Celebrating the Swan Song of Summer: Grilled Peaches with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions & Pecans . . .

September 22nd, 2013 Comments Off

Grilled Peaches stuffed with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Pecans with Balsamic Glaze - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Grilled Peaches with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Toasted Pecans & Balsamic Glaze

Gloria Peaches at Scott Farm Orchard - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comGloria Peaches at Scott Farm Orchard, Vermont. According to Scott Farm orchard manager, Zeke Goodband, these beautiful, sweet, firm-fleshed peaches are the perfect choice for grilling and roasting!

Scott Farm Peaches in a Bowl - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comBeautiful Scott Farm Peaches, Almost too Good to Eat

Oh summer, summer, summer . . .Where have you gone? As I sit here in my garden chair —surveying the red-tipped Viburnum leaves and orange-tinted Flame Grass— once again I marvel at the quick passage of time. In just a few short hours, autumn will officially begin in the Northern Hemisphere, (20:44 UTC or 4:44 pm ET). Much as I love the fall —always my favorite season— this year I feel more than a touch of melancholy as I let sweet summer go.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' in Autumn - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Blushing Limelight Hydrangea (H. paniculata ‘Limelight’) in the Garden this Morning

Canada Geese and Harvest Moon - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com  Canada Geese Slip Away by the Light of the Full Harvest Moon

Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light' in late summer - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Morning Light Maiden Grass Dances in the Cool Breeze (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’)

Although this has been a rather cool and rainy season, the months were also filled with warm riches and delights; kayaking on the river, a trip to Block Island, Christmas-in-July fireworks, a picnic in the orchard at Scott Farm, milestone family birthdays, and exciting projects at work. This has also been a year of culinary exploration and adventures thanks to delightful produce from my kitchen garden and fruit from nearby farms.

Swan Song of Summer - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com The Swan Song of Summer 

Recently, after picking up fresh, late-season peaches from Zeke Goodband at Scott Farm, in Dummerston, Vermont, I decided to experiment with savory recipes featuring this delightful fruit. Grilling peaches has always been a favorite late-summer pastime, and after sampling a delicious appetizer of blue cheese, caramelized onion and pecan stuffed peaches at Magpie Restaurant in nearby Greenfield, Massachusetts, I decided to give the idea a whirl. Simple to prepare and delicious as an appetizer or side dish, these grilled, stuffed peaches are the perfect way to say farewell to summertime.

So as we listen to the swan-song of summer —crickets in the meadow and bluejays in the scrub— here’s a touch of sweetness to send the gentle season on her way . . .

Grilled and Stuffed Peaches on Platter with Balsamic Glaze - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com

Grilled Peaches with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Toasted Pecans & Balsamic Glaze

 Appetizer or Light Side for Six

Ingredients

6 Large Gloria Peaches (sliced in half & pitted, skin on)

1/8 cup Pecans (toasted, chopped fine)

1 small, sweet onion, caramelized and chopped fine

1/4 cup Crumbled Blue Cheese (or more)

Salt to taste

Butter for Grilling

Balsamic Glaze for Drizzling Platter

Grilling Peaches - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com

Method

Caramelize onions, chop/toast pecans, and crumble high-quality blue cheese in advance. Mix the three ingredients together in a small bowl and salt lightly to taste. Set aside.

Slice and pit peaches. Scoop out center neatly to make a bit of room for stuffing if pits are small, and set aside on a platter for grilling. If grilling over flame, brush peaches with melted butter and set on medium-hot grill, away from direct flame. If grilling indoors (Foreman grill or the like), heat the grill and then rub with butter. Grill the peaches until fragrant and soft, but still firm. Remove from heat and fill each peach with a tablespoon or more of stuffing. Arrange on platter and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Grilled, Stuffed Peaches with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Pecans and Balsamic Glaze - Michaela Medina Harlow - thegardenerseden.com Grilled, Stuffed Peaches Make a Great Appetizer or Side Dish with Other Grilled Foods. Serve Warm or at Room Temperature.

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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A Warm Wash of Fragrance: Dreaming Of Lilies and Sultry Summer Evenings…

February 5th, 2011 § 6

Dreaming of Warm Summer Nights and a Garden Filled with Softly Blushing Lilies…

Asiatic, Oriental, Trumpet, Species or Hybrid: I’ve yet to meet a lily without falling in love. And while my weekend may be filled with practical matters —shoveling, clearing hoop-houses of snow, cleaning grow lights and sorting seed packets— there’s sure to be a certain amount of summer fantasy slipping in…

Soaking in Summer Fantasies…

Yes, I confess. Dozens of summer-blooming bulb catalogs drape the rim of my claw-foot tub, where —surrounded by bubbles and steam— I find myself lost for hours; conjuring sultry August evenings and heavy-scented-air, filled with the fragrance of Black Beauties, Brasilias, Casa Blancas and Salmon Stars. Oh, those deliciously intoxicating Oriental lilies… Could there be a more glamorous summer flower? I’ve found great prices on lilies (and other summer flowering bulbs & tubers, like Dahlias) at Dutch Gardens and a fantastic selection at Brent & Becky’s Bulbs online, and I will be ordering them early to get a jump on the crowd! For me, this will be a year of mass perennial and bulb planting. And I plan on adding great waves of lilies —both for cutting and enjoying in the garden— this year.

The Colors of a Summer Sunset (Lilium ‘Pretty in Pink’)

Cultural Notes for Lilies

When planning your springtime lily plantings, keep in mind that these perennial bulbs prefer to be planted deeply –in rich, well-drained soil. Most lilies require full sun, but like their roots cool. Companion planting with other lush, leafy perennials —and mulching with clean, fresh organic material— helps to shield roots from the heat of the sun’s mid-day rays. Lilies are fantastic flowers for attracting pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. However, lily leaf beetles (bright red nemesis of this gorgeous plant, and other flowers) can be a problem in some areas (emerging in March-June from debris surrounding lily plantings). I treat lily leaf beetle infestations organically with neem (targeted to lily foliage every 5-7 days when new growth and beetle larvae both emerge in spring).

