We just returned from the beautiful hill country of Central Texas where Joe, Molly Brown and I attended the Southwest Lavender Conference in Kerrville. It was worth driving down there in February and I have to say the roads were in better condition than we could hope for. We drove south on Hwy 550 through snowy Silverton and then onto Albuquerque.
|Joe and I in front of Silverton Visitor Center
We drove into west Texas where it was 90 degrees and sunny in Fort Stockton. What a treat in the middle of winter! Finally arrived in Kerrville and happy to be staying at one of the most beautiful and unique hotels we have ever seen. The Y O Resort is one of a kind hotel. The staff was wonderful and Molly gave it a “paws-up” for good grass and great walking paths.
|In front of the Y.O. Resort in Kerrville, Texas
|The Y.O. Resort lobby
Chelita Riley, president of the Texas Lavender Association and Cathy Slaughter of Gabriel Valley Farms organized the event and by all accounts was very successful. I met people from Texas, Arizona, Oregon, Idaho, Nebraska, Maryland, Puerto Rico and Brazil! There were quite a few new lavender farmers in attendance as well which is very encouraging. It looks like lavender is where vineyards were 20 years ago.
We toured several very scenic attractions in the area including the first olive farm in Texas where I bought several bottles of olive oil and olives. It was market research right? Speaking of market research, I also bought chocolate lavender bark and Herbs de Tejas from Imagine Lavender and lavender-earl grey tea from Wild Springs Tea. I wonder if I can write these items off as business expenses? We also went to M & J Lavender farm and Becker Vineyards. Lunch was at the amazing Trattoria Lisina.
The speakers and forums were very informative and I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. I met Sarah Bader from Lavender at Stonegate in W. Linn, Oregon. She has been a mentor and good force in the lavender industry for years and we are thrilled to have her as our keynote speaker at the upcoming Colorado Lavender Festival here in Western Colorado in July. Check out our website for more festival details at www.coloradolavender.org.
We are glad to be back home in Colorado though. Spring is just around the corner and its time to start planning gardening and home improvement projects. Next time we’ll talk about spring clean up in the garden and the right time to cut back shrubs, grasses and perennials.
Back in 2005, I was daydreaming about having my very own compost bins for months. My friends Bill and Meredith had a super set up with 3 bins – one for fresh material, one for almost finished material and one for the finished product. That’s exactly what I wanted but didn’t have the space for something that elaborate.
You may be asking yourself “What does this have to do with Valentine’s Day gifts?” When you think about Valentine’s Day gifts for women, chocolates, flowers and jewelry come to mind. Luckily, my husband knows me better than that.
The weather that February was especially mild and Joe said “Honey, let’s build the compost bin you’ve been dreaming about!” This is the story of my favorite Valentine’s Day gift.
Joe asked me what dimensions I wanted the bins to be and what materials we need to use so I referenced a good CSU Extension Fact sheet on building your own compost bin. We drew a plan, drove down to Home Depot and picked up some beautiful fresh smelling western red cedar wood for the posts and sides.
Over the next few weekends, we created the most beautiful compost bins I have ever seen. I couldn’t wait to fill them with all of the leaves and garden debris that had collected over the winter.
Because it was February, there wasn’t a lot of “green” material in my pile but it didn’t matter to me. It was still beautiful. I took pictures of it and brought them to Master Gardener class the next week to show my friends. Everybody was very impressed with our masterpiece. And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, my friend Sherry offered me an endless supply of horse manure to help with the composting process. What more could any girl ask for? A handcrafted compost bin made with love by her husband and a girlfriend with horse poop. Life is good. 🙂
Here in the Redlands, we received about 4″ of snow. Good, wet snowball-making snow. Instead of letting it melt down your driveway and into the street, shovel it on your lawn or planting beds. They can always use the extra moisture. Free water and good insulation for tender plants. Now that’s what I call recycling!
Even though its February, I am ready to get outside and dig in the dirt. I’m ready to see what made it over the winter, watch for early blooming crocus and start my compost pile up again.
I love walking around my yard, noting what looks good, what needs to be relocated or taken out and what area can I add new plants to. Last Fall, we had a very large spreading juniper removed from the southeast side of our house. I now have a barren spot approximately 15′ deep and 20′ wide. What an opportunity! I have been thinking about what to plant in this spot all winter long. With full sun and regular irrigation, the choices are endless. I have been studying all of the garden catalogs looking for ideas and inspiration but sometimes I find what looks good in the catalog does not do well in our high desert climate and heavy soils. It doesn’t keep me from trying though.
I love experimenting with new and unusual plants in my garden. I’ve planted many things in my garden that I thought would do well but really had no chance. Like lupines. I love lupines. They remind me of the Texas Bluebonnets I enjoyed while living in Houston and Dallas. Unfortunately, lupines don’t like Grand Junction. They just don’t like our alkaline soils and the pH in my backyard is 8.5.
My newest experiment is an oakleaf hydranga. I planted one in my front yard last October as well as one in a clients yard. Starting with creamy white flowers in Spring that turn soft pink in Fall, brilliant Fall foliage and exfoliating bark that puts on a show all winter long. What more could you ask for! We both think its a chance worth taking. I’ll be sure to post pictures here of its progress this year. Cross your fingers.
Have fun in your garden this year and experiment with something new.