Sunday, April 29, 2012


Irene Jordan works a lot of hours and very rarely gets to find the time for her absolute passion ---gardening. She wanted to create an area where she could have the garden close for those days when she couldn't get to hers, but it had to be something easy to maintain.
So here is what she came up with!
The plants are all from her favorite nursery and the bright and cheery orange teapot was from a thrift store for just a couple bucks.
She combined a Coreopsis, a couple of Spider plants, a English ivy, and Hen and chick. These are all in 4" pots. Notice how the nice variety of plants gave a texture to the whole arrangement which allowed the kettle to shine.
It really says Summer! 
The whole thing cost her maybe $15. She set the arrangement up on a coffee table on her deck. 
Simple no doubt

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Trees Like Old Friends

At the head of our drive stands a Silver Maple tree that is probably nearly as old as our home (which was a post-Civil War settlement). 
It isn't shapely, it's arms; which are large enough to be trees in their own right, veer out at angles like a hand with the fingers spread. 
As if this wasn't enough every year it drops what I am sure are the "most seeds ever".
No, I do it ever year. Each year without fail I find myself going crazy trying to keep the maple seeds out of everything.
Now if you are not aware they (the maple seeds) come down like little helicopters raining from above and all I can do is watch.
Hundreds of thousands of attempts at progeny spiral to the ground.
Every year we go round and round about this. I feel that it should be removed. The seed thing aside, if this thing ever comes down it will not only take out our power, any vehicle inopportune enough to be in the drive at the time, and cause damage to our home, but it will also take the power out for a mile radius easy as it spreads out over the power line poles.
However, when I point this out I am reminded by my wife; Alexsondra, that it has stood for this many years, it shows no sign of disease, and that it gives shade to our home.
Now, I wonder how did I find myself in this position. I am after all one of the most infuriated nature lovers you will ever see when trees are being bulldozed indiscriminately.
It has been a real revelation on perspective.
Anyway, the other day I was planning what we could do if the "tree" was gone. As I mused on this I began to think about the effects this would have. I began to think of the large "space" it would leave.
And then--- you guessed it I began to get sentimental.
I thought of how when our children were little; especially our boys who are now both adults, would climb up (I probably should not share this) and spit down on one another.
Apparently, this was great fun.
I remembered the woman I had gone to school with sharing how her parents had put a swing in that tree for she and her sister.Her mother had built a rock garden to the side of that tree.
In old photos of this farm taken some seventy years ago there stands "the tree".
It dawned on me how this tree; like each of us is a "player" in the unfolding story of this place.
Isn't that true for most things in our lives.
The spouse who gets on our last nerve, the children we feel like will never grow up, the friend or relation that always comes with so much "baggage" in their life, and even the "if I have to open this door one more time to let you in or out I will scream" four legged companion.
And when they are gone no more intrusions ---- finally we have our space.
Space....and time to reflect.
Thank the good Lord for this moment of reflection..... and to think all it took was one ancient tree and hundreds of thousands of maple seed pods.
Well the tree and I have made peace for now........but next year it is all on.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Planning A Garden - Consider Pollinators Too !

It has been estimated that about one third of the worlds food production can be traced back; either directly or indirectly to bees. All most 130 agricultural plants are pollinated by bees and the annual value of honey bee pollination is well over $9 billion. That is just here in the U.S.,.
In Canada the estimated annual benefit from honey bees is put at somewhere around $443 million dollars.
These kinds of figures have caused a greater interest in the commercial usage of bees in the scheme of agriculture. This may well however, cause further problems for the honey bee. It has been speculated that part of the reason for so many hives crashing (or dying) are the methods used in the production of commercial hives. Honey bees are one of the few things in nature where inbreeding works in their defense. A single queen will produce the work force that is seen in a hive, and any that are not her offspring are related to her from the previous queen. This process allows the bee colony to develop an enhanced immunity within a radius of around 30 miles (side note: This is also one of the reasons that so many naturopaths recommend local honey to their patients - but that is another post). In commercial hive production it is standard to take the existing queen and destroyed and a new queen is introduced. The reasoning is that this creates a sort of hybrid vigor and also an increase in reproduction, thus allowing for the creation of new hives. These bees; who were formerly within their 30 mile radius, are now trucked sometimes hundreds of miles to commercial farms.
It is amazing that although the honey bee is a European import we have become quite dependent on it even in nature.
In addition as we develop and clear more and more areas there are fewer green spaces that other "native" pollinators can call home.
So, here is where you can help and benefit from your efforts as well.
Many gardeners have known for sometime that planting a strip of blooming flowers along the edge of their vegetable garden would increase not only the aesthetics of the garden but would boost production. In addition you are creating a space for pollinators to feed and flourish. This form of gardening was very apparent in most gardens both here and in Europe for decades. Then after the high production methods of the last 50 yrs the average cultivated space; and even in our veggie gardens, became an sterile desert of only what was produced for direct use. We got our "good" and "new" definitions misplaced in the dictionary.
My grandmother used to say good and new at not found in the same place [in the Webster's].
It is now being rediscovered that pollinators increase your small patch garden yield too, and you can feel good knowing that you have provided for them as well.
Yet another suggestion if you have any areas that you are difficult to mow or maintain consider a wildflower strip. They are easy to do and only require minimal maintenance. Most mixes contain flowers that you will probably recognize like poppies, black-eyed Susan, along with others in the mix. Check out this website for some ideas.

