Cutting Edge Garden Maintenance: Sharply Defining Beds & Borders . . .

April 10th, 2013 § 3

BMAC_Garden_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com Cleanly cutting the edge of a border with a half-moon edger, and mulching the “V”, helps with maintenance throughout the growing year {Pictured: a client’s newly planted garden with English-style edging. Pretty vessel is by Vermont artist, Stephen Procter}

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and every gardener has their own, unique preference in garden style. But well-maintained gardens, be they casually designed or strictly formal, alway seem to elicit the most oohs and ahs. So what keeps a border looking neat and tidy all season long? Well, if your gardens connect to lawn, one of the secrets is an English-style edge, and a thick layer of weed-supressing mulch.

english-style-edging-michaela_medina_harlow_thegardeneresend.com

English_Style_Edging_ in-Cottage_Garden-michaela-medina-harlow-thegardenerseden.com Even the simplest, cottage-style garden design is elevated to elegance by cleanly edging and mulching the border {pictured: three of my clients’ newly installed gardens; edged and mulched}

BMAC_garden_edge_late_summer_michaela_medina_harlow-thegardenerseden.com

A classic English-style edge is a simple and clean-looking way to define the line between lawn and garden. Although the look is quite precise, English-style edging is appropriate in most any garden setting; from formal to country casual. Inexpensive to create and blissfully easy to maintain, I just love the way a sharp edged line brings the bold shapes, colors and textures of a layered perennial border into focus. When designing new gardens in landscapes with sweeping lawns, I often opt for the English-style edge to maintain distinct, weed-free boundaries between grassy pathways and perennial borders. Crisply cut edges help to keep a garden looking great all season long.

Penstemon-digitalis-Huskers-Red-Heuchera-Veronica-Coreopsis-Photo-Copyright-michaela-medina-thegardenersedenJust as neatly trimmed ends make long hair look gorgeous, crisply defined edges in a garden highlight the beauty of a well-maintained perennial border {one of my client’s gardens in late spring}

Large landscaping companies often use mechanical edgers to create deep, sharp-lined trenches between a lawn and garden and then dress these trenches with mulch. Mechanical tools work very well on big projects, but they are quite expensive and consume unnecessary fossil fuels. For home landscapes, I have always used a manual half-moon edger and my own elbow grease to create and maintain perennial borders in style. It’s great exercise!

519JmG5+R5L._SL1500_ Forged, Half-Moon Edger by Truper

The line of the garden is measured and, if new, marked out with chalk dust or string. A straight line is then cut (with the half-moon edger or a straight blade spade) through the sod to a depth of about 4-6 inches. When working a new bed, the sod is then removed from inside the cut line, and compost/loam is added to the planting bed. In a renovation of an older bed, re-establish the line by digging a new trench to a depth of at least 6 inches. I rock the tool back and forth a bit to create a “v” shape. New mulch is mounded up from the center of the “v” and into the garden bed to create a weed barrier. If you are trying this method for the first time, be patient with yourself. With a little practice, your edges will become clean, precise and even. I’ve taught many gardeners how to use a half-moon edger. A little patience goes a long way when you’re learning something new! The border pictured below is the very first effort of a new gardener. Not bad for a first shot!

new-gardener's-first-time-edge_effort-michaela_medina_harlow-thegardenerseden This freshly-cut edge on a new perennial border —the first effort of a new gardener— was cut with a hand held edging tool, like the one pictured above

Although some gardeners like to fill the trench with aluminum or plastic strip to hold border edges, this isn’t really necessary. With with yearly maintenance and mulch, the earthen edge will hold back weeds on its own.  In my own garden I prefer to keep the earthen trench filled with mulch, and maintain it twice a year with touch ups from the half-moon edger. The first round of edging happens along my lawn/garden borders every spring during April clean-up, just before seasonal mulch (I use well rotted compost mulch mixed with just a bit of dark, natural bark). The second round of edging usually happens in early to mid July, when perennials borders begin to look a bit blowzy and need a bit of deadheading and primping. But twice yearly maintenance isn’t always necessary. In the cottage garden atop the article and the minimalist garden pictured above and below, a crisp edge is cut and mulched along the borders once a year in early spring. In landscapes with lawn and perennial borders, I’m  very fond of English-style edging. This clean but natural look works well with many different garden styles and it’s both inexpensive and easy to maintain.

Johnson Garden ll - Michaela Medina Harlow - Garden Design - New England - ⓒ 2012 michaela medina - thegardenerseden.comThe edge of this welcoming garden —filled with North American native plants— is looking neat and pretty, even in late summer {pictured: my client’s garden in late summer of 2012}

Photography and 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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Marching Forward to Springtime …

March 12th, 2012 Comments Off

Cerise-Flushed Bodnant Viburnum Buds, Swollen in Morning Sunshine (Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’)

The sleepy garden is slowly rousing now from her long winter slumber. And as she greets the warmth of each early March morning, I slip on my wellies, grab a few tools and a hot cup of coffee, eager to join in her blushing, dawn reverie. Springtime is coming, and the garden is swollen and glowing with annual anticipation …

Bright & Cheerful at Daybreak: Golden Witch Hazel Blossoms (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’)

With late winter pruning completed, my eye turns toward autumn garden remnants in need of removal. Ornamental grasses and withered perennial stalks are cut back with manual garden shears or —in the case of large, tough specimens— a power brush cutter. Where snow has receded and the soil has been dried by sun and wind, I lightly remove debris with a flexible rake and clear pathways with a stiff garden broom; dragging a brown tarp behind me and collecting a heap to be dumped and chopped up near the compost pile. Protective wire cages —set into place to thwart greedy rodents— are removed from young trees and shrubs and returned to storage in the Secret Garden Room …

Late Winter/Early Spring Garden Clean-Up Begins!

I Like to Cut Back Ornamental Grass in Late Winter or Early Spring. After Chopping Up the Grass, I Gradually Add It to My Compost Pile

As Snow Recedes, I Remove the Protective Wire Cages Placed Around Ornamental Trees & Shrubs Last Autumn, and Store Them in the Garden Room for Re-Use Next Year

Of course between garden clean-up and indoor-eden chores, there’s always a bit of time for spring dreaming. As I stroll through the melting pathways, I gather a few budding branches for forcing in vases and begin pulling out frost-hardy garden accents  —such as urns and flower pots— placing them here and there, in anticipation of early bulbs and pretty pansies…

An Annual Pleasure and Bi-Product of Late-Winter Pruning: Forced Branches of Fragrant, Bodnant Viburnum

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina for The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, 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. Thank you!

