Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cedar City, Utah house for sale

My husband and I spent some time in Cedar City last week getting things cleaned up at his mother's house so she can sell it. It's been a long journey getting to this point as the decision to sell has been so difficult, but after a three-year fight with workman's comp, there's really no other choice. We got stranded overnight in Cedar because the Natural Gas pump in town there never has very good pressure, but I did manage to drive in around six a.m. (waaay too early for me), and fill up so we could get home.

If you know anyone looking for a place in that area, her house is a three-bedroom out in the county on five acres. It's fully fenced, but only has minimal landscaping, and boasts great mountain and sunset views. To see more information visit this link or this link.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Making room for fish in the pond

So you have a spot picked out and you know you want to have some fish in your pond. Do you know what kind you are looking for? Most fish will grow until they fill the space available for them. If you have a couple of gold fish in a gallon bowl, they will stay pretty much the same size for as long as you have them. If you put the same two gold fish in a smallish pond, they'll grow quickly. Koi will grow even larger given half a chance and plenty of food.

My fish started out as scrawny little feeders from Wal-Mart last spring. I didn't think they had grown much, but when I added new fish to the pond a couple of weeks ago, there was a huge size difference.

Depending on where you live, you'll need anywhere from one to three feet of depth in your pond. If the water is going to freeze where you live, the fish need eighteen to twenty-four inches of depth, or at least one spot in the pond that is that deep. If you live in really cold areas, you'll want to go deeper. There are other option to keep a bit of the ice open so you have an oxygen exchange, but we'll discuss winterizing the pond in another post.

If you love koi ponds, two feet is not going to cut it. Experts agree that koi need a pond that is at least four feet deep because they need to be able swim vertically. Koi can also be purchased in most pet stores in varying sizes, but most people suggest putting a little more money into your fish and buying larger varieties. The fact that koi can grow to a very large size is one reason many people want to grow them. Other reasons include the large variety of colors and patterns available with koi to dress up your pond.

A couple of things to be aware of before planning your koi pond: first, I only have to feed my goldfish in the cold parts of the year when there are no plants or algae in the water. Koi need to be fed year round because of the different needs of their diets. They require a diet with about forty percent protein. Also, Koi ponds tend to require a bit more maintenance and clean up than gold fish.

Either way, you can't go wrong. My friends' little girl loves to come watch the fish every time they are at our house. There's just something mesmerizing about that flash of color as they flit from the cover of one plant to another.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Trial of the Heart a great read

Every year my family makes a trip to Bear Lake on the Utah/Idaho border for a family reunion, and for the past two years I have taken along a book by Sierra St. James (along with several other books, of course). The first year it was What the Doctor Ordered which kept me in stitches for the entire read. Last year it was Masquerade--which is also a very funny read.

This year I had loaned my most recent Sierra St. James purchase to my sister and had to threaten her with bodily harm if she forgot to bring it with her—not that she was particularly afraid of me, but she found the book within hours of returning home from the Fourth of July weekend. And she read it in record time.

Trial of the Heart is a light, funny romance that kept me laughing from the first page. The main character, Jamie, is a college student who has taken a job cleaning homes to pay her college tuition—and the promise of seventeen dollars an hour was a significant lure, despite the crotchety Mrs. Walden, who made Jamie vacuum the baseboards three times because the old woman could tell by the sound of the vacuum that she hadn’t gotten all of the dust off of them.

After several weeks of working for the ailing woman, Jamie finds herself compelled to be kind to the woman, to try and show a Christ-like love that extends beyond simply not snapping back at complaints of invisible dusty particles she may have missed. As she extends the hand of friendship, her job gets easier, and Mrs. Walden begins to open up to her.

When Mrs. Walden dies, she leaves her vineyard to Jamie—causing a huge uproar in the family resulting in a suit to fight the will. When Mrs. Walden’s impossibly charming grandson gets involved, Jamie finds herself torn between the life he wants to live and what she has always wanted.

