©Marie Stephens 2014  All rights reserved.
©Marie Stephens 2014 All rights reserved.


Always behind

Never caught up

The more work you get done.

The more work you make up.









Where did the time go?

Where was it spent?

Tree leaves are falling

On my cement.

Zinnias are gorgeous.

Morning Glories are glorious

One Glory survived,

Now we’re victorious!

The one that survived

and beat all the odds:

Vine chewing rabbits

Seed eating birds

Sprout stomping dogs

My childrens’ feet

Not one of these were able to defeat.

Could not defeat this defiant Morning Glory

This lovely blue flower

That gives me satisfaction and power.

The power to see

That all this work:

The planting

The waiting

The rejuvenating

The digging

The pinching

The pruning

The trimming





That all this work is never done.

That all this work can be quite fun

That all this work makes life more grand

Without it my yard would be quite bland

Without it I would lack for stories

For stories of Morning Glories who fought to survive

The elements, the animals, just to stay alive.

And that, my friends, gives me satisfaction and power

That started with one seed

One fine seed indeed

Who once got to going, grew with great speed!

Now that seed covers great space

Now My morning glory grows all over the place!

Blue flowers everywhere

Blue flowers abound

Up and over my tee pee

My spruce tree

And onto the ground!

And that gives great satisfaction

satisfaction indeed.

Gladly, I’m glad that we never gave up

The work it was worth it

The result filled my cup.

Iris and Daylilies: Are They Dying?

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watermark Iris lavender macro abstractIt’s August.  It’s Iowa.  It’s hotter than a monkey’s pattoot.  Why do my Iris and Daylilies look like crap?

Yes, we are in a bit of a drought right now, but even though you are watering, your Iris and Daylilies still might look a little worn out….and you know what?  That is okay.  Stop worrying, cuz every little thing is gonna be all right.

  • While Irises and Daylilies give us great blooms in May and June, they too, have a life cycle.
  • You don’t look perfect all the time, and neither do Irises and Daylilies….and that’s ok!
  • This is normal.  At this time of year, these plants start going dormant, so they will start slowly having their leaves dry up.
  • All you need to do is grab the yucky leaves, and with a downward and out tug, pull them off of the plant.
  • Voila, your plant just got a facelift, and all is right again.
  • Remove the leaves as they appear, and your garden will look more fixy, and manicured.
  • If you don’t remove them, it won’t hurt the plant, it will just not look as pretty.
  • Yesterday morning, I spent about 10 minutes yanking dead leaves off my Iris and Daylily plants, and it made a huge difference in how my front flower bed looked.  Now it’s not tired and saggy, like me in the morning.  It got a face lift, and it looks much better….now I need to do that for the rest of the collection.

Houseplants: 8 Things to Remember When Bringing Them Indoors For the Winter

What to do before bringing your house plants, like this hibiscus, indoors, in the fall.

8 tips for bringing you houseplants indoors in the fall.
Hate saying goodbye to the lush patio plants you lovingly cared for all summer? Learn how to give them a boost before bringing them indoors this fall!


8 Things to Remember When Bringing Houseplants Inside for Winter

One of my followers asked me for some tips on how to make her patio tropicals stay happy after she brings them indoors for the winter.  My recommendation would be to:

1.  Slowly reacclimate your plant to your indoor environment at least 2 weeks prior to bringing them in.                                                                                                                                                              2.  Start bringing them in at night to begin with.
3.  Also, you should plan not to leave it outside at night if temps drop below 60 degrees F.
4.  Avoiding the stress of cold temps is the best way to give your patio tropical a head start for happy house living for the winter.
5.  Be sure to remove any bugs or pests by cleaning or spraying the plant, or physically pruning away leaves and stems with bugs on them.
6.  Lastly, be sure to repot the plant to give it a fresh start with some new soil full of nutrients for the long winter ahead.
7. Once it’s in and acclimated to your house, be sure to feed it at least once or twice a month,
8. and when you water, be sure that you water until the water has drained out of the bottom of the pot and the plant feels heavy like the soil is completely saturated.

 Some simple House Plant Care guidelines: 

How often should I water?
Here is the rule of thumb I use: plants with thick,tough, juicy leaves and a waxy covering don’t need as much water…allow them to dry out completely between waterings. For example, an Aloe Vera plant really only needs to be watered about once or twice a month, depending on how hot and dry the room is that you keep it in.  Plants with very thin, non juicy, non waxy leaves, need to be watered about once a week.

How often should I fertilize?

For most houseplants, if using a liquid fertilizer, you should fertilize at least once a month.  If you are not one who remembers these sorts of things, you can incorporate a slow release fertilizer into your potting mix, or put some slow release fertilizer sticks into the soil, and then you will be good for about 3 months!

How often should I repot my houseplants?
Once a year is a good rule of thumb.

It’s always a good idea for house plants is to have a light, soil that has good drainage.  Good ingredients to find in it would be fir bark, perlite, milled peat moss, a little charcoal, and possibly a slow release fertilizer, so you can get by without having to remember to fertilize for a few months.  Of course, you can get really specific on your potting mix recipe depending on the type of plant you are growing.  Just remember, the less water a plant needs, the lighter the potting soil(lighter meaning increased drainage and dries out quickly)


Always just repot into the next size up which is usually an increase in 1 or 2 inches in diameter. Repotting is a good thing to do if you had your plant outside all summer, to get rid of any bugs that might have made a nest in the pot.

How deep do I plant my houseplants when repotting?
Always make sure that the new soil does not bury the top of the old soil of the rootball, to avoid rotting out the main stem of the plant.

What kind of soil or growing media should I use?
This is a toughy, but to simplify, you can go to your local garden center, and find a bag of potting mix specific to what you are repotting…for example, you can buy cacti and succulent potting mix, african violet potting mix, orchid bark, general tropical plant potting mix, and so on.

What are some unique, but easy to grow houseplants?
My favorites are the ones that look cool, don’t need lots of light, and don’t need lots of water.  Yes, they do exist!  I love pepperomias, sanseverias, aglaeonemas, and hoyas for tropical house plants.

How do I prune my houseplants?
This depends on the type of plant.  I think this might have to be a separate article.

One thing I do recommend before you do before you prune your houseplants, would be to invest in a decent pair of pruners.  I have been using Felco pruners for more than 20 years, in fact, I still have some that are at least 15 years old!  I like them because they are well made, the springs and blades are replaceable, and they even make a pair for lefties like me!  Pictured here are the Felco# 9 for left handers.  If you are a righty, you would go with the Felco#2 pruner.

These are the Felco #2 pruners for right handed gardeners.  My husband is also a professional horticulturist and has used this model for more than 20 years!

How do I winterize my patio tropicals?
Before bringing them in for the season, ideally, you should repot and spray them with a mild insecticidal soap.

If you can, try to use an organic spray to kill those little buggers after you repot your plants and before bringing them indoors.  

If you don’t want to mess with spraying, you could just grab an old pair of panty hose, wadd them up into a ball, and dunk them into some warm soapy water.  Gently scrub the upper and undersides of the leaves to physically remove any little mites or other critters and their eggs.  Trouble with this is, that you might not get them off the stems.   Give them a good shower with your water wand.  If your plant does show any signs of a bug problem prior to bringing it in, you could spray it once or twice at intervals recommended on the instructions of the spray bottle, to be sure you got rid of all the life stages of the bugs.  Pruning the plant back is another way to physically remove those problem bugs.