Providing for our Feathered Friends in the Winter Garden – Part One…

January 12th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Dark-eyed Junco, (Junco hyemalis)

Last week when snowshoeing through the forest, I was amused by a small group of chickadees bouncing from branch to branch in a hemlock stand. With so few sounds in the woodland at this time of year, the chirping birds really stood out and made me laugh. I try not to anthropomorphize – but they really did sound like they were having a passinate debate about something very important. And who knows, maybe they were.

I love watching birds in my garden and in the forest surrounding my home, so I tend to plant trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals with birds in mind. Come autumn, instead of cutting my garden back, I always leave my perennials and annuals, particularly those with seed-heads, standing for the overwintering birds. Safe backyard-havens with conifer shelters, (such as hemlock and spruce), winter fruit, and seeds are very attractive to birds. The western side of my home is buffered by a hemlock stand, where birds congregate, protected from the wind. I have also noticed juncos and sparrows crouching beneath the ornamental juniper along my walkway. Sometimes a group of of little birds will surprise me when they take flight from the shrubs in the entry garden, reminding me that they are making use of the space even when I am not.

In addition to the many cultivars of winterberry, (ilex verticillata), viburnum, cotoneaster, and other fruiting shrubs in my yard, I have also planted native perennials for seed. Beautiful gold and purple finches are always attracted to coneflower, (Echinacea), black-eyed susan, (Rudbeckia), ornamental mint, (Nepeta), and bee-balm, (Monarda). Standing sunflower heads and other annuals left overwinter in the vegetable garden attract both small and large birds, and of course the occasional squirrel.

As winter drags on, supplemental feeders with seed are useful if you want to continue providing for, (and watching), birds in your backyard. Below I have linked some excellent resources for gardeners interested in birds, (including books and recommended feeders). If you are planning to hang feeders or scatter seed in your yard, please be sure to keep cats indoors, and protect visiting birds from neighborhood felines by siting feeders away from potential ambush spots, (cats like to lurk in shrubs or beneath porch hide-outs). Woo (my overweight, senior bird-watcher), is mainly an indoor cat. Although I allow her supervised time outdoors in summer, I don’t let her out when birds come here to feed in winter, (it’s safer for her indoors anyway). Also, be sure to keep all feeders clean, (wash at least twice a year), to prevent mold and spread of disease. Remember too that birds need access to fresh water year round. I have natural brooks and ponds on my property, but if you don’t there are plenty of water-bowl options. My father has a heated bird-bath for winter, and I have noticed birds visiting it regularly.

Of course, not everyone visiting this site lives in a wintery climate. If your are lucky enough to be enjoying mild temperatures at this time of year, then chances are good you will have hummingbirds, as well as other local and migratory birds, in your garden. There are a few hummingbird and songbird resources here as well, and there will be more to come.

Over the next few weeks I will be passing along more information on how to attract and support birds in the garden. But for now, one of the most important and trusted resources for birders is, of course, the Aububon society. The Audubon website is a great place to visit if you are interested in learning more about our feathered friends. There is a wealth of information on bird feeding and bird watching for everyone from amateurs to seasoned ornithologists.

Are you seeing birds in your garden right now? A reader, (who wishes to remain anonymous), sent in the photos of Black-eyed Junco and the Cardinal you see here. If you have taken some great bird photos, consider sending them in to be featured on The Gardener’s Eden, (with credit of course), over the coming weeks. And please feel free to share your bird-sightings in the comments here. I’d love to hear about the winged visitors to your backyard havens…

Northern Cardinal, (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Dark-eyed Junco, (Junco hyemalis)

The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher: Birdfeeders and Bird Gardens

The Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible

The Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible: The A-to-Z Guide To Feeders, Seed Mixes, Projects, And Treats (Rodale Organic Gardening Book)

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Projects for the Birder’s Garden: Over 100 Easy Things That You can Make to Turn Your Yard and Garden into a Bird-Friendly Haven

Smith and Hawken for Target Bird Feeder

Teardrop Roosting Pocket

Avant Garden Berkshire Lodge Feeder

Avant Garden Berkshire Lodge Feeder

Thistle Feeder

Bird Quest SBF5Y 36

Natural Bird Roost : Shelter

Acorn Roosting Pocket

Hummingbird Gardens: Turning Your Yard Into Hummingbird Heaven (21st-Century Gardening Series)

