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Friday, October 30, 2009

Planting Ghoul Repellent

What’s lurking in your Halloween plans this weekend? Do you need to ward off those evil spirits with a touch of poltergeist repellent? Now is the perfectly ghoulish time to sow the garlic bulbs so get your garden tools sharpened and start prepping your soil.

A member of the Allium family, garlic’s siblings include onions, leeks, and chives. If you can’t find proper seed garlic from suppliers, it’s worth giving the grocery store cloves a go. Choose tight, clean unblemished heads before planting. Use the large cloves from the outside ring and discard any that show signs of deterioration. Some say that the cultivated garlic is sterile and does not produce true flowers but you can produce heads with some success as proven in our own garden. Nothing beats the flavor of fresh garlic so here are a few planting tips to get you started.

Space each clove 6 to 8” apart at a depth of 2 to 2 ½” with the pointed side facing up. As soon as the ground freezes, spread 3” of mulch to protect the bulbs. This limits frost heaving and also stabilizes the soil temperature and moisture levels.

So if Dracula is coming to your house this weekend, make sure you have enough Vein-illa ice cream and don’t forget to plant your garlic! Annie

A few Halloween riddles to pinch-hit for our inspirational gardening thought of the day.

What do Skeletons say before eating? Bone Appetite.
Why do ghosts have so much trouble dating? Women can see right through them.
Why aren’t there any famous skeletons? They’re a bunch of no bodies.

If you like this blog, 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.  And you can also find us back on our Google+ Business Page. (Landscape architects/Landscape Design/serving Massachusetts and New England.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Do You Need More Fall Foliage Ideas for Your Garden?

In the spirit of orange and the Halloween weekend, today’s favorite deciduous shrub with spectacular fall color is Enkianthus campanulatus, Redvein Enkianthus. It is a slow-grower but ultimately can reach heights of 10’ depending on its location. This multi-faceted shrub is in the Ericaceae family, heath and heather. A lover of acidic, moist well-drained soils, the Redvein Enkianthus can be used in woodland gardens combined with Mountain Laurels, Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Placing this shrub adjacent to evergreen foliage make its fall colors of red, yellow and orange pop. It prefers partial shade although it can handle full sun. A word of caution – it does not like it dry. Its spring bell-shaped flowers of creamy yellow with delicate red to purple veins make it a favorite shrub of choice. Another plus for the Enkianthus campanulatus – it does not have many known pests or diseases.

Photo of Redvein Enkianthus - by Greg Bilowz

 To lighten up those technical horticultural details, the inspirational gardening thoughts of the day are a few Halloween one-liners.

What's Dracula's favorite flavor of ice cream? Vein-illa. (In the spirit of the Redvein Enkianthus.)

On Halloween, the parents sent their kids out looking like me.
Rodney Dangerfield (A classic Rodney-line)

A grandmother pretends she doesn't know who you are on Halloween.
Erma Bombeck (Isn’t this so true?)

Enjoy the bright sunshine and fall colors. Annie

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Road Trip for the Weekend Wanderer

Wednesday is often that day in the week when one starts thinking about weekend road trips. If you want an interesting mix, wander to the small New England mill town of Clinton and discover a few hidden treasures. Nestled in a little pocket of Central Massachusetts, you can find history, art and gardens all within a few miles. Clinton is home to the world’s largest hand-dug dam, the largest North American collection of Russian Icons and one of the oldest public parks in the United States.

Begin your day at the Museum of Russian Icons. A tidbit of history on how this museum came to be. Gordon Lankton, founder of Nypro had a fascination with Russia. His interest led him there in1989, marking the start of his Russian Icon collection with a $25.00 yard sale purchase. After acquiring over 300 icons, he concluded that the proper way to display these works of art required building his own museum. Quite a feat and well worth the visit.

Across the street, don’t miss the Clinton Central Park. The mature trees surrounding the quad indicate the longevity of these beautifully maintained commons. It’s worth the stroll.

