May-June 2017

Pressed Flower Coasters

by cathym on May 31, 2017

by Cathy Monrad

coastersFinal

Create an everlasting bouquet with these pressed flower coasters. You can use pre-pressed flowers and leaves, or press your own. Search the Internet for techniques and tutorials on the subject. Blossoms and leaves that are nearly paper-thin after pressing, such as pansies, violas, and some herbs and ferns, are best. Glass can be cut to size at your local hardware store, sometimes free of charge. To clean finished coasters, use glass cleaner and paper towel; do not submerge coasters in water; the copper tape edge is not watertight.

 

MATERIALS PER COASTER

Two 4-inch square pieces of 2.0mm thick glass
Pressed pansies, or other very flat flowers or leaves
1/4-inch wide copper tape
Non-water-based clear-drying craft glue
Glass cleaner
Paper towel

TOOLS

Tweezers
Toothpick
Scissors
Popsicle stick

1. Clean glass pieces thoroughly with glass cleaner and paper towel.

2. Use tweezers to arrange pressed flowers/leaves in desired layout on one piece of glass.

3. Remove a flower/leaf with tweezers. Use toothpick to dab a bit of glue on glass, then carefully replace flower/leaf.

4. Repeat step three until all foliage is adhered to glass.

5. Allow glue to dry completely according to glue manufacturer’s instructions.

6. Gently place second piece of glass on top of flowers, aligning edges exactly.

7. Use scissors to cut copper tape to a 16.-inch length, then fold back the first inch or so of backing to expose adhesive.

8. Tilt glass and flower “sandwich” upright while keeping edges aligned. Visually center tape on glass edge with an overlap of 1/4-inch before starting corner. Press down tape with exposed adhesive, first on the top edge, then on the side. Continue to wrap tape around entire perimeter of coaster, peeling off backing as you go, and keeping glass pressed together.

9. Use a popsicle stick to smooth tape along edges, then use to press down and smooth tape overhang on top and bottom of coaster.

 

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and the self-proclaimed garden crafter for the Upstate Gardners’ Journal.

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by Liz Magnanti

Northern-(Baltimore)-Oriole-(Icterus-galbula)-Larry&TeddyPage

Northern (Baltimore) Oriole (Icterus galbula). Photo courtesy Flickr: Larry & Teddy Page

The sounds of spring are in the air! Mornings are filled with the songs and chirps of birds as they try to attract mates and evenings bring the chorus of frogs and toads. Grosbeaks, orioles, warblers, hummingbirds and more have made their way back into the area where they are actively searching out food and nesting sites.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks are fairly large songbirds, with males being black and white with a bright red breast. Females are brown and white and look like oversized sparrows with a large beak. Grosbreaks are in the same family as cardinals and prefer similar food and feeders. An open feeder, such as a tray or hopper, is great for attracting grosbeaks. Load the feeder up with sunflower and safflower seeds for your best opportunity of getting grosbeaks at your feeder.

Orioles are gorgeous orange and black birds that migrate into the area in early May. They can be enticed to stay in your yard by feeding them their favorite foods—jelly, nectar and orange halves. The orioles’ favorite kind of jelly is grape, or birdberry jelly, which is a mix of grape and blackberry. Make sure the jelly you feed them has no artificial sweeteners or corn syrup. Oriole nectar can be purchased as a concentrate or a ready-to-use option. You can also make your own oriole nectar by combining one part sugar to five parts water. Make sure to boil the water before adding the sugar. Never add any dye to the nectar, as it can be harmful to the birds.

Hummingbirds are among the favorite birds to attract, and for good reason! These tiny birds migrate all the way here from Central and South America and arrive around Mother’s Day. Hummingbirds will make a tiny nest where they usually lay two eggs. They are fairly easy to attract, and will eagerly visit hummingbird feeders and tubular flowers. Like for the orioles, you can purchase nectar or make your own. The recipe for hummingbird nectar is one part sugar to four parts water. Hummingbirds also love native plants. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), bee balm (Monarda didyma), wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), and phlox (Phlox maculata) are just a few of their favorites. On the east coast we have only one species of hummingbird, the ruby-throated. These little birds are territorial and will actively defend food sources. The key to getting more hummingbirds in your yard is to put up multiple feeders (preferably out of sight of one another).

