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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesdays with Annie 03 30 10

Two lines from Louise Lewin Matthews’ poem, “Stately lilies pure and white, flooding darkness with their light” make this dreary, rainy morning sparkle with hope. Soon to be upon us: sunshine, chocolate bunnies and fragrant Lilies. Now it’s time for an Easter Egg Hunt of answers. Did you pass the test?

1.) The Easter Lily, Lilium longiforum, is native to the southern islands of Malaysia.
False – the Easter Lily is native to the southern islands of Japan.

2.) Prior to 1941, Easter Lily bulbs were exported into the United States.
True – Although these hybrid Lilies were first grown on the coastlines of Oregon in 1919 as a hobby, it was not until 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor that these hobbyists’ gardeners opened up shop and began commercially producing these sought-after bulbs for the United States and Canada.

3.) Easter Lily bulbs are harvested in the fall.
True - During late September and early October, the lily bulbs are dug, prepared and shipped to greenhouses across the U.S. and Canada. It is there these vigorous bulbs are forced so we may receive sweet-smelling trumpet flowers by Easter.

4.) The region, called the Easter Lily Capital of the World is located in Canada.
False. – This region, which is referred to as the Easter Lily Capital of the World is a small area located on the California-Oregon coast. Although it is a narrow section with a select few producers, this area dominates the worldwide market

5.) Easter Lily bulbs are cold hardy and can be planted in the ground.
True – my mother always planted her Easter Lilies outside (Zone 5) and these bulbs would produce flowers the following year. There are a few tricks to getting your Lily to survive cold temperatures but if you provide proper winter mulching that is removed in the spring, you should be able to get new flowers when the warmer temperatures arrive on your doorstep. However, one problem plaguing this region is the very destructive Lily beetle that has been decimating these and other Asiatic Lilies.

That’s the nitty-gritty on Easter Lilies so when you see them at the garden center, grocery store or florist, think about this bulb’s long journey and what is involved in producing its graceful white flower. Due to an emergency broadcast test to the system, I’ll be back posting on Thursday. But before I sign off, here’s the one-liner inspiration from the internet to get you in the mood for the Holiday gathering. “Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.” Don't forget the chocolate bunnies.

Image from Internet
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 03 29 10

Today’s brain teasers focus on the symbolic Easter Lily - a sign of hope and life. It’s that time of year when you see these fragrant flowers popping up near every check-out counter. Here are some quick true or false questions to test your knowledge about this popular bulb. The answers are in tomorrow’s blog -Tuesdays with Annie.

1.) The Easter Lily, Lilium longiforum, is native to the southern islands of Malaysia.

2.) Prior to 1941, Easter Lily bulbs were exported into the United States.

3.) Easter Lily bulbs are harvested in the fall.

4.) The region, called the Easter Lily Capital of the World is located in Canada.

5.) Easter Lily bulbs are cold hardy and can be planted in the ground.

The last brain teaser of the day is an internet riddle. You even get the answer today.

“Why are people always tired in April? Because they just finished a march.”

We’re not quite there yet. Keep trucking!

Image of Easter Lily from the Internet
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Dig it – It’s Friday

This is the transplanting season for the woody plant material world. As long as the shrub or tree is not showing any signs of growth, i.e., buds swollen to the point of opening or flushing, you can dig your plant and move it to another location. If you see green tips, it does not necessarily mean you can’t transplant it. Make sure the buds are not opening and pushing tender leaf tissue.

Today’s temperatures are perfect for transplanting – cool, damp and overcast. Although most of us may think today’s weather is a bit of a setback, these conditions are ideal for transplanting woody plant materials. As long as temperatures are not below freezing, there is no frost in the ground or you encounter mud pudding for soil, you are good to go. This is when the nursery industry is at its peak digging season. Even difficult species often tricky to dig like nut trees can be dug at this time.

Some areas may already see trees and shrubs waking up so it could be too late to transplant. Best advice - check the buds and use your judgment. If you have a plant you think may be too late to transplant, you can always prune off a piece of the branch that shows the bud. Bring it to a reputable nursery for an opinion.

Remember, direct sunlight on exposed roots is detrimental to the root system. Keep that tip in mind should this weather change a bit. With damp soil conditions, you won’t have to worry as much about irrigation but still give the tree a small drink.

In the inspirational words of Benjamin Franklin, it makes sense to get your garden settled in before the growing season. “I never saw an oft-transplanted tree, nor yet an oft-removed family that throve so well as those that settled be.”

