Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Families make tonight's performance of 'James and the Giant Peach' a special treat

It's Wednesday but many parents will be making an exception to the family’s rule: no outings on a school night in order to see tonight's presentation of “James and the Giant Peach” by All The World's A Stage at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township.

“We’ve got a great cast performing a great story,” said Lou Fazzini, founder and director of All The World’s A Stage, a theater group comprised of some of areas most promising young performers. 

"James and the Giant Peach" cast member Alex Oparka who plays the Centipede, at left, along with Jon Sangster who plays James.

A magical peach, an imprisoned boy and insect friends – it all comes hilariously to life in Ronald Dahl’s delightful dramatization revealing the wickedness of some, the goodness of others, and the indecision encountered by many when they are faced with crises.

“James and the Giant Peach” cast members, above left to right, are: Emily Ruhlman (Earthworm), Lorna Roy (Spider), Lauren Bergeski (Grasshopper), Ashleigh Dobbin (Glowworm), Ashleigh Motoligin (Lady Bug), Alex Oparka (Centipede), and Jon Sangster as James.

Turn off the TV and join Macomb County’s award-winning youth theatre troupe at Macomb Center for the Performing Arts for a special presentation of “James and the Giant Peach.” There’s also a matinee showing April 26 at 10 a.m.  Curtain time for the show is 7 p.m.  Tickets of $10 in advance and $12 at the door can be purchased online at Macomb Center or by calling 586-286-2222. The Macomb Center is at  44575 Garfield Road, Clinton Township. 

Running time for the show is approximately one hour – so you can be home before 9 p.m.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kids more likely to eat what they grow

As a child I worked in a number of gardens including a rock garden that my Mum and I created together. It was nice because the pebbles and sand kept the weeds at bay. That wasn’t the case with the garden my uncle planted at the edge of a wheat field. It was so big it required a John Deere tractor with a 3-point hitch cultivator to weed the garden, and several children (including me) to water it. 

Red potatoes, carrots, corn, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes — you name it — he grew it along with fresh flowers for cutting. Like most kids, I was never one for vegetables or hoeing on a hot summer day, but when the job was done I always felt good. Seeing the neat and tidy rows of plants without weeds, the black earth between them, and knowing I saved my uncle from doing it himself, gave me great satisfaction. 

Uncle Leonard’s garden was almost an acre. 

However, no one really needs that much land to start their own vegetable garden. A small square of backyard or even a flowerpot on a balcony or sunny windowsill is enough. Well, that along with a little bit of care and lots of water. 

Avid gardener and Wiegand’s Nursery manager Lily Ennes said the most important thing about a garden is not the size, but its location. “In order to grow properly, most plants need a minimum of six hours of sun a day,” said Ennes, who plants a garden annually with her grandchildren. 

Once you pick a sunny spot, clean the area of debris, grass and rocks. Ennes said she does the digging but lets her grandchildren help her shake the weeds from the soil. After clearing the area, she and the kids will add a few bags of fresh topsoil. This is good for the plants and makes it easier to create the mounds needed for planting. 

“Our rows are usually 2 feet by 12 inches deep, compacted,” said Ennes, adding that she lets her grandchildren create the mounds that stretch from one end of the garden to the other. “If they’re crooked, who cares? It’s a kids’ garden.” 

What you plant in your garden is totally up to you. If, however, you let your children choose the plants for the garden, they may be more inclined to eat the crops they/you harvest. One of the steps that Ennes’ grandchildren like to do is start their seedlings indoors. If you plant the seeds in egg cartons filled with topsoil, when the seedlings are ready for transplanting the carton can go directly into the ground. Ennes has used egg shells as mini planters. “Just break off the end. Remove the egg and fill the shell with soil,” Ennes said. “Then gently poke a hole in the soil and add a seed.” 

After you transfer your plants into your backyard garden, Ennes suggests building small trellises out of branches and placing them over plants that have vines — cucumber, squash and pumpkins — to give them a place to climb. 

One thing Ennes highly recommends for a children’s garden is sunflowers. 

