New Northern Gardener, New Blog and the Digital Issue

It’s been a month since I’ve written on this blog, and while I don’t usually explain my absences (not even my mother is that eager for my next post), this is one worth elaboration.

blog-notesfromnortherngardMost importantly, I’ve been working on a new blog for Northern Gardener magazine. While I edit Northern Gardener, this blog has always been my own thing. Since July, I’ve been working with the Minnesota State Horticultural Society on its new blog, Notes from Northern Gardener. This has been an exciting effort. In November, we ran a series on Great Plants for Northern Gardens, which inspired some conversation about which plants are winners and which are sinners for northern gardens. Then, in January, publisher Tom McKusick and I teamed up to write a month’s worth of posts about vegetable gardening. Tom is a bonafide tomato expert and has two large gardens that he tends. The series, which just ended, got a terrific response from readers on Facebook, Twitter and in real life. With all the cold, wet, just plain nasty weather we have had this month, many people are ready to get out in the garden.

NG coverWe’re also at work on the March/April issue of Northern Gardener, and it will be out before the end of February. In the meantime, if you have not picked up our January/February issue, it’s on the newsstands with the bright photo of an African violet on the cover. There are lots of good articles in this issue on everything from rock gardening to must-have tools to a profile of a beautiful “up North” garden in Wisconsin. If you followed the earlier link, you may have noticed that it went to the new digital edition of Northern Gardener. From now through June, this digital edition will be open to the public. So, if you have been thinking about subscribing (or better yet, joining MSHS), you can get a preview of the magazine for free. Check it out.

As I write this, the thermometer is hovering around zero — up from about 15 below zero this morning when I walked our poor dog. (It was a very short walk.) But we have noticeably more daylight than in early January and I’m about to plant some winter-sowing containers and the seeds I’ve ordered arrive in the mail nearly every day. As my mother-in-law used to say, “if you make it through January, you’ve got winter licked.” Here’s hoping you’ve got winter licked, too, and are looking forward to the garden season ahead.





New Northern Gardener Available

I was very happy the other day when I spotted the November/December issue of Northern Gardener on the end-cap display rack at my closest Barnes and Noble. Even happier, because the magazine was displayed at eye-level where lots of folks can see it.

This is a fun issue, full of garden information to ponder over the winter, as well as inspiring ideas and our annual holiday gift guide. The cover photo, taken by Susy Morris of the Chiot’s Run blog, goes with Martin Stern’s article on planning your garden year with nature’s time in mind. Martin, co-owner of the wonderful Squire House Gardens in Afton, begins his garden year in November, assessing what worked, what didn’t and what to do in the next season. From there, he takes readers through the year, offering ideas for when to do particular chores and which plants to plant for color and interest all year long.

In addition to Martin’s story, we have Eric Johnson’s article on how to make a terrarium, a profile of a contemplative garden and Nancy Rose’s interesting comparison of soils in Minnesota and Massachusetts, called “A Tale of Two Soils,” which is not only educational, but gave me a chance to write a few Dickens puns.

I hope you enjoy the issue!

Photos from the MSHS State Fair Garden

'Daydream' roses
‘Daydream’ roses

I posted many of these shots on the MSHS Facebook fan page, but wanted to share them more broadly, too. A group of horticulture society volunteers work all summer to create and nurture this wonderful garden, which is located just south of the Horticulture Building on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Visit the garden, then come inside the hort building and say hello to the good folks of the Minnesota State Horticulture Society.

Inspiring Community Gardeners

Three giving gardeners, from left, Maureen Adelman, MSHS Life Award winner, Chuck Levine, Bruce Bereford Educator's Award winner, and Malcolm Burleigh, Bob Churilla Golden Rose Volunteer award winner.

What an inspiring Saturday I had, hearing story after story about the work of the winners of the Minnesota State Horticulture Society’s Awards. These are folks who understand the power of gardening in community—the power to build connections, to increase understanding, to teach youngsters and to create beauty and food to be shared with others.

The awards, which were presented at a luncheon at Bachman’s in Minneapolis, honor individuals, who teach, volunteer and lead, as well as groups, such as the Garden to Table program of the Eagan Resource Center, which uses its food gardens to reduce hunger and build connections; the Gay Straight Alliance of Blaine High School, which created a beautiful school garden–and a more inclusive school environment; and the Soil and Sunshine Club, which has been beautifying its far-flung communities for decades. Businesses, such as Wagner’s Greenhouse, which provides hundreds of plants for the MSHS Garden in a Box program, were also honored.

Several of the recipients spoke about how meaningful they found community gardening to be. As one said, “Gardening is just as much about growing community as it is growing food.”

Congratulations to all the winners!


Gardening in Interesting Times: More Ideas from Experts

Hosta society experts answer questions at Plant Society Day at Gertens yesterday.

