Shelter Me: Keeping the Kitchen Garden Warm and Productive as Temps Drop…

October 11th, 2010 § 3

Basil and Calendula cozy up beneath a misty dome in my garden…

The first frost of autumn sparkled on my lawn when I awoke Saturday morning. And although it wasn’t a true ‘killing-frost’ —the morning glories slipped right through Jack’s chilly hands— a few things were nipped here and there in my potager. Most of my tender crops are now covered with hoop-house cold-frames —mainly tomatoes, peppers, basil and other herbs— and later, the cool-season crops like spinach and lettuce will be covered as well…

Tomatoes, ripening inside the hoop-house cold-frame in October, are safe from Old Jack Frost

Beneath greenhouse-grade plastic, purple and green basil, tomatoes and other herbs are protected from chilly nights, and given a ripening-boost during the day

I will be enjoying these ‘Lemon Boy’ tomatoes soon —not fried and not green (though that IS an excellent way to use them up!)

Last year I posted a tutorial on building hoop-house style cold frames, and if you have a free afternoon and some basic carpentry tools, I encourage you to give them a try (click to here to see tutorial post). I now have four hoop-houses in use, and although these miniature-greenhouses are unheated, they actually get quite toasty inside during the day, and the temperatures stay well-above freezing overnight. To keep things from getting too hot, the temperature inside each of my hoop-houses is moderated with a easy-to-install, automatic back-vent. Of course later in the autumn, unless I provide supplemental heat, these tomatoes will eventually succumb to overnight cold. But other crops —including lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, chard and broccoli— can make it straight through the Winter Solstice in an unheated hoop-house (and even beyond in some years)!

There are many other ways to extend the vegetable growing season in cold climates, and I will continue posting ideas on how to stretch that post-frost ‘Indian Summer’ for as long as possible. Also, keep in mind that even if you don’t fancy the idea of a building project yourself, you can easily purchase cold frames, kits and other garden shelters from companies like Gardener’s Supply Company online.

Have you had a killin’ frost in your area? Do you try to keep things going past the freeze?

Sungold and bright red cherry tomatoes will continue to ripen beneath the plastic, well past the hard-frost

A hoop-house protects tender vegetables in my fall vegetable garden, while cold-weather crops remain uncovered.

Still Glorious – ‘Heavenly Blue’ Morning Glories in the Potager, October 11th

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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The Art of Fire: Creating a Glowing Garden Atmosphere on Chilly Evenings…

September 9th, 2010 § 4

Dan Snow Fire Sculpture – Peter Mauss photo courtesy Dan Snow

Though September’s noontime hours may still be warm and humid, the clear, cool nights of late summer hint at things yet to come; glowing embers, wool blankets, and velvet skies filled with stars. On chilly evenings, my garden comes alive with pops, cracks and sparkles from Dan Snow’s beautiful fire sculpture, pictured below. Radiant heat from flame-shaped backrests makes this dramatic garden-feature the perfect spot to snuggle up with a glass of hot mulled wine (or cider) and a good storyteller…

Dan Snow’s Lit Fire Sculpture at Ferncliff – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

A handmade fire-feature, such as a stone sculpture or bowl, is of course the ultimate way to experience the art of fire in a garden setting. Vermont artist Dan Snow has created many spectacular dry-laid stone installations —including remarkable fire features— for his clients over the years. This word-renowned master craftsman and author also offers popular workshops —throughout the US and occasionally abroad— for those interested in learning age-old, dry-laid stone techniques. Building a fire pit of your own would be a wonderful early-autumn project; a work of art to be enjoyed throughout the year. Earthy and natural, stone is the perfect material for creating safe, beautiful fire features in the landscape. Adding sculptural drama to my garden by day, Dan’s fire feature becomes a warm and luminous gathering place by night…

Dan Snow’s Dramatic Fire Sculpture Still Manages to Conjure Flames, Even in the Daylight Hours at Ferncliff – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

For situations where inset features are impractical, carved stone fire-bowls and vessels, such as the ones featured here by Stone Forest, are a great alternative to permanently-installed fire pits. Stone Forest —based in Santa Fe, New Mexico— offers a wide variety of movable fire features in carved stone and steel/stone combinations. Lovely surrounded by gravel, and spectacular when combined with water, these hand made pieces make a stunning focal point – night or day…

Helios Fire Vessel – Available at Stone Forest

Saturn Fire Bowl available at Stone Forest

Suspended Fire Vessel available at Stone Forest

Taking the idea of portable fire one step further, is the chiminea. The Blue Rooster company manufactures dozens of chiminea models. The three shown directly below (priced from under $200- just under $400) would add a touch of the medieval, or perhaps even a bit of Tim Burton-inspired fantasy to the garden…

