Pages

Easter Lily: Poison Plant


Cat lovers, be careful about bringing home an Easter Lily. Several types of lilies are toxic to cats: Tiger Lilies, Asiatic Lilies, and other Japanese Lilies.
Easter Lily


Lilies can cause acute kidney failure when eaten by a cat. All parts are poisonous--even just a nibble of the leaf or flower can result in kidney failure. If you see your cat consuming any part of a lily plant, take him immediately to your veterinarian for emergency treatment.




Lily of the Valley



Lily of the Valley, not a true lily, is dangerous for cats too, but in a different way. Convallaria majalis, causes vomiting, diarrhea, decreased heart rate, cardiac arrhythmia, and possibly even seizures, when ingested.




There is some controversy about whether or not daylilies are poisonous to cats. Not a true lily, hemerocallis species are edible for humans, rabbits, and deer. Both the leaves and the flowers are delicious in salads and taste much like lettuce. 

Hemerocallis Happy Returns Daylily
The ASPCA lumps daylilies in the same category as Lilium species on the toxic plants list, but I wanted to know what scientists believe so I searched a little deeper. The Hemerocallis species does not appear on the Toxic Plant List I found. You should take a look at that list--you might be surprised to find that you have several of the plants on their list. 

Spunky spends a lot of time in the Garden
At any rate, there has apparently not been enough study done to reveal whether or not daylilies are dangerous to cats. 

I do know that some things like aspirin are fine for us to ingest but are poison for our cats. When it comes to our pets, like our children, we are responsible for their safety. When you are unsure, it is best to err on the side of caution. If your pet seems sick after eating one of your plants, take him to the vet immediately along with a sample of the plant or at least the plant name.

Easter Egg Dyes Made from Garden Vegetables and Kitchen Spices

Easter has always been an important day for my family. The true meaning of Easter is of course to remember the resurrection of our Lord. Many families miss church on Easter Sunday to get ready for that big family Easter egg hunt, but we never did. 

Many fond memories are in my heart as Easter approaches. I think of my dear late Mother even more on Easter, because she enjoyed it so much. Mama always made sure we had new Easter clothes to wear to church on Easter Sunday, even if she did not. She taught us the true meaning of Easter. And although the "Easter Bunny" did visit us each year leaving us lots of goodies in our Easter Basket, he left me my very first big Bible, reminding me that Jesus, not the Easter Bunny, is what Easter is all about. In our Easter basket every time, along with the candy, was a couple of dyed Easter eggs. 

When I got older, Mama let me help her color the Easter eggs. And when my children were old enough, she taught them. We've always used the store bought egg dying tablets or food coloring. But a few years ago I ran across the idea of using vegetables and spices from the kitchen instead. 

Now I adore anything homemade! Coloring eggs with vegetable scraps is fascinating to me. But when you think about it, it really makes sense. Take beets, for instance. They stain anything they come in contact with, from cutting boards to kitchen counters to fingers. But there are other vegetables that will work and some spices have concentrated color that makes a wonderful dye. 

The original color of the egg will alter the effect, in that darker eggs will yield a deeper or even a different color. Since our eggs now are several different colors because we have different breeds of chickens, I can't wait to see what we end up with after they are dyed.
Here's a list of foods and spices along with the color egg they will give you:
  • Beets make white eggs pink or brown eggs maroon
  • Red or Purple Onion Skins make lavender or red eggs
  • Yellow Onion Skins make white eggs orange or brown eggs rusty red
  • Purple Cabbage makes white eggs blue but brown eggs green
  • Spinach makes eggs green
  • Cumin makes eggs yellow
  • Turmeric makes yellow eggs
  • Paprika makes orange eggs
To make the dye, shred the vegetables and add 4 cups of the shredded vegetables to 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil and then lower the temperature, cover, and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, until a deep color is achieved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before straining the liquid. 


With spices, add 2 tablespoons of the spice to 1 quart of water. It is not necessary to boil the spice and water mixture--simply heat through and allow to steep. Colored teas will also work. Just steep as you normally would for drinking. 

To help the eggs soak up the color, stir in 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the dye before using. 


