LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Spring Is In The Air

Longing for spring — REALLY? Nothing brightens up your day quite like a trip to Bachman’s Spring is in The Air flower show at the Galleria.

The Galleria welcomed tens of thousands of visitors since the beginning of Galleria Spring is in the Air — Bachman’s Flower Show (formerly at the downtown Minneapolis Macy’s) late last month.

According to Wendy Eisenberg, Galleria general manager, there are 2,500 parking places at the upscale Edina, Minn., shopping location. I drove around three times (surface and underground areas) for 20 minutes today without finding a spot. And I have a handicapped parking allowance! Valet parking is highly recommended!

I had to emember to … look up, look down, and all around … birdhouses (?), bikes (2) and butterflies (8) … were “hidden throughout the floral experience.” A brochure helped locate them.

There were 2,400 bulbs that were coaxed into early blooming by the experts at Bachman’s for the event according to their brochure. Over 100 different types of flowers, trees and plants are displayed in 25 different areas throughout the Galleria on both levels.

Bachman’s also has a shop in the former Chico’s if you want to take a bit of spring back home.


LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — The Rhythms Of Life: Family And Garden

“… all that we behold
Is full of blessings”
—  William Wordsworth

I spent some of the morning with my nonagenarian father, who teaches me each day about dignity and stoicism. When out in public, he almost always wears a hat, and these hats tell about his life.

Garland Crook.
Garland Crook.

I think the fact that he was in the U.S. Army Security Agency reveals much about him and his sense of duty. I remember as a girl when he would often be looking for clues of poachers or other such miscreants who might be in the neighborhood. This made it challenging as a teenager, since in the long run, one couldn’t get away with much. (On one memorable occasion, when I had missed curfew, my parents made me clean out the chicken coop — what a miserable day!) Oh, and the fact that he had a CB radio meant we teenagers were also somewhat monitored.

Each day, my father looks more and more like his mother, Lena Bell, aka Mama Crook, with that square and clenched Ellis jaw. I have that jaw and that way of setting my jaw when I’m having to dig deep for determination. So does my Aunt Fran, one of his sisters.

He has always been a wonderful storyteller and appreciates a good joke. Whenever he sees my husband, he asks about the fishing. His brother tried to convince him once that he’d be a good tournament fisher, and though it wasn’t the path he took in life, I’m sure my uncle was right.

You can read more about my Daddy and his service in the U.S. Army here.

In my garden, the daylilies are waning.

Jim canned the first jars of tomato juice and made more pickles.

I cooked the promised tomatoes stuffed with black rice risotto, along with a slab of baked salmon, taking advantage of the cool weather in which to bake. We ate it on the patio, savoring the last few moments here on the northern Plains to eat outside.

ERIC BERGESON: Photo Gallery — Bergeson Gardens

Bergeson Gardens, located southeast of Fertile, Minn., at Bergeson Nursery, is in full bloom and will be through early September. There will be an open house at the nursery Saturday, which will feature free coffee and donuts, food and ice cream for sale, music (11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and garden tours (10 a.m. and 2 p.m.). All plants will be 20 percent off Saturday and Sunday only.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 24

Three-quarter of an inch of rain in a wondrous thunderstorm this morning (Wednesday) started the day off right here at Red Oak House. For the second day in a row, it will be cool enough for us to leave the windows open all day.

Vegetable harvest has begun in earnest and Jim has frozen many bags already.

Last night, we had what we call “nothing from the store supper.” The first new potatoes, beans, broccoli and walleye. Who needs a restaurant?

As you can see from the plate above, we’ve begun to eat our heirloom tomatoes. These are bloody butchers. The jungle promises much more tomato bliss to come.

Other blooming plants make our garden a real oasis of tranquility in the midst of a bustling city.

On a different note, this song I’ve been listening to on Jackson Browne Solo Acoustic is running through my head:


Everybody I talk to is ready to leave

With the light of the morning

They’ve seen the end coming down

Long enough to believe

That they’ve heard their last warning

Standing alone

Each has his own ticket in his hand

And as the evening descends

I sit thinking ’bout Everyman

Seems like I’ve always been

Looking for some other place

To get it together

Where with a few of my friends

I could give up the race

And maybe find something better

But all my fine dreams

Well thought out schemes

To gain the motherland

Have all eventually come down

To waiting for Everyman

Waiting here for Everyman

Make it on your own if you think you can

If you see somewhere to go I understand

Waiting here for Everyman

Don’t ask me if he’ll show, baby I don’t know

In different lighting, Wide Wide World daylily, shows off different hues so why not one more photo? It’s my blog after all.

Time for Manhattans in the shade of the front patio.  Cheers!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak Garden Notes No. 21 — Daylily Time Has Come

Gentle reader, I’ve been writing about the past, but today, it is time to return to my garden notes as the daylilies are exploding in all their glory.  Between my sister and I, we have 219 varieties of daylily. They are fairly easy to grow and hardy in our northern climate.

