BILOWZ ASSOCIATES INC. is an award winning landscape architectural design firm with a proven philosophy: "Creating Design with Harmony & Balance."
Our company blog, Annie's Gardening Corner, takes a sneak peek at how we balance our own love for everything green + a place to find inspiration, garden ideas and landscape design tips.

To browse our award winning landscape design portfolios, click on our company website at WWW.BILOWZASSOCIATES.COM

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Our Wish


Cokie running into place...

And smile!
Greg, Ben, Annie, & Cokie wishing you a Happy New Year.

Annie’s Gardening Corner would like to thank you for your readership and send this warm wish for the New Year. Starting next Monday, I’ll be back up and running five days a week with winter gardening thoughts and inspiration. As always, we’ll kick off Monday with the brain teasers. Please stay safe over the long holiday weekend and in typical Annie fashion, today's inspirational thought is my poem, called “Our Wish.”

P.S. It is important I credit my husband, Greg for more than just his occasional photos. His knowledge, support and humor are always intertwined throughout my posts.

Our Wish

As 2009 nears the end
We have one wish for 2010

Health and prosperity
Our wish for you
Important but simple to carry you through.

Despite any obstacles
Or hardships sent your way,
Remember to do something positive each day

Start each morning with a smile.
End each night with a prayer.
Make each day count
With humble gestures of care

Despite any obstacles
Or hardships sent your way,
Remember to do something positive each day

Be Thankful,
Be Thoughtful,
Be Kind,
Be Peaceful
Live for the moment
It is always useful.

Health and prosperity
Our wish for you
Important but simple to carry you through
Remember the key to find plenty of happiness,
Your family and friends
Your most valuable assets.

Poem written by Ann St. Jean-Bilowz (Annie)
Hope you continue to follow our blog in 2010
Annie’s Gardening Corner- http://bilowzassociates.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All Roads Lead Home

There is one last gift for all in Annie’s Gardening Corner. It is a gift of particular importance during the holiday season yet some may not be fortunate enough to experience the true definition of ‘home’. As Claire Cooper Marcus points out in her book ‘House as a Mirror of Self, “A home fills many needs: a place of self-expression, a vessel of memories, a refuge from the outside world, a cocoon where we can feel nurtured and let down our guard.”

In each blog post, Annie, that’s me, offers gardening inspiration, recipes, design ideas or anecdotal messages to inspire a feeling of ‘home’. There is something awe-inspiring about the world of architecture and landscape architecture in all its grandeur. Yet the true definition of ‘home’ is as Cooper Marcus states, “… different things to different people.” She found through her research that “Some people, wealthy enough to own several houses, never felt “at home” anywhere; conversely, others felt great contentment in a single studio.”

Your gift today is to yourself. Find the true meaning of ‘home’ and during this holiday season, share your gift with those less fortunate. The inspirational thought for the day by Marjorie Holmes can help you find your gift. “At Christmas, all roads lead home.”
Photo by Greg Bilowz
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesdays with Annie 12 22 09

A smidgen of hope for the hardy gardeners reading my blog; starting today, there is a bit more sunlight. Yesterday’s brain teasers catapulted us into the depths of winter tradition. With Christmas just a few days away, find time to reminisce and enjoy all that is in your life. Spread your cheer; not your grudges and make this season magical. Rejoice in all that you believe and take heed that spring plantings are just around the corner.

1) The sun is at its closest distance in the Northern regions during the winter solstice.
False. The sun is at its furthest in the North. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of sunlight.
2) During the winter solstice, many Indian tribes held elaborate ceremonies to “call the sun back.”
True. Ceremonies would last for extended periods of time; as long as four to nine days. Their request: good health and enough food for the winter months. It works for me.
3) Yule wreaths were traditionally made of pine cones and berries.
False. Yule wreaths traditionally were made of evergreens, holly and ivy for protection of the home.
4) A decorative Yule log was burned on Christmas Eve.
Trick question. A Yule log was carried into the home and burned on Christmas Eve but it also burned for the following twelve consecutive days. It was lit with the previous year’s Yule log. In some regions, the ashes were kept and sprinkled on fruit trees for better production.
5). Wassailing, a traditional ceremony took place on Christmas Eve.
False. This ceremony typically took place on New Year’s Eve when the first cider crop was poured on the oldest apple tree’s roots in the orchard. It was done to thank the tree spirit for its crop and to ensure a good harvest for the coming year.

One of my all-time favorites, Dr. Seuss provides the inspirational quote of the day. "And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

Image from Internet
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 12 21 09

The Monday morning brain teasers should help you celebrate this blustery winter solstice day. Many old traditions relating to this time of year revolved around one’s crops and the upcoming growing season. Tomorrow’s blog, Tuesdays with Annie, will post the true or false answers. Have fun. Today’s inspirational thought for the day is by William Blake. “In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” Stay warm.

1) The sun is at its closest distance in the Northern regions during the winter solstice.

