August 31, 2019

A Good Day

 Fall planting is moving forward! A quick trip to Lowe’s and the Valley Nursery this past week resulted in several new specimens to add to my perennial cutting beds. Yes, I had to stop myself from finding places for them in my flowerbeds around the house! It’s hard to fight those gardening instincts!

I was able to get some planted yesterday, before my little one was done being outside, and this morning in the cool of the day, I got the rest divided and in. Yay!

I still need to find a companion shrub for this one, to put on the other side of our walkway. Alas, I did not look for shrubs this time around.

I decided to plant my perennial rows by color. I’m excited about it! My growing space is limited, and even if I had the market for—say 50 white echinacea plants’ worth of flowers, I wouldn’t have the space to put them in! I need more of a variety, in both colors and flowers to make the best use of my space. However, just 3 or 5 of one thing doesn’t come close to filling up the whole row. That’s where my brainstorm came in.

Planting by color will mean I will always know right where to put new acquisitions, for one thing. For floral designing, it will be helpful to see everything I have in a certain color. Brides usually want certain colors, but may be less concerned about specific flowers used. In my everyday arrangements it should make it easier to visualize what will go well together. I am also hoping it will help with diseases and pests to have more diversity in each row. Since these are perennials, that means they won’t get rotated, so anything I can do to throw off the critters will be helpful.

So, with what I purchased this week, I started a white row and a pink row. I bought 5 white echinacea, 3 ‘Summerwine’ Yarrow in pink, and 1 container of ‘Millenium’ garlic—which is the variety of allium I’ve been looking for online with no success! It’s funny that they called it “garlic” on the tag. Anyway, that’s pink as well, so I got all the small bulbs separated and planted out next to the yarrow.

When it comes to purchasing plants, here’s the price hierarchy:

FREE! Divide your own plants, scatter seeds and hope they come up next year, or gifts from neighbors, friends, and family.

CHEAP: purchase and start your own seeds ** It must be noted here—buying plants as seeds and growing them yourself only saves you money if you’re good at it! ** You do have to factor in the cost of purchasing a grow light setup as well. So maybe this should be “Cheap after the first couple of years.” Again, IF you’re good at it (or become so!)

PRETTY CHEAP: Purchase plugs. This is where you let someone else start the seeds for you, then you buy the baby plants and plunk them in the ground and take all the credit! As mentioned, my limited space makes this a hard option to go for, since plug trays usually contain somewhere between 50-72 seedlings. Also, they are most often all one variety, which is prohibitive for me as well.

NOT CHEAP: Purchase plants from your local retail store or nursery: Lowe’s, Home Depot, and even Walmart all have plant sections. Although this is the most expensive option, the benefit is that you come home with a good-sized plant to begin with, for instant impact and often useable flowers. Also, look for sales!

I decided this fall to give myself some breathing room as I continue to learn how to start seeds and keep baby plants alive. A buffer zone, if you will, of already productive perennial plants. In other words, I’ve got some money allocated for buying plants from the hardware stores and such.

I will be watching for end of season sales, of course, but I have another trick for getting my money’s worth with these deals:

Most perennial pots sold have more than one plant in the pot.

Did you know that? So you can separate them and plant each individual clump, which brings the cost per plant down considerably.

You can see here what I mean—see those 2 very distinct clumps? Each one can be planted separately!

For example, I purchased 5 ‘Pow Wow White’ echinacea plants this week. As I was digging the holes for them, I noticed that each one had at least 2 distinct plants in the pot. I made a shallow slice across the top, between the two, with my soil knife to get things started, then slowly pulled them apart. Each one was $8 to begin with, but now I have 10 plants out there, bringing it down to $4/ plant. I possibly could have separated them further, but the bigger clumps tend to survive much better. I was quite happy with that!

Here are the 2 separated and ready to plant!

[Side note: I’m thinking this may be part of my problem with the seed starting—maybe I am too eager to get those babies divided and into their own pots, when they would be better off growing big with some neighbors in there too! Hmm…something to think about.]

There were some poofy-headed “cantaloupe” echinacea that were twice as much as the white, which I didn’t buy. Now I wish I had checked the pots more closely to see how many clumps there were. If there were at least 3 per pot that would bring the price down to compare with the others.

Harvesting Bells of Ireland Seeds

Part 2 of the outside projects today was to harvest Bells of Ireland seeds. My patch has been ivory colored and dry for a couple of weeks now. I finally got out there today to take care of it! My darling children helped some as well.

2 trays full!

