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Inspired By: Forsythia

You know it’s spring round here when the forsythia buds start busting out all over. I’m sad to say that The Beard and I still do not have a single forsythia bush in our yard, but our neighborhood more than makes up for it. The blooms are a cheery yellow that never fails to make me smile, but they’re also impressive above and beyond their mood-improving qualities in that they both produce lactose and can predict the coming of snow! We’ve not achieved true spring weather just yet, if the forsythia bushes are any indication, but lucky for me there are plenty of forsythia-inspired prints, tablescapes, paper goods, and artworks that can stand in for the real thing until things warm up!


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I don’t know about you, but I am *this* close to running out for a forsythia cutting for my yard.

Thriving On Neglect

When I looked for a plant for my garden that would be as awesome as it would be hard to kill, I settled on lavender. With a rich history – it was used by the Egyptians in mummification, by the Romans in cooking and bathing, and medicinally during the Renaissance and thereafter – lavender is surprisingly easy to care for as it, as the post’s title suggestions, thrives on neglect. Lavender is a hardy, drought-tolerant perennial that will grow in poor soils, and I should mention that the lavender you pluck from your garden will look and smell just like the lavender you can buy bundled or in sachets on farmers’ market days.

Seriously, when I carelessly mow over the lavender stalks that hang out onto the lawn, the scent is delicious! That heady, sweet, instantly-recognizable scent doesn’t just attract people, however. Lavender attracts bees, so you can’t go wrong planting one or two by your vegetable garden where they’ll ensure that plenty of pollinators stop and pick up a load before moving on. Don’t trust yourself to plant and grow it? I heartily recommend The Sawmill Ballroom Lavender Farm Guide to Growing Lavender.

What to do with it when it’s grown? You could hang it to dry, fill a few sachets, and try selling them to yuppies at the farmers’ market *grin* Or, depending on the sort of lavender you choose to grow, and there are many different kinds, you could cook with it (classic English lavender or Hidcote), make perfume with it (Provence or Grosso), make an eye pillow, use it to flavor sugar, or use it in your bath. Of course, if you’re a bit lazy like me, you might just leave it in your garden where it will emit its subtle perfume whenever kicked, mowed over, or chewed on by a cat.

Dreaming of Summer

Raise your hand if you’ve had quite enough of winter, thankyouverymuch. If you’re not raising your hand I’ll have to assume it’s warm where you are, you’ve just gotten back from a long and warm vacation, or you can afford to keep your heat cranked all day and all night. None of these conditions apply to me and mine so I am ready for summertime to arrive, even if it means chilly (but not cold) blustery days and a glut of April showers before the truly warm weather shows up. Here are some pics of summery gardens that may help you last out the winter!

garden springtime
(photo by Randy Son of Robert)

garden elephants
(photo by epSos.de)

garden house
(photo by Fr Antunes)

garden colorful
(photo by Margaret Anne Clarke)

garden pool
(photo by Crinklecrankle.com)

Think You Have a Small Yard? They’ve Got You Beat.

Lawn lovers who haven’t yet joined the landed gentry take heart! You, too, can care for and cry over your own little patch of green — or brown — like those of us who battle blight and bugs and the mysterious creeping death that comes a’calling every dang fall. Haffsteinn Juliusson’s Growing Ring lets you experience the trials and tribulations of lawn ownership in a tiny little take-it-with-you package.

small yards

Silver and soil, a little TLC, and some water are all it takes… a green thumb doesn’t hurt, though. And $179, which is how much your personal plot will cost you. Hey, it’s cheaper than real estate!

Why Don’t We Take This Outside

Walk around any town with more than a few triple-decker apartments long enough and you’re bound to see at least one or two faded armchairs or loveseats that have obviously been exposed to their fair share of rain, sun, and, here in Massachusetts’ North Shore, snow.

outdoor couch

I personally have always maintained that there is indoor furniture and outdoor furniture, and never should they meet. No plastic chairs in the living room and no couches on the deck, in other words. Not everyone shares my opinion, however. Just out of curiosity, I thought I’d post a poll to find out just how many people do or don’t. Have at it, please:

Do note that so far as I can tell, this pretty upholstered plum settee from The Quill Pen was only let out of doors for a few moments for a unique furniture photo shoot. Otherwise it dwells inside where it is protected from the elements awaiting its forever home. If you’re interested, the price is listed at $850.

