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Celebrating Eight Years of Blogging – Giveaway

Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass by Maria Colletti

Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass by Maria Colletti

This year Cool Springs Press is helping me celebrate my eight years of blogging with a Giveaway of Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass.

These have been rich years for me be cause my blog has brought so many wonderful gardeners into my life, and so many beautiful gardening experiences. With other garden bloggers I travelled to Buffalo and to Seattle and saw beautiful gardens, large and small and all different. This past summer I attended a Garden Writers Conference in Pasadena and visited amazing public gardens, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and the Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Garden. Amazing gardens.

Now that winter is setting in amazing gardens have to be found in places other than the outdoors. In her book of Terrariums Maria Colletti gives all the basics about ingredients, supplies, and tools, and familiar flower arranging techniques. Whether you would like to create a desert arrangement, a tropical arrangement, or a more familiar scene you will find all the inspiration and information you need. This beautifully and usefully illustrated book if full of inspiration as well as instruction

Roses at the End of the Road by Pat Leuchtman

Roses at the End of the Road by Pat Leuchtman

In addition to Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass I will also giveaway a copy of my book The Roses at the End of the Road, which is now a history of our life and gardens at the End of the Road in Heath, a history that ended when we  bought a new house in Greenfield.

To win this Giveaway all you have to do is leave a comment below and I will have a drawing on December 14. I will notify the winner and get the address for mailing the books.

Bloom Day May 15, 2013

Waldensteinia, barren strawberry and daffodils

Last spring was early and hot and on Bloom Day there was a lot of bloom. Things are moving slowly this Bloom Day. This is an  area of my lawn reduction project. Waldsteinia has spread over the past three years and I’m underplanted with daffodils.

Barren strawberry close up

Waldsteinia is a beautiful plant and it is just coming into bloom. It is not  any kind of strawberry plant.

Miniature daffodils

These miniature daffodils are some of the daffs growing amid the barren strawberry

Miniature white daffodil

Some daffodils are growing in the grass. I haven’t gotten the groundcover this far.

Flowery Mead

My lawn is not fine turf. I call it a flowery mead. Right now it is blooming with blue and white violets, and of course, dandelions.

Forget Me Nots

Many of the spring bloomers are small, like these Forget Me Nots.

Grape hyacinths

TI can see these pale grape hyacinths from the house. The familiar blue ones are growing in the grass by the miniature daffs.

Yellow epimedium

I am so  glad I gave epimediums a try. They are NOT too tender for Heath.


This primrose  did so well in a shady spot in back of the house I am planting more in this spot this year.


My forsythia is looking much better than usual, but that isn’t saying much.

Red orchid cactus

And my orchid cactus has gone wild!

I thank Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom day and giving us all a chance to see what is blooming across our great land today.

You will also see what is (mostly) Wordless this Wednesday.



Happy Fifth Blogoversary to Me – and Giveaway

Purington Pink Rose in full June bloom

Today is my fifth blogoversary. Five years ago, on the Feast of St. Nicholas, with  a lot of help from my husband, I gave myself the gift of the commonweeder blog. I had no idea where it would take me or the gifts it would give me. Because of this blog I joined 60+ other fascinating garden bloggers in Buffalo and Seattle for Flings that took us to amazing gardens, meetings with creative gardeners, and gave me lively and instructive conversations with other bloggers over meals and while in the bus travelling from one great garden to another. I have ‘met’ many gardeners through the comments they have left on the blog and the emails they have sent. All have added to my horticultural education and horticultural pleasures.

The blog turned out to be a wonderful record of what is going on in my garden.  One of the special people I want to thank for prompting my monthly record is Carol over at May Dreams Gardens who has been hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for more than five years. Now just by checking my Bloom Day posts I can see the changes in my garden from month to month and year to year. A great gift.  I have also gained a new awareness of the richness of my own local gardening/farming/eating community  over these past five years as readers have come to me with news of their own projects.

Henhouse #7

On this fifth blogoversary I can count that I have written 1190 posts and received 4274 comments.  Some of the most popular posts have been Whither my Wisteria, and Henhouse #4. I have never understood why Henhouse #4 was more popular than Henhouses 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, or 7 which was a work of art. The Hawley Woodpile has been a favorite in every season and brought me a reader from France. Mirrors in the Garden – A Trend? was one of the many gifts of the Buffalo Fling.

To help me celebrate Timber Press will give a copy of Beautiful No Mow Yards by Evelyn Hadden to a randomly chosen reader who leaves a comment below. This Giveaway will end on Monday night at Midnight. December 10.  On Tuesday morning, December 11, I will announce the winner.