Article and photos are ⓒ 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 prior written consent.

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A Warm, Sweet Welcome for February: Forcing Narcissus Indoors…

February 1st, 2011 § 6

Hello February – Golden Greetings in the Entryway {Forced Narcissus}

A Bit of Golden Color to Brighten Stormy, Grey Days…

Welcome February…

It’s the first day of February, and outside my front door, snow is falling steadily and the sky is a gloomy, powder grey. Overnight, a winter storm swirled in, and the forecast warns of a wintry mix with more than two feet of new snow. For those of us living in northern climes, this can be a long, tough month. Dingy snowbanks, endless shoveling and bitter, cold days can take a toll on even the sunniest of dispositions. And much as I love the spare landscape, winter sports and cozy nights by the fire, I always crave a bit of bright color at this time of year.

Every fall, while ordering and planting my bulbs, I plan a little indoor extravaganza to help me through the long winter months. Many spring flowering bulbs can be forced indoors, bringing a bit of April’s garden to my world in February. Most bulbs require a cool, dark period prior to blooming in spring (exceptions to this rule include paper white narcissus, which may be purchased, planted and forced right away). And with a bit of planning, it’s possible to mimic those natural conditions and enjoy a little prelude to spring. I pot up left-over bulbs in all sorts of containers, water them well and cover with black plastic and an elastic band. Store potted bulbs in a cool dark place (a garage, basement, root cellar, outbuilding, etc), and check on them in about a month, watering enough to keep bulb roots moist, but never soggy. After 8-10 weeks, you can begin bringing the bulbs into your living space (cooler rooms are best). I like to bring them out in waves, saving the bulk of the show for the dreariest New England months: late February and early March.

Pre-Chilled Narcissus Grand Soleil d’Or and a Glass Bowl filled with Decorative Stone/Charcoal for Drainage.

But even if you haven’t planned ahead, you can still enjoy the pleasure of forced bulbs. Pre-chilled bulbs and paper white narcissus —purchased and potted up now— will begin to bloom in a month or two; ushering in spring a little earlier! With prepared bulbs, the forcing process is foreshortened, but the first few steps are quite similar. Practice this way, and next year, write yourself a forcing reminder for late fall. This is a fun project to share with kids, and a great make-your-own gift for Valentines Day, Passover or Easter. A pretty container will make the arrangement extra special, and it can be recycled after the blooms are spent. Remember not to expect bulbs forced in gravel to grow and bloom the following year. Compost these plants and start again next year, as you would with annuals in your outdoor containers.

Many garden centers, florist shops and online retailers offer pre-chilled bulbs and paper whites. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs has a fantastic selection (click here for link). Think of these bulbs as you would annuals: meant for growing and enjoying for this season only. Some good choices (among many) for forcing in gravel, include: Paperwhites, Grand Soleil d’Or (pictured above: produces sweetly fragrant flowers with golden petals and bright orange trumpets 6-8 weeks after planting), Angels in Water, Craigford and Chinese Sacred Lilies. Keep in mind that some narcissus —including the delightful miniature Tete a Tete— perform best when potted up in soil as opposed to gravel. When in doubt about how to force a particular cultivar, check with the retailer for advice on proper growing mediums/procedure. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs is a great online resource.

Pre-Chilled Grand Soleil d’Or Settled into a glass container filled about 1/3 full with a base of pea stone and a few pieces of horticultural charcoal (for freshness).

How to Force Narcissus in Containers Filled with Gravel

Materials:

Bulbs specifically prepared for forcing (pre-chilled in a dark place) or paperwhites

Horticultural charcoal

Decorative pea stone, gravel, rocks or glass

A bowl or other container without drainage holes (glass is lovely if you like to look at the stone). Size will depend upon the type of bulbs you have chosen to grow. Using a deep container can be helpful in supporting taller bulbs.

Green wire plant supports for taller bulbs (available at florist or craft supply stores)

Instructions:

Wash the container and stones thoroughly and dry. Fill the base of the container with a small amount of decorative stone. Add a handful of charcoal bits and then fill the container about 1/3 full. Make planting space for bulbs, and nestle them in; packing them tight together for support. Add more decorative stone or glass until the bulbs are about 2/3 concealed (leave the ‘shoulder’ and green tips free). You can use all one kind of stone, or get creative and mix it up.

Fill a jug with lukewarm water and fill the container about 1/3 of the way up. You want the water at the roots, but not soaking the bulb itself. Eventually, the roots will extend down toward the base of the container. Even prepared bulbs grow best when given a bit of darkness (exception: paperwhites). Place the container in a basement or cool closet for 2-3 weeks, checking the water level every few days as the roots extend. IMPORTANT: Never let the roots dry out.

When watering, rumor has it that adding a bit of vodka or gin to the mix can assist with stronger stem and leaf growth. But keeping the bulbs in a cool, dark place (for a 2-3 week period before forcing) seems to work just as well if you lack a stocked liquor cabinet.

Forced bulbs last longest in cooler rooms. I keep mine near the entry way door, where they provide a cheerful welcome and never mind the drafts. If the stems begin to flop, it can be helpful to hold them up with green florists stakes and tape (discreetly position the supports toward the center of the container and pull up slightly – a bit of droop looks natural and relaxed). Be sure to keep thirsty bulbs well-watered but never swamped.

Enjoy!

Forced Narcissus Tete a Tete, Beside the Entryway Door

A Prelude to Spring

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Article and Photographs are copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, with noted exceptions, is the property of The Gardener’s Eden Online Journal, and my not be used or reproduced without express written permission.

