a garden for all seasons

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Since I began this particular garden, as part of the creation process what I have had as one of my goals is simple: to create a four-sided, four-season garden. I want to be able to look at a garden from every window, and I want a garden that has interest four seasons of the year.

Basically, creating a garden is a layering process, as well as trial and error. From daffodils in spring, to lush summer color, to the panorama of fall, and the garden in winter, it is about layering. There is nothing instant about a good garden. It takes years, and constantly evolves as you figure out what works, what doesn’t, what you like, what you don’t like.

I am getting to the point where I am four seasons. I research what I am looking to achieve and scope out the plants. The colors I choose are complimentary for the most part, and I will group and mass plantings for a more uniform and flowing effect.

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This garden was in part inspired by the bones of the garden of the former owner of our home, the garden of my childhood, and gardens I have created for myself and others over the years.

The first garden I remember was the garden my father created in the walled in back yard of our then house in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia. I remember him planning it, and he laid out the curves of the brick patio and the flower beds with a string and a compass. It was like a secret garden come to life and he planted trees, shrubs, a John F. Kennedy white rose, annuals and perennials.

There was a shady side garden, and then the main part of the garden was quite sunny. The general idea of the garden my father planted still exists in parts today. I recently stumbled upon a realtor listing for our first home. It was kind of weird to look at the listing photos and see the house inside and out after all of these years, but it was also marvelous to see how these people loved the house over the years. Definitely a far cry from the home my parents sold in August, 1975, it still had the basic bones of my father’s original garden. I am guessing they really aren’t gardening folk because while the trees are still there, far less in the way of flowers and shrubs exist in that garden today. And it looks like an addition swallowed a good bit of the side yard and piazza. But it stopped being our garden decades ago.20140722-135414-50054333.jpg

The garden I remember will always be in my memory. And that garden of my early childhood fostered my love of gardening as an adult. As a child I helped my father plant that garden with his father. I know most kids don’t like to garden as it equals work, but I did. And watching what you plant grow and even bloom is still almost indescribably cool.

People have happy places in their life where they like to go. One of those places to me is my garden. My garden today has bits and pieces of every garden I have ever had or helped create. It also has where my creative side has taken me, and will continue to grow.

I learn from reading and talking to horticulturists and plants people, and also looking at the gardens of others for inspiration. Taunton’s Fine Gardening is one of my favorite resources. The magazine and the website are very helpful, as well as contain many beautiful things to look at.

I also found a web article on four season garden planning recently I found helpful. It is on a website called Gardening Know How. I do have quite a collection of gardening books I refer to, and among them are a few from Rodale which are basic and helpful. As a matter of fact, Rodale Institute has a pretty cool website. I also love the books written by garden writer Suzy Bales. She also has many gardening articles still available on Huffington Post . She also used to have a website.

As of this summer, my garden has become four-sided. As I keep planting it I strive now to make it four-season. I want to be able to look at something no matter what the season. Even the sparseness of winter should be beautiful.

What are your plans for your garden? What inspires you in your garden? Tell me in a comment!

Thanks for stopping by today. I am off to find more Caladryl Clear to put on the side of my arm to combat the reaction I am having to whatever stung me in the garden yesterday.

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marinated green bean salad

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This salad couldn’t be more simple to make! It is my own recipe, and it is inspired in part by the spicy green beans you can order hot at my friends the Foos’ restaurant called HuNan in Ardmore, PA.

I had bought a quart size container of fresh green beans at the farmers market. I blanched them in a couple of inches of boiling and salted water so they were still crisp, yet had a pleasing bright green color. When I am blanching vegetables like fresh green or string beans, I not only dunk them in cold water to cool, I put them in a bowl of ice after I finish cooking as well.

I put my beans aside in their own bowl (drained and de-ice cubed) and took another bowl out to prepare the dressing:

- first I minced fine a long hot pepper from my own garden. I believe it is a cayenne pepper it’s a little over an inch and a half long. I allowed some of the seeds to get into the bowl but a lot of them I removed.

- next I chopped fine a third of a good sized sweet onion

- step number three is to finely minced two cloves of fresh garlic

- step number four was grating the four small, young carrots that my friend Elizabeth gave me out of her vegetable garden. I ended up with about three quarters of a cup of grated carrots.

To these vegetables I added equal parts seasoned rice wine vinegar I purchased at a local Asian market, regular red wine vinegar, juice of one fresh lemon, and a few tablespoons of olive oil. To that I added some fresh salt-and-pepper and whisked together. It is not a lot of liquid in the salad dressing, we are talking a few tablespoons of each liquid ingredient. The idea is to coat the vegetables not immerse them completely in liquid.

Next I tossed everything together with the beans and put in the refrigerator to chill. Because I’m working with fresh garlic and onion here, I use a bowl with a lid that seals.

What you have in the end, is a very nice summer salad of fresh vegetables that many people have in their garden this time of year, or can purchase from a local farmers market!

Kept refrigerated, the salad will last few days.

Enjoy and thanks for stopping by today!

the trouble with pachysandra…..and other gardening tales

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The trouble with pachysandra is if it likes a place, it loves the place. And pachysandra is very happy in my gardens.

Where we live has well established pachysandra that grows like it is on steroids. It’s common name is Japanese spurge and is in the boxwood family. When we moved in, the flower beds weren’t so much flowers anymore as they were pachysandra ponds. Pachysandra was everywhere. So if you wonder what my first garden inspiration was, it was to break up the sea of GREEN.

