Summer is finally in full swing and that means it's time again for the annual Hennepin County Master Gardener Learning Garden Tour.
There are lots of great garden tours in the Twin Cities however ours will not only inspire but inform you on the latest gardening techniques and trends guaranteed to give you that green thumb you've always wanted. And it's easier than you think. You'll see six beautiful gardens designed and maintained by Master Gardeners in south Minneapolis, Edina and Bloomington.
Check out WCCO's video shot recently at one of the tour gardens. Larry Cipolla grows a prolific vegetable garden surrounded by a lush landscape filled with birdsong that includes nine water features, a hosta glade, Japanese Tea house and zen garden.
From rain gardens to roses, feng shui to fairy gardens this tour has something for everyone. Learn how one couple is transitioning their lovely garden to lower maintenance as they age. Marvel at one gardener who starts thousands of seeds every season. See herb vinegars and veggie experiments, plus a beer brewing demo. There's plenty more...
As always there will be Master Gardeners on hand to answer all your urgent gardening questions. Get the real dirt on gardening techniques at our Education Stations. Shop at the Garden Shed for garden related crafts and publications; we've been busy creating hypertufa pots and plantings and the unlikely "Buckthorn Bucks". And of course the raptors will be back.
For more info and to buy tickets click here.
Normally the last thing you want to see on any plant are shredded leaves. But in this case, the nibbled foliage on Asclepias syriaca or Common Milkweed is a relief. Like finally. It's so good to see some sign of Monarch butterfly activity after the slow start of summer.
Last week myself and a few fellow Master Gardeners found a caterpillar working on a milkweed plant. And today I spied noticeable evidence of munching upon a stand of milkweed around Lake Calhoun.
Monarch caterpillar perusing milkweed
For quite a few weeks the word among gardeners was "where are the Monarchs?". We know they are threatened with habitat destruction in their overwintering spot in the fragile forests of Mexico. And we know the crux of survival throughout their migration is the same in another way. Milkweed is more often eradicated than encouraged.
Munched-upon milkweed foliage
In some minds milkweed is just that, a weed. In worst case scenarios it's considered an invasive to noxious weed. While others know it's a dwindling and vital resource for the Monarch butterfly.
Although you may see the brilliant and beautiful Monarchs feeding upon all sorts of flowers in the garden, their young rely upon milkweed as their sole source of food. Monarchs will feed upon floral nectars but all the while are searching for milkweed for egg laying. The young caterpillars can't live without it.
So when you plant that butterfly garden, make sure to include milkweed for Monarchs. Research the host plants for other butterfly larva while you're at it.
There are many varieties of milkweed available, some of the most popular for Minnesota gardens are Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly weed) in orange or white, Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) in reddish pink and Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed), with the pink globe-shaped blooms and broad leaves. Surprisingly common milkweed has a lovely scent. Two women were passing the plant I photographed this morning and one mentioned she thought it smells like cupcakes!
Yes, it does spread easily. But look at it this way...grow at least 10 plants and your garden can be certified as an official Monarch Waystation!
For more information on this initiative for Monarch butterflies and how you can plant milkweed to help these wonderful creatures check out Monarch Watch.
Today's my birthday and I received lots of well wishes and some great gifts. Much better than twenty years ago on my birthday when I recieved a devastating diagnosis.
I was told I had breast cancer. Then I was told I didn't. Then I was told again that I had it. And then I was told I sort of had it. "Benign with atypia" was the final word.
After my mother died from this horrible disease and my older sister was going through the rigors of chemo I figured it was just a matter of time. Then even before exploring my options and there weren't many, remember this is 20 years in the past, I had a thought. I remembered how one of the Kennedy kids had cancer in his leg and it was cured by amputation. I wondered why not get rid of the body part that causes the problem? At that point the concept of a preventive mastectomy was considered pretty radical, forgive the ghoulish pun.
I didn't anguish. If anything I felt fortunate that it was a body part you could easily spare. What was upsetting? Sitting in the waiting room at the radiologist watching your young children in the play area and then being called back in for a "better look" is upsetting. By the ninth one, you know it's not good.
During the biopsy on my 37th birthday the surgeon was confused as to which side it was before he operated. They had reversed the directions for my operation. I pointed to exactly where he would find the tumor. I had mentioned a pain in that spot to my ob-gyn a few years back and he had dimissed me, saying I was just imagining things because my mother had died.
The surgeon laughed and told me I was going to be fine. I struggled to stay conscious as he cut to hear what he saw. He told me I should have a party as it didn't look malignant, I was going to be fine, and then I woke up and the first thing he said to me was "It was cancer", no how do you feel, just a bit about how I'd probably live to 60 and die of something else. For ten days I wandered like a zombie around my home trying not to break down in front of the my children, who knew something was up nonetheless.
You see when they tell you your survival rate it's all based on 5 years. My daughter was 5. My son was 2.
I waited to hear when they could schedule my treatment. Remember this was 20 years ago. And then the surgoen called. He told me as a precaution they always send a slide to Mayo on that 5% chance their visual diagnosis is wrong. And sure enough. Once again he told me I should throw a party because I only had pre-cancer.
