Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bells Rang

Somehow a week has passed since the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. As a mother, a Connecticut resident and a human being, I feel deeply impacted by what happened. This morning at 9:30 am, my 21 month old daughter watched me ring our farm's bell 26 times for the innocent lives that were lost.  Let us do more, this time, than talk about gun reform and mental health.  It is hopeful that discussions have begun, but let's make sure that laws are made and action is taken to make assault weapons illegal and mental health care available and de-stigmatized.  Mental diseases are blind to social class, ethnic groups and are likely to affect every family in one form or another.

Please take action and make a difference.  Click on the links below to read more and write letters to state officials.

Write to Congressman Murphy- Click HERE
Write to Senator Blumenthal- Click HERE

Community Health Resources- CHR

Obama declares gun control 'central issue' NY TIMES

And to the families who lost loved ones last Friday, know that you are loved by so many and held in our hearts.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Set to Celebrate

As I write, I'm transitioning from mad floral designer to Garden Club Socialite.  OK, so Garden Club Socialite is both a stretch and exaggeration, but mad floral designer is not! My husband and I are going to the preview party this evening which sets off Set to Celebrate after I spent the morning designing a floral centerpiece for the event. Set to Celebrate is a show house of types- held at the Town and County Club in Hartford, Connecticut. The club is filled with beautifully decorated table tops.  All of the money raised from the event is put towards to preservation of the Heritage Rose Garden at Elizabeth Park.

My kitchen floor as I was designing my centerpiece this morning. Yikes!

There is still time to buy tickets- Click HERE to see the Set to Celebrate web site. 

A work in progress- real grapes, clementines and a pomegranate!
 I'm excited to share that I've collaborated with the Mark Twain House and have created the floral centerpiece on the table that features the Clemens' breakfast china and silver.  Thank you, Olivia and Sam Clemens for giving me a beautiful set of china to work off of.  I hope you would be proud!  

The Twain Table, set for breakfast!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ready, Set, Plant Bulbs!!!

If you find the task of planting spring flowering bulbs daunting. Don't.  Ok, it totally can be if you plant each bulb one by one with a bulb trowel.  Believe me, I've been there and done that.  And sometimes, it just must be done that way.  However, if you are planting a whole bunch in one spot to make some serious impact in May, I have a trick to share that will change your world (and save your back!)
The 2012 Catalogue

In Three Steps

My favorite bulb company, Colorblends teases that you can plant 100 bulbs in 30 minutes if you follow their method.  100 bulbs in 30 minutes- are you kidding me?  I had to try it.  Click HERE to watch me put this trick to the test as I did for WFSB's Better Connecticut.

You can be sure that little editing was done- I'm out of breath and you can probably hear my sniffles from the chilly fall air- there was no fancy camera work here. 
This is what we have to look forward to!

Truly, the only difficult part about gardening with bulbs is waiting until spring to see those magnificent blooms.  So, now, I wait.
A mass planting of Colorblend bulbs that I did a few years ago

A few fragrant (perennial!!) Hyacinth in my garden

Deer-proof Daffodils that get better in my garden every year

Monday, September 24, 2012

Go, Go GroVert!

side view

I first published this post about GroVert in the spring. Fast forward a couple of months and POW! Holy smokes am I impressed with this garden 'gadget'! Today on Better Connecticut Scot Haney and I checked in on my GroVert filled with herbs. It has done far better than I ever imagined. Until the station posts the video clip from today, the pictures above are of my GroVert, herbs-a-plenty.

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon The Earth Box growing system- it was the easiest growing system for tight spaces… I think Neil Armstrong might have used one on the Apollo. Of course I have a new must-have for 2012: The GroVert! It is a vertical growing system that you can hang on a wall inside or outside of your house, or just about anywhere with a vertical plane. There are unlimited possibilities to get vertical with your gardening. I planted mine with herbs for the kitchen, at least for now. I plan on changing it out with something more colorful later in the season.

to watch how I planted my GroVert. (My apologies for the poor sound quality, we experienced some mic issues during the shooting of this story) Already my herbs are starting to fill in, I will post a pic of my GroVert of herbs in another week.