NtB Loves: Succulents

In one of my upstairs rooms, I keep what my wonderful old Opa calls a Wintergärten. Being that it’s upstairs and therefor both out of sight and out of mind, my little indoor garden is by necessity made up of plants that thrive without much help from me and mine. Oh, and did I mention that while my house gets all sorts of gorgeous southern light, the upstairs has no south-facing windows. When we choose plants, we can’t be too picky.

Succulents, as a result, are all we keep other than spider plants, which share a common trait with succulents in that they don’t mind much if you forget to water them or go away for a week or the sun doesn’t show itself for the entire month of July. According to Wikipedia, succulents, also known as fat plants because their water-retaining properties make them look positively chubby, have evolved all sorts of adaptations that make them perfect for the lazy gardener. They can be green or pink or some combination of orange, yellow, and red. Some succulents even look like stones!

Aren’t they gorgeous? Especially when grown in vintage tins and cups!

succulent

succulent 2

succulent 3

succulents

succulents 2

succulents 3

You can grow them yourself from seeds, or let someone else do the work for you. The succulents above in their darling little pots come from Etsy seller Monkeys Always Look, purveyor of both fine succulents and vintage housewares.

Winter’s Chill Means Even More Work In the Garden

winterizing a garden

Thought you were done, eh? Not quite! When things get chilly, it’s time to put your garden to bed for the winter. What, you didn’t know that gardens hibernate just like squirrels and bears? I kid. Winterizing a garden is less about cleaning dead things up and more about prepping your flower beds and vegetable rows for the growing season that’s months and months (and months and months if you live where I do) away.

The specifics will vary by region and by preference, since when you winterize will likely be determined by your climate and what you like to plant in your garden, but there are certain rules anyone can follow when winterizing a garden. First, if you have a bit of yard to your name, don’t expect to be able to do everything in one day or even in one weekend. Schedule plenty of time so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Second, when you’re done dealing with the flora, remember to put things like planters and hoses in a shed or basement.

So what does winterizing a garden actually entail? Here’s a basic to-do list for those planning to put their gardens to bed in the near future.

  • Pull weeds, dig up the roots of invasive plants, and pick up any debris like twigs, if you haven’t been doing these things regularly. Raking isn’t a bad idea, either. This gives you a blank slate to start with.
  • Cut down the previous season’s annual plants, like flowers and veggies, then trim your perennials. If any of your perennials need to be divided, now’s the time to do so.
  • Dig up any bulbs unlikely to survive the cold. Cannas, tuberous begonias, gladiolus, dahlias, and quite a few other summer-blooming bulbs cannot make it through the winter in USDA Zone 9 and colder. Then plant hardy spring-blooming bulbs.
  • Prior to the first ground freeze, water and apply antidesiccants to any vulnerable evergreens.
  • Apply a winter mulch to perennials, evergreens, and newly planted trees if you live somewhere where winter temperatures generally fall below minus 10 degrees F. These can also be covered in burlap to avoid common wintertime damage.
  • If you have a vegetable garden, cover it with weighted lack plastic to discourage early weed growth or unwanted seeding in the springtime.
  • Water all remaining plants and apply fertilizer as necessary, but consider that fertilizing later in the season can spark new growth that simply dies when temperatures drop.

Photo by Johan van Beuzekom

Horizontal Gardens? They’re So Five Minutes Ago.

Many people look forward to summer’s end for it means a period of slower growing grass that doesn’t need frequent mowing and trees that won’t need to be pruned. Others look toward autumn as a time to plant cold-weather flora or to lay down the foundations of next summer’s garden. Me, I think of summer’s end as a time to let the last tomatoes rot in the vine while I hole up inside trying to adjust to the change in temperature, but I’m a weenie like that.

But if you’re the French botanist Patrick Blanc, you never stop looking for new opportunities to dig down into the dirt. Or upside down into the dirt. Or even sideways into the dirt like he must have done to create the recently completed facade for the Athenaeum hotel in London.

vertical garden

What is it, exactly? It’s an eight-story antigravity forest composed of 12,000 plants from 260 species and covering more than 15,000 square feet. Most are evergreen, but some of the plants are seasonal, and the placement of each piece of foliage was carefully planned to ensure that all the plants get just the right amount of sun.

Blanc uses a kind of techno-trellis as the underlying structure: A plastic-coated aluminum frame is fastened to the wall and covered with synthetic felt into which plant roots can burrow. A custom irrigation system keeps the felt moist with a fertilizer solution modeled after the rainwater that trickles through forest canopies.

Like the look of vertical gardens? Then DIY your own!

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