2) During the winter solstice, many Indian tribes held elaborate ceremonies to “call the sun back.”

3) Yule wreaths were traditionally made of pine cones and berries.

4) A decorative Yule log was burned on Christmas Eve.

5). Wassailing, a traditional ceremony took place on Christmas Eve.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

A Gardening Gift per Day 12 18 09


Need some last-minute gift-ideas for your favorite gardener? Want something tasty? Don’t fret. Take Annie’s advice for avoiding the fruitcake re-gift syndrome - give something yummy with a bit more practicality. Try Panettone –the traditional Italian Christmas bread. Available in supermarkets and specialty shops, last-minute shoppers may opt to purchase the store-bought bread. A word of warning: if you decide to give it a go and make this bread, Mary Ann Esposito’s recipe in ‘Ciao Italia’ takes a number of days. Panettone is excellent when toasted but is absolutely scrumptious in your favorite French toast recipe. Another hint: use your left-over Eggnog instead of milk in your batter. It’s delectable and ideal French toast for your New Year’s Day brunch. This tasty treat is a brilliant idea for your gardening friends.

To give this bread the horticultural flare it deserves, find a clay pot big enough to hold the wrapped Panettone and finish off with some decorating ideas of your own. Add packets of seed, a trowel, a few bulbs in a satchel and you have an instant gift for your favorite gardener. You can even add in a recipe or two to ensure the bread is consumed and enjoyed by all.

So it’s time to prepare for snow, cold and Monday’s upcoming winter solstice. As Edith Sitwell said, “winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” But most of us can relate to the anonymous view that “winter is the season in which people try to keep the house as warm as it was in the summer, when they complained about the heat.” Have a great weekend, shop wisely and enjoy the holiday season! Annie

Panettone Image from Internet to assure you purchase the right bread!
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Gardening Gift per Day 12 17 09

December 17th is about that time when one becomes weak and all those great items on sale tempt the shopper to buy ‘one for me, one for you’. To remind everyone just how risky this can be, here’s another tidbit from yesterday’s Business Digest. “Create a holiday budget and stick to it. The twelfth month of the year has amazing potential to undo all the planning and saving you accomplished the first eleven months.” (Source: Smart Money.)

The gardening gift for today is easy and it’s free. All you have to do is go to Annie’s Gardening Corner at http://bilowzassociates.blogspot.com/ and fill in your favorite gardener’s email address under ‘Subscribe via email’ and you are off the hook. Every day that Annie writes her blog, an email arrives with the latest gardening info. No cost to you; a great stocking stuffer for your cyber gardening chums.

You can always pay for a subscription to a glossy garden magazine or a membership at one of the arboretums or botanical gardens in your area. But again, if you are an old Yank watching your pennies, is there anything wrong with a gift like this? With that in mind, the inspirational thought of the day is by Kin Hubbard. “The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.” Watch out for the shopping detours and stay warm!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Gardening Gift per Day 12 16 09

An interesting tidbit in last evening’s AP Business Digest: “U.S. residents spent over $53.4 billion on lottery tickets last year, up from $52.4 billion the previous year.” While scratch tickets are always a popular swap or stocking gift, gardeners are a patient lot of folks. They don’t necessarily need instant gratification.

Here is one gift idea that a gardener can always use –a good, solid shovel and a four-tong pitchfork. Think of it as the gardener’s cutlery set. You don’t have to get the imported stainless steel specials although that would be one heck of a great gift. Look for the strongest, sturdiest and yes, probably the most expensive at your local garden center. You want tools made for commercial use. Although more challenging to wrap than scratch tickets, this is one gift that can always be utilized in any garden.

If you need a swap gift and scratch tickets were on the list, you can always opt for the Obama Chia pet. At one time, Chia pets were the hot swap item. To wrap it up, we end with the inspirational thought for the day by the dry-witted comedian Steven Wright. “Ever notice how it's a penny for your thoughts, yet you put in your two-cents? Someone is making a penny on the deal!” Buy a gift that has better odds of being useful. Spend your pennies wisely and have a great Wednesday. Bundle up. Annie

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesdays with Annie 12 15 09


So many things to do on your holiday list and so little time to find the answers from yesterday’s brain teasers. So it’s right to the point. And to keep in theme with one of our questions, the inspirational quote of the day is by the infamous late-night host, Johnny Carson. “The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.” Some of us rather like the gooey, chewy cakes but you may get a chuckle out of the poll below. Have a great Tuesday. Annie

1.) The American colonists used ale as a popular additive to eggnog.
False. The American colonists used rum as an additive to their ‘nog because of its availability, whereas the Brits were famous for adding ale to their creamy dairy drink. If anyone dares to try it, send the taste results.

2.) Fruit cake originated in Eastern Europe.
False. It originated in ancient Egypt. Here are some interesting facts about fruitcake. When a research firm polled some 1,000 adults about what they did with fruitcake:
• 38% said they gave it away,
• 28% actually ate it,
• 13% used it as a doorstop,
• 9% scattered it for the birds,
• 4% threw it out,
• and 8% couldn’t remember.
* Russell Baker, The ‘New York Times’.