Sierra St. James presents hilarious dialog and great characters. Her books are lighthearted and sweet—a nice break from reality while still holding excellent values. I’m hoping she comes out with another women’s romance soon or I might be forced to borrow my niece’s books next year (she writes for young adults under her real name of Janette Rallison).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Planning the spot for your pond

Last week I talked about pond-less water features, one of the many options available out there. There are dozens of possible looks available, so if this option appeals to you, look around and find something that fits your needs.

If you prefer to have a pond and/or stream in your yard, there are a number of considerations. First is size—how big do you want the pond to be? Most experts agree that people generally wish they could have made their ponds slightly larger than they turned out, so consider making it a bit larger than you had originally planned. Are you planning on growing plants and fish, do you want to attract frogs?

The general rule if you want to grow plants is that you need to put it in an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight a day. My pond is against to the north side of the house, which barely squeaks by with the six-hour requirement during the summer. The plants do all right, but they would thrive somewhere a bit more sunny. I also have three goldfish in the pond—I can’t seem to keep more than that alive in the space, so I think I’m going to give up putting more in yet again. Fish need places to hide, so some kind of plant cover is necessary for them to keep away from predators.

Hand in hand with the issue of sunlight is the problem that leaves and falling debris from a tree can cause. Leaves and seeds will need to be cleaned out of the pond periodically so they don’t disintegrate and cause problems in your water, so you will want to consider how much time you want to put into maintaining the pond. My pond is nowhere around any trees, but I still get dirt and debris blowing into it when a good storm comes through. You can see here that I haven't quite finished off the landscaping around the pond--I plant to add a flagstone patio on the far side, hopefully next year. We'll have to see how soon I can put it in.

If you want to draw frogs (and most places this can be done, even if you live a good ways from a body of water), you need to have one side of the pond slope gently so they can get in and out easily.

If you want to draw birds, consider putting a feeder in that area. I didn’t have to worry about drawing birds—my geese and ducks had to be fenced out of the pond because they thought it was the coolest place ever even though it’s tiny. They have a 300 gallon cattle trough that I fill specifically for them to swim in, but they seem more interested in my fish pond. They’re rather attracted to the plants I’m growing in their too.

It’s a good idea to place the pond somewhere that you can see a lot of it. Near a seating area, in part of the view from your family room or kitchen, or near the edge of your patio are some ideas. Ponds take some time to maintain even after you have them up and running, so putting them somewhere that you can enjoy them a lot, and will notice when they need cleaning out is an advantage.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Surprise Packages Delivers

I’ve had The Company of Good Women series by Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, and Carroll Morris on my must read list for quite a while, so when I was offered the chance to review the third book in their series titled Surprise Packages, I jumped at the chance. Though I had every intention of reading them all, the time slipped by and I didn’t have time.

I recommend reading them in order, of course, for many reasons. First, the cast of characters is many and diverse and reading the first two books would have made keeping everyone straight so much easier, as they added people slowly to the rich tapestry of stories instead of going in cold turkey.

More than that, though, is the many years’ worth of stories I kept hearing about throughout that made me wish I could just stop time for a couple of days so I could inhale the first two like I did the last one.

In case you aren’t familiar with the premise, the first book, Almost Sisters, starts with three women all attending BYU Education Week for various reasons and they bond, promising to support each other over the next twenty-five years as they strive to growing into Crusty Old Broads, a term they associate with being strong enough to do what must be done and face trials even when it would be much easier to pull the covers over your head (my definition, not theirs).

In the third book, Deenie moves across the country when her husband gets a new job and she has to figure out who she is in a new place. Juneau has a deep, dark secret she has kept for decades that is insisting to come out, and Erin finds love in the least likely place. Along the journey they overcome personal difficulties, face births, deaths, and Griff—the Great What If.

The writing is vivid and interesting, the characters are realistic with struggles and triumphs, and throughout it all they keep in touch, support each other as they weave their ‘safety nets,’ clean their closets, and celebrate life as they open their surprise packages.

