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Monday, December 28, 2009

Newsletter from Shades of Green in San Antonio, Texas

January, 2010



If you are looking for new year’s resolutions, we have a few suggestions that will improve

the environment in the decade to come and make our world a safer, healthier place to live.

Resolution No. 1: Discontinue use of all toxic products in your home and your landscape.

It is not that hard. Natural products for the landscape are readily available and work better

than chemicals. In your home, learn to use vinegar, baking soda, and orange oil as cleaners.

You will be amazed at how effective they are.

Resolution No. 2: Use less water. This is critical especially with the dry years we have been

having. In the landscape you can replace expansive turf areas with hardscape and beds filled

with low-water-use plants. Keep beds mulched and apply compost to the lawn twice a year. In

the home, be more conscious of the water you use and find ways to lower the amount. Also,

catch and use rainwater and condensate from your air conditioner.

Resolution No. 3: Garden more. Working in the garden is one of the healthiest forms of

exercise both mentally and physically. Gardens in general add beauty to the environment.

Resolution No. 4: Plant an organic vegetable garden. The produce you harvest will be safer

and more nutritious than any you purchase. Plus, vegetable gardening is very satisfying.

Resolution No. 5: Recycle all that you can. Take advantage of the opportunity to recycle

glass, paper, plastic, aluminum, and more through your municipal recycling program. If you

do not already have a compost pile, create one and turn yard and kitchen waste into a valuable

resource to improve your garden.

Warm your evenings and winter celebrations with Aspen Mulling Spice. Mix it with wine,

tea, cider, or use it in your baking. This tasty treat will exceed your expectations!


For most of us, the hard freezes in December took out most warm weather annuals and

perennials, leaving empty places and in some cases, entire beds without color. Winter without

color IS NOT FUN!

You can easily remedy this situation by planting an abundance of annuals that will perform

well in the cold, providing you with new and exciting sources of color. In sunny areas, plant

pansies with wild abandon and in the shade go crazy with cyclamen and primrose. These

plants will bloom through the winter, and everytime you see them you will smile and be glad

that you filled your beds with happiness!

We wish all of our wonderful customers and greatfriends a healthy and happy New Year filled withfruitful gardening adventures!


Few additions to your home can create the warmth and beauty provided by plants. Yes, there

are fabulous fabrics, gorgeous furnishings, and amazing art, but plants are unique because they

add life to your surroundings.

On a scientific level plants filter toxins making the air you breathe more healthful, but on a

more mindful level, plants make you feel better––more relaxed and serene.

There are houseplants that will enhance any decor, but to be successful it is important to match

the light you have available with the light requirements of the plants. (We have new SunSticks to

measure your indoor light.) Properly placed, houseplants require little maintenance. When you

come in we would love to help you select just the right plants to complement your indoor decor.

We also have an extensive selection of containers to accentuate your plants.

Note: To keep your houseplants healthy and vigorous, feed monthly with Natural Solutions

Liquid Fertilizer.


Many people are very aware of weeds this winter. They are prominent for several reasons.

The past couple of years have been so dry that many lawns have thinned considerably, and weeds

have filled the empty spaces. Good rains after a long dry spell enable many different weeds to

sprout at the same time. Finally, we have had enough cold weather to turn lots of grass brown,

making the bright green weeds more obvious.

The presence of weeds does not mean you need to run for the herbicide. Actually weeds are

beneficial. Some help prevent loss of soil, others build the soil with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in

nodules on their roots. Most all weeds tell you something about the condition of your soil. Grassy

weeds with little root systems indicate that your soil is very deficient in nutrients and fertilizer is

needed. Clover and oxalis only occur in soils that are badly compacted indicating that compost,

compost tea, molasses, and Medina Plus would be helpful.

In all cases, take steps to improve your existing turf. Feed regularly, apply a thin layer of compost

twice a year, mow to keep weeds from producing seed for next year’s crop, and avoid toxic

herbicides. In most cases, healthy grass will effectively choke out the weeds in the spring.


