Skip Mancini

Producer and host of Growing on the High Plains

Years ago Skip Mancini left the rocky coast of Northern California to return to her roots in the heartland. Her San Francisco friends, concerned over her decision to live in a desolate flatland best known for a Hollywood tornado, were afraid she would wither and die on the vine. With pioneer spirit, Skip planted a garden. She began to learn about growing not only flowers and vegetables, but hearts and minds. If you agree that the prairie is a special place, we think you'll enjoy her weekly sojourns into Growing on the High Plains. 

Contact Skip Mancini about the program. 

Home community: Rural Haskell County, KS

(PO Box 699, Sublette, KS  67877)

Phone: (800) 678-7444 (Garden City studios)

Ways to Connect

Not many things in life come easy. So when I first learned of a hearty houseplant with glorious blooms that didn't need much attention, I thought it might be a thing of fables.  On today's edition of Growing on the High Plains, I will extol the many benfits of the beautiful bromeliad — and how, not unlike High Plains Public Radio, we can all nurture and grow it with just a little effort and some occastion seed money. 

It's no secret that I like to support my local zoo in Garden City, KS.  For years I've served as an advocate and fundraiser, but my assistance also extends directly to the animals themselves.

"God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December."

—James M. Barrie, Scottish novelist & playwright

While we think of the impending change of the season, it's certainly time to consider our gardens and how we might ready them for a frost. Today's Growing on the High Plains will provide some advice for winterizing your rose bushes.

Today's Growing on the High Plains revisits the beloved couple of donkey neighbors with which I've become fascinated over the years. (If you need a refresher, here's part one!) Just a general check-in with our jack and jenny, this installment will cover a little bit about the daily life of a High Plains donkey. I'll share some of the burdensome history of these beasts, including their role in centuries-old medical and legal practices.

"Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work." —Booker T. Washington 

Many folks take to gardening as a way to relax, focus on nature, and unwind. However, it doesn't take long to realize this hobby can be VERY hard work.

For those who aren't accustomed to its unique landscape, our High Plains home is certainly a sight to see. After a recent visit from East-coast friends, I felt as if I saw the fields of Kansas with new eyes. 

So today's Growing on the High Plains will take a late-summer pause to review some of the spectacular native prairie grasses you might be taking for granted. Did you know that Kansas has the largest contiguous tract of native remnant—or uncultivated—tall grass prairie? I'll detail the different types common to our region, from the short and medium varieties to the towering tall grass favorites. (And living in a state with all three is a pretty rare thing!)

Today's Growing on the High Plains peels back the petals and puts them right on you plate. That's right, we'll chew on the murky history of eating floral fodder, from its medieval and herbal medicinal roots to its modern application in haute cuisine.

"Maybe seeing the Plains is like seeing an icon: what seems stern and almost empty is merely open, a door into some simple and holy state." —Kathleen Norris 

On today's Growing on the High Plains, I'd like to share a recent field trip I made in April to the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Heston, KS. This natural museum has held a special place in my heart for years, so I wanted to make sure the girls who help me in my garden were also able to experience it firsthand.

"Walk me out in the mornin' dew, my honey." —Grateful Dead

As you know, healthy gardens love to grow (and grow and grow), so it takes a loving hand to keep nature's chaos under control. Today's Growing on the High Plains offers a snippet of wisdom about "deadheading," the process of eliminating dead or spent flowers from living plants. Not only does it refresh and fortify the foliage, it keeps the color poppin' and gives the bushy beauty a blowout.

When it comes to High Plains weather, the only constant is change...and maybe unpredictability. So for those of us tending gardens in this region, the trifecta of odd weather, fickle heat, and apprehensive precipitation are forever a safe bet.

Do I dare to eat a peach? - T.S. Elliott

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, I’ll wax poetic on the glories of this golden tree-ripened delight. Not those items you buy in the store picked green and shipped hundreds of miles, but those found on a backyard tree or roadside stand.

Peach trees thrive in many North American habitats including the high plains. All they need is cold winter weather and luck in avoiding a late freeze. Their relatively fragile blossoms can't take freezing temperatures.

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, I’ll introduce you to a pair of donkeys who have captured my heart and brightened my commute along Highway 83 in southwest Kansas. The donkeys share a 15-acre pasture at the intersection of US Route 50, while providing a welcome bright spot where the fabled loneliest road meets the highway to nowhere.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I thought I'd plant a seed of history about a favorite feat of flair from a former First Lady. I'm talking about the Highway Beautification Act, passed in 1965, which was a visionary project of Lady Bird Johnson. 

On today's Growing on the High Plains, we'll share a burst of color for your post-Fourth of July blues. I'll spend some time on an elegant flower I've enjoyed for years in my own garden, and it's also a big hit with the pollenators.

I'm talking about bee balm, which is indeed medicinal! Native Americans dried the tender leaves to brew herbal tea, and that practice also influenced early settlers who were dependent on black tea from England—and they found  it to be quite revolutionary (literally)!

