Wednesday, November 04, 2015

If You Try These Autumn Leaves-Themed Mad Libs, You Won't Believe What Happens Next!*

*I'm still playing with click bait titles, as one example doesn't really make a scientific study. Right?

What's your attitude toward the leaves on the ground this time of year? Nature's gift or scourge of suburbia, try these Mad Libs to uncover your TRUE FEELINGS!

1. Fallen leaves are __________ and should be __________.

2. This time of year, I put all my leaves in ____________ and they all get ________.

3. If I don't rake up all my leaves, my neighbors will ____________.

4. Leaves are Mother Nature's _______________.

5. I have to buy ____________ to ________ my fallen leaves in.

Here are my answers, do not read any farther is you do not like salty or very weird language. 
1. Fallen leaves are _good as gold___ and should be _left alone or composted, or brought up to bed so you can roll around in them, all night long___.

2. This time of year, I put all my leaves in _my pants____ and they all get _real tickle-y_______.

3. If I don't rake up all my leaves, my neighbors will __probably shit on my lawn__________.

4. Leaves are Mother Nature's _hand-knit leg warmers for my garden________.

ALTERNATE 4. As if I was my neighbors... 4. Leaves are Mother Nature's ___used feminine hygiene products and are filthy and offensive and must be hauled away immediately______.

5. I have to buy _a flesh-colored unitard____ to __jump  around in___ my fallen leaves in.

PLEASE, PLEASE add your answers to the Kiss My Aster Facebook page. Because I think you will make me blow hot apple cider out my nose with your answers!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Use This One Weird Trick to Put your Garden to Bed for Winter*

*The title is meant to be like those ridiculous click-bait ones. I'll let you know if it works...

I have one weird trick that will get your garden ready for winter quicker than you can say "Great British Baking Show". Are you ready for it?

1. Don't do anything to your garden and just sit and eat effing caramel corn on your goddamn sofa.

What kind of a barbarian would clear-cut this shit and give Mutha Naytcha a Brazilian? WTF? It's still gorgeous to look at, it gives birds seed to munch on, insects and others a place to hide out for a few months. WHY?? I just don't get it.

If I had cut down my tomatoes when everyone else was, I wouldn't still be getting flipping tomatoes in November! Irises rebloom now, sometimes. My Dahlias still look great, against all odds! How crappy would you feel if you cut it all down and then some serious El Nino shit happened and we never really got winter. 

I can remember, back when I was a North Shore horticulturist, being forced at gun point to cut back a customer's Nepeta in October. It was looking bushy and gorgeous and had a tinge of fall color and it just seemed so wrong! But when cleaning up a customers yard, they expect sanitization. I don't get why anyone that knows what they are doing feels the need for sanitization. You're not saving time in the spring because every kind of evil is still going to blow into your beds over the winter. Leaving everything up might actually cut down on riffraff that comes in. Like garden bouncers.
  • You have something with powdery mildew or some other toxic bullshit you should have nipped months ago. You need to pick up those leaves or whatever and throw them away (not compost them) because you could just incubate more powdery mildew all winter long. 

  • You have seed heads that are just going to make so many plants that you don't know what to do. Well, you knew what you were doing when you planted that Bronze Fennel in the first place, Amanda. No sense crying about it now. Accept the rainforest of fennel you've created and move on. 

With all the time yo save from not being a garden busybody, try volunteering to help people or maybe get a Netflix account.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss.

Hazel peed the bed the last 3 nights. I take that back, she peed the bed 3 nights ago and again 2 nights ago... She then got accustomed to peeing the bed and was up at 5:30 this morning AS IF she HAD peed the bed, but she hadn't. It's been 3 rough pre-dawns. We are both a little ragged.

Since we were up early we hit the gym together, early. She had a melt down because the little cafe in the gym wasn't open. A serious one.She has a strawberry smoothie habit and she wasn't going to be getting her fix today. I had to haul her out of the gym, kicking and screaming, further extending my workout.

Then we are home and it's only 10am and it feels like 2pm. I ask her would she like to go plant a load of lovely, odd-ball bulbs from John Scheepers and she said she would like that.

