LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak Garden Notes No. 26: Hosta Harvest

This year, I resolved to try new things in life. After years of my husband urging me to write more, I started my blog. It has been surprisingly gratifying. I spent a lifetime writing newsletters, press releases, letters, memos, emails and the Stoxen Library blog, and one does get better at writing by, well, writing. Reading thousands of books by really good writers is helpful, too.  (Incidentally, my husband resolved to be more grateful, a worthy goal.) Healthy distractions from the nonsense out of D.C. is as much as anything that I seek.

Since I was an undergraduate, I have enjoyed the essay form, and I rather like calling myself an essayist. It is not at all likely that fame and fortune will follow, but I care about that not one whit.

I also broke down and got on Twitter, @wilddakotawoman. It is a good source of headlines and such, and I follow writers and thinkers who I respect, including @RobertMacfarlane, @TimothyEgan and @TerryTempestWilliams.

The other day, I decided to try another new thing, in this instance with respect to gardening. I am harvesting my hosta seeds and planting in an area in the vegetable garden to see if I can successfully propagate my plants. If successful, I will add these to the garden sale that my sister and I are having this fall (perhaps this will be the “fortune” part).

Saturday was a pleasantly cool day with a gentle breeze, so I went to work. I cut off the stems with the blossoms and carefully placed the seed pods into envelopes, which I marked with the names of the plants.

At this point, I’ve harvested 11 varieties. There will be more, from plants that have not yet produced seeds. Before I plant, I will dry these in the sun for a time.

I was outside today, almost all day.  Now “that’s” a good day.

Speaking of the vegetable garden, Jim continues to harvest fresh vegetables each day. He is the little white speck you can see in this picture. He says planting the garden is very satisfying and harvesting it is the most satisfying thing he does, and he’s done it for many decades. Soon he is going to start making pickles, and I need a place to hide since I “hate” pickled anything.

Our year is anchored on gardening season, and we don’t travel far from home in the summer for this reason. At this point in July, I again find time to read books that are piling up. I highly recommend this book. Rebecca Solnit is a keen observer of the world and a brave writer. I’m savoring it. Her Facebook posts are excellent.

All good reasons to stay home. Cheers!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Blossom Blast 2017

I rolled out of bed early this morning (Saturday), eager to attend the Central Dakota Daylily Society 2017 Blossom Blast. The two gardens on the tour this year were members of the club I greatly admire, very serious daylily growers, and I certainly wanted to see their work.

The tour did not disappoint. Members gathered, talking of last night’s rain — mercy but that was a spectacular thunderstorm! — and how we were quite lucky that the hail didn’t amount to much. Goodies were served, and everyone was happy to socialize, oohing and aahing over the flowers.

People bring a sampling of blossoms from their garden, and we vote on our favorite. The table was packed. I failed to take a photograph of the full table, but you get a sense of this from the photo below. The Blossom Blast tour is a great way to discover new daylilies one might want to add to one’s garden.

I’m being lobbied to allow my garden to be in a future tour, and I’m close to capitulating. My sister tells me mine is ready. I think hers should be on before mine. For a good cause, I’ll probably break down, next year.

If you live in the Bismarck/Mandan area and are interested in joining this fun club you can inquire at: Central Dakota Daylily Society, Box 463, Bismarck, N.D. 58502

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 25

How beautiful is Raspberry Griffin daylily, pictured above?  It makes me smile.

I cannot express, gentle reader, how happy it makes me to know that my dear friend, Bonnie Estes, of Arkadelphia, Ark., enjoys seeing my flower photos on my blog.  I am deeply indebted to Bonnie and Dr. Jack Estes for their kindness and generosity to me in my Nashville, Tenn., years. So many fond memories. From them, I learned more life lessons than I can list, including an abiding love of geography and multiculturalism.  I miss them so when I’ve gone so long without seeing them in person. Their daughter, my friend Pastor Pamela Estes, is a gift to the world.

Speaking of friends, I cannot express how much it means to me that y’all take the time to read this blog. Comments from deeply respected individuals like Dr. Tom Isern and Suzzanne Kelley are much appreciated. Watch this space for more blogs about trails. Happy trails, friends.

“If you are in the garden, I will dress myself

in leaves.

If you are in the sea I will slide into that

smooth blue nest, I will talk fish, I will adore


— Mary Oliver

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 House Garden Notes No. 23

Peak daylily time rewards me with new blooms each day.  Here are today’s (Friday’s).

Jim did a big-time bean harvest today (Friday) and has frozen a bunch for our winter enjoyment.

We are triumphant over winning the battle with the rascally rabbits this year! Pesto/shrimp pizza with our broccoli and tomatoes for supper.

And how about this glorious cloudburst? A horrific drought makes such a rainstorm ever so sweeter. All of our plants are so stressed by nothing but city water for so many weeks (not to mention our water bill).  Both Jim and I stood outside and got WET we were so tickled by it.  Three-quarters of an inch and counting …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 22 Showstoppers

Gavin Petit Daylily opened this morning (Thursday) and it is, indeed, a showstopper. Out loud I say, “Wow!” each time I first see it.