Get settled in. Spring is here. Get digging and enjoy the no bug, no black fly, and no mosquito weather while it lasts. Don’t forget to check out our fan page and become a fan to get tips and our blog on your Facebook account.
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Thursday, March 25, 2010


After taking a quick peek at the morning news, it dawned on me that I must be living under a rock. One of the latest ‘green’ fads is bamboo underwear. Sounds a bit scratchy but I thought it would be an interesting plant to talk about in today’s blog.

Bamboo is a member of the grass family, Poaceae. It is considered one of the world’s fastest growing woody plants. This versatile species is used daily in Asian cultures for a myriad of things including construction. Most varieties, referred to as "running" (monopodial) are invasive and spreading but there are a few delicate "clumping" (sympodial) forms that behave themselves. Although not all species can survive our New England temperatures, there are a number of cold hardy varieties.

Ornamental Bamboo has an exotic texture and character. Be careful when planting and experimenting with Bamboo in your garden. Make sure you know what form you are planting. Once it gets established, Bamboo is very difficult to eradicate. In our own garden, the low-growing variegated bamboo we thought would stay contained has managed to creep its way into one of our borders. The taller bamboo varieties can be used for screening and/or a fencing system. Some make an impenetrable thicket.

I’m still not convinced I would try the bamboo underwear. Maybe I’ll just stick to drying my clothes on the line to be ‘green’. The inspirational thought for the day is by an unknown author. “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” Don’t forget to post your comments - eager to hear from the ‘grass shorts’ fans.
Photo of bamboo growing in our own garden - Photo by Greg Bilowz
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Birds are Back in Town

Spring is the season of love; mating season for birds. Without leaves on any of the deciduous trees and shrubs, it is much easier to spot bird activity. Because it is breeding season, the birds’ plumage is at its brightest. While these birds are attracting a mate, we get to see the show. Although the best time to spot birds is typically dawn and dusk, you can still see many species throughout the day.

Get a good pair of binoculars and spend a few minutes in the morning looking to see what feathered creatures are visiting the neighborhood. I still manage to see blue birds, which are very prevalent in our backfield even during the rainy season. Take advantage before the leaves come out to spot some impressive species. As birds migrate through the area, be on the lookout for the unusual sighting.
The inspirational thought for the day is by Robert Lynd. “In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence.” Listen for the songs and the birds that sing them.
Photo of Eastern Bluebirds - Image from the Internet
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesdays with Annie 03 23 10

Yesterday’s brain teaser was an easy question. What is your favorite spring flower? It’s still not too late to answer this one because there isn’t a right or wrong, true or false answer. As promised, I said I would tell you my favorite. Although it is a toss-up because I truly love every spring flower, the one that has the most significance for me is Phlox subulata; common name: Moss Phlox, Moss Pink and Mountain Phlox. My family always called it ground Phlox. There are many cultivars of this early blooming groundcover. This perennial can handle moderately dry conditions, is cold hardy and its masses of various colors ranging from red- purple, violet-purple, pink, or white flowers brighten up any rock garden or perennial border.

This groundcover perennial surrounded me as a child in the springtime. My family’s garden, including my grandparents had mounds of every color growing in their property. There are a few transplanted patches growing in my garden but it doesn’t seem to like our soil or location as much as my mother’s. Even though there were many of the other springtime favorites that were prevalent in our yard like Lilacs, Forsythia and Tulips, the Phlox was always the foundation of our spring display.

Today’s inspirational quote of the day is by Barbara Kingsolver, summing up what is so true about childhood memories. “It's surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.” Thanks, RH for the faithful blog reading and your answer – I love crocuses, too.

Photo of my mother's Phlox - Photo by Greg Bilowz
P.S. If you are looking for a website to give you some additional photos to inspire you, this is a great link.

Don’t forget to go to our fan page!/pages/Bilowz-Associates-Inc-Our-Blog-Annies-Gardening-Corner/325316334444?v=wall or the blog and post your favorite spring flower. Have a great Tuesday.
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 03 22 10

What a kick-off into spring! The weekend weather was perfect for any outdoor activity, especially for all our gardening friends. Here’s hoping you chipped away at some of Friday’s list and enjoyed the sunshine.

Everyone knows that today is the Monday morning brain teasers, the true and false quiz for the week. I’m mixing it up a bit. There is only one question and it doesn’t require any extensive plant knowledge. What is your favorite spring flower? You can post on the Fan page discussion button or you can post your comments on the blog. My list is extensive but I intend on narrowing it down so I can share my answer tomorrow. Here are a few suggestions for those who might need a little jump start.

Ground Phlox
Basket of Gold

If you are stuck on what flowers pop in the spring, here is a link for some hints. The first spring flower that popped in our garden this weekend is Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’, a small purple and white early flowering bulb.

