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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Precious Autumn Sunshine

Now that this week’s brain teasers are out of the way, it’s time to think about quick road trips for the weekend. If you plan on heading up Route 2 west along the Mohawk Trail to catch some of the early fall foliage, there are two stops worth recommending: one food-related (of course!) and one garden-related.

Only open for a few more weeks, Skip’s Roadside Diner is conveniently located on French King Highway, (Route 2) in Gill, MA for quick but delicious roadside fare. Run by an Italian, the polish food is authentic and worth the stop before heading further along the Route 2 fall foliage corridor. Open Monday through Saturday, 10:30 AM to 3:00 PM, it is recommended you call ahead at (413) 863-9991 to verify hours and the closing date in October. (10/17/09 may be the last day.) You can’t miss the little trailer at the intersection of Gill and Turners Falls. The Polish Reuben is tasty; a good choice with a side of pierogies.

As you head back onto Route 2’s fall wonderland, take a trip to one of “New England’s Best Small Towns” recently published by Boston Magazine – Shelburne Falls. ( It is a quaint New England town but one of my favorite highlights is the Bridge of Flowers. ( There is something magical about this spot. People of all ages enjoy walking across the bridge; absorbed in the meticulous plant layout surrounded by its exceptional backdrop. More towns should take heed to beautifying what could be derelict.

So enjoy the rest of your week. You may want to take Nathaniel Hawthorne’s advice, which is the inspirational gardening thought of the day. “I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”
Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday’s with Annie – 9/29/09

If you are looking for the answers from yesterday’s brain teasers, here you go. I’m putting the inspirational gardening thought of the day by Alice Walker before the answers. “Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.” Now that’s a brain teaser! You might have to think about that one for a bit. Enjoy the day.

True or False – Corn was the first subsidized crop in the United States.
False - The first subsidized crop in the United States was blue false indigo (Baptisia australis). This plant’s flower was used for blue dye; it was extremely valuable to the textile industry.

True or False – Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) blooms in the spring.
This is kind of a trick question depending on your zone and variety. Witch Hazel blooms sporadically in the late fall but its primary bloom time is late winter into early spring. It is one of the first blooming shrubs of the season. Some varieties have spectacular color; yellow, orange and sun-burst. Varieties like Hamamelis mollis 'Pallida' and Hamamelis x intermedia 'Primavera' have an amazing fragrance as well. This interesting shrub should be a potential contender in any home garden.

True or False – The fig is related to the mulberry.
True – the fig and mulberries are both members of the Moraceae family. Bread fruit from the tropics is also included in the Moraceae family.

True or False – Oak trees of different species in New England often cross-pollinate.
True – it is common to find during a walk in the woods all variations of oak leaf forms due to cross-pollination of various oaks.

True or False – The largest known Asian longhorned beetle was found in Central Massachusetts.
Unfortunately for Central Massachusetts, this is true. The Asian longhorned beetle has found a very fertile territory for proliferation. Just last Friday, the Worcester Telegram reported that the Asian longhorned beetle quarantine zone has now expanded another eight miles, which includes the town of West Boylston, Massachusetts. The total square miles of quarantined area has reached 74 miles. It is an extremely destructive insect. Learn to identify this insect and report any and all sightings to or by calling 1-866-702-9938.
Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Morning Brain Teasers: Take Three

It’s a beautiful Monday morning after a full day of much-needed rain. If you couched it yesterday watching football or movies, here are the Monday morning brain teasers to remove the cob-webs and get the mind moving. Have fun. As always, the answers can be found in tomorrow’s blog.

True or False – Corn was the first subsidized crop in the United States.

True or False – Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) blooms in the spring.

True or False – The fig is related to the mulberry.

True or False – Oak trees of different species in New England often cross-pollinate.

True or False – The largest known Asian longhorned beetle was found in Central Massachusetts.

The inspirational gardening thought of the day is by Michelangelo. “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Annie’s remedy is to find your passion and reach high; stand on your tippy-toes if you must!
Bookmark and Share

Friday, September 25, 2009

Salvage Your Herbs and Annuals

Gardeners, here is one very important chore to add to your list: transplanting your annuals and herbs for the upcoming winter season. Choose your favorites and get them potted soon. First step is to transplant them from the ground into a new pot or container with good, sterilized potting soil. Leave the potted plants outside for a couple of weeks, maintaining them as you would any other container-grown plant. Grow them in full sunlight for the first week or so; then transition them into a shadier location before you bring them in the house. They are going to receive lower levels of sunlight when they are brought indoors; doing this helps the plant transition into these new conditions.