Hummingbird Feeder

Etched Hummingbird Feeder

Humming Bird Feeder Glass Crackle

Bird Brain, Crackle Hummingbird Feeder, Yellow

audubon oriole feeder

Plastic Oriole Feeder

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Article 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. 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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It’s Fiesta Time & A Cactus Bowl Centerpiece adds Life to a Party …

December 28th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Cactus bowl centerpiece with desert rocks and decorative straw flowers…

It’s fiesta time in my kitchen. I am planning a holiday party with a menu of Mexican-inspired dishes. To set the mood for margarita sipping and chip dipping, I decided to create a celebratory cactus-bowl centerpiece. Making a dry, table-top garden filled with desert plants is a fun and inexpensive indoor gardening project, (total cost was less than $10). And the best part? This little planter will add a low-maintenance touch of life to a desktop or dresser long after the party is over…

A bowl of cactus is modern and pretty in any room…

To create my cactus bowl, I found a shallow container large enough to accommodate a few inexpensive cacti, (such as fairy castles and barrel cactus found for $1 – $2.50 at Home Depot). You can use any kind of planter; from terracotta to glass to tin – and beyond. The bowl pictured here does not contain a drainage hole. So, I filled the bottom with an inch of pea gravel and lined the sides with sand. In the center of the bowl, I added a layer of cactus potting soil, (a special mix created for good drainage, you can find it anywhere plants are sold), and then I positioned the plants, (I kept the plastic pots on for the designing part)…

Removing cacti from pots can be a painful process if you aren’t careful ! A good solution is to use a thick, smooth towel or a paper-collar to protect both your hands and the plant as you slip it from the plastic nursery-pot. Be sure to warn any young helpers and guests to your home – cactus look soft and tempting to little hands ! OUCH !

Once the plants are positioned, the spaces between cacti were filled with fast-draining potting soil, (a kitchen spoon is helpful with little projects like this). The top and edges of the planter were mulched with decorative sand and pea stone, (also found at Home Depot). To add an authentic desert touch, I added a few colorful stones from my rock collection, (gathered on various trips to the southwest)…

 

Add a few chile lights, some salsa on the playlist, hot tapas, chilled margaritas – and you have a party ! Isn’t it amazing what a few plants can do to change your mood !

Article and all 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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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Terrariums Part Two…

December 19th, 2009 § 16 comments § permalink

A tiny Phalaenopsis orchid , (‘The White Moth’) , displayed in an open terrarium lined with pea stone/charcoal mix, and filled with a bed of bark, sphagnum and sheet moss…

Last week in ‘Terrariums Part One‘, I went over basic instructions demonstrating how terrariums are constructed, and introducing terrarium-newcomers to the beautiful, fascinating world of miniature conservatories. Starting with a simple terrarium, such as the native plant design I featured last week, is a good idea if you have never experimented with terrariums before, or if you are working with young children. However if you have already had some success with basic terrariums and houseplants, and you want to experiment with more unusual tropical plants or something a bit more challenging, you may be ready to move on to some less-typical interpretations of this indoor display method. Whether you go with a classic or a more modern design, keep in mind that a homemade terrarium is both an economical and memorable gift, and there is still plenty of time to come up with something truly special before Christmas…

Open bowl-style terrarium and a blown-glass bulb amid pink polka dot plant, (Hypoestes phyllostachya), purple velvet plant, (Gynura aurantiaca), and golden hair grass (Deschampsia flexuosa ‘Tatra gold’) All plants featured here are from: The Old School House Plantery

Begin by letting your imagination run wild. There are as many kinds of terrariums as there are people creating them. Terrariums may be open or closed, short and wide or tall and narrow. They may be made of solid glass, acrylic or plastic, or they can be combined with other materials, such as wood or steel. Some tiny greenhouses are smaller than lemons; others take up entire rooms. I have seen absolutely stunning, miniature conservatories made from recycled or even antique glass containers, and I have been amazed by more modern, architectural terrariums constructed from sheets of clear acrylic. Some designers like to add tiny collectibles, such as doll furniture or figurines to their designs. Other creative adornments might include itty-bitty flower pots, toy cars, prisms or glass balls. It is endless. The plants contained within terrariums also vary wildly. Naturally, your choices are limited by a wide variety of situational conditions and circumstances; including plant availability, budget, design, mature specimen size in relation to container, as well as ease of maintenance. There are also cultural requirements to consider; a few of which include humidity preferences, drainage and soil structure and chemistry.