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Beautiful Gardens Beneath Glass: Terrarium Care and Maintenance…

January 7th, 2011 § 7

The Allure of Moisture – Mist and Water Droplets Inside a Garden Beneath Glass. Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’ and Begonia ‘Trade Winds’ with Sphagnum moss and Ceramic Ornament in an Apothecary Jar.

We are expecting a bit of snow this afternoon in Vermont. Nothing major is predicted by way of accumulation, but there will likely be a blanket of white covering the ground tomorrow morning. I love snow, but there’s a long, cold season ahead of us, and I know that soon I will begin pining for the smell of moist, fresh earth. Already my skin and hair are crying out for lotions and potions. Of course, I’m not the only one craving moisture. Many of my houseplants prefer humid conditions, and in a dry house heated with a wood-burning stove, it’s difficult to meet their requirements.

I count Orchids (like this gorgeous Paphiopedilum hybrid) among my most favorite plants!

One of my favorite winter activities is terrarium making. I love to create and maintain beautiful gardens beneath glass. Many plants love the humid micro-climate provided by an enclosed terrarium, including some of my favorites: begonias, ferns, ivy, moss, orchids, and violets. And because they are relatively easy to care for, I often give terrariums as gifts. Over all, a simple Wardian case or glass jar terrarium is the perfect indoor container garden for someone new to horticulture. Of course most living things have needs, and a bit of care is required in order to keep all plants, including those enclosed inside a terrarium, healthy and beautiful. However, if you carefully construct your garden-beneath-glass —click here for a tutorial— you can avoid many of the more common pitfalls (stagnation, rot, fungal/bacterial infections and/or insect infestations).

Peperomia make excellent terrarium plants. This Peperomia griseo-argentea (Ivy Peperomia) would provides a lovely color-contrast amongst darker leaved species, in a larger-sized terrarium. It can be found and purchased at Glasshouse Works online here.

Choose your plants carefully. Be sure to consider the mature size of each species and cultivar you place in your terrarium; especially if you are working within a small apothecary jar or glass cloche. Look up plants online, or consult a knowledgable greenhouse grower to be sure you have the correct information about your plants’ requirements and mature size. Always purchase terrarium plants from a reputable grower. If you aren’t certain of your plants’ history, it’s best to quarantine new specimens and monitor them for pests and disease before introducing them to a terrarium.

Visiting greenhouses —like the Lyman Conservatory at Smith College, a tiny section of which is pictured here— is a great way to learn more about horticulture. It’s also a fantastic place to get ideas and information about growing plants beneath glass!

If the soil in your terrarium is properly watered at the time of planting, and specimens are housed in a fully enclosed container —such as a Wardian case or apothecary jar—  then your terrarium may not need additional moisture for months. But if your terrarium is partially open, you will need to monitor the soil’s moisture level more carefully. Gardens surrounded by glass should be checked regularly to insure that the soil remains moist, but never soggy. The riskiest season for terrariums tends to be summer, when it tends to be hotter and brighter indoors.

Some plants prefer low-light rooms. For more information about this open-terrarium, click here.

The best location for most terrariums is a warm, indoor spot with indirect light. If you choose to fill your terrarium with plants that require bright light, then your terrarium may be situated closer to windows. But keep in mind that containers located in bright, sunny spots or near heat-sources should be checked regularly for proper moisture. Most enclosed-terrarium plants prefer low-light conditions. Cases and jars containing ferns, moss, and other forest-floor plants can be located in dimly lit rooms (see an example of a low-light terrarium here). If the container receives uneven light, occasionally rotate your terrarium in order to prevent lopsided growth.

Think of your terrarium as a tiny conservatory, and tend to its maintenance with as much love as you would any other garden in your care.

Although fertilizing most terrarium plants is unnecessary, it’s important that you groom and maintain your plants as you would in any other garden. Keep things tidy inside and out by cleaning the glass and picking out debris. Remove spent flowers and yellow, withered leaves with scissors or tweezers, and prune plants when necessary to maintain attractive shape. If one or more of the plants becomes too large for a small terrarium, remove it and place it in a larger case or container. And if a plant should begin to fail, or die, extract it immediately to avoid the spread of disease. Not sure of how to identify insects or what to look for in terms of disease? The books I mentioned in my previous post (below) can help with the general care of houseplants the very-useful, What’s Wrong With My Plant? will provide even more help with troubleshooting horticultural problems indoors and out.

Theoretically, enclosing a garden should eliminate most horticultural pests and diseases. But this is only true if the plants are pest and disease free upon entry! If you follow the yellow arrow in the photo above, you will note a stow-away I discovered on this Begonia. See the tiny white dot? Hard to notice, isn’t it? That is a mealy bug! (you can click to enlarge the photo, and look at the image below for more detail)

Of course, even the most cautious gardener occasionally runs into terrarium troubles. Sometimes, tiny insect eggs, microscopic bacteria and mold spores will escape detection and —unless you monitor the plants on a regular basis— develop into serious problems. At the first sign of trouble, attack insects and diseases by either treating or carefully removing the infected specimen. If your terrarium is large enough, insecticidal soap, horticultural oils and other treatments may be applied directly to the plants contained within, but in most cases, the safest and best course of action is to remove the plant.

Here’s a closer look at the mealy bug on my Begonia. So long, pal. It’s time to say goodbye with a good hit of insecticidal soap! I’ll be back to treat your kin to another soapy bath later!

I will be writing more about terrariums and indoor container gardening —including design, planting and care— over the coming weeks. For more ideas, posts, resources, links and information, visit the Indoor Eden page. In addition, Tovah Martin’s The New Terrarium is both an inspirational and useful resource for terrarium design, construction and maintenance. I own and highly recommend this beautifully photographed, well-written book.

Ferns and Moss in a Wardian Case at Smith College Lyman Conservatory’s Fern House

Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’ and Begonia ‘Trade Winds’ with Sphagnum moss and Ceramic Ornament in an Apothecary Jar.

Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’ and Begonia ‘Trade Winds’ with Sphagnum moss and Ceramic Ornament in an Apothecary Jar

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Terrain is a great online source for terrarium supplies and beautiful, artistic containers.Click here or their image above to visit their website.

Find more indoor garden and terrarium ideas on the Indoor Eden page. Or visit the retailers linked below – all are known for fine garden products and terrariums.

Article and Photographs (with noted exception) ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden.

All content on this site (with noted exceptions) is the property of The Gardener’s Eden Online Journal, and may not be reproduced without written consent. Thank you!

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Waking Up the Garden in Spring …. Free Seminar at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont – Tomorrow…

April 16th, 2010 Comments Off

Early risers: Glory of the snow blooming this month in my garden…

Will you be in the Southern Vermont area this weekend? If so, please join me this Saturday morning at 9:30 for the first in a series of free gardening seminars at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. “Waking Up the Garden in Spring” covers the perennial garden maintenance chores that should be on your early season checklist. Don’t let the raindrops stop you! Come on by beautiful Walker Farm and enjoy an hour of fun in their lovely ‘Grand Central’ greenhouse. Seating is limited, so please call ahead, (802-254-2051) to reserve a spot: click here for more details on upcoming spring seminars.

Narcissus Rip van Winkle blooming in my Vermont garden this week…

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Photographs copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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…

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Go a Little Less Green for the Environment: Rethink Your Lawn…

February 13th, 2010 Comments Off

The Front Wildflower Walk in my Garden in June…

Lush, wide, green and rolling; in America we love our lawns. We like to sprawl out on the grass for a picnic, gather on the neighbor’s lawn for a game of touch football , and set up our folding chairs and tiki-torches in the backyard green for summer barbeques. I like doing these things too, and I have a small lawn of my own in Vermont. But it’s important to remember that lawns, from and environmental perspective, provide little support for the ecosystem. In fact, the tremendous amount of water, fossil fuel, fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides used to maintain most suburban lawns makes our green-fixation downright irresponsible. And although green areas do reduce heat in cities, tightly cropped lawns do little to create habitat and provide food for birds, bees and the many other creatures sharing our world…

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’, attracts a buzzing dinner guest…

 

So, how do we balance our desire for outdoor recreational spaces with environmentally friendly landscaping? When I design gardens for suburban homeowners, I like to suggest a compromise: keep some lawn in the backyard for play-space if it is truly used, and devote the front yard to nature. Usually, the front yard in an urban environment is no more than a strip of earth between the front door and the sidewalk or road. This part of the property is often dry and dusty, and it is rarely used for recreation. Sometimes the area between the house and street is steep and difficult, or even dangerous to mow. In many neighborhoods, roadside turf grass turns brown and unattractive by midsummer, (if it ever looks good at all). There are far more appropriate plants for such spaces; plants that will provide food and habitat for wildlife. In may areas, simply replacing grass with clover or another flowering ground cover is an excellent choice. For the more adventurous, a front garden filled with a mixed selection of native plants can be both beautiful and rewarding. Although there will be initial expenses and work involved, replacing front yard turf grass with more viable plantings can eventually save money and make a home more appealing and marketable as well as ecologically friendly.

For experienced gardeners, alternatives to turf grass will immediately spring to mind, but for novices the sea of choices and garden plan decisions can often seem overwhelming. If you are at a loss for ideas, Liz Primeau’s Front Yard Gardens is a great place to look for inspiration. This lovely paperback book is filled with hundreds of photographs of front yard garden designs, taken in a wide variety of climates. But more important, Primeau is quite practical, her book includes detailed plant lists and step-by-step plans to suit all climates, tastes and budgets. Usually I advise simple design plans and lower maintenance, native plants for new gardeners. Of course, what is considered a native plant will vary tremendously from one place to another, and this is where a bit of research comes in handy. It’s important that your garden suit your location. Perhaps one of your neighbors has a successful front yard garden. What plants grow well for them?  Most gardeners love to talk about plants and they tend to be very generous with advice. Also keep in mind that many communities have gardening clubs and plant swaps groups, and they usually welcome newcomers with a wealth of tips and information – sometimes even perennial divisions !  A small, neighborhood garden center is also a fantastic place to go for advice. Ask experienced, local nursery staff for some native plant recommendations. Be sure to mention that you would like to grow plants with open flowers and extended bloom periods to attract bees, butterflies and birds to your yard. If you are new to gardening, remember to start with a modest plan, and expand your garden as you develop confidence and success…

 

Why mow on a dangerous slope ? When terraced with natural stone, this ‘problem area’ in my garden became a lush, mixed border filled with shrubs, ground covers and perennials, blooming from early spring to late autumn…

Purchase Liz Primeau’s Front Yard Gardens( 2003 ed.): from Barnes and Noble

Purchase Liz Primeau’s Front Yard Gardens (new 2010 ed.): from Amazon

 

An excellent choice for beginners to more advanced gardeners, mixed daylily gardens cover ground, (even those tough to maintain slopes), and bloom from early summer through frost. Expand the early spring bloom time by adding bulbs in the fall. This beautiful daylily combination in my front garden is from White Flower Farm

Hosta are a good choice for new gardeners with shady outdoor spaces. Hosta produce white to lavender blossoms, providing pollen for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees, and cool summer shade for other living creatures. Early blooming bulbs can be planted between hosta in autumn, to extend a landscape’s bloom period. The image above is from White Flower Farm

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This article was originally written by Michaela (TGE), for The Honeybee Conservancy Blog as part of a volunteer, collaborative effort. Please visit the HBC site to learn more about this important cause, and how you can do more to help support and protect earth’s pollinators.

