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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.

Giveaway to Celebrate Six Years of Blogging

Seeing Flowers

Six years of blogging and I’m celebrating with a Giveaway. It hardly seems possible. Six years of documenting my garden, mostly, but also family events. Because of my blog I have met gardeners from around the country at Flings.  All you have to do to meet some of them is click on the Buffa10 badge on the right side of the page.

Over these six years and 1,406 posts I have learned that gardeners have a wide range of interests.  My post about bee balm remains my most popular for another year. Did I insert some SEO magic inadvertantly? Is it because it reviews the lesson Elsa Bakalar gave me about color? I don’t think I will ever know. This year hydrangeas and heritage wheat also won a big audience.

Timber Press is helping me celebrate my blogoversary.  They will Giveaway a copy of their beautiful book  Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers with amazing photography by Robert Llewellyn, and written by Teri Dunn Chace. I wrote about Seeing Flowers here,  but I cannot say too many times what a stunning book this is, providing us with a closeup view of  each blossom, a view we could never get in real life. There are all manner of fascinating facts, some of which are sure to put a plant on your must have list. For example, did you know that the milky latex sap of euphorbias is toxic and will cause stomach upset? This means deer won’t eat them. A whole new family of plants is newly attractive to me!

Along with Seeing Flowers I will giveaway a copy of my own book, The Roses at the End of the Road, which is the story of how we got to the End of the Road, the roses and life we found here.  Kathy Purdy, who was so generous with technical advice when I began blogging, writes Cold Climate Gardening and posted a review here. All you have to do is leave a comment before midnight on December 12. It would be lovely if you would tell me the name of your favorite flower.  Especially if you have a favorite rose. I will choose comment at random and announce the winner of the Giveaway on Friday, December 13.


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.



U is for Unless on the A to Z Challenge


Queen Anne’s Lace – an umbelliferous flower

U is for Unless. I was trying to find a good botanical U word, but I could locate very few. Umbel is “an inflorescence with pedicles or branches arising at the same point and of nearly equal length.” Think Queen Anne’s Lace. Ulmus is the whole family of elms, and Urtica is the stinging nettle. Stinging nettle made me think of the problems we can face when gardening. And that made me think of an alphabet book by the delightful artist David Hockney and others. The only letter of that alphabet that I can recall is the U. David Hockney’s collaboration (I don’t remember who) said U is for Unless. He said Unless is the creaking hinge of a story. And a creepy, scary hinge it is. The garden should do well this year — Unless we have a drought, the well dries up and I cannot water the garden, losing all my labor, and because all my neighbors will have dry wells too, I’ll have to drive to buy gallons of grocery story water to drink, and have to go downhill to our beaver pond to get water for flushing the toilets, and have to visit one of my children who lives where there is town water to take a shower, and have to drive 15 miles to the nearest laundromat and any tears I shed will only make the soil bad, and then the whole landscape will die, and I won’t even be able to sell and and we will become poverty stricken and what happens after that  will be just terrible —- Unless it rains and all is saved.

To see what else begins with U click here.

B is for Bee Balm on the A to Z Blogger Challenge


Bee Balm or Monarda didyma

B has to be  for Bee Balm because a post I did about Bee Balm in 2009 is one of the most popular posts I ever did. I don’t know quite why. Maybe I did some SEO magic without knowing? Maybe because ABC Wednesday still remains very popular, running through the alphabet for six years now?

In any event, bee balm, more properly known as Monarda didyma, is an American native that has it’s own place in American history. It was a popular substitue for ‘real tea’ in the wake of the Boston Tea Party, and remains a common ingredient in herbal tea blends today.  It grew in the Oswego,ew York area and therefore (maybe) is sometimes called Oswego tea. According to my old Rodale Herb Book, it is also sometimes called bergamot because “The entire plant emits a strong fragrance similar t citrus, but most like that of the tropical orange tree, orange bergamot. . . The fragrance contributes to its value as a garden plant, and, moreover, makes it suitable for use in potpourris and other scented mixtures.” It is the leaves that are used in tea mixtures. They should be stripped off the square hollow stems and allowed to dry for two or three days in warm shade. I store the dried leaves in glass jars, and keep them in my dark pantry.

Bee balm is an easy plant to grow, but you must begin with a division. That is the only way you know exactly what you are getting. There are a number of cultivated varietie in shades of pink, red and purple. Bluestone Perennials offers a good selection including Colrain Red, a beautiful scarlet, which was first found in a neighboring town and then put into commercial production.

I grow my bee balm in my sunny Herb Bed which borders our piazza right in front of the house. There I can see the hummingbirds that regularly visit. The soil is of average fertility and drains well. It is supposed to like a moisture holding  soil, but mine does fine even in drought. I always have plenty to share for friends and fund raising plant sales. After the first bloom in midsummer, you can cut it back and you will get another flush later in the season.

