Archive for the ‘Feature Story’ Category


Here Come the Winners

March 31, 2015

The 2015 American Horticultural Society gardening book awards have been announced. There are five winners. Congratulations!:


Capture Apples of Uncommon Character by Rowan Jacobsen (Bloomsbury)

With more than 150 art-quality color photographs, Apples of Uncommon Character shows us the fruit in all its glory. Jacobsen collected specimens both common and rare from all over North America, selecting 120 to feature, including the best varieties for eating, baking, and hard-cider making. Each is accompanied by a photograph, history, lore, and a list of characteristics. The book also includes 20 recipes, savory and sweet, resources for buying and growing, and a guide to the best apple festivals. It’s a must-have for every foodie.



The Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier (New Society Publishers)


The Market Gardener is a compendium of la Grelinette’s proven horticultural techniques and innovative growing methods. This complete guide is packed with practical information on:

  • Setting-up a micro-farm by designing biologically intensive cropping systems, all with negligible capital outlay
  • Farming without a tractor and minimizing fossil fuel inputs through the use of the best hand tools, appropriate machinery, and minimum tillage practices
  • Growing mixed vegetables systematically with attention to weed and pest management, crop yields, harvest periods, and pricing approaches



Flora Ilustrata edited by Susan M. Fraser and Vanessa Bezemer Sellers (Yale University Press and New York Botanical Garden)

The renowned LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden counts among its holdings many of the most beautiful and pioneering botanical and horticultural works ever created. More than eight centuries of knowledge, from the twelfth century to the present, are represented in the library’s collection of over one million items. In this sumptuously illustrated volume, international experts introduce us to some of the library’s most fascinating works—exceedingly rare books, stunning botanical artworks, handwritten manuscripts, Renaissance herbals, nursery catalogs, explorers’ notebooks, and more. The contributors hold these treasures up for close inspection and offer surprising insights into their histories and importance.



Weeds of North America by Richard Dickinson and France Royer (University of Chicago Press)

Richard Dickinson and France Royer shed light on this complex world with Weeds of North America, the essential reference for all who wish to understand the science of the all-powerful weed.

Encyclopedic in scope, the book is the first to cover North American weeds at every stage of growth. The book is organized by plant family, and more than five hundred species are featured. Each receives a two-page spread with images and text identification keys. Species are arranged within family alphabetically by scientific name, and entries include vital information on seed viability and germination requirements.
Whether you believe, like Donald Culross Peattie, that “a weed is a plant out of place,” or align with Elizabeth Wheeler Wilcox’s “weeds are but unloved flowers,” Dickinson and Royer provide much-needed background on these intrusive organisms. In the battle with weeds, knowledge truly is power. Weeds of North America is the perfect tool for gardeners, as well as anyone working in the business of weed ecology and control.


Capture 2

Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden by Jessica Walliser (Timber Press)

Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden is a book about bugs and plants, and how to create a garden that benefits from both. In addition to information on companion planting and commercial options for purchasing bugs, there are 19 detailed bug profiles and 39 plant profiles. The bug profiles include a description, a photograph for identification, an explanation of what they do for the garden, and the methods gardeners can use to attract them. The plant profiles highlight the best plants for attracting beneficial bugs and offer detailed information on size, care requirements, zone information, and bloom time. Design plans show gardeners how to design a border specifically for the bugs. This complete, hands-on guide is for anyone looking for a new, natural, and sustainable way to control pests.

Credit:  Book descriptions originally posted on Amazon.

For more information, click on each book title.







Shenandoah Valley: Garden Field Trip

October 7, 2012

This year I’ve been fortunate to visit several private and commercial gardens and farms. One of my favorite farm tours was Abbondanza, Shenandoah Valley, which means abundance in Italian. The farm’s entitlement is also reflective of owner Daniel D’Agostini, retired ecology teacher, leader in school garden programs, renowned photographer, and author of Into the Earth: A Wine Cave Renaissance.

D’Agostini’s passion for horticultural first developed while growing up on Abbondanza among a bloodline of farmers and grape growers. During D’Agostini’s teaching career, he introduced organic gardening to his classroom curriculum. In 2000, he established a large school garden at Barry Elementary in Yuba City, where students experience hands-on organic concepts, and yes, eating veggies, a product of their labor.

