Monday, March 9, 2015

We've been hit by several eleventh-hour snowstorms here in Virginia over the past few weeks. And we discovered a few things - one of which is that we have a perfect sledding hill right next to our house, and that sledding under a full moon is something everyone should do in their lifetime. Our little tri-colored terrier, Pearly, even hopped on for a ride. She knew what was good for her. Nothing shakes off cabin fever like flying down a slope into the dark and screaming your head off. Also, if snowed-in, blood oranges work nicely for a whisky sour.

And, honestly, the rest of it is a blur. Lots of reading and movies and the small 'track' in our house was well-worn with running, squealing kids. March is the month of birthdays around here, too. Two, seven and forty-four!

I can tell you, though, what was not blurred or clouded in any form was the elation we all felt yesterday, when it was sixty degrees. Things are smelling good out there in the big, wide world. The earth is warming up and green shoots are pushing their way up through the soil. We are being pulled to the unfurling of springtime, and it is most welcome.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Winter, The Winter

Lately, I feel as if my own voice has been reduced to a squeak. My multiple life roles can be a challenge to balance and as an introvert, I can only recharge through down-time that requires no verbal feedback from me (or additional stimuli). Writing needs time and thought and after responding to everyone else all day, I got nothing. I am okay with this, as long as I can pass out face first into the pillow at the end of the day, without anyone's feelings getting hurt. But my writing does suffer, or simply . . . . doesn't exist at all.


The vast, quiet of winter landscapes is good for this type of regrouping, no doubt. No garden to tend to. No pull to rush outside and be doing something fabulous. I spend a chunk of my alone time just staring out at the mountains, allowing my brain to go . . . void. In a good way for me, in a probably frustrating way for my family.

But once I find my center, I can laugh at the toddler's sense of humor and keep up with his boundless energy full of running and roars!; and truly enjoy the seven-year old's passion for horses while watching her at her first riding lessons. Corey and I have gotten some date night time going to basketball games here at UVa - because they are crushing it this season and going to the stadium for a game is thrilling. And my girlfriends keep me going with evenings out to see bands like Foxygen or DJ Shadow or a Bowie coverband or just to have a cocktail or getting together for family dinners.

The garden is still sleeping and I marvel at how tidy it looks in the dead of winter. Waiting-waiting-waiting - life getting ready to push through the soil (c'mon spring bulbs!). I am taking an edible landscaping workshop tonight - should be perfect for inspiration. I would love to add blueberries to our garden this year.

There is, indeed, gratitude for a full life. From the top: A winter morning in Sugar Hollow. Making the most of indoor gardening: forced bulbs, terrariums and cut eucalyptus. Walking with the monkeys at Mint Springs. In February, the house be smellin' like hyacinths. And, the slower pace of vinyl - listening to Townes Van Zandt.

Other things that I have been loving lately: my new, more consistent yoga practice and daily walks; golden milk; the band Warpaint; finally getting to read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and the podcasts WTF with Marc Maron and By The Way with Jeff Garlin.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Getting Back to Autumn

A lot of cleanup happening in the garden these days. It is amazing, when I think that two years ago I was very pregnant with a big baby. (Sam was almost nine pounds when he was born - and me being 5' 1", you can imagine how I looked. I made everyone around me nervous, starting at about seven months.) And last autumn, I was whooped from work, adjusting to having a kindergartner and nursing that big baby.

But this year, the mobility is back and it feels incredible! I have been raking and mulching leaves - to return to the beds for overwintering and a good feeding. I planted a fragrant winter daphne and 100 bulbs. This weekend, I hope to clean out the much-ignored cold frame - filling it with compost and mulched leaves and getting it ready to grow greens and maybe radishes for us in late winter and early spring.

So, I think I am ready for winter. I still have a lilac to move and roses to prune. But the wood shed is full, thanks to Corey - which will heat our house by-way of the wood stove. And I have a pile of new books from the Friends of the Library sale, along with saved gardening magazines that I like to revisit. I just need to restock the bar with my favorite liqueurs (for coffees and spiked hot chocolate) and regular whiskey and sipping whiskey (for the rest of the time).

