Plant a Tree

Set aside to celebrate trees, National Arbor Day has been observed since 1872. In most states it is observed on the last Friday in April, usually a good time of year to plant throughout most of the country, and it is a state holiday in Nebraska where the founder of Arbor Day, J. Sterling Morton, was born.

Best Trees for Your GardenTrees add tremendous value to your home – they shade your house in the summer (cutting your air conditioning bills), they add oxygen to the air (significantly reducing pollution) and they add beauty in every season. Planting a tree is simple really – just make sure you put the root end in the ground! – but there are a few points you should keep in mind.

-Take some time to pick the right tree for your yard. Think about how big your choice will be when it’s mature. White oaks and sugar maples are magnificent trees, but are they really appropriate for the average suburban plot? Take a look at Best Trees for Your Garden by Allen Paterson which can help you choose from one of the many beautiful small to medium trees that are available.

-Choose the right tree for the right spot. Some prefer some shade, some need full sun. If it’s a flowering tree, will it bloom reliably in our cold springs? Does it require special care, or have problems with pests and diseases? Growing Shrubs and Small Trees in Cold Climates by Nancy Rose is an excellent source for answering these questions and more including planting for wildlife, how to prune and recommendations of best varieties to grow.Growing Shrubs and Trees in Cold Climates

-The number one reason that trees fail to live is improper planting. The number one cause of improper planting is planting the tree too deeply. Do not plant your tree too deeply. Do not pile mulch up around the trunk of the tree. These practices will slowly but surely kill your tree. Remember how you drew a tree when you were a little kid? You probably drew a straight trunk and where it met the ground, you’d draw slanting lines to indicate the roots. That’s called the tree “flare”. You need to plant your new tree so that this shows above ground – just like in your drawing!

Check out the Iowa State University Forestry Extension for lots of tips and information on the best trees to plant in Iowa and how to plant them. Also, try calling the Scott County Extension office at 359-7577 where the Hort Clinic, staffed by Master Gardeners, will answer your tree and gardening questions.

How Does Your Building Grow?

Green Roofs and Living WallsWith the growing concern for the environment and its health, the relatively new (to the United States) practice of installing plants on roofs and walls is beginning to take off. Called green roofs, they provide several environmental benefits including:

-reducing pollution and water run-off

-insulating against heat and cold

-reducing the maintenance needs of buildings

You can see examples of green roofs in action right here in Davenport, including the new Davenport Police Department and and a demonstration garden on the roof of the pump station (located near the fountain) at Vander Veer Botanical Park. Pictures and descriptions of these roofs and others throughout Iowa can be found at Iowa Life Changing, a division of the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

To read up on how to add a green roof to your property, including how to install it and what to plant as well as lots of examples of successful green roofs, check out Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls by Nigel Dunnett, and Noel Kingsbury.

Green Garden Tips

Black-eyed susansGoing green in the garden (so to speak) isn’t hard, and you’ll save money as well. Try one or more of the following:

1. Reduce your lawn. Keeping that putting-green-worthy swath of grass pristine takes more water and fertilizer than any other area of your yard.

2. Mow what lawn you do have less often. Because they are unregulated, gas-powered lawn mowers emit more pollution than driving your car to work. Plus, it’s better for the grass if it’s kept a little long.

3. Plant natives. They are better adapted to our unique climate, more resistant to diseases and pests and they help support native wildlife. For information on what to plant, take a look at Native Plants in the Home Landscape: Upper Midwest by Keith Nowakowski or Easy Care Native Plants by Patricia Taylor.

4. Don’t use herbicides or pesticides in your garden. Most plants need little or no fertilizer. And unless you are visited by a plague of locusts, most insect damage is relatively minor. Plus, pesticides will also kill the “good” bugs and are hazardous to the birds which, if left alone, will often take care of the “bad” bugs. If you must use chemicals, use the absolute minimum amount. Runoff from overuse of herbicides and pesticides used in home gardens is a serious threat to local water sources.

5. Mulch your flower and vegetable beds to conserve water and improve the soil. Use chopped leaves from your yard or take advantage of Davenport’s compost program; they sell finished compost by the bag or by the truckload.

6. Go organic. It’s easy, fun and it’ll save you money. Not to mention the planet.

This is How it Happened by Jo Barrett

This is How it Happened by Jo BarrettSometimes the only way to get over a guy is through revenge. And the more painful the ending of a relationship, the more elaborate the revenge. Madelaine spent four years with Carlton, financing his education, creating the ideas and energy behind their business, devoting everything to their relationship. When he dumped (and fired) her the only thing she could think about was getting back at him. This is How it Happened by Jo Barrett will have you laughing out loud as Maddy experiments with poisoned brownies, voodoo spells and hiring a hitman. Don’t worry, no blood is spilled, but everyone gets their due in the very satisfying end.

