Archive for the sustainable living Category

Longwood Gardens: The New Meadow Garden

Posted in garden to visit, green gardening, landscape design, native plants, sustainable living with tags , , , , , on September 5, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

.Senna didymobotrya, candalabra-treeThe entrance garden outside the visitor’s center at Longwood is lush and tropical right now.

Michael and I are members of Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, US, and visit on a regular basis.  We have been excitedly awaiting the opening of Longwood’s new meadow garden.  We visited the meadow this week and were very impressed.

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Longwood September 2014 9-3-2014 11-05-48 AMA longer view of the entrance.

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Longwood September 2014 9-3-2014 11-10-25 AMAnother pretty entrance to the rose arbor.

The scope of the project is immense.  The garden is 86 acres filled with native plants appropriate to a meadow habitat.  There are three miles of walking trails through the meadow and its environs.  What Longwood has created in this meadow through ecological management of the property for native plants and animals is breathtaking and magical.  I highly recommend a visit right now because the meadow is at its peak.  However, for those of you who aren’t local, a virtual tour follows.  Keep in mind that photos cannot truly convey the amazing diversity and breadth of this project.

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Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 12-08-49 PMA patch of Joe Pye weed in a sea of goldenrod, sunflowers, and other native plants.

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Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 12-07-27 PM.

Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 12-04-05 PMNative grasses in the meadow area in front of Longwood’s scenic barn complex.

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Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 11-42-22 AMThe newly restored Webb farmhouse, built in the 16th century by one of the original landowners, houses a very informative exhibit on the history of the area and the evolution of the meadow through the seasons.

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Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 11-33-26 AMThree miles of trails circle and crisscross the meadow.

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Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 11-31-52 AMThe native sunflowers really stand out.

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Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 11-51-56 AM.

Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 11-29-50 AM

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Helianthus sp, Joe Pye

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Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 11-39-49 AMBands of color through the meadow are created by swathes of different plants.

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Pycnanthemum viginicum, mountian-mintSome areas are still filling in so the meadow will look even better next year.

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Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 11-44-54 AMLongwood’s bluebird box program is over 30 years old and fledges an average of 170 bluebirds a year.

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Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 12-37-27 PMOver 1,100 native trees and shrubs have been added to the woodland edges bordering the meadow.

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Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 11-32-54 AM.

Longwood Gardens Meadow 2014 9-3-2014 11-26-50 AM.

The pictures make the beauty look subtle, but it’s not.  The sensation of walking through the meadow with the sun shining, the bees buzzing, the butterflies nectaring, the birds collecting seeds, and the grasses swaying in the breeze cannot be captured in a photo.  If you can visit Longwood, try to do it now so you can share our magical experience.

I will leave you with the following quotation, for me the answer to the ending question is a resounding yes:

“What if, instead of depicting nature, we allowed nature in? What if, instead of building and maintaining artistic creations, we worked to develop and manage living systems? What could we learn . . . about how nature works? Could we create landscapes that were more efficient, more connected, more effective, and ultimately more valuable?”

Travis Beck, Director of Horticulture Mt. Cuba Center

Carolyn

P.S.  I am excited to report that the stat counter for Carolyn’s Shade Gardens blog has now recorded over 1,000,000 views.  Thank you to all my readers all over the world!

Nursery Happenings:   You can sign up to receive notification emails by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

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Camden (Maine) Garden Tour 2014: Part 2

Posted in garden to visit, Garden Tour, landscape design, Maine, organic gardening, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-44-14 AMThe Avena Botanicals apothecary and shop

This post is the second in a series of posts on the Camden House and Garden Tour put on annually in July by the Camden Garden Club.  To read the first post, click here.  This year’s tour was the 67th annual event, quite an impressive history.  Next year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the garden club.  To honor the occasion, the tour will feature “the most-loved homes and gardens from our annual tour dating all the way back to 1948….[including] grand summer ‘cottages’ and gardens, so iconic to the Maine coast.”   It will take place on July 16, 2015, and I hope to be there!

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-28-53 AMThe Avena apothecary and barn

The second garden that we visited on the tour was also in Rockport in an area of fields and farms.  However, this property is a working farm used to produce the natural remedies and body-care products sold by Avena Botanicals Herbal Apothecary. Avena is a 32 acre certified biodynamic farm of which three acres are intensively planted with over 175 varieties of medicinal herbs.  It was begun in 1985 by herbalist and author Deb Soule and moved to its current picturesque site in 1995.  Over 100 hand-crafted products, sold there and by mail order, are produced on site almost exclusively from plants grown on the farm. 

