Friday, December 2, 2011

Garden Diva Glissens in December...

Welcome December…Welcome beautiful fragrant greenery and welcome festive cheer!  I’m delighted that you’ve been able to take a few minutes for yourself, away from the last minute holiday hustle to sit and relax with me.  I hope that this article is accompanying a few peaceful moments with your cup of morning coffee or evening glass of wine.
I love this time of year.  I think I say that almost every month don’t I? *smile* In truth, I like every time of year for its unique reasons. Now, the nursery has quieted and been put to rest for winter, as have our gardens.  We now focus on the beauty of decorating for celebrations of family, faith and friends.  It feels like a lovely bridge between seasons for my home and me.  I truly enjoy adorning our home for the festive celebrations of the season; it gives me such a sense of peace & joy.  Yet, over the years I have learned how to decorate in a way that compliments the holidays but then gently flows into the winter season.  Long gone are my days of feeling the immediate need to remove my holiday decorations because they shout ‘holiday’ and feel out of place in January.  Through thoughtful consideration, I’ve chosen pieces that speak instead to pretty snow laden days and glimmery evenings that makes one feel warm and cozy.  I love that I don’t have to tuck away the awe of the white twinkle lights simply because the holidays have past.  Instead, I look forward to the longevity of the pleasure that I experience when the lights are strung through the winter.  Now, may I say…Although I am encouraging the festiveness of the lights past the traditional holiday season, I am guessing that you and I both have seen a few homes that shouldn’t subscribe to this fun train of thought.  I’ve been known to throw on my ‘Light Police’ hat while walking the dogs or driving from here to there thinking… ‘Oh no!’  I’m not quite encouraging that!  But I am saying, c’mon; let’s keep the winter as beautiful and bright as we can for as long as we can. 
Next on my decorating list are Winter Porch Pots and window boxes.  They are another ‘must have’ this time of year. Fresh greens (boxwood, pine, cedar, juniper, holly and fir) tucked into baskets, planters and containers offer the perfect welcoming compliment on a chilly winter’s day. I have been known, for the holiday season to have a little glitz in my porch pots on occasion, with punches of vibrant reds and golds. Yet as soon as the holidays have passed, I simply remove the bolder colors, leaving a fresh natural look to enjoy through the winter. Add a string of gentle twinkle lights and we’re in business!  
This year, I encourage you to be open to decorating in a way that allows you to extend the enjoyment for longer into the season.  Don’t take down all those lights!  Instead, enjoy the glimmer and twinkle of a winter evening for the long haul.  Enjoy the holidays and Happy New Year to you, fellow reader. I’ll look forward to seeing you again in 2012!
.... Frances Grossman

Friday, November 4, 2011

Every year in October, Larry & I escape to our ‘secret place’ in the Adirondacks for a week of much needed R & R.  When you put two tree loving, passionate gardeners in a car driving into the Adirondacks during peak color season, things are bound to get exciting between us. I think everyone feels a new sense of exhilaration while enjoying Mother Nature performing her symphony of color.  We eagerly look forward to this week like kids, and absolutely relish our time away together from the chaos of society, electronic media, work demands and anything else. I’m sure you know the feeling. The silence and beauty is so piercing, the world just seems to stop. We take the opportunity to renew ourselves by reading, hiking, biking, kayaking, and any activity which ends in ‘ing.’ For example, when we kayak, temperatures may hover from 40-50 degrees. My honey bundles me up and packs me into the kayak. So, Mr. Outdoors knows I prefer to hug the protection of the shore. He lets me go at my pace paddling sometimes fast and sometimes slow. I quickly warm up and may even tucker out. He knows just when to say, “Honey, why don’t you take a rest and let me show you a few things.” We don’t just see trees, rocks and birds. We have come to enjoy seeing Mother Nature’s traditions at this time of year. Realizing our family traditions are right around the corner.

Now back to reality. It is astonishing how soon the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving seems to be knocking at our door. Isn’t it enough just to catch up from vacation? Since I cannot slow down time, and it seems to accelerate more as we mature, facing the holidays is what I do; and I will do in earnest. Thanksgiving and beyond, I am grateful to have the memories and traditions from my family growing up. My parents made sure they were big celebrations. Cooking, baking, setting the table, decorating indoors & outdoors and gift giving involved the whole family; everyone!   Though I infuse something new into our preparations, I always find comforting how my childhood traditions weave their way into our holidays. I welcome them because they allow me to languish in past moments. Just as time stands still when we visit the Adirondacks, I love when it happens every year during the holiday. Those memories alongside the family activities of this year’s holidays make me thankful for the gifts the land bestows upon us with her beauty and bounty. It is now time to celebrate with family and friends this simple abundance.

Larry and I wish you and your family all the simple abundance you have to celebrate.
.... Frances Grossman

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gardener Welcomes The Fall Season... Simplify and Slow Down

It’s mid-October and I’m feeling energized by the idea of finding simplicity.  I love autumn, the cooler temperatures, the colors and the idea of switching gears and slowing things down a bit.  Yet, when I think about the idea of slowing down I almost chuckle to myself!  Slow down – right?  Who does that or even knows how to these days?  We’re referencing every electronic gadget we possibly can to communicate, get answers, order dinner, get directions and all at break neck speed. Slow down! Ha! Speed up says the world.
One of my greatest pleasures along with gardening and cooking is the simple act of reading. There is nothing better than losing ones self in a book and being transformed by the author’s words. I am currently reading Greg Mortenson’s second book titled, Stones into Schools.  I highly recommend Three Cups of Tea, his first book for its profound story about building schools in Pakistan & Afghanistan and how he has changed the lives of countless individuals & villages by educating children, especially girls. Greg Mortenson writes: as any wise village elder will tell you, anything truly important is worth doing very slowly and worth the wait.  This sentiment has resonated in my mind the past several days; so simple, so true, so REAL.
As I was pondering my garden over the weekend, this statement came to me.  Larry and I have nurtured our plantings for years, enjoying the benefits we have experienced over time.  The growth of our mature trees and gardens has been a process, even a journey.  We cherish the privacy, scenery and beauty our wait has rewarded us. Then as the mind works and goes from one thought to another, my spring garden comes to the forefront.  I so enjoy the spring blooming bulbs, the first burst of what’s to come in the new season.  But here’s the deal… We are, in general an ‘instant gratification’ society.  We want it now. We want it done for us and at full peak/performance.  In fact, as a business owner, I would be remiss if the nursery did not offer ‘Grab & Go’ container gardens and mature plant material for our customers.  When it comes to spring blooming bulbs, planting them now forces us to wait 4 to 5 months for the color to arrive. Can’t have it now? Then most people just don’t see the benefits.  It’s difficult to grasp that a couple hours in the garden now offers hours, days and weeks of color, enjoyment and reward in the spring when we really yearn for it. So here, as I write to you, knowing that I too am a culprit of the ‘Do It for Me, Now’ mentality (I love those $6 meals), I am committed to simplifying and slowing down.  I’ll take a couple of hours now to plant those giant Alliums, Tulips and Grape Hyacinths which will over time and through winter’s rest become gorgeous and fragrant blooms heralding the arrival of spring.
On a final note and I know you can relate to this…  I do enjoy the thrill of the hunt; discovering the latest and greatest, the must have item or service of the moment (and I do love having a terrific purse on my shoulder at all times).  But then I pause for a moment and I hear my mother’s voice and Greg Mortenson’s words telling me, “Stay simple, stay true, and plant those bulbs.” Those reminders are what encourage me to wait with patience knowing that my rewards will be many.
... Frances Grossman

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Enjoying The Garden Harvest...

