Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Here we are on another snowy day in Rhode Island. I've been taking it easy this past holiday week. I'm caught up with projects and waiting for the holidays to pass and clients to get home from travelling. It was much needed. For a quiet snowy day, it's been a flurry of activity around here with both Bird Central and engaging in Rottweiler Games outside. Since there's not much to do outside in the garden, Lars shows me how to truly enjoy a winter storm warning!

Bah! Who cares about 20 - 30 mph winds and a 6 degree wind chill!

I was the party pooper and made us both come inside because a) my lens started to get covered in snow and b) and I wanted to go back to feeling my extremities. I had been watching the feeders myself today (but it wasn't a count day today) and was pleased to see a ton of birds. I did get two new feeders for my safflower and my thistle seed - one of them is really squirrel proof from what I can see. Eric fixed my heated bird bath which had been smashed by a falling tree limb last year. I have to find and extension cord that will reach to the garage. I've had a bunch of chickadees, juncos, goldfinches, nuthatches, house finches, carolina wrens, titmice, and the pair of cardinals.

His and Hers feeders. :)

Before this week's snow it was close to 60 degrees this weekend. I popped outside and snapped a couple of pics of cool things in my landscape (granted there are just a couple.) Below is one of my yellow foliaged heathers (yes, the foliage is yellow in the summer and changes red) I planted two falls ago. I have to look up the variety and figured it out from deductive reasoning since it didn't have a tag when I bought it. I can't wait to get good sized. I think I have a new love affair with heathers, especially since they love my sand.

I'm dying to see what this hellebore does! This is it's first year in the garden and it's starting to set buds. Hellebore flower in a weird time of year - winter. I think I will cut these and bring them in to enjoy them. They are tucked in behind the grass and the witch hazel near the water garden because it would get the shade it needs there. But that doesn't lend well for viewing and it being winter time doesn't help viewing either.

Move over Poinsettia, there's a new holiday flower in town

I am so psyched at this unexpected floral gift! I haven't had my passonflower bloom in the winter before...and I can't help but think the Faux-electra had something to do with it. Totally cooler than a Christmas Cactus or a Poinsettia -

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Now for some indoor gardening

I think this year will be a good one for indoor plants at the GC HQ. I'm attempting something completely different this year with them. I fed everyone today with my faux-Electra and want to see what results I get. I think they will be good since an organic fertilizer will release nutrients slowly which will be great for the slower growing plants.

This year's orchid crop is going to be a good one...I have multiple panicles coming on most of them. That is very exciting. I'm amazed at how easy Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis) are easy to grow in a home environment. I would like to get some more because we did have some casualties from puppy jaws over the year.

Here is my "holy grail" for this year with gardening inside...overwintering my rosemary inside. I tried it years ago when I was in college and actually got it to survive. I haven't been able to do it since because we always kept it too warm in the house. Rosemary likes cooler temps at night and we have been doing that in this house since we moved here. So, I dug it up and potted it. I kept it in the greenhouse for about a month and a half. When it got seriously cold a couple of weeks back, I moved it to the house. So far, so good and I do believe it's growing!

Jack Frost came a knockin' last night

I just said to Eric as this window was popping up for me to make a post that it snowed this week last year too. I only remember that because it's a year ago he had his last back surgery. We didn't get dumped on...just enough to make it feel like the holiday season and for the boys to go out and enjoy it. It helped to get the embers of my holiday spirit start to glow a little bit. I put out my wreath on the front door. I was also saying to Eric last night I have a bad case of the "Bah Humbugs" this year...he feels the same.

As Lars and Sam were charging around the backyard, I really noticed how pretty the pond looked. So, when they were done, I went back outside with my camera to get some winter garden shots. I definitely think the winter garden is completely overlooked when people consider their landscaping. If you think about it, winter is one long season in this area and it shouldn't be written off by gardeners. I have noticed the longer I do this design gig, I get requests for landscapes to have winter interest which is very encouraging. I was over at Jim's house (the design in my title photo) yesterday and I swear that yard doesn't have a bad season. Is it just as amazing in December as it is during the rest of the season.

(I've having some difficulty writing at the moment...there's someone playing with his ball and using my right arm as a headrest. So, I'll post photos)

Frosted Lavender

The fall pansies just won't give in to winter...

Ghosts of summers blooms -

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

You've lost that lovin' feeling...