Photos from top: Kayaking at Beaver Creek with a friend on an early Sunday morning. Going over the mountains in Afton. Visiting The Pavilion Gardens at UVa. 'Heavenly Blue' morning glories from Willa's balcony. Autumn in Sugar Hollow - as seen from my bedroom balcony.

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Article on Bulbs for RHome Magazine's Garden Column

For the beginner gardener, spring-blooming bulbs are a satisfying, easy start. For the seasoned gardener with a failing memory (me), spring-blooming bulbs are a delight because every forgotten fall-planted bulb is a spring-time surprise. For any gardener, the sweetness of early life in the waning, winter garden and the welcomed injection of color within a previously bleak landscape – is the best kind of jumpstart to the approaching spring season.

The first step is actually just remembering to plant bulbs at a time when gardening tends to be off of the radar – mid- to late-autumn. (I have planted bulbs as late as Thanksgiving.) Bulbs will be available at local garden centers throughout this time period and also through catalogs. You can actually start ordering them as early as June (many places will offer early- bird discounts) and the bulbs will be shipped in the fall.

I asked Becky Heath, of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs out of Gloucester, Virginia, for her top two growing tips for bulbs.  Her first recommendation focuses on siting, forever a very important element to consider when planting your bulbs to ensure success. “Humans tend to place plants where they want to see them.  We suggest that sun-loving bulbs be planted in full sun and shade lovers be planted in the shade…they will be happier, perform better and therefore make the gardener happy, too!”

Also, when planting, think of planting in masses or groups of at least five. They will offer more, aesthetically, to the landscape in drifts instead of singlets. And ditch the bulb planter. I have had better luck planting large amounts of bulbs with a spade by just hitting it into the dirt, moving it back and forth and dropping the bulbs in. Becky has a simple recommendation for creating a bulb raised bed. “Most of our soils are somewhat depleted of nutrients.  We suggest putting down about 6” of compost on top of the ground; place the bulbs on top of the compost and cover them with either 6” more compost, top soil or light mulch.  The bulbs will get the nutrients they need from the compost and will automatically have terrific drainage from the ‘raised bed’ that was just created by planting in this way.”

The trickier element of bulb planting involves timing, if you want constant color and blooms throughout the season. Here is a quick chart to get you started.

Early spring – Snow drops, crocuses, early daffodils. To try: Narcissus “Golden Echo” from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs offers a long-lasting bloom and is pest proof. Crocus “Blue Pearl” is ideal for an early spring show that will also naturalize.

Mid-spring – Later-blooming daffodils, tulips, fritillaries, glory-of-the-snow. To try: Narcissus “Thalia,” an old fashioned daffodil with a scent and pure white flower. Tulip “Angelique” – Double-ruffled flower heads come in shades of pale pink and cream – perfect for the cutting garden. Glory-of-the-snow, Chionodaxa forbesii, is the most asked after spring bulb in our gardens. The small, star-shaped blue and purple flowers dot the landscape and create a fairy-world like groundcover. This particular heirloom variety dates back to 1880.

Late spring/early summer – Alliums-alliums-alliums! Globe-shaped flowers burst into the season atop tall stems that complement everything in the cottage garden. To try: Allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’ – one of the easiest allium varieties to cultivate. Allium schubertii offers fireworks in flower form. And, Allium caeruleum is a true blue allium. (An extra perk of alliums is that they are not particularly tempting to the wildlife.)

Dream big this autumn. Then, celebrate each new green shoot that pushes through the soil come February, March, April and May – as they mark the unfolding of every delicate, ephemeral spring moment and the gleeful march toward longer, warmer days.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Letting August Bring Us On Home

All photos from our gardens, except the top photo and the last. {The last is from Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond - a landscaping feat in and of itself, overlooking the James River.} Sam and I also visited the Edgar Allan Poe Museum during that same day - and finally got to see its Enchanted Garden.

