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Seattle Fling 2011

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View from the Bedroom Window – November 2014

November 3, 2014 View from the Bedroom Window

November 3, 2014 View from the Bedroom Window

The view from the bedroom window on November 3 shows that the grass is still lushly green. Makes us remember that lawn grass is a cool weather crop. The trees in the landscape are all bare, but a clump of hardy chrysanthemums is still holding on.

View from the bedroom window - our first snow

View from the bedroom window – our first snow November 14

We woke on November 14 to the first snow. I took a poll and one and half inches qualifies as a real snow fall. Animal tracks confirm it.

Ice on November 17

Ice on November 17

The snow melted some, but was replaced with freezing rain and ice.

November 28, 2014 after the snowstorm

November 28, 2014 after the snowstorm

Thanksgiving came late but because of recent mild weather we were all lulled into a false sense of security.  Snow warnings began the weekend before T-day, and did not shift. Tuesday night we planned to leave for Tyngsboro early in the morning instead of waiting. Snow began in the afternoon and kept up. Some of the family stayed home, leaving more Dessert Night for us hardy souls, but the snow stopped  during the night. Everyone made it to Thanksgiving dinner. On the morning  of the 28th we got word that Heath had gotten 17 inches of snow and lost power. We loaded up the car double quick and raced home – but all was well! Winter is here. As expected.

Only one more snowy month in the year, and I’ll review the movement of sun, rain, wind  and snow for all of 2014. This was my one- year project to keep track of the seasons. 2015 will be different. No day is exactly the same, and certainly no season.

A Handful of GardenBooks – Reading Roundup

Books are the perfect gift for every occasion, and every season. Here are a few of the garden books I have enjoyed this year

Slow Flowers by Debra Prinzing Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from Garden Meadow and Farm  by Debra Prinzing is an encouraging book. Debra’s 52 weeks of bouquets from local flowers from ‘garden, meadow and farm’ are full of surprises and inspiration for those of us who are fearful and reluctant flower arrangers. She says she always put herself in that company of timid arrangers but the  work she did with flower farmers and arrangers for her earlier book, The 50 Mile Bouquet, with gorgeous photos by David Perry, gave her more confidence.  Each two page spread in  the  book includes a photo and description of a seasonal arrangement with a list of ‘ingredients.’ We don’t have flowers from our own gardens  at this time of the year, but we may be thinking about the flowers we want to grow that will help us make our own beautiful arrangements. Slow Flowers will also make us look at the bouquet we get with  our weekly CSAorder quite differently. We love local flower growers! Like so many garden books Slow Flowers has beautiful photographs.

Five Plant Gardens by Nancy OnFive Plant Gardens: 52 Ways to Grow a PerennialGarden with Just Five Plants by Nancy Ondra. This book has something for everyone, but it provides an extra measure of design confidence for the novice gardener.

Ondra’s book is first divided into two parts, sunny gardens and then shady gardens. Within each section are 25 five plant combinations, but with some alternate plants in case you want to provide a little more variety when you are extending the original plan. For example, theWelcomeSpringGardenappeals to me because I am so hungry for flowers after our long winters. The five suggestions are Jacob’s ladder with its tall lacy foliage and clusters of blue flowers, deep blue Caesar’s Brother Siberian iris, ‘Corbett’ a yellow wild columbine and a striped bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum var. striatum) and ajuga ‘Burgundy Glow.’ I was pleased that Ondra gave a warning about the vigor of ajuga. Ajuga is wonderful because it so quickly covers a lot of ground but it is so vigorous that it is difficult to contain. I don’t mind the ajuga that has invaded a section of my lawn because I am no devotee of fine turf, but it is good to be warned.

Square Foot Gardening with KidsSquare Foot Gardening With Kids by Mel Bartholomew. Those who are familiar with Mel Bartholomew’s unique Square Foot Gardening techniques may be surprised to see how they can lead children not only into a successful garden, but into science and math understanding. Mel begins with a sensible overview of how to use the book with different age groups, and continues with basic information for all.

