Monthly Archives: April 2012

Bringing in the Happiness

With all the flowers, shrubs and trees I grow, it is a natural feeling to want to bring them indoors  for an up close and personal encounter. I try to have things out in the garden I can cut year round, even if in the dead of winter it is just interesting evergreen foliage and brightly colored branches. But come April, the long procession of flowers begins, and going out to stroll around and pick interesting subjects to arrange becomes a wonderful aside to my hobbies  of gardening and collecting junk.

For years a few friends of mine and I have been yard saling- thrift shop -free side of the road stuff junkies. We all have our own likes and styles, and generally don’t argue over finds, although a few times I have felt quite envious of their scores. Mostly what I pick up ends up working in the garden, decorating the garden, or holding flowers from the garden. One of our most oft-repeated lines as we scout junk is “well, you can aways use it as a planter!” ….and I do…..lots!  I have a growing collection of flower frogs I use to hold the stems in my containers

( BTW:did you know how toxic floral foam is? It contains two known carcinogens , formaldehyde and black carbon, and is not biodegradable which seems to fly in the face of those of us who are so careful to be good stewards of the ground we grow on) , and a vast collection of vases , pitchers,and  containers of all shapes and sizes that has oozed into every storage area in not only my house but the garage and the shed as well. They are placed decoratively on open shelves in the dining room, and out of sight in the hutch as well. They claim space on the storage shelves over the washer/dryer, have their own little red shelf in the mud room, line the wire shelves in the garage, and take up lots of space in the new shed. Some of the larger ones hide out in the cellar utility room .

 

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In late winter and spring, I use a lot of woody material in arrangements. Colored dogwood twigs, curly willow, crab apple and apple branches, flowering cherries, and plum trees, spirea, nine bark, lilacs, and viburnum all make it in to many vases. When I am cutting woody stems for arrangements I always use this trick….. take a vegetable peeler and peel off the bottom  few inches of bark from the stem the branch will take up water much better and have a MUCH longer life expectancy in the vase.

This cool sideways vase my mother gave me holds just two varieties of crabapple blossoms and stems on honeysuckle ( a variegated cultivar called Harlequin)..cool huh?

I have really expanded my stash of teeny tiny vases , for so many wonderful spring bloomers are petite and not only beautiful, but fragrant, which we so often miss because they grow so low to the ground.Old bottles are perfect for this, as are cruets, tea cups and small pitchers. Here they hold a single viburnum twig that has a heavenly fragrance, squill (scilla siberica) and pansies with euphorbias..

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.This last one I made to bring as a hostess gift .The green pail was 99 cents at Goodwill Store and holds emerging spirea foliage, ninebark branches, fothergilla (the little bottle brushes), tulips, and crab apple blossoms.  :) When you head out in your garden, bring a bucket and your clippers, and bring some happiness inside!

 

 

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What I am Pressing

As part of my lecture series, I do a workshop involving pressed flowers/foliage . …..ALOT of pressed flowers /foliage. To meet the demands of  the many workshops, I  press non-stop from early spring right through summer and fall. I always  leave a pile of heavy books and paper right on the chest in the dining room in plain sight, so I can snip a few things whenever I am out in the garden and press them when I come back in the house.

Whatever goes in between the papers and books gets shuffled around , in and out of the stack  ,until I am sure they are flat and very dry. Moisture is enemy #1 to pressed flora and I let the papers alternately get pressed and air dried until I am 100 percent positive  they are dry enough to get moved to the large presses downstairs. Any wet plant material can cause mold which will ruin the flowers for print making….like the geranium below

In our utility room I have several large pieces of plywood and old shelving that get “pressed” into service (tee-hee) to keep the accumulated material flat and dry. They are all stacked together and either weighted down or pulled together with ratcheting bungee cords until the stuff is needed.

In the interest of helping both past and future workshop participants, I am going to try to keep a log of what I am pressing as the season goes by. We will see how that goes, but here is the start of the season anyway….

For the first time this year I pressed squill (scilla siberica) , which I discovered upon picking has the most delightful scent. I have shoved it under everyone’s nose in my household trying to get an accurate description of what it smells like, to no avail. Let me just tell you it is wonderful and sweet, and if I had not picked it to press I would have gone my whole life without knowing ….for shame. Anyway , here is what it looks like

I let artemesia (both silver king and lemon lime) run rampant through my perennial borders. they are very shallow rooted and it is easy to pull what you don’t want, and both varieties make a great foil for lots of flowering plants. Anything  with silver foliage looks super pressed, so at this time when I am pulling stray artemesia willy-nilly, I put it in the stack of books where it presses easily and without worry of extra moisture.

Pansies ( and other viola spcs)are a no-brainer, almost everyone I talk to tells me of a faded pansy arrangement in a frame from their grandma or mom. I love the jonnny jump ups, they look very sweet pressed and arranged in little rows like soldiers. The newer ruffly varieties, although beautiful, press pretty wavy and I am not such a big fan.

