Winter

snowdrops by Henry Bush via www.studiogblog.com

If you live along the east coast of the United States and especially in New England, you are probably ready for spring. As I type, it is a balmy 12 degrees outside. Thankfully, we have had a few weeks without snow and with enough sunlight to begin melting the snow. We even began mulching and adding compost to the plant beds in search of something to do outside in the garden. The ground is still solidly frozen. I know because I went around with a pickax yesterday in search of any spot of softened ground. Unfortunately, the soil is tightly intertwined with ice crystals and does not want to awake from its winter slumber. As I posted on my Instagram yesterday, spring, it is time to get your butt out of bed! We need you!

snowdrops via www.studiogblog.com

We do have a few spots where the snow has melted and the soil has warmed enough for the delightful little snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, to emerge and flower. I know a lot of folks consider the witchhazels the first plants to flower but I consider that status as an asterisk. Yes, witchhazels are pretty but snowdrops give us that broader petaled flower that we so much need after a long winter. Once a few clumps were spotted as flowering, most of our staff at Coastal Maine Botanical Garden took off to see them. There is another patch near our home in East Boothbay that always flowers before anyone else’s. I knew that it had come into flower when friends and neighbors started posting pictures of the clumps in flower on Facebook.

Snowdrops en masse

Growing up in North Carolina, I never truly understood the appeal of Galanthus. Because of the mild winter, we always had so many other things to look forward to seeing including camellias. Now that we live in the sub-tundra (depending upon the year), having the little Galanthus waiting for us as soon as the snow melts is a needed welcome. When we lived in North Carolina, I even attended an hour long talk detailing all 19 species of Galanthus and their native habitats. It was interesting and the speaker was fantastic but again, the market was not there with so many other plants outside in flower. This year, if I was a bulb farmer, I would be snapping pictures of snowdrops all over the landscape as well as images of just how brutal this winter has been. Then this fall when everyone is pulling together their bulb orders, I would blast images reminding us of how bad everything was and how welcome the little flowers were.

If you are new to growing snowdrops, plant your bulbs in the fall as the ground starts to cool and before the soil freezes. You can purchase Galanthus bulbs from many different mail-order sources. Be sure to plant the bulbs in an area that is moist yet well drained. Along the edge of a pathway or in a rock garden are ideal spots as they are small plants. If you really want them to flower early, pick a south-facing, warm spot to plant the bulbs. Then smile in the spring when the clumps of white flowers melt away the memories of the white stuff that coated the garden all winter.

-Rodney

Images: Henry Bush at Flickr CC – 2.0  SnowdropInfo. Vancouver Sun

Today, as I was hauling all the holiday decorations down from the attic I was reminded of the fact that the tree stand we have been using for years had cracked and broke as I was putting it away last year.  Not wanting to make another trip to the market, I improvised, and now I think I may never go back to the old way.

Our tree was cut about 50 paces out the back door.  It was a stray tree whose chosen point of origin wasn’t particularly to my liking . It looks a lot better in the living room. But, given the broken tree base, and the fact that this Charlie Brown tree cousin barely has a 2″ caliper stem, I’m not sure the base would have worked well, even if it wasn’t a pile of plastic shards.
So I had to get creative.

IMG_3926_2

A couple of years ago I picked up a few olive straining buckets from Italy at Brimfield. Their shape is perfect but while their texture is beautiful, the holes pose a few problems.  But, I have quite a few empty buckets of polymer sand and one of those suited the task of lining the pretty container.

This is one of those cases where the mother of invention is not necessity but rather availability. Needing something to hold up the tree, my many many garden rocks came in handy.
But once the tree was in place, locked into a bucket full of rocks, I suddenly realized the beautiful opportunity before me.

This rocky base was perfect for making a miniature garden arrangement.  I’m kind of  tired of the whole drape-y fabric base anyway.