After that the decision to have a preventive mastectomy was a no-brainer. I had the blessing of my oncologist. And that surgeon, well he had the luck that we had moved overseas right after the biopsy and I was too preoccupied to sue him for extremely bad bedside manner. I returned to the states for the summer and asked for the operation.
The male surgeon kept asking me if I was sure. He thought I was overreacting. I thought it was the most sensible thing in the world. The insurance company didn't want to pay. But I happen to be able to write a very presuasive letter. They paid.
I remember coming out of the fog after my operation. A woman in scrubs I hadn't seen before asked me how I was doing. I told her I was ok and just anxious to go home without the black cloud of cancer hanging over my head. She told me she had been on my surgical team and she thought I was very brave.
So when actress Angelina Jolie announced she had had it done, I got it. She lost her mother to cancer. She has the gene. She has 6 little kids. Simple decision. But when you make your living by being beautiful it probably took a lot more guts.
And just when the dust had settled, breast cancer survivor and popular singer Melissa Ethridge decided to weigh in and stated Jolie's decision was based on fear. She backtracked somewhat but talked about "acidity" in her life causing the cancer. Of course nutrition and stress can play a part in cancer but there are also a hundred other reasons and probably a thousand other gene mutations over which you have no control. I get really pissed when someone blames the cancer patient for their disease.
Was Angelina's decision heroic? Yeah I think so. Is it right for everyone? Only they can know. Is it based on fear? I think it's based on responsibility to your family. Losing my mom when I was 30 was so painful, losing my sister later was heartbreaking. Call it fear, call it whatever you want. No way were my kids going motherless, not on my watch.
And this idea of bravery. I think it's the survivors out there facing every day with courage who can claim that.
Why the demure spaniel, and not the shepherd mix? And then two minutes later, why the "looks like Great Dane and something" and not the arthritic beagle? I'd love to know what triggers my dog's random lunges at the dogs we encounter on our walk around the lake.
I had a dream. It wasn't a big one. I imagined walking, as so many others do, strolling, the dog at my side while the gentle breezes of Lake Harriet ruffled my hair. Further, I envisioned Henry-dog, nodding and as if he wore a jaunty cap, tipping it to the passing dogs, offering a pleasant "how do you do?" as we ambled along on our way.
Eighty per-cent of the time, Henry treads at a semi-reliable heel, barely registering the joggers and walkers. Yet when a particular dog goes by, it's either party time or he's ready for a rumble. I wish I could predict it. It would save a lot of rope burns and embarrassment. Like the mother of a tantrum-prone toddler, I wonder at the well-behaved pooches that circle the lake.
He plays with other dogs, he's been to obedience classes, and he's been to "camp", just short of the military school with which I threaten him. It seems Henry has impulse control issues, or maybe it's just an overactive joie de vivre. It's obvious he's plenty smart. That hypoallergenic double doodle bloodline with lots of poodle DNA must account for it.
And it's not only walking issues. You might say Henry is into counter-intelligence. It all started years ago with that first piece of smelly cheese my husband left out near the sink and recently manifested itself with a sack of White Castle Sliders he sat down for "just a second" on the counter. Hmmm, who needs training?
And when you find the wrappers, the chewed up paper towels, whatever, sure, he shows remorse, (the dog not my husband), and looks like he's promising never to do it again, until the next time. It's no surprise, we usually refer to him as "Oh, Henry".
Four years in you'd think he'd settle down. Meanwhile I'm the woman with the dog with dust-bunny gray/brown curls (the dog not me), and the tense expression sticking it out, who knows that people will say just relax and he will too.
But just when you let down your guard down. Like the time we were all chilling on the porch, his leash looped around a patio chair leg when he saw a woman and her dog passing by. I can still see her horrified expression as Henry plunged from the porch dragging the chair behind him as he headed straight to greet them.
There are plenty of canine gurus and dog whisperers who promise lots of solutions and insights. But most of the time I'd just like to know, "Henry, what were you thinking?"
Spring time means many things to Master Gardeners, but never has a springtime brought so much frustration. With so much snow one of our most important and fun annual activities has been postponed and put back more times than we care to count.
Each year around the beginning of April we dig up our gardens so to speak. Really. In the fall we mark plants in our gardens that are flourishing so well we can divide them. In the spring we dig them up for re-potting to share at the Hennepin County Master Gardener Plant Sale.
However this year the digs have been repeatedly set back by this persistent snowy weather. But digs and potting parties are once again planned for this weekend. Never say the Master Gardeners aren't cold hardy for all zones.
This is a wonderful chance to buy proven plants that are tried and true for Minnesota conditions; perennials, ornamentals, natives plus veggie seedlings from the U of MN seed trials. And as always Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer all your gardening questions.
We hope to see you there:
Hennepin County Master Gardener Plant Sale
Saturday, May 18 9am to 2pm
Hopkins Pavilion, 11000 Excelsior Blvd. Hopkins MN 55343