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Celebratory Fiskars Giveaway

In December of 2007 (!) I began my career as a garden blogger.  I hardly knew what a blog was in those days. I had just discovered Garden Rant, and my friend BJ Roche at Fiftyshift said that as a writer I had to have  a blog. And so commonweeder was born.

What I knew about garden blogs – a blog was a place to share information and experiences and opinions through the Internet.

I did not imagine that a blog would make me think more about my garden, and the place of gardens in the world. I did not think it would bring me to a different understanding about food production, environmental dangers, or the rewards of travel. I did not think a blog would bring me wise and funny friends who loved being in the garden as much as I did. I leapt into the blogosphere and all this was unexpectedly mine.

With the help of Fiskars and Storey Publishing I am celebrating my Third Blogoversary with four Giveaways! If you leave a comment on this posting, possibly telling me about a favorite tool that you might put in this wonderful Fiskars tool tote that fits in a bucket you will have a chance to win this sturdy tool organizer.  Fiskars was founded in 1649 in Finland so they have had a lot of practice at making sturdy and efficient tools that will meet every need of the gardener. Including the need to give a useful gift at this season. If you already have a Fiskars organizer, you might know someone who would appreciate this organizer. It fits a 5 gallon bucket with straps that wrap snugly around the outside of your bucket which can either hold further supplies, or weeds as you work your way through the garden.

Leave a comment on this post, even as the week progresses. The Giveaway ends on Saturday night at midnight. A winner will be chosen at random on Sunday and I’ll ask for the winner’s mailing address. Next week I’ll start Giving Away three books from Storey Publishing.

Snow is Snowing

And the wind is blowing. I barely made it out to the hen house and back.

This is a day for staying home, browsing through Right Rose Right Place by Peter Schneider and considering what roses I want to add to The Rose Walk in the spring.  My daughter Kate in Texas suggested I build a wish list on the Antique Rose Emporium website. So I did. I hope someone looks.

You all have a chance to win that excellent book, Right Rose Right Place if you leave a comment before midnight December 11. On December 12 I’ll have a drawing and the winner will get the book and 2 dozen CowPots for their spring seed starting. Storey Publishing and Liquid Fence have made this celebration of my second blogoversary possible. Thank you both.

The Landscape and Art

The artist Robert Strong Woodward spent most of his life in Buckland – and in a wheelchair. At the age of 21 he was injured in a hunting accident in California where he was living. Paralyzed from the waist down he returned to New England where he was born, studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and then moved to Buckland. It was his intent to make his living as an artist.

He was successful and many of his works capture the beauties of the New England Landscapes. I’d like to mention that he often came to Heath to paint our familiar landscapes. This year the Buckland Historical Society has put out its third Robert Strong Woodward calendar to benefit the Society. The painting above, The Golden Slope, belonged to Beulah Bondi, a famed Hollywood actress who appreared in movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, and TV series like The Waltons.  The calendar is $20 and for sale locally at the Buckland Town Hall and Buckland Library, Boswell’s Books and Sawyer Hall in Shelburne Falls and Andy’s Pine Shop in Greenfield.

Janet Gerry, a Buckland native, has just published Artist Against All Odds, a biography of Woodward intended for older children. Actually, anyone interested in the history and beauty of the area will enjoy the book, and the story of one of its most distinguished citizen. It would make for a great family Read Aloud during the holiday season. Janet grew up living two houses away from Woodward’s house and studio, hearing stories of his life which she has translated into a true story for the whole family.

Artist Against All Odds includes photographs of the artist, and color plates of a few of his paintings. The book costs $14.95 and is available at Boswells Books and Sawyer News in Shelburne Falls, and the World Eye Bookstore in Greenfield. You can also go online to order the book.

The book and calendar made excellent Christmas gifts. You can (possibly) give yourself a present by leaving a comment here and entering a drawing for Right Rose, Right Place by rose expert Peter Schneider and 2 dozen CowPots made of composted manure for seedstarting. I’ll have the drawing on Saturday, December 12.

