Category Archives: Product reviews

Home and garden product recommendations from first hand experience.

Pruning Time: Red Heart Rose Of Sharon

Big soft pink snow-ball buds bloom into giant white discs.

The last to come back, you may think it failed to survive the winter. But wait. Be patient. It will blooming in its own good time.

Before the branches begin to green up, prune them heavily, February is the ideal time.

 (Hibiscus syriacus ‘Red Heart’)

Summer long saucer-sized blooms

Red Heart Hibiscus, Hibiscus syriacus ‘Red Heart’, is an upright-growing shrub with large, single, saucer-shaped flowers of pure white with a scarlet center.

  • Mature size: 6-10′ wide, 8-12′ tall.
  • Flowers bloom from July until frost.
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5 – 8
  • Few serious insect or disease problems.
  • Medium to Dark Green foliage
  • called both Rose of Sharons or Altheas.
  • Widely adaptable to many soil conditions.

 

Red Heart Hibiscus can also be used as a hedge or screen. Hummingbirds love the flowers.

Those tight green buds produce hundreds of seeds. Seedlings randomly appear near the 8′ tall shrub in my from yard. In the fall, I collected a lot of the seed pods.

Care: Prune back heavily in the early spring.  Annual pruning creates increased shoot vigor and larger flowers.

 

Insect damage when the bud was rolled tight, created a natural pattern.

Even growing on the same plant, bloom oddities are a regular occurrence.

The Bible calls You by many names
each one giving a glimpse of Your glory.
Like a cut diamond radiating in the sun
with every facet depicting a glorious
aspect of Your Divine Nature.
Today I have thought of You as
‘The Rose of Sharon’

 

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Wishbone Flower (Torenia hybrid)

Plant something new.

Wishbone Flower

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Torenia or Wishbone Flower, Catalina® Pink

Wishbone Flower as container plant

I grew the Midnight Blue variety. It looks so fragile, but it can really take the heat. This is a self-cleaning plant, which means no deadheading.

In the shady bed on the patio, it had room to spread out and filled in the space with continuous blooms and bright green leaves. I grew another color the next year.

The Catalina® Pink is a nonstop bloomer that gets afternoon shade on the front porch. It does best when consistently moist and well-drained. Hummers love it.

It’s growing with more sun, shaded only in the late afternoon. Growing bushy and full, Torenia is about 12″ tall and fills the 12″ self-watering container. Generously mulch this plant to help with consistent moisture.

Adaptable annuals

I like the wide range of ways I can use Torenias. In a hanging basket, Summer Wave® Large Blue Wishbone Flower seems to be a hummingbird favorite.

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Wishbone Flower fills the hanging basket with Summer Wave® Large Blue blooms.

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Wishbone flowers are more upright where there is more sun and less water.

Wishbone flowers have had no disease or insect problems in my gardens. They can take heat and more sun than I thought. Morning sun and afternoon shade are ideal.

Wishbone Flower (Torenia hybrid)

This plant is so much more versatile than I imagined. It was planted in shade, and in part shade – part sun. The low growing annual spreads out along the sidewalk, as a beautiful ground cover and splash of color that could compliment an endless variety of gardenscapes.

I like shopping at Independent Garden Centers. Money spent locally tends to stay local. The folks that work at the non-chain garden centers and nurseries know what they are talking about. Big box stores also have wishbone flowers.

This was a trial plant from Proven Winners. The Proven Winners website has a handy garden center locator. Just type in your zip code and it will find the closest local garden centers.

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Pollinators and hummers love this plant.

Get Local will help you find the information you need. I especially like their plant recipes. For example, I’m looking for red, white and blue plant combos. Just click on “patriotic” for lots of beautiful plant combinations.

Blooming summer til frost

I learned what a valuable landscape plant this is when I visited the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens.

Wishbone Flower (Torenia hybrid)

Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

A leader of environmentally sound community development, the Arboretum is an educational, recreational and cultural resource for the Kansas City region. It offers homeowners, landscapers and arborists an opportunity to view and evaluate a wide variety of hybrid trees and shrubs, native to this area.
8909 W. 179 St.
Overland Park, KS 66013
913-685-3604

Wishbone Flower Catalina® Grape-O-Licious

Wishbone Flower Catalina® Grape-O-Licious

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‘Sugar Shack’ Buttonbush

Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis

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Buttonbush adds a new, fragrant and unusual flowering shrub to the home garden.

