being a good land steward

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I had a plant impulse buy at Yellow Springs Farm on Saturday.  A Chestnut Oak. I fell in love with the tree at Jenkins Arboretum, and also purchased some last year from Go Native Tree Farm in Lancaster, PA.

When I joined Jenkins Arboretum as a member, one of the things they gave me was this guide to their trees and shrubs and plantings.  Chestnut Oaks thrive on their grounds and I love the leaves and bark and sheer majesty of them.

So I planted my latest Chestnut Oak this morning.  When my arborists were  here a few weeks ago they planted my Black Gum Tree (from Go Native) for me because of my severe allergies to poison ivy and the like, but today I had to suit up, spray in advance for ticks and what not and go into the woods.

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I love my woods but once the poison ivy comes out, I have to watch where I go and what I touch.

When I was in the woods I noticed I have a patch of native Solomon Seal growing.  The native plants like that delight me each and every time I see one. I also seem to have some volunteer dogwoods and holly trees starting to grow.

IMG_4700But being good land stewards doesn’t mean clearing every square inch of undergrowth like I see people do, but removing invasives and allowing what should live there thrive. Don’t just plow your woods under to clear out brush.  You must be selective and careful.

We have had to take down trees because woods age and trees die.  But instead of allowing all soft woods to take over (like wild cherry trees and tulip poplars for example), I have made the decision to re-forest with species that are native to the area.  Like Chestnut Oaks.  I have also planted a Black Gum, Amish Walnuts (a crazy crossbreed which occurs in Lancaster County), Hazlenut, Hickories, Bur Oak, and understory trees like Sweetbay Magnolia.

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I hope everything survives, but it is the woods so you never know.  I plant everything well and stake the trees to grow as straight as possible.  I utilize old pieces of wire fencing around them and spray for deer too.

So far so good.  If you are interested in native species and re-foresting your woods join an arboretum as well as a land conservancy where you live. They are a marvelous resource.  I also recommend Yellow Springs Farm and Go Native Tree Farm.

I will note after playing in the woods, everything including myself, spear headed spade, gloves and boots gets a Tecnu bath.  I also do a thorough tick check.

Thanks for stopping by.

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for the love of goats

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One of the New Kids on The Block at Yellow Springs Farm

Ha! That title caught your eye, eh gentle readers?

Good! I love my Yellow Springs Farm goats! Well they aren’t really my goats but I love them. And every year, this time of year Yellow Springs Farm has open farm weekends :

Sat, 05/18/2019 – 10:00am to 4:00pm
Sun, 05/19/2019 – 10:00am to 4:00pm
Yellow Springs Farm Native Plant Nursery and Artisanal Goat Cheese Dairy, will be having our Springs Native Plant sale over 2 weekends in May. Originally a dairy farm 150 years ago,the farm and nursery consists of an historic farmhouse, dairy barn, a springhouse with pond on 8 acres of land. We grow native plants, design and install native landscapes and produce over 25 varieties of fresh and aged artisanal goat cheeses. So come on out and take a picture on our Open Farm day weekends(May 11th/12th and May 18th and 19th) with our Nubian Goats, sample cheeses, and see our blooming wildflowers! Plant experts will be available to help you select plants for your garden or landscape plan.

It’s a little slice of heaven. The goats are total characters. The plants are awesome – I have planted three gardens with them now. And the goat cheese and yogurt? Award winning for a very good reason – totally delicious.

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People visiting with the goats this weekend.

I have known the farmers Catherine and Al Renzi for years.  I remember back to circa 2001 when they decided to start their farm and when they bought it.

Over the years a well-deserved following has developed and the event has grown…as in the number of visitors increases every year. And this is where I am going to open my big mouth because it is a distinct privilege being able to visit Catherine and Al’s farm. And no, I don’t work or speak for the farm, I am speaking my mind based upon what I saw out of guests this year that I thought wasn’t the best behavior ever considering these farmers open up their farm (where they live and work) to all of us. 

Let’s start with parking.  They know their farm and their road so they tell you quite politely where to park.  That doesn’t mean the road and it doesn’t mean parking in roped off areas of the farm or blocking people in or even taking what amount to multiple spaces. Be polite, you are a guest.

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This is a farm. Not a dog park.

Pets.  This weekend people bought their dogs. Yes their dogs like it was a dog park.  It’s not a dog park, it’s a working farm with valuable animals including the farm’s own dog.  It is simply not fair to presume YOUR pets are welcome.  Keep them at home. Please. That’s like bringing uninvited guests to a sit-down dinner party.

The goats.  The goats are lovely creatures who are independent minded.  So listen to the goat herders. They know their charges.  And please do not feed their charges.  They have plenty of their own food.  Yes, they look at you with those big brown eyes but resist LOL, resist!

The plants. The plants are awesome!  Around 200 varieties of native plants. From all over the Mid Atlantic and Northeast.  I bought my first witch hazels ever here years ago.  On Saturday I had an impulse buy: one of my favorite kinds of oak trees, a Chestnut Oak. It was here at Yellow Springs that I discovered one of my favorite native perennials called Indian Pinks. Also flame azaleas.

And the cheeses? Mmmmmm mmmmm mmmm.  I recommend the goat cheese with mushrooms that was recommended to me this weekend. I can’t remember it’s proper name but it was delicious.

Yellow Springs Farm is located at:

1165 Yellow Springs Rd  
Chester Springs, Pennsylvania 19425
 (610) 827-2014
 www.yellowspringsfarm.com

Enjoy the goat photos and thanks for stopping by.

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container gardening

There is something so cheerful about flowers and herbs peeking out of pots. Above is just a simple geranium in a pot and it’s lovely. Or I think it’s lovely.

