snow

It is one of the great wonders to me why many  people who live in New England don’t like the snow.DSC_0003

I get that it certainly disrupts the regular hum of life, but so do many other things that do not leave such beauty in their wake.DSC_0007

I get that it is accompanied by cold temperatures, but most of us are lucky to watch it from warm snuggly homes and even better yet , in front of a roaring fire.IMG_20160123_153130049DSC_0025

I get that shoveling is hard work, but personally I relish getting my cardio outside instead of on a treadmill, you can’t beat the views.DSC_0019

Maybe it is because I garden that I love the snow.  Seeing the splendor of the winter garden with all its exposed shapes and forms and knowing the plants are all asleep for a time giving me a chance to take it all in without feeling compelled to work.DSC_0024

DSC_0013Maybe it is because I knit that I look forward to winter. During a cold snap I will happily curl up at night with squishy wool and needles and make something usefulIMG_20160208_205918

Maybe it’s because these guys love it so much that I can’t help but be compelled to share their  delight .DSC_0003 (2) DSC_0020

We ventured out to the Clark Art Institute last weekend and I came home with this postcard of Camille Pissaro’s ” Piette’s House at Montfoucault” to put on the bulletin board above my desk . We have had less snow than normal this year and I missed the white winter landscape of  January February.DSC_0027

On the way we drove through some amazing scenery in the western and mountainous part of our state. We did not stop to take pictures  except for one…..IMG_20160130_160050138_HDR

seems the ultimate irony  to live in a place called Florida  that looks like this , although honestly it is the only Florida i would ever consider living in.

and the answer is……

today I have found out the answer to the question, “What happens when you try to force branches in to bloom during a very warm and un-snowy winter?” …. the answer?forsythia DSC_0003 DSC_0005

magic

All of the branches I brought in are bursting into bloom and leaf with ease.  I cut the first batch when I posted here  exactly two weeks ago. I have changed the water in the vases once, and misted the buds NEVER which is unusual for me , and yet I have honeysuckle, forsythia, magnolia, azalea and pussy willows all starting to open this morning. When they are all in flower further pics will be on my instagram and Facebook… links  are to  the right.

If you live in the Northeast, where we are currently experiencing extremely warm temps (, today is in the high 50′s, yesterday was in the 60′s), you have no excuse , you heard me , none, but to get out  and cut at will. There is no snow to plow through, you need but a light cardigan over your shoulders, and the sun is shinning to replenish  your  depleted vitamin D level.

Go!

Cut!

Arrange!

Smile :)

hiatus interuptus

IMG_20160119_145332784 just because I said out loud I was on hiatus,  life dictated otherwise. On today’s calendar, besides hanging around to wait for the dishwasher repairman for the umpteenth time , I left a message for my future self to force branches. IMG_20160119_153600I always go ahead in time and do this when I first schedule  an  event that  will require flowering branches and looking ahead I see a Grow it! Cut it! Arrange it! presentation on the calendar in February . During this talk I will bring  a vase or two (or three)  things that can be easily grown in the garden  that people can use to arrange in the house. Obviously this is easier at some times of the year and more difficult at others . But I know the drill and to have the branches flowering they need to be cut today, or at least in the next few days.  Of course we  given that deadline , it had be below zero with gusty winds of the sort  that take your breath away all day,…..  uncomfortable to be outside in say the least. Looking ahead the week stays arctic cold and we shall end it with a grand nor’easter bringing us at least a foot of snow according to the latest models, so out I went.

I am always thankful i am a knitter and have many pair of warm mittens, lots of toasty cowls and scarves, and hats galore to make outdoor activities comfortable.mitts I also kept reminding myself as I tried to stay on my feet that last year I was doing this while trudging through many feet of snow,

I have concerns about branch forcing this year. Many flowering shrubs had their buds already swelling on the branches throughout our very warm early winter. It has only been seasonably cold here for a very short time and the plants may not have met their dormancy requirements yet. Only time will tell.

