Tag Archive | healthy

Ilex vs Boxwood Blight (Calonectria pseudonaviculata)

Boxwood Blight, also called Box Blight and Boxwood Leaf Drop (Calonectria pseudonaviculata) is a serious and deadly, fungal disease that mainly affects boxwood (Buxus), but can also hit Japanese Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis).

Boxwood Blight was first discovered in the Eastern United States in 2011. Presently, it has been identified in 18 states. It is being managed at a state level, which means states have different regulations on how they are dealing with it. Illinois and other states require nurseries to practice boxwood blight cleanliness programs to ensure the plants they sell are disease free.

This statement from the Illinois Department of Agriculture and where they stand on the issue.

It is generally agreed upon that the pathogen is not demonstrating the ability to move quickly or long-distance via air travel, or otherwise natural means. However, the overwhelming means of rapid and long-distance conveyance (interstate) is movement of infected plant material. The potential for more localized movement (i.e. within a production setting, from property to property, etc.) exists via plant to plant contact, contaminated tools, clothing, or other associated equipment that may have made contact with infected plants, in addition to local movement of infected plants or plant materials. This seems to be a “cultural practices” issue versus natural spread like EAB which we are all too familiar with.

In my opinion, us pink apes don’t understand nature enough. I think they are treating this a bit passively. I completely agree that there are many landscapers and gardeners that are not using good cultural practices. However, there are also forces of nature we don’t understand yet.

When I saw these blight alerts popping up in every blog, newsreel, etc that I follow, I became a bit distraught! On average, I plant about 1,000 boxwood a season on my clients’ properties 😯 I trained my crews to be on the lookout for this menace and to bring in any samples they suspected of having the fungus. It didn’t take long before one came in. My clients boxwood were installed by us 10 years ago, using a ‘clean nursery’. She has had no other landscapers but us. The fungus had to have arrived in a natural way, not by bad practices. I had to tell my client the bad news. Not only is this a death sentence, this fungus habitats the soil, making it inhabitable forever to boxwoods. We are now going to use a small arborvitae for her hedge.

I was also talking to the salesman where I purchase my clean boxwood from. He was telling me he was golfing at the prestigious Medinah Country Club where he noticed a groundskeeper whacking away at a hedge of brown boxwood. He walked over to the guy and told him that these boxwood had blight, and he may not want to continue pruning diseased boxwood and then moving on to healthy ones. The groundskeeper paid no never-mind to him and continued to spread the disease.

So whether you’re going to contract Boxwood Blight on your boxwoods is a gamble. You can favor the house by buying clean stock and being sure your tools or your landscapers tools are clean. However, Mother Nature knows how to draw off the bottom of the deck sometimes…


Best management practices:

  • Monitor your existing boxwood – Look for the following:
    • Leaf spots – Light to dark brown circular lesions, often surrounded by a yellow halo.
    • Stem cankers – Dark brown or black cankers on the stem, diamond shaped or vertical streaks.
    • Defoliation – Sections of the plant dropping leaves.
    • If you feel your boxwoods have blight, you should contact your local Extension or send samples to your respective states plant clinic.
    • Do not prune suspect plants.
  • Planting suggestions:
    • Avoid planting a boxwood all together! There are many alternatives.
    • Ask the nursery or your landscaper to see the boxwoods’ certificate of Cleanliness.
    • Plant where there is good air circulation.
    • Prune regularly to keep good air circulation.
    • Sanitize pruning equipment before going from one plant to another. Dip tools in a 10% bleach solution between plants.
    • Water plants in the morning, so the sun will dry them off.
    • Avoid overhead watering if possible, use drip-lines or watering bags.

Here are some wonderful references to continue your education on the deadly Boxwood Blight!

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Center

Virginia Cooperative Extension

American Nurseryman


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl


In Lieu of Awards… Twin Tuesday is Here!

When I started blogging about 4 years ago, I wondered how some blogs had so many awards and how could I also become so beloved!! I stalked some bloggers. I wasn’t ashamed…. Commenting on every post. The need for recognition festered with every non-mention in the next award hand-out ceremony. I was desperate. .. I ended up finding a blog (I think) that basically invited everyone to take a certain award. I can’t even remember the name of it, and I even tried to search it to no avail. After I graciously accepted my award, applied my badge to my blog, high on my sidebar… I started awarding everyone I met. YOU’VE BEEN SELECTED!!!!


After getting three under my belt (not even gonna link to them, if you’re that curious, hit the search box), The first line of the fourth was, “MY BLOG IS NOW AWARD FREE”. I think after the first one I wrote, I was trying to follow the ‘Promote 15 other bloggers for the award’ dealio and noticed many folks noted that they were award free on their ABOUT page. I didn’t understand the problem with award posts until I tried to write one… They’re HARD. There’s also only so much information I’m going to write about myself.

Of course, the moment I didn’t want any awards, did I start to start receive them… in droves!

Isn’t it Ironic? Don’t you think?