Blue Rooster Charcoal Gatsby Cast Aluminum Chiminea

Blue Rooster Prairie Cast Aluminum Chiminea in Charcoal Black

Blue Rooster Etruscan Cast Aluminum Chiminea

Movable fire pits and bowls are available in a wide range of prices and styles. Options linked below start just below $80 (some of the linked online retailers offer free shipping) and vary on upward with prices usually based upon material type and fabrication. For a modern style garden or patio, I would choose a minimalist fire-feature design, such as one of the three pictured below. The revolver fire pit (second and third photos below) transforms from garden cocktail/side table to fire feature in a flash. Then, once the ash has been emptied —just like Superman— it goes back to its mild-mannered day-job. I love multi-purpose pieces like this one – particularly on steel balconies and small terraces…

Terra Outdoor Fire Basket

Solid Base Revolver Fire Pit w/ Wooden Table-Top

Solid Base Revolver Fire Pit w/ Wooden Table-Top

Blomus Outdoor Fire Pit (free shipping)

For a rustic garden setting or country atmosphere, I might choose one of the more industrial/farm-style fire bowls. Screens and grills offer protections from sparks, but all fire features should be surrounded by a wide buffer-zone of inflammable material, such as stone, brick, steel, concrete or gravel. When considering a fire-feature for a garden design, always check on local zoning and codes in your city or town before proceeding with your plans. Some areas may prohibit fire features entirely, and others will require permits, both for installation and for burning…

Savannah Black Firepit

A New Day Large Fire Dome Set

For a classic, elegant garden design or stone terrace, I might choose a copper fire bowl with iron accents, such as this one…

Copper Fire Pit and Screen Set – 40″

Portable Outdoor Fire Bowl (24″ diameter) from Exterior Accents – See Link Below

See more affordable freestanding fire pits, sale-priced between $79.95 (model above) and $399.95 (plus free shipping) at Exterior-Accents.com…

Special:  Click here to get 10% OFF

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Article and photos (exceptions as noted and linked) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of Dan Snow or Stone Forest. Product image links to these sites are provided for reference and reader convenience only.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links.This site receives no compensation in any form (monetary or material) for editorial mention. However, The Gardener’s Eden is an advertising affiliate of Exterior Accents, Bellacor and Stacks and Sacks, and any sales generated through links here will net this site a small commission, which helps pay for costs associated with this site and its maintenance. Thank you for your support!

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Honoring National Public Gardens Day – And Breaking Ground on My First Public Garden Design Project…

May 7th, 2010 § 4

New Beginnings at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center and Marlboro College in Vermont…

LaRock Excavating at Work…

Today is National Public Gardens Day, the second annual celebration of a day set aside to honor the importance of community gardens throughout the United States. Over the past year, I have occasionally written about public gardens in New England, and my goal to visit more of them. However, there has been a research-oriented reason for these visits which, until now, I have neglected to tell you about. National Public Gardens day seemed like the right moment to let you in on a very exciting project I have been involved with over the past year. This week marks a small, but special moment in my local community, and a satisfying professional milestone in my career. On Wednesday, LaRock Excavating broke ground on my design for the new Brattleboro Museum and Art Center Garden, a small public sculpture park and landscape honoring Linda Rubinstein’s service to this landmark of creativity and culture in the heart of downtown Brattleboro, Vermont. I was recruited by Judy Freed, chair of the BMAC garden committee, for this volunteer project approximately one year ago. My role on the garden committee has involved landscape consulting, the drafting of several garden design plans, and working with contractors to secure bids and scheduling. Now, at long last, we are finally breaking ground!

Although I have created many private, residential gardens, this is my first public garden design. This is also the first time I have worked with a museum board    -and committee- on a landscaping project. The garden will be important to many people, but because it occupies a prominent location between the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center and the Brattleboro campus of Marlboro College, it has a special communal and aesthetic significance.  The garden design has also been something of a logistical challenge, as it is situated at the corner of a busy downtown traffic intersection, (a hub serving as commuter rail station, Connecticut River bridge and VT/NH, MA state-line), serving an interstate community with various cultural, educational and commerce-driven activities….

