Reader Question: Poison Ivy

The publisher over at the Chatham News & Record let me know that a reader wrote in with a question.

Can you specify which Tecnu product your husband uses in the shower? Scrub? Lotion?

Greetings, reader. Thanks for the question.

My husband uses “Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser.” A bottle typically lasts about two years because he does heavy yard work in jeans and boots. It’s when he’s lazy and doesn’t change out of shorts and bare feet that he gets into trouble. In the article I mentioned that he waits about five minutes before washing it off, but the truer timing is that the whole process, from starting to scrub to full coverage (arms, legs, torso), is about five minutes. A quick Google search shows that Tecnu is available at most pharmacies (like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart), at Amazon, and through Technu directly. Hope that helps!

Thanks for reading The Optimistic Gardener!

Here’s the original Behind the Scenes post about Poison Ivy.

Garden Project: Dried Flower Bows

Every year we grow globe amaranths in the summer so we can clip and dry them, and use them in lieu of ribbons. They make really pretty bows, and if you’re careful while unwrapping your present, you can put them in a little vase. Side note: globe amaranth‘s (Gomphrena globosa) are easy to grow, drought tolerant, and do well in the ground or in containers. When we dry them, I trim them into neat individual stems, tie a handful together with jute twine, then hang them upside down on a hanger in a closet upstairs. We usually cut them in late September and by Christmas they’re ready for packages.

Behind the Scenes: Poison Ivy

This week I caught up with Chatham County Horticulture Extension Agent Matt Jones to discuss poison ivy. I’m strictly of the opinion that the only good poison ivy is dead poison ivy … or maybe the poison ivy that’s still growing over in your neighbor’s house who you don’t like. LOL. But Matt reminded me there are some good things that come of the weedy native vine.

According to the Smithsonian, “Poison ivy fruits, called drupes, are an important food for birds. Deer and insects eat the leaves. People think of it as a weed but in an ecological sense it is an early successional plant that is mostly found in disturbed areas.”

As a hater of the allergic reaction my husband has to the urushiol oil in poison ivy’s sap, but a friend of nature, I find myself vacillating between leaving it alone at the back of the property and mowing it down like Bill Duke in Predator. Maybe we could get a goat like we saw at the Louvre who’s sole purpose would be poison ivy eater. Hmm …

For more information

And finally, I have it on good authority that Matt Jones will be developing a video for poison ivy this summer. I’ll post it when it’s available, but until then, check out the Chatham County Cooperative Extension Office for all things agriculture and natural resources.


Eight weeks ago today, our chickens were born. I’m happy to report that all six chickens born on March 23 are still alive and happy in our meadow. Check out how lovely June Carter Cash’s feathers are nowadays.

Behind the Scenes: Garden Yarns

I had a nice stroll down memory lane today, recalling how fun it was last spring when my friend Jenny called and asked if I wanted any bulbs. “Come on over,” she said. “Okay!” I replied. She gave me so many irises, ajuga, daffodils, daylilies, and nandinas that she had to follow me home with her trunk filled, too.

This week’s Optimistic Gardener talks about the importance of sharing plants among friends, and the stories those plants have to tell. Jenny’s irises are at least five or six decades and four generations old, and the red cannas Pat Decator is sharing with Denise Effrein are a century old. When I ran into Denise while on a walk, her car was filled with irises (from another friend down the way) and Pat’s canna lilies.

And then there’s Maggie Zwilling–my former supervisor at CCCC, a good friend, and to top it off, a real pistol–who found out I was writing about sharing plants and brought over about 30 gladiolus and rain lily bulbs. There are so many things in life to be thankful for, and good friends are definitely top of the list. Quite frankly, it feels as good to share plants as it does to receive them.

What plants are you sharing? What’s their story?


Let us enjoy the lettuce

We’ve had a bumper crop of arugula lately (YAY!), but I’m happy the romaine and Bibb are catching up. They should be ready by the weekend. This is the first year I’ve used my raised bed on the back deck, and boy does it make a difference … no unwanted nibbles from the bunnies.

Perennials: Baptisia

Let’s face it, anybody who knows me understands that I am going to have something in my garden called ‘Screamin’ Yellow False Indigo. Because, screaming. Turns out, this is a beautiful perennial. It’s easy to grow, brightens up its (expanding) corner of the garden, and is easy to split in the fall. I got mine two years ago, as two skinny shoots, from Growing Wild Nursery at the Chatham Mills Farmers Market. It’s thriving in our garden in three different sunny spots that drain well, and this fall I’ll be able to split it again — this time with my MIL. I’m going to trade it for some hellebores.

Lavender syrup

Lavender is one of my favorite plants … it’s an herb, it’s a flower, it’s a perennial, it’s a mosquito-repellent. It’s Mediterranean, and makes me think of our trips to Rome, Spain and France. If I close my eyes and walk through the lavender in our gardens, it transports me back to some of my very favorite memories with my very favorite people. Growing and caring for lavender is very easy, and best of all, now is the time to plant it! I discovered through trial and error (which I probably could’ve asked about) that it’s best to leave the lavender as it is in the fall, rather than trimming it back for the winter. If you trim it back, it’s done. Kaput. But if you let the branches and leaves get dried and dead looking, surprisingly, they green-up in the spring. Lavender is great for clipping and bringing inside, and either enjoying in a vase with water or letting it dry. Once dry you can sew it into eye masks or add it to potpourri (that’s old school). Or, if you’re like my son, make lavender syrup for coffee and to drizzle over vanilla ice cream. I also like a dash of it in a glass of Prosecco. 🙂

Lavender syrup:

Clip a handful of lavender leaves and flowers (equal parts of both). In a saucepan, add 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and the lavender, and bring to a boil. Stir it regularly until the sugar dissolves (about 4 minutes), then turn it off and let it steep for half an hour. Pour into Ball jars or pretty glass containers through a strainer, and let cool completely. It’ll last for about a month in the fridge, so I find it’s better to make it in small batches so it doesn’t mold before I can use it all.

Plant a cutting garden

When planning my gardens, my goal is always one and done. By that I mean: plant evergreens and perennials and enjoy the fruits of my labor from the deck with a nice glass of wine. But every year I add a couple annuals in to my cutting garden, because zinnias. And cosmos. and globe amaranths. Annuals make the butterflies happy, they brighten up the meadow, and they give me pretty things to clip and bring inside. Don’t have a cutting garden yet? It’s easy. Pick a sunny spot with good drainage. Prepare your soil (it should be loose and weedless, add in compost and fertilizer if you’ve got it), plant your plants and cover with a light layer of mulch. Good plants for a cutting garden include bulbs like daffodils, gladiolus and tulips; annuals like zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers; and perennials like lavender, coneflower and coreopsis. Flowering bushes like roses and lilac are also great for clipping and bringing indoors–but consider anything that flowers or has interesting texture. Some of my oddball favorites are lantana, euonymus, lorapetulum, azaleas, and huechera.

What annuals do you plant in your cutting garden?