Little Audrey Daylily.
Little Audrey Daylily.

I was first exposed to daylilies by my friend and mentor, Bernnett Reinke, who was a very enthusiastic collector. Every three years or so, in order for these to thrive, the plant should be divided. Thus, it was that Bern gave me my first daylilies.

When we bought Red Oak House, I joined the Central Dakota Daylily Society and attended my first member auction in the basement of the Bismarck Public Library. At the auction, the bounty of the club’s divisions are sold. Pictures of the cultivars are shown on the screen as well as the particulars like color, height, time of bloom and so on. The club chooses the daylilies carefully for our growing zone and also selects for beauty. Since, then, it has become an annual event for my sister and I, and we come armed with our Excel list of varieties we already own and our newsletter list marked up as our wish list.

In addition to my database, I have markers for all of my perennials. My sister does a better job than I, as she also has a map of her flower beds.

In the fall, she and I are going to have a plant sale. It will be lots of work, but our plants have grown to the point that we can do this with those we both have, and we can build a slush fund for purchasing new varieties.

Peak bloom time has not yet arrived in my yard, but it is almost here. Meanwhile, here are more photos from today.

Listening to the radio as we drove home, we heard news that some parts of the Bad Lands received 1 inch of rain in Monday night’s storm. That is terrific news,m and I hope it is helping them in the efforts to tamp down that monster (fire).

It is good to be home. My sister has left a container full of her raspberries in our fridge. It is cool in the yard this evening — all things being relative.

I’ve got some de-heading to do.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 19

Spring flowers have given way to the summer blossoms in our garden. We eat fresh greens every day and give away radishes. The garlic crop is pathetic, and it makes me sad to look at it as, the new bed Jim prepared last fall was too rich. Our purple-hulled pea crop is also a disappointment, as I fear we were too frugal in using last year’s remainder seeds.

I cannot buy purple-hulled peas here and, in my estimation, the black-eyed peas I can buy in Bismarck are like cheap whiskey is to Jack Daniels, much less savoury, no matter how they are prepared. My Aunt Frances from Alabama agrees with me on this point, so you don’t get much more of an authority than her.

It is time now to spend huge swaths of time sitting under the patio umbrella and reading. The house wrens have raised their first clutch and may be started on the second.


LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 18

On Thursday, I spent the day on my hands and knees pulling weeds at Red Oak House. I have no complaints, as this is a quiet task, and I like quiet, solitary tasks.  The millions of elm seeds that blew in have sprouted and needed to be removed, and aspens sprout in all sorts of unwanted places. While I worked, I was serenaded by my resident house wren.

Midmorning, Daddy stopped by to pick up his fresh radishes. And after Jim gave him a tour of the gardens, Jim surprised him with an early tomato. I wish you could have seen the grin on his face as he held it in his gnarled hand. This caused me to remember how valiantly he tried to grow tomatoes in Slope County, naturally with far less success than his kin in Mississippi.

Daddy asked me if we had our flag out for Flag Day, and my answer was, yes, we have it out every day. (Well, we do put it away in the darkest months here on the northern Plains, January and February.) Being retired U.S. Army, Daddy is a stickler for proper flag etiquette, and rightly so.

A few daylilies have made their appearance. There will be hundreds more in the upcoming months.

Dark Towers Penstemon.
Dark Towers Penstemon.

The peonies and irises are beginning to fade, and so I deadheaded them. I go around the yard each day now with my bucket and my clipper and cut back spent blossoms.

When I work in the garden, I often think of my friend and longtime mentor, Bernnett Reinke, for whom I worked for 20 years, who was not only a top-notch librarian but also a master gardener. Bern generously gave me many plants and taught me much of what I know about flower gardening.

We had to take our mower to the shop Monday, and if I don’t get it back soon, I’ll be needing a swather for my tiny patch of grass.

It is a privilege to be able to quietly work in our gardens. My last task outside today was to weed the strawberry patch. I rejuvenated it last fall, pruning back the plants hard and composting from our compost pile (located in the very back corner of the yard, fortunately, near to the strawberry patch). Thus, it is that we are not harvesting much fruit this year. A blessing was that the wood rose bushes are blooming, and I got to revel in their fragrance.

My lavender has begun to bloom and will continue now for many weeks. I use a great deal of lavender oil for my bed sheets and such because it is such a pleasing and calming fragrance.

Jim spent all of Thursday weeding the vegetables, and today he has spent the morning writing on his blog. The wind is blowing too much for the “boys” to fish.  He wrote about a topic we are both passionate in opposition to: the proposed refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park. 

