Early Spring’s Sweetest Things…

March 30th, 2011 § 8

The New Sugar Shack at Deer Ridge Farm in Guilford, Vermont

Spring, oh spring, where are you? You certainly are a bit coquettish this year; teasing us with early catkins on willow, then snapping us with a sharp, cold sting. Yes, Spring has been withholding many early-season pleasures here in New England, but she always shows us just a bit of sweetness at this time of year in the form of maple syrup. Cold nights and warm days are part of the swing-season magic responsible for sap production here in the Northeast. And this year —with the chilly weather lingering a bit longer than usual— the maple sugaring season has been starting, stopping and sputtering along. Some days it’s too cold for sluggish sap to run —buckets sit frozen on trees— but on warmer days, the percussive sound of drips echoing along the road makes my morning walk something of a maple dance. And I think it’s always fun to end an early spring walk with a hot stack of fresh blueberry pancakes or lemony French toast, smothered in sweet maple syrup. Yum…

Though less efficient than modern methods of sap collecting, the classic tin sap-buckets are still my aesthetic favorite

The Scenic, Seasonal View Along the Road in My Neighborhood

This sugar maple has three buckets. What’s the largest number you’ve ever seen on a tree?

Though I have participated in the maple syrup-making process many times, I don’t boil sap here at my place in Vermont. However, locally made maple syrup is one of my favorite sweet treats, and since many of my friends and neighbors produce and sell maple products every year, I have access to some of the best syrup in the world. In fact, driving up and down the mucky roads in Vermont and elsewhere in the Northeast this month, it’s impossible to go far without seeing the familiar, early-spring sights of tin buckets hanging from maple trees (Acer saccharum) and steaming sugar shacks. Here are a few photos of the maple-syrup-making process, which I shot at local Deer Ridge Farm over the past couple of weeks (many thanks to Jerry Smith for allowing me in to the sugar shack during this busy season). Learn more about how maple syrup and other products are made from maple tree sap at the official Vemont Maple Syrup website, and for more links and resources on sugaring season in Vermont, be sure to check out this excellent post at the lovely Traveling Near and Far blog.

The heat necessary to boil maple sap down, creating sweet syrup, is usually generated by a wood burning stove or furnace

Jerry Smith of Deer Ridge Farm in Guilford, Vermont is Busy at Work, Boiling Sap He Collected from Local Sugar Maples

Sweet-scented steam fills the air inside the Deer Ridge Farm sugar shack

It takes an average of 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup*. Just imagine how much time & work goes into that sweet topping, next time you take a bite of your Sunday pancake, waffle, pop-over, French toast or a sip of your Sugar Moon cocktail!

Maple Syrup is My Favorite Breakfast Topping, and I Particularly Love it on Lemony French Toast (click here for recipe)

My Sugar Moon Cocktail (click here for recipe) is Made with Locally Produced Maple Syrup

Blueberry Breakfast Popover (click here for recipe) is Absolutely Delicious with Fresh Maple Syrup

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Special thanks to Jerry Smith and Deer Ridge Farm. Maple products and other produce from Deer Ridge Farm may be found at the Brattleboro Farmers Market (click here for more information).

*Thank you also to Traveling Near and Far for links, resources and fun facts!

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.

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Holy Rasputitsa, What a Quagmire! Stylishly Rockin’ the Mud Season Ball…

March 28th, 2011 § 4

“In New England we have nine months of winter, and three months of damned-poor sledding”.—-Old New England Proverb

Welcome to Rasputitsa! Looks like this is the official start of mud season —Vermont style— and as they say: you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! I was introduced to the term ‘rasputitsa’ by a friend of mine —a world-class pruner and heirloom apple grower of Russian descent— when we were working on an orchard restoration a few years back. Pruning season usually ends up overlapping mud season around here, and boy, was that year a doozie. Rasputitsa is the Russian word for the season between winter and spring, when everything in the countryside comes to a screeching halt due to impassable, muddy roads. They certainly have an incomparable mud season in Russia, but here in Vermont, we also get a bit of late winter/early spring quagmire. Two months of rasputitsa… More or less. I call it the annual mud-season ball. See what I mean…

Here’s a Scenic Section of My Road!

Yes, it’s easy for me to find all of this amusing —right now— but my mood may change by the end of April. I’ve helped two neighbors get unstuck so far this year, and we’re still in March. This is genuine 4-wheel drive country, and in addition to “Dusty” —my blue, 1986 Chevy pick up— I also have the right foot-wear. Some women have shelves filled with Manolos. I have a closet of Muck, Hunter, Town & Country and Tretorn. OK, I have girl-shoes too, but you get the idea…

My Tretorn Sofiero garden boots. I ordered this great pair of vermillion-laced, waterproof boots from Terrain. You can find this style and other great Tretorn garden/rain boots from Terrain by clicking here.