Now that the heat has disappeared and temperatures are back to normal, I’m harvesting and enjoying all kind of tasty treats from our kitchen garden. The squash, tomatoes and lettuce have all thrived and bring me a smile with every bite!
I’m also doing some gardening projects like pruning, trimming, cleaning and generally making room and getting the gardens ready for a new season of inspiration. I have all kinds of new ideas and thoughts as I sit outside drinking my morning coffee in the garden. Sitting, observing and listening to nature unfold is a true joy. Listening to the birds and bees and watching a hummingbird zip by reminds me that day by day, season by season the garden is changing.
Oh, I don’t see the magic every morning because sometimes my head is full of other things! Electronic devices buzzing, deadlines and meetings to attend…so it’s those moments of inspiration that really speak to me and that I can celebrate. Here are just a few of my morning ‘inspirations’…
Morning coffee inspiration #1: This year, harvest and dry my hydrangeas. Our hydrangeas were absolutely spectacular this year. I’ll be creating a wreath for a friend and a swag for my patio door. I want to keep those gorgeous blooms and color in mind as long as possible.
Morning coffee inspiration #2: Refresh my summer pots and create autumn pots. The summer annuals in my pots are done but I’m not ready for colorless pots yet. In our nursery we have flowers that are cultivated to intensify in color during the cool nights and warm days…we call them autumn ‘magic’ because they are just so special. I’m using a combination of red and orange Mums, some autumn ‘magic’ plants like Verbena, Sunscape Daisies and Nemesia, plus grasses to spice up my pots and keep the color coming until the snowflakes fly!
Morning coffee inspiration #3: Create a festive autumn front door this season! Yes, my front door will have the things you can imagine like corn stalks and pumpkins, but this year I’m giving it a twist. I’m using two black porch pots filled with autumn Pansies and Million Bells, purple and green Kale, then adding some grape vines intertwined with faux berries. The corn stalks on each side of the door will be accompanied by pumpkins of all sizes, preserved leaves, gourds and any other fun autumn inspiration I can find!
Autumn is a time of inspiration…new colors on our trees, new schools, new flowers and new ideas! I hope that you too can be inspired by the changes that happen throughout the fall and have some fun while you embrace nature changing around us.
... Frances Grossman

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Garden Ideas Complete Me...

As I look around my blooming garden I am transported to another world, it is my place of joy, my oasis. Luscious, colorful, green and diverse, and sprinkled all around are my favorite pieces of garden art.
Garden art can be created in many ways, all of which can contribute to that ‘finishing touch’ of your garden’s big picture. I know it sounds simple, but my garden art…the fountains, the stone dogs, the antique bench and the blue bird house are placed thoughtfully in my garden, and all delight me in different ways when I gaze upon them.
As long-time gardeners, Larry and I also have many flowering perennials, interesting pots, and window baskets filled with colorful annuals. Bringing art into our garden is a perfect way to adorn and personalize our outdoor space and makes it feel like the garden is finished (although I know it never really is).
Since I am a dog lover (yes, I have three), I have picked several entertaining dog sculptures, which make me smile. The bird bath and blue bird house mounted to an old Oak tree attract blue birds, which are intriguing to watch! Years ago I bought an antique bench, which now resides peacefully under a Japanese Maple. The rich toned, beautiful Italian Impruneta pottery that comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes creates a European tone…I sometimes feel like I’m sitting at an Italian piazza when I drink my morning coffee!
Whether you buy something that catches your eye or commission a special ‘signature’ piece, it usually ends up working, because you like it!  I never look for ‘just anything’ to fill a space, I seek out pieces and materials that reflect my interests and personality.
Copper is beautiful and makes striking garden art in the form of bird baths,  feeders and garden stakes and I love the patina it creates!  I also enjoy steel garden art because it can be painted, varnished or left in its natural state to age and rust. Many artists take old discarded steel - drums, nuts and bolts, bike and engine parts - and turn them into fascinating creations. Perhaps you like a more modern look?  Think about stainless steel, which can be used to create large modern, architectural pieces which reflect the light and stand the test of time.
Thankfully, garden art has moved far beyond the plastic pink flamingo and the garden gnome! So, whether your taste runs to the whimsical or formal, cast stone, recycled metal or classic copper, your choices are endless. The sky’s the limit when putting the finishing touches in your garden, so feel free to adorn your garden by following your instinct and then sit back and enjoy!
... Frances Grossman

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Gardening Colors...

Recently I had my ‘colors’ analyzed, yes, that’s right, my ‘colors’. I have to admit that at first, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to hear, but in the end, the session brought such enlightenment to my clothing, my jewelry and makeup choices (and it was fun!). I now know what colors fit me just right and help to bring out my best features naturally. The same holds true in art and of course, in the garden!

Nature is complex, but rarely, if ever, do the colors we find in nature seem to be wrong. There are so many ways to use color so I try not to over think it. The key to figuring out color is to be creative, invent your own palette and use some general guidelines – no rules here!

Color combinations in our clothes, in art, in flower beds are all about contrasts or complements and harmonies. Primary reds and greens, which are opposite on the color wheel will create powerful contrasts.  While mixing pinks, blues, and silvers or, even warmer yellows and peaches are very calming and work together. Neither scenario is ‘right’ or ‘better’, it all comes down to what you like! You can create a mood of drama or one of peacefulness – all in the color decisions you make.

Of course, there are the non-plant materials that can also create a certain feeling. The style and paint color of your house, the presence and sound of water…maybe a pool, a stream or a fountain, and the kind of furniture you have, all create a mood.  I just love to see a brightly painted Adirondack chair sitting in a yard, bringing a bolt of electric color into a cool green palette.

As summer arrives so do the hot colors (and the hot weather!). Think of Black-Eyed Susans, bright yellow Yarrow, sunflowers and of course roses…in all kinds of deep colors. And don’t forget about the greens! Greens are refreshingly cool and the many hues of greens make as much of a statement as color when used correctly. Ferns, Hostas and Sedum can all create a stunning palette as well.

There is still a lot of summer left, so it’s also a great time to give your annuals a quick trim to keep their shape presentable. Don’t be afraid to give your flowers a haircut to keeping them looking good! July is also a perfect time to fertilize and give your plants a boost of energy. Between the haircut and the feeding, your plants will be looking their best for the rest of the summer.

I could go on about color and how much fun it is to play in the garden. I just smile when I think about the gorgeous palette of color that Mother Nature creates and savor these long days before autumn arrives and a whole new palette of colors explodes before our eyes.
... Frances Grossman

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How To Make A Gardener Smile...

It doesn't take much to make me smile, especially this time of year when the days are long, the nights are warm and the world is in bloom. The warm weather always seems to move through Rochester too quickly, but in reality, there's a lot of summer left. Hot summer. The kind that reminds me of my childhood running through the sprinkler, late nights catching fireflies and drinking cool lemonade (and no commitments!). A walk in the garden seeing all the buzzing activity of the bees and the bugs definitely puts me in the mood to kick back, relax and enjoy the season.

I remember my grandmother telling me "If the corn is knee-high by the fourth of July, It'll make corn, wet or dry." There are just some things that will always remain true…like knowing that my garden will be full of color every summer. I relish each new bloom as it appears and joins the rest of those that make up the color palette of the garden.

This is also the time for revisiting what is growing in my garden and planning for the future. I evaluate what’s working or not working in the garden palette and then of course, I consult my husband Larry who tells me to follow one simple rule “Grow what you love and it will all come together”.

Traditionally, I’ve always focused on bright, bold colorful gardens. I love the saturation of lavender, dahlias, begonias, petunias and sunflowers. After so many months with no color, I sometimes go a little overboard!

Over the years, my taste in flowers has matured and I’m willing to try new flowers and combinations.  At one point I would have never considered growing a Hosta garden, now I love to linger through my lush (and low maintenance!) shade garden of Hostas, Astilbes and ferns. With all the interesting shapes, textures and sizes, my shade garden is just a delight to behold. Of course I’m proud of how beautiful my garden is (thanks Larry), but also proud that I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and tried non-traditional styles, shapes and textures.

So, even though I can always count on certain summer traditions, my garden is a gentle reminder to try new things and always keep growing. In fact, now is a fine time to enjoy my own summer tradition of sipping a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc in the beauty of my garden…cheers!
.... Frances Grossman

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Garden Diva Attempts to "Work Smarter, Not Harder"...

Hello ladies- Welcome to the glorious color & flower filled month of May!

