Friday, February 28, 2014

2014 garden features and future planning

"Really, this is the very worst time of year to be making plans. Winter in these climes keeps a person trapped inside for so long that by the time February comes around one is positively delusional with grandiose plans for the coming year." 

--Posted by Rundy under 'Wishlist' 2/14/04

A more structured review of my landscape should help me prioritize my garden activities in the months ahead.

Over the past 5 years I have incorporate a variety of elements into our landscape including:

  • herb garden (sage, tarragon, anise hyssop, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, lavender, chives, walking onion,…)
  • raised vegetable bed (tomatoes, peppers, squash planted annually)                                            square foot gardening techniques
  • fruit bed (cherry tree, strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries)
  • compost bin
  • hybrid tea rose bed
  • hummingbird bed (including hummingbird feeders filled with sugar solution)
  • oriole feeder (holds orange halves)
  • bird friendly area (platform & tube feeders, shrubs with berries provide shelter too)
  • native bed 
    • monarch way station-milkweed & nectar plants
    • host & nectar plants for butterflies & other pollinators
    • plants with seeds & berries for birds & birdhouses
    • plants that tolerate moist conditions along front edge of bed to allow bed to function as "rain garden" preventing water from running into drainage ditch that flows into lake
  • contracted & supervised construction of rock retaining wall to reinforce existing concrete retaining wall 
  • contracted & supervised construction on water feature including pond and waterfall
  • contracted & supervised construction of sand beach by pond
  • contracted & supervised construction of permeable path & fire pit
  • perennials planted in beds adjacent to pond
  • hosta bed
  • butterfly beds-host & nectar plants
  • hosta borders
  • shrub rose borders
  • evergreen foundation plantings
  • bulb bed by mailbox (narcissus, day lilies, angelina sedum)
  • perennial bed surrounding large spruce
Annual tasks
  • add annual herbs (basil, rosemary,…)
  • plant tomatoes, peppers, squash, …
  • move selected potted plants outdoors for summer (mint, yellow hibiscus…)
  • dig & divide for Master Gardener plant sale
  • prune dead wood & crossing branches
  • encourage rabbit(s) to relocate
  • discourage deer from browsing

Some additions I'm considering adding:
  • rain barrel-need to finish painting, cut downspout to attach barrel, attach hose to spigot on barrel
  • purple martin house-have house, hole dug in fall-need to locate pole that will allow house to be attached securely
  • compass bed designed to aid in orientation of plantings
  • sundial to aid in estimating time while working in garden
  • Little Free Library-add glass window, consider drainage issues for green roof, paint with nature-themed design, waterproof, plant succulents on roof, collect books
  • expand native plant bed 
"Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant."
~Robert Louis Stevenson 

Vendors joining us for the 2014 Wisconin Master Gardener Conference

A sneak preview of some of the vendors who will be offering exciting merchadise for gardeners at the 2014 Wisconsin Master Gardner Association Conference.

Wisconsin family business
Goin' to Pot Orchids
Our Garden Path Designs

Erin Culligan
Menasha Joint School District art teacher
Victoria's Garden Decor 
Stone Crete
        Oakhaven Pottery
        Eileen McDaniel
Rock Eagle Pottery
Michael Schael
Rose Hill Gardens

