Apr 262017

lion flower planter collage

As I begin to tackle the blank canvas called our new back yard, this is one aspect I was keenly aware of.  Seeing this post which I had previously shared, reminded me of some key elements to consider.

Our yard is surrounded by two story homes with NO privacy between them currently.  There is no need for boring sight blocking plantings, they can be colorful and interesting with a bit of planning.  This might also solve the problem of planting next to fences – raise the plants above the shade cast by a corner fence.

The planter above is one I came across while on a walk one afternoon.  The planter is actually so tall, I had to told my arms all the way up to get the picture on the right.  I did not even know which flowers were in it till I lowered my camera to look.

“Why would they put these up so high?!  No one can even see the flowers to appreciate them.”

After giving this some though I realized that I was not the audience the gardeners were going for.  Surrounding this spot are tall buildings.  From their vantage point, the planters are spots of bright colors on the green canvas.

The same thought can, and should, go into plantings you do at home or office.

  • Who is going to be seeing the plants?
  • From where will they be looking?
  • Will they be moving or standing relatively still?
  • Where is the light coming from?

The planter above is surrounded by bushes.  If the gardeners had put it at ground level, it would have been hard to see.  Placed above the bushes it is hard to miss.

  • Are there other planting nearby to interfere with the line of sight needed?  Or which could visually drowned out the planting?

Even though I could not see the flowers, the planter itself caught my attention.  Such a bold piece screams to be looked at.

  • How will your planter play into your design?  Will it blend in or be a focal point of its own?

After taking time to think about this design in the landscape, I appreciate it even more than I did before.  Sometimes you need to think outside (or above in this case) the box when looking to add to your garden.

Have you done something particular, such as placing a planter in a non-traditional spot, in your garden?  Why did you make the final decision?  How have other’s perceived it?


Oct 072016


When I first saw this garden, in its wintertime bareness, I would imagine all the different ways it could be planted and decorated. Then I began to feel like a failure for not being able to do the same in my garden.


Later I visited the same gardens. They were taking shape, colors were starting to appear, and the feeling was less of emptiness.


I also realized several things:

  • There are people who are hired full time to take care of these grounds. This is not solely a hobby.
  • There is more than ONE person taking care of these gardens.
  • The same pattern is used year to year. No need to reinvent the wheel each year.
  • Annuals are used, not perennials or bulbs.
  • There is a greenhouse used to grow all of these annuals. I would have to either build a greenhouse, spending months to grow these, or else pay retail.
  • This particular garden is larger than my yard. I could not replicate it if I tried.

Reminding myself of these things when the gardening doubts begin to creep in has helped me keep a more balanced view, to not judge myself so harshly. I am also able to enjoy the gardens more, appreciating all the effort others put in so I can sit and enjoy them. No weeding required.

Sep 192016


Even the most beautiful of gardens will still require things that may not be so beautiful – buckets, gloves, shovels, wheel barrows, pots waiting to be used, compost piles in the process of breaking down, etc.  Whether these items must be seen or hidden in side a building or container, they are all a part of the business of gardening.

Knowing these items are needed, how do you then keep them being an asset to your garden rather than a distraction from the beauty you are trying to create? Sometimes all it takes is some consideration before moving forward.

In the photo above, you can see the top of the garden shed.  Instead of distracting, the materials used, the shape of the roof, and even the color of the building itself compliment the garden.  At some point in this garden’s history a decision was made to build in this style.  They could have just as easily put up a cinder block building with a green metal roof.  The function of that building would have been the same, but the visual impact would have been vastly different.

Instead of trying to hide a building that would have been an eye-sore, they chose to build something from the start which would add to the enjoyment of the garden.  Even in winter, when all the leaves on the trees have dropped, the flowers have faded away, and the tall grasses are not so tall, the building stands as a welcome sign, inviting you come visit.  Not often found on garden sheds, the small porch and its overhang have provided both shade and protection from the elements to more than one visitor, my family included.

