What I see while I’m weeding…

Don’t you just love help in the garden?

Indoor Fairy Garden

Do you remember the Living Spring Centerpiece and the Fairy Garden projects? Well, I was needing a little “plant time” last week and hopped on over to one of my favorite local nurseries/garden centers (Dickman Farms in Auburn, NY). They have a wonderful greenhouse selection and to my surprise/delight all of their house plants were 50% off! Sa-weet.  I knocked myself out.

Now, before I go further, you must know that I was driving hubby’s car listening to the new Coldplay CD Mylo Xyloto for the first time. I pulled up into the parking lot and was completely overcome listening to #5 – You and Me Against the World. Oh. So. Warm and Beautiful… the acoustic guitar and Gwenth’s Chris Martin’s voice. Love….Love.

Where was I? Shopping. I’m not a shopper typically- much to Farmboy’s delight. Plants, plates and ponies are some of my preferred items- much to Farmboy’s dismay. When I need a little retail therapy I head for the local nursery or Marshall’s rather than a horse sale, thankfully- for all of us.

Enough of my late-night, The Clone Wars is on (they all look the same)- pontificating. Here is the “how to” part.

Take a large container with no hole and fill the bottom third with gravel for drainage unless you plan to use a saucer of some sort to catch the water. Be especially sensitive to moisture when using a container with no drainage. Low and wide is better since it will be displayed on a table indoors.

Fill the remainder of the container with potting soil.

Get together all of your plant goodies…

Arrange low growing, mossy plants in the front and center of your Fairy Garden and add the taller ones to the back. Once your plantings are finished water gently until evenly moist.

* I found some wonderful Fairy furniture to add to my indoor garden at Dickman’s! Here is a link to fairy furniture images.

Be sure to add a stone path, some boulders (small rocks) and whatever you can think of to add ambiance! I wish that I could string lights in my little fairy garden. Wouldn’t that be great?!

This little garden has been inhabited so far by the following: Zoobles, My Little Ponies and Princess Polly Pockets. I think its magic is working. Soon, word will get out and the fairies are bound to come. We have recently put little Santa hats out and decorated the place for Christmas. I’m thinking that it’s enchanting- I think the fairies will agree.

What… A Message From The Queen?

I had to do it! I know… the KEEP CALM and CARRY ON thing is everywhere these days. Have you seen it? It began as a poster produced by the British government in 1939, intended to raise the morale of the British public in the event of invasion. Here is more information.

I thought I was a genius to come up with the “Garden On” part – I have a Topiary Crown design for heavens sake! After a quick google search I discovered people were already using the phrase. Phooey. Nevertheless this one is fun and different and makes a great set of notecards for your favorite gardener. I love the dark magenta text- it pulls out the color of the pink geraniums in the urn. On the back the card is titled “From The Queen”. chuckle…

I would seriously love to get one of these in the mail from a fellow gardener! I may have to mail myself one just to be sure! ; ) Click here for more info or to order!

Fabulous Friday Find: Linwood Gardens

Linwood Gardens were created by William Henry Gratwick II from Buffalo, New York as a country home in the years between 1901 and 1910. Architect Thomas Fox designed portions of the craftman style Big House and all of the original garden areas.

In 1933, William H. Gratwick III moved to Linwood with his family and set up the Rare Plants Nursery. The Japanese Tree Peony became a feature of the nursery and the gardens. As an artist, landscape architect and horticulturist, WHG III contributed sculpture and new garden areas to the Linwood landscape. His wife, Harriet Gratwick, directed a community music school on the property from 1946-1963. Linwood also hosted a wide variety of cultural activities during those years.

Lee Gratwick, WHG III’s daughter, is now living at Linwood and is working to preserve the Tree Peony Collection, the gardens, and the Big House.  (From promotional literature.)

The Craftsman style Big House. The interior spaces are sparse with wide wood floors, large mouldings, a beautiful fireplace and craftsman style furniture-  simple, weighty and honest.

The view from the house looking through the side portico.

The Italian Garden with a stone sculpture by WHG III.

Inside the Italian Garden.

The arbor next to the swimming pool.

The stone Labyrinth on the grounds of the old tennis court.

The Perennial and Vegetable Gardens.

The Lily Pool with a sculpture by WHG III of a tree peony blossom.

The view from the Italian Garden.