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-29-23 AM.

Although not a typical garden tour garden, Avena’s working farm is planted with design as well as practicality in mind.  It was a wonderful change to wander through the peaceful and relaxing areas surrounding the farmhouse and see all the well-labeled medicinal plants covered with butterflies, honeybees, and native insects.  The apothecary shop and gardens are open to the public weekdays from May through September, 12 to 5 pm.  If you are traveling in the Camden area, Avena is well worth a stop.

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-37-49 AMAvena founder Deb Soule and her mother greet garden tour participants.

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Verbascum olypicum, Greek mulleinThe flowers and seeds of Greek mullein are used medicinally, but it also makes quite a striking addition to the garden.

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-59-14 AMMexican sunflower

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-23-01 AMThis circular garden surrounded by a gravel path is filled with many kinds of thyme and lavender.

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-22-49 AM.

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is closed for the summer and will reopen in early September.  You can sign up to receive notification emails by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Row Your Way To Color Revisited Again

Posted in annuals, annuals, container gardening, container gardening, containers for shade, How to, landscape design, organic gardening, product review, shade annuals, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , , on July 9, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

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DSCN4634The dinghy planting this year is a disappointment.

Those of you who follow my blog may remember the posts that I wrote in 2013 and 2012 on the creative use of annuals in a dinghy (small rowboat) at a Maine marina.  You can find those posts here and here.  I used the dinghy planting as an example of how the imaginative and thoughtful use of annuals can produce an elegant and striking result.  Unfortunately, the planting this year is not up to the former standards.  Normally I wouldn’t feature it, but I thought it might be illuminating to think about what went wrong.

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Handy Boat dinghyThe dinghy planting in 2012 was gorgeous.

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Handy Boat dinghy 32013 was not quite as sophisticated but made up for this with its exuberance.

When comparing the three plantings the first thing you notice is that the colors for 2014 are too subtle.  I love chartreuse and purple, but in a container planting you need some plants that cause passers by to stop and look.  But the bigger problem is that there are not enough plants.  As I pointed out before, containers generally last for one season only and need to be filled to bursting from the beginning.  There is no time to let them fill in as you would with perennial plantings in the ground.

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Handy Boat dinghy 22013 packed with plants

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Handy Boat Dinghy 12012

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DSCN4630This year’s planting shows a lot of bare soil.  The photos for all three years were taken in early July.

Another mistake the designer made was to ignore the classic filler-spiller-thriller formula of planting containers.  The heucherella flowers in the back just don’t provide the necessary height that you need, especially in a container this big, and will be done flowering shortly.  The sedum, coleus, and plectranthus (I think that what it is) will not fill in the middle, and the fibre optic grass and the two sweet potato vines are not spilling over the side enough.

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DSCN4633 A close up of 2014.

Despite my negative comments, as you can see from the photo above, the habit and colors of the plants go well together.  They would look great crammed into a smaller container situated for close up viewing.  I also always encourage the use of perennials in containers, like the sedum and heucherella here.  In late fall, you can transfer them into the ground and enjoy them in your perennial garden for years to come. 

Looking closely at this dinghy planting in good years and bad has given me a lot of ideas about my own containers.  In fact, I had never seen fibre optic grass and purchased some for my window boxes.  I hope you too will find inspiration for your own containers.

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is closed for the summer and will reopen in early September.  You can sign up to receive notification emails by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Do You Know Where Your Mulch Comes From?

Posted in green gardening, How to, landscape design, organic gardening, product review, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , on June 9, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-13-29 PMA pile of freshly ground mulch, but what’s in it?

My friend and longtime customer Caroline Moriuchi invited me for a guided tour of her family’s mulch production operation, M&M Mulch in Moorestown, NJ.  I jumped at the chance because I always wondered how mulch was made.  What I learned from my trip plus subsequent research is that if you don’t know what your mulch is made from, you should.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-07-43 PMAs you can see in this photo, M&M Mulch accepts only wood chips and brush for grinding into their high quality mulch.