Bartholomew’s book will be valuable to parents, but it will also intrigue children with various experiments, making functional trellises, and even a season-extending plastic dome. A final section gives growing information about the most common herbs and vegetables. Advice to any new gardener, child or adult, is to keep the beginning small so that it does not overwhelm. Teachers might find these garden books helpful as well. Right in our own area we have an elementary school with an agricultural curriculum, and many other schools are starting their own school gardens.
Gardening Labor For Kids While Square Foot Gardening for Kids is mostly geared to school age children, Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments by Renata Fossen Brown is designed to help the parents of young children find their way into the garden with a series of discrete projects. A list of the short chapters shows the variety of approaches from Planting Spring Seeds, Make a Rain Gauge, Plant an Herb Spiral, Make a Bird Feeder and Make a Sweet Pea Teepee.

Fossen is the Associate Director of Education at the ClevelandBotanical Garden where thousands of children come with their classes or with parents to learn about butterflies and pollinators and all kinds of plants so she is familiar with the many tactile ways children engage with nature and a garden.

Old or young, there is a lot to learn in the garden, and inspiration to be found. Who on your gift list doesn’t know that these books provide just the information and inspiration they need?

 

We Have a Winner of Cultivating Garden Style

We have a winner! A copy of Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired Ideas and Practical Advice to Unleash Your Garden Personality  by Rochelle Greayer, AND a copy of The Roses at the End of the Road  will be sent out directly to Jan McGuane Adam – a pillar of the Greenfield Garden Club. Congratulaations, Jan!

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer and Other Gifts

 

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

It’s a truism that every garden is different. Gardeners don’t begin by asking “how can I make my garden unique” they begin by looking for ways to bring their passions and preferences into the garden. This search will include choosing plants and planning pathways, but it will also include finding chairs and a table for conviviality, a birdbath for attracting the birds, possibly even a protecting summerhouse. In her new book, Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired ideas and practical advice to unleash your garden personality ($35. Timber Press), Rochelle Greayer provides inspiring ideas and information about different garden designs and accessories.

Nearly encyclopedic this is not a book that requires beginning at page one and marching on to page 304. The bright illustrations inspired me to browse through the book first, trying to find myself within a category or two. Is my garden Cottage Au Courant with its controlled chaos? Possibly. But what about Sacred Meadow? I am surrounded by meadows. Definitely not Wabi Sabi Industrial, but still, I do long to be able to recycle odd and rusty junk into useful and beautiful garden details.

Greayer herself does not worry about purity of style. Though she lives in eastern Massachusetts now, she was born in Colorado, and describes her garden as “Handsome Prairie, with healthy dashes of Sacred Meadow, ForestTemple, and Homegrown Rock’n’Roll thrown in.” Clearly unique gardens are not created by locking yourself into a theme, even if it is your own.

Cultivating Garden Style - Wabi Sabi Industrial

Cultivating Garden Style – Wabi Sabi Industrial

The various themes are beautifully photographed and provide that initial inspiration, but the sections on Learning, Doing, Growing give you practical information about how to achieve the garden in your mind. These sections cross over the various themes. You will need advice about deck essentials, buying plants, choosing a tree, understanding and using microclimates, making paths, or creating visual illusions no matter what kind of garden you are creating. She also provides directions for a number of DIY projects like making planter sconces, oilcloth placemats, a fountain, and lighting fixtures.

Pith & Vigor garden newspaper

Pith & Vigor garden newspaper

Greayer’s prose style is chatty and informative. She loves talking to gardeners, learning from them and teaching them. For years she has written a garden blog, www.studiogblog.com which is currently taking a new form but remains a pleasure to read. She is also the editor of a new quarterly garden newspaper, Pith&Vigor, of which I am a charter subscriber. The first issue includes an interview with Ken Marten and his directions for making an exquisite terrarium, how to make a mushroom garden, a bouquet gathered on the Massachusetts coast in mid-September, an autumnal container arrangement and an article on how to grow giant pumpkins – and compete! Lots more in this issue and to come. Subscribe for $32 a year, for a paper and online subscription by ordering at www.pithandvigor.com. A subscription to Pith&Vigor would make a great gift for gardeners on your list.

There are other subscriptions that will feed a gardener’s interests in more specific ways. Recently I was given a subscription to the quarterly Heirloom Gardener, published by Rare Seeds Publishing, an arm of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. The lushly illustrated current issue contains articles about poisonous plants, indoor gardening with herbs and bulb forcing, crops and seeds of the Incas, and rare fruits. And more. $15 for one year (four issues). Call 417-924-8917 or order online at heirloomgardener.com.

