The Salem Garden Club’s 2017 Garden Stroll

Every other year the Salem Garden Club holds a garden tour, officially called the “stroll”. This year’s tour highlighted gardens on Hamilton, Chestnut, Federal, Lynn and River Streets and I truly believe that it was the best ever! Michael and I enjoyed the tour before and after my volunteer time in one of the gardens on River Street and I quickly took photos as I went along. This slideshow is a simple collection of my favorites… They’re not too fancy, but I did manage to capture many of the little details that caught my eye in each wonderful space.

Enjoy!

Love, Michele

ps/ 5pm on Friday– This post began as a slideshow and had big technical problems, so I just changed the pictures to individual images. Hope that improves your viewing experience! xoxo

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What’s Happening in the Garden- May 13, 2017

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms who may be reading! One of the many luxuries I allowed myself this weekend was taking the time to snap some quick photos for a blog post.  These were taken yesterday before the inch or so of rain that we were hit with today.

Spring has finally sprung here in Salem, Massachusetts!

Since we’ve had a lot of rain everything is lush and green… a very different scenario from last year when we were in a severe drought all. season. long.

IMG_2827Michael welcomed spring last weekend by replacing four of our five raised beds. They’re sturdy and should serve us well for five years or so.

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I haven’t had time to do much seed starting this spring so I’ll direct sow some things and I purchased spring seedlings a few weeks ago. I saw these celery plants and decided to give them a try. We had a cold snap about ten (?) days ago and they suffered a little but they seem to be greening up again.

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I also purchased  Brussel sprouts which were quickly chomped on by someone, a bunny or deer? Yes, we have deer in our yard here in the city of Salem. They’re beautiful creatures but not so good for the garden.

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The sweet peas grew quickly from seed and the spinach is quite happy. They all just push those rocks to the side, don’t they?

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My little row of Swiss chard is also being “tasted.”  I think those are bunny tooth prints.

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The lettuce is starting to sprout. It needs some vermi-compost and rock removal, stat.

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And then there’s the kale, always easy, always happy… you can’t go wrong with kale.

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I did go wrong with this passion flower that I plunked in late last fall. I bought it on sale and I can’t find the receipt or container or I’d take it back.

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On the brighter side, the liatris that I planted last fall are starting to bloom.

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I scattered them in front of the garden fence. I may move more mid spring blooms into that bed to keep them company next year.

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Our apple trees are full of blooms too. We may have a real apple crop this year! We bought some organic horticultural oil to spray on the trees to keep the pests away and it helped them get off to a good start. We’ll repeat it after the flowers start to turn to fruit.

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I believe that this is the first time I’ve photographed an apple blossom. 🙂

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Our horseradish is prolific and about to bloom.  I think it’s funny that these flowers will surely smell like horseradish.

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In the beds closer to the house the bleeding heart are beautiful.

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The lovage came back beautifully and I replaced some thyme with fresh new plants.

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Soloman’s seal, iris and lamium are thriving in a part sun/ shade area.

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And I’ve got a few tomato plants that are ready to go out in a week or two. I started these sweetie tomato plants at work with the participants in my program and brought some extras home when we thinned them out. They’re a bit crowded in their pots, but I think they’ll be okay for a little while longer. I’ve been watering them from the bottom in hopes of forming strong roots systems. I’ll keep you posted…

We got new chicks this  year so I made my first video!  You’ll hear me taking about them toward the end. I’d like to do more of this and work on making it a little zippier, but it’s a start!

 

I hope that all is well in your garden, wherever you are.  Thanks for stopping by and don’t be afraid to leave me a comment and say hi if you’d like to!

Love to you all,

Michele

 

It’s Time to Plant the Pansies!

I know, I know, it’s still cold out, but, it really is time to plant the pansies!

I was buying them yesterday and several other customers in the store asked me if they could go outside yet.

Yes they can!

Pansies will do just fine in early spring weather. I’ve even had them winter over in some of our milder years.

I planted in three different locations today.

My first stop was my own porch:

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I’m in love with these tiny little blooms.

IMG_8965Here they are in the bigger pot. I combined tulips, pansies and hyacinth with the hope that the tulips and hyacinth will be perfect for Easter next Sunday. My backup plan is to add blooming forsythia if the tulips are fading.