You want to quarantine your plants before exposing them to your current indoor plants. Put the pots in the garage or the basement for a couple of weeks. Inspect them periodically and look for any signs of insect activities. If necessary, spray them with an insecticide to rid them of any pests that would cause problems to your indoor plants. You want to use an insecticide specific to indoor plants and edibles. Ask your local garden center and as always, read the directions. Find your sunniest window and make sure you are cognizant of moisture levels at all times – not too much, not too little. Enjoy fresh sprigs of mint, basil or rosemary mid-winter. I’ll touch upon summer bulbs, corms and other rhizomes (tubers) in an upcoming blog.

Because it looks like Sunday may be a wash-out, the inspirational gardening thought of the day is by Arnot Sheppard. “There is little chance that meteorologists can solve the mysteries of weather until they gain an understanding of the mutual attraction of rain and weekends.” Enjoy the weekend, despite the weather. Remember, pop quiz on Monday.
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pumpkins with a Twist

When you head out to buy your pumpkins to decorate the garden for the fall season, look for pumpkins that have interesting color and form. Don’t look for the standards ones that you can find everywhere. Seek out the interesting pumpkins or at least mix them up a bit. There is an extensive collection of unusual heirloom varieties, many of which are exceptional for cooking. Some of them may be a bit expensive but the flavor is wonderful. Don’t let them freeze on the front steps with a hard frost. Find a good recipe. There are many for pies, breads, soups or bisques. For example, one of the prettier pumpkins for decorating and also for eating is a Cinderella Pumpkin. Its intense red-orange color stands out for a seasonal display but it also has a thick, non-stringy flesh with very sweet flavor.

Sorry if the inspirational gardening thought of the day sounds a bit sexist, but I absolutely love it. “Men are like pumpkins. It seems like all the good ones are either taken or they've had everything scraped out of their heads with a spoon.” (Unknown author) Go forth and find your pumpkin. Pick the good ones before they are gone!
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday’s Tip

Some of our gardens did not produce the quantity of vegetables and fruits one needs to store for the upcoming winter. Wednesday’s tip of the day is to check out your local farm stands or your farmers market to look for bulk prices. A half or a full bushel is substantially less than buying small quantities per pound.

So stock up and start canning, drying or freezing. Peak harvest time is now, when the flavors are primo yet the season ends soon. Enjoy the first full day of fall even if it happens to occur on Wednesday. Remember "The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground. " Hope the inspirational gardening thought of the day by an unknown author gets you through Hump day. Happy Fall!
Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday’s with Annie

The answers to yesterday’s brain teasers.

True or False - The first Jack O Lantern was made from a pumpkin.
False – the first Jack O lantern was made from a turnip.

True or False – Blueberries grow best in acidic soils.
True – blueberries grow best in a pH of 4.5 to 5.0, which is very acidic.

True or False - The pigment in leaves that create fall color is due to built-up sugars in the leaves.
True – when the nights get cooler at this time of year, the sugar produced in the leaves through photosynthesis during the day doesn’t flow back into the trunk of the tree. It remains in the leaves and as the chlorophyll (the green pigment of the leaf) diminishes, it displays the colors of the sugars.

True or False – The lower the hardiness zone of your area, the warmer the weather.
False – the higher the number, the warmer the climate. Massachusetts typically ranges from zone 4 to 7, depending on location and any existing microclimates, with 5 to 6 being the average. Below is a listing of zones and temperatures. This is important to know when selecting plant materials to make sure it is hardy to your zone.
Zone 1: below -46 C (below -50 F)
Zone 2: -46 to -40 C (-50 to -40 F)
Zone 3: -40 to -34 C (-40 to -30 F)
Zone 4: -34 to -29 C (-30 to -20 F)
Zone 5: -29 to -23 C (-20 to -10 F)
Zone 6: -23 to -18 C (-10 to 0 F)
Zone 7: -18 to -12 C (0 to 10 F)
Zone 8: -12 to -7 C (10 to 20 F)
Zone 9: -7 to -1 C (20 to 30 F)
Zone 10: -1 to 4 C (30 to 40 F)
Zone 11: above 4 C (above 40 F)

True or False – Grape vines were originally cultivated in France.
False - The grape that became known as vitis vinifera originated in the Black Sea region and spread rapidly southward to the Middle East. (Excerpt from National Grape) Vitis vinifera is the parent plant to all the wine grape varieties we are familiar with such as cabernet, merlot, and chardonnay.