Our inspirational thought for the day is by Mrs. C.W. Earle. “Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination.” Take this Monday morning to pick that special spring flower and let it carry you through the day. Hope you’ll share your favorites.
Photo of Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’ from the Internet. Didn't get a chance to take a photo of the ones popping in our garden.
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Friday, March 19, 2010

No Shortage of Springtime Tasks

This week’s weather is just the tickler – the start of spring is literally at our doorsteps and with it comes all the chores of ‘dolling up’ our outdoor spaces. A few quick tips for the avid gardener just itching to dig in the dirt:

* Clean and sharpen your garden tools. Replace any rusty or broken equipment.
* Check all your small engine power tools. Fill them with fresh fuel and let them run for a bit. If they need repair work, now is the time to send them to the shop (mowers, rototillers, leaf blowers etc.) Good ear protection is often overlooked when using these tools. Pick up a quality pair to save your hearing.
* Remove all the dead branches from your garden.
* Remove any leaves or leaf litter built up on your lawn.
* Aerate your compost pile.
* Prune your roses and remove any mounding materials.
* Clean up your beds. With rising temperatures, it is tempting to clean up your perennial borders. Word of caution – don’t uncover them too early. A little bit of protection from late season frost could save some of your tender, more delicate perennials. You want your plants to come out of dormancy slowly so allow the spring weather to be a permanent fixture rather than a fluctuating moment. (Tip of the Day from our Facebook Fan Page – 3/11/10)

It’s a wrap. Let’s end the week with an Irish blessing. “May you always walk in sunshine, May you never want for more. May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.” Get out and take advantage of the stellar weekend weather. No excuses. And don’t forget, if you want extra tips, discussion and information not found in Annie’s Gardening Corner, join our Facebook Fan Page.
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Date Night with Figs

Want a relaxing way to enjoy this beautiful spring-like weather? Food is always good to squeeze into the mix and we are overdue for a tasty recipe. Today is designated date night and figs are on the menu.

Fig & Prosciutto Pizza (Adapted from Todd English’s Recipe)
Preheat oven and pizza stone to 500 to 550 Degrees for approximately 45 minutes to an hour. The stone needs to be heated thoroughly. The hotter the oven, the better the pizza cooks. 700 Degrees is actually the ideal temperature but most conventional ovens do not go above 550. One of the reasons an outside pizza oven is a great idea.

For the quick and easy method, use large pita pockets for your dough; split the pockets open. If you opt to make your own pizza dough or buy frozen dough at the store, stretch it as thin as you can; the thinner the better. Cornmeal on the pizza peel makes it easy to slide the pizza on and off the peel without disaster.

Now let’s prepare the ingredients.

Mix two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, ½ clove of minced garlic, salt and pepper and ½ teaspoon fresh rosemary chopped in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to spread the mixture on the pocket or pizza dough.

Chop up approximately 6 Mission figs (dried but soft) or you can use Fig preserve (about ¼ cup)
¼ cup of gorgonzola cheese (I prefer goat cheese as I find gorgonzola too strong for my taste). The cheese should be crumbled in pea-size pieces. You do not want large clumps of cheese.
3 slices of thinly sliced prosciutto (cut into strips)
Todd also uses scallions as a garnish. Completely up to you.

First cover the pizza with the figs, then spread the gorgonzola evenly and place the prosciutto on top. For pita pockets, it takes two to three minutes for cook time. Fresh pizza dough takes five to ten minutes depending on how thin the dough is stretched. Always check the bottom of the pizza. Keep a close eye. Never wander too far from the oven. Slice and serve immediately accompanied with a fine salad of greens (mesclun and/or arugula drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette) and a glass of Chianti. This is a healthy meal for an early spring evening. Enjoy.

The inspirational thought for Thursday date night is by none other than Charlie Brown. “Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.” Try the Fig and Prosciutto Pizza. I think it will go much smoother. Annie

For all the latest, up-to-date tidbits, trends and tips, join our Facebook Fan page and follow us there. You get more than just the blog postings!
Image of Fig and Prosciutto Pizza from the Internet.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

To the Green Thumbs on St. Patty’s Day

This month’s saying on my coffee calendar is “A good cup of coffee is all the luck you need.” Because I don’t have a lick of Irish in me, it is probably all the luck I may find today. But if my ‘green thumb’ prevails, I may start to get lucky with a show of spring flowers soon enough.