If you’re anything like me, you just can’t get outside quick enough to doll up your porch, patio or deck with fabulous color and ‘must feel’ textures for the summer. I’m talking about passionate color and hues that fill and overflow in my gardens and containers. And… if you’re anything like me you’re feeling busy, a little out of time and maybe even a tiny bit overwhelmed about where to start.  Well, I’ve got some great news for you!  Decorating your outdoor spaces is fun, fast & easy when you have a few tricks up your sleeve. Pssst… My secret to outdoor color decorating in a snap is simply called ‘Grab & Go Color!’

This smart way of shopping means that the experts have done the work for me.  I walk into my favorite garden nursery (wink, wink!) and have a terrific selection of plants in a variety of amazing color combos, sizes & styles. I envision my outdoor space and think about the ‘feel’ and look that I want for the season. After weighing my options, I put the planted containers on my cart and I head home.  Viola’ - that’s it!

Like every woman I know, I’m all about making my life easier when I can.  In fact, one of my mantras is to ‘work smarter and not harder.’ I know that I can do many things well, but not everything.  As much as I love and enjoy color, my backyard living space is rather expansive and fenced in for the dogs to run and play.  My veggie and herb garden is adjacent to our patio with the flowering plants we have in the area as ‘Grab & Go’ Color Containers.  I depend on these fantastic kaleidoscopes of colors to make our space come to life and it does!  A few containers strategically placed make all the difference in the world and sets the stage for entertaining, kicking back to read the paper or enjoy a glass of wine around the chat table.    

Tips for your color success:
•    Color has power!  Add vertical pops here and there with hanging baskets and incredible tropical plants that love our summer temps. Don’t settle for the same old same old.  Choose baskets with dynamic color and texture combinations that bring your space to the next level!
•    Check out how much light your space does (or doesn’t get!) Some varieties thrive in hot blazing sun, whereas other are magnificent in the shade.  Choose and feature plants that will work in your personal space. 
•    Food = Gorgeous Blooms!  Imagine your energy level without food.  Ugh – no thanks!  Fertilize and water regularly to keep the beauty coming!

Well ladies… here’s to celebrating you and the strong, beautiful women in your life this month.  Here’s to color and celebrating what it does to make us feel alive and fabulous!
... Frances Grossman

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gardening Diva gives 'Chores List' to Husband

Now that the snow has melted and is in our distant past and spring makes it way into our lives, I always love what seems to be the awakening of the world around us. Winter is wonderful, but I would like to put in the order to Mother Nature that spring should begin earlier in March.  It is unfair how short our springs are in Rochester.  I would also do away with the mud!  I suppose we need to experience that ugly mud to appreciate the bright colors of spring, but haven’t we endured enough grey from our dark Rochester winters?

Now with the mud (ugh) and the first blooms appearing, Mother Nature is erupting with what will be some of her most colorful fireworks display in the year.  This is also the time when my mind starts racing – from one part of the yard to another. I search, evaluate and discover what havoc may have gone on through my winter hibernation. I make my lists on my Iphone of what seems to be the same things every year that need to be accomplished. I might as well just make them ‘repeating’ lists and save the time creating them! That’s a few more free minutes in my day.  Or my husband, Larry, would ask, “Why don’t you keep a garden journal?” Ha! Fortunately for me, I am married to a man that doesn’t always practice what he preaches; his garden journal is in his head. Compounding my visual overload is the realization that it’s planting time, now!  The bombardment of all the work to do in the yard is literally piling up and putting me into frenzy.  I want to do the plantings; that’s fun. Who wants to do the clean up?  I fret about when it will all get done and then Larry has to listen to me unloading to him as we are turning in for the evening.

But, I tell myself, let’s be practical. By spending the time now raking and putting down the granular weed preventer along with mulch where it is needed, I will have a much more enjoyable summer playing and not pulling weeds. Nobody should pull weeds anyways; it only creates more weeds and it is such a waste of time.  OK, an ounce of prevention now, will allow me the time to have fun in the gardens doing what I want to be doing – the planting, decorating and beautifying of my world!

I will admit, as for those nasty repetitive chores through the rest of the season, I am fortunate that I have my own personal horticulturist; my garden curator of our home. Larry prides himself in having our ‘outdoor home’ as beautiful as those he creates for all of our gardening friends and customers that visit the nursery.  He gauges my anxieties and tempers them with getting done what needs to be done so I can have my fun in the garden.  He takes care of me and I would say, “he has my back” in regards to our gardens.  What am I complaining about? It’ll all get done!  I have Larry…
.... Frances Grossman

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gardening Diva Gets Older...

The older and wiser (wink!) I get, I’m continually in awe of how life comes full circle. When I was young, growing up in Wisconsin, there was a small stretch of land that we affectionately called ‘Tree Island.’  The neighborhood kids would play for hours in and among these 5 gnarly multi-branched trees.  We’d climb all over the trees, swinging like monkeys from branch to branch, sometimes successfully, sometimes not!  I have one vivid memory of the ‘not so’ successful.  I was climbing and one misstep caused me to fall out of the tree and land so hard, that I encountered my first experience with having the wind knocked out of me.  Oh, how I cried as I ran home! Yet, as much as I remember that fantastic moment in time (note sarcasm!), I can’t escape the memory of feeling completely connected to my friends among those big old trees.  Countless hours of entertainment coupled with secrets shared and friendships sealed made those 5 funky trees an exciting destination and treasured safe haven.
I feel lucky to have those wonderful childhood memories as a professional in the horticultural industry. I know the technical aspects of growing trees; proper pruning and growing practices.  I tout the environmental benefits; trees produce oxygen, harbor wildlife, provide shade and wind barriers for our homes.  Yet, to be honest, it’s the emotional sentiment that I gravitate towards every time.
Our gardens are a mirror of each of us and how we live.  Larry and my gardens have been designed with several things in mind, but nothing more important than our sheer comfort and enjoyment.  We’ve planted several trees over the years to celebrate our loved ones as they’ve passed.  Celebrate being the key word. As each season unfolds, reveals itself and then revolves into something entirely different, you can’t help but feel connected to the person being remembered.  The aesthetic beauty and function are just additional benefits!
I got started on this thought process today as I ponder the March weather.  In past years we’ve experiences mild weather, but have also taken some severe hits via ice storms and heavy snowfall.  It’s easy to delight in the anticipation of upcoming as tree buds begin to swell, signaling their desire to pop.  Now however, I see the beautiful branching structure of the trees, appreciating the true splendor that lies beneath the leaves.  Soon, the branches will be leafed out offering a completely different perspective.
Here’s a suggestion.  Now, while we wait for nature to do her ‘spring thing,’ take a drive or stroll down Rochester’s East Avenue.  You’ll find some of the oldest and grandest trees in our area; trees that have become finer with age (many 100+ years old).  East Ave will take on a new perspective as you realize the incredible Beeches, Oaks and other trees that stand silently and majestically. As I have shared my small childhood memory with you, imagine the stories that these magnificent trees could tell as they have quietly witnessed years of history and happenings going on right beneath their beautiful branches.  Little did I know that day as I ran away from Tree Island to the comfort of home (and mom’s arms), I would as an adult come to appreciate the undeniable beauty and majesty that trees bring to our world.  Grow some beauty, memories and enjoyment in your world….
...Frances Grossman

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Teasing the Gardening Diva

Nobody likes a tease.  We’re taught early on it’s best to (respectfully) be direct and say or do what you mean. Winter, for me, is just one big tease!  Here’s why…
 I love the simple pureness and sheer beauty of a fresh snowfall. I find myself looking out the window mesmerized by the textures and gentle movements on the other side of the glass.  As a gardener, I view the changes in my landscape as remarkable.  It feels like only yesterday that I was brushing the soil off my knees after planting in that very same spot.  Today, I simply shake my head as I see Larry and the dogs tossing the ball around and running through my (snow laden) vegetable gardens when he doesn’t think I’m looking. Lucky for them; they’re cute and I’m in my winter tranquility mode. This would never fly any other time of year!  I embrace winter as a time to refuel for the boundless hours of gardening that the longer days bring and to nurture my favorite cold weather pastime.

