During my quest for social media content yesterday, I found myself searching for the term "staycation" within Google News. That's when I realized that my version of both staycations and vacations differs greatly from what's being promoted. Perhaps that's because my husband and I are not in the market for a marble-clad outdoor kitchen or an in-ground pool with accompanying cabana. We have never included Belize in our vacation rotation. Lying somewhere in the sun for hours while sipping $20.00 cocktails and receiving pedicures is not part of our fantasies or realities. I suspect we're not alone.
Our vacations look more like this...
...and I wouldn't have it any other way. What brings us peace and relaxation is a reprieve from our daily routines. I'm not referring to tasks pertaining to our basic needs. Obviously, camping provides no relief from that. I'm talking about the reduction of stressors and purging of mental clutter that can only take place when we allow it to. We don't have to leave home to find relaxation and peace, but that certainly makes it easier. The question I'm left with, is how do we create our own oases at home? What types of spaces wall out tensions and encompass peace of mind?
It's amazing what a view can do. When we go on our annual camping trips, we find ourselves struggling to find balance between capturing beauty on film and actually experiencing it. We've learned, when we take too many pictures, we take away from those moments. Some of them require us to really zoom in and focus for just a bit on one, perfect little thing or vignette. The tiny bits of complete perfection that are right before our eyes induce a meditative state, forcing us to ignore everything but our awe. I think that's why people really embrace the Fairy Gardening trend. The minute fantasy worlds that can be achieved with finely textured succulents and adorable resin statues can actually transport us to a more carefree world. We have the ability to build our own diminutive utopias!
Of course, views from afar are also impactful. They are just harder to influence. Staring off into the distance at a soothing abyss of woods and waters is extremely peaceful. While that might not be what we see when we look out our living room windows, we can still bring the beauty closer to us. Planting a majestic Oak in a prominent place is one way of doing that. Building a soothing backdrop of evergreens along a lot line or converting a portion of yard into wildflower meadow can completely change both view and state of mind. When we gaze at the natural beauty that surrounds us in state parks and forest preserves, we don't bemoan the lack of organization or the absence of rows. We embrace the perfection that lies within imperfection. That's something we can try to emulate in our own spaces as well. While we have to organize our desks and clean our rooms, we can throw a little bit of blissful chaos into our garden designs and truly embrace it.
While I contemplate backyard retreats, I also think about the activities we engage in on our vacations. Barry and I love to kayak and hike. We're lucky to live on a lake and near a trail, so that helps with our staycation goals. We also love to observe wildlife on our soirees. Knowing that and being somewhat of an ecological hobbyist, I keep planting more pollinator candy and bird food. That really makes a huge difference during the winter months. Our backyard environment provides food and shelter for a variety of mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. Their presence sooths us and makes us feel connected to the magnificence of nature. I've certified our yard as habitat with the National Wildlife Federation and we're also on the Monarch Joint Venture Map. I'm really proud of those accomplishments and that pride brings me peace.
While we also love to cook and daydream about those outdoor kitchens, we have focused on growing some of our own foods and the herbs to season them with. Grapes, cherries, apples and currants on our property are often transformed into wines and ciders. Wood that we prune out of our trees tends to end up infusing delicious smokiness into meats. We simply roll our trusty Weber to whatever area of the yard we feel like staring at, jab a couple of Avon drink holder stakes in the ground and do our thing. Our cocktails may not have umbrellas, but they are often derived from the oasis that we have created and that makes them taste really, really good.
As I sit here at my desk today, I'm cold. I have the heat cranked, a space heater pointed at my feet and I'm wearing four layers on top and two on the bottom. It's about 13 below with a "feels like" of 29 below...yet, I'm thinking about plants. I don't know that there is ever a time when I'm not. Since love is in the spotlight this time of year, I'm pausing to reflect on my affair with flora and the joy plants have brought into my life.
