Archive for the ‘Guest Writer’ Category


A Rose By Any Other Name

June 6, 2016

By Heidi Gaul

I love roses, any kind of rose, be it an Old Word variety, a creeper, a climber, a tea rose or a floribunda. But my devotion to these beautiful blooms doesn’t mean they all return the affection. Miniature roses and tree roses are a mystery I haven’t yet been able to solve. I am convinced they begin their death march during the drive home from the nursery.


Give me a hardy showstopper like Jackson & Perkins’ Cherry Parfait Grandiflora,


or Weeks’ About Face Grandiflora, and I’m fine.


Jackson & Perkins’ Julia Child (known as the Absolutely Fabulous in the U.K.) is another sturdy, gorgeous favorite of mine. This floribunda delivers “bouquets” in the prettiest shade of yellow, and though the fragrance is delicate, it is divine.

In the Northwest where I live, one of my biggest challenges is black spot and I fight it diligently with powder and systemics. I’m curious—what is your favorite rose and why? What threats to your roses do you battle?

Heidi Gaul is an avid gardener, writer, and winner of the Cascade Award 2015- Devotionals.

Photography by David Gaul.


Easy Easter Tree Centerpiece

April 2, 2015

By Susie VanDeventer at The Humble Nest of Mrs. V

I picked up some mercury glass mini Easter eggs from Pottery Barn on clearance a while back and just ran across them (again) the other day . . .tucked away {I have a habit of tucking things away and forgetting about them — you too?}


Realizing I didn’t have a way of displaying them I decided to create a little Easter tree centerpiece. I literally snagged a branch from the backyard and gave it a quick sanding, followed by a quick coat of Old White Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (I didn’t have any spray paint on hand, but that would of worked too).

I added the branch to a terra-cotta planter that I previously painted in Old White, as shown here, using some floral foam and a bit of hot glue.

I decided to cover the floral foam with left-over artificial grass I bought at Hobby Lobby. I had used some of the grass previously in my sister’s brunch centerpiece.

Capture 2

 It was easy to cover the foam with this grass.  I just pulled it off the plastic frame and added a large dollop of hot glue to the flat base and held it on the foam for a few seconds . . . working around the branch until all the foam was covered.

Capture 3

To add a bit of Spring to my bare white branch, I pulled a few buds & blooms off a silk cherry blossom branch that had seen better days. {why yes, I do have a closet full of faux florals . . . why do you ask?} I used hot glue to add these blooms to my new Easter tree.

Capture 4

The mini eggs look dazzling on their new tree.

Capture 5

The Egg Hunt sign is a mini-chalkboard on a stick I recently bought from Pick Your Plum. I gave it a quick swipe with Old White Chalk Paint and used a chalk marker to write on it.


I am pretty happy with my little Easter tree —
so much so that I made two and added one to my booth space.
 * * *
 Note from Dianne:  Thank you, Susie, for sharing. I think my gardening friends will love this. What fun it will be collecting and creating your centerpiece or at least a similar rendition. I enjoyed re-posting your how-to article and photos. Happy Easter everyone and God bless you and your loved ones.

Frost Caps for your Garden

December 11, 2013

By Guest Writer and Amador County Master Gardener Bonnie Toy

Untitled-5Winter is definitely on the way, and that can mean pipes broken from the frost. This morning I disconnected all my hoses and rolled most of them up for storage. The standpipes are all wrapped in the foam pipe insulation that you can get from the hardware store, but it has always been a challenge to figure out how to protect the faucet itself – wrap it with rags and string? Insulating tape? A scrap of wall insulation?

I’ve tried a variety of these over the years, and while they all work okay, it is a nuisance to get them all wrapped safely, and it is a hassle to unwrap them again in the spring, only to have to repeat the process for the next frost season.

This year I made frost caps for my faucets. They tie on easily, and can be removed easily in the spring and stored for the next frost season.

I made several different styles and sizes, as I have some hoses that must run all winter to keep the stock troughs full, and I have a couple of 2 headed faucets on a single stand pipe. But most are single faucets on a straight stand pipe.

You do need a sewing machine, but frost caps aren’t hard to make. Here are instructions for the single faucet/single standpipe style. You can modify the dimensions for other configura­tions once you see how easy these things are to assemble.

What you need for 1 frost cap:

2 pieces of water resistant fabric, 8”x16” (I ordered ripstop nylon from Seattle Fabrics)

2 pieces of quilt batting or other insulating material, 8”x16”

1 piece of 1/4” cording, 26” long

Lay the fabric out and top each piece with a piece of insulating material.