(Once, I got the bright idea to save myself a step and I boiled the eggs in with the vegetables. That didn't work for 2 reasons: the white of the egg was dyed too but also the eggs were too hard, so don't do that.)

A single dipping will not color your eggs much with this dye. The eggs will need to soak for awhile. I lay my eggs in a single layer in a glass casserole dish and pour the colored liquid over the eggs making sure they are submerged in the homemade dye. Refrigerate. Allow the eggs to stay in the liquid as long as it takes to achieve the color you want. Taking a few out at different stages will give you different shades of the same color.

After the eggs are dyed, drain and dry them well with a paper towel and rub them with a little vegetable oil so they will really shine.

Troup County Master Gardeners Plant Sale & Swap

Saturday, April 26, 2014
9am until 2pm

Location: Agriculture Building on Vulcan Materials Road, 
LaGrange, Georgia - off Highway 27, across from Sam Walker Drive
  • Perennials for sun and shade
  • Vegetable Plants
  • Native Plants
  • Shrubs
  • House Plants
  • Groundcovers
  • Spring Annuals

Buy locally grown plants, grown by local gardeners, that will thrive in your garden.

Get answers for your difficult gardening questions.

Swap divisions of your plants at the exchange area, no money needed.

Proceeds from sale funds local Master Gardener projects and scholarships.

Open to the Public!

The Troup County Master Gardener Volunteer Program is provided by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.

Gardening Help for this Unpredictable Georgia Weather

Have you ever wished that you had made a record of how much rain you received over the past month? Have you ever wondered if your soil is warm enough in your garden to sow seeds?  And before planting peppers and tomatoes, we all need to know the date of our last expected frost.


If you live in Georgia, there is a way you can find out all that and more. Just go to the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network. Follow the link and you will find this map which is clickable so you can select the weather station closest to you.