I grew up here ^^^. My parents still live on this 75-acre farmstead, between Detroit Lakes and Callaway, MN. "Here" didn't used to have any trees; at least not many. The farm was known by our neighbors as, "The Old Swante Coleman Place" and had been vacant for seven years before my parents occupied it. Dad spent countless hours planting thousands of tiny spruce trees around the perimeter of our maintained yard. Each day, he would haul five-gallon pails of water to his little babies and tenderly nurse them along. Competing weeds and browsing deer were his nemeses, yet he never compromised his, "live and let live" philosophy." I talked to him two days ago. His voice was gleeful as he talked about fat Partridges in the crabapple tree and how they knocked down fruits for the deer to eat.
Throughout this COVID situation, Dad has maintained his sanity outdoors. Since he can't plant or tend anything right now, he's been clearing and burning and generally cleaning up the property. It's such a blessing that he can do that as an octogenarian. Nature has been Dad's constant companion, making isolation tolerable for a very social man.
My love of nature was fostered by my parents. Mom was a homemaker who always made time for nature hikes with me around our little pond. The two of us would pick chokecherries in the road ditches and plums from the thicket. Then we would spend way too much time transforming them into jellies. Mom is probably less outdoorsy than Dad. She's pickier about temperature and less enamored with the more physical aspects of gardening, but she's cleared her share of Caragana and put up plenty of veggies. Mom prefers to view plants and wildlife from a comfortable place, but she is no less inspired by the beauty around her. Last year she painted a mural involving a window basket full of brilliant, red Geraniums. While not botanically accurate, it's absolutely beautiful and depicts a clear picture of the lovliness she sees. Mom is definitely more of a stereotypical lady than I am, but that didn't stop her from having a Praying Mantis as a pet and mourning its loss when she attempted to introduce a spider companion.
I grew up making mud soup and watching Monarchs transform. I learned at a very young age how to snap off asparagus below the ground and hunt for potato bugs on the undersides of leaves. I nibbled on the lobes of Columbine and the basal petals of red clover and revelled in their sweet nectar. I learned to whistle through a blade of grass. An aquarium on the porch usually had a couple of snails and some leeches in it, just for observation. Every now and then, I would take a walk up to "Pooh Hill" (so named after the bear and the enormous oak tree that resided there) to poke a giant ant hill with a stick. While this seems rude in retrospect, I loved to watch them work. Activities like these formulated my interests in biology and horticulture, but they were so integrated into daily life that I just didn't realize it.
As an adult, it took me a while to rekindle my passion. I lived in Minneapolis for a little bit while attending school for Radio Broadcasting. After that, my boyfriend (now husband) and I lived in an apartment in Victoria for a considerably longer bit. Our building was relatively small and we had a great relationship with our kindly landlords, the Schusters. I just Googled their last name to make sure I spelled it right and stumbled upon Shirley's obituary. I suppose it's been a really long time. I never really saw her as elderly and was surprised to learn how shortly she died after we lost contact.
The Schusters allowed me to do some planting in front of the building and dig out a small veggie garden in back. I welcomed our co-tenants to share in the bounty. Annuals were my thing at the time because they made such an impact. Fragrant herbs were also a favorite of mine. The soil was pick-axe hard in these little beds and each year I fought to incorporate peat moss and compost. My efforts were a labor of true love and through them, I found my purpose. During that same period, I enrolled in the Carver/Scott County Master Gardener program. Core courses and volunteer opportunities taught me a great deal and that gave me the confidence to apply for jobs in the horticultural field. In March of 2002, I began working at Nature's Bounty Garden Center for the Kahnke Brothers.