I should have known from the weird laugh that we were on the precipice of Very Bad Things, but I had bulbs to get in the ground. Isn't that always the way it goes down?
She helped plant the Muscari and it was great. I used it as a way to teach subtraction and I was glowing with that Momular feeling we are all striving for. "Oh, I am beautifying my life and my yard and also teaching my child math. Naturally!"She grabbed the correct marking stick on the first try, prompting me to coo "Hazel, did you learn to read? You are AMAZING!"

I dug holes while she dropped the bulbs in. She also added chatter. The SAME chatter. Over and over.
"Mommm. What's deez root things?"
"Roots, honey"
"What's deez root things?"

When planting the last selection (the sexy Allium 'Forelock') she just lost it. I showed her the place I was gonna dig and she started up, sobbing, "THAT IS NOT WHERE I WANT THEM. YOU ARE GOING TO KILL THEM. HOW COULD YOU? THAT IS NOT THE RIGHT PLACE. YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING."

Holy shit.
I got enough of that when I worked in Landscaping for the Wealthy.

20 minutes of quiet with a coloring book and she's back to lovely. We both are.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Turn Out the Lights, the Party's Over

I woke up to this email
It's a nice warning for a gardener to get, even if the forecast is already changing to a less dire one.  If you think you could benefit from a warning like this, you can get it by using the app IFTTT and this recipe. I've been using this for over a year now and I really like it.

Now that I am properly warned, what am I gonna do about it? Well, I'm feeling very lazy but I'm not ready to say goodbye. The first thing I'll do it make sure everything is deeply watered, because even though that sounds like utter malarkey it totally helps things not freeze. 
Also? I'm taking photos of EVERYTHING. It may be the last photo I get of that plant for 2015. 
Then I will get out the Star Wars sheets and figure out what I can cover and what I'm ready ditch. It's probably time to kiss all the tomatoes goodbye, although it hurts like a papercut with lime juice in it. I will probably try to prolong some of the dahlias though, especially because I've had a miserable dahlia year and some of them are just starting to crank.  Once I get past this weekend, the weather is quite lovely, so whatever I work on saving... It'll be worth it! 

I'll also be bringing in houseplants, succulents and any tropicals I think I can overwinter. Which, I think, should be none if I base my decision making in any sort of reality.  I have an old wood ironing board that gets popped into place and the bulk of plants that come in sit on that all winter, arm-wrestling for sun all winter and then die right before the weather gets nice enough to bring them back out. Basically, winter is just like the Olympics for my vacuum cleaner. 

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Bubble Guppy in a Specimen Jar. What Could Go Wrong?

Dan is in Key West for a friend's birthday, so it's a girls' weekend over here.Just me and my 4-year-old, Hazel. I had an invite to attend The Niche Lab's grand opening party and I figured, since Hazel checked it out and totally enjoyed the lab last week when I dropped off some terrariums, she would enjoy going to the party. 
She lasted 20 minutes.Tops. 

When we dropped by last week, Hazel was in LOVE with all the human anatomical charts and models that decorate the place. She especially loved the specimen jars that held frogs, hedgehogs, chipmunks and kangaroos hearts. She's braver than I am, at 4. 

The shop's owner, Mickey, was great at explaining the jars to Hazel. And during the few days between our first visit and the party, she talked about the jars non-stop.

On Saturday night, right before the party, Hazel decided to make a special specimen jar as a gift for Mickey. Hazel loves Mickey. Hazel wanted to chose a toy from her toy room and shove it in a baby food jar, fill it with water and give it to Mickey at the party. It was then that Hazel was paralyzed by the idea of actually giving one of her toys away (are all 4-year-olds toy misers?) and she had a total meltdown. She was so excited to make and give this thing and freaked out by loss at the same time. It was a massive freak out. We could have filled that jar with tears.
She finally decided on putting Gil from Bubble Guppies in the jar, after trying to jam a white horse into a jar for a few minutes. I was surprised but pleased at the resolution. Hell, I'm happy to get rid of toys any way I can. 

We shoved him in a jar and filled it with water. Get in the car, cruise downtown and go to the party. 

She was sooooo excited to give her specimen jar with the Merboy in it. But once she did, she totally tweaked out on emotions again and I had to stop her from stealing the jar back. 