I'll get into the title of my posting in a second after I talk about this week's Project feeder watch results. Things were a little quieter at the feeders the days I counted, I'm not sure if it was the sudden drop in temperature or if I just wasn't catching the right day. I also switched out the crap bird seed with some black sunflower seed in the hopper's slowly catching on. But, not as fast as I had expected. I moved the office to the kitchen table so I could really watch the activity both Thursday and Friday. I did see a species of bird I had never noticed before, so that was kind of cool. I snapped this photo this morning of the Feline Unit of Squirrel Patrol with Merlin. He's not as affective as the Canine Unit I have to report. I think he's just doing surveillance for the tactical team of Sam and Lars.

Here's the count -
  • Song Sparrows - 3
  • Carolina Wren - 2
  • Chickadee - 4
  • Mourning Dove - 1
  • Junco - 4
  • White Throated Sparrow - 1 (He's the newbie)
  • House Sparrow - 1
  • Titmouse - 2
  • Goldfinch - 1
  • Cardinal - 2

I attempted to take a photo of the Cardinal with my cell phone. He is very skittish and if I get any closer to that door, he's gone. I was surprised at the lack of Blue Jays which I did see this weekend. I continued to watch this Saturday while working at the kitchen table. Of course, the bird feeders were jammed with visitors. I should have kept counting and threw away Thursday's count. I wonder if there are people who do that.

Anyway...on to my enigmatic title. I have to say this year was the year of apathy for me...not just gardening but everything - work, dogs, life. I had a year that had me back in the role of care taker for Eric and then Sam. I had a new puppy which I had no idea would be like raising a baby. Then Sam became deathly ill and almost left us this early summer, right in the middle of my busiest time of year. Right there I can see why I'm tired. Then pile on top of that $4.00/gallon gas, rising food & utilities costs, and then let's finish that all up with the world's economy imploding on itself.

I couldn't bring myself to get into the yard this year. I didn't get any new plants other than the ones I bought with my brother's birthday gift card. I couldn't get myself to feel the lust and the love for getting my hands dirty. I couldn't justify spending money on plants where it needed to go to the vet bills, groceries, and gas. I know a lot of people felt the same way. I started to wonder if I had finally gone and done it with burning myself out. It's possible and I look much forward to the quiet and tranquility that winter brings. This fall, I confessed to a couple of my closest clients what I had been feeling and they echoed my sentiments. Joanie who was crazed about plants to the point I had to chide her when she came home with something new which we had no place for, wasn't into her gardens this year. Another client who normally is gung ho about what is going to take place in their garden was more like ho hum. I didn't feel that badly then after knowing there are more gardeners out there who's love for horticulture is waning under the pressures of life. I wonder if we (collectively) are all tired of everything...the wars, the failing economy, the mortgage crunch, the constant barrage of bad news we hear every day.

The other day I was on Garden Web's New England Forum and saw this thread - Lost the Lust .
Talk about validating feelings. Like I mentioned, it's comforting to know I'm now alone in this feeling of apathy. I hope the winter brings us the rest we all need and spring can truly be a season of renewal for us all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's that time of year...gardening gets traded in for birding

Things have really quieted down in the garden since the frosts we've had these past several weeks. My glorious annuals I posted a couple of weeks ago are now residents of the compost bin. The only things left in the veggie garden are the peas, lettuces, and the herbs. All of the house plants are in and I noticed my orchids are getting ready to throw up their flower stalks for this year. Hooray! We did get the pond netted this fall and the water lettuce has done a good job of acting as a net soon as the neighbor's oak finishes dropping it's leaves, we'll clean out the pond for the season. I was lucky enough to find some pansies on mega sale at Lowes and they are now in the front window box and a small pot on Deckzilla. So, as many gardeners do, my attention turns to winged garden inhabitants.

I attempted to really get into Project Feeder Watch last winter...but Eric's back surgery and then the recovery really cramped my bird watching style. I don't know how that happened but it did. So, this year, I'm making a real effort to do this. Project Feeder Watch is hosted by my alma mater, Cornell and their Department of Ornithology. They do use the counts people give them for research which is pretty cool. Here's the link for the program - Project Feeder Watch. I think it's too late to sign up for this year, but you can check it out and consider it for next year.

I moved "Bird Central" to Deckzilla this year and right off of the slider. I can really see who's out there and Sam can be much more effective at Squirrel Patrol when it is much closer. Lars who is obsessed with birds feels like he has a big flat screen TV set on what could be his favorite channel. I was wondering if the birds would be freaked out being so close to the house. They proved me wrong and I have plenty of visitors. I do have to get some black s
unflower seeds for the hopper feeder since I have some cheapo seed in there and it's been in there for a while. The tube feeder has safflower seed in it and I have some nyger socks for the finches. I do have to fill the suet cages and get them set up with a baffle because my squirrels like suet. There's not much they don't like...nyger seed and that's about it. They even like safflower seed which is supposed to be squirrel proof....whatever.