And… last but not least Oscar, the energetic people greeter.

For more information on the Tree Peony Festival of Flowers and Linwood Gardens click Here.



Americana Climbing Rose

One of my favorite climbing roses. I planted this many years ago on the Fourth of July and it never disappoints. The last bloom of the season I had to cut and bring in to enjoy on the window sill. : ) What is your favorite climber?

Resources for Vegetable Gardening

My reference library gets bigger every year. I’m a sucker for a good book… especially of the gardening kind. As much as I love trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, I am a nuts over growing vegetables and eating meals fresh from the garden. Here is my list of vegetable gardening books that I would highly recommend:

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible  by Edward C. Smith- All in one general reference book

Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew- Valuable for gardeners with small plots

Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza- No dig gardening. Love it.

Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte- How to make the most of companion planting.

1001 Garden Questions Answered by Alfred C. Mottes- An old reference book (published in 1939) that I love.

Grocery Gardening- Great growing tips as well as recipes from friends that I met on twitter.

Serving Up the Harvest- A “go to” book for seasonal cooking.

Storing the Harvest-Great info on how to save, put up and freeze your seasonal produce.

I’m sure I’ve missed a couple but I will update it as they come to me. Do you have a favorite book that you would like to recommend? Please do!



The Potager in July

The view from the studio.

My how fast the summer is going… I can’t keep up. The potager is growing nicely this season although I have been rather inconsistent regarding watering. I can’t believe how parched the ground is. Let’s hear it for the sprinkler! I live on the gardening edge and water from ABOVE… gasp! Please don’t notify the gardening police, thank you.

I made a few planting changes this year. The entire back row of the design has been planted to asparagus and I’m looking forward to having a perennial section that will not need replanting next year. Thankfully this family loves fresh asparagus and I must admit that growing up I had never seen fresh asparagus. My only memories of the vegetable were once a year on Christmas Eve- a mushy, smelly substance out of a Campbell’s soup can.  Eegads. Imagine my delight at lightly seasoned blanched stems with lemon and butter. Ahhh.

Two sour cherry trees were planted this spring on either side of the bistro set. Farmboy loves a sour cherry pie and I FINALLY found two Dark Star cherries locally. They produced the most wonderful fruits this year. Maybe enough for a couple of pies but they never made it inside the house. Let’s just say between Farmboy, me and Gracie the dog (yes, Gracie) the pies didn’t stand a chance. Maybe next year…

Today I had our first tomato of the season in a tomato and basil sandwich. I should have photographed it… but I ate it instead. I believe the variety is Crimson Cushion. Delicious. Nice color, low acid and velvet-y flesh.

Hey, I did photograph it with today’s harvest! Broccoli anyone?

I think this post will get me over the blogging block that I have been experiencing. So much to see, do, paint, plant, cook and draw its hard to stay focused. Needless to say- lots to blog about- so come back, pour a glass of wine or iced tea and stay awhile with me and Toonces. Tell us what has been keeping you busy this summer!

Toonces doing his best to look sophisticated.

Summer is ramping up… and I’m already worn out.


May was a whirlwind of activity.

Will one of you sweethearts remind me of this next year?

All of those snow-filled days last winter amounted to one very pent up gardener who was ready to dig up the entire yard this Spring just to enjoy being warm, outside and being active.

I now understand why Farmboy loves the winter so much. It represents rest. As soon as the soil wakes in the Spring the rush for planting begins. The crops getting in are the biggest priority for the month of May. Farmboy comes in from his IT job, changes clothes, grabs and bite to eat and then heads out. Numerous nights during the month we would meet in bed at midnight- exhausted from deadlines, orders and planting.

Just as we breathe a big sigh of relief and a prayer of thanks that the crops are finally in… albeit late, it’s time to cut hay, cultivate, mow as well as pack the trailer for my next show (Allentown Art Festival this weekend) and do three nights a week of lacrosse practices.

The potager layout… before.

This year I decided to splurge and purchased one of those handy Mantis garden tillers for the vegetable garden. It is very light-weight and its narrow width works well in the small beds of my potager. Speaking of which, the potager is almost completely planted… I’m thrilled! I think this year it will be a delight for the eyes and the tastebuds.

Getting started with planting.

