11 Jun

Hillside Wildflower Garden – What’s in Bloom – June 6th

wildflower hillside

Things are really happening on the hillside so I thought I would take some pictures and document what I could find blooming today – June 6th, 2015.  This amount of flowers creates a wonderful habitat for the birds, bees and other pollinators!

Here is a list, with some pictures below

Longhead Coneflower – Ratibida columnifera

Ox-eye Sunflower – Heliopsis helianthoides

Missouri Coneflower – Rudbeckia missouriensis

Rocket Larkspur – Delphinium ajacis (Ranunculaceae)

Bishops flower – Amni majus

Pale Purple Coneflower – Echinacea pallida

Showy Primrose – Oenotheria speciosa

Catmint – Nepeta ‘walkers low’

Lavender – Lavendula ‘munstead’

Autumn Sage – Salvia Greggii ‘maraschino’

Blanket Flower – Gaillardia

Cosmos – Cosmos bipinnatis

Plains Coreopsis – Coreopsis tinctoria

Yarrow – Achillea millefolium ‘Paprika’

Lemon Beebalm – Monarda citriodora

Clasping coneflower – Dracopis amplexicaulis

ratibida

 

mexican blanket flower meadow

 

 

lemon mint monarda

 

 

rocket larkspur

 

 

autumn salvia

 

 

18 May

DIY Kinetic Garden Sculpture

1aThis weekend my husband and I finally made a sculpture for the focal point of our hill garden.  When we built the wall back in 2004 I had imagined a sculpture in this location, and even installed a concrete tube footing with rebar.  I guess I just never found something I wanted to spend a lot of money on, and there were always things that seemed like a higher priority (plants, ha!) but since my garden is going to be on two garden tours soon I figured I better get something in that spot that was mildly interesting.

We had a few criteria… 1) not too expensive (we ended up spending about $40).  2) not to hard or time consuming to make (It took us a couple hours).  3)it had to be at least 6′ tall to be in scale with the garden (it ended up being 10′tall).

Materials:   We started by going to the hardware store and buying 9 plastic pipes (10′ long pvc schedule 40), some huge landscape nails, 9 solar lights, a metal floor flange with a 4″ extension, and 2 cans of spray paint formulated for painting plastic.  We also used some plywood and a landscape nail we already had.

2

We laid out the pipe on a tarp on the driveway, across two pipes to keep them slightly elevated.

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Next we sanded off the black bar codes and writing, then cleaned the pipes with a little soap and water.

We spray painted the pipes with two different color reds.  They were pretty close in color, one was more orange than the other.  I tried to do a fade from one to the other, but the paint colors are just so close you really can’t tell.

4

We put 3 pieces of plywood together for a thick base, painted it black, then attached the floor flange in the center over a 1/2″ hole we drilled.

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Then we arranged the 9 nails facing up, in a circle around that.

The idea is that the metal floor flange would sit down over the piece of rebar that was sticking out of the concrete foundation in the area I wanted the sculpture.  You could also just have a long piece of rebar pounded far into the ground, it’s the same idea, but having it already in concrete was a bonus. The metal flange fit right over the rebar, and even though they are not technically attached, the rebar/flange combo keeps the sculpture from tilting.

6

After we painted the pvc pipes, we gave them a quick second coat.

We put the plywood base into place by just setting it on the existing single piece of rebar coming out of the ground, and leveling the plywood base with rocks.

When the pvc pipes were dry, we put some 99 cent solar lights on the top of each pipe.  The solar lights just needed a little duct tape around the base and they fit perfectly snugly within the pvc pipe (we did check the fit of the solar lights with the pipe at the hardware store to make sure we got ones that fit together with little problem or work.

Putting up the sculpture was then just a matter of literally setting the pipes over the ends of the nails.

7

The pipes bend naturally, and splay out.  When the wind blows they wave a bit, and move.  It is very organic looking.

I was very happy with the result, it is definitely eye catching, and I love the way it moves in the wind.  The solar lights at night are a little bonus.  I think we might go back at some point in the future and do another shorter ring around this one, maybe in yellow!

8

 

 

 

11 May

Time Warp Kitchen 1970s Style

My kitchen is original to our 1972 house. It is like walking into a time warp…When I first saw it I thought the same thing you see all those people say on “House Hunters” or shows like that…I thought “oh, that ugly old kitchen needs to be updated”.

