Category Archives: gardening

New recipe and mid-summer garden update

My friend Lauren is an accomplished and adventurous cook, and after trying the dal she made, I was emboldened to try it myself. It’s a very easy recipe from Oh She Glows, it just required a few ingredients we don’t regularly have in the pantry. I used broccoli, sweet potato, and tofu for the veggies, and left out the minced onion and the garnish (lime juice and cilantro).

IMG_20180714_132631As for the garden…I can’t believe I haven’t updated here since Memorial Day weekend! Since then, the calibrochoa has sprawled beautifully. Next spring, I’ll be a little more intentional with my annuals; I loved last year’s combination of Icelandic poppies, calibrochoa, verbena, and lobelia – maybe with some snapdragons too. (The marigolds are bright and healthy but don’t seem to be doing much to keep the critters away.)

IMG_20180629_082506The strawberries came and went – we had the last of them in early July. Next year perhaps I’ll make room for them in my raised bed; I think they might have been crowded in the hanging baskets, and definitely in the (alleged) strawberry pot. The raspberries came in nicely – I was so excited to have any! Only a few canes produced but they are so delicious. The blueberries are ripening too, and I expect the first ones will be ready later this month and into August.


IMG_20180620_083441The Wando shelling peas are the surprise hit of the summer – everyone loved them, even the toddler! I’ll do more of these next year, and prioritize them a bit more. They all came in over the course of a week or two, but they were great. I’m not sure what happened with the sweet peas, but I’ll try them again next year too. (And maybe nasturtiums in the hanging baskets, instead of the strawberries.)

Of the six pumpkin plants I put in the ground, four seem to have disappeared entirely and two are thriving hugely, with plenty of big yellow flowers. No sign of any actual pumpkins yet.


IMG_20180711_162837The sunflowers indeed disliked being transplanted (as it said on the packet); I don’t think I’ll bother with them again next year. The wildflowers, however, have just started popping in the last week or two, and it’s a pretty mix. More wildflowers next year!

The tomato plants are enormous – the raised bed is like a jungle. I’ve harvested the basil in there twice already, and now I think it’s crowded out. Next year I’ll plant it around the edges instead of between the rows of tomatoes, and probably should plant fewer tomato plants as well. I’ve talked with a neighbor about sharing seeds next spring, which should help. I find it so difficult to thin the plants when I’m supposed to! Anyway, the tomatoes are still mostly green now, but there are going to be LOTS…if we can keep the squirrels away.



Above, clockwise from top left: daylily (they were here when we moved in), rose campion (transplanted from my mom’s place), calla lily (previously mis-identified as lily of the valley; it spent the winter in the basement); new balloon flower; filling the watering can at the rain barrel.



Filed under food, gardening, recipes, summer

Memorial Day Weekend gardening

Weather-wise, this weekend was a real mixed bag, nearly 90 degrees on Saturday plunging to the 50s on Sunday. We are safe from freezing by now, knock on wood, and the plants seem to be weathering the weather. Once again, the alphabetical approach:


Calibrochoa and celosia

Annuals: The marigolds I planted from seed are flowering now – miraculous! I got a calibrochoa and some celosia too. Last year I had some lobelia and verbena and poppies, which I loved. Perennials make more sense in terms of money and time, but a few annuals are so nice for their bright colors.


Magnolia grown from seed

Berries: We got to eat one beautifully red strawberry, but that brings the score to Humans: 1, Squirrels/birds: 1+????? I’m going to have to put netting around the berries if we want to eat any more this year. The raspberries and blueberries are developing too, but not ripe yet.


Our lone, delicious strawberry


Raspberries: if the birds get ’em all, let the record show…they existed

Coral bells: New! I read in the garden catalog that they have colorful foliage and do well in part shade, so I got one each of three varieties to plant in the back yard, between the daylilies and the hellebore.


Daylilies, coral bells, dusty miller (from last year, improbably), hellebore

Herbs: The rosemary in the ground had been thriving, but then suddenly sort of shriveled and shrunk and wilted/dried up. I got another one and put it in a pot. Got some parsley, too. Basil is in with the tomatoes, still on the small side, but looking healthy for the most part.

Peas: The sweet peas never did emerge, but the Wando shelling peas are growing. None have quite latched onto the teepee yet, but they are sending out little tendrils…

Sunflowers: The seeds I planted in the ground sprouted and were looking good and healthy, but they have disappeared. Critters!

Tomatoes: Mine that I started from seed are much smaller than the ones in the nursery now, but I’m hoping they’ll catch up.

Wildflowers: The wildflower mix has sprouted! I can’t tell what everything will be yet, but it’s nice to have a little mystery in the garden.


Lily of the valley (I think) in a found wooden box planter

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Filed under gardening, spring

Spring garden, mid-May

There are beginning to be a lot of plants to keep track of, so here’s an alphabetical update!