I had my gloves on due to the spines, and put as many of the actual Bells in to my trays as I could. The more dry the plant, the easier those Bells popped off! I filled 2 trays with them. I didn’t take the time today to pop all those little seeds out of the Bells, but that may happen in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, there were plenty that just fell down to the ground in this process, so I have no fears that my Bells patch will live strong again for another year!

Clearing the Bells patch and getting some beautiful flowers into the ground. #winning

How was your day today?

August 27, 2019

Gardening with Kids, Part 4: Forts and Hideaways

If you’re a regular reader, I apologize for leaving you hanging this past Saturday. I had a wonderful wedding to attend and provide the flowers for, so that took me out of the blogging game for several days!

Let’s talk some more about Gardening with Kids!

“Gardening” can be more than teaching them how to sow seeds or put plants in the ground. Sometimes it’s helpful to design your garden FOR your kids as well. What I mean is—take a step back and ask yourself—”What would make my garden and yard more appealing to kids?”

The previous parts of this series have some answers:

Gardening with Kids, part 3: Celebrating Backyard Wildlife

Gardening with Kids, part 2: The Five Senses

Gardening with Kids, part 1

Today I’m going to talk about Forts & Hideaways.

If your kids are anything like mine, they gravitate to forts and little places to hide. I remember that desire from when I was a kid, too: a place to “play house” or to create your own imaginary world. This is something we can create in our gardens and yards. 

Some tall grass on a shady back slope was the perfect hideaway for these 2 cuties.

Picture this:

A “house” grown from sunflowers, with morning glory vines for a roof and soft garden dirt as the floor.

The magical space under the every-shifting branches of a weeping willow tree.

A garden shed, with steps leading up to an “attic,” with a roof just tall enough for kids to stand up in.

A group of shrubs enclosing a small space just right for secrets and alone time.

A tall stand of wildflowers that a little person can feel lost in—without ever leaving the yard.

A picnic table on the lawn with a cool, shady space underneath.

A tepee made of sticks tied together at the top, with bean vines growing up and filling in all the spaces.

The classic: a platform with a railing up in a tree for a birds-eye view.


This space for your kiddos doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. It’s not necessarily better to have one that’s grown rather than built. Just that it’s there, beckoning your children to come outside and play awhile, using their imaginations.

One of my dreams is to take Sharon Lovejoy’s advice and directions, and finally grow a sunflower house! I just hope my kids are not all grown up by the time I get it figured out!

They look so young!! How has it only been 3 years? (Also, that’s the classic platypus face on my youngest in the middle there—I was pretty sad when he stopped doing it!)

Our shed in Washington had a 2nd floor that was the designated clubhouse for the kids. I myself slept overnight with them up there to celebrate the start of summer one year. (Pictured above.) I hardly slept a wink for fear of the many spiders inhabiting it! Yikes! The kids didn’t seem to mind a bit.

As of right now, we don’t have a space that we have created for this purpose. We put in a shed about a year ago with a barn-style shape, with the idea of repeating the shed fort idea. Until that’s finished, my kids have come up with a few different spots in our yard on their own. There’s a certain tree in the front corner, that has a fence on 2 sides of it, and a big rock underneath that is somewhat hidden by the lower branches.

They also have a place called “Freedom Island” in the very back corner of our property, along the (always dry) irrigation ditch, where they have spent many happy hours playing out of direct line of sight from the house.

So, if you don’t come up with something for them, they will probably find spots on their own. That’s great! There’s nothing that says your chosen spot has to be the only, favorite getaway. You can enlist their help to create something, or you can put some thought into it and surprise them, but I really feel like it’s hard to go wrong here—unless they’re teenagers. Then maybe you let them build a tiny house out back? Ha! I don’t know on that one. Chime in with ideas!

Once they have a place—or two or three—encourage their creativity by growing child-friendly fruit, veggies, and flowers to furnish it, decorate it, and make it seem like a real house! :) (Real houses have food, right?) All of these things will add to their enjoyment of the garden itself, along with providing excellent opportunities for the development of imagination and nurturing their creativity.

Tell me about your favorite childhood fort!

August 17, 2019

Thoughts on Wedding Flowers and Fall Planting

 I am happy to report that I have all the silk flowers finished for my niece’s wedding. All I have to do is add ribbon to the bridesmaid’s bouquets and get everything packed and ready for transport. Yay! It has been a great experience for me, actually. Prior to starting this business, I had this idea in my head that I would not enjoy making corsages and boutonnieres. I think part of it was that everyone I had talked to said they were kind of like factory work—you just have your formula and pump them out.