3.) Poinsettias are a poisonous plant.
You judge for yourself. Check out this December 10th press release from Earth Times. http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/american-association-of-poison-control,1085047.shtml If a lot of leaves are ingested, you may suffer a bit more than a mild stomach upset or irritated skin but the fatal toxicity of this plant seems to be unsubstantiated. It is still worth keeping it away from small children, pets and rowdy guests. Unattended alcoholic drinks, especially eggnog with ale could pose more of a toxic danger than the lovely poinsettia sitting on the coffee table.

4.) The ‘natural Christmas tree’ the Pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) blooms in Canada at Christmas time.
False. This flowering tree blossoms in New Zealand at Christmas time and is part of the Myrtle family.

5) Traditionally, the Christmas tree was always decorated on Christmas Eve and taken down the night of January 6th.
True. Traditionally, to have a tree in your home before or after those dates was said to bring bad luck. Happy tree decorating - I’m willing to give it a go!

Above photo of the Natural Christmas Tree - Pōhutukawa *From the Internet
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 12 14 09

On this bright Monday, the digging for holiday trivia continues in Annie’s Gardening Corner. Hope you find these brain teasers fun and jolly. As always, the format is true or false and answers are in tomorrow’s blog ‘Tuesdays with Annie’.

1.) The American colonists used ale as a popular additive to eggnog.

2.) Fruit cake originated in Eastern Europe.

3.) Poinsettias are a poisonous plant.

4.) The ‘natural Christmas tree’ the Pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) blooms in Canada at Christmas time.

5) Traditionally, the Christmas tree was always decorated on Christmas Eve and taken down the night of January 6th.

The inspirational thought of the day is by Dave Barry. “In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'

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Friday, December 11, 2009

A Gardening Gift per Day 12 11 09


Friday is here so today’s fun holiday gift is meant for the mud-slinging, happy gardener. To give you a hint, let’s start off with the inspirational quote of the day by Michel de Montaigne. “One must always have one’s boots on and be ready to go.”

I must say, this truly is the life of a gardener. Be ready at any moment to pull your ‘Wellies’ on because you never know what you may encounter in your gardening adventures. Wellies come in all shapes, sizes, colors, designs – these rubber booties are not meant just for gardening. However, if you want the durable ones that won’t leak, best to leave the fashionable ones at the door. Trust me, I tried with the flower ones (similar to the photo above) and true to form, leaks sprouted very quickly. Although extremely chic, one must opt for a more resilient option if you intend to use in the garden. The boot should be rubber versus plastic, unless you prefer leaks and less-solid footing for the soles. With so many choices, I leave you on your own to discover which ones are suitable for the gardener in your life.

A tidbit of history on these infamous boots: the ‘Welly’ originated from ‘across the pond’ in England when Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington requested his shoemaker to modify his current boot. The name stuck even through the leather to rubber transition. The Welly is the British equivalent of the American ‘Gunga Boot’ or construction boot. Every Brit owns a pair, residing at the side door for their long field trips or days in the mud. Have a great Friday and thank goodness, even if it is bitter cold, it is not like last year’s ice storm.

Boot photo from internet - ice storm photo by Greg Bilowz
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Gardening Gift per Day 12 10 09


If last week’s gift of bulbs proves too tedious, there are many choices of beautiful ‘already potted’ houseplants popular for holiday gift-giving. The Poinsettia and the Christmas Cactus are always popular, with the Christmas Cactus being the easiest for long-term maintenance. It requires little attention, water and has a beautiful shower of flowers. Poinsettias are more finicky about flushing new color and are the ‘typical’ holiday plant. A plant of choice that displays that same brilliant red is a Cyclamen; it also comes in white, bright pink and purple flowers. Because it is the national flower of Israel, this also makes a nice Hanukkah gift.

The most common Cyclamen sold in the florist industry is C. persicum, which is frost-tolerant. This plant can be grown outside in mild climates. However, if you live in frosty New England, you should follow the maintenance instructions for an indoor plant that you bring outside during the summer months just as you would amaryllis or other tender houseplants. Even though this species is known to have a delicate flavor and its petals are used for teas, the C. persicum does have a toxic saponin, cyclamin, in the tuberous rhizomes. *Just a note of caution for pet-owners and small children.

Take care to transport any of these tender flowers. Carefully protect the plant with appropriate wrapping and do not leave the plant covered once indoors. Brighten a gardener’s holiday and find a special potted plant that brings color and life to the winter months.

