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Master Your Garden

By Barbara Kozlowski, MG

Cattaraugus Co. Cornell Cooperative Extension

Aaahh … summer has finally arrived and aren’t we lovin’ it after the very harsh winter we had. You have probably noticed that some of the perennial plants, shrubs and trees are budding out and/or flowering a little slower than in the past years. Also, I have lost a couple of perennials but others have a renewed vigor to their growth. I’ve noticed this most in the Rose of Sharon planted alongside my deck. One has almost completely leafed out and the other is much slower with parts just starting to show their leaf shoots. I had actually thought I had lost this one but decided to give it time, and I am very glad I did. In gardening, patience is definitely worth the extra time.

As your garden begins to mature, think about preserving some of that beauty. Dry flowers for potpourris and winter bouquets. For potpourris, pick the flower heads in a dry, hot moment of the day. Spread the petals over paper towels on screens. Set the screens to dry in a warm, airy, dry place — a high-ceilinged attic, for example or a garage.

For dried bouquets, harvest large, moist flowers like zinnias when the blooms are fully open. Single varieties are better for drying than doubles. Harvest dryish flowers like the everlastings and salvia just before the buds open. Cut fresh, healthy stems 12 to 14 inches long and strip away all lower leaves to prepare them for drying.

For air drying, tie the stems together in small, loose bunches. Then enclose the heads in paper bags as they shed. Label the bags. Hang the bunches upside down for 2 to 10 days, or until very dry, in a warm, airy, dark place. Direct sunlight fades the colors. Remember to dry some of the herbs from your garden to use during the winter months for cooking or making sachets as gifts.

One of the best-kept secrets in western New York is our strawberries. Their flavor is unequalled anywhere. This past Sunday coming home from a visit with my cousin, I found a stand selling fresh-picked strawberries, fresh-baked biscuits and whipped topping for a “take-it-home” strawberries shortcake. I just opted for the berries that had been picked that morning.

In a matter of minutes, I had cleaned four quarts of berries to make a fresh berry jam. Later, I finished cleaning the rest of the berries for eating plain or with yogurt. If you love strawberries, by all means, pick up some of these gems. The season is way too short and your taste buds will thank you during the cold winter months as you spread strawberry jam on your toast or make strawberry shortcake for dessert at Christmas time.

A reminder for your calendar: Wednesdays in the Arboretum begins July 9 and continues into August. The lectures start at 7 p.m. and end about 8:30 p.m. There are two lectures most every Wednesday and they are free. Look for the complete schedule in this paper. We’ll be looking for you!

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