If you plant them in a circle, once they start growing you can tie them together to create a flower tepee. “My mom used to do it for me using old T-shirts. I just use twine,” Ennes said. Once the flowers grow to full size, it becomes this amazing flower fort that the kids can play in. “It’s surreal to see them playing inside while the birds are eating the flowers outside.” 

Other flowers to consider for a children’s garden are marigolds and zinnias: Marigolds repel insects and the zinnias’ blooms are magnificent and sweet smelling. 

There are Growums kits, created by a dad who wanted to introduce his kids to gardening, that come with everything a child needs to start a garden. Parents can choose from a variety of themed gardens including herb, pizza, salad, stir-fry, taco and ratatouille. What makes it fun for little ones is the names of the plants: Tomicio Tomato, Frank Cilantro and Ice Berg. The kits are interactive in that each one comes with a code enabling the gardeners to learn more about their plants online through animated videos. 

Bad part about the kits is they’re nearly failproof. 

So crucial lessons such as the importance of watering are not learned as they would be from gardeners like Ennes. 

However, not everyone has a green thumb or a grandmother like Ennes. 

For those in need of a little gardening know-how, Master Gardeners at MSU Macomb Extension will present “School Gardening 101,” a unique workshop that teaches parents, garden coordinators, teachers, food service directors and volunteers more about how to work and play in the dirt with kids. 

To register for the workshops — Macomb County (May 14), Oakland County (May 3) and Wayne County (May 10) — visit MSU Workshop or call 586-469-5180. 

Send your comments or home and garden tips to Gina Joseph, The Macomb Daily, 100 Macomb Daily Drive, Mount Clemens, MI 48043, or email them to gina.joseph@macombdaily.com.

Help us grow!
Macomb Daily Features Facebook, and be eligible to win a Growums “Garden in a Box.” It is a complete gardening system that comes with one self-watering container, one Growums Pizza Garden starter kit, collectible stickers featuring the Growums characters,and Growums magic soil.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hitch your wagon to the treasures at Max and Ollie's

We all have our favorite shops, whether you're a man who loves power tools or a woman in search of a dress. And some of us don't like to share.

I remember writing a column a couple of years ago about a nifty little gift shop in Shelby Township that took old wood products such as doors and window frames, painted them white and turned them into vintage accents and accessories. I discovered the shop while searching for a fabric shop. Shortly after the story ran, I heard from a lady agreeing that it was the best little shop in Shelby but cursing me for sharing her secret with others.  

Here I am again with another find, only this one I discovered years ago when the shop first opened. I am talking about Max & Ollie's at 42 Pine Street in Downtown Mount Clemens. Yes! It is the shop that parks a little red wagon on the sidewalk that tells shoppers that Max & Ollie's is open for business.

The story of Max & Ollie's began six years ago in an apartment above John Barleycorn. Diane Kubik and her recently laid-off sister were sitting at the kitchen table mulling over what to do when they decided to open their own business: a boutique featuring crafts and vintage finds. Two weeks after opening up their 330-square-foot shop, Kubik's sister was called back to work, leaving Kubik as one-woman operation.

She thrived as an entrepreneur (while still caring for her young sons Max and Ollie) and the store evolved into an award-winning shop.

Have you ever needed a special gift such as a frilly apron for someone who loves to cook? Or a white pair of gloves for a garden party? How about a beaded vintage purse to match a summer hat you purchased to wear for a wedding? These items and more I have found at Max & Ollie's. What I have also found is that Kubik enjoys window shoppers. I've heard of people just going in the store to browse. Every visit turns up something new. 

"It's been an honor," said Kubik. "I have such wonderful customers, so supportive. To be able to stay in business for six years in such a tough economy is just amazing."  

To celebrate her success and acknowledge her sixth anniversary, Max & Ollie's will be open for extended hours, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., April 26-April 28. Each day will feature a different sale: April 26, 30 percent off jewelry and accessories; April 27, 30 percent off glass and china; and April 28, 30 percent off linens, lamps and décor.

Just look for the little red wagon parked at the curb. Oh, and once you've been there to see it for yourself, feel free to share.