Yesterday the Minnesota State Horticulture Society hosted its annual Plant Society Day at Gertens in Inver Grove Heights. Several specialty societies were represented at the event and it seemed a great time to get more advice from experts about the best approach to gardening this very early, very warm spring.

Mary Don Beeson of the Garden Club of Ramsey County told me that she has been working in her perennial beds this past week. Because of the lack of snow cover, many perennials heaved out of the ground due to lack of snow cover, so she spent some time pushing them back, fixing edging that had heaved and giving everything a good long drink of water. The extended drought seems to be more of a concern with these top-notch gardeners than the early spring. If we do not get some good soaking rains this week, consider hooking up the hose and watering all your plants — they’ll be grateful.

Speaking of rain, Lisa Williams-Hardman, membership guru at MSHS and a great gardener, told me she thinks that some decent rain will create a burst of green in Minnesota gardens in the next couple of weeks. Like several others at the Plant Society Day, Lisa does not expect severe cold again. In fact, she was one of several people who told me they doubted the temperatures would drop below 30 again this spring.

I checked with experts from both the Minnesota Rose Society and the Twin Cities Rose Club about how to handle roses. If you have tea roses, floribundas or other more tender roses and you tip them over winter, just leave them where they are, according to the folks from the Minnesota Rose Society. They will not be harmed staying underground another three or more weeks, and if weather turns cold, they will be secure there. Chris Poppe of the Twin Cities Rose Club covers her roses with bags of mulch and a blanket for winter. She has removed the blanket and is slowly uncovering roses to give them some air. If your roses are out, Chris and fellow rose grower Carole Smuda suggest that you water them well and consider spraying them with Wilt-Pruf, an anti-transpirant. The real danger to drought-stressed plants is the wind, Chris noted, which may dry them out further.

The folks at the Minnesota Hosta Society table noted that while some hostas were beginning to emerge, most were still underground. Careful clean up while trying not to step into the gardens too much and water is the way to go. Gregg Peterson of the society said that people who did not water well into the fall last year — like into November — have a greater chance of losing plants, especially newly planted shrubs and trees.

My take-aways from talking with the plant experts: go slow, get out the hose and hope that Mother Nature doesn’t zap us with some extra cold weather.

A Day at the Fair

Fair visitors admire the MSHS garden and water feature at the fair.

I spent most of yesterday at the Minnesota State Fair, selling memberships at the Minnesota State Horticultural Society booth in the Horticulture building. With perfect weather outside, the fair was crammed with people and we had a busy day at both the merchandise and educational booths.

My fellow membership sales workers and I sold 75 percent more memberships Monday than were sold on this day a year ago. (Woo-hoo!)  The sun and warm temperatures may have had something to do with it, but I also think people who are interested in gardening realize the value of a hyperlocal (to use a new buzzword) organization committed to gardening in this climate. Northern Gardener is the only magazine devoted to gardening in USDA zones 3 and 4. In addition to the magazine, members get discounts at 130 nurseries around the state, free tickets to the Twin Cities home and garden shows, use of an extensive lending library and access to classes and events geared especially for northern gardeners. Fair-goers also get a $5 discount on membership as well as a nice-looking pruner, some fertilizer and a couple of booklets as a thank you gift.

But what about the Fair?

Minnesota humor in action: There are only two season in Minnesota—winter and road construction.

I did not stray too far from the Horticulture Building. I enjoyed a delicious peach-filled scone from the French Meadow Bakery just down Carnes Avenue from us, and purchased one of the Star-Tribune’s Minnesota T-shirts for my husband, who definitely sees Minnesota as having only two seasons – winter and road construction. Of course, I stopped at the gardens outside the horticulture building, which are shady and lovely even in the afternoon. The MSHS garden, cared for by volunteers from the St. Anthony Park Garden Club, benefited from all the rain we had this summer. The Joe-Pye weed, hibiscus and rudbeckia are enormous and the edging of Profusion zinnias is particularly cheery.

If you get to the fair this weekend, please stop by and see the garden!


New Northern Gardener Available

With the 4th of July, some family events, a short vacation and a few other distractions, I have not yet talked about the July/August issue of Northern Gardener, which is currently on newsstands. Better late than never, because it’s a great issue. Our cover story is Terry Yockey’s portrait of Donald Mitchell, a Red Wing gardener who is an expert in hummingbirds. His garden is designed to be a hummingbird haven, and Terry explains how you can attract these fascinating birds to your yard too. Stan Tekiela, noted nature author and photographer, provided the wonderful image for the cover.

Rhonda Fleming Hayes debuts as a writer for Northern Gardener with two articles. The first takes a photographer’s look at gardening with advice on how to design your garden to take advantage of views from the inside of the house. For northern gardeners, who spend about half the year cooped up, this is a must-read. Her other article describes how to grow and use fennel.

