Armchair Gardeners, Seeds in “Arty” Packs

January 31, 2010

The Hudson Valley Seed Library (HVSL) site brightened my cabin fever day.  The library’s goal is to develop a network of organic and certified naturally grown seed growers in their area (Accord, NY).  This year they offer over  25 varieties of locally grown seeds.  They also offer seed packs of seeds from member gardeners and farmers and seeds from wholesale suppliers. Each pack comes with detailed planting instructions.

If their good intentions and hard work don’t impress you, their creative seed pack artwork should. Their snazzy seed “art packs” images are designed by different artists who were asked to interpret the beauty inherent in “heirloom gardening and seed-saving. “

Ken Greene and Doug Muller run the HVSL operation. Linda-Brook Guenther puts in a lot of hours, too.  Wendy Hollender is the artist behind the fabulous illustration on the Basil Bouquet seed pack.

Cypress knees and Swamps — Kids love’em

January 27, 2010

For nature lovers in the metro Washington, DC area — head to Battle Creek Cypress Swamp in Calvert County, Maryland.  The nature sanctuary has a boardwalk that winds through the swamp — so everyone gets a good look at trees possibly over 1,000 years old.  And all those knees (cypress tree roots) rising out of the swamp should give your kids plenty to talk about at school.  They’ll see knees in all different sizes. If they get bored looking at trees, there is a good chance they’ll see some interesting birds, frogs, flying squirrels and …

As an added bonus, if you head out before the summer months, your visit will be mosquito-free!

My fascination with cypress trees started a long while back. As a kid growing up in northern Florida, I got to see plenty of swamps with cypress. Guess it’s just something that has stayed with me. Another one of Nature’s wonders.

Calvert County is at the northernmost natural range of bald cypress trees in the United States.

Red Twig for Winter Specimen

January 25, 2010

Enhance your winter landscape with a grouping of red twig dogwood shrubs. Plant them against a backdrop of evergreens and — wow. The deciduous, broad leaf shrub has a spread and height of about 8 feet. Planted them in wet areas. Full sun locations really make them shine.

The red twig has year round interest: blossoms in the spring, variegated leaves during the summer and berries fall through early winter. The branches brilliant bright red color fades as winter progresses but they continue to stand out.

There is also a yellow twig dogwood. It’s really sort of a chartreuse color. Get the neighbors talking with a bed combining both!

Haiti Survival

January 19, 2010

Recovery’ efforts continue. My wish for the people of Haiti.

Grieve.  Restore the farmland.

Grow coffee, bananas, sugar cane and other crops for sustenance and income.

Rebuild.  And perhaps from this devastation — an opportunity for an easier life in the villages, farms and cities.

Keep Deer at a Distance

January 18, 2010

Keep’ your view and keep deer off your property. Plan now to protect your spring veggie garden, expensive shrubs and perennials using Benner’s Gardens virtually invisible deer fence system. Deer don’t have  keen vision or good depth perception, so they can’t see the fence or try to jump it if properly installed at 7′ high.  The lightweight, high strength and durable fence has a life span of about 15 years.

Benner’s Gardens also offers options for dog fences, gates, grates and rabbit/groundhog barriers.

I’ve worked with Deer Fencers (LLC) rep, Robert Magill, on several landscape projects.  He provides a free estimate and installs the Benner’s fencing options to meet your needs. For a deer proof yard in the Washington, DC/MD/VA area, contact Mr. Magill at (202) 387-9167 or

For more information on Benner’sGardens, visit or 1-800-BIG-DEER.

P.S. I live in an wooden urban area in Northern Virginia. When I see deer, fox or other wildlife in my back yard, it always takes me by surprise. It is a precious moment  when I observe their beauty and grace at a close range. Damage, yes. I have replaced shrubs and rarely get to enjoy the fall blossoms on my Japanese anemones.  Maybe I should call for a free deer fencing estimate!

Indoor Trees Low Maintenance

January 16, 2010

Decorate your walls with RoomMates peel and stick botanical theme appliques. I did. Their DECO series includes several interesting designs — colorful flower blossoms, leaf variations, tree shapes and detailed flower images. The pre-cut, reusable wall accents make it easy to create an indoor landscape scene on any wall in your house.

The tree appliques (on the left) was designed by assembling 60 self- adhesive repositionable decals of branches, leaf variations and sizes.  The appliques are washable.  Design as you go as stickers are easy to peel and replace.

In my living room, I used some of the appliques to design a few branches with leaves. It turned out really nice.  The branches added visual interest to a wall — instead of hanging artwork.

If walls are not your venue, try appliques on windows, watering cans, mirrors and almost any other smooth surface.

Winter Gardens Reveal Structure

January 15, 2010

Photograph your garden in the winter to show the backbone of your landscape.  Your winter garden should be balanced and inviting on it’s own — without the diversity presented in the spring, summer and fall.  Evaluate the placement of evergreens, trees and open spaces.  If you take the time now, it will be easy to focus on the areas in need of improvement when warmer weather arrives.

Snow and Ice Removal from Shrubs

January 8, 2010

To remove snow from shrubs, use a broom or your hands to gently sweep the branches using an upward motion. This loosens the snow and allows it to fall off the brittle branches. A downward sweep of pulling on the branches may cause more damage to shrubs already stressed by the ice and weight of the snow.  If you can avoid heavy accumulation of snow on your conifers and other shrubs, the removal process will be easier.

Dense piles of snow caused by snowplows or snow blowers can cause more damage than natural accumulation of snow. Man made snow piles are heavier and they take longer to melt.  If ice has formed on trees and shrubs; I recommend you try not to remove but let Nature takes it’s course and melt it.

Who said April is the cruelest month?

Berries for the Birds

January 5, 2010

Beautyberries, virburnum, winterberry hollies, firethorn/pyracantha — include in your landscape to provide a food source for birds during the winter months.  Plus, for those of us in around Zone 7, these shrubs will liven up an otherwise bleak garden.

For bird shelter and nesting areas plant junipers, yews and arborvitaes.  So this winter as you browse through plant catalogs and plan for spring — add these useful shrubs added to your list.

In heavy snow cover, birds and other small animals need all the help they can get. In addition to berried shrubs,  keep your bird feeder filled and your birdbath water heated.

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

January 4, 2010

Get your tree out of the house and into your backyard or pond so birds and other creatures can use it as a backyard habitat.

The tree provides a place for nesting for small animals and eventually decomposes. The creatures won’t mind the ornaments and lights are missing!

If your don’t have a good spot on your property to dispose of your tree, some counties recycle the trees for use as mulch.

My Philosophy

I am dedicated to enhancing the beauty of nature: designing a landscape that achieves an outdoor experience beyond your expectations.