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The Hunger Moon and Other Moons

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

In The Old Farmers Almanac there is a name given to each full moon of the year. These are mostly adapted from early Native Americans who kept track of the passing seasons and tied their calendar to the full moons. The Hunger Moon, which is Saturday February 24th this year, falls at the end of winter when game is scarce and predators are particularly hungry. Names for the moons varied between different indigenous peoples, but they carried similar meanings.  The Hunger…
In The Old Farmers Almanac there is a name given to each full moon of the year. These are mostly adapted from early Native Americans who kept track of the passing seasons and tied their calendar to the full moons. The Hunger Moon, which is Saturday February 24th this year, falls at the end of winter when game is scarce and…

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The Dirty Dozen of Produce, or Why You Should Buy and Grow Organic, by Dorian Winslow

Category: Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Strong Women Building A Gentle World

The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen-- It’s not always easy to find organically grown produce, but one nonprofit group called The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that are the most pesticide-contaminated and are to be avoided if they’re not organically grown. The group updates the list of the Dirty Dozen every year. The list includes strawberries, spinach, kale/collard and mustard greens, peaches, pears, nectarines, apples, grapes, bell and hot peppers, cherries,…
The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen-- It’s not always easy to find organically grown produce, but one nonprofit group called The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that are the most pesticide-contaminated and are to be avoided if they’re not organically grown. The group updates the list of the Dirty Dozen every…

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5 Must Haves for the Houseplant Gardener

Category: How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Tools & Techniques

We're all houseplant gardeners at this time of year. Some of our houseplants are outdoor plants during the warmer months and they're brought indoors when the weather turns frosty or just plain chilly, and some seem happiest indoors all year long. I keep my clivia miniata indoors year round because the one time I put it outdoors on a hot sunny day the leaves got burned and discolored. For the same reason I keep my fiddle leaf fig tree and…
We're all houseplant gardeners at this time of year. Some of our houseplants are outdoor plants during the warmer months and they're brought indoors when the weather turns frosty or just plain chilly, and some seem happiest indoors all year long. I keep my clivia miniata indoors year round because the one time I put it outdoors on a hot…

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Should you leave your fallen leaves? There is no simple answer, by Jeannette Ross

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Given an uptick in media attention recently, gardeners may be questioning whether or not they should undertake a full autumn cleanup, particularly when it comes to fallen leaves. Is it better to remove them or keep them? It’s a question that doesn’t have a clear-cut answer. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are 40 million acres of lawn in the United States, three times more than any irrigated crop. Many of those lawns are dotted with deciduous trees,…
Given an uptick in media attention recently, gardeners may be questioning whether or not they should undertake a full autumn cleanup, particularly when it comes to fallen leaves. Is it better to remove them or keep them? It’s a question that doesn’t have a clear-cut answer. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are 40 million acres of lawn…

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Tips On Pruning Shrubs in the Fall

Category: How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

We consulted with our friend, horticulturist Ruth Rogers Clausen, about pruning shrubs in the fall. There are primarily three reasons to prune a shrub: To get rid of any dead, damaged, diseased or dying wood (The 4 D's), or crossing branches To shape an overgrown or lobsided shrub To encourage more flowering Fall is a good time to prune away dead, damaged, diseased or dying branches. This will improve the health of the plant, and it can be done anytime…
We consulted with our friend, horticulturist Ruth Rogers Clausen, about pruning shrubs in the fall. There are primarily three reasons to prune a shrub: To get rid of any dead, damaged, diseased or dying wood (The 4 D's), or crossing branches To shape an overgrown or lobsided shrub To encourage more flowering Fall is a good time to prune away…

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Pumpkins: The stuff of fairytales — and more! by Jeannette Ross

Category: Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Recipes

Cinderellas, snowballs, goblins and knuckleheads. Knuckleheads? You know them by their all-encompassing name: pumpkins. With fall arriving just last week, farm fields and farm market tables are groaning with pumpkins, those multi-colored signs of the season from the Cucurbita genus (the Latin word for 'gourd').  While orange sugar pumpkins and big jack-o’-lantern pumpkins are commonly seen in fall displays, there are many more varieties available for eating and decorating. Perhaps one of their most appealing attributes is their names. With…
Cinderellas, snowballs, goblins and knuckleheads. Knuckleheads? You know them by their all-encompassing name: pumpkins. With fall arriving just last week, farm fields and farm market tables are groaning with pumpkins, those multi-colored signs of the season from the Cucurbita genus (the Latin word for 'gourd').  While orange sugar pumpkins and big jack-o’-lantern pumpkins are commonly seen in fall displays, there…

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Beneficial Weeds: Foraging in your Backyard, by Jeannette Ross

Category: How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Strong Women Building A Gentle World

If your natural surroundings are anything like mine, there is an untapped bounty of plants unrecognized for their nutritional and medicinal benefits. That’s what Sarah Lucas — a farmer, forager and teacher with Harlem Valley Homestead in Wingdale, N.Y. — told me when she visited my home. Almost everything I dismissed as a weed — noxious or benign — has a useful side, we just need to recognize it. Goldenrod, dandelion, garlic mustard, lady's thumb, knot weed, dock, even my…
If your natural surroundings are anything like mine, there is an untapped bounty of plants unrecognized for their nutritional and medicinal benefits. That’s what Sarah Lucas — a farmer, forager and teacher with Harlem Valley Homestead in Wingdale, N.Y. — told me when she visited my home. Almost everything I dismissed as a weed — noxious or benign — has…

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Moving and Dividing Perennials That Don’t Want Their Root Systems Disturbed by Jeannette Ross

Category: 'Dear Ruth' Column, Flower Gardens, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