I’ve said before that I will only mention and recommend products that I actually know and personally use, or have seen, used and tested. And that still holds true. I own one brand of boots (they shall remain nameless) that will not appear here, because I can not recommend them. All of the garden boots mentioned and pictured in this post are excellent, and three of them also offer cuteness (a nice perk if you need to run into town). At the moment, I am wearing my vermillion-laced Tretorns (pictured above) but I rotate boots depending upon what I will be doing on any given day. The Muck-brand boots (pictured at the bottom of this post) are my favorites for truly demanding tasks, sites and weather. My Muck boots are also the most expensive pair of garden shoes I own, but they have lasted me a decade and they are still going strong. The stylish Tretorn and Town & Country boots, however, are lighter weight and more comfortable; particularly as temperatures rise. All are completely waterproof and very sturdy. In mid-summer, I do wear garden clogs. But in general, unless I am doing very light weeding, I prefer wearing high garden boots to protect my legs from brambles and the threat of poison ivy if I’m not familiar with a site. I have tested all of these boots, and actually own three of them.

I’ve owned a pair of red Town & Country Wellington boots forever —available for $84.95 via Amazon.com— that I love for both light garden work and general rainy-day, run-around-town use

I don’t own this pair of Tretorns —but a friend of mine does and I have borrowed them: they are very comfy— plus robin’s egg blue is always pretty: Tretorn Waterproof Skerry Boot, $60 at Terrain

I’ve owned my Muck Boots for ten years —available here from Endless for $104.95 with free two-day shipping— and although they aren’t very pretty, they are the best heavy-duty, all-terrain, all-weather work boot that I have ever owned. I can even wear them during pruning in winter with warm socks.

Do you have a favorite pair of Garden Boots? I’m game to try anything. Let me know in comments and I’ll check them out!

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No promotional product or monetary compensation was received from the shoe manufacturers or retailers mentioned in this editorial post. However, this site is an affiliate of Terrain, Amazon and Endless and purchases made from those linked companies will net this site a small percentage of each sale. If you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden, please know that all proceeds from affiliate sales help to pay for site maintenance and web hosting costs for The Gardener’s Eden. Thank you for your support!

Article and photographs (excepting linked product photos) 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.

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Forever Violets: In Memory of Elizabeth

March 24th, 2011 § 2

Viola labradorica

Elizabeth Taylor Promotional Film Still ⓒ Wallace Seawell / MGM Archive

Viola labradorica

In memory of a beautiful, talented, kind and generous woman; a glamorous inspiration to generations and one of my favorite movie stars of all time. Goodbye Elizabeth. Sleep softly for all eternity in a bed perfumed with ethereal violets; luminous as your unforgettable eyes…

Read more about North America’s beautiful Labrador Violet, and an earlier horticultural tribute to Elizabeth Taylor here.

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

All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced or reposted without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Fresh Starts & Colorful Patterns at Walker Farm in Dummerston,Vermont…

March 24th, 2011 § 2

Like Farm Fields Viewed from Above, Flats of New Seedlings at Walker Farm Create Brilliant Geometric Abstractions

Yesterday, I spent a few happy midday hours and an exciting lunchtime meeting with my friends Karen, Jack and Daisy at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. The 241-year-old farm has long been a popular and beloved local resource for organically grown produce and vegetable starts. But in its more recent history —having been featured by Anne Raver in The New York Times and other well-known publications—  family-owned Walker Farm has become well-known amongst horticultural connoisseurs throughout New England and New York as an insider’s source for high-quality, rare and unusual annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs.

Inside nineteen greenhouses along the Connecticut River, each year Walker Farm grows more than 1,200 varieties of annual and perennial plants from seed. Walker Farm will be open on April 8th*, and at this time of year, the farm is literally buzzing with activity; with seed starting and vegetative propagation of plants in full swing. I’ll be writing much more about Walker Farm in the coming weeks, but for today here is a sneak peek at some of the young annual and perennial seedings and colorful succulent starts growing at the farm. As my eye took in the abstract, geometric shapes, patterns and delightfully saturated colors, I couldn’t help but compare the greenhouse landscape to that of agricultural fields, viewed from above.

With much of the outside world still covered in snow, I found the fresh rush of color particularly uplifting…

Just Imagine These Beautiful Colors, Trailing from Baskets and Balconies…

Endless Spring Planting Combinations and Container Design Possibilites Spring to Mind When Gazing Upon the Gorgeous Succulent and Begonia Starts at Walker Farm

A Bird’s Eye View of the Landscape Inside the One of the Many Greenhouses at Walker Farm

* Walker Farm‘s early opening date is for sale of cold-hardy pansies, seeds and garden supplies. The sale of annual vegetable & flower starts and perennials will begin as local weather permits. Please see the farm’s website here for details, plant lists, directions and other helpful information including a free, seed germination guide.

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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.