So speaking green, is there anything coming up yet in your garden? In little warm pockets, you may find some of your grass turning brackish brown to hints of green. But why wait so long to see that wonderful color that should be predominant in your garden. Let’s mention a few quick suggestions for an early green display.

A favorite evergreen groundcover, one that I can claim much luck with in my garden is Pachysandra terminalis 'Green Sheen'. This is one of the most sun-tolerant of the Pachysandras. Its green leaves are glossy and makes all your surrounding plants pop. It is deer-resistant and if given the right conditions, it can act as a weed smothering groundcover. The minute the snow melts, and trust me, in New England that can happen quite a few times over the course of a winter, the ‘Green Sheen’ Pachysandra is the earliest sign that there is life under the snow. My shade garden has masses of this groundcover and it works well with hostas, ferns and woodland shrubs. You can even plant pockets of daffodils in between the Pachysandra.

One other traditional groundcover, Vinca minor is similar to the ‘Green Sheen’ where even under the snow, it continues to stay green. In some areas of the country it is considered an invasive species and must be controlled in its use. Vinca has a soft lavender flower and is drought-tolerant. Once it is established, it is hard to kill, making it a great hardy groundcover. It is an easy plant to move around and get immediate impact.

A word to the wise regarding these groundcovers: give them room to spread and don’t plant them around too many delicate perennials. Both groundcovers have the capacity to choke out less aggressive plant materials.

Today’s inspirational thought for the day touches upon one of the basic lessons from Annie’s Gardening Corner. “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”~ One-liner from Irish Jokes.Com.

To all my ‘green thumb’ friends, Annie wishes you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. P.S. Don’t forget to join our Facebook Fan Page. Lots of extra tips everyday!

Photo of ‘Green Sheen’ Pachysandra mixed into our shade garden - Photo taken by our slighlty Irish Photographer - Greg Bilowz
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesdays with Annie 03 16 10

Talk about time change withdrawal. Yesterday’s brain teaser date had us a week ahead of schedule. Oops! Maybe no one noticed but just for the record, it was an early spring edition. Here are the answers from the 3 22 10 Monday morning brain teasers on Tuesday, March 16th 2010. By the way, are people still game for these brain teaser quizzes or should we change it up a bit? Feel free to comment.

1) Tulips, one of our favorite flowers of spring, originated in the Netherlands.
(False) These beautiful flowering bulbs were first commercially cultivated in Turkey although they appear to have originated in central Asia, Siberia, Mongolia and China. There is a history to how the Netherlands became the top producer of these favored flowers and still stake claim as the world’s main bulb source. Just a tip on tulips – the majority of these bulbs must be bedded out (planted annually) every year for the best effect.

2) If the tip of the Forsythia cane makes contact with the soil, the cane will generate roots.
(True) One of our earliest spring blooming shrubs, Forsythia is an easy propagator and very cold-hardy; some varieties can handle the chilly temps of Zone 3. These two characteristics make the Forsythia a perfect shrub to mass together for early spring splash. If left to its own accord, it naturally tip-layers itself, widening its yellow footprint each year. Give it ample room along the border of your property; hence its name - Border Forsythia. There are compact varieties for those who are tight on space but some of these are less hardy.

3) Two major minerals in maple syrup are potassium and calcium.
(True) Although you may think maple syrup’s sweet taste would not be good for you, the real McCoy gives you some extra benefits. So if you can splurge for pure maple syrup rather than the sugary, corn syrup brands that cost much less, you’ll enjoy more of your daily supplements with your pancakes or waffles.

4) Winter Hazel (Corylopsis), not to be confused with Witchhazel, is an early blooming deciduous shrub related to the Witchhazel.
(True) Both of these plants are a member of the Hamamelidaceae family. The fragrant yellow bloom of Winter Hazel occurs the same time as Azalea m.‘Cornell Pink’, making them great garden companions that also provide beautiful fall color.

5) Asian-type Magnolias bloom before its leaves form on the tree.
(True.) Forsythia bushes also are known to have this same trait. If you do not have a Magnolia on your property, find an unusual variety and add it as a specimen to your garden. You can find some great naturalizing bulbs: Scilla varieties, Grape Hyacinths, Chionodoxa and/or miniature Daffodils to grow underneath the Magnolia.

Hopefully these plant facts will get you ready for spring. The inspirational thought for the day is a Chinese Proverb ~ “Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men. “ Enjoy the last minutes of winter and embrace the beauty of spring. If you open your eyes, the awakening of this season is truly a rare sight.

