Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do You Garden on a Balcony or Rooftop? Giveaway!

No, I'm not giving away a balcony. Or a rooftop. I'm reminded of some friends who insisted that I was selling my grandma's garage several years ago, when she allowed me to hold a garage sale at her condo. In that particular circle of friends, she's now known as Grandma Garage. There was some amusing repartee involved and perhaps "you had to be there," but take my word for it - a fun time was had by all.

Back to the giveaway...

There are some great balcony gardeners out there. The first one I ever met was Fern Richardson over at Life on the Balcony. Fern lives in California and I've followed her blog for awhile now and have met her in person a couple of times. She writes a great blog with lots of inspiring small space gardening ideas. She's got so many of them that Timber Press asked her to write a book about them! Small Space Container Gardens comes out in January 2012. I can't wait to see it!

That's Fern on the right, me in the middle, and Danielle Ernest from
Proven Winners
on the left, when we all attended the Garden2Blog event
at P. Allen Smith's farm just outside Little Rock, AR this past April.

More recently, I got to know Steve Asbell from The Rainforest Garden. Steve lives in Florida and I haven't met him in real life (yet), but when I do (and I'm certain I will), I know it will be like running into an old friend (even though I'm old enough to be his mother). Steve got married earlier this year and he and his wife have a balcony garden, although I think Steve does most of the gardening on it. As you might guess, Steve grows a lot of tropicals.

Helen Babbs, in her rooftop garden in London
Further east, "across the pond" in Britain, you'll find Helen Babbs, author and rooftop gardener. Gardening on a rooftop is oftentimes very similar to gardening on a balcony and Helen writes about her experiences with it in a new book just released by Timber Press called My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London. She too has her own blog, called The Year of Aerial Edible Gardening, which is just one of her prolific literary projects.

Earlier this week, I posted a review of Helen's book on my book review blog, Gardening by the Book. As I said in my review, it's a sweet memoir of her first year as a rooftop gardener. I somehow ended up with two hardcover copies of My Garden, the City and Me and I don't need two of them so one lucky reader will win the extra one.

All you have to do is go to my review on Gardening by the Book and find the answer to this question:

What time of the day did I choose to escape virtually
to Helen's London rooftop garden?

Come back here and leave a comment with your answer. I'll collect the comments, then publish them all at once at the end of the giveaway and randomly choose a winner from all the correct answers. I'll accept entries until midnight EDT this Sunday, August 28, 2011, so don't delay! Enter NOW!

Thanks to Timber Press for providing both copies of this book, allowing me to share one with a reader.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hang in There, Fall's Coming

There's a low rumbling of garden angst across the blogosphere and Twitter is full of it, too. It's late August and for many of us, our gardens have seen better days. Way better. A summer of not enough rain and too many degrees has left us with gardens that look worse than usual this time of the year. And they almost never look great now, even in a good year.

My roses have black spot, yellowing leaves and some stems have no leaves at all. Miraculously, they're still managing to push out a few blooms.

Tansy  (Tanacetum vulgare)
We've had to do a lot of watering all summer long here in Ohio, despite my vow to stop doing that. I simply can't bear to see plants suffer, so here we go again. But all that watering also takes its toll, because watering from the well isn't the same as rain from the sky. It does a number on the garden in the form of black, mushy foliage from the ground up and it exhausts the gardener. I just want to be done with it.

That leads to the garden crabbiness I'm experiencing and from the sounds of it, so are others. I just want to rip everything out and wait for spring to start all over. But deep down I know I don't really want to do that. Gardening isn't all fluff and flutter, although it can be that also. But fun things can be like work things - there are times when you just don't want to do it. Be've felt this too, right?

So. What if I take a break from the garden? What's the worst that can happen? Some weeds will grow for sure. A few plants might die (or they might surprise me and live). I'll get more rest and be able to handle the late summer decline better and I'll one day soon be refreshed and rejuvenated by the cooler fall weather and I'll be loving my time in the garden again. Right.

But there is one thing I can do to help both my garden and my mood. I love pruning and deadheading. I'm going to go to the garden and trim back some of the ratty looking perennials such as the daylilies. (Can you really kill a daylily?) I'm going to cut the foliage down to about four inches tall and by the time the glorious fall weather arrives, they'll be shooting up lots of beautiful new growth.