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A Special Offer on Orchid Evenings from The New York Botanical Garden…

March 21st, 2011 § 2

The Gorgeous Display of Dazzling Divas at The Orchid Show: On Broadway – New York Botanical Garden – Photo ⓒ The Al Hirschfeld Foundation via NY Botanical Garden

Psst… Have you heard about The Orchid Show: On Broadway at New York Botanical Garden? Well, the show is already in full swing —dates are March 5 through April 25— at NYBG’s spectacular conservatory, and features a fantastic line-up of Dendrobium Divas, Cymbidium Charmers and Enchanting Epiphytes in every shape and color! With rare and exotic talent from around the globe, this is one Broadway spectacle you won’t want to miss.

Phalenopsis Orchids at The Orchid Show: On Broadway. Photo ⓒ The Al Hirschfeld Foundation

Ready to rumble? Well, there’s no need to fight for a great deal on tickets… You are in luck! The New York Botanical Garden is generously offering readers of The Gardener’s Eden a special discount on their extra-special Orchid Evenings (March 26 and April 2, 9 & 16 from 6-8:30 pm at NYBG). Buy your tickets online here at the NYBG site, and use discount code 8947 to receive $5 off your tickets to the show —which includes a free, signature cocktail— regularly priced at $30. Visit the NYBG website for a preview and more information about this colorful, scent-sational orchid show!

Thank you to the New York Botanical Garden for the generous offer !

The Orchid Show: On Broadway at New York Botanical Garden – Photo ⓒ The Al Hirschfeld Foundation via NY Botanical Garden

For more information about the show —and to get your tickets— click on the image link below:

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All images in this post are ⓒ The Al Hirshfeld Foundation via New York Botanical Garden, as linked above. Promotional dates, show information and logo provided courtesy of the NYBG website, as linked above.

Article copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of NYBG, and is in no way compensated for this editorial post.

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A Warm Welcome to Spring: Blossoming Beauty at the Smith College Bulb Show…

March 20th, 2011 § 2

Tulipa ‘Blue Spectacle’

Narcissus, tulips, hyacinth, freesia, iris and clivia; from the brash and bold to the delicate and ethereal, all of spring’s finest ladies were on display this week at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The Bulb Show at Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory —where thousands of bulbs are carefully arranged and artfully displayed with flowering trees, shrubs and exotic plants— is an annual rite of spring for this gardener. Never one for crowds, I notice that somehow I always convince myself to brave the sea of curious characters, enthusiastic gardeners and focused shutterbugs in order to take in this annual floral exhibit. The Vernal Equinox marks the beginning of spring today —March 20th at 7:21 pm ET (23:21 UT)— and in honor of her arrival, I thought it fitting to share some highlights from The Bulb Show at Smith College. Enjoy… Soon the bulbs will be in full bloom outdoors and I can hardly wait!

Welcome Sweet Springtime. We Greet You with Open Arms and Unfolding Petals!

Delicate Charm: Narcissus ‘Hawera’ (one of my favorite garden bulbs)

Wild Color: Red Hot Tulips and Violet-Colored Anemone

Exotic Beauty: Veltheimia bracteata (South African Forest Lily, Sandui)

A Stunning Combination: Iris ‘Blue Magic’, paired with Tulipa ‘Jackpot’ (must remember to try this one)

Always Elegant: Clivia miniata ‘Grandiflora’

A Rhapsody in Blue: Hyacinth, Muscari, Anemone, Ipheon and Tulipa

Color-Saturated Flamboyance: Tulipa ‘Sensual Touch’ (I love growing the more outrageous tulips, particularly the parrots, for cutting)

Dark Drama: Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’ (one of my all-time favorites)

Exquisite Edging: Tulipa ‘Lucky Strike’ in a sea of pink, rose and purple

Delicate and Lacy: Tulipa ‘Cool Crystal’ (so girlish)

Thank you to the faculty and staff of Smith College for such a beautiful and inspirational show.

Wishing You All a Very Beautiful Spring!

xo Michaela

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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.

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Oh Sweet, Sweet, Sugar Moon: Celebrate The Vernal Equinox & Celestial Beauty With a Seasonal, Maple Syrup Cocktail…

March 19th, 2011 § 2

The Sugar Moon: A Maple Syrup Cocktail to Celebrate the End of Winter & March’s Full Moon at Perigee

With the full moon at perigee, Winter’s end and Spring’s beginning, it seems there’s plenty to celebrate this weekend. Last night —eager for a preview of tonight’s celestial events— I took a tour of the local Connecticut River Valley, seeking a spot to watch the big moon rising. I wasn’t disappointed. With the sky still blue and clear, La Luna rose proud and full on the horizon. What a spectacular dress rehearsal. And tonight —with beautifully clear conditions in Vermont— I am looking forward to bundling up and taking my front row seat on the terrace here at home.