The internet is a truly incredible tool and an important part of life for most people. For

gardeners it is both a blessing and a curse. It can be a blessing because it allows one to research

new plants and products. It is a curse if you assume everything you read is factual, practical,

and beneficial in our area. The simple fact is that gardening is regional, and plants that grow

in one area may not grow in another. People posting information on the internet may or may

not be knowledgeable. Products and practices may not perform the same in all areas. For

example, milky spore fungus may be a great way to control Midwest grubworms but is a waste

of time in our area––it simply does not work on the type of

grubs that damage our lawns. ‘De-thatching’ may revitalize

a northern lawn but will absolutely ruin a southern one. The

list goes on. Even East Texas products such as bark mulch

are not useful in our area.

Enjoy the internet, but remember that local information

such as that found in The Garden Gazette and from the staff

of Shades of Green is your most reliable source of gardening

information for our area.

Start 2010 out right, switch yourvGarden Gazette

to the e-mail format. Tell us next time you are in, call

us, or e-mail us at gardengazette@sbcglobal.net (this

address is only available for subscription purposes).

Please include the address where you are currently

receiving your newsletter so we can match the names


It Is

Market Month

We will be going toseveral gift markets insearch of unique giftsand accessories for yourhome and garden. We

will give you a morecomplete report nextmonth, but the new

merchandise will beginarriving by the end ofJanuary.



Winter is a time of year

when the weather creates stress

for many creatures, especially

birds. Food and water may be

scarce, and they need protection

from the elements.

You can help by providing

nutritious food in the form of

seeds, suet, nuts, and peanut

butter. Offering a variety will

attract the greatest diversity of

birds. Provide protection from

predators and the weather by

putting up birdhouses and

planting dense shrubs in the


The Very Best


Fiskars pruners are our

first choice for quality tools

for many reasons.

n They have received many

awards for their exceptional

designs including the ‘Ease-

of-Use Commendation’ by

the Arthritis Foundation. Ergonomics

are considered in

the design process leading to

products that are comfortable

and require less muscle power

to use. They are designed to

reduce effort, increase power,

and minimize weight.

The reinforced fiberglass

composite handles are lightweight

and durable, and the

corrosion resistant, non-stick

blades reduce friction and stay


Fiskars’ Project Orange

Thumb reaches out to

communities by supporting

neighborhood gardens with

donations of plants, tools, and


Basically Fiskars is a great


Gardening Calendar

aSet out lots of colorful annuals to brighten your


aApply beneficial nematodes to control thrips and


aPlant woody trees and shrubs

aPrepare soil for your spring vegetable garden

aApply compost to turf areas

aScatter rye seed for a green winter lawn and to

reduce mud and erosion in grassless areas

aContinue feeding houseplants and all plants that

have been brought indoors for the winter

aCreate an herb garden

aLiven up indoor spaces with lush, green


a Mulch tender tropicals and perennials, particularly

those that have frozen and been cut back

aKeep fresh water and food out for songbirds

aPlant wildflower seed

aRelocate any woody trees and shrubs (including


a Plant onions and snow peas

aResolve to help make our world a kinder, gentler

place to live.


This is a phrase you are probably hearing more and more as

we move toward buying things that are made or grown close

to home. Buying local is good for the environment because

items are not shipped as far, using less energy and creating

less pollution. When buying plants, it is good for you because

plants spend less time in cold (or hot), dark trucks and are

already adapted to our local soils, water, and climate. Buying

local is good for our community because your money stays

closer to home supporting our economy, creating jobs and

supporting the local government and charitable causes.

At Shades of Green, more than 60% of our plants are

grown within 30 miles of San Antonio and over 75% within

150 miles. All of our fertilizers, compost, mulches, and soil

mixes are made in Texas. Many of our gift items are manufactured

locally––windchimes (Austin), Celtic crosses (Kerrville),

wonderful skincare products (Elmendorf and Fredericksburg),

and CD’s by George Gaytan (San Antonio).

We believe in ‘buying local’ and are constantly searching

for additional sources that are close to home.

company which manufactures

comfortable, long lasting tools

that make your gardening jobs


We value your opinion. Next time you are in the store,

please ask to fill out one of our evaluation forms and

let us know honestly how we are doing.