Untitled-1Fold each of the pieces in half, so that the fabric is on the outside and the insulation is on the inside. You should now have 2 8” squares with one finished edge (the fold), and 3 unfinished edges. Stack the squares on top of each other, making sure the folded edges are together.

Pin at the 4 corners, doing your best to align the fabric pieces and insulation pieces so that all layers match at the corners.

Fold the cording in half, and push the loop formed by folding it from the inside of the “sandwich” to the outside. The loop should slightly show outside a raw edge, and should be about 1” above the folded edge. The tails should be pulled down so they don’t get caught in the seam.


Now, starting at the folded edge with the loop nearby, sew a few stitches and backstitch. Continue sewing until you have stitched over the loop. Backstitch again. Continue sewing until you get to the corner, turn the corner and sew across the top, turn the corner and then down the other side. Backstitch when you reach the end. Trim your seam allowances and turn the cap right side out.

That’s it! Easy Peasy.


Springtime is Mint Time

March 21, 2012 Registered & Protected

By Guest Writer Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

Mint – a plant that reigns supreme when it comes to a potent freshness that adds a fragrant aroma to your garden as well as your table. This hearty herb is diverse in culinary and curative properties ranging from the Middle East and Asian countries to Northern Europe and the Americas.

But gardeners beware. The quickly growing carpeting ground cover is considered invasive, choking out other garden plants and herbs in close proximity when planted in a flowerbed. For best results, plant mint in a separate area away from other herbs or in a container pot with saucer, so roots will not grow through the drainage hole and take hold in the soil underneath. It is best to keep mint plantings away from other herbs, as the strong mint scent can overtake milder herbs mingling aromas.

Mint flavor is cool, refreshing and aromatic. Plant either root cuttings or seeds in late spring. Choose a rich soil, in a cool, damp, moist location. Mint also tolerates full sun, but generous watering is required. Mulch to protect plants against frost. Garden mint grows profusely from underground runners, requiring cutting back when blooms appear. Thin mint frequently to discourage overgrowth. Harvest small tender leaves at soil level for strongest mint flavor.

In the realm of culinary delights, mint enhances beverages like Mint Julep and hot or iced teas. Mint flavored jellies and syrups are also popular. Many recipes call for mint as seasoning for lamb, pork, peas, potatoes and even desserts including mint flavored ice cream.

The herb is also known for its medicinal properties. For centuries mint has been linked to curatives for stomach ailments, insomnia, headaches and used as a natural diuretic. Beauty regimens including mint have been traced back to Ancient Egypt and the herb is also used as an antiseptic. Mint can also be used to freshen breath and clean teeth.

Mint is an aggressive natural insecticide in the garden, warding off mosquitoes, wasps, hornets, cockroaches and ants.

Springtime is mint time. Enjoy this pungent herb fresh from your garden.

Copyright 2012 Bernadine Chapman-Cruz


Tea and Scones

March 14, 2012 Registered & Protected

By Guest Writer Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

Step back to the old world pleasure of enjoying tea and scones. A cup of tea, especially on a wintery day, and a plate of freshly baked scones spread with preserves made from fruit or berries from your garden, is a marriage made in heaven.

Tea has been a staple for centuries spanning cultures across the globe. A soothing cup of tea has laid claim to being an integral part of sealing deals between countries; celebrated as the elegant, delicate drink of social engagements; and presides as a fundamental component of daily dining traditions. When a cup of tea is served with a scone sweetened with a dab of clotted cream, jam or jelly, the tasty combination conjures up thoughts of coming spring.

The origin of the scone is generally attributed to Scotland, but England and the Netherlands also hold legitimate connections to the scone’s ancestry. The scone is a quick bread comprised of flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk and salt, baked in a small round loaf, many times with the addition of dried fruits such as raisins¸ currants, apricots or cranberries. It is the perfect accompaniment for tea.

Enjoy a pot of tea, a bite of scone, and friendly conversation around the table.

To make a batch of scones assemble the following ingredients:

3 c. flour

½ c. sugar

1 T. plus 1 t. baking powder

½ t. salt

¾ c. butter (chilled)

1 egg

1 c. milk


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. Cut in chilled butter.
  4. Whisk egg and milk, then add to dry ingredients until mixture is moist.
  5. Knead dough on lightly floured surface.
  6. Shape into two ½ inch thick rounds.
  7. Cut each round into 8 equal wedges prior to baking.
  8. Separate pieces to brown all sides.
  9. Bake on greased sheet for 15 minutes or until lightly brown.
  10. Optional: brush wedges with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar prior to baking.