On the contrary, I quite enjoyed making these. Choosing the flowers to put into them made it fun, and I also enjoyed just putting them together and playing with the colors and flower forms to make it look really good. In a way, this was reassuring, as I plan to advertise my corsage/boutonniere services this year for the High School dances and such. Maybe it won’t be the drudgery I had feared! ;)

So, final tally: 6 bridesmaid’s bouquets, 1 throw bouquet, 10 boutonnieres, 5 corsages

They probably took me way longer than they should have, but I am confident that as I gain more experience making them I’ll get faster.

So this week I’m moving on to the fresh flowers! I am very excited about that, as well! I still have the bride’s bouquet and groom’s boutonniere to make, table centerpieces x 10, and cake flowers x 3. In case you were wondering, I will purchase supplemental flowers for these.

My own flowers have struggled this month. Watering issues, mostly. Drip irrigation is going to the top of my list for next year. My roses are just barely starting their 2nd flush of flowers, but even if there are some at the right stage for cutting by the end of the week, there won’t be enough for everything I’m doing. So I'll buy more of those. There’s a chance I’ll have some hydrangea ready, and I should have a few cosmos, but I will need some more flowers in her colors, for sure.

For greenery, I’ve got sedums, ninebark, and smidgeon of Queen Anne’s lace out there. I’m going to purchase boxwood from a flower farmer friend of mine, along with some statice. I am also planning to buy zinnias from a different local flower farmer, and I have reached out to a 3rd who I think has roses, but haven’t heard back yet. Other than that, I may have to go to the wholesaler and just pick up a few odds and ends in the right color scheme to fill in around the rest.

I looked into ordering both roses and peonies from other states (California and Alaska, respectively), but both the farms/co-ops that I looked at had minimum orders too far above my budget.

This week’s harvest: it was a bit of a hodgepodge—1 or 2 things here and there!

In other news, today I got 2 rows cleared out and weeded: the bachelor’s buttons row (except for one last plant on the end that is still blooming) and what should have been the orlaya row—5 tiny plants is all. Each row had a couple of volunteer sunflowers, and every one of them was all completely brown and eaten up inside and full of tiny white grubs. It was so gross! I think they were sunflower stem borers. I need to research some more to be sure. In any case, I plan to go out this week and pull out the rest. [My apologies to the goldfinch that has frequented the patch!] I haven’t sold any of these sunflowers this year anyway, because they were some that overwintered from last year—pretty, but undesirable in that they drop pollen like crazy! My pollen-free varieties didn’t make it this year.

Once I’m done with this wedding, I plan to change my focus to fall planting. I want to get as many perennials as I can on end-of-season sales, especially echinacea, daisies, yarrow, and rudbeckia. I also want a rose bush to replace the one that died out front (I’m thinking spray roses could be very helpful), and 2 more hydrangea bushes for the right side of my front shade bed.

Those 3 echinacea I bought and planted in the spring have really come through for me this season, so I’m hoping if I can get a bunch more now, by next year I will have plenty to choose from every week. I especially want to get a variety of colors—’Cheyenne Spirit,’ yellows, of course the purples, even a few of those blindingly bright ones. I have a watermelon red rose that would look good with some orange-red shades.

I will get my bulb order in as well. I may not buy any tulips this year—WHAT?! Really, though, I feel like I need to focus on building up my stock of bulbs that the deer don’t eat before I get more of those. Or I need to get a low tunnel set up out there to protect the tulips from…everything. So I’m looking for more alliums, possibly some camassia, plus some of the more unusual lily varieties. I’ve got to sit down and figure out a budget for all this first thing.

What projects are you working on this fall?

August 15, 2019

August Bloom Day

I have got to start out this Bloom Day post with a couple of things I'm proud of.

As you know, if you've followed this blog, seed starting has not been a cakewalk for me. 
I have killed so many baby plants over the past couple of years! 

So, behold--2 plants that actually made it! 
(That's right, TWO! Can you be humble and proud at the same time? Humbly proud. 
It's a complicated feeling. Layers.)

First up:

The 'Frizzle Sizzle' pansy.

Isn't she a beauty? 

And here we have the New York Aster!
[Vigorous clapping is entirely appropriate at this point.]

(Give me my moment, alright? Remember, 2 PLANTS that made it?!)

The seeds for these plants are super duper tiny--specks, is all.
And now just look at it! It's almost 3 feet tall and about read to start flowering! 
(I think--it's a fall-flowering plant, apparently.)
This survivor right here gives me such a happy feeling whenever I see it!

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, here's the rest:

Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'
Very pretty, but very short stems for cutting.
I need some mini bouquets or dance flowers to put these in--they would really shine!

Same, plus a China aster.

