Author Archives: thegardenmaiden

About thegardenmaiden

Garden Writer, USDA-ARS Biological Science Technician, Certified Professional Horticulturist, Certified Arborist SO-7200A with a B.S.A in Landscape Design and an M.S. in Horticulture.

A Christmas Time Miracle! Snow in the Mississippi Gulf Coast

You just never know! We knew we had a small chance of flurries mixed with rain. We went to bed with a Winter Weather Advisory  and woke up with a Winter Weather Warning.  It has been several years since we had snow and that was just a light dusting one February a few years back. When you never get snow, even flurries cause excitement.

Yesterday I moved the final tender plants inside as we have lows predicted in the 20’s for several days. Aloe vera, semi-hardy Passiflora and Aristolochia gigantea were moved to the shed. A flowering bromeliade and another tropical were moved indoors to rest alongside the plumerias which were moved indoors in Sunday afternoon.

Today I covered the shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana), firecracker plant (Russelia equisetiformis) and Bougainvillea with trash cans and large pots. I moved the spider plants (Chlorophytum spp.) indoors. I pulled up a couple dozen pepper plants from the garden, placed them inside pots, and put them in the garage until I place them back into the garden in spring. I also potted up one ornamental pepper and a few basil plants that were pushing out new growth on the lower parts of the stems and put those in the kitchen window. I disconnected garden hoses and attached the insulators, opened the drains on the rain barrels and put water wands and sprinklers into the shed. All of this with rain coming down and only a few areas with a a light dusting of icy snow.

Sometime after going inside to refill my coffee cup with USDA Organic (The Bean Coffee Company) Peppermint Mocha, it began to snow! Real flakes of snow!

It was beautiful! I’m a total kid when it snows! I mean the USDA ARS station and MSSTATE offices closed where we work, so it no less exciting than watching the school closings listed on the television screen in the early morning when you are a kid.

I grabbed my Canon 60D for some shots, but all of these were just quickies taken with my ATT ZTE phone. I began to shout and sing Alice Cooper’s School’s Out for Summer! (hope we get to see him in Biloxi, again, in 2018!) You know the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear (Yeah, we watched ELF last night).

The berries on the nandina shrub were looking extra festive with a little white on the landscape.

I’m glad I got my tender tropicals covered this morning. Sweet dreams shrimp plant!

It’s a winter’s dream in my Midnight Garden of Goods and Evils!

One thing I love about Mississippi winter is that it is full of flowering plants. These pink camellias brighten our special wintry day!

The azaleas have started flowering, and though they will keep flowering through March, they are particularly delightful on a gray day.

The palm fronds may be dropping with snow now, but they will be perky in 70 degree temps in another week.

I hope you are enjoying this December as much as I am.  In a few days I will re-pack my long underwear and sweaters (those which I sometimes never unpack all winter here) and count the days until shorts weather returns in a week. Until then I will bundle up, grab a hot toddy, watch some Christmas movies and browse my newest copy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog.


Yours in Gardening,

The Garden Maiden


copyright 2017 The Garden Maiden

Categories: Observations from My Garden of Goods & Evils | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Can You Help Identify a Summer Spider on Mississippi Native Fern?

This morning I was out back in the garden. Specifically I was checking out my native ferns in my little fern grotto. Camera in hand I captured a couple of photos of this small, brown spider on a fern frond. He/she was about an inch and  a half long, perhaps two inches long.

Summer spider on Mississippi native fern.


After I went inside the house, I tried to search online for entomology sites where I could identify it.  The abdomen seemed soft and fuzzy. There was an obvious stripe down the middle of the head. The leaf he was perched upon was about 12″ above the ground. There is no water near my fern bed, although it did rain over an inch yesterday. We have many trees in our yard and plenty of shade.  I didn’t see any webbing, egg sacs, etc. On the above photo you can see the vertical spines/hairs on the legs. (I thought this was super cool, because I’m practicing using my extension tubes!) I didn’t get a front photo so I don’t have the ability to count his eyes.

My best “guess” is perhaps a grass spider, Agelenopsis spp.? If you can positively identify what I believe is a common spider, please let me know.  I don’t think it is a dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus), although it had first crossed my mind. I love learning new things about the natural world around us.

At any rate, he/she is certainly welcome.