For many years I have been a member of the American Horticultural Society. One of the perks of membership is the bi-monthly magazine The American Gardener with regular articles about plants from ornamentals to poison ivy. Did I know there was anything good to say about poison ivy? No. But it seems it seems that it has the “potential for use in a variety of commercial applications, including an environmentally smart replacement for the petrochemicals used to make paints and industrial coatings.” There are also interviews with fascinating gardeners, book reviews, news about AHS programs  – and more. You can join online. The basic membership at $35 will get you The American Gardener, free or discounted entry into many gardens and arboreta and plant shows around the country as well as the member seed exchange.

I am also a member of the New England Wildflower Society where a year’s membership at the $55 level gives me free access to the famous Garden in the Woods in Framingham, and a discount at Nasami Farm in Whately where the NEWFS propagates many thousands of native plants. I am a regular shopper at Nasami Farm. There are many workshops available at a discount. Membership will also give you a subscription to their newly overhauled magazine, reciprocal admission to 270 public gardens, and borrowing privileges at their 4500 volume library. You can join online at www.newenglandwild.org You don’t even need to be a member of NEWFS to read their blog about native plants, or use their great Go Botany database to help you identify plants. All this is yours for free.

Gardeners are always learning; and a gift of books or memberships in a horticultural society are good ways to keep feeding their hunger for new information, and new pleasure.  Happy shopping.

Between the Rows   December 6, 2013

Timber Press and Rochelle Greayer are helping me celebrate 7 years of blogging here at the commonweeder.com. You still have another day to leave a comment here by midnight Saturday, December 13, and have a chance to win a copy of Cultivating Garden Style AND a copy of my own book The Roses at the End of the Road. I will announce the winner on Sunday, December 14.

A Study in Silver – Iced Birch on Wordless Wednesday

A study in silver - ice encrusted birch

A study in silver – ice encrusted birch

Poetry doesn’t have much good to say about ice – but here it creates a study in silver. I am glad to sit by the cheerful fire and admire the  beauty of the ice through the window.

Icy landscape

Icy landscape

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Cultivating Garden Style

Cultivating Garden Style

You still have a chance to enter the Give Away of Rochelle Greayer’s Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired ideas and practical advice to unleash your garden personality by leaving a comment here. Rochelle combines creative design with practical advice about growing plants and some great DIY ideas. This book is a perfect gift to give yourself – or to any gardener on your gift list. Thank you Timber Press, and Rochelle, for helping me celebrate 7 years of blogging here at the commonweeder. IN ADDITION, I am Giving Away a copy of my own book, The Roses at the End of the Road, about life in very small rural town among the roses.  Don’t forget to leave a comment here. You could be a winner – twice over.

 

Cultivating Garden Style - one of my favorite gardens.

Cultivating Garden Style – one of my favorite gardens.

Mary Gardens for Meditation

Rosemary in Bloom

Rosemary in Bloom

Mary Gardens do not bloom in December, but since the liturgical season of Advent is a time of waiting for the momentous birth of the Christ Child I cannot help but think about what a confusing time it must have been for Mary.

All mothers waiting for the arrival of their first child often feel confused because emotions can range from frightened to joyous. What will the birth be like? What will the baby be like? What will the woman be like once she is a mother?

I think about Mary on that long donkey ride to Bethlehem. Mothers are weary and expectant during that last month of pregnancy as the baby comes closer and closer to being a reality. The very young Mary must still have been trying to get her mind around the memory of the angel who told her she would carry this special child, and the visit to her cousin Elizabeth which was more confirmation that this child was going to be very special.

In ancient times the pagan goddesses all had flowers associated with their personalities. For example, the rose and the lily are connected with Venus, denoting her love and her purity. Mary is a unique figure to all Christians; it is no surprise that over the centuries such a figure would have many stories grow up around her. In an age when most of the population was illiterate, symbols were important to storytelling. In Mary’s story various plants became symbols of her character and the events in her life. Some people have taken those symbols to create a Mary Garden where they might meditate on her life.

Most paintings of the Annunciation, show an angel appearing with a white lily to tell Mary that she would bear a son who would ‘be the greatest and shall be called the son of the Highest.” The lily, white for purity with a golden heart, is the first symbol of Mary and is considered essential to any Mary Garden. The second symbol, the iris, is more important because of its sword-like foliage than its flower. When Mary and Joseph presented the new baby in the templeSimeon said, “This child is destined to be a sign which men will reject; and you too shall be pierced to the heart.” Confusion upon confusion – angels, shepherds, wise men and dire warnings, and she just a new mother with a baby.