A look at the base of one seating/planting area…

Public gardens are important for many reasons of course, but two of the most significant are the valuable green space provided to the community at large and of course the environment. I will be writing more about this challenging and rewarding project over the coming weeks; covering various design aspects of the multi-use space including the display of three dimensional artwork, support of local ecosystem with native plantings, creation of inviting social areas with wireless network access, communal seating and more…

A clean, fresh canvas for the new BMAC garden serving my local community…

Some of the most beautiful public gardens in the United States, large and small, were designed and constructed by volunteers, using funds raised through grants, gifts and private donations. My favorite large-scale public gardens in the U.S. include the Arnold Arboretum in Massachusetts; Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York; Mt. Cuba Center, DelawareThe Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Arizona; and Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania. What are some of your favorite national public gardens? And, what is your favorite local, community garden. How often do you visit these special places and how do you support them?

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All Photographs this post © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Dreaming of a Horticultural Harem Overflowing with Hot House Hotties…

March 13th, 2010 § 2

Hot, Hot Hibiscus © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Earlier this week in my post, “Ode to the Oscars”, comparing Oscar gowns to hot house flowers, I briefly mentioned that I am “conservatory sitting” for friends.  The owners of this small commercial greenhouse/nursery will be returning from the UK early next week, and sadly, my daily trips to their tropical oasis will come to an end. Most of my professional gardening work takes place outdoors, or at a drafting table. At this time of year, I am always rushing about, finishing up last minute pruning jobs and preparing for next month’s garden clean-ups and annual spring workshops, (TBA). I haven’t had the opportunity to log many greenhouse hours since my college days, so working in a conservatory this week has been a real treat for me. Unfortunately, it has stirred-up my passion for those hot house hotties, the exotic plants. This week’s exposure to the steamier-side of cold climate gardening has awakened my dormant lust for a glassed-in-paradise, where I can enjoy the pleasures of my own horticultural-harem all winter long.

Now that I have sampled a bit of Vieques in Vermont, I can’t help but picture myself overwintering in a giant, mist-covered terrarium, growing my own Meyer lemons and sweet oranges and enjoying the scent of nicotiana while the snow falls softly outside, (You may recall my terrarium obsession from this post, or this crazy post or say, this earlier post). Oh this is a very, very dangerous fantasy. I see lounge chairs surrounded by hibiscus and pots filled with calathea; lilies floating in a giant reflecting bowl, and verdant ivy scrambling up the window casings. How can I make this dream come true, without greedily gulping down hundreds of gallons of fossil fuel and driving myself into financial ruin? Surely I must be clever enough to figure it out? The building itself would be relatively simple to construct. I need to thin the trees along my drive, so I could easily harvest some timber for the frame, and perhaps I could find some recycled glass and reclaimed steel. I am a very good scavenger. Certainly the foundation could be built from my own never-ending supply of stone. But how to make the greenhouse truly green? Environmentally friendly heating, now that is the real challenge…

Buy Conservatory Style from Amazon / Buy Conservatory Style from B&N.COM

I know this is a dangerous move, but I am going to have to have a look at  Jackum Brown’s book Conservatory Style, (above). See that picture on the cover? That is close to the glassed-in Eden I have in mind, but my version goes a bit more gothic. Sigh. Then there is Diana Yakley’s book Conservatories, (pictured and linked below). Of course, for practicalities, there is the  how-to manual of choice from Roger Marshall, (also below). And just because I want to torture myself a bit more, next week I am going to spend an afternoon at the Smith College Bulb Show, in Northampton, Massachusetts. That ought to push me right over the edge. You will read about it soon… no doubt…

Zantadeschia aethiopica ‘Spotted White Giant’, © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Kalanchoe ‘Mangini’, © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Agapanthus, © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Fragrant Nicotiana alata (unconfirmed cultivar), © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Kalanchoe ‘Tessa’, © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Buy Conservatories from Barnes & Noble / Buy Conservatories from Amazon

Buy How to Build Your Own Greenhouse from Amazon

Buy How to Build Your Own Greenhouse from Barnes & Noble

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Functional Art, Inspired by Nature: Many Thanks to Talented Ana White and Knock-Off Wood…

March 3rd, 2010 § 32

My new, home-built, farmhouse style work island, in my very own kitchen, (before finish oil)

Want to know a secret? I stash glossy magazines under my bed. And sometimes, late at night, I pull them out and let my fantasies run wild. Do you do it too? You know the ones I mean. The naughty catalogues taunting and teasing you as they spill out of the mailbox: Restoration Hardware; Pottery Barn; West Elm; and the incongruously named Design Within Reach, (not within my wallet’s reach, friends). The tables, bookshelves, lawn and patio furniture whisper like Greek Sirens from the Rocks of Financial Ruin: “Oh look at me, look at me – aren’t I pretty ?”. You want them. You need them. They make you ache inside. Then, you take a peek inside your checkbook and you know you can’t have them – four thousand dollars has three zeros Michaela, not two. Those beautiful designs are not within reach – or so you think, (well, so I thought, anyway). Then I stumbled upon Ana White, and her brilliant blog, Knock-Off Wood. Suddenly, I found myself shallow-breathing. OH MY GOD, I can make these things myself?  Where have you been all my life Ana White?