Yours in Gardening,

The Garden Maiden


copyright 2017 The Garden Maiden

Categories: Garden Insects, Observations from My Garden of Goods & Evils | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Spicy Bit of Garden Evil in the Kitchen

Today is my day to spend all day working in the garden and yard. I actually like to think of my entire outdoor space as a garden. No writing today. (wait, what?) Just working outside. But I do need to plan for and prepare dinner. On the menu: fried pork chops (from the local meat market-no not a dance club, an actual place where you can purchase meat), fried potatoes and onions, wilted lettuce (thank you Grandmother) and jalapeno cheese cornbread.

Before I head outside, I decided to bake my cornbread since from 3-6 p.m. we are on a “summer rate” time of use plan with electric co-op, so using the stove is off limits. The basis for my recipe is from I tweak it to make it lower sodium with the following changes: use 1 no salt added (NSA) can of cream corn (thus reduce the milk to only 2C), fresh peppers (not canned or pickled), NSA baking powder, and Swiss cheese (about the lowest sodium cheese you can buy). I also use local honey instead of sugar and coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. All of this goes into my trusty, old cast iron skillet (an amazing wedding gift from my Grandma-in-law, now deceased).

Anyway, there I was in the kitchen putting my ingredients together. My garden peppers are coming along fine, and those that I overwintered have started producing harvestable fruit, but not the jalapenos. So I mosey (yeah, I do that sometimes) on over to the fridge and pull out two jalapenos purchased from the grocery store. Then I remembered a baggie of frozen peppers in the freezer that a friend brought us from Stillwater, Oklahoma a couple of years ago. With the new peppers coming on, it was time to clean out the freezer, so I grabbed the baggie.  How many years ago was it? Two? Three? Nearly four? What kind of peppers were these? My memory was fuzzy. The last time I pulled one out to put on a pizza it was not spicy at all. I guess they brought us sweet peppers. It doesn’t seem right. However, I know the last pepper was sweet. Yellow and sweet.

I decided that to add color and texture I would put the last six remaining “sweet” peppers from Stillwater into my cornbread. I chopped each small yellow and red pepper into three or four chunks. I dumped them into my bowl of dry ingredients. As I was about to put the last pepper in, I paused. Erring on the side of caution, for kicks and giggles, I pop a piece into my mouth and move it around with my tongue.  Oh my Garden of Good and Evils!!!!! NOT A SWEET PEPPER. NOT A SWEET PEPPER. Now, I love hot peppers just as much as any other spicy food addicted fool, but I immediately spit out what I can only assume was a habanero.  As I gazed upon my bowl filled with chopped peppers that may be habaneros, I thought of a sticker at my favorite Mexican restaurant in Slidell, Louisiana: in queso emergency, pray to cheeses!


I grabbed a fork and fished out all the flour and cornmeal-covered pieces that I could find.  I decided to go ahead and bake the cornbread. I just couldn’t waste all those ingredients, but I also knew I did not remove all the hot pepper pieces. Against all odds, I placed the batter-filled skillet into the oven, set the timer, and stepped away.


Hating to have wasted all the peppers that now couldn’t be used for anything, I quickly remembered my nemesis in the garden. THE SQUIRRELS.


Earlier this spring I was able to deter the squirrels out of some planted containers by sprinkling pizza peppers from the kitchen spice rack onto the soil. This seemed to work, although the sprouted pepper plants were a surprise. (oh, yes, they did germinate after eight years in a container!) However, for the last few weeks, I raised my fists in rage daily to find the squirrels had dug in numerous plant pots and raised beds, killing many seedlings and kicking out my new expensive soil amendments onto the ground. Racing to the trash can I gently fished out all the hot pepper pieces onto a napkin. Into the garden I sprinted with evil delight. I placed pepper pieces into the plant containers that I knew my dachshunds could not access.  SUCK IT SQUIRRELS, I laughed maniacally.


Spicy peppers sprinkled among Passiflora seedlings to deter squirrels.


Now, my cornbread is done baking. I cannot wait to try a slice.  Moreover, I cannot wait to see if the squirrels mess with my plants for the next few days.


Cornbread which may have been baked with habanero peppers.

The moral of this story is ALWAYS label your stored peppers.  Time goes by and memory fades, and remembering incorrectly could really put you in hot water.

My brow is still sweating and my nose is still running, but now it is time to venture out into the garden and get to work.  Rain is coming tomorrow. Rain that will help all my peppers grow, including my ghost peppers.


Stay spicy my friends,

The Garden Maiden

PS I thought I wasn’t supposed to be writing today?


copyright 2017 The Garden Maiden

Categories: Observations from My Garden of Goods & Evils | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment
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