Monday, April 9, 2012


So many people think that you can only move blooming bulb plants in the fall on the year. My thought on this is good luck finding them in the fall even if marked. At the very least you are likely to mince a few with you spade or pass a few that fall through with the loose soil only to present themselves in the Spring ( in a much more spindly incarnation). Although Spring is a slightly more stressful time to move them I have found that I have much more success in locating everyone in the move as well just as great a bloom presentation in the following year. In fact; normally, I find that there is better bloom than those moved in the fall.
Here is the rub. It is important to make sure that you get all the bulbs and for this I use my trusty garden fork. Mine stands about 3 ft tall and has slightly rounded tines at the ends. This is important because what we are looking to do here is break up the soil, but not demolish our plants. Start out about four inches from the bulbs if they are large cluster ( or colony) and step you fork down in as deeply as possible. Next begin to gently lift up on the soil from under you plants. Next repeat this process in a complete 360 degree circle around the bulb set. Remember to keep lifting the soil very gently mind for the first few diggings. It is important to not rush so that you don't cut the stem from the bulb or than you are back to treasure hunting. As you move forward in the digging process you should have more and more ability to raise the soil higher under your plants. Begin to break the soil with your hands around the plants crown or top area as you do most generally the soil will fall away with little effort. Once you have the soil loosened your bulb plants should come freely out. At this point I will transport them to there new location. Here too there is a little preemptive preparation. I always, always prepare the hole before and will double dig a little manure, bonemeal, or similar to help them feed while they readjust to the move. The other extremely important thing is to keep them well watered; NOT DROWNING, just enough to help them through the shock. Too much water and bulbs will begin to mold and rot especially until they can develop the root structure to process the excess moisture.
I have used this process for years and have always had great results.
In the early fall sprinkle a little bone meal around the area next Spring you should see great results. The daffodils in this picture were dug in the Spring prior to the blooming season pictured. Friends bought a new house and wanted no flowers. Imagine !!!!
Note: Be sure that where you site your bulbs can support them. It is always best to find out what the growing requirements are for different varieties.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Quick Easter Arrangements With What You Have

So India, and I made a little design challange for me. The challange was to see if you could take just found things around the yard and your own gardens to make something for the Easter table. We wanted to come up with something that would be very easy to do for anyone on any skill level.
Here is what we came up with! We used lilac, bleeding heart, pink flowering crabapple, white flowering crabapple, violets, and even (believe it or not !) the lowly dandelion blossom.
For containers we used a couple of older pieces that we have had for years. The duckling and the rooster are perfect for the Easter table. However, you could use anything really even pastel colored dishes.
The final selection was a large brown egg; yep the hen laying type, from which we carefully removed the top. To do this you gently, but firmly tap in a 360 degree formation on the edge of a bowl as you would when cracking an egg. Make sure to leave yourself enough room at the opening to work. Don't worry that the edge is not perfectly smooth this won't show when done.
Now fill all your containers with a little water and a little fresh floral design foam. Don't sweat if you don't have this. It does make your flowers easier to work with and stay together, but if you arrange them snuggly they will hold just as well.
One last note: be sure to give your flowers a good soaking before and after arranging to insure that they are properly hydrated with a spray bottle or gentle spray of water. We did ours a bit on the fly so they were somewhat "wilty" when used.
When finished put your little arrangements into the refrigerator low toward the veggie keeper until your ready to set on the table.

Did The Cold Hit Your Plants ?

It became quite cold last night, and there was a predicted freeze; however, even though it did just hit the freezing mark all seems well.
We covered the young plants that are potted to resell with burlap "just in case". Usually; unless things are just not cold hardy at all, they will pull through in the event of a cold snap such as the low 30's F. The major problem is that they then are weakened and must heal and produce new growth. This in turn means that the results you were looking for are delayed. Generally it is a good idea to snip away the damaged parts of your plant so that it does not spend a lot of time trying to heal those areas. Whenever I do this I always err toward the side of caution and take a little less than I feel inclined to do. I don't want to create any additional struggle if it has already begun to heal itself.
By the way the two images that are shown in the previous post; of the beautiful Spring flowers, were taken by my daughter, India. The small pink multi petaled blooms are Flowering Almond; a very old fashioned low growing bush type plant that is rarely seen on the market these days. This sad as it is very pleasing all through the growing season (first blooms in early Spring, and nice green foliage in the Spring/Summer months. It is very easy to grow once established.
The 0ther blooms listed shown are Tulip "Carnivale de Nice". They are small this year but absolutely beautiful.