After teaching more than twenty-five years, D’Agostini returned to his childhood home to care for his mother. Although she has passed, D’Agostini remains on the inherited property and home where he practices a blend of organic, permaculture, and Biodynamic techniques. According to D’Agostini, “My methods are guided by an inquisitive mind that sees interconnections between everything.” His farming systems include cow manure compost contained by straw bails (two high), compost teas made from yarrow, chamomile, dandelion, valerian, oak bark and nettles, cow pat (, and buried cow horns in producing preparation 500 and 501 (

D’Agostini germinates seeds in a greenhouse he built from new and repurposed materials. Seasonal transplants then go into a half-dozen raised beds he constructed a few feet from his home’s back door. In a clearing beyond the raised beds, he grows over 70 tomato plants, lavender and corn crops. Mindful of his artistic spirit, a variety of vegetable seeds were direct-sown in a huge S-shape bed. Also on the five-acre property are English walnut trees from his childhood, a mission fig planted by D’Agostini’s mother in 1914, and other various trees and vines.

During the farm tour (sponsored by MotherLode Harvest), D’Agostini shared tips such as hand pulling weeds, rotation, and cover crops to control fungal and pest problems, and helpful books including Pests of the Garden and Small Farm:  A grower’s Guide to Using Less Pesticide, available at Amador County Master Gardener Office.

D’Agostini’s produce is sold at the Plymouth Farmer’s Market, and periodically used at Taste, The Union, Amador Vintage Market, as well as the MotherLode Harvest (

For more information on D’Agostini’s school garden work go to:

To view D’Agostini photography go to:

Note to my readers:  My refurbished computer arrived and it’s working wonderfully. I love Windows 7. However, it seems that Softcom isn’t maintaining their dial-up system and the connection fades in and out while I try to open my blog or other sites. I guess wireless equipment takes priority these days. This means I still can’t post from my house. Until other options are available in the rural area where I live and garden, I’ll have to post when I have the time to load up my laptop, articles, and photos and go to a Wi-Fi site. Thank you for hanging in with me. I hope you enjoy this article.


Alden Lane Nursery

October 17, 2011

Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, California, owned by Jacquie Williams-Courtright, is a popular crowd pleaser where novice and experienced gardeners shop for an umbrella of plants and garden accessories. There are so many garden choices and events at Alden Lane Nursery it’s hard to say who benefits most, home gardeners, professional landscapers, or children.

Crowd-pleasing facets include a two-story French country-style breezeway and gift shop. Ancient, heritage valley oaks throughout a grand circular area displaying hundreds of ornamental plants, fruit trees, vegetables, water-garden plants, decorative art, demonstration gardens, pottery, patio furniture, and more.

Throughout the year, Alden Lane Nursery is host to many community events and fun, educational clinics geared toward all ages. Folks like Quilter and Author Margaret J. Miller from Bremerton, Washington, display beautiful handiwork at the nursery’s ‘Quilting in the Garden’ affair. Other events include a Daffodil Show, Open Heart Kitchen, Orchids under the Oaks, Art under the Oaks, summertime Kids Club, County Fair Amateur Gardening Competition, Pumpkin Carving Fun, Beekeeping classes, plant and landscape workshops, seminars and much more.

Before winter sets in, and while fall colors are at their peak, visit Alden Land Nursery. For current workshops and events go to

Alden Lane Nursery is located at 981 Alden Lane, Livermore, CA. Phone:  925- 447-0280


Out of the Box Garden Art

September 12, 2011 Registered & Protected

Giant farm equipment is the last thing you’d expect to encounter in garden beds. But that’s what you’ll see in Kimberly Fruits’ remarkable landscape. Beyond an iron gate and an impressive grove, a massive grain auger and a 1908 threshing machine on either side of a circle driveway surprisingly blend into the scenery. The largest of many farm equipment, agriculture and a strong sense of rewinding time festoons most of the five acres surrounding Kimberly’s, and her late husband, Drexel’s, 5,000 square-foot country home in Acampo, California.

After tearing down and rebuilding the existing 1,800 square-foot house from 1997 to 2000, Kimberly and Drexel began landscaping the grounds in 2001. Drexel replaced borer-infested trees, brought in tons of soil to overlay hardpan, and installed water systems.

For years, Kimberly, a retired bank manager, and Drexel, a pharmacist, sought out auctions, estate sales, thrift stores, and garage sales. They tore down old barns to rebuild rustic sheds, and searched the internet for objects Drexel loved for the history and Kimberly loved because, “My favorite color is rust, and I like old and ugly.”