True or False – Orchids only grow in the warm, tropical climates.
False – orchids grow in most zones, i.e., our local lady slipper is a member of the orchid family. (Orchidaceae)

True or False – Red maples are considered a rare native tree.
False – red maples have actually become a fairly invasive species, which over the course of time have choked out a number of our native nut trees.

True or False – Apples, peaches, cherries and roses are related plants.
True – all of these fruits are a member of the rose family (Rosaceae).

If you want to learn more about plant families and how they are grouped together botanically, the Systematic Garden at Tower Hill in Boylston, MA is a great way to learn; they make it very easy to understand.

Hope you had fun on the quiz. The inspirational gardening thought of the day is by Ray LeBlond. “You learn something every day if you pay attention.”

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Morning Brain Teasers

Here we go with eight Monday morning brain teasers. Answers in tomorrow’s blog.

True or False - The first Jack O Lantern was made from a pumpkin.

True or False – Blueberries grow best in acidic soils.

True or False – The pigment in leaves that create fall color is due to built-up sugars in the leaves.

True or False – The lower the hardiness zone of your area, the warmer the weather.

True or False – Grape vines were originally cultivated in France.

True or False – Orchids only grow in the warm, tropical climates.

True or False – Red maples are considered a rare native tree.

True or False – Apples, peaches, cherries and roses are related plants.

Because Monday often has us a bit testy, the inspirational gardening thought of the day is from Robert Frost. “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence. “

Bookmark and Share

Friday, September 18, 2009

Apple Mania

With so many apples at your local farms, it’s time to find your favorite eating and cooking apple. There are endless varieties to choose from, especially if you pick your own. It is always fun to find an odd apple; a straggler amongst the orchard.

So as the smell of apples permeates the air, I’m dragging out my infamous apple crisp recipe. For best taste, it’s a must to serve it warm. It’s from the Great American Brand Name Baking Cookbook. It’s age and use shows; I am able to easily remove the pages for scanning. This old-fashioned apple crisp is a favorite; even for the novice baker it’s a cinch. You can try the other two on the page but ‘you’re on your own son’.

The inspirational gardening quote of the day is from Robert Frost. "How many apples fell on Newton's head before he took the hint? Nature is always hinting at us. It hints over and over again. And suddenly we take the hint." It’s apple picking time! If the apples haven’t hit you on the head yet, it’s time to go apple picking. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Distinctive Phases of Fall

This very morning, you can see it slowly occurring; slight hints of red, orange and yellow. It is the beginning of New England fall foliage and its distinctive phases. Red maples, sugar maples, sumac, and birch show the first hint of fall color. Once this display slowly departs us, evergreen trees such as pines start to shed their third-year foliage. These yellow highlights called ‘fall yellowing’ add another layer of color. The nut trees; hickory, walnut, butternut, and oak are soon to follow.

As we say goodbye to the end of summer, pay attention to this colored kaleidoscope around you. Certain varieties of shrubs i.e., Mountain Laurels, Azaleas, Blueberries and Rhododendrons display spectacular fall foliage. Even bad-boy Poison Ivy, much to one’s dismay, has dynamic fall effects. Unfortunately, one wants to love it instead of dread it.

Don’t miss these subtle changes occurring at this very moment. It is one of the most amazing things about living in New England. The inspirational gardening quote of the day is from Elizabeth Lawrence. “Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn. “ On a bleak Thursday morning, it’s important to observe this astonishing time of the year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Weed Tip – How to Battle the Big Boys

Why do we have garden bullies like Bittersweet, Japanese Knotweed (alias Japanese Bamboo) and Poison Ivy? Sometimes one must level the playing field to give your choice, delicate plants a fighting chance. These resilient big boys, if left unattended can infiltrate your entire garden.

