The More Things Change….

I am preparing for a “new” lecture:Organic Gardening 101. And although I can’t believe it, I have not given this particular talk since 2007.

Organic gardening is a large part of every lecture I give, of course. I can’t talk about gardening for pollinators or for wildlife or even about how to grow vegetables or flowers without getting asked about pesticide use or how to deter a particular type of critter.

Many times, I am a bit flummoxed. There’s only one insect that visits my yard with any regularity. I know when it’s coming (sometime in May, depending on temperatures), what plant it will visit (my mugo pine) and that I just need a few squirts of insecticidal soap at dusk to get rid of it.

But I can often tell folks how to organically rid themselves of other things. Sometimes I ask them if those other things are worth the trouble? For example, for me, I just don’t grow lilies, as lovely as they are. Between battling deer and the lily leaf beetle, I am not going to do that. There are too many other choices that don’t require all the effort.

So in pulling out my 12 year old lecture copy, I knew that I would have to revise some things. What I was not prepared for was all of the organic companies that have simply fallen off the face of the earth. I must have had 12 references on there. I am down to 4. That’s a little sad. People are more interested in things organic and healthy living–I thought.

With certain things, I know it was an issue of not wanting to fight the issue of government licensing. Several of my favorite weed killers and pesticides made with essential oils (and even some deer repellents) have all left the market. Most of them were excellent.

I have found another product that I love–and again, it is not registered for sale in Connecticut. It was sent to me as a test product. This sort of thing is so disappointing because how can I recommend a product that I can’t even buy?

And while there are more lawn care companies than ever offering organic lawn care, the two companies that had been selling the equivalent of an organic “4-step” program no longer even exist. The do it yourself homeowner has no option except to try to cobble together organic lawn care on his or her own without guidance. That is NOT a good option. It surprises me.

So I have to say I am a bit discouraged by what I am finding for the organic homeowner. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 12 years for that to change!!!!

Plastic Public Plantings? Seriously?

A little over a week ago, I had an eye exam at my local mall.

Usually I am distracted by things like what the little kiosks in the aisles are selling , or, if it’s a holiday,  what the displays are like. Last time it was before Easter and there was an “Easter Bunny Court” and a whole display with that.

This time, nothing really stood out, so I was looking at the plants. This–to my horror–is what I saw.


But that’s not the worst of it. There was this.


This wouldn’t even be attractive if it were alive. It looks half dead–and it’s plastic!

About the best of it was this.


And I have to say, this is just plain weird. Why is this plastic monstrosity in the middle of a mall in central Connecticut?

Now I know times are tough–but for a mall peddling Tiffany, and Brooks Brothers surely they can do better than plastic?! Even silk is more realistic!  Who sold them this bill of fake goods?

Someone really needs to get with the program!

Amie, the Garden Killer


I can’t quite blame Amie–who I have called “the garden killer” totally for what’s happened.  But once again , I am not going to get out into the garden in any serious way for awhile.

A week ago,  she and I were playing. And she came at me and hit my ankle just the wrong way.  It rolled and I fell. She thought I was still playing,  even when I was on the floor–because what do dogs know?

Luckily– I think–the ankle is just badly sprained.  I say I think not because I didn’t have an xray.  I did, and nothing is broken.

But why I am dubious is because 20 years ago, I rolled my other ankle and actually did fracture it. The bones healed in a month. All the soft tissue stuff took 6 months to heal. So I am anticipating another spring of no gardening on my very uneven and rocky ground. Sigh. Amie the garden killer.

But she’s suffering too. She has no idea why Mommy won’t walk her anymore.  All she knows is that she doesn’t like it. That makes 2 of us. I  miss the walking too.

Creating the Modern Day Dust Bowl

Remember the photos of my broken clay pots from Friday? Did anyone notice anything odd about the floor tiles on my porch? Here’s another look.


To the right of the chair, and in the grout, there seems to be this fine layer of grit. See it now?

This chair is 6 feet back from a screen–the same screen where those herbs I showed on Monday are (we will shortly replace it with glass). This fine grit that you see has been “blown in” by the Spoiler, in his attempt to create the next dust bowl in our landscape–all in the name of removing a few leaves next to our door.


Here’s the basil with that same fine layer of grit. Being so close to the screen, the herbs really get blasted by it.

Long time readers of this blog may remember that I have talked before about the power of home leaf blowers–that hand held leaf blowers emit “wind”–or blow in excess of 150 mph and backpack leaf blowers blow in excess of 250 mph.

I don’t even want to think of what the commercial blowers do–but I know that I have to wash my car–or at least hose it down–every time our lawn service comes through my office parking lot and this time of year they’re coming 2-3 times a week.