M&M Mulch, which is run by Caroline’s son Seiji with the help of his father and brother, has a company policy of using only wood chips from tree services and brush from landscapers for grinding into mulch.  They will not use wooden pallets, scrap lumber, or parts of demolished buildings to produce mulch, although this is common practice in their business.  For this reason, they do not produce red-dyed mulch because it can only be made from processed lumber like pallets.  I am going to show you the Moriuchi’s mulching operation, but first I want to outline some of the dangers from pallets.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-36-19 PMMulch being ground at M&M Mulch

You should do your own research, but, after reading many articles, I would never use commercially produced mulch without knowing what it was made of.  The best article on the subject is in Natural Life Magazine, to read it click here

Basically, a lot of mulch is made from recycled shipping pallets.  If you drive down Interstate 95, you can see the huge pile of pallets waiting to be ground into mulch near Wilmington, DE.  A high percentage of pallets are contaminated with bacteria, including e coli and listeria, from the food transported on them and from improper storage.  They are often made from “engineered wood” which is treated with formaldehyde. 

The pallets themselves are often treated with dangerous chemicals, although this is being phased out.  If they come in from abroad, they are fumigated with toxic fungicides and pesticides, and toxic substances often spill on pallets during transportation.  Wood scraps and demolished buildings pose similar dangers from toxic applications like lead paint and pressure treated wood. 

Now we get to the fun part, how mulch is made:

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-03-23 PMThe mulch production process starts with this very big machine, the grinder.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-04-43 PMThe grinder is moved around the production yard using this remote control.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-35-26 PM  A front end loader is a crucial piece of equipment.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-35-34 PM The loader scoops up the wood chips and brush from the giant piles waiting to be ground.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-35-54 PMThe raw material is deposited into a hopper on the grinder.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-06-46 PMConveyor belts inside the grinder feed the grinding teeth.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-37-13 PMThe grinder produces a giant pile of mulch, but the process isn’t over because most consumers demand that their mulch be dyed.  I am not sure how this process started or why dark black mulch is considered more attractive than natural brown.  I personally think black-dyed mulch is hideous.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-16-29 PMThe dyeing machine

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-24-42 PMThese paddles mix the ground wood with carbon black to make it black or iron oxide to make it brown.  M&M does not produce red-dyed mulch because it can only be made from pallets.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-22-27 PMBlack-dyed mulch emerges from the dyeing machine.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-22-54 PMBlack-dyed mulch on the right, brown-dyed on the left.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-23-41 PMBrown-dyed mulch on the right, un-dyed mulch in front and on the left.  I think gardeners should question why they need dyed mulch.

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Thanks so much to the Moriuchis, especially Seiji who answered all my questions, for the fascinating tour.  If you live near Moorestown, New Jersey, you are very lucky to have a safe source of mulch nearby produced by the fourth generation family farmers at M&M Mulch, 400 Hartford Rd, 856-234-2394.  They deliver free to the Moorestown area and for a fee to other parts of New Jersey.  Who knows maybe they can be enticed to cross the river to Pennsylvania!

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings: The 2014 Miniature Hosta Availability for mail order and pick up at the nursery is here.   Your final chance to shop at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens will be during our open hours on Friday, June 13, and Saturday, June 14, from 10 am to 2 pm.  We close on June 15 and reopen around September 15.  You can sign up to receive notification emails by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Low Maintenance Garden Part 2: Techniques

Posted in How to, my garden, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2013 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

.Magnolia kobus 'Wada's Memory'‘Wada’s Memory’ magnolia provides plenty of leaves for Michael’s leaf grinding efforts plus some gorgeous fall color.

My husband Michael and I have spent 30 years perfecting our gardening techniques at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, and we are always happy to pass on what we have learned to our nursery customers.  In spring 2012, Michael developed a series of seminars to demonstrate our methods to our customers right here at the nursery.  This post is Part 2 of a two part series explaining what goes on at Michael’s seminars.  Part 1 detailed the tools that we recommend to make garden maintenance easy.  You can read it by clicking here.

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DSCN3368Michael with a typical pile of leaves ready for grinding into mulch.

We believe that the most valuable asset on our property is the leaves that fall from our trees.  Leaves are what nature provides for free to protect and improve your soil.  Removing and disposing of your leaves outside your own property is the worst thing that you can do to your garden.  During his seminar, Michael demonstrates how we handle the massive quantity of leaves that fall from our 35 plus large deciduous trees.  Basically we leave them in place to decompose on their own, grind them on the lawn to help it grow, and grind them into mulch for our garden beds.

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DSCN2935Michael demonstrates leaf grinding to seminar attendees.

For a step-by-step guide to grinding your leaves to use for mulch, please read my post Your Most Precious Garden Resource by clicking here.  For a video by Scotts Lawn Care showing how to grind leaves on your lawn, click here.  A recent Michigan State University study has shown that grinding up to 18″ of leaves on your lawn and leaving them there is beneficial to your lawn.  For more information on how we handle leaves in our beds in the fall, click here.