Anyway. I did still like the idea of the awards…. To share the blogs that I found enjoyable with my MP fans. I did write a few thank you posts when I arrived at some milestones. Again, I feel that that was a no pressure way to promote a fellow blogger. However, I’ve thought of a clever way to celebrate and share my favorite bloggers yet again! Drumroll……. Twin Tuesday will start next Tuesday! My Tuesday’s post will be dedicated to one blog that I follow, in where I try to mimic their posting style.

Oddly enough, while searching for some of these meme’s (et all, for this post), I did run across a few articles/posts about how some folks freak-out when other folks do things like this…. ie, copy their blog premise or posts, more-so on a regular basis or flat-out verbatim. It basically creeped them out, huge! I sincerely hope I do not offend anyone, I also do not plan on changing my blog, this is a one and done thang. I really just want to celebrate the blogs I love 🙂 So! If you have a blog that I regularly comment on, you are most likely going to be doppleganged! If you DO NOT want this to happen, please email me. I will also respect anyone asking me to remove it, post publishing.

I really hope that my blogging community will enjoy my attempts at imitation. Some will be easy… some will be hard. I’m going to enjoy the challenge and I hope the blogs I choose to honor and my fans will enjoy my attempts at doppelgangering! However, more importantly, I hope by sharing my favorite blogs with you, you’ll go check them out yourself.

I hope you enjoy the upcoming posts!!! Ilex

Boxed Dinners ~ Activities for Foodie Couples

imageIf you haven’t heard about these blessings in a box, they are called Meal Delivery Services, and they are being shipped to most locations worldwide. I think they are an awesome idea for folks wanting to learn how to cook, learn new meals, save money and time, stuck in a ‘food rut’ (us), along with dieting or even just eating better!  We’ve batted this idea around for a bit… Having fresh ingredients arrive at our door to make meals for a few nights a week. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a savings or an expense. My husband really took a hold of this idea and ran with it. He compared many of the Dinner Box companies that deliver in our area. He decide Blue Apron was the best fit for us. They source the food as local as possible to me. I love supporting my community.

When he told me about the future box coming, he had sparkles in his eyes. He was genuinely excited to cook these meals! He then tells me the most mushy, lovey-dovey thing… “I can’t wait to spend time with you in the kitchen cooking these meals.” Awe! What a Sweety-Pie!!! I love you, honey.

Our first three meals arrived on a Friday. We picked Friday, so we would have more time to cook the meals over the weekend. The part I really like is that the amounts are per-determined, and there is no waste or leftovers. I feel like we waste too much food here. Another huge pro for going with this arrangement.

There are also beautifully done recipe cards with photos for most of the steps in the recipe. If there is something missing on the card, you can always go to their website to learn how to reproduce the technique they are asking you to do. There are many how-to videos, other recipes and comments from other Blue Apron clients.

image    image

Lemon Caper Catfish, Chicken Paillard and Bucatini Pasta Bolognese, were our weeks choices. In plain English: Lemon catfish w/kale, Chicken & potatoes & Spaghetti w/meat sauce. There are generally 3 meat meals and 3 vegetarian meals, for a total of 6 meals to choose from for a week. Blue Apron only offers 3 meals a week, whereas other companies do offer 2 -7 meals a week. As I am a carnivore, the veggie meals are somewhat wasted on me. Yes, roasted cauliflower sounds yummy, but that is a side dish, not the centerpiece of the meal.


The Chicken Paillard was to die for! I have never roasted a fennel before and I have been missing out! If you’ve never done it, buy one in the next grocery run. They are amazing roasted. We figured even if we didn’t like some part of the meal, it would introduce us to other types of food and how to cook it. A con was the size of the potato. It was smaller than my fist, and we had to split it. I get it. It’s called PORTION CONTROL 😉 Fatty-Fat-Fat!

image   image   image

Sometimes we had to read the directions 10X to wrap our minds around something. The directions for the Bucatini Pasta Bolognese had us cooking veggies and sauce before we cooked the meat in the veggies. Huh? I’ve generally always cooked the meat first, then added other ingredients. This recipe also had us adding chopped brussels sprouts near the end of the process. In the end, it was a super yummy meal. I still like my spaghetti sauce better (I use pork shoulder), however I will now add carrot, celery and chopped brussels sprouts to mine!

image   image   image

Here is the Lemon Caper Catfish. The catfish was great. It was on a bed of lentils and kale. I like many veggies, but you lost me at both lentils and kale. Blech! I can say that the lentils were not the same kind my Mom used for soup. These were called the ‘caviar of lentils’ and even resembled it. They were actually pretty good. Not the texture of dirt, like my Ma’s. The kale was kale. There was no helping it. In the end, I would just do this recipe with spinach and call it a day.

My hubby and I are very pleased with our choices, the turnout and the amount of fun we’ve been having in the kitchen. I’d really have to wait for more data, however the total amount of groceries and the Blue Apron box were even last week, thus it is a wash, budget wise. YEAH!! I would highly suggest trying one of these services out! Even if it’s just for a week here and there. I love that we don’t have to argue about ‘what’s for dinner?’ or spend time making a list or being pissed that we forgot something at the store!! I feel like this may take a lot of stress away from us, which makes it worth its weight in gold.


I can’t wait for our next box and our next foodie adventure!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Dog Dinners

Our boys are spoiled…. but, this is not news to anyone!