As you head out of town, take a scenic drive past the Wachusett Dam and Reservoir. As you rise above the dam out of the valley, a panoramic view of this vast water system unfolds in front of you. Find a spot to pull over at the top of the dam to capture a picture or revel in this town’s history. You might smell the Weetabix Factory in the background.

If you have extra time, continue on Route 70 through Boylston, MA and make a stop at Tower Hill Botanical Garden. This is always worth visiting to expand your ideas for garden design and plant composition. The inspirational gardening thought for Wednesday is by John Wyndham. “When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.”

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday’s with Annie - 10 27 09

To get the answer session a bit more interactive, a few questions are coming back at you. Please feel free to post or email your comments to liven things up.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote') was developed in France.
True. Its origins are in the Mediterranean region, with its seeds said to be from the French Alps. ‘Hidcote’ is an exquisite variety of Lavender. A quote from Miss Jekyll in Home and Garden 1900 - “Best among the good plants for hot, sandy soils are the ever blessed lavender and rosemary, delicious old garden bushes that one can hardly dissociate." If you ever have the opportunity, a must-see garden is Hidcote Manor Garden, part of the National Trust in the Cotswolds, UK – one of my favorite areas.

Winterberry is a deciduous Holly.
True. Its Latin name, Ilex verticillata likes its feet wet and can be spotted easily with its bright, red berries. Commonly used for decorating (watch out, though – its berries are poisonous) this woody shrub is prolific in swampy, wooded New England locations. Pay attention to Winterberry now as it is losing its leaves at this time of the year.

Snickers Candy Bars were the first wrapped penny candy in America.
False. The first wrapped penny candy in America was the tootsie roll. Snickers is one of the favorites at Halloween and overall, the number one selling candy bar. I love Reese’s Cups. What’s your Halloween candy of choice?

Potassium increases a plant’s tolerance to change in temperature and it increases its resistance to diseases and pests.
True. Plants love their potassium. To make sure your plants are receiving enough macronutrients, testing your soil is always useful.

Pumpkins and watermelon are in the same family.
True. The Cucurbitaceae family, also known as the gourd family includes watermelons and pumpkins. Can you find the similarity?

The inspirational gardening thought for the day is a one-liner joke from the internet. Enjoy the rest of the week.

What do you use to mend a jack-o-lantern? A pumpkin patch...

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday’s Brain Teasers 10 26 09

Photo from Internet.
Monday, Monday. Time for the weekly brain teasers to get the engines jump-started. As always, the answers are true or false. On occasion, a trick question is put in to keep you awake. Are you awake yet? I’m doing my best to get this lively so in the spirit of Halloween, one candy question is permitted for those of us with a sweet tooth.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote') was developed in France.

Winterberry is a deciduous Holly.

Snickers Candy Bars were the first wrapped penny candy in America.

Potassium increases a plant’s tolerance to change in temperature and it increases its resistance to diseases and pests.

Pumpkins & watermelon are in the same family.

With many of the Halloween decorations consuming us in the color orange, a fitting inspirational gardening thought of the day is from the movie, Legally Blonde. “Whoever said orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed.”
P.S. I have my orange and pink Halloween socks on my feet now!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Grapes Galore

If you want to try something new and adventurous this fall, try your hand at making some home-made wine. There are a lot of different options whether you choose the home-brew kits, which use concentrated grape juice or you take the plunge like we did and find fresh locally grown grapes. We are using Chardonel grapes (a cross between Chardonnay and Sevyal Blanc) and Frontenac grapes (an extremely hardy red variety). Greg picked the grapes from Cold Spring Orchards in Belchertown. We also planted several varieties on our own property hoping to understand the mystery of good grape production and wine-making.