If someone asked you, "Can you swim a mile?" you'd say, "Nah." But if you found yourself dumped out at sea, you'd swim the mile. You'd make it -- Gertrude Boyle

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Put bird feeders on your list of spring cleaning chores

Spring cleaning for me is a weeklong chore that involves scrubbing my home from top to bottom. The window treatments and linens, carpeting, walls and windows, I try to tackle them all to make ready for summer. Never would I think to include the birdhouses as part of the yearly routine. 

Yet, it’s as important as feeding the birds. 

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) — in its effort to prevent salmonellosis, a bacterial disease that kills many small birds — is encouraging bird enthusiasts to clean and disinfect their feeders. 

Salmonellosis occurs when a food source is contaminated with fecal matter. Since this bacterial disease was first diagnosed in Michigan back in 1970, die-offs around bird feeders have become more common and have been documented in many bird species throughout the world. 

Bird watchers have reported finding dead birds around their feeders to the DNR. On occasion, they also have noticed birds in the area showing signs of distress: huddling, fluffed-up feathers, unsteadiness and shivering. 

“We have received several calls from people who are finding dead goldfinches,” said Brian Piccolo, a DNR wildlife biologist based in Roscommon, adding that the disease is most prevalent in house sparrows, pine siskins, American goldfinches and common redpolls. The main reason is that they crowd into the feeding area and remain there until all of the food supply is exhausted -- greatly increasing its chances of coming into contact with the bacteria. Biologists also believe the species is more susceptible to the disease than other wild birds. 

“The best thing you can do is remove and clean your bird feeder,” Piccolo said.
 Begin with a thorough cleaning of all feeders and birdbaths. The DNR advises homeowners to follow-up each week with a 10-percent bleach solution. According to a report by the DNR, “If the bacterial disease is suspected, bird feed should be removed from the area for two to four weeks to all birds to disperse; this includes encouraging neighbors to also clean and remove feeders. By allowing the birds to disperse, birds infected with the disease can separate from healthy birds.” 

If any bird seed accumulates on the ground, it should be raked up, and any soil suspected of being contaminated removed. The good news is salmonellosis is not a cause of significant decline in the population of wild birds. 

“Feeding wildlife congregates them in a way that is not normal,” said Tom Cooley, DNR wildlife biologist and pathologist. “Disease transmission is higher when wildlife is concentrated and in closer contact with each other.”

Once the summer months return, salmonellosis outbreaks around the feeders decline, as most people do not feed the birds, and they return to foraging for food in a more natural way, individually. 

For more information about salmonellosis and other wildlife diseases, visit the DNR website

Friday, April 13, 2012

Donate a dress and make Project Prom Princess a success

Not everyone can afford a prom dress this spring. Knowing this,  WDVD-FM (96.3) along with AV7 Productions and Lakeside Mall have teamed up for Project Prom Princess. The annual event gives everyone the chance to look their best for the big night.

Project Prom Princess kicks off with a strolling fashion show tonight at 6:30 p.m. The high school models will be walking the runway displaying Project Prom Princess dresses, along with tuxedos provided by President Tuxedo and Men’s Warehouse & Tux.  Throughout the show shoppers will be provided with tips on where to find their prom-related items at Lakeside Mall.

If you’ve had the good fortune of attending a prom you know how important this event can be not to mention what an event such as this means to young adults who are considering not attending prom because of financial reasons. The Project Prom Princess Boutique is open for business and encourages shoppers who want to help to drop off gently worn dresses or fashion accessories at the boutique April 13-15 located on the upper level at Lakeside Mall (near Macy’s Women’s). 

“The dresses will be distributed to girls who otherwise could not afford them, by appointment only, April 19-21,” said Amy Stanton, marketing manager for Lakeside Mall.

Girls in need of a prom dress can register online at WDVD-FM (96.3) Those who participate will also be invited to enter for a chance to take their school's prom to the next level with a complete prom package courtesy of AV7 Productions.

For further information call, 586-247-1590

'Chicago' and other community theater spring productions blooming

Last year at this time we were all strangers.