When Drexel bought agriculture equipment, he’d have a vision for it, drew a picture for Kimberly, then together they’d design a bed for the piece. They built large hills to accommodate timeworn pieces. To border the mounds, they used railroad ties, rocks from their property or broken concrete from the old house’s foundation. Then Kimberly dazzled the beds with flowering perennials and annuals.

Kimberly admits to choosing some of the large pieces like the manure spreader (above) tucked beneath a Japanese Elm tree. Drexel reinforced the rotted-out bottom with metal. He set barrels on the metal, filled them with soil, then added a drip line. Today, Kimberly’s plantings of sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritime), agapanthus (Lily-of-the-Nile), and Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavidus), spills over the sides concealing the barrels. Between the spreader and repurposed concrete path that Kimberly acid washed, are colorful impatiens.

Nearby, purple and yellow lantanas fill a rusty horse feeder. A claw foot tub and an antique hand pump are paired as a water feature. A baby buggy frame holds a galvanized tub with society garlic. Throughout the grounds, wagon wheels, rusty carts, farm tools, cast iron stoves, bicycles and much more are intergraded as accents or focal points.

Everywhere one turns, strolls, or stops to take in the vast number of garden art and picturesque plantings, you realize several visits are needed to see everything. Impossible to miss are the grain auger and threshing machine. Against a vista of redwoods, cedar and pine trees, both pieces appear complete. Although Drexel plumbed the auger and threshing machine for water features, neither were finished when a tragic fall from a scaffold took his life three years ago.

To honor their dreams, Kimberly, a petite grandmother full of energy, spunk, and personal garden memories, has opened the grounds and her amazing home for tours. This is one place you don’t want to miss. Rewinding rich reflections of remarkable garden art and thousands of collectables indoors, Kimberly’s stories are as intriguing and unique as her country estate. © Dianne Marie Andre

For tour and luncheon information contact Kimberly Fruits at 209-334-0138 | |

Kimberly Fruits’ Garden Art Tips:

  • Think outside the box. Almost anything can be a focal point or accent, alone or grouped together.
  • For dynamite weathered finds, go to thrift stores. The more worn and rusty the better. Once it decays, it won’t cost much to replace – a dollar or less.
  • Don’t be afraid of change. If it breaks or decays, modify the bed, patio, porch or wall with another object.
  • Don’t be afraid to use indoor elements outdoors. Again, it can always be replaced.

Field Trip: Duarte Nursery, Inc.

December 3, 2010

Each year Duarte Nursery, near Modesto, California, opens their Poinsettia greenhouse to the public the first Saturday after Thanksgiving Day. The Poinsettia greenhouse sits on a 180-acre complex where the Duarte family grows mostly fruit and nut trees, vines, and 60,000 Poinsettias. Because Duarte Nursery sells to commercial growers, opening their doors to the public each November provides an opportunity to share the Christmas spirit by interacting with the community.

With over 30 Poinsettia varieties and colors, you can choose pinks, reds, burgundy, creamy white, yellow, marbled, mottled, wavy, Poinsettia trees, arrangements, pots, and vases. However, I should warn you, as you walk between the aisles, it’s impossible to choose the best and prettiest Poinsettia because each one is equally superb. The foliage is dark green, perky and plentiful. The bracts are vibrant, aesthetically balanced with dense, full growth from all angles. You won’t find one brown spot, yellow or wilting leaf. Duarte Nursery grows Poinsettias with perfection in mind.




Poinsettia hours are Monday-Saturday 8am-5pm & Sunday 10am-4pm. Poinsettias start at $8/ea.

Duarte Nursery is located at 1555 Baldwin Road, Hughson, California 95326

Phone:  209-531-0351 | Fax:  209-531-0352 | email:

 Monday, look for Poinsettia Care Tips and Facts


Ridge Road Garden Center

November 15, 2010


The sky was gray and light sprinkles appeared off-and-on most of the morning. Regardless, I wanted to check out Ridge Road Garden Center mentioned at many of the workshops sponsored by the Amador County Master Gardeners.

I drove on Highway 88 through the Sierra Nevada scenic route toward the nursery in Pine Grove. After I arrived, I parked my car, opened the door, and immediately felt the chilly mountain air. My breath was visible like steam from a cup of hot chocolate. Nevertheless, the cheery flowers on either side of the nursery’s sign told me this was going to be worth any discomfort I felt.