Sam is in his glory with the squirrels (his arch enemies) are so close to the door because he has a new job...chasing them away. He can take care of them mostly by just barking at them and banging on the door with his paws. Sometimes we'll open up the slider and he trots off after them hightailing it off the deck. Lars won't bark at them or the birds...he just watches. But here are the counts for these two count days this week. You're supposed to log the highest number of a species of bird seen at the feeders at one time.
  • Chickadees - 4
  • Titmouse - 4
  • House Sparrow - 2
  • Juncos - 2
  • Cardinals - 2
  • Blue Jays - 2
  • Downy Woodpecker - 1
  • Goldfinches - 4
  • Carolina Wren - 2
  • House Finch - 1
  • Mourning Dove - 1
  • Nuthatch - 1
I don't think that's too shabby for so early in the season...I'll be interested to see if they increase or decrease as the winter settles in or when I change out the seed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

RIP Boston Flower Show...


After 137 years, the New England Flower Show is no longer.

Boston Globe Article

I never had an opportunity to visit the show myself but thought this year may be the one I finally got a chance to. Guess not! I will be very interested to see if the traffic at the Rhode Island Flower Show increases from the displaced Boston Show visitors. That very well could be the lemonade made from the bowl full of lemons the Boston Show just got served.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Autumnal Zing!

Here's a little known plant that has some wonderful impact in the fall - Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma ). It's kind of non-descript throughtout the season with it's little pink flowers in early summer. It's green foliage blends into the landscape during the summer. But in the fall, these wonderful purple berries emerge from the sea of green leaves. I took this photo with my phone when at a client's house (hence why it's a tad blurry) to show you how neat it is. It is hardy to Zone 5 and isn't really bothered by pests and diseases. This is not a native species but there is a native beautyberry for those of you who are die hard natural plant purists. It's great for
grouping or mass plantings, borders, and bird gardens. They can also be utilitized for underplanting for open woodland or other part shade areas. I think I will get this plant for my shrub borders I have planned for the perimeters of my property. I have really gotten into bird gardening since we had built Lake Larson and think this is a must have.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Eye Candy for a blustery Sunday

Today is all about annuals!!!! I think I will be playing with annuals more in my landscape especially now that I have the little greenhouse where I start seeds without worry of the various beasties in my house demolishing the seedlings. Plus, with Deckzilla finished and the patio area pretty much finalized space-wise, I will be doing more with containers. I have been slowly collecting glazed pots for Deckzilla and I'm dying to use them next year!

Cerinthe major purpurescens - I don't think this has a common name. But, boy I think this annual is way cool. I started these from seed but they ended up in the veggie garden because Eric thought they were veggies when they were little. So, there they stayed! I will be planting these again next year for certain!

Dahlias my father in law gave me - this is their second year here. I planted them around the patio and most of them ended up on the backside of Lake Larson. I don't have a place where I could overwinter these here. The basement is too warm, the bulkhead is too cold so back to Dad's house they go. He has this closet in his condo which is perfect for over wintering dahlias...go figure! I'll be thinking about pulling these out of the ground once their foliage starts to decline.

Last but not least...Cosmos!!!!! This is from my package of Sonata Mix seeds. I do love Cosmos...they are easy and forgiving. I think I will always have Cosmos in my landscape.

I did attempt sunflowers again around the back of the pond...but the freakin' squirrels demo-ed them again. So, I think I may have given up on Sunflowers until the yard is fenced in when the boys can do out on their own and do squirrel patrol. But...I did have little sunflower volunteers from my birdfeeders. The squirrels left them alone! So, I throw up my hands in disgust!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pic only Thursday!

My super funky Pennisetum 'Moudry' or Black Fountain Grass....very cool but dang does it self sow!

My limey green zinnias...only one had come up from the seeds I planted this spring. I love this color!

My white marigolds - I'm not particularly a fan of marigolds. I think their traditional orange is really garish in most gardens. I'm seeing a trend of my liking of traditional flowers in nontraditional colors.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October jewels

Even though it's officially autumn around here...the garden definitely isn't lacking in the interest and color department. We haven't even gotten into fall color in the yard yet but the various blooms are making a respectable last call. I'm starting to get my fall chores in order now. Last weekend I used that fertilizer I ordered (it only took 2 days to get here!!) and hit all of the perennials and deciduous woodies in the back yard. The evergreens and the acidic soil loving plants got their fall application of Holly Tone. I topdressed the back side of Lake Larson with what compost I had in the composter and saved up. I did a quick clean up a spent flowers around the yard and cut back perennials that looked really bad.