I had intended to put the book down around 11:30 the other night, but stayed up until 2:30 to finish it instead because I couldn’t stop until I had all the answers. The various story lines ensured that there was always something going on, something I had to learn about before I could set it down—and then it was finished. I laughed, I cried, and I appreciated the dedication these three writers must have had to create such a lovely story.

You can purchase this book, you can do so here or here.

Now, to go get my hands on the first two books.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Adding the trickling of water to your yard

There's something so soothing about the sound of running water. I've always had a thing for a bubbling creek, or the sound of waves lapping up on the lake or ocean shore, so when I started looking at putting together my landscape, I knew I had to put in some kind of water feature. There's a huge variety of water features you can put into a yard, from above-ground ponds to pool-less waterfalls, to a short brook running along a shady area to large ponds where owners can actually go fishing.

I'll be covering many different kinds of water features, how to build and maintain them over the next couple of weeks including plants and animal life you might want to include in your yard.

a pool of water in their yard. The possibility of a child drowning is the stuff nightmares are made of whiI know a lot of families are concerned about havingch leaves three options: first, you can fence the water feature in; second, you can build a pool-less water fall; or third, build it above grade.

I'd say fencing the kids out of the water is self-explanatory, so we'll cover pool-less water features today.

Most home stores have fountains you can purchase and assemble in a few simple steps like the one pictured at the top. water flows from the top trickles down the sides and back into the base. The second pictures a much larger fountain which has a bowl tall enough to keep small children from falling into. This may not work if the little ones who play in your yard are prone to climbing.

The third possibility is to have a fountain or waterfall that empties into a bed of gravel that covers an indentation where the water collects and is pumped back up to the top. Most of the time there is a fine hardware cloth or wire mesh that keeps the stones at the top and provides a place for the water to collect. You can even turn wire these to turn on and off at the flip of a switch so they only run when you are in the yard to enjoy them--saving energy.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Cucumbers are good for your skin

Summer vegetables are starting to overflow your kitchen? Those veggies don't have to be reserved for eating, you know. After a hectic summer, and back-to-school routine getting the kids ready for the new year, you deserve a break, and a bit of pampering.

Cucumber, one of the most common garden vegetables, can be used in many pampering recipes. Care for a facial? No problem.

Cucumber masks use part of the vegetable--usually a couple of inches or more up to half. Simply split it open and remove the seeds. Then place your unskinned cucumber in the blender with one egg white and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Some recipes also call for a teaspoon of witch hazel or mint. Blend about ten minutes or until it is a smooth paste. many experts say you should refrigerate the mix for up to ten minutes before use. Apply and wait fifteen to twenty minutes, then remove with warm water and pat your face dry.

This can be an important part of your skin care, and can be used two to three times a week. Don't use a mask more often or it can dry out your skin or cause irritation.

Don't have twenty minutes to wait for the mask to dry? Try a cucumber cleanser in your shower every morning instead. Simply blend a cucumber with half a cup of whole milk. When it is smooth, strain out any bits of seed and place in a jar. This mix should be refrigerated between uses and lasts five to seven days. it's a good idea to test out a bit on your arm if you've never used this before--just to make sure you won't have any funny reactions or rashes appear on your face.

There are lots of recipes out there for peeling masks, toner, and other refreshing choices. And don't forget, when you eyes are baggy, a few minutes with cucumber slices on them can clear those bags right up.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

A lily to surprise the neighbors

In my previous home, I noticed these funny stalks growing up in a neighbor's yard, but with no green foliage. The next thing I knew, they were covered in pink flowers. I actually wondered at first if they were fake because there were still no leaves anywhere on the plants. Later I learned what the plants were--and heard a humorous story about them.

This flower is called many things, Lycoris, Surprise Lily, Magic Lily, Blushing Lady, but most commonly it is called 'Naked Lady' because the leaves come out in early spring, hang around until early summer, then disappear for weeks before the blooms appear.

