Favorite Flora: Drift Roses

Roses as ground covers? That’s one of the things we saw at the Willoway Nurseries display at the recent CENTS trade show and Ohio State University Short Course in Columbus. Wholesaler Willoway Nurseries highlighted Drift Roses as a tough adaptable rose for gardens and containers. They come in several colors and a few at the show delighted us with fragrance.

Good Eats: Pesto Scuffins

By Debra Knapke

July, through October is the time to make and freeze pesto so that you can savor the taste of summer in the middle of winter.  While basil pesto is a favorite, there are many types for this burst of flavor.  This past year, sage, celery, and garlic scape pestos joined the basil pesto in my freezer.  The recipes for these pestos will be presented in the summer blogs, but for now, here is a recipe where you can use the pesto that you, hopefully, made last summer.

Basil Pesto Walnut  Scuffins

  • 1  c.           whole wheat flour
  • 1  c.           unbleached white flour
  • 2  Tbs       brown sugar
  • 1½  tsp     baking powder
  • ½ tsp        baking soda
  • ½ tsp        salt  (scant)
  • 1 Tbs        flaxseed meal (optional)
  • 2 tsp         quinoa flakes (optional)
  • 1 c.            yogurt or buttermilk
  • ¼ c.           extra virgin olive or canola oil
  • 1                egg
  • ¼ c.           basil pesto (yours will always be better, but commercially prepared is fine)
  • ¾ c.           walnuts, coarsely chopped (pecans, cashews or pine nuts, too)

Preheat oven to 400°F (convection: 375°F).  Lightly butter 12 muffin cups.  (If you make mini-scuffins: 2 recipes make two pans of 24 minis)

Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together wet ingredients and pesto. Mix well.  Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour wet ingredients into dry.  Add walnuts and fold the dry ingredients into the wet.*

Spoon batter into prepared pans.  Scuffins: bake for 20-25 minutes; mini-scuffins: bake 10-12 minutes.  Remove baked muffins from pan after 5 minutes and cool on wire racks.

These muffins freeze well.

* The secret with scuffins — even more than with muffins — is not to overmix them.  I use a sturdy spatula, and use a “folding” movement instead of stirring.

Another scuffin note:  yogurt or buttermilk reacts quickly with baking powder and baking soda.  You will notice a spongy texture forms as you spoon the dough into the muffin cups.  Try not to compact the forming sponge, work quickly and get the scuffins in the oven where the heat will finish the rising process.

Posted in Good eats


Good Eats: Sweet Pickles

By Debra Knapke

Pickles… the vegetable preserve that we put up in July to October.  Plunked on hamburgers, added to our potato salad or just eaten because they taste so good, cucumber pickles are reminders of the taste of high summer.  For those of you who like exact measures and exact recipes, sorry to disappoint you.  No matter how many times I make pickles, each season’s offering seems to process a little bit differently from the year before.  But, each year’s pickles taste the best ever.

So why offer this recipe to you now instead of July?  Because you are eating those pickles now, and you just might remember to look back into our archives to retrieve this recipe.  If not, we will remind you, in July, that it is here.

Many people are represented in my garden by the plants they have given me.  Many people are represented in my kitchen by the recipes they have given me.  The following recipe was given to me by a dear friend who lives not only in my heart, but in my kitchen.

Mother Elssa’s Sweet Pickles

 A family recipe handed down to my friend Jane Cooper and then handed over to me

30           6″ or so cucumbers, sliced ¼”  (Adjust thickness for desired crispness.) 

½ c          salt

2              medium onions sliced about 3/16-inch  (Can use more onions)

Cover with water; let stand for 2 hours; drain

5 c           sugar

1 qt        white vinegar

1 Tbs      mustard seed

1 Tbs      celery seed

4              black peppercorns/pint jar.

Heat thoroughly.  Add the cucumber slices and heat them through.  A shorter heating time will produce a crisper pickle; a longer heating time will produce a softer pickle.

Can the pickles while still hot:  Read the latest recommendations for canning cucumber pickles in Extension publications or in the Kerr and Ball Canning Guides.  Alternately (for crisper pickles), let the jars cool and refrigerate. Even if a hot water canning bath is not used, lids may seal, but don’t rely on that: refrigerate!!

