Thursday, December 29, 2011

So true...

From Memphis Commercial Appeal Dec. 29, 2011

Treasure gift of found time while it lasts

By Lori Borgman

MCT Information Services

The week after Christmas is when nothing happens.

If you’re a teacher, you’re on vacation.

If you’re a student, you’re sleeping in.

If you work for a big corporation, your company may shut down and tell you to take the week off.

If you have a literary agent, she will tell you nothing happens with publishing houses from now until January.

Congress is on holiday.

Even the phone solicitors go quiet. They figure we’re all broke, having overspent on the holidays.

Even if you’re working, there’s a different tempo to the office. It’s a little more laid back, a lot less intense.

The week when nothing happens is one of the most enjoyable weeks of all.

It’s found time, like when friends are coming for dinner, you have everything ready and they’re 15 minutes late. It’s the best 15 minutes of the week. It’s 15 minutes of time you weren’t counting on, 15 minutes to clean out your wallet, organize your desk, answer e-mails or throw out old newspapers.

Time puts on the brakes in the week before we turn the page to a new year. The pace slows, the shopping frenzy begins to wane, the canned music stops, and here and there you find a few minutes to breathe.

You have time not only to fill the birdfeeder, but also to watch the birds. The chickadee is so dainty.

The nuthatch is crazy. The albino cardinal has returned. Surely, it can’t be the same one three years running.

There’s no need to sprint to the kitchen in the morning. The crowd is gone. They’ve left behind full trash cans, a smattering of leftovers and echoes of laughter.

You can take time to examine frost on the window if you like. Or enjoy the morning sun spilling in through the window.

You can make a cup of tea. The real kind, with loose leaves in the tea ball, and wait for it to steep instead of shaking the pot. You may even have the luxury of waiting for the tiny leaves that escaped from the mesh ball to sink to the bottom. If this isn’t the good life ...

You can linger over the cards you opened at warp speed before Christmas and threw in a basket without so much as a glance.

You might even find time to clean out your sock drawer, match the plastic lids and tubs and straighten up that mess under the sink.

If it has snowed, you can pause at twilight, watch the sky fade to pink and the snow turn to blue.

Time moving slowly, filled with simple pleasures: It’s a wonderful time of the year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sometimes It's Good to Take a Step Back...

From Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac, December 7, 2011:

It was on this day in 1972 that astronauts on the Apollo 17 spacecraft took a famous photograph of Earth, a photo that came to be known as "The Blue Marble." Photographs of Earth from space were relatively new.

In 1948, the astronomer Fred Hoyle said, "Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available — once the sheer isolation of the Earth becomes plain — a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose." 

The photograph captured on this day thirty-nine years ago was the first clear image of the Earth, because the sun was at the astronauts' back, and so the planet appears lit up and you can distinctly see blue, white, brown, even green. It became a symbol of the environmental movement of the 1970s, and it's the image that gets put on flags, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and posters.

The crew of Apollo 17 was about 28,000 miles away from Earth when they took the Blue Marble photo. It was the last time that astronauts, not robots, were on a lunar mission — since then, no people have gotten far enough away from Earth to take a photo like it.

What you do in your own backyard affects the whole earth.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Those Plastic Shopping Bags!

One of the first speakers during MAMG Intern Training is Linda Overton Phillips, recycler extraordinaire.  And one of the tips she gives us is how to crochet plastic shopping bags into a super cool tote bag.  Well, a student at Memphis College of Art is taking it one step further!  Have you ever thought that these bags could be an art medium?

Kim Thomas - Untitled Circle 2011

Kim will be telling her story at the Brooks Museum this Thursday night (December 1) from 6:30 to 7:15.  More information can be found HERE.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Church Health Center Meditation Garden

One of the many projects that Memphis Area Master Gardeners are committed to is a meditation garden at the Church Health Center.  Volunteers recently got the garden cleaned up for the winter and one of the Church Health Center's employees sent this note:

A Note of Thanks:

I love what you all do for our meditation garden. While you were weeding here, I spent Saturday afternoon weeding at my home and boy, was I worn out by the end of the day!

Thank you all for the laborious hours you spend for our staff, members, patients and for the community to enjoy! There's little more relaxing than a beautiful garden, a waterfall, and a beautiful fall day!!!