I’ve read many articles, blogs, stories, etc, that tells us not to feed our dogs people food. I can understand a few of the issues with the theory. There are lots of chemicals and preservatives in people food. Not that there aren’t any in many dog foods.

In my opinion, drooling, begging dogs are probably the biggest reason folks don’t feed their dogs people food. It can also teach a dog that the human food marinating on the counter is theirs and just waiting to be stolen. My dogs have never tried, let alone they are too small to get anything off the counter top.

I, on the other hand, don’t like wasting food and give my boys left-overs when they occur. My meals contain very few chemicals, low sodium, gluten free and include a balance of good foods.


Today’s special: Pot Roast!


I mix the left-overs with their regular food. There’s no drooling dogs during dinner, as they don’t know they are getting human food until the bowls are put on the floor. However, shortly after being served, the bowl is quickly dispatched to their hungry tummies.

image      image

Breck taking down this bowl! That bowl didn’t have a chance… Empty in 10 minutes! Happy dog!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Corn Beef n Baked Cabbage n Squishy Water*?


Once a girl from the Midwest
Thought wine with food was the best
Her blood pressure went high
Script pills she now buys
Sad she can’t drink like the rest

Yup. Seems the prescription I’m on makes me the lightest of light-weights in the drinking department. One glass of wine makes me feel like I’ve drank a bottle quite rapidly. Whoosy, seeing double, nauseous… No favs of mine!! So, I can’t enjoy my meals with wine for a short time, but I can still share an awesome recipe.

Before you note I’m eating Corned Beef. SHUT UP! It’s St. Patrick’s day and I’ll eat corn beef if I want to. =-P

However, the cabbage is salt free and super awesome. I will give you that recipe. I’m assuming by now you’ve learned how to cook the corned beef….

imageBaked Cabbage

Fire up the oven to 350F

Leave the core in the cabbage and cut it into 16 wedges. The core helps it stay together while cooking. If you screw-up on the cutting, just cook them a bit longer.

Melt about 3 tbsns butter and add 3 tbsns olive oil. Baste cabbage.

Add as much garlic as you like. I like a lot. Garlic is the new salt!

Toss in oven about the same time you’re putting the beef on. It will take about an hour.

Half way through baking, flip and baste again. Add more garlic if you’d like. I do.

I like to finish these off with a quick broil. The outer burnt pieces taste like potato chips to me. I will be trying to make a pan of these ‘cabbage chips’ in the future. I’ll let you know!!

Hope you enjoy!


*Squishy water

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

How to Roast Chestnuts in an Open Oven….

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…


Chestnuts can roast in a kitchen oven also!

My first experience with roasted over a fire chestnuts was last year while going on a steam train ride in Georgetown, Colorado. They were reeeally good.

So this year, when I spotted a big bin of chestnuts at the local human feed store… I had to try them! I’ll admit, I had done a bit of online research before I jumped into making them. When choosing your chestnuts, pinch each one to be sure there is no give whatsoever in the shell. Around here, I was paying about $4.99 per pound. There are types you can buy are in a jar, however I didn’t try them.

Wash and dry them so they aren’t slippery when you go to cut them. I did read many opinions about which way cutting them is the right way. Many sources say to cut an X on the flat spot. I found this quite dangerous! I decided to put the flat side down and cut perpendicular to the ends. I found using a serrated steak knife to be the easiest to cut with. And they opened just fine!

I then soaked them in salt water for about an hour. This step can be skipped. I just wanted to be sure they were moist.

There are many directions you can go here. My first batch I boiled for 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes (spread on baking sheet) in a 350 degree oven. The second batch was only in the 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Honestly, I could not tell the difference in taste or texture between the different preparations. They both tasted the same and pealed the same, which was quite easy. Although, just like relatives, some are easy to deal with, some aren’t!!

image  image

They are much easier to cut with the flat side down. I read in many places that the X was not an X, but a cross.


The shell pealed quite easily. Out of about 25, only 3 gave me issues.


Mmmm! Yummy, healthy snack.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Chicken Caesar Salad with Chardonnay



Chicken Caesar Salad is my husband’s favorite meal. I enjoy it, but it doesn’t enjoy me.

I don’t have any background on the wine, as it was a gift. I don’t normally like chardonnay’s, however this one turned out to be a great match for the salad.


This recipe is for two hungry folks.

  • 4 – 5 thinly sliced chicken breast fillets
  • 2 Romaine lettuce heads
  • 5 pieces of bread to make croutons out of OR store-bought croutons
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup+ Caesar salad dressing
  • Small amounts of butter, olive oil, garlic powder and flour to cook with.

I start making my croutons first by cutting up bread in bite-sized pieces. Melt about 2 tbsn of butter and add 1 tbsn of olive oil to this. Mix with bread and add garlic powder to taste. Toast these in the oven at about 350 degrees until they are crunchy.

Dredge chicken breasts thru flour and skillet fry to doneness. Allow to cool and cut into bite-sized pieces before mixing in salad to prevent the lettuce from wilting.

Mix all together! Complete!


© – Ilex Farrell