My parents had one show up randomly in their yard several years ago. My mom was trying to figure out if the gopher that had eaten most of the tulip bulbs had carried it from someone else's yard--she hadn't planted it. A few years later it came up half a dozen feet away from the previous spot. Again the gopher was hard at work. Apparently gophers aren't too excited about this fun flower--which is good news if the pesky things have been eating everything else you've put in the ground.

These are bulbs that grow 12 to 18 inches tall and love the sun. Parts of the plant can be poisonous. The plant requires moderate watering, but doesn't like to be over-watered and it does well in soil with a pH from 5.6-8.5.

Propagation of this bulb comes from runners, splitting clumps, and rhizomes. It rarely sets seed, and when it does, the plants won't come true to their parents. The plants do well from zones 5 to 11, covering a large part of the world. Other cultivars of this plant vary in hardiness and height, so make sure you are getting the right one for your area if you don't live in zones 7-10. They are also available in colors from bright pink to pale pink, to apricot, to white.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Preparedness Principles: a complete resource

Lately I’ve been reading Preparedness Principles by Barbara Salsbury and Sandy Simmons. Being prepared is something that has been oft repeated to us for generations, but by and large, the majority of people don’t have seventy-two hour kits, never mind enough food to feed their families for weeks or months at a time.

After explaining a number of calamities that happened to Salisbury in the introduction, she states: “It is possible to keep going even when the floor drops out from under your feet, but it doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because you are prepared.”

I think the main reason we aren’t ready is because we’re overwhelmed, and unsure how to go about preparing for calamity, whatever it may be—which is why this book is so wonderful. The authors begin by explaining that “Preparedness is much more than just ‘food storage.’ Food certainly factors into it, but it is more than just that. It is self-sufficiency applied in a very personal manner. It is being in control during out-of-control situations.”

The book lays out these kinds of situations by dividing them into four types: 1) Long-term calamity where you may not be able to buy supplies, but you will still be in your home with working power and water, 2) Rainy days and hard times where food and supplies are available, but you may not have the money to buy them, 3) Natural or man-made disasters where you are in your home but unable to leave, and without power or water, and 4) Natural or man-made disaster where you will be required to evacuate your home.

Throughout the rest of the book, you learn how to prepare for each of these types of problems. While they give you a general list of what to pack like other sources, they also give you suggestions and guidelines that you can use to easily tailor your own list to fit your personal needs. These ladies offer a list of suggested foods, but unlike many other preparedness lists, they give you lots of ideas of how to use those items and prepare them for cooking and alternatives for foods you might run out of.

Another difficulty many families encounter is lack of places to put food storage, but even this seemingly impassable problem is addressed. “The second rule for gaining a pantry: don’t limit yourself to spaces normally identified as cupboard space or pantry space. Nooks and crannies and unusual places can play a significant role.” Then they get right into helping you identify places to store the food and supplies you and your family will need if you experience a financial setback or major disaster.

But it doesn’t end at building pantry solutions. The authors take you through preparations for all kinds of disasters from turning off your gas in an emergency, to emergency cooking solutions, creating meals solely from your pantry, to different kinds of gardens for small places. This book has a wealth of knowledge we all can use, and as the authors say: being a little prepared is better than not preparing at all.

This book is 384 pages and can be purchased here. It was published by Cedar Fort, Inc. in August of 2006 and can be ordered at your local bookstore by giving the clerk either ISBN-10: 0882908065 or ISBN-13: 978-0882908065

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

EFY CD available to purchase this week

I love listening to good music when I write, so I was excited to hear that yourldsneighborhood has been awarded the distribution rights the 2008 Especially For Youth CD. I always love the CD's EFY puts out every year, and this one promises to be a good one with Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band, Mindy Gledhill, and Jessie Clark Funk among many other talented musicians.