Many plants will thrive within a moist, humid terrarium environment. In fact some, including many of my favorite orchids, actually perform better in my dry, winter home when contained within glass. The tiny moth orchid, (Phalaeonopsis), pictured at the top of this post, ($9 at Home Depot), is happily growing in a mixture of bark and sphagnum moss. Drainage is provided by a mix of pea stone and charcoal at the bottom of the container. Phalaeonopsis thrive in warm, moist conditions. Elevated humidity is provided by a tall, wide glass vase, (found at Target for $12), which holds water and reduces evaporation.

On the other hand many plants, including most alpines, cacti, succulents and herbs, tend to wither and rot in low light and dampness. But given the right container and growing conditions, some of these plants may be grown in glass planters as well. Of course, more exacting personalities might argue that wide-mouthed, glass pedestal bowls do not technically qualify as a terrariums. I encourage you to expand on these old-fashioned definitions, and to explore the concept of the modern terrarium. Although succulents are not good candidates for closed conservatories, they do make fantastic additions to open glass bowls – particularly the urn-shaped vessels intended for candy and fruit display….

A modern interpretation of the classic terrarium: non-traditional, dramatic succulents contained within a delicate glass pedestal bowl. All featured plants : The Old School House Plantery

I created a lovely succulent bowl, similar to the one above, to give as a holiday gift this year. I liked it so much that I ended up making this one for myself. I selected a glass pedestal bowl intended for fruit display, ($9 at Target), and lined the bottom and sides with polished black stone, both for practical drainage and decorative drama. The center well was slowly filled with a good potting mix and plants. Designing a terrarium or glass planter is no different from any other garden design project. Color, texture, shape, structural density and form always come into play when designing with plants. I wanted to make this classic shaped bowl a bit modern. Many succulents have bold, geometric shapes, so they seemed like the perfect choice. I love the contrast of these thick-fleshed, colorful plants against the clear, delicate glass. For my vertical element I chose stately snake plant, (Sanseveria trifasiata ‘Laurentii’), and for the mounded, central feature, I chose one large and another small Mexian rose, (Echeveria ‘Pearl’). The trio of plants is softened by the trailing, delicate beauty of variegated elephant bush, (Portulacaria afra variegata). Perhaps stalwarts of terrarium design will brush this combination off as merely a conventional planting. But I think this modern terrarium-hybrid lies somewhere between, and defies hard-line definitions.

Of course, before you begin assembling your glass container plantings, there are a few things to keep in mind. Knowing something about your plant’s natural environment and cultural preference is the key to horticultural success under any circumstances. You can find this information by looking the plant up online or in an encyclopedia, (see library page for good reference books). If you provide a plant with what it wants and needs, odds are much better that it will reward you with lasting beauty and long life. But remember that half the fun of gardening, inside or out, is experimentation. This is an art as well as a science, so have fun and be creative. If your plantings start to look a bit lack-luster, you can always re-configure your arrangements and/or swap containers. I move plants around all the time!

I will be back with more terrarium resources, tips and ideas, as well as other indoor gardening projects soon. In the meantime, some great ideas for terrariums and indoor-plants may be found in Tova Martin’s fabulous new book The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature, and/or Diana Yakeley’s beautifully photographed title, Indoor Gardening. Together with a gift certificate from a local greenhouse, either of these books would make an unexpected, much appreciated gift for novice and expert gardeners alike.

All plants pictured are from : The Old School House Plantery

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Article and photographs ⓒ 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!

Find a Beautiful Terrarium, Container and/or Supplies at Viva Terra or Terrain…

VivaTerra - Eco Living With Style

shopterrain.com

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Art Inspired by Nature: A Moment with Talented Author, Artisan and Beekeeper Marina Marchese of Red Bee Apiary…

December 16th, 2009 § 5 comments § permalink

GateSign

The lovely and welcoming Red Bee Apiary in Weston, Connecticut

Marina Marchese Portrait

Marina Marchese: beekeeping farmer, author and founder of Red Bee Apiary Photograph by Jeff Becker

The subject of this weeks ‘Art Inspired by Nature’ on The Gardener’s Eden, is a lovely and talented woman living the life of many a discontented, city-dweller’s dreams. Not only is this beekeeper a successful boutique farmer and maker of artisan honey, she is also an accomplished author, illustrator and designer. And to top it all off, the founder and owner of Red Bee Apiary and Rossape, all-natural health and skin care products, began her amazing agricultural life when she stumbled upon her dream in a neighbor’s backyard. Meet Marina Marchese, the accidental beekeeper. So how exactly does one find the courage to up and quit the “rat-race”, becoming a beekeeper, boutique farmer and creator of artisan honey in the process? Well, the story of Red Bee and Marina’s delightful gourmet honey all begins with her visit to a small apiary and subsequent love affair with one of earth’s most precious creatures – the honeybee…

