Orchid Mania at NYBG (New York Botanical Gardens)

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Orchid chandeliers! Orchid planters! Orchid islands! Just think orchid everything at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. I saw orchids there in colors I have never seen before like this mint green hanging orchid ( I love green flowers!)

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Miltonias are my favorites-They look like orchid pansies

Miltonias are my favorites-They look like orchid pansies

Orchids are at their peak at the end of winter/early spring and the various botanical gardens make the most of it. Longwood gardens has their opus and the New York Botanical Garden chimes in with their twist. And their twist is stunning! Orchid Chandeliers were touted as the star and just look up and you will see the beautiful ceiling mounted floral creations that make your jaw drop! –  Aerial flowers!

Orchid Chandelier

Orchid Chandelier

As soon as you step foot into the conservatory, cylinders and enormous hanging creations with a kaleidoscopic symphony of colorful orchids such as Cattleyas and Phalaenopsis  are framed by the magnificent architecture of the crystal palace Conservatory.

Orchid Chandelier

Orchid Chandelier

The floating islands of orchids were just as incredible and greeted you at the door of the historic Victorian inspired Enid A. Haupt conservatory. But the theme of this year’s orchid show is “Look up!”, not “Float like a boat” and you can see how they made these creations at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6q4BQH8vn0

NYBG conservatory

NYBG conservatory

The gardens at the NY Botanical Gardens were still in winter mode

The gardens at the NY Botanical Gardens were still in winter mode

Floating islands of orchids greet you at the entrance of the Conservatory

Floating islands of orchids greet you at the entrance of the Conservatory

There were other chandeliers, like the  Staghorn ferns!

There were other chandeliers, like the Staghorn ferns!

More chandeliers

More chandeliers

Guerlain, a perfume and makeup company teamed up with the New York Botanical Garden on its Orchid Evenings to promote its orchid scent focused on the flower.  And talk about fragrance! It was wafting everywhere in the conservatory. All the orchids were so fragrant, I couldn’t figure out where the fragrance was originating-it was just everywhere.

The Cattleyas are particularly fragrant

The Cattleyas are particularly fragrant

Other tropicals were showcased along with the orchids as they bloom at the same time- Bromeliads, Anthuriums, Bird of Paradise, and Gingers were all in exquisite form.

Yes, Anthuriums!!

Yes, Anthuriums!!

Let's not forget the Bromeliads

Let’s not forget the Bromeliads

Planters full of multiple orchids

Planters full of multiple orchids

Go to http://www.nybg.org/exhibitions/2015/orchid-show/ to read about the popular orchid evenings, dance exhibitions, poetry readings, and tips on orchid care that you can enjoy until April 18 in NYC in the Bronx.

White Orchids

White Orchids

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Home Sweet Home-Providing the Perfect Habitat for Mason Bees

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A bee house mad out of stacked pallets

 Custom Condo

Attracting bees with the right plants is important, but what about inviting them to make a home nearby with attractive ready-to-move-in housing? A custom condo became my project in the winter for solitary mason bees, otherwise known as orchard bees, because they are excellent at pollinating fruit trees.

Natural habitat for wild bees from www.wildbienen.com

Natural habitat for wild bees from http://www.wildbienen.com

Curb Appeal

Mason bees start looking for homes in early spring so I wanted to have it in “move in condition” with lots of curb appeal  in early March. They use clay to make partitions and seal the entrance to their nesting tubes. This unique building behavior leads to their common designation as masons.

Mason Bees, from Wikipedia

Mason Bees, from Wikipedia

When I did my research on solitary native mason bees, I discovered to my surprise that they are a much more efficient pollinator than the social honey bees which were originally imported from Europe with the colonists. Mason bees are one of the few managed native pollinators in agriculture because of this terrific pollinating ability.

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Mason bee on apple blossom, from Crown Bees

Mason bee on apple blossom, from Crown Bees

 

Differences Between Mason and Honey Bees

Mason bees are about the same size or slightly larger than a honeybee and color is your best way to tell them apart.They are a dark metallic blue, not striped brown and orange like the honeybee.  Being solitary, the mason bee tends to its own brood, instead of having a queen and worker bees like the social honey bee. They seem to appreciate the company of others of their kind and happily build their nests next to each other. They also readily accept the hollow tubes provided by the orchard grower for this purpose. Mason bees don’t produce honey like the honey bee, but collect pollen and nectar just like the honey bee for feeding their young.

 

Tubes in a nesting box

Tubes in a nesting box

Home gardeners can attract mason bees in their own gardens by placing home-made bee houses and blocks in their own yards. Scroll down to see my version of a DIY house for mason bees.

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Life Cycle

Unlike the honey bee, the mason bee flying season is early spring because they can tolerate lower temperatures. The honeybee will only fly when it reaches the 50’s, but the mason bee flies in the 40’s. Once a mason bee emerges from their over wintering tube, they mate, search for empty holes that are the right size and shape, and start to work. They collect food for their brood, which is tree pollen plus nectar. Females collect this food, bring it to their nests, and knead it into a ball, mixing it with nectar and their own saliva. Once they have a food store that is big enough, they lay an egg on top of this mass and seal-off the chamber or cell with mud.