Presort StandardU. S. PostagePaidSan Antonio, Texas 78209Permit No. 548

Address Service Requested

Business Hours

334 West Sunset Road

San Antonio, Texas 78209



Mon. - Sat. 9:00 to 5:00

Sun. 10:00 to 4:00




We usually recommend applying beneficial nematodes when you have problems––an outbreak

of fleas, an invasion of grubs or chinch bugs, or the appearance of fireants or termites. At this time

of year, however, we recommend an application to help prevent problems, specifically ticks and

thrips. This is the only time of year that ticks are actually down in the soil where the nematodes

can parasitize and kill them. It is also the time when the thrips insect is in its larval stage in the

soil. Applying beneficial nematodes now can diminish problems later in spring and summer when

control is much more difficult.


Even though this is typically our coldest month of the year, there are still things to do in the

garden. You can set out onion plants both for green onions and for bulbs that will mature next

summer. Snow peas, either bush or vining varieties, and leafy greens can be planted at this time.

Be sure to inoculate the pea seed if you are planting them in an area for the first time. (Unused

tomato cages make great trellises for peas.) Also, you can prepare the soil for your spring garden

by putting down organic fertilizer and a thick layer of compost wherever you are going to plant.

By allowing these products to remain on the soil for the next few weeks or months, you will see a

marked improvement in soil texture and increased production.


The fall and winter months are ideal times to plant new trees, shrubs, roses, groundcovers, and

other woody plants. In South Texas plants do not go fully dormant, so although there may be no

foliage production, roots will be actively growing. By summer the plants will be well established

and better able to tolerate hot, dry weather.

When setting out new plants, avoid planting too deeply, add generous amounts of compost to

the soil, water plants in with Super Thrive, and apply 2” to 3” of mulch around the root zones.

This is a great time to upgrade your landscape and to replace those plants that did not survive

the heat and drought of last summer. Note: When selecting new plants consider natives and other

well-adapted varieties over exotic selections. copyright Shades of Green, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter Landscape and Beauty

Hi Boys and Girls!

Well, the day after Christmas and back to reality. I tackled a job that should have been done in November. This is only one of many that should have been done prior to our first freeze.

Our blueberry trees are still in large pots. For our area, the Tifblue works well.  http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/fruit/blueberry/blueberries.html Last week I found full-size wine barrels at a crafts show and the vender cut them in half and delivered them. What a deal! They are about 50 gallon size. So, today sweet hubby Roberto drilled a drainage hole on the side of each barrel.

Why isn't he using an electric drill? Well, one reason is that it is broken; another reason is that we like using my dad's old drill. It works.

We then found a sunny location not too far from the hose bib. We put 3 bricks under the barrel to facillitate air circulation. We placed the existing pot into the barrel. We know at some time we will transplate the tree into the barrel with more soil but that will be when all danger of frost is over. Our soil is not acidic enough for blueberries. So we used soil preparation recommended by Texas A&M. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/
We planted the blueberries 3:1 peat moss and horticultural perlight. http://www.homeharvest.com/soilamendmentsperlitevermiculite.htm
We topped each plant with pine needles and always put our coffee grounds in the plant each time we water. We had quite a bit of berries before the birds got them last summer! So, here they are in the wine barrels. I plan on purchasing another variety that works well here so pollination will ensure nice big fat berries.

I know sometimes a winter garden can be depressing. After a freeze, everything looks so sad. There are some items that still bring a smile to my face even though the majority of the yard is in "down time."

We have had this "nicho" for many years. A nich is a decorative recess for holding a statue. They are usually associated with Greek or Roman architecture. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/414014/niche
We are in Texas. We decorate rustic so this Niche or Nicho is made of old barn wood and the roof is tin. It fits, don't you think?

