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Friday Favorite: Local Garden Tours

July 18th, 2014

This past week has been a whirlwind of garden tours.  It seems every town has a tour during this week.  On Sunday, Mr Chiots and I attended the garden tour series organized by a local land trust.  We visited seven garden in all.  Yesterday I attended the Camden garden tour and visited 5 gardens, two were home tours.  Today I’m headed to the next garden in my local garden club series and tomorrow night we’re heading to the McLaughlin gardens Illuminated event, where they light up the garden with candles and lights. (Don’t mind the dirty fingernails, I am a gardener after all!)
garden tour 1
It may seem like a lot, and it is, but summer is short in Maine so we have to get in all the touring we can. Next summer I plan on spending a long weekend near Philadelphia to visit Longwood, Chanticleer and Winterthur. If anyone is interested in joining up let me know, we can arrange a fun weekends of gardening!
garden tour 2
I’ll be posting photos as I get through them, with work and other things I simply haven’t had the time to get through all the photos I took on all the tours. There was one garden in particular that was stunning and I’ll definitely be devoting a day to that garden. If you have local garden clubs and garden tours I highly recommend that you participate. Not only are you supporting local clubs and groups, you’ll be inspired by what you see and it will help you nail down your personal garden style.

Do you attend any local garden club tours? Do you plan vacations around garden destinations like Longwood?

Soggy, but Productive

July 17th, 2014

Working from home provides many benefits, one of those being the ability to work during the hours of your choosing. There are times when I have specific deadlines and I must do certain things on specific days, but for the most part I make my own schedule. I have a list of tasks that need done each week and I can pretty much do them whenever I want to during that week. Since I am a gardener, that means I work in the office when it rains and when it is dark outside.  There are lots of early mornings and late evenings spent in front of a computer around here.  If we don’t have rainy days my office work will pile up sometimes, because I will, on occasion, go a week without doing any work.  The rainy days always seem to come just frequently enough.  In the last two days we have received five and a half inches of rain – it’s soggy in the garden, but I have been able to catch up on all my work.  I have managed to do an entire week of work in two days, two LONG days, but two days nonetheless.
rainy days 1
For me, rainy days mean bookkeeping, numbers, invoices, receipts, printing, stuffing envelopes, red pens, checkbooks, e-mails, fundraising, donor relations, organizing events and so much more. They also means writing articles along with editing and organizing photos. Rainy days are never wasted, they are spent madly working as efficiently as I can to maximize my every single minute so I can spend every warm, sunny day working in the garden. I read this article a few month ago about a four day work week and how people are just as productive when they work four days as they are when they work five.  This idea rings true for me. If motivated with an extra day to spend in the garden, I can get almost a week of work finished a few rainy day.
rainy days 2
Even though I always think about the words of that Karen Carpenter song when it rains, I’m happy to get all caught up on my day job.  Rainy days are the days that pay for my sunny days after all, so I can’t be too down on a rainy day. Perhaps if you haven’t been reading here for long you’re not quite certain what my day job is. I manage a charity that my parents started over 40 years ago and I also write articles and sell garden related images to various magazines.

What do rainy days mean to you: rest, housecleaning, working, feeling down? 

More Pets – Well, Sort Of

July 16th, 2014

Last week I received a package from Robin from Robin’s Outdoors.  She’s a fellow Maine blogger and writer and was kind enough to send me a few worms from her worm bin. I set them up in a container with shredded paper and some of the bolted lettuce from the garden. The method I’m using came from this post from Cornell.
worm bin 2
I’m hoping to have a few worms throughout the winter to feed to the chickens. I’m interested to see how they compare to my meal worm farm, which is producing a nice bounty that the turkey poults are enjoying.
worm bin 1
It seems like it should be quite easy – we shall see. I’d like to get a more permanent worm bin set up, but for the moment this plastic tote will do. It will be nice to have the worms converting winter compost into valuable worm casting and extra worms to feed the the chickens. Here in Maine the outdoor compost pile seems to slow way down in winter, this should help m produce more compost all year long.

Have you ever had a worm bin for composting or have you grown any other kind of insect?

Hello Hollyhocks

July 15th, 2014

Last year I started seeds for a few different types of hollyhocks.  Since they are a biennial, they didn’t bloom last year.  These kinds of plants definitely take patience.  It’s well worth the wait, they are stunning.
hollyhocks 2
When I was little, my favorite flowers were hollyhocks. There was a garden on a road we traveled frequently and they always planted hollyhocks against their simple cinderblock garage. They were stunning every year. I loved their height and simplicity, such a classic cottage garden flower.  When I first started to garden they were one of the first seeds I sowed.  I’ve been growing them for about 15 years now.
hollyhocks 3
In my Ohio garden I had double hollyhocks, I haven’t planted any of those yet. The flowers on the double hollyhocks are definitely more pronounced since they are so ruffled.  The flowers on the single hollyhocks seem to by shy and like to hide beneath the big heard shaped leaves.  I love both the single and the double flowers, though if I had to choose just one I’d probably choose the singles.
One of the lovely things about the double hollyhocks is the buds they produce. They are simple amazing to watch as they slowly open up revealing the ruffles of color beneath the green buds.
I planted three different kinds in shades of black, pink and purple.  The funny thing that I started these in a flat and the chickens overturned it.  As a result, I have hollyhocks blooming in what was the edging in front of the rock wall that holds back the foundation garden by the front door.  Who said all the tall flowers have to be in the back of the border?  They actually look quite nice here.  As you can see I have surrounded them with cardboard and mulch because they area they are in will become a perennial border.  I think they will fit right in with a few other plants at their feet.  Behind them I’m thinking of planting a climbing rose to scramble up the porch wall and an ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea to add big blooms of white.
‘The Watchman’ is one of my favorite colors when it comes to hollyhocks, it’s a deep purple that looks black. This year they are really dark black, the ones I had back in Ohio were more purple.  I’ve grown them for many year and yet each summer I’m stunned by their velvety black blossoms.  You really can’t walk by the plant without stopping to admire it’s blooms.
hollyhocks 1
Growing hollyhocks from seed is so easy, here’s my post on the easy way to start them. It does require patient since you have to wait two years before being rewarded with beautiful flowers.  Unfortunately not many people seem to grow them any more, perhaps it’s because leaf miners and Japanese beetles love their leaves.  Even in their tattered eaten state they are just as beautiful.  I highly recommend adding a few to your garden, you definitely won’t regret it.

Do you have any flowers you remember noticing when you were a kid? Do you grow them in your garden? 

Edible Houseplants

July 14th, 2014

A year or so ago I read Growing Tasty Tropical Plants in Any Home, Anywhere: (like lemons, limes, citrons, grapefruit, kumquats, sunquats, tahitian oranges, barbados … black pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, and more…) and I loved it. I’ve had lemon trees for quite a while, but after reading this book I wanted to grow a few other things. Thanks to this book I found Logee’s Greenhouse, they specialize in edible houseplants, these are dwarf varieties of plants that do well in pots and produce fruit at a much smaller size than their normal counterparts.
tropical houseplants 1
tropical houseplants 2
What did I get? A black fig, dwarf avocado, dwarf banana, dwarf mango, meyer lemon and a dwarf guava.
tropical houseplants 3
tropical houseplants 4
I potted up most of them already, the banana I might plant in the back garden and dig it up this fall. Hopefully I’m on my way to producing delicious tropical fruit in my windowsills. I’ll keep you posted on how they do.

Do you grow any edible houseplants?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.