Add: raisins, currants, orange grated orange peel or lemon zest, apricots or cranberries  

Copyright 2012 Bernadine Chapman-Cruz 


Hearts for Your Table and Your Tummy

February 13, 2012 Registered & Protected

By Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

Valentine’s Day is associated with the conventional cupids, flowers, candy and hearts. Keep the loving feeling all month long with a ‘hearts at the table’ theme incorporated into simple imaginative foods and heart themed table settings.  A little thought and a bit of creativity can bring a special kind of love to your table. Inexpensive novelty décor tableware can be purchased for pennies on the dollar during  the frenzy of the Valentine’s Day rush. Discount stores also offer a variety of suitable themed merchandise. Table covers, napkins, plates and decorative accessories, combined with whimsical creative homemade dishes will become the memories that seal family traditions for years to come. Bring a special kind of love to mealtime, one that’s guaranteed to warm the tummy and the heart.


Cut French toast into heart shapes and serve with berry syrup and strawberries

Serve an egg in a basket – also known as, hen in a nest, chicken egg nest, sunshine toast, moon egg or  cowboy egg.  Prepare bread by cutting out a hole with a large heart shaped cookie cutter before breaking egg into the center.

A bowl of oatmeal topped with a heart shaped dollop of strawberry jam


Heart shaped sandwich with cream cheese and strawberry jam filling

Steaming tomato soup with a heart shaped grilled cheese sandwich

Ambrosia, garnished with a maraschino cherry,  served in a heart shaped bowl

Molded heart shaped cottage cheese and strawberry salad

Appetizer:  Heart shaped pieces of cheese with assorted crackers

Entrée:  Baked chicken breast or pork chop with rice or baked potato, accompanied by salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing garnished with strawberries

Dessert:  vanilla ice cream drizzled with cherry cordial

Dinner can be served with wine atop fancy linens accompanied by candlelight

From my heart to yours – enjoy!

Easy Ambrosia Salad

1 can mandarin oranges – drained

1 can crushed pineapple – drained

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1 cup flaked coconut

1 cup sour cream

Mix all ingredients – refrigerate overnight

Bernadine Chapman-Cruz  Copyright 2012


Plant Zones: A Simple Explanation

February 6, 2012 Registered & Protected

By Master Gardener Robin Ivanoff

“Hey, Baby, what’s your zone?”

No— not a bar pickup line!  This is a question plaguing gardeners every spring when new, tempting plants appear in the local nursery. 

Today, most plants have a convenient grow tag on or in the pot with them that gives specifics about light, water and fertilization.  That same tag usually  tells you the ideal planting zone— but unfortunately, there is more than one zone system that may be referenced on a grow tag.

In California and throughout the West, many nurseries utilize the Sunset climate zone system which divides up the west coast states into many more climate zones than does the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Sunset’s climate zones consider the length of each area’s growing season, total rainfall and seasonal rain timing, winter low and summer high temperatures, plus wind and humidity. 

The USDA plant hardiness zones, recently updated, are based on average annual winter temperatures, organized into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones.

Once you know both your planting zones, you are ready to select some of those juicy new plants you’re considering.  Of course, if you’re still not sure, just ask your nursery plant person to help you select the right plants for your area.  When you know your zones, you’ll have better growing success In And Around The Garden.

Robin writes the ‘Master Gardener Minute’ on HomeTown radio show, KVGC 1340-AM, in Jackson, California. She is host of this educational gardening segment  along with Laura Clark, which airs at various times (and actually last longer than a minute) on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.


What Happened to the Rake?

January 24, 2012 Registered & Protected

By Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

Last week, when my newspaper landed on the roof, I searched the tool shed for a rake. I rummaged through shovels, hoes and push brooms, but nary a rake was to be found. In desperation, I grabbed a power washer wand to retrieve my Sunday paper.

I need a rake, I thought. But rather than making a trip to the garden center, I decided to look online.

Googling ‘rake’, I found: (noun) rake – a pronged instrument used to gather material such as leaves or (verb) loosening and smoothing ground surfaces.

Scrolling down, I was amazed at dozens of listings for rakes. I clicked on some hits and quickly realized that rakes had become specialized, designed for a specific task, and it seemed one rake did not infringe on another rake’s territory. I checked more rake options.