This post contains affiliate links.

Sep 082016

pink begonias in bloom

While my personal garden does have the same begonias as those pictured above, this is not my garden.  It is one that we have visited and enjoyed.  Having seen it in different seasons and over several years, I have come to learn from what the various gardeners have done.  Here is one example, both close up (above) and progressively further away (below), of a set of beds in this large public garden.

begonia and canna beds


sun and shade beds 2


sun and shade from afar

Thoughts on the gardens above:

  • This set of planting beds lines a walkway, creating an entrance to the public gardens set further back.  Without the use of signs, the gardeners have drawn the public to the point of entrance.
  • There is the lack of variation from year to year.  The same flowers are used in the same way.  Once a good combination was found, there was no need to deviate and plant the beds anew every year.
  • The beds are on the narrow side, using only two levels of plants.  Both are bold in color or size.  The lovely coloring of the Canna lilly leaves helps draw the eye upwards without the need for a mid-height plant.
  • The trees at the start of the walkway have hostas planted underneath.  These plants do well in partial shade, which is exactly what the trees provide.  Once full sun is available, the flower beds provide a space for the full sun loving plants.
  • As the space around this section is very open (last photo), the gardeners were able to use large boldly colored plants without making visitors feel cramped.  The scale actually feels very appropriate.  Smaller plants would have felt lacking, unless the beds were larger horizontally to give the sense of size.
  • This is one of my favorite parts of this garden. Okay, I really love most of it.  Maybe I should say I really like this part of the garden because it looks good both up close and far away.  As you gain distance from it, the over all affect does not fade.  It is still bold and making a statement.

While my garden does not have the space of the one above, I have taken several of these lessons to heart and used them in my garden, or so I have tried.  Once I find a plant that works in a certain space, I go with it.  No need to try something new year after year.  On the other hand, if something is not working, try something new.


Apr 032016

seeds beginning 2014 garden season

One idea to reduce your grocery bill that I commonly hear, after coupons and shopping sales and eating left overs, is to plant a garden.  While they are correct in a garden can be cheaper than going to the grocery store to buy the same items, it doesn’t mean gardening is always cheap.  It can easily cost a pretty penny, especially if you are just starting out.  Planning ahead and being aware of what you are spending, what you need and having realistic goals can save you quite a bit over a season, or 2 or 5.

Gardening can be done with very little money.  It can. However, it takes time and effort.

Feb 062016

This post is a one I had written a few years ago.  While it is already February, there is still time to follow through with these steps in order to get your gardening process in order before it is time to put seeds and plants in the ground.

At the bottom, I have included links to the posts referenced below.


At the end of a gardening season I always find myself ready for a break.  However, by the new year I am ready to get going again, but always feel a bit behind.  It is like I am starting a race a minute behind all the other runners.  This year I hope to change that.

Before the end of the year I am going to do a series on creating a calendar for the next growing season.  By the time you are done, your calendar will have different important dates marked.  Things like frost dates, planting times, garden prep times and so on.  We will be breaking the process down into baby steps, doing a bit each day over the course of week or two.

Step #1: Get a calendar

With the Christmas season and the New Year coming up, we are going to start seeing offers for free calendars.  I wanted to go ahead and let you know about this upcoming series of posts so that:

  1. you would be on the lookout for a free calendar, or one that you might want to use
  2. to keep myself accountable

This series won’t run until after Christmas, so you have time.  However, don’t wait too long.  Before you know it you will be up to your elbows in cooking baking or up to your knees in shoveling snow.  This is a very easy step, so go ahead and just do it.

What should you be looking for in the calendar to use?  Preferably a calendar that has squares large enough for you to write in.  Now, whether this is a hanging calendar or a pocket calendar is up to you.  It just needs to be something that will not get put under a pile of papers, but which can be kept with your gardening supplies. You could even print something off from your computer if all else fails. Do not try to find the perfect calendar, it just won’t happen and is not needed for this.