Live Simply - love what you have, save resources by not replacing something just because it is outdated in style

Live Simply – love what you have, save resources by not replacing something just because it is outdated in style

I’ve lived in this house now for 14 years…guess what…the kitchen still hasn’t been updated. So did it actually “need” to be updated? or did it just “look” like it needed to be updated? Meaning, was is physically worn out? Or were the colors and style of the décor just not ‘the latest trend’?

Well, it turns out, the kitchen didn’t ‘need’ updating. The counters still work for food prep, the oven works, the stove works, those old dark cabinets are extremely sturdy and hold a lot of dishes and cooking equipment. Basically, everything works, and although the layout could be improved to take better advantage of the space, the current arrangement works fine…actually it works really well.

So as time went by, and I hadn’t done any updating, I began appreciating the kitchen I had. When something actually breaks, we fix it, or replace it…like the dishwasher and fridge when they broke down (replaced with an energy star models…and some appliances definitely should be replaced with newer more efficient ones even if they aren’t completely broken, like refrigerators, they are huge energy hogs…I’ll write another post about that sometime).

replacing old appliances with energy star models does make good environmental sense, especially refrigerators.

replacing old appliances with energy star models does make good environmental sense, especially refrigerators.

After getting started with our Sprawlstainable blog, and becoming more appreciative of the aesthetic of sustainability, I began to see my old kitchen as a symbol of anti-consumerism. As a designer by trade, I have the kitchen ‘redesign’ all worked out in AutoCAD…I’ve had it laid out and designed for years. Would it look awesome? Yes, I’m sure it would.

Right now I appreciate the kitchen I have. I appreciate the energy and materials that went into my kitchen. I wonder sometimes, when people discuss things like counter tops and I hear them say that such and such material is great because it lasts ‘forever’. I think, so do they thing that it will stay “in style” forever? because I’m sure it won’t. It really bugs me to see very durable materials taken out of a home just to be replaced with something that looks more ‘modern’.

My countertops are Formica from 1972. They are great, even if they are harvest gold. They are easy to clean and hard to stain. They are 43 yeas old and don’t have any stains…they are a little uneven, and the trim in one place is coming off a bit, but, all in all, I would have to say that these countertops were made VERY well. I wonder if laminate counter tops are made anywhere near that good anymore? I really hate when I do have to replace something that lasted 43 years and the replacement doesn’t even last 5.

Many great parties and meals have been hosted in this kitchen!  And still are!

Many great parties and meals have been hosted in this kitchen! And still are!

We live in such a throw away society, everything from paper plates to cabinets, to people. Keeping what you have and taking care of it is a value many people have lost. I for one think that caring for and appreciating what you have is part of the ‘conscious and simple’ life. It is respectful to future generations and past generations.

So back to my ugly kitchen. Well, I don’t think it is so ugly any more…I think it is quite beautiful, and very reflective of my inner values, even if it doesn’t reflect my design style.

22 Jan

Hill Garden 2001-2014 a Transformation!

Before photo 2002

 

IMG_9731

When my husband and I moved into our St. Louis suburban home in 2001 we inherited a south-facing, 18-foot tall, very steep, lawn-covered hill.  I looked at that hill and saw it as a great opportunity.  The grade itself provides privacy from neighbors, and the hill faces the house so I knew that we would get the full visual benefit of turning it into a garden.  My husband looked at it and wasn’t convinced!

Before even beginning my landscape planning, I knew I needed to get a jump-start on screening the surrounding houses, so right away I planted several ‘Keteleeri’ upright juniper on the top eastern corner of the hill.  These large evergreen shrubs would eventually satisfy my need for a 12-foot screen, without overgrowing the space.

hill digging

 

In order to create the formal look I desired for the rest of the yard, and to define the lower edge of the hill, we had a 4’ tall concrete block retaining wall installed.  By cutting into the hill, the wall also helped to expand the flat, useable area of my yard.  I resisted multiple terraces, because I wanted the area above the wall to be dominated by plants, not hardscape.

wall install

 

I kept my choice of plants to those with very fine foliage, small flowers, and a mature height of less than 3 feet tall.  This makes the plants appear farther away and the property appear larger.  I also wanted to create the feeling of an alpine meadow, which requires adhering to a specialized color scheme of mostly bluish purple, true pink, and red, with just a dab of clear yellow.  Most importantly, the plants had to be drought and sun tolerant.  To that end, I used a mixture of native and adapted plants.