To effectively eradicate these nasty weeds, you have to unfortunately use a non-selective herbicide like Roundup (it kills everything). Read the label carefully as you should with any chemical. Successful sprays are a matter of proper timing and weather.

Now is the optimum time of the year to eradicate these toughies. Hitting them in their most vulnerable state, right when they are setting seed is critical to eradication. Check your property to see if any of these plants are setting seed.

Wait for a calm, sunny day (there are a few coming up in the forecast) and get out your rubber gloves. Spray the plant thoroughly. Make sure you don’t hit any of your choice plants; hence one of the reasons you do not spray on a windy day. Let the plant wilt and brown up for 48 hours. Wait approximately a week and cut it back. If you see it sprouting again, (depending on growing weather) you can apply a second application. This should weaken the plant’s root system, giving it a lower survival rate during the winter months.

I am not a big advocate of using chemicals but with these particular plants, the root systems are very extensive and resilient. If you don’t kill all of the plant parts below ground, it continues to proliferate in the yard.

For those of you that do tangle with the poison ivy, (inevitable) pick up a product called Tecnu when you are purchasing your herbicide. It is a good precaution to douse yourself with Tecnu or a liquid laundry detergent immediately after exposure to poison ivy to remove any of its oils on your skin.

The inspirational gardening thought of the day is from Dianne Benson, Dirt, 1994. “They know, they just know where to grow, how to dupe you, and how to camouflage themselves among the perfectly respectable plants, they just know, and therefore, I've concluded weeds must have brains.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday’s Answers

Here are the answers to yesterday’s pop quiz:

True or False – A tomato is a vegetable. The answer is false. A tomato is actually a fruit. Fruit develops from a flower and has seeds.

True or False – Most parts of the tomato plant are poisonous. The answer is true. The tomato is a member of the Nightshade family, which means that everything with the exception of the fruit is poisonous.

True or False – Tomato plants were grown primarily for ornamental purposes when introduced in England. The answer is true. The British considered the entire plant poisonous and inedible for many years. Poor Brits – that’s probably why the Italians make such great sauce.

True or False –Potatoes originated in Ireland. The answer is false. Potatoes are native to Peru/South America.

True or False – Carrots were originally used for a condiment in England. This is a trick question. In England, they may have used carrots for a condiment but they were originally used for desserts and considered a sweet.

True or False – The potato plant is a member of the Nightshade family. The answer is true. Like the tomato, all parts of the plant are poisonous except for the tuber, the potato. If a potato is not covered while growing and exposed to sunlight, this turns it green, causing it to be inedible and poisonous.

True or False – A Sweet Bay Magnolia is native to the Northeast United States. The answer is true. The town, Magnolia in the North Shore of Massachusetts was named after this beautiful rare native tree. In milder climates, it is considered a semi-evergreen. It blooms for over a month, mid-season with the most fragrant flowers and unlike its Asian counterparts, can tolerate a fair bit of shade and still bloom. It is definitely one tree not to overlook for your property.

True or False – Johnny Appleseed planted apple trees for New England grandmothers to make apple pies. This is yet another trick question because it is primarily false. Johnny Appleseed was instrumental in bringing alcohol to the frontier people in the western migration. At that point in time, the majority of apples were used to make hard cider. I’m sure the New England grandmothers decided apple pies were much more wholesome for Sunday dinners.

The inspirational gardening thought of the day is taken from a Dave Matthews’ song, “On my way came up with the answers, I scratched my head and the answers were gone.” If you enjoyed the pop quiz, I’ll do it again next week.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Morning Garden Quiz

Your pop garden quiz. Don’t you love Mondays! There will be no googling for answers.

True or False – A tomato is a vegetable.

True or False – Most parts of the tomato plant are poisonous.

True or False – Tomato plants were grown primarily for ornamental purposes when introduced in England.

True or False –Potatoes originated in Ireland.

True or False – Carrots were originally used for a condiment in England.

True or False – The potato plant is a member of the Nightshade family.

True or False – A Sweet Bay Magnolia is native to the Northeast United States.

True or False – Johnny Appleseed planted apple trees for New England grandmothers to make apple pies.