Article and photographs, (with noted exceptions), © 2010, All Rights Reserved : Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. Please do not use anything on this site without permission

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Lovely, Luminous Leaves: Potager Purples, Reds and Rainbow Bright Lights…

January 29th, 2010 § 1

Stained Glass Lettuce

Though the wind is howling and the temperature has dropped into the single digits, visions of sun-drenched gardens and glowing vegetables colored my sweet dreams last night. The first box of seed arrived from Botanical Interests this week, and more orders from around the country are on the way. Although I won’t be starting garden plants indoors for another month or so, sorting through the beautifully illustrated packages of ‘Bloomsdale’ spinach, ‘Five Color Silverbeet’ Swiss chard, and ‘Red Winter’ kale from Botanical Interests reminded me of a particularly glorious day late last summer, when brilliant low light turned all the leaves in my potager to stained glass.

Vegetable gardens are tempting and delicious of course, but they can also be simply beautiful to behold. Let your mind wander a bit as you chisel through the ice on your windshield. Think of the brilliant colors of summer; the endless combinations of hues and textures for the dinner plate as well as the garden path. Join me in my not-quite February, fantasy garden tour at ladybug level. Glorious green spinach. Purple cabbage. Red Rumple lettuce. Heirloom nasturtiums and Bright Lights Swiss chard. Mmmm… can you taste the color yet? It won’t be long. Soon you can plant your own rainbow…

Saturated Spikes

Luminous Leafy

Backlit Botanical Beauty

Neon in the Afternoon

Technicolor Cabbage

Fuchsia Fantasy

Tangerine Tunnel

Living Flame

The Sour Yellow Swirl

Vibrant Veining

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Photographs and article copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not republish or post images or text excerpts without permission. 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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Guilty Pleasures: Dreams of Spring and Pretty Little Things …

January 26th, 2010 § 2

Narcissus ‘Lemon Silk’ in the walkway last spring…

Springtime. Why yes… you do remember springtime? The smell of fresh narcissus and damp earth? It’s not so far away. Really, (or so I tell myself). On those blissful days when the mercury rises a bit, and the walkway fills with slush, I can almost picture my path carpeted in bulbs. Still, in January, it’s hard to believe that those pretty little daffodils are sleeping beneath the ice and snow. But they are. I have faith. I can wait.

This is the time of year when I really revel in my guilty pleasures. The White Flower Farm catalogue hangs, edges damp and crinkled, from the rim of my claw foot tub. I close my eyes and as I breathe in the lavender scented steam, visions of bluebells and moody hued violets color my dreams. Heaven. I’m in heaven. The garden, in my bubble-bath fantasies, is of course weed-free, and bug-free and completely devoid of all disappointment. It’s a lovely place.

Winter is a necessary down time. We all need our rest, don’t we? It’s a good time to take stock; to plan; to make lists. Kicking around the potting shed, I notice a few things need replacing. Many of my watering cans seem to have gone AWOL, and my rain-gear is looking a bit tatty. Then I spot my old, ugly garden clogs in the corner and I remember how they pinch and hurt my toes. I could use a new pair of shoes this year. I reach down to have a closer look at those nasty clodhoppers, but there is a box in my way. I lift it. Oh, what a light box. I read the label. “Dahlias”. Oh… Dahlias. Yes – that’s how it always starts. You see, I had to move the box. And now, I am thinking about them. I go back into the kitchen and put on some water for tea. Dahlias. Swan Island Dahlias. Time to fill my cup with summertime dreams…

Hunter Women’s Original Clog, Red

OXO Watering Cans in Rainbow Bright Colors

Packable Rain Poncho

This is Swan Island’s ‘Honeymoon’. Do you think I have to get married first? Look at all the suitors… how can I commit to just one?

Swan Island Dahlia’s ‘Sheer Heaven’. Mmm. I’m not going to argue with that name. Can you believe the blush?  Sigh.

Well hello lover. My, my, my. Won’t you be my Valentine? I think I have the perfect spot for this one. Just look at the violet tint on the petals!

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All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not use photographs or text excerpts without permission. Thank you. 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…

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I Believe in the Promise of Tomorrow…

September 25th, 2009 § 5

A basket of mixed narcissus bulbs, ready for planting

The first member of my family’s next generation was born a few short weeks ago. His name is Morgan; my sister’s first child and my first nephew. When I met Morgan on the morning he was born, August 13th, my heart felt like a swollen dam, barely containing a flood of emotion. My love for my nephew is for him of course, but it is also for tomorrow – for the future. From the moment he arrived I realized that, simply put, this new member of my family embodies my faith in a world beyond myself. The name Morgan has two meanings, but in this case, my nephew’s parents took his name from the Germanic word ‘morgen’, meaning tomorrow. The poet in me delights in this choice – and lately, because of Morgan, I have been thinking a great deal about the future.

To plant things in the soil is to believe in a new day; perhaps not my day, but another day, for another generation. Gardening has never been an instant gratification activity. Sometimes when I walk beneath ancient trees in city parks, botanical gardens and cemeteries, I think of the hands that placed them there. Unlike works of nature, gardens planted by those who came before us were not created by chance. They were imagined into existence by hopeful souls, dreaming of a future; dreaming of our future. Can you feel love for tomorrow? Can you feel love for people you have never met, and will never meet? My answer is yes, I can and I often do fall in love with tomorrow. That love is called hope. And although we never met, when I touch the weathered bark of a tree planted in a park 100 years ago, I can feel the love someone else felt for the future; for me, and for everyone else enjoying the tree today. One day my nephew and the rest of his generation will inherit this great garden we all share. And when I am long gone, I hope Morgan will still walk the paths I have made here in my garden. Maybe he will pick the daffodils I plant every year, or rest his back against the tree I wrestled up the hill. And in time, perhaps his child will play in the secret garden I created, and discover the tangled rose hidden at the foot of the wall.

