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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

Gifts for the Gardener – still time to shop

Gifts for the Gardener begin at the garden center

Gifts for the Gardener begin at the garden center

I have never thought it very hard to find gifts for the gardener. After all, what does a gift say? I love you? I understand you? I want you to enjoy your days? I want your dreams to come true? I share your passion and I know just what you need?

No matter what your message there are garden centers and other kinds of shops that have just the gifts to convey these messages to the gardener in your life. I made the rounds of some of these stores and this is what I found. The Shelburne Farm and Garden Center has colorful Dramm long armed five liter watering cans ($30), and equally colorful one gallon Gardman watering cans ($18). A rolling Saucer Caddy ($40) holds more appeal for me as I get older. My potted plants get bigger every year and moving them a bigger chore. These gifts say ‘Lets have some fun in the garden, but let’s not strain ourselves. I want you in one piece at the end of a gardening day.”

SF&G also has a nice array of gloves. I used to pride myself on not using gloves, but after years of dirty nails and dry calluses I decided gloves are a Good Thing. Of course, gloves like Cool MUD gloves ($10) with water repellent nitrile have gotten lighter, more comfortable and breathable. One style of Women’s Work gloves is flowery and has nice long gauntlets ($20). When I got to the Greenfield Farmer’s Cooperative on High Street I found they had a whole aisle of gloves. And a lot more besides. Gloves are a consumable; they wear out and need to be replaced from time. A gift of gloves says “Don’t worry. Dig in. There is always another pair. Better the gloves get ugly than your lovely hands.”

There are fewer flowers in the winter, but SF&G has bags and bags of bird seed and a whole array of bird feeders. Attract the birds and you will be able to enjoy these flowers of the air. I met a neighbor there and she expressed her pleasure at finding that birds love safflower seeds, but squirrels don’t. Good information.

Blue Pots at the Greenfield Farmers Coop

Blue Pots at the Greenfield Farmers Coop

Greenfield Farmer’s Coop has a fabulous array of Burley Clay pots in sizes from about one cup ($7) to large handsome pots that can hold a striking flower arrangement that is a work of art or even a small tree ($60) These pots come in lovely blue, and subtle shades of green or brown. They also have an array of black metal trellises, perfect for supporting ornamental vines in the garden. Prices range from $25-$40. They say “Isn’t it fun to have plants grow up and add a new dimension to the garden?”

Grow Bags are another way to have fun and continue the vegetable garden indoors during the winter. The Farmers Coop has several Grow Bags ($7-$15) that include coconut coir instead of potting soil, but you will need your own seeds (any left from the summer?), a liquid fertilizer and good light. I think these are great for growing herbs and greens like lettuces. You know your beloved just can’t stop wanting really local food.

Christmas platter at Stillwater Porcelain

Christmas platter at Stillwater Porcelain

On the other hand, sometimes you want to stop thinking about tools and chores. Sometimes you just want to surround yourself with the images of flowers and nature while carrying on in your non-gardening life. I stopped in at Stillwater Porcelain in ShelburneFalls where Pat Pyott has a unique way of creating ornamental tiles, with realistic images of Queen Anne’s Lace, autumn leaves, herbs, an evergreen branch. There are functional pieces like a variety of plates to tiles that surround a mirror. Prices range from $15 for lovely tree ornaments to $218 for a platter that will hold the roasted holiday beast. “I know you want to be surrounded by nature in every room,” these gifts say.

J.H. Sherburne embroidered cases

J.H. Sherburne embroidered cases

Just a little further down State Street is J.H. Sherburne’s shop. Jo-Anne has garden ornaments, and lovely botanical jewelry. I could not resist the gold and silver bulb complete with leaf shoots and roots that provided a space for a sprig of leaf or flower. I am not really a jewelry person, but I found this absolutely irresistible. She also has a collection of brightly embroidered Guatemalan cases, from luggage ($187) to a change purse ($7). I don’t have a cellphone (no service in Heath) but if I did I would love a flowered cellphone case ($14). I like the juxtaposition of technology and a flower garden.

Portrait by J.H. Sherburne

Portrait by J.H. Sherburne

Jo-Anne is also a fine artist and just think what a gift a portrait of the beloved would be, set among the colors of the garden. Full information about how that process works is on her website.

Gift certificates carry all sorts of messages. They can say, “I know you, and I love you and your garden, and while I have no idea what you want or need, I want you to have it.” This message is often sent to experienced gardeners who can be very particular and opinionated about tools or plants. A gift certificate is a gift of anticipation, of time for thought and the delight in picking out just the item you have been longing for. There are times when a gift certificate is the perfect gift. What about a gift certificate to OESCO where fine tools are found in Ashfield? The Greenfield Farmers Coop, the Shelburne Farm and GardenCenter, JH Sherburne and Stillwater Porcelain also have perfect gift certificates.