The inspirational gardening thought of the day is by Robert Frost. “In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life. It goes on.” That is the beauty of gardening - there is always something new to learn!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nature’s Gift

Today, like any other, we wake up and click into a routine. As the clouds give way to a somber 9/11 anniversary, take a moment not so much to think about where you were that day but where you are right now. There are so many special moments in life that we let slip by because we are too busy to notice.

Just the other day, while walking my two border collies, this beautiful rare and endangered wildflower was in bloom: Gentiana andrewsii (Bottle gentian or Closed gentian). It has an interesting blossom; staying almost completely closed, which is rather unusual for a flower. Bottle gentian is pollinated by bees that actually open up the closed blossoms and crawl inside.

I’ve walked in this particular location with my border collies for years and never once did I see it in flower. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention or maybe this week I was finally lucky enough to see its beautiful but unusual blossom. I don’t think it was a fluke – not much in life really is. It was nature’s gift.

The inspirational gardening quote for the day is from the 1990 movie, Joe Versus the Volcano, when Patricia (Meg Ryan) says to Joe (Tom Hanks), “My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” For all those that lost their lives on 9/11, this beautiful flower blooms for you.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Silver Lining

Why is it that some people see the glass half-full rather than half-empty? The nursery and farming industry are good examples of this philosophy. Folks that deal with living things realize you have to be positive and look on the ‘bright side’ when nature plays such a heavy hand in your outcome.

A perfect example of a resilient bunch is Van Berkum Wholesale Nursery in Deerfield, NH. At yesterday’s open house, plant geeks gathered for conversation at the nursery’s annual gathering. Some buzzed around on golf carts while others methodically scanned the thousands of unusual groundcovers, perennials, and natives that Van Berkum is well-known for in the industry.

Yet what is truly amazing is the resiliency of Peter and Leslie Van Berkum, the owners of the nursery and their dedicated staff. A little over a year ago, July 24, 2008 to be exact, a devastating tornado tore through their nursery. Along with the torrential flooding and the wreckage that comes with such a natural disaster, this shaded nursery became desolate and completely changed forever as 800 trees were ripped from the ground.

Most folks would throw in the towel. Others would find a reason to discover a new line of work. But we’re talking about plant geeks and the Van Berkum clan meets that criteria. Peter said yesterday on his post-tornado rebuild tour, “They never thought twice about reconstructing the nursery” as silver tinsel hung from Peter’s hat. With a smile, Peter lifted his tinsel and used their inspirational quote that guided them through this, "Every cloud has a silver lining." All across the nursery, silver balloons and tinsel glistened in the afternoon sun.

The origin of the phrase "Every cloud has a silver lining’ is traced to John Milton’s ‘Comus’ (1634).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Garden Waits

The weeds pile up, waiting to be pulled out of the ground and taken to the back forty. The last hurrah of the flower spikes sway in the cool breezes and gardeners instinctively know, it is time to cut them back. It’s the final stretch of the summer days. Here are a few, gentle reminders of what to do in your garden now. Although they may have been mentioned before, repetition, repetition, repetition…

• Dry your herbs
• Freeze and/or can your fruits and vegetables
• Should wet weather be in the forecast, partially ripened tomatoes are prone to splitting so remove them from the vine and finish ripening indoors
• Deadhead your perennials and remove any tired annuals
• Remove any diseased leaves or plants and dispose of them - do not compost!
• Thatch, aerate, and/or top-seed your lawn (This is the time – do it now!)
• Clean up your vegetable garden and remove the weeds and any faded plants
• Prepare for late sowing (i.e., get the area ready to plant your garlic bulbs in late October)
• Gear up to lime and spread compost on the garden for winter
• Freshen up your yard with fall color; enhance with mums, pumpkins, etc. to add to the natural changes of foliage

To help you get inspired for the garden that waits for its fall face-lift, here is my pick for the inspirational gardening thought of the day. “I am thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.... I am thankful for the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.” By Nancie J. Carmody

(P.S. I know all my readers who have kids at college can appreciate the laundry portion!)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Mad Dash Back

It’s the start of a short work-week, which always makes one a tad off-kilter for getting back on track. And as I start my morning, with my coffee in hand and a quick review of the news, by force of habit (by my mother’s teaching) I always breeze through the obituaries. So what does this have to do with gardening?