Assistant Director of Integrated Health Wellness

Sometimes we forget what an impact our work has on so many people.  I'm thankful for all that we do in the community to enrich lives in ways that we don't even know about.  We sometimes take what we do - and our ability to do it - for granted.  We're so fortunate to be in a position to give to others.

Meditation Garden at Church Health Center

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Picture is Worth...

Did you know the official website for Memphis Area Master Gardeners has a photo gallery?  Just click on "Photo Gallery" (duh) in the site directory box on the left side of the screen.  For your viewing convenience, just click HERE.  Lots of pictures about our doings, including this one of a new installation at the Davies PAR Garden:

Speaking of PAR, we're so excited that this wonderful demonstration garden is going to be on the 2012 Through Our Garden Gates tour!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Autumn in England

Ok, Jane Austen fans:  remember that scene in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice when Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) proposes to Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) in the rain?  (the first proposal, where she refuses him and they have a big fight?)

Well, that scene was filmed at Stourhead in Wiltshire, in the Temple of Apollo.  The BBC interviewed Stourhead's gardener recently and posted this glimpse of the garden in autumn.  Oh my.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Margaret at "A Way to Garden" reports on the snow

Margaret has posted beautiful photos of her snow covered property - at least they'd be beautiful if we gardeners didn't know what lies beneath...

Snow, autumn foliage, blue sky!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Some Autumn Poetry for a Gray Day

"The lucidity, the clarity of light that afternoon was sufficient to itself; perfect transparency must be impenetrable, these vertical bars of brass-colored distillation of light coming down from sulphur-yellow interstices in a sky hunkered with grey clouds that bulge with more rain. It struck the wood with nicotine-stained fingers, the leaves glittered. A cold day of late October, when the withered blackberries dangled like their own dour spooks on the discolored brambles. There were crisp husks of beechmast and cast acorn cups underfoot in the russet slime of the dead bracken where the rains of the equinox had so soaked the earth that the cold oozed up through the soles of the shoes, lancinating cold of the approaching winter that grips hold of your belly and squeezed it tight. Now the stark elders have an anorexic look; there is not much in the autumn wood to make you smile but it is not yet, not quite yet, the saddest time of the year. Only, there is a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being; the year, in turning, turns in on itself. Introspective weather, a sickroom hush."
- Angela Carter

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I'm so happy it's getting to be butternut squash season!  I love this stuff.  And I found the best recipe ever for the roasted version in America's Test Kitchen's Light & Healthy 2010.


Vegetable oil spray
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lbs) peeled, seeded, and cut into 1" chunks
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light)
1 Tbl canola oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp cider vinegar

1.  Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the over to 425.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with vegetable oil spray.

2.  Toss all ingredients through cayenne together in a large bowl until well coated.  Spread onto baking sheet and roast, stirring every 15 minutes, until well browned and tender (about 45 minutes.)  Transfer to a platter and drizzle with the vinegar and serve.

Confession:  I've made this twice and I keep forgetting the vinegar part!  Would someone please do this and tell me how it works out?

I like butternut squash mixed with other roasted vegetables and as a soup, too. Last month's Cooking Light had a recipe for Mac & Cheese that used butternut squash as a base in place of the creamy roux.  It didn't pass the taste test with Mr. A, but he's so set in his ways.  Am I missing any other good uses for butternut squash?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Zinnia arrangements at the hospice

Carl Wayne sent some pictures of the flower arrangements at Baptist Hospice.  The flowers are from the median zinnia bed.  Gorgeous.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Garden Benches

Need a place to sit and admire your garden now that things are slowing down?  Check out these great benches at Apartment Therapy!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Garden Poetry

In fall it is mushrooms
gathered from dampness
under the pines:
in spring I have known
the taste of the lamb
full of milk and spring grass;
today it is beans green and yellow
and lettuce and basil from my friends' garden —
how calmly, as though it were an ordinary thing,
we eat the blessed earth.
   ---Mary Oliver

You can read more about this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet HERE.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Carl Wayne's Zinnias

Carl Wayne sent us this video slide show of his 100' zinnia bed planted in the median of Peterson Lake Road in Collierville.  Laura Ruth from Baptist Hospice is going to cut some for arrangements at the hospice and Carl Wayne will share those photos later.

