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.

img_2693-003

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?

img_2708-003

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?

img_2716-003

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.

img_2722-003

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.

img_2729-003

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…

img_6425

img_6426

img_6430

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!

IMG_1968

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

IMG_9779

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!

IMG_2125

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day- July 2016

Happy Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day!

Things are cooking along in our garden…

Here’s what’s blooming…

IMG_1810Carpet Rose

IMG_1811Pink Geranium

IMG_1814Pink petunias

IMG_1816Pink Mandevilla

IMG_1820Salmon pink geranium

There’s a theme here…

Most of the front yard is pink this year. I’m just in this very pink place and I’m loving it!

I’d like to post some broader photos but I’m not feeling quite that brave.

There’s gaps and paint that needs some work.  Maybe we’ll get to that soon.

IMG_1818We have several knockout rose bushes which will bloom all summer long,  no painting needed…

IMG_1825

I just planted this clump of daisies that I won at Garden Club in June. They’re on their second bloom.

IMG_1829I believe that this is obedient plant, or a volunteer foxglove?  We’ve discussed this other years and I’m quite sure that the consensus was obedient plant.

IMG_1821Lovage flower, not too lovely, but interesting..

IMG_1807Bee balm/monarda

IMG_1801This is the very first purple coneflower, and a friend 🙂

IMG_1798The beginning of the black-eyed Susan and day lilies…

IMG_1796Liatris, just getting started..

IMG_1794Bellflower

IMG_1792One of my favorite day lilies

IMG_1788Balloon flower

IMG_1787Yarrow

IMG_1783I believe that this is a very old type of rudbekia. It’s originally from the Derby Garden at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, but I’ve had it for years.

IMG_1772Much newer pink gaura

IMG_1768and Peach Blossom Blanket flower..

We’ve been selling lots of blanket flower at my workplace so I had to plant some and I’m enjoying it.  It seems to be very tolerant of changes in temperature and humidity and it’s very compact and low growing, so perfect at the front of a bed. I’ll keep you posted as the summer goes on.

What’s blooming in your garden? Be sure to visit May Dreams Gardens and check out the links to gardens all over the world. It’s so much fun to look around from there!

Take care and enjoy!

Love, Michele

 

 

What’s Happening in the Garden–July 11, 2016

Oh my goodness… It’s been a month.. and I have a million posts written in my head but not one made it’s way to my blog.  I’m sorry!

People ask questions at work that would be great posts all the time. I need to  write about the experience of serving people in a garden center and share some of that. I love the questions! Some are very common and happen all day (is it the annual or the perennial that comes back every year?) and some are surprises. Let’s just say I’m learning a lot about plants and gardening so I’m probably much happier than the average garden center employee.

I wish I had about five more hours in the day. I think I’d feel perfectly balanced and on top of everything if I did.

Or not.

Then, there’s the garden…

That keeps us busy.

This isn’t exactly the epic gardening year that I always think it’s going to be, but we’re doing okay. It’s been quite dry so the watering is non-stop. I think I lost my garlic crop to neglect and I feel badly about that, but it happens.

IMG_1709On the bright side, the potatoes are doing well. These are kennebec and we have three pots of them. I like growing them in pots because the disease and critter issues decrease a lot when they’re protected by the wall of the container.

IMG_1710The sungold tomatoes did better than I expected. My tomatoes went through a rough patch when I was just too busy with work and end of the school  year commitments to take care of them, but many have rebounded nicely. This variety does great in a pot.

IMG_1717I think that’s a little spider web, but some of you may know better. Is it going  to be okay?

IMG_1718The blueberry bushes are clinging to life. This is so sad because they were great last year. I’m still blaming that extreme cold(-10)  few days for this. I’d welcome any ideas for organically fertilizing and shoring them up.

IMG_1721The lovage has lept. I love leaping lovage. It tastes like celery and it looks so cool.

IMG_1722Most of our kaleidoscope mix and chocolate beauty pepper plants are still with us. The bunnies got a few of them.

IMG_1724These rattlesnake beans came from seeds that Michael’s uncle gave us when we were in Arizona in January. I’m waiting for them to climb their poles but they’re just sitting there teasing me!

IMG_1725-001This is Russian kale and it’s sweet! I’m using it as a vegetable, and as a filler in containers. Stay tuned for a better look at that on Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on the fifteenth.

IMG_1726Here’s a few more tomato plants that I had given up hope on.

I believe my exact words to Michael were “we’re going to have to go buy some tomato  plants.”

He wasn’t too happy about that since they’d been living on our pool table for quite a while.

You just never know if things are going to come back…

IMG_1727The opalka tomatoes are too, along with the strawberry plants that I thought we had lost a few years  ago.

IMG_1728It’s late, but there’s basil growing and there’ll be plenty of time to enjoy it. This variety is Osmin from Pinetree Seeds. I need to do rock removal everywhere. They look huge next to the seedlings, don’t they?

IMG_1729And this is lemon basil. and little rocks.

If it all survives the critters it should be a foot high for my next What’s Happening update.

IMG_1731The lettuce is awesome, I need to plant some more asap!

IMG_1735And then there’s the onions… remember my onions last year?

IMG_9473Here they are! They were fabulous!

I’m not so sure about this year’s crop. They’re competing for space with a chipmunk and it’s been quite a battle. Those furrows that you see in the middle of the photo of this year’s onions are the chipmunk’s mark.

I know chippys are cute, and they have stripes on their back, and they sing in a movie…

But, I’d like for them to stay away from the garden. That’s all..

IMG_1736So this may be my favorite photo of this post, if not the whole season. Michael is using rhubarb leaves as mulch! I have a zillion questions about whether or not this is a good idea, but I think it’s really creative. Will it work, I don’t know? Are those leaves okay for the soil?  I’m not sure… but they look great!

IMG_1738I caved and planted store bought zucchini  plants, so far so good.

IMG_1739Same with the cucumber. This isn’t a great photo but I got these bamboo hoops from freecycle a few years ago and I love them. I hope the plants grow up over them again.

IMG_1741-001Mother Swiss chard and baby swiss chard are happy together.

IMG_1765So are our new baby chicks. This is one of the easter eggers.

IMG_1755We also have another Easter egger, two white leghorns, two Buckeyes and a Black Giant.

IMG_1743The black Giant is going to weigh ten pounds and she already rules the roost.

I’m loving our new little flock this year. These chicks seem special, maybe because with the exception of the EEs, they’re all new breeds to us.

If you’re still reading I need to say thank you so so much, this is a long post!

If I posted more often, they could be quite short, and easy to read.

Hmmm…

How’s your garden growing? Leave me a comment so I can check in with you 😉 I love to hear about how you’re doing!

Enjoy everything!

Love, Michele