We shared only the stage, our commitment to the play and the vision of its director. By opening night of Clintondale Community Theater's winter production - and following the many, long hours spent tweaking dialogue, building sets and promoting the show -- I  understood why cast members consider themselves family.

This weekend Clintondale Community Theater family will present its newest production, "Chicago."

Set in the roaring ‘20s, “Chicago” tells the story of Roxie Hart, an aspiring chorus girl, who murders her lover and convinces her gullible husband, that he was a burglar. The husband agrees to take the rap until the police convince him that the burglar was Roxie's lover. In the slammer, Roxie joins another famous stage performer and murderess, Velma Kelly. Both Roxie and Velma are headline hunters seeking to capitalize on pre-trial publicity for the sake of acquittal and stage careers. Thanks to their tricky lawyer, Billy Flynn, the two are released from jail. However, another woman shoots up the courthouse steps and steals the limelight - effectively ending the careers of both Roxie and Velma.

Macomb Daily staff photo of Chicago cast by Ray J. Skowronek.

"The Broadway and film versions of 'Chicago' are extremely risqué," said Todd Swanboro, longtime CCT director, who spent eight years getting the licensing rights to do the show, in a previous article. "We really had to tone it down for community theater because of the costumes and some of the language, etc."

This is part of the tweaking process.

Also tweaked for this show was the set, an incredible four-tiered stage not unlike that which you might see built for a production at Stratford or Niagara on the Lake.

Swanboro said he has Anthony Fisher to thank for that. The former student, who just finished touring with the "Wizard of Oz," volunteered his time and talents to the show. "Fisher succeeded in capturing a 1920s-style-look with bright lights and glowing marquee-style accents."

When asked about his work on the play, Fisher reiterated my feelings exactly: "It's just like family here with Todd."

Clintondale Community Theater will present "Chicago" at 7:30 p.m., April 13-14 and 19-21. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door. CCT is at 35200 Little Mack, north of 15 Mile. For more information, or to reserve tickets, call 586-791-6300, ext. 2409.
So musicals aren't your cup of tea. There are plenty of other productions to see. Check out our list of upcoming shows along with other family-friendly events going on in the Metro Detroit area:

Local talent
Warren Woods Tower High School presents "Once Upon a Mattress," 7 p.m. April 14 and 2 p.m. April 15, at Warren Woods Middle School auditorium, 12 Mile Road west of Schoenherr. Tickets $6 students/seniors, $9 adults, at the door. Call 586-215-6629 or visit WWTDramaClub@hotmail.com.
Utica High School Fine Arts Department stages the musical "Rhythm City," April 26-28, at the school's Performing Arts Center, 47255 Shelby Road. Admission $9 adults, $8 students/seniors, $5 ages 12 and younger. Call 586-797-2267.
St. Clair Shores Players present "A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody," 8 p.m. April 27-28, May 4-5, at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 31601 Harper. Doors open 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10 adult, $9 seniors and students at the door. Visit www.scsplayers.org.
Roseville High School Drama Society presents "Bye Bye Birdie," 7 p.m. April 27-28 and 2 p.m. April 28, in the RHS McLeod Auditorium, 17855 Common Road. Admission $5 at the door. Call 586-445-5559.
"Mother Superior's Habits" 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through May 12, and 2 p.m. select Sundays at Broadway Onstage, 21517 Kelly Road, Eastpointe. Tickets $14 opening night, $16 other performances; for reservations, 586-771-6333.
"Arsenic and Old Lace" presented by Rodgerland Productions at the Sterling Heights Lions Club, 12828 Canal west of Schoenherr, April 21 and 28, May 12 and 19. Buffet dinner 6:30 p.m., show follows; dinner and show package $25 including tax and tip. For reservations and information, 586-776-9844.
Stagecrafters present "Titanic - The Musical," Thursday-Sunday April 13-May 6, at the Baldwin Theatre, 415 S. Lafayette, Royal Oak. Show times 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; to purchase advance tickets, $18 and $20, call 248-541-6430 or go to www.stagecrafters.org. Available tickets also available one hour before show time at box office for additional $2 per ticket.
Rosedale Community Players perform the comedy "Moonlight and Magnolias," 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays April 20-May 12, and 2 p.m. Sundays, April 22 and 29, at Peace Lutheran Church, 17029 W. 13 Mile Road, Southfield. Tickets $14; call 313-532-4010 or www.rosedalecommunityplayers.com.
Farmington Players stage "Little Shop of Horrors," Thursdays through Sundays, April 27-May 19, at the Players Barn, 32332 W. 12 Mile Road between Orchard Lake and Farmington roads. For tickets, $18 adults, $2 off for students, call 248-553-2955 or www.farmingtonplayers.org.