Another thing about a winter yard is the wildlife that seek shelter. If you are interested in having a habitat for birds and other small critters, you might consider creating a wildscape. That is what we have. There are certain requirements that are very easy to fulfill. Check out this site to see how easy it is to make your yard into a wildscape.
It is easy for us to have a brush pile in which birds can nest and hide. It is way back in the yard so it does not look so ugly. Actually, when I took this picture, there were about 25 birds in there doing their thing. They are so cute!
Another major requirement is water. I don't want my bird baths to crack when we have a freeze so I keep this large shell full of water. It belonged to my mother but makes a wonderful little water source for the birds and whatever else comes around when I am not looking. I still have my hummingbird feeder up and keep it full with fresh sugar water (4 cups water to 1 cup sugar. Boil. Cool.) We have a hummer visit it daily.
I know these birdhouses are whimsical but they really do offer protection from cold and snakes. Roberto made these many year's ago but they are in constant use. We do have to clean them out every now and then.

So, I just gave you a small glimpse of our wildscape. You can create a variation of this even on a patio if you live in an apartment. Your brush pile could be a hanging plant in which a bird can seek refuge or build a nest. If the plant dies even better. A fern is really great because when it dies and turns brown it still retains stiff fronds in which birds can build a nest. I speak from experience!
A small birdbath or tray of water fits easily on a patio. An outdoor minerature potted tree will attract birds. So, check out the wildlife site and find some joy that will carry you through the dark days of winter.
Play outside, turn the soil, watch birds puttering around, search the sky for migrating geese. Have fun!
Let me know what you find interesting in your winter garden.
Now, I better get my block cut out for Pieceful Journey.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas Day!! Frost Warning...

Hi Boys and Girls!

Did your Santa bring you everything you wished for? If not, did you get a sweet gift you had not even thought to wish for? I did!! My sweet hubby bought me a gift certificate to Oak Leaf Quilts. http://www.oakleafquilts.com/ Wow! Fifty bucks! I never dreamed my main squeeze would think to give me fabric....after all, I can barely walk into my quilting room for all the fabric! Sorry, you will not get a picture of this!

We are most likely going to have another freeze. Check the weather at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/
and put in you zip code. If we are going to be 32 degrees or lower, your plants will be hit with frost. Here is a web site to help you prepare your plants for a freeze. http://www.thegardenhelper.com/frost.html

I have a tub full of old sheets, mattress pad covers and towels to cover my more delicate plants. You can get all this stuff at Hospice resale shops. Here in New Braunfels go to:
Hope Hospice Thrift Avenue
613 North Walnut Avenue

New Braunfels, TX 78130-7925
(830) 625-4746
Just about every city has a Hospice resale shop. I found a brand new pair of Levi jeans for $1.50 two weeks ago!

If you are planting Texas natives or natives to your state, the plants will probably come back in the spring.

Move potted plants under protective porches or in the garage. Do not water them before a freeze if you keep them outside. The pot will expand and crack. Resist the urge to trim unsightly frozen plants. I know they look yucky, but even the damaged limbs will protect the roots during another freeze. Remember: when you trim you are telling your plant to put out new growth. If there is a freeze after you have trimmed your plant, you can kiss that plant good-bye.

Have a wonderful day and keep that fire going! Even kitties love to sit by the fire.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Traditional Christmas Dinner

Hello Boys and Girls!

Merry Christmas!! I hope you all are having a great time. We had a traditional Christmas Eve dinner at our house. Tradition? Is that still popular? Well, it is with food and for me!

We lived many years in New Mexico. http://www.landofenchantment.com/
The traditions there date back hundreds of year's and are based on foods, celebrations and family. We soon fell in love with the tradition of luminarias at Christmas. These are generally brown paper bags partially filled with sand in which a candle can be placed. Christmas Eve these lights line driveways, roof tops, churches and any available wall. http://www.itsatrip.org/albuquerque/culture-heritage/hispanic/luminarias.aspx This tradition started 300 year's ago. Originally, little bonfires of pinon would be set to welcome the Christ child.

