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, August 31, 2010

The Ridiculous in Radicchio

At close to $6.00 a lb., approximately the cost of a sirloin steak, Radicchio is a tad pricey at the supermarket. But don’t fret. With the planting season just about wrapping up for vegetables, now is the perfect time to start jotting down what different crops you can try your luck at next year. This is an easy one to sow by direct seed although it does take some time (3 months) in our colder climate for mature heads. And if you aren’t convinced by the ridiculous price of Radicchio, then possibly this recipe from Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano book might cinch the decision for you. You won’t taste the bitter flavor Radicchio is known for with this tasty recipe.

Radicchio al Rosmarino (Pg. 439 – Molto Italiano)

4 ounces pancetta (substitute for guanciale) cut into 1-inch long batons
4 long heads radicchio
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the pancetta in a 10-to 12 inch sauté pan, set over medium heat, and cook until the fat is rendered, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the radicchio, increase the heat to high and sauté until it is wilted. Add the rosemary and the vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 4 servings and goes well with sirloin steak on the grill. (All the savings from growing your own Radicchio can be used for the meat!)

So why not try this leaf chicory in your garden next spring and when the cooler temps roll around, you can enjoy these flavorful tastes on the patio. The inspirational quote of the day is a proverb. “Money grows on the tree of patience.” Radicchio may take some time to sprout in your garden, but when it does, you can enjoy the savings and the savory flavor.

Image of Radicchio from the Internet
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Common Sense Planning

Every so often I venture across the borders to make an important point. Take a minute to read this linked article about an endangered wildflower in Wales. Trevor Dines of charity Plantlife Cymru points out, "Incorrect site management is the number one threat to our wild plants and flowers.”

It doesn’t stop at wildflowers or an endangered species. On a larger scale, improper site management can have devastating effects on existing trees, shrubs, a site’s drainage and its stabilization not to mention its aesthetic impact. A property’s resources add monetary value. Therefore, it is common sense to assess and evaluate the site prior to moving dirt. But often times, it is overlooked as a cost-cutting measure but the real expense shows up later in the process.

With site development, the objective is to maximize all existing attributes and resources while minimizing its impact. One quick example is protecting existing trees integral to a site’s structure planting. If an excavator comes in and destroys valuable elements to a property, it is often too late to save a mature tree that has been banged up. This tree may have served multiple purposes from stabilization to aesthetics.

So how do you transition from a vision on a piece of paper and apply it to actual site conditions? This can be very subjective but common sense is necessary. The important but often overlooked answer is ‘in the field’. The design process does not end at the drafting table; it is ongoing. There should always be a back and forth dialogue between design and implementation throughout the project. When a site’s development is improperly managed, there is an enormous impact on the overall cost and can cause long-term damage with drainage and other issues that are not apparent in the short-term. When you hire a contractor, make sure there is a clear, delineated understanding of site conditions and a strategy to execute your project.

Handle a site’s resources with care. This requires technical experience, a subtle hand and a clear strategy. Exceptional created landscapes address the transition zone between existing and proposed conditions or its elements. In the end, you should not be able to delineate the interface between old and new.

This begins with proper site management. Don’t cut costs early in the process. Whether it is an endangered wildflower, a mature tree, or an existing landform, the elements of the site must be integrated into your vision prior to breaking ground.

To end today’s entry; let’s wrap it with an inspirational quote from C.E. Stow. “Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done.”

Image of Deptford Pinks in Wales - From BBC article
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Friday, August 27, 2010

No Horsing Around with This Radish

If you have the inkling for the hot, spicy flavor of horseradish and haven’t tried growing this root in your garden, I would highly recommend it. Horseradish is a perennial plant from the Brassicaceae family, which includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli and cabbages. It has numerous culinary and medicinal uses. Horseradish grows profusely, much like a weed that can actually become invasive. Not as aggressive as the mint family, I still recommend finding a strategic location where you can keep it at bay.

You may think the handful of small roots you purchase from the seed company is initially pricey but it is similar to garlic. Buy it once and you can continue to cultivate and expand your crop as long as your heart desires. It is all in how you prep your soil. We planted ours in a former compost bin location. This root prefers growing in rich soil.

A jar of this stuff, especially the gourmet types are a bit pricey. With the ease of growing your own, this root vegetable is a cinch for the novice gardener. It takes approximately three seasons to generate the hefty, fleshy roots needed to produce homemade horseradish sauce. Typical of a perennial addition to your garden, it is an initial investment of time to get it established, but it’s a long-termer.

