A Little Bit of Garden Clean Up

A Little Bit of Garden Clean Up

We were lucky to have a mild weekend here in the midwest. My husband set about pruning our fruit trees.  We have about thirty different trees – apples, cherries, plum, pear, and a couple new peach trees, as well. They really needed severe pruning this year.  Even though my husband prunes yearly, as the trees have gotten bigger, it seems the branches cross more and more.  Fruit trees need to have an openness that will allow light and air to penetrate for a healthy flush of fruit. The tree branches were laden with so much fruit last year, we had some branch breakage.  So, on both Saturday and Sunday hours were spent trimming the fruit trees.  He looked for a fruit tree ladder but could not find one locally. Ordering one from a big box store would work but will not get here until after April 9th –  too late for the pruning sessions.  Smaller suppliers will not ship anything over 4 feet and then, the shipping is as much as the ladder. So, he made one. It is rough but helped him do the job on the smaller semi-dwarf trees.

By  yesterday afternoon, he had moved on to garden clean up. We have several large perennial beds, two of which seem to collect leaves because they are under maples in our back yard.  He invited me to help him when he stopped for lunch but I balked saying that I had a ton of school work to finish and had not gotten to even half of it yet. He shrugged and returned outside. I returned to my schoolwork. But, after a morning and short time into the afternoon spent looking at the computer screen, I developed a headache. So, I decided to join my husband in the garden.

I raked up on of the larger perennial beds and dumped the debris onto a tarp which was then dragged over to the brush fire we had going. Sparks and pops could be heard as the dry brown leaves, seed pods, and evergreen branches burned.

After I finished raking, I filled two bird feeders with fresh seed.  I found my headache was gone, I had helped my husband, and gotten some exercise as well. I guess it is true that “every little bit helps.”

I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge for the month of March. Thank you to TwoWritingTeachers.org for hosting this blog writing challenge for the 11th consecutive year.  It is the second year of my participation.

I’m Late, I’m Late, I’m Late for a Very Important ……Slice!

I’m Late, I’m Late, I’m Late for a Very Important ……Slice!

Today’s slice comes to you late!  Usually, I wake up, get my high schooler’s out the door and then write my blog . Whether it is for the Slice of Life Story Challenge as it has been this month, or my usual daily blogging, I like to get it done early.  My blog is usually posted by  8 a.m.. Something about it makes me feel accomplished! But, today, I was out the door myself before 7:30 a.m. to attend a gardening conference!  I just arrived home about 45 minutes ago. During the hours in between, I presented two different 45 minute sessions at the conference, answered numerous questions on Monarchs, Milkweed, and Gardening with Children, wandered through the silent auction which offered a wide variety of tempting items, spoke with our guest, keynote speaker Melinda Myers of the PBS television show Great Lakes Gardener, reacquainted myself with a number of master gardeners, met a few new master gardeners, ate lunch, and listened to two hours of gardening inspiration.

I am ready to start digging!  Yes! I am! New plants await.

I am going to the garden store on the way home!

But, wait a minute….we still have snow!


In the meantime, while I wait for the snow to melt, I will share a few highlights from the conference. 1) The Master Gardeners are a wonderful group of volunteers. Stories were shared, questions were answered, and everyone stayed polite, happy, and relaxed! The rooms were filled with camaraderie and respect.  It renewed my faith in humankind! 2) I bid on a “bee basket” of silent auction items from one of the vendors – a beekeeper, naturally!  I was not the first to bid on the basket and not the last. So sadly, I did not win the goodies. Upon realizing I would not was not willing to up my bid, I went to the vendor himself and bought a pint of his honey and a lotion bar made of honey and wax.  If you’ve been reading along with my blog, you know I’ve been into honey lately! So, I added to my collection – this was not wildflower honey, but basswood honey – only one type of flower flavored this sweet syrupy jar of yumminess……and his prices? They were much more reasonable than honey from the grocery store! A bonus – affordability!

3) I was inspired by our youth. Two female students from a nearby high school presented on their food dehydrator machine, with which their “Earth Club” is using school generated kitchen waste to make into garden fertilizer! They have zero food waste at their high school! Truly, a case of “you go girl(s).” Sadly, I did not get to hear them talk because I presented at the same time!  But, they are on to something, and it is a very inspiring something to say the least!  4) My presentations both went well.  Whew! About 60 people attended my Monarchs, Milkweed, and the Monarch Highway presentation and 25 people attended my presentation on Gardening with Kids. My unexpected glitch discovering Thursday night that one of my power points for today was not saved, did not end up deterring my presentation in the least. In fact, I think my second version was better – even if it did mean giving up most of my day yesterday to complete a second slide show.  Given the reaction of my audience, it was worth it!  5) I felt like I might have inspired others to take action! My plea to help the monarch population involved three steps.

  1. Be Informed
  2. Plant Milkweed
  3. Share What You Know

Of course, there were many more details shared about how to perform those steps. But, you get the idea! Over 50 milkweed seed packets were taken from my table of handouts! I hope they all get planted!


And finally, as I listened to Melinda Myers end her presentations, I realized we had the same take home message: Let’s inspire the next generation of gardeners. Whether it be your friends, neighbors, family, or school children, let us help them all to be inspired to love our earth. It is critical for each of us and for our future.