I implemented the first round of planting over 2 years, starting with small wholesale liner plugs (72 plants to a flat).  Additionally, I fill in every year with new plants to replace what has not done well, or just for the fun of trying something new.

hill plugs

new hill plants

 

Each year, in the very early spring, my husband and I cut back all the plants on the hill.  We don’t remove any of the dead and dried plant material, we simply shred it and leave it to decompose between the plants and return the nutrients to the soil.   In mid spring, before the plants fill out, we hand weed quite a bit. Mainly we tackle the woody trees sprouting up.  We battle honeysuckle, maples and red bud trying to turn my prairie like hill garden back into a woodland forest!  The more we pull during the early spring, the less we have to do the rest of the year in terms of maintenance. But by the time the plants fill out in late spring, if we have done a good job of weeding to that point, there is little weed competition for the rest of the year.  I fertilize with an organic slow release fertilizer annually, and water about once a week.

plants 1 season

 

The three main initial grass varieties on the hill were the backbone of the design: Pennisetum orentale ‘Karley Rose’, Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ , and to a lesser extent the Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’ (which is a beautiful grass, but hasn’t thrived for me).

2005

 

2005b smaller

 

The perennials successes are led by the Nepeta (Catmint),  Salvia greggii ‘maraschino’ (which surprisingly has come back for me for years despite it being only rated hardy to zone 7) and Amsonia hubrechtii, which has a fantastic golden fall color.  Pink Missouri primrose, several types of lavender and Plains Coreopsis (a self seeding native annual) also have established well.

Another species that is thriving is Rhus Glabra, the only woody species on the hill.  It is a native suckering shrub that I planted in the opposite corner from the evergreens to visually balance their height.  It has an outstanding fall color and is doing very well (maybe too well as it also wants to take over now…but it is pretty, and native, and for the most part the sumac and I are friends).

early fall 2006 smaller

 

I’ve also had a few disappointments – the Gaura ‘siskiyou pink’ and the Agastache rupestris I tried, both bloomed beautifully the first year and looked fantastic by my design criteria, but died out after only a year.  I’ve had little luck with Russian sage surprisingly, and also have been disappointed by several types of Penstemon, although last year I planted more Penstemon, so we’ll see if I fare better this summer.

I considered the Hill portion of the hill garden mature when it was 3 years old…about 2007.  The surrounding woody plants, the smooth sumac, the junipers, and many of the trees and shrubs in the rest of the yard have been growing now for over a decade, and although the hill itself still looks a lot like it did in 2007, the perimeter of the yard has gotten much larger and the yard is very private now.

 

2014 Pictures

2014

 

2014b

 

Our planning and work has paid off, as you can see in the photos. Instead of a bland, hard-to-mow steep slope of turf grass, we have an ever-changing view of diverse and colorful plants to enjoy throughout the year. We’ve provided a nice sized area for local bird and pollinator insect populations, and a pleasant backdrop to the various activities in and around our suburban home. Most of the winter we have a resident fox who likes to sleep in the hillside sun…and, for a plant lover like me, I’ve created a wonderful place to test and enjoy a variety of grasses and wildflowers in my own backyard paradise.

The hill changes with every season.  Here are a few more of my favorite photos of the hill garden, enjoy!

P1000204

 

photo 4

 

Photo 8

 

Photo 9

Mary Francois Deweese is a Registered Landscape Architect and Owner of Acorn Landscapes in St. Louis.

21 Jan

Rare Earth Naturals – Natural Perfume Oil Review

Perfume

I am a woman that loves scents!  I love walking past the candle shop or the soap isle at the store.  I’m always drawn to products that have scent, but since going ‘all natural’ I’ve been trying products with natural fragrances instead of synthetic ones.

 

Rare Earth Naturals is a company that creates perfumes, candles and aromatherapy items based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  They advertise that their products are 100% all natural and artisan made.  They are also made in the USA, which is another plus in my book (since that is where I live, and although not local to me, they are part of the small business economy that I very much support).  All their perfumes are synthetic free and responsibly sources.