The inspirational thought for the day is by an unknown gardener. “A perennial is a plant that would have come back year after year if it had survived.” So if you give a Cyclamen as a gift, make sure you provide directions for this houseplant to live like a perennial. Enjoy today for the sunshine and watch out for any black ice.
Cyclamen photos - Greg Bilowz
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Gardening Gift per Day 12 9 09

Flowers and gardens are but a distant memory so why would anyone bother to write this gardening blog as the snow accumulates outside? Because you still need some gift ideas for the gardener in your life. Today’s gardening gift for December 9th, 2009 is a garden photo. Can’t you just hear Ringo singing, “All I got is a photograph, and I realize you’re not coming back anymore” when you think about spring and flowers?

So start digging through those garden photos and frame the memories for the holidays. Custom framing and matting can be outrageously overpriced. A simple yet creative way to add uniqueness to this gift is with a touch of your own color to a standard matte.

First, locate the ideal garden photograph. Print it on premium quality photo paper. Glossy works nicely to show off the colors. Choose the right size frame from a department or discount store with a great home and furnishings section. Find a frame that includes a beige or white matting. Observe the many colors in the photo and then let loose with your creativeness on the matte.

One easy technique is to use pastels. Blending the soft colors of the image on the matte makes the photo jump out. You can try a number of different art techniques, depending on your comfort level.

So don’t let the snow bum you out if you want to see sunshine and flowers. Start rummaging through those precious garden photos and pick that perfect image. Get cranking while your creativity is bubbling over.

If you are faced with a snow day and need to get the kids involved, the inspirational thought of the day by Pablo Picasso sets the tone. “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tuesdays with Annie 12 08 09

There are so many things to celebrate every day, specifically at this time of the year. The answers from yesterday’s brain teasers touch upon various cultures and religious celebrations leading us to the inspirational thought of the day by Oprah Winfrey. “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

1.) Potato pancakes (Latkes) are a traditional food served during Hanukkah.
True. Fried grated potatoes and egg turned pancakes are often accompanied with applesauce during Hanukkah. These famous latkes are also a staple of the Eastern European cuisine.

2.) Gelt is a traditional flower given during Hanukkah.
False. Gelt is Yiddish for “money”. This longstanding tradition of handing out these ‘money coins’ during Hanukkah was mimicked in the twentieth century when American Chocolatiers created the gift/coin ‘chocolate gelt’.

3.) Hanukkah is always celebrated in December.
False Hanukkah falls either in late November to late December. The next time Hanukkah will be celebrated in November is the year 2013.

4.) Some of the decorations used during Kwanzaa are fresh fruit.
True. The name Kwanzaa means ‘fresh fruit’. Although this is a non-religious holiday, the celebration occurs over seven days beginning on December 26th and ending on January 1st.

5) Hanukkah. Kwanzaa and Christmas use the same traditional colors in their celebration. False. Kwanzaa uses red, green and black. Christmas uses red, green, white, silver, and gold. Hanukkah uses white, silver and blue. Although there are some commonalities, the colors are very unique to each celebration.
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 12 07 09

Here are the brain teasers for Monday, December 7th, 2009. To celebrate the winter season of holidays, here are five questions to test your knowledge. I did my best to find a horticultural thread to the brain teasers. Have a great Monday. The inspirational quote of the day is by an unknown author. “Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day.”

1.) Potato pancakes (Latkes) are a traditional food served during Hanukkah.

2.) Gelt is a traditional flower given during Hanukkah.

3.) Hanukkah is always celebrated in December.

4.) Some of the decorations used during Kwanzaa are fresh fruit.

5) Hanukkah. Kwanzaa and Christmas use the same traditional colors in their celebration.
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Friday, December 4, 2009

A Gardening Gift per Day 12 4 09

When Friday rolls around, holiday weekends can get busy with shopping, decorating and nightly festivities. So why not squeeze in time to make a homemade present? Today’s gardening gift is a hand-made money tree. This is a terrific gift for anyone, kids included but because it is a tree, we’ll consider it one that a gardener would enjoy and cherish.

We received a money tree from a relative a few years back. We never put it away and we never take off any of the bills. Although decorated a bit differently than the instructions listed below, it reminds us that we are always protected in some small way. Call me superstitious. My mother gave me a blessed piece of bread that has never grown moldy. Always having food in our house is equally important.

So to get started with your holiday money tree, click on this internet link http://www.do-it-yourself-gifts.com/money-tree.html for detailed instructions. The Terracota pot is a nice gardening touch. If this tree is too complicated, I am sure there are other options out there for even the creatively challenged like me.

So to end Annie’s Gardening Corner this first week of December, my ‘lucky moment journal’ today is that we still have each bill on our money tree and the inspirational thought is by Benjamin Franklin. “Content makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor.” Celebrate the season and let me know how craft weekend works out. Annie
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Gardening Gift per Day 12 3 09

Today’s gardening gift is one mentioned in previous blogs – giving the gift of bulbs. Not light bulbs but flowering bulbs that provide winter cheerfulness and perk up anyone’s house. It’s a great gift to give to Grandma or that person that doesn’t need a thing. One size fits all. No returns other than blooming flowers.