My mother loves pachysandra and maybe part of my intense dislike was having to plant it for her too many years. (Yes, as much as I love my mother, her idea of gardening was to supervise, not actually plant things.) I did not want the pachysandra to go to waste, so what I have done is relocate it around the property. Waste not, want not when it comes to the garden.

I have become an expert at liberating pachysandra from planting beds. I cut it out with garden clippers and a sharp shovel edge like strips of turf or carpet and roll it up. All you have to do is plunk down the sections where you want it next and water it in. I have relocated my liberated pachysandra to bare spots on the edge of the woods and it regrows nicely and chokes out the weeds.

This weekend I had stopped at Home Depot in Frazer and noticed a lot of plants were on sale. A lot of the sale plants looked horrible because they needed watering, but along the side of the store where the “nursery” is were a ton of day lilies at $3.00 a pot. They were decent cultivars and were from their Vigoro line which is grown by Bell Nurseries in Maryland. Bell has their own land and a network of growers. They are all along the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

And incidentally, if you are looking for plant nurseries, the Eastern Shore of Maryland has some amazing places. One nursery I used to go to is called Pumpkin Shell Nursery on Route 213 in Cecilton, Maryland. They used to have the most amazing boxwood and trees, shrubs, perennials.
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So anyway, I found a bunch a day lilies that had bloomed but were still vigorous and healthy plants. I will be honest I don’t really buy too many plants from Home Depot, but I will look for things in the Vigoro line like hydrangeas and day lilies when they go on sale to use to fill in spots in the garden. The day lilies I bought were the same cultivar, “Baby Moon Cafe“.

……BUT before I planted the day lilies I had to liberate more pachysandra. And the formation I ended up planting the day lilies in was not what I originally envisioned because I also discovered today that the concrete path along which I wanted to plant was well, a foot wider than I originally thought. So I spent quite a while excavating the path and trimming pachysandra along other borders too.

I also noticed my deer friends have been munching a section of garden I planted near the woods this year that I hadn’t sprayed with Deer Out. Apparently my oak leaf hydrangeas are even more yummy than my hostas.

Ah yes, Deer Out. My friend Melanie (who has a gorgeous garden) told me about this stuff. It smells vaguely minty and it is working…..where I sprayed it of course LOL. (I had forgotten about this particular planting area, so they ate the buds off the day lilies and topped one of the oak leaf hydrangeas.)

Right now the late summer flowers are blooming. The garden phlox is just delightful and smells amazingly fragrant especially in the early morning. The phlox was inherited with my house, I can take no credit for it. Three different shades of pink, pink with white edges, and white. It’s old school , tall garden phlox and as opposed to more newly introduced cultivars it is fairly mildew resistant. I have split a lot of this up as well. When we first moved in it took up almost the entire front half of an old perennial bed, so I split it and replanted it all over the garden. Same with the inherited yellow lilies and flag irises.

I also cooked up a batch of hummingbird food (nectar) today. It’s easy. Four parts water to one part sugar, bring to boil in a pot on the stove, cool completely and fill your feeder. You can store the nectar in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a few days per batch. When temperatures reach the 80s and higher you should change the nectar in your hummingbird feeder every couple of days, and it works best when the feeder is in a more shady location. For more information check out the Wild Bird Shop website.

Planning ahead, I have also reserved my next pile of bulbs. Daffodils and Narcissus from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia. I also might have to take another peek at the bargain hosta bin at Bridgewood Gardens , also located in Virginia. I will also be waiting to see what else Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market has to tempt me with between now and fall!

Gardening is one of my favorite things. It is a great thing to be able to connect with nature, and it is a creative outlet. Anyone can garden. You just have to try. Start small, experiment with what you like. Get your garden on a routine and it really starts to take care of itself. I realize I garden more than a lot of people I know, yet what I am doing is not so unusual as I see a lot of similar plantings and groupings of plants in my friend Abbi’s garden in Northern New Jersey. Abbi is an artist among other things so her garden is very cool. And she does her own gardening as well.

Digging in the dirt is fun!

Thanks for stopping by, and please let me know how your garden is growing as well!

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phoenixville barn sale july 18th and 19th

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I do not know this woman having this barn sale at all. The flyer was forwarded to me, so I thought I would share. This is a one time sale, and this is not a “picking” barn.

I have no idea what the pricing will be or the contents. It looks to be a lot of painted furniture which is really not my thing. But I know a lot of people who love that look and even sell it in their shops. The merchandise on the poster looks very cute.

The address is 116 Dreibelbis Road in Phoenixville - the sale advertisement says “continue past road closed signs to end of road” .

The sale dates are today Friday, July 18 and tomorrow Saturday, July 19 and the hours are 9 AM to 3 PM.

The terms are cash and carry only.

Good luck treasure hunters!

Thanks for stopping by!

survey time!

cluckSo there is this survey this blog created. It is about Chester County municipalities. It’s called:

Are Chester County Municipalities Responsive to Residents

It is anonymous and some of the answer choices are tongue in cheek.  Please take a minute to take it!

If you want to see the questions on the survey, check out this PDF: Chester County Residents Survey

Responses are one per computer user and results can be seen BY CLICKING HERE – I am not taking it as this blog created it.

There is nothing scientific.  I am merely curious about how people feel about their local municipality. Maybe municipalities can learn from this and this is not geared towards any municipality in particular.  It is an across the board, every municipality kind of thing.

Thanks for stopping by!