In fact, I'll bet if you look at the base of a lot of your perennials, you'll find that they're already doing just that. Besides my daylilies, several of my smaller grasses are doing it, and the dianthus, too. Just getting that yellowing and brown dead stuff out of the garden will make it look better, and I'll feel better about things, too.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for keeping seed heads for the birds and I'll compost my trimmings, but if cleaning things up a bit makes the gardener happier, that makes for happier recipients of the gardener's efforts in the long run. Sort of along the lines of "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." It's better than chucking it altogether when things look less than optimum. It's all in a gardener's year...

Are you listening, Gina?

Besides, there are plenty of good things going on out there, too, if you look closely.

Three-day-old monarch caterpillar. Size? One-eighth of an inch!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Talking Backyard Chickens with P. Allen Smith

I recently attended the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago, where I got to see oodles of wonderful new products that will be coming to an Independent Garden Center near you very soon (if they're not there already). One of the categories in which I saw several products was organic fertilizers. These include insect frass as well as that from birds, including chickens. Chickity Doo Doo, anyone?

Chickens doin' their thing at Allen's Moss Mountain Farm

This caught my eye, because as you know, we have eight chickens of our own and look forward to using their "doo-doo" in our compost for the garden. We're new to this chicken business and I've got P. Allen Smith to thank for some excellent advice he gave me right before we got our chicks this spring. When I visited his farm in Little Rock, Arkansas, in April, we talked chickens.

He was in Chicago for the IGC Show last week and gave the keynote address to attendees, which included independent garden center owners, operators, and media (that's me). He doesn't mince words and while much of what he said was challenging, he knocked it out of the ballpark and IGC owners would do well to pay attention.

Later, I tracked him down at the Laguna booth, where he was giving away and signing copies of the family of books he's authored, including the latest, Seasonal Recipes From the Garden, which I recently reviewed both here on this blog as well as on Horticulture magazine's website.

Laguna had put in a new pond on his property in Arkansas, which attendees of Garden2Blog got to see and it's beautiful. It's located directly across from the chicken temple, where Allen keeps bantams until they're old enough to stay out with the older chickens.

The new Laguna pond, with the gate to the chicken temple visible
in the middle of the photo.

Since Allen gave me some great advice when we talked back in April, I thought maybe he could share some wise words for those that are considering getting some chickens of their own. I spoke with him about this, in regard to having some layers in the backyard.

Listen to Allen tell about his history with chickens (and his pet pig, Sassafras Sally!) and his sage advice for prospective chicken owners:

Click here to start the interview (09:32 mins.)

Thanks to Christopher Tidrick for this photo.

As you heard in the interview, through Chicken Chat, in conjunction with Purina, Allen is sponsoring a contest to win some great prizes, including a chicken coop, a year's supply of feed, and chicks from his own brood! For more information on entering the contest, visit Chicken Chat on Facebook. The contest ends on September 18, 2011.

*Yes, I know...I sound nervous in the interview. In spite of Allen being one of the easiest people in the world to talk to, I was very nervous. But how cool to have P. Allen Smith as my very first interviewee!

The Summer of My Content

Annie, of Haven Brand Compost Teas and
I have fun at P. Allen Smith's farm in April.

I knew this summer would fly by and it has. With so many garden trips and other activities both planned and unplanned, August arrived quickly and it's now nearly over. But time flies when you're having fun, right?

In the matter of six months, I've been to Chicago (twice), Columbus, Little Rock, Seattle, British Columbia, Michigan, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. And this weekend, I'll be in Indianapolis for the Garden Writers Association Annual Symposium.

Seattle Space Needle

While in Seattle and British Columbia, I took no less than 4077 photos. I'm still working my way through them, as well as the photos and blog posts about my other spring and summer adventures. I've also been fortunate to receive a number of garden products to test and I want to tell you about them, so stay tuned!

In between all that fun, I've had some work days at my dental hygiene job, which is also quite fun and very interesting, as it involves dental research and testing of dental products. Paid writing jobs have kept me busy, too. I feel very blessed to wear so many hats and that I enjoy all of them.

