Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Begonias are one of my favorite annual flowers because they are so versatile.  They can be used in flowerbeds, hanging baskets, and as indoor plants.  They do equally well in shade as in full sun. 

Begonias are native to tropical regions like Hawaii, South America, and China.  In these places, the begonia is a perennial plant.  There are over 1500 species of begonias, making it one of the largest genus of flowering plants.  Begonias can be recognized by their waxy green or chocolate colored leaves.  Their flowers can be pink, white, red, or yellow.  All have bright yellow centers.

Begonias like rich, loose, well-drained soil.  Remove dead flowers, leaves, and stems.  If you give them a little care, they will bloom from spring to the first frost.  Begonias do not like frost.  Even a light one will kill them.  So, if you want to keep them alive from season to season, bring them indoors before the danger of frost. 

Propagation of begonias can be done either from seeds or from cuttings.  I personally prefer to go to the garden center and buy the seedlings, rather than start them from seeds.

If you don't have a green thumb, but would like to grow flowers, these are pretty easy.  I think you'll enjoy them.    

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Japanese Friendship Garden

The Japanese Friendship Garden, located in Balboa Park of San Diego, California, originated as a tea house during the 1915-1916 Panama-California exposition.  It was named San-Ker-En in honor of the San-Ker-En garden in Yokohama, Japan. As the name implies, it is a token of friendship between our two countries.

The name, "San-Ker-En" means "three scene garden."  Those three scenes are water, pastoral, and mountain.
As visitors walk along the two acres of winding paths, they will see a Zen garden, an exhibit house, a bonsai exhibit, and the main focal point, a koi pond, stocked with several nice-sized koi.

  If you have a little time, there are some really interesting weekend classes available here.  These include sushi making, calligraphy, and conversational Japanese.

The garden is open  Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  The last admission is at 3:30.  Cost of admission is $4.00 for adults.

One last thing:  I am a guest at Virginia Wright's blog today. There's a chance for you to win a free copy of my book, That Mama is a Grouch.  Please stop by and visit!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Double Duty Plants

Last week, I posted about marigolds.  I mentioned that marigolds were useful in keeping away nematodes, worms that are harmful to tomatoes and potatoes.  They also deter squash bugs, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies.

Marigolds are not the only plants that can serve dual purposes.  Here's a list of other herbs and vegetables that can keep the pests out of your garden:

Peppermint:  This sweet smelling plant repels ants, white cabbage moths, and aphids.

Garlic:  It's stinky, but it discourages aphids, fleas, Japanese beetles, and spider mites.

Chives:  These plants help keep away aphids and spider mites.  They also help keep black spot disease off of roses.

Basil:  This popular Italian herb keeps away the flies and mosquitoes.

Radishes:  These plants discourage cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and stink bugs.

These are some pretty amazing plants.  Did you know they were natural pesticides?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Quailcrest Farm

Quailcrest Farm is located in Wooster, Ohio.  It's a nursery that was begun in 1975, but the neat thing about it, is that there are more than two dozen display gardens that visitors can enjoy.  One of my favorites is a Teahouse garden that surrounds an old school house.  The garden has lilacs, magnolia trees, and lavender.  If you'd like, you can go in the school house to view the collection of antiques. 

There's also an herb garden with mints and scented geraniums.

When you are finished enjoying the gardens, you can visit the greenhouse to buy the plants you have seen.  Probably the most popular plants are the roses and scented geraniums.  If you're looking for gifts, there's a Garden Barn where you can find all kinds of fun things for the garden.

Quailcrest Farm is open Tuesday - Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Admission to see the gardens is free.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blog Simmering on the Back Burner

I have found it quite a challenge to maintain two blogs and still complete my other writing assignments and projects.  After a lot of thought, I have decided to let this blog "simmer on the back burner."  I'm not going to stop posting, but I am going to cut back.  I'll probably blog here once or twice a week. (At least that's my plan for now.  We'll see how it goes.)

I will however, continue blogging daily (or almost daily) on my other blog, Mama Diaries.  If you'd like, you can come and visit me there.

Sorry if any of you are disappointed with that news.  I hope you understand.

Friday, August 17, 2012

How to Make a Dried Hydrangea Wreath

A few months ago, one reader asked for information on how to make a dried hydrangea wreath.  I had intended to make one myself, and post pictures of how to do it, but alas, the time has gotten away from me, and my hydrangeas are all done blooming.  I still can tell you how to do it,though.

Here's what you do:

1.  Dry the hydrangea flowers by hanging them upside down from their stems in a cool, dry place.  It takes about a a week to dry.

2.  Get 3 willow stems from your local craft store.  These should be about 3 feet long.  You can also use grape vines.

3.  Remove any leaves from the willow stems.  Then twist them into an 8 inch diameter circle by weaving them over and under each other.