Let's see...Eric has finished D
eckzilla for this year and it did turn out wonderfully. He's been puttering around with getting the chairs refinished and up on the deck. I'm pretty certain he's wrapping up his outdoor projects for the year and will trade the OMG projects for easier things like bonding with his recliner for the winter. I think he is working on a new door for the wine cellar he built in the basement. No joke, we have a wine cellar and yes, it abuts the room where my office is. Don't ask...that was a former OMG project that I did approve of! But, he has been busy trying to rehab his grass in the front and back yard. He has had a heck of a time these past several years trying to get his turf to not burn out every summer. Turf and sand don't mix. He's been over seeding, fertilizing, and liming these past couple of weeks. The lawn is doing what it does every fall...come back and look decent. He's been muttering about getting irrigation for the yard...that could be a huge OMG project for next year....stay tuned.

I have to go out and harvest some more stuff from the veggie garden. I dug up all of the potatoes that Eric planted on a whim earlier this summer. We had some left over spuds in the p
antry and Eric decided to make them an experiment. Low and behold, I harvested a grocery bag full of potatoes much to both of our surprise! I want to get some of those blue potatoes and try them next year. I have a bunch of tomatoes still out there I have to bring in as well as peppers. I have to research when I have to harvest my fennel because this is the first year I have ever planted that. I'm going to attempt to overwinter my rosemary outside with the little greenhouse I have been using to start seeds. I'm not sure how that will go since we're supposed to have a colder than normal winter with more snow. I may chicken out and dig it up to bring inside as it will probably have a better chance than outside. I'm going to take some cuttings of my basil and root them for using inside. I discovered that by accident when I picked some basil and threw it in a vase for later use. Some time had gone by and I noticed that it hadn't gotten nasty. So, I pulled it from the vase and found a bunch of roots on the stem. I would have never guessed you can start basil from cuttings in water. I have some coleus from my windowbox in that vase which I will pot up this weekend. I may see how they fair inside over the winter. Getting back to the veggie garden, I trellised up the peas with a bunch of branches from the woodpile and checked on the lettuces I planted (they look wonderful!) I am dropping hints to Eric the veggie garden goes from raised beds to the entire side of the driveway turning into a big veggie garden. I think he's thinking about it too.

I took a bunch of photos of the gardens yesterday morning which I'll spread out over the next couple of weeks. So, on to the horticultural eye candy! Today theme's going to be zinnias! (Pardon my attempt to stagger the didn't quite turn out the way I wanted them to.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mourning the death of Electra...I think I can finally move on...

If you have been a client of are well aware of my love affair with Electra organic fertilizer. I had never heard about this plant food until I worked at Chaves' Gardens in Middletown where the perennial manager, the owners, and the professional gardeners who shopped there raved about it. When I was able to garden at my own houses...I used it in my beds and was thrilled with the outcome. I loved that it never burned the plants, you only had to really apply it twice a year, and that it had been around since 1934.

I loved this fertilizer so much I highly recommened it to all of my friends and clients.

Then...this spring I started to get panicked emails and phone calls that Electra wasn't being made any more and what do they use now. I searched and looked at the Espoma plant tone lines and their formulations weren't really close to Electra's magic combo of 5-10-3. Out of desperation, I told everyone to use the Espoma foods. But, I think I may have found something that may come close to Electra! I found this fertilizer made by Gardener Supply Supply Company in Vermont. Here is their write up from their website -

Treat your flowers to our 100% organic slow-release fertilizer. It's rich in phosphorus (5-7-4) to promote strong root growth and healthier, more drought-resistant plants for prolific, long-lasting blooms.

  • Contains only naturally occurring nutrients, including sulphate of potash/magnesia, Chilean nitrate and peanut meal
  • Earth-friendly, 100% organic fertilizer
  • Promotes healthier, more drought-resistant plants with more abundant flowers
  • So, I ordered a 25 pound bag from their website and will test it out on my own gardens. If you're one of those "no guts, no glory" type of gardeners like me...get a bag and try it out. If you do, drop me a note and let me know how you make out with it and the results you got!