Other features cover rain barrels, environmentally conscious lakeshore landscaping, and a fascinating column from Don Engebretson on the “Rule of Three” in gardening. Check it out.


New Northern Gardener Available

I love visiting gardens, and in the May/June issue of Northern Gardener, which is available on newsstands now, readers will get a guided tour of two marvelous Minnesota gardens. Meleah Maynard (with help from photog Linda Staats) walks you through the gorgeous home gardens of Lloyd and Patti Weber. The Webers love irises, hostas, and old-fashioned flowers, and all of them are showcased in this beautifully designed and cared for garden. I picked up several care tips that I had not heard before.

For a more dramatic garden, Terry Yockey writes about the Rochester garden of Vince and Mary Herring. To call this a garden is almost an understatement — the Herrings’ property includes a swimming hole, a grotto, multiple water features, and swaths of beautiful plants. I toured it in 2009 and found it amazing. MSHS members will get a chance to tour the garden (and seven other Rochester gardens) in person on July 9. For more information on the tour, check out the MSHS website.

In addition to the garden profiles, this issue includes Eric Johnson’s tomato tutorial (don’t miss the variety recommendations from a dozen great Minnesota gardeners), an informative story on variegated plants, and profiles of the winners of the MSHS Awards. Check it out.

Garden Classes — It’s the Season

If you want to get excited about gardening or learn something new to take into the garden, now is the time to do it. In addition to being the beginning of seed-starting season, March is the time when many garden clubs, horticultural societies, and Master Gardener groups sponsor educational programs. I know I won’t make it to all of these, but here are a few upcoming events you may want to put on your calendar.

Minneapolis Spring Home and Garden Show, March 2-6, Minneapolis Convention Center, Minneapolis. This is the ultimate display of what’s new, interesting, and fun in gardening and landscaping. The Minnesota State Horticulture Society has a great booth and sponsors a great line up of speakers. Also, be sure to pick up some lily bulbs from the hort folks — they are the best bulbs around.

Beginning Beekeeping, Thursday, March 3, Just Food Co-op, Northfield. I’ve never been real interested in keeping chickens, which is so popular with gardeners and urban farmers, but bees are another matter. There is something intensely fascinating about the social organization of these amazing creatures. Local farmer and beekeeper Chris Sullivan Kelley will be presenting this program.

Rice County Horticulture Day, Saturday, March 5, Buntrock Commons, St. Olaf College, Northfield. I’ll be doing my first gig as a Master Gardener intern volunteering at this annual event. It’s a great start to the garden season and this year’s program includes bird expert Stan Tekiela on birds, as well as Keith Swenson on peonies, Dale Longfellow on how to grow a great vegetable garden, and Shari Mayer on herbs. The event costs $30, and includes a lunch in the St. Olaf dining hall, which is not your typical college food! Contact the Rice County extension office to register.

Let’s Get Growing Spring Expo, Saturday, March 12, Rosemount Community Center, Rosemount. Sponsored by the Dakota County Master Gardeners, this is another great horticulture day. The keynote speaker is Debbie Lonnee, who works with Bailey Nurseries and is in-the-know on all the new plant varieties. She’ll be talking about what’s new for 2011. (She has an article on new annuals for 2011 in the March/April issue of Northern Gardener, too.) The event also includes presentations on grasses, roses, and creating curb appeal, among other topics. It costs $35. Click here to see the full schedule and register.

Plant Society Day, March 27, Gertens Greenhouse, Inver Grove Heights. If you have a special interest in iris, peonies, African violets, lilies or any other plant, this is the place to go for information and to find out more about the specialty societies that share your interest. The event is sponsored by MSHS.

Westonka Horticulture Day, Saturday, April 2, Mound-Westonka High School. There are some wonderful gardens in the west metro area, and some great gardeners. This annual day includes topics ranging from backyard chickens to espalier to gardening in small spaces. Fee is $25 before March 12.

This is just a sampling of the many programs available for gardeners this time of year. Check out a complete list on the MSHS website.





Bringing Home the Gold

We submitted three issues to be judged, including this gorgeous issue from May/June 2010.

Last night, Northern Gardener won the gold award for overall excellence (for special interest magazines under 60,000 circulation) at the Minnesota Magazine Publishing Association awards banquet. It was a big thrill to pick up the award, because this one is for the entire package: the writing, the photography, the layout and design, how ads are designed and displayed, everything. Putting together a publication is really a team sport, and Northern Gardener has a fantastic team now, including our publisher Tom McKusick, the MSHS editorial coordinator Brenda Harvieux, designer Barb Pederson, copy editor Julie Jensen, and a magnificent group of writers and photographers that we work with each  issue. We’re all backed up by the staff, board, and members of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society. Thanks and congratulations to you all!