Choosing Perennials, Lavender Heart Card, Easy Flavored Sugar’s Gift & Yummy Apple Pie Oatmeal

Flavored Sugars make a super cute gift.
See how to below

Lavender Heart Card… see how to below

Our gardens are filled with love, patience and long suffering… these are attributes that we as spouses, parents, co-workers and such strive to maintain and build in our personal character.  I believe that gardening helps us grow these virtues.  I always tell my my friends that God made me to love gardening because that was the only way He was sure to get these virtues instilled in me.   Perennials I believe help along with this much more than annuals.  My closer friends know how much I enjoy ‘instant gratification’ 🙂 ~ which is why I probably will always incorporate my beloved annuals… petunias, nasturtiums, pansies and the likes~ they are ever faithful!  Today we will look at perennials and the pro’s and con’s to them along with some tips & hints on maintenance.

Perennials can create a challenge for some due to the simple fact there are so many to choose from.  Several factors come into play when deciding on what, where and when.  I will touch base on what I believe to be the most important factors to take into consideration. Perennials will be where ever you place them for a long while and if they are larger plants such as shrubs and trees, you need to make sure you love what you choose!  The color of your home, whether it be dark, light or painted brick, vinyl siding or painted wood~ all play into the choices. You wouldn’t want to put a white flowering pear in front of your white house- you would loose all interest because when the tree is in full bloom you would loose the tree into your home.  A pink flowering crab on the other hand would be much more stunning.
Many of the factors listed with annuals are also relevant for perennial, for instance sun & shade tolerances.
~Size is one factor with perennials that does differ from perennials.  You will be looking at trees and shrubs as well as bush types, ground covers, small to mid-size growers. 
~I would suggest that first you go to a nursery or garden center with a note book, plan on spending some serious time there.  Go through each category of plant that you are interested in; jot down what you like and the details to that plant.  If you have a really good plant encyclopedia at home, you won’t need too much of the detail, but if you don’t be sure to get these details- sun requirements, blooming time, height & width at mature stage and any special requirements that might be listed.
~Bloom time is one factor to pay close attention to.  You will want to be sure to incorporate plants that will give you seasonal blooming.  Here are a few more common perennials and there bloom time:
*Spring bloomers: Ajuga, bergina, bleeding heart, columbine, coral bells, hellebore, lady’s mantle, peony, poppy, primrose, viola and of course bulbs such as snow drops, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths and my favorite of all, tulips.
*Summer bloomers: Astible, baby’s breath, bee balm, coreopsis, day lily, delphinium, dianthus, helianthus, hosta, lupine, obedient plant, phlox, purple corn flower, black eyed susan, Shasta daisies, Russian sage, scabiosa, sedum, verbena, veronica and yarrow.
*Fall bloomers: Aster, chrysanthemum, lobelia, Japanese anemone and goldenrod.
The next thing to take into consideration when you are ready to purchase is, “What size plant/shrub/tree do I start with?” Well the fact of the matter here is truly how much money and patience do you have! I most often times want the biggest bang for my buck and therefore typically will go with a smaller plant and be patient with growth.  There are a few ‘slow’ growers that I don’t, like trees for instance.  I’ve done the catalog mail order and get a ‘twig’ in the mail, which has in every situation been mowed over, run over by a child, week wacked or dug up by an animal! No thanks~ too many disappointments and wasted time in this area.  What I do is wait until August and go to the garden centers when everything is typically marked down 50% and buy the 8′ to 12′ trees.  I mulch heavily and water deeply and regularly so the tree will have plenty of time to take root and make it through the cold Michigan weather I live in.  I have not lost one yet!  This is also what I do with some of my larger shrubs if they are going to be in a ‘high risk’ area. Otherwise I go for the small pots here too.  Mulching and watering is the key to success.
* A few other tips:
~Prepare the soil well- add plenty of organic matter to ensure adequate water and air circulation.
~Always plant the plant to the same depth of the size of the pot that you purchased it in.
~Water often the first season. This will aid the plant in developing a strong root base.
~Fertilize in spring- most growth happens during this time.  Choose appropriate fertilizers according to type of plant.
~Mulch year round- this aids in maintaining moisture and protecting roots.
~Get more blooms!  Dead heading certain varieties, such as roses will stimulate more blooming.
~Division of plants, especially Iris’s and bulbs are crucial to long life and better blooming.  Be sure to read on each plant before dividing, some prefer spring, others fall!
There is so much to be said and time and space would never allow me to do it all in a day’s blog.  I hope this helps you get started!