In light of that, I cut only the branches I can reliably count on for easy bloom; azaleas, forsythia, pussy willows, honeysuckle, and then a few twigs of yellow and red dogwoods and some sprigs of euonymus that are evergreen. I will head out again next Tuesday to repeat what I cut today, then after that  start adding other later blooming  branches to the list ( like lilacs, viburnums and cherry).IMG_20160119_150649110azalea, magnolia and pussy willow branches DSC_0005

On my way back in I walked by the pots of tulips that usually sit outside for 14 weeks after which a note again on the calendar will tell me to bring them in to start. This year I may actually postpone that by a week or two to make sure they were cold enough for a long enough time period to bloom.tulip pots

In December I actually brought in this pot of ‘Golden Fragrance’ muscari that had already emerged and were about 2 inches tall. I figured, why risk it?  Muscari in January are just as nice as muscari in February and March, and I was worried the cold would kill them and I would have none at all. By next week I shall have loads of fragrant blooms which is a happy thing indeed!muscari

 

lazy and unfocused

For no discernible reason, I am in a gardening slump. Seed catalogs and the most recent issues of  Gardens Illustrated and The English Garden remain unopened and un-highlighted on my desk, The seed packets from Chiltern’s in the UK I was so excited about  remain in the elastic bands that bound them upon arrival.  DSC_0001 DSC_0003 I have yet to go out to cut any branches to force, I have bought no new bulbs to start for indoor winter bloom haven’t even cracked open the  two new garden books i received for Christmas ( Highgrove ; An English Country Garden and   The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer ). . The garden seems a distant a foreign entity I neither dream about nor visit. It is , in a word, weird.

Yet I know I must work my way out f it, and SOON! I have to start getting programs ready for next year, have to pick my Open Days( including one for the Massachusetts Master Gardeners) and must update parts of this website . I never know what force in the universe will drive me out of a slump, one day , out of nowhere will come the creative energy to get going again and then I will probably be annoyingly over-productive and obsessed . Until then , though, i will be happily knitting and doing some much needed work indoors ( you know, the kind that we all abandon when the siren of the garden calls ) .

if you are local please check out the info on the upcoming Home Hort Series at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in the spring. I teach two of the classes, Perennial Culture and Nomenclature, and would love to see a full house for both. I will also be teaching two classes, one on Clematis and one on Hydrangeas for the Northeast at the Western Massachusets Master Gardener Lower Valley Symposium on April 2, 2016, . You can also save the date for the upcoming Mass Master Gardener FIRST annual symposium on October 1,2016 at Westford Academy in Westford, Ma. Our line-up of speakers is fantastic and the committee putting the event together is top notch , so it should be a fun and informative day!

I truly hope you are all snuggled warmly up somewhere, enjoying your time off from the garden!

ps if you want to see any of my winter photos, I post many on my FB and Instagram pages..check them out !

garden in the burrow on instagram  and  Facebook 
DSC_0004

this flock of birds hung around here for days

this flock of birds hung around here for days

 

 

breaking with tradition

since forever ago, I have decorated my house for the holidays in the most traditional  of fashions. I love vintage anything, love the predictable reds and greens ( especially plaid) and go for rustic natural decor using real evergreen cut from the garden, holly and winterberry branches  and  forced paperwhites and red amararyllis bulbs

Last year though, I changed the look of the room right off my office to a lighter color palette , using grayish green, blue and tan ,  so when it came time to do the mantel for Christmas I deviated from my color scheme and went with silver, purple and blue and glitter of all things. Very unlike me, very unlike the rest of the house, yet it worked . I did add birch and evergreen and of course many of the decorations have a vintage feel or are indeed actually very old . This year I used many of the same components, but added in some others to keep it fresh.IMG_20151210_110808

The switch felt surprisingly good. So this year when ordering my amaryllis bulbs ( actually hippeastrum but let’s not go there, it is a festive season and not one for grumbling about botanic name changes)  I also veered off my typical path and chose three that  are most assuredly  not the deep red the has always graced the displays here.