Berries: Both the blueberry and raspberry bushes are thriving in their barrels! They are full and green, and the blueberry bush is full of little white flowers. The strawberry plants – both in the hanging planters and the pot – have white flowers and green berries.

Daffodils and narcissus: These came up beautifully! It was nice to have some early color in the garden. And gratifying to see that they are indeed of zero interest to rabbits and squirrels.

Dogwood trees: We don’t have one, but there are so many in our neighborhood, and they are all gorgeous right now. As a rule I don’t like pink, but for these I make an exception. (“They don’t look like dogs!” -toddler)


Herbs: Last year’s lavender, rosemary, sage, and allium survived the winter and are thriving. I got a new mint plant, and it is growing so enthusiastically in its pot that I didn’t feel bad harvesting some recently for recipes.


Honeysuckle: Seems to be doing very well, and has grown some nice yellow flowers. I’m hoping it will take over the back fence.

Hyacinth, grape: These got nibbled pretty much to death thanks to the urban wildlife. Also, I cannot explain to the toddler in a way she will understand that they are not, in fact, grapes.

Marigolds: The ones I bought are doing well, and the ones I grew from seed are coming along – a couple in with the strawberries, and three or four in the raised bed. It might have been too much to hope that they would deter squirrels, though.

Peas: The sweet peas have yet to emerge, and I’m losing hope, but the shelling peas are growing ambitiously. I gave some of the seedlings away to friends, and I still have more than I know what to do with.


Phlox: My five plants from last year are a nice bright green but have yet to flower. My mom got me two more, one purple and one pink. Maybe mine are just late bloomers? Or not getting enough sun…

Pumpkins: Not sure if these plants are going to make it. They were ambitious in their seed tray, but struggling outside. They’re under a neighbor’s tree, so they probably have too much shade, plus stuff falling on them all the time, and it’s rocky soil…we’ll see.

Sunflowers: I started some seeds in pots, and these are growing upward in a leggy fashion (lots of stem, few leaves). I just planted some more directly in the ground outside, and am waiting to see if they’ll grow, or get dug up by squirrels. Pests. I’m trying two varieties, one that may grow to 4-5′ and one “dwarf” that is expected to be 18-24″.


The lone tulip that bloomed. Beheaded less than a day after this photo.

Tomatoes: All of the varieties I started indoors resulted in healthy seedlings – more than I could plant! I’ve moved several into the raised bed (Glacier, Chocolate Cherry, and Sun Gold), planted a few in last year’s buckets, gave some (Glacier and Ace 55) to friends, and still have more.

Tulips: Every single one has been beheaded. SQUIRRELS.

Wildflowers: I planted a “bring home the butterflies” mix this past week, which was a little later than they should have gone in, and it’s too early to tell if they’ll sprout yet or not. Fingers crossed!


Filed under gardening, spring

Sprouts and sprouts



A beautiful day! On our neighborhood walks, there’s always a new plant or flower to look at; today we saw yellow dandelions, lots of daffodils, some tulips, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, and violets.

The barrels of berries remained more or less unbothered by critters overnight, but I’m planning to add some cedar mulch soon – to prevent weeds, hold in moisture, and add a little acidity.





The seedlings in peat trays at a south-facing window seemed to have stalled, so I transplanted some tomatoes and marigolds into four-inch pots and some basil into a rectangular planter. I also dared, slightly ahead of schedule, to plant the pumpkin seedlings outside. They won’t get as much sun as they’d like, but the tomatoes and berries are my priority. For now I’m hoping we won’t have a late frost…


Pumpkin patch, with daffodils (right) and struggling grape hyacinth (front)

I planted the honeysuckle right in the middle of the back fence. It’s already the tallest thing there – there are some daylilies to one side and some herbs to the other, but there’s not a lot of height in the back yard yet so I hope it grows up and out.

Last year’s three abbotswood shrubs have come back really nicely and have plenty of green. When they bloom, they have small pale yellow flowers.



Abbotswood shrub




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Filed under gardening, plants, spring

And we’re back…and it’s spring!


Jean skirt, front.

My new sewing machine is wonderful! I got it at a local shop that offers one-on-one lessons for free if you get your machine there, so I was able to learn the basics right away, and I’ve already completed my jean skirt project (just in time for some springlike weather) and started making some fabric cards.

The latter were inspired by an archivist friend of mine; we’re pen pals and she always sends her letters on the most interesting “stationery.” Part of her most recent letter came on a card that was fabric on one side and paper on the other, sewn together at the edges (and, I suspect, with some type of adhesive between). My first two attempts – without adhesive, using a double stitch – were a bit wrinkly. The second two were marginally better – I used PVA glue, which I had from bookmaking, and tried a different stitch – but there is still room for improvement.