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My next planting stop was our church. I added pansies to the pots of artificial forsythia and daffodils that my friend Betsey had started.

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The front doors of Tabernacle Church look welcoming and ready for Palm Sunday!

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After hitting the church, I crossed the street and met the Salem Garden Club to help plant seven urns that are located in the center of our downtown. I joined the garden club in September and was thrilled to be part of the action out there today! It’s fun to spend time with people who love the garden as much as I do!

I love, love, love the creativity that went into the design this season. Spring cleaning… Salem witch… spring.. you can interpret this in many different ways. The colors and whimsey shout out that spring has arrived! And it has, tomorrow’s weather forecast is for 60 degrees, with several warm days as the week goes on.

So, it’s really time to plant the pansies! Don’t be afraid, they’re ready and I’ll bet you are too.

I’m largely away from the Salem Garden, but I’m hoping to pick up now that the season is here. We’ll see.. I’m trying to commit to writing a weekly post at a minimum. This full time work away from home gig is tricky. It’s great to be engaged at work and to be making some money,  but it’s hard on my family. I think things are getting better as we set up systems as a family to get things done and in some cases “adjust our expectations” about what’s realistic and important, but it’s still a work in progress. Anyway, thanks for visiting and catching up with me.  I’m hoping to offer some good posts in the coming months!

Be sure to check in and let me know how your garden is growing!

Love, Michele

 

 

 

What’s Happening in the Garden- January 30, 2017

Hello out there and Happy 2017.  I’m feeling quite sad and worn by recent events here in the US and sometime I need a mental escape and happier thoughts, even if just for a few minutes. One of my biggest escapes is always the garden. We’ve had a mild winter so far but the garden is still cold and quiet on the surface. Below the ground, the perennials and bulbs and trees and grasses are alive and well and just waiting for spring to arrive.

I’ve added lots and lots of houseplants in the past few years and my time at ICS Plant Specialists taught me how to take good care of them. I’ve been enjoying my indoor garden this winter.

img_2700-003My mom’s Christmas Cactus, which sat in her dining room window for my whole life, is a little bit behind schedule but it’s finally blooming. She would be proud to see it here.

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img_2701-003I still have wax begonias from last summer blooming in the office. They’ll be ready to go out to the deck in a few months.

img_2720-003Our bookshelf in the living room holds an angel begonia (also mom’s). It seems fresher and stronger than it used to… right plant, right place… maybe it will bloom?

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This little vignette kind of cracked me up (no pun intended) when I saw it so I had to share. Do you happen to have a bamboo plant, fresh eggs and a Droll Designs Bugs Bunny teapot sitting together on your kitchen counter?

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My very sweet sister-in-law gave me this Thanksgiving Cactus during the holidays and I just moved it into a more permanent pot last week. My Dad took the photo somewhere in Asia many years ago.  He passed away when I was 21, but I always look at it and think that he would have appreciated the attachment parenting style that we chose to use with our children when they were small.

img_2712-003I have philodendron everywhere and to add to the cactuses, here’s an orchid cactus! It blooms in the summer warmth and looks like a piece of sculpture in the winter.

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My money tree (Pachira aquatica) also came from Mom. When I brought it north last fall the leaves fell so much that I was sure I was going to loose it. I did some research and found that this plant likes to stay away from drafts and hates being overwatered. Those were easy things to fix and as soon as I moved it away from the front door and adjusted my watering routine it started to produce new leaves and they’ve been filling in ever since.

img_2725-003 I found this cute little polka dot plant on sale for $2.50 last week. It brightens things up!

img_2718-003My succulents thrive outside in the summer but they’re holding up well in their indoor winter home.

img_2737-003Maddie is standing guard over them. Fortunately, our current cats never touch the plants.

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This is the first time that I’ve raised African Violet to a full bloom stage. They’re in a bathroom with very filtered light and it seems that between the humidity from the shower and the gentle light that they’re receiving, they are happy. I need to add a few more plants to this windowsill.

img_2736-003Here’s another first… a hellebore bloom out in the herb garden!  Something is munching on this plant (I believe that it’s bunnies or deer) but that one bloom is enough to keep me in the game!