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Spring Clean-Up Part One: Pruning Damaged Limbs in Tight Spaces Using The Handy, Folding ‘Grecian’ Saw, Plus… A Special Giveaway!

April 9th, 2011 § 15

A young Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ in my garden. This photo was taken last spring during a passing shower, just as the beautifully vibrant red leaves began to unfold

I love all trees, but I have to admit that in particular, I am a very, very fond of Japanese maples. And in spite of the fact that they can be difficult to grow in cold climates, every year I add a new, hardy specimen to my garden. The first Japanese maple I planted when I bought my land ten years ago was Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’. A lovely tree with dark, oxblood colored leaves and fine structural form, ‘Bloodgood’ is a commonly grown Japanee maple cultivar in the northeast; mainly due to its hardiness. But in spite of this tree’s tolerance for cold, one of the biggest challenges to growing Japanese maples in the northern climates —breakage due to heavy snow and ice accumulation— remains a problem with this and many other ornamental trees with complex branch angles and patterns. Preliminary pruning and training helps to set up a strong framework for ornamental trees —to withstand winter’s weighty precipitation— but some breakage is inevitable during ice storms with heavy accumulation.

Perhaps you’ll recall this image, of the Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ in my garden, taken during the last of many ice storms in late winter of this year. Fortunately, only one branch cracked beneath the weight of the ice, and it was one I’d considered removing late last summer anyway.

When damage does occur on a Japanese maple, and on many other trees, one of the toughest maintenance tasks is pruning out broken limbs without damaging the bark and healthy wood on the nearby trunk and branches. Making cuts in tight spaces (like the one pictured below) can be difficult unless you have the right tool on hand. Hand-held bypass pruners (like those shown in the last post) are fine for branches and limbs up to 1/2″  in diameter. But when the limb is thicker, it’s best to switch to a pruning saw. When I need to cut a moderately sized limb —several inches thick— particularly  in tight and awkward spaces, I reach for my handy folding saw. Sometimes this pruning tool is referred to as a Grecian or Japanese-blade pruning saw. This type of saw has teeth —arranged in an arc on the inside of a blade— and folds up neatly into a compact size (see photos below). Designed to cut on the pull-stroke, these saws makes quick, clean work of tree limb removal.

This limb is too large to cut with bypass pruners, and the angle is too tight for my bow saw. So, the tool of choice?

The handy folding saw! This type of saw is sometimes called a ‘Grecian’ saw, or a ‘Japanese blade’ pruning saw.

Here’s what it looks like fully extended. When I’m finished using it, I can just close it up an put it in my back pocket (no worries about stabbing myself!)

Sometimes —when a branch is split or badly mangled by a storm, weak or crossing and rubbing a near-by branch—  it’s necessary to completely remove the tree limb. Knowing how to properly make this type of pruning cut is very important to the long term health of trees in your garden. Cut too far from the trunk and you are left with an ugly stub, which invites disease and further breakage. Cut too close to the main trunk, damaging the branch collar, and you risk exposing the entire tree to disease and opportunistic parasites. But, fear not. This cut isn’t difficult to make when you take your time, follow a patient process and use the right tool. To remove the damaged limb on my Japanese maple, first, I made a preliminary cut on the branch, removing the weight and leaving a long stub. Next, I undercut the remaining limb with a short 1/4″ deep cut. This will prevent cracking and tearing of the limb when I make my final cut from the top. Carefully observe where the ridge meets with the main trunk, and look for the wrinkly collar’s edge. Just beyond this spot is where the limb should be cleanly and neatly cut. Find your line and cleanly cut through as shown. Any ragged edges should be cleaned up with a sharp pruning knife. Soon the open area on the Japanese maple trunk will grey up, callus over and blend right in with the rest of the tree. At this time of year in cold climates, a Japanese maple (And other maple trees, and sap running species like birch) will weep when cut. This will not harm the tree. This wounded tree was weeping sap from the jagged break anyway. However, I do try to limit my cuts on trees with actively running sap at this time of year. I only remove what I absolutely need to, in order to prevent disease and speed up the ‘healing’ process.

When removing a long limb, particularly a heavy one, I begin by taking off some of the weight and making room to work with an initial cut farther out on the branch. Reducing the weight also decreases the likelihood of tears in my final cut near the branch collar.

Next, I make an undercut on the branch. This cut will be approximately 1/4 through the branch. This is another insurance cut; preventing a crack in the wood or tear in the bark when I remove the stub branch from the top.

This photo is little bigger, because I want you to really see the wrinkly edge of the branch collar. Do you see the ridge just to the left of the blade, where where the main trunk meets the limb and the wrinkly ‘collar’ just past that? Well, it’s important to get nice and close to that wrinkly collar with a clean, flush cut. But, it’s equally important NOT to saw into the branch collar. The cleaner and straighter the cut, the faster and easier it will be for the cells to quickly cover the open wound and for the callus to protect the tree from insects and disease.

Cut clean and close, this wood will quickly callus over and soon blend in with the surrounding trunk. Sometimes, a limb will break right at that collar margin. If the tree injury is located in this area, carefully cut as straight a line as possible, and clean up any ragged edges of wood with a pruning knife. The more even the wood, the less area will need to be covered by new cells, and the faster the tree will callus.

Felco’s Folding Saw is the right tool for pruning branches and limbs up to 3″ in diameter, particularly in tight places. You can order one from Amazon.com by clicking on the image or text link here. Or….

In honor of this blog’s second anniversary this month, I will be giving away several gifts at random, starting with a pruning saw, like the one pictured above. For your chance to win this handy tool, simply comment on this blog post before 12:00 pm, noon Eastern Time, April 11, 2011. Be sure to leave your email address (will not be visible here, nor will it be shared or sold) so that I can contact you if you win. And, one last thing… Let me know what your favorite thing is about this blog, and what you’d like to see more of this year! I’d love your feedback. Thank you for following The Gardener’s Eden ! xo Michaela

The winner will be chosen at random from comments received prior to noon ET 4/11/2011. One entry per household, per giveaway please. Drawing will take place and winners will be announced here, on Facebook and Twitter, on Tuesday, 4/12/2011. Saw will be shipped to the winning reader at the end of the month. Due to shipping constraints, this giveaway is open to US and Canadian readers of The Gardener’s Eden only. All taxes, tariffs, duties or fees not directly associated with shipping and handling will be the responsibility of the winner.Good luck!

