotting flesh.

There aren't many of these babies in captivity, and they don't bloom very often -- or for very long. But there's one in bloom today, June 29, at the Marjorie McNelly Conservatory in St. Paul's Como Park.

The rarity of this event has prompted the Conservatory to extend its hours. It will be open until 9 p.m. tonight and will reopen at 7 a.m. tomorrow for those who want to have a look -- and catch a whiff.

But the stench only lasts for about a day -- two at most -- so you'll have to hurry.

This particular Corpse Flower has a nickname -- "BOB too" -- because it's the second Corpse Flower in the Conservatory's collection. The Conservatory got the plant through a Gustavus Adolphus College chemistry professor, who collected the seed in  Sumatra almost 20 years ago. (Gustavus had a Corpse Flower bloom last summer.)

You can follow the Corpse Flower's progress on a gardener's blog and live web-cam at

I haven't yet had the "privilege" of smelling one of these blooms -- how about you? Was it as gross as people say? What did you think it smelled like?


It's the suspense that gets to me

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: May 30, 2011 - 2:09 PM


Lemon cucumbers at last

Lemon cucumbers at last

The lemon cucumbers are finally up! They took their sweet time about it this year, taking more than the package's alleged five to 10 days to sprout, while in some other years they've taken me out of suspense after just three days. I began to think I'd planted them at the wrong height, or they'd been washed away by downpours, but there they finally are -- just in time to get hailed on this morning.


The garden this year is an odd mix of laggards and plants that grow by leaps and bounds. The seedlings are slow starters, but even some transplanted perennials are growing fast enough I feel like every time I turn around a time lapse camera has been at work. The peonies are as tall as they've ever been and covered with buds, but they seem pretty intent on staying closed for a long time.

What's going on in your garden this Memorial Day? Are your veggies slow starting this year or is it just me? So far my volunteer tomatoes are outperforming everything else, produce-wise. Well, except the chives, but there's no holding those back.



Show us your 'Wow!' gardens

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: May 24, 2011 - 10:19 AM


"I believe gardening is the highest form of art." That's what a gardener, one of the past winners of the Star Tribune's Beautiful Gardens contest, once told me when I was visiting her garden, and it's stuck with me.


She wasn't bragging. She was reflecting on the challenges all gardeners face in their quest for beauty. 

Gardening, like most art forms, takes years to learn and master, she noted. But gardening is, by its nature, ephemeral, she added. One bad storm, one bad winter, and the gardener's careful creation can be dramatically altered or even destroyed.

When I visit winning gardens, I'm always amazed at the many ways gardeners find to create and nurture beauty. Some turn a tiny, postage-stamp city lot into an enchanted oasis. Others work on a bigger canvas, transforming acres of weeds into their own personal arboretum.

Have you experienced a "Wow!" garden? Maybe it's your Mom's. Maybe it's your neighbor's. Maybe it's in your own back yard.

Now is the time to share its beauty with others by nominating it in our annual Beautiful Gardens contest. It's easy to nominate. Just send a brief description of the garden and the gardener who tends it, along with a few photos -- they don't need to be of professional quality. Snapshots are fine. 

The winning gardens and gardeners will be featured in the Star Tribune, in print and online, during the coming months.

So share the beauty -- and help inspire your fellow gardeners! Please e-mail nominations  to: Or mail them to: Beautiful Gardens contest, Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. The deadline is June 17, 2011.

In the meantime, let's talk about beautiful gardens. What makes a garden special? What's a memorable garden you've experienced? What's the most beautiful thing about your own garden?  



Jump-starting spring

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: April 21, 2011 - 9:40 AM


The forecast has kept me from fully uncovering perennials, and yesterday's snow kept me from looking out the window. So where to look for hope of spring? I look no further than my sunroom, where tiny seedlings stretch to reach the strengthening sun.


I first got into seed starting not to save money, but to lay my hands on the many jewels that pack seed catalogs. A particular lavender double impatiens I couldn't find locally, heirloom tomatoes with story-book names, obscure herbs I was sure I'd find recipes for -- they all crowded the sunroom to the point that watering them was like playing a game of Twister.

At one point I grew tired of the fuss, and I vowed I'd never start seeds again. I even went cold turkey for a year. But then once again I couldn't resist starting "just a few" ... I've decided it's not spring without tiny wanna-be tomatoes, and won't be summer without the fruits of the grown-up versions. So now I get my dose of spring by hovering over them as they sprout their first true leaves, waiting for that first whiff of tomato scent. Can a plate of deep-pink-cheeked Julia Childs, jewel-like Blondkopfchens (yellow cherry tomatoes) and some Mrs. Maxwell's Big Italians be so far off?

So, diehard seed starters, what plants can't you live without? What new varieties are you trying? Do you use heat mats and grow lights or keep it low tech?

And if you're new to seed starting, what lured you in? Fair warning: You might get hooked.



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