For some perennials, it is especially difficult to move or divide them. You plant them, they thrive, then you decide to uproot them and they just don’t want to go there. Perennials that would just as soon be left alone include Baptisia, lupine, Oriental poppy, milkweed, Russian sage, goatsbeard, red hot poker, and peony. To learn ways to increase your success, our go-to horticulturist Ruth Clausen provides tips. When you move them and how you do it is critical. Learn…
For some perennials, it is especially difficult to move or divide them. You plant them, they thrive, then you decide to uproot them and they just don’t want to go there. Perennials that would just as soon be left alone include Baptisia, lupine, Oriental poppy, milkweed, Russian sage, goatsbeard, red hot poker, and peony. To learn ways to increase your…

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How To Make A Tussie Mussie or Nosegay

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

A tussie mussie or nosegay is a small bouquet of scented herbs and flowers. For centuries, going back to Elizabethan times in England, a nosegay was carried by women to defend against noxious smells from open drains and unwashed bodies, which brought the risk of plague and fever with them. Later tussie mussies were used to convey messages, using the language of flowers to communicate things like loyalty (blue violets) or innocence (white violets). Books about the symbolism of flowers…
A tussie mussie or nosegay is a small bouquet of scented herbs and flowers. For centuries, going back to Elizabethan times in England, a nosegay was carried by women to defend against noxious smells from open drains and unwashed bodies, which brought the risk of plague and fever with them. Later tussie mussies were used to convey messages, using the…

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How to Create Your Own Cutting Garden

Category: Flower Gardens, Garden Planning, How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Have you ever thought of creating a garden composed of flowers grown with the express purpose of being cut for floral arrangements? That's a cutting garden.  Once cutting gardens have been established, they tend to be low-maintenance projects that require just a little time each week for weeding and watering. How to Create a Cutting Garden Preparing the Site-- Like most successful gardening projects, cutting gardens require a bit of planning.  You can create a cutting garden within a vegetable…
Have you ever thought of creating a garden composed of flowers grown with the express purpose of being cut for floral arrangements? That's a cutting garden.  Once cutting gardens have been established, they tend to be low-maintenance projects that require just a little time each week for weeding and watering. How to Create a Cutting Garden Preparing the Site-- Like…

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Landscape Design: Creating Steps in the Landscape

Category: How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

The steps I put in leading down to the pond and stream are made of wood.  I chose to make wood steps because the cost of a stone path would be prohibitively expensive. The stones themselves and the labor to move them into position, given the length of the hillside (40-50') and the inaccessability of the site to a delivery truck, made that approach very expensive. After installing the wood steps I was happy with the choice as I felt…
The steps I put in leading down to the pond and stream are made of wood.  I chose to make wood steps because the cost of a stone path would be prohibitively expensive. The stones themselves and the labor to move them into position, given the length of the hillside (40-50') and the inaccessability of the site to a delivery…

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What’s The Difference Between Geraniums and Pelargoniums?

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

I've often heard that the showy, sun loving plants we call geraniums, are actually not geraniums but are pelargoniums. It's confusing, so I asked horticulturist Ruth Rogers Clausen for some clarity. Here's what she had to say. Geraniums and pelargoniums belong to the same botanical family: the Geraniaceae. However, the common name “geranium” is often used incorrectly in reference to members of the Pelargonium genus. There are multiple species in each genus, most of which are resistant to browsing deer…
I've often heard that the showy, sun loving plants we call geraniums, are actually not geraniums but are pelargoniums. It's confusing, so I asked horticulturist Ruth Rogers Clausen for some clarity. Here's what she had to say. Geraniums and pelargoniums belong to the same botanical family: the Geraniaceae. However, the common name “geranium” is often used incorrectly in reference to…

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Join With Other Gardeners to Create Pathways for Pollinators by Jeannette Ross

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Watching the hummingbirds at my feeder is always a joy. Being in the Northeast I get ruby-throated hummingbirds, the most common here, and last year three females vied for the nectar in two feeders, one in front and one in back of my house. This year there is at least one male among the females. The hummingbirds are just one of the pollinators I try to support. In spring I don’t mow the dandelions, ajuga or the buttercups to allow…
Watching the hummingbirds at my feeder is always a joy. Being in the Northeast I get ruby-throated hummingbirds, the most common here, and last year three females vied for the nectar in two feeders, one in front and one in back of my house. This year there is at least one male among the females. The hummingbirds are just one…

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What causes good years and bad years for flowering trees and shrubs?

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Last year the ornamental cherry tree on my property had the most glorious blooms and this year it didn’t. The same with my lilacs. On the other hand, my crabapples bloomed beautifully this year but last year they were so-so, and I expect they will be so-so again next year. Many trees and shrubs need a “rest” year. Some of this is part of the mystery of nature, but often there are other explanations for why our trees and shrubs…
Last year the ornamental cherry tree on my property had the most glorious blooms and this year it didn’t. The same with my lilacs. On the other hand, my crabapples bloomed beautifully this year but last year they were so-so, and I expect they will be so-so again next year. Many trees and shrubs need a “rest” year. Some of…

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A Tribute to Mom Who Gave Me a Love of Gardening by Dorian Winslow

Category: Flower Gardens, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

[This is a story I published several years ago on Mother's Day. My mom is now nearly 98 and is still enjoying her garden at her cottage in Salisbury, Connecticut where she lives with a companion, though she has hung up her garden gloves and tools.  The story speaks to a love of gardening instilled by someone we love.] My mother is a vigorous lifelong gardener with a variety of gardens on her property in Sharon, CT in the northwestern…
[This is a story I published several years ago on Mother's Day. My mom is now nearly 98 and is still enjoying her garden at her cottage in Salisbury, Connecticut where she lives with a companion, though she has hung up her garden gloves and tools.  The story speaks to a love of gardening instilled by someone we love.] My…