IMG_3921To the rocks I added wet moss here and there and now it appears that my cut tree is actually a cute baby tree that looks like it charmingly grew out of a little container garden.   If I had a few miniature toadstools on hand they would certainly have been added.  Tomorrow I  will go for a hike and gather some mushrooms and other elements from the woods to add.

My little people excitedly swooped in with traditional decorations and  finished off the decorating task.

With the little garden in place and the tree decorated, we turned to a few other holiday projects.  We planted our paperwhite and amaryllis bulbs (which at this point will provide lovely cheer — in January – but that is exactly when we need it most).

This year I planted the bulbs deep in a tall glass containers which will help to hold them up later.  Add to that we played with making a cute little arrangement for the dining room table from the tree cuttings and a few goodies from the flower shop and I think our holiday decorations are just about done.  How about you?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Lowes.  This is a series that I am doing through the end of the year.   I am not an employee of Lowes and all opinions are my own.  See the other posts in this series. 

Fall Badge Rectangle

 

When the days darken, I start to obsess about lights.  We spent the weekend beginning to decorate and I have decided that if I had only one decoration for the holiday it would be endless strings of lights.

holiday wreath details www.studiogblog.comNow that the eat in kitchen is almost done, we have hung our garlands, made our wreaths and everything seems warm with the glow of the holiday lights.

I’m completely pleased with the latest in holiday lights.  I bought a couple packs of battery operated lights that are on tiny wires to try out this year.  They are so much prettier on my wreath than the old versions with all their plastic coated cords don’t you think?  And happily, I’ve found that LED technology is finally starting to evolve beyond the cold lifeless colors of earlier generations.

holiday lights on wreath frame www.studiogblog.com

I am not sure I can have too many lights wrapped in a simple wreath frame to make this glowing light fixture.

holiday decorating www.studiognblog.comRed beads and a pine and cypress garland frame the kitchen window (and it all looks so good against the new black!).  I was determined to make the draping perfectly asymmetrical.  Lately, I am preferring wonky things – for whatever reason, I just don’t want things too perfect.

Everything is hung with the super handy Command hooks - I’ve been using them to attach lights to walls for a few years now and I have yet to have damaged paint. Tomorrow we will sort out our tree and mantel  and continue to hang more lights – I’m looking forward to it.

Tell me, if you had just one holiday decoration what would it be?   Or maybe you have a great decorating tip to share? (I am still trying to hang things discretely from the ceiling in a way that is both attractive and damage-free)   Lets talk holiday decor…

Every comment will be entered to win a $50 Lowes gift card so that you can get more decorating essentials. 

I will close comments on Thursday Dec 5th and announce a winner (picked randomly) via twitter and facebook (so make sure to follow along in one of those places.)

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Lowes.  This is a series that I am doing through the end of the year.   I am not an employee of Lowes and all opinions are my own.  See the other posts in this series. 

Fall Badge Rectangle

 

I’m usually last-minute when it comes to holiday decorating.  But this year, (thanks to an ongoing partnership with Lowes) I have been planning and getting started earlier than usual.  This is particularly helpful since I like to bring nature inside and use it all around the house in festive ways.  Acting now, means that I can easily find materials in the woods and garden without the risk of having to dig through the snow.  So this is my four-part plan for next couple weeks.

what to gather from the fall garden for holiday decorating

Make Like a Squirrel and Get Gathering.

Fall is such a pretty time to enjoy the outdoors.  Not only are the colors beautiful but with the furnace starting to turn on in the house, my lungs gasp for the crisp fresh air.   A nice walk through the woods or a spin around the garden is ample opportunity to gather holiday decorations.  Look for mosses, sturdy seed heads, branches with berries, and just berries, pinecones, chestnuts, bark, nests, nuts, grass heads, succulent babies and basically anything whose texture or color appeals to you.  This is my garden palette so far, but I still need to take jaunt down the road for some winterberry and sumac and then I can really get decorating.

kitchen before

Refresh the backdrop

When the holiday season actually arrives in a few weeks there is little time for anything but celebrations, shopping and preparations.  If at all possible, this isn’t the time to start even the smallest house upgrade which will add to seasonal stress and mess.  Which is why I opted to freshen up our eat in kitchen area now.