Mason bee egg surrounded by food stores of pollen and nectar, Wikipedia

Mason bee egg surrounded by food stores of pollen and nectar, wikipedia

Then, they start the process all over again until there are five to eight eggs each with food, each separated by a thin wall of dried mud. They seal the entrance to the hole with a thicker mud wall. The larvae grow and, by the end of summer, metamorphose into pupae and later into adults, and remain safe and sound inside the nest in a cocoon until the next spring. The new generation emerges the next spring, usually in perfect timing with the blooming peach or apple trees.

Mature mason bees break through the mud wall

Mature mason bees break through the mud wall

Bumble bee on Azalea blossom

Bumble bee on Azalea blossom

 

Nesting House Basics

You can make suitable nesting sites with readily available materials. The web site http://www.wildbienen.info/index.php, a German website is excellent. There are lots of examples of wild bee houses on this site. Since many wild bees are sedentary, residing where they originated, they will stay nearby, provided there are suitable nesting sites. The greater the variety of species and population density in the area, the faster colonization.

Pollinator house from www.wildbienen.com

Pollinator house from http://www.wildbienen.com

Location, Location, Location

For locating your house, look for a south or westerly facing aspect to make full use of the morning sun. Protected from wind and rain by locating the house under a roof, will increase your chances of  bees and other insects of moving in. A ready source of uncovered soil for the mason bee to use as mud in sealing the eggs, is also important as well as proximity to floral sources. For help in planting the right plants, go to https://thegardendiaries.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/plant-these-for-the-bees/

How to site a bee house

How to site a bee house

 Easy DIY Mason Bee House

Mason Bee House

Mason Bee House

For an easy mason bee habitat out of wood, I created this simple box with a roof out of cedar wood. The house measures 18″ x 22″ high with a peaked roof, 6″ high. The depth of the house is about 4″. I took an untreated 4 x 4 timber and cut it into chunks the depth of the house, and drilled holes into the blocks of different diameters. The various sized holes give pollinators a choice in picking out the most suitable hole for their species. This house would be appropriate for different varieties of native bees. The back was just a piece of plywood to give the house stability.

 Move In Day

Filling in all the spaces with lotus pods, pine cones, and hollow stems of sunflowers that I cut down from my garden last year took some time. Topping it off with plastic covered hardware cloth, the bee condo was ready to hang and open for business.

Completed mason bee house attached to a shed

Completed mason bee house attached to a shed

Tubular Housing

Tubular is the main feature that mason bees are interested in. Finding something round is critical for their success. I keep looking for tubular shaped objects that I can use in future housing projects.

 

Wood blocks with grooves for egg laying bees

Wood blocks with grooves for egg laying bees

Wooden blocks that split apart revealing the cocoons made by the pupae of the bees for harvesting are simple but effective. Easy tear tubes made of paper are convenient to use but once you tear them apart, that is the end of them.

Easy tear tubes with cocoons revealed

Easy tear tubes with cocoons revealed

Go to www.crownbees.com to browse ready-made houses and tubes, if you don’t have time to build from the ground up. You can also get an attractant pheromone that will be sure to entice the mason bees to nest in their new home. The site is also a wealth of information about many native bees.

Mason bees are gentle, from Crown Bees

Mason bees are gentle, from Crown Bees

Crown Bees recommends that once summer is over, that you harvest the mason bee cocoons and place them in a humidity tray with a moist cloth in your refrigerator to keep conditions right for surviving until next spring.

Humidity box for overwintering cocoons in the refrigerator

Humidity box for overwintering cocoons in the refrigerator

When warmer weather rolls around, bring the humidity tray outside in the warmer air and wait for the cocoons to hatch and release the bees. I ordered some cocoons from them and a few hatched in transit which I released outside when they came.

 

Mason bee hatched out of cocoon

Mason bee hatched out of cocoon

There are many other strategies that you as a homeowner can do to help out with our pollination crisis. See my action plan outlined at https://thegardendiaries.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/sex-in-the-garden/

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Containers With Pizazz ! Not Your Ordinary Container!

Shade container, tuberous begonia, caladium, lysmachia, button fern, tradescantia, ivy

Shade container, tuberous begonia, caladium, lysmachia, button fern, tradescantia, ivy

Container Finesse

I create containers for clients all the time and am always looking for inspiration to move away from the “geraniums with spike and trailer”  school of thought. With a little more planning and shopping, you can come up with a showplace masterpiece with WOW impact.

Container with a variety of plants for all summer color

Container with a variety of plants for all summer color-Canna, trailing zinnia, trailing petunia, sweet potato vine, coleus, verbena, and salvia

Take pictures of creations that you like and copy them, but add your own personal touches to make it your own. Once you have done enough containers, the combinations are second nature, starting with just one really wonderful plant and working from there.

Succulents- you can go on vacation and leave these without worrying!