Swanstone Gardens
David Calhoon
The Gathered Earth
Lowneys Landscaping

Save the Date WIMGA Annual conference-March 28-29, 2014

Last day for $70 registration for 2014 Wisconsin Master Gardener Conference to be held in Appleton, Wisconsin, one month from today March 28-29.
Keynote Presenter
DAN HEIMS President of Terra Nova Nurseries
Dan is known worldwide for helping bring many new introductions to horticulture. His work and gardens have been featured in USA Today, Better Homes & Gardens, HGTV, Organic Gardening and The Martha Stewart Show. He speaks & travels throughout the world, seeking new perennial varieties and gardening innovations. (
“A delightful and knowledgeable speaker with a wealth of information and a contagious sense of humor.”
ROB ZIMMER Combining & Designing with Hostas, Rob is your YARD MD , Garden & Outdoors writer for several Gannet Wisconsin Newspapers. He’ll share tips and ideas for using the many colors, shapes, sizes, growth forms and textures of hosta.
BILL & BECKY WILSON Permaculture—Self Sufficient Gardening Founders of Midwest Permaculture, Bill & Becky offer design services and train others on the importance and ease of creating your own sustainable living space.
DONNA VANBUECKEN Why Natives? Executive Director of Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes. Donna will share the beauty of natives, how to use them in our landscapes, and the importance of including them in our plantings.
BRITT BUNYARD Become a Fungi Forager, Britt is Publisher & Editor in Chief of Fungi Magazine and shares the fascinating world of hunting mushrooms, what to look for, and what not to touch!
ALEX TYINK Innovations for a Healthy Food System, Alex is Program Leader of the Community Garden Partnership. Learn about indoor agriculture systems, community garden co-ops, institutional collaboration and neighborhood initiatives.
GAILCLEARWATER Let’sTalkTrash—Trash to Treasure Garden Art, Gail’s not only a Master Gardener but a master at manipulating what others consider junk into beautiful and useful garden accessories and garden art.
MARY LEARMAN A Simple Kitchen Garden, Mary is an Herbarist and Master Gardener who takes a light-hearted and knowledgeable look at all things herbal: medicinal, spiritual, decorative, for beauty and aroma, and of course culinary.
CINDY CHITWOOD Beekeeping for Beginners, Cindy is an avid gardener and beekeeper and is ready to share her tips for getting started with basic instructions, equipment, anatomy of a hive, and needed resources.

You will not want to miss out on an opportunity to win this stunning “Wildflowers” quilt hand-crafted by one of our own Master Gardeners, featuring Trillium, Coneflower, Aster, Indian Blanket, Jack in
the Pulpit, Canadian Lily and other natives. It took hundreds of hours to create with fabrics collected from around the country. It truly is an incredible and beautiful one-of-a-kind piece of art you have to see to fully appreciate.
TICKETS: 1 for $5 or 3 for $10
Available at the event or contact: (920)740-9420

May 17 8am
Annual Master Gardener Plant Sale
UW-Outagamie Extension Grounds 3365 W. Brewster St. • Appleton, WI

6:00PM Registration & Social Hour • Vendors Open! 7:00—8:30PM Welcome & Introduction
Featured Keynote Speaker, Dan Heims—Terra Nova Make good choices for problem spaces! Dry, wet, shady,
sunny, rocky... Dan will present plants as problem solvers and offer good advice on how to keep them thriving.
8:30—9:30PM WI Master Gardener Annual Business Meeting
(Closed Session—Master Gardener Members Only) Vendors remain open for general public until 9:30PM
8:00—9:00AM 9:00AM
10:30AM 11:00—12:00PM
12:00—1:00PM 1:00—2:00PM
2:00—2:30PM 2:30—3:30PM
Late Registration • Vendors Open all Day!
Featured Keynote Speaker, Dan Heims—Terra Nova
Perennials for Containers Explore an array of stunning, colorful perennials and how to care for them with tips on maintaining fertility and winterizing pots. Walk away with some great "recipes."
Breakout Session One

A. Permaculture—Self Sufficient Gardening Pt. 1 Bill & Becky Wilson
Closing Remarks • Prize Drawings • Raffle Winner Announced
B. Why Natives? Donna VanBuecken
C. Herbs—A Simple Kitchen Garden Mary Learman
Lunch Buffet Provided with Registration Breakout Session Two
Or send in completed form
A. Permaculture—Self Sufficient Gardening Pt. 2 Bill & Becky Wilson B. Combining and Designing with Hostas Rob Zimmer
C. Beekeeping for Beginners Cindy Chitwood
Breakout Session Three

A. Let’s Talk Trash—Trash to Treasure Gail Clearwater
B. Innovations for a Healthy Food System Alex Tyink
C. Foraging for Fungi—Mushroom Hunting Britt Bunyard
Ask the Expert—A panel of experts participate in this popular and lively interactive question and answer time. Submit your gardening dilemma and get expert advice.
Before Feb. 1.......................... $65 Between Feb. 1—Feb. 28...... $70 After Feb. 28 .......................... $75
Conference Fee Includes:
All sessions, conference materials, buffet lunch, evening reception & refreshments.
Registration fees are non-refundable. For questions, contact:
Mary Learman (920)739-9496
Kathy Baum (920)731-9385 

Special rates for conference attendees!
$95 / night
Discounted rate available through 2/27/14
333 W. College Ave Appleton, WI
Stay right at the conference center, just steps away from all the sessions. Conveniently located within walking distance of downtown restaurants and shops.
Call (920)733-8000 to request special rates.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Extreme drought conditions in California - a possible indicator of climate change?