The word ‘garden’ can be defined in many ways. In the most basic sense, a garden is simply a place where things are planted and grow. I garden because I like fresh produce and flowers… I love nature and being outdoors. I also garden for the feeling of peace and connection it gives me. I am inspired by botanical beauty, and I enjoy expressing myself  by creating living art. I garden for many reasons, but most of all I garden because I take great pleasure in time’s power. I anticipate and delight in the coming seasons, and I look forward to the changes they bring over the course of years. I believe in the future, and my garden is a collection of hopes and dreams rooted in the earth.

The natural world is inherently hopeful. Seeds break free and blow in the wind; scattering far and wide, carrying with them the promise of a new forest or a new meadow. A robin lays eggs and warms them, instinctively waiting for her chicks to hatch. The future takes flight on hope. When we garden, we connect to that natural expectation and desire – the hope, that life will go on. Like the gardeners of generations past, I am a part of the natural world, the society of humankind, and history. I am also a part of the future, and it is a part of me. I believe that I am a part of something much bigger, much greater than myself, and this belief gives me strength and comfort. It gives me hope. I believe in that hope, and I believe in the promise of tomorrow…

And so I set forth, into the garden; bulbs beneath my arm, trowel in hand, basket full of dreams…

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Very early blooming Narcissus ‘February Gold’

Crocus tommasinianus emerging from Ajuga and Heuchera in early April

Narcissus ‘Lemon Silk’

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My garden, Ferncliff, is filled with the beautiful promise of spring…

For many years I have purchased unusual varieties of narcissus and many other early-season garden delights from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. The Heath family bulb farm is located in Gloucester, Virginia, and it has been in operation for many generations. In fact, the Heaths trace their involvement in daffodil farming all the way back to the beginning of the twentieth century, when Brent’s grandfather Charles Heath began growing daffodils near their present location in Gloucester.

I have purchased hundreds and hundreds of bulbs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. And although I have never met the Heaths, I think of them every fall when I am planting, and every spring when I am enjoying their beautiful flowers emerging magically from the thawing earth.

Over the coming weeks, I will be writing more about planting bulbs. But for now, if you are new to bulb planting, or looking to add some excitement to your garden for next spring, I can recommend a couple of books to help expand your knowledge. The first is  Rod Leed’s The Plantfinder’s Guide to Early Bulbs, published by Timber Press. And for Daffodil enthusiasts, I suggest Brent and Becky Heath’s book, Daffodils for North American Gardens, published by Bright Sky Press, and available at their website: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

I think planting bulbs is a great fall activity to share with kids of all ages. Beyond the pleasures and rewards of a day spent outdoors working with the earth, the simple act of planting bulbs can help to create a connection to the future, and to instill values like patience, forethought and respect for nature, (to name but a few). Fall planting is wonderful tradition to share with younger generations, and a love of gardening is a value I certainly hope to pass on…

Scillia siberica, early spring at Ferncliff

Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’

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Article and Photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

* All products and books recommended on this site are based upon my own personal experiences. I receive no compensation for mentions of any kind *

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the sole property of The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used for any purpose without express written permission. It’s a small world, and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Flowers Just for Cutting…

August 11th, 2009 § 3

a bouquet of annual dahlias and calendula Walker Farm

~ A bouquet of dahlia and calendula brightens my windowsill ~

One of the great pleasures of successful flower gardening is, of course, the access to seasonal, fresh cut flowers for the dinner table, desk and elsewhere in the home. I also really enjoy bringing an exotic bouquet to my host or hostess when I am invited to a dinner party, or to a friend as a surprise. Earlier this summer, in my posts about designing a potager and companion planting in the vegetable garden, I mentioned the horticultural benefits of growing flowers in a kitchen garden. But as an artist, I have many reasons, way beyond the practical, for a cutting garden. Flowers are a great inspiration; the extraordinary colors and amazing geometric forms can shift a mood, spark a creative impulse, or simply add a touch of beauty to the day. Know someone with a bland office cubicle, or sterile waiting room? Imagine what a few colorful zinnias would do to change the atmosphere. It’s amazing really. That old 1960′s slogan “Flower Power” couldn’t be more accurate.

zinnia and dahlia, c. Tim Geiss 2009

Zinnia and Dahlia ~ copyright 2009 ~ Tim Geiss

Growing annuals for cutting can be as simple as sowing seed or planting six packs in the vegetable garden in spring. I grow my cutting garden in well drained soil enriched with compost, and I fertilize with Neptune’s Harvest or whatever fish emulsion I have on hand. My own cutting garden varies in size each year depending upon my available time, space and budget. This year, I purchased common annuals in six packs from Walker Farm and a few of the specialty annuals they are known for. I chose dahlia, zinnia, cleome, cosmos, verbena bonariensis, specialty calendula, (French marigold), and moluccella laevis, (Bells of Ireland), among others. I also grow some perennials in and around my vegetable garden, including early bloomers like bulbs and peonies and late-season favorites such as coreopsis tripteris, physostegia virginiana, liatris ‘Kobold’, veronica ‘Goodness grows’, rudbeckia, echinacea and solidago, (golden rod), to name but a few. Native goldenrod is a great addition to flower arrangements. Sadly, although solidago is a prized perennial in much of Europe, this native flower is shunned by many North American gardeners who mistakenly believe it to be a cause of hay fever, (ambrosia artmisiifolia, or common ragweed, is usually the culprit). I always buy my annuals locally in spring. But you can also find bulbs and plants through online retailers, including my two of my favorite sources for summer bulbs, Swan Island Dahlias and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

Combining perennials and annuals in casual arrangements is one of my favorite ways to bring the garden indoors, (see photo below). I like to play with contrasting colors like orangey-yellow and purple, or bright blue and reddish-orange to enliven my kitchen table. When creating bouquets for the bedroom or bath, I often soften the mood a bit, and combine flowers in more complimentary hues; using tones of blue and green, or shades of lavender and rose. Whatever I create with flowers from my garden, the arrangements have a way of making the whole house look brighter.