The Winner of the Folding Pruning Saw is: Michelle Kraetschmer! Congratulations, Michelle.

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Article and photographs are copyright 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, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Spring Clean-Up, Part One: Pruning Winter-Damaged Branches Continues With a Tutorial on Cutting to Alternate & Opposite Buds…

April 7th, 2011 Comments Off

Spring Clean Up Begins in My Garden with the Removal of Winter-Damaged Branches and Limbs on Woody Plants

I’ve been tending other people’s gardens for more than a decade, and although I am officially eliminating maintenance from my professional services this year —making more time for design work, teaching and writing— that doesn’t mean I won’t be doing physical work in gardens. Quite the contrary. I love gardening, particularly garden maintenance. The physical part of gardening is exactly what attracted me to horticulture in the first place. Gardening —digging, planting, raking, weeding, pruning, etc— is great fun for me! But as with most things, people tend to enjoy tasks that they are good at doing. So, my new goal is to help other gardeners gain more confidence, and have more fun with maintenance, by sharing some of what I’ve learned in my years of experience as a professional gardener.

Pruning is one of those tasks that tends to intimidate both new and experienced gardeners, and even some seasoned pros. With all of the dos and don’t associated with pruning, it’s easy for me to understand why gardeners avoid this chore. Knowing when and how to prune the trees and shrubs in your garden can be confusing. So, I’m going to start this spring’s tutorial sessions with the absolute basics. In my previous post, I mentioned the importance of using clean, sharp tools when pruning. This point can not be over-stated, so if you haven’t read the first post, stop here and go back to review pruning tools and how to care for them.

For our first lesson, lets start with the most important pruning a gardener can do: cutting to clean up damaged and diseased wood. This type of pruning can and should take place whenever you notice it. However, at this time of year —late winter and early spring— damage tends to be most evident. Removing damaged wood trumps concerns about when a shrub or tree flowers (we will get to the issue of old and new wood, and timing cuts for flowers and fruit a bit later in this series). When cleaning up broken branches, the key is to make your cut with very sharp pruners, just above a healthy strong bud, or set of buds, aiming in the direction that you want to train the new growth. There are two main types of buds on branches: opposite and alternate. Opposite buds are, exactly as the word sounds, opposite from one another on the branch or stem (see photo below). When you need to cut branches with opposite buds, make your cut as close as possible to a healthy set of buds —without bumping or grazing the tender nibs— cleanly cutting straight across the healthy wood. Never leave a long stub, as this wood will die-back; decaying, rotting and inviting disease. If you cut clean and close to a new set of buds, they will quickly develop strong, healthy new shoots in both directions. If you only want growth in an outward-facing direction —to open up a shrub for example— then gently rub off the inward-facing bud with your finger. Here’s how a simple cut is made on opposite-facing buds…

Cutting to a pair of opposite buds on Hydrangea paniculata. The cut is made as close as possible —leading with the sharpest part of your blade closest to the bud— without touching and damaging the buds themselves. I like to use the line on the thick blade (backside of the pruners) as a spacing guide when making this kind of cut.

After the cut, only a small amount of wood remains above the two untouched buds. The two buds will develop into healthy shoots.

Alternate buds look like rungs on a pole ladder. They alternate from side to side, instead of opposite one another (see photo below). If the branch of a shrub or tree with an alternate bud pattern has been damaged, it should be cut back to an outward-facing bud on solid, healthy wood. With alternate buds, it’s also important to make the cut as close to —but not touching— the bud itself. With this type of growth pattern, gently slope the cut away from the bud, so that water will drain away from the developing shoot (aim for a 20-25° angle).

Alternate buds on Buddleja alternifolia argentea (Fountain Butterfly Bush). Unlike B. davidii, which flowers on new wood, B. alternifolia blossoms on old wood. In spring, I remove damaged wood only, carefully cutting to a healthy bud. After flowering, I will prune this shrub for shape (it can be trained to a standard, or allowed to follow its natural ‘fountain’ form).

Position the sharp part of the blade near the bud —but not touching— and make the cut, sloping gently away from the bud. This will help water shed away from the new shoot, preventing rot. Never leave a stub longer than 1/4″, as it will die back, and invite disease. Again, with this type of cut, I use the line on the thick part of the blade as my guide. By holding the pruners with the thin blade nearest the bud, I can watch the distance and avoid cutting too close.

The way this branch is cut will direct growth outward, away from the shrub. The gentle slope —starting just above the top of the bud— allows for water to shed away from the new shoot, preventing rot. Again, never allow a long stub to remain above the bud, but take care not to injure the delicate new growth when you make your cut. With practice, this will become easier.

When I teach pruning, I always encourage gardeners to build confidence by practicing cuts on undesirable scrub, broken branches or discarded limbs on a brush pile. This way, if your cuts are less-than-acceptable, you can keep cutting until you get it right, without worrying about mutilating your precious garden plants! Look for alternate and opposite bud patterns to practice your cutting skills. Once you feel confident in your ability to make steady cuts, begin working on the broken branches of ornamental shrubs in your garden. Roses and hydrangea are frequently damaged and suffer die-back in winter. Learning these basic cuts will help you to maintain attractive and healthy woody plants.

Stay tuned for more pruning tutorials. Next, we will tackle small tree limbs with a Grecian (folding) saw, and learn about the join between tree trunks, branch-collars and tree limbs! And if you happen to be gardening in New England, and would like to attend my April 16th pruning seminar —a free event sponsored by Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont— please visit Walker Farm’s website for details, and reserve your seat now… Space is limited!

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Article and photographs are copyright 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, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Marking Time’s Passage in the Garden: Beautiful & Practical Journals…

December 2nd, 2010 § 3

Keeping a permanent record of your garden is one of the keys to horticultural success! I keep records for both my vegetable plot and my ornamental gardens

December 2010. It’s hard to believe that another year is drawing to a close, isn’t it? While flipping through my garden journal last week, I couldn’t help but marvel at how different the weather and crops were in 2010, compared to 2009. I just started a new section in my blank book to record observations on my winter vegetable garden (crops grown beneath hoop houses as well as horticultural pursuits indoors), and to make plans for spring 2011 planting.

