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

Friday, February 26, 2010

Design Your Spaces

This old proverb is very telling; “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” These words of wisdom stick around for a reason – to remind us that one small sentence can change your outlook. It’s time to apply this mantra and design your spaces. Mapping out your ideas is the backbone to successful gardening and all the nuances of landscape design.

What are the projects that you mulled around in the back of your mind this winter or even last year? For many, it is to expand or add a vegetable garden. For others, it may be to design a backyard fire pit, sitting wall or terrace that captures your favorite vista. When the long summer days roll around, you want to be enjoying your new space, not still be creating it.

Don’t miss out on these last few weeks of winter planning. Dig out those journals and ideas. Find your favorite photos you tore out of magazines and layout your plan on paper. If you can imagine it, you most likely can do it. Take some time this weekend to put your gardening caps on and plan, plan, plan. And when those lazy days of humidity and baking sunshine hit your town or city, you are ready to kick back in your new digs. Don’t leave your options to chance. Formulate, design and carry out your vision. The inspirational thought for the weekend is by Cora Lea Bell. “An addiction to gardening is not all bad when you consider all the other choices in life.” Have a great weekend. Annie. P.S. To my faithful blog reader, R.H., I promise Monday's brain teasers will be about something edible!

(Image from internet - telltale signs of garden addiction.)
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stems and Twigs – a Chic Bouquet

Oscar Wilde once said, “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” No discussion about weather although we may not see sunshine until next Tuesday! So let’s get some yellow replicated in our kitchens with a simple remedy for this blah weather.

Annie’s quick tip to add some early spring color: create a chic bouquet with stems and twigs. A month or so in advance of when an early flowering shrub like Forsythia blooms, you can force its buds inside. Forsythia is easily found on many properties and is not difficult to force in a vase. Look for a stem with the most buds. Prune between 1 to 1 ½’ of the tail end of the branch and place in water. Some people add a little bit of sugar to condition the water and add nutrients. The buds start to wake up and eventually bloom for you inside.

Be creative with the shrubs and trees in your yard. As soon as the sap starts to flow, many plants are in the process of waking up. When you see the buds swelling on a shrub or tree’s branches, you could add more of these miscellaneous stems and twigs to your arrangement. This technique also works with flowering Dogwoods, Crabapples, Magnolias, and various early blooming Azaleas and Rhododendrons. Don’t forget to look for one of Annie’s childhood favorites, the wild Pussy Willows.

Be polite with your plants. No serious haircuts, just a trim to create a chic bouquet with stems and twigs. The inspirational thought of the day ends with another Oscar Wilde quote. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Great advice - it leaves lots of room for trial and error!
*(Top image of Forsythia and bottom image of Pussy Willow from internet)
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Hellebores are Coming

What a lucky Wednesday. For those of us located smack-dab in the pocket of just-right temperatures of heavy, wet snow, we may have to think winter for a few more days. Look on the bright side - this snow is good exercise for the gardener. Just one shovel full makes your face grimace with pain. It’s real heavy stuff!

So let’s think Hellebores. This special plant is often overlooked in the United States but one to be added to your list. This plant blooms early in the garden, sometimes forgotten as we get immersed in our early spring grunt work. Its special form and growing habits make it an ‘Annie’s’ favorite. The Perennial Plant Association has helped this wonderful plant grow in popularity when it honored Hellebores as the 2005 ‘Perennial Plant of the Year’. This type of award always catapults s a plant into the throes of a gardener’s heart but we loved it long before then. In England, you’ll often see hellebores blooming in the winter with Chinese Witchhazel, Mahonia, Jasmine and winter flowering Rhododendrons. In New England, we just have to wait a bit longer.

So in good British spirit, where we first fell in love with the likes of Hellebores, today’s inspirational quote is by David Bowie. He probably sums up today’s storm best. “Is it nice in your snowstorm- freezing your brain? Do you think that your face looks the same?” Who knows what he means? He certainly is great in concert. Have a great Wednesday. Annie

(Top Photo - Hellebores - Photo from the Internet)
(Bottom photo - Ben freezing his brain - Photo by Greg Bilowz)
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesdays with Annie 02 23 10

If you love raspberries and you want that fresh sweetness of simple fruit throughout the growing season, read today’s blog. It’s all about raspberries! Even if there are a few snowflakes dotting the grass, it is time to think spring, gardens and fresh fruit! This is the time to order your root stock. Enjoy!