This recipe makes between 8-10 pints; depends on the size of the cucumbers.

The Dirt on Roots: Wintertime

Frost heave

By Michael Leach

Roots don’t sleep during the winter. They continue doing their job of absorbing water and other essentials albeit at a slower rate. But most important for small flora — they hold the plant in place during the raucous season.

Because roots continue growing in the fall, even as the top of the plant goes dormant, autumn is a traditional planting time for trees and shrubs. Perennials of many sorts also take to fall planting/transplanting — up to a point.

Because perennials are bantam weights compared to woodies, they need extra time to grab hold before the soil begins freezing and thawing. This process goes on for months in some winters and places. Come spring — or before — the little plants may have been pushed nearly out of the ground. Even a bit of exposed root can cripple or kill.

Take a walk around the garden when weather allows and check for bare roots. Gently tamp plants back into place or replant if soil is workable the exposure is pronounced and mulch lightly.

Come fall, err on the side of caution when transplanting and quit early. Even then, a few inches of mulch can help even the winter survival odds — and keep those roots in their proper place.


Happy Valentine’s Day


If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever. — Alfred Lord Tennyson

Book Notes: Home Orchard Handbook

The Home Orchard Handbook: A Complete Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit Trees Anywhere   by Cem Akin and Leah Rottke, 2011, Quarry Books, Quayside Publishing Group.  Retail: $24.95

Reviewed by Debra Knapke

Harvesting the fruit that you grew is an extremely satisfying late summer and fall garden task.  The Home Orchard Handbook provides clear, concise information on how to create and maintain an orchard. You will understand why a tree succeeds or fails in your garden. You will know which fruits you can grow in your area and you will be able to select healthy, vigorous plants.  For specific cultivars and fruit varieties check in with your local extension agents and garden centers.

Growing fruit is a time-consuming undertaking as you establish the trees, but there is a rhythm to the care and feeding of an orchard that puts you in touch with the cycle of the growing season.  The authors have focused on cultural practices that should lessen the need for pesticides. However, many fruit trees are susceptible to a host of animal pests and diseases.  Three charts summarize the possible problems and biological and organic controls that are available.  More information follows to help you deal with the problems that crop up.

The Home Orchard Handbook has a global focus.  It was written by the executive director and a volunteer arborist of The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation.  The Foundation’s mission is to create sustainable orchards all over the world, and its effort is supported by the sale of this beautiful and useful book.

Take a look.  Even if you don’t create your own orchard, it may inspire you to help others.

Garden Happenings: Home & Garden Shows

Garden Showcase at Cleveland's Great Big Home & Garden Show

         By Teresa Woodard

Hold your breath. Make a wish. Count to three, and enter a world of pure imagination at an upcoming home and garden show.  Over the next eight weeks, Midwestern expo centers will be transformed into blooming gardens filled with a bounty of ideas for the upcoming growing season. Cleveland hosts the region’s first show featuring gardens designed around classic TV shows like “Cheers”, “Green Acres” and “Fantasty Island”. The Central Ohio Home & Garden show will celebrate Columbus’s bicentennial by showcasing the city’s landmarks in the exhibitors’ landscape designs.  At the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show, plants will take center stage with a Hort Couture theme tying colors and textures of the fashion and plant worlds. The beloved Cincinnati Flower Show won’t resume in 2012; instead, the Cincinnati Horticultural Society is planning several smaller garden-inspired activities.  Check the speaker line-up for each show at the links below.

Trendspotting: Indy readies for Super Bowl XLVI

Congratulations Indianapolis, host to the Super Bowl XLVI!  We Heartland Gardeners discovered this super city in August when we toured gardens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, community gardens and other sites while attending the Garden Writers Association symposium.  Check out this post from the Indianapolis Museum of Art blogger Jenny Anderson. 