People don’t realize however, that you don’t have to just plant every day annuals and your pots and containers. You can plant pretty much anything in a container.

For example, on my deck I have a wonderful hydrangea in a four-season planter that sits up on pot feet. Pot feet are these little lifts you can buy that keep the pot off the deck and draining better.

I also plant my vegetables that I grow in containers because my sun is limited and I have found I could grow chili peppers in pots just as easily as a raised bed.

I know people who have small and dwarf Japanese maples growing in pots and they under-plant them with things that trail like variegated ivy or vinca and so on. I have some big old and super heavy crocks I don’t want to ruin by draining so I have plastic liner plants I plant and pop in the crocks – The liners sit each on a single brick in the base of the planter which makes it easy to pull them out and drain the crock.

I also have a couple of incredibly heavy vintage cement pots that I acquired – one was a gift and one was a barn sale find. They are planted with hostas and heuchera as they are in the shade and woodland gardens.

As a matter fact I love planting planters with perennials because that means in the spring half of my work is finished and all I have to do is spruce up the pot with whatever annuals I might want to add. Or I can add nothing and let them go on their own.

This year I discovered a great trailing plant I hadn’t used before. It’s called Dichondra. Dichondra is a small genus of flowering plants in the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae. They are prostrate, perennial, herbaceous plants, with creeping stems. The cultivar in some of my pots is silver and almost fuzzy like lambs ears.

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Now other favorite trailing plants for containers include prostrate rosemary and creeping Jenny. I also use creeping Jenny as ground cover!

Creeping Jenny

People think planting pots and containers can be boring, and I think that is far from it. You just have to be creative. For years I had essentially, a little courtyard garden. So I planted lots of containers. I experimented with all sorts of combinations and that’s when I really started to look at British, Irish, and other European gardens.

This year I put more perennials in pots. As I previously mentioned in the shadier areas I planted hostas with heuchera, ferns, variegated and thin leaf ivy, creeping Jenny, Dichondra, day lilies, and even bacopa.

Not my container, but a lovely example of what to do.

And in sunnier spots I have also planted hostas but also traditional annuals like geraniums. I’m on a red geranium kick, and I have even combined geraniums with yarrow in a pot, and prostrate rosemary. I have also planted pots with Monarda (bee balm), traditional herbs like sage, rosemary, thyme, and lavender.

Where I have changed it up this year in pots is with scented geraniums, nasturtiums, and some really cool salvias I purchased at the herbs sale yesterday I attended for the Herb Society of America, Philadelphia Unit.

The salvias and nasturtiums are all reds like the geraniums I potted up. I am on this bright color kick. Sometimes I think it is in response to having been forced to garden like I lived at Sussinghurst in England with my parents garden. My mother always had me doing shades of white and pale as if Vita Sackville-West lived with my parents. I seriously found lack of color back then restrictive, although it didn’t stop me from gardening.

Another example of all you can do with pots!

But with this garden now I still show some restraint of color as I want the range of colors to be harmonious. Except for a few ditch lilies you won’t find many colors like orange in my garden for example.

Scented geraniums are not something I can find every year and I don’t have enough room to overwinter them properly. So when I found of this year I went a little crazy. I bought some at the herbs sale yesterday and I also bought a few elsewhere. They sent I chose is rose. I really love the peppermint scented geranium but I couldn’t find any.

With all of the rest of my garden that I have to tend to, every year I say I am not going to do containers. But every year when I look at the garden before the containers are planted, it looks like the garden is missing something.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your containers. Don’t just put the predictable in your containers. Change it up. It makes it much more fun to look at. Containers give gardens that extra pop of color and texture.

Happy gardening!

new life for an old structure and other thoughts

Life is a juxtaposition of experiences. Last night, while I was at a supervisors’ meeting at my township building, the app on my phone went off telling me there was a house on fire on the road on which I live.

In that moment my phone which was on airplane silent exploded anyway with people messaging and texting were we OK. Yes, my house was OK, but neighbors of mine didn’t fare so well. They had a fire.

It was in that moment last night as I’m first just seeing on my emergency app that there is a “structure fire” on my street with no house number that I realized how lucky we all are for our volunteer fire companies.

I literally watched firefighters leave the meeting and heard the trucks pull out and knew exactly where they were going. And that’s the thing of it, you just don’t know what it feels like until it hits a little close to home like this.

Thank goodness none of my neighbors were hurt in the home that had the fire. I can’t even begin to imagine how they are feeling and it’s a definite process to rebuild part of their home. And a lot of that process will be deeply emotional I am sure.

So after what we all experienced in my little neighborhood last night I decided today that I was going to do something happy so I decided to go to the Herb Society of America Philadelphia Unit herb sale at Historic Yellow Springs Village. It’s a bit of a rainy and yucky day but I had a wonderful time. I love Historic Yellow Springs, and the village was so alive today between the art show and sale and the plant sale.

At the herb sale I saw a friend of mine’s mother that I have not seen in years. I am such a dork I got a literally all verklempt I was so glad to see her. I also saw several members of the Chester County Ramblings Gardening Group! I also saw my friend Catherine from Yellow Springs Farm. (They have an open farm weekend this weekend!)

At the herbs sale I bought nasturtiums, and several wonderful salvias and some other things.

From the herb sale I wandered in and out of the art show and down to the Jenny Lind House. I was so excited to see the restoration in progress at the Jenny Lind. The wonderful folks at Life’s Patina have taken on Jenny Lind as their next project.

So as I said, life is a juxtaposition of experiences. From the awful to the sublime to the just happy experiences of every day life.

One of the other things that made today so special is it was so nice and enjoyable to be around so many happy pleasant people. Those herb society ladies are among the nicest women I’ve met.

Thanks for stopping by!