‘Sugar Shack’ is a buttonbush that is a show off shrub from summer through fall. Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis is a native pollinator plant.

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Lovely, unusual pincushion flower attracts butterflies.

White fragrant spherical flower heads are eye-catching and attract butterflies. Buttonbush is deciduous shrub with rounded habit. In its second year in my garden, it is about 5′ tall.

Sweet white flowers appear as spherical flower heads in mid-summer. Flower heads look like a pincushion and are very attractive to bees and butterflies.
Flower heads mature into hard, red colored, spherical fruits and stay attractive from late summer through the winter.

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A new fragrant perennial. Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis

Plants will tolerate wet sites and excess moisture. Sugar Shack may also be grown in patio containers. Plants bloom on new wood so pruning is best done in early spring.

This is a Proven Winners plant that was sent to me for trial. I’m using this shrub as an anchor plant that provides a background for colorful annuals. The leaves are a full deep green, perfect to show off these unusual creamy white flowers.

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Wordless Wednesday

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The Renee’s Garden Cookbook review

Cooking from the garden

cookbook-renees-garden

A gardeners guide from seed to table.

Most cookbooks will send you straight to the kitchen to make something good to eat. Not this one. With ”The Renee’s Garden Cookbook,” your first trip will be to the garden, and then to the kitchen.,

The recipes are quick and simple enough for everyday cooking. Your garden fresh vegetables and herbs will elevate any dish to gourmet fare. This book is perfect for those who shop at the farmers market.

Vegetables fresh from the garden

Sun warmed vegetables fresh from the garden.

300 kitchen tested recipes are easy-to-make and showcase whatever vegetables and herbs are at the peak of the season. For example, the section on Chard has tips on planting and growing, plus recipes.

Renee’s Garden Cookbook has the answer on what to do with those just-picked tomatoes or chard or, cucumbers.

When I read The Renee’s Garden Cookbook, I ordered more garden seed. The tips on growing cucumbers are interspersed with the recipes for fresh cucumbers and pickles. So, I’m thinking, “it’s not too late to plant more cucumber seed.”

Vegetables grown from Renee's Garden Seed.

Chard, eggplant and green beans.

When Renee brings in fresh vegetables from her trial gardens, she and co-author Fran Raboff get to cooking and creating new recipes. The two launch into a cooking and eating orgy. A fortunate few good friends and advisors join Fran and Renee for the recipe trials.

As a result, the recipes make the most of each harvest. Gardeners will enjoy this trip from Renee’s Garden Seed Catalog to The Renee’s Garden Cookbook. Renee offers a great combo package: The Renee’s Garden Cookbook & Easy to Grow Seed Collection at a discount.

This is a gardeners cookbook and a cook’s gardening book. Get ready to take off your garden gloves and put on your chef’s hat because, gardeners do make the best cooks.

A sampling of Renee’s Recipes include one of the most popular recipes: Lavender Shortbread. Seed packet artist, Mimi Osbone illustrates the book with her familiar watercolors of vegetables and herbs.

Nasturtium, "Cup of Sun"I hope this book will inspire you to include a few herbs and flowers in the vegetable garden. Not only are they tasty recipe additions, but will also improve vegetable pollination. Growing herbs and flowers will attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to your gardens.

 

“Living Large in Our Little House”

Living Large in Our Little House: Thriving in 480 Square Feet with Six Dogs, a Husband, and One Remote--Plus More Stories of How You Can TooLiving Large in Our Little House: Thriving in 480 Square Feet with Six Dogs, a Husband, and One Remote–Plus More Stories of How You Can Too by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book is a conversation with an expert about the practicalities and realities of small house living. Sure, it’s packed with information about local laws and regulations, legal considerations, and important contacts.

“Living Large in Our Little House” quickly dispatches the trivial. The legal or official definition of “tiny house” is not as important as how many square feet works for you. Kerri moves on to what you can afford, how much space you require to live comfortably and can you, your spouse, the kids and pets all actually live in a tiny house?

The size and location of your little house will be critical to making a dream come true for you. Kerri illustrates the realities of small space dwelling with several examples of folks who chose the same path. Learn from the people who build, design or live in tiny houses.

Living Large Tips studded throughout the book are lists of things to consider before you make the move to the tiny house life. These tips are good ideas to launch you into your own lists of what to keep and what to let go, what you will need versus what you want.

The book includes smart advice about ways to “test drive” the small house life before you make the investment. Do the research, locate the resources, have a plan. Be clear about your reasons for tiny house living.