Keeping a permanent record of your garden is one of the keys to horticultural success -and it’s also fun! I have a practical garden calendar/record (day-runner type with 3-ring binder and handy pockets for seeds and tags) where I keep dated notes on seed sowing and vegetable/fruit harvests, crop rotation maps, location records/photos, pest notes, fertilizing reminders and so on. But I also have a more traditional free-form journal (pictured above and just below) for thoughts, observations and sketches. This is the time of year when I usually order new inserts for my three-ring binder garden calendar/record and replace my free-form journal if necessary. Sure, I keep notes on my laptop and iPhone too, but I enjoy the process of sketching and writing with pen on paper.  And over time, I have learned the hard way that electronics, mud and water aren’t really the best of companions.

Planning 2011 Seed Order (Botanical Interests 2011 Seed Catalog)

In addition to laying out next year’s vegetable garden —rotating crops helps prevent repeat insect infestations and diseases— I’m also planning what varieties to plant based on past seasons. I have limited space in my potager, and I want to get a head start on orders before companies sell out of the choicest seeds. The Botanical Interests 2011 seed catalog arrived in my mailbox last week, and I have been circling items to order both for holiday gifts and for my own spring garden. My journal is helpful with this planning and ordering process, because I have written down which varieties of vegetables and herbs performed well in my garden, which did not, and which varieties I would like to try based on friends’ success. Every year, some companies discontinue seeds and others offer new varieties. So, as seed catalogs arrive, I scan lists to see where I can find and order my favorites (or, make a note to save my own seed when possible).

Garden Journal, Leather Cover Exterior (refill annually with a separate 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ calendar/journal)

A durable and beautiful garden journal makes a great gift for a new gardener —or any gardener not currently keeping one— particularly if it’s personalized with a few favorite seed packets, photos, notes, web-links, or even a gift certificate to a local garden center or online retailer, like Gardener’s Supply Company. If you —or the gardener you are shopping for— have a large garden, then consider a 3-ring binder type of journal cover and fill it with a calendar/notebook. A beautiful leather journal cover can be re-used from year to year, and makes a great gift. There are literally hundreds of notebooks, calendars and covers to choose from, but when you are shopping for a horticultural journal, keep in mind that for most serious gardeners, an easy-to-clean cover in leather or vinyl is really essential. Replaceable annual-calendar inserts make sense, as do extra plastic pockets. I like the day-timer style garden journals because they are flexible and can be used/filled anyway you like. Mine is the ring-binder type with plastic pockets and zip-lock pouches for seeds, tags, business cards, etc.

Garden Journal, Leather Cover Interior (free form style will fit any kind of notebook within the size constraints. This one has useful pockets for plant tags and seed packets)

This Garden Journal Leather Cover is nearly identical to the one directly above it, but it has a handy metal binder for loose leaf paper, calendar inserts and additional plastic pockets. I prefer this kind of journal for my day-to-day record keeping in the garden, because it keeps everything together. If I need to add more plastic pockets, I just swing by a local office supply store and match the stock to my binder.

Pretty, Simple and Inexpensive: Blossom Journal (Magnetic Closure). I’d choose this type of journal for a more meditative garden-writer or someonealready in possession of a task-oriented horticultural binder.

If the gardener you are shopping for tends more toward free-form record keeping or simple journaling, then a blank book would be a good choice. This type of journal is usually less expensive than zippered, three-ring-binder calendar/journals. A good, heavy cover is still important, although choosing a blank book with a pretty botanical theme seems right. I just ordered two journals (the one just above and below) as gifts. Will I keep one for myself? Hmmmmmmm….

Tree of Life Leather Journal (lined)

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Please note: The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of Botanical Interest Seeds, but Michaela is a long-time, happy customer!

Article and Photos (Excepting Linked Product 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. 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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The Electric Gardener: Guest Post by Ted Dillard of The Electric Chronicles…

October 18th, 2010 § 3

“Get that evil, oily, smelly, loud machine out of my garden!”  This was the response I got from a dear friend and gardener, as I pointed my 1967 Gravely tractor with the “Power Plow” attachment –– a tool that can only be described as a food processor for soil–– towards the task of turning her vegetable garden one spring. Here, I thought I was being such a nice guy. She was a soil-studies major at the University of Maine, and lord help you if you called it “dirt”. My friend’s contention that the grease, oil and airborne pollutants coming out of my venerable old tractor is bad for her plants is far from unfounded. Small engines have virtually no anti-pollution and emission controls required. As a result, “A 2001 study showed that some mowers emit the same amount of pollution (emissions other than carbon dioxide) in one hour as driving a 1992 model car for 650 miles (1,050 km).[10]. Another estimate puts the amount of pollution from a lawn mower at four times the amount from a car, per hour” (from Wikipedia) – not to mention the noise.

So what are the alternatives when power tools are necessary in the garden? The mower above was found on Craigslist for free – a little electric mower that wore out its batteries.  I picked it up and tossed some of my old scooter batteries in, and voila- I’d saved the thing from the landfill, used my old scooter batteries for something worthwhile, and got myself a cordless electric lawnmower.  This got me to thinking —I know, a dangerous thing— how much of a normal compliment of yard and garden equipment could be electric, or could be converted to electric?  I’ve been using a corded electric lawnmover and weedwacker for years. From the perspective of noise-control alone, it’s a wonderful alternative. An electric lawnmower simply makes a whirring sound, and depending on how close your neighbors live, you can run it in the early hours of a weekend morning with no fear of waking the entire neighborhood. For a small lawn or garden, and with a little practice and observance of the prime rule of electric corded lawnmowing (always turn the handle towards the cord source, never away), it’s a perfect solution. You don’t get how much the smog coming out of a mower affects you —personally— until you use an electric machine, and begin to notice that you can breathe, your ears don’t ring and your clothes don’t stink.

But what else is out there? A simple search for “electric garden tools” reveals a staggering array of stuff: from lawn mowers and string trimmers right on up to electric chippers, log splitters, chain sawsrototillers, and the list goes on. Many of the tools are for a small urban or suburban lawn or garden, and some of them are pretty robust. Most of the big tools are corded, so you’re limited to using them within 100 feet or so of your outlet, and this does take some getting used to. But, hearing the birds singing while you’re mowing the grass is —well, to coin a phrase— priceless! Battery powered tools are also an option, and in terms of charging, solar kits are getting remarkably affordable – so are wind turbines.  And, the stuff can be bought at places like Northern Tool.