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Here’s How to Create Beautiful Containers

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Reprinted and Revised from an earlier story in Curious Gardener I learned about the container gardening concept of "Thriller, Filler, Spiller" at a class I took at the NY Botanical Garden.  When you're selecting plants for your container, the Thriller is the central plant that grows taller than the others and is the focal point. The Filler is the plant or plants that surround the Thriller, and the Spiller is the plant that spills over the edges of your container.…
Reprinted and Revised from an earlier story in Curious Gardener I learned about the container gardening concept of "Thriller, Filler, Spiller" at a class I took at the NY Botanical Garden.  When you're selecting plants for your container, the Thriller is the central plant that grows taller than the others and is the focal point. The Filler is the plant…

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Turning Dandelions Into Wine Starts With the Picking, By Jeannette Ross

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Dandelions are highly unappreciated. Lovers of emerald-green lawns may have them in their cross-hairs, but these golden pops of color provide spring nectar to bees, greens for your salad, and more. The more? They are the main ingredient in a delightful dandelion wine called Memento-Mori produced by Enlightenment Wines of Brooklyn, N.Y. Recently I joined about two dozen others for an afternoon of dandelion foraging at Fishkill Farms in Fishkill, N.Y. Picking dandelions is pretty straightforward, as one might imagine,…
Dandelions are highly unappreciated. Lovers of emerald-green lawns may have them in their cross-hairs, but these golden pops of color provide spring nectar to bees, greens for your salad, and more. The more? They are the main ingredient in a delightful dandelion wine called Memento-Mori produced by Enlightenment Wines of Brooklyn, N.Y. Recently I joined about two dozen others for…

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Womanswork Garden Quiz: Test Your Garden Knowledge, Learn Some New Things

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Can you answer these 19 True/False and multiple choice questions? Most of the questions come from information in previous Curious Gardener newsletters. The answers are at the bottom of the page, but don't peak. 1. Which one of the following is NOT a medicinal plant? (multiple choice) a) Hypericum perforatum (St. John's Wort) b) Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley) c) Arnica Montana 2. Which of the following activities are best done in Spring? (multiple choice; choose any that apply)…
Can you answer these 19 True/False and multiple choice questions? Most of the questions come from information in previous Curious Gardener newsletters. The answers are at the bottom of the page, but don't peak. 1. Which one of the following is NOT a medicinal plant? (multiple choice) a) Hypericum perforatum (St. John's Wort) b) Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley)…

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Seven Steps To Prep Your Spring Garden Now by Jeannette Ross

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

April may be the cruelest month, especially in the Northeast, but don’t let that stop you from jumping into garden mode. Working steadily now, you won’t have to be playing catch-up when the weather warms up for good. Step 1 If you haven’t already, do a thorough clean-up, gently raking away leaves and other debris to give your perennials some much-needed sun and fresh air. Eliminate any weeds that might be living under the surface, ready to pop up with…
April may be the cruelest month, especially in the Northeast, but don’t let that stop you from jumping into garden mode. Working steadily now, you won’t have to be playing catch-up when the weather warms up for good. Step 1 If you haven’t already, do a thorough clean-up, gently raking away leaves and other debris to give your perennials some…

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Garden Words You Should Know Starting With Hay versus Straw

Category: Flower Gardens, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Spring Projects

Hay versus straw Hay is grown as food for livestock.  If you buy hay for your garden you will have seed heads that can sprout and create weeds. I learned this the hard way one year when I sprinkled hay over a newly seeded part of our lawn and large weeds emerged that were hard to pull out. Straw makes a great mulch and planting bed for your garden. It has no nutritional value for animals because it's made of…
Hay versus straw Hay is grown as food for livestock.  If you buy hay for your garden you will have seed heads that can sprout and create weeds. I learned this the hard way one year when I sprinkled hay over a newly seeded part of our lawn and large weeds emerged that were hard to pull out. Straw makes…

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Do You Know What Your Ecommerce Carbon Footprint Is? Dorian Interviews Saloni Doshi CEO of EcoEnclose

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Strong Women Building A Gentle World

When ecommerce spiked during the pandemic, consumers started worrying about the packaging that products were being shipped in. Were there eco-friendly choices? One company that designs for recyclability is EcoEnclose. Womanswork customers will recognize their green bird logo. Recently I interviewed Saloni Doshi, a business leader who has been on the frontline of this issue for seven years. As CEO and co-owner with her husband of the Colorado-based packaging company, she’s deep into sustainability research and making sure their products…
When ecommerce spiked during the pandemic, consumers started worrying about the packaging that products were being shipped in. Were there eco-friendly choices? One company that designs for recyclability is EcoEnclose. Womanswork customers will recognize their green bird logo. Recently I interviewed Saloni Doshi, a business leader who has been on the frontline of this issue for seven years. As CEO…

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Planning Your Garden? 5 Ways to Mix it up This Year

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Pizza Toppings: Now is the time to think about your favorite toppings for pizza cooked outdoors in your new electric pizza oven or sprinkled on top of a no frills store-bought pizza. The most popular garden toppings are tomatoes, bell peppers and red onions. Have you thought of adding some thinly sliced zucchini, summer squash or even figs from your garden? Recently I read that pickles are a favorite pizza topping. My friend Michelle makes a topping of goat cheese…
Pizza Toppings: Now is the time to think about your favorite toppings for pizza cooked outdoors in your new electric pizza oven or sprinkled on top of a no frills store-bought pizza. The most popular garden toppings are tomatoes, bell peppers and red onions. Have you thought of adding some thinly sliced zucchini, summer squash or even figs from your…

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Make Floral Table Arrangements That Are Easy on the Pocketbook!