It is a fascinating subject. In one year, we may have palatable wine or one heck of a yuk vinegar. It’s always the chance you take when you try something new. If you want to increase your odds from the beginning, your best option is a wine-kit. But what’s the fun in that? The inspirational gardening thought for the day is a bit cheeky but it is Friday. As Kathleen Mifsud articulated for all to understand - “Men are like a fine wine. They all start out like grapes, and it's our job to stomp on them and keep them in the dark until they mature into something you'd like to have dinner with.” Have a great weekend - Annie
Photo taken by aspiring plunkologist - Greg Bilowz
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Show Me the Color

As the fall season comes full circle, it’s important to notice your plant compositions as a whole; from your largest trees to groundcovers and perennials. As mentioned in a past blog, now is the perfect time of the year to gain a long-term design vision when multiple layers of detail are exposed in the garden. It is also important to notice the seasonal interest, its many changing colors and how these hues play off the architectural elements of your property.

Most people pay little attention to the subtle color hues of their perennials but many of these plantings display outstanding fall effect. For an example, in one of our plant beds, our River Birch is turning its spectacular fall yellow. The birch, planted in the middle of a large drift of perennials acts as the bed’s anchoring force. In the forefront, there is Sage and Nepeta F. ‘Blue Wonder’; both displaying a powdery green hue. Geranium ‘Nimbus’ mentioned in yesterday’s blog portrays the deep colors of red and orange with hints of yellow. Behind the geraniums are drifts of daylilies with arching yellow blades and the Crocosmia 'Lucifer' displaying vertical flames of a similar color. In the background, a Highbush Blueberry, Winterberry and Maiden Grass add the finishing touches. The stone wall and the red barn are the architectural elements that bond everything together. (Photo - Greg Bilowz)

The inspirational gardening thought of the day is by someone who truly understood the importance and concept of color - Georgia O'Keeffe. “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.” Dabble in your garden to find the colors and shapes that there are no words for … enjoy what is to be a beautiful Indian Summer Day in New England.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Miscellaneous Fall Potpourii

Before we delve into fall foliage, Leslie Van Berkum of Van Berkum Nursery sent me her answer for yesterday’s trick true or false question - The chainsaw cutting tooth design was inspired by beavers.

“Ann, I had heard that the design was inspired by a logger, Joseph Cox in 1946, who paused in his work with the old style chain-saws, and noticed a pine beetle larva (related to the Asian Longhorn Beetle) chewing efficiently through wood, with his mandibles slicing sideways and with the grain. He developed a new cutting chain in Portland, Oregon based on this observation.” Leslie

Way to go, Leslie. Extra points!

Now, let’s check out one or two perennials often overlooked for fall color. A favorite in the garden is Geranium ‘Nimbus’. This perennial geranium has a fine-textured leaf with soft lavender blossoms from late-spring to mid-summer. Its stunning fall foliage rivals the color of most sugar maples. Great to plant in masses as an edger or as a specimen by itself, Geranium ‘Nimbus’ is a must-have for any garden.

(Top photo - Geranium 'Nimbus' in blossom)
(Bottom photo - Geranium 'Nimbus' displaying its fall foliage)

Another great perennial sporting fantastic foliage is Amsonia hubrichtii. In early summer, this versatile plant displays delicate blue star-shaped flowers and soft, feathery foliage. This phenomenal plant-lover’s plant continues to put on a show late into the season with its yellow and soft orange hues. Both of these perennials are sun-lovers and can be layered in nicely to your border.

(Fall color just starting to turn on Amsonia hubrichtii)
Photos by Greg Bilowz

We end with our inspirational thought for Wednesday by Joseph Joubert. “It is better to stir up a question without deciding it, than to decide it without stirring it up.” I still think beavers might have something to do with the chainsaw invention. Happy Birthday, David.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday’s with Annie: 10/20/09

Time is ticking so here are the answers from yesterday’s brain teasers. To play into the time theme, the inspirational gardening thought for the day is an old Polish Proverb. “Even a clock that does not work is right twice a day.”

True or False

All hardy Asters flower only in the fall.
False. There are some asters, including Aster ‘Frikartii Monch’ that begins blooming in late summer. This particular aster is a versatile plant for the garden with pale blue flowers.

The American chestnut trees were one of the primary timber trees in New England.
True. The American chestnut tree, prior to it being hit by the Chestnut blight, was one of the main timber trees in New England. Many of the timbers in older homes and especially barns were made from Chestnut.