Don’t forget to join our fan page where you can get additional tips, photos, links and a place to join a discussion. Have a great Tuesday.
Photo of Winter Hazel (Corylopsis) and Azalea m.‘Cornell Pink’ at Winterthur Gardens – Image from Internet
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 03 22 10

We have time change withdrawal, nasty weather, and a Monday morning – what a combo for waking up on the bright side. So let’s get rolling with those Monday morning brain teasers. As always, the answers are true, false or once in a while, a trick question but you need to read ‘Tuesdays with Annie’ tomorrow to get the skinny. No fruits today. Instead, let’s work with some spring line-up questions as the season is literally on our doorstep.

1) Tulips, one of our favorite flowers of spring, originated in the Netherlands.

2) If the tip of the Forsythia cane makes contact with the soil, the cane will generate roots.

3) Two major minerals in maple syrup are potassium and calcium.

4) Winter Hazel (Corylopsis), not to be confused with Witchhazel, is an early blooming deciduous shrub related to the Witchhazel.

5) Asian-type Magnolias bloom before its leaves form on the tree. (Photo above - by Greg Bilowz)

Despite all the things that make this Monday morning a bit tougher than usual, we shall not find ourselves in Alfred Polgar’s dilemma. “Too often man handles life as he does the bad weather. He whiles away the time as he waits for it to stop.” Let’s do something productive today. One thing you can do is join our fan page where you can get additional tips, photos, links and a place to join a discussion. Have a great Monday.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

A Shoe Full of Spring Bloom

As we awaken to a dreary Friday morning in March, Doug Larson puts a spring in our step with his sensible wisdom. “Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.” Though it may be mud season and the winds can turn our weather cold at a moment’s notice, it is worthy mentioning a plant genus soon to be blooming. Azaleas and Rhododendrons, another one of the first flowering shrubs of spring clearly make the cut as the plant enthusiast’s specialty. This subject is vast and some spend their lives collecting and breeding the various species and varieties. Although plants within the genus can bloom from March until mid-summer in the Northeast, there are a number of early-bloomers that give the garden its first splash of color.

Two plants to add to your collection: Azalea (Rhododendron) mucronulatum ‘Cornell Pink’ or an offshoot, Weston’s ‘Pink Diamond’. If you go with the ‘Pink Diamond’, an improvement on the mucronulatum, which blooms a bit later, you’ll see extra garden impact with its amazing pink flowers and its dramatic fall foliage. One of our local growers, Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, MA introduced Weston’s ‘Pink Diamond’ as well as many other exceptional Azaleas and Rhododendrons, putting Massachusetts on the international botanical map. These acid-loving woody plants are both deciduous and semi-evergreen, depending on variety and make striking additions to your woodland garden.

Plan now for a visit to Weston Nurseries or find one of the many area parks, arboretums or forests that have extensive collections. A spring walk at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, MA (follow Administration Road) has wild azaleas growing along the trail’s edge.
To end with our inspirational thought for the day by Geoffrey B. Charlesworth, think about the many ways you can immerse yourself in the season. “Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.” Take a road trip or a walk in nature. Experience this delightful season soon to be upon us even if there is a bit of slush beneath your feet.
Pick your color - subtle Pink Shell Azalea or bold Flame Azalea
(Photos/design by Greg Bilowz)
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

To Prune or Not to Prune

Before the spring season truly wakes up, this is the time to inspect all your trees and shrubs for damaged or diseased branches and structural problems (i.e., crossed, rubbing branches and damaged or split crotches from heavy snow loads). Without foliage, trees and shrubs are very easy to evaluate.

The best time to prune is typically late winter to early spring before the plant begins to grow. Pruning should be performed when it does the least amount of damage to the plant. The purpose of pruning is to maintain proper structure and health and to maximize the quality of flowers, fruit, foliage or stems. It can also be used as a manner of training and/or restricting the plant’s growth. Training fruit trees into an espaliered form on a fence or trellis system is a good example.

There is a difference between clean-up and pruning. Do the glaringly obvious parts first. Removing broken, damaged or dead branches can improve the overall plant’s appearance. Use restraint before hacking into your plants. For example, if you have to remove a large branch, typically two cuts are required. First cut is to remove it. Leave a big stub. Second cut should be your final, clean cut. Remember, do not prune too close to the trunk. Your best bet is to research visuals that show you good illustrative photos of proper pruning cuts. Here are two useful links to help you get up to speed.

Always utilize quality pruning tools that are kept sharp and clean. You should avoid spreading diseases with your tools. It is wise to use a can of Lysol and spray your tools between each plant pruning. The real purists disinfect between each cut.