Artful Containers

The best piece of advice that I picked up over the years was a secret to coordinating your colors in an arrangement.  Choose a piece of fabric or piece of art that you really like, and take it with you when you plant shop.  Of course, you can’t take a painting with you, so grab refrigerator magnets with famous paintings on them from museums, cut a swatch from fabric, or cut out paintings from magazines.  Inspired by a Van Gogh, my most successful container used the colors from his iris painting. Van Gogh’s painting has that intense blue which so many people adore – also orange, greens, a touch of white and yellow. If you like it in a painting, you will like it in a container!

Beautiful colors from Van Gogh painting

I have plenty of room to plant in my beds but I really enjoy planting in containers because they become a piece of art in miniature. This is my opportunity to try new annuals that are untested by me,  and go wild with the color combos.  Bold, vibrant,  and sizzling color, is the driving force for many of my combinations. To browse the new Pantone colors for 2015, check out http://www.pantone.com/pages/index.aspx?pg=21163&. Marsala, an earthy wine red color, is the top pantone color of the year and can inspire you to try some colors that might not be in your comfort zone. I will be heading to the heuchera (coral bells) aisle of the nursery to try the burgundy heucheras.

A variety of Heucheras

A variety of Heucheras

Painter palette of colors

Painter palette of colors

I find that there are too many containers with pastel and hum drum hues, and that I enjoy creating a bold and striking container .

Musical Plants-Rearrange for the Season!

Cluster containers together for a bigger impact and ease of watering

Cluster plants together for a bigger impact and ease of watering

I rarely keep my flowers in the pot all season.  They just fizzle by the end of the summer and I get tired of them! Sometimes I have three seasons of containers –  a winter one with an evergreen and some pansies and other cool weather flowers, then I move on to petunias, supertunias, cannas, lantanas -everything that likes heat, and finally to fall plants –  mums, asters, grasses, cabbages, and ferns. I mix and match perennials, shrubs and annuals to get the most versatility and longevity out of my pots. To see my post on Fall containers, go to Creative Fall containers.

Seasonal container-miscanthus, chrysanthemum, autumn fern, cabbage, artemisa, ivy

Edibles

Edibles in containers are big now and rightly so. So many leafy crops have gorgeous foliage and shouldn’t be relegated to the vegetable garden, and it is a great way to grow your veggies in limited space. One of my all time  favorite fillers is curly parsley. Colorful kale, lettuce, spinach, and other herbs like thyme are also great. Or, you can have an entirely edible container selection, and include eggplant, tomatoes, lettuce, cucs. The sky is the limit. Go to  https://botanicalinterests.com/products/view/4526/Container-Vegetable-Seed-Collection to see the wide choice of seeds available. If it is too late to start seeds, there is a huge variety of midget sized plants available at any nursery that have been developed for container culture.

Container with edibles

Container with edibles-kale, lettuce,, pansies, angelina sedum

Large Containers Are Best

Choose a large enough container to avoid constantly watering it during our hot summers.  A pot with a circumference of at least 15 to 18 inches is enough to get you going with a choice of different types of plants, plus enough room for them to grow throughout the summer. I like the light weight faux pots that look like real pottery,  but will not crack and will retain water better than terra-cotta ones. These faux pots will last for years and you can leave them out all winter, plus they are inexpensive and portable. There are even self-watering ones available which have a water reservoir built into the container.  Regardless of the type of container that you have, make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom.  If there aren’t any, drill some using a large bit on a portable drill and be sure to make them large enough, at least 3/4 of an inch in diameter.

A great little trailer- Silver Falls or Dichondra

Good Soil – Good Plants

Good soil or potting medium is critical for the health of your plants that will be sitting in the container for months. Use an organic mix of compost, sphagnum moss, and perlite. There are a lot of commercial potting mixes on the market so be sure to choose one that has added fertilizer to it as container plants need a good boost of fertilizer to bloom all season long, plus regular applications. Make sure that you add a good dollop of compost in the bottom of the pot – a couple of inches at least.  This is where the roots are going to reach down and use up all those nutrients to produce flowers all season long. If you must reuse the same soil, then remove the top 5 or 6 inches and replace with fresh potting medium.

Container in full summer glory

Right Plant, Right Spot

Note if your container will be in all day sunlight, partial shade, or mostly shade.  Shady container plants can be just as colorful as sunny ones with careful selection of colorful foliage. Go to the nursery and ask a knowledgeable employee for suggestions on varieties.  For any situation,  you want something tall for the back, like a grass, cordyline, canna or caladium, and a cascader for the edge and something to fill in between- thrillers, spillers, and fillers!

Foliage shade container by Leigh Barnes
Foliage shade container by Leigh Barnes- ferns, hakonechloa grass, helleborus, creeping fig, heuchera

It is an overused phrase, but it really describes the process well. For a pot 18 inches in diameter, you would need about 5 to 6 plants. Of the 5 plants, use a tall architectural one, a couple of fillers, and a couple of spillers. Be wary of stuffing too much in so that plants have room to grow.