“We never know the worth of water ‘til the well is dry.”
- Thomas Fuller

A chart released by the National Drought Mitigation Center,
illustrates how dry the soil is compared to the historical average:
 the darker the color, the drier the soil is relative to average.

I have often thought I would like to return to my native state someday, having fond memories of a childhood spent in the Bay Area.   Actually I have, years ago to attend graduate school at CAL Berkeley and again with my husband and kids as they entered their teens, not an ideal time for a move. But alas, when we visit California today it is not the California of my youth, with it's rapid population growth and exorbitant cost of living.  And now yet another consideration when pondering the possibility spending our golden years there, a worsening water shortage, with varying degrees of severity depending upon where different localities source their water.  Certainly something to consider when contmeplating relocation to the "Golden State".

California is facing what could be its worst drought in four decades. Nearly 90 percent of California is suffering from severe or extreme drought. A statewide survey shows the current snow pack hovering below 20 percent of the average for this time of year.

For the past 13 months, a huge ridge of high-pressure in the atmosphere has sat off the West Coast, blocking storms that normally would bring rain during winter months.

California's population has shot to 38 million people today, compared with 22 million during the last record-breaking drought in 1977. Meanwhile, the state's farms increased their revenue to $45 billion from $9.6 billion over the same time period, magnifying the potential consequences of the current drought.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency Last Friday, asking for a voluntary 20 percent reduction in water use by the public, businesses and government agencies. Californians can expect:
-- Water conservation programs will be implemented around the state encouraging limits on watering of gardens, washing cars, showering and other discretionary uses.
--With already conservative numbers of cattle in their herds, ranchers will consider culling their herds to stay afloat as production costs rise.
-- With close to 65 percent of cropland relying on irrigation, many farmers will have to choose between pumping more local groundwater, changing crops or leaving their land fallow as water availability decreases and prices increase. Farmers will sacrifice lower-value annual crops like cotton and tomatoes in order to preserve almonds, grapes and other profitable plants that grow on vines and trees.
-- Hydroelectric power generation will decrease, forcing California to use more expensive fuels, but also encouraging other sources of electricity, like solar and wind power.
-- The fisheries along the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta will suffer as water is siphoned away to meet the needs of urban and agricultural interests.
-- Groundwater levels will sink and the ground will subsist further in the San Joaquin Valley as more and more water is sucked from the aquifer into wells.
-- Wildfires could increase in frequency and intensity across the state as the fire season lengthens.
In a move that will likely signal higher food prices nationally, a federal agency says California’s drought-stricken Central Valley,hundreds of thousands of acres of the most productive farmland in the U.S., won’t get any irrigation water this summer.  Last weeks’s announcement by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation follows an earlier warning of no irrigation deliveries from the California State Water Project, leaving Central Valley farms and cities with only wells and stored water to get through the worst drought since the state began keeping records in the 1800s.

As the climate changes, California is losing snow pack, with more precipitation coming as rain. Ultimately a variety of changes will be needed, such as recycling of waste water, groundwater recharge (water during wet years through is moved into groundwater), capturing, storing and treating storm water, and improved efficiencies in agriculture. Among recent innovative practices, Los Angeles offers rebates for water-efficient appliances, as well as a "Cash for Grass" rebate -- raised last April from $1.50 to $2 per square foot -- for people who replace their grass lawns with native plants, mulch or other dry landscaping.

The drought’s effects will ripple far beyond the fields in California, since California grows half of America's produce. Out of over 400 different foods California grows for our Nation, California leads production for 79 of them. Out of these 79, California grows ALL of 14 crops (in bold).  Consumers can expect tighter supplies and higher prices for some fruits and vegetables by summer.

Those of us outside of California, may well find increasing impetus to GROW LOCAL.

Climate Change ?

"Climate is what you expect; weather’s what you get” 

Low temperatures are predicted to fall below zero again tonight, marking the 48th sub-zero low for Green Bay area this winter, tying the all-time record (48 days in the winter of '76-'77).  And with even lower temperatures expected tomorrow night, a new record will be set.  Could it be global warming isn't happening as quickly as some have predicted?  Or do we need to look beyond the recent cold timperatures in our litttle corner of the world, to consider all the recent extreme weather events.

And according to the UN's World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which monitors global weather, the first six weeks of 2014 have seen an unusual number of extremes of heat, cold and rain – all around the world at the same time, with costly disruptions to transport, power systems and food production. There have been heatwaves in Slovenia and Australia, snow in Vietnam and the return of the polar vortex to North America. Britain has had its wettest winter in 250 years but temperatures in parts of Russia and the Arctic have been 10C above normal. Meanwhile, the southern hemisphere has had the warmest start to a year ever recorded, with millions of people sweltering in Brazilian and southern African cities.