What to Read Next…

booksLooking for that elusive next great book to read? I like to look at what’s popular with book clubs; the books they read are usually timely, well-written, thoughtful and provocative, all ingredients for a great read.

Reading Book Choices, a website that reviews books with an eye toward book clubs, has just released their list of the top book club books of 2007. Have you read any on this list? All of them? Would you recommend them to a friend? Any that were missed? Any you need to add to your to-read list?

1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

2. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

4. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

5. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

6 TIE Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

6 TIE The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

7. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

8. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

10. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Don’t forget, the Davenport Library offers Bookclub in a Box, kits which include multiple copies of a single title, information on the author and sample questions to get your discussion started. They can be checked out for six weeks. We have more than 40 titles and we’re adding new ones all the time. Visit the library catalog and type in “bookclub in a box” for a complete listing.

Things I Learned from Knitting (Whether I Wanted to or Not) by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Things I Learned from Knitting (Whether I Wanted to or Not) by Stephanie Pearl-McPheeThis little book is filled with essays on life lessons, often learned the hard way, as shown through the craft and art of knitting. Things I Learned from Knitting is sharp and funny, written with a dry sense of humor and underlined with truth and generosity. Stephanie, a self-described knitting humorist and philosopher, has been a long-time presence on the internet with her very popular blog where she’s known as the Yarn Harlot.

Examples of Stephanie’s observations that are true in life as well as knitting include:

-Babys grow

-Beginning is easy, continuing is hard

-Everything is better so long as it’s happening to someone else

-Idle hands are the devil’s workshop

She also includes a list of the health benefits of knitting, what to do if the airline won’t let you fly with your knitting needles and 5 reasons why knitting is better than video games, all delivered with tongue firmly in cheek.

Hardy Succulents by Gwen Kelaidis

Hardy SucculentsWant to try something a little different in your garden? Take a look at plants like cactus, yucca, sedums and echieverias; many of these low maintenance, exotic-seeming plants are surprisingly at home in our Zone 5 weather. It’s very likely that you’re already growing sedums – the ubiquitous “Autumn Joy” is lovely in the perennial garden year-round and the lowly hen-and-chicks make charming ground covers (they also make ideal house-warming presents; in some parts of Europe it was believed that when planted on the roof they would ward off lightening strikes) And you may be surprised to learn that Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) is native to Iowa.

Gwen Kelaidis’ Hardy Succulents will open your eyes to the many forms, varieties and colors succulents come in, and will show you how to integrate them in your existing landscape. She also offers tips for how best to grow them, the best varieties for cold regions, and combinations for container gardens. Many gorgeous photos spotlight their graphic shapes which are both modern and timeless. Succulents are showing up more and more in nurseries; be sure to try a few – you may get hooked!

Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz dvdA classical English village becomes the unlikely setting for this hilarious buddy cop movie. Nicholas Angel is too good at his job; he’s making the rest of the London police force look bad. So he’s shuttled off to a quiet country village, far from any action. Or is it? Angel puts his big city training to use and soon discovers that all is not as it seems in this idyllic setting. Hampered by bumbling local cops, a cast of eccentric characters and brick walls at every turn, Angel persists in doing his job.

Loaded with cultural references and poking fun at films of all genres including westerns, action and cop movies (the subtitles on the dvd will clue you in on a lot of them), you don’t need to “get” any of them to enjoy Hot Fuzz which stands on it’s own as fresh, surprising and funny. (Please note that this film has an R rating for language and some violence)

The Davenport library has movies – and television shows – of all kinds available for checkout. Be sure to stop by and browse through our dvd section soon!

Look Me in the Eye by John Robison

Look Me in the Eye by John RobisonUnable to communicate effectively with other people, John Robison was labeled as a “social deviant” at an early age and struggled to to fit in. With a mentally disturbed mother and alcoholic father, there was no help at home, but by luck he finds a niche working with mechanical gadgets and electronic circuits. Finally, when he was 40, John was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.

Look Me in the Eye is an uncompromising, sometimes hilarious account of John’s many struggles of trying to cope with a world that he cannot comprehend and which does not understand him. Unable to recognize social cues such as facial expressions and body language, he has difficulty making and keeping friends. Successful inspite of these barriers, John now helps others who are struggling to live with Asperger’s.

Although this is a memoir and not a diagnostic manual, it does provide a unique, unforgettable glimpse into the world of people with Asperger’s.