Visiting an Auburn treasure.

As I write this on Tuesday night, my spirits are high. I had a great day at the flower shop. I spent some quality time with friends and visited our farmers market. It seemed like a beautiful evening, so I decided to take a stroll through our beautiful Hoopes Park. I like going up on summer Tuesdays because there is, during the summer months, a concert in the park, near Walnut Street, and it is followed by a movie once the sun goes down. Sure, it is usually a children’s film, but what fun it is to sit on the grass and see all the folks just relaxing and enjoying. Tonight, the music was by the T.J. Sacco Band; they played great music for more than two hours and the film was the not-so-old “Emoji Movie.” If you have not taken the time to make this Tuesday visit, you will never know what a great time you are missing. Why, it is almost like going back some 50 years, when concerts like this were common. As I looked over the crowd, it seems that it would have made a great Norman Rockwell cover for The Saturday Evening Post. So there are still a couple more nights to enjoy the music and to stop by the Kiwanis hot dog and hamburger stand. They are there on Tuesdays with great foods and fine conversation as they raise money for good things.

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How to use garden flowers in your home.

August is one of my favorite times of the year. Flowers are in bloom everywhere. Gardens are full of color and, if you planted the right things, your plants are giving off a very pleasant aroma. There are so many flowers that smell well; it is a shame if you didn’t think to plant some. Perhaps reading on will encourage you to look for some next year at planting time.

There are literally hundreds of flowers with pleasant aromas. But I want to touch on just a few today because we are mainly talking about bringing color into the house this time of year, and if we select carefully, we can add another dimension to our beautiful arrangements: aroma. Of course, we experience it even during the winter months when someone brings us a gardenia corsage or one of those lovely mini gardenia plants with small flowers. And then there are the hyacinths, both as plants and as cut flowers, during the spring months. When it comes to aromatic flowers, in my mind, nothing can beat the stephanotis. You will only see it in bridal bouquets. And, from Hawaii, the plumeria fills the air when it is in bloom.

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How to make hydrangeas blue, and other questions.

Thought that I would answer a few of the questions I frequently get, mostly at Wegmans, about plant problems and gardening in general. It is too late to prune your hydrangeas this year? That question persists through the summer and into the late fall. I want to talk about the French hydrangea, the one that comes from the florist shop in April and May with those beautiful, huge pink, white or blue blooms. The time to prune those beautiful hydrangeas is a few weeks after they bloom. Do not shear them, but cut back the flowering stems, depending on the size of the plant, 8 to 18 inches. Never cut them back to the ground level; it might be a couple of years before they get enough growth to bloom again.

Of course, the big question about hydrangeas is always, “How can I make my hydrangea flowers blue?” Color depends on the acidity of the soil. The more acid the soil, the brighter the blue. Give me a call and I will talk about it.

Some folks seem to find that moss is a problem in their lawns and want to get rid of it. Last year, I had two enormous maple trees that totally shaded my lawn. I loved them because they shaded and cooled my house from the warm setting sun in the summer. I did not have a whole lot of grass; I had moss. Moss grew on the stone walls around the beds, moss grew in the seams between the patio blocks and moss grew where there should have been lawn. I knew the problem, but I liked the shade. Let’s face it: We all know that moss grows on the north side of a tree because it is cooler, damper and darker there. Well I cut the trees last fall and this year — almost no moss in the yard. Since most of us cannot chop trees down to get rid of mosses, there are commercial sprays that will do the job.

As a side note, chopping the trees opened my yard to a lot of sunlight and shrubbery that grew very slowly; shrubbery that struggled suddenly sprang to life with all that brightness. This year, I had a veritable jungle and had to do a lot of pruning. Yes, sunlight matters.

Squirrels getting you down, eating all your bird seed and chasing those wrens, nuthatches and cardinals away? I always remember that my mom never had problems with them. Here’s a solution: Mix two tablespoons each of cayenne pepper, hot sauce and chili powder with a single tablespoon of Murphy’s Oil Soap and stir into a quart of water. Put it into a handheld sprayer with a wide nozzle and spray the plants that are in the squirrels’ pathways and around your bird feeders. The birds do not mind it, but the squirrels show their disgust by staying out of your area.

It is wonderful to have a flower garden. It is fun to sit on the porch or deck and admire the flowers. But chances are that you are out there only a few hours every week. Why not pick an armful, trim some branches from the foliage hedge and make some bouquets to enjoy in the house?

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Meet three Auburn Farmers Market vendors

Last week, I gave an overview of the Auburn Farmers Market, why I shop there, and why you should, too. I visited with three of the several vendors on site and decided to write a few words about each: folks from a very old farm, one who has been at it for about 10 years and, finally, a newcomer to the truck farmer’s world, a five-year veteran.