All of this “blowing” is excessively wasteful especially if it’s going on more than once a week. Do we need to eat off our lawns–or parking lots? As soon as the lawn guys left our parking lot, there were more leaves coming down. This time of year, it is a never ending process. Let’s let nature take its course a bit, shall we? Particularly if it’s dry so the leaves aren’t slippery.

But the gas, and the noise pollution and the dust and the silt mixed with motor oil that is raised by all this blowing is just horrific. It really needs to stop!


Wordless Wednesday–Poisoned!


If you have any doubt about what did this after Monday’s post, I have to wonder about you.

This is caused by the pesticide drift from the backpack sprayer where the lawn guys applied broadleaf weed control in my yard.

So in addition to killing all the “good stuff” like the clover that my bees were loving, now my entire vegetable garden is contaminated–and I have visible proof!


These are–or were–my green beans. You can even see a bean just about ready in the photo. But who in her right mind would eat anything that’s now contaminated with broadleaf weed killer?

But of course, it’s not just the beans. Everything in this garden is  now contaminated: tomatoes, herbs and edible flowers are all a loss. And those are just my losses. Losses to the pollinators are immeasurable.

And of course I don’t dare walk my own dog in my yard because this sort of weed killer has been implicated in cancer in dogs. There are lots of reasons we’re organic. Yes, it’s just the right thing to do. But we’d also prefer not to prematurely kill our dog.


So now the question becomes–do I look at this or do I just rip it all out?

And of course–what else is going to die?

Organic Gardening Catastrophe

I arrived home from work on a Tuesday afternoon about a week or so ago, stepped from my car and smelled the unmistakable smell of chemicals.

Sure enough, I looked down and there were white pellets all over my driveway (which is an unforgivable sin in my book anyway–pesticide applicators should know better than to leave that crap on hard surfaces, especially in close proximity to water bodies–but this is only the beginning of the horrors!)

I looked at my house, and sure enough, there was the hang tag indicating that my property had been treated with pesticides.

As all of you know, I am a long-time organic gardener. My property has been organic for 23 years. It is certified as a backyard habitat by both the state and the National Wildlife Federation. I don’t “do” pesticides, even of the organic type, except under extreme circumstances (pine sawfly larva is about the only thing I can think of that I spray for, and that’s about once a year with insecticidal soap!)

So I immediately went in and called the offending company, which is at least a regional company (and not the large one you are thinking of–for once TruGreen is off the hook. This one is based in New Hampshire). They had the local supervisor call me.

I was less cordial with him than I had been with the regional customer service rep (because after all, the person in New Hampshire bore no responsibility for this whatsoever). But the local person? He ought to know what his workers are doing!

So I simply explained that I was at a loss to understand how the worker could mistake my house for my neighbor’s. Here were some of the reasons why:

  • I have a dog, who probably barked at him; she doesn’t.
  • I have a larger lot, with 2 groves of trees on it; she doesn’t
  • I have lots of ornamental gardens, including a vegetable garden and pond; she doesn’t
  • She has a patio, a deck and a gazebo; I don’t
  • Further, my property is marked in 4 separate places with my house number

Clearly the worker hadn’t had enough caffeine–or had too much of some other banned substance–that morning.

But the damage is done. My yard is poisoned, I can’t walk my dog in my own yard, and I don’t dare eat my vegetables for fear that they have been contaminated.

And the Spoiler’s reaction when I told him about all this? He was worried about his grass, which is not supposed to be fertilized at all, least of all with a pellet fertilizer. So now he’s worried that that will die!

The best part of all? There was no yellow “This Property Has been Treated” sign placed on our property which is a violation of Federal law. Mind you, I don’t want to advertise that this horrid mistake has been made. But I want, at least, to alert other dog walkers like me to keep their pets away!

A Little Certainty Please


You may remember this photo from a few weeks ago.  It was in the post about the composed flowers. At the time,  I was using the photo to illustrate various types of composite flowers, like the cone flowers shown.

Today, I am going to use those 2 same cone flowers to talk about epic failures in plant breeding, and why it is important for plants to be around awhile before you put them in your garden if you are attempting any type of longevity.

I suspect anyone who has planted any of the yellow cone flowers over the years knows exactly where I am going with this.

Needless to say,  I  didn’t plant either of these two cone flowers. I would never plant a white one–I don’t like them.

I might once have planted a purple one, but not in this garden. In this garden, I only planted yellow and harvest type colors. And you see what remains: purple and white.

I can tell you exactly what has happened.  The same breeder that is dumping out all the strains of heuchera that are dying on you left and right is also dumping out poor seed quality cone flowers that revert to their parentage.

That breeder shall remain nameless.  The plant world thinks he’s a big deal. I am not fooled.

How Did the Garden Gift Givers Do?