Here is Hazel asking questions about specimen jars. As Mickey tells her a rabbit is in that jar, Hazel says "you mean a DEAD rabbit". Repeat for every animal.

The Niche Lab is at 3328 W North Ave, Chicago and offers classes to kids and adults in subjects like slime making and taxidermy. I am teaching terrarium class and they have some terrariums I made for sale in their rad shop. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Pretty, Seedy,Edible I Can't Live Without (but I'll NEVER have to try because... did I mention SEEDY?)

I first learned to love Jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum) as an annual. I love the way it defies texture and color rules. It's neon chartreuse and barely pink. Or is it the other way around? It takes up space but doesn't, with it's airy stalks, minute long blooms and long lasting, alien-like seed balls. It's smoke-like and modern. It has presence but also movement. Ah, it's a rare thing, a plant that does many things and is good at all of them.
Talinum paniculatum's airy wands make this photo look weird from a distance

Plus, it seeds out all over the place. Last week I brought some in for a bouquet and I though "oh great, now I'll have it growing out of the crevices in the kitchen floor". It is THAT seedy.
Jewels of Opar- getting clearer now!

How bad can it be, this beautiful plant that seeds out absolutely anywhere, since it's leaves are a terrific addition to salads? It's free, beautiful, food. That can't be bad in my book.
Especially rad if mixed with red leaved lettuces, if you ask me.
There's a flower bud and a few seed heads

It tastes a lot like a leaf. You can take that definition to the bank.

You know what else you can take to the bank? Or maybe the post office? Send me a SASE to Kiss My Aster PO box 194 Palos Park IL 60464 and I'll send you some seeds for this plant. One seed pod per envelope, but it's enough! That's how I got this big bed of them! One seed pod.
I can only keep this up as long as they are out there so let's say this offer expired at the end of September, 2015. Ok?

Thursday, July 09, 2015

New Plant: Kaveri Lily

The fine folks at Longfield Gardens sent me a few of these 'Kaveri' hybrid lily bulbs to try. I almost said "no" because I'm not that into lilies, honestly, but the color and height intrigued me. So they sent them, I stuck them in the ground and LOW AND BEHOLD... I did not expect to love them this much. 
I took these photos with my iPhone so you can imagine what they are like IRL!
The color: Ok, I don't even know how to describe it other than.... It does not look like it IS those colors. It looks like someone has painted these Cheetos/Flaming Hot Cheetos colors onto white bisque porcelain lilies. There's a light coming from within them that's like, whoa. Way better than I expected and I am in LOVE with the color. It looks especially awesome with this black Elderberry and golden Hops all around it. 
I find the name 'Kaveri' hard to remember, so I just remember KABOOM and VERY!

The scent: Since it's a hybrid Lily, it does have a really great smell. Not gaggy like Stargazer. yeah, I know, you LOVVVE how Stargazer smells. 

The height: Advertised at 3'-4', mine is just over 2'. I'm bummed by this, only because I put them someplace that needed a 4' plant. But of course, it could reach that next year. The weather here has been dark and rainy so they really haven't had the best start in life. 
If you stare too long, you may get hypnotized and start thinking you're a chicken. Or something. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pants off! Plants off!

I don't do a lot of landscaping installs, although I like to design them and micromanage them to the end. Sometimes I do an install, here and there, if it's something I think I can hack.

Recently I thought I could hack an install for a customer I've worked for for years setting up new planters at a new residence. It was really, really raining the day I set for the install. I was already there with all these plants, a local garden center had delivered 75 bags of compost (way too much compost, but that's another story) and I was determined to get the work done. However, I didn't realize that all the terraces were on different floors and that accessing each was difficult. One was through a very narrow gangway. How narrow? Amanda-width plus 3 inches. The other terrace was up 2 flights of stairs. And all this wet, heavy soil needs to get to these terraces, in the rain.

Now, I'm dressed for rain in SuperBirkie clogs and a pair of "work jeans" that will not require tugging up every 39 seconds and a tunic-length or short dress-like t-shirt. I had a steady relationship with these jeans and I trusted them. The SuperBirkie clogs were very troubling carrying the wet bags of soil up the stairs but I could manage. And it just kept raining and I kept on trucking through. It was noted that I was very zen about the whole thing.