Beautiful No Mow Yards is a beautiful and useful book about the various ways we can cut down on the amount of lawn we have, or even eliminate it altogether. Even if we want a lawn, Hadden shows us that  there are eco-friendly alternatives to plain turf. Alternatives that will require less work. It could be yours! Just leave a comment below.

Another part of my celebration is that I can also Giveaway a copy of my own book, The Roses at the End of the Road,  which one commenter once said described ‘the life of my daydreams’. It’s got stories about roses, of course, but also about life in the country and the delightful characters around us.

Leave a comment, I’ll randomly choose a winner on December 11 and notify you by email. Then we will arrange to have both books mailed.  Good luck!

Ornaments in the Garden – Plain and Fancy


While the ground is covered with snow and temperatures hover at zero, I’ve been trolling through photos of my visit to Seattle last July (with 70 other garden bloggers) and especially noticing ornaments in the garden, some plain and some fancy.  Many of us have birdbaths in our garden – even me – who has not ornamented my garden in any thoughtful way.


It is not a big step to go from a simple birdbath to a fancy fountain. Bird lovers tell me that the sound of running water will attract more birds than a bird feeder.

Shiny beads

Strings of beads on a trellis is pretty simple. And simply pretty.

Mosaic bench

If you sit on this fancy mosaic bench you’ll get a fancy view of Seattle.

Steps and stones

I don’t know whether to call these steps plain or fancy. Stones aren’t fancy, but they can be used in fancy ways. I was surprised to realize that ornaments in the garden can be built right into the landscape.

Pebbles can be fancy, too. This pebble mosaic stair landing is beautiful.

Large urn

A large urn in the garden is a simple idea, and beautiful even if it is empty.

Urn with plants

Put plants in a fancy urn and you have double fancy.

Garden sculpture

Is this a sculpture – or is it a planter. Pretty fancy.

Bowling ball

Lorene Edwards Forkner invited all us garden bloggers into her Seattle garden. She knows how to make really simple work in the garden. And she has written a whole book about ways we can ornament our gardens simply for a fancy effect. Have you read Handmade Garden Projects: Step-by-step instructions for creative garden features, containers, lighting and more?

Entry to Japanese Garden at Bloedel Reserve

This small stone fox sculpture is set at the entry to the Japanese Garden at the Bloedel Reserve. Is it simple? Is it fancy? Is it perfectly elegant?

What kinds of ornaments do you have in your garden? Plain? Fancy?


Water and Delight

University Village fountain

Our area suffered flooding from Tropical Storm Irene and the storm that followed a week after causing enormous damage as rivers and streams overflowed their banks. We have recovered on our road so today I prefer to think about the gentler water in our gardens that calms and soothes.  Here are some of the the quiet waters I saw in Seattle this summer at the Garden Bloggers Fling.

Michelle and Christopher Epping's Garden

Kate Farley's fountain and pool

Kathryn Galbraith's fountain

Bloedel Reserve Reflecting Pool

Only a big public garden can have a big water feature like this, but most of us can find a way to bring water, reflections – and quiet reflection into our own gardens.



David’s Perry’s Photography Lesson

David Perry, Photographer

One of the stellar events of the Garden Blogger’s Seattle Fling was the workshop with David Perry, photographer extraordinaire.  We only had an hour of instruction, but I went right out to use the P setting on my little Canon Power Shot A590.  I call it my Point and Hope because it is so difficult to use in the sun – but it was raining at the Bloedel Reserve and I was ready to actually move the dial from Auto and adjust my exposure. Radical.

Once I put the dial on P I pressed the little button next to the LCD screen that has a tiny + slash minus. I press that button and I see a dotted line on the screen shot going from -2 to +2 with 0 in the middle which is the default Auto exposure. David says he thinks that, generally speaking, automatic settings are too bright. He recommended hitting another little button to get the exposure down to -2/3.

Willow - Automatic exposure

This is the willow tree and pond right near the Visitor’s Center where David gave his workshop. I was wasting no time. I used the automatic exposure first.

Willow with - 2/3 exposure

I can definitely see an improvement. And I am no longer afraid of the P setting. I might even try a – 1/3 or – 1 or even -2. With all intermediate settings. Experimentation is the way to go. Bracketing – trying out different settings for the same shot to see which is better.  There are times when a + 1/3 or + 2/3 or +1 or +2 might be called for. But not in the rain at the Bloedel.

He gave our group another couple of tips. He recommended a flexible plastic cutting board to use as a light diffuser when the sun is too bright, or even a very mild  spotlight. I found my cutting board at the Lamson and Goondow outlet. Three bucks!  He also said that while he, and other professional photographers have expensive tripods, many of us might consider going to Home Depot or some such and buying a tripod that construction people use for laser leveling. Less than twenty bucks. I am ready to invest!