But I am getting ahead of myself. What does this have to do with The Gardener’s Eden, right? Time for some back-story. So, it’s winter. Yes, (go ahead, roll your eyes), you know that. And if you read this blog regularly, you also know that I really like to make and do things. This urge to create is long-standing. First I tried to build a fort from a dishwasher crate when I was a kid, (sad, but true). Then I moved on to a tree house, (dismal failure). You see, my dad is an amazing gardener, but he’s never been much of a carpenter. And my mom is great with sewing and knitting, but I am not so sure she is familiar with a jig-saw. So, along the way to adulthood, I found myself picking up a little bit of this and a little bit of that in high school wood-shop class and from handy boyfriends. Gradually, I learned a few basic carpentry skills, and eventually I picked up some power tools and a passion for homemade things. I assisted with building various structures, from raised vegetable bed planters to rose trellises and even a garden shed. I was hooked. Then, my crafty compulsion blossomed into full-blown, do-it-yourself mania when I bought a piece of land, and designed and built my own studio/home. As the general contractor on my building project, I learned a great deal about how things work. And, I was fortunate to find a team of carpenters willing to let me work along side them, (thanks guys)!

Yes. I have had a bit of experience building things; big things even. But until last week there was one thing I’d never tried to do: design and build a piece of furniture. And boy do I really, really need furniture. Fortunately, I regularly read, (and adore), a blog called Young House Love. A few months back, authors John and Sherry featured a do-it-yourself furniture making site called Knock-Off Wood, written by the generous and talented Ana White. A stay-at-home mom and homemaking Alaskan, Ana describes herself as “obsessed with furniture”. And lucky for her readers, she definitely is! Yes, take one look and you are sure to notice that Ana is beautiful, but she’s a lot more than meets the eye. Ana is smart as a whip, (I think she’s a complete math whiz), and she is also one talented carpenter and furniture designer. Plus, her blog is ultra-approachable, tons of fun and easy to use. But here is the best part of her blog: she posts self-created building plans for some of the most coveted, name-brand furniture items… for free. The woman has single-handedly restored my faith in humankind. You must visit her site, even if it’s just to dream. Ana considers our moral support, (spread the word), our thank you –  and it’s also her motivation.

So now, this brings us back to my kitchen island, and to last week’s three-foot snow storm. Take another look at that farmhouse-style kitchen island at the top of this post. That island, (minus the two very handy drawers and added middle shelf), retails for nearly $3,000 from a certain catalogue company. Want to know what it cost me to build, (using sustainably grown and harvested douglas fir)? Just $165. Yes, you read that right. One hundred and sixty five dollars. That’s less than the cost of shipping and handling, and/or tax on the original, RH-inspired item. Ana posted two designs on her blog, and I fused them into one. The dimensions and basic building plan was taken from Ana’s W.S. inspired kitchen island design and the salvage-style and construction details were taken from Ana’s R.H. inspired farmhouse table. This island took two days and two sets of hands to build, (thank you Billy!). Warning: it’s not a beginner project. But plenty of the beautiful furniture plans on her site are suitable for beginners. Ana has created a “bragging board” and “suggestion board” on her blog and on her Flickr® site, (this island, and many other reader-built projects are featured there), where you can find and/or upload home-built examples of her plans.

So, just to bring this full circle –  Ana has really inspired me to get on some garden-related building projects to help The Gardener’s Eden’s readers. Some of you will remember that late last summer I posted plans for home-built hoop-house cold frames. Basic carpentry skills and building projects can really open up your gardening options, (think vertical, retaining, etc.). So what’s up next? Well, hopefully there will be project plans for trellises, planter boxes, raised beds, potting benches, outdoor furniture and more. Yes, I have some big ideas. And if Ana posts anything for use in the great outdoors, you bet I will link it here for you, because The Gardener’s Eden is a huge fan of Knock-Off Wood.

Thank you Ana White of Knock-Off Wood !

Knock Off Wood

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Article and Photographs © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

All content on this site, with noted exceptions, is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy this blog? You can help support The Gardener’s Eden, at no additional cost to you, by shopping through the affiliated links on this site. A small percentage of every sale will go toward the maintenance of The Gardener’s Eden page. Thank you!

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