Moonrise is at 7:23 pm ET tonight, and as the glowing orb inches over the horizon, objects in the foreground will have a tendency to magnify her already super-sized appearance (click here for an article explaining tonight’s “super-moon” at perigee from Space.com). With the silhouetted maple trees —swollen buds on full view— for inspiration, I decided to concoct a special end-of-winter/super-full-moon, cocktail. And at this moment of seasonal transition*, it seemed only natural to combine the sweet flavor of locally produced maple syrup with the earthy, warm taste of bourbon; creating a special, celebratory drink. Meyer lemon adds a perfect floral note to this delicious, golden cocktail, and offers the slightest hint of sour to contrast with maple’s rich sweetness.

So enjoy the evening, whatever your pleasure. And wherever you may be, I hope the skies are clear and the moon is bright and the new season brings you health and happiness

Cheers! xo Michaela

*The Vernal Equinox will occur at 7:21 pm ET tomorrow, March 20th (23:21 UT), making today the last full day of Winter in North America.

The Full Moon Over Budding Trees

The Sugar Moon Cocktail

Ingredients

(makes one cocktail)

2 Ounces of Bourbon

1 Ounce Fresh Squeezed Meyer Lemon Juice

1 Ounce Grade A Vermont Maple Syrup (+/- for sweetness)

Lemon peel for garnish

Method

Pour maple syrup, bourbon and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake, shake, shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a bit of sliced lemon peel (or a twist).

Toast as the Full Moon Rises

Sugar Moon, Sap Moon, Lenten Moon, Crow Moon or Worm Moon. Call it What You Will… This One is Sure to be Super!

Photo ⓒ Anita from “The Croggery” via  In the Company of Stone: the Art and Work of Dan Snow (click here for a peek at the maple sugaring process in this post by Dan Snow)

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The Sugar Moon cocktail is an original variation of an old, New England classic known as the ‘Maple Leaf’

Article and photographs (with noted exception) copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent.

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Moonlight on Maple Buds…

March 18th, 2011 § 2

Moonlight on Maple Buds

Watching the moon rise through bare tree limbs last night, I couldn’t help but notice changes taking place in the forest all around me. By night, swollen maple buds stand out in soft silhouette against the sky’s moonlit glow. And by day, hillsides filled with reddish twigs color the landscape in a hazy new wash of warm color.

Always a skywatcher, I am particularly keyed in to the “super moon” at perigee this month. March’s full moon is known by various Native American and Old English names, but because I live in Vermont —and March is sugaring season— I prefer to call this the Sap Moon. Also commonly known as the Worm Moon, Crow Moon or Lenten Moon, our near-by celestial neighbor will appear full tomorrow, March 19th at 2:10 pm ET (6:10 pm UTC). Because the moon is at perigee, it will appear 14% larger and 30% brighter than it usually does. The timing of a perigee moon and a full moon is unusual; taking place once every couple of decades. For more information on this amazing lunar event, check out this article on the NASA Science site and this interesting article on Space.com.

Some gardeners pay close attention to the lunar cycles in order to follow moon-favorable planting traditions. Although I find old farm folklore fascinating, I tend to be more interested in my local frost date and soil temperatures when sowing seed and planting out my vegetable starts. See the Farmer’s Almanac (linked here) for a moon favorable seed sowing chart. Enter your zip code to access dates for your specific area. For more detailed information, visit your state’s cooperative extension service (The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a great list of state links here – love that Almanac!)

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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 visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Arnold’s Promise of Springtime…

March 16th, 2011 Comments Off

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ is stunning against the blue sky on a late winter day

Though it’s a bit grey and dreary here today —melancholy low fog and freezing drizzle— the promise of spring is in the air. A sure sign? Sweetly scented Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’. This gorgeous shrub literally lights up the pathway on a moody afternoon. Reliably hardy to -20° F (USDA zones 4b/5a – 9b), H. x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ is one of the more sensational and reliable hybrid witch hazel cultivars for softly fragrant, early springtime blossoms. Producing generous quantities of large, bright yellow flowers and excellent, golden fall foliage, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ is a great choice for the four season garden and a favorite of early season pollinators like honeybees. If you are tempted to try a witch hazel in your garden, this is a good cultivar to begin with. Earlier and more prolific in bloom than my other favorites —including Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (pictured with profile & plant source link below) and H. x intermedia ‘Jelena’— ‘Arnold’s Promise’ takes its name from one of my favorite horticultural destinations —Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts— where the cross between H. mollis and H. japonica was discovered in 1928.