'Film Movement'
As part of its "Film Movement" series of free showings of independent or foreign films, St. Clair Shores Cultural Committee and St. Clair Shores Public Library present "Queen of Hearts," 6:30 p.m. April 19, in the William R. Gilstorf Meeting Room at the library, 22500 11 Mile Road. Free. Call 586-771-9020 or go to www.scslibrary.org.

Relay for Life
Photo road rally to benefit American Cancer Society's Relay for Life-Shelby Township, check-in 6 p.m. April 21, at VFW hall, 8311 Wilson, Shelby Township. Advance tickets only, $20 includes pizza, snacks, soft drinks, prizes, cash bar; live entertainment 9-11 p.m. Digital camera mandatory to participate. Call 586-884-6422. Also, Relay for Life Team Charlie's Angels fundraiser at Cold Stone Creamery, 23 Mile and Schoenherr roads, 6-8:30 p.m. April 19.

Mom 2 Mom
Shelby Parks and Recreation Department's Mom 2 Mom Sale, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. April 21, at the Shelby Community Center, 51670 Van Dyke, north of 23 Mile Road. Adult admission $1, no strollers before 11 a.m. Call 586-731-0300.
Macomb Township Recreation Center Mom 2 Mom Sale, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. April 21, at 20699 Macomb St., off Broughton south of 25 Mile Road, east of Romeo Plank. Admission $1 per adult.

Spaghetti dinners
Spaghetti dinner and auction to benefit Boy Scout Troop 1478, 6 p.m. April 21, at St. Anne Church on Mound Road in Warren. Admission $7 adults, $3 children.
Benefit spaghetti dinner for Caden LaFontaine, 4, for health care treatment, 2-8 p.m. April 15, at Memphis Youth Center/Lions Club, 34758 Pratt Road. Admission $7 adults, $3 ages 14 and younger. Call 810-650-6407.
Annual VVW spaghetti dinner, 1-5 p.m. April 15, at 35011 23 Mile Road, New Baltimore. Admission $8, free ages 8 and younger. Call 586-725-2444.
All-you-can eat spaghetti dinner to benefit Relay for Life Team Soul Survivor, 1-5 p.m. April 15, dinner served 2-4 p.m., at The Detroit Pub, 33401 Harper, Clinton Township. Raffles, entertainment by Cherry Street. Admission $5 per person, free 5 and younger. Call 586-791-1288.
Jefferson Chapter No. 489 Order of Eastern Star serves spaghetti dinner, 4:30-7:30 p.m. April 30, at the Masonic Temple, 22000 11 Mile Road, St. Clair Shores. Adults $10, ages 6-12 $5, younger than 5 free. Proceeds go to Relay for Life. Call 586-206-2831.

Hope Center
The Chapin Family performs 8 p.m. April 20, at WCS Performing Arts Center, 12901 15 Mile Road, Sterling Heights, in a benefit for Hope Center in Macomb. For tickets, $35 VIP reserved, or $30 general reserved, call 586-294-4673 or visit www.hopecentermacomb.org.

Nautical Nibble
Lake St. Clair Symphony Orchestra presents 50th Anniversary Nautical Nibble, sponsored by St. Clair Shores Nautical Mile TIFA, 6-9 p.m. April 24, at Blossom Heath Inn, 24800 Jefferson. More than 20 area restaurants serve specialties. Tickets, $25 adults, two for $45, available at Gifts Afloat, 25025 Jefferson, Dockside Café at St. Clair Shores Public Library, and at the door. Visit iscso.org.

