The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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Volunteer Gardening Easter Weekend

I have been busy as a bee in the backyard and enjoying every moment I can get out there. Unfortunately, there haven’t been as many moments as I might like. Easter weekend brought with it a day to give back. I joined several beautification-minded St. Louis souls and volunteered at Castlewood State Park on Saturday morning to maintain the natural beauty of the park, help preserve the Kiefer Creek watershed and plant 800 native trees, shrubs and perennials.

The project was part of Operation Wild Lands, a project of the Open Space Council. The OWL project is a community based project that organizes volunteers to help maintain public lands throughout the St. Louis region. Wildlife habitat improvements include cleanups, trail development and maintenance, planting, educations events, etc. It was a lovely morning to get out, get some fresh air and share with like minded souls. Castlewood is a bit of a hike (no pun intended) from my house and I know it as a park that is good for mountain biking. I would go there when my son–who is now 27–would participate in mountain biking racing events as a teenager. The park also has nice hiking trails, ball fields, fishing, swimming and more. One thing I will say is true about Missouri, the state has a really wonderful park system.

But I digress.

My job was to help place the plants. Easy enough and it allowed me to spare my back for my own garden labor later that morning.

Standing ready, this is just one small collection of native plants the group of volunteers planted in Castlewood State Park

Standing ready, this is just one small collection of native plants the group of volunteers planted in Castlewood State Park

What I enjoyed about this experience is that there were volunteers of all ages who came out. There were retired professionals, volunteers from the Audubon Society, the Coalition from the Environment, Monsanto Company, area school districts, a Boy Scout troop, Truman State University and more. The saying “Many hands make light the work” could not be more true.

The volunteers' experience ranged from very little to very experienced.

The volunteers’ experience ranged from very little to very experienced. In the center, Karen, one of the leaders from the Audubon Society, explains where to place a plant to Tracy, one of the volunteers,while Herb (on the right) checks the plant list.


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Crazy for Cannas

This past weekend was perfect. There is nothing quite like enjoying a relaxing weekend with a lifelong friend. And I got to do just that! My friendship with Joan goes back to our early college days. Last weekend we enjoyed time together catching up at Joan’s lake house in the Missouri Ozarks, in southern part of the state. It was just the two of us for the weekend. There were no men, children, or other friends to sway our attention. While the lake is a hot spot during the summer, every season in the Ozarks is to be enjoyed for its natural beauty. Spring is pushing forth in the southern Missouri and the Ozarks is alive with it.

Amidst the constant conversation shared by two long-time friends who have not seen each other in months, we enjoyed watching goldfinch, pileated woodpeckers and other birds make their way to the bird feeders Joan has near her deck. And the trees seemed to be bursting forth their leaves before our very eyes during Saturday’s 80 degree temperatures.

Joan tends a lovely garden she has planted around her deck. Because the property is a weekend home, everything she plants must withstand neglect and  is drought tolerant. It must also be hardy enough to survive in the the rocky soil the Ozarks is known for. Canna meets those criteria.

In my last post I shared that I am obsessed with adding this tall tropical to my yard.  I have never grown them but between our catching up, eating and relaxing, Joan gave me a quick lesson in Cannas. She hauled out her over-wintered bulbs from last year’s garden and we commenced to cleaning them and planting them in very large pots she has on her deck.

The bulbs were over-wintered in soil in a plastic bag in the basement.

The bulbs were over-wintered in soil in a plastic bag in the basement.

Joan inspects the bulbs to see what condition they are in. She is looking for larger bulbs such as those shown here. She gently pulls the bulbs from the soil as she prepares to plant them.

This is what the bulbs look like after much of the soil is removed

This is what the bulbs look like after much of the soil is removed.

We then began to trim the dead roots off the bulb as well as any spongy, dead plant material so that we are left with a clean bulb for planting

We then began to trim the dead roots off the bulb as well as any spongy, dead plant material so that we are left with a clean bulb for planting.

We trimmed off lots of spongy, dead material. The decayed stuff is easily identifiable because it is a dark and soft matter, as opposed to a healthy bulb which is firm and white.

We trimmed off lots of spongy, dead material. The decayed stuff is easily identifiable because it is a dark and soft matter, as opposed to a healthy bulb which is firm and white.

We soaked the bulbs in water to further clean them and  re-hydrate them after a long winter in the basement

We soaked the bulbs in water to further clean them and re-hydrate them after a long winter in the basement.

It’s always fun at the lake and a spring weekend in April is not exception. Thanks Joan! Keep on smiling.

After adding potting soil, we placed a couple of the bulbs into the pot, covered with remaining soil and will look forward to seeing the canna's progress on the next visit to the lake

After adding potting soil, we placed a couple of the bulbs into the pot, covered with remaining soil and will look forward to seeing the canna’s progress on the next visit to the lake