Interested in further exploring the possibilities of electric power tools, battery charging systems and other environmentally-friendly garden and home solutions? For more information and specifics on solar, wind and battery technology (and electric motorcycles too!), visit Ted Dillard’s awesome blog, The Electric Chronicles, for more details.

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Article excerpt and photo at top ⓒ 2010 Ted Dillard

Thank you Ted Dillard !

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 will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Father’s Day Post Leads to Old Fashioned Push Mower Shopping… Thanks Dad! Happy Father’s Day!

June 20th, 2010 § 2

Detail from a Schlitz beer ad, circa 1950

It all started innocently enough. This morning I wanted to publish a quick ‘Happy Father’s Day’ post for all the dads out there. My dad has always been a fabulous gardener, expert berry grower and lover of native plants and trees… But he hated mowing the lawn. HATED. And can you blame him? Lawn mowing is loud, smelly and invariably fraught with mechanical troubles. My father lives in a condo now, and he no longer mows his own lawn, but I will always remember him parked in a plastic lawn chair, clutching a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon, legs stretched out, glaring at the frequently broken-down lawnmower. Poor dad! Laughing at the memory, I immediately began searching for an image to capture the feeling. I couldn’t come up with anything good from 80s, but I did find this old Schlitz beer ad from the early 50s – and I love it! Get a load of that fabulous push mower!

Well, no sooner did I crop the photo and scan it to this draft post than an obsession with old fashioned lawn mowers overtook me. My clunky Sears Craftsman model -inherited from my dad when he closed up the country house a few years back and moved into a condo with my mother- has seen better days and it has been sputtering and moaning ever since I made the mistake of overfilling the oil-well last summer. You could say I killed my mower with kindness, but that would be too kind.

As much as I support the ‘un-greening’ of the American suburb -replacing grass turf with low maintenance ground covers, native plants, vegetable patches and other ecologically friendly options- I am not completely anti-lawn. Grass is beautiful, and I believe that a modest lawn, in an appropriate climate, is a wonderful garden feature that needn’t be an environmental hazard or drain. I live in Vermont – the lush, Green Mountain state – but I don’t have a large lawn. There’s just a petite patch of sod for lounging ’round Dan Snow‘s fire sculpture, and a few verdant paths leading to outdoor rooms. It’s not much more than a postage stamp, really, but I still need to cut the grass if I wish to maintain my tiny emerald carpet…

My petite lawn, surrounding artist Dan Snow‘s beautiful Fire Sculpture

Of course I considered an electric mower; quiet, efficient and ultra-modern, the newer models are very tempting. And I also weighed the possibility of a more economical gas model, but I dislike the smell of fumes and all the engine noise -never mind the obviously wasteful use of fossil fuel. So what to do? Well a modern reel lawn mower has always been at the back of my mind. And thanks to Mr. Schlitz at the top of the page, I’m all over the idea – like a dog rolling on freshly cut grass. So for the past few hours, I have been researching and reading reviews. Here’s what I’m looking at…

Scotts 2000-20 20-Inch Classic Push Reel Lawn Mower

With 242 five-star and 168 four-star Amazon reviews, the model above is currently at the top of my list. Retailing for a very reasonable $99.99, it’s clearly quite affordable and popular. The only negative I really see is the 6″ side-clearance, which makes a clean edge difficult and string-trimming mandatory (with my current mower, string trimming is not necessary).

American Lawn Mower Company 1705-16 16-Inch Bent Reel Mower

Running neck-and-neck with the Scott’s mower is the American Lawn Mower Company’s model pictured and linked above. I have read that both mowers are made by the same company. This model is four inches narrower, so it will cut a smaller path through the grass and get into tighter spaces. At $98.49, it’s also quite reasonably priced and although there are fewer reviews for this product on Amazon, they are mostly quite favorable, (69 out of 83 reviews are 4 and 5 star). In the end, this may be the one that wins out, as I am leaning in the direction of a narrower path. Like the one pictured above, this mower is made in the U.S. – important to me with the tough economy we are in.

Gardener’s Supply Company Reel Mower

Then there is the Gardener’s Supply Company Reel Mower, pictured and linked above, which is both lightweight, cute and well-made. It’s comparable to the American Mower Company model above, with the same width and blade height, but it has the advantage of a more comfortable looking handle and safer-looking guard. It’s more expensive at $199 – but from the photos and reviews I have seen, it is both popular and well-made.

Gardener’s Supply Company Reel Mower

The final contender is at the high-end of the price scale, ($299). Also from Gardener’s Supply Company, the reel mower above has received great reviews and also looks comfortable and easy to maneuver and use.

So what will I do? Well, I’m not sure yet. I’d like to try a couple of mowers out to see which model is easiest to lift and fold for winter storage. But there is, without a doubt, a push-style mower in my near future. Do any TGE readers own modern reel mowers? What do you think of them? Do you have a model you would recommend? I’d love to hear from you.

And for all the dads out there: Happy Father’s Day !!! I sure hope you avoid the lawn-detail this Sunday! Go find yourself a comfy hammock or lawn chair and a cool bev. Enjoy your day – you deserve it. Thank you for all you do! xo Michaela

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Article © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. Hammock Dad image is the property of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, (aka Pabst Brewing). Mower images courtesy Amazon and Gardener’s Supply Company, respectively.

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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Prune in June? Well, Sometimes. Wondering What, When and How to Prune? The Basics of Pruning: A Weekend Workshop and a Giveaway…

April 28th, 2010 § 28

Horizontal juniper, (photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE), pruned to highlight stonework and clay pot focal point…

Japanese maple, (photo © Michaela at TGE), pruned to arch over the Secret Garden doorway…

Microbiota decussata, (Siberian cypress), (photo © Michaela at TGE), pruned to highlight the edge of a walkway…

Pruning: Why, when, how and what? Oh the frustration and confusion on the gardener’s face when given their first red handled Felco pruners. And you know what? I understand completely. I wasn’t born with scissor hands – though I sometimes feel like it. I love to prune, and I love teaching gardeners about pruning. This weekend, I will be presenting a free seminar on ornamental pruning at Walker Farm – please come on by if you are in southern Vermont this weekend, (call 802-254-2051 or visit walkerfarm.com for more information). For me, what began as a loathsome task many years ago, has become one of my greatest passions. Pruning is indeed an art, but it is also a science. To train a tree or shrub artfully is to create living sculpture, and to correctly prune away damage is to prevent disease. Think of the great bonsai of Japan, and the masterful topiary in Europe. Oh the beauty and skill – oh the intimidation!