Wolcott Mill
"Babies, Babies, Everywhere!" events 10 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m. through April 15, at Wolcott Mill Metropark Farm Center in Ray Township. Interpreters or volunteers at each barn with animals available to pet. Admission $3 per person. Wagon rides available for extra fee.

Celebrate Earth
Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm presents "Celebrating the Earth" 1-2 p.m. April 14, in the Dairy Barn at the historic site, 1005 Van Hoosen Road off Tienken Road between Rochester and Dequindre roads. Admission $5 adults, $3 students 5 years and older and ages 60 and up; free for museum members. To register, 248-656-4663.

About art
Anton Art Center 2012 exhibits include Macomb County Annual Secondary Student Show, through April 22, and Macomb Community College Department of Continuing Education, Oct. 2-21, at 125 Macomb Place, Mount Clemens. Call 586-469-8666.
Lakeside Palette Club presents its Spring Exhibit and Sale 8 a.m.-4 p.m. through May 1 at St. Clair Shores Adult Education Center, 23055 Masonic near Jefferson. Reception and awards ceremony 6:30-8:30 p.m. April 12. For details, 586-285-8880.

Book sales
Spring used book sale at Clinton-Macomb Library Main Branch, 40900 Romeo Plank Road, Clinton Township, noon-8 p.m. April 19, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. April 20-21, 1:15-3:15 p.m. April 22 ($5 bag day), 9:30 a.m.-noon April 23 (free book day, as available). Friends Night is 5:30-8:30 p.m. April 18.
Annual book sale of Friends of the Lois Wagner Memorial Library, 5-8 p.m. April 19, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. April 20 and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 21, at 35200 32 Mile road, Richmond. Books may be donate during regular library business hours April 16-18. Call 586-727-2665.

Wine tasting
Taste of Michigan wine Tasting to benefit southeastern Michigan Association of Neonatal Nurses, 6 p.m. April 19 at Champane's Wine Cellars, 7007 Chicago Road between Van Dyke and Mound Road, Warren. For tickets, $20, call 586-978-9463.

Exotic animals
Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center presents exotic animal day (includes spiders, snakes, turtles), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. April 21, at the Center, 4101 River Bends Drive in River Bends Park, Ryan and Hamlin roads entrance, Shelby Township.
Admision $3 for ages 4 and older. Call 586-323-2478.

Fishing clubs
Vanguard Trout Unlimited for fishing enthusiasts meets 7:30 p.m. second Thursday monthly at Rochester's Dinosaur Hill. Also, Fishing Buddies Fishing Club gathers 6:30 p.m. third Tuesdays at Rochester Hills OPC, 650 Leticia Drive. Call 248-375-1931.

Blind bowlers
Macomb Blind Bowlers for visually impaired and/or blind individuals 18 and older, league bowling 11:45 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Fraser Star Lanes, northeast corner of 14 Mile and Garfield roads. Fee $10 per week. Call 586-360-9543.

Square dancing
Patches Squares dance club hosts beginning square dance lessons, 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays at First United Methodist Church of Warren, 5005 Chicago Road. First class (no matter when dancers start) is free, $3 for following sessions. Call 248-613-3169. 

Features editor Debbie Komar contributed to this list.

Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish -- Anne Bradstreet

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gadgets give the Net generation the advantage

What I would have given to have had a Smart phone when I was in college. We had to rely on smart friends to help us find the answers or librarians to point us in the right direction.

"Gen-Y types harboring an affinity for all things social media enjoy something of an advantage these days, as they can use sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to connect with others and supplement their classroom lessons," according to a report by Online College

What hasn't changed is the need for quick and reliable resources. It's for this reason one can appreciate postings like, "50 Useful Twitter Feeds for Econ Students."