Between  the Rows   December 13, 2014

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.

Cold and Ice on Wordless Wednesday

View from the Bedroom Window  November 17, 2014

View from the Bedroom Window November 17, 2014

By the time we had ice on the trees and landscape we had already had our first snowfall – one and a half inches of the white stuff. But that weather all felt like a heat wave. This morning the temperature was a record breaking 16 degrees! AND the Farmer’s Almanac predicts a  much colder winter in our part of the world!  The firewood is almost all stacked.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Winterkill – Despair or Hope

Old white lilacs

Old white lilacs

Lilacs seem to know nothing of winterkill. This long harsh winter was as nothing to these ancient lilacs.

Wisteria

Wisteria

The same cannot be said for the wisteria. Winterkill in its most serious form has hit here. There is always a little winterkill, but there should be some sign of life by this time in the spring. No such luck. This might very well be the end of the wisteria as the provider of shade on the piazza.

Thomas Affleck rose in distress

Thomas Affleck rose in distress

The Thomas Affleck rose in front of the house has suffered a major attack of winterkill. I am  going out today to give it a good pruning. I am not in despair over the amount of winterkill among the roses. The rugosas are less susceptible than any of the other roses, but those that do endure winterkill often surprise me with how quickly and lushly they recover. My pruners are sharpened and ready for a major attack on dead or broken branches. Then we will see what June brings.

On this (almost) Wordless Wednesday I can think of nothing more to say on the topic.

In the Pink at the Lyman Plant House, Smith College

In the Pink at Lyman Plant House

Banish the winter blues and get In the Pink at the Annual Bulb show at the Smith College Lyman Plant House. This annual show, always fabulous, is running from now until Sunday, March 16.

It is no surprise to me that the powers that be would choose In the Pink as the theme for this year’s show. I love pink, as anyone who strolls down the Rose Walk can attest.  But there is something spring-like about all shades of pink from the most delicate aqueous shell pink to vibrant pinks, all of which find their most perfect expression in flowers.

Walking into the Lyman Plant House rooms that are perfumed with the fragrance of an early spring, it is hard to imagine all the planning and work required on the part of the greenhouse staff. I once asked Rob Nicholson, Manager of the greenhouse what it took to open the Bulb Show on the assigned date. His reply was succinct, “Patience and careful monitoring of temperature.”  That almost sounds easy.

Of course, there is work to do in the greenhouse all year to keep this wide array of plants from the tropical jungle to the arid desert in good health. I asked if they had to use a lot of pesticides and things to keep the plants in good shape.

“Of course, we’d prefer never to use pesticides, but when a collection of rare and exotic plants is kept in an enclosed greenhouse it sets up a situation where the plants inevitably are infested since they are not in a complex ecosystem where there are checks and balances. When we need to use pesticides we tend to use very mild ones that break down very quickly as we have to be able to allow visitors in the next morning. Pesticides are rated with an REI (re-entry interval) that dictates how soon humans are allowed back into the space so we are limited to those with REIs of 4-12 hours. Then I try to use ‘biologicals’ which are geared to disrupt insect metabolism such as molting cycles, rather than the old style neurotoxin types. We also use insecticidal soaps . . . which suffocated the insect pest. I find the pesticide laws are pretty inconsistent as any consumer can go to any box store and buy materials more dangerous than what we use, and misuse them,” Nicholson said.

I asked if they used neonicotinoids, nicotine based chemicals that have become controversial and are in so many pesticides. He said “The neonics we used were systemic. Granular material is applied to the soil, dissolves and gets absorbed into the plants. They have a long term effect. They were very low toxicity to humans, easy to apply, and worked well to keep our mums clean of mealy bugs.”

However, he added, “There is a lot of concern about this class of pesticides contributing to collapse of beehives. The European Union banned them last year. . . .the pesticide gets into pollen, bees collect the pollen and bring it back to the hive and taint it. As our Chrysanthemum Show in November can attract a large number of bees if the weather conditions are right (and greenhouse vents are open) we felt we could no longer use these on flowering plants that could draw in outside bees.”

Nicholson expressed his concern about the importance of protecting bees which are so vital to our food system. “. . .our country needs to take a hard look at this class of pesticides, do the proper research and then act accordingly.”

Nicholson feels strongly that we all need to be informed consumers, buy as little of any pesticide as possible, and follow instructions to the letter. All pesticides should be stored under lock and key. “As a toddler I drank pesticide stored in a Planter’s Peanuts can in my neighbor’s garage. It almost killed me,” he said. Then he reiterated the necessity to educate ourselves about “a very complex subject and industry,” especially since there are so many pesticides available that are not dangerous to the bees or to our children.