This room is our epicenter, it is the coziest place in the house and our lives happen around this table.  After nearly 9 years since the last refresh, the paint is tired and we need the area to function a little better.

before and after kitchen makeover for holidays from www.studiogblog.com

I hosted a group of girlfriends for a pre-holiday gathering last week and unveiled phase 1 of the upgrade – the paint.  The dingy cream and tan walls and dinged up baseboards got a fresh slick of bright modern white (the color is Chantilly Lace). I went all in for the Modern Scandinavian look I have been coveting for years and I painted out the large wood window to sleek black (this is my inspiration).  My love of woodsy decor looks so much sharper with this clean backdrop where before it was lost in all the browns. Those pillow covers are new too….I cut up a knitted blanket that I loved in to four squares to make cozy sweater cushions.

There is more to come on this project (and I am hoping to find a brighter day for the second round of photos so you can see how lovely it really is) – Phase 2 is in the works and involves a little construction — I plan to have it done in the next 2 weeks so I can share a final pre-holiday makeover with you before Thanksgiving.

Friends gathering for Lowes Pre-Holiday Party

Clean & Clear

Some prefer spring cleaning, but for me, that time is so busy with gardening prep that it just doesn’t happen.  I prefer pre-holiday cleaning with a healthy side of clutter clearing.  The closets are pared down making room for the holiday gifts to come, the winter clothes come back, everything gets a refresh in preparation for impromptu guests and all the extras go to a local charity. Everyone wins.  A little extra project I am doing this year — cleaning as many windows as I can (I am embarrassed to say many have never been done).  I tested this little Pinterest window cleaning trick that uses Jet Dry, and I can tell you it works. Exterior windows are done in a fraction of the time I would have expected. I also took the time to polish up my grandmothers silver tea service that was recently handed down to me.  The cream and sugar vessels make the best tiny vases.

Showcase Treasures


My gatherings are slowing making their way into projects.  The chestnuts are so pretty around the base of this hurricane lantern from Lowes.   Later, I can swap them out for other pretties as well.

I also have no shame about combining fake florals with real ones.  These red berries are the perfect pairing for all sorts of fresh flowers.  I started with orange Dahlias and when those were gone I swapped in chrysanthemums. I can’t wait to see what will be fresh next week for the pairing.

Tomorrow I will share with you my trick for making that Birch bark vase.

Tell me, How are you preparing for the holidays? Or are you like the normal me and wishing it to just hold off for a bit longer?

hoar frost on a winter garden

Have you ever heard that bit about their being lots of Eskimo words for snow? True or not, it is a fact that we more commonly use words for things we experience commonly.  So I offer that as an explanation for why I (at least) haven’t really ever heard of hoar-frost.  Frost has always just been frost for me.  But I recently came across the term and on further investigation, I learned that not only is there a special kind of frost called hoar-frost, but there are other types too (advection frost, white frost, rime and window frost).

hoar frost on a winter garden

We don’t get hoar-frost too often in New England.  When I lived in England I noticed it relatively often.  I also remember it to be a little more common back home in Colorado.  Hoar frost and if it is something that you get with any regularity,  is something well worth considering when planning your garden. Read the full post

Have you been keeping up with the Leaf Magazine 10 day giveaway?  I have to admit, it is such a flurry, I even have trouble keeping up with it.  I’m a little late (today is Day 7 after-all) , but did you see our Day 2 prize?

I’m giving all my friends and family a Honeyfield Bakehouse box this year.  Honeyfield is a vendor at my farmers market and a small business in my little town. But through the internet and the mail, you too can enjoy some of the yummy garden inspired confections that Roanne and her team dreamed up.

honeyfield holiday gift garden candy box

Here’s what’s inside:

2 Faux Bois chocolate bars with dried cherries and candied orange

4 Pear Rosemary Pate de fruits

2 Lemon Verbena Dark Chocolate Truffles

4 pieces of Lavender pepita holiday brittle

8 Apple cider caramels

2 Wellington Boot rosewater sugar cookies

Get yours here.

