Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day Off Cookies

This morning I awoke to snow- which is wild after experiencing 80 degree temps last week! I embraced the day as a day to catch up on some house work and bake some cookies. Chewy peanut butter cookies that make you say, "OMG". A friend of mine passed along an amazing food blog to me called Smitten Kitchen.  (Click on the name to check it out) It is my new go-to baking and cooking site.  Everything I’ve made so far is delightful! As much as I love to work in the garden, it was nice to take a day off. 
(I did however, water my house plants.  The work of a horticulturist is never done!)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Working On A Knot (Garden)

For years I have wanted to design a knot garden. As luck would have it, my mother-in-law asked me to help her with just that! I’m fortunate that her existing garden has great bones to build upon.  There is an established boxwood boarder and the space is already so inviting. The Dwarf Alberta Spruce need to go (these are the pointed 'mini-Christmas trees') and far too many perennials have decided to call this garden home over the years.  A simplified, elegant design is in order!   

Knot gardens are intricate patterns of shrubs or perennials pruned into hedges.  These parterres can be found back into the 16 century, usually on the properties of castles.  Knot gardens were especially coveted by the English, but heavily influenced by the French.  What came first, the chicken or the egg?...kind of thing.  Either way, I just love these gardens and I’m sure you will too.  

Here are the before pictures of the garden and the early drafts of my drawings.  If you don't have a drafting ruler, you need to get one.  This drawing was done at 40 scale.     

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Planters

 Sorry, I’ve been away from home for a few days, but now I’m back! On my way home I saw some very chic spring planters.  They are a great example of good design for color, texture and size proportion.  These three design elements always deserve attention.  Purple and yellow are across from each other on the color where which make them strict complementary colors. 
 Other examples are red and green
And blue and orange
Ralph Lauren
The yellow Daffodils carry through from the Forsythia in the background.  The metallic finished planters are a perfect balance to the stone driveway and bring out the cool tones of the purple pansies. The Scotch broom has fabulous texture and I wouldn’t be surprised if it stays in these planters for at least the next planting. The height of the plantings are about equal to the height of the planter which is a very good proportion, especially when used at the end of a driveway like this.  What a fabulous design worth taking note of!     

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Forsythia Three Ways

The 'Mother' plant
Ok, last post about Forsythia. At least for a while, promise.  A Forsythia bush to me is sort of a cheap filler shrub that gives us a bust of sunshine for a week or so and then is exhausted until next year.  Boring. To me, an important element of good design is longevity. Designing a garden that appeals and works for the owner over the long haul is essential.  This year I was determined to make the most of my Forsythia, and I think I’ve stretched it pretty well so far. 
Here is Forsythia, three ways:  
So the easy-peasy is forcing Forsythia to flower- please see the previous posts Stretch It and Forcing Forsythia about that.
My shot in the dark was using branches from my Forsythia in my planters. These branches replaced an ornamental kale- I just cut branches and pushed the ends into the soil and created an arrangement that somewhat reflects the natural shape of a real bush.  I loved the height that it gave the planter and the surprise? They started flowering!
Next, when planting pansies in the planters of the guest house, I used more Forsythia branches to create shabby chic arces above the planters.  I used four branches, two long and two shorter.  You could use just a couple or make different arc patterns- just have fun with it.  I like adding the branches to add some interest until the pansies get growing, and some height. And guess what? These branches flowered too!    

This is how I created my branch arcs

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seeds of Change

There are two types of mail that put a smile on my face- a card from a friend and a good magazine.  So why did my Seeds of Change 2012 Catalog make me smile? Because it’s like really good magazine filled with unusual plants and loaded with facts.  All of the seeds and plants are 100% certified organic. Each plant is introduced with a brief but thorough tutorial of how to plant, grow, harvest and even some pest and disease prevention.  Seeds of Change make raising plants easier than raising a baby. 
I love that these plants have not been genetically modified and many cannot be found in your local garden center.  When you are done with growing the same tomatoes, beans and cucumbers year after year, try Seeds of Change. 

Nothing beats fresh, sweet watermelon at the end of the summer and I thought this yellow variety called Desert King would be neat to try.  I’m also looking forward to establishing a small ‘orchard’ on Austin Farm.  From a design perspective, I love the grid that neatly planted fruit trees create.  I’m thinking 12 trees- three by four would be interesting to look at off to the side of the property.  Seeds of Change sells apple trees that are two years old and about four feet tall.  They should begin fruiting within two to four years of planting and I don’t mind waiting.    