How might have Native Americans and early settlers washed up after a day in the Dust Bowl, in an age before shower gels and laundry detergent pods? The answer probably won’t surprise you, as the aptly-named native tree is the subject of today’s Growing on the High Plains.

From grapefruit to Cadillacs, everything looks prettier in pink! And flower gardens are no exception. So what’s the preferred puce-petaled posy for High Plains planters?

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, we’re delving into the “pinks,” the quintessential cottage flower also known as Dianthus. From their humble origins in English gardens to the palette of 300+ species that exist today, the prolific Pinks have been providing a playful pop to garden perimeters for centuries.

Last week we set the roots of our two-part tale of the mighty onion, peeling back the odorous history, health benefits, and cultural significance across the globe. On today’s installment of Growing on the High Plains, let’s bring it back home—to our own back yards! We’ll discuss the many layers of growing and harvesting from your onion patch.

There's nothing quite as distinctive as the familiar spice and tang of a cut onion. Whether you've pulled them wild from the yard or someone's slicing a shallot, leek or chive for an aromatic meal. 

Today on Growing on the High Plains, we'll take a bite out of the many layers of biology and history that make up the common onion. You'll laugh. You'll cry. And you'll do it all again next week in part two! 

 

My grandmother called them "flags," but they're also known as "poor man's orchids." Anyone aware of common flowers that take to our climate will surely recognize -- and likely know a little about --these blooms.

On today's Growing on the High Plains, I'll tell you all about the iris, a flower that's heady, hardy, and just right for thriving on the High Plains. 

Blink and you’ll miss the brief, springtime bloom of these purple-hued beauties. But not to worry—they’ll be back again this time next year…and the next…and the next. Because believe it or not, these sweet-smelling shrubs can have a lifespan of more than 300 years.

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, we’re talking about lilacs. Revered worldwide for their intoxicating fragrance and graceful cascading flowers, it’s actually their resilience to travel and transplantation that placed them on American shores early in our history.

Are you in the market for a little feline companionship? Perhaps some silver, furry buds to bring joy to your life? But maybe a friend that won’t sharpen its claws on the edges of your furniture or sit on your head at 4:00 a.m. begging for food?

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, we’re talking about another early-spring bloomer: the pussy willow! Though it’s fluffy catkins won’t purr, they’ll bring just as much feckless enjoyment to your home, inside and out.

What vegetable is versatile enough to bring a zesty, big crunch to burgers at a backyard barbecue, but delicate enough to add a refreshing refinement to finger sandwiches at a garden party?

That’s right! Today’s Growing on the High Plains is all about the cucumber. Whether relishing them on hot dogs, thick-sliced on a salad, or elevating a normal glass of water to something spa-worthy, cool hands have been on cukes for more than 3,000 years.

There’s a particular square-stemmed annual with fragrant leaves and tubular purple blooms that often polarizes High Plains gardeners. Some say it’s a nuisance. Some consider it a colorful harbinger of spring after a long, drab winter.

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, we’re talking about the divisive henbit, a member of the mint family that establishes itself in the fall, matures to thick foliage, and then blossoms in the spring but generally disappears with the first hot spell of summer.

Yes, we have no apricots (again)! In theory, apricot trees should thrive in our High Plains climate. They are hardy enough to survive the cold winters, and our dry summers actually aid in the maturation of their soft, sweet summer bounty. So why do our region’s apricot trees only yield fruit every 5 to 10 years?

We’ve finally reached that hopeful time of year. It’s the time when winter loosens its icy hold on the High Plains and the first signs of spring burgeon up from the frozen ground, dotting the naked foliage with the budding promise of warmer times to come.

One of the dinner table’s most divisive vegetables gets some High Plains love. On today’s Growing on the High Plains, everything’s coming up broccoli. This notoriously-fussy grower has been the bane of many a gardener, but there are a few tricks about managing planting time and growing conditions to cultivate a successful crop, from stem to floret.

Last week I shared my experience hunting down the elusive McFarland Juniper, so I thought this week I could offer a few more evergreen endorsements to round out your coniferous collection.

Today’s Growing on the High Plains will continue the conversation about landscaping with drought-tolerant evergreens. Gardeners, hedge your bets with a lovely Woodward Juniper perimeter, or perhaps rock out with a stunning, jade-hued Arizona Cyprus accent tree. Both trees are known to reach impressive heights, and neither require quite as much watering as you might expect.

I’ve long admired McFarland juniper trees—capable of growing to towering heights like an Italian Cyprus, but sturdy enough to withstand the severe High Plains droughts and wind. It had been a long-time dream to add one of these majestic trees to my landscaping, but would I actually be able to locate one?

The gift of live plants can be a welcome addition to any garden, but briars beware: it’s important to perform the proper due diligence of your recently acquired flora before you begin laying roots.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I share a cautionary tale about my own personal experience integrating misidentified gifted plants into my garden, and the resulting siege that they aggressively waged against my existing vegetation. So gardeners take heed and head off any invasive maneuvers by properly identifying acquisitions before you plant!  

Pages