Archive for October, 2010


Reader’s Fall Contest

October 15, 2010

Question #1:

What is my favorite movie, one that I’ve watched many times?

PS:  Be sure to include the “post date” where you found the answer.


Budding Garden Thoughts

October 15, 2010

“A fall garden

is an occasion to plant

for a winter harvest.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


2010 Reader’s Fall Contest

October 14, 2010

It’s contest time, starting tomorrow, October 15.

New game, new rules, new prize: 

Michaels $10 Gift Card.

 Here’s the rules and game plan:


  1. You must be a subscriber to play. It’s FREE!
  2.  Watch for random notices with a question pertaining to something written on It’s up to you to find the correct answer and the date posted. Once you do, click on comments, and write your answer. The person with the most correct answers by October 31 midnight is the winner. In the event of a tie, one name will be drawn from the names.
  3. The winner will be notified by email. The winner’s first name and last initial will be announced on


Note: and/or the author have the right to refuse publication of comment(s) unsuitable and/or to exclude them in the above contest. and/or the author also have the right to decide what comments are unsuitable. By playing the “2010 Reader’s Fall Contest” you agree to these terms.  

Best of luck! 


Growing Pansies for Winter Color

October 13, 2010


Pansies are one of those delightful annuals that can flourish in winter, spring, or summer. During cooler months, pansies add invaluable color spots in garden beds and in pots as they bring sunshine to dreary, grey days. Plant now in full sun and they will flower through April or until summer’s first hot days.

Most varieties are two-tone with the classic pansy-like face. The Crown Series, however, is a singular color without the traditional and oftentimes humorous feature, but just a beautiful. Regardless what variety, pansies promise to bring color influence to your winter beds.

A favorite of mine is the Majestic Giants. Their large flowers are an absolute show-off, like the star performer of a Las Vegas dance team. In fact, developed to have long stems for cut flowers, the Majestic Giants won the first All-American selections award for pansies. Most of us forget (me included) or don’t realize is that all pansies are good for cutting. Even the short-stemmed pansies are sweet in a shallow bowl of water placed on a coffee table or bathroom vanity. There’s nothing like fresh flowers indoors to perk up a cold winter day with the pledge of springtime ahead.

Although I’ve never eaten a pansy, or any other flower, pansies are eatable* and downright striking in a bowl of split-pea soup or fluttering about salad greens. Women, you probably won’t snag a man putting pansies in his food, but men, the women will adore you for the gesture. Most anyone, though, would enjoy colorful pansies frozen in ice cubes in a drink.

While pansies will give you months of blooming pleasure, they can get Rhizoctonia, a fungus in soggy soil that will cause pansies to suddenly wilt and die. Once this disease is in the soil, wait a couple of years before planting pansies in the infected area. (Put something else in their place.) Until then, try planting pansies in a different location. If you use a fungicide to prevent Rhizoctonia, check with a professional before planting and always follow the instructions on the label.

Helpful Hints:

  • Avoid buying pansies with yellow foliage and numerous blooms.
  • Choose stocky pansies with dark green foliage, buds, and few blooms.
  • Plant in well-drained soil to prevent stem and root rot. Watch for yellow leaves that die which is an indication of this.
  • Plant the crowns half an inch above the soil.
  • Plant alone as borders, blend with other border flowers, or as groups in front of low-growing shrubs.
  • Plant in pots around the edge of an upright plant placed in the middle, or in a strawberry pot.
  • In cooler climates plant in full sun. In hotter conditions, plant in full sun to part shade.
  • To promote root growth, cut off flowers and leggy stems after or just before transplanting.

  * Never consume any part of an indoor or outdoor plant or flower without knowledge of its history in relation to the use of pesticides or fungicides or if it is poisonus. Grow your own in a safe environment or buy from a certified organic grower. Check with your local poison control center before using flowers/plants in food. Here is a link to an informative website on edible flowers:

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


2010 17th Annual Tomato Tasting Results

October 12, 2010


 The last of my cherry tomato crop, Sun Gold


Sun Gold is a hybrid packed full of sweetness and flavor. My husband would take them to work to share at lunch. Every evening he’d brag to me about how much the guys love my cherry tomatoes. My tomato plant was a gift from friend and Master Gardener Colleen Machado who grows and sells mostly heirloom tomatoes. Thanks, Colleen for sharing such a sweet treasure.

 For those of you who enjoy pouring your heart and soul into vegetable catalogs during the winter months for the next year’s purchase, here’s the Amador Master Gardeners’ 2010 17th Annual Tomato Tasting Results.