Mary came to be called the Mystical Rose and so roses are also necessary in a Mary garden. Thornless roses symbolize Mary who herself was declared born without sin, and all the roses with thorns stand for the rest of humanity with all their faults and failings. Roses for Mary are either white for purity, or red for the passion.

Myth and legend grew up around Mary and many flowers were thought to refer to her domestic life. I can imagine women over the ages thinking of the ways they share Mary’s duties and chores. Mending is no longer a major chore, but Mary’s Candle is one name for the giant mullein (Verbascum), its tall yellow flower spike standing in  for a candle that provided light for Mary while she mended the Christ Child’s clothing. Right by her side would have been her tools, Our Lady’s Thimble, otherwise known as the Bluebells of Scotland, and Our Lady’s Pincushion, the Scabiosa.

Many other flowers are connected with Mary from the common marigold which is Mary’s gold, only to be found in nature, the blue of forget-me-nots as clear as Mary’s eyes, and Our Lady’s Keys, the primrose. Some of these associations make more sense than others, but all are beautiful in a garden.

The first garden known to be dedicated to Mary was created by the Irish St. Fiacre in the 7th century. The first record of a Mary Garden was a 15th century listing of plants for the St. Mary’s garden written by the sacristan at the Norwich Priory in England.

The flowers in a Mary Garden are an aid to meditation. Spring brings us columbine for Mary’s shoes, and alchemilla for lady’s mantle for her cloak. Pulmonaria, and other plants with white mottled foliage have been called milkwort or Mary’s milkdrops. You can see that many flowers for a Mary Garden are humble cottage or wildflowers, as unassuming at Mary herself.

A Mary Garden could also include a ground cover like vinca (Virgin flower), foxglove or Our Lady’s Glove, pansies or Our Lady’s Delight, or lilies of the valley for the tears she shed after the crucifixion.

It is thought that the first Mary Garden in the United States was planted at St. Joseph’s Church in Woods Hole on Cape Cod in 1932. Full information about this garden, and MaryGardens in general can be found at the University of Dayton in Ohio,http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/resources/m_garden/marygardensmain.html.

Even if you don’t have an outdoor garden, you can have a Mary Garden. All it takes is an image of the Holy Mother, and potted plants like the prayer plant (Maranta leucoreura) whose foliage closes in the evening like praying hands, and rosemary. My own rosemary plant is producing tiny blue flowers right now, a reminder of the legend that on the flight to Egypt the Holy Family stopped so that Mary could wash the Christ Child’s clothes. She asked plants nearby if she could hang the wet clothes on them to dry but only the rosemary bush consented. To this day rosemary’s blue flowers are a reminder of Mary in her blue cloak.

When you need a respite from the happy holiday hullabaloo, take a few minutes to sit quietly with your plants, no matter which, and meditate on the joys of the season.

Don’t Forget: You can win a copy of Rochelle Greayer’s fabulous book Cultivating Garden Style, AND a copy of The Roses at the End of the Road by Yours Truly simply by leaving a comment here by midnight, December 13.  I will randomly choose a  winner of this Giveaway celebrating 7 years of blogging at commonweeder on Sunday, December 14. Thank you Timber Press.

Between the Rows   November 30, 2014

Blogoversary – and Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

My first blog post went up on December 6, 2007, which means I have seven happy years to celebrate on this blogoversary. In that first post I wondered whether 67 was too old to begin blogging. I  guess I didn’t need to worry. I don’t have statistics until 2010, but since then I have written 1582 posts and received over 6000 comments. I don’t feel a day older and there are many new ideas and plants, and gardeners out in the world to meet and learn from. And many wonderful books.  In that first post I mentioned Eleanor Perenyi’s book Green Thoughts and I have written about many more garden books since then.

On this Seventh Blogoversary Timber Press and I are giving away a copy of Rochelle Greayer’s new book Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired ideas and practical advice to unleash your garden personality. This bright and cheerful book contains hundreds of ideas for creating a beautiful and personal garden. Browse through the wonderfully illustrated page and consider – is your garden Wabi Sabi Industrial? Hollywood Frou Frou? or a Pretty Potager?  Do you long for a Forest Temple? A Sacred Meadow? Or are you Organic Modern?  Of course, as you browse you might think you cannot pigeonhole yourself like that, and why should you. Rochelle herself describes her garden as being influenced by her childhood in Colorado but she’s a little bit Rock ‘n’ Roll as well as Handsome Prairie.