The first to bloom was  the safest of the choices, a miniature reddish -pinky and white called

“Neon”, It has been blooming for probably 4 weeks already and still has two more stalks emerging . Unreal.neon

The second choice was a watermelon pink called ‘Sweet Nymph” that is a huge change up color-wise for me. It is sitting on the bakers cabinet in the kitchen, surrounded by all things rustic and vintage, yet looks smashing . The voluptuous and velvety blooms stop people in their tracks and somehow it just works with the other decor, probably because it is so striking and different. My mom saw it the other night and could not stop doing the same things I have been doing to it ….stare , gape,and  touch. This one is a keeper, especially as it stands only  2 ft tall on sturdy stems that need no staking at all. It too has been in bloom for some time, with yet another stalk emerging to continue the show.amaryllis

sweet nymphThe last is one named” Papilio Improved”, which is a recurving  butterfly amaryllis with blossoms of burgandy, cream and bronze. Also a miniature , it is standing proud on its own stem, no stake to mar the display, and ready to open any day now, DSC_0003The photo below is from John Scheepers  (the purveyors of this years bulbs) . Also of note is the fact that these HUGE bulbs came packaged each in their own little burlap sack tied off with twine and a lovely vintage label bearing their name. That alone is reason to  order from this bulb house every year,  but add in the fact that the bulbs are mature enough to send up multiple stalks with such beautiful blooms means I am hooked.

I will have to remember this feeling, sort of like being a little kid again on the the very holiday that should inspire such wonder  and delight !

I hope you have the most wonderful of holiday seasons and wish you all nothing but mountains of wonder and  delight of your very own in the New Year !!

Fondly,

Cheryl

dear santa

this year on a personal level, has been one in which I find myself profoundly grateful for so many things; a new daughter in law, some lovely family travel time, Faith’s amazing doctors and their care, really the list could go on for ever.

On a garden/yard level things were not too shabby either. After a cold spring we had wonderful weather , no major damage from summer storms or early snow storms, a late first frost and extended warm spell rounded out the year. We were able to finally start a renovation of the pool area and in the Spring will finish with the fence and gardens there. Some things , like clematis and all the spring blooming shrubs and bulbs had a spectacular year, although the roses and dahlias were in a word, awful.

Now I am dreaming of what comes next, planning and plotting, ordering seeds and making notes. Of course some of what I am  hoping, garden -wise, will require assistance, and for that I turn to the dear little man in the red suit.

Dear Santa,

I know I always tell you I have been on my best behavior, but this year I really really mean it. I played nice with others all through the planning and execution of several large family gatherings where stress and arguing can be the norm. I held my opinions and temper to myself and kept a smile firmly planted on my face at all times. That, my sweet man, warrants gifts galore. I also made it through a very challenging October and November with Wil down for the count because of his back and Faith needing some medical treatment that required me to be a super-human to pull off while working and managing the house solo. ( I also didn’t kill Wil despite his constant whining and laying around and that took serious effort and should earn me bonus points).

So let me ask, darling, for just a few small things.

First, please send a plague to the rabbits, we have tried everything and are quite frankly sick of their mayhem. A plague ,please, and soon.

We spent so much money on wedding/pool reno/life in general and our savings are seriously depleted. Therefore I can not afford useless garden ornamentation , but I still want it. These stone wellies from Ballard Design are a silly expenditure at $79, and I can’t explain why i want them , but I do. In a big way. If you leave them under the tree I promise to display them tastefully .

Stone Wellies

I also want the entire catalog of gifts from Terrain. If you could just hitch a chain to the back of the store and relocate it, kit and caboodle to Jefferson , well gosh ,I would be forever in your debt.