I found the GroVert at Revay's Garden and Gift Shop in Broadbrook, Connecticut. They had some already planted with bright Primrose and Ivy and another with low light requirement houseplants. I love the hot, juicy colors that they used.

This season you will be seeing a lot of the GroVert- they are just so easy and fun, I think everyone should have one- or six! If NASA hasn't already, they should consider using this on an upcoming mission. Gardening possibilities to infinity and beyond!!!

Monday, July 9, 2012


Most gardeners appreciate pushing the garden limits by adding a little of the tropics to the garden.  This might mean a few Canna and maybe a Bougainvillea but it almost always means Hibiscus.  Adding a few tropical wonders to the landscape can take you right back to paradise. 
There are basically three types of Hibiscus: Tropical, Perennial (or Rose Mallow) and Rose of Sharon.  In fact, the flowers and the leaves are very similar on all three. 

Today on WFSB's Better Connecticut, I brought two special guests with me, a Tropical and a Perennial Hibiscus. Click HERE to watch me talk about them. Both are from Revay's Garden and Gift Shop in Broad Brook, Connecticut.  It took me a ridiculously long time deciding which plants to pick.  There is a huge selection on Perennial Hibiscus in shades of pink from light to dark and even a white with a bright pink throat.  Each had more buds than the next. Be sure to support your local Mom and Pop Garden Shop if you need your tropical fix. I support Revay's Garden Shop because they are the chic garden center close to me with awesome plants.    

One of the things I love about Perennial Hibiscus is that they get fired up (in terms of flowers) right when all of your other perennials are done flowering.  Give these tall ladies a lot of room because they can get pretty big, sometimes reaching 6-8' tall.  They will command more attention in the back of a perennial boarder with bloom that can reach 12" in diameter.

Remember that Tropical Hibiscus really are, well, tropical.  If you have cold winters like I do in Connecticut, these exotics need to stay cozy and protected in your house over the winter.  You can also treat them as annuals and just replace them every year.  I guess it just depends how deeply you fall in love with them.  When I bring mine in, I will walk you through the process step-by-step. 

Again, click HERE to watch my video clip on Hibiscus!

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Basil feast!
My friend Peter who is the camera man for my Better Connecticut TV stories often teases me about being a plant nerd.  I've thought this myself, but never more than tonight.
Beetles emerge from the ground at night
Something has been munching on my basil plants... for that matter my Coral Bells, Chrysanthemums, Dahlias and many others... but I never see ANY bugs around.  Some bugs have vampire tendencies in that they only come out in the night time. Tonight I put on my L.L.Bean spot light hat and went out on a bug bust.  Well, well, well look who I found! The Asiatic Garden Beetle.  These devils look almost identical in form to a Japanese Beetle except for their coloring as they are all brown rather than green.  They are also master defoliators, often just leaving the mid vein of a plant leaf.  Most of my basil plants are mere skeletons! Gasp! Why did I wait so long?
A basil plant chewed to almost nothing

The trouble maker
Leaves with signs of leaf chewing- can you spy the beetles?

Best hat for night bettle busting
 Upon my discovery, I quickly grabbed an empty bottle, squeezed in a teaspoon of dish soap, added some water and then headed to the garden adding a pair of gloves to my ensemble.  I removed every beetle from each basil plant, adding each one to the bottle for a quick death in detergent.  There was a lot of beetle hanky panky going on, so I was especially pleased to have interrupted baby beetle making.  My husband came out to the garden wondering what the heck I was up to- he looked at me like I was nuts when I explained what I was doing and then added, "But I can't leave them here eating my plants! I have to do something!"  So Peter, it's confirmed.  I am a complete plant nerd and also a serial beetle murderer!
My organic beetle control, hand picking
Many beetles met their fate in my detergent solution

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

5 Elements of Landscape Design

photo from A Certain Cinema
Imagine trying to explain to someone step-by-step how to ride a bike.  I think it would be pretty difficult to explain how to balance without actually being on a bike, don't you think? This is kind of how I feel about explaining the five major elements of landscape design.  It's difficult to explain, and some things just feel right, but you won't know until you're doing it.  So, let's just jump on the design bike, try to find some balance and start pedaling!