To see what else begins with B click here.

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!

CISA -The Power of We on Blog Action Day 2012


On this Blog Action Day where many bloggers are describing and celebrating “The Power of We” I give thanks for our local Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture – CISA. I live in a rural area and like many people I have become more and more concerned about the food my family and I eat. About 20 years ago, farmers producing vegetables, fruit, fiber, maple syrup and dairy, businesses, politicians, and consumers got together to talk about how to create a sustainable agricultural system that would benefit all. The result was CISA, of which I am a dues paying member.

Over the years I have watched the demise of dairy farms but I have watiched the arrival and growth of many small scale diversified vegetable farms. Along with these farms and the young farmers have come more farm stands, farmers markets that operate for five months of the year, as well as that new fangled system, the CSA farms. CSA farms are Communityn Supported Agriculture farms that allow the consumer to share the risks of the farmers, of drought or flood, of insect damage or disease. By buying a share in a CSA the shareholder gets to pick up a basket of what ever is being harvested that week – and often a little bouquet of flowers as well. In addition to CSAs that primarily supply a weekly load of vegetables, there are also specialty CSAs.  Goldthread Herb Farm offers Community Supported Medicine which offers twice a season helping of medicinal herbs to help maintain good health. Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA has a once a season share of a variety of unmilled grains.

CISA helps publicize the bounty available from local farms through their Local Foods Guide which is available on line, as well as in hard copy that is widely distributed every spring. It has also helped farmers sell their produce to local schools and hospitals, those places where  good healthy food is especially  important.

CISA also helps farmers with business training. If they are going to be successful farmers they have to be good farmers in the field, and they need to know how to make a sustainable  living.

A big thank you is to CISA, Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture. This organization supports local farmers with growing marketable crops and handling the business aspect of farming more efficiently. They have helped farmers AND consumers. They have helped to create more markets for produce,: and bringing healthful produce to more people.

Of course, we eaters like to have this good food all year long, not just in the main growing season. So what are we all doing about it? Getting Wintermarkets.

Wintermarket Pears in January

Wintermarket root crops

Real Pickles at the Wintermaarket

To all the other kinds of action this day click here.

Chicken Encyclopedia – Storey Blog Tour & Giveaway

The Chicken Encyclopedia by Gail Damerow

The chicken is a familiar farm animal, but even those who are setting up backyard flocks may not be aware of the more arcane facts of their life. Some may not be aware of the most basic facts of their biology. I cannot count the number of times people have told me they would love to have chickens producing eggs in the backyard, but they just cannot stand the thought of having a rooster. BASIC FACT: Hens, like women everywhere, do not need a male to produce eggs. Hens, like women everywhere, do need a male to produce a baby.

Chicks in mailing box - keeping each other warm

Related Basic Facts: A rooster fertilizes an egg before it has a shell and before it is laid in the nest. The white of the fertilized egg is what becomes the chick, while the yolk is there to nourish the chick as it develops. That is why day old chicks can be sent to a new chicken farmer in  the mail. The newly hatched chick needs no food or water for three days. Of course, those of us who have picked up a cheerily cheeping box of chicks from the post office are happy to get them into their brooding area as quickly as possible, to give them the warmth that is essential, as well as food and water.

Chicks in brooder box - warm, fed and watered

Gail Damerow’s Chicken Encyclopedia published by Storey will answer hundreds of other questions about chickens. Some of the answers will help you decide what kind of flock you want to have. There are always aesthetics. So many breeds from big handsomely feathered birds like the Faverolle to the Silkie to a nearly featherless hybrid.

Chicken Encyclopedia - Comb Styles

Even the shape of their combs might influence your choice. There is the familiar single comb, but also rose combs, pea combs, strawberry and pea combs.

When I first had chickens the winters were colder than they are now. Some of the birds with their tall single combs would get frostbitten which was alarming to see in January, but they always recovered by June. Chickens with smaller combs like the rose comb did not suffer as much from the cold. Nowadays it doesn’t seem to be an issue at all.


I have chosen different breeds over the years, fat golden Buff Orpingtons, cheerful Barred Rocks, elegant Silver Laced Wyandottes and others. It is nice to have a pretty mixed flock clucking around but the last few years I have only ordered Araucanas/Americanas, which is the way Murray McMurray hatchery labels and sells them. These are the chickens that lay those pretty blue eggs. I haven’t chosen them because of the prettiness of the eggs, but because they are such good layers, easily laying reliably into their third year. What I give up is a mixed flock of beautifully feathered birds. I don’t think Araucans are the most attractive birds you can get, but I decided I need to be practical in getting more eggs for my buck.