To end our week, we use an inspirational quote from Doris Janzen Longacre. “The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn't simple.” Trust me. Horseradish is an easy one to grow so give it a go. Buy your rootstock in the spring and remember, wear gloves when you are harvesting and processing. That’s the tricky part. Have a great weekend. Annie

As always, we welcome your comments and questions.
Image of Horseradish from the Internet
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Clarifying Your Vision

Often times, writing something down solidifies a thought process. If your intention is to start a landscape project, there is a method to design, evaluate and execute any project. Creating a roadmap for your vision sets a framework. This sequence may be considered linear but here are two simple examples to illustrate its logic.

If you intend to create a terrace adjacent to your house, the project doesn’t start by purchasing stone. First, you lay out the area on paper and in the field to make sure it works. You measure the square footage, research material options, evaluate the costs, prepare your work area with the appropriate tools and then build your terrace.

If you need some additional trees around your property, you start by sketching the area on paper, even if it is crude. You purchase wooden stakes available from the local hardware store to layout and locate each tree and/or shrub to assure correct spacing. Next, you label the stakes and then inventory to get a proper head-count. Don’t forget the prep work that may need to be done in advance of a delivery. Then it’s time to tag your plant materials. Don’t be an impulse buyer. Plan your strategy.

Regardless if you are working in small or large spaces, clarity executed in proper sequence is the only way to complete a project. Mapping it out sets your destination. If your intention is to go for a joy ride, then the end goal may not matter. But if you are undertaking a project of any size, it is advisable to create a road map. You can leave some wiggle room for creativity and even possible detours but it is important to establish a solid framework for your project. Time invested in thoughtful planning pays huge dividends during the process.

The opposite of clarity is confusion. Confusion creates chaos and stress and can be extremely costly, specifically on construction projects. Today’s inspirational quote is taken from the book ‘Strategic Acceleration’ by Tony Jeary. “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Don’t take shortcuts when it comes to clarifying your vision.
Image of Blueprints from the Internet
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fire in the Garden

Now that the soaking rains have drenched many of our gardens, clean-up awaits us. It’s time to put the real fire out. Unfortunately, unwanted critters (voles and turkeys in particular) have made themselves welcome amongst the weeds and overgrowth.

So it’s time to take this garden over, weed by weed, critter by critter and make a dent in the perennial beds that show more crabgrass and ragweed than any other species. With the weather turning a bit cooler, this is the season to get your garden prepared for its second yet final growth period. It’s not too late, even though the tasks feel cumbersome and overwhelming. So here are a few quick tips to help you reclaim your garden territory.

1) If you have signs of voles, make them feel unwelcome. Before these critters become too comfortable taking up winter residency, research some of the repellents on the market and decide which ones suit your fancy. There are a few sonic gizmos to buzzer types that annoy them, making them leave. Do it now. Regarding the turkeys, Border Collies come in handy.

2) If Crabgrass annoys you, there is not much left to its growth cycle. Crabgrass is an annual, warm season weed. Earlier in the season, this prolific seeder is more difficult to eradicate. As it matures, chemicals are more effective. If you want to bomb the grass, this is the season.

3) Don’t forget to check for any signs of diseases. Right now, I need to figure out whether we have fire blight on a rose bush and one of our apple trees. Even if you only walk through your garden with good intentions of clean-up, keeping your eyes open to diseases and problem plants is extremely important. Make some effort to get out there when the weather clears and start chipping away at your garden chores.

Please post what is on your list of things to do in the garden and if you have any questions, don’t forget to send your comments. George Bernard Shaw gives us that extra oomph to make some time for tidying up our gardens. “Better keep yourself clean and bright. You are the window through which you must see the world.”
Image of Turkeys from the Internet
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wake Up Call

Is everyone asleep these days? We are approaching the last two months of the growing season so get on your feet and kick into gardening gear. You know the drill. Within a month, the days are shorter, nights are cooler and the ground is moister so plan ahead. If you haven’t put together the honey-do list for the garden, it’s not too late. If you need some suggestions, don’t forget Annie’s Gardening Corner will be here, round the clock, like that cup of caffeinated coffee to knock your socks off with great ideas and inspiration. Today’s quote is from Thomas Jefferson. “The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years.”