In the days leading up to Christmas and Hanukkah, I heard and read a lot of different stories about “the best gifts for gardeners.” I may have shared a few on Twitter myself.

But I probably shared very few because for the most part very few of them actually appealed to me!  Call me jaded–or perhaps it’s just that after 20-plus years of gardening in the same location, I have what I need–but lots of suggestions for gloves, pruners, twine and things like that I just didn’t find the least bit appealing.

For one thing, I have very tiny hands–so tiny that I will occasionally buy child-sized gloves. Anyone who buys me gloves is going to have to know me pretty well to get that correct.

And that will go for pruners as well. First of all, after all these years, I have literally dozens lying around the garage–and house. I have them in just about every room (with all those house plants, they come in handy!) But I don’t like just any pruner and when I am outside pruning most things a particular pair of Felcos™ is my go to pruner of choice. I don’t want–or need–anything else.

I did get a gardening book for Christmas but I have so many that it’s one I specifically asked for. Again, unless you know your gardener well–or unless it’s one of the very latest offerings from a publisher, how do you know the gardener hasn’t read it? I adore books as gifts and think winter is the perfect time to catch up on new reads and new gardening techniques. But I wouldn’t just spring a book on an unsuspecting gardener unless I were somehow sure he or she hadn’t read it.

The one suggestion that I heard a few times that I thought was good was a garden gift certificate. Yes, it’s unimaginative–one step above cash–but at least you know your gardening friend will truly be able to put it to good use for plants, tools or books that he or she really wants. Nothing wrong with that.

So if you haven’t finished your gifting yet–and some of you haven’t, with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa just beginning–maybe these thoughts will help you with the gardeners in your life.


Let’s Put This Year to Bed Before We Have Next Year Harvested, Okay?

I adore garden catalogs. Back before I had a garden, I pored over garden catalogs as if they were aspirational reading (correction: from the time I was a child, I was always growing something. What I meant was when I was still growing perennials, trees & vegetables in containers  on a balcony and  not in the ground–although that too can be a perfectly good garden if you’re happy with it. I  wasn’t.)

I learned most of my botanical Latin from poring over these same garden catalogs. It just sort of stuck with me.

But these days it seems, like so much else, the catalogs not only arrive earlier and earlier and they practically promise harvests before things are planted.

And then there are microgreens. Plant today,  harvest this weekend ( well, not quite, but almost.  In most cases, you can begin harvesting by Monday.)

And of course with hoop houses, poly tunnels and the like (never mind our changing climate patterns) we plant earlier and harvest later than ever before.

There is still a reason that I live in a place with seasons, particularly as I age. It’s to give me a rest. I don’t want to garden year round  (other than in the house, with my collection of hundreds of house plants).

So while I adore seeing all the seed and plant catalogs come in, please do not expect me to placing tomato seed orders before New Years. Let me finish out one year before I begin thinking of the next.

Wearable Succulents? Are They Kidding?!

So all of a sudden, the “trend” in succulents seems to be plastering them to things and wearing them.

Remember, I am the person who doesn’t like succulents to begin with because they get “untidy” so it’s not as if I am naturally going to embrace any kind of trend that exploits long trails of succulents hanging off fingernails (“Google”it–I don’t want to post photos because I don’t want to violate anyone’s copyrights–or worse yet, insult anyone’s creativity any more so than I am already doing).

But suddenly I am seeing succulents everywhere–on jewelry and the aforementioned fingernails ( several types of designs for fingernails, mind you!) and shoes and purses and all manner of wearables.

Surely these designs are not meant for those of us who live in colder climates (even if we liked them?) I just can’t understand how my succulent necklace–or bangle bracelets–would enjoy a trip out to a party in December in my climate when the night time temperature might be in the 30s or even lower.  Would I have to carry an insulated bag to keep it protected until I arrived? And then put the item back in the bag to get it safely from the party–or where ever–safely back to my home? Sounds like a lot of effort. Clearly these items are just for warmer climates!

And the nails would never work. Not in a climate where gloves are a must!

And while they are visually stunning (I am sure you can find lots of examples on your social media of choice. They appeared in my Twitter feed but I am sure Pinterest is overflowing with them, and Instagram must be as well!), how does one keep them alive? Surely succulents were not intended to live on jewelry–much less on nails! Are they intended to be kept alive later? Or are they disposable? I really don’t like the thought of a whole cottage industry of disposable plants.

If however they are grown just for this purpose perhaps it’s no worse than the cut Christmas tree industry. Or the cut flower industry. So maybe I am over-reacting in that way because I see them as “plants” and not as “cuttings.” If that’s the case, then I guess I can accept the premise at least–but you still won’t see me with the wearables, as stunning as they are!