Flower Arrangements for Spring

Looking for a cure for the winter blues? I suggest a few cut flower stems to get you through the last stretch of cold weather. Most of us don’t have many blooms in the garden right now, but there are a few things to pick (early daffodils, quince, hellebores) and you can bolster your bouquet with flowers purchased from a florist.

Camellia japonica ‘La Peppermint’ from the garden. The short, woody stems are kept in place by inserting them into bit of floral foam wedged into the vase.

A small bouquet of daffodils, Muscari and tulips with purple Loropetulum and heather. A layer of marbles at the bottom of the vase give the short stems height. Daffodils produce a sap that will make other flowers wilt. Before using them in an arrangement keep them in a separate vase for a day and refresh the water every few hours. This will wash away the sap.

I love to hang buckets of daffodils from tree branches. So simple and chic.

Wisteria makes an elegant bouquet. The fragrance only adds to the beauty. I grow American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) ‘Amethyst Falls’.

Cut glass is a stylish choice for simple blooms like these Summer Snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum) ‘Gravetye Giant’.

Flowers with a Conscience

Are you aware of the efforts by American flower growers to get consumers to think local when purchasing flowers? In addition to the typical reasons for buying local (economy, ecological footprint, and chemical-free) you can expect domestically grown flowers to have more fragrance and appear more natural. Plus they last longer. For instance, with the proper care California roses will last up two weeks versus imported roses.*
Find a local flower farmer.

California Organic Flowers

*Palmer, K (2013, March). Blossoming Close to Home. Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Tabletop Spring Garden

Welcome spring into your home with a tabletop garden planted with spring blooms from your local garden center or grocery store.

Materials:
Potted flowering plants
Plastic baggies
Decorative container
Sheet moss

Directions:
Remove each plant from its pot and slip it, soil and all, into a plastic baggie. This is optional. If your decorative container is large enough to accommodate the plants in their pots, simply slip them into the container. Otherwise the plastic baggies make it easier to arrange the plants.

Once the plants are in the container cover the bags or pots with sheet moss to conceal. That’s it!

For the longest life, place your tabletop garden in a spot away from source of heat. Water the soil with a spray mister.

For this arrangement I used pots of forced ‘Tete-a-tete’ narcissus, primroses and variegated ivy. After the blooms fade I’ll plant the ‘Tet-a-tete’ in the garden. This variety is a prolific multiplier.
The galvanized tray is available in my online shop.

Revolutionary Roses

Do you shy away from rose bushes because of their fussy reputation? Well, get ready to revise your thinking. New varieties are easier than ever to grow while retaining the classic qualities that we love some much about these beautiful blooms.

I asked Kristen Smith, New Plants Coordinator at Star Roses and Plants, about their updated rose varieties and what we can look forward to in 2015.

What is a top trend in rose gardening this year?

Gardeners are looking for roses which will work and perform in containers these days. More and more consumers are gardening in limited space and don’t have the time available in their busy schedules to commit to building and maintaining garden beds for roses.

Gardeners are interested in plants that are disease resistant, easy to grow and abundant. How are these characteristics expressed in new rose introductions?

Our new roses receive at least three years of testing under no spray locations on both coasts. This style of testing simply allows us to select for those varieties which are more disease resistant. Newer introductions are being released each year which have been tested extensively for resistance to disease, vigor, and repeat bloom. These are all characteristics which make a variety easy to grow and enjoy. The leader of the pack in disease resistance today is still The Knock Out® Rose which is exceptionally resistant to black spot and powdery mildew. It also repeat blooms from spring through fall.

Drift® Roses are what I call double duty plants. They are wonderful for filling space, but the blooms are delightful too. What’s your favorite design idea for these roses?

My favorite design idea for the Drift® Roses is using them in a cottage garden style. They tuck in nicely with other bulbs, perennial and woody plants and can be used reliably for color effect throughout the season while many other perennials may only bloom once and fade.

Coral Drift®

What 2015 introductions are you excited about?

The Peachy Keen™ Rose and The Icecap™ Rose are two really good new introductions for 2015. They were trialed for two years in trial gardens all around the country and were the top performers in a class of potential introductions that were trialed alongside of them. Peachy Keen™ has pretty soft pastel blooms that are enhanced and made more interesting with a yellow center. The Icecap™ Rose has white blooms and an excellent bushy and rounded habit. These two are sure to be very easy to care for and reliable in the garden.

Icecap™ Rose

It’s exciting to see breeders creating roses that are easy-care and adaptable so that gardeners can grow roses without all the fuss. What are your top three rose care tips?