The flurry of bird activity has also brought in birds that can be less appealing to us. Grackles and starlings are dark colored birds that are known to decimate feeders and raid bird houses. Grackles are large birds with a black body and iridescent blue head. They migrate south in the winter but arrive back in the early spring. A common concern this time of year is the amount of seed these birds can eat. There are, however, ways to discourage grackles and starlings from coming to your feeders. The first is to switch your seed to safflower seed. Safflower is about the same size and shape as sunflower seed, but it is white in color. Safflower has a bitter taste that keeps away both blackbirds and squirrels. The best part though, is that most backyard birds love it. It is a favorite of cardinals and house finches and is also eaten by chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, blue jays, grosbeaks, finches and more. If blackbirds are raiding your suet feeder, switch to an upside-down suet feeder. These suet cages lie flat with a roof over them, to keep big birds from perching. To get to the suet, the bird must cling upside down on the feeder. This is an easy task for woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees, but it is not possible for grackles. Another way to discourage grackles and blackbirds is to put out feeders with only small perches, or no perches at all. Grackles are large, require a lot of perching room, and prefer feeders with long perches and trays. Without the room to perch it is difficult for them to feed from bird feeders.

One of my favorite things to put out in the yard this time of year is a water feature. Not all birds will come to a feeder or bird house, but they all need water. A shallow source of water is great for small birds and warblers. Large, deep birdbaths may only attract big songbirds like robins, blue jays, and bluebirds that will sit in the bath to drink and bathe. Moving water sources attract birds better than standing water. Add a solar fountain or water wiggler to your birdbath to get even more birds flocking!

 

Liz Magnanti is manager of The Bird House in Brighton.

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by Michael Hannen with Peter House

soaker-hose

Soaker hoses do a much better job of thoroughly soaking the soil at a deeper level than sprinklers.

In a time of shrinking resources, we can all become good stewards of our environment by employing practices of sustainability right in our own home gardens.

As the operator of a small, home-based perennial nursery, I have long adhered to sustainable practices. I use recycled pots. I make my own potting soil comprised of compost, leaf debris, and other garden scraps. I don’t use any chemical fertilizers or insecticides. My potted plants are packed into very tight extra wide rows, and remain outside all year long with no cover or greenhouse. During the growing season I don’t water my potted plants unless they show signs of wilting.

So I was surprised when I received a letter last August from the City of Rochester informing me that my water usage had increased significantly. While I was aware on some level that I was watering more than in other years, I had no idea how much more water I was really using.

The fact that our area has been experiencing moderate drought in the past few years is no doubt well known to anyone who gardens. What may not be as well understood is how the average home gardener can better conserve an ever more precious resource: clean, potable water.

One big change we can all make is in how we water our gardens. Most of us probably use sprinklers in the belief that they simulate rain, and do a good job of covering the entire garden. While this is true, they also waste water in two ways: On dry, low humidity days like we have been experiencing the past few years, much of the water evaporates before it ever reaches the soil. Additionally, water from overhead sprinklers often does not penetrate the soil sufficiently. It will often simply wet the top inch or so, without soaking in.

I discovered that the solution to this problem is soaker hoses. Because the water source is touching the ground instead of hovering five feet above it, the evaporation will be minimal. In my experience, soaker hoses do a much better job of thoroughly soaking the soil at a deeper level than sprinklers. The water department official I spoke with estimated that soaker hoses use as little as half the water that overhead sprinklers do. One final benefit of soaker hoses is that you won’t have water falling on sidewalks, patio furniture, and newly waxed cars.

Even more important than reducing the water we use is maintaining the moisture that is already in the soil. This can be done in a few ways.