Sharon Vitale has been there nearly every day that I have visited the market, from the days it was on Genesee Street across from Nolan’s Shoes, in the parking lot next to the Seward House Museum, and now the parking lot across from Curley’s Restaurant. Sharon and her husband, Ben, farm mainly in Aurelius and Throop. For years and years, their daughter Amanda could be found with her mom nearly every market day all summer, and now their son Adam has joined the business.

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The perks of shopping at your local farmers market.

Last Saturday, I was out on a rather large delivery with one of our drivers. As we came down the Arterial, I told him that I needed to make a quick stop at the farmers market that is held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in the summer at the Curley’s parking lot at the corner of State Street and the Arterial. I stopped off and found some delicious blueberries, really fresh asparagus and a good-size bunch of beets. It all happened in just a few minutes. No long aisles. No waiting at the register line. Certainly, I am not giving up on Wegmans, but I find the market a great place for certain things during the summer.

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The lasting value of lavender

Let’s talk about lavender. It is one of our most overlooked and versatile of all herbs. It is easy to grow, though it does take some patience. It can be used to add flavor to food or to dry and fill little cloth bags, called sachets, that are used to add fragrance to dresser drawers and closets. It is a base for many perfumes and lavender soaps. But before we get into it, I need to digress and write a few words about our beloved Finger Lakes Lavender Festival on Skaneateles Lake.

It will not happen this year. Karen Lockwood held that wonderful event on her property for the last 10 years. What began as a small gathering of folks picking bouquets of lavender grew to hundreds of people visiting, which required opening a huge field across the street for parking and hiring people to direct the traffic. The preparations included getting enough product ready to sell, and the very time-consuming task of signing up a whole lot of craftspeople and artists to fill the selling booths. It was a lot of work and the results were a wonderful day for everyone.

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On hops and brewing

It has been a couple years since I have done a column on hops and beer. Two things prompted me to do this today. First of all, as I drove from Genesee to William streets — and believe me, navigating Genesee Street these days is a whole lot more challenging than writing my column — I saw the fantastic mural being worked on, on the side of The Good Shepherds Brewing Co., the home of Sheps Beer. Congratulations to Garrett and Bob. I am sure that you will continue to fit right into the Auburn scene. The mural is going to be fantastic once completed. Secondly, I wanted to show my editor, David Wilcox, who writes wonderful columns about our favorite brews, that he is not the only one able to cover the beer beat.

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Ketchup and mustard are staples of summer.

I cannot imagine a summer without them. Life would become very boring. Yes, our hot dogs and hamburgers and sausages would be edible, but boring. We need our mustards, ketchups (or is it catsup) and relishes. Where would we be without our chopped onions on the hot dogs, or slices of tomato and onion on hamburgers? And, if you are like me, a sausage on a roll is bland until you slather it with onions and peppers.

Today, we’ll talk about ketchup and mustard. They are both plant-based and you could, if you had the patience, create them from the vegetables in your garden, at least some of them. But then, it is so much easier to stop by the supermarket and select our needs, though you would miss the satisfaction of “I made it myself,” and in many cases they would taste better.

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The perks of gardening in pots

I do hope that the garden is coming along well. So far, I think that other than the need for a little rain, the weather is cooperating with us. If you haven’t completed your planting, this week is a good one to finish the job. By mid-June, vendors are trying to cut their inventories, and sales that will continue through the rest of the month have begun. Sure, prices will continue to drop, but so too will selection and quality. I would not wait too long.

But now, a few words about patio and even balcony gardening. Over the centuries, we have seen the use of containers as garden accents rise and fall in popularity. There were times in ancient Rome when every residence had plants in pots, not only in the house in wintertime but in outside living areas during the warm weather. I think that container gardening peaked during the Victorian era in England. It comes and goes, and right now it is in.

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Foraging for burdocks and more

Today I saw some “ramps” in the supermarket. They were $14.99 a pound. Ramps are a small, flavorful wild leek.

The burdocks are late this year, by nearly three weeks. I suspect that our crazy winter weather had a lot to do with it. No matter what, I will have Jessica cook up a great side dish for me some night this week. I will give you the recipe a bit later.

Foraging for plants was an everyday occurrence a generation ago. It was an important part of nearly every first-generation family’s diet. There were a lot of reasons for its popularity. First of all, many folks who immigrated to our shores were from the poorest parts of the poorest countries in Europe. They were used to leaving the comfort of home and going into the countryside, looking for edible foods. Many of those people grew up with diets that were meatless, or nearly so. They were used to vegetables that they collected in the countryside.

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