1) Raspberries like wet, heavy soil. False. If you don’t want any root rot diseases, you need to make sure you don’t plant in wet soils or go too heavy on the irrigation. Plant your raspberries in well-drained soils with full sun and adequate moisture. Give the plants good air circulation but don’t choose too windy of a spot. The air exchange helps keep the plants healthy. Trellising also opens up the canopy to the air and makes it easier to pick the fruit.

2) Raspberries should not be grown in soils where potatoes, tomatoes or any other plant that harbors the disease, Verticillium Wilt were or are grown. True. This lesson is mentioned frequently – make sure where and what soils you do plant in are not harboring diseases. Verticillium Wilt can stay in the soils for many years. Remember what was planted where in the past and never compost any plant material that can harbor this disease. This would perpetuate these types of problems in your composted soil. Always burn or dispose of any suspicious or diseased plant materials - never, ever compost anything questionable.

3) Raspberries do not spread or sucker new canes. False. Raspberries do spread through suckering and if left unattended can spread quite rapidly. Because of this growth habit, it is very important to locate your raspberries in a space where they cannot invade neighboring plants. If you have an expansive lawn, dig out a planting bed within the lawn area or better yet, construct a raised bed. It is important to get basic tips on pruning your raspberries to keep the plants under control and for optimum health and productivity. There are a number of exceptional raspberry varieties to choose from, all of which have very distinct flavor and fruiting characteristics. Mix them up to extend the fruiting season and choose varieties hardy to your zone. Make certain you purchase your root stock from a reputable source. You want healthy plants with no sign of diseases. A great supplier in South Deerfield, Massachusetts is Nourse Farm. To find out more information you can find them on the web at or by calling 413-665-2658. Friendly and helpful service!

4) Raspberries are a member of the Rosaceae (Rose family.) True. Raspberries belong to the genus Rubus, a part of the Rose family. Raspberries and roses: Annie’s favorite fruit and a favorite flower. There is nothing more beautiful than a cut rose from your garden and some sweet raspberries in a bowl!

5) Yellow raspberries are higher in antioxidants than its red or black raspberry counterparts. False. Darker pigmented fruit provide more antioxidants. Yellow raspberries have a delicate sweetness not found in the darker varieties. Supplement these yellow fellows with blueberries, cranberries or red grapes to make up for any shortage in antioxidants.

Today’s inspirational thought of the day comes from one of our oldest thinkers, Aristotle. “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. “

A snapshot of Cokie dreaming about fresh summer fruit – photo by Greg Bilowz
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 02 22 10

It’s a beautiful Monday with some grim winter weather on its way. Predictions for the remainder of the week are messy, which only reinforces that spring is almost near. Because folks seemed to enjoy the blueberry quiz last week, today’s post is all about raspberries. Let’s jump right into the brain teasers. It’s a true or false format with the answers in tomorrow’s blog post, Tuesdays with Annie.

1) Raspberries like wet, heavy soil.

2) Raspberries should not be grown in soils where potatoes, tomatoes or any other plant that harbors the disease, Verticillium Wilt were or are grown.

3) Raspberries do not spread or sucker new canes.

4) Raspberries are a member of the Rosaceae (Rose family.)

5) Yellow raspberries are higher in antioxidants than its red or black raspberry counterparts.

Today’s inspirational quote is by Carrie Snow, a true connoisseur of fine cuisine. “I prefer Hostess fruit pies to pop-up toaster tarts because they don't require as much cooking.” Once those raspberries are in season, fruit pies take on a whole new dimension. Annie

Photo by Greg Bilowz
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Create a Timeless Garden

Elizabeth David once said, "To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean." If you can’t live in the Mediterranean’s temperate climate, it may be worth creating a piece of it in your own garden. At one point, it was fairly common for families to grow figs on their property. Although the hardiness of figs is more suitable to zone 7 temperatures, gardeners grow these plants in zone 4 and even zone 3. Not without effort, of course.

Fresh figs are a wonderful experience. It is the reason people invest time and effort in this plant. Here are a few growing tips passed on from friends and associates.