And then, the sun comes out. YAY! And I keep dragging bags of soil upstairs to fill all these planters until I just totally lose my mind. Like a switch being flipped, I am so uncomfortable I cannot think and I'm just all about how totally uncomfortable I am. I'm so uncomfortable I cannot breathe or think. The jeans are shrinking like Shrinky Dinks and I'm pretty sure I'm going to die from it. My brain is a buzz of severe discomfort, and it's all about my jeans.

I know what you're thinking, but I'm usually pretty tough. I swear.

So, I text the customer that I'm going to have to go because I'm losing my mind over my pants. And she's like "um,ok" and I look at all the work I have left and I think about getting in the car for the 90 minute drive home, sitting in those pants and I...

Take my pants off and Finish. That. Gig. 

Wearing no pants. 
Only after I removed them did I realize the surveillance cameras everywhere. I seriously didn't care, anyways. So, now I'm finished with the job and I walk out to my car wearing no jeans, sat in 2 hours of traffic (no pants) and walked into my daughter's preschool and picked her up wearing nooooooo pannnnnnnnnttts.

A few weeks go by and I did another install and, since the pants-off episode I have bought some seriously kick ass work pants from Duluth Trading and I'm pretty sure I'm never going to have to take my pants off to finish a gig again. But just in case? I brought a nice caftan for the car ride home

Friday, June 05, 2015

Raising the Pink Flag

A long time ago, when I lived in Chicago's Avondale 'hood, there was a woman that had a "famous" native front yard and absolutely no grass. Famous/notorious, take your pick. Half the neighborhood thought it was gorgeous and half thought it was a rat-inducing nightmare. I liked it, but was consistently annoyed by the white landscape flag marking each and every plant. Also, she wore a black bathing suit to work in her garden every day and she looked like Mrs Claus. Those things were not annoying, just totally worth mentioning, for some reason. 

So, fast forward 10 years and I've got every damn plant in my yard marked with a hot pink flag. 

Here's the deal, I'm eliminating my lawn and I keep plopping plants in and moving things around and I'm just not ready to commit to mulch/woodchips yet. In the meantime I'm doing a lot of string-trimming and I have a guy that mows my lawn so I want to be sure no plant gets the guillotine. I have a sea of flipping pink flags, I can't even believe myself. 

So, this morning I'm walking out the door to take Hazel to school and there's a young man in a hard hat and safety vest standing there. Weird. He asks me if all those pink flags are mine, because he has a work order from AT&T to remove all the pink marking flags from a neighborhood project that took place over the winter. 
Glad I was home. Almost. Can you imagine AT&T ever marking a dozen cabbages??? 
Actually, sure. I could. 
I could also imagine them pulling all my damn flags. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Plant of Last Week: Dame's Rocket

I just spent a week winding through the weird back roads of Wisconsin and this plant, Hesperis matronalis, ruled the roadsides. You can call her Dame's Rocket. She screams at you to notice her in ditches and roadsides in bitchin' shades of neon violet. Invasive? Maybe. Depends on where you live so none of your sass.
1. Smells great
2. Butterflies and bees love it
3. I can't get over the color/height for this time of year

So, yes, it's a crazy reseeder. So be the boss, deadhead or pull the whole plant, or stand back with your hands up. I sprinkled 30000000 Hesperis seeds on the borders of this property when we moved in and not one plant came up. I think this plant, like so many sloppy reseeders I have known, likes to have some say in the matter. Much like a toddler. So start one plant from seed, plant that and then you'll have a purple army.

Hesperis matronalis

Hesperis matronalis

Is it a Phlox? No. It's in the cabbage family. Weird right? Totally not a Phlox.