The chainsaw cutting tooth design was inspired by beavers.
This is a trick question because it is unclear if the beaver’s ingenuity and cutting skills influenced the cutting tooth design although it would make sense. Also, the beaver’s name has been used in naming chainsaws so there appears to be some source of inspiration here. If someone finds the answer that solidifies this, you get extra points.

Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens was the founding father of American landscape architecture.
False. Frederick Law Olmstead was the founding father of American landscape architecture. He was instrumental in designing and establishing the many park systems throughout the United States. Edwin Lutyens was mentioned in one of my previous blogs. He was a very prominent British architect. His collaborative work with Gertrude Jekyll, a garden designer represents some of England’s best examples of a partnership between two very important disciplines.

Granite is a sedimentary rock.
False. Granite is an igneous rock formed from magma beneath the surface. It is one of the more prominent rock-types in our area and influences the acidity in the soil.
Have a great Tuesday.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Morning Brain Teasers: 10/19/09

After another tussle with a winter-like day, the meteorologists promise a beautiful run of New England fall weather. Use these warm, seasonal temperatures to finish up the garden chores. To get you in the mood for that final stretch of gardening, don’t forget to take the Monday morning quiz. The answers will be in tomorrow’s blog.

True or False

1) All hardy Asters flower only in the fall.

2) The American Chestnut trees were one of the primary timber trees in New England.

3) The chainsaw cutting tooth design was inspired by beavers.

4) Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens was the founding father of American landscape architecture.

5) Granite is a sedimentary rock.

The inspirational gardening thought for the day keeps in theme with our quiz format. It is a question/answer quote from Groucho Marx. “Q: What do you get when you cross an insomniac, an agnostic, and a dyslexic?A: Someone who stays up all night wondering if there is a Dog.”

Don’t worry. It’s Monday. It took at least another sip of coffee and 30 seconds for me to get it. Have a great day. Annie

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Friday, October 16, 2009

October 16th and the Water is Freezing

Never mention an old wives tale in your blog (about acorns and a long, snowy winter) as predictions can sometimes come true. The Doppler radar showed a mass of white/gray precipitation moving through last evening but never did I imagine waking up to our first coating of snow. Although Wachusett Mountain is within our view, it’s just too darn early to see the white flakes swirling around the backyard.

So as the morning started off frantically picking the last of the leeks, I shamefully admit that the fall to-do list is far from being complete. The horseradish must be dug and the figs need to be either buried or brought in soon. There is still deadheading and raking and weeding. The bright side – sunny, 60 degree temps are expected early next week.

As promised, the fall foliage plant line-up for Friday is the H. paniculata ‘Unique’. This shrub’s pink to mauve hues add just the right highlights to your garden, even in the snow. At the end of July, I mentioned this very hydrangea in my blog, talking about its unique color change.

So as white flakes magically blend with the fall color, there are two inspirational gardening quotes for the day. As Carl Reiner so eloquently put it, “A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” Yet one unknown author sees it quite differently. “To appreciate the beauty of a snow flake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” Hopefully, the plants in the garden will see it that way, too. Have a great weekend. It’s still fall in New England.
Photo of H. paniculata ‘Unique’ on 10/16/09 - Photo by Greg Bilowz (Mittens required)
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall Color in the Woodland Garden

With frosty mornings upon us, here are a few planting tips for lasting fall color in the woodland garden. There are a number of blooming plants that hang in there with stunning late-season effect. Here is a winning combination for a shaded area.

First, to keep on track with learning about plant families, the Cimicifuga racemosa, commonly known as Fairy Candle is part of the Ranunculaceae family (also known as the "buttercup family"). This tall, late-blooming shade perennial with its showy flower spikes blooms from August to October, depending on the variety. This is a great woodland plant mixed in with ferns, hostas and groundcovers. Because of its height, it is best located in the background. This plant can reach 4-6 feet so position it accordingly amongst your plantings.

As the morning chill seeps in, the inspirational gardening thought of the day by William Carlos Williams reminds us we must enjoy what still remains in our gardens. “Some leaves hang late, some fall before the first frost – so goes the tale of winter branches and old bones.” There have been lots of acorns in the woods so if you believe in the old wives tale, we may be in for a long, snowy winter.