As of right now here are the free calendars I know of :

Rural King – pick up a calendar when you visit the store.  I’m not sure what they look like.  However, if you are going there, take a look.

 – this offer is only good if you were already a member as of 10/29/12.

Live Better America – for members only.

(Here is a post from 2015 also mentioning a few sources for free calendars.)

As I come across more offers I will share them with you.  You may also find them at church, local businesses, your local municipality or utility providers, and so forth.

There are many, many free printable calendars out there.  A simple search will turn up more than you know what to do with.

Also, I have found pocket calendars at Dollar General for $1 or $.50 which would work okay for this.  They contain a calendar that goes for two years and is the one that I have in my purse.  The squares are large enough to write in, though a bit on the small side if you want to put more than one thing on a date.

The following are the steps I took to create a garden calendar.  Most of the steps are quick, though some may take a few minutes to find the information to add to your calendar.  Have fun with this activity.  It is meant to not only set you up for greater success in your garden, but also to help take away any anxiety or forgetfulness you might have.  It is not meant to be yet another chore that needs to be done.

Day 1: Getting Started

Day 2: Planning Backwards

Day 3: Begin List of Plants

Day 4: Adding Details To Your List

Day 5: “Start Seed” Dates

Day 6: Transplant Dates

Day 7: Finding Things Elsewhere, Part 1

Day 8: Finding Things Elsewhere, Part 2

Day 9: Create Wishlist

Day 10: Adding Details to Your Wishlist

Day 11: Expected Harvest Dates

Day 12: Garden Prep

Day 13: Compost

Day 14: Keeping Track Along The Way

Day 15: Order, or purchase, Dates

Jan 302016
Comstock Ferre & Co.

Comstock Ferre & Co. in Wethersfield’s historic district. (Michael McAndrews, Courant file photo)

Routines can be great.  They help you be able to predict what is going to happen and when.  They save on brain power, enabling you to not really think, but just do.  In gardening, there are some routines that we accept will always be the same.

  • Winter will always turn into spring, and fall into winter.
  • Rabbits and deer will find their way into your garden, or keep trying.  Year after year after year.  Even though you chase them out, year after year after year.
  • Planting takes place before harvesting.

There are other things about gardening that we also assume will always be the same.  Consider your source of plants and seeds.  Whether it be ones you save yourself, get from the local hardware store, or order online, once you have found your Regulars you often do not put a lot of thought into where you are going to be looking once it comes time to think about this year’s garden once again.

What if what had once ‘always been there’ was no longer there?

While going through the list of garden catalogs, updating links, I came across an broken link.  My first thoughts were of a great loss, an old seed company having gone the way of many such companies over the years.  No longer to sustain themselves in a culture where the public wants organic and local foods but often does not grow it themselves.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

Upon further searching I found out good news:

The historic Comstock, Ferre & Co. in Old Wethersfield will soon transform into an organic and non-GMO food market and café but retain its roots as a seed company.

The Hartford Courant article talks about “the latest incarnation for Comstock, Ferre & Co., which was founded in 1811 and is the nation’s oldest continuously operated seed company.”  As the years have passed, our culture and economy have changed.  While we may think of seed companies being immune to such changes, they are not.  They also must be allowed to change and stay modern, or else go way of many other such companies that used to common names to gardeners.

With the addition of the food market and cafe, they will be able to show customers and locals what the seeds actually grow into, what they smell and feel like, and ultimately how they can taste.

Sometimes a change in routines can be a good thing.  Hopefully this new growth in the business will help the Wethersfield, Conn. seed company continue on for many more years.



Jun 012015

When planning your garden at home, there are many details to take into account.  You need to pay attention to things like amount of sun, rain fall, average temperatures, length of growing season, and space.  You may also want to take into account flowering plants versus ever greens, height of plants compared to those around them, ease of care, and whether the plants are annuals or perennials.