In order to get the most life from cut flower arrangements, I try to harvest the blooms in early morning, before the heat of the day, or in the cool of the evening after the sun has set. I choose flowers with swollen buds or petals just opening. With sharp scissors, I cut the stems long and at a slight angle. Immediately, I place them in a bucket of lukewarm water kept in the shade while I make my other selections. Certain flowers, such as poppies, will need to have their stalks seared with a match in order to seal the stem. And most early bulbs, such as daffodils, prefer cool vase water. Cut flowers will stay fresh longer when you add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, about a tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of bleach to each quart of vase-water. Changing the vase-water every couple of days will extend the life of your bouquet and keep the flowers looking fresh longer. Bacteria is responsible for that nasty flower-water slime and smell when you forget to change the water for a week. I try to avoid that olfactory experience at all costs!

Bouquet of cosmos candy stripe, calendula pacific beauty mix, echinacea purpurea, physostegia, goldenrod, liatris and veronica goodness grows

Annual Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’, Calendula ‘Pacific Beauty Mix’, Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ here with perennial Veronica ‘Goodness Grows, Liatris ‘Kobold’, Echinacea purpurea and Solidago Canadensis Gunmetal Glazed Pitcher by artist Aletha Soule

double rudbeckia "Goldilocks" (small), cutting garden

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Goldilocks’ produces 18″-24″ stems with 4″ double orange blossoms… perfect for late summer bouquets

To add a little something extra to my bouquets, I often add ornamental grasses, (such as miscanthus), foliage plants, (including ferns and perennial plant leaves), vines, (such as bittersweet), and branches from trees and shrubs. Shrubs with darker foliage, including physocarpus ‘Diablo’ or ‘Summer Wine’, and weigela ‘Java Red’, among the many choices, add a nice contrast to floral arrangements in complimentary hues. When adding woody plants like these, as well as flowering hydrangea and lilac to an arrangement, it ‘s important to “smash” the woody stems with a mallet in order for the cut branch to absorb water, (see center photo below).  In addition to beautiful color and texture, woody plants add structure to a vase, and can help support both delicate flowers and heavy blooms, especially those with a tendency to flop.

cleome, zebra grass and weigela java red foliage

White cleome, zebra grass and weigela florida ‘Java Red’ foliage in a vase by  Aletha Soule

pounding woody stems

Flowers harvested from shrubs with woody stems must be ‘smashed’ as shown, to help them absorb water

Ninebark,(Physocarpus) 'Diablo', False Indigo, (Baptisia foliage) Foxglove, (Digitalis davisiana),Queen Anne's Lace'(Anthriscus sylvestris Bells of Ireland, (Moluccella laevis)

~ A beautiful raku vase by Vermont artist Richard Foye ~

And from the garden: Ninebark, (Physocarpus), ‘Diablo’, False indigo foliage, (Baptisia), Foxglove, (Digitalis davisiana), Queen Anne’s Lace, (Anthriscus sylvestris), and Bells of Ireland, (Moluccella laevis)

Hydrangea paniculata 'limelight'

~ Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ in a small vase by artist Aletha Soule ~

When it comes to choosing vases, I am a big believer in experimentation. Although I have a nice collection of vases from Vermont artisan Richard Foye and California’s Aletha Soule, I do not limit myself to traditional vessels for holding fresh flowers. I am just as likely to stick a bouquet into a rusty tin can when the orange-brown contrast strikes my fancy. Old mason jars, drinking glasses, perfume and liquor bottles, beach buckets, cookie tins, soda bottles and milk cartons have all served as vases in my household. In fact, pretty much anything that holds water is fair game. Floating flowers in a shallow bowl with candles makes for a memorable center piece at a dinner party, and the low display draws attention to the structure of larger flowers such as dahlia and sunflower. I also like the look of one spectacular blossom filling the top of a thick glass, as photographed by artist Tim Geiss below.

floating dahlia copyright 2009 tim geiss

As the seasons change, I like to bring autumn leaves and bare branches into the house for my larger urns. And early autumn vegetables, such as kale and cabbage, make dramatic additions to flower arrangements as well. When November and December come ’round, I will bring in winterberry, (Ilex verticillata), and dried grasses from the garden by the armful. Do you have any favorite additions to your floral arrangements? I will be featuring more articles like this one in the future, but for now, please feel free to share your ideas and add comments for others here on the forum. In a world filled with chaos, stress, uncertainty and pressure, we could all use a little beauty to brighten our day. Sometimes, even a milk carton of roadside daisies will do!

zinnia on a table copyright 2009 Tim Geiss

~ Freshly cut Zinnia, copyright 2009, Tim Geiss ~

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~ Special thanks to Tim Geiss for his beautiful flower photographs as noted ~

~ Article and other photos copyright 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden ~

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The Old School House Plantery …… Vermont Growers with an Internet Following for Rare Garden, Greenhouse and House Plants…

June 26th, 2009 Comments Off

Aisles of unusual and rare plants at the Old School House Plantery, Brattleboro, Vermont.

Impatiens zombensis (click to enlarge photo)

During the recent, prolonged rainy period in Vermont, John and Diane Miller of The Old Schoolhouse Plantery in West Brattleboro, kindly invited me over to have a look inside their greenhouse. I pass by the Millers nearly everyday on my way to and from other gardens, and I must admit that I have been observing them with great curiosity ever since I noticed the excellent pruning of their apple trees last year. As readers of this blog may have noticed, I do have a slight obsession with artful pruning. Eventually, I got around to stopping in to meet the Millers, and once invited inside their greenhouse I was even more delighted. Although the square footage of their space is modest, the building is absolutely overflowing with gorgeous, rare plants. Tropicals, tender perennials, flowering annuals, houseplants, ferns, succulents; the list of what John and Diane have managed to propagate in this deceptively simple jewel-box goes on and on.