HoneybeeCrocus

A honeybee on crocus at Red Bee Apiary

Nearly a decade ago, Marina was leading a hectic, urban professional’s life; working in the city and traveling between New York City and China. Then, one day in the spring of 2000, this busy and successful illustrator and designer visited a neighbor’s apiary and made an life-altering discovery. There amongst the hives, surrounded by gardens and bees, Marina found herself filled with a calm, comforting sense of peace. Allowing the honeybees to crawl freely upon her hands proved to be a transformative experience for Marina. Soon she was setting up her own hive, learning about beekeeping, artisanal honey and farm life. The story of Marina’s life-altering relationship with the honeybee is compelling, and a great inspiration to anyone longing to make the leap and follow a dream. I find this woman fascinating, and I am not alone in my admiration. In fact, just this year Marina published her first book, Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper, chronicling her fascinating life’s journey, (you may read reviews and excerpts, or buy Marina’s book by clicking on the links here and below)…

HoneybeeCover

Marina Marchese’s book:

Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper

Over the past ten years, with hard work and devotion to the bees and her artisanal process, Marina has grown a great deal both personally and professionally. A second generation Italian-American, it seems only natural that Marina studied wine making as part of her educational process. Studying how wines are tasted and evaluated helped Marina to develop the exquisite, artisan honey she creates at Red Bee Apiary. Running a farm based business of any kind is a challenge, so it is particularly impressive to encounter Marina’s creative style, enthusiasm, drive and success. This beekeeper is a hands-on entrepreneur; involved in every detail of her business from garden to beehive to harvest. In addition, all of the Red Bee products are beautifully packaged with labels designed by Marina, (it looks like her education at The School of Visual Arts in NYC, and years of work as an illustrator and designer came in handy when creating her company’s signature style)…

Hiving

Marina ‘hiving’

BeeFrame

The “accidental beekeeper” holding a bee frame…

Uncapping

Here, Marina demonstrates the uncapping of a frame from a bee hive…

Spinner

Harvesting honey from uncapped frames in the spinner – and below the end result of this collaborative effort between Marina and her bees…

MarketTable9.JPG

A market table filled with Marina’s artisan honey and Red Bee products…

Red Bee Apiary and Gardens is based out of Marina’s private residence in Weston, Connecticut. All of the beautiful, sustainable products featured here are handmade and sold under Marina’s Red Bee and Rossape trademark labels. Her delightful honey, health and skin care products and candles may all be purchased directly from her farm through the Red Bee Website linked here.

Pictured below are just a few of the delicious and lovely, handmade offerings from Red Bee. If you are looking for special, inexpensive homemade gifts this year, I encourage you to support Red Bee, and other small artisans and farmers. Thank you Marina, for sharing your story, and giving us both inspiration and a peek into your beautiful world.

Red Bee has developed an extensive selection of artisan honey to tantalize your taste-buds. Honey may be purchased in sampler gift-packs, in beautifully labeled bottles, or in its all-natural state – the honeycomb….

Gift3

Artisan honey gift set from Red Bee

HWildGp2

Red Bee offers a wide selection of artisan honey including raspberry, blueberry, tupelo, clover and many other exquisite varieties. Pictured above is Marina’s signature wildflower honey.

Comb

Red Bee honeycombs, or as Marina calls them, the “Jewel of the Beehive”, are very popular. This delicious treat is harvested and sold in its all-natural state. Try some with soft cheese and warm bread for a special holiday appetizer, or use it as natural sweetener on your morning toast.

Marina’s all-natural health and skin care products, sold under her Rossape label, are a natural way to pamper yourself or someone you love. Bee pollen and honey is well known for its health benefits. Pictured here are but a few of Marina’s beautiful and popular products. The Gardener’s Care Gift set really caught my eye. I am eager to sample this alluring collection…

Gardeners

Gardener’s Care Gift Set from Red Bee’s Rosape skin care collection

HoneyFace2

Red Bee’s Creamy Honey Facial Scrub is an all natural way to clean up after a day spent in the garden, or even more to the point, after a day spent in a grimy city !