This book will affirm your choice to live large in a tiny house or confirm that little house living is not for you. Read about real people living large in little houses. There are some very important questions you need to consider before buying or building a tiny house.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell’s “Living Large in Our Little House: Thriving in 480 Square Feet with Six Dogs, a Husband and One Remote..and More Stories of How You Can, Too.” book is essential reading if a tiny house may be in your future.

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Powerful Perennials by Nedra Secrist

Powerful Perennials: Enduring Flower Gardens That Thrive in Any Climate

By Nedra Secrist

Powerful Perennials: Enduring Flower Gardens that Thrive in Any Climate by Nedra Secrist

Powerful Perennials allows you to focus on your gardening goals, whether that’s fragrance, attracting butterflies, or creating a color-splashed river of the earliest blooms. This book takes into account short growing seasons, elevation and snow pack.

Powerful Perennials: Enduring Flower Gardens that Thrive in Any Climate by Nedra Secrist, has all the information you need to master cold climate gardening. Learning how to invest in the right perennial for the right location will save you time, money and backbreaking work. You will not be one of the suckers impulse buying on the first warm spring day.

More than just dealing with cold climates, Powerful Perennials is a plant-life saving reference for gardeners dealing with dry climates, poor soil quality and ill-mannered wildlife. Plant propagation and division is one of the best money-saving reasons to buy perennials.

Each chapter will help you select the best plants for your garden. For example, start with a handful of Bearded Iris and you will eventually end up with a river of colorful iris. Divide them every few years for healthier, more frequent blooms. Learn how to hybridise and create your own iris variety.

Selecting a variety may be the most difficult decisionwhengrowing Iris.

Selecting a variety may be the most difficult decision when growing Iris. Photo: PBH

Each plant recommendation includes simple and clear information about how well it tolerates droughts, cold seasons, wildlife, and native soils. Choosing the perfect plant doesn’t guarantee success. Powerful Perennials guides you through proper planting, care, and a bit of history.

While this book is written with the most challenging environments in mind, it is not limited to the Rocky Mountain states. Remember the Rocky Mountains stretch through Wyoming’s Zones 3 and 4, Idaho and Colorado’s Zones 4 and 5 and Utah’s wildly varying Zones 4 through 8. When choosing perennials in the Rockies, snow pack, elevation and freeze-thaw fluctuations must be considered.

Living in the South or Midwest, perennials much less complicated. Still, this book is very helpful in making the long-term investment in perennial additions to your home landscape wherever you live. Chapters on choosing the right tools, metal garden art accents, and container gardening are helpful and inspiring.

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DooDads Iris, photographed in Dave Niswonger’s home garden. Photo: PBH

About the Author: Nedra Secrist teaches gardening seminars and uses hands-on training courses to help gardeners succeed. Nedra and her husband own Secrist Gardens , a perennial nursery with locations in Brigham City, Utah, and St. Charles, Idaho.

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Bees Make the Best Pets by Jack Mingo – review

Bees Make the Best Pets by Jack Mingo – review

Bees Make the Best Pets by Jack Mingo – All the Buzz about Being Resilient, Collaborative, Industrious, Generous, and Sweet – Straight from the Hive.

Paperback, 176 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by “Conari Press”

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A honey bee flies up to 15 mph and its wings beat 200 times per second. photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

The memory jogger “A pint’s a pound the world around” may help you out in culinary school, but a pint of honey weighs 1 pound, 6 ounces. The book oozes with bee facts and trivia like this.

If you are looking for protection from marauding elephants in your garden, curious about the color and quality of the highly touted local honey, or are curious about the role of bees in the Civil War, buy this book.

Winter is a good time for reading bee guides, brushing up on beekeeping knowledge and skills.

Winter is a good time for reading bee guides, brushing up on beekeeping knowledge and skills.

Bees Make the Best Pets, is an entertaining read. Perfect for a winter read, while gardeners wait to get into the spring garden. Your cabin fever and desire to get back in the garden is, by the way, no greater than that of the honey bees.

The author started out simply as wanting one simple observation hive. But keeping bees is likely to become a bigger project than you might anticipate. Bees demand more time, space and money than you might think.

If you are thinking about raising bees, ever wondered if it would make your great garden even better, or are looking increase your own revenue stream, read this book first.