 

I tried two of their perfumes.  One called Beleza and one called Amani.  Personally, if could only wear one fragrance for the rest of my life it would be the Beleza hands down.  It is my all time favorite scent!

I like to wear the Beleza on days I want to feel connected to my creativity and my inner spirit.  I Prefer the scent of Amani on days I am active with errands, gardening, or otherwise being on the move.

 

The description from their website for these two perfumes is as follows:

Beleza -  A goddess-like fragrance, pretty, complex, and deeply flora. Think flowers whispering secrets in a mysterious language. Key notes of zdravetz, jasmine, cistus labdanum with vibrational flower essences of pretty face and lotus to inspire feelings of inner beauty

Amani – A sea-like fragrance, clear and tranquil with a hint of woody spice. Think driftwood off the Swahili coast. Key notes of Australian blue cypress, ylang ylang, and sandalwood with added vibrational flower essences of dogwood to inspire gentleness and inner harmony

 

One thing I really like about their scents is the way that over the first few hours they slowly change as the oils evaporate through a kaleidoscope of subtle variations.  The scents last a long time and have a wonderful depth.

 

I started following the company on Facebook and enjoy the periodic specials and coupons.  If you have a question about any of the ingredients I have found they are very helpful.

 

The price for their perfume oil seems very reasonable for the quality that they are providing.  A $20 roll on bottle lasted me months using it almost every day.  Sometimes I like to use the roll on perfume on my arms or legs and then add several drops of my own Jojoba oil, and basically use the Rare Earth scent to perfume my daily ‘Jojoba’ moisturizing routine…then the scent really goes an extra long way!

 

Even though my local store stopped carrying this product, I will be re-ordering from their website when I run out.  You can too by visiting their website at https://www.rareearthnaturals.com

 

20 Jan

Thinking about what to plant in the veggie garden this year

So, it’s after the winter holidays now and I’m starting to think about what vegetables I want to grow this year.

So this is the 10th year that I’ve had my raised vegetable gardens.  I have 4 of them and they are about 6′x8′.

I’ve gone through many permutations of plan plans for them, starting off with the square foot gardening method with strict string layouts and regimented borders of flowers.  I progressed into a haphazard (read lazy) version of the square foot method with ‘areas’ not defined any more with string.  I’ve planted for early, mid and late successional plantings (or tried to) and I slowly moved towards more of an inter-planting scheme. The last season was one where I let everything lay fallow, and weed covered, as my garden pathways were under construction and I just ignored the forest of volunteer veggies, flowers and weeds until early fall (at which time I did harvest over 50 mini pumpkins from a volunteer vine that I never weeded, watered, planted, or fussed over…best success with pumpkin growing I’ve ever had…ha!)

At this time, mid-winter, I’m anticipating the next season of planting…which actually may be my favorite part…the catalog browsing, dreaming and planning stages.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always getting sucked into the gardening and seed catalogs, and I’ve grown many many things that I don’t even really eat.  I’ve had tomato’s coming out of my ears (I’m not a huge fan of tomato’s really), and have harvested a lot of strange and inedible bitter greens.

This year, I think I’m going to try my hand at cucumbers.  I’ve actually never had good success with cucumbers, but I tried the most delicious brined pickles this winter (Bubbes brand from Whole Foods) and they were so delicious I thought I’d like to try my hand at brining my own fermented pickles.  So I see some trellises in my future, probably made from the bamboo I took down that was previously made into my berry cage.  I see buckets of brined pickles and can’t wait to start looking at the growing pile of catalogs by my desk to choose several varieties of cucumbers to try.

I don’t think I’m going to grow tomatos at all, since several of my neighbors do, I will have plenty when they start sharing.

I do think I’ll get some nice lettuce going, and onions and leeks.  Also carrots and beets.

So in the mean time, before I start my indoor seeds, I’ll just be dreaming and planning of spring…Yay!

 

20 Jan

Evergreens for Wildlife and Landscaping

Evergreens for screening and wildlife

Evergreens for Screening and Wildlife

Including evergreens in your home landscaping provides many unique benefits to wildlife and people.