I’m hooked on African Violet and hellebore!

img_2728-003You may remember that I’m also hooked on seed starting and it’s just about time to start the onion seeds. I picked these up last weekend and they’re sitting above my kitchen sink calling to me to plant them. I’m receiving seed catalogs and thinking about the spring plan. See, the garden is an escape all year long!

In other news, I’m still working on getting a  handle on this full time work schedule, but it’s getting better as we adjust and develop good, new routines. I think there may be some fun garden projects at my workplace as the year goes on. If that happens, I’ll be sure to share them here.

I hope that this little trip through my indoor winter garden gave you a break and made you smile.  Check in and let me know how you and your garden are doing! I miss you and wish you peace and love, wherever you are.

Love,  Michele

Reflections of a (Former) Garden Center Merchandiser

Yesterday was my last day of employment as a rep/merchandiser for a company that provides huge volumes of plant material to a major (think orange) big box store here in New England. I started the position last April and had no idea of what I was getting into. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never loved and hated a paid job as much as I did this one.

Here’s the upside:

  1. I learned a lot about retail.  I’d never worked in a retail environment before, so I found it to be eye-opening. The systems and procedures that are used to market to the masses fascinated me. Now, when I walk through Macy’s perfume department all I see are neatly merchandised displays and what went into putting them there.
  2. I learned a lot about gardening!  Between the people who worked in the garden center and the company that I worked for, there was new information about plants coming my way every day. I have some new favorite plants and my knowledge base has expanded more than I could have imagined!
  3. I enjoyed the customers. It’s fun to help people with their plants. I could probably start a whole blog just about that. The questions are always interesting and sharing my passion comes naturally to me. This was definitely a plus!
  4. The exercise is great! I walked between four and seven miles almost every work day, usually pushing and pulling large carts of plants. The physical challenge of walking and lifting pushed me to be stronger physically and mentally. I lost almost twenty pounds and I feel better than I have in a very long time.
  5. The plant products are so much fun.. every day saw something new and interesting rolling in (literally).
  6. The merchandising aspect brought me joy. It was challenging and very satisfying to receive shipments of plants and then transform them into  displays or arrangements that looked great and made people want to buy them.
  7. I got to do a lot of deadheading, some weeding and some watering. You know how I feel about those tasks. 🙂
  8. The hours were extremely flexible.
  9. I worked with a lot of very nice people, both in the store and remotely. Merchandisers work independently, but I was in contact with people from my company every day. It was a good balance of human contact and independence.

 

The downside:

  1. Sometimes the retail aspect got me down. I was a little worn out watching what I consider to be an art form marketed on a big scale to make huge amounts of money.
  2. It’s really really hard, hot, cold work.
  3. A big part of my job was working with the store and my company to make sure that the vendors who we serviced (there were many) received the product that they paid for (merchandising of their plant material in the store). Sometimes it was very difficult to bring everyone together in that large space to get the job done and keep everyone happy.
  4. I had to throw a lot of things away. Cardboard is recycled but there could be improvement in this area. It hurt my heart to discard plants and plastic. That’s all I can say about that.
  5. The rate of pay for my work was very low considering the amount of hard labor and technical skill required to do it correctly. If I were paid more, the nine advantages above would have easily trumped the five disadvantages and I might have stayed longer. It’s humbling to think about the people who don’t have other options for work. Be kind, because you don’t really  know the story behind the person who’s trying to help you.

The bottom line is that I have kids in college and just above minimum wage doesn’t have much impact on our family budget. I’m moving back to the human services world to a full time (shaking in my gardening boots about the schedule) position with a company that I worked for over twenty years ago. I’m very excited about my new job, the people who I’ll enjoy meeting and working with and the challenges that it will bring. There’s even a big fenced in yard there that will be perfect for some gardening! I’m kind of leaving the paid gardening field but hoping to spend more time in my own garden again and maybe even more time on my blog.

I hope that this finds you, my blogging friends and readers, doing well. I’m about to plant a few bags of tulips (yes, there’s still time). I may even move more perennials around. Leave me a comment and let me know how you’re doing. I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch!

Enjoy everything!

Love, Michele

And the Winner of the Harbor Sweets GATHER Chocolate Is….