Looking at bee keeping as a natural step toward sustainable living, Bees Make the Best Pets can teach you a lot about raising bees. It is a sweet introduction to raising bees.

Raising bees may prove to be a boost for garden productivity. Or, consider bee keeping as a fun hobby. Bees do make good pets and this book is a gentle introduction to the world of back yard bee keeping.

I’ve always flirted with the idea of raising bees. This paperback book is light introduction to the art of keeping bees. It will load you up on bee humor and trivia, guaranteeing your success at happy hours and tea parties.

Thankfully, this book is not a tedious accounting of the business of beekeeping. There are plenty of good manuals and how-to handbooks for that. Jack Mingo’s book is a fun and sweet introduction to raising bees.

Future honey beekeepers, gardeners, readers looking for a light and humorous winter read, will like this book.

Jack Mingo published over 20 books, including Random Kinds of Factness (Conari, 2005. He is an author specializing in offbeat trivia books. Mingo keeps six hives, and half a million bees, in his California Bay Area back yard.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review.

Bee and Honey triviaIMG_4050

  • It takes around 25,000 trips between the hive and the flowers to produce a pound of honey.
  • A pound of honey contains the essence of about 2 million flowers.
  • The color of honey ranges from white through golden to dark brown. Usually the darker the color the stronger the flavor.
  • Most harmful bacteria cannot live in honey, making honey one of the safest foods.
  • Bees been producing honey from flowering plants for 10-20 million years.

Don’t buy laundry soap for two years

This is not my idea, but I’ve been using this one batch for a year. What I learned: make this in good weather, outside, on a windless day.

I got this recipe from
Home is where the Library is · A stay-at-home mom and archivist tackles life

Recipe for

Homemade Laundry Detergent

All the ingredients to make a years worth of laundry. (or two) Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

All the ingredients to make a years worth of laundry. (or two) Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

1 box super washing soda
1 box borax
2 bars of Felsnapath (grated finely)
1 tub Oxygenated Bleach (Oxi Clean)
1 large container Purex Crystals, aroma of choice

Method: Grate the Felsnapath soap using a food processor. Add in a scoop of oxi-lean or borax and pulse until it resembles fine crumbs (the addition of powder helps the soap from clumping). Combine the ingredients 1 cup at a time, mix together, then repeat until all components are used.

If only I had read this little detail. I used a box grater on the bar soap not the food processor. Go with the food processor.

 

There are other recipes on Pinterest and blogs. They call for 1 cup of this and a cup and a half of that. I only bought all this stuff to make laundry soap. The recipe that calls for a whole box of this and a whole bar of that is a better idea.

Before you start, decide what kind of container you will use for this huge amount of laundry detergent. I used a popcorn can. Then we scoop some of the laundry detergent back into the oxi-clean container to use near the wash machine.

Use only a half a scoop. Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

Use only a half a scoop. Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

Plus, there is a measuring scoop in the Oxi-Clean, which is handy. The big can will be stored in the closet. Only the small Oxi-Clean (home-made laundry detergent) container is exposed to the air and humidity. Good thing because this batch of laundry soap will last us for a couple of years.

 

U CAN® Watering System

U Can is pretty, easy to carry and just the right size.

It’s hard to impress me when it comes to watering cans. I have my favorites in different sizes for different uses. After years of gardening, I have some definate preferences when it comes to watering cans.

I like the new 2 gallon U CAN. I like it’s ergonomic design and generous water capacity.

U CAN has a sprinkler head storage post. That’s sure handy for me because I tend to misplace the rose or sprinkler heads on watering cans. I’ll use the glove jam to keep my bandanna handy.

There is handy fertilizer storage and measuring spoon. That’s great for my hanging baskets and containers on the patio which get fertilizer every week.

Though not a deciding factor in buying a watering can, I like the dial fertilizer tracker and the built in measuring spoon.  It’s a little thing that makes this watering can a keeper.

I keep this watering can handy, it stays on my patio gardens near the containers.

I like that U CAN is made in the USA with recycled plastic.

The hand grips are comfortable and perfectly placed.

U CAN lists these advantages in the translucent plastic watering can:

  •  fertilizer storage chamber,
  • built-in measuring cup and spoon,
  • fertilizing reminder dial,
  • glove jam to store your gloves,
  • sprinkler head storage post.

The U CAN 2 gallon watering can is ergonomically designed with rubber hand grips and a textured handle for easy lifting, carrying and pouring. A perfect gift for gardeners, you can buy U CAN online or at these garden centers.

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