Dear Master Gardener: Even with the lack of rain, I have had an outstanding garden this year. Lots of annuals and perennials blooming. Shrubs and trees doing well. If it had not been for the gnats and mosquitoes, it would have been a perfect summer. I really hate to see the season come to an end. Hopefully, you have some ideas to perk me up.
Dear So Glad You Asked: This is a wonderful time of year! I think it is grand, my mother would say “fine and grand,” that the seasons change. Wouldn’t it be boring if the weather, plants and the shrubbery, and the leaves on the trees always stayed the same? The snakes crawl into their holes, the gnats disappear and the mosquitoes go to Alaska. (I saw some of the biggest mosquitoes I have ever seen in Alaska). The foliage on the trees are beautiful. As they fall, you can cancel your gym membership and get out your rake. Rake them up, get your exercise and have free mulch at the same time. Recently, I discovered a big, beautiful pine tree out in the middle of a field at my new cottage. I carefully raked all the old pine straw into two big piles about 10 feet on either side of the tree. I raked lots of pine cones into the straw. The seeds for pine trees are the little flat particles inside the pine cone, not the pine cone itself. I crushed the pine cones just for fun to see if I could get another tree or two. The problem with this is, at my age, I probably won’t live long enough to see these little seeds grow into a big pine tree. However, being an optimist, I say somebody will get to see them. They have to start somewhere. My “long suffering husband” gently reminded me that he owns a pine tree farm and I could pull up some seedings to start trees or, better yet, just rake some straw from under some of those trees. But where is the fun in that? Now is a wonderful time to put seeds in your bird feeders because natural food will be in short supply for your birds. Don’t forget the water. If your bird bath is deep, be sure the birds have something to stand on - a stone or something so their little feet won’t freeze.
As I sit here typing this article, I see a large bed of absolutely beautiful old-fashioned mums booming in the sun, and five quineas pecking around in the grass, and a couple cats making a nuisance of themselves. Christmas is coming and a week or so later, the new year. All is well, and as the saying goes, “Life is Good” during every season.
Dear Master Gardener: Christmas is coming, and it is so expensive. I have lots of friends and family. I want to give each one something, but my Christmas isn’t much fun when I have to spend money I don’t have. Please give me some ideas for gifts that will please my family and friends without breaking the bank.
Dear Sensible: I don’t think Christmas started out to be what it has become today. My husband and I have five children and 17 grandchildren. In addition, we are blessed with friends and lots of extended family. You can imagine what Christmas can cost. Here are a few suggestions I think you might like. How about some of those seeds we have been talking about saving, placed in a cute envelope with a card. Be sure to tell the recipient to put them in the refrigerator. You can buy bird bells for just a few dollars so they can watch the birds at their windows during the cold months. Or a bag of bird seed. An amaryllis bulb that comes in a box is very easy to grow and is a lot of fun to watch in the winter months. How about a few daffodil bulbs? If you wanted to go all out, put them in a pot. Have you rooted any houseplants during the summer? All you would need to add would be a ribbon. A plate of brownies? Who doesn’t like brownies? Gifts don’t need to be expensive, just thoughtful. The greatest gift would be a few minutes of your time. I don’t mean too much time, but a few minutes certainly goes a long way. I have a friend that I love to go to an inexpensive lunch with occasionally. I am too realistic to think that seeds will replace Legos in the hearts of my younger grandchildren or that an amaryllis will replace a little cash for my college-age grandchildren, but I would like to think that my friends and in-laws who are a little older would appreciate a few bowls of vegetable soup rather than another bric-a brac for their mantel piece. Giving an inexpensive, yet thoughtful gift does not a scrooge make.