Further support for global warming can be found in the "headine statements" published on September 27, 2013, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as part of the organization’s fifth assessment report:

  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.
  • Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years (medium confidence).
  • Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence). 
  • Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent (high confidence).
  • The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia (high confidence). 
  • The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. CO2 concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions. The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification.
  •  It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. 
  • Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped.  

Polar ice cap melting
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the global average sea level will rise between 0.6 to 2 feet (0.18 to 0.59 meters) in the next century (IPCC 2007). However, climate models, satellite data, and hydrographic observations demonstrate that sea level is not rising uniformly around the world. Local sea level change, which is of more direct concern to coastal communities, is a combination of the rise in sea level and the change in land elevation.  Some areas of the country, such as areas within Alaska, are actually experiencing a lowering of local sea level due to regional uplift of land caused by the retreat of glaciers. Meanwhile, areas along the Gulf of Mexico coast are experiencing land subsidence at varying rates, accelerating the rate of seal level rise (NOAA 2010c). The map below displays local trends in sea level, with arrows representing the direction and magnitude of change. 

"The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did."
-Barack Obama

Monday, February 24, 2014

Researching weather averages for Sherwood, Wisconsin

As I continue planning for future growth of the garden,  I find I need to reconsider what might be "the right plant for the right place" based on my observations over the past 5 gardening seasons here in Sherwood.   Unfortunately I may have to resign myself to the possibility that a few of the plants I have lost along the way, including a Japanese Maple (a specimen I had come become fond of in our yard in Tennessee), just aren't as well-suited to my current conditions as I'd hoped.

The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere "behaves" over relatively long periods of time.  Climate change implies changes in long-term averages of daily weather.  In addition to long-term climate change, there are shorter term climate variations. This so-called climate variability can be represented by periodic or intermittent changes related to El Niño, La Niña, volcanic eruptions, or other changes in the Earth system. Climate is what you expect, like a very hot summer, and weather is what you get, like a hot day with pop-up thunderstorms.

While natural variability continues to play a key role in extreme weather, climate change has shifted the odds and changed the natural limits, making certain types of extreme weather more frequent and more intense. The kinds of extreme weather events that would be expected to occur more often in a warming world are indeed increasing.  While 60 years ago in the continental United States, the number of new record high temperatures recorded around the country each year was roughly equal to the number of new record low snow , the number of new record highs recorded each year is twice the number of new record lows, a signature of a warming climate.  So while this winter's unseasonably cold record winter temperatures across large regions of the US, might provide reason for some to doubt the existence of global warming, it is more likely yet another extreme weather event.  (At the same time, another case of extreme weather has been occurring in Califonia where record drought continues.)

Keeping in mind that averages are just that, an average of conditions of over a given period of years, consideration of those changing averages over the course of the year can provide gardeners with valuable information.

Wind roses are plots providing frequencies of wind direction and wind speed. A wind rose can quickly indicate the dominant wind directions and the direction of strongest wind speeds.  In general, data from the airports is of good quality and representative of the local surrounding area.

I couldn't locate wind roses for locations any closer than the Green Bay airport, 29 miles NNW of us in Sherwood.

It is indeed likely that old winter winds from the WSW have taken a toll on some plants in our yard, most notably shrub roses in the back yard last year (winter 2012/2013)  during a winter with erratic, variable insulating snow cover.

Gardening Trends

Here in Wisconsin we are finding ourselves with plenty of time to contemplate our upcoming gardening season over this long cold winter looking out over expanses of seemingly unending snow cover.
Some of the many garden trends recently identified to consider include:

Rob Zimmer, Post-Crescent media, our local NE Wisconsin garden news source
  • orchid-color of the year
  • "drink your own" garden-plant fruits and vegetables for smoothies and healthy drink & brewery gardens with hops, grains and herbs & grapes for wine
  • pollinator garden
  • growing berries in containers
  • adding sparkle with beads
  • vintage and recycled items in yard art
Garden Media's 2014 Garden Trends Report
  •  "ground up"-composting
  •  "super foods" (quinoa to dandelions) & "super models" (straw bales & keyhole gardens)
  • "drink your garden"
  • "dress up your yard" with personal stamps
  • "bee-neficials"
  • "cultur-vating"-growing the world in your gardens, mixing cultures and embracing what is local to your region
  • "simple elegance"
  • "frac'd out"-explosions of color in fractional shapes
  • "young men get down and dirty"-young men 18-34 are spending $100 more than the average gardener
  • "think gardens"-benefits of plant recognized as they show up in offices, schools & hospitals
  • "fingertip gardens" mobile apps & technology
  • "tremendous reversal"-losing more than 4 million trees a year, Americans are being asked to plant trees