4.  Secure the wreath with floral wire.  Be sure to wrap it around the entire circle.

5.  Now you'll need the hydrangeas.  You should have 2-3 dozen hydrangeas.  They should have stems of  approximately four inches.

6.  Attach the hydrangea stem to the willow wreath by wrapping floral wire around it.  I do about three or four wraps.

7. Place another hydrangea stem right below the first, making the flowers as close as possible.  Secure with floral wire.

8.  Continue adding hydrangea flowers and stems until the wreath is complete.

9.  If you'd like, you can finish it off with a pretty ribbon.  Just tie the ribbon and attach it with some floral wire.

10.  If needed, make a hanger with more floral wire and attach it to the wreath.

Hang on your door and enjoy!  (By the way, these wreaths only last about a year or two, so you'll have to make a new one when your old one starts to look shabby.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Did you guess the name of the flowers?  They're marigolds.  This cheerful little flower is classified as an annual herb that is native to South America and New Mexico.  It can be recognized by its round flower heads with frilly orange, yellow, and reddish petals.

Marigolds grow to be about 6 inches tall, but there are some varieties that can grow to 4 feet in height!

Marigolds like lots of sun, and moist, well-drained soil. Their seeds should be planted in March or early April, and it takes about 40 days for the sprouts to come up.

As you may already know, marigolds have a rather pungent odor.  This is useful in keeping away deer and aphids, so gardeners will often plant these near their vegetable gardens.  Marigolds also have a chemical in their roots that help repel harmful white worms called nematodes that can ruin tomatoes, potatoes, roses, and strawberries.

The petals of some marigolds are edible (hence, the reason they are classified as herbs).  The petals of the Signet marigold are sometimes used to add a little tang to salads.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


If you want to see a rather eclectic garden, visit Lotusland in Santa Barbara, California.  This 37 acre garden was created by Madame Gann Walska, a polish opera singer and socialite.  She started the garden in 1941 and worked on it for the next 43 years.  The garden was open to the public in 1993.

Visitors will see all kinds of interesting things, such as a forest of dragon trees, avenues of succulents, weird little garden gnomes , a huge clock made of flowers, and a lotus pond.

The two-hour tour of the garden is by appointment only.  These are given Wednesday through Saturday between 10:00 AM and 1:30 PM.  Admission for adults is $35.00.  If you would like to schedule a tour, call 805-969-9990.

Now, for Name that Flower:

What are these?  (I'll tell you tomorrow.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Oldest Stone House Museum Garden

Here's a garden from Lakewood, Ohio, my former residence, and a place that is dear to my heart.

The stone house was made in 1838 by settler, John Honam, a weaver from Scotland.  It has been preserved as a typical early period home.  If you go to visit, you will find it on the grounds of Lakewood Park.

Inside you can see spinning wheels, antique furniture, period clothing, tools, books, dolls, and toys.

 Outside, you can see an herb garden enclosed in a split-rail fence.  The plants that are grown here are ones that were used for scents, dyes, and seasoning for pioneer cooking.  A few tombstones are also on display in one section of the garden.

Tours of the museum are conducted by a costumed lady on Wednesdays and Sundays from 2:00 - 5:00 PM.  Admission is free.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Gardens of Marqueyssac

The Gardens of Marqueyssac, located in Vezac, France, are some of the most stunning in the country.  They cover roughly 70 acres, and feature sculptured boxwoods that wrap around a 17th century chateau.  The property overlooks the Dordogne Valley, and the views are simply breathtaking.

Visitors can walk along hiking trails, enjoying gardens, terraces, stone huts, a gothic chapel, and playgrounds for children.

The gardens are open April - September from 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM, February, March, and October, from 10:00  AM - 6:00 PM, and July and August from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

Admission for adults is 7.40 euros and children is 3.70 euros.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

Another award landed at my pad (actually it arrived at both of my blogs, from two different people). Thank you to Peaches Ledwidge, at Conceive Writing, who nominated Mama Diaries, and thank you to Joanne Faries, at Word Splash, who nominated Gone Gardening. Be sure to visit both of these lovely liebster ladies.

What is the Liebster Blog Award?

“The Liebster Blog Award is given to up and coming bloggers.

The Meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome.”

When Peaches gave me this award, it didn't come with eleven questions. Joanne's version did. If you get this award, you can choose if you want to do the questions or not. If you do them, just use the same ones I answered. Then do what I've done - paste the award on your post, link back to who sent it, answer the questions, and nominate 5 more liebster bloggers (preferably ones with less than 200 followers).

Here are the 11 questions:

1. Who is your favorite author? This is a tough one, because there are so many great authors. Since I'm a children's author, I'll name a few of my favorite children authors: Mary Pope Osborn, Jane Yolen, Kate Dicamillo, and Rick Riordan

2. What is your favorite book? Tuesdays with Morray by Mitch Albom. I love this book. It really makes you think about what's important in life!