This front pot--you can't go wrong with geraniums and sweet potato vine.
It always seems like the fancier I try to get with my flower pots, the worse they do.
This couldn't be any simpler, but I have been enjoying it this summer!

My 'Limelight' hydrangea is finally getting some blooms!
I'm wondering if it could actually use more sunlight.
This seems awfully late in the season for hydrangea blooms.
We've got frost coming in a month. 
Go Limelight Go!

'Fragrant Angel' echinacea, above and below

I have absolutely loved these, especially the green centers before they are all the way mature!
Love. I will plant a whole bunch more this fall if I can find them!

Let's see, roses haven't put on their fall blooms yet, sedums are still green (but coming), and I do have some sunflowers blooming out in my flower farm/cutting garden patch.
A handful of other stuff out there too.

What's blooming in your garden right now? 

August 10, 2019

Tips for Working with Silk Flowers

 I have hardly poked my nose outside at all this week! Not the usual, and not good really for a flower farmer, but it’s true. We have had RAIN—blessed rain!—several of the days this week, which has been amazing! Besides that, though, I have started working on the wedding flowers for my niece, Emily. YAY! So excited to be doing this for her—she’s the best!

She wanted mostly silk/fake flowers, with a few key things being real: bride’s bouquet and groom’s bout, table centerpieces, and cake flowers.

Pros and Cons for Silk Flowers

PRO: Cost = Much Cheaper

If you didn’t know, in general silk flowers are much less expensive—about half as much as real, if you’re paying someone else to do them. Cheaper even than that, of course, if you are doing them yourself. However, word to the wise, you can spend just as much or more on fake as you do on the real if you’re not careful! There are some “real feel” flowers that are markedly more expensive, but even just your usual selections from the craft store can run up the bill before you know it. Of the regular craft stores, Hobby Lobby probably has the best selection, with Michaels next, and last Joann’s. Bring your coupons, and plan on spending some time finding all the elements you need!

PRO: Not as fragile

This one is fairly obvious. These flowers can take a lot more handling and most mistakes can be fixed using the same flower!

PRO: They’re not going to die on you! As a florist, this translates to—you can do them ahead of time! This is actually a big one. With all fresh flower weddings, everything has to be done 3-4 days before, max, and that’s if you have a cooler to put your finished products into to keep them alive until the big day. With a big wedding, that means you’re going to spending all kinds of time those few days beforehand, putting things together and getting them ready to go. It has been nice for me on this one to have some leeway with the timing.

CON: They don’t smell good.

Have you ever sniffed a fake flower? Yeah, they smell like plastic and dust. Achoo!

CON: They’re not soft and touchable.

Stiff and rough under your fingertips—unless you go for the really expensive stuff, but if you’re going to spend that much, why not just get real ones?!

CON: Limited selection.

Again, you can probably find every variety you can think of, in every natural and unnatural hue, but you’ll be paying for it. For our purposes, doing it this way to help with the budget, the selection is not nearly as great.

I think my “Cons” basically boil down to the basic fact: THEY’RE FAKE! Up close, you can really tell. Be that as it may, I think they do have a place in the floral industry. I don’t blame any bride for being budget conscious. These will look great in the pictures and will be just fine. I am super happy though, that I get to make a real flower bouquet for the bride’s bouquet! :)

A Few Terms:

Stem: 1 large single flower or leaf, or 1 small bunch of greenery attached to a long stem..

Spray: a grouping of smaller flowers at the top of the a long stem.

Picks: shorter stems, usually 5-6 inches long, meant for corsages, boutonnieres, or crafts like wreaths and garlands.

Bushes: usually a lot of stems connected. Often they will have a mix of flower types or a mix of greenery, although you can get some that are all one thing.

Often the bigger “bushes” will be the best deal. Don’t be afraid to cut them apart and use the elements individually!

You can order things online, but a note of caution—it can be hard to determine actual size and colors from the online descriptions. For instance, I ordered “Mini Phalenopsis Orchids” that I was going to use on the boutonnieres, and they turned out to be 4 feet long! Not sure how those were minis, but okay. I also ordered some flower “bushes” in the right colors, that I was going to use for the bridesmaid’s bouquets, with the addition of a few more special elements to each one. In person, they were way too big and well—bushy—for bridesmaids bouquets. However, I was able to cut apart 2 of them, and with some added greenery they’re going to work fine. The rest will be going back. The good thing about ordering online from one of the craft stores is that you can return unwanted items to the store, so you don’t have to deal with return shipping.

These are all the extras so far. I’m already thinking about what else I should make with them! Garlands and wreaths dancing in my head!

Don’t ever buy leaves! I was going to buy just a box of rose leaves for the boutonnieres, but I’m glad I didn’t. Every stem comes with leaves, and just like with real flowers, many of those leaves will be stripped off before you make your arrangements. I have a whole box of leaves right now—plenty for boutonnieres, future craft projects, you name it!


flower stems, picks, and bushes

wire cutters


floral tape


hot glue



If Your Stems are Too Short

Prepping short stems

After I cut apart some of my bushes, I noticed that the side shoots had very short stems—only 6” long or less—which would be too short for my bouquets. Not to fear! I had 1 flower bush with some heads missing, so I cut off and used those stems, attaching the two with floral tape. I also ended up with extra stems after cutting my boutonniere roses down to the right size. Again, a simple attachment with floral tape and the shorties were ready to go!

Once they go into the arrangement, you most likely won’t notice the floral tape join. If there is one that stands out though, I will just continue the floral tape all the way down to the end.

Another similar trick is for very short stems. So, for instance, I cut apart the spray roses to use in the boutonnieres. Some of those stems were only about 1/2” long. The Queen Anne’s lace that I used as well, had several small flower heads on 3-4” stems, and within each cluster there were empty stems missing flowers. I was cutting them all apart to use individually anyway, so I popped the rose heads off their stems, and simply popped them back onto the empty stems. They fit just fine; no floral tape required! Then I had the length I needed to work with.

One final note about the glue:

Hot Glue

So, real flowers can’t take hot glue. Makes sense, right? Not good for their longevity or looks. With real flowers you have to use cold glue—floral adhesive. Anyway, fakies can take hot glue! This comes in handy when you’re making the smaller, fiddly stuff like corsages and such. You can pop off flower heads and hot glue them right where you need them.


I’ve got the bouts done! Next up: bridesmaid’s bouquets!

Hope these tips help the next time you’re in the market for silk flowers.

August 7, 2019

The Year Of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes

What can I say? Another Newberry Honor book. Still plugging away at that goal, even though I have officially given it up.  This one was great!

The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes
Newbery Honor 2014

4 stars: Warm hearted and simply delightful!

Billy's Papa is an artist and his Mama is an High School English teacher. Unlike most other kids he knows, his mom is the one who goes to work every day, while his dad stays home and takes care of him and his little sister Sal.

Billy's going to start 2nd grade soon, and he has some worries. 1--Is he smart enough for 2nd grade? 2-Is it babyish to call his mom and dad Mama and Papa? 3-Will his teacher like him?  In the introductory letter his teacher sent home before school she said it was the Year of the Rabbit, but his Papa says it's going to be the Year of Billy Miller. He's pretty sure his Papa is right!

* * * * *
I didn't know what to expect going into this one, and to be completely honest, I had been putting off reading it a bit, because it just didn't catch my eye. It was a happy surprise to find how much I enjoyed it. It reminded me of a Beverly Cleary book, in that the situations are all everyday stuff that every kid goes through. The family is generally happy, even though the father is struggling with his art ("looking for a breakthrough".)

Sal made me chuckle a couple of times, and Billy's worries and the resolutions were like a window into my own 7-year-old's world. Things that seem small to the grownups loom large when you're 7. It's good to remember that. There was so much that made me smile. Billy is surrounded by loving adults--even the babysitter! You know that he's going to get all this stuff figured out.

I'm encouraging my boy to read it. I hope he does, because I think he would find a lot in common with Billy, and a lot to like about the story.


Have you read this one? What did you think? My favorite were the Drop Sisters.

August 3, 2019

Big Sky Wildflowers


Well, folks, Big Sky country did not disappoint! We went on one hike in particular that was so beautiful. The weather was perfect—in the 70’s, with a light rain that stopped just as we got on the trail. It was late afternoon/early evening when we started off. Within a few minutes of the trailhead it felt like we were in the wilderness, but with a nice trail to walk on. :)

Every direction I looked there were beautiful wildflowers of all sorts. It was fun to identify what I could. Many wildflowers look very similar to their cultivated cousins, as you might expect. Lupines, wild roses, columbine, and wild geranium were all easy to figure out.

Wild columbine. There were some that were white and yellow, as well (as you saw on the title picture.)

We were in bear country, with 2 sightings reported on the trail we were hiking within the last week (!) We had all of our kids with us; thankfully, my little 2 year old was in the hiking backpack. The rest of us stayed close together and kept talking to make some noise. My husband and I both had bear spray, but we didn’t need it. Didn’t see much of any type of wildlife, except for the backside of a deer that my daughter spotted as it ran off into the brush.

Good times in Big Sky. Do you try to identify wildflowers on your hikes?