 Red and Pink Category

1st Place:  Early Wonder heirloom

 2nd Place:  Big Beef hybrid

3rd Place:  Italian Sweet heirloom.

 Non-red Category

1st Place:  Big Rainbow heirloom

2nd Place:  Golden Girl hybrid

3rd Place:  Nebraska Wedding heirloom

 Cherry Category

1st Place:  Sun Gold hybrid

2nd Place:  Sun Gold hybrid

3rd Place:  Green Grape heirloom 


Carmel by the Sea

October 11, 2010

My husband, Joe, Ralphie, and I had a memorable weekend in Carmel, CA. At home, Ralphie is accustomed to riding on the tractor seat with Joe and in our vehicles, but this was his first trip, and our first one with a pet. We packed half of the backseat to the gills with bags, pillows, and doggie gear, and arranged the other half with Ralphie’s bed from home. As you can see in the photo, Ralphie preferred the front console.

We stopped a couple of times and Ralphie was content all the way, even though the three-hour drive took six hours, thanks to Google’s directions. What should have read 40 miles to one of the exits read 0.4 miles. We thought we missed it, and hightailed back then turned around and retraced the route. By then we were in commute traffic. Once we got out of that mess, figured out the error, and found the exit the same thing happened with the next—and last—turn.

Somehow, we managed to stay calm, and even looked at each other and laughed at our long journey.


Finally at our destination, Ralphie was first to test the mattress but not before he ran past me through the open hotel door into the parking lot. Panic-stricken, I chased after him yelling stop-Ralphie-stop. Ralphie! T-R-E-A-T! Who wouldn’t stop for a treat? Ralphie immediately kneeled down and waited for me to pick him up. With Ralphie in my arms, I turned toward our room and saw Joe step outside to help, then closed the door. Joe looked at me with relief which quickly turned into a sheepish grin, as if to say, “- – – -, I just locked us out of the room.” While Joe went to the hotel office for a key, I waited on the stairs with Ralphie on my lap laughing so hard I must have looked like an anguished mental case. It’s a miracle that I didn’t pee my pants.



After the chaos passed and we had a good night’s sleep, the next morning we headed for the beach where the city allows unleashed dogs. Ralphie loved the sand, the breeze carrying scents of salt water and seaweed. Most of the dogs were busy chasing balls and retrieving sticks tossed into the sea. We walked for a long ways before one doggie ran up to Ralphie demanding playtime. With no playtime experience with other dogs, Ralphie was so scared he couldn’t relax and we had to leave the beach.




 Nevertheless, Ralphie calmed down enough to check out a local gal at Diggidy Dog Boutique. Carmel residents love dogs so much that the merchants put water dishes on the sidewalk outside their shops, some offering treats inside the store. There are dogs in stores, cafes, hotels. Carmel is a dog’s paradise and a pet owner’s sigh of relief.











The next day, we took Ralphie to Valley Hills Nursery in Carmel Valley. He loved the nursery employee. I loved the flowers, especially the primroses. Like most of the flowers growing in Carmel, the primroses are outstanding. They don’t look like this in our nurseries.






We made it home in three hours, flowers on the backseat in place of Ralphie’s bed. Even though chaos and mishaps accompanied us to the sea, we returned to the country relaxed, humored, and filled with laughable memories. 

Note:  When buying plants outside your vicinity or through catalogs, look for those within your zone, but do experiment with inexpensive purchases. Primroses will grow in my zone but I don’t have the right microclimate for them to do well, so I chose two six-pack pansies and a plant that’s new to me in a one-inch pot. Not a big loss if they die.



Budding Garden Thoughts

October 8, 2010 Registered & Protected

Be intimate with nature,

With the one you love;

Dine in an apple orchard,

A forest, or by the seashore.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


How to bring Humor into Garden Beds

October 7, 2010


For centuries, Halloween and scarecrows have spurred the makings of laughable and scary figures on front lawns, porches, and in gardens. With these two traditions in mind, you can bring humor into your garden year round by making the “eager gardener” (seen in the photo above) in less than 30 minutes. Here’s how.