ButterB

And for moisturizing.. Marina has created many potions, including a delightful Honeybee Butter Balm…

Body_Face

One of the many beautifully packaged skin care sets for face and body from Rosape by Red Bee. See the Red Bee website for a wide selection…

Honey Vial Necklace

This little vial of honey necklace really caught my eye. And what a great stocking stuffer at only $6-

Marina also creates beautiful beeswax candles. These candles are currently available in very limited in supply due to their seasonal popularity. If you like long, clean-burning candles, without cloying, artificial fragrance or smoke, then old-fashioned, beeswax candles are an excellent choice. Beeswax candles are naturally aromatic, long-lasting and drip-less. Marina’s Red Bee website has a lovely selection of styles to choose from, including classic tapers as well as more decorative honeycomb and molded creations. Here are a couple of my favorites…

Asparagus

Molded asparagus candles, (an unusual gift for a cook or gardener)

Pine

Beautiful beeswax candles, shaped into pine cones, (my favorite !)

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All photography in this editorial feature, (with the noted exception of Marina’s portrait), is courtesy of and copyright Red Bee ®  These images were used with the consent of Marina Marchese. Please contact her before using or reproducing any of these images. Thank you for your cooperation!

Rooster

A poetic, pastoral scene at Red Bee Apiary and Gardens

For further informations about Marina Marchese and Red Bee ®, visit:

Redbee.com

RedBee_Logo


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Would you, or someone you know, like to learn more about bees and beekeeping? Here are some excellent, critically acclaimed books and online resources:

keepingbeesAlison Benjamin’s popular book: Keeping Bees And Making Honey

October2009Cover

Bee Culture Magzine Online – A great resource for apiaries

BBHH_Jacket.indd

Bee Culture editor Kim Flottum’s most recent book on beekeeping:

The Backyard Beekeeper’s Honey Handbook: A Guide to Creating, Harvesting, and Cooking with Natural Honeys

Hive Management

Apiary Richard Bonney’s well respected beekeeping book:

Hive Management: A Seasonal Guide for Beekeepers

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For More Online Resources and Bee Related Organizations, Please Visit :

shapeimage_3

The Honeybee Conservancy Website and Blog

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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 for any purpose without express, written 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…

All articles and reviews on The Gardener’s Eden are purely editorial in nature. As a matter of personal integrity, no payment of any kind, (monetary or product gift), is ever received as compensation for mention here. However The Gardener’s Eden is an Amazon.com affiliate, and any purchases you make at Amazon.com at their online store when visiting through the links here will help to support The Gardener’s Eden, (at no additional cost to you), by netting this site a small percentage of the sale. Thank you for your support !

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

December 8th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

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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Sowing the Seeds of a Gardening Future: Great Holiday Gift Books to Nurture the Little Green Thumbs in Your Life…

December 7th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

miss-rumphius

Late this fall, I was helping my client and friend Leah design and install a perennial garden at her home, (if you read this blog regularly you will recall that Leah loaned me a copy of The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, by Michael Pollan, turning me on to the author’s book). Leah has a beautiful son named Sam and she is also expecting another child very soon – any day in fact. My own sister brought a little boy named Morgan into the world this past August. You may have read a post I wrote about him earlier during the fall bulb planting season, “I Believe in the Promise of Tomorrow“. Morgan was a newborn when I began working with Leah, and as result she and I spent quite a bit of time talking about children and gardening. Leah is quite keen on creating a space that is both attractive and child-friendly for her youngsters, (little Sam displayed quite an interest in helping his mom dig while I was visiting!). I delighted in everything about Leah’s philosophy, from her interest in native plants and wildlife, to her unabashed love of botanical beauty. Often my clients become friends, and they almost always give me as much as I give them. This is very much the case with Leah.

A few weeks after we finished planting the last of her perennials, a package arrived in my mailbox. When I opened it, I was surprised at the beautiful book that slipped into my hands. Leah sent a copy of Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius as a gift for my nephew Morgan, but the book immediately captured my own interest and touched me very deeply. Is it possible that the young Miss Rumphius bears more than a passing resemblance to yours truly? It could be. Perhaps that is why I found the book so moving. But more apropos to this blog, the story touches upon all of our deep-rooted need for connection to the natural world and our universal desire for beauty. Although the book is recommended for children aged 3 – 8, I clearly enjoyed it myself !