About a year and a half later, my man and I ended up buying a home in Silver Lake, Minnesota, and embarked on a whole new adventure. We were quite young and very comfortable in our cozy apartment. Taking on the responsibility of a home was daunting at first. However, it didn't take long for me to begin messing with the yard. Once I started, I opened a can of worms that could not be re-sealed. Perennials became my thing. They were just a better investment. Boss Man gave me a really good deal on plants, which enabled me to plant more and learn more. My observations helped me make better buying decisions and translate more accurate information to our customers. When I got comfortable with perennials, my next assignment was shrubs. When I mastered shrubs, it was time to learn trees. I cared for houseplants, started vegetable seeds and tended the greenhouse. Watering, planting, weeding and culling were regular activities. I loved it all.
That's when I realized that I would never know all that there was to know about horticulture. I learned that I could take the flowery path wherever I wanted to go. In winter, I enjoy my houseplants. In spring, I get to look forward to the emergence of daffodils and crocuses. In summer, there are weeds to pull and holes to dig. By fall, the apples and grapes are ready for harvest and preservation. There is always something to do! At home in isolation during the pandemic, all I had to do was go outside for entertainment. Plants have always been there for me. They're no fair weather friends. They are out there beneath the snow, just waiting to say, "hello". That's why I love them so very much.
Back in the office after my seasonal layoff, I am preparing for another busy year at the farm. Last year was certainly interesting in a variety of ways. Adjusting to a global pandemic certainly kept us all on our toes. The crisis had an interesting effect on our industry and that really got me thinking about a lot of things. During the growing season, I honestly didn't have time to think. Now that I've had time to reflect, it seems appropriate to share a little positivity.
Last year was the busiest year we have ever had at this location. All of us struggled to keep up with the unexpected demand. We went from fearing that we might have to shut down to worrying about how we were going to keep up. I don't think anyone in the plant and landscape business was prepared for what we encountered. I find that really intriguing and encouraging.
After the first shutdown, I think people were just looking for things to do at home. Vacation plans were put off and home improvement projects were prioritized. As more and more people started working from home, neighbors began to notice each others eccentricities. "Karen" had to look at "Bob's" pile of junk every day from her office window. That pile of perfectly useful things that Bob accumulated began to occupy more and more space in Karen's brain. Karen's chi was all out of whack and something had to be done. Pretty soon, a perimeter hedge of tall Arborvitaes appeared in the space between adjacent yards. Bob appreciated the noise barrier that the new evergreens provided between his tender ears and Karen's four, screaming kids. Bob was so delighted with Karen's efforts that he reimbursed her for some of her planting expenses. I think you get my theoretical drift.
But what did those investments really do? They made Karen and Bob's homes and yards more enjoyable for them to spend time in. Oxygen producing entities were contributed to the suburban environment. Karen gained a new, relaxing hobby by adding more living things that require care to her landscape. Bob and Karen's relationship is better than ever before. Do I have a "Bob" in "Karen" in mind as I spin this yarn? Well, no; but these scenarios are very familiar to me.
COVID has had some desirable side effects, despite all of the horrible statistics and numbers we hear on the news every day. Many people re-established their bonds with the great outdoors. Families planted and gardened together. New generations learned from older ones. People became conscious of the need to become more self sufficient and started growing more of their own food. Everyone had to look at their immediate surroundings with fresh eyes and renewed gratitude. Life slowed down to a snails pace for some and accelerated to somewhat stressful levels for others, but everyone was forced to look at life in a slightly different way.
What I hope lasts, is our increased appreciation for home and family. I have my husband, my cats and a few close neighbors in my COVID mix. We celebrated the holidays with enthusiasm and hope and lots of goodies. However, I haven't been able to see my octogenarian parents since last Christmas. I miss them terribly and can't wait for our reunion. I have a new great nephew whom I have yet to meet. Boy will that be a special moment! I hope we never lose this increased appreciation for the special people in our lives.