Silent Sunday: Flowers of 2017

Silent Sunday: Flowers of 2017


Limelight Hydrangea, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Butterfly Bush, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017

Milkweed species in my yard: Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, and Rose Milkweed. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017.

Fall Mums, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Lilacs on Iowa State Campus in May, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Hoary Vervain
Hoary Puccoon, on the Prairie in Trempealeau, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017 

Above: My growing orchid collection.Newest (yellow) to oldest (fuchsia, re-bloom)

Bleeding Heart, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Liatris, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
front clematis
Clematis, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017


Tending My Own Garden

Tending My Own Garden

By 6:50 a.m. this morning, they were gone. My two students were off to the high school for another year. One was excited, and one was reluctant but glad it was the beginning of the end of high school for him.  He is ready for something more.

On the first of this month, I wrote about my wishes for this school year.  The post is filled with reflections, observations, hopes, and desires for the year that starts today.  The first week of September is always jam-packed for my family. Not only is school always scheduled to begin, we also have two birthdays to celebrate, back to back. One today and one tomorrow.  Luckily, we were able to do some celebrating over the weekend, so I feel good about taking care of that.

Now, it is my turn. I need to tend my own garden. I mean this metaphorically as well as literally. Over the last few weeks, I realized that I did not have to run over to school to weed the butterfly garden in an attempt to have it presentable for our students and their families on the first day of school.  I have not missed going, however much I will miss the students. It was a task that always made me resentful, for many reasons. This summer I relieved myself of this self-imposed duty for the first time in 13 years. It actually feels good!

Today, I can tend my own flower garden, not because I have to, but because I want to. Over the weekend I planted mums. Today, I will weed the front perennial bed. Later this week, I will have monarchs to release. And soon, there will be milkweed pods to collect.

Today, I will tend my mental garden. A new round of graduate classes start for me, one of which includes a research study which I am designing and need to prepare to implement by the holidays.  My time is freed up to attend to my own needs as a student, life-long learner, and community educator.

Today, there is much to be done. I have given myself time to do it. Today, while the house is quiet and my students are starting their own year, full of new classes, friends, and activities, I have time to tend my own garden. I am grateful for that.

Via TwoWritingTeachers Blog and Slice of Life Tuesdays

Why do I post about ……..

Why do I post about ……..

Due to our pre-holiday weekend away at our cabin, I missed posting my Silent Sunday Photos. Not only was I unable to post (no internet connection at our cabin), but I truly missed going through the myriad of photographs I have to choose a few to share.


Personally, I receive a lot of inspiration from nature.  Whether it is the colors in flowers or the miracle of metamorphosis, the nature experiences flow over into other aspects of my creative life. This includes writing curriculum, lessons for my third grade writer’s circle students, and making jewelry.  The photographs serve as a motivator and inspiration to create physical items or write words, as well as give rise to ideas. So, I asked myself, why do I post photography when this blog is supposed to be about student enrichment?

It is because students, just like all of us, have different sources for:

  • inspiration
  • motivation
  • creativity
  • perspective
  • exposure to new places

It is about enrichment! My photographs might jog a memory or a dream of a place or time for those viewing them and serve as a motivational source for others as well. My photographs might just be a source of enjoyment or pleasure in looking at a beautiful plant or incredible landscape.


We all need inspiration – why not share my sources? Enjoy!

Orchids, A New Obsession

Orchids, A New Obsession

As a semi-self taught horticulturist, I learned to stay away from orchids. It seemed everything I read warned that these plants were hard to grow, and the person attempting to grow them was doomed to failure. I took these warning seriously and went about my business growing other plants that interested me, but were “easier”.  Over the years, this meant cacti, succulents, carnivorous plants, milkweed, eggplant, and herbs. But, I grew bored.

Approximately, two years ago I purchased two orchids from our local Home Depot store. They were beautiful and affordable! One, I gave to the secretary at our school, who did a lot for me at the time. It was a combined holiday/thank you gift. The other, I kept for my- self. Both were blooming at the time. The blooms on my orchid faded and fell off, twelve months came and went with nothing but the stems getting longer. I did some reading and decided to cut the stems, as instructed, to force another bloom. This is described in a prior blog post.

Six months later, I was rewarded with thirteen flowers in the deepest shade of purple. My care of the orchid was not hard, it just took a little reading and a leap of faith. During the time the flower buds were developing, I bought two additional – smaller orchids at the Ikea store in Minneapolis. These were also blooming at the time. One has continued to bloom and the other faded to just have stems, much like the larger orchid. However, since these plants were much smaller, I left them alone until this week when I repotted them.

The smaller orchids were treated to a repotting with Orchid chips. Soil is not needed since Orchids are epiphytes, living naturally in the sub-tropical regions of our country and elsewhere in the tropics. Epiphytic plants do not need soil, but absorb their nutrients and needed water from the air! They grow on top of other things, like tree branches.

I must be feeling bold with my orchids since I am repotting them but, I am hooked on these fascinating plants. In fact, my mother’s day present was a yellow orchid and I treated myself this past week to a new white and purple orchid from Ikea.  I must be doing something right to be able to grow these plants that I thought were “hard” to have successful with nurturing. Before long, I might even have an orchid collection, not just an orchid obsession!  Happy Gardening!

New Orchids May-June17