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

A pot et fleur arrangement starts with a living potted plant to which cut flower stems are added. The live plant provides an armature for the cut flowers. I chose some clivia miniata plants I have growing indoors. They won't send up shoots with flower buds until early next year, so they're perfect for providing greenery around the cut flowers.  I went into our local grocery store and bought some cut flowers. I did not need to buy as many…
A pot et fleur arrangement starts with a living potted plant to which cut flower stems are added. The live plant provides an armature for the cut flowers. I chose some clivia miniata plants I have growing indoors. They won't send up shoots with flower buds until early next year, so they're perfect for providing greenery around the cut flowers. …

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Learn to Make Paper Ornaments For the Holidays With Scissors and Glue

Category: How-To Projects, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

I love making paper ornaments for decorating gifts or hanging on the tree, so I often check Pinterest for new ideas. I saw an idea recently that I liked. Click here to see the video. On the 3rd try I was happy with the results. It's not difficult but you just need to know a few things to avoid the mistakes I made the 1st and 2nd time I tried it. The craft of making paper ornaments is becoming more…
I love making paper ornaments for decorating gifts or hanging on the tree, so I often check Pinterest for new ideas. I saw an idea recently that I liked. Click here to see the video. On the 3rd try I was happy with the results. It's not difficult but you just need to know a few things to avoid the…

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Lynn Martin, Falconer and Wildlife Rehabilitator, Believes Humans Have A Lot to Learn from Animals

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Strong Women Building A Gentle World

We’re at the Audubon Center in Sharon, Connecticut.  Lynn Martin pulls on a pair of Womanswork leather gloves and takes Mandy the red-tailed hawk on to her hand. Mandy lives at Audubon due to an eye injury that prevents her from living in the wild. Most of the birds there were found injured in the wild and were brought to be rehabilitated or protected if they couldn’t be released. She talks softly to Mandy, getting to know her as she…
We’re at the Audubon Center in Sharon, Connecticut.  Lynn Martin pulls on a pair of Womanswork leather gloves and takes Mandy the red-tailed hawk on to her hand. Mandy lives at Audubon due to an eye injury that prevents her from living in the wild. Most of the birds there were found injured in the wild and were brought to…

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What to do in the garden before and after the first frost

Category: How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Not all frosts are equal. You can find out more about expected frost and freeze dates at your local cooperative extension website or by searching 'frost dates' along with your town and state or zip code. You can match that information with the 10-day forecast on your phone's weather app. A light frost occurs when temperatures fall to between 29 and 32 degrees F. Some tender plants will die. A moderate freeze occurs when temperatures go from 25 to 28…
Not all frosts are equal. You can find out more about expected frost and freeze dates at your local cooperative extension website or by searching 'frost dates' along with your town and state or zip code. You can match that information with the 10-day forecast on your phone's weather app. A light frost occurs when temperatures fall to between 29…

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Toni House and Her Daughter Jasmine Jimerson of the Oneida Nation Take Their Lead From the Natural World

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Strong Women Building A Gentle World

In the agriculture-based culture of the Oneida Nation, to which Toni House and her family belong, plants are sometimes referred to as younger sisters and older sisters. Humans and plants are often considered equals. “We learn to listen to the earth rather than try so hard to change it to fit our ways,” says her daughter Jasmine Jimerson. In this ecosystem, humans try to replicate what they observe in the natural world, and then make small adjustments.  It’s a system…
In the agriculture-based culture of the Oneida Nation, to which Toni House and her family belong, plants are sometimes referred to as younger sisters and older sisters. Humans and plants are often considered equals. “We learn to listen to the earth rather than try so hard to change it to fit our ways,” says her daughter Jasmine Jimerson. In this…

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A Mother and Daughter Find Their Community Through Growing Lavender

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

It’s hard to put down roots when you’re a military family that moves every couple of years. But that didn’t stop Tagen Towsley Baker from searching for a sense of community in each town or base she and her husband relocated to. Growing lavender has helped her find that community, and adopting her 14-year-old daughter Mila from an orphanage in China 3 years ago has added a sweetness to the endeavor she never thought possible. On Mother’s Day Mila and…
It’s hard to put down roots when you’re a military family that moves every couple of years. But that didn’t stop Tagen Towsley Baker from searching for a sense of community in each town or base she and her husband relocated to. Growing lavender has helped her find that community, and adopting her 14-year-old daughter Mila from an orphanage in…

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Yes There Are Well-Mannered Alternatives to Wild Queen Anne’s Lace: Ammi Majus, Anthriscus Sylvestris, ‘Dara’ and More

Category: Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Queen Anne's Lace is the common name used for a variety of plants that share similar characteristics: flowers with a flat-topped, lacy white umbel and delicate foliage. Its foliage makes it a favorite in floral arrangements as a filler. The wild species, daucus carota, is growing everywhere in parts of the US at this time of year, and has been labeled invasive in many States. Although I still find it pretty growing by the roadside (and even in parts of…
Queen Anne's Lace is the common name used for a variety of plants that share similar characteristics: flowers with a flat-topped, lacy white umbel and delicate foliage. Its foliage makes it a favorite in floral arrangements as a filler. The wild species, daucus carota, is growing everywhere in parts of the US at this time of year, and has been…

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How To Make Craft Cocktails From The Garden using A Shrub as a Mixer