It will be available for commercial sale next Saturday at and many other retail music stores along the Wasatch Front.The CD is a compilation of songs chosen to support the theme and focus of this year’s program “Steady and Sure” and has become a vital part of the EFY™ tradition. EFY™ is a summer program sponsored by the Church Educational System of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and held in locations through the U.S. and Canada. Go here to learn more about this great program.

Gaylen Rust, president and founder of, said the commercial release edition will contain an additional track not available on the CD distributed to EFY™ participants and feature more robust instrumental accompaniments. “Music is an integral part of a young person’s life and the songs on this CD really speak to the everyday challenges and exhilarating experiences that youth encounter. It’s uplifting and inspiring but also the kind of music that’s fun to listen to anytime. It’s also a way for teens unable to attend EFY™ to catch the spirit and joy of the whole EFY™ event.”

The “Steady and Sure” CD features 12 tracks including “Steady and Sure” – the title track on the disc by Jessie Clark Funk, as well as “Amazing Grace,” by Daniel Beck, “A Woman’s Heart,” by Felicia Wolf, “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” by Mindy Gledhill and “Dream Big,” by Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band--one of my personal favorites. Other artists include Ben Truman, Megan Flinders, Greg Simpson, Hilary Weeks, Terry White, Tim Gates, and a group song “Hurrah for Israel,” by Daniel Beck, Megan Flinders, Jessie Clark Funk and Dan Kartchner. is a new virtual neighborhood launched in November, 2007 where a wide variety of goods and services are sold from clothing and jewelry to sports, scrapbooking, travel, and things of interest to home and family. Visitors can stroll through the neighborhood, stop and browse at retail stores, purchase merchandise, or stop at newsstands to chat with more than a dozen bloggers, read timely articles or listen to audio interviews with newsmakers and hometown heroes.

At Jukebox, a new music feature in the neighborhood, visitors can listen to hundreds of new tunes and download them. A music directory lists dozens of musicians who are available for family reunions, concerts, weddings and other occasions. Besides the virtual neighborhood, produces an informative lifestyle newsletter four times a week delivering thought-provoking and inspiring ideas, and offers special marketing opportunities for artists, musicians and authors – as well as those interested in buying artistic works.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Going tropical in northern climates with bamboo

Do you love the feel of the tropics, but live in a northern climate? I love the my old-fashioned cottage garden, but that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about adding some different elements in far corners of my back yard. I’d love a bamboo screen between me and the neighbors—not that there’s anything wrong with the neighbors, they’re great people, but it would be nice to go into the back yard in my pajamas to let the chickens out for the day without wondering who was seeing me.

I never thought I could grow anything but those little lucky bamboo plants before, but learned differently last year. Bamboo comes in many varieties—including some that are cold hardy to -20 degrees F. You say you live in zone 4 and get four feet of snow in the winter? No problem! There’s a variety of bamboo for you.

Fargesia rufa grows to eight feet tall along most areas of the Wasatch front. It likes the shade and doesn’t need containment because it’s a clumping variety instead of a spreader.

Yellow groove bamboo will grow 6 or 8 feet tall in zone 4, in zone 5 it will reach 12-14 feet, in zone 6 it will top out at18 ft, and in zone 7 it will reach a whopping 40 feet! It has a two-inch diameter at maturity and the culms tend to form crooks, or bends near their base, which makes it a great variety for ornamental uses. There is also a green version of this plant and they are good to negative 20 degrees. It grows aggressively in full sun and stays green all winter.

Phyllostachys nuda grows to a one-inch diameter and up to eighteen feet tall in under fifty days. In zone 7 it will top out at about 30 feet.

Dwarf white stripe is a low-growing ground cover cane with shoots under an inch in diameter and growing no more than four foot tall. It is recommended for zones five and warmer. It likes shady spots. For best growth, mow back the growth in the fall and mulch, then rake back the mulch in the spring and it will shoot up again.