Sure enough, as I walked past winter vegetables, colorful annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, a beautiful raised bed caught my attention. I checked it out for a few minutes, and then decided it was getting too cold and headed home. Impressed, though, with the raised bed, I returned a few days later to meet Salye LaBelle who manages the nursery for her parents, Bob and Libby Jones.

Salye eagerly shared that it was one of her employees, Stephanie Thomas, who came up with the idea of turning an existing 4 x 75-foot bare-root bin into a children’s garden. They started adding an organic blend of topsoil and compost over six-to-eight inches of sand. Next, a children’s tunnel was installed by using a row of hooped conduits for vegetables to grow on. At the west end of the bed, a teepee made of tall bamboo stakes provides a hiding place beneath trailing vegetables like peas, beans, or cucumbers.

To demonstrate how to sow winter seeds outdoors, and to protect seedlings from harsh weather, Salye and her crew decided to place a cold frame on top of the bed. Cold frames give plants a good start because the frame is bottomless and the roots have plenty of depth to grow before transplanting. Once the large items were in place, cedar steps were weaved throughout the bed. Then Stephanie and Salye launched a class to teach children how to plant winter vegetables.

“We tried to make it fun.” Salye said, “So they could check on the garden and it would be like a little play area and vegetable garden that they had a part in.”

Around twenty children (pre-school age to ten year-olds) arrived with their parents and little hand shovels. The children learned how to plant cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, flowers, and a variety of lettuces.

“Many of the children enjoyed the experience, and their parents bought vegetables to take home to start their own little garden, “Salye said. “We’re going to do another children’s planting day next spring. We’ll keep changing it with the seasons.”

Rain or sunshine, Salye also provides a variety of demonstration classes for grown ups. For information on these and other services, call Salye at 209-296-7210, or go to the Center’s website at

Salye’s Tips for Creating a Children’s Garden:

  • Make it fun; add interesting elements.
  • Use soil with good drainage; explain the importance of soil
  • Hoops are nice for playing under, frost protection, and for vines.
  • Teach children to get winter vegetables in early (before it’s to cold).
  • Use a cold frame to teach children about germination and protecting tender plants.

Field Trip: To a Sea of Trees

October 20, 2010

This month the local garden club, of which I am a member, visited Boething Treeland Farms, a huge wholesale company about five miles south of my house on a remote, rollercoaster road that most people would refer to as the boonies.

Past the security gate, a small office sits above 360 acres of mostly trees, plus shrubs, ground covers, vines, and annuals. Although 100 greenhouses are on site, they aren’t visible among the surrounding vastness of vegetation. Looking out over the land in every direction, you immediately suck in a deep breath of ahh, hold it, and then let out an air of disbelief. Miles of rolling hills dotted with green vegetation appear to be an endless ocean of vertical waves from low surfs to colossal tides.

The company started in 1952 by John and Susan Boething on 32 rural acres in San Fernando Valley. Boething’s mission was to “enhance the quality of life through trees by supplying them to landscapers, architects, developers and other industry professionals” such as Disney World, Florida.

Eventually, Boething added shrubs, ground covers, vines, and annuals, and ultimately seven other farms throughout California. The Clements’ farm where we were visiting is the largest.

First stop was the propagation house. Although the economy has brought business down about 30 percent, Boething employees propagate 20,000 trees and plants per day. November through February, California natives are propagated. Early spring through summer, they propagate annuals and roses. Ninety percent of Boething’s products are grown from their own seeds.

Next, we piled into three vehicles and rode around the farm past waves of trees and shrubs as dusty dirt roads opened to our caravan. (I felt like a child of Moses in the parting of the Red Sea). The farm is divided into labeled sections each managed by a supervisor. One section contained enormous piles of different types of soil (large enough to quality as pyramids) used for planting.

For a small, home gardener like me it’s hard to image using so much soil. Planting thousands of cuttings and transplants, watering hundreds-of-thousands of vegetation (paying the water bill), checking all those drippers, and the brainpower behind organizing every aspect of building and maintaining a 58-year-old business is unimaginable.

Garden-hats off to John and Susan Boething, now deceased, whose passion for trees and commerce allowed them to grow, and then pass the business onto their four daughters now running the Boething Treeland Farms.

Who says you can’t make it big in the boonies.  