    Monday, October 6, 2008

    While this has absolutely nothing to do with gardening...

    this is what we were up to this past weekend. Lars had his first dog show and came home with a huge trophy, a fourth place, and a Promising rating! We entered him in a sieger style show which is worlds different than the dog shows you see on TV. It's the german style confirmation show where you have a helper (Eric since he's the "play guy") bait the dog from outside the ring. The judge will announce to the audience what they think of the dog over a loud speaker which is incredibly educating. The only thing Lars had that was less than desirable was he needs to bulk up a little bit more and that will come with age. But I was awfully proud of how he did for his very first show's to more wins and shows in his future!

    Bravo Zulu Lars!

    I did make a blog for the guys -Black and Tans so they wouldn't be as much as a feature in this blog. They have a busier calendar than I do sometimes so they deserve their own little corner of the web. The link for their blog is also over on the side with my other fave blogs. So, if you're into dogs or rotties, feel free to check it out!

    Thursday, October 2, 2008

    Mosaic Demo at Tranquil Lake

    One of my friends who is a mosaic artist and landscape designer in CT is having a demo this weekend. She does some great work and it would be well worth checking out!

    Here's the 411 on her demo -

    Hello All Gardening Friends, Mosaic Friends and fellow Greenwimmen,

    Thought I would send out an email to all of you if you are not busy and would like to see a Nursery that sells hundreds of iris, daylilies and other unusual perennials this is the place to come. In addition the fall festival is going on that day and I will be doing a demo at 12:30pm on a mosaic I have just completed onsite as well as showing/telling about other garden mosaics and ornaments that are dyi projects. I have just finished a 3x5 insitu (means built on site) mosaic and would be more than happy to see you all there.

    Hope to see you there

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Googly eye gardening

    This is way too hysterical not to share....Happy Monday!

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Okay, now this is way cool....

    Now this is one of two publishing opportunities that have presented themselves this fall. I won't talk about the other one until it's written in stone because I don't want to jinx it because it's huge. I'm not writing a book and I'll leave it at that. But this is the September's issue of Lawn and Landscape Magazine which is a national publication. I was contacted by one of the editors to discuss what I do for Intergrated Pest Management in my business....and there's the outcome. :) I think if you click on the image you can see it enlarged. But it's pretty legible as is.

    I'm still on cloud 9! WHOO HOO!!

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    This year's Oh My God Project

    Just when I thought 2008 might be the year where I didn't come home and say "OH MY GOD. What are you doing???" I was sorely wrong. One Saturday afternoon I received a phone call from Eric while I was at a client's house and I KNEW he was up to something" I even said something to my client that he was ripping apart something at the house but I wasn't sure. So, I came home to the deck remodel in the infancy stages.

    I didn't really say Oh My God until he got the beams and framing done and saw how big it was. The deck is now known as Deckzilla....just look for yourself. It's as big as my living room and kitchen area together!

    There it is from the slider door...please disregard the agility equipment in the back or you can just imagine it as some garden feature. Below is the master mind behind Deckzilla! I give Eric credit were credit is due...he designed the deck himself and he did a wonderful job. He's planning a hot tub (some day...far down the road) for the deck and that was one of the reasons it was so big. Plus, he built the stairs going to the patio near Lake Larson to frame the views of the pond. It's very cool and it really does make our large backyard seem like the little backyards I love to design in the point section of Newport and the East Side of Providence. He done good I say. He's working on the finish work right now and has to build the railing. Next year, he's going to build seating into the railing but I think he's started to get burned out on this project.

    Now, I can also start planning the rest of the backyard planting wise. I really hadn't done much around the back because I was waiting on this project to be finished so I can see where stairs were going, and stuff like that. I can start to think of things myself. I doubt I will do a lot this fall but will be ready to hit the ground digging in the spring.

    There's nothing earth shattering going on in the garden here...the veggie garden has definitely appreciated all of the rain we have been getting. We've been picking watermelons, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, cukes, green squash, and various herbs. I just planted the peas and the lettuces and have to get my broccoli and tatsoi in the ground. Maybe this weekend I may get a chance to get to that. Here's a photo of Lake Larson from the steps that come out on the looks pretty good for the end of the season. The fish are big, fat, and happy which is great! That thing down in the left hand corner is a filter for the chlorine in the city water. We have a little leak by that little waterfall which Eric has to fix.

    Lastly, I'll share some autumn photos of the project that won last year's excellence awards. The Jones had sold the house and I had a chance to meet with the new owners and look forward to helping them learn how to maintain the landscape. Thankfully, they are gardeners and they said the landscape was one of the reasons they bought the house. I am so thrilled at how well this landscape matured. I think it's pretty awesome if I say so myself. :)