Fresh & Green | visit our Christmas MarketplaceFire Pit Gatherings

If that proves to be too much, then you could hand pick your favorites for me, I trust your judgement

( but just in case did you see this?Amaryllis ‘Emerald’ Bulb

or this?

or these?Heirloom Japanese Pruner

 

Just sayin’

 

and finally, as always , i put in a request for a ton of snow

I know, I know, everyone else seems to ask you for the opposite, but clearly after last year I know whose side you are on(and i have seen where you live) so I am pretty sure I will get my wish.

as always, thank you in advance, and you and the Missus have a great holiday season!

Fondly,

Cheryl

 

almost there…..

A few thoughts as the the end of my 52 week attempt at arranging from the garden  is closing in…….

I have enjoyed it immensely and most certainly learned a thing or two about my garden, my schedule, and my  arranging skills ( or lack thereof)

Looking back over what has transpired, I  guess I firmed up what I knew already regarding  how I like to display flowers which is usually quite uninspired and a little boring , but I like to think of it as natural . i really don’t care for manipulated arrangements a and  I never ever use floral foam so being restricted to vases and vase- like things I never compose anything artsy. Oh well, I am who I am

.Next year I will make an effort to try to get a bit out of my comfort zone and see what I can dream up.

I also learned that when the garden is at its most bountiful  is when I like to cut flowers the least. This mostly has to do with how busy I am out there keeping it all  at it’s best and less importantly but true all the same  the fact  that looking at it all day outside  means I am less inclined to want to bring any indoors.

Here are two more made using late season “stuff’  and making the most of the stands of chrysanthemums I grow as well as all the glorious Fall foliage.

fall DSC_0008 - CopyAn old bud vase filled with oak leaf hydrangea leaves, two  mums ( Wil’s Wonderful and Centerpiece), a single stem of yellow twig dogwood and a sprig of thyme that came back into bloom . It is standing in front of a rosemary plant and next to some coleus cuttings that are rooting in water.

This next one is a tiny teapot filled first with the burnishing foliage of small leaved azaleas,  some leaves and hips from rosa glauca, two stems from honeysuckle ‘Major Wheeler’ ( in bloom since May!) pods of Siberian iris, salvia,  mums,gallardia,  and the drying flowers of allium thungbergii ‘Ozawa’

Just in case you were curious, we have had many hard frosts and mostly  cold nights , a few down to the 20′s or even teens, but a recent week of warmer weather during the day has brought a few things ( like the salvia and thyme) back to life.

DSC_0022 - Copy fall in a teapot

a sad day for science

This post will be most definitely a departure from lovely garden pictures . It is a rant, and an angry one, but I will keep it short.

Those of us who work in any facet of communication and education know how difficult it can be to address controversial subjects. In my world Nativism,  Colony Collapse Disorder of bees, pesticide safety and GMO’s are just a few of he issues i tend to shy away from open discussion on because they are just too contentious. There is science out there on all of the above issues, some good, some bad, and some that conflicts thus complicating the issues. NONE of these subjects is fully studied, understood, or simple. This complexity and a need to be able to read and understand scientific studies complicate the understanding for many lay people ( myself included) who then rely on bona fide scientists to interpret and explain results. Good communication skills are  of the utmost importance for those who choose to share their knowledge with others as they  are essentially translating a foreign language to those of us who last studied science and did lab work in high school or college before beginning careers in other vocations. I value their time and enjoy reading many of their public writings and following their podcasts to gain a better understanding of my chosen field.

Sadly, there is a huge group of people who enter into these discussions whose mission is not to think critically,, read research, participate in discussions and learn. Instead , they have an opinion already set in stone and follow ( usually)  other lay people who  support what they believe , and as a bonus they have the whole world wide web to seek out compatriots in their cause . Actually I do not have a problem with that, we are all entitled to our opinions and views of the world, and sometimes a differing view challenges me to really examine what I think I know and search out more information on a subject. I do however, have a problem with the ever growing rank of people who are neither scientifically literate or educated in a subject lashing out personally at someone who is.

In a discussion it is never alright to attack the other person ( called ad hominem) when you can’t attack the validity if their argument. .It is not civil, it is not productive and it often results in an argument mired in anger and slurs.