The area in the photo above was to the right as you enter Boething Treeland Farms. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a photo of the vast areas of trees that I rode through.



Four O’Clock

June 21, 2010 Registered & Protected

Modesto, CA | If you mention four o’clock to Bob and Betty Cole, they’re not likely to look at their watches. Instead, Bob and Betty will probably open their front door and lead you into a quaint front yard where four-o’clock perennials have grown for one-hundred years.

Bob, 74, has spent most of his life in the 1865 house where his grandparents raised him on two acres. As a young boy, Bob and other children living nearby played where high-traffic streets now run along the Cole’s property. “As kids, we used to herd the chickens around the yard through all the four o’clocks,” Bob said, relaxing in his recliner. “We’d get in trouble. We thought we were cowboys. I’m sure we knocked over a few four o’clocks.”

In addition to chickens, Bob’s grandparents cultivated the property for dietary nourishment. There was a large vegetable garden and trees (orange, grapefruit, fig, apricot, pomegranate, plum, walnut, and olive) planted in the 1800’s. Some of the trees are still thriving, still yielding seasonal produce.

When Bob married Betty, he moved with his bride across town where they had two sons. Several years later (after Bob’s grandparents died) Bob moved back in his grandparents’ house with Betty and their sons, the youngest an infant and the oldest ten. “They say you can never go back home,” Bob commented then laughed. “I never really left.”

By then, the area was no longer country territory. Subdivisions had developed around the two-acre lot. Eventually, on much of the land south of the house, Bob constructed apartments which he still owns and manages. The Coles added a guesthouse and swimming pool beyond the original tank house (now used for garden tools) where snowflakes and paperwhites flower, and a hedge of creeping fig grows on a privacy fence. Staying within the period, the Coles extended the main house by approximately 1,000-square-feet. Although considered small, Bob and Betty’s home is as big and beautiful as the memories it holds.

Betty, who archives the family history with precision and deep appreciation, also tends the four o’clocks and surrounding garden areas. At first, after the Coles moved into the house, Betty wanted to do her “own thing” where the four o’clocks grow. However, Betty said the plants fought back telling her to, “Leave us alone! We belong here.” Today, the four o’clocks remain rooted in history behind a white picket fence. Every summer tiny yellow, red, and white flowers bloom as if it was their first season.

Eventually, Betty found the west side of the yard receptive to her garden desires. There, Betty can plant whatever she wants. Some of these include daffodils, centranthus, feverfew, bluebells, alyssum, and lavender. Betty say’s her garden starts to bloom in December, first with violets followed by paperwhites (also 100 years old), then snowflakes. By Christmas, flag irises (another original plant on the property) are in bloom.

Betty says she could spend eight hours a day gardening. Is it any wonder, with so much ancestral history coming up from the earth? The rewards are vast. Whether gardening or sitting on the front porch, the Coles easily recall loved ones at the whiff of an old-fashioned plant or at the seasonal return of one-hundred-year-old four o’clock perennials. Copyright  © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

Four O’clock Data:


Reproduces by seed

Tuberous root system

Blooms throughout summer.

Reaches three to four feet tall.

Commonly grown as an annual.

A favorite of black bumblebees, and in European gardens.

Flowers open late afternoon and close early the following morning.


Putting Down New Roots

May 17, 2010 Registered & Protected

Stockton, CA | Influenced by his father’s gardening passion, Dale Smith became interested in horticulture between the ages of seven and eight when he entered a landscape project (through a club similar to 4-H) in the local fair. To participate, Dale had to plant and maintain a small bed in his parents’ yard, and then display photos and documentation. Since then, wherever Dale has lived, his hands are in the soil growing perennials, cut flowers, and vegetables.

Eight years ago, Dale and his wife, Leigh, moved from Ontario, Canada, to California for a job transfer. Dale was pleased with the area’s year-round gardening abilities, a bonus for the former seed breeder and current manager of Heinz global seed business.

Once the couple settled into their Stockton residence, Dale started to build flowerbeds over the large Hackberry (Celtis) tree roots in the front yard. Frustrated, Dale hired a crew to remove the roots and existing lawn. Also installed was an automatic sprinkler system and rich organic soil for mounted perennial beds that circled new sod. (Circling rather than following along the lot’s traditional square lines softened the landscape.)

 “I read a lot of gardening books for California to figure out what would grow here,” Dale confessed. “The daylilies and irises I brought with me from Ontario.”

