The year in pictures.

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P Allen Smith Holiday Collection

A couple days ago, I received a beautiful, fresh, Oregon grown “snowflake” from the P Allen Smith Holiday Collection. As part of their bloggers’/writers’ challenge, I dolled mine up with “local” bits and pieces in regional spirit of the season. Some folks will cringe when they see the locust pods I tucked into the wreath. Frankly, I can’t resist them. Every year I gather boxes of them, always looking for a way to incorporate them into seasonal settings. The curly, almost polished, mahogany color just sends me. Take a look:

I customized my snowflake arrangement of greens with  local locust pods. A dollop of copper ribbon and a few twigs of lichen.

I customized my snowflake arrangement of greens with local locust pods. A dollop of copper ribbon and a few twigs of lichen.


I customized this “snowflake/wreath,” but other styles (candy cane shapes, wreaths, swags and garlands) can be found anywhere they carry the P Allen Collection, or purchase online, at Home Depot. They come in a variety of themes.

My goal, as a part of the bloggers’ challenge, is to get enough votes to win the contest. I’ve selected the steadfast refuge of Boise’s WCA as my non-profit of choice. Should I win, the WCA will receive an entire set of P Allen’s Holiday Collection. Local readers know our WCA for providing safe places for women to live for over 100 years. The WCA started in 1910 as the Boise YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association). It was established to provide a safe place for young single women to live, eat, and socialize. Today they continue to provide refuge and support to women and children in need.

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How to select THE Freshest cut Christmas tree:

Click on the link to get the scoop:

Shake it. Shake it again. Tap it on the ground. If you are happy with the results (read: if you aren’t covered with dead tree needles), ask the tree lot attendant to re-cut the trunk, about an inch or two. Get the tree home and immediately get it into a bucket of lukewarm water. You don’t need sugar, tree saver tablets, vodka (well, you might need vodka for yourself), just water. Before and after the tree is in the stand, keep the water level topped off. Check it several times a day. A freshly cut tree will need water sometimes twice a day.

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October Garden Check List

• Think about increasing your garden growing space next season.
• Make note of the winners and losers: which varieties performed abundantly?
• Save seeds from late harvest vegetables such as squash, gourds, pumpkins.

Prepare and maintain
• Leave some pretty black eyed Susan and ornamental grass seed heads and pods for fall and winter interest.
• Go through the garden once more and clean up and remove any “tired” plants or plants you didn’t love. Make a note, what would have been terrific in that spot? If you are planting plants you just found on sale, carefully untangle their roots, and get them growing.
• Give all the perennials beds a thorough watering before the ground freezes.
• Wait until ground is frozen to apply winter mulch.
• Root prune shrubs you are planning to move next spring. With a sharp shovel, cut down around the outer edges of the shrub, i.e., along the drip line. Bring indoor shrubs back inside before the first frost. Clean pots of all insects and inspect the plants before you bring them in.
• Tie up loose-branched evergreens to prevent them from spreading apart under heavy snow
• If you have an automated sprinkler system, prepare it for the winter.
• Keep the cool-weather crops (newly planted cabbages, onions, lettuces) thinned and properly watered. Cover if necessary on cold nights.
• Leave the roots of beans and pea plants in the soil, so their nitrogen nodules can enrich the soil. Compost the vines and leaves.
• Discard the vines of cucumbers and summer squash. They may be contaminated with mildew or other diseases you don’t want to carry over in the compost pile.
• Check pumpkins and squash, and turn them or elevate them on twigs or cardboard to keep them from rotting on the bottom.
• Sow and plant

• Plant garlic cloves now before the soil freezes.
• As the frost settles in, there is little to be planted outside in the garden. Gather your seeds. and equipment for windowsill gardens.
• Dig and store all root crops—parsnips, carrots, kohlrabi—before the ground freezes solid.

• Allium family (shallots, garlic, onions, scallions)
• Broccoli
• Brussels sprouts
• Cabbage
• Carrots
• Cauliflower
• Grapes
• Herbs (heartiest)
• Pumpkins & Winter Squash
• Raspberries (late bearing)
• Sunflower seeds
• Winter squash

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Bulbs for the Garden

I did it again. Bought more spring flowering bulbs. Lots more. This order: tulips and narcissus. But not just any tulips and narcissus. No, after a while you become a connoisseur. Right. I like to tell myself that. What really happens? I have lots of gardening friends (duh) and several of them are either a/addicted to bulbs (that would be you Elizabeth Licata or Fairegarden), or b/in the bulb business (Scott of Old House Gardens) or c/you decide to ask around (Carol of May Dreams helped me out here): “What you might be able sneak in and plant on your mother’s and grandmother’s graves?

Daffodils and narcissus are not tasty to deer, and they tend to come back, in a reliable manner. I picked three different ones, just to mix it up a bit. They are smallish, not gaudy, and one is even called “Cemetery Ladies.”

Clockwise: Lucifer, Queen of the North, and Twin Sisters (or Cemetery Daffodil).

Clockwise: Lucifer, Queen of the North, and Twin Sisters (or Cemetery Ladies).

Older posts on planting bulbs for Knock Down Drag Out Gorgeous Effects with Spring bulbs.

and Bulb Planning and Planting

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Russian Hawthorn (or Crataegus ambigua)

This is the perfect time of year to select and plant trees. Armed with my camera or smartphone, and a notepad, I go around town, snapping up photos of the best and the brightest: trees with good autumn color. A couple years ago, I had the good fortune to see this incredible display at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City. That’s a Russian Hawthorn, just dripping with ruby colored “haws” or berries. The underplanting is agastache, and sadly, I don’t know which one. I think it may be rupestris. If you can’t find a hawthorn to plant now, ask a reputable local nursery to order one or several for you with their spring orders. This is a nice size tree, 15-20 feet at maturity and very drought tolerant once it is well established. It has white blossoms for 10-14 days in the spring. I’ve not smelled the blossoms, but ask about them. Most hawthorns don’t smell very good. So, don’t plant it next to the house or a patio. Salt Lake 2006

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A is for Autumn Abundance

So many pole beans!

Just picked (abundant pole beans), just sauteed (Walla Walla onions), just pickled (cauliflower in beet juice), just fried (organic bacon), and finally, just grilled: rosemary olive oil bread. And now, I will run out and pick a bunch of ripe tomatoes (finally) and turn them into bruschetta. Whew.

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The Gardener’s Checklist for the Mountain States Region

Teton Mountain Range

• If you haven’t already sketched out the garden as it was this year, do so now.

• If you admired a new and different vegetable or fruit in a friend’s garden—or at the fair—make a note of that.

• Continue to keep track of your harvests by making notes in your garden journal or calendar.

• Go through the garden and clean up and remove any “tired” plants or plants you didn’t love. Make a note, what would have been terrific in that spot?

• Save those seeds.

• Carefully place mesh onion bags over the heads of the tall sunflowers to keep the birds and squirrels from stripping the flowers of their seeds. This may require a stepladder for getting to the top of these giants, so be careful.

• A great time to repair any spots in the lawn, use a premium lawn seed or turf from a reputable turf company.

• For the lawn, apply your second application of organic fertilizer this month.

• With the cooler weather, check to see if you can get by with once a week irrigation. You can reset the timer on your sprinkler system accordingly.

• Keep the lawn mowed and the mower blade sharp.

• Mow down the asparagus fronds and add an inch or so of mulch over the cleaned up area.

• Keep up with the harvest of all the produce.

• Clean up the expired plants as you go. If they are disease free, compost them.

• Consider leaving the variety of seed heads and pods for fall and winter interest.

• Eradicate weeds, especially before they go to seed.

Sow and plant

• Plant Asian greens, arugula, beets, and kale.

• Check the sales for cane fruits, trees and shrubs. This is the perfect time to plant any of those.

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Seed Saving time!

A couple of links for great seed saving information: Several area nurseries are offering classes in proper seed saving techniques as well. Here’s the perfect storage kit for your seeds: from The Seed Keeper Company.

Whether you are cleaning and saving seed from your garden, or tucking away leftover seed packets from this year, proper storage will make your garden chores easier come spring.

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Fireweed: Put it to good use

fireweed epilobium angustafoliumclick on image for larger view.

On the left, fireweed in Hailey, ID, and on the right, near Johnson Creek/Wapiti Meadow Ranch.

Fireweed is a common sight in the intermountain west, and even more so in Alaska, where it occupies land recently burned by wildfires. We will be dealing with burnt landscapes for many many years to come, since Idaho and most of the West is aflame as I type this. Fireweed is also found near river/stream banks and open meadows. Epilobium angustoifolium can be used in salads, teas and jellies. My sister in law shared this recipe with me; it was given to her by a dear family friend and Alaskan fisherman, Paul Chervanak. Note: it is not true honey, but a homesteader’s substitute for the real thing.

Fireweed Honey or “Homesteaders’ Honey”

2 ½ c. water
30 red clover blossoms
30 white clover blossoms
18 fireweed blossoms (about 2 stalks)
6 c. sugar
1 t. alum

Wash flowers in cold water. Boil water in large stock pot. Pour over flowers, steep like tea for 10 min. Strain through colander w/coffee filter inserted. Boil again. Add sugar and alum. Boil 10 more min. Strain through colander and pour into sterile hot jars. Place lid and rim on jars (after heating them in a pot of hot water) and tighten and allow to seal. Makes 6 pints.

Here’s a link to the University of Alaska’s Cooperative Extension website and more recipes. Enjoy!

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