Another Celebratory Giveaway

Right Rose Right Place

Right Rose Right Place

Because it is my second Blogoversary, both Storey Publishing and CowPots are making it possible to have two Give Aways.  Right Rose, Right Place: 359 Perfect Choices by rose lover and expert Peter Schneider will be a lovely and useful holiday treat for any rose gardener, or would-be rose gardener. There is advice here for the experienced gardener as well as for the novice.  I have already added a number of roses I never knew about to my must-have list. They are all marked reliable because I still don’t trust my warming climate. Schneider talks about every kind of rose, old roses, modern roses, climbing roses, tree roses, and roses for containers.  Just leave a comment and I’ll enter your name in a drawing that will be held in the morning on Saturday, December 12.



But the CowPots people also wanted to help me celebrate twice. I have another two dozen Cowpots to send along with Right Rose Right Place.  Peat pots for seed starting help to deplete peat bogs, but cow manure is definitley a renewable resources.  CowPots are made of composted manure that will add fertilizer to your garden when they are planted, and will get your seeds off to a really good start. They are made by the Liquid Fence people who also make a line of products like Deer and Rabbit Repellent. I’ll be using this as the winter progresses to keep hungry deer away from my rhododendrons.

For those of you who have begun your holiday shopping, I have a local resource – Artspace on Mill Street is holding its annual Holiday Shop with gifts made by local artists and artisans. You will not be surpised to know that I could not resist notecards featuring a porcupine.

I’d rather have porcupines on cardstock rather than in my compost bin and keep them as a lovely country memory.  There are lots of other beautiful cards for sale, as well as art prints, blown glass ornaments, beautiful candles, jewelry, honey, CDs by local musicians and much much more. Gifts are priced under $50 with many under $25.  Shopping at Artspace supports arts education and artists – and the local economy. The Holiday Shop will continue through December 13, every day, 10 am to 6 pm except Sunday 1-6 pm.

The December Wilds

The first wildness was our local porcupine sunning himself (I don’t really know if he is a he or she) in front of the henhouse this morning. I nearly stepped on him on my way to feed the chickens because I was so busy looking at a wild hardy kiwi vine on the adjacent shed and wondered how I was ever going to prune and tame it. Fortunately the movement of the porcupine, including getting all his quills in fighting order, woke me out of reverie in time.  I thought he would amble off, but no. He ambled up onto the step of the henhouse, where perhaps the stone was even warmer than the wet grass.

I ran in to get the camera and ran back to find the porcupine with his nose, and maybe his teeth, nudging the door.  I learned recently that porcupines like to eat wood and the hen house is so old that it might taste like sponge cake – or at least have that texture. I finally had to give up waiting. I did have other things to do besides talk to a silent porcupine.  The hens got their breakfast at lunch time, but they had not yet totally emptied their feeder, or waterer.

Then it was off to town, Shelburne Falls, for a little shopping. I needed candles. We always need lots of candles at Christmastime, so my first stop was at Mole Hollow candles right next to Salmon Falls. We had at least 2 inches of rain Wednesday night and the Deerfield River was in full flood. The Falls dam was partially let down and the Falls themselves were wild.  Fortunately, I never go anywhere without my camera.

This is an unusal sight at this time of the year when the river should be quiet, and icy, but this odd mild season is driving us all wild.

And time is rushing wildly. Readers have only til midnight tonight to leave a comment and have their name put in a drawing for Nan Ondra’s great new book, The Perennial Care Manual, and 2 dozen CowPots for seed starting. The drawing is tomorrow morning.

And Christmas Begins



When rose the eastern star, the birds came from a-far,
in that full might of glory.
With one melodious voice they sweetly did rejoice
and sang the wonderous story,
sang, praising God on high, enthroned above the sky,
and his fair mother Mary.

The eagle left his lair, came winging through the air,
his message loud arising.
And to his joyous cry the sparrow made reply,
his answer sweetly voicing.
“Overcome are death and strife, this night is born new life”,
the robin sang rejoicing.
When rose the eastern star, the birds came from a-far.
                                      The Carol of the Birds

Yesterday the thermometer made it up to 60 degrees, but I went out to bring in the greens and arrange my annual 12 foot ‘swag’ above the big south windows in our living room.  One year I realized I had a number of Christmas tree bird ornaments – which deserved more attention. Some birds are feathered (and I use the word loosely) bought at Michael’s craft store, some are hand carved and painted by a man in our church and some are sparkly birds with brushy tails. Some are tiny, and some are quite large/life size. I’ve hung a few sparkly pine cones ornaments as well. Aside from our tree this constitutes the major part of our holiday decoration.