My passion for gardening goes hand and hand with my love for cooking.  I must admit that I don’t spend as much time in the kitchen as I would like during the warmer months. But now, I take every opportunity to pour through cookbooks and search the web for new recipes. My free hours are now easily filled in the kitchen.  This is where winter becomes a big ‘tease’ for me.  I am so fired up to gather all of my fresh ingredients to add to my recipes.  I love the taste of freshly picked tomatoes off the vine and the delightful flavor that my fresh herbs bring to the plate. Oh… the fresh cucumbers and eggplant and the scent of basil on my fingers as I pinch off a few leaves.  WAIT!  STOP!  Screech… that’s the brakes as I remember that winter has stopped me cold in my tracks!  Agh, I can’t just step outside my kitchen door and pick those fresh veggies & herbs that my taste buds are dying for.  That’s the irony of winter; the old law that our good friend Murphy came up with.  Now that I have the time to nurture my love of cooking, my timing, or my garden’s timing is way off.

Yet as we know, one thing always leads to another. My discovery of new recipes has led me to daydream and ‘wander’ through my gardens.  My mental checklist begins. Plant more snow peas & lettuce for an earlier harvest (√).  Add a new savory eggplant variety (√). Place the tarragon near the end of the bed and locate another herb to the other side for easier access (√).  Oh! And I need a new pair of gardening gloves and the purple hose nozzle leaks a bit (√). You know where I’m going with this…  Still, I’m energized by thoughts of what else can be grown, how much, what can be harvested & preserved for next winter and on and on!

As I enjoy my time in our warm kitchen, flavorful scents all around, I enthusiastically anticipate getting back into my garden.  Meanwhile, I satisfy my cravings for all things fresh and simple by growing herbs indoors for cooking and placing fresh lavender, my favorite herb, throughout the house. Most importantly, I continue to feed my senses, my soul, my husband and our waistlines this winter with homemade cooking! In fact, as I read another cookbook last night, Larry asked, “How much do I have to expand the garden this year?”  I coyly smile (I would NEVER dream of being a tease) and think, ‘Hmmm…’
... Frances Grossman

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gardener's Calm January

Did you feel that?  It was the reverberations of the thousand pound holiday hustle and bustle weight that just toppled off my sagging shoulders and onto the floor! Can you feel it too?  The sense & knowledge that just around the corner, you’ll be able to reclaim some sense of normalcy and structure.  Did you hear that?  The sound of the cork flying off the top of my 2002 Premier cru Red Burgundy & the slow ‘clug, clug, clug’ as the delicious aroma of the soaring plumy and violet infused nose replete with soft notes of earth, leather and smoke fills my favorite glass.  ‘Ahhh…’ That’s me, falling back into my fluffy couch cushions, relaxing, savoring and loving this quiet moment.

Personally, January restores a sense of ‘calm’ back in my life. The nursery isn’t as busy as warmer months & my garden is taking a well deserved break; I can actually slow down for a short while. I embrace this time to reflect on the past year and feel boundless optimism about the upcoming year. Based on the media rush of goal setting articles & ‘sticking to it’ initiatives, I know I’m not alone! The true question is… How many of us really end up achieving those goals? So here I am, standing tall (okay, sitting quietly with my wine, but feeling tall!) vowing to make this year different... Better… I’m recruiting (or encouraging) you to stand tall with me.   Do something beautiful in your life, something beautiful for you.

Not many of us grew up learning how to garden, me included.  Unless our parents gardened, it wasn’t high on the priority list of what we needed to know before going off on our own (such as how to wash clothes, cook, and check the oil in your car.)  Let’s face it, when put in the same light as basic survival tactics; gardening doesn’t seem as fun or en vogue. We don’t need to talk about staking your tomatoes or why your hydrangea isn’t blooming. You can easily grab that info via Google or your iphone.

We’re going to talk about the Gardening of today. Easy. Fun. Rewarding.  Gardening can be done anywhere, on any scale and within any budget. We’ll talk short cuts or ‘aha moments’ that will make gardening and outdoor living all about your personal adventure towards beauty.  I sometimes hear women say they don’t know how to garden. Yet, I’ll bet these same women have a colorful potted plant in their window or a few potted herbs in their kitchen. Let me be the first to say… That’s gardening, girlfriend and You Are Doing It!

....Frances Grossman

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Trees of My Life.

The older and wiser (wink!) I get, I’m continually in awe of how life comes full circle. When I was young, growing up in Wisconsin, there was a small stretch of land that we affectionately called ‘Tree Island.’  The neighborhood kids would play for hours in and among these 5 gnarly multi-branched trees.  We’d climb all over the trees, swinging like monkeys from branch to branch, sometimes successfully, sometimes not!  I have one vivid memory of the ‘not so’ successful.  I was climbing and one misstep caused me to fall out of the tree and land so hard, that I encountered my first experience with having the wind knocked out of me.  Oh, how I cried as I ran home! Yet, as much as I remember that fantastic moment in time (note sarcasm!), I can’t escape the memory of feeling completely connected to my friends among those big old trees.  Countless hours of entertainment coupled with secrets shared and friendships sealed made those 5 funky trees an exciting destination and treasured safe haven.
I feel lucky to have those wonderful childhood memories as a professional in the horticultural industry. I know the technical aspects of growing trees; proper pruning and growing practices.  I tout the environmental benefits; trees produce oxygen, harbor wildlife, provide shade and wind barriers for our homes.  Yet, to be honest, it’s the emotional sentiment that I gravitate towards every time.
Our gardens are a mirror of each of us and how we live.  Larry and my gardens have been designed with several things in mind, but nothing more important than our sheer comfort and enjoyment.  We’ve planted several trees over the years to celebrate our loved ones as they’ve passed.  Celebrate being the key word. As each season unfolds, reveals itself and then revolves into something entirely different, you can’t help but feel connected to the person being remembered.  The aesthetic beauty and function are just additional benefits!
I got started on this thought process today as I ponder the March weather.  In past years we’ve experiences mild weather, but have also taken some severe hits via ice storms and heavy snowfall.  It’s easy to delight in the anticipation of upcoming as tree buds begin to swell, signaling their desire to pop.  Now however, I see the beautiful branching structure of the trees, appreciating the true splendor that lies beneath the leaves.  Soon, the branches will be leafed out offering a completely different perspective.
Here’s a suggestion.  Now, while we wait for nature to do her ‘spring thing,’ take a drive or stroll down Rochester’s East Avenue.  You’ll find some of the oldest and grandest trees in our area; trees that have become finer with age (many 100+ years old).  East Ave will take on a new perspective as you realize the incredible Beeches, Oaks and other trees that stand silently and majestically. As I have shared my small childhood memory with you, imagine the stories that these magnificent trees could tell as they have quietly witnessed years of history and happenings going on right beneath their beautiful branches.  Little did I know that day as I ran away from Tree Island to the comfort of home (and mom’s arms), I would as an adult come to appreciate the undeniable beauty and majesty that trees bring to our world.  Grow some beauty, memories and enjoyment in your world….
Frances Grossman

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Working on my own garden design ... the most difficult of all projects!

Designing for others is easy because I can take my emotions out of the picture. Designing for myself is most difficult because my emotions cramp my style. So here I am. The garden design is back in mind. Can you understand why? Frances and I say we're tired of looking out the window and seeing the YMCA. Well its winter and those evergreen trees I took down; their dying branches were far better to look at than the stark view of a brick building. So what's up with this part of the garden?
Here's my response playing out in my mind. Sometimes you have to live with something for awhile before it hits you and you say "That's it! Now I know what to do!" I lived with the garden through the fall; now through the winter and believe it or not spring is right around the corner.
Not to confuse the issue: This view looks from our bedroom over our secret garden (not so secret) through the downed trees and provides a great view of the road traffic.
Tomorrow I'm going to do a walk through the area and take some more photos. Let's look at the surrounding gardens and how to tie them in to this make over. Gotta sleep on this some more...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I'm dreaming of a green garden.