Another tradition we adopted for Christmas Eve was the making of a traditonal meal. Posole http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pozole, tamales, hot chocolate, churros or buenelos has become our traditional meal the eve of Christmas. Posole  is made with fresh, uncooked corn. When it is cooked it is called hominy. Believe me, there is nothing like fresh posole. It is so easy to make! Yes it is...First you buy frozen posole. Many Mexican markets carry it. When Wal-Mart here stopped selling it, I called a grocer in Espinola, New Mexico and he shipped me some. This time I had some that was purchased in Las Cruces, New Mexico last June.

OK, put the posole in a large pot and soak overnight to remove the lime. Next day, drain and put in fresh pot of water. Cook until the corn "pops." At that time put in cut up pork, fresh or canned green chiles (I only use New Mexico chiles), about 2 tablespoons chile power (yes, I only use New Mexico chile from Hatch.) http://www.hatchchilefest.com/
one cut up onion, about 4 chopped garlic, a tablespoon of oregano, salt and cook for about another hour. I put in some organic chicken broth also. Oh man, is this good!
Then we also had calabaza. That is Mexican squash cooked with corn, tomatoes, onions and cheese.
Tamales of course, can be bought just about any where. They are so-so. They are very labor intensive so I did not make them. I also did not eat them. However, the rest of the family loved them. We had both pork and beef.
The meal was topped off with wine and beer.
After we settled a bit we had dessert. I made Mexican hot chocholate and buenelos. http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/mexicanchocolate.htm I used the traditional molinillo to make the chocolate frothy. Along with the chocolate, we had buenelos. http://www.mex-recipes.com/mexican-dessert-recipe.html I chose the easy way and used flour tortillas rather than make them from scratch.
The whole meal was fantastic.

Midnight Mass is coming up soon so I will end this by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas again! I hope my meals give you inspiration to start tradtions based around family meals. What are some of your holiday traditions? Do you make a favorite recipe handed down from Mom? Please share some of your favorite things to do or cook for Christmas.

See you next time!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Busy December Traveling, Drinking, Eating and Quilting

Hi Boys and Girls!
I am sure your December is as busy as mine. It started with a bang. Have you ever been so cold that your lips do not move when you talk? I have. Hubby and I visited my most dear Aunt Cay in Spokane, WA the first week in December.
Spokane is home to Gonzaga University. What a fantastic place. http://www.gonzaga.edu/ It is a Jesuit university steeped in tradition. And they have a great basketball team!

Isn't my aunt sweet to find a quilt shop for me in Spokane? I found Moda's pattern Close to My Heart. The fabric line is gorgeous. I know you will fall in love with it. The pattern is from Laundry Basket Quilts http://www.laundrybasketquilts.com/ but for the life of me I could not find the pattern there nor the fabric. However, I did find some of the fabric at http://www.fabricdepot.com/
so I can at least start on the quilt, which measures 72" by 72" which is a good bed size. Anyway, my Aunt Cay is the sweetest person in the world. Back to Spokane.

I knew it would be a challenge but the gods were with us. What a beautiful place! Spokane is high desert and near the Idaho border. http://www.spokane.com/ It is in a valley but the mountains, Cascades, I think are very close. Well, believe me...it is cold there in December. My cousin Mary and husband Lemont live in Colbert, just a few miles from Spokane. They are very active outdoor sports people along with their two daughters. So, this area is perfect for them.
Do they look cold in this picture? It was 4 degrees! Yes, and they are used to this cold weather.

We were at Lake Coeur D'Alene (Idado)http://www.coeurdalene.org/ watching the eagles swooping down to catch fish for dinner. It is an awesome sight. I have never seen such a big lake. Well, let's get back to the 4 degrees! Do Roberto and I look cold? My teeth are clenched and I am trying to say, "Take the picture now!"
When we got back to the house, Lemont started his famous clam chowder....which was a great idea to thaw us out. Actually, he started a fire first and then headed to the kitchen. You didn't think I was going to leave out food in this post, did you? You know me better than that! Anyway, the clam chowder recipe was made up while he was camping and needed something fast and easy. It was a hassle to take fresh potatoes so he used Campbell's potato soup. Of course, the clams were canned but oh so good. No MSG.
Here are some of Lemont's ingredients.

