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Master Gardener: ‘Life is Worth Living…’

I was truly sad to hear of the passing of former mayor Ray Baker of Fort Smith. Sometime ago I attended a lecture by P. Allen Smith at the UAFS campus and he was coming out of the building as I was entering. His greeting was warm and genuine. The city has lost one of its finest citizens.

Busy cleaning up beds, raking up leaves and admiring the blooms of my witch hazel. It, unfortunately, is not very aromatic. The American version of witch hazel we’re familiar with is an understory plant that can become a tall shrub or small tree with a height of up to twenty feet. The largest distillery of witch hazel in the world is located in the state of Connecticut, at East Hampton. It is, however, the Asian (Chinese and Japanese) relatives that have the wonderful scent.

Some favorite cultivars: Orange Beauty - as color in names denotes, blooms deeply scented and deer-resistant; Birgit - small dark red flowers that emit a slight fragrance; Rochester - early copper-orange blooms give off a blatantly spicy scent; Brevipetala - yellow blooms, puts on a show from January to March, Arnold Promise - deeply scented yellow flowers into March. Asian natives and hybrids grow up as vase-shaped plants-, American natives spread openly. All need sufficient room so they can grow to their full potential. Who can’t help but admire the audacity of a plant that dares to bloom when it’s down right freezing outside and there’s snow on the ground?

It was the American Indians who discovered the therapeutic qualities in witch hazel extract. Some claim witch hazel is used more worldwide as a botanical than even aloe.

Tonight’s menu features baked potatoes. This vegetable is great in the diet when eaten in moderation, but it’s taken such a bad rap lately for being carb-laden, that even the toy maker, Hasbro, has trimmed the waistlines of the veteran, rotund Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head so that they are more appealing to the weight-conscious toy buyer! (What next?)

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