Click HERE to read the Commercial Appeal article that Christine Arpe Gang wrote in July about this garden.

Friday, September 2, 2011

2011 Vegetable Garden of the Year

A fraction garden!

I hope everyone read about the Commercial Appeal's Vegetable Garden of the Year today!  Click HERE if you missed it.

What an inspiration this garden is - on several levels.  First, the garden, or Outside Classroom, is an antidote to the constant moaning and groaning about education in Memphis:  the administration, the teachers, the students, the facilities - it goes on and on.  A story like this that encapsulates all of the good that goes on in city schools.  You have the teacher with the great idea, the principal who supports it, her colleagues who provide more ideas and manual labor (on their own time!), grants from area businesses, students who become involved, and, most importantly, learning that takes place.

Second, the garden is a source of inspiration for similar learning gardens and even for our own home gardens.  How cool is a shape garden?

Third, the lessons go beyond gardening.  As a self-proclaimed "litter nut," I was thrilled to read about the experiment involving chip bags.

Were any MAMG members involved in this garden?  If so, please speak up so we can pat you on the back.

P. S.  In case you missed it, our own Carol Watkins was the winner of the 2011 Ornamental Garden of the Year.  Check it out HERE.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tributes to Master Gardener Spouses

We Master Gardeners can become a little fanatical sometimes (really?)  It's good to stop every once in a while and pay tribute to our long-suffering spouses who put up with and even actively support our gardening obsession.  Let me know if you have a story to share!  Many thanks to Catherine Lewis for this one:

Willingly poses for pictures on garden tours even though it’s obvious you only want to show how tall those lilies are.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Uh-Oh: It's the Bad Stuff

Had a closer look at the neighborhood plant that is either Giant Hogweed or Cow Parsnip.  The verdict:

Giant Hogweed

The stems did have the white bristles that distinguish Hogweed from Cow Parsnip, but the determining factor was the seed shape.  Here are the seeds of both:

See how the Hogweed seeds are oval and the Cow Parsnip seeds are heart-shaped?  Here's our seed:

These are green instead of brown because they haven't dried yet.  But they are definitely oval and not heart-shaped.  Therefore, we have the bad stuff!  Oh, no.  I guess I need to call someone?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Giant Hogweed vs Cow Parsnip

Today's Commercial Appeal featured an article by Felder Rushing on Poisonous Giant Hogweed.  Here's his picture:

And here's a picture of me beside a similar plant in my neighborhood in North Carolina:

My neighbors and I had identified this plant as Cow Parsnip, but when I read Felder's article, I wasn't so sure.  So I did some research.

Cow Parsnip is Heracleum maximum; Giant Hogweed is Heracleum mantegazzinum, different species of the same genus.  The sap of both species will cause phytophotodermititus (severe skin inflammation), but the Hogweed sap is much more toxic.  So how to tell them apart?

The keys to Giant Hogweed identification are:

  • large plant, often over 8 feet high (when mature)
  • flowers in umbel shape, larger than 6 inches in diameter
  • flowers have more than 50 rays
  • hollow stems are between 1-3 inches in diameter
  • stems have stiff white bristles
  • stems have spots or blotching, red or purple in colour
  • large, lobed leaves up to 3 feet in size
  • leaves compounded in three
So how does my specimen stack up?  

Height is over 8 feet:  I'm about 5.5 feet tall, and the plant is in a small depression, so its base is below where I'm standing.

Umbel flowers, greater than 6 inches - check.

Here's a closeup of the stem:

The diameter of this one is over an inch, and you can see the red splotching.  I can't see any bristles, though, and I don't remember whether there were any or not.

Umbels have more than 50 rays - here's another closeup:

What do you think?  Looks like a bunch to me.  But here's a picture from the Wikipedia entry for Giant Hogweed:

So I don't know.  

Another difference is in the seed shape.  Cow parsnip seeds are heart-shaped; giant hogweed seeds are oval.

I'll be in NC in a couple of weeks and I'll do some closer inspection and maybe come to a more definitive answer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice Report

Well, it's the official first day of summer, but you would think that the dog days have already been in full swing!  As I write this, though, there's a little shower going on at my house and it's very welcome.  I hope it cools things off, but I'm afraid it will just add to the mugginess factor.

