Wordless Wednesday


This sort of sums up my last two posts about house plants and “get growing earlier” when I said I never really stopped growing because I am always puttering with the house plants!

I am not quite sure what’s happened this year but I am really feeling gardening withdrawal. Usually it doesn’t hit me quite this badly until around March or so and by then I can get outside and do a little something here or there.

I think because my season was cut short so abruptly in early September by my surgery on my shoulder–so much was left undone and I had to abandon the garden–with the exception of hand watering–I am now feeling as if I have been “cheated” out of some gardening time. So I am making it up indoors, which is all I can do at this point!

In any event, I decided to refresh my terrarium and plant up this little globe with these tiny plants.


This is very cute. I am not sure how long this little fern will survive in here, but at least it’s not “glued in” like the air plant that didn’t survive.


And that looks better. Because this is not technically a sealed terrarium, it does need refreshing now and again. But  it has lasted amazingly well with very little care.

How Do We Define an Expert?

One of the things that I love is that house plants are back in vogue. Of course, for some of us, they were never “out.”

Some people, like Tovah Martin, have been writing about and growing house plants for decades. She is one of my favorite authors (it doesn’t even matter that she is local) and one of her earliest books,  Well-Clad Windowsills, has formed my thinking about house plants and how to grow them–and even has influenced how I lecture about them. She is a true expert, in my opinion.

While I have been growing house plants for decades as well, I have never written a book. I think of myself as exceptionally well informed about them but I am not necessarily going to lump myself into that “expert” category. I will leave that to the professionals. I have, however, been lecturing about them for over 15 years. And there are very few things that I haven’t tried to grow at least once.

But now that house plants are popular again, I am seeing all sorts of folks popping up on the lecture circuit. I wish them no ill will. There’s room enough out there for us all. But I think it’s cute that suddenly there are folks who are self-proclaimed “experts” and who give themselves catchy names and who suddenly start lecturing about house plants and their benefits in cleaning the air, etc.

I hate to tell them, but this is “old news.” NASA–the space experts–told us about the benefits of house plants in cleaning the air way back in the 70s–back when those of us who were devoted to house plants fell in love with them the first time.

But it’s okay. As I have said recently, not everyone is born with this knowledge. So it’s great to have more folks out there talking about house plants. That way, more people can come to know them and grow them and love them as well!



Get Growing Earlier?


I saw a “garden resolution” from a garden center on Twitter. Its resolution was “get growing earlier.” I smiled when I saw that because for some of us, as you can see by this photo,  gardening never really stops.


Over the New Year’s holiday, I was pruning, treating plants for insects (organically, of course!), sadly saying goodbye to a few plants that I lost (so “pruning” of a different sort–or is it paring down) bringing several tender figs indoors to a warmer place and just generally puttering happily about with my house plants. This took up all of a good part of one day and could have taken more if I had let it.


Not everyone has the hundreds of house plants that I have (and not everyone wants to have that massive a collection!) I also read something over the long holiday weekend where someone said that too many house plants looked like “clutter.” Clearly he and I beg to differ–but then again, he lives in Florida and can literally garden outside year round.


But if you do have a large house plant collection–where you in effect sort of turn your house into a bit of a greenhouse–you also have a responsibility to “manage” all those plants just as any other plant collector would.


Obviously you want to keep them as insect and disease free as possible so that you are not living with insects or diseases (although you have seen me joke that it’s just me and my 60,000 little friends at times because of the various pests on my plants. For the most part, plant insects stay put–but read this horrific story about an aphid swarm that didn’t here. Now you know what I mean when I say Stephen King isn’t a gardener. Surely he could use this….)

In any event, for the most part, house plants do far more good than harm, particularly so long as you are not using any chemicals to treat them indoors (no point in endangering yourself, your children or pets). In the coming days, although I have done so before, I will talk about indoor plants and their various benefits. In the meantime, just enjoy their beauty!

And by the way,  these are just photos of the first floor of my house. The windows in the rooms on the second floor are similarly “cluttered ” with house plants.

I am even forcing amaryllis bulbs in the furnace room in my basement.  Now that’s making creative use of space.

Wordless Wednesday–The Hopeful Heart


I love these little snow gardeners. I got them back when I was working in retail gardening.

I am not sure if you can read the inscription on the “lady” snow gardener. It reads “A hopeful heart will see the waiting rosebud beneath the snow.”