So when do you hire a professional tree expert? Arborists are often brought in to evaluate trees in question, to perform elevated pruning in the canopies of trees and tree removal, both fairly dangerous procedures, and for specialized pruning of valuable plant materials. Arborists are also hired to perform Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs to maintain proper health and vigor of existing plants. You can click on this link to find a certified arborist in your area.

To inspire you to take the plunge with pruning, the quote for the day is by Julie Cameron. "I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow." And if you get yourself in a pinch, you can always call the professionals. Have a great day. Annie

Close-up image of an espaliered Apple tree - From the Internet
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Annie’s Garden All-Stars

This is the optimum time to start planting some of your seeds. Certain varieties require more days in the pot prior to lining out in your garden so check your list. Some garden All-Stars worth discovering are Cardoon and Artichokes.

Cardoon is a great plant to use in your border as an accent or near Leeks and purple Kale in your vegetable garden. Its sculptural silver foliage is a real eye-catcher. Whether grown in your veggie patch or your perennial border, use your imagination. As with many silver foliaged plants, they compliment the bold, hot colors. In the right location with good, rich soil, Cardoon can reach six feet tall so allow it elbow room. Some people produce the Cardoon for its edible leaf stocks and roots. It is a favorite of Chef Mario Batali. In the Colonial American vegetable garden, it was an important staple. It is worth adding to your list of unique collectibles.

As for the ‘filet mignon’ of the plant world, artichokes take the grand prize. Start your artichokes early and use annual varieties. Some people are successful growing artichokes even in the Northern areas like Vermont. There are subtle tricks on how to get the artichoke to flower in one season. Hence, the reason you must start your seeds early. Even if you don’t get a flower, the foliage is stunning.

Can you pick out the Cardoon? Hint - it's the tallest plant.
Photo and design/planting by Greg Bilowz
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesdays with Annie 03 09 10

Susan J. Bissonette once said, “"An optimist is the human personification of spring." So as these spring-like days infiltrate New England, are any of us optimistic about growing apricots? Like peaches, plums and nectarines, apricots are nutrient-hungry plants and if given these rich growing conditions can produce and mature rather quickly. Apricots are like all other temperate fruit trees, appreciating full sun, well-drained soil and proper spacing. The best part about apricots – this fruit can live a long life, about 75 years. Let’s check the answers from yesterday’s brain teasers and see how you want to proceed with apricots.

1) The apricot, Prunus armeniaca is a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae). (True.) The Rose family is chock-full of interesting plants. It rates third on the list for food production.

2) The apricot originated in Armenia. (False – China ) It was first believed that apricots originated in Armenia and therefore a portion of its name was derived - Armeniaca. However, there seems to be no denying its original habitat was China. Apricots were cultivated in other temperate regions throughout Europe and Asia and eventually introduced to the United States. The majority of the apricots commercially produced are canned or dried. Fresh apricots can be hard to come by and are rather pricey, which make planting an apricot tree tempting for New England gardens.

3) Georgia is the largest producer of apricots in the United States. (False – California.) California takes first place producing over 90% of the U.S. crop. Apricots have similarities to peaches. One little interesting tidbit about the Peach title: despite Georgia still being called the Peach State, California also produces more peaches than Georgia.

4) Apricots are one of the most drought-resistant fruit trees (True) Apricots, unlike peaches, plums and nectarines, which are very closely related, do not have the same water requirements and can thrive in relatively dry conditions. This is one of the main reasons you see apricots grown in Mediterranean climates.

5) Apricots are an early blooming fruit tree. (True) Apricots bloom very early in the Northeast and are at risk to late season frost damage. They wake up early and bloom early. If you decide to plant an apricot tree, try to avoid frost pockets where cold air can sit. Good air drainage, i.e., south facing and gently sloping locations may be your best bet.

If you are interested in growing apricots, locating the liners (small bare root plants) is not always easy. Many of the suppliers sell out a year in advance so call around and see if there may be some stragglers. If not, order now for next year. This fruit tree is becoming increasingly popular for commercial growers in this region because of the high price the apricot can demand at market.

To end the apricot dilemma, ‘should we grow, should we not grow’ question, let’s take Thomas Edison’s advice and use it as our inspirational thought for the day. "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

Don’t forget to tell your social media gardening friends where they can find Annie’s Gardening Corner. The Fan Page on Facebook - ‘Bilowz Associates Inc. & Our Blog - Annie's Gardening Corner’ will have tidbits of information heading into spring only found there. You can either go to the blog via our website, under Blog and click on ‘Follow our Fan Page on Facebook’ or direct link to the Fan Page, and become a fan. Have a great Tuesday.