What's in store for September? Writing about it all. And sleep. And maybe my house will find some semblance of order. (No bets taken on that last one.)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Dunn Gardens - An Historical Seattle Treasure

I recently shared lunch on a beautiful sunny day that was the perfect temperature (unlike Ohio, where we were melting), in the middle of an historic Seattle garden with 70+ gardeners who were in town for the Seattle Bloggers' Fling. The grass was inviting enough to picnic without a blanket and we relished in the beauty of our surroundings before exploring the Dunn Gardens.

Docents were on hand to take us on a strolling tour of the gardens, designed nearly 100 years ago, by the famous Olmsted Brothers. If the Olmsted name sounds familiar to you, it's because they were responsible for the design of so many public places throughout the United States, including the Cleveland Metroparks and The Ohio State University campus here in Ohio.

The property was purchased in 1914 by businessman Arthur Dunn, who contracted the Olmsteds to design the landscape for what would be his family's summer home until his death in 1945. The property was donated for the public enjoyment by Arthur's second son Edward, who lived on the property until he died in 1991.

As I walked through the gardens, with many open spaces that allowed the garden plantings to stand out and be viewed from a distance, then drawing me in for a closer look, my first thought was that these were gardens of texture.

Combinations of shades of green in the foliage had a calming effect and compelled me to look closely at the foliage shapes and patterns and how well they played together.

Yes, this was a garden of texture...


The hydrangeas are mostly blue here, due to the acidic soil.
Ferns of all sorts abound, as they love the climate.
There were surprises here and there, as all good gardens should have,
such as this living roof, covered with mosses.

Glass art can be found in nearly every garden, due to the abundance of
glass artists residing in and near Seattle.

But it was also a garden of color.

Who needs autumn when you have summer color from trees like these?

Most of the plants blooming this time of the year were in gardens near the homes on the property and most especially in the Curator's Garden.

More color and texture from the Dunn Gardens

Triteleia sp.
Meconopsis betonicifolia var alba
Bright red poppies amongst the lacecap hydrangeas

Our next stop was at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Seattle Fling: Two Private Gardens

The first day of the Seattle Fling began with hugs and smiles all around, as we greeted our fellow flingers at breakfast in the hotel and in the lobby. The feeling was that of a family reunion of sorts, which wasn't surprising, given how we've gotten to know each other through our individual blogs over the months and years. Many of us see one another at other garden events throughout the year as well.


We boarded the buses and headed for two private gardens located next door to each other. The first belonged to Jim and Suzette Birrell. The focal point of the back yard was the bright blue shed, with contrasting trim. Set atop a hill, it overlooks an extensive vegetable garden.


Broken pot? Use it anyway!

One of my favorite exotic tropical vines - Gloriosa Lily (Gloriosa
'Rothschildiana') - was wending its way up the downspout.

I found a new "must have" - the Wingthorn Rose (Rosa sericea)

The back of the home consists of mostly windows, which belong to the master bedroom, giving a beautiful view of the gardens upon waking in the morning.

Next door were the gardens of Shelagh Tucker. The front yard is different in style from the back, with the front being a drought tolerant, mostly rock garden along with some raised beds.

This made me think twice about pulling out the mullein
in my own garden.

The back of the property is tiered and makes use of stacked stone which serves to delineate cozy spaces and provides contrast to the lush perennials and trees and shrubs.


Tucked away to one side of the back yard is a water feature large enough in which to grow water plants.

A beautiful large conservatory provides a comfortable living space while viewing the gardens from three sides. I love the look that the shade cloths give, in addition to being functional.

Besides being envious of the Seattle weather, I'm also coveting the trees and the terrain and the access to beautiful waterfront. Coming from the pancake-flat, wide-open, landlocked space of Ohio farm country, it can be challenging to create the interest that such natural features help provide. But it's the "grass is always greener" thing, isn't it? (This summer, the grass really is greener in Seattle!)

We had our lunch at The Dunn Gardens, then toured the Center for Urban Horticulture, both of which I'll share in the next Seattle Fling blog post.

blogger templates | Make Money Online