Recently there has been research that suggests acetamiprid and imidacloprid, the two most dangerous chemicals in the neonicotinoids, may cause damage to young children’s brain development. Because I have young children on my lawns from time to time I would never knowingly use products that contain neonicotinoids. That means I wouldn’t dare use common pesticides like Ortho Flower Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer or Knockout Ready to Use Grub Killer which are only two of the many products that contain acetamiprid or imidacloprid. Further information about which products contain these chemicals are on the Xerces Society website,

The purpose of the Xerces Society is to protect invertebrates like bees, butterflies and many other creatures including mussels and crabs. I take Rob Nicholson’s advice to do my research seriously. Education is key, for all of us, and the Xerces Society is one place to start. Of course, I believe that using pesticides on the lawn is totally unnecessary, and agree with Nicholson that there are many safer products to use on plants.

To feel In the Pink, (March 1-16) the Lyman Plant House is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The suggested donation is $2. You still have a week to get there.  Talcott Greenhouse at Mount Holyoke College is also hosting a spring bulb show for the next week, through March 16.  Hours 10am – 4 pm.

Between the Rows  March 1, 2014

 

View from My Bedroom Window – February 2014

View from the Bedroom Window February 2

With this view from the bedroom window on February 2, I continue my more or less regular record of the weather and climate in this year of our Lord 2014. The dawn temperature was 34 degrees. Snow is melting.

February 6, 2014

Thirteen inches of snow fell yesterday, and so did temperatures today – 9 degrees.  But it is sunny.

February 9, 2014

More snow on February 8, about 3 inches. Temperature still cold, 10 degrees at 7 am.

February 21, 2014

Still more snow! A total of 30 inches in the last 10 days.  And this morning freezing fog turning the trees into crystal.

February 25, 2014

The road is clear, but the snow is melting very slowly because it is so cold. 10 degrees this morning,

 

February 28, 2014

The last day of February. We are glad to see this cold snowy moth depart – even though we do treasure all that precipitation. Now I walk out to the henhouse on snow that is frozen solid. The Polar Vortex seems to have left its shadow over our region. Zero degrees on this final day of the month.  How long will it take all the ice and snow to melt?

For more (almost Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Sastrugi – Waves and Caves

Sastrugi waves

Sastrugi caves

Sastrugi are caused by the wind’s blowing  and drifting the snow.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Microgreens with Dinner Tonight!

Microgreens

I planted these microgreens on February 2 and tonight I am harvesting them for our supper. Nothing could be simpler. Put seed starting mix in a container, press it down slightly, scatter your seeds which can be a mix from a company like Botanical Interests which I used, or seeds of any greens you have on hand – asian greens, radishes, beets etc. – and in two weeks or  so you will have a harvestable crop. In addition, microgreens are super nutritious!  I am sprinkling mine on my lettuce for a real boost.

The peas I planted are taking longer, but I should be able to harvest them in another week or so. I have three more little flats of microgreens coming along, and more pea shoots too. It’s February and I’m gardening!

Pea Shoots

This photo was taken 2-14, Valentine’s Day. Not quite ready for dinner.

The View from the Bedroom Window

View from the bedroom window 2-9-14

This view from the bedroom window, taken on Sunday has not changed much in the last few days. Temperatures have stayed very cold;  minus 2 degrees this morning. Occasional snow showers and the frigid temperatures have kept the snow pristine and amazingly sparkly. Big storm predicted for tomorrow. We’ll be prepared, but we’ll see.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

 

View From the Bedroom Window – January 2014

The View From My Bedroom Window January 5, 2014

This is my post for the View from the Bedroom Window for the  month of January. A continuing record.  By January 5 we  had 10 inches of snow and temperatures of  minus 10 degrees last night.  A Polar Vortex is promised  in the next couple of days.

January 13, 2014

On Monday, January 6 it was rainy and foggy and 50 degrees. The Polar Vortex arrived on Tuesday, January 7 with temperatures of minus 18 and WIND. The trek to the henhouse was bitter. I had to wrap my face in scarf.  But then  the weather became milder. On January 11 it was warm enough, 38 degrees, for pouring rain! The snow is nearly gone.

January 19, 2014

On January 18 it snowed and snowed. About six inches. This morning the temperature was 21 degrees at 8 am. Beautiful, mild day as the sun came out.

January 26, 2014

January 26 and temperatures hover at Zero at dawn.  Bright sun, brisk breezes; it is cold!  As the old saying goes, the cold grows stronger as the days grow longer. Last night’s snow showers freshened the landscape.

January is over, but I am hoping for a lot more snow. Precipitation is what we need.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.