The witch hazels are a tough group of woody plants, tolerant of many locations and conditions. Given the choice, they prefer slightly acidic, moist but well drained soil that is rich in organic material. Positioning this large shrub or small tree (12′-20′ high and perhaps 15′- 20′ wide at maturity) in a protected spot (near a wind buffering, dark green conifer or warming stone wall) will increase the likelihood of a brilliant spring display and prolonged autumn foliage. Never much enchanted by the dingy yellow of the ubiquitous forsythia hedge, I much prefer the bewitching blooms of springtime Hamamelis. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ and other witch hazels are available online (here) at Wayside Gardens.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (click on photo above for plant profile post) Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ and other beautiful witch hazels are available online (here) at Wayside Gardens

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Article and Photos are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Nesting Plans…

March 15th, 2011 § 4

Nest Photograph ⓒ  Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Chirping, cawing, calling and singing; suddenly, the forest has come alive with the sound of migratory birds. Soon, it will be nesting time and you know what they say: the early bird catches the best real estate. OK, so maybe that’s not quite what they say, but Cornell Lab of Ornithology does advise backyard birders to begin placing their nest boxes in February (warmer climates) and March (cold climates like mine). So, I like to get my rental units ready early, to attract as many spring and summer tenants as possible. Birds provide beauty and entertainment in my garden —to be sure— but my feathered friends also play a key role in natural insect control. I prefer to take advantage of this free service that nature provides for us, rather than use potentially hazardous, unnatural and expensive substances to control insect pests in my garden.

Finding the right house for both bird and landscape is important. I’ve found some really pretty, functional options amongst the ever-changing selection available at Terrain online (image courtesy Terrain).

When it comes to nesting boxes and bird houses, all species have different preferences and requirements. Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a great source of information, and you can find tips on what kind of bird house you will need and how to place it to attract a specific species (like say, a bluebird) by visiting this page on their site, linked here. Online retailers like Duncraft provide excellent pre-made birdhouses and kits for backyard bird enthusiasts, and I recently found some very stylish avian homes at Terrain, pictured below. So get out your feather duster and your screw gun, it’s time to ready the real estate!

Terrain’s Weathered Birdbarn $28.95

Nest in Hemlock Boughs. Photograph ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Terrain’s Thatched Roof Nest House $24.00

Tufted Titmouse  ⓒ  Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Learning to identify and protect backyard birds helps kids develop a respect and greater understanding of the natural world and balance of our shared ecosystem. Read more about the Tufted Titmouse and listen to its echoing and distinctive voice here at Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And please share the link with a child you know.

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Thank you to Tim Geiss for his beautiful bird and nest photos.

Birdhouse photos are courtesy Terrain.

Article and photo as noted 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.

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The Living Garden: Crow Feasting Upon Staghorn Sumac Berries…

March 13th, 2011 Comments Off

Crows feasting upon native staghorn sumac berries (Rhus typhina) in my garden this morning…

This morning while lingering over my breakfast, I heard some loud caw-caw-cawing coming from the edge of the back garden, and then noticed a pair of American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) enjoying an early meal of fruit from staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina). With its velvety branches, brilliant fall color and bright red fruits, North American native Rhus typhina will always be high on my list of favorite four-season shrubs (read my detailed plant-profile post about this under-appreciated plant here). And beyond its value as a large-scale, landscape ornamental, sumac is an important source of food for birds and other wildlife. In late winter and early sping —when natural sources of sustenance are becoming depleted— sumac fruit and seed provides food for many returning and over-wintering birds; including crow, raven, robin, thrush, cardinals, vireos, catbirds, warblers, juncos, grouse and others.

Interested in learning more about how to attract birds to your yard with landscaping? Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great site called All About Birds, with all sorts of great tips and resources. I love their free and easy to use sound-library and identification guides. Living here in the wilds of Vermont (happily without television reception) bird and wildlife watching is one of my main forms of visual entertainment, and I am particularly fond of the dark, beautiful and intelligent crow and raven. Click here to listen to the call sounds of the American Crow and take a tour of the fantastic Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

Staghorn sumac fruits (Rhus typhina) persist through winter, offering sustenance to hungry over-wintering and migratory birds.

Read more about Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) here.

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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.

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Butterflies on My Mind: Top Three Summer Blooming Plants for Attracting Fluttering Beauties to Your Garden…

March 11th, 2011 § 2

Asclepias tubersosa (Butterflyweed) and Asclepias syriaca (Milkweed) are important sources of nectar for bees and butterflies. The leaves of Asclepias are also a source of food for monarch and other butterfly caterpillars.

With my seminar, “Gardening to Attract Birds, Bees and Butterflies” coming up on Monday night —and last week’s visit to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservancy still in my thoughts— you might say I have a fluttering of winged-creatures on my mind. Of course I’m always thinking of how to support honeybees in the garden (follow the Honeybee Conservancy blog here) and what’s good for the bees is often good for the birds and the butterflies. But when it comes to attracting monarchs, swallowtails, painted ladies and other kaleidoscopic, winged-beauties to your garden, there are three key “butterfly magnets” to consider in your planting plan. Butterflies enjoy many cluster-flowered plants, but Asclepias (Milkweed), Verbena —particularly Verbena bonariensis— and Buddleja species (Butterfly bush) are simply irresistible to them. Plant any one of these beauties in your garden and you will always get a landing and never just a fly-by. And as an added bonus, they are among the favorites of bees and hummingbirds as well…

Verbena bonariensis is a tropical plant grown as an annual or semi-annual (sometimes self-sowing) in cold climates. It’s popular with butterflies and bees alike.