This post is part of Storey’s virtual blog tour. Be sure to visit the other bloggers who are giving more information and responses to the Chicken Encyclopedia.  Also, you can win a copy of this fascinating book by leaving a comment below by midnight March 14. Be sure I have your email address, and I’ll announce the winner, chosen randomly, on March 15.  Storey will send your copy of the Chicken Encyclopedia once I have your mailing address.  The other blogs are also having Giveaways so you have many chances to win this great book. Thank you Storey!

2-Mar     For the Love of Chickens
3-Mar    Vintage Garden Gal
4-Mar    The Garden Roof Coop
5-Mar    Common Weeder
6-Mar    Chickens in the Road
7-Mar    Garden Rant
8-Mar    Fresh Eggs Daily
9-Mar    My Pet Chicken Blog
10-Mar    Coop Thoughts
11-Mar    BoHo Farm and Home
12-Mar    Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs
13-Mar    A Charlotte Garden
14-Mar    Farm Fresh Fun
15-Mar    The HenCam
16-Mar    Life on a Southern Farm
17-Mar    ADozenGirlz, the Chicken Chick
18-Mar    North Coast Gardening

Storey Publishing has its own blog which is full of information and fun. I know because I once contributed some chicken lore. I guess I just did a little crowing there.

Foliage Follow Up – January 2012

Orchid cactus

I rarely participate in Foliage Follow-up, but Pam Penick at Digging has prompted me to take a good look at the foliage around me at this time of the year.

I have owned this orchid cactus (Epiphyllum) for a number of years. I pay almost no attention to it which is shameful, because it would bloom regularly and magnificently if I did. You can see I don’t even give it the pedestal it deserves. For the past year it has lived in a bright rarely heated guest room where it seems happy even if it doesn’t bloom.

I am making a new year’s resolution to prune it back and repot it in the spring.  I think I will go upstairs and prune it this very morning.

I do have other succulents. Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus which are among the easiest plants to grow.  They even tell you when they need watering. Before any serious damage is done to the plant the succulent ‘leaves’ will begin to shrivel slightly and feel limp. It just takes regular watering to bring it back into fine fettle.

Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii

This particular Christmas cactus lives in my bedroom, right next to a plump jade tree.

Jade tree, Cassula ovata

This jade tree is over 20 years old. My daughter cared for it during the two separate years we were living in China. She is as reluctant to prune as I am, and it grew so much more heavily on one side that the plant was leaning so dangerously that she propped up the stem with a small flower pot.  I finally did prune it  so that it was not only more attractive, but safer in its pot. Then a couple of years ago I left it right next to a north window in our unheated Great Room for the winter and I thought I had killed it for sure. It never got watered and became shrivelled and frozen, but I resurrected it in the spring when I gave it a radical pruning and watered it on a regular schedule. The leaves are now fat and healthy, if a bit dusty.

This citrus scented geranium is another plant I have had for several years. Still full of life, but another plant that is in serious need of pruning and repotting. Next month. I promise. I will also be able to take cuttings and start raising another generation.

Scented geranium roseScented geranium foliage takes many different forms. Check the online catalogs like Hobbs Farm and Logee’s Greenhouse to see the full range. Scented geraniums do produce small flowers, but it is the scented foliage that is the appeal.

Prostrate rosemary

This prostrate rosemary did beautifully in its pot out on the entry walk all summer where it is hot and sunny. I brought it in and put in in the south window of the unheated Great Room which did go down below freezing yesterday, but it still looks fine. Unlike my upright rosemary which got nipped by cold in the Great Room earlier in the season and which I am trying to revive in a warmer, but still cool, room.

This is what foliage looks like outdoors this morning. I am glad for the snow cover before temperatures plummeted. Four degrees above zero this morning.

Pam, thank you so much for Foliage Follow-Up.


Bloom Day, January 2012

This Bloom Day is the coldest day of the winter so far. -4 degrees at 7 am. Still I have a few blooms to enjoy. This Christmas cactus is becoming quite magnificent and sits in the corner of our bedroom where it is one of  the first things I see when I wake up.

We are still a little disorganized from the nearly completed work on our kitchen so this Christmas cactus is sitting it out in the Sitting Room which is on a separate heating zone and very cool.  The small white cyclamen behind it that I bought for Christmas is really enjoying the cool temperatures.

The real surprise is this fuschia. I bought it in the spring and planted it along with a colcasia (elephant’s ear). I was potting them up in my new potting shed when I knocked a bag of perlite on top of the fuschia and broke off the main stem. I was so annoyed with myself, but planted what was left anyway. It took at least half the summer but new shoots appeared and finally in the fall it produced these blossoms. We had a long mild fall but finally I brought the pot in, minus the colocasia which had not done very well because I think our hilltop is just too cool. The fuscia continue to bloom in our unheated Great Room where it gets lots of sun, but very cool. This morning it is just about 32 degrees and the heat has automatically come on. The fuschia has been our great winter surprise.

For more blooms around the country visit clever Carol who thought up this great idea at May Dreams Gardens.

The view outside this morning