Benefits to Wildlife:

Cover and Nesting sites for birds – Dense evergreen shrubs are a key cover plant for songbirds in the home landscape. No bird habitat should be without a nice grouping of evergreens, or at least one specimen. I have an arborvitae close to my bird feeder station, and it is the first place the birds fly to for cover when they get spooked. When I pull my car up to the evergreen by the driveway, a small flock of birds always fly from it, up into the maple tree. The shrubby dense evergreens like Juniper and Arborvitae are particularly good evergreens for birds to take shelter in during the cold winter nights. Of course these are also prime nest building sites as well, because they provide shade, warmth and protection (a strong nest high in a dense arborvitae can be a safe haven from the neighbor’s cat!)

Food – Many evergreens provide food for wildlife. Junipers, Pines, Holly, and Hemlock all have edible seeds and fruit for birds. Having fruit that is attractive to birds invites fruit eating birds, many of which don’t frequent birdseed feeders. It is always a pleasure to spot a cedar waxwing in the yard!

Benefits to People:

Energy Conservation – placing large evergreens on the North and Northwest side of your home will deflect the coldest prevailing winds in the winter, saving energy. Grouping large evergreen trees such as blue spruce, red pine and Norway spruce trees will give you a dense windbreak. This type of windbreak works well when a large group of trees are planted well away from the home, but even a single tree at the corner of the house will provide some energy saving benefit.

Privacy – Evergreens are one of the best choices when it comes to creating privacy and screening in the home landscape. One mistake I frequently see people make is choosing an evergreen tree that is ultimately going to be too large for the spot they are chosen for. Those trees look nice when they are young, and only 3 feet wide, but when it is mature, and is now 40 feet wide, it very well might be too large. I usually prefer some of the small tree type evergreens, or large shrub type evergreens for screening neighbors. You usually only need to screen up about 15 feet at the most, so it is best to choose evergreens that don’t become 80’ tall giants (the taller trees usually aren’t dense at the lowest levels anyway when they get mature, and they there goes your screening at eye level) My favorite screening evergreens for full sun are Keteleeri upright juniper mixed with a few Hicksii Yew. For shade I favor Foster Holly, American Holly and even boxwood and yew for some variety (the boxwood and yew take much longer to fill in, so I like to use a layered strategy for very dense and private screens.

Holiday Decorating – Every year, when the holidays arrive, I see expensive holiday greens being sold around town. These greens are usually farm raised, and have traveled far to get to your location. A more sustainable idea is to just go to your own backyard, and harvest fresh evergreens for your door and decorations. They are obviously very fresh, local, and are organic (if you follow natural landscaping practices) I have a couple boxwood, some holly, and juniper that I can forage from for my front door display each year!

Aesthetics – Evergreens are a very important visual component of landscape design. Winter interest is an obvious asset, but I also find that the dark green of evergreens are an essential element of the fall landscape as well. The deep green gives the necessary contrast to the fiery fall colors, and, contrary to what you first might think, the visual effect of the fall colors is greatly lessened without them. Of course Evergreens provide all the general benefits of deciduous trees as well…shade, habitat, oxygen, soil building, etc. Evergreens are often overlooked and considered ‘background’ plants, but there are many benefits to using them in your home landscape to both you and your outdoor animal friends!

holly 2

10 Jun

2014 Early June Garden Pictures

It has been a while since I posted pictures of the garden, a couple years actually, but I wanted to share with you some of the plants and fruits that I have going this year.

A place in the garden for meditation and relaxation

A place in the garden for meditation and relaxation

I bought this Buddha statue at Target about 10 years ago. It is resin (plastic) but still looks really great after an entire decade in the garden. ‘Catlin’s Giant’ Ajuga groundcover is in the foreground, along with annual begonia. A variety of native woodland irises (iris cristata) is just to the statue’s right with the short sword shaped leaves. In the far back is an evergreen yew. Behind the statue you can see the larger sword shaped leaves of a bearded iris and a chartreuse leaf spiderwort. I think the large boulder the statues sits on is ideal for creating some additional scale and impact, so the statue feels grounded and connected to the earth. Some black Mexican river stones around the statue also lend a nice effect.

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A Steuben Grape on the arbor leading from the driveway to the patio.