And make sure your jump in the Leaf Magazine Giveaway — you still have 4 days left!  head over to Facebook and Like and Share the Daily post to win!

One of my dearest friends from my London days is a Texan chef. (Go figure!) Rachel de Thample is also a food writer and her most recent cookbook is about cutting down on meat in our everyday cooking.  Rachel has cooked for me on many occasions and I can attest to her profound capacity for creating delicious food – and helping you to learn to do so as well.

less meat more veg by rachel dethample

Less Meat More Veg: 100 Delicious Recipes for the Carnivore with a Conscience. by Rachel de Thample is available now in the UK and will be available later this summer here in the US.

So, she and I were chatting a couple years ago and she was asked me for some gardening advice.  She lives in a flat in London (with no garden) and she would like to try and grow her own Christmas dinner.   Now there is a gardening challenge, right?

Her thoughts for the holiday meal are geared towards growing or foraging for all the produce her self,  perhaps serving garden snails for appetizers (still thinking that one through) and finding a friend to raise a turkey.

What she has available for the growing space is multiple big window sills.  It is quite normal for typical London architecture to have a ledge at least 12- 18 inches wide and 3-4 ft (a meter) long where a whole variety of growing containers can be placed for outside exposure.  London is a window box-ers dream.

Ever frugal and totally full of Bohemian style Rachel was looking for suggestions for growing vegetables — and that, is the inspiration for this post.

9 Container Ideas for Growing Christmas Dinner on a Ledge:

bohemian chic window vegetable garden container

I am a little obsessed with the blue fold down washing up bucket from Just Scandinavian (which also comes in other colors). I can think of so many other uses for this tub.  Perfect for the flat dweller, when veg isn’t growing in it, it can be used for toy storage, washing up, or even holding the vegetables that were harvested.   The customizable wooden boxes are from Not on the High Street and and the grow bag is from Gardeners Supply Company.  I think these are the best option for growing root vegetables like potatoes, beets, and carrots as they come in various shapes and sizes depending on what you are planting.

family chic crumpled can recycled container garden

image from family chic.

Cans, in large quantity, I think, can look pretty cool.  Crushed and painted simply (above), or not crushed and painted beautifully (below) – each route take trash to treasure and makes for a useful garden container.

painted cans from re for a window vegetable container garden

These painted cans are beautifully kitsch and can be purchased from re-found objects.

Hypertufa (below)  is a relatively simple way of making your own concrete-like containers.  Making hypertufa containers would provide a rustic industrial look and would also be customizable to the exact window ledge size.

how to grow christmas dinner in a container garden hypertufa container garden

How many boxes of clementines have you eaten during winter citrus season?  This clever up-cycling from Family Chic uses a little bit of chalkboard paint to turn the orange boxes into smart planters.  I am thinking that Rachel could go buy a dozen or so boxes of clementines, so she has enough boxes to plant her garden, and then put all the produce to good use as some sort of fab marmalade or delicious dessert.

how to grow christmas dinner in a container garden clementine wooden box container garden

These rolling containers are very appealing, especially since moving plants around within a living space can certainly be handy not only for the plants to capture the best light, but also to make it easier to live with your garden in tight quarters.

how to grow christmas dinner in a container garden food map rolling garden

And, If all else fails, I suppose the cheapest for a chef, would be to grab an ever handy chafing dish, fill it with recycled coffee cup holders, and toilet paper tubes, and plant away.  It’s not pretty, but it will work.

how to grow christmas dinner in a container garden chafing dish and starbucks cup holder and toilet paper garden

 

image By briannaorg

Update: Do you want the rest of the story?   Read more about Rachel’s Christmas Dinner on the Ledge.