I'm dreaming of a green garden.
What else does a gardener's dog dream of? Long walks, running through the trees, and just being with me. What more could I want? Family, thoughts of warm spring days to come and my friend Lucy always by my side.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Garden Workout!

Thanksgiving Garden Workout!
Did you enjoy lots of turkey? I sure did and then some! So to make sure the lbs don't stick to my ribs like that scoop of stuffing I did some end of year garden chores today. Mow your lawn one last time short to prevent spring snow mold. Rake/blow out the rest of those fallen leaves out of the garden to elliminate hiding places for moles and voles. Drain, roll up and hang in the shed all the garden hoses. 

Now off to the left overs... Larry

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Victoria & Richard MacKenzie-Childs Jewelry Party at Grossmans Garden & Home

Grossmans Garden & Home presents: Victoria & Richard MacKenzie-Childs Jewelry Party and Holiday Preview, tomorrow November 20th, 4-7pm! Victoria has just made available two NEW Jewelry Pieces to be unveiled tomorrow night. These pieces have never before been publicly shown.
Victoria & Richard MacKenzie-Childs at Grossmans Garden & Home Video.

Party Details @

Monday, November 9, 2009

Help Me Design My Garden!

Help Me Design My Garden!
HELP! Here' the action and reaction. ACTION: I cut down deseased Austrian Pines that looked ugly. REACTION: Frances couldn't beleive the massive view she could now see of the YMCA. REACTION: Whats my plan? Darn it! I dont have one. i thought i could wing it! I always say "Plan, Prepare, Plant " I Prepared by cutting down dying trees I hated to see. I did not Plan to Plant until spring 2010. What am I to do? Let me know what you think? HELP ME CREATE since that is what I do for you my customers everyday. The best idea gets a free consultation from me!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kill Weeds in the Garden

Warm day, 67 degrees and climbing. Weeds are starting to grow, again! Today's garden task; spray an herbicide to kill the last of them off. When temps warm up, weeds take off and will absorb the chemical willingly. Tomorrow will be warmer and the weeds will keep on growing. If you do this, expect to see weeds die off slowly due to cool nights. Need more knowledge, ask a question. I'm sure others will want to know too.
Grossmans Garden & Home Facebook

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Victoria & Richard MacKenzie-Childs at Grossmans Garden & Home

You are personally invited to attend
An Extraordinary Private Appearance by...

Friday, May 1st from 3 - 8pm
for a Private Appearance for you, and only you, our special customers.
This is a golden oppurtuntity to experience the whimsical spirit of these two world renowned artists launching their brand new company. Victoria and Richard MacKenzie-Childs' new creations include dinnerware, pottery, urns, candles, lamps, rugs & more. Thier new jewelry line features unique designs infused with fun, fancy & color! Victoria and Richard are also making available very special 'one of a kind' creations from their personal collection. This is your chance to be 'up close & personal' with Victoria and Richard MacKenzie-Childs while they sign purchases made only at this event.
Open to the public Saturday May 2nd at 9am
1801 Fairport Nine Mile Point Rd, Penfield, NY 14526
Mon-Fri: 9 to 7. Sat & Sun: 9-6

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What do I feed my lawn?

Do you want to know what I feed my lawn? The answer: Jonathon Green products; Organic or 4-Step Programs. The reason: Frances and I love a lush lawn. The real reason: we look at our grass and feed it the right percentage of nutrients at the right time to grow a great lawn the whole year.
Quick information about the numbers on the bag; they represent three nutrients and the percentage of each in the bag. Nitrogen for top growth, Phosphorous for root growth and Potassium for general health. So let's take a look at the ingredients in the bags of Scotts and Jonathon Green.

Scotts Lawn Pro 4 step Program.
Nitrogen 32,29,29,31% Roughly the same amount in every application. Does your lawn grow at the same rate all year; or does it slow down in the summer and fall? If you say it slows down read below.
Phosphorous 3,3,3,3% The same amount in every application. Roots need to be be fed and grow differently during the year; read below.
Potassium 8,3,4,10% More plant health provided at the beginning and end of season. If you want a healthier lawn all year; read below.

Jonathon Green Lawn Program
Nitrogen 22,26,18,10% My grass starts to grow in April 22%, speeds up in May-June 26%, slows down in July-August 18% and goes to sleep in October-November 10%. See the numbers go up and down? If your grass grows like mine; use Jonathon Green.
Phosphorous 4,3,0,18% My grass grows some roots in April 4%, grows about the same in May-June 3%, goes dormant (green, not brown) in July-August 0% and in the fall I push roots to grow deep to prepare the grass for the winter 18%. If you want your grass to withstand summer drought and produce deep roots to carry the lawn through the winter; use Jonathon Green.
Potassium 4,6,3,20% My grass wakes up with good plant health in April 4%, needs a bit more when it is growing the fastest in May-June 6%, needs less when it is hardly growing in July-August 3%, and is incredibly healthy when it goes dormant in the fall with 20%. If you want your grass to be strong and healthy as it prepares for winter; use Jonathon Green.
If you want better control of crab grass; use Jonathon Green step one with Dimension. And as an added bonus Jonathon Green is less expensive than Scotts.

Stop in and talk to Barry Green, the owner of Jonathon Green this Saturday April 25th, from 9am-3pm. Talk turf, get in the know and grow a great lawn!
see you in the nursery...Larry G

Friday, April 10, 2009

Roll me the Garden

No matter what they say, my wife loves a lush lawn and don't I know it. So if I can stay ahead of the curve and get the yard work done I believe she will love me even more.
To roll or not to roll...that is the question. We roll and aerate the lawn every year. It smooths out the winter mole/vole tunnels and freeze thaw bumps. The aeration allows for the lawn to cycle soil to the surface while loosening up the soil to allow the roots to expand again.
Next, I love Jonathon Green 4-step products. They feed the lawn the right amount of nutrients when the grass need them. None of this 29-32% nitrogen level in each bag all the time like the national Sc_tts product slams out. J Green provides the right ratio of N-P-K at the right time that makes my life easier by growing grass the way it wants to grow.
So if I love Jonathon Green lawn products and my grass loves the results and my wife sees the results of a lush lawn, I know she loves me too.
Bottom Line: A lush lawn,,,gets me a lot of lovin' too.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Woodpecker Valentine in the Garden

How would you like to wake up on Valentines Day to "Happy Valentines Day Honey! Can you do something with that woodpecker of yours"? Groggy eyed I said "Now that's what I'm talking about!" She said, "Hold on mister". I said "OK". And then I woke up... If only I heard what I thought I heard, what a glorious start to my day it would have been.

Our conversation went something like this: "Did you hear that little pecker pounding on the house"? "No. I was having a great dream". "When it got done with the house it moved over to the tree. Did you hear it peck on the tree'? "No. I was still in the middle of that great dream". "Well look outside. Look what that little woodpecker did to our house and tree! Can you get rid of it"?

So out the door we went ... hoping dreams to be finished later. "Show me what you are talking about"? There was the damage with no bird in site. Nice job. Oval shaped holes coming to a point on the inside. Uggg! Just what I wanted to do today; plug some holes with wood putty. Sand, stain and seal the molding. Fill the hole in the tree and let the wound heal over on its own. Lastly the solution; hang an Owl from the eve of our log home to scare off the Woodpeckers.

And yes, the romantic dinner, wine and dessert were out of this world. Some men thank their lucky stars ... I thanked my little woodpecker friend instead.
For if you peck, you will receive....
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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mud, Moles and Mess in the Garden...

So the snow is gone and Frances says "Hey honey check out our gardens". So boots on feet, hood on head, I'm out there looking in the gardens...and for what? She didn't have to tell me, I already knew. Moles and Voles in the beds and on the edge of the lawn. So like a good gardener I mush down the tunnels, check a few perennials where the tunnels have lead to, and push some mulch/soil/mud under a few plants to fill in the voids. Then it's off to the shed to break out the MoleMax. As a natural organic repellent, I spread it in the areas where I see tunnels never having to worry that the dogs might want to go snooping around there too.