Others are reaching their peak bloom, too. Worthy of sharing.

On a pass through the vegetable garden, a bonus was the discovery of the first shelling peas.

I added the peas to the cold pasta salad waiting in the fridge for supper.

Time to make a run to deliver peas to my mother. She loves ’em.

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 — Making Pesto Day

After a pleasant morning drinking coffee and reading the paper on the patio, it was time for some work around here. I weeded the asparagus, cut basil and mowed the lawn, while Jim peeled garlic for my later project, homemade pesto.

He even had me shoot video of his method of peeling garlic. You can see it here.

I use a recipe given to me by my friend, Valerie Naylor. Pine nuts, freshly grated Parmesan, basil, extra-virgin olive oil and garlic — voila! I scoop it into an ice cube tray, freeze, pop out and bag it in a Ziploc.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Hosta Meditation

When we purchased Red Oak House, we were thrilled to have so many mature trees, however, we recognized how these should shape what we would do with our landscaping, especially in the smaller front yard.

Sum and Substance (lime-colored) with Humpback Whale (front left). I'm excited to watch Humpback Whale grow as huge as the name portends.
Sum and Substance (lime-colored) with Humpback Whale (front left). I’m excited to watch Humpback Whale grow as huge as the name portends.

I’m no fan of mowing grass, and it grew in a rather insipid fashion under the shade of the red oak. Hence, I purchased these two books straightaway and proceeded to transform the front yard to a shade rock garden, dominated by hosta.

My dear friend, Bernnett, first turned me on to hosta and directed me to the Minnesota Arboretum, where they were displayed in glory. Yet, I’d not had the opportunity to grow them in earnest until we bought this house.

Once we’d identified the sprinkler lines, Jim tilled up the grass, and we began to haul rocks. I’m certain the neighbors thought we were nuts, particularly when we had the two huge boulders delivered. (In fact, just this spring, Dave, from across the street, the senior inhabitant of this block, informed me that in spite of his misgivings, my yard had begun to look quite beautiful, confirming my suspicions.).

It takes patience to complete this transformation and, indeed, it did not look very nice the first few years.

I love hostas colors and their clever names and different sizes and shapes and textures. As I tend these, I think how much fun it must have been for the propagator to cultivate and name these.

Now my garden is the peaceful place of meditation and shade that I had envisioned, and I’ve accumulated 120 varieties of hosta. These are punctuated by other shade plants such as astlibe, ligularia, ferns, globe blue spruce and impatiens. (These I buy by the hundreds in the spring from nearby greenhouses.) For some reason, the impatiens are slow to bloom this year.

Gentle reader, I hope you enjoy these photo highlights of some of my hosta.

Thursday, I capitulated to a dear friend in her request that we put our gardens on the Bismarck Mandan Garden Club tour in August. Please stop by if you are in the neighborhood and enjoy these in person. I hope we don’t get any hail storms between now and then, but abundant rain. Namaste.

The kitchen project is completed

On Thursday, I spray-painted the old stove hood to match the new stove we bought last fall and my newly refinished countertops.

All of the new light switch plates are installed.  The kitchen re-do is complete!

Let the cooking commence.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 20

A drought sky (above) here in North Dakota. Everyone who has half a brain is worried about the drought. July has turned hot, hot, hot.

After a pleasant interlude at Crooked Lake with family for the July Fourth holiday, where we talked with our brother-in-law about how sparse few hay bales he’s been able to make this year, we returned home to garden chores and a trace of evening rain. The thunder was nice, too, and the storm cleared away in time for the fireworks and symphony festivities on the Capitol lawn.

When I turned on a fan in the kitchen just now, memories took me back to the keen little window fan we had on the Slope County ranch, one of those rectangular units that would pull the hot air from the upstairs room outward.

In the heat of the summer, we would erect our pop-up camper and sleep out in it, desperate for cool air, since we did not have air conditioning (only a “swamp cooler” we’d brought from El Paso).  When one would make the trek to the camper in the darkness, the smell of skunk would sometimes enliven the evening. We co-existed with any number of critters.

I don’t deal well with heat. I guess this is from so many years living in a Northern climate. My daughters suffer from heat as well. I just saw some research last night about how heat makes people cranky. I’m really not certain how I survived the time living in Nashville, Tenn., when I was in graduate school. I know when we were at Fort Bliss in Texas we kids practically lived at the swimming pool.

Thinking about how hot it was in Slope County and how hard we worked baling and stacking hay puts it all in perspective though. We couldn’t wait for the days when we’d get a reprieve from field work to go to the Deep Creek swimming hole with our inner tubes.

Nowadays, I’m very grateful for my relatively cool house and all the luxuries electricity and natural gas provide me in the 21st century.  It was in the high 90s here today, but I’m hearing 103 in Williston, N.D., from my brother-in-law. That is, simply put, too freaking hot.That said, I can’t help but tell myself I’m just whining about the heat.

A few of my daylilies are making an appearance and this heat is going to cause them all to start popping.

The shady front yard continues to please us.

Jim has gone to the store for Juneberry Ice Cream. Life is good!