Gardening, writing and reading are three of our main activities here, punctuated by camping and going to concerts. My husband, Jim, says “he created a monster” when I started blogging, but I laugh and remind him that I created my blog all on my very own, thank you very much, and I’ve lived with him blogging for years now!

The temperature returned to a more pleasant 81, and we’ve been able to keep the windows open all the day long.

I got my bike fixed at the local shop and took my first ride of the year Wednesday on the neighborhood path around Tom O’Leary Golf Course. It felt good to be out with fellow North Dakotans enjoying the beautiful day, and I’m grateful that Bismarck has a great system of walking paths scattered all around the city. The path I took was busy with dog walkers and children.

My husband says that the most satisfying thing that he does is his vegetable garden. He actually bought more stuff to plant. Sweet potatoes and jalenpo peppers. Let the record show that he made the most recent trip to buy plants.

As for me, the most satisfying thing I’m going to do today is to take a hot shower!

The day ended with Caprese salad on our shaded front patio.  Doesn’t he look content?

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 17

Back to Red Oak House garden notes for the summer of 2017 in Bismarck.

This tree peony given to me by my friend, Bob Martinson, three years ago has become one of my favorites, not only for its yellow beauty but also because it is a symbol of the generosity of a fellow gardener.

My sister and I agreed that now that our gardens are in full bloom, we can’t think of many places we’d rather be than in our yards, pulling weeds, deadheading, harvesting vegetables and just enjoying the fruits of our labors.

The irises are still in full bloom and the peonies have begun.

Other perennials have begun to blossom. I missed the first daylily when we were in the Bad Lands, but there are hundreds more to come, so all is well.

Sunday night we ate the first of Jim’s lettuce with the first tomato. Monday, more fresh walleye.  Life is good.

Did I mention I love yellow?

Three-quarters of an inch of glorious rain in the night. Did I mention that we are richly blessed? We awake to morning coffee and give thanks that the drought is at least partially broken. Time for me to do some weeding.

“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” — Anne Sexton

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Birding The Apple Creek Wetlands

Went to the Apple Creek wetlands east of Bismarck on Sunday morning to bird with my daughter, Chelsea Sorenson. She is a budding photographer and quite a good birder in her own right. May was such a windy month here that we didn’t do much birding; hence, we missed many of the migrating birds that hurry north to the Arctic. But our time Sunday was rewarded with some good sightings.  Here are a few of the best of my daughter’s photos this week.

You can see more of her photography on Facebook on her “Wild Dakota Photos” page.

Later Sunday afternoon, I attended the (sadly) final “Conversation” at Bismarck State College, presented by President Larry Skogen and Clay S. Jenkinson. The topic was “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”

I’ve attended as many of these as I’ve been able and have learned so much from these scholars, and I know the room was filled with people who are very sorry that the program has come to an end (due to budget cuts). The crowd gave Clay a standing ovation. If you are interested in following Clay’s work, you can find more on his website and on the “Conversations” website.

The Red Oak House garden is exploding with irises and the air is filled with their delicate and sweet fragrance.  New ones this week were:

Spring and summer are such busy and happy times in North Dakota.

“It’s enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment.” — Gabriel Garcia Marquez

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Busy Times At Red Oak House

It is such a busy time at Red Oak House. So much is happening in the garden.  More on that later.

But first, this past weekend was filled with the gift of family. My sister, Sarah, brought my daughter, Rachel, from Dickinson, N.D., for the weekend. Sunday, my day started with brunch with my daughters and husband. They presented me with perhaps the nicest Mother’s Day gift I’ve ever received, a print of one of my daughter’s standout photographs of a wild stallion taken in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Then we had my mother and my sisters over for a picnic of fried chicken and the fixings on the patio and sat and visited, honoring the tradition much like so many across the U.S. Our good-natured husbands and my nephew, Ryan Walby, joined in on the fun, but dodged the picture-taking.

There are new blossoms in the garden daily. After company left, I completed the hard labor of dividing and moving daylilies as per my notes of last summer. There is already so much new growth on the daylilies that it is difficult to cut them back and dig them up, but this is what must be done. I make a mental note and confer with my sister, and we hope to confine our future dividing to fall instead. (Last fall, we were too busy settling our mother into her new apartment to get to it).

I brought a huge vase of lilacs into our bedroom and sent home a vaseful with my mother as this is perhaps her favorite flower.

New birds in the yard this weekend were the yellow warbler and a least flycatcher. This evening, I captured this charming one-minute video of the house wren adding material to the wren house. In this case, he is placing a blossom from the crabapple tree to pad his nest. I would have liked to have captured his song, but oh well …

Now it is time to turn attention to pulling off the rummage sale this weekend I’ve been planning for months. I’ve not held one for about 12 years, and the last time I said I’d never do it again, and this time I’m saying I’ll never do it again. It is nice to have the basement clean and tidy.  Wish me luck!