Longwood Gardens Christmas 2017

Image

No holiday is complete without a visit to see the seasonal display extravaganza at Longwood Gardens in Kenneth Square, Pennsylvania.  The crown jewel of the gardens is the conservatory.  This year’s theme is “C’est magnifique!” and the décor is done in a French style reminiscent of Versailles.  The floating display is designed like a French parterre garden with thousands of floating Granny Smith apples, cranberries and walnuts arranged in a deconstructed fleur de lys design.  A Christmas table is set as if in a palace with its adjacent winter wonderland outdoor terrace garden. At every turn, there are surprises that delight every sense.  Trees are decorated with fleur de lys, giant castle keys and mirrored sun ornaments, a nod to Louis XIV, Le roi soleil, who was known for his vanity.  Towering Christmas trees made out of succulents are spectacular creations.  Another tree constructed of 400 fragrant orchids takes the breath away.  Giant pointsettia topiaries are nothing short of stunning as are the towering pointsettia trees. It was difficult to edit my photos for this post, it was all so magical.   Join me for A Longwood Christmas! The enchantment continues to January 7th.  Check the website for details. Continue reading

Slow Roasted End of Season Tomatoes

Image

“The difference between a bland tomato and a great one is immense, much like the difference between a standard, sliced white bread and a crusty, aromatic sourdough.” Yotam Ottolenghi

I always look forward to fall and all its splendour.  But, hélas, it also signals the end of tomato season.  In my garden, I have some tomatoes that are struggling to ripen with the cooler temperatures upon us and many that have become mealy and are just not that good.  Slow cooking these end of season, less than perfect tomatoes, can rescue them and bring out some of their sweetness and improve their texture.  Adding spices boasts their flavor and makes them fragrant additions to autumnal soups, braises and stews.  When the garden gives you mealy tomatoes…..make slow-roasted spiced tomatoes!

To slow-roast them, cut the tomatoes in quarters or halves depending on size.  For every pound of tomatoes, toss with:

  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Spread the seasoned tomatoes on a lined baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake in a 275 F degree oven for 2 hours. You will end up with caramelized, gently spiced tomatoes to use in various recipes and fill your kitchen up with the most heavenly aroma! Be sure to scrape up any cooking juices.    I puréed mine with zucchini and onions into a creamy all vegetable  soup.  So good!

Continue reading

Growing Moss on Hypertufa and Clay

Image

“And when thou art weary I’ll find thee a bed, Of  mosses and flowers to pillow thy head.” John Keats

Moss envy! I dreamed of recreating this ancient looking moss in my home garden.

On a tour of English gardens last year,  one of the things I loved the most were stone structures covered in moss.  Some of these gardens were hundreds of years old and the moss looked even more ancient.   Continue reading

Homemade Natural Weed Killer

Image

“A weed is but an unloved flower.”  Ella Wheeler Wilcox

If I spent every waking hour weeding, I still could not keep up with the weeds on my property.  I eschew any form of chemical weed control and pretty much remove weeds by hand.  There are not enough hours in the day nor is this the way I want to spend my time!  Preventing weeds from growing in the first place would seem to the best plan of attack. Try I did:  I had zero success with corn gluten preemergent treatments.  I didn’t want to use chemical preemergents.  Mulching helps slow down the growth of weeds but is in no way effective as weeds grow right through it or seed themselves via airborne transmission. Continue reading

Yellow Wax Bells: The belle of the late summer garden

Image

Yellow Wax Bells, Kirengeshoma palmata, are a little known but dramatic herbaceous perennial for the full to partial shade garden.  A late summer bloomer, its striking clusters of pendulous bright yellow flowers bloom when just about nothing else does, making it a favorite of gardeners in the know.  This exotic-looking perennial is a great addition to the woodland garden and can be planted under high trees.   Good companion plants include ferns, hostas, astilbe.  It can also be grown in a container. As I get older and travel more, I have planted more and more perennials in planters as they are lower maintenance and return year after year.

The flowers emerge in tight spherical buds and will open in 1-2 weeks after appearing. You can see some buds are tighter than others, leading to sequential opening and an extended blooming period.

Continue reading

Hardy Begonias

Image

I always thought of begonias as annuals until I discovered a perrenial variety for sale in a neighborhood fund raiser 20 years ago.  For a dollar, I brought home a clump and planted it.  Pretty much forgot about it and for my neglect, I’ve been rewarded with year after year of spectacular masses of lovely pink flowers.  Pretty awesome return on my investment!  And how cool to have begonias that don’t need to be planted every year.

Continue reading

Creating Shade in Outdoor Spaces

Image

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree long ago.”

Warren Buffet

Some seek the sun. I prefer a respite from the sun, yet still spending a lot of time outdoors.   I took shade for granted until neighbors cut down mature trees between our yards and we lost the shade we had designed a patio around.  Overnight, we stopped using this patio which had been a favorite spot for reading and dining next to a peaceful water feature.   It made me sad to be unable to enjoy this beautiful space anymore.  We recently came up with a solution for this dilemma which gave me the idea to write about shade.  More on that later.

Offering shelter from the sun creates cooler, comfier spaces and enhances existing outdoor spaces for maximum enjoyment. It is possible to let the sun shine and enjoy being outdoors without soaking up the damaging UV rays.  Designing pockets of shade is just as important as the plantings in your garden.  Shade also reduces stress on plantings and decreases watering needs.  Here are some ideas to help you create nice shady spots, shielded from harsh rays and sizzling temperatures.

1) Garden Umbrellas

The easiest way to create shade is to add an umbrella over your outdoor table.  Obvious.  Near our dining table we had created an outdoor seating area to lounge and read.  The problem was it could not be enjoyed for 90 percent of the day because it was in full sun.  Enter the off-set, free standing umbrella. I fought my husband on this one.  I thought 2 umbrellas near each other would look tacky.  I thought it was gimmicky to get one of these giant umbrellas with adjustable positioning. Boy, was I wrong.  This seating area is now one of my favorite places to enjoy the garden and entertain. It gets used daily and is shady almost all day long.  To minimize competing umbrellas, we matched their colors.   Our umbrella, a special-order from Home Depot,  came equipped with a canopy-top solar battery that powers a series of mini lights that run along the umbrella’s ribs and cast lovely whimsical star-like lighting at night as an added bonus.

Continue reading