Four Fragrant Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Are you scrambling to find to perfect gift for your mom this year? You can never go wrong with the gift of fragrance. Aromatique is a decorative fragrance company in my home state of Arkansas so when I give scents, I always reach for Aromatique. My friend Patti Upton started the company in 1982 with a line of potpourri made with materials she found in the woods surrounding her backyard. Since that time the company has expanded to include approximately 500 fragrance lines and can be found in store across the country. You can buy the Aromatique online here, but if you want to shop local use their retail finder to locate a store that carries their fragrances here.

Vanilla Bean

Does your mom love the simple comforts of life? Is her style simple elegance—an intimate garden, good friends and home? I’m betting she’d love a gift of vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting on cupcake stands, a dessert cookbook and Aromatique’s Pure Vanilla fragrance.

Gardenia

Your mom is tranquil and serene, but enjoys a good belly laugh from time to time. Her style is modern and playful with an eye for the classics. She makes great shadow animals and cherishes close friends, family and a fragrant garden. A gardenia in a decorative container along with Aromatique’s Smell of Gardenia.

Hydrangea

A cheery disposition and a great sense of humor set your mom apart. Friendship, honoring the past and the beauty of outdoor living have a special place in her heart. Give your mother a hydrangea shrub, garden gloves, a trowel and fragrance from Aromatique’s Fresh Hydrangea line.

Honeysuckle

Fresh as a daisy with a love of home and hearth describes your mother. Every day is spring cleaning day for her and she’s always working on a project to spruce up her house. She’ll enjoy the fresh fragrance of Aromatique’s Honeysuckle Vine with a bouquet of white roses in a sweet filigree vase.

Unique Eureka

I’m lucky that my line of work enables me to travel all over the country, but some of my favorite trips have been to places right here in my home state of Arkansas. Recently I had the opportunity to visit northwest Arkansas and check out the hidden gem of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs. This town carved into a rocky ravine is on the national registry of historic places and is one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s top 12 distinctive destinations.

I love history so one of the first things I do when I visit a place is learn something about its past and Eureka Springs has quite a past. The town literally rose up out of the ground when people started converging on the area’s unique cold water springs. After the Civil War soldiers who had walked the land during the war came back to partake in the region’s healing waters – a treasure well known to the territory’s Native Americans. At the time medical treatments were limited and it wasn’t unusual for people to use natural healing waters as a treatment. In fact, it’s a tradition that goes back to biblical times and many still believe in the power of spring water today. In 1879 word began to spread about the springs and people started coming. And coming and coming. What was once wilderness went from a population of zero to 15,000 in one year and on July 4th, 1879 the members of the encampment decided to name the place Eureka Springs.

Now, you can’t go from zero to 15,000 without someone taking notice. Arkansas’ governor Powel Clayton recognized the potential of Eureka Springs as a tourist destination and set his mind to making it easier for folks to get there. On Valentine’s Day, 1880 the state of Arkansas declared Eureka Springs a city and by 1882 a rail line was built so people could get to it from anywhere in the country.

Not long after the railroad came to town the Crescent opened. This grand resort is perched at the top of the city and has the distinction of being the most haunted hotel in the United States. The oldest spirit in residence is that of a young Irish stone mason who died during construction of the building. Legend says he takes a particular shine to the ladies who stay in the hotel. Probably the largest number of ghosts arrived during the time when the hotel was a treatment center run by a charlatan who promised a cure for cancer.

In 1934 the Depression shuttered most of Eureka Springs including the Crescent Hotel. It sat empty until Norman Baker, a radio broadcaster with a good eye for a fast buck, purchased the building in 1937 and opened the Baker Cancer Cure Hospital. Baker bilked over $4 million from his clients before being arrested for mail fraud in 1940. Sadly many of the patients died under Baker’s care and some say they are still at the hotel. The Crescent sat empty through WWII and then in 1946 it was opened up again as a hotel. If scary is what floats your boat I suggest you take the Ghost Tour at the Crescent to learn about the hotel’s other-world guests. You’ll even get to visit the old Baker Hospital morgue in the basement.

In addition to a large population of ghosts Eureka is also home to a vibrant artists’ community and great restaurants. The area is well known for its rivers, hiking trails and lakes. Nearby Lake Leatherwood Park covers 1600 acres with an 85 acre spring fed lake formed by one of the largest hand cut lime stone dams in the country.

With its rich history and contemporary attractions, Eureka Springs is a fascinating and fun getaway.

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.