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

When is a shrub not a plant? When it’s in your hand as the ingredient in a thirst-quenching  beverage. In this context, think of a shrub as a pre-made drink mixer to which you can add tonic water, ginger beer or soda water for a non-alcoholic version, or gin, vodka, bourbon or prosecco for an alcoholic beverage. Today’s craft cocktails have taken the concept, which has its origins in colonial times, to a new level of popularity. Many shrubs get…
When is a shrub not a plant? When it’s in your hand as the ingredient in a thirst-quenching  beverage. In this context, think of a shrub as a pre-made drink mixer to which you can add tonic water, ginger beer or soda water for a non-alcoholic version, or gin, vodka, bourbon or prosecco for an alcoholic beverage. Today’s craft cocktails…

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My Favorite Summer Blooming Bulbs To Plant in Spring: Acidanthera, Canna Lily and Agapanthus

Category: Flower Gardens, How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Spring Projects

I have three favorite bulbs that I like to grow in the summer. In my Zone 6 garden they have to be planted in the spring after the last frost. That's what I'm doing now. There are many other summer blooming bulbs as well, but these are my personal favorites, currently. The term 'bulb' applies to a large class of flowering and ornamental bulbouslike plants in their dormant condition, including corms, tubers, rhizomes and pips. White…
I have three favorite bulbs that I like to grow in the summer. In my Zone 6 garden they have to be planted in the spring after the last frost. That's what I'm doing now. There are many other summer blooming bulbs as well, but these are my personal favorites, currently. The term 'bulb' applies to a large class of…

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Easy To Make Paper Ornaments Made From Gift Wrap

Category: How-To Projects, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

A gift wrapped in artisanal paper and decorated with a handmade ornament is special. We ordered some of Kate Blairstone's wrapping paper, made from her brilliant botanical designs, and wrapped a gift, then made an ornament for the top. Her papers come printed on both sides, so your ornament is reversible, perfect for this design. Click here to order Kate's gift wrap. Click here for step-by-step instructions on making this paper ornament, which can also be used as a holiday…
A gift wrapped in artisanal paper and decorated with a handmade ornament is special. We ordered some of Kate Blairstone's wrapping paper, made from her brilliant botanical designs, and wrapped a gift, then made an ornament for the top. Her papers come printed on both sides, so your ornament is reversible, perfect for this design. Click here to order Kate's…

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Why Do I Use An Infertile, Soilless Mix or Medium for Seed Starting?

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

When I took a propagation course at The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, NY, I learned that the best medium for indoor seed starting is one with little or no actual soil in it. At the time it seemed counter-intuitive to place my seeds in something as lifeless as a ‘soilless’ mix. Even though ordinary garden soil contains both organic and inorganic matter, I learned that organic matter can bring with it pathogens that provide an inhospitable environment…
When I took a propagation course at The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, NY, I learned that the best medium for indoor seed starting is one with little or no actual soil in it. At the time it seemed counter-intuitive to place my seeds in something as lifeless as a ‘soilless’ mix. Even though ordinary garden soil contains…

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How Do Wild Animals and Livestock in Northern Climates Adapt to Survive Cold Winters?

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Most gardeners are animal lovers I’ve observed. So I know I’m not the only one who wonders (and worries a little) about the wildlife living around me when it gets really cold outside. With the ground frozen and most plant life dormant, how do they find food and stay warm in subfreezing weather, like we’re having right now in New York State?  What about livestock? Here are some things I’ve learned: Hibernation: Some animals hibernate, going into a state of…
Most gardeners are animal lovers I’ve observed. So I know I’m not the only one who wonders (and worries a little) about the wildlife living around me when it gets really cold outside. With the ground frozen and most plant life dormant, how do they find food and stay warm in subfreezing weather, like we’re having right now in New…

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Getting Amaryllis Bulbs to Rebloom

Category: How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Last year I confided in my readers that several of my Amaryllis bulbs from the previous year did not rebloom as I had expected. So I followed Ruth Clausen's advice more closely and am giving it another try this year. Here are Ruth's instructions, and what I did wrong (at the end): After the blooms finish, cut off the dead flowers to stop the plants from using energy to produce seed. Cut the stalk as well. Leave the leaves intact…
Last year I confided in my readers that several of my Amaryllis bulbs from the previous year did not rebloom as I had expected. So I followed Ruth Clausen's advice more closely and am giving it another try this year. Here are Ruth's instructions, and what I did wrong (at the end): After the blooms finish, cut off the dead…

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Marianne Willburn: Growing and Caring for Tropical Plants

Category: Flower Gardens, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Like many gardeners Marianne Willburn started small. First she had window boxes and containers, then she moved to a tiny duplex where she managed to squeeze in a small vegetable garden next to the parking area. As she and her young family moved to larger properties, hopscotching from California to London to Maryland and finally Virginia, the space given over to gardens kept getting bigger. But that’s where the similarity to…
Like many gardeners Marianne Willburn started small. First she had window boxes and containers, then she moved to a tiny duplex where she managed to squeeze in a small vegetable garden next to the parking area. As she and her young family moved to larger properties, hopscotching from California to London…

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Fall Cleanup in the Garden: What to Cut Back and What to Keep When Putting Your Garden To Bed

Category: Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Traditionally it was considered good form to tidy up the garden before winter by cutting back just about everything to a few inches of the ground. Many horticulturists and naturalists now recommend that you leave some plants for winter interest and wildlife sustainability. But which ones? Here are Ruth Clausen’s tips for putting your garden to bed this fall. Be choosy about what needs to go. Observe which plants are diseased or pest-ridden and get rid of those. Put diseased…
Traditionally it was considered good form to tidy up the garden before winter by cutting back just about everything to a few inches of the ground. Many horticulturists and naturalists now recommend that you leave some plants for winter interest and wildlife sustainability. But which ones? Here are Ruth Clausen’s tips for putting your garden to bed this fall. Be…