Deborah Reichman!

  who said…  

“My leaf fennel plant draws lots of buzz activity as well as black swallowtail caterpillars. I would love to try your chocolates!”

I’m going to look for some leaf fennel this week!  🙂

Thank you all for participating! I don’t do too many giveaways, but they are fun!

Just to insure transparency, here are some photos of our process as we conducted the drawing…

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Congratulations Deborah!  Please send me an email at thesalemgarden@gmail.com with your address so I can send your chocolates to you!

Thanks again,

Michele

 

GATHER Chocolate – A Wonderful New Collection of Chocolates from Harbor Sweets Handmade Chocolates and a Giveaway!

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Good morning everyone! Happy Sunday and Happy Second Day of Rain is Falling Over Salem, Massachusetts Day! I’m so happy to finally see some precipitation.  We need it!

We also need our bees! As we know, our pollinators are in peril. There are several theories about why we’re loosing them, but time and again research points to the use of pesticides as the reason for the decline and in many cases, collapses of bee populations worldwide.

I was recently approached by Harbor Sweets Handmade Chocolates,  a wonderful chocolate company here in Salem, and asked to sample their new line of local honey infused chocolate. I don’t do too many reviews on The Salem Garden these days, but in this case I couldn’t resist sampling Gather.

I love chocolate, and chocolate infused with honey and sold with the intention of bringing attention to the plight of the honeybee was irresistible. A portion of the profit is being donated to the Pollinator Partnership, to aid in their efforts to preserve and protect our pollinators!

This is a wonderful product in so many ways! Gather helps our honeybees, it’s absolutely delicious and it’s a very unique and special gift or indulgence if you’re feeling decadent.

I shared each piece with a member of my family since I was required to taste each one so that I could write about it 😉 . My favorite was the Coconut Cluster, but each piece was special and delicious. My youngest son loved the caramelized honey truffle and Michael enjoyed the Sesame Crunch.

Gather launched on September 6th and is available on the Harbor Sweets website by clicking  here.  Gather can also be purchased at the Harbor Sweets retail store here in Salem, or at their retail locations.

Harbor Sweets gave me a box to give away to one of my readers. I want to make it an easy entry so everyone can participate. Just say hi in the comments section below, or share your favorite pollinator plant if you’d like to. I’ll randomly draw a name and mail the box of chocolate to one of you, wherever you are in the world! Please enter by Tuesday at 8pm USA Eastern time!

Be sure to check out the video below to learn a little bit more about Gather and click on the links above to the Harbor Sweets website to order online or to visit a Harbor Sweets retail location. The holidays are just around the corner! Gather is a perfect holiday treat!

Don’t forget to leave me a comment to enter!

Michele

What’s Been Happening in the Garden, for a While- September 14, 2016

So, the last time I worked on this post was September 1st and the last time I posted anything was … August 10th, from my vacation..

Aye aye aye..

One of the problems with garden blogging is that summer is a busy time in the garden, and at work, and with family… so just when we “should” be blogging like crazy, there is no time to do it.

I think that this happens to other garden bloggers too. We have the best of intentions but we’re kind of out in the garden, or at the beach…

I’ve been a bit stuck in blogging land in other ways too.

I think I need to clearly define my purpose here. Sometimes I feel like I’m all over the place because I have a million different interests and I get distracted or overwhelmed. Now that the kids are settling into all of their different school environments and I technically should have more time on my hands I’m going to try to focus in a little.

If I blogged about just one of the questions that I’m asked or that I overhear every day at my job as a plant merchandiser I’d have the best blog in the world! The questions are endless.

So, heres to moving forward and catching up!

Maybe I should start with some pics of where we are, or were, a few weeks ago. It’s still about the same. One of the very tough aspects of this garden year has been the extreme drought that we’re experiencing in Massachusetts. It. just. won’t. rain.   About once a week we have a forecast for some rain but again and again it squeeks by and misses us..

IMG_1939In spite of this, we still have a few black eyed susan hanging in there. I should mention that the photo credit for this picture goes to my little Alli.

IMG_1936The pepper crop has been decent.

IMG_1935It’s not what it would be with a more consistent drink, but we’ve been watering conservatively.