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DSCN2936Michael demonstrates how he uses the ground leaves for mulch in our gardens.

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Our other secret weapon is compost, which we make ourselves and also get from the township.  No bed is created and no plant is planted without adding a large amount of this “black gold”.  Michael shows seminar attendees what good compost should look like and demonstrates how we go about composting.  For more information on how we use compost in our garden, read my post Powered by Compost by clicking here.

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DSCN2933During the tool session at the beginning of the seminar, Michael talks about what an important tool compost is.

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DSCN2943Every seminar includes a trip to our compost area and a demonstration of composting techniques.

Many other important gardening jobs are explained in detail with live demonstrations…..

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DSCN7137Planting a perennial using a shovel or an auger attachment to a drill.

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DSCN7138Edging beds to keep out weeds and present a manicured look.

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DSCN2939 Planting a shrub, here Michael shows how it is important to loosen the roots on the outside of the rootball.

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DSCN7141Every session ends with a question and answer period during which attendees can ask about any gardening task that interests them.

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These are just some of the topics covered in a typical seminar.  Other subjects include deer management, invasive plant removal, winter interest, container planting, and many more.

Carolyn

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Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is closed for the winter.  Please visit my Etsy Shop to purchase photo note cards suitable for all occasions by clicking here.  Look for the 2014 Snowdrop Catalogue in early January.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Low Maintenance Garden Part 1: Tools

Posted in How to, my garden, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2013 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Note Card Images note card images

Before I get to the post, I want to let all my readers know that I have set up a shop on Etsy, a website featuring vintage and handmade goods, called CarolynsShadeGardens so you can use your credit card to purchase my photo note cards.  Click here to visit the shop and see the note cards available.   You can also click on the permanent link I have placed on the right sidebar of this website.

The cards come individually or in sets and are perfect for birthday greetings, expressions of sympathy, thank you notes, and for communicating with friends the old-fashioned way. The card sets make great gifts for the holidays especially useful for hostess presents, last minute gifts, and for the friend who has everything.

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DSCN2937Michael demonstrates edging using an edger with a long handle.

Nursery customers always comment on the amount of work it must take to maintain our display gardens and marvel at how Michael and I do it with no additional help.  At this point in our lives, we are wondering that ourselves, but that’s another story.  However, part of the answer is that over our 30 years of gardening here we have developed many techniques to keep maintenance to a minimum while using sustainable, organic methods. 

In spring 2012, we developed a series of seminars to teach these techniques to our customers.  For readers who can’t attend, I thought I would show you what goes on during Michael’s Low Maintenance Garden Seminars.

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DSCN2929Michael shows off his all round favorite tool, a digging tool from Gempler’s discussed below.

Each seminar begins with a review of essential tools and their maintenance.  When Michael visits customers’ gardens in his capacity as garden coach, he often finds that they are making do with inadequate garden tools.  Having the right tool allows gardeners to perform maintenance jobs easily and efficiently.  Michael and I both have our favorites, and he demonstrates them during his seminar and tells attendees where to purchase them.

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DSCN3405Michael’s favorite tool, a Gempler’s Professional 12″ Digging Tool.  It is similar to a Japanese farmer’s knife, but it has a hand guard for protection, which is essential for the safe use of this type of tool.  He uses it for weeding, planting, cutting, and many other jobs.  I prefer a skinny-headed trowel for weeding and a rabbiting spade for planting.

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Originally, I was going to cover everything in one post, but as I started to write I found a lot to say about tools.  I was inspired to take individual photos of some of the important tools because Michael and I feel so strongly that they are the best.  The actual garden maintenance part of the seminars will be covered in Part 2.

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DSCN3402Michael and I both would not be without Felco No. 2 Pruners.  My father bought me this pair over 30 years ago when he found me using some Kmart knock offs.  With infrequent sharpenings, they work as well as they did when I got them.

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DSCN2922Michael demonstrates the use of our Dramm watering wand.  We have one of these wands on the end of each hose on our property and find it indispensable for all watering tasks.  I met the Dramm representative at a conference recently and told her that we promoted the wands at our seminars.  She nicely sent six wands to raffle off at our fall seminars this year, and six happy attendees went home with a new tool.  We hope to continue this with Dramm and other manufacturers at future seminars.  The hose to which the wand is attached is made by Flexogen and is the only kind we use—heavy duty and kink resistant.

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DSCN3400For branches too thick for pruners, we use this folding hand saw also made by Felco.  It fits in your back pocket but handles very large branches while being easy to maneuver in tight spaces.