The ideal fig to grow is a Mission Fig (the dark black figs sometimes available fresh in specialty stores.) Its flavor seems to trump all other varieties. There is a dwarf variety called ‘Black Jack’, which is similar to a Mission fig. It only grows to 6’; a good choice for a tight spot. The best way to grow figs in this area is planted in an 18-24 gallon container. Figs like the heat, so place them in your warmest location. In late fall, when the temps begin to drop to the 40's, bring the containers into a garage, basement or a greenhouse. Maintain a little moisture in the soil. Note, if exposed to cold weather (30’s), they drop their leaves and go fully dormant. Figs are not hardy to New England winters so you must protect the plants. In the spring, when the threat of frost has passed, bring them back outside, slowly acclimating them to the weather as you would any indoor plant. Once established, figs are tough to kill. There are other methods to overwinter figs but this is the easiest and does not require a backhoe. There are some great resources to find bare root stock (figs and other amazing plants): or by calling 866-586-6283 or by calling 800-325-4180 or by calling 800-391-8892

In case you don’t have plans this weekend, you can catch the Rhode Island Flower Show, ‘Timeless Gardens’. For more information, check out the web site, for pricing and events or call 401-272-0980. It runs from Feb. 18th through Feb. 21st. The show is held at Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence, RI.

The inspirational thought for the weekend is an American Proverb. “It doesn’t work to leap a twenty-foot chasm in two ten-foot jumps.” Ouch. That could leave a mark. In other words, don’t take on too many chores this weekend. Enjoy!

(Image of figs from Internet)

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Start Them Young

After yesterday’s message about getting the juices flowing, here is one tip to consider as you plan your spring garden – ordering bare root stock. The majority of perennials, trees and shrubs are available in bare root form. Purchasing your plant material this way assures the best price, the best health and the highest success rate for any plant. Think about it. Wouldn’t you be in better health if you weren’t squished into a container or wrapped tightly in a burlap bag? Mass marketing has removed gardeners from using this effective method of planting our gardens. We are too programmed about instantaneous beauty; therefore we often forgo the best methods.

Don’t hold off on this tip. Bare root stock is seasonal. Now is the time to place your order for the early spring. Take out those journals and notepads with all your scribbled notes of ‘must-have plants’ and find out where you can find it in bare root form. When you do place your orders, remember, bare root stock is perishable. Don’t plan a getaway when your plants are due to ship and arrive on your doorstep. It is best to plant the root stock immediately in its ideal conditions. If you must store your stock for any length of time, it should be kept in a cool, dark place and provided enough moisture to keep it fresh. Do not put the stock in your refrigerator with fruits and vegetables. The ethane gases emitted from your produce is toxic to live plants.

Research each species and variety you intend to plant; there are no shortcuts for optimum conditions and prep work. Always apply proper planting techniques and use common sense for any new plant material. And as Albert Einstein reminds us, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Enjoy the remainder of your planning season and get ready for the big jump into spring. (Photo of floral clock from Internet)

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Gardener’s Hibernation

Our state of dormancy is almost over and our winter rest, well; consider it a soon-to-be distant memory. Now is the time to reenergize and prepare for those outdoor opportunities that appear quickly once the snow melts and the ground softens. The Maverick Mindset states it best when charging the pumps and speeding up that slow metabolic rate. “Do something, anything. Move your feet. Your body will follow. Don’t sit and let life happen to you. Participate. Take action. Do it now.” This message could be relevant to any portion of your life but it applies quite nicely when it comes to gardening. Hmmm - interesting parallel. Life – garden. Don’t miss out on it. Be ready. Be prepared. Your spring senses are awakening.

Even if you can’t see spring yet or don’t quite feel it in your bones, the signs are there. An unknown author gives some wise advice on how to awaken from our winter slumber. “If people were meant to pop out of bed, we’d all sleep in toasters.” Don’t be the 3-second Pop Tart. Start spring gardening slow and easy. The inspirational thought for the day is by JoJo Jensen, Dirt Farmer Wisdom, 2002. “Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds.” This is the emergency broadcast system sending the 60-second warning. The snooze button is beeping - spring is almost here!

Photos by Greg Bilowz
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesdays with Annie 02 16 10

It is one of those unpredictable weather days in New England. So sit back and enjoy the sporadic moments of our winter while reading the answers from yesterday’s brain teasers. The inspirational thought for the day is by Minnie Aumonier. “There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”

Blueberries are acid-loving plants. True. This woody perennial requires sun to partial shade with moist, well-drained acidic soil. Before planting blueberries, you should test the pH to make sure the acidity levels are 4.5 to 5.2. If not, you must condition the soil with an acidifier. New England soils are typically acidic in nature. The soil may not need a lot of work to achieve ideal conditions for growing blueberries.