It can be as simple as purchasing an amaryllis bulb kit at a local nursery or something more sophisticated like a bulb garden that can be ordered from a supplier like White Flower Farm in Litchfield, CT. http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/ It’s not too late to place your holiday order. This is a ready-to-go gift. All they need to do is add water.

When you give people bulbs, often you’ll receive a call or a photo when the empty pot suddenly sprouts a fragrant bloom. Many varieties keep on flowering year after year if you take care of them properly. Folks we gave amaryllis bulbs to seven years ago still give yearly reports.

My ‘lucky moment journal’ for December 3rd is that it rained during the night and now the sun is breaking through the clouds. So with that said, we end with the inspirational thought for the day by Gertrude S. Wister. “The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.” Give the gift of bulbs and light up the rooms of many.
Photo of two amaryllis flowering in June '09 (Potted four years ago)
Photo by Greg Bilowz
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Gardening Gift per Day – December 2nd


To keep the gardening momentum and the spirit of the holidays intertwined, Annie’s Gardening Corner features its first ‘A gardening gift per day’ for your favorite gardener. There is still time for Hanukkah, too. And to give you a head’s up, Hanukkah facts and trivia in next week’s brain teasers.

To kick off the first in this series, the ‘Gardening gift’ today is one of my favorite gardening books of this year. Mentioned in two of Annie’s previous summer blogs, Bill Cullina’s book, Understanding Perennials captures the romantic and botanical side of gardening. A technical book combined with storytelling and photographs, Cullina does a spectacular job of making the plant world fun and adventurous yet exploding with knowledge. Recommended for any gardener, this book captivates all levels of expertise in the horticultural and botanical world. For more information on William Cullina and his books, you can visit his website at http://williamcullina.com/.

Hope you enjoyed the first gift idea for your favorite gardener. There are more to come tomorrow and Friday. You can’t beat the free gifts in life, though. This morning, the lavender sky and full moon over Wachusett Mountain goes into my ‘lucky moment journal’ for December 2nd. The inspirational quote of the day is by far one of my favorites from Cicero. “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Appreciate the small moments heading up to the holidays.

P.S. If you would like to receive Annie’s Gardening Corner via email, you can visit http://bilowzassociates.blogspot.com/ and enter your email address to subscribe. Have a great day.
Photo image of book from Bill Cullina's website.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesdays with Annie 12 01 09

The first day of December and the question is - how many days left in the countdown to Christmas? Here are the answers to yesterday’s brain teasers.

1.) The most commonly used species of evergreen used for Christmas trees in North America is the pine.
False. The Fir (Abies) is the most commonly used species by North Americans. A few reasons why we choose the fir: it has great color, fragrance and needle retention.

2.) Mistletoe is a parasitic plant
True. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant, deriving some or all of its nutrients from another plant. Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens) is the species used in North America and is the floral emblem for the state of Oklahoma. However, the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is a custom said to be derived from Scandinavian origin.

3.) The Poinsettia was named after an American ambassador.
True. This commonly used plant during the holiday season originated from Mexico and was named after John Poinsett, American ambassador of Mexico.

4.) The Christmas tree tradition began in Scandinavia.
False. The tradition began in Germany in the 16th century.

5.) Sugar Plums are the dried candied fruit from the plum tree.
A trick question - the name of this popular holiday candy, the sugar plum is said to be derived from dried prunes (plums). Before chocolate and refined sugar made its way into the Christmas stockings, sugar plums were the popular sweet; a piece of candy made of sugar, dried fruit, nuts and honey shaped in a small round or oval shape to look like a plum.

Stay healthy and happy during the holiday season. This is the time when folks get run down and feel down so to survive the holidays, keep plants and gardening thoughts dancing like sugar plums in your head. The inspirational thought for the day is by Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas. “Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.” Concentrate on the season, not on the gifts and you will find a happier family on Christmas morning.
Image from the internet
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 11 30 09

To get everyone in the spirit of the season, here are a few Monday morning brain teasers to get you thinking about horticulture and the holidays. As always, it is a true and false format with the answers in tomorrow’s blog. The inspirational thought for the day is by Garrison Keillor. "A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together." Have a great Monday.

1.) The most commonly used species of evergreen used for Christmas trees in North America is the pine.

2.) Mistletoe is a parasitic plant.

3.) The Poinsettia was named after an American ambassador.

4.) The Christmas tree tradition began in Scandinavia.

5.) Sugar Plums are the dried candied fruit from the plum tree.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Practice the Obvious

From a gardening and holiday perspective, Thanksgiving is the celebration of harvest and family. But for many people, there is an ‘empty chair’ at their holiday table. They may put on a game face but the very essence of celebration make the holidays extremely difficult.

The shortness of today’s blog is because the title says it all – practice the obvious. Just the other day, I was speaking to a friend; he tragically lost his son ten years ago this December. “You’d think that the space in between would make it easier,” he said. “It doesn’t.”

To end the blog on a lighter note, here is a short poem found on the internet, which substitutes for our inspirational thought of the day. No vaccine necessary.

