From the garden of Shepp Ranch

For about 100 years, a garden has been in place at the Shepp Ranch. Here’s a beautiful sampling from the flower beds this year:

Dahlias and a sunflowerShepp Ranch

Dahlias and a sunflowerShepp Ranch

Posted in Journal entries | 1 Comment

How to deal with scary yellowjackets, bald-headed hornets and those nasty nasty wasps

I am allergic to bee stings. Recently, on my Salmon River trip, the lemonade/ice tea table was surrounded by yellow jackets and bald headed hornets. I don’t know which ones scared me more. I would rather go thirsty in 98 degree weather than get near those little monsters. For years I’ve used the Rescue brand of yellow jacket traps. Yesterday, I discovered they make one called WHY. WHY stands for Wasps, Hornets, and YellowJackets.

Made in the US, all Rescue products are environmentally responsible, effective, easy to use and economical.

I just ordered two WHYs for my house and two for friends.


Posted in Journal entries | 1 Comment

Firewise landscaping and what you can do NOW!

The Beaver Creek Fire in the Wood River Valley.  Photo by Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman.

The Beaver Creek Fire in the Wood River Valley.
Photo by Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman.

A recent fire on Hill Road brought danger darn near to the doorstep. For folks in fire prone areas throughout the Intermountain West, and anywhere else, here is a checklist of things you can do to make defensible space around your home. Thirty minutes of clean up now can make all the difference when lightning or human caused fires are racing toward your home. This list is from my Rocky Mountain Gardeners Handbook and was created in conjunction with the BLM and Firewise garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden/with their staff.

Wildfires are a part of life in the neighborhood and throughout our region. You can greatly reduce the risk of wildfire burning your home by practicing “firewise landscaping.” This is the practice of creating a “defensible” space” around your home and across your property, as much as 60 to 100 feet from the house. The Bureau of Land Management and municipal fire agencies have developed some guidelines and safety tips for homeowners. Remember this: LEAN, GREEN and CLEAN. Lean plantings (no high resin conifers), green (keep it green around your house w/green lawn, and clean (clean up shrubs/trees and overhanging branches/duff, and dead stuff).

Homeowners “Wildfire Hazard Reduction Certificate” – Boise Fire Department would like to offer homeowners a “Wildfire Hazard Reduction Certificate” upon completion of several items the homeowner can do to make homes safer from wildfire. Click here to open Criteria Check List and Check List. After completing the criteria check list, please notify Captain Jerry McAdams at 570-6576 or Captain McAdams will visit your home to assess your hazard reduction efforts. If you are successful in meeting the criteria, a certificate will be issued.

Create Zones of Defense

Zone 1, from the house outward, 30 or more feet: use fire resistant plants only (list follows). These are primarily low-growing, fire resistant plants, particularly ground covers and vines. Keep plants and the area near the house well maintained, removing “duff” or dead plant material. Keep grasses mowed and well irrigated. Gravel mulch is recommended and has several benefits: it will reduce water loss, keep plant roots cool, and discourage weed growth. Break up the plantings near the house with stone patios and walkways – this minimizes the ability of fire to run along continuous fuel sources. Be certain to clean out gutters and rake up leaves.

Zone 2, 30-60 feet from the house or farther: reduce plant density. Use only low-growing and fire resistant plants and shrubs. Keep tall grasses and shrubs well groomed and space them. It is recommended they be planted two times their height apart. For instance, a shrub that will reach 10 feet of height at maturity should be spaced 20 feet from its neighboring shrub.

Zone 3, 60-100 feet from the house: thin and prune existing plants. Prune tree limbs 6-10 feet up the trunk of the tree and minimize overlapping branches between trees and shrubs.

Fire Resistant Plants

All plants are flammable, but some plants are more fire resistant than others. They have high moisture content, are low growing, with high salt or soap content and are non-resinous. They will generally have large leaves and green stems, too.

In the list below, the plant groups are from the top to bottom, the most flammable to more fire resistant. Note that conifers and grasses are at the TOP of the list.
Conifers (least fire resistant)
Deciduous trees
Succulents (most fire resistant)

Note: fire resistant vines and groundcovers are generally inexpensive and relatively easy to maintain. Vines can be trained on metal fences to create a “green fence” which may stop or at least slow down a wildfire.

Fire resistant ground covers

Ajuga Ajuga reptans
Basket of Gold Aurinia saxatalis
Bearberry or Kinnikinnick Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Caucasica sage Artemisia caucasica
Creeping phlox Phlox subulata
Creeping thyme Thymus praecox
Giant flowered soapwort Saponaria x lempergii
Green mat penstemon Penstemon davidsonii
Ground cover rose Rosa hybrid
Hardy iceplant Delosperma spp.
Hardy plumbago Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
Hens and chicks Escheveria spp.
Hummelo lamb’s ear Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’
Japanese pachysandra Pachysandra terminalis
Lamb’s ear Stachys byzantina
Lily of the valley Convallaria majalis
Mat penstemon Penstemon caespitosus
Mother of thyme Thymus serphyllum
Poppy mallow Callirhoe involucrata
Pussytoes Antennaria spp.
Rock soapwort Saponaria ocymoides
Rockcress Arabis spp.
Silver-edged horehound Marrublum rotundifolium
Snow in summer Cerastium tormentosum
Turkish speedwell Veronica liwanensis

Posted in Journal entries | Comments Off on Firewise landscaping and what you can do NOW!

Sun Valley Garden Tour July 2013

Ahhhhhhhh, Sun Valley. For me it conjures up images of Baldy (the ski hill), movie stars (Clint Eastwood, Scott Glenn, Demi Moore), kick butt art galleries, good food, good times —and gardens. Here are three containers that caught my eye this last weekend. (Note to self: who gets the olive trees when they homeowner is done w/them come September?)

IMG_3364 NOTE: everything in this container is edible: dill/fennel, cilantro, strawberries, and parsley.



Posted in Journal entries | Comments Off on Sun Valley Garden Tour July 2013

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – July 2013

Sometimes, I just get overwhelmed with “to much to do” and miss out on GBBD. Not this month. When I was taking these pictures, I made a mental note: these are special, just for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and my buddy Carol, over at May Dreams Gardens. These plants were all spied while I was on a walk above Trail Creek Cabin in Sun Valley Idaho. It was a perfect evening.

Sun Valley 2013

Posted in Journal entries | Comments Off on Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – July 2013

Tip of the Week: Wonderful Wood Chips for the garden

A little known factoid: The City of Boise, Community Forestry Department has some very VERY nice wood mulch available for a suhweeet price: $15 per cubic yard. This is a medium size, shredded bark, a little dusty at first, but once you water it down, in place, it works nicely. I have put it around my flagstones to create a path that crosses my back garden. We don’t have a pick up, so we took several large garbage cans in our SUV, and had them fill them up. While we probably didn’t get a whole yard, the price was right. The chips are from the chipper/shredder program/tree removal and cleanup and from our city (recycle when you can!)Very little bark, mostly shredded hardwood. No one can claim these chips are organic, since the trees are generally on private property lines or hell strips or right of ways. But the stuff is clean , and a great alternative to heavy rocks or gravel. It is permeable, allowing rain/water to move through to the soil underneath. It will break down over time, looks good, and holds moisture in the ground and keeps it several degrees cooler.

Caveat: use it judiciously and carefully if you are in a fire prone area: the foothills, the mountains, etc. I put it only in the part of my garden that faces the city, not the foothills. There I have an automated sprinkler system, and the wooden chip pathways are surrounded by stone and green shrubbery. It looks like this:


For more information, call the Boise City Forestry department here at 208-608-7700. Click here for an image of their chip pile.

Posted in Journal entries | 1 Comment

Very Pinteresting: Using Pinterest as a cool garden tool

Gardens: Great Ideas from Pinterest.

Gardens: Great Ideas from Pinterest.

Several friends have written recently, about using Pinterest (the HOT HOT HOT social media site) as a gardening tool. Amen. It’s a wonderful thing. I fell hard for Pinterest. In no time I had a 1000 pins, then 2000 and the rest is history. I am a slacker by some counts, there are people with 75,000 pins. They obviously eat at their desk and pin 24/7. And while I realize there is a movement/purpose to use Pinterest for social media, I personally, love it for what is is straight up: a virtual pinboard. Eye candy and MORE eye candy. I’ve been able to pitch several years worth of magazines (my garage was full of shelter/food/design/garden mags was starting to resemble an episode of cable tv’s Hoarders).

You can pin by color, subject matter, whatever you like. You can have 3 secret boards. I use those for projects I am thinking about taking on. Pinboards are perfect for interior or garden designers. You can create color or plant palettes – or both- and as many as you wish. You haven’t spent a nickel on gas nor did you have to dig a hole and plant the plant only to decide it clashed with your peonies. I call that brilliant.

How do I use it? First of all, let me say, the world could not print enough magazines to keep my eyes happy. Could not. Did not. Not going to. In fact, many titles have ceased publication. I am a glutton for beautiful images of gardens, homes, food, what have you. I spent a small fortune (especially in the winter months) buying magazines for the looky-see factor. And I was always disappointed when I finished an issue. I had so many magazines, I could pull out an issue of Garden Design from 2005 and start reading all over again in 2012. Good thing, they ceased publication this year. And I happen to have almost every issue ever published. Now, I’ve pitched a lot of those old magazines/donated them or recycled them: House & Garden, Horticulture, Metropolitan Home (sigh, I still miss you MH). Pinterest allows me to cruise pictures any time of the day or night and the supply -so far – seems endless. I can search for anything I want, 24/7. If someone’s pins are too cheesy, I just move on and I didn’t have to spend $5 to figure that out.

Images, glorious images, all day, every day, on and on. I have more than 180 boards, many of them related to gardening. But I do have a couple that surprised even me: one for images of Marilyn Monroe, one of Paul Newman and one of sassy comebacks. No, in spite of what I told you Robin, none with cute cats. You can pin articles, photos, recipes. Most websites (worth their salt) have “PIN” buttons so you can pin right from the article/story. You can upload your own images (be sure you are clear on the copyright issues), and of course, you can pin pin pin from other boards – ad infinitum.

Maybe best of all? You can cross pollinate with a gazillion other people. See what they see, see what gets them fired up. Oh, I had no idea how much talent there was around the world. NO. IDEA.

Check out Pinterest. ASAP. I am here: All my boards, and here, the Rocky Mountain board.

It’s free and they haven’t figured out exactly how to make money on it yet.

Posted in Journal entries | 2 Comments

More “Better Plants for Better Gardens”

A couple years ago, I did a series of posts that got a lot of attention around the region: Better Plants for Better Gardens, or “Instead of That, Plant THIS!” I was recently asked what else I would recommend in that category. So let’s revisit the subject. Today: Sedum Autumn Joy (blech) or Sedum Matrona (yesyesyes!).

And while we are at it, lets review those grasses, shall we? In the first photo, we have Pennisetum, probably Hamelyn or Little Bunny. I have no issue with either one, and use them BOTH in my garden. But for a showstopper, check out Blue Grama grass, or Bouteloua gracilis. The inflorescence (is there a plural?) of this grass is like a beautiful eyelash. Blue Grama was named the state grass of Colorado in 1987. Great for preventing soil erosion. Drought tolerant. Warm season. And gorgeous with those Sedum Matrona. If I do say so.

The old standby sedum Autumn Joy (photo from Fine Gardening)

The old standby sedum Autumn Joy (photo from Fine Gardening)

Sedum Matrona: for richer color, larger blossoms with Blue Grama grass ( GWWW  Photo)

Sedum Matrona: for richer color, larger blossoms with Blue Grama grass ( GWWW

And here’s a groovy totally “pin-able” image for your gardening boards on Pinterest.

A better combo...

A better combo…

Posted in Journal entries | 1 Comment

Brussels sprouts as an ornamental

I tucked these in the front pots on a lark. Of course, they are totally happy and hogging all the attention. I’ve decided to make them the stars of the show. I will redesign the containers to “showcasethe sprouts.



Posted in Journal entries | 1 Comment

Echinacea pallida is showing off

That tough as nails but wistful looking pale coneflower is dancing in the garden right now. And with such a lovely fragrance.




Posted in Journal entries | 2 Comments