In my opinion, there are five major elements of design. Click HERE to watch a quick video where I discuss these points on WFSB's Better Connecicut. 

1. LINE. Line defines not only the shape of planting beds but also defines space.  Good lines will direct the eye to or away from an area.  Lines should be dramatic and not fussy. 

2. SCALE. The size of plant materials and objects in the landscape should be appropriately sized, relative to the bones of the property.  Imagine the mature size of plant material, or be prepared to do a lot of pruning to prevent plants from taking away from an area.  Dwarf plants along the foundation of a 4,000 square foot home will look ridiculous.  A friend once told me, "Landscaping is the icing on the cake.  Don't skimp!" I couldn't agree more. 

3. COLOR. Pick a color scheme, stick to it, and repeat.  If you are more attracted to warm colors, plant reds, yellows and orange.  If you like the cool colors of blue, plant that along with purple and pink.  Personally, I'm a cool girl.  I love the calmness of a garden filled with shades of blue and white.  Whatever you do, don't try to plant a rainbow garden.  The colors will compete together and cause stress on the eyes. 

4. BALANCE.  There are two types of balance- symmetrical and asymmetrical.  One is not better than the other, it just comes down to personal preference.  Symmetrical is easiest to describe.  If you were to draw and imaginary line through a design, shapes and plants would be the same and equal on either side.  Asymmetrical balance if for the seasoned designer.  Plantings appear or feel balanced based on the weight of plant materials, the size of space or the placement of a walkway.  This is the reason that many homes have an anchor tree on the opposite side of the house of the driveway.

5. TEXTURE. A planting of all broadleaf plants would be terribly boring.  A planting of all feathery grasses would be a yawner.  But mix the two together and wow! Plant a bunch of ferns next to a couple of hosta and each plant will complement the other like you've never seen before.  Mix heavy and light, soft and prickly and remember that opposites attract!
These textures are too similar to be interesting
Many different textures make this landscape very interesting
Keep the five points above in mind when designing a landscape or even a small garden and repeat them over and over.  Your landscape will have no choice but to be magnificent!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Career Change?

Scot Haney and me!
Yesterday went down as a "Top 20" in the life of Julie Harrison!  As many of you know, every Monday I do a brief story for WFSB's Better Connecticut on Gardening.  It's a magazine style TV show which covers everything Connecticut- travel destinations, hot news, beauty trends, local happenings etc...  Kara Sundlun and Scot Haney are the co-hosts of the show, but with Kara out of the country, her seat needed to be filled.  I was both thrilled and honored to be asked to do it!  Scot is always fun to work with, but to do the entire one hour show with him was just a blast! I had a lot of laughs, met some great people and tasted some delicious cupcakes!

Here are a few notes about the show:

1. My dress is from Artichoke is West Hartford, CT (and then borrowed from my Mother-in-law's closet!!!)

2. I neglected to mention that besides eating ice cream this weekend I also: had lunch with a special friend, Hillary, at Max Burger.  My husband Chip and daughter Elle and I were treated to a fabulous and relaxing dinner with the Scranton family.  I went shopping and worked in the garden.  In a nutshell, there was actually a lot of eating going on this weekend, but I did do more than eat ice cream!

3. Scot did not smoke the Japanese Maple leaf, so I cannot follow up with his reaction on the effects of that.

Doing a TV show is fast paced and fun. I would certainly entertain any offers to do it again! Does anyone have any New York hookups for me at NBC? Maybe I can take over for Ann Curry?
Two of my fans.. these ladies are sisters and come to the studio to see the show live,
every Monday!!! I LOVE them!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Save the Riverbank!

A Shadblow in spring
One of my design projects that I have been working on is right on the Farmington River at the Tunxis Plantation Golf Course in Farmington, Connecticut.  The Farminton River Watershed Association asked me to work in collaboration with them to help stabilize a portion of the riverbank with a native planting.  So fun, and surprisingly, easy! There are lots of native plants to choose from that together, provide interest thorough out the year. Here is a quick sketch of the area- I’m hoping that this planting will go in soon as with each river flood, a little more of the riverbank gets swept downstream.    

The area, before planting

Another before shot, on the Farmington River