Fabric card, black and white polka dots with blue thread

Spring garden update: the indoor seeds (basil, tomato, pumpkin, marigold) are still doing well, with the addition of some seed starter mix to the peat trays. Outside, my daffodils have just popped, and other bulbs are emerging as well – tulips, grape hyacinth (muscari), and narcissus. (The tulips look a little munched, thanks to the backyard bunnies, but I think at least some will survive.)

IMG_20180427_131817We found barrel-type planters for berries – last year’s “Raspberry Shortcake” thornless raspberry, which I transplanted from a 12″ terra cotta pot, and a new “Peach Sorbet” blueberry bush, which I brought home today. I was able to (trans)plant this morning while the weather was still gorgeous, and didn’t have to water because it rained this afternoon. I ran out of time to plant the honeysuckle vine, but that gives me a little more time to decide where it should go, because option #1 turned out to have a giant tree root about 8 inches down.

Around the neighborhood, snowdrops and crocuses have come and gone, daffodils are up, forsythia is blooming, and I’ve seen a few hyacinths in the past few days.

It’s still too early to move the seedlings outside or plant the strawberries, marigolds (good for repelling critters and bugs), and mint I got today…but soon.


Daffodils and tulips




New blueberry bush


Raspberry bush (need to prune dead canes)


“Appletini” mint

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Filed under arts and crafts, gardening, spring

Spring gardening: Starting seeds


Page from When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes: “A seed will start growing.”


Grow cube from Gale: “Cultivate Community”

There may still be plenty of snow on the ground, but it’s the perfect time (actually, maybe a tiny bit late) to start seeds indoors! Today, we went to the garden center to pick up reusable plastic trays with peat pellets, and planted lots of seeds: “Jack O’ Lantern” pumpkins from Plimouth Plantation, sweet basil (previous year’s seeds, so we’ll see how many germinate), and four types of tomato (Sun Gold, Chocolate Cherry, Ace 55, and Irish Glacier). We also planted some marigold seeds in a “grow cube” (also peat) that I got at the Public Library Association conference last week – a rather unusual but much appreciated giveaway from a vendor.

The seed trays are upstairs in front of one of our few south-facing windows, with a grow light for extra rays, and a squirt bottle nearby to keep them moist. It will be exciting to see them start to sprout in about a week.


Squirt. Bottle.


Seed tray with tomato varieties

Outside, I’m keeping an eye out for shoots coming up from bulbs we planted last fall. Some poked up before the last big blizzard, but the temperature hasn’t dipped too far below freezing, so I hope they’ll be okay: we planted daffodils, narcissus, grape hyacinth (muscari), and tulips.


From When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes: “Spring can come quickly or slowly. It changes its mind a lot.”

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Filed under gardening, seasons, spring

Colors in Winter

Throughout the spring, summer, and early fall, I took pictures of flowers and plants around our neighborhood. I was gathering ideas for my own garden, but also admiring others’ arrangements with no intention of recreating them myself. In mid-January, I’m not doing much gardening – just tending to my African violets, aloe plant, and a few decidedly-not-lush-looking rosemary and thyme plants – but looking at these pictures reminds me of the bright colors that will come around again. Hat tip to Frederick (Leo Lionni).

Captions are the names and locations of plants, to the best of my ability/recollection.


Next door neighbor’s tulips


Grape hyacinth and vinca vine


Bright tulips opening, on our usual walking route


Weeds? Perhaps. But I’ve always loved violets, and their purple with the dandelions’ yellow is a beautiful combination.


Dogwood tree (I think) in blossom, in our neighborhood


Another pair of tulips in the neighborhood


Our rhododendron, before I gave it away


Some beardy irises with morning dew (or rain?)


Pallets repurposed as planters, outside Kickstand Cafe


Don’t remember what these two-toned ones are called, but the contrast is striking


My large planter, with Icelandic poppies and verbena


Clover on an overcast morning, near Mass Ave


Rose campion, successfully transplanted, with a bit of lavender sprawling in, and vinca vine (since removed)


Love this wildflower garden on Mass Ave


Same garden, another day. If we had full sun I would do exactly this.


A neighbor’s potted nasturtium


Purple balloon flowers


Don’t know the name for these, but the green and pink remind me of watermelon tourmaline.


Don’t remember the name of this one either but it reminds me of something Dr. Seuss would invent.


Someone in our neighborhood grew truly enormous sunflowers – nearly ten feet tall by the end of summer.


Daisies and coneflower/echinacea, I think. I like this combination.


Morning glory: the best way to beautify a chain link fence.


Early hydrangea




Later hydrangea


Blue hydrangea


A type of sedum, I think? Saw this everywhere in August and September




And more cosmos




Nasturtium with variegated leaves


Sweet pea


A feast for a butterfly!


Not sure. Some relation of hydrangea?


No idea.



Filed under gardening, plants