Crab apple trees offer tons of pretty blooms and colorful young foliage as well.

Heuchera is one of my favorite things to press, and at this time I am cutting the older larger leaves off the ones that persisted through the winter and pressing them in their winter color phase. ( many are bronzy in late fall and winter and various shades of green on the growing season.)

Rounding out the list for early spring are geum, emerging yarrow foliage, and the plant I press year round ….scented geraniums I grow in the house that flower off and on and generously donate all their lovely blooms to my zealous pressing.

In the coming weeks I will start to look for foliage of all kinds as everything starts to grow. Lots of plants have brightly colored emerging leaves (spirea, jacobs ladder, just about any shrub you can think of, and maple trees) and they are well suited to my purposes when they are smaller as well.

and so it begins………

 

 

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Some spring pictures ,let the season begin!

Spring is in full bloom at the Garden in the Burrow………

 

 

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Bloom Day (in memory of my Gram)

Although there is lots blooming outside right now, my attention has been completely stolen by one teeny little plant…. tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane’. Lady Jane is a species tulip, often referred to as the candy stripe tulip because when the flower is closed its petals have  a delicate pink edge that when open reveal beautiful a recurved creamy white bloom. Only one of the 50 I planted is open today , the others are just showing their pink backsides.It  is only about 10 inches high and it would be very easy to walk on buy with your eyes glued to the tall and showy hybrid tulips or the drifts of daffodils…but I have been patiently waiting for this one.

You see, I planted Lady Jane last fall right after the passing of my Gram whose given name was Genowefa (Polish) which  was “americanized” to Jane when she was little. I have written about her here before, indeed she was one very special lady.

On any given day you would find her dressed to the nines; dress, stockings, pearls and lipstick, even to just run to the grocery store. She carried a compact with a mirror and powder , and used it for frequent touch ups . She was the epitome of class; polite, well mannered and demure. She was pious, but never judgemental, and always  ready to heap praise upon those whom she encountered . In her eyes everyone was beautiful, skinny, smart, helpful, and any other positive words she could come up with to compliment you. I have never ever heard anyone EVER say anything except that she was the sweetest most wonderful human being ( and it was only in her last years when she was very ill and very lonely that she was ever cross with anyone and even her few moments of impatience were immediately followed by apology after apology and more compliments). Her children(6) and grandchildren (14) idolized and adored her. From her I learned grace, patience, the power of a smile to change the world around you, and , most importantly for my gardening soul, the joy of flowers. This week  she would have celebrated  her 91st birthday….

So, how perfect to have  planted Lady Jane in her memory.

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Dry, with a twist

We certainly get our share of gardening challenges here in New England, and I was discussing that very fact today with a member of a garden club I was speaking to when we both came to the realization that there is  no “normal” year here. Early snowstorms, late snowstorms, untimely frosts, very hot summers,unusually wet/cold springs, too much snow, too little snow,  you name it, we get it.

The weather du jour that is causing us concern, is unusual in it’s timing. Although we are no stranger to it, it is usually in summer that we are subject to its effects, not early spring. The problem is ,…… it is dry,dry,dry.We have had 7 fewer inches of rain than is “normal”, and that, combined with heavy winds and the piles and piles of brush from the damaging October snowstorm we had,is making the risk of brush fires is extremely high. Brush fires are scary and the people who are currently dealing with acres of burning  land around here have my sympathy. Sigh.

Another unusual happening for this neck of the woods was the “record breaking” or as the local newspaper called them in an article today”record shattering“  string of temperatures occuring  over the last month. Did you just hear me laugh out loud?? Let’s see, the Earth has been around for what ,like  give or take 4 BILLION years ,and we humans have been keeping temperature records for about oh say, 160 of them, I fail to see the reasoning behind the hysteria. Call me crazy, but I am a moderate in all things, and although I can appreciate climate change and have read volumes and volumes on it , I do not think we have enough info to even comment, much less react yet. And frankly, since our food sources are adapted to growing at warmer temperatures, and are threatened by lower ones, I will take warming over an ice age any day. (yes, that is overly simplistic, please stop yelling , but our climate here on Earth has changed and changed and changed and changed, it did long before we got here, it will do so long after we are gone. )

Anyway , back to the dry……it is weird to have to worry about watering spring bulbs, yet today I am probably going to do just that. I have also started transplanting things, which spring is a perfect time for given the consistent rainfall, but not this year. So out will come the hoses and the grumbling. Sigh again.

On a happy note , there are oh-so-many things in bloom outside that I will be taking photos of and posting on later this week, and one wonderful happening inside, where in the living room , the lemon tree looks like this.….. causing me to erupt into giddy laughter every time  I walk by!

In a month I may have my first home grown martini garnish .Happy sighs for that!

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