For a thoughtful gift, create on of these simple Lavender Filled Heart Cards. 
*First you will need to choose a sheet of card stock and cut to the desired size;  fold vertically in the center. Cut two heart shapes from a piece of printed muslin to fit nicely on the front of your card; stitch them together, outsides in, leaving a small opening; invert the hearts; loosely fill with dried lavender; stitch the opening closed and attach the heart to the card.  See attached photo!      

Flavored Sugars are an easy thing to make, here is a quick recipe that you can use on oatmeal or in your tea.  They make super cute gifts as well.  See attached photo!
Start with 2 cups organic raw sugar.
For Vanilla Sugar: Split 1 vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds from the bean into the sugar; then bury the bean in the sugar.
For Cinnamon Sugar:  add 1 1/2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon and 2 sticks.
For Cardamon Sugar: add 1/4 cup whole green cardamom pods.
The sugars will stay flavorful i a sealed container for up to one year. 

To make it gift worthy put the sugar’s in pint size jelly jars; using pinking shears cut a cute piece of fabric circle 1 1/2 inch’s wider in diameter than the metal lid; place fabric circle over the lid, place on filled jar and then seal with ring.  Create a cute contents label to put on the front of jar. Happy giving!

Oatmeal doesn’t have to be the way grandma made it- goopy & thick!  This alternative to an already hearty breakfast goes a long way when it tastes like Apple Pie.  Sometimes we are really busy in the morning and getting a good breakfast can be a challenge.  Here is a quick, forget about it in the crock pot till morning meal that is sure to please!
Apple Pie Oatmeal

2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup steel cut oats, uncooked
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. apple pie spice
1 apple, cored, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup raisins, optional
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker sprayed with non stick spray; stir well until well mixed. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Happy Day,
Jean

Children’s Gardens & more themes, Butterfly Kisses & a super Yummy Apple ‘Breakfast’ Pie!

Each Spring my children get pretty enthusiastic about planting ‘their’ own garden plots.  Ryan, my soon to be 10year old is always right there ready to get going.  Last year he gathered several old bricks he discovered and made small ‘raised’ beds.  He dug around to loosen the dirt and proceeded to plant his tomato plants along side basil, nasturtiums & marigolds.  He has learned the art of Companion Planting like a true gardener!  Taylor & Kyle are usually in competition as to who’s garden shall yield the greatest bounty and there-by collect the most funds from dad ‘n’ mom! The problem most often is that the thrill doesn’t always last through till the harvest~ before the harvest is weeding & tending~ not such glamorous tasks as the planting!  But they are learning and I believe will someday have beautiful flower & veggie gardens for me to walk through!