A Steuben Grape on the arbor leading from the driveway to the patio.

A Steuben Grape on the arbor leading from the driveway to the patio. It is a little too much for this arbor and I haven’t cut it back yet this summer, so it looks a little out of control. The gate has bamboo poles spray painted black zip tied to the gate, extending above it, so the neighborhood deer don’t jump through the gate (the metal portion of the gate is only the bottom half) Looking through the gate you can see my Celeste fig and some other perennials in containers.

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Sprinkler tripod made from Bamboo

Sprinkler tripod made from Bamboo

I made this tripod to elevate my impact sprinkler (which is on a timer)  The tripod is made from very heavy bamboo and the sprinkler is screwed very securely to it at the top.  The legs were also pounded into the ground about 6 inches or more.  It is amazing how much force a sprinkler has as it pulsates, but this thing isn’t going anywhere, it is very sturdy, and the added height allows the water to go over the shrubs and evenly water a large area.

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Shade garden plants that have some nice color and texture contrasts.

Shade garden plants that have some nice color and texture contrasts.

I took the time to label the plants in this picture because I thought is was a good illustration of using foliage color and texture to create interest in a shade garden.  There are few plants that bloom for a long period in the shade, so relying on foliage is a good strategy for having a beautiful shade garden throughout the summer.  This is a mixture of native, and non native plants.  The coleus and the flowering torenia are annuals, but the rest are perennials that come back each year.

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Serviceberry tree / Amelanchier 'Autumn Brilliance' after fruiting (and after harvesting)

Serviceberry tree / Amelanchier ‘Autumn Brilliance’ after fruiting (and after harvesting)

This shows our serviceberry tree about a week after the fruit was ripe.  Unfortunately, due to the late freeze this year we had very little fruit set…but usually between the two trees of this size we get up to 9 pounds of berries.  Well hope for better luck next year.

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Native Edible Paw Paw tree in such deep shade my camera's flash popped up...ha!

Native Edible Paw Paw tree in such deep shade my camera’s flash popped up…ha!

I planted 3 paw paw but this is the only one that survived the transplanting…one was in too much sun and the other was in a place that was too dry, this spot was just right, very deep shade, and moist soil…

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North Star Cherry just beginning to get ripe!

North Star Cherry just beginning to get ripe!

This North Star Cherry is about 3 years old and this is the first year we will get cherries off of it.  Right now they are looking beautiful….just starting to get ripe (if you follow me on facebook you know that I ended up netting this tree to keep the chipmunks from stealing the cherries….and yesterday I harvested about a pound and a half of cherries….)

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Mandevilla in hanging wall basket planters.

Mandevilla in hanging wall basket planters.

This year I am trying tropical Mandevilla in the wall baskets….I hope they get enough sun to bloom well…they get about half a day’s sun facing east….I absolutely love having drip irrigation on my planters because things do so very much better when they don’t dry out so much during the day.

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'Liberty' apple early June

‘Liberty’ apple early June

My apple trees are about 4 years old now…maybe 5…the fruit isn’t ripe until the fall, but it has set quite a few apples this year.  I wonder if I’ll get any or if the wildlife will take them all again this year?

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Kousa dogwood with immature fruit and the last of its flowers.

Kousa dogwood with immature fruit and the last of its flowers.

This is the Kousa dogwood in the shade garden, it isn’t native but it is actually a lot hardier than our native dogwood in situations where there is full sun, shallow soil, and some drought.  Did you know that the fruits on this tree are edible?  They are, but they aren’t the greatest things I’ve ever tasted.   Not bad as an addition to the morning smoothies in moderation though, and I love eating a variety of things from the garden that you can’t find at the grocery store.

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Hosta and ferns that overwinter outside in their containers in my zone 6 (last winter it dropped to zone 5) garden

Hosta and ferns that overwinter outside in their containers in my zone 6 (last winter it dropped to zone 5) garden

This hosta and native fern have both been in these containers for about 4 years.  I don’t take them inside or cover them or anything during the winter and they come back great each year, in fact, every year they look bigger and better!

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A wider view of the hill garden from the shade garden patio

A wider view of the hill garden from the shade garden patio

I really love my garden!