  • Four 2×4 pieces of scrap wood
  • Heavy-duty stapler or 2 thumbtacks
  • Old pants and boots
  • Newspaper or straw
  • Four bricks
  • Two nails
  • Hammer
  • Shovel



  1. For the leg frames, cut two 2×4 boards six inches longer than the old pants being used.
  2. For the base, cut two 2×4 boards approximately 18 inches long.
  3. Place the leg frame in the center of one base and nail together. Repeat for second leg frame.
  4. In the soil, dig out an area 2-3 inches deep x 20 inches diameter and level the area.
  5. Place your leg frames in the area about 7 inches apart.
  6. To secure the leg frames, place a brick on the front and back of each base.
  7. Cover base and bricks with dirt, and mulch with straw if desired.
  8. Slip the pants onto the leg frames and lightly stuff each leg, buttocks, and front of pants with crumbled newspaper or straw.
  9. Slip boots over the leg frames, inside the pant legs.
  10. Staple or thumbtack the back of each pant to the leg frames just below the edge of boot top so the pant legs don’t slip down.


  • To avoid moving your “eager gardener” around, choose a spot where planting won’t take place for several months.
  • Try to avoid an area where overhead sprinklers won’t hit your “eager gardener”.
  • Get the family involved and make a replica of each member.

 Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


How to Repurpose Autumn Leaves

October 6, 2010


Autumn leaves will continue to litter our yards and beds through November or December. You can rake and bag them for the landfill, use as mulch, or toss them in the compost pile. If you have an overwhelming amount of leaves, most (if not all) of them will go to the landfill especially if you live in town. However, you can repurpose the last of the leaves as mulch and for composting. Here are a few tips.

Leaf Mulch:

  • Shred leaves first through a chipper-shredder or run over them a couple of times with the lawnmower to prevent matting which prevents air circulation and water seepage.
  • Leaf mulch isn’t as appealing as other mulches but it’s one of nature’s freebees.
  • Leaves decompose slowly and provide good moisture retention.
  • Leaf mulch adds nitrogen and nutrients to the soil.
  • Leaf mulch does a fair job of weed control.
  • Eucalyptus leaves are slow to breakdown.
  • Use oak leaf mulch for acid-soil plants.

Mulch:  1) covers the soil; 2) retains moisture; 3) cools the soil in the summer and keeps it warm in the winter; 3) keeps topsoil from being washed away; 4) reduces weeds; 5) provides nutrients as it decomposes; 6) should be at least three inches from the base of plants and trees; 7) fine mulch should be one-three inches deep and coarse or shredded matter three-six inches. 

Composting Leaves:

  • Leaves are a good source of carbon.
  • Leaves will decompose faster if shredded.
  • Add leaves to compost pile in layers. If your leaves are green use for green layer. Dry, brown leaves for the brown layer. Turn pile 2 to 3 times per week. Keep moist like a sponge not soggy.

Compost:  1) is decomposed matter worked into the top soil; 2) amends the soil; 3) helps with erosion; 4) helps stimulate healthy root systems; 5) improves soil structure; 6) improves water retention; 7) provides good air circulation.

Note:  1) Oleander leaves should NOT be used as mulch or compost because of the high toxin. 2) Leaves left on lawns can smother the grass. 3) Remove diseased and chemically treated leaves from beds and lawns. Avoid mulching and composting these.   

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Overrun with Autumn Leaves

October 5, 2010

Silver maple leaves litter my driveway with golden hues and playful piles, a pretty sight this time of year. The leaves in the perennial garden aren’t as appealing. Brown, dull oak and yellow locust leaves are caught in every inch of every shrub, vine, groundcover, annual, and the soil.

The trees are undressing faster than I have time to gather their discarded clothing. Until last weekend, my rake hadn’t slipped across the beds in weeks. The landscape (and my life) felt unmanageable. I couldn’t stand the unkempt grounds any longer. Another week and the garden would be such a mess a crew would have to be hired. That’s not in my budget. Therefore, I shifted priorities and spent some time in the garden. First on the agenda was the entrance. 

It’s been several years since I first bought my first flat of Chrysanthemums (paludosum) for cool season color. Every year since, when summer’s heat skyrockets, the chrysanthemums dry up and spill seeds like sugar. Then when fall returns the seeds germinate between the flagstones. Once they reach transplanting size, I relocate them. This year there was enough to fill the beds edging the entrance and three areas in the garden. FREE seasonal flowers. I call that nature’s blessings.

Second on the garden agenda, were the leaves, millions-and-millions of leaves. The job of raking (and some trimming) turned into a two-day effort. Fortunately, my husband helped with the bagging. He’s amazing. Then, at the end of the day, wind dispensed its humor across the grounds. Soft laughter blew through the branches and tilting shadows as millions-and-millions of leaves fluttered downward onto my clean garden floor.

The landscape still feels unmanageable. But I feel better for the effort.


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