“Smiling is infectious,
You can catch it like the flu.
Someone smiled at me today,
And I started smiling too.”

Fill someone’s space, that empty chair with a simple flower, a smile and a kind word. I’ll see you next Monday and we’ll get back to gardening. Happy Thanksgiving.

Your smile still lights a room.
Today's blog is in memory of 1st Lieutenant Ryan Patrick Jones
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesdays with Annie 11 24 09

Only two more days left and all are eagerly waiting for the turkey to go in the oven. A short circuit blew on the stove yesterday. When you hear a pop and the fan won’t shut off, it’s not usually a good sign. Hopefully the part ships in time. There is still so much to be thankful for – relatives who might end up doing the cooking! Here are the answers from yesterday’s brain teasers.

The largest producer of cranberries in the United States is Massachusetts.
False. Wisconsin is the largest producer of cranberries. Massachusetts was the first state where cranberries were cultivated so we can take pride in something.

The cranberry is a native fruit to North America.
True. Other native fruits to North America include Blueberries and Concord Grapes.

The first settlers (Pilgrims) learned from Native Americans to fertilize corn by planting the seeds over dead fish.
True. Old tale from history class so we hope it is true. We use seaweed and fish emulsion in our garden all the time. The dogs love it.

Squash is a fruit.
True. As mentioned in last week’s blog, squash is officially a fruit. In the culinary world, we often refer to squash as a vegetable. Either way, we should have plenty of it in our diet because it is loaded with beta-carotene. It’s also tasty and if you use last week’s recipe, everyone should enjoy squash.

The first national Thanksgiving football broadcast was between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears.
True. In 1934, the Detroit Lions hosted the Chicago Bears in front of thousands of fans. The Lions lost to the Bears, 19 to 16. It was broadcast on 94 radio stations across the country. In 1956, fans viewed the game for the first time on television.

The inspirational thought for the day is by Erma Bombeck. “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” Thank goodness for Erma Bombeck. If it was Martha Stewart, eighteen hours would suddenly become two weeks.

Photo of Martha Stewart and the Thanksgiving Turkey
Internet Photo – New York Daily News
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 11 23 09


Thanksgiving symbolizes celebration; a commemoration of the season’s crop. To keep in theme with the upcoming Turkey Day, the Monday morning brain teasers should test your knowledge on a few Thanksgiving facts.

Have fun. Remember, it is a true or false format and the answers are conveniently in tomorrow’s blog.

The largest producer of cranberries in the United States is Massachusetts.

The cranberry is a native fruit to North America.

The first settlers (Pilgrims) learned from Native Americans to fertilize corn by planting the seeds over dead fish.

Squash is a fruit. (Hint - You should remember this one from last week’s recipe.)

The first national Thanksgiving football broadcast was between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears.

The inspirational thought for the day is a riddle from the internet. “If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?”
Pilgrims!
Photo of cranberries from Internet
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?


If the crowd is coming to your house for Thanksgiving dinner, the idea is to keep it simple. Hopefully, this week’s recipes in Annie’s Gardening Corner give you some leeway to roast the turkey and end the meal with some nice desserts. The idea is to enjoy everything about the day, including your guests.

Decorating your table should be done with simplicity. Tall vases of flowers, although pretty from afar, only add clutter for your guests and can overpower the table. You want to keep decorative features low; don’t block the view of your guests. Although you want your table to be gracefully chic, you want your guests to feel comfortable. Use some simple elements from your local farm. Small pumpkins, gourds or decorative squash scattered across the table with tiny canning jars filled with candy corn add a festive look. If you do want flowers, keep the arrangements low and use what you may still have in your own garden. You can arrange and decorate with the dried seed heads or hydrangea flowers, the tassels from your ornamental grasses and mix them with something fresh from the local florist. Small, bite-sized fruit (grapes, different types of berries, fresh figs) on the table is also a wonderful decoration and a digestive aid to help settle the belly and clear the palette.

Whatever you do, make it fun and keep it light. The inspirational thought for the day is by an unknown author. “Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel.” In other words, keep your cool and enjoy the day. You never know which relatives may show up for dinner.


Photo of Thanksgiving guests from the Internet.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rooting for Rutabaga


Are you serving the bird this year, feverishly looking for new ways to cook traditional Thanksgiving dishes? If so, here is an old Bilowz family recipe that may do the trick. This side dish uses a root vegetable, Rutabaga, often called the ‘Swede’ or Yellow turnip. Rutabaga or any turnip is considered a tad strong if served by itself. Combine this vegetable with a Thanksgiving favorite, potato and you can add a new dimension to your side dishes. You may adjust the proportions of this recipe to taste. Note: you do not want more rutabaga to potatoes. The potatoes and egg blended together give it a soft, soufflé texture. Too much rutabaga will cause it to flop. This recipe serves 8 to 10 people.