Is it Lunaria annua? No, but gosh, they look a lot a like. The big differnce in my book is the "money", obvi. Also a crazy reseeder and blooming RIGHT NOW. I wonder if they could be friends?
Lunaria annua

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

(Keep Feeling) Fasciation

I remember seeing some seriously messed-up-by-Mother-Nature mutant dandelions when I was a kid, sometimes they looked like 15 stems melted together, sometimes just one giant tube. Although, I'm sure I saw them all the time because I took the time to study dandelions like it was my job when I was 6. Now that I've grown up (physically and not mentally) and actually made it my job, I see these super-sized dandelions less often (again, because I spend less time looking) but I've learned that the correct term for them is "fasciated" or "fasciation". I saw one in my yard today:

In recent years, as Aster Yellows had become a "thing" in my garden (and most of the Midwest if not everywhere) I have wondered if fasciation and Aster Yellows were in cahoots, since dandelions are certainly in the Aster family. It seems they are not related. Not all mutants are related, I guess.

Did you know some plants are bred for their tendencies to fasciate? It's true! Think of Cockscomb Celosia, or my favorite, Fantail Willow, which I'm working on rooting right now and I'll blog about it later.

So, the word of the day is FASCIATION. Just like "Fascination" but without the "n".

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hey Girl: Spring Clean Up Edition

For the record, I only make these because you like them.
If it were up to me, it'd be Ewan McGregor.
I hardly know who Ryan Gosling is. Go figure!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Things That Are Going DOWN

1. All of a sudden, spring is here. The snow is melting and I should be able to actually SEE my garden by the end of the day. It hasn't been accessible in a loooooong time. It's either been too cold or required a snowsuit. I don't play that shizz.

2. I've opened a vintage shop at after some soul searching. It has been a great process so far but now my house is filled with vintage crap, everywhere. I'm not embarrassed to say that Hazel's old pack n play is in the living room and filled with clothing to photograph and measure. Soon I'll have plants and planters available, I just needed to be sure they wouldn't freeze in transit!

3. Speaking at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show next week and the Morton Arboretum the week after. If you don't show up, I'll die.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hey Valentine!

I have a soft spot for Valentine's day, even though I'm far from romantic. So I made these for you. Cut, sign and distribute as needed.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Beauty of The Armpit Garden

This house came only with a very small back garden. It’s oddly situated, tucked around the back of the house, where none of my neighbors can see it but I get great views from inside the house. Because the whole garden is tucked in a nook a) it’s my “armpit garden” b) it’s also got great protection and serves as a pretty bitchin’ microclimate.

But the best part is that this garden is for no one but me. It’s mostly dark and moody- the dream garden of my inner 19 year old. Dark dahlias and way too much bronze fennel, Redbor kale is bolting all over town, towering like Godzilla, Borage is dripping here and there like spilled molasses and I seriously don’t even know why I have spared those gladiolas so long. I’ve already told you about the mannequin (why doesn’t she have a name already??) But you know what? It doesn’t matter. There’s no pressure to please, no need to weed unless I feel like it.

I feel this is an ultimate luxury.

A city building inspector came by to answer some questions about a shed. I jokingly asked if I needed a permit for the mannequin because he was STARING. He said he was surprised the neighbors hadn’t complained and then started to take in the siting genius that is the Armpit Garden, he realized you can’t complain about something you can’t see and gave up.


If you can pull it off, get yourself an armpit garden. Man, there’s just something DEEP about it. At this point in my life, so few things are just about me. My armpit sure is.
and yes, that IS a potty chair in the grass....

Monday, December 22, 2014

Kiss My Christmas!

 It's like I've been in active avoidance of the date, which is December 22nd. I set up an advent tree for Hazel so that we could both keep track of how many days were left until Christmas but I still couldn't grasp it, even with the visual. Between me and you, I even set up the tree 3 days late.

I made a few wreaths, including a 24" one made from clippings from a Yew that grows outside my front door. It was easy to work with and looks fine... it just doesn't smell like an evergreen. In fact, it smells a bit like a aloe plant that's beginning to rot out.
I chose a different route in embellishing it. As usual.

At my front door, I couldn't really find greens I was into so I just went and cut some out of my Mom's yard. I topped them with bowling balls and called it a day. There's some sort of weird wind tunnel action in that area and there are just ALWAYS leaves by the door, as well as inside in our hallway, and I just don't even see them anymore.

I have 2 more areas still under construction but rain/and or glitter is keeping me back.
Lemme know what you think....

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A Little Bit Potting, A Little Bit Party: Reuse THIS!