And so the Christmas preparations begin. I have an extra celebration on December 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas, when instead of cookies or a shoe full of coal some lucky gardener will win Nan Ondra’s new book, The Perennial Care Manual, and 2 dozen CowPots.  You still have a chance to leave a comment, and tell me about one of your favorite books, or seed starting tip.  Entries close at midnight tomorrow.

Thanksgiving Continues

Thanksgiving cactus

Thanksgiving cactus

My Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) had just barely started to open on Thanksgiving day, but it is in full bloom right now. It will have passed its moment of glory by Bloom Day, so I continue to give thanks in the here and now.

I’ve had people tell me their Thanksgiving cactus or Christmas cactus never bloom at the proper season, but that is usually because they have misidentified their plant. The Thanksgiving cactus ‘leaf segments’ have little points on each segment. This has sometimes caused them to be called crab cactus.  the ‘leaf segments of the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)  are more rounded.

I have never had an Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri) which is a whole different family, but very similar in every other aspect except bloom time.  All of them are very easy to propogate. A single leaf segment can be stuck in a pot of damp sandy soil, kept in bright light but out of the sun for a couple of weeks and you’ll be able to see new growth. I’ve knocked a leaf off the plant and had it fall and root right in the original pot. It is important not to overwater these succelents at any point in their life cycle.

Once you’ve got a ‘holiday cactus’ you’ll be able to keep it going for decades, and give away many little plants to admiring friends.

Today is December 3 which means there are just about 60 hours left before the drawing closes on my celebratory Giveaway, Nan Ondra’s helpful new book The Perennial Care Manual, and lots of CowPots to get you off to a good start in the spring.  The drawing will be on December 6, the second anniversary of this blog.

Monday’s Muse

A very few of my garden books

A very few of my garden books

“Now, thank God, everything is finished; perhaps there are still things to be done; there at the back the soil is like lead, and I rather wanted to transplant this centaurea, but peace be with you; the snow has already fallen. . . . Well then make a fire in my room; let the garden sleep under its iderdown of snow. It is good to think of other things as well; the table is full of books which we have not read, let’s do that; . . .”

Karel Capek in The Gardener’s Year: The Gardener’s December.

I am so late with my Monday Report that I have decided to be a little early for my Muse Day post.  On the actual December 1 you can visit Sweet Home and Garden Chicago where Carolyn gail hosts Muse Day and see which of the other muses are abroad.

I’ve shown only a few of my garden books in my husband’s and my shared office. Needless to say there are many others, in the Great Room and piled next to my bed. I am ready for this reading season. Now that I am ‘retired’ I don’t have to rush out in the morning and I treasure my early morning reading, especially when I have lit the fire, and the wind cannot chill me.

Helping me celebrate my second blogoversary on December 6, Storey Publishing and Liquid Fence are offering gifts to the winner of my lottery.  Leave a comment about a favorite book, or seed starting tip, and I might choose your name to win Nan Ondra’s book, The Perennial Care Manual which will become a favorite read, as well as two packages of CowPots, made of composted cow manure. 24 in all. The lottery will close at midnight on December 5, and I hope I will have many names entered.  Good luck to all.

The Brother Gardeners

The Brother Gardeners

The Brother Gardeners

Much has been written about the “Columbian Exchange,” which refers to the plants and animals (and diseases) that were exchanged between the Old World and the New once Columbus started ships regularly traveling across the Atlantic. The Old World owes a lot to the New, especially in an agricultural sense. Potatoes, corn, tomatoes, cocoa, pineapples and pumpkins and a dozen other crops traveled from the New World to the Old so successfully that everyone’s diet changed radically.

However, in addition to the food crops that traveled across the ocean, countless ornamental plants were also shipped from the colonies, as we were then, to London for dispersal to various beautiful estates. The men responsible for beginning this exchange were John Bartram, a Quaker farmer, amateur botanist and friend of Benjamin Franklin, in Pennsylvania and Peter Collinson, a successful Quaker businessman and a passionate gardener living in London, who was also an agent for Benjamin Franklin’s new subscription library.