When I worked in the urban forestry, we would also have to take into account the space needed for roots, any damage it might do to under ground utilities, the maintenance in upkeep (dropping of leaves, fruit, and limbs), height clearance underneath for vehicles if planted near parking lots or roads, scents of fruits or flowers, whether there were thorns or other dangerous attributes, and if the plant was a native, non-native or a non-native invasive plant.  There was a lot to consider when making selections.

Whether you are planning for your yard, as a part of your job, for a local volunteer project or to help out a neighbor, to help make the decisions easier there are often commonly used plants in your area that are recommended.  These are plants that tend to do well in your area (right zone, rainfall, etc.) and are popular with local gardeners.  They are also plants that local nurseries either grow or can obtain.  This does not mean that they are the best for the garden or location you are looking to plant in, only the most readily available.

In beginning to read The Allergy-Fighting Garden by Thomas Ogren, I assumed it would refer to flower gardens only, something along the lines of a botanical garden.  What I found pleasantly surprised me and made me realize some mistakes I had made in the past.  What I found was a very applicable, easy to understand case for considering not only the attributes listed above, but also those that affect our health and that of those around us.

My husband and one kid are affect more by allergies than myself and our other son.  However, we all have some degree of reaction.  Until now, I assumed it had more to do with the dirt in the air (from farmers plowing fields) than anything else, or with me spending time around so many trees in the fall.  After all, it is not like our house is surrounded by a  yard full of blooming flowers.  What I learned is that there may be other, larger sources of allergens and there is something I can potentially do about it.

The first 50 pages of The Allergy-Fighting Garden explain more about why allergies have become so prevalent in society today, what lead to the increase from several decades ago, and how we can go about correcting or reducing the effects.  It also gives a brief over view of how plants work, an important piece of knowledge in being able to understand how to counter their natural process.

The next 176 pages lists plants in alphabetical order, by their scientific names, giving a description of each and how they contribute or aide in the reduction of allergies.  While this section is not something that I will sit down and read straight through, it is a great reference resource for the future as I look to add to the landscaping around our house.  It will also be useful if I am ever in a position again to recommend plants for specific locations.

The biggest lesson I took away from The Allergy-Fighting Garden was that something as simple as planting a female plant, as opposed to a male plant, could make the difference between an allergic reaction and no reaction at all.  The explanations were such that a lay person, with even a minimum understanding of plants, would be able to pick up this book and come away understanding the connections between the plants in the landscapes around us and the amount of allergies experienced by those who come in contact with them.

Not only does Thomas Ogren show you how to plant so you can reduce your allergies, but also how you can fight those that might be around you.  The section on hedges and how to care for them is very  helpful.  As one who has lived in both the country and in the city, I can attest to how different each setting can be when it comes to landscaping and air quality.  When you live in cities, towns, and suburbs, the assortment of plants in a given area can be very  high.  Each person has their own idea of what would be good to grow.  Each garden and home has a different purpose for planting their specific horticultural choices.  When you can not change them, he gives you a way to atleast try and decrease their affects on the air quality in your home, office, or yard.  It truly is a fight against allergies from the garden.

The Allergy-Fighting Garden was an enlightening read and something that has added to my understanding of the natural world around us.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is dealing with or taking care of someone with allergies, or who is in charge of landscaping on any scale.  Being health conscious does not apply to food and exercise only, but also to creating an environment that aides in keeping us health instead of making us sick.


I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Jun 012015

Open space in a garden


You have seen all the magazine article about how to have the perfect garden, how to grow the biggest flowers, how to feed your family in a garden the size of a shoe box.  Well, what if you have read all of those article and still can not seem to get a garden in place.  Perhaps you have doing one of these 5 things that ensure that perfect garden with the biggest flowers in the smallest space never happens.

1. Fall into the vortex of garden catalogs and never find your way out.  The flowers are always in bloom, the vegetable plants produce blemish free produce, and the compost piles are even in orderly fashion.  Just when you think you have seen every picture of every variety available, a new magazine arrives in the mail from yet another vendor who carries even more options.  For fear of missing “the exact thing you are looking for” you work your way through that catalog, taking note of even more options.