• Hand Rake – a small version of a rake used to work the soil or clear areas of debris

• Thatch Rake – lawn grooming tool to remove thatch or moss

• Lake Rake – used to skim the surface of a small body of water, i.e. lake, pool or pond of algae or vegetation

• Landscape Rake – effective in spreading and smoothing mulch, dirt, sand, gravel or small pebbles

• Standard Leaf Rake – for pulling leaves toward the user or lifting garden debris into trash container

• Garden Rake – to break up and pulverize dirt clods, featuring sharp curved teeth and straight-backed tines

• Clog-Free Leaf Rake – comprised of special tines on a uniquely designed head that prevents leaf clog

• Adjustable Leaf Rake – telescopes down to minimal size for easy storage

• Rock Rake – extracts rocks from soil

• Pet Poop Rake – a combination rake and scooper for pet waste

Overwhelmed in my search for a simple old-fashioned rake, I perked up when my cursor stopped on The Amazing Rake described as ergonomically designed to avoid the user’s need to bend or stoop. I was delighted.

But before I clicked the Add to Cart button, I hesitated. If I continued searching, I might find the Perfect Rake – a rake that rakes independently while you sit in a chair drinking a cup of coffee.

Copyright 2012  Bernadine Chapman-Cruz   


Backyard Fruit Trees: The Hardest Pruning Cut You Will Ever Have to Make

January 9, 2012 Registered & Protected

By Ann Ralph

Commercial-size deciduous fruit trees are a difficult backyard proposition. They take too much space. They’re hard to maintain. Much of the fruit produced on these trees will ripen out of reach. People buy “semi-dwarf” fruit trees because they want small trees but, without pruning, most trees classified as “semi-dwarf” grow to be twice as tall as the average person.

Don’t count on rootstock to control the size of a fruit tree. Fruit trees absolutely require regular pruning to keep them in line. At best, an untrained fruit tree will be an eyesore. At worst, trees grow rapidly to unmanageable sizes and set fruit in quantities that defeat both the tree and the gardener.

That being said, it’s easy to keep fruit trees small.

Hudson's Golden Gem apple, first year

Prune a newly planted sapling to knee-high when it first goes in the ground, a radical cut by any standard. By far, this is the most important and difficult pruning cut you will ever have to make, but it almost guarantees fruit tree success, whether you want to keep your tree at six feet or let it grow taller. This pruning cut is critical, not just for size control and aesthetics, but for the ultimate fruit supporting structure of the tree—the scaffold limbs that develop from the buds below the cut.

The final height of a fruit tree is up to the pruner. A good height for a fruit tree is as tall as you can reach. Routine summer pruning makes it a simple matter to scale fruit trees down. This time of year, in the dormant season, remove only what Portland pruner, John Iott, calls “the dead, the diseased, and the disoriented.” If you want to keep your tree short, leave tall upright whips in place for the time being, and head them back near the Summer Solstice. As a rule, prune young trees lightly and older trees more aggressively.

For more information about rootstocks, training, and summer pruning, visit the Dave Wilson Nursery and UC Davis Home Orchard websites. Local Master Gardeners offer excellent seasonal pruning seminars.  © Ann Ralph

Ann Ralph’s pruning book The Little Fruit Tree will be available from Storey Publishing in 2013. Contact her by way of

Hudson's Golden Gem apple, second year


Homemade Popcorn Garlands for Your Christmas Tree

December 5, 2011 Registered & Protected

By Guest Writer Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

Enhance your Christmas décor by trimming your tree with old-fashioned popcorn garlands. This wholesome holiday activity will bring grins and giggles to the entire family, as well as create lasting memories for years to come.


1.  Plain popcorn – no salt or butter added (stale air-popped popcorn works best).

2. Thin waxed dental floss.

3. An embroidery needle.


1. Unwind two arm lengths of dental floss.

2. Thread needle and make a large double knot at end.

3. Insert threaded needle through popcorn and slide down to one inch from the knotted end.

4. Loop knotted end of floss around the first piece of popcorn to establish beginning of chain and tie off to secure.

5. Continue process, sliding each piece of popcorn to the end until one inch of floss remains, then tie off as in #4.

6. When desired number of garlands (estimated calculation at nine to ten feet for each foot of Christmas tree) are complete, it’s time to decorate.

7. Arrange garlands horizontally in circular or swag-like pattern across limbs after affixing lights to tree.

8. Once garlands are in place, decorate tree with other ornamentation.

9. The same process can be used to string fresh cranberries or combine cranberries and popcorn for multi-colored garlands.

10. Discard garlands after one season. Toss into trees, bushes or shrubbery for wildlife to enjoy the labors of your Christmas creativity.

Copyright 2011 © Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

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