So take a break from your favorite book or seed catalog. Check out your gardens before the next snow fall and spread a little MoleMax to fend off the moles and voles. Your plants will love you, you'll give your husband something to do (sorry guys), and you can go back to nesting for the rest of the winter.

See you in the nursery for a class or two.... stay warm....Larry

Friday, January 30, 2009

Winter Harsh Gardener

Hey All! I had a follow up question asking more about zone 6 plants and what happens to them during this harsh winter...

Here are some zone 6 plant families that may dieback this winter:
Japanese Andromeda
Mountain Laurel

With in these plant families are specific varieties that are hardy for zones 5 and below. Grossman's Country Nursery tends to air on the conservative side and carry varieties that are hardy so that the gardener will be successful not only during mild winters but harsh ones (like this year) as well. Where a gardener can run into trouble might lie with in the ‘box stores’. A buyer for the box store is purchasing for their territory which could be made up of multiple plant hardiness zones. They tend to have general family and varieties of plants stocked on their shelves for their entire territory. Some varieties might not be suitable to sell in one store while others would be.

If a gardener experiences any of these plants dying over a period of 3-5 years; this is an indication the plant is not conducive to the micro-climate of which they are growing. This year’s cold weather will speed up the dieback process and shorten the life span of the plant. Gardeners should heed our advice before purchasing a plant and remember; “Right plant for the right growing conditions. Then buy the plant. Buying a plant on a whim without the right advice and having it die tends to make that plant the most costly of all plants”.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter Weather Plant Concerns

Right now the is cold and snowy. Here's whats going on in the garden.

With the amount of snow on the ground, covered plants are well insulated which keeps them from coming out of dormancy prematurely. Bulbs for example. Plants that are more tender, Rhododendrons, Azaleas are protected from winds by the snow cover. This will help prevent their flower buds from freezing off due to wind desiccation.

If a garden was not raked out of leaves and debris in the fall; with the high amounts of snow cover, moles and voles will have a field day because of the snow cover. Once we get a thaw and can see the ground use an organic repellent to keep the rodent problem to a minimal.

Heavy snow loads are ok on shrubs that are properly pruned to hold the weight. Snow should not be removed, but let to melt naturally. Usually the shape of a shrub will ‘bounce back’ once the snow is off. If it does not, pruning will be necessary to eliminate leggy branches. Ideally, all plants should be pruned 2x per year to prevent leggy growth.

Cold weather is great to finally have a hard freeze in the ground. As you can remember during the past few winters, the ground never froze. When high winds occur, trees were wind or top heavy and pulled out of the ground because the ground was water laden and soft. Roots right now are locked in and high winds should not be a problem at this time.

Plants are very resilient. The weather is not so unusual to plants that are hardy to zone 5 or less. Because we have been tempted with mild winters in the past 5 or so years, gardeners have been experimenting with plants that are zone 6-7 hardy. These plants will probably die back and possibly die off. Gardeners will be mindful to realize they can only temp Mother Nature so long before she kicks us in the butt with a brutal cold winter like this one. Global warming doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to have a mild winter. Though this has been the case for several years, I think we all can recall the days past when this type of winter was the norm.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pruning the easy way to a beautiful garden

Pruning is not a chore but one’s expression of living art. There are many reasons to prune plants. From a grower’s perspective, we prune plants to train them to have full, well branched structures. Generally shrubs should be pruned every 6-8” and trees are pruned every 12-15”. The result on the one hand will be a plant that has strong branches able to better withstand heavy snow and ice during the winter time. On the other hand, a well pruned plant creates a work of beauty during the rest of the year. Characteristics such as flower color, size, fragrance, leaf color during the season, or even fall color will all be enhanced with proper pruning. The end result will allow us to sell a plant that will perform brilliantly for years to come. From a homeowners perspective, we prune plants to keep them from getting out of shape, growing too tall, too wide or more simply put, so they don’t cover up the windows, grow over the walkway, or up against the house. Now whether you are a professional or a weekend gardener, pruning a plant should have the same results.

We need to get to know our plants and understand their strengths and weaknesses. For a plant that means we need to understand where do they grow best and under what type of growing conditions? Where will they provide the best effect, whether that is complementing the architectural details of the home or providing screening between adjacent properties? So before we take on how to prune plants, let’s make sure they are a good fit to the yard. Learn the maintainable size of the tree or shrub so you can place it in the best location. The bottom line is the proper plant for the proper location will allow us to grow the plant as it would naturally. Learning how to prune plants so that we maintain them in an area that is too small for them to grow can truly dampen out spirits as a gardener. So in the end, right plant right location becomes a thing of beauty…living art.

The first principle
of pruning is to cut back to another branch or bud where there is healthy wood. When we clip the top off a branch the energy will flow to the bud or branch just below the cut. The result will be buds breaking open and producing new shoots. Most times after the plant is pruned we see it grow furiously. Over the years when trimming is done to the outer portion of the plant the canopy becomes very dense. As sun light is restricted from getting to the interior of the plant the inside branches die out. The second principle of pruning I call "thinning-out". This is the most important part of pruning that most people do not do. And without this step our plants grow out of shape having you ask 'Is it still salvageable"? By thinning, we reopen up the dense canopy by taking out sections to allow sun to get to the center again. Evergreens such as Yews are prime examples of a plant most of you would say looks great on the outside yet dead on the inside. If we were to thin the plant, we allow the shape to remain and allow sun into the center. The buds in the center will break open and develop branches that will begin to grow through our openings towards the sun. The result is a more open plant that does not stimulate excessive new growth. A lot of growth can be removed without changing the plants natural appearance. Yews, Hollies, Junipers are Evergreen Shrubs that can be maintained for years at a desired height and spread by thinning-out. Viburnum, Euonymus, Weigela, Dogwood, and Barberry are some common Deciduous Shrubs that will also benefit from this technique. This method of pruning is best done with hand pruners, not hedge shears.

When To Prune: The best time to prune most flowering shrubs is just after they flower. Deciduous Shrubs such as Forsythia, Viburnum, Lilac, and some Hydrangeas (macrophylla varieties) produce the following year’s flower buds just after their current years flowers cycle. So if we prune a Lilac in the fall because it is overgrown from several years of neglect, though we will put the plant back into shape, we will also loose the following year’s flowers. It would be best to loose some flowers and have a better maintained shrub. Evergreens Shrubs such as Yews, Junipers, Holly, Spruce and Fir can be pruned late winter or early spring before new growth starts. All evergreens in the Pine family would be pruned late spring after they flush their new growth. Most of the evergreen shrubs continue to grow during the summer season. Broadleaf Evergreens such as Rhododendrons and Azaleas should be pruned after they flower in late spring. Thinning out as previously described with a hand pruner is best. Old flower clusters can be pruned or pinched off to prevent seed formation and to encourage new growth and flower buds.

Though this is a lengthy blog, save it as a general guideline to help keep you in tough with your plants. Or better yet, see you at my next class .

There is nothing like a little hands on... time in the garden... Larry

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Putting Your Garden to Sleep

Just take small steps.... That is what I said while looking from one side of the garden to the other. So much to do... So with small steps here is my list of accomplishments:
  • Cut back the sedum to the ground; even though they look great in the winter.
  • Cut back all those great 'Knock Out' Roses to 18"; then thinned them out to create a uniform branching structure.
  • Cut back Daylilies to the ground just before they turned brown. They are easy to cut back while they are standing up and the debris rakes off easily.
  • Lightly prune shrubs so they keep their shape. In my next post check out an article about pruning that I wrote for a trade magazine.
  • Pull all left over Annuals and rake out the debris.
  • Gather, drain, wind up, tie up and hang all garden hoses in the shed.
  • Drain the two fountains and cover them to prevent freezing.
Next beautiful day.... garden tasks to accomplish:
  • Prune shape and thin many shrubs.
  • Apply Jonathon Green Organic Fertilizer to the planting beds. This will gently feed our plants and keep them in good vigor.
  • Apply 'MoleMax' to keep Moles and Voles from tunneling in the garden. Remember to apply this product every 4-6 weeks. As an organic control it keeps the critters out by making their skin itchy.
  • Start tree pruning....
See my next post for a great article and / or check out my next pruning class and I will see you in person. Don't forget to bring a list or samples of plants you want to learn how to prune.