Window Boxes

Shade Windowbox

Shade windowbox with begonia ‘Bonfire’

 

Succulent window box

Succulent window box

Planting window boxes uses the same principles as containers. To create depth you really make use of those spillers. Silver Falls, Dichondra, is a great asset for trailing down walls and planters for sun and shade, and the new begonia ‘Bonfire’ is valuable for bright color in the shade .

Trailing Silver Falls out of a windowbox

Trailing Silver Falls out of a windowbox

Silver Falls at Chanticleer in the ruin

Textures

When selecting your plants, consider your textures. I see too many containers planted with flowers and foliage that are similar in texture and look too busy.  Try mixing it up with some broad sculptural leaves, variegated foliage, and deeply lobed leaf shapes. Using varying forms will help your plants stand out instead of blending together in an indistinguishable mass.

Good textural contrast and variety-bubblegum petunia, variegated ginger, black and blue salvia, plectranthus, secretsea

More textural variety

Cannas and Caladiums -Focal Points

A variegated canna as a focal point

Caladiums

Caladiums

Cannas are good selections for sunny containers –  just make sure your pot is large enough.  I have seen cannas get 8 feet tall or higher! For shade, try Caladiums. There are beautiful Caladiums on the market with very colorful unusual markings and they will shine in the shade. But be careful when you plant these as they are very sensitive to cold. Make sure the nights keep above at least 50 degrees before setting these out.

 Coleus

Varieties of coleus

Varieties of coleus

The Coleus on the market now are not your grandmother’s Coleus! Many of these new varieties are designed to thrive in full sun –  not shade –   though there are a few that prefer shade only. Literally, there are hundreds of varieties on the market and you could simply do lots of containers with just Coleus and have very colorful pots. Coleus are among my all-time favorites with beautiful striking foliage. I prefer not to let Coleus flower as the flowers detract from the foliage beauty, and when they appear, I pinch them off.

A beautiful Coleus – I forget the name!

A beautiful Coleus – I forget the name!

Partial shade container in old fashioned lead pot0coleus, dragon wing begonia, fuschia, sweet potato vine, geranium

Maintenance-Nip and Tuck!

Maintenance includes regular watering, at least once a day when it is hot, fertilizing with a dilute or granular fertilizer at least once a week, and pinching back plants as they grow to maintain their shape.  I call this nip and tuck.  If you don’t do this on a regular basis, your plants will get leggy, unattractive, and woody. It is also a good idea to elevate containers on bricks or “pot feet” so that they drain properly. If you don’t have good drainage, your plants will literally drown from lack of Oxygen!  Make sure that your drainage holes are large enough so they don’t get clogged up and don’t use gravel in the bottom.  I carry a long metal rod for unplugging clogged drainage holes.

Inserting a metal rod in a clogged drainage hole

Inserting a metal rod in a clogged drainage hole

Added gravel just makes the pot heavier and does not help with drainage. Drip irrigation is an option if you have lots of containers that need regular watering and you don’t want to be a slave to your water can.  Drip is pretty simple to set up, with all the components available at a local nursery or hardware store and they just snap together. I compare it to playing with Tinker Toys!

Grouping

Another helpful hint is to group your containers, especially if you have many small ones.  By grouping, you achieve a bigger impact and it is far easier to take care of them in one bunch.  If you do drip irrigation, grouping is essential as you use less tubing and you can hide the tubing in the adjacent pots.

A large grouping at the National Arboretum in D.C.

Great color combo-coleus, trailing petunia, lotus vine, verbena, silver falls, black and blue salvia

Don’t be afraid to plant just one kind of sensational plant in a container – here it is oleander

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Lights, Camera, Action! Philadelphia Flower Show, Part 2

Japanese miniature garden

Japanese miniature garden

Mini Landscapes

My favorite part of the Philadelphia Flower Show is always the mini landscapes and settings. There is something about the attention to detail and scale that has always attracted me.

Top prize for mini landscapes went to the outstanding Japanese garden above which really inspired me to create one just like it, as I already have a Japanese dollhouse from when I was little. They would go perfect together!

Mini garden with colorful Begonias

Mini garden with colorful Begonias

Mini garden with gazebo

Mini garden with gazebo

Log cabin in the woods mini garden

Log cabin in the woods mini garden

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This musical mini landscape was planted in a guitar!

 

My favorite mini garden from last year

My favorite mini garden from last year

Closeup of the easel and painting

 

People young and old enjoy these miniature landscapes, and I had a full house when I did my “Tinkerbelle and Beyond” demo of miniature gardens with a very happy helper.

 

My helper created a complete fairy setting  and took it home to enjoy

My helper created a complete fairy setting and took it home to enjoy

Doing my demo at the Gardeners Studio on miniature gardens

Doing my demo at the Gardeners Studio on miniature gardens

Miniature Settings

Waiting in a long line to view the miniature settings, I could see people bend down to get a better view in front of the viewing window and exclaim with delight. The line moved slowly because of the amount of detail to absorb and the pictures to take.