Blueberries should be pruned in May. False. Blueberries should not be pruned until Mid-March after four years of initial growth. Remove the blossoms the first and second years after planting to promote vigorous growth. Unfortunately, you need to forgo the blueberry pancakes and muffins for a couple years before you can reap the benefits.

Blueberries have a deep root system. False. Blueberries have a shallow root system and only require that the first 6-12” of soil are prepped. Blueberries need just the right levels of moisture and pH. Although they don’t require lots of space, you do need the proper nutrients and acidity to produce a great crop.

The best time to plant blueberry bushes in the Northeast is early spring, after the threat of a hard frost. True. In other parts of the country, it may be best to plant in the fall. However, in the Northeast, planting in the spring allows the plant or shrub an entire growing season to become established prior to its first winter – a repeated lesson in Annie’s blog.

Planting more than one variety of blueberries is important for cross pollination. True. Planting multiple varieties can improve cross pollination and extend the fruiting period. Also, certain varieties are more flavorful while others store better so mix it up to get the most value.

Blueberries are an excellent choice to consider for several reasons. Primary is its fruit production. However, with its exceptional ornamental value, fall and winter interest and amazing habitat for birds, this shrub offers a lot for one species. Now is the time to place your bare root stock order for your garden. It is less expensive than buying them in a container. If you order them now, the plants will be shipped in the middle to latter part of April – the ideal time to get them in the ground and start gardening. Countdown to April – it is not that many weeks away.

Photo of blueberry fall foliage - By Greg Bilowz
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 02 15 10

Annie’s Monday morning brain teasers are all about the color blue today. Whether blue is your favorite color or you are feeling a bit blue because you have to work on Presidents Day, we can take heed in what Vincent van Gogh said about this color. “There is no blue without yellow and without orange.” The true or false answers slated for tomorrow’s post, Tuesdays with Annie.

Blueberries are acid-loving plants.

Blueberries should be pruned in May.

Blueberries have a deep root system.

The best time to plant blueberry bushes in the Northeast is early spring, after the threat of a hard frost.

Planting more than one variety of blueberry is important for cross pollination.

The inspirational quote of the day is an old Chinese Proverb. “The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.” Remember this saying as you delve into Monday. Annie
Image of blueberries from Internet.
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Friday, February 12, 2010

Tasty Winter Road Trips

In yesterday’s post, Annie said to keep your eyes open for the first signs of tapping the maple trees. Did you know that many of the sugar houses in Massachusetts are open to the public during the sugaring season? For more information, check out the Massachusetts’ Sugarhouse directory. Many of the sugarhouses offer dining where you can enjoy pancakes and other maple syrup treats. You can call the Massachusetts Maple Phone number at (413) 628-3912 to get their boiling schedules. This is a fun outing to add to your late winter/early spring list of road trips.

There are several ways to enjoy the many agricultural businesses throughout New England. This Saturday, February 13th from 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm there is a 4-hour cheese making class called Know Your Food: Simple Cheese making at Drumlin Farm Nature Center in Lincoln, MA. If you have never been, it is a great place for the kids. But this cheese making class sounds fun for adults. You must be 16 years or older to take the class. For more information, contact:
Drumlin Farm 208 South Great Road, Lincoln, MA 01773 or by calling 781-259-2200.

Take the time to experience and explore the many agricultural farm businesses that are quintessential New England. Visit the to find other classes and events for the family. The inspirational quote of the day is by Steven Wright. “I went to the bank and asked to borrow a cup of money. They said, "What for?" I said, "I'm going to buy some sugar." Have a great Valentine’s Day weekend. Annie
Photo from Internet
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Spring – the Early Signs

Gardeners are tightening their seatbelts for any last-minute winter weather that could make spring seem far away but here are a couple of signs:

At this time of year, you can find the occasional Witchhazel in bloom. The common Witchhazel,Hammamelis virginiana blooms from fall through spring. It is not uncommon to see sporadic blossoms throughout the winter months. Witchhazel grows best in sun or partial shade and in light, moist soil. It is a common understory plant in our native woodlands. This Zone 3 plant has frost-resistant blooms. Look for its small, yellow paper-thin petals. There are many species that you can add to your own garden to ensure some early flower interest. A few Witchhazel varieties to look for in the nurseries that do well in Zone 5 (a bit less hardy than the common but much more showy) include: ‘Arnold Promise’ with delicate yellow flowers; 'Jelina', sunburst red, yellow to orange flowers; ‘Diane’, coppery orange to red flowers; and ‘Pallida’, which has a very fragrant yellow flower. All of these varieties have stunning fall foliage.