I always “plan” to put a “plan” on paper before I start planting… but I never do. It feels like painting when I am out there planting on the fly- thinking about lines, shape, color and repetition. At least this year I do have rows marked and I plan to do an “after” drawing of what is there for next year’s reference. I have threatened everyone that they will “rue the day” if they touch my plant markers as this is the first year that I am actually using them to keep track of which varieties grow/taste better than others.

The Mr and Mrs.

I’m thrilled this year to have an Eastern Bluebird family in a nesting box right under the studio windows on our rose arbor!  It has been such a joy watching the coming and going of those busy parents. The male will come right out to the potager when I am there and perch on the pea trellises or tomato stakes. After years of never even seeing a glimpse of the elusive New York State Bird… its wonderful to have a family of them living here next to the garden.

Outside the studio window.

So friends, thanks for stopping by. I will soon be posting some recent paintings that I’ve been working on, a great list of vegetable gardening references, potager progress, and a fun French-themed dinner menu you will not want to miss. Now let’s all get to work on enjoying the upcoming LAZY days of summer as demonstrated by Pongo the cat.

Pongo taking his afternoon nap.



Winter Sowing

I did not come up with this idea… I wish I could take credit for it. I learned about it from Trudy in the Winter Sowing forum on GardenWeb a number of years ago and have since grown hundreds of plants using this method. I thought it would be fun to show how LaLa and I do it. This post will be linked to other post that I will be doing regarding gardening with children… so stay tuned for that!

First you get a milk carton and add your drainage holes.

Cut the carton in half leaving one side attached, then pet Gracie who is patiently waiting for a treat…

I find it easier to label them before the soil is added. I’ve tried numerous pens and markers but have found opaque paint pens to work the best to handle the elements outside without wearing off.

I usually fill the utility sink in the laundry room with potting soil if I will be filling numerous containers but today I only had 4 to fill and I thought this would be easier for LaLa.

People use various mixes to start their seeds. I don’t fuss over it too much. I normally use a regular potting soil (miraclegro) and add additional perlite to lighten the mix. It is not necessary to use seed starting mix although I do add it to my potting soil if I have it.

So… add your soil, add your perlite and get those little hands going! Children (and adults) love to get their hands in the dirt when there is 3 ft of snow on the ground! It gives me a little gardening fix to get me through the long winters in Upstate New York.

After your soil is mixed and moistened, then fill your carton.

I keep my seeds in an old wine box. For some reason I cannot find most of my perennial seeds so we’ll go with Delphinium, Oriental Poppies and Lupines.

Now sprinkle those seeds! If they are tiny like poppies, just gently pat them to make contact with the soil. You can plant as little as 1 per carton but I usually sow at least 6 or 8 seeds (even with large plants).  Once they get started they can be separated or planted out later. If your seeds are larger you can poke little holes to put them or just sprinkle more soil on the top once you are done sowing.

Gently water in your seeds. I water them numerous times… until the soil is completely soaked and draining from the bottom. Remember the top half of the carton gets put back on and they will use the water that you put in now as condensation as the mini greenhouses warm in the spring sun.

Watch your children when watering…  they can be very overzealous as we know!  You don’t want the water pooling up on the top and your seeds washing away down the sides of the carton. At this point I put them in the sink and let them drain.

I have found that using a hole punch on the top and bottom and provides a nice little way to thread a twisty tie to hold them shut. The last step is an important one. Tape your cartons around the middle. You want the air inside to warm as the sun shines on them. I use packing tape but duct tape works too. Don’t put the cap back on the carton.

After that… put those little darlings outside and forget about them until the weather starts to warm. When they are ready they will sprout.  Your children will enjoy peaking down into the hole to look for green sprouts! I promise.

My sweet LaLa. I’ve done this every year with the kids since they were old enough to stand on a chair without falling off. I didn’t realize until now that that was my condition. : )



For more information on Winter Sowing click here. The forum is full of information, encouragement and overall gardening joy but be prepared to hear alot of rejoicing about green babies, zone wars and container counts!

Flower Power

132 inches (and counting) of snow is too much for this southern girl. I needed a little Flower Power today to get me through February. Happy Wordless Wednesday!

: )  Michelle


Hi, I'm Michelle. I am an artist/designer specializing in unique topiary themed illustrations for the Home & Gardener. I live on a farm in Upstate New York with my husband, aka Farmboy, my two children affectionately known as "La La" and "the Bean" and a small petting zoo of other family members.


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