My first suggestion, which isn’t really a care tip, but important nonetheless is to make sure that your rose gets planted in a site with at least 6 hours of full sun per day. Sighting your rose properly will be important for overall quality, health, and flowering of the rose over the long term. Second would be making sure that watering needs are met for at least the first 30 days after planting. Keeping an eye on watering during the first year of planting will help establish the rose in its new location making for a rose that will need little to no supplemental water in years to come. Lastly, I would advise on pruning back the rose by 2/3 once in late winter. This will help rejuvenate the rose, eliminate any dead wood left over from the winter, and improve the overall shape and vigor of your rose.

Peachy Keen™ Rose

What’s your all-time favorite rose?

That is a really difficult question to answer, especially since new and improved varieties are being introduced every year. There is a new rose every year that becomes my favorite, until the following year. I would say that my favorite right now is the series of Drift® Roses. As a group, they are compact with good disease resistance and have a multitude of uses.

Pink Drift® at Moss Mountain Farn

American Farmer: The Urbanite

Imagine for a minute that your neighborhood doesn’t include a grocery store. Not unusual, but what if you don’t have the means to travel outside of your neighborhood to find a store? You live in what is referred to as a food desert – an area that lacks a source of affordable, healthy food whose residents don’t have access to transportation. It’s a jarring thought and sadly not uncommon in the U.S. The good news is American farmers are stepping up to the plate to reach these communities in need.

One type of farmer is bringing the mountain to Mohammed by establishing urban farms in the nooks and crannies of their cities. You might see a farm on a rooftop or in an abandoned lot or in your neighbor’s backyard. Some farmers have converted warehouses to year-round grow houses. Their efforts are pretty amazing and, in some cases, ingenious.

The concept of urban farming as a way to alleviate food insecurity isn’t new. Consider Victory Gardens during WWII or go back even further to the 1890s when “Pingree’s Potato Patches” sprung up in Detroit as a way to help people through an economic downturn. Urbanites have a rich history of shoring up our larders by producing food within the city limits.

The 21st century version of a philanthropic urban farm works to promote awareness, education, and empowerment as well as supplying inexpensive, homegrown food to the community. These groups want to show others what they can do for themselves and their neighborhood.

In most cases these urban farms get financial support by selling what they produce to local restaurants or directly to the consumer at farmers’ markets, retail stores and through community support agriculture (CSA) programs. Supporting a local urban farm couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is buy their products or participate in their workshops.

Wheelbarrow Gardens for Salad Greens

Resources for finding out more about urban farming:
Urban Farm Magazine
USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food
EPA Steps to Create a Community Garden or Expand Urban Agriculture

Urban farms in my home state of Arkansas:
Arkansas Grown
Little Rock Urban Farming
Appleseeds
The Field
Farm and Food Innovation Center

Meet Farmer Tyler

Every now and again I meet someone who is so full of joy and gratitude I can’t help but like them. And when he or she shares my love of gardening? Well, that’s a friend for life. So it went when I met the winner of our 100,000 Fan Giveaway sponsored by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tyler Baras (a.k.a. Farmer Tyler) entered the contest last summer and was selected as the winner of a trip to Little Rock to visit some of the city’s hot spots and to tape a TV segment with me.

Tyler wasn’t the only winner in the deal. I got to learn something about his specialty – hydroponics. Tyler works at The GrowHaus, which is a non-profit urban farm in Denver that provides fresh vegetables and education on healthy living to the surrounding community. The GrowHaus uses greenhouses and hydroponics to produce greens year-round in the cold Colorado climate. Hence Tyler’s expertise in the method.

Tyler and I taped a segment about how to build a home hydroponics system.

Another talent Tyler shared was playing the accordion.

While Tyler was in town we wanted to make sure he saw some of the best of Little Rock and good food was on the top of the list. He had barbeque and greens at Lindsey’s Hospitality House, fried black-eyed peas at the Capital Hotel and catfish with hoppin’ John at South on Main. We also made sure he tried a locally brewed beer and some of Kent Walker’s cheese at Stone’s Throw Brewery.

Having a beer, homemade pickles and Kent Walker Artisan Cheese at Stone’s Throw Brewery. The pickled squash was our favorite.

Tyler couldn’t leave Little Rick without walking The Big Dam Bridge, visiting Central High School and touring the Clinton Library.

We had lunch at the Clinton Library. Tyler was tickled to see that Moss Mountain Farm was listed as a food supplier on the menu.

At the Clinton Library Tyler demonstrated how he would drive the Presidential state car. He should probably stick to growing lettuce.

 This is the mid-way point across The Big Dam Bridge. It’s a gorgeous view any time of the year.

Because Tyler is into urban farming we wanted to make sure he got to visit a few area agriculture-related attractions. The first stop was Little Rock Urban Farming in the heart of the city. He spoke with Chris about the farm’s operation and intern program. On Friday we headed to Lonoke to meet with Dr. Anita Kelly at the Cooperative Extension Center. And finally we toured Barnhill Orchards also in Lonoke.