The canned soup was very good too. To finish it off we had sourdough bread.Well, that took care of us just nicely!
You think I got away without making Mexican food? Nice try. They wanted tamales, but hey...I was only there for 3 days! So, I made shredded beef soft tacos with homemade tortillas, of course. The beef was spiced up with chile powder, black olives and garlic. We had Mexican rice and fresh beans. All the trimmings for the soft tacos included avocado, tomatoes and lettuce. Lemont made a real hit with me by bringing a sauce called El Pato. It is so good. The first ingredient is jalapenos but there is also vinegar. That sour with hot is great! I have not found it yet at my local store but it is made in Mexico so being in Texas, I should find it here.

Next, we went to Bothell, WA and had a ball there. My bro is the supreme good cook and his appetizers are very special.  Have you ever served pickles with Brie and grapes? Well, you should try it! The wine was a big hit too. I will not bore you with the Mexican dinner I made for them but let me give you a hint. Quesadillas made with butternut squash are to die for! Butternut squash?? Yes!! Cut the squash in half and poke holes in it. Place it in the microwave for a couple of minutes and keep testing it with a fork to see that it does not fully cook. When still firm, take it out and peel it. Chop the squash in bite-size pieces and saute them in butter, garlic and a dash of chile powder until cooked. Then make the quesadillas with a little butter in the pan. Place the tortilla in the pan and put some squash in the center of the tortilla along with sharp cheddar or Mexican cheese. Fold over and cook both sides. Serve with tomatillo sauce. Now, you tell me if this does not make your mouth water. It is a keeper in this house!

The highlight of Seattle was Canlis Restarant in Seattle. http://www.canlis.com/ The view is so beautiful. The service (at least 4 wait staff treated us like royalty). This is a very elegant place to dine. It is not just eating to fill your tummy. It is an experience that I highly recommend. Bill and Marsha treated us which made it even more special. They were celebrating their anniversary!

And then there was the International Motorcycle Show in downtown Seattle! All our dreams were coming true! Well, not quite, but we could pretend right? Doesn't Roberto look like a natural on this bike? He had one when we were dating and the bug has never left him....I keep bugging him for a bike!It could happen!

Well, this just about wraps up our quick trip to WA state. Christmas is Friday and the gift cakes are made. Now, I have to finish making my presents for a few special people. I cannot mention what they are because they may be reading this! I can tell you that they are homemade and taste good. Of course, the sewing machine has been busy too! Until next time, cook something interesting, make something from scratch and share your fun with me! Let me know how you like those butternut quesadillas!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fabric and More Fabric!

There are quilt shops and then there are quilt shops! Washington state has some serious quilters and very impressive quilt shops. There is no denying that Texas is the Mother of Quilt Shops, but I am impressed with the quality of fabric available and the impressive array of choices. For instance, Gathering Fabrics in Woodinville gatheringfabrics.com, near Bothell, WA has so much to choose from in a very small space. Of course, they are moving into a larger building right next door. Right now, I am working on a BOM (block of the month) illustrating WA state's wildflowers. Keepsake Cottage Fabrics http://www.keepsakecottagefabrics.com/ in Bothell, WA. What a dream place with lots of samples on the walls and lots of Moda Fabrics. They have a great selection of sale fabric on their front porch. $5 a yard and an extra 10% off if you finish the bolt. Check out their next BOM...it will be wonderful! This shop is where I met my quilting friend, Pam. She does AWESOME applique. Today Pam took me up to Mt. Vernon, WA. http://www.ci.mount-vernon.wa.us/ It is an old town with historic buildings and it really has small town feel.

 And there are 2 great quilt shops. There is a fabric outlet. It is in the outlet mall. Sewer's Dream Fabric Outlet http://www.sewandquilt.com/

and that name is so appropriate! Check out this wall of beads! The prices will knock your socks off! I bought name-brand fabrics for $1 a yard and $4 a yard. They have regular priced fabrics too along with tons of notions!
Another cool thing are the classes offered. If you are up in this area, you gotta check out this fabric outlet.
Of course, you can always check them out online!