Hopefully, all of the people who found or renewed their passion for the outdoors stay connected to it. Being actively involved with the environment fosters respect for our lands and waters. That's precisely what we need to keep our planet healthy. I can't imagine not being moved by the views I've seen on my hikes and camping trips. For those who experienced that feeling for the first time (or the first time in a long time) I hope it was memorable and magical.
eEveryone is always so damn busy these days. I remember when the internet was new and everyone thought we would have so much more disposable time and freedom. Boy were we wrong! All that new technology really did was make it possible for us to work anywhere, anytime. While slowing down has been a bit uncomfortable for some, others have finally had time to relax and enjoy life. Kids and parents have been able to make lasting memories of camping in the backyard and planting apple trees together. That's so much more meaningful than texting each other memes from different areas of the living room.
The last thing that I hope we hold onto from these "unprecedented times" is our renewed focus on mental health. All of our scrambling and obsessing seldom brings joy. There is something to be said for living in the moment and that moment can't always be fleeting. As things slowly return to our "new normal", I hope we can hold onto some of the lessons we've learned from this spherical foe. Roses were put here for us to smell and we must smell them as often as possible while we are able to do so. What's more important than that?
So, here we are. Tomorrow was the original date of our bare-root shrub delivery. Considering that it is currently a balmy, one degree outside; that would not have worked well. Luckily, that realization came to us in time to reschedule. Heating a greenhouse when the night temperatures are below freezing is about as practical as fixing a fish net with glue. Another issue of great concern, was how we would move the sleeping shrubs between our heated shop and the greenhouse without killing them. Luckily, we have a van and next week is supposed to be more seasonally appropriate. We're still working out the details of thawing frozen potting soil, which we will be receiving tomorrow. Despite all of the challenges, we have this to look forward to!
Each year has its challenges. Last year, the lack of snow cover was a real issue. Along with most of the other growers in the state, we lost tons of potted fruit trees and other early bloomers. Winter also took its toll on many spring-flowering, ball and burlap trees. When you're dealing with crops that take years to produce, there is no easy way to replace what's lost. That's probably why I have been so pro-snow. Then again, I have always liked snow and the extra-curricular activities that it inspires. What I'm quite tired of, is the cold.
If you're wondering how unusual it is for us to be this cold in March, here is a great place to sleuth. If you're curious how this correlates with the past, you can also look at the weather trends from 1981 through 2010, via the same website. Don't have the patience for all of that? Check out these Minnesotan, meteorological conversation starters. Your friends will be blown away by your passion for the mundane. If you're like me, you might also enjoy looking at weather statistics from NOAA's Glencoe Municipal Airport log. Then again, I might find those facts more compelling than most.
What's most interesting to me, is how our memories play tricks on us. I have heard many people comment on how much snow we got last year. That always makes me giggle a little bit, since we really didn't have much snow at all until April. For those who may have blocked that memory, here is a reminder! This picture was taken on April 19th. If you find it easier to swallow this information via statistical format, here is our metro-area snow data, dating back to 1884.
I have found, that drastic weather events tend to stick with people through the duration of the season. The mind can easily turn a wet month into a wet year. Basement flooding can be hard to forget, even long after the tides have receded. That is why it is good to do a little fact check here and there. The health of your landscape can depend on it. This public service announcement was brought to you by a passionate cynic, who wants nothing but the best for your plants; come snow or high water.
2018 Video Tour
IT'S FINALLY HERE!!!
Our 2018 video tour of Kahnke Brothers Tree Farm is ready for viewing. Head "behind the scenes" with a guided tour of the site. This video provides our community of customers with an inside look at what is beyond our perimeter. There is SO much to see!
Considered a "time-tested classic" by ProvenWinners.com this big and bold shrub stands well above it's competition, 6-8 ft. tall to be exact. To sweeten the pot, maintenance of 'Limelight' requires only regular watering and pruning in late winter or early spring. Weeds don't stand much of a chance when competing for growing space and a harsh winter won't phase it's summer bloom. Healthy hydrangeas easily recover from the occasional insect infestation. A strong spray of water to wash the
Happy Thursday! Is everyone ready for this week's feature? It's gonna be big... "Bonanza" big! You may recognize the name, but no, I'm sorry it has much less to do with the Cartwrights and Virginia City than you think. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure the ranch had some of these trees hanging around. This week's feature is called the Ponderosa pine.