While many people use commercial mulch to keep soil moist, I have found that my own garden debris is much better suited to the task. In addition to saving money, this permaculture-like technique is more sustainable. When I prune my plants, pull weeds, or cut dead plants down in the fall, I cut all of this debris into one inch sections with a pair of scissors, or pruners, and drop it right on the garden soil. In fact, I don’t just do this in the fall—I do it all year long. Anytime I deadhead or cut something back, it goes on top of the garden. I find that orange-handled Fiskars scissors from the fabric store are an ideal tool for this task.

This technique will keep new weeds at bay for two weeks or more, add nutrient rich compost to the soil, and preserve soil moisture. One caveat, however: Make sure to check plant debris for disease and unwanted seeds. Don’t despair if you miss a few seeds, as they will germinate into
more weeds to be made into compost.

If you can resist the scorn of your neighbors, you can also follow my lead and simply let autumn leaves stay where they fall. Tree leaves are excellent free mulch. Mixed with your garden debris and a little wood mulch, they break down into nutrient rich compost that will keep weeds down and hold moisture in the soil. This spongy mass also provides habitat for beneficial insects, worms, and caterpillars. Even bees and butterflies will seek refuge in this cool, moist habitat on hot days. Increasing the organic matter in the soil makes it better able to retain moisture.

As any farmer knows, perhaps the most important way to preserve soil moisture is to keep the soil planted. Barren soil leeches water into the air. So keep your garden densely planted with drought-tolerant plants. If they are habitat or pollinator plants, that’s even better.

Tall plants help preserve moisture by providing pools of shade in otherwise sunny areas. Densely planted, tall, leafy plants can create microclimates within your garden. These microclimates can support shorter plants, shade loving native plants, and perennial ground covers, all of which provide habitat, enrich the soil, and preserve moisture.

kerria-japonica

Kerria japonica

pachysandra-procumbens-2

Pachysandra procumbens

The fun part of preserving water in this way is the opportunity to explore new plant material. I find tall native plants such as Vernonia noveboracensis (New York ironweed), helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and any other form of perennial sunflowers are excellent at creating shade. Most helianthus varieties are native to the U.S. (Warning: Jerusalem artichoke, H. tuberosus, which is native and a great food source, is also extremely invasive and nearly impossible to eradicate once you plant it on your property. If you plant it, you will have it forever.) Thalictrum pubescens and T. lucidum, Aralia racemosa, Senna hebecarpa, Rudbeckia nitda, Persicaria polymorpha (giant fleece flower), Kerria japonica, lespedeza (hardy bush pea), double hemp agrimony, and Sambucas laciniata work well also to create a canopy to shelter shade-loving plants.

For the low plants underneath your canopy, variegated lilies-of-the-valley (there are more than 50) only spread a third as much as the traditional lily-of-the-valley and are easier to maintain. Erigeron pulchellum ‘Lynhaven Carpet’, Hylomecom japonica, Anemone nemerosa, Asian Jacks-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema consanguineum, A. fargesii, etc.), and all pinellias produce leaves and flowers from early June until late October.

solomon's-seal

Polygonatum multiflorum

These plant choices would create a self-sustaining habitat garden. Using soaker hoses for minimal water use and minor weeding once established will provide a habitat garden that will feed all forms of wildlife.

As the lack of winter snow indicates, our area is not out of the woods when it comes to drought. This summer may likely be as dry as the last one. The more conscious we become of conserving water, the better able we will be to weather the dry conditions we may have to endure in the years to come.

While most of us in upstate New York will most likely not have to endure water rationing any time soon, unless we are on a well, why wait to start being a better steward of our environment and home?

Why not take the lead now and start practicing more sustainable watering practices and encouraging your neighbors to follow your lead? There is so much we can all be doing to be better stewards of our planet, and the wildlife will thank us for our efforts. I plan to take action now instead of waiting until it’s too late. I put my soaker hoses out as soon as the snow melted, and I plan to be more mindful about my water usage. How about you?

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