Native Bees ID Chart



Identifying the bees on the poster “Join the Conversation about Native Bees”
Written by Stephen Buchmann, Ph.D., Interim NAPPC Coordinator, Pollinator Partnership
  1. Macropis nuda. There’s oil in some flowers. Flowers including Spotted       Loosestrife (Lysimachia spp.) produce energy rich and nutritious floral oils which some female bees (Macropis nuda) collect using modified leg hairs like “oil squeegees” to enrich their brood provisions. This happens in some tropical bees (especially the genus Centris) but in the northeastern USA, only in these interesting little Macropis oil bees.
  2. Agapostemon texanus. US sweat bee (a male Agapostemon texanus) is especially colorful. Males of this species have a shiny green/brassy head and thorax but a wildly contrasting black and yellow-banded abdomen. Look for these bees on sunflowers and other common plants in the late spring and summer. 
  3. Peponapis pruinosa. Squash and gourd bees (like our Peponapis pruinosa) are common bees across much of the United States. They are specialist pollinators preferring the pollen and nectar of squashes, gourds and pumpkin flowers. The genus Peponapis is a colorful bee about the size of a honey bee. They are solitary; each female constructs her own nest with no help from kin, and nest a foot or more underground, usually in or near patches of their favorite cucurbits. 
  4. Bombus impatiens. The Impatient Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens) is the preferred bumble bee of commerce. Since it can buzz pollinate, while honey bees never do, it is reared in large numbers and its colonies flown to distance localities, greenhouses needing pollinators. Since it does not naturally occur west of the Mississippi, efforts are underway to only allow it to be used in the eastern states as a managed pollinator. Its colors are muted, the yellow hair bands are often more white than a bright yellow. Compare with Morrison’s bumble bee of the western states.
  5. Osmia lignaria. The Blue Orchard Bee (Osmia lignaria) is a member of the leafcutter and mason bee family (Megachilidae). Its distribution includes the Pacific Northwest USA where it is a common visitor to fruit trees in gardens and yards. This bee is often first noticed as females searching for just the right size beetle or nail hole in which to nest and raise their brood. Blue orchard bees are specialists on trees in the rose family and superb pollinator of sweet cherries and other orchard crops. They are currently being tested as pollinators of almonds in California. This bee can be very easily provided for by drilling 7-8 mm diameter holes 5 inches deep into scrap lumber. These “bee condos” can be attached to a garden shed, fence or tree. Nesting females will take up residence and you will be rewarded with bountiful fruit harvests. 
  6. Hylaeus sp. Yellow-faced bees (Hylaeus spp.) usually go unnoticed by most gardeners and hikers. These slender black/brown bees are relatively hairless and most think they are wasps. Under a microscope, they are distinctive with a bright yellow face. The only bees natives to Hawaii are a group of these Hylaeus. Due to habitat fragmentation and loss in the Hawaiian Islands, several of these rare native bees have gone extinct, while others are declining. Hyleaus nests in hollow stems. Unlike most bees, Hylaeus carries its pollen and nectar back to the nest internally, inside the crop, or honey stomach.
  7. Habropoda laboriosa. The Southeastern Blueberry Bee (Habropoda laboriosa) is a digger bee (anthophorid in the family Apidae) from southeastern states including Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. This handsome large gray bee is an efficient pollinator of southern rabbit eye blueberries. This is one of the bees, unlike honey bees, which uses sonication, produced by rapid flight muscle contractions, to eject pollen grains from the blueberry flowers.
  8. Xylocopa varipuncta. Males of the Valley Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) are common in the southwestern states. These bees have striking colors, a large golden amber body with long hairs and brilliant green eyes. During the spring, males leave the nest galleries in which they emerged, inside a large log or tree branch and go courting. They establish hovering territories in a non-flowering shrub or tree and release a pheromone, a rose-scented blend of volatiles from within massive thoracic glands. Passing females decide which male to mate with based up his particular bee “cologne.”
  9. Bombus morrisoni. Morisson’s bumble bee (Bombus morrisoni) is one of the most colorful bumble bees found in western and southwestern states. It’s mostly yellow fuzzy body attracts our attention as it visits diverse flowers in gardens and native wildflower areas. This bee is one of several that turns its body into a living tuning fork on plants with pored anthers, like tomatoes or deadly nightshades (Solanum spp.). Other species are managed for greenhouse pollination of tomatoes which require this form of buzz pollination. 
  10. Perdita minima. The smallest bee in the United States is only 2.0 mm (about 1/16th of an inch) long. These small amber colored bees (Perdita minima) in the andrenid family nest in the soil and visit the small white flowers of mat-forming Euphorbiaceae that come up in sidewalk cracks and along dirt roadways in the southwestern states.
  11. Xylocopa virginica. Many gardeners mistake the Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) for a large bumble bee. Although both bees are large and colorful, they are only distantly related, both belonging to the large family Apidae. Carpenter bees collect pollen and nectar from a wide variety of plants, thus they are known as generalist feeders. Large carpenter bees construct their nests inside dead but sound wood. Sawdust scrapings are glued together to form the first “particle board” separating individual brood cells within their long galleries. In the east, X. varpipuncta is a minor structural timber pest, often constructing its galleries in sheds, outdoor beams or fence posts. On the bright side, these bees are amazing to watch at flowers or at their nests, and it takes decades of residency before there is any serious structural damage to support beams. The females reuse the same nesting tunnels year after year. 
  12. Bombus vosnessenskii. The Yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnessenskii) is a handsome bumble bee mostly black with a yellow face and prothorax and narrow yellow abdominal band. It occurs in the western states of California, into Nevada, Washington, Oregon and into British Columbia. It does not seem to have been affected, in decline, like the formerly widespread Western Bumble Bee (Bombus occidentalis)13. Bombus affinis. The Rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) is a bee that was formerly common across large areas of the United States from the Midwestern states to the northeast. It started to become rare in its former ranges after 1997. The reason(s) for its demise are not entirely settled but may include pathogen spillover from European parasites, contamination in the greenhouse bumble bee rearing industry. 
  13. Bombus affinis. The Rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) is a bee that was formerly common across large areas of the United States from the Midwestern states to the northeast. It started to become rare in its former ranges after 1997. The reason(s) for its demise are not entirely settled but may include pathogen spillover from European parasites, contamination in the greenhouse bumble bee rearing industry
  14. Megachile sp. Leafcutter bees like this handsome Megachile sp. are members of a very diverse family, the Megachilidae, which includes the leafcutter, resin and mason bees. Females of many of these bees get their name from the pieces of leaves they collect. Have you seen neat circles clipped from the edges of rose bushes or other plants? These leaf pieces are used to line the brood cells; literally the bees are usurping the chemical defenses, against microbes, found in the leaves. Please tolerate some non-harmful cosmetic damage that the females cause and you’ll be rewarded with bountiful harvests in your home garden or orchard.
  15. Andrena cornelli. Miner bees, the family Andrenidae, are represented by the huge genus Andrena, with over 2,000 described species. Females of Andrena cornelli are common spring visitors to the large pink flowers of eastern Azalea (Rhododendron canescens). The cobwebby pollen of these flowers are carried away in strings as brood food by the Andrena females.
  16. Anthophora centriformis. Digger bees, or anthophorids like this Anthophora centriformis are members of the large family Apidae. Anthophora species are large, strikingly colored fast-flying bees that visit tubular flowers like Penstemon (“beardstongue”) in gardens and natural areas. Most digger bees nest in the ground and are solitary, living out their lives without any help, like solitary wasps. 
  17. Nomada sp. The Wandering Cuckoo Bee (Nomada sp.) is a type of digger bee (family Apidae) which does not collect pollen to feed its brood. These colorful and nearly hairless bees are cleptoparasites, or cuckoos in the nest of other bees. Like cowbirds, a female cuckoo bee sneaks her own egg in the nest while the host female is away. Once hatched, the cuckoo bee kills the host egg or larva and consumes the pollen and nectar provisions left by the host female. 
  18. Augochorella pomoniella. Sweat bees like this beautiful metallic green Augochorella pomoniella are members of the large and diverse “sweat bee” family, the Halictidae. This southwestern species is a common resident of Arizona and adjoining states. These bees have sparse hairs and their integument is a shiny metallic green.