While it is not a bad thing to look through these catalogs, they give you some great ideas after all, you have to close them at some point and just make a decision.  Real life happens, and not with a photo team around.  You will have weeds, not every flower is going to bloom evenly and all at the same time, and your compost pile will look like the work in progress that it is. Choose a variety you think sounds good, not perfect, and close the magazines.  Once your garden is started, or there is 3 feet of snow on the ground outside, you can open them back up and drool over the basket full of the newest variety of flower or rarest heirloom carrot that just became available.

2. Analyze every detail till you give yourself a headache and have to go back to bed.  Is your yearly aspirin expense more than what you spend on seeds?  Do you know to the minute how much sun your garden gets? Every bed? Have you set rain/temperature/wind gauages all over the yard to find the exact spot to match what you are wanting to plant, yet there is nothing planted?  Do you know 10 different varieties of tomatoes and to the day when they should start producing?  How about the history of 10 various heirloom potatoes and their prefered growing soils?  While these things are not bad, if you have spent all your time figuring this out yet nothing is in the ground, then you are missing the forest for the trees.  Take a breath, close your eyes, and throw a ball.  Where it lands is where you are going to plant.  Sometimes, that is all you need to do to get started.  🙂

3. Live in front of the weather report, waiting for the ‘perfect’ temperature/dew point/phase of the moon/etc.  I am going to save you a lot of aggravation here, it is never going to be exactly right and it is called a “forecast” for a reason.  It is not called a “thus saith the Lord” report, for a reason.  It may tell you that is is going to rain in 5 minutes, then 1 minute later change to say it will start raining in 8 hours.  Yes, you need to know if there is going to be a frost, what phase of the moon it will be tonight, what the average temperature is, if the soil is warm enough, etc.  What you do not need to do is wait till they all align exactly, because it will never happen.

4. Compare your plant selections to those of I-have-been-gardening-since-the-Great-Depression neighbor, coming to the conclusion you could never be so great, so you go back to bed. Been there, done that.  There is a beautiful home down the street from us – white house with black shutters, garden shed to match, not a week in the flower beds, mulch always in place … you get the idea.  I would walk by on the way to the library with the kids, always making sure they never walked off the sidewalk or even gave the landscaping a second glance.  If they did, they might mess it up.  It was obvious someone put a lot of time into this yard.  I also would ask myself why it was that my flowers did not look that great, or why I had weeds but they didn’t.

One day I found the answer to my question.  The landscaping company was out doing maintenance on the yard.  🙂  A team of 3 guys, a trailer, and a pick-up truck where there to work on the yard.  That is a far cry from myself, the kids’ wagon and my sedan.  After that, I enjoyed the yard but stopped trying to berate myself.  I would still love to get there one day, and am working on making my yard require less maintenance but still look good.  For now, though, I’ll enjoy their yard and let the kids enjoy ours.

5. Plant your garden, then sit and begin the yearly Front Porch Rabbit Count.  You would not want to mess up the numbers so you never do anything to scare them away. It took me a few years, and one changed glance out the window, to realize that the fencing I had up around my vegetable beds was useless.  The young rabbit that was running from something jumped right through the holes in the fencing.  If that does not make you feel like you just wasted your time and money, then I am not sure what else would.  Right then and there I decided to replace the fencing with smaller poultry fencing and add in metal stakes instead of the cheap woods ones I had been using.  The stakes were breaking anyway, and well obviously the fencing was doing no good for the rabbits.

The battle between man and nature is not a new one, nor is it one that we will win in the future.  This does not mean that we just throw up our hands, it means we strive to find a new solution.  Rabbit stew anyone?