Well, it’s not always easy finding the connection but I do think those who garden achieve a stillness that helps them handle adversity. No one is sheltered from illness or tragedy and it is your inner spirit that carries you through the difficult times. It was just this morning, a young man’s obituary read, “Aaron died Saturday…after a courageous 18 month battle with pancreatic cancer…He was an amazing chef and superior gardener, annually harvesting his crops from his "Green Acres" farm.” So as we scurry back to our desks and worry about the little things that don’t really matter too much in life, like a traffic back-up or any small annoyance that is simply that, remember the inspirational gardening thought of the day by Leslie Grimutter. “My own prescription for health is less paperwork and more running barefoot through the grass.”

Two border collies not running? Rarity. Enjoy the rest of the week.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Recipes

If you are heading to a barbeque or having friends at your house, here are some quick and simple recipes. These vegetables and fruits can be easily found in your garden or purchased at your local farm stand or farmer’s market.

Tomatoes – Slice four tomatoes, lightly sprinkle with salt and let sit for five minutes, chop up five to six leaves of spearmint, basil and pitted Kalamata olives, toss in with the tomatoes in a bowl and dress with a balsamic vinaigrette. For simple vinaigrettes, use extra virgin olive oil, white and standard balsamic vinegar, a bit of water with a Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix. It’s easy but everyone loves it. For the best selection of olives, Ed Hyder’s Mediterranean Market Place at 408 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA is my favorite. If you are a cheese lover, you can crumble some of Ed’s wonderful feta cheeses on the tomatoes. You’ll love the ambience of the store and his selection of wines and other sundries.

Fresh potatoes – you can always make a typical potato salad for your barbeque. To mix it up a bit, I add some of the olives, spearmint and feta cheese with a little extra virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar to mine. These extra ingredients allow you to go easy on the mayo and everyone loves it. For an inside fresh potato recipe, you can slice your potatoes thin, deep fry in olive oil, and lightly salt as you drain on paper towels. They won’t even make it to the plate. They are a cross-bred of French fries and potato chips. YUM.

Corn can be cooked the conventional way, in a pot of water or you can grill it. There are two ways to grill corn. One way is to completely remove the husk and place directly on a charcoal grill. If you use a gas grill, the intense barbeque flavor is diminished. Some like to remove the silk from the end of the ear, keep the husk on, and then grill. The corn stays a tad moist but the flavors not quite as intense. It’s a personal preference so test your way to your favorite. You can either serve on the cob or remove the cornels and use in a southwestern salad recipe. Check out a previous post for my corn salsa salad.

Eggplant – slice it length-wise, lightly salt, let slices sit for about 15 minutes on paper towels, dab them to absorb some of the bitter juices, brush with olive oil and grill. Drizzle with herb-infused olive oils and thinly sliced sweet basil to serve. You can also grill onions and portabella mushrooms (*not locally grown, unfortunately) to add to your grilled meat selection.

For an easy dessert, try the fresh, ripe locally-grown peaches, preferably white peaches (some of them have a slight flavor of raspberry) peeled and sliced with a dash of sugar and a teaspoon to tablespoon of Cointreau or Triple Sec. Toss it, garnish it with a sprig of mint added with fresh raspberries and it doesn’t get any better. Plus it’s healthy.

If you don’t have time and you want to bring a quart of the best ice cream from a local farm – Rota Spring Farm has some of what I consider the best. Their new flavor this year, coconut carmel chip is awesome. You have to like coconut but if you do, watch out. It’s pow, 'in your face' ice cream. Have a great Labor Day. Don’t forget, we are in a dry spell so keep an eye on newly planted shrubs. Water this weekend – that’s my only gardening advice.

My inspirational gardening thought of the day is for any men reading my blog from William Geist, New York Times Magazine. "I'm a man. Men cook outside. Women make the three-bean salad. That's the way it is and always has been, since the first settlers of Levittown. That outdoor grilling is a manly pursuit has long been beyond question. If this wasn't firmly understood, you'd never get grown men to put on those aprons with pictures of dancing wienies and things on the front..." I'll be back blogging on Tuesday. Annie

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Celebration of Hard Work

Gardeners put in many hours chipping away at their passion. With the upcoming weekend forecast predicted as stellar and enjoyable for all outside activities, my gardening advice is to leave Labor Day free and open to enjoy everything that is beautiful in your garden. I’ll be putting together some great barbeque recipes in tomorrow’s blog to help you celebrate your hard work in the garden. As Aristotle so poignantly said, “The end of labor is to gain leisure.”