The Ponderosa pine is one of the Southwest's tallest and longest living trees, often living past 500 years old. Through the first 150 (ish) years of it's life, the pine's bark is nearly black and begins to turn a rusty-orange color as it matures. It's scaly bark has been rumored to smell like vanilla or butterscotch to some individuals.
Given full sunlight, the tree can grow 1-2 feet each year. It also develops a deep tap root which allows itself to stabilize and resist wind. Individuals often consider this tree when planning for windbreaks or buffer strips, not to mention planting for it's unique look as well.
The Ponderosa pine was also highly utilized by the Native American population. By tradition, most each part of the tree was used. From the outer bark to the inner gum, no part of the tree went wasted.
If a tree was cut to make a new canoe, the leftovers were carefully kept. The seeds of the tree were often eaten raw while the young cones were boiled for food. The outer bark of the tree was harvested in early spring as a sweet treat on special occasions.
Not only will it's lumber beautifully furnish your house, but it will also provide the planted area with stability and hardiness. What I find most interesting about this tree's stout persona is it's ability to withstand the worst conditions. Living in Minnesota, "the worst" seems common.
Once established, this tree can survive through most anything. It's drought tolerant and withstands plantings at higher elevations (thanks to it's mountain heritage), extreme temperatures, even wildfire!
Until next time, we hope to see you soon. Thanks for reading!
Happy Wednesday everyone! We are halfway through the work week and it's been quite a nice week for weather (as compared to the scorch of last week). Our "lake" on the property has finally dried up and all the trees, plants, and shrubbery are growing faster than ever!
This week's "Perennial of the Week" comes with a little 'twist.' This segment will be highlighting the Peppermint Twist phlox. Also known as 'garden phlox,' this dazzling perennial blooms in shades of pink and white between the summer months of July and September. Often, Peppermint Twist reaches heights of 1-5 feet and spreads about the same. Blossoming in clumps, the upright perennial is known for it's fragrance and bi-color uniqueness. The striking pink and white colors alternate in stripes resembling the spokes of a wheel.
This perennial grows best in zones 4-8 (MN is zone 4), with full sun. This beauty will grow in partial shade, but prefers as much sun as it can get. In regards to heat, like many of us Minnesotans, it prefers the moderate summer temperatures and will require extra drink of water on those hot and muggy summer days (we've had a few of those lately!).
According to MissouriBotanicalGardens.org, derived from the Greek word 'phlox', the genus name means 'flame,' in reference to some varieties of the flower's intense color. A staple perennial for any border project, Peppermint Twist mixes exceptionally with fellow perennials and provides a lasting summer bloom.
We hope to see you soon. Until next time, have a wonderful week everyone.
Summer Wine Ninebark
Hello, hello! I hope everyone has had a wonderful week and is back into the working groove after a (much-needed) 4th of July celebration. It's been quite a scorcher the past couple of days and it's beginning to look like some thunderstorms are going to be hanging out a bit as a result of the heat and humidity. The farmers' corn is past knee high and the shrubs around the farm here at Kahnke Brothers Tree Farm are reaching for the sky (see what I did there?).
This week's "...of the week" highlight is the Summer Wine Ninebark. This shrub's wine colored foliage stems throughout the entirety of it's growing season. Covered with soft pink- white clusters of spirea-like flowers in the late summer, Summer Wine provides the best of both world's with it's fine texture and compact branching. The shrub is easy to grow and flourishes in zones 3-8 (as a reminder, most of Minnesota is Zone 4- refer to the USDA Zone Hardiness Map for other locations across the U.S.).