The first book Collinson sent Franklin was about horticulture, because he hoped this hint would bring him some exotic Pennsylvania plants in exchange as a thank you. That didn’t happen and he finally had to ask for plants. Franklin was no plant hunter, but he eventually sent him the name of John Bartram. In 1734 Collinson collected the first two seed boxes that Bartram sent across the Atlantic; all the seeds were in good shape. Thus a four decade friendship began, resulting in a business for Bartram, and the planting of beautiful American forests and shrubberies on British estates.

The story of this friendship is told in The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obessession by Andrea Wulf (Knopf $35).

It is easy to understand how difficult it must have been to ship seeds and plants from Pennsylvania to London when the trip was so long and perilous. Finding a way to pack the seeds and cuttings so they would arrive in good shape and ready to be planted after a long sea journey was just one problem. Over the years, as war between France and England was declared in 1756, ships carrying Bartram’s boxes were lost to battles as well as to storms that might sink a ship.

Trees like the balsam fir and sugar maple had already made their way to Britain, but they remained very rare. Trees, shrubs and flowers that Bartram introduced to England included the river birch, Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha), witch hazel, sourwood tree, white pine, fringe tree, Hydrangea arborescens, mountain laurel, great laurel, sassafras, scarlet oak, goldenrod, Eastern hemlock, Phlox divaricata, as well as seeds and cuttings of plants that were already known in England, but not easily propagated.

Through Collinson and his contacts, Bartram and his boxes became well known in England. In 1765 King George III named him the King’s Botanist for North America and paid him a stipend until Bartram died in 1777. At the same time Bartram’s own garden continued to grow and became the first Botanic Garden in this country.

Wulf also describes the scientific and horticultural world of the time. One controversy of the day was plant taxonomy and nomenclature. There was little agreement about how to name plants, although botantists had tried to replace names like “welcome home husband though never so drunk” with Latin names. One of the horticultural experts, Philip Miller, preferred to call Magnolia grandiflora Magnolia foliis lanceolatis persistentibus, caule erecto arboreo, trying to include a description of every aspect of the tree.

The ultimate winner of this debate, although not without considerable reluctance on the part of many, was Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) of Sweden. He did not like long plant names because it became so difficult to communicate with other botanists, especially as so many new plants were being discovered. He wanted a single system and came up with a two word name for every plant. First would be the genus, like Magnolia, and a second word like grandiflora would denote the individual species. This binomial system was controversial because Linnaeus paid so much attention to the sexual parts of each plant, and discussing sex in this way offended many scientists.

The history of plant hunting, and plant politics, can be told through the naming of certain plants. Linnaeus named the Rudbekia for his teacher Olof Rudbeck, and the Kalmia or laurel for Pehr Kalm, who made an important plant hunting trip to North America. The Magnolia is named for Pierre Magnol “who invented the concept of plant families’ and Gardenia for the Scottish botanist, Alexander Garden.

Enmities played out in names as well. Linnaeus named a stinky weed Siegesbeckia for Johann Siegesbeck who criticized Linnaeus’ sexual classification system for many years. Since there was more than one such case, Linnaeus often found himself beleaguered with requests to have plants names changed.

Linnaeus himself chose a small pink woodland flower to bear his name, Linnaea, not because he was modest, but because he felt “forgotten and ignored.”

John Bartram did not achieve the fame of Johnny Appleseed, but his plant hunting and propagating changed the domestic landscape for gardeners here in what was soon to be the United States, and in the great botanic gardens and estates of England.

As Thanksgiving arrives I am remembering John Bartram and Peter Collinson and giving thanks for all the friendships that have grown in the garden throughout the years, and for the beautiful changes that have been wrought in our gardens because of those friendships.

Between the Rows  November 21, 2009

DON’T FORGET THE GIVEAWAY !  Leave a comment about a book you found especially useful and engaging, or your own seed starting tip and on December 6th I’ll choose one commenter at random to win Nan Ondra’s new book, The Perennial Care Manual and 2 boxes of CowPots.