Whether it is gardening or something else in your life, there comes a point at which all your plans need to hit the pavement and happen.  I have great plans for my mornings.  Every night I go to bed thinking:

  • I will get up early and do X, Y,Z before everyone gets up.
  • This would be the perfect time to learn more about ____.
  • This will be the week/month/year that I finally finish reading through the Bible. (I began the 1 year plan 3 years ago.)

Often I have to remind myself to finish what I have started, that I need to be able to handle what I already have or am trying to do, before beginning something new.  At times it becomes apparent that I have to say “No” to something.  Often though, it is a scheduling/motivation issue.  My morning used to be great, and not just because I am a morning person.  It was because I had direction, I knew what I was going to do each day when I woke up.

Crystal Paine has a great 14-day online course talking about just that – making your mornings great, beginning your day with a purpose.  Tomorrow is the first day Make Over Your Mornings is offered.  The prices start off very low and increase as the day goes on.  (Note the times are Eastern Standard.)

The Crazy-Can’t-Miss-Low-Low-Low Launch Sale Prices:

  • 12 a.m. to 7 a.m. ET on June 2, 2015 – just $5!!! 
    {This is worth getting up early for!}
  • 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. – just $7!
  • 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. – only $10!
  • 5 p.m. – 12 a.m. – only $13!

Our mornings have been … rough recently, to put it lightly.  If I am honest about it, a lot of it is because Mama is not up and ready so the kids do not feel the need to follow their routines from the get-go.  In an effort to curtail these behaviors, I am going to participate in the 14-day Make Over Your Mornings course.

Is this the perfect time?  Nope.  We have a short camping trip planned during this time, swim team practice is starting, a few trees are being taken down in our yard, and I need to schedule an electrician to install electricity.  Just like gardening, though, if I were to wait for the ‘perfect’ time/schedule/day, it would never happen. So tomorrow it is.

Will you join me in making our mornings better?


May 192015

produce auction collage

This post in part of a series about produce auctions across the USA.  While this is not a comprehensive list, I have tried to include auctions about which I can find information.  If you know of any others, feel free to leave a note in the comments section.

Kentucky is oriented such that it is wider East to West than North to South.  This means that most of the state is similar in growing zones, 6a – 7a.  Not only does this affect their winter temperatures, but also their summer ones.  While the state gets both hot and cold, it is normally not really an extreme either way.  The result is a nice growing season, with a bit of a break in between growing seasons.

Produce auctions across Kentucky are pretty evenly distributed from East to West, with 5 different auctions being found while searching online.

1. Fairview Produce Auction is located at 10292 US 68 East, Pembroke, KY 42266. Along 68-80; 1/2 mile west of Jeff Davis monument park. 10 miles east of Hopkinsville, 70 miles North of Nashville, 60 miles west of Bowling Green” according to this Kentucky Department of Agriculture website.

Here is another short YouTube video from 2007 of the Fairview Produce Auction.

2. Lincoln County Produce Auction, located outside Crab Orchard, KY at 2896 Ky Highway 39 N  Crab OrchardKentucky 40419.  Their phone number is (606) 355-0030.  They are currently on their summer auction schedule – Mondays at 1 pm, and Wednesdays and Fridays at 11 am.

Here is an article from the 2004 opening

3. Casey County Produce Auction – The Casey County Produce Auction is located between Bowling Green and Lexington, KY, in the south central part of the state.

From their website, “Auctions occur every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from April to October at 525 South Fork Creek Road. A market information line is available at (606)787-0570.”  They also have a schedule available for download that will list all the auctions.

4. Hart County Produce Auction – located at 6880 Cub Run Hwy, Munfordville, KY 42765.

While not exclusively about the produce auction,  here is a 2010 blog post from Amish America that gives you a good feel for the Hart County Produce Auction.

5. Bath County Produce Auction – is located between Mount Sterling and Morehead, near I-64, at 2914 East Highway 60, Owingsville, KY 40360.  To find when the next auction is, take a look at the auction schedule.  There is also an attached map.  It seems that all auctions are in the evenings, at 6 pm.