Archive for ‘Landscaping’

April 5, 2013

Elderberry – Why you want two

Have you ever heard the phrase, “The best time to plant a tree is five years ago.”? Well, that’s kind of how I feel about Elderberry (even though it’s a shrub).

Elderberry, a native shrub to North America, can be grown in (hardiness) zones 3 – 10 and can be planted in virtually any condition. It grows anywhere from full sun to part shade. They are very adaptable to different soils, but thrive in wet areas (where a lot of others can’t).

American Elder flowers

Their résumé looks pretty good too. If you are looking for a plant to do some work for you or provide you with more than something to look at, they are a very useful shrub. They attract beneficial insects to the garden, their white flowers can be used for tea, and their edible blue-black berries can be used for a quite tasty medicinal elderberry syrup (which is very tempting to pour onto pancakes), can be made into elderberry wine or used for jams and pies.

And , if you’re looking to bring wildlife to your yard, they also attract birds both because of their multistemmed form, where the birds with take cover, and their fruit serves as a bird buffet. Elderberries can get quite large though, ranging from 6 – 12 both high and wide, and they need a friend as a pollinator in order to get fruit so you can’t plant just one, you’ll for sure need two, but if you have the room, plant a few or more that way there will be enough fruit for you to bake, brew and share with both friends and the birds.

Did I mention they have fall color? They are beautiful in the fall as well!

American Elder Fall Color

Elderberry is one of the coolest plants that I don’t have in my yard, but it is definitely at the top of my list to plant this year.

Photos from University of Minnesota Extension


April 4, 2013

Daffodils – More Than Just Another Pretty Face






Daffodils, some of the first flowers to appear in the spring, even before the trees leaf out, brighten up dark corners and otherwise still groggy gardens.   They remind me of the sunrise, the centers ranging from yellow to peach to orange with the bright white petals like the rays reaching out.  Even the pure yellow daffodils shine brightly like a the mid-day sun.  But there’s more to daffodils than their pretty face.  They can serve a purpose in your garden as well.



Daffodils are guards in the garden, defending it from both encroaching lawn and from four-legged predators.  When planted densely, daffodils will keep grass out of planting beds, making weeding a much lighter task.

Often times, many of us will plant a fruit tree in the middle of our lawn.  Unfortunately, lawn is not a fruit tree’s friend.  The lawn competes heavily with the trees for water and nutrients in the surface of the soil during the heat of the summer.  Daffodils, on the other hand, are relatively deeply planted bulbs.  They will begin to establish themselves when planted in the fall, put on growth and bloom in early spring.  Then, about the time the trees need water and nutrients, the daffodils begin to die back, reducing their need for water until fall when the tree begins to go dormant and process begins again.

In addition, daffodils help defend fruit trees against predators.  As a member of the onion family, they contain a toxin that deters many animals, including squirrels, deer, gophers and mice from gnawing on the tender bark when planted close to the trunk off fruit trees.  One word of caution, however, although daffodils are in the onion family, they are toxic to humans and should not be ingested!

Other benefits of daffodils are that they are a perennial bulb, therefore only needing to be planted once and will return year after year. They will also gradually reproduce, making them a great bulb for naturalizing under a tree or in a shade or woodland garden.


Naturalized Daffodils

Naturalized Daffodils

One last fun note about daffodils – their faces follow the sun throughout the day.  This is fun to observe both for kids and kids at heart.

Many of the daffodils relatives, in the onion family, will serve the same purpose in the garden.  Allium, the tall blue, white or purple puff-ball on a stick, which resemble fireworks in the sky, will add color and can be found in a variety of heights and sizes.








Chives and garlic chives again, provide the same defense against predators and will also attract beneficial insects to the garden, such as teeny-tiny parasitic wasps, plus they have the added bonus of being edible.  And we all know, I’m all about things being edible! 🙂






So there you have it. Daffodils (and alliums and chives and garlic chives) are much more than just another pretty face. 😉


February 8, 2013


It’s Friday. Five Minute Friday. Today’s word is “bare”.

Bare. Fully exposed. Vulnerable. Out there.

Winter. Lifeless. Or is it?

When I look out the window or wander through my yard this time of year, at first glance it’s easy to think everything is bare. But it doesn’t take long for my imagination to start running. Soon I see leaves budding on trees, crocus poking up out of the ground. Then, much like the animated movies it all starts happening faster and faster, lawns green up flowers bloom and the next thing you know, the bare yard is lush.

This year I will be converting a part of my yard, which some may currently see as lawn, but what I see as bare, into a productive edible yard. That open space will bring flowers for pollinators, the fruits of berries, and veggies of every color. There will be beauty and structure. Something to look at next winter so it doesn’t look so bare.

Soon, the snow will melt and my dream will become a reality.


Five Minute Friday


September 22, 2012

Cover Up!

Veggies, tender annuals and herbs, take cover!  Fall is here in full force in the Twin Cities and freeze warnings are in effect for tonight.

Protect any plants you want to keep by covering them with sheets or light blankets because next week is supposed to be beautiful, sunny and warm.

Don’t forget to remove the covers tomorrow morning once the chill has left the air so your plants get sun exposure and ventilation.

Keep those gardens going. Our season isn’t over yet!