Carl Wayne is having more than heat problems at the Victory Garden.  Who said rabbits are cute?  I'm in the Elmer Fudd camp:  "pesky wabbits!"

In my own garden, I've picked okra and eggplant.  The tomatoes are just about ready!  But I'm having a problem with blossom-end rot on my zucchini and yellow squash.  My father told me to spray the plants with lime.  Lime?  My internet search reveals that blossom-end rot is caused by a deficiency in calcium uptake. This is a result of (1) too much nitrogen, which impedes calcium uptake or (2) lack of calcium in the soil or (3) uneven watering.  One site said just remove the flowers once the young fruit has begun to grow and if you see any decay, just gently scrap it off.  It will leave a scar, but the fruit will grow normally.  What should I do?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Even Better Use for Tomatoes

Thank you, Julie M., for giving us this heads-up about the best use for tomatoes that we've seen yet!

The great ladies at Garden Rant did extensive "research" before they crowned this one as King of the Vodkas.  Check it out here, and while you're at it, browse through their site.  I love their Manifesto!


Monday, June 6, 2011

Fun Vegetable Art!

We were in Boone, NC last week.  Got up early Saturday morning and went to the Watauga County Farmers' Market -  a mandatory outing whenever we're there.  You can't believe the vegetables, flowers, crafts, food - almost as good as the farmers' markets here!  Anyway, a cute young girl named Freddie was there with her vegetable art and we just have to share.

My fave!
All images used by permission of artist

Are these terrific, or what?  There's lots more at her website, Animal Garden Shop.  You can buy online and maybe you can even get something personalized.

I purchased several, including one of an alligator made from vegetables that says, "Bite Me."  Wonder who'll get that one?  Heh, heh, heh.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Weeds of the World - Unite!

Julie M. recently sent us a link to a great, informative website A Way to Garden.  It's the creation of Margaret Roach, who many of us may recognize as the former garden editor of Martha Stewart Living - and before that of Newsday, a newspaper in NYC/Long Island.  Margaret gardens in the Hudson River Valley of New York.  Some of her challenges are different from ours and we won't track her timing, but there's still plenty that we can adapt to "sunny" Memphis.

As you may have been able to discern from the most recent posts, we have tomatoes on the brain!  Returned from vacation Monday, ran out to the garden, and there they were:  little green gems - oh my!  But how to maximize the little darlings?  A Way to Garden has growing tips here and trouble-shooting tips here.

‘Potunia Papaya,’ from German breeder Dummen-Red Fox
And check out these gorgeous petunias!

Finally, from the "Garden Humor" section of A Way to Garden, something we can relate to!

Andre Jordan -

Saturday, May 28, 2011

More poetry from our own Carl Wayne

Oh my gosh!  No posts here for soooo long - sorry, we've been vacationing (right at prime gardening season, but more about that later.)

Here's a poem from Carl Wayne:

Expensive Mater Pome
Carl Wayne June 14, 2006

Organic gardening is a beautiful thing
Taking care of Mother Nature's good earth
Growing maters and taters with taste and smell
Whatever it costs it is worth.

But organic gardening is not cheap my Dear
If you want that good old taste
My price per mater has risen too far
I tell by the look on Mimi's face.

A five dollar pot and 4 dollars of mix
Wire cages and cute two dollar stand
Expensive crystals supposed to retain water
Mimi said it's getting out of hand.

But I had not finished my buying spree
I bought gallons of expensive soil soup
And SeaTea and bone meal and various sprays
Composted chicken and black cow poop.

For a ten dollar bucket and 9 buck bag
Of organic alfalfa pellets
I could brew my own tea for almost free
But Mimi said she couldn't tell it.

I'm hoping for a large mater harvest
Maters that smell and taste so sweet
And accept the fact that they cost me
Somewhere around ten dollars apiece.

Maybe next year I'll plant in the ground
And have more maters to glean
And reduce my cost to less than a buck
And fertilize with triple thirteen.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You say to-may-toe, I say to-mah-toe

Everyday we receive an email with the day's Writer's Almanac, edited by Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame.

Today's edition contained a fascinating discourse on whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable.  Did you know that even the U. S. Supreme Court has weighed in?

It was on this day in 1893 that the Supreme Court ruled that the tomato was a vegetable, not a fruit.