Oh yes, I understand. Not every gardener wishes to create a maze of boxwood hedges, (mmm, but wouldn’t it be fun?). The truth is, all master pruners begin their craft with a simple pair of bypass pruners or other secateurs, and an introduction to the effects of various kinds of cuts on plant growth. In fact the most basic type of pruning, pinching, requires only a pair of fingernails! Curious to learn more about pruning? Travel back a bit on this site to a post I wrote last year on pruning. There you will find an introduction to the hows and whys of this craft.

A few simple tools and supplies are needed to get you started: a good pair of bypass pruners, (I use Felco 8 or Felco 6 for smaller hands, but there are higher end pruners, and also less expensive types); a quality Grecian, (or Felco Folding Saw), saw; a Bow Saw for tackling large limbs; and a pair of basic, manually operated hedge shears will come in handy for tackling hedges or large clumps of ornamental grass…

My pruning tools after a day of work, (photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE) ready for cleaning, sharpening and oiling…

Although major structural pruning usually takes place during the dormant season, (here in Vermont, this tends to be in February and very early March), there’s always a need for the occasional snip, trim or cut in the garden. Damaged branches should always be removed as soon as noticed, and spent flower blossoms, especially on roses, are best removed when they fade. I will be writing more about pruning, and caring for your tools of the trade. But for now, I encourage you to begin with the introductory article I posted last year. And of course, please enter this week’s giveaway contest…

Thinning horizontal juniper, (photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE)…

Felco Classic Pruner (available at Amazon Home/Garden)

The right tools are key to success in every garden task, and for pruning jobs, one of my favorite tools is the classic Felco 6 or 8 bypass pruner. And at the end of this month, one lucky reader will receive a complimentary pair of Felco 6 or 8 pruners, (depending upon hand size), from The Gardener’s Eden! In honor of our first anniversary, The Gardener’s Eden is giving away one last, special gift. In order to enter, simply answer the question below in the comment section of this article. Be sure to post your answer prior to 11:59 am Eastern Daylight Time cut-off. Only one entry per reader, per give-away please. The winner will be chosen at random from all of the correct entries received, and will be notified by email. Gift recipients will also be announced both here on the blog and on our Facebook Page, and all gifts will ship at the end of the month. So now…

The question is: No quiz today! Simply state whether you wear a small, medium or large size glove, (to help determine Felco pruner size). In order to enter the contest, please post your answer in comments here on the blog, (not on the Facebook page). All email addresses will remain unpublished and kept in complete confidence. Your email will only be used to notify you if you have won. Good Luck!

* In order to provide each reader with an equal chance to win, your comment/ entry will not appear until 4/29*

Entry must be posted by 11:59, Eastern Time, 4/28/10

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Article and photographs are 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 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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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…

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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Smooth Moves: Gliding Through Spring Cleanup with a Sweet Adjustable Rake. Tool Talk Part Two…

April 5th, 2010 § 3

Cleaning Up Without Damaging Bulbs (After photo)

Cleaning up with an adjustable rake pulled to a tight setting (During)

OK. So I am feeling a little sore tonight. I admit it. Shoulders; triceps; middle back = Ouch. I have been busy with spring clean up in a few of my client’s gardens, among them, the lovely Walker Farm. But that isn’t why I’m feeling sore. A saner person would probably come home, have a tall glass of ice water and hop in a hot bath. Me? Oh no. When I get home from my garden work, I go out to work in my own garden. So, I am burning a few calories these days, and I am left with more than a few burning muscles.

I tidied up the Secret Garden today, which until recently was still too wet to disturb. It’s important to tread lightly in early spring, for although the weather may be dry, your soil may still be saturated. But, a bit of clean up is usually necessary to air out beds, and create an attractive backdrop for emerging bulbs. One of the most challenging aspects to this spring chore, is raking around delicate narcissus, crocus, and other ephemeral beauties. I knocked a few heads off today, (sorry girls), but overall, the improvement was worth the light collateral damage.

Last spring when I presented one of my garden seminars, “Waking Up the Garden in Spring”, (coming up again April 17th, admission is free at Walker Farm in VT, please call to pre-register), I demonstrated what I consider an indispensable tool in both my own garden, and the others under my care. This isn’t an expensive object, by any means. In fact at most garden centers and hardware stores, the adjustable metal rake usually rings in under $15. There are more expensive versions, but I actually like this cheap one the best. And last year, about a week after the seminar, I stopped in at the local hardware store to pick one up for a friend, and they were sold out. “Someone gave a garden maintenance talk in town last weekend”, said the clerk, “and now we’re sold out. I wish they would have warned me in advance”. Rut-ro. I avoided eye contact, sheepishly added my name to the waiting list and slipped away before the nice lady figured it out. I guess I should warn her about that this year? I keep forgetting…

Adjustable rake in open position on a pile of debris

In case you’ve never tried one of these little babies, I will give you a quickie demonstration here. See the photo just above? That is my adjustable rake in the open position, resting on a pile of debris from the Secret Garden. There are no bulbs up in this shady room -since the snow only recently receded-so I can use the rake in its wide position and move quickly through the courtyard. However, moving out into the entry garden, there were many narcissus to dodge, (see the photos, top of the article). So, in order to handle this delicate situation, I simply pulled the lever, reducing the width of the rake, (see photos before), and the length of the tines. The rubbery red handle then moves back to the locked position. Sweet! When raking out perennial beds, I always advise gardeners to use a light hopping-motion, never pull and/or drag. Gently pop up debris and lift it out with an aerating motion. This is easier on your body, and the garden…

Rake adjustment handle

Adjustable rake in closed position, (good for tight spots around bulbs and perennials)

This little rake is also handy for spreading mulch around perennials and for tidying up steps and tight corners in the garden. I love the thing. Bamboo rakes are very cute, but I trash them in a matter of weeks. And those flexible-fingered adjustable rakes are never strong enough to really move debris. And forget plastic. Plastic is fine for lawn, but it just isn’t strong enough for the rough terrain in my garden. So here you have it. The ultimate dance partner for your perennial garden clean-up chores. It could be the Fred Astaire to your Ginger Rogers, or vice-versa. Just put on some music and go to town….

You can buy a adjustable rake like this one, (mine is Greenthumb brand), at many True Value and Ace Hardware stores, as I did. Or, you can order one online. They are inexpensive, (usually around $10-$12) and easy to use. Keep yours dry and well oiled and it will last for years.

