Paula's Patch: A Minnesota Garden

Come wander in; my gate is always open! Gardening / Birding

Real or artificial? November 30, 2012

While we have long put up a pre-lit artificial Christmas tree for ease, justifying our choice each year by the fact that we have very small rooms that require rearranging for anything but a modest tree, this year I have a longing to return to a long gone tradition of cutting our own tree.

christmas tree | | paula bonelli

Sure, we explain away our reasons for the artificial tree —  it doesn’t drop needles (that you find long after Christmas is over), it’s easier to take down and put away, we know it will fit in our home (funny how small real trees look out in the field), and because my hubs is a bit of an Ebenezer when it comes to all the holiday hoopla (sigh). So we settle for less stress.

Since joining our CSA this past summer, I have found so many wonderful benefits of membership, including an area where we can go and cut a tree. There is nothing as appealing as walking through deep snow in freezing temps to find the perfect tree! But seriously, there is a bit of magic in doing this as a family. Probably more fun than the act is getting it home, putting on a pot of homemade hot cocoa, snuggling into a cozy sweater and slippers, and trimming the tree.

I’m sure we’ll forego this tradition again this year, but if you love the smell and tradition of a real tree, check out your area for the perfect spot to make a memory!

What do you put up — the real deal or the simplicity of artificial?


Rain, Glorious Rain! July 24, 2012

Filed under: Gardening,Midwest,Summer — Paula B @ 1:11 PM
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Well we finally had a substantial rainfall overnight (Lynn of Composer in the Garden) to give my lawn and garden a much-needed drink.

rain | | paula bonelli

needed rain | | paula bonelli

I can hear the garden breathing a sigh of relief along with me. I pretty much let my garden be what it will be each year according to what Mother Nature dishes out. But even I couldn’t let my drooping plants go without water. We’ve had hot days with no rain for weeks, if not months. So I have been trying to give the worst looking plants and my containers a bit of a drink 1 or 2 times a day depending on the daytime temp.

Despite the dry weather and heat, I think flowers are still blooming a few weeks ahead of schedule.

My mini Gladiolus are blooming a beautiful red.

mini gladiolus | | paula bonelli

and my Gerbera Daisy is on round 3 of blooms.

gerbera daisy | | paula bonelli

My Day lilies and succulents absolutely love the heat. I’ve pretty much ignored them as far as water, but they don’t seem to have minded.

daylily | | paula bonelli

succulents | | paula bonelli

succulent pot | | paula bonelli

What blooms are thriving in your weather?

Even the birds are singing a lot today, as if to say “thank you”. 🙂


Spring Garden Chores March 9, 2012

As the weather warms (60 degrees here tomorrow!) and our days grow longer, it’s time to step into the garden and see what needs cleaning up and pruning.  Now is the best time in Minnesota (late February or early March in Zone 4) to prune dead or broken branches, improve structure, or control the size and shape of trees and shrubs.

garden shears and rake | | paula bonelli

There is nothing better on a warm Spring day than getting some fresh air in my yard, pruning shears in hand, tidying up what the Winter has left behind. I remove any old wood — dead stems or branches — from my shrub rose sending energy back to the plant for new growth.  I have 2 dogwood shrubs that are next to a walkway and a couple of trees that need slight pruning. And a half dozen plume poppies and a bed of tall phlox I can safely cut to the ground. (I left them standing for my birds. They love the spot to hang out, as well as the seed heads.) If you have tall grasses in a confined area, you can cut them back too.

It’s much easier to do these tasks in early Spring (weather permitting) before the new growth starts coming in, but you won’t want to prune any spring-blooming shrubs or trees. For more information about what to prune when, look to your local extension office or horticultural society Web sites. In Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Extension Service offers more information on the best times to prune trees and shrubs.

garden, pruning shears | | paula bonelli

I really don’t have too much to do in my small yard; it’s just a good reason to get outside. 🙂 What kinds of Spring chores keep you busy?


10 Plants You Can’t Kill March 4, 2011

OK – I don’t do so badly outdoors, but indoors my thumb is definitely “brown”. I let my husband take care of what few indoor plants we have. I have a tendency to over-water them.

If you struggle with a lightly brown thumb when it comes to your outdoor garden, check out the top 10 plants you can’t kill from Birds and Blooms. They are easy to grow, hardy and fairly maintenance-free.

Best of all, they are all Zone 4 tolerant!