Kevin Folta ( professor and chair of Horticulture at The University of FL) is a brilliant scientist who is among those who care enough to try to enlighten the world.  Over the past few months he has come under such personal attack  that he has decided to bow out of his public discussions and will no longer be part of the greater community of learners. It is a sad, sad , day when civilized human beings can no longer participate in valuable discussions without fear of harm coming to their career ,family , or person. I hang my head and mourn for his loss and the future loss of those who either already are under attack or after  witnessing  others being attacked will refrain from enriching our world with their knowledge.

I also applaud Kevin and other scientists  like him (there are MANY) who face such ad hominem attacks with grace and patience , answering back with data and questions trying to further the discussion even though they know they will be met with enmity and  hate.

Be careful out there. Challenge what you read, look for data to support your beliefs,  never ever rely on any web source without further fact checking and gain a solid understanding of an issue before entering a dispute with others. We can all add to the discussion, but  allowing any  person or group to silence a  voice with the use of personal  threats and unsubstantiated assaults against someone’s   integrity brings us to a very scary place indeed.

Link to Kevins blog

Learn a Little Latin

Latin is like a zombie;dead but still clamoring to get in our brains…….Adrian HigginszoLearn a Little Latin: A slightly serious, slightly irreverent look at the form of Latin used in botanical nomenclature. We will discuss the wacky ways some plants get their names and how to write them correctly, explore the perils of pronunciation, and learn a few handy dandy words that will help you decipher your garden and bring out your latent Linnaeus. 
 

Come see me at Tower hill Botanic Garden next Sunday Nov 8th at 1 pm . Link for class is here 

it ain’t over ’til it’s over

There are so very many things I should have been doing garden-wise these past few weeks….getting fallen leaves off the plants in the rock garden, cutting back lots of dead  ugly stuff, raking , planting bulbs for spring display, putting away the gardenalia that can’t take our winters etc.  but really, I could care less. It feels too early to be putting the garden to bed so in protest I am not.

i wish I could say I have been doing fun and interesting things instead, but alas, Wil hurt his back and Faith has been undergoing some medical treatment that has kept me quite busy transporting patients too and fro while also  managing work and homelife . Kind of been a big bummer ,but we certainly have been through worse.

I hope next week to fit in planting the big box of bulbs that has been sitting in my office and tidy the front a little. I gave up on even trying to manage Halloween decorations, not even a single jack-o-lantern to be seen , so at least I won’t have to deal with the dreaded clean up ( in years I have gone whole-hog I certainly regretted it on November 1st) but if the weather holds I will get the winter lights up ( though NEVER lit until December) and maybe get some containers all decked out for winter too.

I have a few photos of some arrangements , I have been steadily plugging along at my goal to keep arranging until my 52 weeks are up on the Slow Flower Challenge and the biggest issue has been taking the photos believe it or not.

If the light is not good for photography when I make them , sometimes, well most of the time if I am honest, I just never get back to it. These last weeks of October and into November chrysanthemums are the stars and that is what is in these two. I also adore the foliage of the viburnums and although we have had many nights below freezing the foliage on a few shrubs, like the buddleias, still looks good.

The first is simple viburnum, buddleia and the just opening Copper Penny mumDSC_0001DSC_0008DSC_0003

This one is Sheffield mums, dara ( which is in it;s pot growing in the kitchen having been rescued from frost as I can’t get enough of it!) , heuchera leaves from ‘Magnum’ and calicarpa berries, and cardoon leaves which look fresh as ever despite the cold.DSC_0016 DSC_0013 DSC_0018

Using the same foliage, and mums, I added ilex ‘Winterberry Gold’ berries, rose hips and a branch of red twig dogwood for this little traveler that will go with us to a friends house tonight.DSC_0002

..and just as a reminder to myself to stop sulking that the season is over and to focus on the fact that it is time to  get moving  a  little throwback if you will to Halloween 2011 when we were hit by a heavy wet snow storm making clean-up a nightmare.,