Winning exhibit for drama

Winning exhibit for drama

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The setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ was the blue ribbon winner in the drama category

 

For a great blog on the techniques used to set these up, go to Flower Show Miniature Settings. The people who put these together go to a lot of work in ageing their  objects so that they don’t appear brand spanking new, with scratching, color washes, and even eye shadow! The Alfred Hitchcock setting was put together with sheets of cut polystyrene.

People who take on the job of creating these work on them for months, literally starting as soon as the current flower show is over.

Enchanted April setting

Enchanted April setting

Little shop of Horrors

Little shop of Horrors

With only two classes, drama and fantasy, and five exhibits in each, these settings drew a lot of viewers to see the interpretations of the movies along with of course-Plants!! A variety of plants were used – succulents, cactus, tiny house plants and even seedlings. I read on the blog, Flower Show Miniature Settings, that people have learned to use fast growing seeds, like cat grass, chia, or turf grass to add instant greenery.

E.T. miniature setting

E.T. miniature setting

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Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

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Hollywood Goes to the Dogs

Hollywood Goes to the Dogs

 The Philadelphia Flower Show ends on Sunday, March 7, so you still have time to go see it. Go to The Flower Show for more information about tickets and times.

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Lights Camera Bloom! Philadelphia Flower Show-Part 1

"The Movies" was the theme this year for the Philadelphia Flower Show

“The Movies” was the theme this year for the Philadelphia Flower Show

As you enter the Philadelphia Flower Show, you feel that you are visiting an old time movie theater that has a marquee, bright lights, and excitement, and you even smell the buttery scent of popcorn. And yes, they actually were selling hot buttery popcorn freshly popped, like hotcakes!

Cars themed Rt 66 executed by Burke Brothers Landscapes

Cars themed Rt 66 executed by Burke Brothers Landscapes

The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show is an annual event at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in March. The oldest and largest indoor show, the spectacle features elaborate landscapes, and over-the-top floral creations.

Over the top floral creations

Over the top floral creations

Not only a flower show, visitors experience live shows and entertainment, culinary demonstrations, DIY workshops and lectures. I did a demo on Fairy gardens meets the movies called “Tinkerbell and Beyond” and showed everyone how to arrange a miniature landscape.  Tinkerbell, The Hobbit, and Fern Gully gardens complete with animals and fairies were put together on the demo stage and I had a great helper who was eager to play in the dirt. I had an assistant to help me with my demo on miniature gardens

I had an assistant to help me with my demo on miniature gardens.

My assistant made a great fairy garden with a little coaching

My assistant made a great fairy garden with a little coaching

Tinkerbells' miniature garden

Tinkerbells’ miniature garden

The aisles were thronged with people trying to get a good view of the very inventive interpretations of movies.

'Nightmare Before Christmas' was a big hit

‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ was a big hit

Four season containers were on display to demonstrate that you can have containers planted all year long.

Four season containers
Four season containers

But the movie exhibits were so interesting that I kept going back to them to check them out.

Chicken coop made out of an old car for 'Cars" movie

Chicken coop made out of an old car for “Cars” movie!

Ratatouille was so cute!
Ratatouille was so cute!
Ratatouille popped up everywhere

Ratatouille popped up everywhere

I loved these air plants that were upside down in dried sea urchins to mimic jelly fish-In Finding Nemo

I loved these air plants that were upside down in dried sea urchins to mimic jelly fish-In ‘Finding Nemo’

Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Hatters Tea Party

Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Hatters Tea Party

I loved this storefront of underwear made of flowers!

I loved this storefront of underwear made of flowers

The miniatures were wonderful as usual and I am doing another post on just the miniature gardens and scenes. Stay tuned for part 2.

My haul of plants from the show

My haul of plants from the show

 

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Art of the Seed

Botanical Illustration is Alive and Well

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At this time of year, I actually have time to look through the seed catalogs that I have stacked up. I automatically throw away any miscellaneous catalogs that come to my mailbox, but still keep the seed catalogs. I much prefer to order seeds from a print catalog than on-line. The tactile experience of leafing through the beautiful pages of a seed catalog is not the same as ordering on the computer. I get to see what is featured brand new in the front of the catalog, and visit old friends in the later pages. And some of the art work that is done with botanical illustrations is outstanding and should be framed!

Seed Art

Seed Art

Botanical illustration fortunately is not a lost art.  It is still being pursued today and you can see great examples at Renee’s GardensHudson Valley Seed Library, and Botanical Interests.

Rack of Renees Seeds

Rack of Renees Seeds

Renee’s Garden Seeds

According to Renee’s Garden Seeds website, her seed line is a “personal selection of new, exciting and unusual seed choices of time-tested heirlooms, certified organic seeds, the best international hybrids and fine open-pollinated varieties”. Her seed packets are water color illustrated with personally written descriptions, growing tips, planting charts, harvesting information, and cooking ideas. It is a company run by gardeners, for gardeners. Organic for over 25 years, Renee Shepherd has several cookbooks filled with garden fresh vegetable and herb recipes to use up all those fresh veggies.