Choosing a blue theme with complimentary hues such as pinks and oranges, Dale filled the beds with a focus on texture, as well. “The great thing about owning your own place,” Dale said, “is if you don’t like it, you can dig it out and move it.” Some of Dale’s plantings include daylilies (his favorite), irises, heathers, cosmos, coneflowers, Western red bud, native or wild hollyhocks, native salvias and columbines, foxgloves, and cannas.


Once a year, Dale adds compost to the beds. Instead of blowing the leaves out of the flowerbeds, Dale blows them into the beds to rot and turn into organic matter. Occasionally Dale will use an all-purpose fertilizer. The only pesticide used is to control the snail and slug family.

On the east side of the house, Dale grows vegetables in raised beds. On the southwest end of the house, there are roses and gladioluses for bouquets that Dale cuts and arranges in vases throughout the house. To learn how to display flowers and keep them fresh, Dale took a flower arranging class offered at the local college. Here are Dale’s flower-cutting tips:

  • Cut flowers when it’s cool, first thing in the morning.
  • Carry a bucket of water with you. Immediately put the cut flower into it.
  • Indoors, cut half-inch off each stem.
  • Strip off leaves that will sit in water.
  • In vase, mix Floral Life preservative in water.
  • Change water every couple of days.

Although Dale’s job takes him all over Europe, Eastern Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia in search of seeds, Dale would rather be home gardening. “I find gardening relaxing,” Dale explains. “I don’t think about work or anything else. I’m thinking about what I’m doing in the garden, what it looks like, and the next plant I can buy.”  Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Ever-Changing Garden

April 12, 2010 Registered & Protected    

Linden, CA | Seventy-eight-year-old Betty Mathis says it’s time to slow down, to curtail more of her 150-variety irises. Even fifty irises are work, as they need dividing every three years. Planted over time, Betty recorded the name and dates of each species on a simple pencil sketch she drew of the yard, divided into E, F, and G sections. Betty may be cutting back on irises, but walk around her one-third-acre garden and there are few signs of decline elsewhere.  

The garden emerged in phases after Betty and her husband built their two-story home in 1960 on one acre. Ten years later, when Betty spotted a couple of orphan poppies near the oak tree in their field, she decided to save them before they were disk under. Betty’s plant-saving measure eventually spread a sea of carroty blooms that flutter in the slightest breeze among her garden beds and in the surrounding field. “You never have to replant them because there is always going to be one coming up someplace,” Betty said, gazing at her poppy field.     

These unusual pink poppies came up in Betty's yard.


Betty has loved flowers since she was big enough to walk around her grandparents’ garden of dahlias and sweet peas. “It was my job,” Betty reminisces, “to pick off the sweet peas. That took an hour or two.” There were so many that every neighbor had bouquets. Betty’s grandfather contributed his flourishing blooms to corncobs! He claimed to dig a trench that he filled with corncobs covered with dirt before planting sweet peas seeds on top. “My grandfather was Polish so he had a since of humor.” Betty said with a grin, “I don’t know how much of this was bull.”  

Absent in Betty’s rambling beds are corncobs and formality. Instead, lapping pathways made of railroad ties are Gerber daisies, larkspur, bachelor buttons, daffodils, forget-me-nots, petunias, roses, hollyhocks, foxgloves, camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas. Betty starts most of her plants from seed. Ordering from her favorite catalogs (Park and Burpee) every year, Betty sows four to six flats covered with domes with overhead lights until they germinate. February or March, she puts them into the ground.  

“There’s no secret to success here,” Betty said. “Plants go in wherever I feel like putting them.” If a plant doesn’t fit into the mix of neighboring flowers, Betty moves it to another location. Betty does practice composting, using natural chicken or steer manure, and deep watering twice weekly when needed. When asked how she controls weeds, Betty replied, “Mr. Right and Mr. Left,” as she tossed up her right and then her left hand into the air.  

Commuters oftentimes stop at the end of the day to take pleasure in Betty’s garden. Others slip seed packets or a note of gratitude in Betty’s mailbox. One man, whose yard is bare, took photos that he enlarged and then covered a window in his house so he could look at flowers.  

Although Betty plans to cut back on irises, her love of flowers remains constant. After all, there are hundreds of low-maintenance horticultural choices, like Betty’s newest interest in lilies and peonies. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre  

White Peonies


Betty Mathis

%d bloggers like this: