Monday, October 25, 2010

A Bouquet Blog

'Carousel' hardy spider mums are just gorgeous. The deep wine colored spikes are Sanguisorba 'Dali Marble'. This blooms for more than two months in the fall and will also dry well.

Gladiolus were my Mom's favorite flowers. Purple smokebush foliage adds depth.

Cotinus 'Young Lady', smokebush flowers, picked in June, dried right in the vase.

It's late October, and most people are winding down their gardens and thinking about moving indoors for the winter. Not me! I LOVE this time of year. My garden is absolutely filled to the brim with lots of colorful flowers, foliage, and berries, never mind grass plumes and seed pods. All are ripe for the picking to make creative bouquets and arrangements. A couple of weeks ago, we offered a free workshop called Playing with Pumpkins at Natureworks. Participants strolled through the display gardens with me as I explained about the many things we could use in our project. We picked armloads of stuff. Then we carved out sugar pumpkins, added a plastic liner and a bit of pre-moistened floral foam, and made amazing arrangements. Most had never done this before and were astounded at how easy it was. It was a great opportunity for me to teach about what to grow for cutting. Yesterday, in preparation for a houseful of company, I picked from my home gardens. I made 5 arrangements, from large vases to a tiny bottle for the bathroom sink. I had planted my gladiolus really late and they finally opened. I have a huge plant of the gorgeous hardy purple spider mum 'Carousel'. Sanguisorba 'Dali Marble' added deep wine red bottlebrush flowers. Fresh 'Endless Summer' Hydgrangeas and pink 'P.G.' hydrangeas added a bit of bulk. Eragrostis (sand love grass) provided soft, delicate pink plumes. I picked other hardy mums such as 'Cotton Candy' and the very first 'Lucie's Pink'. Monskshood, white anemones, 'Knockout' roses, fresh sage and rosemary, and my favorite foliage plant of all, Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple', the purple smoke bush. There are so many choices if you plan in advance for this time of year. It really makes me happy, making bouquets. It's like coming full circle. Bringing flowers indoors completes the cycle of the season. It's another form of harvesting, capturing the beauty and giving yourself the opportunity to really study it, whether it be on a credenza or a desk in the living room. I hope I have inspired you to try your hand at this fun activity. Don't take it too seriously, just play with the flowers, foliage, berries, and pods in your own gardens. Get out there and look around- I am sure you will find plenty to work with. Nancy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Frog Blog

Have I told you about my frogs? I have a nice little water garden in my courtyard, with a recirculating waterfall and gorgeous rocks surrounding it. I love the sound as it calms me down and helps block out a bit of the far away traffic noise. We have no fish. My husband vetoed the fish. We agreed that each has veto power over things and since he really doesn't get involved with any other creative outside garden decisions, what could I say? He felt sorry for the fish, stuck in this little pond, swimming around in circles forever. The filter (which I clean every month or so) really keeps this little ecosystem clean. These new pond systems are amazing. One day, early this summer, I was sitting by the pond and all of the sudden my eyes focused on...a frog! Frogman! Wow! I was wondering when a frog would come to stay. Every night, I would come home from work and head right to the pond, laden down with briefcases, lunch bag, and the burdens of the day, and try to spot Frogman. Sometimes it was easy. Other times, I resigned myself to the fact that he was out gallivanting. Each morning, I would go out with my coffee. After dinner, I would wander out and sit. It became a relaxing ritual- find Frogman. What a sneaky little devil. He looks like the slimy moss on the rocks on the waterfall. His little head bobs up on the edges while his webbed feet cling to the sides. But I got good at this little game. One Sunday, while sitting by the pond communing with Frogman, I did a double take. A second frog! And he was big and green. Greenman! I ran into the house to tell Tony. We have TWO frogs! After that, it was twice as much fun, trying to spot the two frogs, each one blending in better than his brother (or sister, who can tell?). Such chameleons they were. And then there were three! I couldn't believe it. A little frog, very much like Frogman, only smaller. Frogman Jr. So now, I have spent the summer and early fall totally engrossed in my frog pond. I come home, plop down my burdens, and say "Hi guys!". If I can't spot them, I sit, center myself, relax, and study every inch of the rocks and the water's edge. Most of the time, they are there. They are just sitting, quietly hanging out, being frogs, waiting for me to slow down my over-active mind and become a part of their world. They are just so in-the-moment, my frogs. They are teaching me a great lesson.   Nancy

Monday, October 4, 2010

What shade garden?

Have you read Nancy's blog?I drove to work Friday morning with the wind blowing so hard that I truly was a bit scared. Yes, many years ago a tree had fallen on a car I was in, but on the hood and windshield, missing the passengers in the front seat by one split second. As I cruised through Northford center, I started to breathe a little easier. I dodged the bullet. Or so I thought. Traffic stopped. I waited. Something's up on Rt. 22 I thought. I finally arrived at work and one of my employees walked up to me, eyes VERY BIG. Turns out one half of the giant old maple tree in our shade garden blew down across Rt. 22 and into the overflow parking area along the road. She heard it and saw it. It missed demolishing a car by a hair. Scary stuff. Closed the road. Then someone from the paving company next door brought up a giant machine and pushed it off the road for us. The tree took out a barrel of flowers, a few plants, and a scarecrow. Luckily, no one was hurt and no one was parked where we usually park all the staff cars. The wind continued to howl, the rain started coming down heavy, and I called the state of CT as it was on their property. I left a message with public works, thinking that it would take days, weeks even, to clear this and it would impact our big Bulbs for Breast Cancer event on Saturday. Within an hour, the crew arrived, chainsaws in hand! I asked the men if they could try and be careful of the beautiful 'Diana' red witch hazel I had planted next to the tree 4 years earlier to take its place when the tree finally died. After they left, I couldn't believe my eyes. There was the tree, completely intact, no worse for wear. It sprung right back up! Now we have to get the other half of the tree removed as it an accident waiting to happen. Then the shade garden will be missing half of its shade. It may take a while for the witch hazel to provide the shade we need. An opportunity for creativity. I just may have to renovate that garden to accommodate the changing conditions. That's life in the garden.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Well, it seemed to work!

I tried it, and it worked! I tried to link this to my Facebook page, and that also seemed to work. Hmmm. This could be VERY interesting, and time consuming.

Waiting for more rain

Hi garden lovers, It is early fall and I am finally beginning my adventure into the world of blogging. Not sure what I am doing, but am determined to figure it out! A gloomy day, with lots of rain promised, but mostly wind and humidity. Very frustrating. Catching up on work and spending time focusing on things that I don't get a chance to think about on a regular basis. This has been the strangest year in the garden that I can remember in a LONG time. Extremes of rain and drought, cold and hot, plants blooming out of season. I have had great success in some aspects of my garden. Tomatoes and peppers are pouring in. Freezer's just about full. Totally frustrated by Mexican bean beetles that devoured my cucumbers and tried to destroy my beans, but I prevailed. Love the rattlesnake snap beans from Seed Savers Exchange. Yum. Cabbage worms on the kale, they are relentless. Radishes refusing to plump up as its just been too hot. Arugula and 'Ruby Streaks' mustard are my main salad greens right now. I've also discovered curly cress and it is so delicious and so easy to grow. My courtyard garden is a delight. It all came together this year, and three frogs have taken up residence in the pond. The Cimicifuga ramosa 'Atropurpurea' is so fragrant and lush. The rest of my gardens are almost all mulched, but some plants finished early due to the heat and drought. Just opening this week- Anemone 'Honorine Jobert' and the unusual Coreopsis integrifolia. Looks great with Eupatorium coelestinum. The other floral surprise is the self sown, red leafed, red plumed flowering Amaranth that stands six feet tall. Wow! Wind blew some of it down, but it's still knocking my socks off as I gaze past the courtyard to the raspberry patch. And the Aster laevis 'Bluebird'- what a fabulous plant. Clean, a clear shade of blue, butterfly magnet, even have one new self sown baby this year. What's going on in YOUR garden?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Winter Greetings

Hi everyone!
I don't know about you, but I'm actually glad that the holidays are over, the Christmas ornaments are packed away, and I am settling into my winter routine at last. It is a mixed blessing. The opportunity to spend time in my home office writing, studying, researching, and preparing for classes is something I love and look forward to each year. The bone chilling cold (which seems harder to take the older I get) and the bareness of the winter landscape gets to me sometimes, I admit it. On Saturday, I finally threw out the 5 week old cut Star of Bethlehem flowers, my first batch of paper white narcissus, and vases filled with dried up greens. Expecting company, I wandered around outside looking for something,
anything, to place around the house to dress it up. Slim pickins! A few bright red twigs of shrubby dogwood, some Sciadopitys tips, some Andromeda buds. Time to force some more bulbs!

My orders for seeds, bulbs, and plants for spring are placed and confirmed. This week I am beginning to attend trade shows and educational seminars to further MY understanding of this business and learn about new plants and organic products. I am so excited to be taking two workshops with Michael Dirr, the famous author of our The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants,a.k.a. "The Bible" in our business. After speaking on Edible Landscaping, I head up to Massachusetts to teach my segment of the Organic Land Care Certification Course. Next week I am tasked with producing the Catalog Supplement. My office staff expects me to be done by January 21st. It's nose-to-the grindstone time for me.

The REAL reason for this email is to remind you that
January 26th is the start of the Natureworks Classes. Have you signed up yet? Did you glance at the brochure before the holidays and say "yup, I'll get to that after the New Year?" Well, that time is NOW! Click on the Class links on the left of this letter and fax or mail in your registration today. I have spent many snowy days sorting out thousands of digital photos that I took in 2009. Every class is getting updated with fresh images and there are many new classes to entice you. The best way for a gardener to survive a winter like this is to take lots of classes with friends and relatives. Treat yourself to some new gardening books. Join the fellowship of others who share your love of the natural world.

Dave (of the gardening crew) has been gathering curbside Christmas trees and chopping them up. He is about to spread cut evergreen boughs on our clients gardens that have been newly planted, recently rearranged, or are in rockery areas with shallow soil. Now that the snow has become a thin layer or melted away from some areas, our goal is to cover the earth with these boughs, thus keeping the sun off the ground and insuring that it STAYS FROZEN for the next two months. Alternate freezing and thawing of the ground causes plants to heave up, subjecting their roots to deadly freezing temperatures. There is a
very narrow window of opportunity right now to do this chore.

The Class Brochure also lists other off-site events that I will be speaking at or where I will be setting up a vendor booth and selling books, seeds, and plants. On Saturday February 6th I will be a the CT Horticultural Society's all day symposium
Spring into the Garden. The keynote speaker is Dan Hinkley, renowned plantsman and founder of the former Heronswood Nursery and Garden in Washington state. I own and have devoured his book The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials. His newest book from Timber Press is The Explorer's Garden: Shrubs and Vines from Four Corners of the World. Workshops on Creating Unusual Floral Designs with William Graham and Incorporating Herbs into Gardens and Landscapes with Kathy and Jack Donohue round out the day. For details and a registration form, please call the CHS office at 860-529-8713 or visit

It may be cold and our beloved plants may be sleeping, but the world of gardening is HOT with classes, symposiums, new plant introductions, books, and inspiration galore. Drag yourself out of your cocoon and join the fun. I hope to see you in the classroom or at an event very soon!