While attending a marriage seminar on communication, Tom and his wife Peg listened to the instructor declare, "It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other." He asked Tom, "Can you describe your wife's favorite flower?" Tom leaned over, touched his wife's arm gently and whispered, "Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn't it?" The rest of the story is not pleasant. —Author unknown


Three cures for subzero blues

It’s 10 degrees below zero with a 15-below wind chill in Des Moines as I write this, and we’re hoping to push that mercury to zero today. Whoo hoo, heat wave! The best news: No more water from the ice dams on our roof will trickle inside. In that spirit of warming optimism, I offer 3 ways to beat the subzero blues: blooms, bananas and manure.

Cure #1: Grow houseplants! A velvety magenta moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) I bought at the Botanical Center in November will continue to bloom for several more months. I’m thrilled to report that a dendrobium orchid I got as a freebie several years ago will be reblooming soon. It summered outside last year in a spot with dappled shade where it got lots of rainwater. I rarely use chemical fertilizers but I did give it a dose or two this fall when I brought it inside. Finally, the first of the dozen or so amaryllis I bought at our local botanical center’s holiday bulb sale is starting to open. Nothing says tropical better than that (OK, other than a trip to the Caribbean but an amaryllis fits the budget better!) I’m so excited because this bulb is going to produce THREE flower stalks. It pays to spend more for a bigger, higher-quality bulb. Here’s ‘Lemon & Lime’ amaryllis, shot with my brand-new Canon G-11 camera.

Lemon & Lime Amaryllis

Lemon & Lime Amaryllis

Cure #2: Visit your local botanical center. Even if you’re not a gardener, now is the time when your botanical center is truly there for you. (You can find yours at the American Public Gardens Association website.) One step inside a  tropical dome or conservatory and you’re instantly transported to a warmer realm. My friend Chelsie and I recently visited the Des Moines Botanical Center, where we were entranced by bananas ripening and the moist scent of green growing things. Come to my Learn on Saturdays class January 30 at 10 a.m. on Garden Photography Basics and plan to attend the Tropical Heat Wave event on Friday, February 19 from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Chelsie with bananas ripening inside the Des Moines Botanical Center

Chelsie with bananas ripening inside the Des Moines Botanical Center

Cure #3: Laugh a lot! I chuckled out loud at the story in today’s Des Moines Register about Dick Kleis, a farmer from Zwingle, Iowa, who used 124,000 pounds of manure and a spreader to write “HAP B DAY LUV U” in his fields this week to mark his wife Carole’s birthday. The paper quotes Carole as saying that he’s done some strange things in the past to mark her birthday, “but maybe not this weird.” Dick said he wanted to include a heart but ran out of manure.

He won my heart with that trick! There’s going to be a fine crop in that field next year.

Great job, Dick, and congrats, Carole!

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