Photo of apricots - from Internet)
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 03 08 10

What comes on quicker than a hot flash? Monday mornings. And with that, the brain teasers are sure to follow. Sticking with the recent theme of fruit, today’s true or false format is about the versatile apricot. Although most may think fruits tree, let alone apricots may be difficult to grow, let’s test your knowledge on a few of its habits and history. Tomorrow, when you see the answers in Tuesday’s with Annie, you can make your decision whether apricots should be part of your fruit tree repertoire.

1) The apricot, Prunus armeniaca is a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae).

2) The apricot originated in Armenia.

3) Georgia is the largest producer of apricots in the United States.

4) Apricots are one of the most drought-resistant fruit trees.

5) Apricots are an early blooming fruit tree.

If you care to take Garfield’s advice for the day, “Avoid fruits and nuts: after all, you are what you eat. “ Or you can check in tomorrow and find out everything you wanted to know about apricots.

Remember, you can find Annie’s Gardening Corner in a few places including Twitter. A recent addition is our new Fan Page on Facebook called ‘Bilowz Associates Inc. & Our Blog - Annie's Gardening Corner’. You can either go to the blog via our website, under Blog and click on ‘Follow our Fan Page on Facebook’ or you can try this direct link to the Fan Page, for more photos, events and information including our blog.

(Photo of Apricot from Internet)
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Friday, March 5, 2010

Get Cooking

To kick off Friday morning with a funny thought, we’ll borrow a bit of levity from George Carlin. “I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed.” So let’s get out of this winter slump and think spring. When the bigger things in life seem to kick you in the shorts, those things you don’t really have control over, think of what you intend to change this year in your garden.

Russ Faulk of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet wrote a recent article about the rise in outdoor kitchens. “Fully functional outdoor kitchens are now the norm, featuring refrigeration, sinks, prep areas, and pizza ovens in addition to the grill.” Although this is over the top for most folks, creating that outside space where you can entertain friends and family is an important extension of one’s home.

There is a lot of hard labor and energy put into creating beautiful outdoor spaces but a fire pit or pizza oven (*remember to check your town or city’s local codes) can add an area that keeps your guests entertained well into the wee summer evenings. It doesn’t have to be elaborate and it can be done on a shoe-string budget. It takes a bit of Yankee ingenuity and elbow grease.

So if you want to put a dollar into the change machine and see change, then roll up your sleeves and get cooking! The inspirational thought for the day is by Lin Yutang. ““If man be sensible and one fine morning, while he is lying in bed, counts at the tips of his fingers how many things in this life truly will give him enjoyment, invariably he will find food is the first one.” Naturally, gardening should be a close second. Have a great weekend. Annie

(Photo of pizza oven - from the internet)
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Urns Have It

Are you looking for that special element to make your garden, deck or porch come together? This is the time to start shopping for your decorative pieces. One, it gets you in the mood to start thinking ‘gardens’ and ‘outdoors’ and two, you’ll get prime choice on all the great items waiting to be discovered in garden centers, second-hand stores and unique shops.

These decorative pieces make a statement about you. Sure, there is always room in your borders for bold, colorful flowers or the unusual specimen tree. You can test the latest and greatest perennials but you must apply the general rules: the right soil, sun/shade and water requirements. When you look for those special deco pieces, there are no rules. This can speak volumes about your garden personality. It lets you say, “Hey, this is me.”

Talk about leeway! You can find some funky, chunky pieces or something tasteful and classic or better yet, mix them all up. It’s all in what you want to do here. Break the rules!

Based on this theory, the inspirational thought for the day is by Katharine Hepburn. “If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.” And with gardening, it may be hard work but it should always be fun! Annie

(Upper Photo, Levens Hall, UK - Photo by Greg Bilowz)
(Below Photo - Image from Internet)

Have you seen my pink bra anywhere?

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Sweet Scent of Lilacs

One of the first flowers of childhood memory is the sweet blooming Lilac. Although we won’t be seeing the likes of its flower until late April to mid May, it is like opening night for our gardens. There is something about a lilac’s sweetness that fills the air, telling gardeners spring is truly here.

The Common Lilac, Syringa vulgaris, a species in the Olive family, Oleaceae is not native to North America although it is claimed as the state flower of New Hampshire. This shrub has longevity; a perfect choice for any garden. Its many cultivars range in colors: purple, burgundy, pink, blue, white and even yellow in standard and dwarf forms. There is certain to be a suitable choice for your garden, too many to pick a favorite. Most varieties are best used for borders or screen plantings as it grows in thicket form rather quickly and is a great habitat for bird and wildlife. An excellent cut flower, it offers sweet smelling blossoms for the garden or the house. You can check out the International Lilac Society as this shrub is a collector’s passion. There is even an upcoming convention in Shelburne, VT this May.