Tomato seed packet

Tomato seed packet

Hudson Valley Seed Library

Hudson Valley Seed Library commissions artwork for their pack covers. Over 300 artists applied to be pack cover artists last year, and 24 new varieties were added to their collection of art packs with heirloom seeds. Their blog claims that the seeds are art packs – heirloom seeds and contemporary art, all in one pack. You can plant the seeds, then frame the art!

Seed Art from Hudson Valley Seed Library

Seed Art from Hudson Valley Seed Library

Botanical Interests

Starting out in their spare bedroom in 1995, Curtis and Judy wanted to make sure that gardeners were getting the information they needed to be successful from their seed packets.  As a result, they have created a unique seed packet that is beautiful as well as informative.

Botanical Interests seed packet

Botanical Interests seed packet

Botanical Interest‘s seed packets are like mini-encyclopedias, full of information to help out the inexperienced as well as the experienced gardener. I love their collections, like the “Baby Vegetables”, or the “Bee Happy” collection. The colors and detail on all their seed packets are extraordinary.

The inside of a Botanical Interests seed packet contains lots of useful information

The inside of a Botanical Interests seed packet contains lots of useful information

Kale is beautifully illustrated

Kale is beautifully illustrated

Early Seed Growers

Commercial growers of seeds and nursery plants played an important role in the development of horticulture in America. Many early seed growers and nursery owners were horticultural experimenters and botanical enthusiasts, and were largely responsible for the introduction and spread of new garden species in the United States, and the development and popularization of new plant varieties for the American garden.

2013 Landreth Seed Catalog is a piece of art!

2013 Landreth Seed Catalog is a piece of art!

Landreth Seeds

Landreth Seeds is one of those early companies and the past Landreth seed catalogs are chock full of original vintage seed packet illustrations that are extraordinary. Complete descriptions are included on growing the plants. Landreth’s seed catalog carries only heirloom varieties, and it also contains full color photographs of all the flower and vegetable varieties in the centerfold.

Vintage vegetable seed packets from Landreth Seed

Vintage vegetable seed packets from Landreth Seed

Various heirloom varieties of tomatoes from Landreth Seeds

Various heirloom varieties of tomatoes from Landreth Seeds

The Landreth Seed Company is the fifth oldest corporation in American today. The company claims to have sold seeds to every president from George Washington to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The founding fathers were very interested in gardening and landscaping which is not very well-known today.  Can you imagine one of our current presidents espousing a love of horticulture? It was radical when First Lady Michelle Obama put in the White House Garden! See my post American Grown-the Story of the White House Kitchen Garden.  But in reality, the history of the United States has a rich agricultural and horticultural heritage.

Vintage flower seed packets at Landreth Seed

Vintage flower seed packets at Landreth Seed

William D. Burt Seed

Another seed company, the William D. Burt Seed Company in New York, which is no longer in business, has an interesting story. A few years ago when the William D. Burt Seed Company in Dalton, New York was torn down, the bulldozer that was clearing away the debris accidentally uncovered a hidden trap door that led to a forgotten cellar. In the cellar were boxes covered with wax full of unused seed packets from 1917. The seed packets retained their original vivid colors because they were preserved from light and air. The art work on the seed packets was hand lithographed by artists. In recent years, seed packets from the 20th century have been recognized as an art form and are collected. Historically, many of these flower and vegetable varieties are extinct today. These packets are sold today as framed works of art.

WD Burt Old Home Collection small

WD Burt Chinese Celery Cabbage Poster small

Vintage Seed Packets

Some of the old seed packets show a sense of humor!

Some other favorites:

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Northwest Flower & Garden Highlights

Balmy weather at the Bloedel Reserve brought out all the spring flowers

Balmy weather at the Bloedel Reserve brought out all the spring flowers

Arriving in Seattle last week for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show was like traveling to the tropics from Siberia. A cold snap in the mid-Atlantic had its icy hold on the region and when I landed in Seattle, I shed all my gloves, jackets and scarves with relief and basked in mid-60’s weather. Flowers were in full bloom outside and native Seattleites assured me that the warmth was unusual weather this early in the season.

Camellias were in full bloom in Seattle

Camellias were in full bloom in Seattle

Camellias and Hellebores were in bloom everywhere.

I had never been to the Northwest Flower  & Garden show but was doing two presentations there and was very impressed with the size and scale of the show. A heart (It was Valentines weekend) of thousands of succulents towered over the front entrance to the show.

Heart of succulents

Heart of succulents

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show  floor was acres of blooming flowers, vendors, and gardening ideas that I spent two full days exploring.

Steam Punk Garden

Steam Punk Garden

The Steam Punk Garden and the Bee Friendly Garden were two of my favorite displays.

Bee Friendly Garden

Bee Friendly Garden

After doing my speaking duty, I was free to explore.

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The show had lots of interesting vendors and it never got too crowded like the Philadelphia flower show where you are always bumping into people trying to get a closer look.

I need this car! Subaru, one of the show sponsors had this gardening dream car on display

I need this car! Subaru, one of the show sponsors had this gardening dream car on display

 Vendors

For vendors, I was expecting the usual mix of home improvement companies and jewelry and scarf vendors. But I was proved wrong with the quality and selection of down to earth garden vendors. A gardener could get into real trouble here!