Bamboo is great for things beyond screening from the neighbors—you can use the canes as garden stakes and in other projects as they are very strong and in some varieties can be harvested after a few years. Most varieties take several years to reach full height, while others grow much more quickly and can be harvested more often.

Alternatively, there are other canes out there that aren’t part of the bamboo family that also have a similar look. My local nursery has this cane growing out front and sells cuttings for it every year. It is an invasive variety, so I would have to build some sort of root barrier to contain it if I wanted to use it as a screen. He cuts it to ground level every fall and burns back the rest and it grows up happy as you please every spring.

Bamboo requires more water than many plants in your yard, so you’ll have to keep on top of things. One man in Utah County uses gray water (waste water from the sink) to water his tropical plants every other day. In desert regions you may need to get creative to grow some of these babies, but it can be done. Some varieties need special attention in the fall to prepare it for winter—ask an expert for specifics on your plant.

All of these plants and many, many more are available for mail-order sale on the internet and some may be available at a nursery or garden center near you. Prices can be high, but local sources often sell it for less. Alternatively, you may find someone else who has some who would be willing to trade or sell you a cutting.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Alliums: garlic's pretty cousin

Despite the fact that the heat is still running high in most areas, the time for ordering fall bulbs is approaching. I'm always on the lookout for new and different plants for my yard--something that will stand out. I was thrilled to see allium bulbs in the garden catalog last year, remembering these unusual plants.

Allium belongs to the same family as garlic and onions, and has a slightly garlic-y smell to the plant. In fact, this spring I had forgotten that I had planted the bulbs and spent a few days trying to figure out how my chives had seeded themselves to far away from the mother plant before I realized what they were. Allium comes in different colors and shapes, generally in purple or pink colors though there are blue and even orange varieties. The ones I ordered were drumstick alliums (pictures above), which grow about three feet tall, and have a spherical purple flower about an inch and a half around. They go upward in size from there to the Gladiator which has four or five-inch flowers and grows up to five foot tall.

Some varieties have a less compact shape like these 'sparkler' alliums.

My husband says when he was growing up he had a neighbor who would spray paint their flowers silver when the bloom was nearly finished and they stayed a focal point of that flower bed for weeks afterward.

These flowers have done well in the heat this summer, and haven't showed a bit of wilt though they are watered only about once a week. I'm definitely looking forward to adding some new varieties to my yard.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Book Review: Caught in the Headlights

When I was asked if I would be a stop on Barry K. Phillips’ blog tour for Caught in the Headlights: 10 Lessons Learned The HARD WAY, I thought, ‘Hey, I heard he was funny. It sounds interesting, I’ll give it a whirl.’

This book, however, is so much more than witty comments on life. The book is a quick read at 116 pages, but it’s filled with insights and wisdom so many people today lack. He had me laughing out loud with his somewhat irreverent humor and way of poking fun at himself, but I also stopped a few times to share bits with my family—and not just the funny things. At the same time that he’s imparting common sense with a spoonful (or more) or laughs, he ties it all together with his belief in God, and how that influences each part of his life.

Every lesson includes simple suggestions on how to implement it in our lives while admitting that simple doesn’t necessarily equate with easy.

An example of the kind of thing that struck me as amazingly insightful was when he discussed serendipity and referred to a type that can’t be planned for, but where you find something that is better than what you actually wanted. In Chapter Five he says:

“My personal belief is that God is a big fan of this type of serendipity. He places things in all of our lives that we have to find while in pursuit of good things. We have to be engaged in good works and aware of what is around us. Only then can we take advantage of the blessings he’d like us all to have. It’s a pretty slick way of doing things from his perspective. We all have equal opportunity, but only those on the right path recognize the gifts for what they are.”

I totally believe that. Opportunities are around us, but if we aren’t in the right frame of mind, or spiritual place, depending on what is sitting in front of us, we might not recognize it at all.

I want to share this quick read with all of my family, and intend to read it again myself.