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immature blueberries on a plant that overwintered in a container, zone 6

immature blueberries on a plant that overwintered in a container, zone 6

These blueberries have also overwintered in containers outside for a few years now, and last winter the temps got down below any we had seen for over 15 years, so definitely below zone six and solidly into zone 5 temps.

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30 Apr

Hydroponic Tower Garden – Amazing!

This past weekend I went to an Earthday event at one of the local high schools near me. I saw a lot of great booths, and met many people sharing their knowledge of living green. I met someone there that I wanted to introduce to you, because she had on display an absolutely fantastic hydroponic growing tower that makes growing your own veggies really fun. The Tower Gardens have been featured in the May 2014 issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine!

The Tower Garden is an amazing compact and easy system for growing hydroponic vegetables and herbs on your deck or patio!

The Tower Garden is an amazing compact and easy system for growing hydroponic vegetables and herbs on your deck or patio!

Now, I’ve seen these in magazines, and I’ve actually tried to make one myself with some DIY instructions, which left me frustrated, so when I saw this system, how simple, how well thought out, and how easy, I wanted to know more and I asked Angela to write a guest blog post for me about the Tower Garden…so I’ll let her take it from here…and if you find yourself wanting one as much as I do, you can find her contact info at the end of the article. Thanks Angela for sharing this guest post and all the great pictures of your Tower Garden! -Mary

From Angela: Here I am- the woman with the black thumb that hates yard work. I am the perfect city dweller… or a least a condo/villa owner who pays a maintenance fee to have the property manage my weeds and seeds. Who knew I would care about and love gardening and growing my own food! I have no time, I have no flat space in my yard for this endeavor and I have no patience.

How did I become an avid gardener? I was introduced to aeroponics when my company teamed up with one of the top horticulturists in the country who ran Disney’s LAND. I was told I am to know, share and experience gardening. “Yeah, right”, I said. “I will only share this if I don’t fail at it”. If I can get anything to grow then I know it is good. As you can see, after 2 years of doing this, I am successful! It is so user-friendly, earth-friendly, and responds to the sustainability issue on an individual level.

Growing Zucchini Squash Vines in Hydroponic Tower Garden

Growing Zucchini Squash Vines in Hydroponic Tower Garden

Growing tomato plants in a hydroponic tower garden

Growing tomato plants in a hydroponic tower garden

I love this Tower Garden because the upkeep is minimal and the harvesting is plenty. I love that it takes up no space at all, you can rotate crops in a matter of minutes, and I don’t have to remember to water anything. You can grow all year round as well with some wonderful grow lights that hook onto the tomato cage.

Have you ever said, “I would love to have a garden BUT”…..?
This thing will overcome almost any reason for a person to not be able to garden. Sustainability and ego-friendly solutions on an individual level.

Who wants to garden with me!

Angela Meier-Tower Garden
www.angelameier.towergarden.com
314-453-4036 voicecom

hydroponic tower garden with trellis

Hydroponic herbs

The tower garden can be used indoors with a great optional lighting rig!

The tower garden can be used indoors with a great optional lighting rig!

24 Apr

What is a Food Forest?

What is a Food Forest?

Mary’s definition:

A food forest is a constructed or modified forest ecosystem system designed to largely self sustain over time, while providing the ecosystem services of a natural woodland and providing some food or other resources for human consumption.

It is not “vegetable gardening in the shade”

The 7 layers of forest gardening - drawing by Graham Burnett

The 7 layers of forest gardening – drawing by Graham Burnett

Basically, a food forest is a very ancient method of agriculture. Evidence of people modifying the forests for an increase yield of edible plants can be found as much as 11,000 thousand of years ago, before traditional cereal based agriculture. It is a method of growing things that people need like fruits and vegetables, providing habitat for animals that humans might want to eat, like rabbits, chickens and goats, and other products that people want, like honey, maple syrup, herbs, nuts and wood products, but with less intensive inputs and within a more sustainable ecosystem system that supports water quality, biodiversity, air quality, soil health, and ecosystem resilience.

In modern times forest gardening is being rediscovered for the environmental benefits, but is also being tested as an economically viable alternative to modern agricultural methods.

I’ll be blogging more extensively on forest gardening as an urban and suburban agricultural system over the coming months.

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