Leah and Barbara Cooney’s fictional character, Miss Rumphius, got me thinking about the importance of inspirational and educational gardening books for children. After all, many of us develop our life-long interests at a young age. If this generation of parents, (or grandparents or friends or relatives), wishes to nurture a love of nature and gardening in the next generation, there is no better way to begin than with great stories and hands-on educational books. I hope you will consider a garden-inspired gift for the children in your life this holiday season. Together with a packet or two of seed, (and perhaps a terrarium or even a worm farm for older children), these books can truly become gifts that keep on giving. Gardening often becomes not only a skill, but a passion that lasts a lifetime.

So as we move into the gift-giving season, I thought I should pass along some personal recommendations for the youngest gardeners in your life. I am quite familiar with all of these titles – in fact some are dog-eared favorites from my own childhood. These books are a delight to read as well as to behold, both for children and the adults guiding them…

Ruth Krauss 'The Carrot Seed'

One of my favorite stories, Ruth Krauss‘s poetic book The Carrot Seed Board Book is a children’s classic written more than 60 years ago. The simple lessons of gardening and life contained within these pages are as timeless and beautiful today as they were when this book was written, so many years ago. I have ordered a copy to give to my 4 month old nephew, Morgan. This book is appropriate for reading to babies and toddlers, and as a beginning book for children learning to read…

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

I have also, always loved Eric Carle’s books. When I was a kid, I was fortunate enough to go to school with a little girl whose family actually knew this celebrated author. This lucky girl’s parents had Mr. Carle come to their house for her birthday one year, to draw pictures and read from his books. I am so glad I was invited to the party, for I will never forget the experience of watching this artist work his storytelling magic with a group of my seven-year-old friends. Now there are people who dislike Eric Carle’s books, (what could they be thinking?). Some critics insist that Carle takes liberties with scientific facts, and claim that he can sometimes be ‘dark’. Well – bah. As and artist and a gardener, I happen to adore Mr. Carle’s books, and I don’t care a whit about his botanical or entomological inaccuracies. We read Eric Carle for creative inspiration, not for scientific study; and for the imaginative child, his books are a delight beyond description. If you are looking for science, scroll to the titles below. And if you think your young child might be scared when reading about gobbled-up seeds, then wait a few years. But, I can not imagine sheltering a child from Eric Carle’s delightful stories forever, (disclaimer: I grew up reading and loving Edward Gorey – now that is dark). The Tiny Seed (World of Eric Carle) is a wonderful book about nature, as are many of Carle’s other titles, including my all time favorites, The Very Hungry Caterpillar: board book & CD, and The Very Busy Spider. They are all appropriate for kids 5 – 8…

roots shoot buckets and boots sharon lovejoy

Sharon Lovejoy is another inspirational and popular author of gardening books for children and adults. Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children, is my favorite. This wonderful hands-on book is great fun for children and grown-ups alike. A perfect gift for a slightly older child, (aged 4-8), combining this title with a few packets of seed and perhaps some indoor seed-starting trays, would make a great introductory gardening kit for any child in elementary school…

jacksgarden

Of course a children’s garden book written and illustrated by a science teacher is bound to be a fabulous teaching tool, but in the case of Jack’s Garden, author Henry Cole manages to do far more than educate – his book is truly magical inspiration. From the gorgeous drawings to the delightfully well-chosen words, this book will quickly enchant both children and adults. Henry has a rare gift, and if you would like to spark horticultural interest an elementary school children aged 4 – 8, this is a book is a great choice…

gardening_wizardry_for_kids

Gardening Wizardry for Kids by Patricia Kite is another excellent activity book, especially for restless kids looking for something to do with their hands over the winter months. Kite teaches children many indoor gardening skills through hands-on projects. Geared toward slightly older kids, (grades 4 – 6), it includes fun windowsill and kitchen experiments, including a few squiggly, wormy ones…

Gardening with Children

The last book on my list for today is the work of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, (see link in side bar at right under public gardens). The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is home to the oldest public garden for children in the United States, and this wonderful place is worth a visiting if you are anywhere in the Northeast. Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Gardening with Children (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide) is an excellent guide for young families learning how to garden. Even more experienced green thumbs will enjoy the beautiful illustrations in this book, while learning more about how to introduce botanical concepts to curious kids. I highly recommend this title as a gift for families with young children, especially if they are looking to explore gardening and science.

Enjoy your seasonal shopping, and Happy Holidays !

Michaela

All of these titles should be easy to find at a local book store, or through the links provided to Amazon.com. As a matter of personal integrity, I review all books and products from an 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 purchases you choose to make through the Amazon.com links here. With your help, these commission will help to pay for this site’s maintenance. Thank you for your support!

This article is copyright 2009, Michaela at the Gardener’s Eden. All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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