Inspiration From Seattle – One

Shelagh Tucker with tomatoes and sweet peas

Compared to Heath, Seattle has a mild climate, and yet gardeners there share some of our problems. Generally, it does not get hot in Seattle. Gardeners go to great lengths pampering their tomatoes in an attempt to achieve juicy ripeness. Shelagh Tucker has a small greenhouse in her sloping back garden, but she also grows her tomatoes in a raised bed sort of hot house to provide the heat tomatoes require. Behind her, in another raised bed are beautifully trained flowering sweet peas.


I was surprised to see so much lavender growing in Seattle gardens, great healthy clumps. Lavender does not need the heat that tomatoes do, and enjoy the wet mild winters.

Potted succulent

Because of all the seasonal rain I could see why containers with all manner of succulents are popular.


I love santolina but have never been able to overwinter this pretty herb with its yellow button flowers. It is used widely in arid climates, but Shelagh has used gravel extensively in her garden to help retain heat, and provide sharp drainage for her plants.

Shelagh took a leaf from British gardener Beth Chatto’s book on gravel gardening to design a stunning garden featuring gravel and stone to capture heat, provide paths, and provide drainage for plants like thyme in front of her house.

Stone Mosaic

Stone and gravel become art in this beautiful mosaic.

Waterlily pool

While I am familiar with the many small in-ground pools that gardeners install for plants or fish, I was particularly fond on this raised pool which was so elegant.

'Heritage' rose

Of course, I always pay special attention to the roses in a garden.  David Austin’s ‘Heritage’ is one of my favorites even though I cannot keep one alive very long myself.

Shelagh Tucker’s garden was the first garden we visited on our tour and it set the tone for the unique and personal gardens that followed.

Seen in Seattle

As we 74 garden bloggers have toured Seattle we have visited private gardens, public gardens, and semi-public gardens to admire and learn about plants and Seattle’s history. Here is a mock orange at the Dunn Gardens.

All kinds of lavender everywhere.

Bicyclists on their own path.

Fabulous fruits at the Farmer’s Market. Cherries, peaches, all kinds of berries – vegetables, too.

Magnificent trees, towering.

Potted plants everywhere, in the gardens and on the street.

Fountains in the Mall where kids can play.

AND roses, and more roses. This in one variety growing in the enormous beds arranged around a beautiful big fountain at the University of Washington.

You will see lots more about Seattle’s gardens, and the clever ideas people have to add interest and convenience to their gardens. Stay tuned.

Good-bye and Hello

It was good-bye to the daylilies at the End of the Road . . .

and hello to airports in Hartford, Chicago —————- and Seattle!  Seattle Gardens are on the schedule for the next few day in the company of dozens of garden bloggers. Keep watching.

The Corner in Katy

Cindy on her corner of Katy - with me

Cindy MCOK, lives in Katy which is is not far from Missouri City where my daughter lives. When I told Cindy we were coming to Texas she invited us, my husband, daughter and me, to visit her garden. I thought it would be fun to feature Cindy’s garden on Three for Thursday which she started.  When we first made plans she said she thought the poppies would be in bloom. And they were!  We were still a distance down the street when we saw the riot of pink at the corner, Cindy’s corner.  When I asked what happened when all the seeming hundreds of poppies stopped blooming, she said she pulled up the dead plants to real all the other plants that were hiding and waiting for their day in the sun.

Cindy's back garden

Behind the house Cindy has the most glorious floriferous garden. Poppies, larkspur, roses, bluebonnets and I don’t know what all were in full bloom. It was positively dazzling. She has a fish pond, shrubs, stone and gravel paths, art works and found objects on the walls.  She said, “I guess you can tell I like old rusty things.”

Reve d'Or rose

Cindy has many roses, Souvenir de Malmaison, Old Blush, Carefree Beauty and any number of others, but this particularly caught my eye. Reve d’Or has a gorgeous peachy color and it is a good vigorous rose. Cindy says she periodically hacks it back and it always comes back as strong as ever.  Reve d’Or, Belinda’s Dream, Madame Antoine Mari and Carefree Beauty have all been designated Earth Kind roses by Texas A&M, and they are all thriving in Cindy’s garden. Daughter Kate already has Belinda’s Dream in her garden; it was her first rose. Now she is dreaming of Rose d’Or.  I expect she’ll be making a trip to the Enchanted Forest very soon.

Getting to visit with Cindy and Melissa the Houston Garden Girl have really been highlights of this trip.  Cindy and I reminisced about Buffa10 – and now we are waiting for our next meet-up in Seattle.