Even if it’s a tad cloudy, here’s your wake up call. To edge, to mulch, to weed, to seed, to mow, to sow, to till,…the list goes on so don’t be asleep at the wheel or else! That floor doesn’t look too comfortable. Have a great day. Annie

Image from the Internet
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Monday, August 23, 2010

The Last True Summer Jewels

Tomatoes, the reddest of all our summer fruit and the favorite staple of most are soon to be just straggly vines in our vegetable gardens. Both edible and beautiful in the same moment, tomatoes are the summer keepers.

Even though the season is almost wrapped up, it is never too late to share some valuable tips on how to grow outstanding tomatoes. First, pick your variety. If you want a fail-safe, bomb-proof tomato, the best choices are Supersonic, Super Fantastic, Big Boy, Better Boy to name a few. These varieties offer consistent fruit, are thick-skinned, tough to mess up and great for slicers. There are a number of other varieties to try if you are looking to stretch the tomato palette. Heirloom varieties are always a good choice but are more susceptible to diseases. If you are looking for great cooking tomatoes to use in sauces or for canning, Roma tomatoes are satisfactory but the San Marzano varieties offer thicker flesh and phenomenal flavor.

How to grow a great tomato? It’s pretty simple. Prep the soil well. Even though you may think this is a given there are no shortcuts on this one. Plant with black plastic as was recommended earlier in the season. Use less water and less fertilizer. Most of us tend to baby our plants, especially our tomatoes. Watering your tomatoes weekly is sufficient once the vines are established under black plastic. This makes the plants hardy and less susceptible to diseases while keeping the skin pliable, limiting ugly splits during heavy rain events. Flavors also intensify as the plant works harder for its nutrients. Like most fruits, the flavor becomes concentrated with a little less water. Will Cuppy provides the inspirational thought for the day. “Just when you're beginning to think pretty well of people, you run across somebody who puts sugar on sliced tomatoes. “

So grab your plant journals and make your seed lists for next year’s garden. Mark down some of the unusual varieties that may be tougher to grow but produce the true summer jewels.

Image from the Internet
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Friday, August 20, 2010

It’s a Cherry of a Season

Fresh-picked cherry tomatoes add a sweet dimension unlike any other of the large tomatoes. Brandywine as a big slicer ranks a close second but a ‘Sweet 100’ or a ‘Sweet Million’ Cherry tomato usually tips the sugar content scale on the Brix test. This test measures sugar content in fruit and vegetables. So don’t let your cherry tomatoes split on the vine. The dynamic flavor and sweetness play off many other culinary ingredients. Here are four easy recipes for the weekend barbeques – strictly for these sweet Cherry tomatoes.

2 cups of Cherry tomatoes sliced in halves
Salt & Pepper to taste
Drizzle lemon-infused extra virgin olive oil (Available in specialty stores or create your own)
Add a few fresh sprigs of finely chopped spearmint and basil
Add shaved pecorino cheese (use a vegetable peeler) upon serving.

2 cups of Cherry tomatoes sliced in halves
½ cup of crumbled feta or goat cheese
¼ cup of pitted Nicoise olives
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
Drizzle white balsamic vinegar (to taste)
Fresh ground pepper
Do not add salt – plenty in the cheese and olives

1 cup Cherry tomatoes sliced in halves
1 cup cubed watermelon
Arrange on a plate and drizzle with balsamic vinegar syrup. This is balsamic vinegar reduced. (1 cup makes 1/3 of a cup of syrup boiled down).

The final recipe uses leftover corn on the cob. Don’t let it go to waste. Wrap it up and put the corn in the fridge for the next day to make this hot and spicy salad.

1 cup of corn removed from the cobs (Break up kernels)
1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in halves
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (to taste)
Salt & Pepper to taste
A dash of ancho chili powder and chipotle chili powder to taste (or hotter if you like)
Add a few sprigs of fresh finely chopped cilantro
Toss and refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to serving. This particular recipe goes great with anything smoked on the barbie!

We wrap up our week with a simple quote by Lewis Grizzard. “It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.“ Enjoy the sweetness of these final summer days. This is peak tomato season so don’t let it slip by without trying some of these simple culinary tips in your kitchen.
Image from the Internet
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Heaven’s Masterpiece

The most predominant color in the landscape is often the color green. Understanding how to blend bold and subtle hues is often the trick of the trade. I happened upon a book “The Gardener’s Color Palette” by Tom Fischer, Photography by Clive Nichols that is a must read for anyone looking to implement color to their own garden backdrop. Simplistic writing with exquisite photography, this book breaks out color quadrants with brief descriptions about the author's chosen plants.