Top photo - Cimicifuga racemosa
Bottom photo - Foreground of ferns, hostas and Pachysandra 'Green Sheen'
Photos by Greg Bilowz
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tiger Eyes

To carry through on yesterday’s theme, here is an impressive shrub from the nut family. A member of the Anacardiaceae (cashew or sumac) family, the Staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina, is a native plant growing throughout New England. I mentioned sumacs in a previous blog as a versatile plant that offers spectacular fall color.

One particular variety worth mentioning is Tiger Eyes Sumac, a 2004 release from Bailey Nurseries. This sumac is a mutation of ‘Laciniata’. It does not grow much taller or wider than 6-8 feet, showing off color like no other shrub in the garden. It can tolerate some shade but it does best in a hot, sunny well-drained location. (Photo of Tiger Eyes Sumac - Greg Bilowz)

Savor the moments of fall; the air, the light, and especially the colors. For the rest of the week, a plant or shrub with dynamite foliage will be featured. In the spirit of the fall foliage season, the inspirational gardening thought of the day is by John Burroughs. “How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.”

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday’s with Annie: 10/13/09

A rainy Tuesday and you still get the answers to yesterday’s brain teasers – what a bargain! But before you get there, you may notice that many of the questions are related to plant families. I find it extremely fascinating that the Silversword plant is part of the Sunflower family. Identifying the origin is not only valuable to understanding the plant but it also encourages learning.

On our last visit to Hawaii, we hung out with the head curator at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. His love for horticulture was spurred by plant families. At a very young age, he was fascinated when he learned that the strawberry was part of the rose family. From that point, he was hooked.

1) The Silversword plant, a rare and endangered species is only found on the island of Maui.
False. The Silverwood plant, a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) is found in Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii as well as the top of Haleakala National Park in Maui. The Silversword plant in our photo was taken on a hike outside of Volcano National Park in Mauna Loa. We also saw these plants the next day in Mauna Kea.

2) Peaches are in the Rosaceae (Rose) family.
True. A bit of trivia: Peaches are a symbol of longevity. So eat plenty of them to keep healthy.

3) Thorns are modified leaves.
True. Thorns are modified leaves that conserve water and also defend the plants from browsing animals.

4) Bananas are in the corn family.
False. Bananas are not in the same botanical family as corn. The banana is in the Musaceae family or banana family; corn is in the Gramineae or grass family. They are distantly related to each other but are not in the same botanical family.

5) Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia), an underrated and extremely useful ground cover is part of the Primulaceae - The Primrose Family.
False. This versatile plant is part of the Rosaceae (Rose) Family. I have mentioned this plant in a previous blog. Next time you are looking to plant a groundcover in a sunny or shady area (hence, its versatility) don’t forget Waldsteinia. It’s a workhorse.

To lighten up the botanical hodge-podge, I’ll leave you with the inspirational gardening thought of the day by an unknown author. “Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts.” Everyone has an Aunt Rose.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Morning Brain Teasers: 10/12/09

As promised, here is my list of brain teasers for Monday morning. If you experienced the hard frost last evening, I hope you protected your tender plants or brought them indoors. If you were lucky and didn’t lose those delicate botanicals, get them inside tonight. It was pretty darn chilly in Denver yesterday and it wasn’t just the Patriot’s loss that made it feel that way. Those cold temperatures are headed east.

Photos of silversword taken by Greg Bilowz.
Here are the questions:

The Silversword plant, a rare and endangered species is only found on the island of Maui.

Peaches are in the Rosaceae (Rose) family.

Thorns are modified leaves.

Bananas are in the corn family.

Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia), an underrated and extremely useful ground cover is part of the Primulaceae - The Primrose Family.