Early spring garden shot with two, very dedicated supervisors and Greg, the trusted cameraman and landscape architect guru.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Your Order’s Up - Bulbs

Autumn is peak time for ordering your bulbs. Take a few minutes to review bulb catalogs and plan for your first splash of spring color. There are numerous bulbs catalogs loaded with breathtaking photos and ideas. A word of caution: those flashy tulips are stunning but purchase them sparingly. Many of these showstoppers don’t have the longevity as they often fall victim to the occasional woodchucks, voles or deer.

For large bulbs, daffodils are a perfect choice. These bulbs grow for years, expanding in size and can be easily divided and spread much like herbaceous perennials. Plant them amongst your day lilies to wake up your border. As the daffodils pass, the lilies cover up the faded leaves. For low-growing groundcover types, Scilla, Chionodoxa and Grape Hyacinths are dynamite, low-growing bulbs that seed themselves all over the garden, creating stunning drifts of color. Crocuses are also a tried and true; there are lots of colors and sizes to choose from, adding delicate flowers to the mix. Don’t forget your fall blooming bulbs. Crocus sativus (Saffron Crocus) is one to consider; how can you go wrong when there is saffron in its name?

Selecting tried and true species for the bulk of your order is my best advice for naturalizing and spread capability. Get the most impact from your purchase. Don’t forget where your bulbs are located as October is prime month to divide your bulbs.

One last tidbit of advice: start off with a small order, which leads me to my inspirational gardening thought of the day by Oscar Wilde. “The play was a great success, but the audience was a disaster.” If you want to succeed in this gardening thing, start small and eventually the show will be spectacular. Happy gardening -Annie

A photo of a Crocus sativus (Saffron Crocus)
By Greg Bilowz

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Harvesting the Late-Season Crops

For those gardeners who planted feverishly in the spring, the fall harvest should keep us happy with our own home-grown veggies come winter. Although the growing season dampened many a gardener’s spirit, some vegetables and fruits still managed to flourish.

Most everyone who plants a vegetable garden plants tomatoes. So if your tomatoes managed to survive the dank summer, don’t let the remaining fruit get ahead of you. If your vines look tired, pull the tomatoes off when they start showing some color and ripen in a sunny window. Once the tomato develops a red hue, cut in quarters, core them, place in freezer bags and push all the air out. Wait until you make your winter sauce to peel the skins off; it is a much easier endeavor and it gives you less to worry about during harvest time. Even if the taste seems a bit lost, these partially ripened home-grown tomatoes beats the pants off any supermarket, ‘grown in another land’ tomato.

We are also in potato harvest season. For any of you that dared to take the potato plunge this year, let your plants dry up before you harvest. Leave them in the ground as long as possible. This helps toughen the skins and improves your storage longevity. If you want potatoes and other root vegetables to last the winter, it is a good idea to research the best options for storage. A potato is a living plant gone dormant for the winter. If there is too much heat or moisture, it wakes up and grows; not a pretty sight. The best way to store your potatoes: in cool, slightly damp conditions with temperatures between 40 to 48 degrees.

For any onion growers, this is the perfect drying weather. Let the skins and the tops completely dry before you store them. After the tops dry, trim the leaves with the bulb remaining or braid the onions like you often see with garlic. You can hang them in your basement for easy storage. Speaking of garlic, we are coming up to that time of year. Quality garlic cloves should be planted soon for next year’s harvest. It may be a challenge to find some cloves through catalogs but you can plant a ‘supermarket’ clove. Just use the big cloves around the outside of the head. The smaller cloves in the middle don’t always produce the best plant.

Is there an inspirational gardening thought for the day? I think I’ll go with a Vince Lombardi quote today. "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect." Tedy Bruschi will be missed on the football field. Hopefully, he sticks around the New England periphery and continues to inspire with his tenacity.

© 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.)