In Fischer’s introduction, he explains to his readers an important message. “I chose the flowers featured in this book because they embody color with a particular intensity or flair…But my hope is that you’ll take the time to look closely at these flowers as individuals…You can be an urban apartment dweller without a square foot of soil to your name and still stand in rapture before the perfection of a single lily in a vase.”

No one should be afraid of color. Whether you add boldness to your table with a floral arrangement or weave it softly amongst your garden, this book gives you that extra boost to explore and expand the palette. Dorothy Parker states it best. “Flowers are heaven's masterpiece.” Enjoy what’s left to the summer and remember to always surround yourself with the beauty and color of flowers.
Image of Book Cover “The Gardener’s Color Palette” from the Internet
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In the Limelight

Thank goodness for our late season workhorses. The one tried and true shrub that is blossoming in the midst of our fried landscape is ‘Limelight Hydrangea’ Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’. If you are looking for one woody shrub that bridges the color gap between summer and fall, consider this Hydrangea variety. Right now, it is in its early to mid bloom cycle; cream with subtle hues of lime-green. As the blossoms mature, the flowers offer pink and mauve highlights late into the fall season. If you haven’t tried this Hydrangea, wait another week or so and find a nice specimen at your local nursery. You can still plant this deciduous shrub late into the year; before the ground freezes. Locate in full sun but try to protect it from direct, hot afternoon heat. East facing locations are best. The blossoms will last longer. Excessive heat stress can cause mid-day droop. Give it plenty of room to mature.

Hydrangeas are workhorses in the plant world and this one is a honey. It has been heavily marketed in the cut flower industry but here’s reinforcement that this variety is as a must-have for your garden. Here’s to finding the ‘Limelight’. It’s a hall of famer for the garden.

To end with our inspirational quote, let’s use the words of Audrey Hepburn. “There are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girl's complexion.” We must tell Audrey that this shrub isn’t one of them!

Photos by Greg Bilowz *Design by Greg Bilowz of 'Limelight' Hydrangea
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Are you Ahead in the Game?

Fruit trees on average are ten to fifteen days ahead of schedule for picking. So get your baskets ready as it may be a short harvest. Going around the central Mass orchards, you see fruit trees in desperate need of water. This is making the fruit set small but extremely sweet. If you find the fruit’s optimum picking date, the sugar content could be off the charts.

This year’s plums are slow to come but the peaches are perfect for picking. The white peaches are almost too sweet this year. If you have a hankering for sugary, these peaches are like candy on the tree. If you are making jams and preserves, lay off the sugar. Adjust accordingly to make sure you have the right balance. Follow the apple schedule as some growers may open their orchards early for picking. Don’t expect huge fruit but you may find intense flavor. This may be an exceptional cider year.

On the vegetable front, the season may wrap up early. Stock up now if you are shopping at the farmers markets for fresh produce. Typically these markets can stay open until November. This year, some growers may be forced to wrap it up early due to the advanced season. But there is an abundant supply so get it now while it lasts.

It’s time for me to wrap up and deal with what’s eating my computer server. There are always bugs; the virtual lurgies haunting the networks or the nasty creepy crawlers in the soil. On that note, the inspirational thought for the day can apply to our gardens as well. “My software never has bugs. It just develops random features.” Off to deal with both! Annie

Images from the Internet
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Never Say Never

With summer vacations coming to an end and the back-to-school mania around the corner, make time to revel in these final summer days. With everything ahead of schedule, the local fruits, veggies and our flower gardens are certain to be just lingering moments in photographs.

John Muir gives us food for thought on this overcast Monday morning. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. “ If you haven’t made time to enjoy the many wonderful moments of the summer, take a little break from the hustle and bustle. Create a place for play before snow flies. Be entranced in the beauty of a flower or a moment in nature. It is never too late to garden. You are never too old to see beauty.

All Photographs by Greg Bilowz
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Friday, August 13, 2010

The Weekend Awaits You

Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Although our gardens may need a lot of attention, weekends were meant for exploring and discovering. With many of the U-Pick farms busting with fruits and veggies, now is the time to hit the road and get the fresh value while it lasts. The season is a tad early this year and the weather forecast for this weekend is spectacular so why wait twenty years from now and ask yourself, “Why did I weed in the garden when there were so many places to discover?” Post your favorite U-Pick it farm. Have a great weekend. Annie
Image from the Internet
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Seed You In September

If you are thinking about revitalizing or renovating your lawn, this is the time to assess and evaluate those trouble spots. We are approaching the fall seeding season within the next couple of weeks. The beginning of September to the middle of October is the ideal time to seed a lawn due to cool, moist growing conditions and reduced warm season weed competition. If you hit the timing right, it is amazing how fast a newly seeded lawn can take off with minimal effort. So don’t sweat the rust fungus or the burnt-up grass. Do a little touch-up in the upcoming weeks and your lawn should look fab in the spring.