So when the snowflakes and winds of March dip your enthusiasm to lower levels, think of that childhood memory when lilacs filled the air and you knew that spring was truly here. And if you are looking for a family event to experience and celebrate the history and beauty of lilacs, be sure to visit the Arnold Arboretum on Sunday, May 9, 2010. The Arnold has one of the oldest and largest collections in the United States; worth a road trip even for my British readers. For more Lilac Sunday information, call the Arnold Arboretum at 617.524.1718 or check out this link -

To help us battle the last of the winter doldrums, the inspirational thought for the day is a one-liner from the internet. “Why do skeletons hate winter? Because the cold air goes right through them!” Have a great Wednesday. Annie

Image of Lilac from Internet
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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesdays with Annie 03 02 10

Everyone loves Tuesdays because it’s answer day! So let’s test your thinking skills with an internet riddle. What lives in winter, dies in summer, and grows with its root upward?Did you guess it yet? Don’t peek. It’s not a carrot, it’s not parsnip; one last chance - an icicle. Thankfully, most of these remnants from winter are gone. So let’s get right into the strawberry trivia.

1) Strawberries are in the same family as raspberries – the Rose family, Rosaceae. (True) The deliciously sweet strawberry belongs to the genus Fragaria in the Rose family, Rosaceae. Raspberries are also part of this family.

2) Strawberries need full sun; at least 6 hours per day. (True) Strawberries require an ample amount of sun for optimum fruit set and ripening. The plants need well-drained soil and adequate irrigation to assure proper health. Try growing strawberries in containers, urns, even hanging baskets. There are creative ways to grow and display your red berries.

3) The uniqueness of a strawberry is its leaf. (False.) Strawberries are the only fruit with its seeds on the outside. Without going into too much detail, the strawberry you eat is neither a fruit nor a berry. It is the enlarged receptacle of the plant called a pepos. If you are interested in the botany of the strawberry, it is well-worth the read but too much science for a Tuesday morning.

4) Strawberries can have the winter protection of mulch (usually straw) removed in early spring. (True). Mulch should be moved aside in the strawberry rows but not totally removed from the garden. It is good to keep the mulch close by to ensure cover for the blossoms should a frost be predicted. And in the Northeast, we know that happens often in the spring.

5) The American Indians made the first version of strawberry shortcake. (Trick question. It was a joint venture.) The American Indians used crushed berries and cornmeal, which was made into strawberry bread. The Colonists then created a much more decadent version, thus creating the infamous strawberry shortcake. We certainly took a fancy to this tasty morsel. Per the history records, the United States developed the first hybridized strawberry in 1780.

Because we will soon be seeing lots of wigglers and crawlers in our gardens, always a good sign, today’s inspirational thought for the day is fitting. Of course it is another internet riddle. What else would you expect on a Tuesday with Annie!

“What do you call it when worms take over the world? Global Worming.”

Image of strawberry shortcake - from Internet
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Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Morning Brain Teasers 03 01 10

Our first day of March is mixed with snowflakes and of course, the Monday morning brain teasers. Today’s true or false format is a runner-up in Annie’s favorite fruit category – strawberries. In the Northeast, March through April is the time to start planting your bare root stock so let’s test your knowledge about this delightful early-blooming soft fruit.

California produces 80% of the country’s supply of strawberries. However, in that trip across country, the fruit loses some of its charm. Immediately after a strawberry is picked, the sugars start turning to starch, similar to corn. It loses a lot of its intense flavor. There is nothing like the taste of a freshly picked strawberry. Last year’s June strawberry season was a bit of a washout due to all the heavy spring rains. Let’s hope we have plenty of sunshine to pick lots of these sweet gems. What’s your favorite way to enjoy fresh strawberries?

1. Strawberries are in the same family as raspberries – the Rose family, Rosaceae.
2. Strawberries need full sun; at least 6 hours per day.
3. The uniqueness of a strawberry is its leaf.
4. Strawberries can have the winter protection of mulch (usually straw) removed in early spring.
5. The American Indians made the first version of strawberry shortcake.

Don’t forget that Nourse Farms is a great resource for your strawberry plants. In case you didn’t get their information in the raspberry brain teasers, here is a gentle reminder. You can find information online at or by contacting them at 413-665-2658. Today’s inspirational thought for the day is a cute riddle found on the internet; perfect for Monday morning. “When is a cucumber like a strawberry? When one is in a pickle and the other is in a jam.”

(Photo of strawberries from the Internet)
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© 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.)