Here is a link to an,($9.99) Adjustable Steel Rake at Amazon.com

There may be other sources online, but I think I am going to go run a hot bath now. I will catch up with you again soon..

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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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Shop at SpringHillNursery.com to save $25 on a $50 order!

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Selecting Quality Gardening Tools to Last a Lifetime: Part One…

March 29th, 2010 § 1

Looks like it’s finally that time of the year: Gardening season! Time to pull out the tools and get to work. Most of my gardening equipment is in pretty good shape, but there are a few repairs and replacements I need to make this year. I can still remember shopping for gardening tools with my father when I was a kid. We bought our tools at the not-so-local hardware store, (this was the 80′s, and where I grew up, it was an hour and a half drive, round trip, to the nearest big town). There was considerable grumbling involved. My dad has always been frustrated with the declining quality of tools, and he still complains about the mass-procuced, cheap new “bargains” pushed alongside the fairly-priced , but more expensive, “good-value” tools. A country boy to the core, my father grew up working on farms and in orchards, and he’s always favored hand forged tools with good blades, and rakes, forks and shovels with time-worn wooden handles. He’s never been fooled by flimsy spot-welds and cheap plastic handles. But during the recession years, in an effort to pinch pennies, he bought a few of those tools and he quickly regretted it. When you buy cheap tools, I fast learned, they tend to break, and you soon need to buy replacements. No money saved there.

These days I turn my compost pile with an old farm fork I inherited from my father, and I have a few of his other handmade tools in my garden room. My folks live in a condo now, and although they still have a small vegetable garden and modest flower beds, their bigger garden tools have been passed on to the next generation. When I started shopping for my own hand tools, I knew that it would make sense in the long-run to buy the best quality I could afford, and take good care of my investment. As any New Englander will tell you… frugal and cheap are not the same thing! I started with the basics: Felco bypass-style pruners, and both folding and bow saws for pruning; a digging spade and fork for vegetable and perennial gardening; several good quality rakes in three styles and a basic shovel; a classic New England Cape Cod weeder, and of course the Gardener’s Supply Company garden cart and a good wheelbarrow…

Felco F-6 Classic Pruner For Smaller Hands

Felco Classic Pruner with Comfortable Ergonomic Design #F-8

Every year, I help gardeners learn how to prune their trees and shrubs. There is an article based on my pruning seminar notes you can read here, explaining the kinds of cuts you will make and the types of tools you will need, (there is another on June lilac pruning here). Bypass pruners are the most important tool in my shed. In fact, I usually have a pair in my car and/or pocketbook. Some gardeners use anvil pruners. I dislike them because they pinch-cut instead of clean-cut. So, I recommend the bypass style. There are more expensive and less expensive pruners, and I have a few other brands, but Felco is still my favorite. For smaller hands, start with the Felco #6, (top link above). For longer or wider hands, go with the #8, (lower link above). For larger trees and shrubs, you will also need a folding, (or Grecian), saw and a bow saw for big limbs…

Felco Classic Folding Saw with Pull-Stroke Action #F-600

Spear & Jackson R681 County 24 Inch Bow Saw

Many of the tools pictured here may be found in your local hardware store, but I have also linked them to two of my favorite online tool resources: Amazon.com Home and Garden and Gardener’s Supply Company. I buy many of my working tools from Gardener’s Supply Company online. This employee-owned store is located here in my home state of  Vermont, (to the north, in Burlington), and they ship tools all over the country via orders placed on their website. They carry many of the high-quality brands I know and trust, as well as some excellent products of their own. In fact, their sturdy garden cart has been such a fixture in my life that when I began building my place 8 years ago, a friend told me that she knew she found the right clearing when she saw my little wood wagon in the drive! Oh how I love that cart. I have had it for years and I constantly use it to move heavy perennial divisions, (like big clumps of ornamental grass); to tote bulky items like dog food from the car;  and to haul firewood to the back terrace. The removable back makes dumping debris easy and the entire cart tilts back for easy storage. I have never seen a better utility-wagon design. And although I have a variety of poly-bed wheelbarrows for taking with me on jobs, I prefer the two-wheel-barrow design linked below for stability when carting heavy loads of mulch and compost. And good-grief, I so prefer tires that can be filled with a bicycle pump. The other kind – what a pain!

These are the best versions of tools you will need to create and maintain your garden. I won’t lie to you – I have a few cheap shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows that I take with me to work, (where they might get lost or crushed by a dump-truck). But for pruning and work around home – I don’t mess around. I have invested in good tools, and I take good care of them. I will be reviewing more gardening essentials in April and May, and sharing some tool-maintenance tips from the old-time farmers and orchard keepers in my life. I learned a thing or two in college, yes it is true, but when it comes to everyday common-sense, it sure is hard to beat the wisdom of a farmer! Let me know if you have any time-worn favorites of your own… or new fangled discoveries I can share with my dad. I do love a good garden gadget!

DeWit Cape Cod Weeder, Right-Handed

(may be out of stock, if so, try the Amazon link below)

DeWit Dutch Cape Cod Weeder – Right Hand

DeWit Perennial Planter
(for digging and planting on your knees)

Spear & Jackson Stainless Steel Digging Spade

Spear & Jackson Stainless Steel Digging Fork (essential for dividing plants and loosening soil)

Large Gardener’s Supply Cart, Red (also available in natural color)

Poly-Tough Cart

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Article and top photo © Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

Images in this post appear courtesy of Amazon.com and Gardener’s Supply Company.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through links here. 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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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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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Force Early Blooming Branches for a Bit of Springtime on a Winter Day…

January 21st, 2010 § 3

Forced Blossoms – Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

An Early Whiff of Spring

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’,  forced in a turquoise vase…

What a gift! A beautifully warm, clear, blue-sky day in midwinter. I am itching to pull on my boots and go play. The frost coated snow drifts outside sparkle and tempt like cream-puffs with sugar icing. I have so much mid-winter pruning to do. This week, I will begin with my own garden, and next I will move on to a few others in my care. One of my favorite parts of midwinter pruning is the left-overs. Oh how I adore all of the gnarly, crooked branches loaded with swollen buds: pink apple blossoms; vibrant purple redbud; intoxicatingly fragrant vernal witch hazel; and my favorite, the spicy-seductive bodnant viburnum. My cellar is already loaded with branches, and I am greedy for more, more, more!