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vernal Equinox

Norfolk Botanical Garden
Happy Vernal Equinox! Today marks the first day of spring, a season of transition, renewal and my favorite season of all.  The sun is positioned directly over the equator making the length of our day and night equal.  From now until summer arrives, the length of the days will become longer, which to me, is pure bliss!  My gardens are bursting at the seams right now and I’m busier than a bee trying to keep up.
National Geographic
 Yesterday, my sweet husband and I went for a hike with the baby in tow up Talcott Mountain in Simsbury, Connecticut.  I found some beautiful Pieris japonica or Andromeda in full (pink!) bloom… the species flowers in white, so this variety is likely ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ but I can’t say for sure.
This is a fabulous evergreen shrub that does well when protected from the afternoon sun. Every garden should have at least three Andromeda. Why?
1.       They flower in spring and last for a looooong time.
2.       They are a broad leaf evergreen (Leaves do not drop off in winter).
3.       They make fabulous cuttings for winter decorating in wreaths, planters and fresh floral arrangements.    

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stretch It!

Stretch your mind.
Stretch your body.
Stretch your garden.
Forsythia in full bloom- in my house- before there is a peek of yellow on the shrub in my garden.
Make the most of your life.
Make the most of your garden!
P.S. I realized too late my prior post contained several typos.  This was the result of writing past my bed time after an exhausting day of juggling a one year old and a spring garden.  I will try to be more careful next time. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Northwest Park

Today Elle and I explored Northwest Park in Windsor, Connecticut. The weather was nice (again) so we wanted to meet up with another Mommy and her baby and be outside. The park was perfect!  I’m always looking at things from a landscape perspective- both appreciating and critiquing.  There is some beautiful stone work, and an interesting space in the center of the park, but few plantings besides some Crabapple trees worth noting. I don't know what the interesting space was designed for, but I love it.

An interesting space

What is it for?

Beautiful Lichen growing on some stones- Lichen is an organism that's part fungus, part alga and is harmless to what it grows on.  It is sensitive to air pollution, so if you have it growing on your trees or rocks, be grateful!

Elle thought the swings were the tops!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Peepers and Gardencize

Last night I caught a sound that hadn’t been heard in months.  It is the sound of summer, the Peepers are out!  Hurray! It’s hard to believe that it’s just the beginning of March and we are so spoiled with sun filled days reaching nearly 70 degrees and with evenings filled with the early sounds of spring. Here on Austin farm where I live in Connecticut, the sound of Peepers in the summer in nearly deafening.  After a while you get used to them, until one late fall evening you realize that the night has become silent.  Winter is on its way. Fortunately, we are on the flip side and I love hearing these little guys serenading me to sleep. 
The range of Peeper frogs in North America
Anyway, I’ve been taking advantage of these marvelous March days and working like whirling tornado in my gardens.  Pansies are planted, seeds are sown and leaves are raked.  And boy, am I hungry! It’s no wonder, gardening is hard work and BONOUS… a calorie burner! Now I don’t have to feel so guilty about indulging in a couple of Almond Joys! The National Gardening Association lists the following garden activities- with calories burnt in 30 minutes.  This is considering that you weigh 180 lbs. (Just for the record, I, do not.)
-40 Sitting quietly in the garden
-162 Raking leaves
Like the Peepers, I'm in the garden at night too!

This is hard work.
-182 Trimming shrubs manually
-182 Weeding
I love gardening in my flip flops!
-243 Chopping wood
-243 Using a push mower
-364 Shoveling heavy snow

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Garden Therapy

A dear friend of mine, who is facing a very difficult time, has been finding solace in her garden.  After a trying day, I too find there to be no better remedy than some quiet time spent in my garden.  Even if you can spend just 15 minutes a day in the garden, it can make all the difference.  The difference that you will see in the garden will be miniscule incomparison to the difference YOU will feel from taking the time for yourself.  
The following excerpt is from an article that was published by the National Wildlife Federation called, Your Health: Healing Gardens by Anne Bolen:
“Environmental psychologist Kathleen Wolf at the University of Washington has gathered more than 1,800 research papers spanning the last 40 years—most published in the past decade—which show that green spaces in cities can provide a number of benefits. These include: faster healing; reduced ailments such as high blood pressure and diabetes; increased coping and learning capacity; promotion of a sense of community and self-esteem; and, in some cases, reduced crime."

A Space that I designed...Before....

                                                       After: Fall:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gardeners, Get Vertical!

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 picture above is 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!!!