Another sign of spring is the tapping of the Maple trees. Maple syrup tapping typically occurs in the Northeast from February through March when daytime temperatures go above 40 degrees and the nights are still below freezing. As you drive the New England back roads, keep your eyes open for the maple buckets and hoses.

Even though we are in the lull of the winter and it may seem relatively quiet, look for the signs that our gardens are slowly waking up. The inspirational thought for the day is by Claudia Ghandi. “If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in my garden.” Have a great day. Annie

Common Witchhazel - Photo from Internet

'Jelina' - Photo from Internet

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Carb Night Delight

As we anxiously await another dumpster of snow, George Carlin (The Hippy Dippy Weatherman) predicts it best. “Weather forecast for tonight: dark.” If you are grumbling about the winter and nothing feels like spring no matter how hard you try, cooking is a great option. What better activity to do than dig out your pots and pans and cook up a feast on a snowy Wednesday evening.

Here is a quick pasta dish that is great if you are tight for time. If you prefer to make your own pasta, make sure you use semolina flour and lots of egg yolks. But if you only have the energy for something out of the box, try this simple sauce. It is best for bowties or fettucine noodles. If you are making fresh pasta, prepare the sauce before you cook your noodles.

4 to 6 servings (1 lb. of pasta)

Sauce recipe:

½ cup quality extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one fresh lemon
½ to ¾ cup of freshly grated romano cheese *(You can substitute parmesan or asiago cheese – personal preference).
1 tsp. of drained capers
1 tsp. of freshly ground pepper
Add to sauce
1/2 tsp. of quality chicken base (Prefer Minor Brand; no MSG and not high in salt)
Add as a garnish
1 tsp. of freshly chopped Italian parsley
Or 1 tsp. of freshly chopped basil
Or 3 thinly sliced sundried tomatoes
Mix the sauce together. The sauce does not need to be warmed.
Drain the cooked pasta and put immediately back into the pan. Pour the sauce and mix. Serve immediately with garnishes.

This is a simple, hearty base recipe that you can add your own creative flair. For example, throw in some artichoke hearts or asparagus spears. This dish is also a great accompaniment to chicken or a white fish if you are really hungry.

And remember, the inspirational thought for the day is by Clyde Moore. “There's one good thing about snow, it makes your lawn look as nice as your neighbor's.”

Image of Pasta from Internet
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesdays with Annie 02 09 10

Late posting due to some glitches. Ooops! That happens on occasion. The inspirational quote of the day is by Cullen Hightower. “Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. Laughing at someone else's can shorten it.”

The best way to store potatoes is to place them in a cool, dark dry location. False. Potatoes like a cool moist location. Our friend’s family spreads them out on trays as a single layer and sprinkles lime (ground limestone) on them to keep them fresh.

Ten pounds of seed potatoes can produce approximately 25 pounds of potatoes. False. Ten pounds can produce far more than your average 25 pounds of potatoes. Last year even with all the rain ten pounds of seed potatoes produced 80 pounds. On average, you should get 100 to 130 pounds.

To produce the hottest Horseradish, add the vinegar immediately after you grind it. False. If you like it hot, add the vinegar after the ground horseradish sits for three minutes. If you add the vinegar immediately it stops the reaction of volatile oils. Store the horseradish in a sealed container in the fridge. Leaving it out to the open causes it to lose its pungency and flavor. Be careful – wear gloves if you grate it by hands. Best to use a food processor.

There is only one type of yeast to make bread. False. There are numerous types of yeast used to make all kinds of bread. Some of the yeast is produced from rotting fruit like raspberries and grapes. It is a subject in and of itself. Some of the artisan sour dough breads produced in San Francisco use a specific indigenous strain of yeast that can create very sour and acidic properties, hence its name.