In the spirit of Christopher Columbus, the inspirational gardening thought of the day is by Arthur Goldberg. “If Columbus had an advisory committee he would probably still be at the dock.” No advisory committees for answering the questions. Answers will be in tomorrow’s blog.
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Friday, October 9, 2009

Slowing Down the Speed Limit

Columbus Day weekend is primetime for leaf-peepers. Drive slow, enjoy the foliage and the many wonderful colors dabbled along the countryside. Instead of hitting the main routes, wander off the beaten path and hope to get lost. You may find some hidden jewels; the type of places that you see on Chronicle or read about in Yankee Magazine. My parents would hop in the car and four hours later end up in Albany, NY eating an ice cream cone. They loved to hit the back roads and be pleasantly surprised.

You will be amazed at how many small-run nurseries, farm-stands and orchards you’ll find along the way. Pack a picnic, but not too much in case you end up in a place like Temple, NH where there is an English tavern (authentic – the real deal) in the center of town. There is an abundance of quintessential New England small hamlets like Temple waiting to be discovered.

Travel with no destination and open your eyes to the wonder of nature’s creation. There is nothing more beautiful in New England than our fall foliage. The inspirational gardening thought for the weekend is by M.K. Gandhi. “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Keep Your Beds Clean

Clean-up is important at this time of year with your perennial borders, your vegetable garden and especially your lawn. These tips may sound simple and repetitive but they are worth repeating.

Start with perennial areas by cutting down all the dead seed heads and tidy up the crowns. If you need to mulch any newly planted perennials, do not spread mulch until the ground is frozen. Otherwise, to repeat an important message, you create a safe haven for destructive rodents when you mulch too early. It should act as an insulating blanket to keep the ground from repeated freezing and thawing, which heaves newly planted perennials out of the ground. It is also a good time to clean up the edging on your borders and plant beds. The grass roots still grow actively in the fall and early winter; until the ground is frozen. Edging keeps the grass roots at bay. Remember to plant your bulbs.

In your vegetable garden, you should remove (burn or dispose of) dead or dying vegetable plants. Do not compost. The remains tend to harbor disease spores and insect eggs that can be problematic come spring. Don’t forget to plant your garlic in conjunction with your bulbs.

And don't forget your lawn. It should stay as clean as possible. Keep the leaves to a minimum. One way to make it easy is to set your mower about 1/2” lower. By cutting the lawn shorter, it makes it easier to maintain the leaves. The leaves and grass clippings are a great source of compost if no harmful chemicals are used on your lawn. Insecticides, herbicides and fungicides are all no-no’s for organic composting.

If your garden is clean, there are fewer problems with next year’s growing season. It is particularly important with this year’s excess rain and the many diseases that transcended our gardens. Phyllis Diller sums it up best in our inspirational gardening thought of the day. All you have to do is replace the word ‘house’ with ‘yard’ or ‘garden’. “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.” No excuses, though. Keep your bed and your garden clean and all will be healthy.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday is Soup Day

Remember the commercial – “Wednesday is Prince Spaghettis Day.” Well, Anthony, we are making it soup day. With today’s rain and fresh ingredients still in the garden, here is a quick and simple soup to keep you toasty and help with any of those seasonal colds.

Potato Soup

6 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 leek, chopped
1 medium size onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cups of water
4 cups of vegetable stock (I used Minors chicken stock)
Two 8 oz. cans of corn or you could use fresh corn (equals two cups)
One cup milk
Cayenne or ancho pepper (Prefer ancho)
Italian Parsley or cilantro

Warm the pot, add the olive oil and sauté the leeks and onions with salt until tender.
Pour in the water, stock, and potatoes. Simmer until soft.
Puree the soup until smooth.
Add milk, corn, and pepper.
Simmer for five minutes on a low heat. Do not scald soup.
Garnish each serving with a pinch of chopped parsley or cilantro.
If you like more of a kick, you can step it up a notch with another pinch of ancho or cayenne pepper.
Serve with crostini or fresh bread and a nice salad.

To get you into the soup mode, the inspirational gardening thought of the day is by Abraham Maslow. “A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.”