I could have ordered one of these custom built garden sheds for a mere $7000

I could have ordered one of these custom built garden sheds for a mere $7000

I was especially interested in a Cedar Cold Frame kit to extend my growing season. See them at http://www.cedarcoldframes.com/ , but the kit was too bulky to take on a plane. I will probably order one for the spring. The cold frames were well made and they even had one that was table height so you didn’t have to bend over. Also Charley’s Greenhouses had an awesome display and I am seriously considering buying one. I need the triple wall, cedar frame “Northern Heritage” one. I will put this on my Christmas list!

A Charley's greenhouse with triple wall insulation

A Charley’s greenhouse with triple wall insulation

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The vintage gardening section was incredible. I have never seen vintage vendors at a gardening show before. See my post at Vintage Gardening  to see the different kinds of products you could buy. I went through the area three times! How about repurposing an old sink into a potting bench? Or making a hanging container out of an old funnel?

A repurposed funnel

A repurposed funnel

A "vintage" sink becomes a potting bench

A “vintage” sink becomes a potting bench

Chihuly glass is everywhere in Seattle gardens because Dale Chihuly was born in Washington State. We went to the Chihuly gardens and museum in downtown Seattle and I will do a post on that garden later as it was so incredible. But you could buy your very own Chihuly knock off in the market place for quite a bit less than the real thing.

You could buy your own Chihuly glass knock offs at the market place

You could buy your own Chihuly glass knock offs at the market place

 The flowers of course were stunning with the orchid display especially beautiful. There was a meadow of orchids presented by the Northwest Orchid Society.

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Gardening in February is still going on here in the mid-Atlantic even though we have an arctic blast! For  some of my winter tips on the best way to start seeds, go to Hartley Botanic’s gardening calendar.

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Vintage Gardening

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Recently I visited the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle and was blown away by all the vendors with new and old garden equipment.

Vintage flower arranging "frogs"

Vintage flower arranging “frogs”

So many vendors, that I spent two days wandering the aisles trying to take it all in. My favorite part though was the “vintage gardening” section.

Vintage items creating a new bird house

Vintage items creating a new bird house

And if you are confused between the designation “vintage” and “antique” like I was, because I just think of these items as being “old”, then wonder no longer. Vintage defines items as at least 50 years old but no older than 100. Antique is older than 100 years old.

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 I had no idea that gardening items were a hot ticket when they became over 50 years old. I think I have lots of these relics sitting on my shelves at home and I still use them!

An old fire truck toy used as a cooler for drinks

An old fire truck toy used as a cooler for drinks

Flower “frogs” are made of lead, pottery, glass, or bronze and sit at the bottom of a bowl or a vase to hold even the trickiest flower arrangements firmly in place. These can often be found at yard sales, garage sales, or flea markets for a song. But they are gaining popularity as a “collectable”.

Collectable "frogs" are sought after and can be made of wire, metal, or plastic

Collectable “frogs” are sought after and can be made of wire, metal, glass, or plastic

A "vintage" sink becomes a potting bench

A “vintage” sink becomes a potting bench

Also old items can be repurposed into “vintage” gardening stuff. Such as the sink above made into a potting bench or old items made into a new bird house.

Potting bench made out of vintage items

Potting bench made out of vintage items

Bird house made out of vintage items

Bird house made out of vintage items

Old gardening tools

Old gardening tools

I found this fascinating web site of old and antique gardening tools that is a reference for looking up old tools at http://www.oldgardentools.co.uk. If you want to see some really old gardening tools or clothing, check this web site out.

An old trailer that displays vintage gardening equipment at the Northwest Flower and Gardening Show

An old trailer that displays vintage gardening equipment at the Northwest Flower and Gardening Show

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Old watering cans used as decorations

Old watering cans used as decorations

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New Patio-Old House

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Old houses are so picturesque and have lots of charm inside, but outside can be a different story. I got a call for a job for an early 1800’s house that had been decorated to the nines inside but lacked the same appeal on the outside.

Stone Work

There were several obstacles-one was the imposing curved brick wall around the sun room with the steep drop down to the lower level (lower blue arrow). The other was the very small exit from the brick surround to the grassy area, only 2 1/2 feet wide (upper blue arrow).

Adding an upper patio and cutting out a new wider entrance

Adding an upper patio and cutting out a new wider entrance

The first order of business was to add a mortared blue stone patio behind the mud room (small off-set room), replacing the old brick pavers next to the house. Adding six or seven large four to five feet wide guillotined steps curving down the slope took care of the steep drop from the patio.

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We filled in the old narrow opening with new brick and removed old brick to create a wider five foot wide opening making for easier access. At the bottom of the steps, large steppers curved around the imposing brick wall.

Large steppers curve around brick wall

Large steppers curve around brick wall

A small water feature was installed on the upper patio.

Placing the base of the water feature

Placing the base of the water feature

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Right outside the mudroom door we built a small entrance patio to the larger patio. A sitting wall encircled the larger patio to give additional seating room. Lighting was installed around the patio and down the steps.