3. Do you give books as gifts? If so, how do you decide which book to give? I definitely give books as gifts for children. I pick books based on age and interests.

4. Who is your favorite up and coming author? I honestly don't have a favorite, but some of the stuff I've read from fellow bloggers here is pretty awesome. Maybe one of you are an up and coming author!

5. What music do you love? I'm a classical musician, so I'm partial to classical music. But I pretty much listen to anything.

6. What art do you love? Impressionists for painting. Renoir and Monet are my favorites.

7. Coffee or Tea? Tea - the herbal stuff.

8. Vanilla or Chocolate? Chocolate. No question about it!

9. Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn? Autumn. I love the cool, crisp air and the changing leaves.

10. Beginning or End? End. I like to know what happens in books, and I like to reach the end in my writing.

11. Why do you blog? I like it. I think it's another outlet for creative writing, and I love meeting all the other bloggers. (Plus, someday it will be fun to read Mama Diaries and look back on all the crazy things that happened in this stage of my life.)


1. Design Gourmande

2. Scribbles from Jenn

3. Hallie

4. Bethany Crandell

5. Belle

Please visit these ladies, too!

Friday, August 10, 2012

What to do with Green Tomatoes

Last week, I wrote a post about what to do with all of your extra tomatoes.  I was talking about your ripe, red tomatoes.  One follower asked what she should do with all of her green tomatoes.  Well, that's easy.  Make fried green tomatoes!

Here's how.  First, you'll need to gather up the ingredients.  You'll need flour, corn meal, Season All (salt and pepper if you don't have this seasoning), milk, oil, and of course, green tomatoes (three nice sized ones).

1.  Heat enough vegetable oil in your frying pan to come up half way on the slices when they're in the pan.  Make sure the oil is really hot before you add the tomatoes.

2.  Slice your tomatoes thick.

3.  Mix 1 1/2 cups cornmeal with 4 tablespoons of flour and 2 Tablespoons of Season All

4.  Dip both sides of tomato slices in milk

5.  Coat both sides of tomato slices in meal mixture

6.  Fry those things in the oil.  I do it about 3-5 minutes each side. Turn only once.

7.  Take out and enjoy!

Thursday, August 9, 2012


This lovely flower is a Dahlia.  It's a perennial that's native to Mexico and Central America.  In fact, it is the national flower of Mexico.  Dahlias are hardy in zones 7 - 11, so in most parts of the country, it must be planted each spring and cut back in the fall after the first frost.

  Dahlias can be recognized by their brightly colored flowers and leafy stems. They range in size from 1 foot tall to over 6 feet tall.  These flowers are summer bloomers.  They prefer full sun and sandy, well-drained soil.  They should be watered once a week, but in extremely hot conditions, they should be watered more.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Getty Museum Gardens

The Getty Museum Gardens are located in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, California.  The property covers 24 acres, and features a 134,000 square foot Central Garden.  In this garden, a tree-lined walkway crosses over a stream  which eventually leads to a round pool.  In the pool, is a stunning maze of azaleas.  It's really quite a sight to see.

 In addition to the Central Garden, visitors can also see a cactus garden with spectacular views of the mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and Los Angeles.
The gardens are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM.  Admission is free, but parking is $15.00.

Now for "Name that Flower."  Can you guess what this flower is?  I'll give you the answer tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lake View Cemetary Gardens

I know, who would think a cemetary would be a good place to look at gardens?  The Lakeview Cemetary, located in Cleveland, Ohio near University Circle, is actually a place filled with lovely flowers (and not just the ones placed on the grave stones).

The site contains over 285 acres of gardens along with an arboretum.  There's a lovely three-acre section known as Daffodil Hill that displays more than 100,000 bulbs.  There's also an arboretum, with labels on the various shrubs and trees.

 If you are a history buff, or you just like meandering around old gravestones, there are a few monuments you might want to find.  The cemetary is the resting place for over 100,000 people, including former President, James A Garfield and his wife, the Rockerfeller family, and Eliot Ness.

The cemetary gates open daily from 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM.  Admission is free.

One last thing:  Author, Christine Rains, is having a Childhood Monsters Blogfest to celebrate the debut of her paranormal novella, Fearless.   Check out her site to read about her awesome book.  I'm participating on my other blog, Mama Diaries,  so if you'd like, stop by for a visit.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Katsura Imperial Villa Garden

Today's garden is another one from Japan.  It's the Katsura Imperial Villa in western Kyoto, Japan.  Completed in 1645, it is the residence of the Katsura family, who are members of Japan's Imperial Family.