But in the meantime here are a few more Garden Themes to dream about & work toward!
The first is a lovely *Children’s Garden~  Sunflower Houses~  A good friend of mine has a really neat book called  Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots by Sharon Lovejoy.  It is a book all about different children’s garden theme’s.  One that struck us most was a sunflower house. It is so fun & incredibly simple~ first find the perfect spot, a sunny corner in the far back of your veggie garden works well~ or in a flower bed if you have room~ figure about a 6’x6′ area.  You will need the Giant Grey Stripe or Mammoth Sunflower’s or even better a combo of both.  Using a stick for a marker, draw out the area in the dirt, any shape you want will do~ round, diamond, square, whatever~ then plant the seeds according to package directions.  Be sure to leave enough of an opening for an entrance.  Once the seeds start to sprout reseed where any didn’t germinate so you have a complete ‘wall’.  After your sunflowers are about six inches high plant Morning Glory seeds at the base of some of the sunflowers~ about every six would be good.  To make a roof over your hide away, take twine and go around the tops of the sunflowers to make criss~cross sections for the morning glories to climb over.  Once your sunflowers and morning glories are full grown it will be the perfect spot for picnics, story time or playing house.  Your children will love it!
other stuff for the Children to plant…. Children love to plant and if you give them something fun to grow it can even be more special! Let them plant some decorative gourds.  There are more varieties than you can shake a stick at including Swan, Bottle, Snake, Apple and even a Dinosaur Gourd.  Let them page the seed catalogs with you and have them pick what interests them.  There are books that teach the art of Gourdology which can be found at your local library.  The garden project can at harvest time become a craft project!  

Are you a crafty type of person?  Why not try growing your own Wreath Garden.  With the cost of materials these days, a package of seeds will go a long way in the savings department. Try growing these easy plants and who knows you might even be able to start a little business with your craft!
*Flowers that work well for Wreath’s include~ boxwood, sweet annie, yarrow, bay, statice, artemisias and gomphrena. 

*Ditch Garden~
Do you have a ditch in front or alongside your home that just screams ‘do something with me’? It is always an eye soar and you just don’t really have the time to tend another garden? You want something but would like a maintainence free space that looks good without a lot of effort? I did, so last year I attacked the ditch that runs along the road in the front of our yard. My ditch is often fairly wet so my choice was a day lily patch. Here are two very quick & simple solutions if you have a similar dilemma. First & foremost determine how often and to what degree the area is wet.  This will determine if you do a Wild Flower or Day Lily Garden.  Next, if tilling is a possibility rotor~till up the section to be seeded/planted.  If the area is not tillable due to moisture you will need to do a Day Lily garden.  If this is the solution, dig holes about every two feet and plant a clump of day lilies.  They can handle the early spring moisture and tolerate the dry & hot summer days that hit Michigan. If the area is not overly moist and tilling is an option,  simply scatter Wild Flower seeds in it. After a couple years you will have a breathtaking, car slowing garden that will never be an eye soar again.  Which ever you decide will best fit your space, be sure to check planting directions/requirements before you put all the work into it.  

What are Butterfly Kisses you ask? These have been shared in my gardens for many years by me & all my children.  They are the sweetest way to give that little person in your life a ‘special’ kiss & I love you.  So here are step by step instructions for those who are interested!
*First, find one or more of your favorite children.
*Next, stand them close to you and get down to their level~ face to face!
*Getting right up close in their face, put your eye up against their eye and blink as quickly as you can!  Be sure to tell the child to do the same!  The child will of course giggle and ask for tons more and of course you will gladly oblige!
That’s a Butterfly Kiss, and of course they are most fun in a garden!

Who says Apple Pie is just for desert?  This yummy Apple Pie will surprise the ones you love around the table, give it a try!

Apple ‘Breakfast’ Pie

1 beaten Egg, from Garden Gate
1/4 cup oil
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup Pancake Mix from Taylor’s Bake Shoppe
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Vanilla Sugar
2 Granny Smith apples cored & wedged
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
2 Tbsp. butter
Add about 1/2 cup nuts is you would like!
Top it with some Whipped Cream or Ice Cream~ Yummy!

1.  Beat the egg, oil & milk together and then add Pancake mix, 1/2 cup of sugar and nuts if using.  Beat until smooth, but don’t over beat.
2. Pour into a greased 10″ pie plate. 
3. Arrange the apples evenly over batter.  Combine the 2 Tbsp. of sugar with cinnamon & nutmeg; sprinkle over the apples.  Dot with butter.
4.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 30- 35 minutes or until apples when poked feel tender.  Serve warm with your choice of topping.

Happy Day,
Jean