The most popular flower on Valentines Day is the red rose. True. Here is a link to what color combinations mean when sending roses. You want to make sure you aren’t saying something in flower language that could get you in hot water.

Have a great Tuesday. Annie.
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Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 02 08 10

What a Monday morning for New Orleans! Now that the game is behind us, spring is just around the corner and Valentine’s Day is next on the list. It’s not as big as Super Bowl Sunday but we could start a new trend.

Today’s brain teasers are in response to a recent comment made by a Telegram & Gazette reader regarding Friday’s blog post, Our Garden of Hope. “Ann, best blog yet and so timely. You'd be gratified to know that there's a groundswell movement of people going back to the basics: living frugally, growing their own produce and making bread. Perhaps this is a positive result of this dire economic time. Self-sufficiency.” Answers in tomorrow’s blog, Tuesdays with Annie.

The best way to store potatoes is to place them in a cool, dark dry location.

Ten pounds of seed potatoes can produce approximately 25 pounds of potatoes.

To produce the hottest Horseradish, add the vinegar immediately after you grind it.

There is only one type of yeast to make bread.

The most popular flower on Valentines Day is the red rose.

The inspirational thought of the day is by an anonymous chap; no age given. "There are three kinds of men who do not understand women: Young, old, and middle-aged."
Photo by Greg Bilowz
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Our Gardens of Hope

The other day on the news, a startling comment was made about the difference between these difficult economic times and those during the depression. In the depression, people knew how to grow their own food and most of them did not live above their means. Despite our changing culture, the fundamental components of sustenance have not been altered.

The thing that gives us hope and strength is our knowledge of both the basics and what we need to survive. It doesn’t take much to make a good meal or to grow some of your own produce. Be cognizant of what you have to work with and what you can to do to get back to basics. Learn simple tricks like making a loaf of bread. Find small areas that can suffice as planting space. It’s amazing how little you actually need to produce a fair amount of food. Annie talks a lot about this straightforward yet important message. This is sustainability in its simplest form.

The inspirational thought for the day is by Lucy Larcom. “Like a plant that starts up in showers and sunshine and does not know which has best helped it to grow, it is difficult to say whether the hard things or the pleasant things did me the most good.” Have a great weekend and start planning your spring garden.

Photo by Greg Bilowz
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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fennel – The Overlooked Veggie

Albert Einstein once said, “An empty stomach is not a good political adviser.” It really isn’t good to have an empty stomach when you undertake anything so Annie’s gardening post today is about an interesting plant to use in your kitchen – fennel. This aromatic plant is a member of the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family. Fennel is often confused with anise because they are members of the same family. Anise is only used for its seeds where fennel is used for its entire stalk. This plant is loaded with lots of good things for you including antioxidants and vitamin C.

During the holidays, fennel was always served like celery. Its interesting yet strong licorice flavor made it a top taster with the black olives dotting our fingers. It can bring a Mediterranean flair to your cuisine. Remember, if you roast fennel, new flavors will emerge. So be daring and leave the celery in the veggie bin and check out fennel. Here are a couple of uses for this vegetable.

Roasted fennel:

2 fennel bulbs
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the stalks and slice the bulbs into ½ “thick slices.
Lay out fennel on a baking tray
Lightly coat with olive oil, balsamic vinegar
Roast at a 400°F oven for approximately 20 minutes until the fennel is soft and slightly caramelized.
Salt and pepper to taste
This recipe is a great accompaniment to roasted poultry.

Fennel is also great to add to a minestrone soup. Add a ½ of fennel bulb, sliced thin to your favorite recipe. It adds another dimension to the standard onion, celery and carrot base.

Fennel can also be planted in your borders or containers for ornamental purposes. Bronze fennel is a brownish purple variety with delicate fern-like foliage. A word to the wise: do not plant it too close to your dill because it can cross-pollinate and give the dill an anise flavor.

The inspirational thought for the day is by Jimmy Johnson. “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” Give it a go. Try fennel. Annie
Fennel image from Internet
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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Get a Head Start in Your Garden

Despite the snow or frost, it is always prudent to chip away at your garden chores early. Here are some simple ideas to give you a head start before spring rolls into town.