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DSCN2931Tool maintenance, especially keeping tools clean and sharp, is very important.  Here Michael cleans and sharpens the pointed blade of our long-handled shovel, which is the shovel we both use for digging and shoveling.  The long handle is essential for the leverage you need to get the job done easily no matter what size you are and without bending over.

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DSCN3401   These Corona ComfortGel Floral Snips are the tool I always have with me in the garden.  They are small enough to cut herbaceous leaves but rugged enough to handle woody stalks and small branches.  The gel handles are comfortable, and the blades spring open and closed smoothly.

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DSCN3403Michael and I both think it is very important to protect your knees when you are kneeling down weeding or planting.  We both wear strap on kneepads.  I prefer the soft kind made by Kneelons pictured above while Michael likes the hard shell type sold for doing tile work.

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Other tools we recommend: I dig all the perennials I grow and sell with a rabbiting spade, which is just the right size to slip easily between other plants that I do not want to disturb.  Long-handled loppers are useful for leverage when pruning bigger branches.  We also consider a heavy duty, very sharp, folding serrated knife essential for dividing plants.  I never head out into the garden to weed without my large or small Bosmere weeding bag (they call it a tip bag).  These bags are very light but durable and their sides don’t sag.

We could recommend many other tools—this won’t surprise you if you have been here and seen our garage—but these are the most important tools that help make our garden low maintenance.

Carolyn

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Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is closed for the winter.  Please visit my Etsy Shop to purchase photo note cards suitable for all occasions by clicking here.  Look for the 2014 Snowdrop Catalogue in early January.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Your Most Precious Garden Resource

Posted in Fall, Fall Color, green gardening, How to, organic gardening, sustainable living with tags , , , , on October 25, 2012 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Yes, the sky is really this blue and the trees are really this red during fall in the northeastern US.

Fall in Pennsylvania (mid-Atlantic US) is a big picture time of year.  For a good two months, everywhere you go there are gorgeous vistas like the one above as the leaves change color before dropping.  The show is long-lasting because the leaves turn at different times, starting in my garden with the American hornbeam’s golden yellow hue, progressing through the bright red tones of maples and native dogwoods, and ending with the burgundy and orange of hydrangeas and viburnums.


The soil is deep and very fertile in my area, allowing trees to grow to gigantic size.  And after the color show, the leaves fall and create what I consider my most precious garden resource.  Those leaves are what nature supplies for free to protect and improve the soil year after year.  That is why it is so disturbing to see many area residents collecting their leaves and putting them by the side of the road to be removed by their municipality.


Here at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens we use every leaf that falls to improve our soil either by leaving them in the beds or by grinding them and using them as mulch.  A detailed description of our methods can be found in Shade Gardening in Fall: Fall Clean-up.  In addition, up to 18″ of leaves can be ground up and left on the lawn with beneficial results as described in Shade Gardening in Fall: Leaves on the Lawn.  There is a video by the Scott Lawn Care Company in the second post to show to your doubting spouse.

In early October, about 35 Carolyn’s Shade Gardens customers attended two Low Maintenance Gardening Seminars given by my husband Michael during which he demonstrated how to grind leaves for mulch.  For the benefit of my far flung readers  and in the hope of converting more gardeners to this practice, I thought I would show you step-by-step photographs of the process.  Michael is the reluctant star of the do-it-yourself guide below.

Step One:  Gather the leaves from an area where they can’t be left to decompose on their own.  Michael is removing leaves from the pine needle paths on our back hill using a tarp.  All leaves in the beds will remain in place as mulch and eventually compost.

Step Two:  Take the leaves to a level area like your lawn or driveway.  Our driveway is closest to the back hill so Michael took the leaves there for grinding.

As you can see in the photo, we use a standard lawnmower to grind our leaves.  We recommend wearing steel-toed footwear, ear protection (see photo below), and, if appropriate, eye protection when using a lawnmower.


Step Three:  Grind the leaves to the required consistency.  Michael usually goes over them twice, but you can make them as fine or as coarse as you want.


A large amount of leaves becomes a manageable pile after grinding.


Step Four:  Gather your free mulch into a container for easy transportation and application.  Michael is using a township recycling barrel.



Step Five:  Spread the mulch in your garden.  Here Michael uses it around the base of newly planted viburnums.

I hope I have made this process look as easy as it really is.  Once you try it and see the beneficial results for your soil, you too will be a convert.

Carolyn

 

Nursery Happenings:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is done for the fall.  Thanks for a great year.  See you in spring 2013.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post.  You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

 

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