Don’t forget:

Use starter fertilizer;
Pelletize lime (often forgotten or overlooked);
And most important, the best quality seed-mix; we strongly recommend using the latest, improved varieties of tall fescues and rye grass with little to no bluegrass. Fescues and ryes require a third less fertilizer and water than most bluegrasses. Remember, your largest water consumption is your lawn. So be conscious of what you plant and when you plant it. It could be our obsession with green lawns is our connection to its color. "Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises." ~ Pedro Calderon de la Barca, Spanish Poet and Playwright, 1600-1681

Images from the Internet

If you like this blog, hope you check in for your daily share's worth of inspiration, design, and garden 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 for inspiration. Like our Facebook follow on Twitter or subscribe to the blog to receive posts daily via email or a feed. Either way, we hope you follow the postings somewhere in cyberspace and share it with your gardening friends. 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/Design/ Massachusetts.) 
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Put All Your Ducks in a Row

Despite the unseasonably warm, dry weather, that mid-summer lull is upon us. It’s time to put your ducks in a row and start that initial check-list before snow flies.

1) Fertilize your perennial garden. Now is the time to recharge your plants. After a long, hard growing season, you want to give them an extra boost to store enough food for surviving the upcoming winter. In the course of a growing season, herbaceous plant material goes through a lot of nutrients.
2) Deadhead the flower beds. Remove any diseased plant material and always properly dispose in a bag, not in your compost bin.
3) Can your fruits and vegetables. If your freezer is at explode-overload like ours, the canning option keeps that summer freshness for those cold days that lie ahead. It’s a bit more time consuming but don’t forget these jars can make extra stocking stuffers during the holidays.
4) And last but not least, don’t forget to water. If your plants look tired and parched, supplementary irrigation is critical. Even many drought-tolerant plants are suffering in this heat. So don’t ignore the signs of moisture-stress. The weather typically moderates around the end of September. Help bridge the late summer gap and keep your plants healthy.

Today’s inspirational thought is brought to you by Michael Caine. “Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.” That’s the life of a gardener in a nutshell.

Duck Photo by Caitlan Davis, taken at Mont Royal, Montreal. For her first clicks, without any knowledge of the equipment, Cait did an amazing job. She has a natural eye with the camera.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Bucket List Market

James Beard once said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” Therefore, if you have never experienced the Jean-Talon Market (French: Marché Jean-Talon) in Montreal, it is a bucket list must. It takes farmers markets to another level. It’s not just about crisp produce or attractive floral displays. This culinary heaven is surrounded by a few key store fronts, fish in particular, which taste and smell so fresh you might think it just came off the hook. You can also visit the Italian shop with its many varieties of meats, cheeses and unusual olive oils to bathe your fresh vegetables and dress your salads. All you need is the kitchen. Visiting Montreal in the past, you realize you cannot experience the true essence of a place unless you become fully immersed in the culture. It’s the reason we rented a flat for a week with full cooking capacity.

So no excuses – this is a great jaunt for the foodie traveler. Twelve months of the year, this place is hopping. Atwater is also a cool market (it’s along the Canal) but Jean-Talon has the display aspect and eye appeal figured out. With our own veggie and flower gardens looking a bit parched and tired, there is no fatigue showing at Jean-Talon. So take Julia Child’s advice. “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” Support your farmers. They make freshness possible!

A few shots at the marketplace taken by Greg Bilowz
More photos will be posted on our facebook page at
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Monday, August 9, 2010

Follow Your Bliss

Although it was with all good intentions to write my blog while away for a short stint, it just didn’t happen. The laptop was barely touched and it was better off that way. It was time to reconnect and enjoy some down time. When we take so little for ourselves, we can never become refreshed and rejuvenated. In the words of Deepak Chopra, “Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss. Nothing is as rich. Nothing is more real.”

Photo by Caitlan Davis
Let’s hope my niece, Caitlan follows her natural ability to take photographs. Spending a week with her in Montreal for her 16th birthday was a great experience for all of us!
Photo by Greg Bilowz
What’s up in your garden? Ours is a disaster! In the meantime, send your comments or questions regarding the wonderful world of gardening. Annie
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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.)