Order your supplies. Even in the middle of the winter, there are seeds and pots and all kinds of great finds. Ocean State Job Lot has a wide array of seed packets, pots and starter kits. To find a location near you, click on Don’t expect to find everything but it is a great place to get some odds and ends for short money and put you in the spring mode of planting. Get an early start on your seeds and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Clean up broken branches before they freeze to the ground. You’ll be one happy camper in the spring knowing you chipped away at this never-ending process.

Save ashes from your woodstove or fireplace and disperse them selectively around your garden. Ash is a good soil amendment but don’t overdo it. Wear grubby clothes. It’s a messy job; never do it on a windy day.

Continue composting. A few compost containers are always useful during the winter months. There is no sense wasting good coffee grinds and vegetable peels; your usual kitchen suspects. The winter breakdown process is longer so a few cookers for the compost is handy and smart. Position them close to the house with a shoveled path. Don’t find excuses not to compost. Your garden will love you for it.

Take a class or attend an industry event. Even if you aren’t in the field, there are plenty of classes and events that are available to gardeners. Get your notebooks out and learn some new tricks of the trade firsthand. The friendly environment is enough to make it worth your time. We are also in the midst of flower shows and exhibitions. Keep your eyes peeled and spend a weekend enjoying the forced beauty of spring.

The inspirational thought for the day is by Sally Berger. “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” No excuses. Get out your winter checklist and get a jump start on spring. Annie

Photo by Greg Bilowz
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesdays with Annie 02 02 10

Joseph Wood Krutch once said, “"The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February." An American writer, critic and naturalist, Krutch was born in Tennessee so that explains his view of February. The month is rather a positive one - the days get longer and we celebrate Valentine’s Day. There is actually a valid reason for all men to buy flowers.

Now, let’s jump into the answers from yesterday’s brain teasers.

The February flower is the rose. False. The February flower is the Primrose, Annie’s favorite wet meadow species, which tends to like moist, organic soils. In England, these beautiful flowers bloom as early as February. In and around New England, Primroses bloom later, typically April to May depending on the season. You can find a great selection of primroses at specialty nurseries.

The Daffodil appears in February and is a symbol of hope. False. The Snowdrop, a delicate groundcover bulb is the first to pop. Snowdrop is great to plant underneath Witchhazel and Winterhazel as these shrubs are also early bloomers. For early season interest, you can plant these bulbs around your rhododendrons, azaleas or mountain laurels. In mild winters, you may see a snowdrop or two in late February. So if the temperatures are extremely cold, you may have to wait for warmer weather for this symbol of hope to flourish in the winter garden.

Soil texture is defined by the proportions of sand, silt and clay. True. Although there are many variables with soil in terms of fertility, pH etc., the fundamental basis for classifying soil textures are by its proportions of sand, silt and clay.

February can be a good time to prune your Hydrangeas. False. In the New England region, it is best to prune Hydrangeas in the spring, prior to bud break. There are a number of different types of Hydrangeas, therefore a varied array of pruning requirements. In February, we are in the midst of the winter weather. From January until mid-March, severe fluctuations in temperatures can damage plant materials. It is best to wait until after this volatile weather period to evaluate any potential winter damage and then prune. You should always research the specific species you intend to prune for technique and requirements.

Fruit trees should be planted in the spring. True. The ideal time to plant fruit trees, especially bare rooted stock is in early spring, while the ground is still cool and moist. It gives the plant time to acclimate to the site and allows an entire growing season prior to its first winter season.

The inspirational thought for the day is by an unknown author. “The greener grass on the other side is probably artificial turf.” Just in case you were considering an exotic island over New England. Have a great Tuesday. Annie.
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Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 02 01 10

The calendar says it is the first Monday in February. But what is Monday without the brain teasers, Annie’s true or false quiz for gardeners? The answers are in the back of the book in tomorrow’s blog post, Tuesdays with Annie. The inspirational thought on this first Monday in February is by Alex Tan. “Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see Life with a clearer view again.” Perhaps we need to experience winter before we see the beauty in our spring.

The February flower is the rose.
The Daffodil appears in February and is a symbol of hope.
Soil texture is defined by the proportions of sand, silt and clay.
February can be a good time to prune your hydrangeas.
Fruit trees should be planted in the spring.

We recently received some photos from our friends, Neil & Nory Waldman. They travel the world working for Doctors without Borders. Look on the bright side – it’s always summer someplace in the world.

Photo by Neil Waldman - Tasmania
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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.)