See you in the garden... Larry

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back to the Garden Blog...

After a long hiatus many of you have asked me to keep up with the blog posting. I appreciate the support and encouragement. As time has gotten away from me here I go again...and this time (I promise) to the best of my busy schedule to keep you in the loop about our gardens, timely garden advice for our area, and other interesting thoughts all relating to gardening.

Next week, Saturday October 25th at 12 noon, I am talking about 'Putting your Garden to Sleep'. The hour, and then some depending many questions I field, will help you understand the Who, What, Where, When, How and Why many of these tasks are important.

See you next the garden.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Decorating the Garden...just in time for...

At this time of year we see many people rushing into the nursery looking for ways to decorate their garden, entrance, patio or deck just in time for... a graduation, wedding, weekend party or even the July 4th barbecue.

An easy solution to the garden pick me up are patio floral arrangements. These are ‘Grab and Go’ collections of beautiful annuals and perennials have been grown in decorative containers for immediate pickup. A pair placed outside the front door to your home will create an inviting welcome sign setting a festive mood. A group containers; perhaps one large and two smaller placed in a grouping on a patio or deck can easily dress up a corner. Or even a smaller simple one toned container can dress up an outdoor dining table setting the tone for a fabulous meal.

If you are into big and bold, instantaneous color try this simple solution. Take a large hanging basket, place it on an end table or plant stand. Take off the hanger and instantly convert the arrangement to a table top wonder of color.

Have you ever wondered how your neighbors created immediate color in their gardens? You know those huge hanging baskets at the nursery? Take a couple, slide them out of the pot, plant them right into the ground, feed, water and Whala! Instant color and neighborhood envy.

So there you have it. Simple, easy and fun gardening solutions that make creating a beautiful atmosphere for any party a piece of cake. Get ready for that festive time of year, summer.

Enjoy your garden, decorate with color and watch your party come to life!

Friday, May 16, 2008

To Be Organic...That is the Question

What does it mean to be an Eco-Friendly Gardener? What does it mean if the label says ‘Organic, Natural, Natural Based, OMRI, Eco-friendly or Contains Natural Ingredients?’

Here are some simple terms to learn about:
'Fertilizers' are any product that contains a mixture of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium (N-P-K). The number such as 10-6-4, or 5-10 is the percentage of nutrient in the bag. The numbers or percentage must add to at least five or 5%.
‘Organic’ means the ingredients must have been alive at one time. This could either mean plant or animal.
‘Natural’ means minimally processed ingredients, such as rock phosphate. It can also refer to something mined, such as perlite or vermiculite.
‘Organic Based´ means 50 percent or more of the guaranteed nutrients are from an organic source.
‘OMRI’ (Organic Material Reasearch Institute) listed means the product has been approved for organic production, processing and handling. OMRI products are the most desired by those that are true organic growers. The products are tested by an independent institute. For a product to display this seal, it must meet the standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program.
'Microbes' in the soil are beneficial bacteria that help break down organic matter into more usable forms that plants can take up.
‘Compost Tea’ is not a fertilizer. A 'Tea' consist of beneficial microbes in liquid form added to the soil to assist plants to take up nutrients by breaking down the organic matter into smaller more usable forms. Soil Soup is a great source of microbes.
'Mycorrhizae Fungi' located on the outside and inside of roots help enable the plant to take up some essential nutrients. They are especially beneficial as a plant partner in nutrient poor soils such as new housing subdivisions. The absence of Mycorrhizal fungi can slow plant growth. Natures Creation Plant and Soil Booster is a fantastic compost that has Mycorrhizal fungi. Not only does it help loosen clay soils, it helps the plant take up nutrients.

Organic vs. Synthetic Fertililzers:
A plant taking up an ingredient such as nitrogen does not distinguish whether it is from an organic or synthetic source. Organic fertilizer generally breaks down more slowly within the soil before it is in a form available for the plant to use. This period can often last several months. So when you have healthy old plants and need to gently feed them, organic products work best. Synthetic fertilizers take a great deal more energy to produce than organic types. This makes ‘organic’ fertilizers the “green” choice. Organic fertilizers are beneficial to the soil and helpful to Mycorrhizae and Soil Microbes. Composted mulches and soil conditioners contain the organic matter microbes feed on. Organic fertilizers are the food that feeds the microbes. Synthetic fertilizers feed the plants and not necessarily the soil. Synthetic fertilizers can be fast acting when a plant needs a boost, such as annuals which are grown for one season. They will need to be replaced yearly if not bi-yearly depending on the time release built into the fertilizer. Organic fertilizers typically have a lower ratio of N-P-K than synthetic fertilizers. Therefore, if one was to use organic fertilizers, more may need to be used in order to achieve a significant improvement to an unhealthy plant.

Choose your products wisely to make sure they help your plants perform their best. Make sure you read the label of ingredients and not just the name on the bag. It goes the same when you food shop. And most of all ask questions. Fine garden centers should have the answers at their finger tips making gardening fun, exciting, successful and Eco-Friendly.

See you in the nursery...LG

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

May Garden 'To Do' Short List...

It's all about putting a list together and then figuring out what you can get done and what you will want to others to do... Fran is the list maker; I am the 'others' that gets it done...

May Projects and Tasks:
* Apply a weed and fertilizer program to your lawn to take out the dandelions before they flower. The fertilizer will nurture your lawn to help fight weeds off in the future. Now that the lawn is 'Lush, and don't I know she likes a Lush Lawn.' We use organic weed controls and fertilizers.
* You pick 'em, I'll plant 'em annuals! No threat of frost in the future, we have cast off our lines and are planting (sailing) away. So after hours Fran and I will shop till we drop. I feel like a kid in a candy store. And the cavities in the garden are all being filled in with color!
* Fran saves time in her busy schedule by adding instant curb appeal with patio floral arrangements and hanging baskets. The drip irrigation I put in at the house makes watering as easy as turning on and off a switch.
* There is nothing like rich nutrient filled soil. Replenish your containers with new potting soil. This was to be last fall's task. But at least the containers got put away. So I emptied them last week... New soil and fertilizer will make your flowers thrive!
* Plant summer-flowering bulbs for additional bursts of vibrant summer color. I always like it when Fran says 'I don't remember planting that.' Personally, I think she likes the surprise. It's just the opposite when I walk into the house and say 'When did you get that?' And she says 'Two months ago. It took you that long to notice...'
* Delphiniums, Phlox, Carnations, Aubrietia, Candytuft, Basket of Gold, Primroses, Coral Bells and Saxifrage are great flowers to add early season perennial color. I mass the color with quantity. I'm not a plant one of this, one of that kind of guy.
* Cut back expired blooms from flowering bulbs (tulips, daffodils) but continue to feed and care for the plants until the foliage has died back naturally. Do as I say, not as I do. I never get this done. And the flowers seem to take care of themselves. Or maybe it is the occasional rabbit or deer we hired to dead head. Hmm...
* Set the stakes next to your taller flowers like peonies early in the season. I never take our stakes out. Fran doesn't seem to mind. It's one less task to keep off our list and maybe yours too. 'Pin Up Stakes' are the best. When used properly you don't see the supports and everyone of your neighbors will ask you why your Peonies don't fall down. I guarantee it! They are well worth the investment of buying them once and having them forever.

Next week: Plant the Veggie Garden. I can't wait for fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and balsamic vinegar...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Quick List of Spring Garden Project Update

Last Week Completed
Lawn Projects:
Rolled Lawn to smooth out the bumps.
Aerated Lawn to allow the roots room to grow.
Applied Jonathon Green Step One for lawns because ‘Frances loves a lush lawn…and don’t I know it!’

Garden Projects:
Raked out all left over leaves from the gardens.
Lightly pruned some shrubs.
Cut back ornamental grasses.
Sprayed all weeds with an herbicide using a two gallon pump sprayer.
Applied Corn Gluten to control new weed seedlings.