Seeing this place is not easy.  You must make reservations for a limited number of tours that are given by the Imperial Household Agency.  The tours last about one hour, and are in Japanese.  You don't speak Japanese?  That's okay.  You can get an English audio guide.  They are very strict about following the rules - you must stay with the group on the path, and you are only allowed to take pictures at designated areas.

That said, the garden is really lovely.  Vistors will see a pond, bamboo, four tea houses, and a lovely arched wooden bridge called a "Dobashi."

The agency is open Monday - Friday from 8:45 - 12:00  and 1:00- 5:00 PM.  Tours are are held during these times, but you may be able to get a Saturday tour.  No tours are ever given on Sunday.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Five Things to Do With Your Garden Tomatoes

Did you plant tomatoes this year?  If you did, I bet you have a plethora of them now.  Are you wondering what to do with them?  Here are some ideas:

1.  Roast them:  Core the tomatoes and cut in half horizontally.  Place them in a glass baking dish.  Drizzle with about a 1/2 cup olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place in a 200 degree oven and bake 2-3 hours.  Cool.  Refrigerate or freeze with the oil.  Roasted tomatoes can be used for pizza, rissoto, and salad dressing.

2.  Make a BLT.   These are great summer sandwiches.  Get some applewood smoked bacon, sourdough bread, lettuce, mayonaise, and of course, tomatoes.

3.  Make a super-easy sauce.  Core, seed, and dice your tomatoes.  Toss with 1/2 cup bottled Italian dressing, 1 Tablespoon fresh minced garlic, and 2 Tablespoons of fresh cut up basil leaves.  Mix it all together and serve over hot pasta.

4.  Do you have more time?  Try making a cooked sauce.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add 1 diced onion and cook until soft.  Add 2 tablespoons of minced garlic and 1 cup of chopped carrots.  Cook about 2 minutes.  Add about 3 pounds of peeled, cored, and seeded tomatoes.  Cook on low for about an hour.  Cool and puree in batches in a food processor or blender.  Return to pot and add 2 teaspoons sugar, 1-2 teaspoons salt, and 1 tablespoon oregano.  Cook until sauce is desired consistancy.  Use immediately, or cool and freeze.

5.  Can them.  Peel and core your tomatoes.  Leave them whole.  Sterilize jars and keep them in a deep pot of hot water.  In each quart-sized jar, place 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Pack tomatoes into the jar, leaving about an inch at the top.  Ladle boiling water into the jars.  Place lids and bands on.  Place jars in the deep pot, cover, and boil about 40 minutes.  Turn off the heat, wait 5 minutes, remove jars, and let them cool.

What do you do with your tomatoes?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Black Eyed Susan

Did you guess the name of the flower?  It's a Rudbeckia, also known as a Black Eyed Susan.  In some parts of the country, it's also called a Gloriosa Daisy or a Yellow Ox-eye Daisy, so if you said, "daisy," that would also be correct.

The Black Eyed Susan was named after Olaus Olai Rudbeck, a Swedish botanist.  It grows in a variety of places - open woods, gardens, fields, and roadsides, but it prefers full sun.

Black Eyed Susans can be recognized by their flowers which have yellow petals and brownish - purple centers.    They grow to be about two feet tall, but some varieties can grow to be almost six feet tall!  They bloom from late summer to early fall.  I love these plants in my garden, because they attract butterflies.

Black Eyed Susans are biennials, which means they live for two years.  They can be propagated through seeds, so often, if you leave the flowers, they'll dry up, and the seeds left behind will result in new sprouts.

The Black Eyed Susan's roots can be used for medicinal purposes.  It's very much like the purple Echinacea in that respect.  The juice from the roots can be used as drops for earaches, as a wash for sores and swelling, and as a treatment for colds and worms in children.  The Ojibwa Indians used it as a paste for treating snake bites.

One last thing:  To celebrate my birthday (which was yesterday), I'm giving away free downloads of my book, That Mama is a Grouch.  I already announced this on my other blog, but if you don't follow that one, then I want to make sure that you don't miss out on the fun - because you guys rock, too!  Just go to my Smashwords page and use coupon code DK23B.  The coupon expires August 7th, so hurry!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Yerba Buena Garden

The Yerba Buena Gardens are located in San Francisco, California.  Basically, it's two blocks of public parks in downtown San Francisco.  It provides over 100,000 square feet of green space for the residents.  There's grass, gardens, streams, and fountains, and even a 100 year old carousel (built in 1906) that children can enjoy.

   Children can also find a playground, a labyrinth made of hedges, and an area where they can alter the flow of the streams to create dams or irrigate the gardens.

The park is open daily from dawn to dusk.  The Carousel is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  The cost for two rides on the carousel is $3.00.

Now for something a little different.  We're going to play a game.  It's "name that flower (or plant)."  I'll provide a picture, and you see if you can name it.  I'll give the answer and information about it tomorrow.

What am I?