So, out come the hand pruners, the bow and folding saws, the oil can and whetstone. This is prime-time for thinning and shaping the branches of deciduous fruit and ornamental trees. If there is any garden task I truly adore, (and I am passionate about many!), it is pruning. I love the art of sculpting living things and I am eager to get outdoors after so many weeks of cold weather. One of my clients has nick-named me Edwina Scissorhands. It’s no joke. Edward and I have a lot in common. I frequently write about pruning and last year I presented my first seminars on the subject. You can read last year’s essay and notes on pruning basics by clicking through here…

Of course, you needn’t be an obsessive pruner to enjoy forcing blossoms. All you need is a pair of sharp, clean by-pass pruners and a spring-blooming tree or shrub, (see some good candidates below). This is the perfect time to harvest yourself a little bit of May in January. Now, because I am a professional gardner, I am going to emphasize that you must do this correctly, especially if you are working in your garden, (remember never take too many branches from any one specimen!). But even if you are harvesting wild pussy willow in an abandoned lot, think of this as an opportunity to learn or practice an important horticultural skill. Have a good look at the branch that you are about to cut before you snip, snip. Do you know what it is? Try to id your branch before you cut. Are the twigs or buds lined up opposite one another on the branch, or are they alternating like a pole ladder? If they are opposite, cut straight across the branch, ( about 1/4 inch or so), just above the pair of buds beneath the length of branch you are cutting, (not too close or you may injure the buds, not too far away or the stem will die-back leaving an unsightly stub). If you are cutting from a specimen with alternating buds, cut at a shallow angle, sloping away from the bud, (this is for shedding water, to prevent rot of the bud ). If you are intimidated, just go on out and practice on some scrub or brambles first, then move on to more desirable plants. This is fun – trust me …

If you have never forced branches before, be on the look out for swollen buds on warm January days. Sweet-scented witch hazel, early blooming viburnum and forsythia are all great choices for forcing. Crab apples and other ornamental fruit trees are very popular with florists, but you may also want to try quince, azalea, redbud, juneberry, magnolia, and of course, fuzzy pussy-willow. Leave the lilacs and summer bloomers alone, (you want small flowered, early blooming shrubs like plum, for example, with full, swollen buds), and remember that you will get better results if you harvest on an above-freezing day, (the work is also more pleasant this way!).

Once you harvest your branches, bring them inside and pound the stems with a mallet or hammer, (see picture below). Not only is this kind-of fun, but it’s also important to help the branch with water uptake. Collect the branches in a bucket of slightly cool – room temperature water, and place them in a cool room with low light or, ideally, a cellar. After a few days, bring out a few branches at a time, and arrange them in vases filled with water. Once moved to warmer rooms, the buds will swell and the petals will slowly unfurl. This is such a beautiful process, and if you keep your house on the cool-side, you can prolong the show. If you change the vase water every few days, many forced flowering branches will last a month or longer. Adding a bit, (just a teaspoon per gallon), of environmentally safe bleach-substitute will keep the water fresh and also aid in extending the life of the blossoms…

Pounding woody stems helps with water uptake in the blossoming branches

Felco 6 by-pass pruners for small hands

How lovely to enjoy the beauty of two seasons in one! I wish you should smell the bodnant viburnum blossoms in my kitchen. I wonder if there will ever be a way to transmit fragrance via the internet? Only the good smells, of course! Well, I am off to harvest more branches now. I will meet you back here soon…

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, 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 express, written consent. Please contact me before using images or text excerpts from this site. 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…

Thank you!

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Great Holiday Gifts for Gardeners – Ideas Under $10, $20, $50, $100

December 8th, 2009 § 3

seeds and kit holiday box

We gardeners have a reputation as ‘hard-to-shop for’ people, especially when it comes to holiday gifts. This may be true, as we often are a bit particular about our likes and dislikes. Sometimes when a non-gardener is shopping for us, the choices can seem overwhelming. By-pass pruner or anvil? Garden gnome or gargoyle? Glass cloche or terrarium? Mini-tiller or a rental back-hoe? It can be a tough call. Trying to guess our preferences can be a daunting task. A gift certificate is always a safe choice, but it doesn’t seem quite as fun, does it? Well, maybe I can be of help. Over the next couple of weeks, I will post some ideas, in a wide price range.

If you are shopping for a gardener, and you have a chance to snoop about in their mud-room or garage, look for the items below. If you don’t see any of these things hanging around, chances are very good that these picks will be most appreciated by the gardener come spring. A hand forged trowel or top quality pair of pruners is a gift almost guaranteed to bring a smile to a gardener’s face. And if you are feeling particularly generous this year, I would recommend an excellent quality pair of boots from Wellington or the Muck Boot company. A good pair of gardening boots can make even a simple trip to the compost heap seem special, and they will make a raw, rainy day much more productive and enjoyable.

Of course if you are reading this, then chances are you are a gardener yourself. Well, if you see something, or a few things that you like, well, you could just drop a hint by mentioning this blog post, and how much you have this-or-that in mind for next spring. Or you could be more obvious and just send a link to your lost little elf in order to help them along. Hey, you never know.

I will be back soon with more gift ideas for the coming holiday season, maybe something here will get your creative engine humming…

Under $ 100 -

Red-Wellington-Boots-300x300

Gorgeous Premium Wellington Boots Red

Gorgeous Premium Wellington Boots Green

Muck-Boots

Or Practical All Terrain MuckBoots Adult Chore Hi-Cut Boot,Black,Men’s 8 M/Women’s 9 M

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Under $50 -

Felco-8-PrunersFelco Classic Pruner with Comfortable Ergonomic Design #F-8

or  Felco F-6 Classic Pruner For Smaller Hands

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Under $ 25 -

DeWit-Dutch-Trowel

DUTCH TROWEL

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Under $ 20 -

Trug

Seven Gallon Trug

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Under $ 10 -

mudoriginal2-240x300

The go-anywhere, hand-saver - The Mud Glove 737a24

The product links provided below the items pictured here will lead to Amazon.com. As a matter of personal integrity, I review all products and books from a strictly unbiased view-point, (I do not receive payment or product for review – of any kind). However The Gardener’s Eden is an Amazon.com affiliate, and this site will receive a small percentage of any sale originating from the Amazon links here. With your help, these commissions will help to pay for this site’s maintenance. Thank you for your support !

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Article copyright 2009, 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 express permission. 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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