This Week To Be Done:
Garden Projects:
Take out the Hemlock the rabbit ate.
Plant ‘PJM’ Rhododendron as replacements.
Get a larger ‘Havahart’ trap for the rabbit to live in.
Plant Cotoneaster to frame the Serviceberry feature tree.
Mulch new gardens.
Fertilize the large evergreen trees in the back yard.
Broadcast organic fertilizer though out the remaining gardens to gently feed.

Remember to always look back and admire what you accomplished. Remember the reason why there is always something to do in the garden: to help you escape from your day to day routine.

See you in the nursery. Bring your list…

Monday, April 21, 2008

'Bark' the garden

Sometimes we learn the hard way. After years of business, I am still going to school. I call it ‘The School of Hard Knocks’. I’m sure you can relate. We all have our stories; mine is about bark mulch.

Last year my staff mulched a new garden we just planted. It looked great, no buried plants, uniform coverage…good job guys. So as the garden came to life this spring, I started to see chunks of wood in the garden from 1-3” in size laying on the surface. I realized my guys used the economy mulch, not the Premium Bark Mulch we use on all projects.

So here I am 6:30 Sunday morning in the garden leaning up against a leaf rake scratching my head asking the same question many of you call about: ‘Is all Mulch the same?’ The answer is no. ‘Bark’ Mulch is just that, the stuff off the outside of the tree, bark. When ground up uniformly it biodegrades and eventually becomes soil. For those of you that have poor soil, decomposed bark is the best soil amendment. So when planting, mix it into the ground. Your plants will love it.

Generally, Mulch can be ground up wood including the bark on the outside, pulp wood on the inside and every twig and limb in between. The problem is the inside pulp wood does not biodegrade as fast as the bark. So as the bark biodegrades it sifts to the bottom leaving all the pulp wood on the surface. Next thing you know you have all this debris in your garden. You should be able to shred bark between your fingers. Pulp wood feels like a hard piece of wood you could burn in your fireplace. It cost more to skin the bark off a tree and separate it from the pulp wood. That’s why there is a cost difference in materials.

So I raked up the pulp wood debris into piles. Off it will go to be sent back to the woods behind the nursery. Next Sunday morning, I will be having a re-mulching party. If you want to see the difference for your self, you are cordially invited to join me.

Location: My gardens.
Time: Sunday 6:30 am.
Serving: Coffee and the good stuff, ‘Bark’ Mulch.
Please RSVP with desired wake up call preference.
See you…in the garden.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Picture or the the garden

Have you ever seen a landscaped home and asked your self questions such as ‘What were they thinking? What was the concept? What was the theme? What were they trying to accomplish? Why did they plant that tree here? Why that grouping of trees is over there? Why did they alternate plants? Or just say to your self ‘Boy that looks busy or those plants don’t seem to go with the home’. So many questions….

I have been asked many times, ‘How do I come to create the designs I do?’ My answer is always the same; I ask a lot of questions. My favorite question to ask any client is ‘What do you see?’ And when they say ‘I don’t know’ I tell them the story about the plant and the frame.

When Frances, Josh and I go down to visit my family on Long Island, we always make a trip into the city. And with the great food (Katz’s, Ray’s), favorite shops (Chinatown), there is always a museum to take in. So off we go looking at art. My favorite art are paintings by Monet. I love scenes of gardens. What do I see? I see a beautiful painting with a frame around it. So when I design, I think of the artist. My pallets of paint are my plants. I use plants to do one of two things. They are either pictures or frames. So for example, the large twenty four year old maroon leaf Copper Beech in my front yard is a picture to behold. The green Lady’s Mantle planted as a ground cover underneath the tree is the frame that shows off the picture. On a larger scale, the picture in every front yard is the home. The frame is the plants that show off the picture of the home. I use the analogy a picture on the wall of your house or at a museum to help one understand my train of thought. So imagine a picture frame having four legs; top, bottom, right and left. What would happen if each one of those legs of the frame were different? What would you see; the picture or the frame? You would probably say I’m confused. The four frame legs are too busy and distracts from the picture. This is what happens to too many landscapes in front of too many homes. The gardens which should be the frame distract from the architectural details of the home. I like to think in today’s world the phrase ‘More is Less’ applies to most of us and the hectic lives we live. This also applies to many gardens. Too much stuff, too busy, too many things going on makes our lives less fulfilled and our gardens too overwhelming.

So when I design, I think the opposite; ‘Less is more’. I choose fewer varieties of plants and more quantity of fewer varieties. I frame the sides of the home with trees to create the left and right side of a picture frame that separates your home from the others in the subdivision. I frame the windows and make sure I use the same plant so they show off the type of window architecture you picked out and not distract from it. I frame the entrance so when your friends and family turn off the street and drive up the driveway they know where to go; to the front door. And lastly I create just the right number of pictures with in the garden and frame them simply with one type of plant to make the stroll up to the front door interesting, comfortable and not overwhelming. And who picks out the art? You do. This becomes your signature, your style, your personal touch.

Without you realizing it, you picked out the original picture and that is the home you live in. I ask what colors you like and what plants appeal to you just by sight. You pick out colors, textures and variations of plants that are pleasing to your eye. And what do I do? I paint with them to show off the architecture. Some I use other I decide not too all to be certain to make sure the plants complement each other and the home. And without you knowing it, I am the steward of the plants. I make sure they can grow well where ever I plant them. And oh by the way they are aesthetically pleasing because you helped pick them out along with being complementing the architecture.

So in the end the best designs make me say, ‘Wow, what a beautiful home. Look how the plants complement and show off the architecture’. Calming, pleasing, easy to look at. Success in the design means success in the garden. So, ‘What do you see in your garden, pictures or frames?’

I invite you to come see mine…

Thursday, April 3, 2008

"Feed Me!" says the Garden...

What seems so simple and sensible a garden task to do can be the hardest to get accomplished. Why is that? Why do we find the number one recommended garden solution, like feeding your plants, is not thought about as often as it should be? Perhaps the answers will never come to us if we talk about plants.

So let’s talk about people as if they were plants. And in this way perhaps you can think to change the word ‘people’ for ‘plants’ as this blog reads on. We all understand people need to eat when they wake in the morning, right? After all Frances could easily say “You are such a bear in the morning,” sometimes… Or perhaps you just thought about bears coming out of hibernation. We would then say “Oh yea I get it, they have not eaten all winter, no wonder they are hungry.” No wonder I act like a bear in the morning. I am sure some of you act like one too. I’m hungry; we’re all hungry! Certainly a good breakfast has been known to go a long way. And after a long days work, dinner would be a welcomed sight too. So everyday we feed ourselves. No big deal, right? We just do it as if it is second nature. Bears forage for food after a long winters sleep; second nature once again. So when it comes down to it why do people eat? They eat to stay healthy, fight off disease, feel good, the list is endless. Basically people eat to stay alive.

I know you get it now. But please indulge a moment more to wrap this up. The lawn will not green up without being fed food in the spring. So apply a good organic fertilizer now before it starts to wake up. The flowers you plant in spring will not grow as well as you would like without being fed through out the spring, summer and fall. So when you plant them, make sure to amend the soil by adding fertilizer. The trees and shrubs will not grow old gracefully without food too. So before they break bud, make sure there is something for them to wake up to and eat. And as if you need an example here is what an evergreen would tell you if it could talk. “So you expect me to grow old with lush full branches from the top to bottom? And with what should I dine on if you do not feed me twice a year?” So now as you drive by many a home to and from work looking at every evergreen tree in sight, notice the young thin yellowing ones or the old tall ones that look like they are loosing their bottom or inside branches. What you see are starving trees. They are dying from the bottom up and from the inside out.

I could only hope to drive down the road someday and hear someone yell out the window to some poor soul raking his lawn “Hey Mack, looks like your trees are hungry and it looks like you never missed a meal in your life! Could you do your trees a favor and feed them too? I can’t take it anymore!”

Now you know what goes through my gardening mind everyday. So enjoy your dinner and don’t forget to feed your plants the dessert...Get it?

See you in the nursery...