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Photo of potato soup - uploaded from internet

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday’s with Annie – 10 06 09

True or False - Record-size pumpkins are a cross between Blue Hubbard Squash and pumpkin.
True – Some of the biggest pumpkins on record are a cross between large pumpkin varieties and large blue hubbard squash varieties. The size of some of these monster pumpkins – obscene!

True or False - The Agave plant produces many forms of wine.
False – The blue agave plant, native to Mexico produces the smoothest tequila on the planet. There are many species of agave throughout the arid climates of the world. A quick fact from Wikipedia referencing a 2006 Boston Globe article written by Carolyn Johnson - it is rare for one kept as a houseplant to flower; nevertheless, a fifty year old blue agave in Boston has grown a 10 m (30 ft) stalk requiring a hole in the greenhouse roof and flowered sometime during the summer of 2006. Check out the agave photo in the article. (

True or False - Mycologists test the pH levels in native plant materials.
False – A mycologist actually studies mushrooms and other fungi.

True or False - Geraniums are annuals.
Trick question – Geraniums are both annuals and perennials. Although the standard annuals used in window boxes and planters are pretty, there is an endless list of hardy perennial geraniums. Some of them are spectacular; requiring minimal maintenance in your garden. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ for example, blooms all season long, even past frost.

True or False - Nard grass is said to repel mosquitoes, insects and cats.
True – Nard grass is another name for the citronella plant. The oils are said to repel cats as well as mosquitoes and insects. I still get bitten regardless how much citronella is burning.

Double-header inspirational gardening quote of the day for all those amateur mycologists: “All mushrooms are edible – ONCE” and finally, the quote by Bill Balance; “Falling in love is like eating mushrooms, you never know if it's the real thing until it's too late.”

Photo of fungi growing in Puna, Hawaii.
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Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Morning Brain Teasers: 10 05 09

A fine looking Monday morning it is – so enjoy and take a minute for Annie’s pop garden quiz. The answers will be in tomorrow’s blog. Hence, the inspirational gardening quote of the day is by none other than Charlie Brown. “In the book of life, the answers aren't in the back.”

True or False - Record-size pumpkins are a cross between Blue Hubbard Squash and Pumpkin.

True or False - The Agave plant produces many forms of wine.

True or False - Mycologists test the Ph levels in native plant materials.

True or False - Geraniums are an annual.

True or False - Nard grass is said to repel mosquitoes, insects and cats.

(Photo from Internet)
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Friday, October 2, 2009

Structure Plantings

When deciduous trees and shrubs shed its foliage, our landscape may seem a bit austere. Yet this is a perfect time to evaluate your structure plantings. Concerns to look for in your woody plant materials are crossed branches, unsound v crotches and noticeably diseased branches, all of which can cause long-term problems. These noticeable flaws should be attended to by an arborist or someone with pruning knowledge and experience.

Don’t underestimate the value of your structure plants. Your shade and ornamental trees add monetary value as well as serving a functional purpose on your property. An excerpt from The Value of Trees around your home, “A well maintained landscape with mature trees can increase property values up to 25 percent. Trees can cool houses in the summer. A city lot with 30 percent plant cover provides the equivalent cooling necessary to air condition two moderately sized houses 12 hours a day in the summer.” With this little tidbit of information, it pays to notice.

Although most find it difficult to look at a tree without its foliage, there is a certain sculptural essence to its structure. As Andrew Wyeth stated, “I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape.” Look at your structure plantings as four-season elements. Remember, when you purchase any woody plant material, always look under the hood. The inspirational gardening thought of the day is by Alexander Smith. “Trees are your best antiques.” Make sure you take good care of them.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Mother's Favorite Flower

My mother loves flowers. She doesn't have a favorite. She taught me to see the beauty in all of the garden; weeds and all. This morning's blog is quick and to the point - an analogy of sorts using our garden.

Pay attention to what is around you. The nights are getting colder and the will and spirit are a bit more fragile as fall seeps into our bones. When you see your garden slowing down, look around at those who might need your assistance. Use your plants as a sign that family, friends and our furry creatures may be more susceptible to the colder weather. The inspirational gardening thought of the day is by Oscar Wilde. "Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”

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© 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.)