And of course she is holding a pot with a rosebud in it.

Sometimes that’s what we norther gardeners have to hold onto, isn’t it?

Microgreens–or Are they Just Dental Floss with Leaves?

I don’t remember how many years ago I had a post on Microgreens. At the time, they sounded like a good idea. I even went out and bought some seeds in preparation for starting some. I had organic seed starting mix. I saved some trays from take out food. I was all set.

Except it never happened. I may still have the seeds. I definitely still have the trays. I am using up the organic seed mix as I start seeds every winter and spring. What went wrong?

I think it’s my innate distaste for sprouts. Now, make no mistake, as this excellent article , Growing Microgreens 101 explains, sprouts and microgreens are entirely different things.

For one thing, sprouts are just that–barely sprouted seeds that are little more than roots and just the beginning cotyledon–but no true leaves. They are also not grown in soil, but are “sprouted” in water or some other moist medium.

Microgreens, on the other hand, are most often grown in soil. The have roots and two sets of “leaves”–the first set of leaves known as the seed leaves or cotyledon and the second set of “true” leaves.

It is once the microgreens reach this stage–the stage when they put on their second set of leaves–that they are harvested and eaten. And it is the true leaves that give them the flavor of the original plant (sometimes much more intensely so!) as well as vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

So it remains to be seen whether I can get over my “squeamishness” about the microgreens. But I urge you to do so. Because they really are a great way to add some healthy greens into your diet in the dead of winter. And they’re easy to grow yourself in a tiny space.

Who, besides perhaps me, wouldn’t like that?

So What Is A Gardener To Do In Winter?

I spoke to a newly retired friend recently and she was lamenting the lack of structure in her life–and the fact that her retirement fell at the end of the gardening season so that now she had to get through the entire winter before she could garden again.

I am quite sympathetic to this plight since most of my periods of unemployment have also fallen in the winter (and to be honest, the one that did come in the summer wasn’t truly enjoyable enough that I could just sit back and enjoy it–who enjoys unemployment if it is not of one’s own making?)

So for all of us gardeners who find ourselves with extra hours in the cold and the dark this winter (or any winter) I thought I might offer some suggestions. I offer many of these same suggestions at the end of my “Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter” lecture because I suspect that garden club folks might need a little help getting through winter–as do I!

One of my suggestions is to count birds for Project FeederWatch–but that doesn’t work if you’re not into birds of course. If you are, it’s a great “citizen science project” and a great way to give back to the online science community. More information about that project can be found here. And it’s not too late to sign up for this winter.

There are many online volunteer science conservation and observation projects that you can participate in over the winter. I had my backyard certified as a habitat one winter through the National Wildlife Federation.  Not only is that fun (and you’ll probably come out feeling better about your “yard,” however it’s defined. It can even be a balcony) but you’ll learn a lot too. And you can find out what you need to do to make your yard better as well. More information is here.

If online isn’t your thing, late winter and early spring are the time when lots of plant societies are putting on symposia and flower shows. Any group that I have ever belonged to was always looking for help in that area with their various shows and symposiums and day long series of talks. A little “Googling” around ought to help you find out plenty of places to volunteer in person depending on where you live–or stop in at a local garden center. They might be able to direct you. And if not, you can still soak up some warmth and maybe come home with a new plant or two to tide you over.

Finally, there are lots of books, blogs, podcasts and the like that are always putting out the latest and greatest ways to grow things. All of the early issues of the “horticultural” magazines will have the latest and greatest new plants that are coming onto the market. The plant societies have already introduced their new varieties for 2017–some old and some new. Maybe this is the year you decide to re-vamp a garden (or several) with some new–or tried and true varieties. Winter is for dreaming–spring is for planting.

And before we all know it, it will be time to get back out into the garden!



Wordless Wednesday–Aftermath Redux


Is this a sad scene or what?  (And “what” is not the correct answer!)

It seems bad enough there are the nasty, slushy, frozen ice blocks of snow at the edges of the street.  But I always hate to see all the trees appearing at the curb.

In a way, it’s a good thing. Our town collects them and composts them.

But it’s still a reminder that all the festivities are over and there’s just months of gray days and snow ahead (if we’re lucky. So far, it’s been mostly freezing rain and ice this winter and it’s sleeting as I type).

Oh well.  Bring on the house plants and the seeds!