Asclepias, more commonly known as milkweed, is a wonderful group of plants; including many natives. Last year I featured the gorgeous Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) in a post on mid-summer color (click here to read more about this North American native plant). I love bold color combinations in sunny, summertime perennial borders. Why not combine the sweet orange of butterfly weed with drifts of ethereal, lavender-hued Verbena bonariensis? Commonly known as purpletop vervain or tall verbena, Verbena bonariensis is a tropical plant native to Central and South America. In cold climates, Verbena bonariensis is usually grown as an annual or semi-annual plant (blooms the first year from seed and it will sometimes successfully self-sow), and in warmer climates it is grown as a tender perennial (hardy USDA zones 7-11). This is a tall, airy, elegant plant (approx 3-4.5′ tall and wide) with strong, slender stems (I like to grow plenty both in my perennial borders and in the potager for cutting). Purpletop vervain looks best when planted en masse for a hazy, purple cloud-like effect, and it prefers well-drained soil and plenty of moisture (will tolerate hot and dry, midsummer conditions once established).

Buddleja davidii (Orange-eye Butterfly Bush) lives up to its name. It is a favorite of butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

Butterfly bush, or Buddleja (B. davidii pictured above) is perhaps the most popular plant for butterfly and hummingbird enthusiasts. Native to Chile and China, these flowering shrubs are long-standing, easy-to-grow garden favorites. Butterfly bush species are tolerant of poor, alkaline soil, polluted, urban situations and stress, making them a good choice in some areas. However, gardeners should be aware that one Buddleja species, Buddleja davidii, is listed as a “noxious weed” in certain areas of the United States (Oregon and Washington specifically list B. davidii as a noxious-weed, and it is possibly invasive in southwestern, coastal Canada) because of its free-seeding ways (it’s best to check with the USDA state noxious weed list online —linked here— or your local USDA Extension Service —linked here— before planting Buddleja davidii; particularly along the west coast and possibly in warmer states on the eastern seaboard)*. If you live in Oregon or Washington, or in another area where Buddleja davidii is considered invasive, consider a non-aggressive butterfly bush species, such as Buddleja globosa (USDA zone 7-11, orange ball tree/ball butterfly bush), or in cooler climates, consider planting native Clethra alnifolia (see my previous post & article on this shrub here). Buddleja davidii (synon. Buddleia davidii) is hardy in zones 5-9, and in cold climates (where it is far less likely to freely colonize and become weedy) B. davidii is treated as a perennial plant; cut back to the ground in late fall or early spring. New growth will emerge in spring and flowers will form on fast-growing young wood in the first year. Fountain butterflybush, Buddleja alternifolia, and Buddleja globosa (and other Buddleja species) produce blossoms on old wood, and should be pruned for shape in late spring or early summer after they have flowered. Buddleja alternifolia is considered to be a somewhat hardier species than Buddleia davidii. I have observed B. alternifolia growing in zone 4.

I will be writing more about how to attract butterflies, bees and birds to gardens in the coming months. But, if you are planning your garden now, you may want to add a couple of these sure-fire butterfly magnets to your shopping list!

*Buddleja davidii is not currently on the USDA federal invasive plant list. However, it is currently considered a “noxious weed” in Oregon and Washington (check state noxious weed/invasive plant lists here) Many plants considered “weedy” or “invasive” in one area are non-threatening in other areas. It is the responsibility of the individual gardener to know and respect the laws and environmental guidelines within their respective states and communities.

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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 visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Birds, Bees & Butterflies in the Garden: A Seminar on Attracting Winged Beauty! Brattleboro Garden Club in Vermont

March 11th, 2011 Comments Off

I’ll be presenting a free gardening seminar with slide show & discussion: “Gardening to Attract Birds, Bees & Butterflies”

Please note that the Brattleboro Garden Club has changed the time of this event to 6 pm. Thank you!

This event is sponsored by the Brattleboro Garden Club and will take place Monday, March 14th at 6pm, Green Mountain Chapel, 480 Western Avenue, Brattleboro, Vermont. The show & talk are open to the public.

For information on my gardening seminars, or to schedule a workshop, please see the “Garden Workshops” page at left. Workshop & Seminar information will be updated regularly as the spring schedule becomes available.

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Four Season Garden Design Seminar: Springfield Garden Club in Vermont

March 8th, 2011 § 2

I’m presenting a free Four Season Garden Design slide show & seminar, sponsored by the Springfield Vermont Garden Club, March 9th at 2pm. The event will take place at the Nolin-Murray Center, Pleasant Street, Springfield, Vermont. If you are gardening in Vermont, I hope to see you there!