Chris and Tyler walking through a bamboo thicket heading to Little Rock Urban Farming’s high tunnel greenhouses.

Dr. Kelly demonstrated her work combining aquaponics with hydroponics.

Bob Barnhill toured us around his farm.

Even this late in the year Mr. Barnhill has crops he harvests to sell. Tyler got to harvest a few persimmons and learn how to operate a pecan cracking machine.

I want to say a BIG thank you to everyone who entered the 100,000 Fan Giveaway. We received some fantastic videos and it was hard to pick just one. I also want to thank the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau for making Tyler’s trip possible. They hooked him up with a hotel room, passes to the Clinton Library and a $250 gift card to use for pocket money. Thank you Little Rock for being such a swell place to live!

Hands-Free Holidays!

United Solutions Hands-Free ToteMerry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and happy Kwanzaa! So many celebrations, so little time! December is the most social month of the year and I spend a lot of time dashing from party to party. My constant companion to all these engagements is my United Solutions Hands-Free Tote. I pack it with food, wine and gifts and go!

How would you like a Hands-Free Tote to use around your home and garden? Post a comment below about your favorite holiday tradition. I’ll select a winner on December 18th.

Turn Up the Lights!

It’s not shocking that light plays such an important role in the December holidays. It is, after all, the darkest month of the year when days are the shortest. Who wouldn’t want a little extra glow?

It’s also not a big surprise that the inventor of the light bulb introduced the idea of using strings of electric lights to decorate for the holidays. If you were riding the subway past Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park lab in December 1880, you would have undoubtedly seen his Christmas light display. His motive was product promotion, but his legacy is the tradition of adorning our homes in festive lights.

I’m thankful for Mr. Edison’s marketing ploy because I really enjoy seeing my town lit up for the holidays. This year I’m planning to take it on the road to visit some places along the “Arkansas Trail of Lights.” Sixty communities across the state participate with outdoor holiday light displays, parades and festivals. My first stop will be Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, where they have over 4 million lights. It’s a sight to behold! I also want to make my way to Mountain View to see their historic court square festooned with lights and hopefully get a ticket to “Caroling in the Caverns” at Blanchard Springs Caverns. I imagine the sound of singing in an underground cave is magical. For a pre-Edison experience I hope to go to Historic Washington State Park to see the luminaries and take the candlelight tour.

Each of these destinations is an easy day trip from Little Rock and the state makes planning my trip a breeze with their interactive map of locations and itineraries for the different regions. Who knows? With the price of gas so low right now, I might just try to hit all 60 stops!

Blanchard Springs Caroling in the Caverns

Garvan Woodland Gardens

Candlelight Tour at Old Washington State Park

Arkansas Made for the Holidays

If you are looking for something unique to give this holiday season, I suggest a gift from my home state of Arkansas. From tasty treats to sweet smelling soaps there is something for everyone on your list.

Lambrecht Gourmet’s Southern Pecan Toffee

Lambrecht Gournet's Southern Pecan Toffee

Lambrecht Gourmet’s award winning Southern Pecan Toffee is made with roasted pecan halves, covered in rich butter toffee and drenched in imported, single origin milk chocolate. The resulting confection is a perfect balance of crisp, buttery toffee covered pecans and smooth milk chocolate. It’s a gift that will be well-received and quickly devoured!

Wicked Mix

Photo courtesy of Wicked Mix
Spice up someone’s life with a bag of this fiery snack mix made with pecans, cashews, almonds and other tasty morsels. Available is Spicy Original, Hot Chipotle and, my fav, Chocolate-Laced.

PK Grill

Photo courtesy of PK Grills
If you grew up in the South, chances are your family had a cast aluminum grill in the back yard. The “Portable Kitchen” is a classic cooker for a backyard barbeque. Durable and timeless, this grill will become a family heirloom that you pass down to your kids.

Aromatique Orange and Evergreen Candle

Photo courtesy of Aromatique
Aromatique is a premier potpourri and candle maker in Heber Springs, Arkansas. Founder Patti Upton and I go way back, further than I’d like to admit. I love this orange and evergreen scent for the holidays.

Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun

At the Daisy Museum in Northwest Arkansas
If there is someone on your list who is a fan of A Christmas Story, they’ll be sure to appreciate a Red Ryder BB gun. Just be sure the recipient heeds the film’s warning about shooting out an eye.

ARKANSAS MADE


Are you an Arkansas craftsperson, grower or maker? I encourage you to join ARKANSAS GROWN to help get your product out in front of consumers. And if you are a shopper, look for the Arkansas Made logo to identify locally produced goods. Check them out at www.ArkansasGrown.org.