Good Soil Means An Excellent Garden! January 3, 2016 No Comments

excellent-gardenThomas Jefferson wrote to portraitist Charles Willson Peale in 1811, “though an old man, I am but a young gardener.” Rarely has a truer line been writ, for though I’ve been gardening since the age of five–now a respectable three decades–I am always learning new things. This is particularly true when it comes to soil. For years, I admit, I never paid much attention to the stuff. It was, well, just dirt. If you planted something, tossed in a little fertilizer, and kept it watered, it generally grew, right? What I had failed to notice was how well the plant in question actually grew.

It wasn’t until I started my garden design practice in 1986 and had a chance to see how the same type of plant performed in different locations that I became aware of just how essential good …

Perfect Paisley: Get Wild With Your Style December 19, 2015 No Comments

Perfect-PaisleyIn 1842, Queen Victoria purchased 17 paisley shawls–and the weavers of a little Scottish town called Paisley would be forever grateful. Over the next few decades, these elegant shawls, some with richly embroidered borders, others with opulent all-over patterns, took the world by storm, only to be cast aside as “moth thrivers” in the 1870s, victims of mass production and fickle fashion.

Today these luscious textiles, which once fluttered from the Jacquard looms of Scotland in such quantities that the swirling patterns became known in English as “Paisley” after the key town of its manufacture, are once again prized. “The paisley motif is enduring,” says Laura Fisher, a New York City antique textile dealer. “Even though it’s been interpreted in countless ways, it always seems fresh.” And, she adds, “I’ve never seen an ugly paisley. Even the youngest, cheapest paisleys …

Hybrids Bring Eco-Green To Your Vacation December 11, 2015 No Comments

HybridsThe question: How far can a family of four travel on one tank of gas? The answer: Farther than you might think. In a bright-blue Toyota Prius, my family embarked on a six-day, 600-mile loop around New England on a single tank of gas. Better still, we spent just $16.54 to fill the 11.9-gallon tank and achieved about 50 miles per gallon, an average consistent with Toyota’s estimates of 52 mpg city/45 highway. Broken down, the per-person fuel cost was a little more than $4 for a trip that took us around the historic haunts of Salem, Mass., antiquing in Newburyport, camping on a beach nearby, then driving across the state to stay with Grandma in the Berkshire Hills, before returning home to Redding, Conn.

Clearly, our savings at the gas pump were significant–we spent more on soft drinks than …

Fighting A Menace In Skin Tags December 6, 2015 No Comments

Skin-TagsWe all know that skin tags can afflict anyone. While they may be more partial to babies, those who are overweight and the elderly, the fact of the matter is that anyone can have a skin tag. I can have a skin tag, you can have a skin tag. Anyone. A single person could have anywhere from one to one hundred skin tags on their body at any given time. These little flappy bits of skin like to grow in the folds of skin; your neck, armpit and groin are all hot spots for them. You may even find yourself with a skin tag in the crease of your eyelid. But they are there. You have to be careful if you find that you have these tags. If they grow on your neck you may inadvertently rip them off when brushing your hair. If they grow in your armpits or groin area you may accidentally shave them off.

They can also get caught on jewelry and other pieces of clothing. There are several ways to get rid of skin tags and there‚Äôs no confirmation that one method is better than the others. You can use liquid nitrogen- based products, there are herbal creams and oils, you can thread them and you can cut them off. There are crazy ways to remove Read the rest of this entry »

Ivy Vines: A Nice Choice November 29, 2015 No Comments

Ivy-VinesMaybe because I grew up in the wilds of frozen Wisconsin, where ivy is generally not hardy outdoors, one of my greatest December delights here in Massachusetts has become watching the season’s first snowflakes gently fall onto the bed of ivy outside my office window. The ivy’s deep-green leaves catch and hold the white flakes as they drop, and though a moderate covering of snow will bury the vines completely for a while, when the weather warms, the pointed leaves will patiently reemerge, trumpeting a message dear to every gardener’s heart: “Worry not! Winter hasn’t conquered all; as I am still green, spring will indeed return!”

This same cheerful resiliency has made ivy one of the most beloved, and talked about, plants in Western gardens; the legends that surround ivy are legion. A mere sampling of ivy lore: Ivy …

Pears: A Beautiful Choice For Your Garden November 26, 2015 No Comments

your-gardenWhile gardening is generally considered a peaceful pursuit, I can attest with certainty this is not always the case. One day not too long ago, I was out in the orchard innocently mowing the lawn when suddenly from above there occurred a flash of movement and a wild rush of air, immediately followed by a loud thwack and an excruciating pain on the top of my head. The blow dropped me to my knees, stars swimming before my eyes. I felt my scalp: no blood, but a large lump was already forming. What had caused this malicious misadventure? Had a rock flown up from under the
mower? Was some wicked child playing with a slingshot? Dazed and puzzled, I looked around. Then I spied the culprit: There, sitting innocuously on the grass as though attending a picnic, rested one of …

Good Fishing’ Means Good Times November 23, 2015 No Comments

Good-FishingWe always rake our granddaughter, Carter, fishing at the Willow Springs Trout Farm. Today’s the day. Our car winds through sagebrush flats that lie on the land like a worn and tattered blanket at the foot of Utah’s Wasatch Range. We watch carefully for the fish-shaped sign that reads “FUN FAMILY FISHING–NO LICENSE REQUIRED.”
Soon we spy a cabin adorned with a large plaque: “GRANPA’S LI’L FISHING BUDDIES. Hanging from it are 13 little wooden fish, each emblazoned with the name of a grandchild. Gary Rice, a k a “Granpa,” has been running his trout farm for the past 30 years. Gary’s kids loved to fish and he figured others would, too.

He was right. Under a large willow tree festooned with ornaments of hand-carved aquatic creatures, Gary is busy cleaning two fish for a rather-squeamish-looking young mother while her …

An Apple A Day… November 20, 2015 No Comments

appleEvery American schoolchild has heard the legend of John Chapman-or Johnny Appleseed, as he came to be known–who, so the story goes, trekked through the frontier in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, planting apple orchards for the benefit of pioneer communities. As the trees grew, so, too, did legends surrounding Chapman, whose reported perpetual good health lent credibility to the considerable lore that already existed about the apple.

Long before Europeans reached the New World, the apple had been associated with health, love, and happiness. “The apple is the most famous of all trees adorned by myth,” says Ellen Evert Hopman, an herbalist and author of Tree Medicine Tree Magic (Phoenix Publishing; 1992). Throughout Western Europe, apples were considered the fruit of wisdom, immortality, and love. The ancient Greeks believed that finding an apple branch that simultaneously bore …

Antique Pickups: Totally Amazing November 17, 2015 No Comments

Antique-PickupsDriving an antique pickup allows you to be both stylish and practical,” says Terry Ehrich, ’49 Chevy pickup owner and publisher of Hemmings Motor News, in Bennington, Vt. Originally made to serve farmers, laborers, and factories, antique pickup trucks embody the notion that America was built on hard work. Today, however, a stout old Ford or Chevy is just as likely to be found leading a Fourth of July parade or piled high with antiques at a flea market.

One of the first pickup trucks, which rolled our of a Chicago shop in 1896, was nothing more than a motorized wagon. Though designs quickly improved, they failed to gain traction with the public. Then in 1917, Dodge realized that the light-utility trucks it was selling to the U.S. Army might appeal to civilians. Dodge’s new pickup was a hit …