Thank you, Springfield VT and Springfield Garden Club, for the wonderful reception and outstanding, full-house turn-out for my Four Season Garden Design Seminar. And and extra special thank you to Marita Johnson for her technical wizardry. You really saved the day Marita!

For information on my gardening seminars, or to schedule a workshop, please see the “Garden Workshops” page at left. Workshop & Seminar information will be updated regularly as the spring schedule becomes available.

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The Sweet Scent of Springtime: Bewitching Hamamelis Vernalis…

March 7th, 2011 Comments Off

Sweetly Fragrant Hamamelis Vernalis: North American Native Vernal Witch Hazel, Cut from My Garden and Forced Inside

Copper-Orange Tassels of Witch Hazel Glow in the Afternoon Light

March, much like November, is a different month every year in New England. Some seasons, March skies are grey and late winter winds are cold; heavy snow falling long past the vernal equinox. And then there are years when March is soft; weeks of misty skies, melty temperatures and warm sunshine dancing on snow banks as they slowly disappear. This morning, I awoke to yet another ice storm —a quarter inch glaze coating trees and threatening my electrical supply— and a firm reminder that the chilly season of winter yet reigns.

Still —in spite of the relentless cold, freezing rain and mountains of snow— I know that spring is slowly coming. And during this time of transition, my anticipation always reaches a fever-pitch. I stalk the woody plants in my garden, watching for hints of color and swollen buds. And this year —with so much snow on the ground— I am especially grateful for the maturing shrubs and trees in my garden, rising above the frozen terrain…

In warmer years, Hamamelis vernalis —vernal witch hazel— blooms in early to mid-March. In colder years, this harbinger of springtime may be delayed past the equinox

Many of my favorite garden plants have two stellar seasons: spring and fall. And among my favorites, the family of Hamamelidaceae (the witch hazels) ranks very high indeed. Hamamelis vernalis —sometimes called Ozark or spring witch hazel— is native to the south-central regions of the United States and hardy in USDA zones 4-8. This is a tough, colonizing shrub; tolerant of poor, scrappy soil and a wide range of moisture levels. Vernal witch hazel is a great native plant for informal hedging, naturalizing along a woodland boundary or even for something as mundane as stabilizing a steep bank. Although her flowers aren’t nearly as large and showy as those of her more flamboyant Asian and hybrid cousins (read my post on Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ here), the perfume of her early, coppery-orange blossoms is so sweet and delightful that their petite size is easy to overlook. She’s also a glorious sight in autumn, when her softly mounded form turns brilliant gold; shimmering against the blue autumn sky.

When warm temperatures arrive early in Vermont, the bloom of vernal witch hazel sometimes coincides with, or even precedes the spring equinox. But winter seems a bit tenacious this year; unwilling to loose her grip on the sleeping green mountains. Feeling a bit weary, I decided to give myself a spring prelude —as I often do— by forcing the branches of a few early blooming favorites. Late last winter, I pruned my Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ rather heavily; bringing a large armful of branches indoors for forcing. The scent was intoxicating. This year I allowed myself but a few wayward twigs from the delicious bodnant viburnum, and instead harvested a mass of Hamamelis vernalis (read more about how to force branches here)…

Freshly harvested branches of Hamamelis vernalis cut for forcing indoors

Once harvested and prepared, I placed the bundle of witch hazel branches in my cool cellar. Slowly, I am bringing branches upstairs to enjoy their honey-sweet fragrance —strong enough to scent an entire room— and delightful, sculptural form. By month’s end, various species of witch hazel will begin unfolding their blossoms outdoors, in my garden. But for now, I can enjoy a bit of spring here inside my home…

Wonderful warm color, festive form and intoxicating fragrance: who could ask for more than a visit from the good witch on a drab-grey day

Forced witch hazel branches fill my bedroom with the delicious honey-scented fragrance of springtime

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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 visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Leaving So Soon? I Wouldn’t Hear of It! Winter’s Latest, Icy Message…

March 7th, 2011 § 5

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ (Red Leaf Japanese Maple) After the Storm

With chilly fingers firmly gripping my hilltop, Winter made it clear last night that she’s nowhere near ready to go. And the entire forest —every last evergreen needle and bare twig— humbly bowed beneath the weight of her message.

Oh Springtime, where are you now… Can you hear us? Will you ever find the Green Mountains, encased in Winter’s icicle kingdom? When will you throw open the door, bringing your sweet warmth to our frozen woodland palace?

Ucinia egmontiana (Orange Hook Sedge) Remnants, Coated in Ice

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ Still Looks Lovely at the Icy End of Winter

Like Frozen Coral, the Red Twigs of Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ are All Aglow Beneath a Clear, Thick Glaze After Last Night’s Ice Storm

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Article and photographs are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent. Thank you for respecting the creative work of others.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you.