If you have a place to fill that requires a plant's ability to sustain full sunlight, this shrub is for you. Once established, the plant requires less water but should be irrigated regularly in extreme heat. Plants need a drink, too! The shrub rarely needs pruning or other maintenance, so no need to add that chore to the "Honey-do" list.
Reaching a standard height of 5-6 feet, Summer Wine Ninebark boldly accents rustic or cottage style gardens. It's beautiful color touches any area with a sense of vibrancy and grace
"Summer Wine" came to be by crossing P. opulifolius "Monlo" to pollinate P. opulifolius var. Nanus. In 2000 it was propagated and one of the resulting seedlings from cuttings was used for further observation. The cross was successfully made by Timothy D. Wood of Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven, Michigan. By the time this cultivar received its patent as P. opulifolius "Seward" in 2004, it began garnering well-deserved attention under its trademarked name, "Summer Wine."
We hope to see you soon! Thanks for reading, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Until next time, stay hydrated and have a great week everyone.
Hat trick crabapple
malus 'hat trick'
I hope everyone's week has been off to a great start! Minus the storm showers this morning, the sun has yet to peak out to start my Tuesday afternoon. I received quite wonderful feedback about last weeks perennial of the week (Blue Mouse Ear Hosta), so I'm hoping this week's "Tree of the Week" does not disappoint.
This is my first "Tree of the Week." Previous posts have included my "firsts" also. I've come to realize that I've chosen these particular plants because they were the first to catch my eye. I remembered them- and believe me, we have thousands of plants here on the farm. Remembering a certain specie can be tough to reconcile.
Hat Trick Crabapple had no problem grasping my attention. It's first impression was almost as memorable as David's first impression on The Bachelorette- he showed up in a chicken costume. Yes, yes... I watch "that" show.
Anywho, Hat Trick Crabapple reminds me of a hat trick in hockey, there are three main branch levels just as a hat trick signifies three goals in a row during a hockey game. Each branch grows a different variety of apple. The bottom branch grows 'Honeycrisp,' the middle branch grows 'Sweet Sixteen,' while 'Zestar!' grows on the top! How neat, right?
Harvest time for the apples are best between late August and late September and produce particularly high yields for such minimal space. The tree is self-pollinating and saves space as all the apples are grafted onto a single tree.
This miracle tree requires full sun (6+ hours) and grows optimally in well drained, slightly acidic soils.It's showy blooms produce an array of fragrant flowers in the spring and begin to produce fruit summer into fall.
The key is to start with a very small apple tree (preferably a small whip) which can be pruned low to the ground to start the tree with low branches. The form is created by pruning and tying the branches initially to a wire or wooden framework. All of this shaping and pruning takes time. It will take several years to get the tree into a beautiful form and have it start bearing fruit. This process can be a bit daunting and time consuming for the average home fruit grower.
It looks like something straight out of a whimsical movie, doesn't it? Make your dreams come true- stop by on Saturdays between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to purchase yours before they's gone.
My name is Connie Kratzke. I have worked with Kahnke Brothers for 16 years. During this period, I have done everything from watering the plants to designing our website. My role at the nursery involves selling stock, managing inventory, marketing plants and overseeing the production of shrubs and perennials. Sometimes I sit at a desk and other times I can be found in a Bobcat. During my career here, I have become a MNLA Certified Professional. I am also an at large member of the Minnesota Grown Promotion Group/Minnesota Grown Advisory Committee. Currently, I serve as City Arborist for Silver Lake, Minnesota, and a member of their planning commission. My focus is on helping our clients succeed with their landscaping efforts. Education is a huge factor influencing that success. Keeping it real is my strategy. Through sharing my experiences at the nursery and at home, I hope to debunk myths and eliminate concerns. At the same time, I want people to be aware of what doesn't work. Living things are somewhat unpredictable, but they all have basic needs. Understanding how to fill those needs while simultaneously achieving landscape goals is a process that I want to share with as many people as possible, because I truly enjoy it.