Super Bowl XLVI: More than a Football Game

Jan 26 2012

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost four years since Indianapolis was selected to host the 46th Super Bowl. For most of us, the Super Bowl has some sort of yearly tradition tied to it. We get together with friends, indulge ourselves, laugh at a few commercials and watch a football game. It’s one day, maybe two with a lingering hangover, and one event.

For a host city, the Super Bowl is much more than this.

Super Bowl XLVI
Pictured left to right, from the IMA’s permanent collection: Untitled, plate 8, Garo Z. Antreasian, 1969. © Garo Antreatsian; Letter L, Edward Lear, about 1862; Double V, 1978; Double Shaft Pen Holder, Asian.


Like many of its predecessors, Indianapolis has transformed in preparation for its countless visitors. From new hotels, to temporary businesses, street improvements and hours upon hours of logistical planning, the Super Bowl Committee has worked hard to prepare our city for its big day. But when those temporary businesses close and the zip line is taken down, what will our city be left with? Lots.

2,012 Trees Program According to the Alliance for Community Trees, More Trees = Less Crime. In an effort to maximize the community impact (not to mention environmental impact) of additional trees, the Super Bowl Host Committee aimed to plant 2,012 trees by 2012. Not only did the Committee succeed in generating early excitement for the Super Bowl, but they surpassed their goal, planting 2,876.

Indy Super Cure Did you know that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer? Did you also know that Indianapolis is home of the world’s only known tissue bank that collects healthy breast tissue for cancer research?  Extending a nod to the city’s leadership in health and life sciences, the Super Bowl committee has teamed up with the Susan G. Komen Tissue Bank to develop Indy Super Cure. The goal of Super Cure is to raise awareness and increase donations to the tissue bank, while also raising money. Super Cure has surpassed their million-dollar fund raising goal but is working to collect 700 tissue donations in the weekend leading up to the Super Bowl XLVI. You can learn how to donate here.

Super Baskets of Hope Super Bowl hosts cities have a long history of service projects, but Super Baskets of Hope will be the first to extend its reach nationwide. Beginning on January 30, gift-filled baskets will be put together for 7,000 hospitalized children in each of America’s 32 NFL cities. The Riley Children’s Foundation, the Basket of Hope program, and Tony Dungy have partnered on this effort, recruiting NFL players, coaches, and volunteers to then hand deliver the baskets.

46 for XLVI Spear headed by the Arts Council of Indianapolis, 46 for XLVI ‘sought to elevate the arts and culture of our city.’ Supported by partnering institutions (including the City of Indianapolis) and a team of talented muralists, the project resulted in 46 new public murals throughout the city’s neighborhoods (you can search the murals map here). So next time you’re walking on Mass Ave. and Kurt Vonnegut greets you with a smile, you’ll hopefully smile back in reflection of this city, its partnerships and the lasting impact of one football game.

Be proud Indianapolis.

Snapshots: Revised Zones for Midwest

 By Michael Leach

Baby it’s cold outside — but not as cold as it used to be. At least that’s the impression from the just-released Plant Hardiness Zone Map from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. This map shows the lowest temperatures likely during the winter and helps gardeners determine which plants can survive in their area.

For instance, Madison, Wisc. is now considered Zone 5a where the lowest winter temps can fall between -20 to – 15 F. In the last version, produced in 1990, Madison was in Zone 4 (-30 to -20 F).  The St. Louis metro area went from Zone 5 (-10 to -20 F) on the 1990 map to Zones 6a (-10 to -5 F) and 6b (-5 to 0) on the new.  Cincinnati, however, remains in Zone 6. Gardeners in these areas should select plants rated as hardy in Zone 5 for Madison and Zone 6 for St. Louis and Cincinnati. (Gardeners also should select plants that need the soil, light and water conditions found in their yards but this is gist for another post.)

Maybe the coldest readings in some parts of the Midwest just aren’t as cold as they were when the last map was produced in 1990. But that doesn’t grant us license to succumb to zone envy and begin planting delicate things hardy only in much warmer climes.

No. Caution is advised. There’s one sure bet in the Midwest — extreme weather. Regardless of groundhog prognostications, Easter egg hunts can be snowy affairs in even  the warmest parts of the Heartland.

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