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7 Garden Tips for the Late Summer Garden by Dorian Winslow

Category: Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Here are 7 tips to help you with your garden now, as summer is winding down.  I follow every one of these practices in my garden. #1: Watering Tips: Remember to give your plants enough water. The water needs to reach the roots or it will lead to shallow root systems. This will prevent plants from absorbing and storing enough water to support them. For annuals, lawns and perennials, most roots are 4 to 6 inches below the soil surface.…
Here are 7 tips to help you with your garden now, as summer is winding down.  I follow every one of these practices in my garden. #1: Watering Tips: Remember to give your plants enough water. The water needs to reach the roots or it will lead to shallow root systems. This will prevent plants from absorbing and storing enough…

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Deer-Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast by Ruth Rogers Clausen and Gregory D. Tepper

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Horticulturist and author Ruth Rogers Clausen has a new book out, published by Timber Press, titled "Deer-Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast," co-authored with Gregory D. Tepper.  Womanswork is giving away a copy of her new book, which features 75 native plants that deer seldom browse.  She gives each plant a deer resistant rating from 7-10.  Anything below 7 is considered deer candy and is not included in the book. To enter, tell us in a Comment below, or via…
Horticulturist and author Ruth Rogers Clausen has a new book out, published by Timber Press, titled "Deer-Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast," co-authored with Gregory D. Tepper.  Womanswork is giving away a copy of her new book, which features 75 native plants that deer seldom browse.  She gives each plant a deer resistant rating from 7-10.  Anything below 7 is…

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Learn How To Make Garlic Mustard Pesto!

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

My Friend Debbie B. recently told me she made pesto with some garlic mustard she has growing on her property. My ears perked up because I have it growing on my property too, and I've always regarded it as something to dispense with, and no dilly dallying. After doing a little research online I learned The Nature Conservancy calls garlic…
My Friend Debbie B. recently told me she made pesto with some garlic mustard she has growing on her property. My ears perked up because I have it growing on my property too, and I've always regarded it as something…

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Root Pouch: Making A Difference One Fabric Pot At A Time

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Strong Women Building A Gentle World, Tools & Techniques

Ashley Fromm, the youngest member of a four-person partnership at Root Pouch in Hillsboro, Oregon, didn’t set out to change the world when she graduated from college in 2008, but that’s exactly what she and her partners are doing. Ashley, along with her godfather, his wife and her sister, are equal stakeholders in a company that manufactures fabric growing pots made of recycled plastic bottles.  Their company is so in sync with the times that the words “landfill” and “gardening”…
Ashley Fromm, the youngest member of a four-person partnership at Root Pouch in Hillsboro, Oregon, didn’t set out to change the world when she graduated from college in 2008, but that’s exactly what she and her partners are doing. Ashley, along with her godfather, his wife and her sister, are equal stakeholders in a company that manufactures fabric growing pots…

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Saving Easter Lilies and Other Spring Holiday Bulbs– Will They Rebloom?

Category: Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Spring Projects

I bought a potted Easter Lily for the small family gathering we had this year, and we received some potted daffodils from my brother and sister-in-law as a gift. Most often these bulbs are thrown on the compost heap or trash bin as soon as they've finished blooming, but I decided I wanted to keep mine. I asked horticulturist Ruth Clausen for her suggestions about saving these bulbs for future years. I was hoping she would tell me I can…
I bought a potted Easter Lily for the small family gathering we had this year, and we received some potted daffodils from my brother and sister-in-law as a gift. Most often these bulbs are thrown on the compost heap or trash bin as soon as they've finished blooming, but I decided I wanted to keep mine. I asked horticulturist Ruth…

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Keeping A Journal

Category: Garden Planning, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Tools & Techniques

It's a tradition among some gardeners to keep a journal.  I like to end the season by recording my plans for next season in my Womanswork Journal. When I start thinking about next season, right about now in the middle of winter, it's fun to begin with a review of those plans and visions. For some gardening activities there's a scientific basis for keeping notes. If you like to start seeds indoors it's advantageous to keep track of when you…
It's a tradition among some gardeners to keep a journal.  I like to end the season by recording my plans for next season in my Womanswork Journal. When I start thinking about next season, right about now in the middle of winter, it's fun to begin with a review of those plans and visions. For some gardening activities there's a…

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Paper Dahlias That Are Easy To Make! by Heather Nunes

Category: How-To Projects, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

I am giving my neighbor, an ecologist and avid gardener, the Womanswork Houseplant Kit for Christmas.  I wanted to make her gift pop with a paper dahlia instead of a bow.  Here's how I made it. Supplies needed: Scissors Paper - Scrapbook, Cardstock, Construction Paper, etc. Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks Step-By-Step Instructions: Step One: Cut a circular base out of paper.  You can use the same paper as the petals or a complimentary color/style.   In the example I used…
I am giving my neighbor, an ecologist and avid gardener, the Womanswork Houseplant Kit for Christmas.  I wanted to make her gift pop with a paper dahlia instead of a bow.  Here's how I made it. Supplies needed: Scissors Paper - Scrapbook, Cardstock, Construction Paper, etc. Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks Step-By-Step Instructions: Step One: Cut a circular base out…

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Easy To Make Paper Holiday Ornaments

Category: How-To Projects, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

A friend sent me an email last week saying "you will love this" with a link to a website that shows how to make festive paper ornaments.  I followed the instructions and added a few steps of my own, and here is my tutorial on making these pretty paper ornaments. My friend Amie Rennolds was right-- I love this! I used gift wrap that I had purchased from Kate Blairstone. Kate is the Oregon designer who created the "Heirloom Garden"…
A friend sent me an email last week saying "you will love this" with a link to a website that shows how to make festive paper ornaments.  I followed the instructions and added a few steps of my own, and here is my tutorial on making these pretty paper ornaments. My friend Amie Rennolds was right-- I love this! I…