Originally from Great Britain, both John and Diane are passionate, educated gardeners with a contagious enthusiasm for the rare plants they grow. Diane has a doctorate in herbal medicine, and John holds a college degree in horticulture from the UK. The Millers operate the Old Schoolhouse Plantery as a retail business from their home in Vermont, and although locals have discovered the horticultural treasures at this little greenhouse, most of John and Diane’s serious plant collectors have found them online. It seems that once a rare plant enthusiast is seduced by the beautiful and elusive blue  Impatiens namchabarwensis, or bewitched by the tiny bright pink flowers and toothy leaf margins of Impatiens zombensis, there can be no substitute. Unfortunately, mail-order sources for unusual plants such as these are hard to come by. The true collector of rare plants has taken to the internet, Googling and Ebaying their way to the hard-to-find horticultural prizes. Many customers of this cottage-business have found John and Diane by typing the latin names of rare specimen plants into search engines. They then follow links to Ebay or Etsy and purchase their treasures from the Old Schoolhouse Plantery through online-shops. In addition to her propagation skills, Diane is also a skilled artisan, and she sells her hand-crafted goods as well as rare plants on an Etsy shop called Eclecticasia.

Although this introductory post is brief, I will be back with more coverage of the fascinating work going on at The Old Schoolhouse Plantery soon.  Fuchsias, Begonias, Impatiens and other exotic beauties are just the beginning of what you will see here.  John has generously offered to share the process of creating a fuchsia standard, (pictured at bottom), and I am keen to learn more about Diane’s handcrafted flower pots.

Many thanks to the Millers for their time and generosity. If you find yourself wandering through southern Vermont on a road-trip, do check out their little treasure-chest of a greenhouse at 350 Hinesburg Road in Brattleboro, Vermont. The Old Schoolhouse Plantery will be unveiling a new website soon, but until then, their plants can be viewed and purchased online at the  Etsy link above.

impatiens-namchabarwensisImpatiens namchabarwensis , (rare blue diamond impatiens)

fuchsia-standard1/2 standard Fuchsia, ‘Mrs. Lovell Swisher’

Article and photos: copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardner’s Eden

Shopping locally for garden plants supports your community

May 22nd, 2009 Comments Off

walker-farm-stand

WALKER FARM

Route 5, Dummerston, Vermont – (photo: road-side display and entry)

Well here it is again – Memorial Day Weekend. And for many of us, this weekend means it is finally time to shop for warm weather vegetable starts and flowering annuals. What better place to go for plants and free advice than your local grower ? Here in southern Vermont, Walker Farm in Dummerston is the source for organically grown vegetable plants, including all my favorite classics like “sungold”cherry tomatoes, “raider” cucumbers, bell peppers, walla walla onions, and every other potager plant you can imagine. But more than that, at Walker Farm I can find hard-to-locate heirloom tomatoes, herbs, old-garden nasturtiums and even berry-patch additions like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.  At this time of the year, a visit to a local grower can inspire the green-thumb in anyone.

Over the years Walker Farm has made a name for itself with unusual specialty annuals and beautiful hanging baskets as well as hard-to-find perennials and rare trees and shrubs. Jack (Walker) Manix and Karen Manix have been operating their farm for more than 35 years now, and it has been in their family for more than 200 years.  Their daughter Kristin and son Dusty are also part of their farm-business, which has grown from a classic Vermont dairy operation to an organic fruit, vegetable and flower farm.  The picturesque farm-stand on Route 5, heading north out of Brattleboro, Vermont, belies the complex, modern nursery sprawling down below the bank and into their fertile fields.  Gorgeous greenhouses, filled with every unusual flowering annual and exotic plant you can imagine, have been steadily added to the property.  Charming potting sheds dot the farm, overflowing with classic and novelty seeds, beautiful ceramic pots, watering cans, hand-forged tools and other gardening supplies and necessities. Specialty plant connoisseurs  from hours away make the drive to Walker Farm to buy plants that will fill garden beds, urns, clay pots and window boxes in such far-away places as New York and Boston. Many of my garden design clients request Walker Farm plants by name. Among the note-worthy mentions too numerous to list, Walker Farm has been written up by Ann Raver in her garden column for the New York Times, and the farm was also mentioned in Ruah Donnelly’s, The Adventurous Gardener, as a favorite plant-shopping destination. Authors Wayne Winterowd and Joe Eck, long-time customers and friends of the Manix family, credit Walker Farm in their beautiful books on gardening and designing with rare and unusual annuals. (Winterowd and Eck will be at the farm for a book signing this Sunday, May 24th, from 11 am to 1 pm). But to understand what all the fuss is about at Walker Farm, you really must see for yourself.

Walker Farm is staffed by real-gardeners, and knowledgeable employees, and they are always ready to help out with plant selections and helpful advice.  Like many organic farms throughout this country, Walker Farm is an important part of the local economy and community.  It is important to remember that buying local is not only a healthy thing to do for yourself, but it is also a socially organic thing to do for your friends and neighbors. Farms and nurseries provide jobs and experience for the young and the not-so-young; helping college students get a start in agriculture, horticulture or science, and helping part-time workers like parents and retirees make a living in a healthy, positive way. Businesses like Walker Farm also support other farmers, by buying and selling locally grown produce and products as well as their own. I buy whatever I can at my local organic grower, Walker Farm, and I hope that you will do the same… wherever home is.

Visit the Walker Farm Website HERE.

walker-farm-pergola

Rows and Rows of Gorgeous annual bedding plants and hanging baskets…

walker-farm-greenhouse

The Grand Central Greenhouse at Walker Farm, filled to the brim with unusual specialty annuals, exotic plants and herbs…

walker-farm-entry-to-perennial-garden-sales1

walker-farm-perennials

wf-trees-and-shrubs

From top: entry to perennial display and sale area, trees and shrubs in front of Grand Central…

staff-walker-farm1

Smiles at the Stand

HAPPY PLANTING !

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Copyright Michaela H. 2009

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