Coneflower (Echinacea)
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
Daylily (Hemerocallis)
Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)
Petunia (this is an annual for Zone 4)
Yarrow (Achillea)
Yucca (Yucca filamentosa)

all images in this writing are courtesy of Birds and Blooms

My aunt has Yucca in her yard in an area that is sloped and pretty tough for planting. It thrives there and looks pretty good even in the winter. Next time I’m there, I’m going to dig a bit up to bring home. 🙂


Getting Anxious for Spring? January 24, 2011

Escape close to home by visiting one of Minnesota’s metro area Glass Houses & Conservatories to beat the winter blues; especially therapeutic this time of year!

→Edinborough Park, Edina, Minnesota

  • No admission fee
  • Unique indoor park or conservatory
  • Acre in size
  • 6,000 plants, including mature trees
  • Waterfalls, pools, tropical foliage plants
  • Free play area for small children
  • Pay areas for ice skating and other activities
  • Free parking spaces outside park building
  • Food sold on premises

→Marjorie McNeeley Conservatory at Como Park, St. Paul, Minnesota
This location boasts a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner in the gardens!

  • 1/2 acre under glass
  • Minimal admission fee – also allows entrance to the Ordway Japanese Garden
  • 64-1/2 foot tall central domed palm house
  • Sunken garden
  • Fern room
  • 260 major varieties of plants from six different continents
  • Bonsai tree collection
  • Gift shop

→Cowles Conservatory at Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, run by the Walker Art Center

  • Open Tuesday-Sunday 10AM-5PM; closed Mondays
  • Free street parking and a nearby pay lot
  • Admission Fee
  • Exotic orchids, towering palms, stephanotis vines, dozens of fragrant species

→Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, Minnesota

Mostly a beautiful outdoor setting, there are some activities to be enjoyed indoors during winter months.

  • The Snyder Building is a glasshouse conservatory containing plants not hardy in Minnesota’s climate
  • 31 reasons to visit in January
  • Admission fee except on Thursdays after 4:30PM

→Minnesota Zoo Tropics Trail, Apple Valley, Minnesota

  • 1/2 acre under glass
  • Entrance fee
  • Free parking lots
  • Food available
  • Full-sized trees, sprawling vines, ficus benjamina, pothos, sheffleras and philodendrons create a leafy canopy of vegetation
  • Designated rescue center for all orchids confiscated by custom’s agents, you’ll find them nestled in among the greenery

Source: Univ of MN/gardens where you can see the full list of indoor gardens in Minnesota.

Find other Midwest conservatory locations:



University of Florence Botanical Gardens January 20, 2011

Filed under: Botanical Gardens,Gardening — Paula B @ 10:49 AM
Tags: , , ,

Here’s a link to the pictures I took on a recent trip to Italy. We toured the Botanical Gardens at the University of Florence. I love how they stored their clay pots in piles. Cool! They also repaired and reused them. You’ll see in some of the photos the large “staples” they use. We can learn some lessons…we are so wasteful in the U.S – a throw-away society.

Enjoy these warm, sunny pictures on this coooold winter day!

See the whole album here:


Forcing a Hyacinth Bulb January 3, 2011

Filed under: Bulbs,Flowers,Gardening,Gardening in Minnesota — Paula B @ 9:33 PM
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I’m forcing a hyacinth bulb I received from my aunt. It’s really the first time I’ve forced a bulb indoors except for the very common amaryllis. My thumb is not the greenest indoors, so we’ll see what happens. We have a cold house and not too much daylight, but I’m hoping for some beauty in the coming days as it grows.

It seems like a fairly simple process. Spoken like a true novice!

Choose a pot with good drainage and fill half-full with potting soil. Then adjust soil level until the tops of the bulbs come close to the top of the container. Place bulbs with the pointed ends up. (I’ve only planted the one bulb. If you are planting more than one, place bulbs close together, but not touching.)

Water well and place in a cool, dark spot until green foliage appears. Then move to a cool, sunlit location for flowering, which should occur in approximately 6 weeks. (Bulbs will rot if over-watered, so water only when the pots dry out completely.)

The fall is a good time to pick up bulbs from large home improvement stores (like Menard’s). They mark them way down and you can pick them up cheap!

Here’s what mine looks like newly potted.

hyacinth bulb image

Progress photo January 17

Progress photos February

Read more at Forcing Hyacinths – Martha Stewart Home and Garden


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