The above information was borrowed from The Pollinator Partnership.

April is National Gardening Month

Since April is National Gardening Month, now is a good time to get others interested in gardening. Over the years, I have become increasingly concerned about what contaminants might be in the food I am feeding to my family. Most store bought produce and meat contains some kind of germs or pesticides. And genetically modified foods are very scary to me, since I do not fully understand what all they entail. It is very important to know where our food comes from. I try more and more to grow as much of our own food as possible and what I can't grow, I try to purchase from another gardener in our area. Unfortunately, our year round farmer's market sells produce from all over the world, so I can't trust it for my dinner table. Our true farmer's markets are seasonal, open only from late Spring to early Fall.
Locally grown food from last summer

It would be difficult to be entirely self-sufficient and feed our families only what we can grow and produce ourselves. It's true that years ago, families did just that, only purchasing things like grain and sugar. But that was before the days of mothers working full time outside the home and before television, Facebook, and Netflix took over our lives. 


Still, we can grow much of what we eat ourselves, right in our own backyards. I don't have to worry anymore about where my eggs come from and whether or not some hen was mistreated while producing them, since we have our own backyard flock. But I do worry about salmonella, e-coli, or pesticides hitch hiking into my home and onto our dinner plate via salad greens and fruits I buy at the grocery store. 

I try to do what I can to encourage others to grow their own produce. I'm not suggesting you plow up your whole yard and turn it into a garden. Start small. Purchase a few plants from your locally owned garden center. Most of these home nursery owners grow the plants themselves from cuttings or seeds. You can help them grow their home business and grow food for your family at the same time. 

Children love planting veggies
Get the whole family involved. It is important to teach our children how to grow their own vegetables and fruit. Gardening can be hard work, but it is very rewarding. When your child sees fruits and vegetables actually growing on the plant and learns where food comes from, he will be excited to eat things he wouldn't normally try.

Although gardening can be hard work, some plants produce with little or no help from us. Plants like blueberries, plums, and blackberries don't require much intervention from us once they are planted in the ground.

How often have you turned around at the grocery store to find your child eating unwashed grapes or strawberries? That always horrified me when my children were small, but when you grow your own fruits and vegetables at home, your children can pick and eat right off the plant.