IMG_1934The Russian kale seems to thrive no matter what. We like this vegetable, it’s sweeter than standard kale.

IMG_1929This was a Berkley Tye-Dye tomato. These plants weren’t huge producers but we’ve enjoyed the fruit that we’ve picked.

IMG_1926The star of my tomato patch was this variety… Principe Borghese.. they will be returning next year!

IMG_1924We’ve used them for everything from sauce to salads and they’re always perfect! The plants looked downright gangly when I put them in and I thought I’d be pulling them out, but they rebounded and took off!

IMG_1932I’m 98% sure that these are Manyel tomatoes.. I can’t be 100% because they grew out of the chicken poop compost in another part of the yard and we transplanted them to see what would happen. I can baby plants along for months with fans and lights and vermicompost and they’ll never do as well as the ones that grow out of last year’s compost.

IMG_1912Here’s another yellow variety… I don’t have the name on hand but this was grown from seed this year. Looks like there’s some blight taking over.

IMG_1922The green beans were chomped in half by something (we think a deer jumped the fence).. good news is they’ve grown back and are now full of beans.

IMG_1921The lemon (on the left) and Osmin basil (on the right) has been a fun little twist. I should cook with it more than I do but I’ve been throwing it onto salads and chicken.

IMG_1918There’s been good news and bad news about the cucumbers.

The good news is that they grew. I’ve battled cucumber beetles and squash bugs a lot for the past several years. Last year I didn’t plant any cucumber or zucchini in hopes of decreasing the populations of pests and it worked!

The bad news is that these pickling cucs were just a pain in the neck. I never got the hang of when to harvest them. I checked often but they were either not ready yet or had passed and turned yellow. I think it’s all about having time and staying focused. That can a little challenging for me.

IMG_1915The zucchini did okay in terms of pests but didn’t produce much. I’ve been wondering if our bee population is down and if the pollination rate was low. I’m not sure about what happened here but feel free to weigh in with your thoughts.

IMG_1913The seeds for these rattlesnake beans came from Michael’s uncle in Arizona. They’ve been a fun twist too. Their easy to grow and cook up beautifully! I’ll have to post a pic here or on instagram of the beans themselves. They’re beautiful!

So, that’s an update of the kitchen garden. The flower gardens are hanging in there but not really flourishing like they usually do. I didn’t even plant zinnias this year because it was way too dry in June. I hope the seeds last until next year!

My next post, which I promise will be soon, will feature a new chocolate from the Harbor Sweets Chocolate Company that I’ve been asked to review..

Think chocolate and honey..it’s divine and I’ll be giving a box away!

Don’t miss it!

What’s growing in your garden? Are you dealing with drought or deluge?

Please say hi so I know you were here! I love that!!

Thanks for stopping in!

Enjoy everything!

Michele

 

 

Overnight Pickles

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I’m starting to see lots of pictures of cucumber crops coming in everywhere, so I thought I’d share my favorite overnight pickles recipe since I haven’t posted it in a few years. This recipe is my mother-in-law’s and it’s the best overnight refrigerator pickle recipe ever! Here in the blogosphere we can track our post view statistics and my past posts of this recipe are in the top three, right up there with the Samantha statue post from 2012  and What’s Eating the Petunias? which might also be helpful to you if you’re seeing big holes in your petunia flowers.

This recipe is very easy, doesn’t require canning and uses up that counter full of cucumbers in just a few minutes. Best of all, everyone will love them! Let me know how they turn out!

Love, Michele

Overnight Pickles

4 cups of water

1/2 cup of white vinegar

3 tablespoons of pickling or kosher salt

2 tablespoons of sugar

garlic cloves (3 per quart jar)

1 teaspoon of mustard seed or 1 tablespoon of pickling spice

dill seeds or fresh dill

8-10 pickling cucumbers

Wash and quarter pickling cucumbers (or slice into rounds if you prefer) and pack into quart or pint jars. As written, this recipe makes 2 quarts and one pint, I double it to make five quarts.  Make a brine by bringing the first four ingredients to a boil and then cooling. Once cool, pour into jars over cucumbers and add spices, garlic and dill. Close jars and refrigerate overnight. They’ll be ready the next day!

Enjoy!

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