Caught in the Headlights was released this past June by Cedar Fort Inc. and can be purchased here. If you prefer, you can go to you local bookstore and give them the ISBN-10: 1599551675 or ISBN-13: 978-1599551678 to order it. To learn more about Barry, visit his Web site or blog.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Nicotiana--adding sweetness to your garden

I'm always curious and interested in different plants to add to my yard. I love the old standbys--my gladiolas are blooming beautifully right now--but I'm all about adding interest--and if the price is right, so much the better.

Last winter when we had first moved into this house and I was planning out my landscaping, I managed to get in on a few seed swaps and picked up a host of unusual seeds I had never heard of. One of my new favorites includes Nicotiana—also known as Flowering Tobacco.

Flowering Tobacco comes in whites, yellows, pinks and reds and grows to three or four feet tall. Depending on when you get the seeds in the ground, it starts blooming mid summer and keeps up a steady show until frost. It reseeds readily so my three plants last summer spread over a 4x6 foot area, and it came back with little assistance this year. All I had to do was loosen the soil so it could put down some roots and I got a new crop.

It has the most amazingly sweet scent. I sometimes sit out on my front porch in the dark at night--the only time it is cool enough to be outside at this time of year--and close my eyes, just to inhale the honey-sweet smell. It's like the best floral perfume. The blooms don't last long, but it puts off so many, you hardly notice. Humming birds really love the flowers too.

The plant can be propagated by dividing tubers or rhizomes, from herbaceous stem cuttings, or from seed. You can start the seeds indoors and then plant them out after all danger of frost is past, or plant them directly in the ground. My first plants were winter sewn and thrived. All parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested. It requires medium watering--and it's thriving though my beds rarely get watered more than once a week.

Put this flower in full sun or partial shade, and don’t plant it too close to the walkways as it sometimes leans to one side.

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Basil takes the sting away

Basil is one of my favorite herbs of all time. Have you ever been to a really good Italian restaurant where they use fresh basil? Magnifico! If you want the name of a fabulous Italian restaurant in Utah County, ask away. Anyway, because of my love affair with basil, I had to buy some for my herb garden. There are tons of varieties with leaves in different colors—including purple.

Basil adopts other exotic flavors such as lemon, lime and cinnamon. Some varieties are large leaved, while others have very tiny leaves, some are great for vinaigrettes and others are better for gourmet pizzas.

Basil loves full sun, and some varieties are commonly used in landscaping for their compact shapes, or low-growing habits. This versatile plant can be found all over the world from Europe, to the Middle East, from South American to India.

The leaves and flowers can both be used in cooking, and it can be dried as well for winter use—just add one third as much of dried if the recipe calls for fresh. It is commonly used in pasta, tomato-based dishes, beans, and peppers, and the fresh leaves can be used on green salads or steeped for a refreshing tea.

The seeds are even used as flavoring in breads, or soaked in water and made into a drink in the Mediterranean. When infusing basil, it holds its flavor longest in oils, rather than vinegars. Also, the flavor tends to cook out over time, so basil should be added to a dish shortly before removing it from the heat.

There’s a great list of recipes using basil on this site.

Medicinally, the leaves and flowers have been used to combat colds and flu, stomach cramps, migraines, insomnia and depression. It can also be used externally to treat snake bites, insects stings, acne and other skin infections and acts as a mosquito repellent. The seeds soaked into a mucilaginous infusion can be used to treat dysentery, among other illnesses.

It makes a great companion plant in the garden, keeping aphids, mites and tomato horn worms away. It loves full sun, and doesn’t handle freezing temperatures at all, so it must be replanted in the spring for those in colder climates, or it makes a good potted herb if you have a sunny window. In places with cooler summers, like Britain, its best kept indoors unless you are having a very warm summer.

You can start seeds indoor in the spring by covering them with a light layer of dirt and keeping it wet. When the plants are large enough to move, pinch them out and transplant into their own containers. Little plants can be put out after all danger of frost is past.

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