2013 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Outdoor Design Elements (Overall rating for 2013)-Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

  • Outdoor living spaces (kitchens, entertainment spaces) – 94.5%
  • Gardens/landscaped spaces – 94.4%
  • Outdoor recreation amenities (pools, spas, tennis courts) – 76.3%
  • Sustainable design practices – 74.8%
  • Vegetable/fruit gardens – 76.4%
  • Turf lawns – 52.2%
Landscape/Garden Elements (Overall rating for 2013)-Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:
  • Low maintenance landscapes – 93.9%
  • Native plants – 86.6%
  • Fountains/ornamental water features – 84.7%
  • Food/Vegetable gardens (including orchards/vineyards etc.) – 82.7%
  • Organic gardens – 65.3%
  • Xeriscaping or dry gardens – 63.8%
  • Ponds/streams – 58.3%
  • Rain gardens – 58.2%
  • Rooftop gardens – 50.4%
  • Plant walls/vertical gardens – 47.9%
Better Home & Gardens Top Gardening Trends for 2013
  • Fragrant flowers
  • Variegated beauties
  • Easy-to-please bulbs
  • Mixed bouquets
  • Mini homesteads
  • Community gardens
  • Heirloom seed saving
  • Old-fashioned flowers
  • Sharing our gardens
  • Permeable pavers
  • Personal herb garden
  • Chicken-loving city folk
  • Eat what you grow
  • Huge hanging baskets 
  • Sensory gardens
  • Less grass-more flowers
Trends we've incorporated into our gardens 
trends I plan to experiment with in my gardening

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Unique Sculpture Garden in the Muzeon Park of Arts (Graveyard of Fallen Monuments)

As the Olympics continue in Russia, I reflect on some of the highlights of our visit
A huge statue of Peter the Great, erected in 1997, can be seen on a curve in the River Moskva, just South of the Kremlin, where the river meets the drainage canal, is one of the world's tallest outdoor statue.   Zurab Tsereteli's Monument to Peter the Great1 is so tall that it is topped by an aircraft-warning hazard light.It is regarded as an eyesore by many Muscovites, who were not pleased that between US$11 million and US$20 million of public money was spent on the monument.  Peter was reputed to despise the city of Moscow and designated his own city, St Petersburg, as capital of Russia in 1712, hardly endearing him to the proud inhabitants of Moscow.

The nearby Fallen Monument Park, outside the Krymsky Val building in Moscow shared by the modern art division of Tretyakov Gallery and Central House of Artists, is located between the Park Kultury and the Oktyabrskaya underground stations. (In Russian, the park is either simply named Sculpture Park of the Central House of Artists (Russian: Парк скульптуры ЦДХ) or referred to by its legal title, Muzeon Park of Arts (Russian: Парк Искусств, Park Iskustv)). In October 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, statues of Soviet leaders and unidentifiable workers and peasants were removed from their pedestals, hauled to the park and left in their fallen form. They were rectified later, although many are missing the original pedestals. 

Socialist Realism was an art style developed in the Soviet Union whose objective was to further the goals of Communism. Socialist Realism was officially defined by four rules adopted at the Communist Party Congress in 1934:
  1. Proletarian: art relevant to the workers and understandable to them.
  2. Typical: scenes of the people’s everyday life.
  3. Realistic: in the representational sense.
  4. Prospective and revolutionary: supportive of the aims of the State and the Party.
The typical motifs showed happy and muscular farmers and workers at collective farms and factories, heroic portraits of the Communist leaders and romanticized everyday situations. 
These were removed from public squares and buildings around Moscow after the collapse of the Communist regime.
Among the Socialist Realism sculptures are also memorials to the victims of the GULAG camps.

Over the years more modern sculpture has been added resulting in a very sculpture garden to enjoy while strolling near the Moskva River.

"Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it matters most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
– Haile Selassie

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Out on the lake

While the last of the sturgeon spearers were hauling their shanties of the ice, the boys toook our dog for a walk out on the lake.

Two hot air balloons were floating overhead as the boys made their way across the ice-the first time we'd seen any in the area.