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Overwintering Tropical Plants Such As Canna Lilies, Colocasia and Alocasia

Category: 'Dear Ruth' Column, Flower Gardens, How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Tools & Techniques

This year I purchased three popular tropical plants for outdoor containers: canna lilies, Colocasia and Alocasia (aka Elephant ears).  I was happy with all three, though the canna lily was the star performer for me. I love plants that come back each year, even if it means digging them up in the fall and storing them away for the winter.  These plants can be left in the ground if…
This year I purchased three popular tropical plants for outdoor containers: canna lilies, Colocasia and Alocasia (aka Elephant ears).  I was happy with all three, though the canna lily was the star performer for me. I love plants that come back each year, even if it means digging them…

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Dominique Charles Loves to Share What She’s Learned About Urban Gardening

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Dominique Charles is a woman with a mission. A busy professional living in Washington, DC, she first began gardening in 2014, after her friend Lauren built her a starter garden as a gift. Despite having grown up in New Orleans, and spending summers helping her grandparents - Emmitt and Thelma Muse of Greensburg, Louisiana – with their farm, where her favorite activity was picking blackberries and snapping green beans, Dominique didn’t really believe that she had a green thumb. It…
Dominique Charles is a woman with a mission. A busy professional living in Washington, DC, she first began gardening in 2014, after her friend Lauren built her a starter garden as a gift. Despite having grown up in New Orleans, and spending summers helping her grandparents - Emmitt and Thelma Muse of Greensburg, Louisiana – with their farm, where her…

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Natasha Bowens Blair of Native Mountain Farm and Soul Street in Frederick Maryland

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Natasha Bowens Blair didn’t believe you could grow plants in a meaningful way that weren’t edible or medicinal until she experienced the joy of growing and arranging flowers at Native Mountain Farm outside of Frederick, Maryland. The farm, situated on a lush piece of landscape at the base of South Mountain in Boonsboro, is operated by Natasha and her mother-in-law Julie Blair on land Julie and her late husband Billy purchased 32 years ago. Natasha on…
Natasha Bowens Blair didn’t believe you could grow plants in a meaningful way that weren’t edible or medicinal until she experienced the joy of growing and arranging flowers at Native Mountain Farm outside of Frederick, Maryland. The farm, situated on a lush piece of landscape at the base of South Mountain in Boonsboro, is operated by Natasha and her mother-in-law…

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Chelsea Willis of Sweet Delilah Farm on Sauvie Island Oregon Gets Her Hands in the Dirt

Category: Flower Gardens, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Strong Women Building A Gentle World

Growing up in Colorado Chelsea Willis’ mother would tell her “get your hands in the dirt. It grounds you.”  Chelsea recognized the wisdom of these words at a young age, and never forgot them. After completing a degree in somatic psychology, a discipline that focuses on processing trauma through movement (body-based therapy rather than talk therapy), Chelsea moved to Oregon and began working with teens who had been incarcerated and were transitioning to semi-independent living. She was also doing some…
Growing up in Colorado Chelsea Willis’ mother would tell her “get your hands in the dirt. It grounds you.”  Chelsea recognized the wisdom of these words at a young age, and never forgot them. After completing a degree in somatic psychology, a discipline that focuses on processing trauma through movement (body-based therapy rather than talk therapy), Chelsea moved to Oregon…

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Rebecca Webster, Citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Rebecca Webster is not your average attorney, teacher, activist, farmer and mom. She’s a proud citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin whose passion to reignite the traditions of her forebears is evident in everything she sets her mind to. Soft spoken and upbeat, Rebecca tells me in a phone interview that she grew up on the reservation but was bussed to public schools off the reservation. At that time there was not a lot of interest in understanding the…
Rebecca Webster is not your average attorney, teacher, activist, farmer and mom. She’s a proud citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin whose passion to reignite the traditions of her forebears is evident in everything she sets her mind to. Soft spoken and upbeat, Rebecca tells me in a phone interview that she grew up on the reservation but was…

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The Art of Bonsai Making is Still Alive Today with Bruce Baker and Goliath

Category: How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Bruce Baker has been working on one bonsai project for 12 years -- and he’s just getting started. Taking the long view is part of being a bonsai artist or practitioner. “Bonsai trees can live hundreds of years and they’re always changing,’ he says. “They’re never done,” he adds. The process, as Bruce sees it, is about gradually revealing what is already there, and enhancing or sometimes exaggerating it.  It takes patience, planning and plenty of solitary contemplation—just you and…
Bruce Baker has been working on one bonsai project for 12 years -- and he’s just getting started. Taking the long view is part of being a bonsai artist or practitioner. “Bonsai trees can live hundreds of years and they’re always changing,’ he says. “They’re never done,” he adds. The process, as Bruce sees it, is about gradually revealing what…

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Dividing Perennials and Potting Them Up for Plant Sales and Plant Swaps

Category: Flower Gardens, Garden Planning, How-To Projects, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

You volunteered to participate in your local plant sale fund raiser or plant swap, and now it's time to make good on your promise! Many plant sales that were scheduled for spring were postponed until fall, which gardeners know is one of the best times to plant! So go into your garden and dig up some perennials or bulbs, divide them, and pot them up. You can even propagate some houseplants if you leave enough time. The night before you…
You volunteered to participate in your local plant sale fund raiser or plant swap, and now it's time to make good on your promise! Many plant sales that were scheduled for spring were postponed until fall, which gardeners know is one of the best times to plant! So go into your garden and dig up some perennials or bulbs, divide…

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Lisianthus, Zinnia, Cleome and Cosmos– Annuals that just want to Please!