We all deserve to let our best selves shine, but sometimes we need information about how to make that happen. What do you know about decking or outdoor fabrics? Rochelle has answers and ideas.

Roses at the End of the Road

Roses at the End of the Road

I will also be giving away a copy of my own book, The Roses at the End of the Road, with charming illustrations by my husband. I do give some basic information about growing roses, but when people ask me what my secret of success is I always say it is choosing the right rose. I don’t fuss with my roses or use any poisons. I was a beekeeper and I treasure all the pollinators who come into the garden. I do talk about neighbors, the history of roses, and my own adventures among the roses. I had no long held desire for a rose garden until I planted the Passionate Nymph’s Thigh rose and thus began my own love affair. There is no explaining passion.

To win both of these books all you have to do is leave a comment here by Midnight on December 13 here I will draw a winner at random on Sunday, December 14. Once I have the winner’s address, I will send the books right out.12-2 me illustration

You’ve got to love a man who thinks you look like this. And I do!

 

 

 

 

The Roses at the End of the Road – on Sale

The Roses at the End of the Road

The Roses at the End of the Road

The Roses at the End of the Road is a collection of essays written about our life at the End of the Road. We found our way to Heath in 1979 and located a tumbledown farmhouse at the end of a town road. My husband checked that fact many times. What people think is our driveway is nearly a quarter mile of town road, plowed and maintained by the town. After the big snowstorm in 1982 when the town plow, and the town bucket loader broke down trying to remove the drifted snow off the road so that we could leave the hill, we planted a snowbreak. I figure we and the town are about even on this one. No more broken machinery. Other adventures include tales of neighbors, our daughter’s wedding, the night lightning struck – and what we learned about roses and gardens during our two years in Beijing.

I began the commonweeder blog in December seven years ago. Now, during the month of December I sell The Roses at the End of the Road for only $12 with free shipping. for full ordering information click here. If you can’t wait to read the book it is also available as a Kindle version on Amazon.com for $3.95. This is a great gift for rose lovers, and those who enjoy tales of living in a small town.

Stone, Water, Earth and Sky – A Woodland Walk

Moss on the Piazza

Moss on the Piazza

The moss on the piazza in front of  the house begins to turn lush and green as we begin the walk into winter. I  went on a woodland walk  to see if I could find any more moss to photograph, but I found much more.

Moss on the roadside

Moss on the roadside

I found moss on one side of the road

Moss

Moss

and on the other, wetter, side of the road.

Moss on log

Moss on log

I found moss on a rotting log,

Rivulet

Rivulet

I also saw a rivulet running cheerfully through the woods,

Old stone wall

Old stone wall

and old stone walls meander through the woods, marking forgotten fields.

Stones

Stones

Stones made a complicated pattern.

Lichens on a tree

Lichens on a tree

Lichens made patterns on the tree bark..

Sun shining through the evergreen woods

Sun shining through the evergreen woods

Sun shone through the evergreens

Woodland Sky

Woodland Sky

and turned the sky blue behind the birches. Stone, water, earth and sky.

This was my woodland walk in Heath on Wordless Wednesday. For more click here.

Preview the Year of 2015 with the UMass Extension Calendar

2015 UMass Extension Calendar

2015 UMass Extension Calendar

Wouldn’t we all like to peek into the new year ahead? Sometimes we can look forward to certain events with a fair amount of certainty – a baby due in May?  A graduation? A special anniversary? Maybe even a new garden? The 2015 UMass Extension Garden Calendar is a great holiday gift for any gardener who is already thinking how the new year will unfold as s/he promises to be really organized and get chores done on time.

2015 UMass Extension Calendar - Julia Child Rose for June

2015 UMass Extension Calendar – Julia Child Rose for June

The 2015 UMass Extension Garden Calendar does give you a peek into the new year by listing timely chores.  This excellent, and beautiful, calendar also contains useful horticultural information about plants throughout the year.  To order send $12 payable to UMass, to Garden Calendar, c/o Five Maples, 78 River Road South, Putney, VT 05346. Add $3.50 for the first calendar and $2.00 for each additional calendar. Think of all the gardeners in your life you could make happy.

UMass Extension Calendar

UMass Extension Calendar

Don’t wait to order. December days pass more quickly than any others.