Peel, cut and boil equal quantities of potatoes and rutabaga. Use approximately 3 pounds of potatoes to 1 to 3 pounds of rutabaga, about a ½ to a whole medium-sized rutabaga.
Boil separately as potatoes and rutabaga require different cooking times.
Drain, mix and mash together in a bowl.
The consistency should be creamy; no lumps please.

Add:

¼ to ½ cup of milk
1 to 2 eggs
A pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
You can also add ¼ to ½ cup of grated Asiago, Gouda or Swiss cheese for extra savory flavor.
Mix all together and place in an uncovered casserole dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes until it puffs up and is slightly browned.

So as we head into the frenzy of the holiday season, the inspirational thought for the day is by an anonymous chap. “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow they may make it illegal.” I’m rooting for Rutabaga and that we keep our Thanksgiving traditions of food, family and football.
(Photo of Rutabaga from Internet)

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Squash Thanksgiving


If you are a foodie, there is no squashing this holiday. Thanksgiving is all about good eats, football and napping. Here is an easy recipe with a favorite Turkey Day vegetable - butternut squash. From a culinary standpoint, we refer to squash as a vegetable but botanically speaking, the squash is a fruit (seeds on the inside). We are always learning at Annie’s Gardening Corner.

If you didn’t plant any squash this season, you should be able to find some locally grown squash in your travels. Then make a note in your horticultural diary that this delectable winter treat finds a place in your garden next year. Squash can be a tough one to peel, although it dresses up nicely with a few basic ingredients.

Simply Sweet Butternut Squash (Recipe to taste)

Peel, core and cube one medium squash – serves six to eight people
Note: when peeling the squash, don’t just peel the skin. Peel down to the dark orange flesh. The thin, light layer under the skin can make the squash bitter.
Boil until tender, drain.
Mash by hand, leaving it slightly chunky.
Add:
1 to 2 tablespoons of Butter (not margarine)
A good glug of extra virgin olive oil
1 to 3 tablespoons of Maple Syrup to taste; measurements depend on your tolerance for sweetness. (Use the real thing – nothing with corn syrup. A substitute for maple syrup is dark brown sugar.)
A pinch of nutmeg
A pinch of cinnamon
Salt & Pepper to taste
If you want to make it rich and savory, add a half teaspoon of good quality chicken base. (Minors Chicken base is the real article. It’s not all salt and MSG. It’s real chicken and good restaurants use it.)
Mix and serve with all the fixings.

Leave plenty of time to enjoy company, food and football by taking Andy Rooney’s advice when tackling the Turkey Day meal. “I don't like food that's too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. If I wanted a picture I'd buy a painting.” What’s the fun in Thanksgiving if lots of food and color aren’t plopped all in one plate?
(Photo of Squash 101 from Internet)
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesdays with Annie 11 17 09



Hope you are tuned in; ready for the ‘No frills’ quiz about the Asian Longhorned Beetle. Let’s get to the ALB Facts.

Asian Longhorned Beetles are a serious pest in China.
True. In China, the ALB kills hardwood trees in roadside plantings, shelterbelts and plantations. China is believed to be the source of origin for the Asian Longhorned Beetles in the United States via wood packing material used in shipments.

The Asian Longhorned Beetle has a distinctive white spot between its wing covers, near its head.
False. The Whitespotted Pine Sawyer, which has this distinctive white spot is often mistaken for Asian Longhorned Beetle. The Asian Longhorned beetle is jet-shiny black with stark white blotches and does not have this distinctive white spot near its head. The Whitespotted Pine Sawyer is a dull brown-black and also attacks a different species of trees.

The Pine tree is a host for Asian Longhorned Beetle.
False. Conifers are actually one species that the Asian Longhorned Beetle does not attack; another distinctive factor between the Whitespotted Pine Sawyer and the Asian Longhorned Beetle. Maple trees, with the exception of Japanese Maples are the hardest hit species. Other ALB host trees include Birch, Elm, Willow, Hackberry, Sycamore, London Plane, Ash, Poplar, Katsura and Silktree.

Adult Asian Longhorned Beetles emerge from the trees in May.
False. The adult beetle typically emerges in July but may be spotted in late June. If you believe you found an Asian Longhorned Beetle in May, it is most likely another type of pest. However, if you aren’t sure, it is always best to report a potential sighting or tree damage to your state’s Department of Agricultural Resources or the USDA. Taking a photo and emailing the insect or the tree damage expedites the process for these experts.

Asian Longhorned Beetles only attack weak, diseased trees.
False. These beetles will attack host trees that are healthy, one of the reasons that eradicating this beetle is of utmost importance.

Most of the ALB activity takes place in the upper canopy of the trees. Late fall to early winter, when the trees are bare is a perfect time to spot AL B damage in host trees. For any sightings in New England, you may call the toll-free number at 866-702-9938. For more information, visit the website http://massnrc.org/pests/alb Please note that the above facts and photographs are from this website and class handouts. If you are interested in having a trainer session in your town, you can contact the above agency to learn more about these classes.