Category: Flower Gardens, Garden Planning, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Reprinted from a story first published in July, 2019. You can't beat an annual plant for its desire to please the gardener. It has one season to live and it puts all of its energy into producing flowers. If you plant a seed, either indoors or directly in the garden, some annuals will germinate and grow to maturity, producing a flower in as little as 8 weeks. Cut that flower and it takes it as a mandate to produce more…
Reprinted from a story first published in July, 2019. You can't beat an annual plant for its desire to please the gardener. It has one season to live and it puts all of its energy into producing flowers. If you plant a seed, either indoors or directly in the garden, some annuals will germinate and grow to maturity, producing a…

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Growing Tall Perennials in your garden

Category: 'Dear Ruth' Column, Flower Gardens, Garden Planning, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Really tall plants are show stoppers in the garden, providing a single grace note against a contrasting background or softening a hardscape element behind it. The last time I visited the Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield in Hyde Park, I took pictures of some impressive tall perennials, such as plume poppy, that grow in front of the walls inside the garden.  English walled gardens are famous for using tall plants as a backdrop in this way. …
Really tall plants are show stoppers in the garden, providing a single grace note against a contrasting background or softening a hardscape element behind it. The last time I visited the Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield in Hyde Park, I took pictures of some impressive tall perennials, such as plume poppy, that grow in front of the walls inside the…

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Growing Milkweed in Your Garden

Category: Garden Planning, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Three of the most popular species of native milkweed are Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed), Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) and Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed). There are more than 100 native species in all!  (These 3 species are shown in the photo below from left to right) Milkweed is the only plant that monarch butterflies will lay their eggs on, so it's an important plant…
Three of the most popular species of native milkweed are Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed), Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) and Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed). There are more than 100 native species in all!  (These 3 species are shown in the photo below from left to right) Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) in…

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Drought Tolerant and Heat Tolerant Perennials

Category: Flower Gardens, Garden Planning, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

It's been hot and dry here in southern New England this summer, and even hotter in many other parts of the country. I asked horticulturist Ruth Clausen for a list of her favorite heat and drought tolerant perennials. I was delighted to see many of the plants in my garden on her list, and I want to keep adding more of them with the goal of creating a water-wise garden! By drought tolerant we mean they can withstand dry conditions…
It's been hot and dry here in southern New England this summer, and even hotter in many other parts of the country. I asked horticulturist Ruth Clausen for a list of her favorite heat and drought tolerant perennials. I was delighted to see many of the plants in my garden on her list, and I want to keep adding more…

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How To Divide Irises

Category: Flower Gardens, How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Bearded iris (Iris x germanica) is the most commonly grown iris. Its fleshy roots are called rhizomes. The flowers are distinguished by a caterpillar-like fuzzy "beard" that runs down the center of each cascading petal or 'fall'. The "beard" aids in pollination, providing a landing spot for bumble bees and other insects, and supposedly directing them towards the pollen. Iris rhizomes should be divided every 3 or 4 years to maximize vigor and bloom. Two years ago my irises bloomed…
Bearded iris (Iris x germanica) is the most commonly grown iris. Its fleshy roots are called rhizomes. The flowers are distinguished by a caterpillar-like fuzzy "beard" that runs down the center of each cascading petal or 'fall'. The "beard" aids in pollination, providing a landing spot for bumble bees and other insects, and supposedly directing them towards the pollen. Iris…

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Grow Your Own Microgreens Indoors — It’s A Great Indoor Gardening Project!

Category: How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Remember the adage that good things come in small packages?  Let’s start with microgreens. Scientists and nutritionists say that microgreens provide a denser source of nutrition than their mature selves.  A study referenced on WebMD.com concluded that because they’re harvested right after germination, they still contain all the nutrients they need to grow. The flavor packs an outsize punch too, and they are great sprinkled on salads, in sandwiches or as a garnish for soups. Microgreens are not the same…
Remember the adage that good things come in small packages?  Let’s start with microgreens. Scientists and nutritionists say that microgreens provide a denser source of nutrition than their mature selves.  A study referenced on WebMD.com concluded that because they’re harvested right after germination, they still contain all the nutrients they need to grow. The flavor packs an outsize punch too,…

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How To Store Dahlias in Winter

Category: Flower Gardens, How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

REPRINTED If you live in a cold climate (Zone 6 and colder) you need to dig up your dahlia tubers before the ground freezes, and store them for the winter if you want them to live. More and more people are discovering the beauty of growing dahlias and many of us are learning this Fall ritual. I received a dahlia plant from my friend Kathy Scherer last Spring. Kathy and her husband have built a beautiful garden in Pawling which…
REPRINTED If you live in a cold climate (Zone 6 and colder) you need to dig up your dahlia tubers before the ground freezes, and store them for the winter if you want them to live. More and more people are discovering the beauty of growing dahlias and many of us are learning this Fall ritual. I received a dahlia…

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Fall Planting: How Late is Too Late?

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Fall is a great time to plant and divide perennials and shrubs.  This is because, as in Spring, temperatures are cooler and there is usually plenty of rain. If you are in the market for new plants in fall you can usually find sales at garden centers when they are trying to make room for holiday trees and greens. Also, blooming plants will get a head start by being planted the previous fall.  Even if the ground is frozen for…
Fall is a great time to plant and divide perennials and shrubs.  This is because, as in Spring, temperatures are cooler and there is usually plenty of rain. If you are in the market for new plants in fall you can usually find sales at garden centers when they are trying to make room for holiday trees and greens. Also,…

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