The top photo is Willow Spring - in Sugar Hollow.

We have hit that time of year when we are celebrating tomato and melon harvests, zinnias, cleomes, black-eyed susans and daisies. I have to say, this is the first time in a long time that I am sad to see summer go. A beach vacation to Chincoteague; camps for Willa that took her on adventures into the woods or taught her about the theater and dance; relaxed schedules; and chirpy, cool evenings in the garden with a whiskey sour in hand, are becoming memories and I am already wistful for them.

Once I shake it off, I can plan for garden plantings and the excitement of autumnal beginnings in the garden and outside of the garden. There are more hydrangeas to plant near our new outdoor room and hopefully the addition of an old-fashioned mock orange. Also,  in a mid-summer anticipation of fall, I got my bulb order in with Brent and Becky by mid-July - 'Angelique' tulips, 'Thalia' narcissus, alliums, a mix of Chionodoxa and 'Spring Beauty' scillas.

Presently loving:

Clafoutis, cantaloupe sorbet, juicing honeydew/green apple/ginger and mint, homemade boozy cherries for cocktails, swiss chard enchiladas and roasting tomatoes from the recipe in The Homemade Pantry.

Imogen Heap's 'Run-Time' video, Lana Del Rey's new album, Ultraviolence, and the band White Fence.

The miso caramels from Gearhart's Chocolates. I actually went to the dentist to set my sensitive teeth straight so I could eat more of these. Priorities!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Pace of June

Things to be grateful for:

St. Germain + strawberry nectar + seltzer + apple mint cocktails.

Trailing roses (pre-Japanese beetle infestation - grrrrrrr.)

A toddler who plucks raspberries right off of the canes and shoves them directly into his mouth. Also, dimpled elbows.

Fragrant dayliles that smell like lily-of-the-valley. (Word.)

Black raspberries and wildflowers from our woods.

Sweet ice-box pickles.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Getting More Verdant, Still

Love-in-a-mist patches.

Roses and fern terrarium.

Horticultural retail therapy at Milmont Greenhouses in Stuarts Draft. {Pale green nicotiana, summer-blooming alyssum, pineapple sage, lavenders, St. John's Wort!}

First elderflowers in our garden {second photo up from the bottom on the right}.

Handpicked bouquets in my favorite shades.

Also, made honeysuckle jelly this past weekend.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Late Spring, Welcome to the Jungle


Things have been BUSY in the garden and the hollow - work, play, party hosting, country road evening twirling. But it has been at a pace I am really cherishing. 

Plants have been moved around, some new ones have been added - including several varieties of spiderwort, boxwood, columbine and anemone. Maple and tulip poplar saplings are becoming small trees (coveted shade!). I am attempting the propagation of an old-fashioned mock orange (photo with cloches), while my elderberry propagation has been successful! The iris patch under the walnut took shape and smote down the dead zone that languished there for years. And I have (finally, finally) been making rustic trellises from downed branches (second photo from top) for our vintage roses.

I have been studying favorite gardens to learn how to 'finish' a garden - lining paths with rocks, edging with flagstones, carving out spaces to define where the garden begins and ends. I definitely still need to work on framing - with border plants and statuesque shrubbery, but I like things to look somewhat wild and rambling. I have been looking at Penelope Hobhouse books before falling asleep. She is up my alley.

For now, I think I am ready to sit back and let nature do its thing.

(Also, I have an article in the May/June issue of RHome on figs. Pick it up if you are in the area!)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Article in Richmond Magazine's RHome - Heirloom Zinnias!

My brain is slowly returning and I am getting back to freelance garden writing. I am lucky, in that favorite editors reach out to me, and make it fun.

A piece I wrote a while back is in the March/April issue of Richmond Magazine's RHome. It is on heirloom zinnias. Read it here.