"It is very common to hear people say, Here's the Millennial or the digital generation, and we have to figure out how they learn. Poppycock. We get to mold how they learn -- Naomi S. Baron, a linguistics professor at American University.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Setting up the soil for hydrangea

I envy people with a green thumb -- gardeners like my sister-in-law who can pull a plant out of a hat and get it to grow.  Seriously, from fall mums and Christmas poinsettias to an Easter lily in a bonnet, if it’s living when she gets it, then into the ground it goes.

I’m reminded of her talents every spring when her hydrangeas start to bloom. She rescued two plants from a drooping summer sale a few years ago and they have since become known as “Sue’s hydrangea ginormous.”

I love hydrangea almost as much a lilacs. So a couple of years ago I finally broke down and purchased two varieties similar to Sue’s. We have a flower bed on the east side of our house that gets sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Since hydrangea — like most sophisticated plants — do not like clay soil, I had to completely dig the bed out. I refilled it with topsoil and organics such as peat moss and soil conditioners. It was quite the chore since all of the bulbs I had planted there also needed to come out.

Both plants had the nicest looking foliage, but no blooms. I took it to heart thinking maybe I had done something wrong. English Garden nursery buyer and gardening expert Darrell Youngquest said there is a variety of hydrangea that only blooms on old wood.

Another reason for a lack of flowers is frost damage or too much shade or nitrogen. I know because of the foliage and the area where it is planted that this is probably not the case. 

So, fingers crossed, this could be the year I see flowers. Whether they are pink or blue, we’ll have to wait and see.

Acid soils give us blue flowers and baser soils cause hydrangea to flower pink. If you don’t like what you see this May: Iron sulfate can be added to the soil for blue and a top dressing of dolomite or drenching the soil with a quick lime solution can increase your chances of seeing pink.

As for new varieties of hydrangea, Youngquest expects to have several, including pistachio and fire and ice hydrangea. The flowers on a fire and ice hydrangea bloom white and then they turn to pink and, finally, to a deep red. The pistachio hydrangea has blooms that are greenish yellow, pink and dark purple. 

Check out some of the other new varieties such as Forever & Ever Fantasia posted by Youngquest at Pinterest

One lifetime is never enough to accomplish one's horticultural goals. If a garden is a site for the imagination, how can we be very far from the beginning?  -- Francis Cabot Lowell

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Everybody has a story to tell

Wilma Lee in Hawaii.

Celebrities are always interesting, but some of the best stories I've had the opportunity to tell are about everyday people. 

Like the grandfather in Chesterfield Township who shot the hole in the American flag raised by Marines following the battle over Iwo Jima - yes, the famous flag photographed by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press.

Then there's the prosthesis doctor who built a titanium limb for a three-legged pony and the woman who raised the money for it.

Most recently I had the good fortune of interviewing Wilma Lee.

Talk about inspiring. As an adventurous teen with a passion for traveling, Lee made a promise to herself to visit every state in America. That was her bucket list.
Just before Valentine's Day, she was packing for a trip to Hawaii where she would celebrate her 90th birthday. It was also the last state on her list. 

After Lee's story ran, she was contacted by WJR-AM (760), and Hawaii Public Radio in Honolulu, both looking to interview her for a show. She also heard from the director of public affairs for Navy Region Hawaii, who said she was looking for a "Rosie the Riveter" kind of person to honor during Women's History Month and take her on a visit to Pearl Harbor. She thought Lee was that kind of person.

"Gram is one of those people who never says 'never.' I know that she's passed that on to my mom and to me. I'm so proud to be her granddaughter. Not just because she's seen all 50 states, but because she accomplished something she had always dreamed of doing. I'm not surprised she did it. That's just who she is," said Lee's granddaughter, Melissa Gerety, a former Michigan native, who now resides in Maine. One of the phrases Gerety remembers her grandmother saying is that you can do anything you want to do, except scratch your ear with your elbow. "When I was little it made me laugh. Now I realize that it was a guide for my own life. Gram is one of those people who never says 'never.' She's passed that on to my mom and to me."

Got an interesting story?  gina.joseph@macombdaily.com; <a href="http://bit.ly/wwIwMi">@gljoseph</a>

We are the hero of our own story -- Mary McCarthy