I've tried a lot of potting benches and I've also tried to be the kind of person that doesn't need a potting bench. I mean, what a luxury piece of furniture! Are potting benches in the same league as bidets? I really do like them. Potting benches, not bidets.
So I really needed one and after looking around I realized there wasn't anything I wanted, specifically.

And then Dan found this:
It's a really old concrete laundry sink he found on Craigslist for nothing. I think he hurt himself in many ways getting it to me. I have a slice of old crappy melamine that covers the top, this is my work surface. I sometimes use a piece of oilcloth, weighted down with tons of clothespins to keep it from blowing away, as a beautifier. You know, for parties and hoedowns.
Oilcloth doesn't like cold weather it gets wrinkly and stiff. I meant to blog this a few weeks ago but it was actually COLDER then than it is now. Yeah, I waited until December when it was warmer...
Chicago is so weird.
When I'm not having a party, the old girl just looks like this....

and then when I'm using it...
I can keep bulk soil in here in potting season but I dwindle down to a small bag some time in fall. Dan bought plugs so I can rinse them out if I want.

But wait, isn't a TWO compartment sink???
The other side, just slid the melamine back...
We can fill it with ice and beer* and have a party! The cement does a great job at keeping drinks cool in summer even without ice and the beer hasn't frozen yet, either. I think it has some seriously magical properties.

Sometimes, especially on Pinterest, there are so many suggestions that no one is every going to think is a good idea and I'm afraid this is one of them. This works SO WELL for me but might look stupid or not work for anyone else, And then there's the hazard of getting a sink that weighs a ton into your yard.
What do you think?

(This is not my selection of beer, it's left over from the wedding and we are trying to pawn it off on... anybody. I am a fancy beer drinker, if at all.)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dug up my Dahlias Today

I don't know about this batch of dahlias. I don't have a good place to store them (my garage is too cold, Ryan, but thanks for the offer!) and they are so cheap to just BUY new ones every spring. PLUS I get to choose new ones instead of the same ol' Dahlias I've known since, like, forever.

Hrrrmmph. They are dug and drying and... we'll see. Maybe I can find a good spot for them.

Also, this happened and I'm too lazy to type it again.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Celluloid Heroes: Vintage Cupcake Toppers for Your Terrariums

Now that the weather is turning evil, I want to blog about junk you can get for next-to-nothing that can be used in your garden. I want to do this regularly, like, weekly. But let's not rush into anything. The first thing I'll drivel on about is kicking up a terrarium a notch using vintage cupcake toppers.
Some of my hoard

It's that time of year where I become interested in terrariums, again. And for me, a terrarium can't just be plants. Nope, it's gotta have some sort of crap decor in there, too, to make it interesting. I do terrariums just like I do gardens, so bring on the weensy plastic bowling balls, vintage junk and microglitter. Or you could just use some old cupcake toppers. They were once the star of the party and now they have been in the back of a junk drawer for 40 years. Why not upcycle these cool cats (and clowns and bridesmaids), get them back out into the light of day and improve that boring ol' terrarium at the same time?
Silver ballerina may or may not have all of her limbs

I often find rad vintage cupcake toppers at garage sales and thrift stores that were practically MADE to be stuck in a terrarium, except they were made to go in cake and and not dirt. Their cake-grabbing spikes adapt to living inside a terrarium perfectly. Often made of plastic or fabulous celluloid, skip the paper, cotton, pipe cleaner or fabric ones. They won't hold up to the moisture in that t'rium of yours.

Yeah, I just shortened "terrarium" to "t'rium" and I expect it to become common jargon for the whole planet, tout de suit.

Here is an Etsy Treausury of a few cupcake topper options I really like. 


  • Make bitchin' baby shower favors by making tiny terrariums out of old baby food jars with these creepy babies in them. I feel like that could be accurately passive-agressive for a lot of new moms. 
  • Ball jars are hot, right? For that DIY wedding, why not terrariums in Ball jars with these happy couples in them?  Also passive-agressive?
  • I love making terrarium Christmas ornaments out of snap-together clear plastic globes that are available at the craft store. Why not squeeze one of these terrifying Santa heads up in that thing?