Another Martin H. Fischer quote is appropriate for the inspirational gardening thought of the day. “All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.” As gardeners, we too should see the world this way. Annie.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 11 16 09

It’s Monday morning but there are no excuses for skipping today’s blog. Every true or false brain teaser is about the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB). Although some of us may be more familiar with this beetle based on our proximity to the quarantine zone in Central Massachusetts, all of us should be paying attention and looking for signs of this destructive species.

To wake you up, let’s start with the inspirational thought of the day by Martin H. Fischer, which may sound cheeky but true in the case of learning about the Asian Longhorned Beetles. “I find four great classes of students: The dumb who stay dumb. The dumb who become wise. The wise who go dumb. The wise who remain wise.” All of us, no matter what region or state we live in must be vigilant about spotting this devastating pest, even if you think you aren’t in the hot zone.

Asian Longhorned Beetles are a serious pest in China.

The Asian Longhorned Beetle has a distinctive white spot between its wing covers, near its head.

The Pine tree is a host for Asian Longhorned Beetle.

Adult Asian Longhorned Beetles emerge from the trees in May.

Asian Longhorned Beetles only attack weak, diseased trees.

Many of the ALB sightings have been detected by citizens, not by trained professionals. Basic facts about hosts, life cycles and identification of any insect make for a wise gardener.Early detection of these nasty pests is crucial to keeping our forests, gardens and neighborhoods healthy and safe from infestations. Enjoy this beautiful stretch of sunshine coming our way and check tomorrow’s blog for the Asian Longhorned Beetle answers and additional information on this destructive pest.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Spearmint – The Secret Ingredient

Everything good in life has a secret ingredient. Take my mother’s meatballs. Her secret ingredient is spearmint mixed with fresh Romano cheese, Italian bread, egg, hamburger, garlic, plus a dash of salt and pepper. She forms the rounded balls and cooks them in heated olive oil until glazed with a crispy flavor. Her sauce has its own secret ingredients but if you add a little love, garlic and dried spearmint you might be headed in the right direction.

If you grew up in an Italian household, you can understand the importance of food and family. Italian women cook enough food to feed an army but anxiously worry if there is enough to go around. That is the death of an Italian – to run out of food. Shame is said to fall on your name for light years until you are reincarnated seven times over to forgive you for the sin of all sins.

The spearmint growing in my garden came from my grandmother. Dried each year by my family members, it is savored on those winter nights when spaghetti and meatballs are as soothing as a warm fire or a pot of freshly brewed tea.

With this weekend’s weather predictions, it is the perfect time to be Italian. Conjure up a pot of meatballs and sauce and try my mother’s secret ingredient - spearmint. If you don’t have any dried mint (I recommended drying it in a summer blog) then add it to your horticultural diary under ‘Herbs to grow next spring’. You do want to contain it because it can take over your garden.

This week’s gardening blog ends with an inspirational quote from Hippocrates. “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” For Italians, life revolves around food and family. But for those who appreciate a bit of sarcasm as we head into the weekend, here is one from Archie Bunker. “A four-letter Italian word for good-bye...BANG.” Ciao!
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don’t Get Your Knickers in a Knot

With the holidays and the colder weather nipping at our heels, the garden becomes secondary. Our focus shifts to other pressing matters and our garden efforts are soon forgotten. In the quiet moments of late fall, take some time to reflect on the growing season. Think of your successes and failures while fresh in mind. Learn by them. Don’t toss in the shovel.

If you haven’t done it, grab a notebook or your laptop and jot down tidbits of gardening information. Look back at previous blog entries from Annie’s Gardening Corner. Create a horticultural scrapbook, including images collected in your travels. Make a list of the vegetables you want to grow next season. Clip out recipes that might encourage you to plant new crops. Research the splashy flowers you want to add in your border and notate what is required for those plants to thrive.

When your garden goes to sleep, you see it at its simplest form. Spend time reflecting in your garden; it is dynamic and forever changing. Guide it in the right direction.

Today’s inspirational thought for the day is by Peter Drucker, considered to be one of the top management thinkers of his time. “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” In other words, said so eloquently by Kathryn Carpenter, “Don't get your knickers in a knot. Nothing is solved and it just makes you walk funny.”

Words of Advice from Cokie - Reflect on Your Garden
Photo by Greg Bilowz
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About Me

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Check in for your daily share's worth of garden inspiration, landscape architecture and design tips; always original, not cookie cutter and copied. Just like our design work, we strive for unique! We invite you to contact Bilowz Associates, Inc., or to browse our portfolios. Like our Facebook follow on Twitter or subscribe to the blog to receive posts daily via email or a feed. You can follow with visuals on Pinterest and find us on LinkedIn and Houzz, too.  You can also find us back on our Google+ Business Page. (Landscape architects/Landscape Design/serving Massachusetts and New England.) Visit our landscape architectural design firm's website where creating design with balance and harmony is our story. http://www.bilowzassociates.com/

© 2009

© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)