Small entrance patio

Small entrance patio

Sitting wall

Sitting wall

Plantings

The lighting was partial shade and I didn’t have to worry with deer as the house was surrounded by farm fields that interested the deer more. Between the wall and the steps, I planted Serbian Cypress, Microbiota decussata, an evergreen ground cover that stays low to the ground and is quite beautiful. It looks like juniper but has a softer texture and doesn’t have the disease problems that junipers can get.

Serbian Cypress is next to the brick wall

Serbian Cypress is next to the brick wall

 

Serbian Cypress

Serbian Cypress

On the right side of the steps, I planted pink drift roses which bloom all summer long and stay low and mound like. The gold perennial between the steps is ‘Angelina’ Sedum.

Base of the steps plantings

Base of the steps plantings

Around the base of the steps, I planted ‘Guacamole’ Hosta, ‘Patriot’ Hosta, variegated ‘Solomans Seal’, Japanese Painted Fern, and ‘Limelight’ Hydrangea for some height.

Frances Williams Hosta

Frances Williams Hosta

Down on the existing patio there was a foot wide strip of soil that needed plantings and I chose ‘Frances Williams’ Hosta for its spectacular size and leaf markings.

Japanese Painted Fern 'Ghost'

Japanese Painted Fern ‘Ghost’

A tricolor beech brightens up the border next to the house

A tricolor beech brightens up the border next to the house

Additional plantings were added around the house to spruce it up when the rear patio and plantings were completed. A tri-color Beech gives the shady side planting bed a pop of color and and vertical element.

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Kousa Dogwood in full bloom set in the lawn

Kousa Dogwood in full bloom set in the lawn

 

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Making of a Queen

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Queen bee in her bee cage with attendants, plugged with a sugar cube

Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby, but by far the creation of a queen bee is the most interesting aspect. You can buy a mated queen from a commercial operation that produces queens –  mating them either naturally or inseminating them- or your hive will take things into their own “claws” and make their own.  The cage above that I ordered and came in the mail includes a mated queen with her attendants, who feed and take care of her until she is introduced into a hive and starts laying her eggs.

Antique bee cages

Antique bee cages

A mated queen is sent in the mail and once you introduce her into the hive via a cage, the bees should accept her after getting used to the scent of her pheromones. She then eats through a sugar plug in the queen cage and joins her worker bees.

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That is- if everything goes right. I have introduced queens the proper way with the cage hanging in the hive for a few days and she eats her way through the sugar cube plug, and then have the queen emerge and the worker bees kill her or she just flies away!

Placing the queen cage in the hive

Placing the queen cage in the hive

The other way is supersedure, where the bees decide to make their own queen for a variety of reasons. It could be that the queen is getting older and not laying as many eggs or the hive becomes over crowded or the queen dies unexpectedly. In any of those cases, the hive will make their own queen and will construct up to 20 wax queen cells for extra insurance. The peanut shaped cells are easy to spot.

Queen or swarm cell

Queen or swarm cell

The current or failing queen lays fertilized eggs in all the queen cells and young nurse bees feed all the larvae with royal jelly, a special substance that is secreted from the glands located in the head of the bees. If the queen is dead, then the worker bees lay eggs that can also become queens. All larvae are fed with royal jelly for three days, but only larvae destined to become queens are copiously fed this throughout their development which in turn triggers the development of the large ovaries of a queen bee.

Immature queen bee

Immature queen bee

The worker bees extend the wax cell downwards to make a peanut shape to accommodate the larger form of the queen bee. Nine days after laying the egg destined to become the queen, the last layer of wax is deposited around the growing larvae.

Queen cell

 A large swarm of bees (1/3 to 1/2 of the hive) gathers and starts to exit the hive taking the old queen with them and the workers are laden with stores of honey for the new home.

A swarm starting to pour out of a hive

A swarm starting to pour out of a hive

 The swarm usually heads for a nearby tree or structure and regroups and starts sending out scouts to look for a suitable home. They will usually do this several times, stopping and sending out scouts, until the scouts come back with information about a good location for their new home.

A perfect tear drop shaped swarm with the queen in the middle

A perfect tear drop shaped swarm with the queen in the middle

At this point the queen cells in the old hive continue to mature for another week. The first queen to emerge goes to each queen cell and stings the queen bees that haven’t emerged through the wax wall to death. The victorious young queen then flies around outside the hive to acquaint herself with the surroundings and will mate with up to 20 different drones or males who die after mating. Three days later the new queen will start laying up to 2000 eggs a day.

A marked queen surrounded by attendant bees

A marked queen surrounded by attendant bees

Queens can live up to 5 years and will continue to lay eggs except in the winter. This newly hatched queen will stay with the hive for at least a year or until the hive starts a new swarm and starts the whole process again. Go to Swarming of the Bees to see how I capture swarms to start a new colony.Capturing a bee swarm

Capturing a bee swarm

Fascinating stuff! If you want more bee blog posts, go to Beekeeping Start-Up or Beekeeping 101.

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