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Everlasting Beauty: Displaying Dreamy, Delicate, Dried Narcissus…

March 5th, 2011 § 3

As Pretty Dried & Arranged in a Bowl on the Vanity as Fresh in the Flower Pot: Various Dried Narcissus

I’m the girl in back of the dining room; lingering with the last crumbs of her chocolate cake and bubbling prosecco. I like to draw my pleasure out; never leaving too soon. Of course, I feel the same way about about flowers. As the blossoms of my forced narcissus fade and wither, I snip them off and collect them in bags. Once dried, I like to arrange them in bowls and vases; scattering them here and there along tables, shelves and vanities in order to stretch out my enjoyment. Throw out my flowers? Oh, I hardly ever! Narcissus, lily of the valley, roses: many blossoms are as beautiful in dried arrangements as fresh…

Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ – Pretty Fresh or Dried

Lovely in a Vase Atop the Dresser

I’m Particularly Partial to the Look of Flowers in Bowls, and I Display Them on My Desk, Dinner Table, Dresser, Vanity & Book Shelves. Fresh & Floating or Delicate & Dried, I Think Flowers are Gorgeous Most Any Way. Never Let Go of Something Beautiful, Too Soon… Dried Narcissus are Pretty Pinned in Hair and on Packages too!

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Article and Photos are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced or reposted without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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On Magic Wings: A Visit to the Beautiful Butterfly Conservatory & Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden…

March 4th, 2011 § 6

Postman (Heliconius melpomene) – Native to Central and South America

Spring may be fast approaching, but yesterday’s cold and wintry temperatures left me craving a bit of warmth, moisture and color. I love visiting conservatories at this time of year, and fortunately, I live near several, wonderful gardens-beneath-glass. One of my favorite wintertime ‘vacation’ spots is the nearby Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in Deerfield, Massachusetts. The 8,000 foot greenhouse contains hundreds of blooming, tropical plants, a koi pond, birds, reptiles and of course, beautiful and exotic butterflies from all over the world.

Gardeners often ask me what they can do to attract beneficial insects —especially butterflies— to their gardens. Providing a constant source of nectar from cluster-blooming flowers —particularly Buddleia (butterfly bush), Asclepias (both native and tropical milkweed and butterfly weed), Verbena bonariensis, Monarda (bee balm), Phlox, Heliotrope, Aster, Scabiosa, Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s Lace), Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush), Viburnum, Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed), Liatris (gayflower) and Sedum (stonecrop)is one of the keys to drawing butterflies into your garden. And although the plants mentioned here are favorites, remember that most flowering plants will attract butterflies. Try to fill your garden with blossoms from spring through fall (when migrating butterflies need to gather strength for their journey south), supplementing flowering perennials and shrubs with free-blooming annuals. And remember, many plants attractive to butterflies are also fantastic sources of food for other pollinators; including bees and hummingbirds. Native plants and grasses supply not only food for local caterpillar and butterfly populations, but also create and provide habitat for butterflies throughout their lifecycle and metamorphosis. Butterflies prefer protected spots —enclosed by nearby fences, shrubs/hedges, trees or other tall plants— where they may light on flowers without being blown away by wind. Creating a still oasis will help you to spot these beautiful creatures on calm-wind days.

Beyond design and planting, there is another critical thing to consider when gardening with butterflies in mind. Most gardeners reading this blog have adopted organic practices, but it’s important to note that even the use of organic pesticides can be harmful to butterflies and other beneficial insects. Butterflies of course begin their lives in tiny, vulnerable egg-clusters. As their life cycle progresses —and they become voracious caterpillars— many butterflies are inadvertently killed when they consume pesticide-laden foliage on host-plants; including leaves treated with organic substances like insecticidal soap and Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki). Use organic pesticides sparingly —only when absolutely necessary— and in a targeted manner. To avoid unintentionally killing butterfly caterpillars and other beneficial larvae, become familiar with garden insects, and their various stages of development. Learning about butterflies —and watching their metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to mature butterfly— is a great activity to share with children. If you live in New England, I highly recommend a visit to Magic Wings Conservatory & Garden at any time of the year.

Cattleheart (Parides iphidamus) – Native to Central and South America

Glasswing (Greta oto) – Native to Central and South America

Yet-to-be Identified.

Female Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera priamus) – Native to Asia (see male below)

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonia) – Native to Central and South America

Rice Paper (Idea leuconoe) – Native to Asia

Male Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera priamus) – Native to Asia

Owl Butterfly (Caligo eurilochus) – Native to Central and South America

Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) – Native to Central and South America

All of the butterflies pictured here —from Central/South America and Asia— were taken at Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory. I will be writing more about North American butterflies in spring and summer. My favorite butterflies from my visit to the conservatory were the Glasswing and Blue Morpho, and in my own yard, I am partial to Monarch butterflies. What are your favorites? Do you try to draw butterflies to your garden oasis?

Special Thanks to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in Deerfield Massachusetts for Information, Resources and a Lovely Afternoon!

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Article and Butterfly/Botanical Photos are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All photographs, articles and 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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