November 17, 2015


The espalier apple trees are fixed for the long winter ahead with their fruit removed for the season.  With Thanksgiving just around the corner, November marks a transitional time in the garden between outdoor chores, and greenhouse play.

I love November. Really, I do. It means that winter is coming. OK, stop it. Listen, I can like winter and like gardening at the same time. This is the time of year when gardening chores slow down, become more focused (since they are limited to my greenhouse projects which I enjoy more),a nd in other ways, they just become more cerebral - time to read, think, plan and dream.

These gray, autumnal days, albeit shorter than summer, are hardly what William Cullen Bryant calls "the saddest of the year".


I would think that distinction might go to March.

On the back porch, heirloom apples from the espalier apples in front of the greenhouse gifted us a few dozen fruit this year. These have been making their way into tarte tartin and oatmeal  for breakfast. Not perfect, since we didn't spray, they are still clear inside even though the skins are imperfect. Yes, that is a tomato!

The great poets seemed to appreciate little about November.  I can't find many positive stanza's or even phrases which don't include the words 'dreary' , 'dull' or 'bleak'.

(Robert Frost goes further to describe it as "sodden", whilst (yes, I said whilst) Sir Walter Scott penned out - "November's sky is chill and drear…", but dear Emily Dickinsen went further with:

 "November always seemed to me the Norway of the year."

 Whah? !

There has to be a story behind that….. because I love Norway, as well.

In the vegetable garden, the beds are cleaned up, with only hardy herbs left out along with a few carrots.

It's all happening in the greenhouse, right now. Chrysanthemums, the first of the cymbidium orchids and lots of South African bulbs.

Speaking of South African Bulbs - The Nerine sarniensis varieties are in full bloom, and rather spectacular.

Also known as Guersey Lilies, Nerine sarniensis are rarely seen today outside of a few collectors and private collections.

These relatives of the common Amaryllis are smaller and more delicate looking, but grow in a similar way, from a bulb which sits halfway into the soil in a pot. They require a hot, summer rest with no water, and a long, winter growing period with moisture and bright light, which limits who can grow them well to those with cold greenhouses.

My collection of about 100 bulbs has about a third of them blooming every year, they are a bit shy. Many of these varieties date back to the early 20th Century, and all hail from the UK, mostly the Exbury hybrids.

Outside, the gardens are cleaned and spotless because of a photoshoot last week. Even the boxwoods have bee sheered. I know, I could have centered the strawberry pot better!

November 12, 2015


Halloween night, kids could now walk the length of our long entrance path, illuminated with these bright LED path lights which out-shine any other path light we've tried. Into our dumpster went a whole bunch of ineffective solar lights.

A few years ago, we started using spot lights to up-light our outdoor birch trees instead of Holiday lights. The effect was so great, that each year we add more outdoor spots, illuminating the house, the plants and trees from below, and - get this, we now leave them up all year. There's a few problems thought - regular light bulbs are expensive, and we have extension cords running all over the place which generally get caught up in the snowblower tines, not to mention the cost of electricity and broken bulbs.

The look is spectacular though. So pretty at night, that we've noticed some neighbors copying us. Now, the generally uninteresting homes in our neighborhood are starting to look a little like hip bread and breakfast places!.

If you ever have thought about what it's like writing a blog, I shall remind you that yes - it can be tedious. For whatever reason, I have fallen into a routine where I actually enjoy the process (even though I've only been posting about one post a week lately - believe me, I have a very good reason that I can't really talk about right now!).

Our front walk, now illuminated at night with these fully wired in, path lights from SUPERBRIGHTLEDS.COM - I'm convinced, and now want to order more for our ether paths.

About 5 months ago I received a request to consider partnering with a company called SUPERBRIGHTLEDS.com Really. I thought it was a joke, after all, when I visited their site and saw their awfully "super bright" logo (remember, I am also a graphic designer), I groaned and a-l-m-o-s-t clicked away.

But then, I really thought about it…..I thought about my own experience with less-than-effective solar path lights from big box stores, and - - I looked at all that they offered at, and I responded with a few ideas. More than a few, really, since once I started looking - at underwater lights, and color change lights, at directional path lighting, I began to see all sorts of possibilities.

Here is what we used from the site for our path:

      8 Landscape Path Lights - single tier, 4 watt
The ground mounting stake and east-to-screw-on connectors are included with each lamp ($19.99 each. Think about it , only about twice the cost of the solar versions which only last about one year, and are too weak to effectively light the walk.

     50 feet of Low Voltage cable 14 gage

Finally, here is a video showing how easy they are to install on Youtube

The benefits outweigh any time spent on installing real, wired lighting, but come on - even I could handle this installation. Snap, click and plug-in? Who needs an electrician (but the results sure look as if I hired one!)

But before I begin, let's think about the LED lights that we know from the past.

We see LED lights everywhere today. In this past week, I've seen how LED lights have evolved from harsh, almost clinical lighting to lighting with brilliant clarity that brings out the truest colors of food and plants, in much the same way that a brand new pair of glasses does (if you wear glasses!).

As a designer, I am critical about lighting and color, so I have resisted introducing any LED lights into my home, but recently they are sneaking in without be even knowing it. Our new refrigerator is loaded with lights on every shelf, but I have yet to covert to holiday lights for outdoors - that is, until this year after seeing some installed on trees at our nearby botanic garden, Tower Hill. Holiday lights are starting to show how LED lights are improving, so why not consider them?

One thing that will happen however, is if you are blessed enough to have many readers and followers which will lead to a good blog rank ( thank you ALL of you!), you will begin to receive offers for free giveaways, sponsored posts, book reviews and even product placement. To be clear up-front, this is a product placement post - but don't click away just yet - for as those of you who know me, I am pretty selective about who I partner with, and with nearly 20 requests a week for partnerships, and only about 5 annual partner posts, - that alone should show you how selective I am.

Like any technology, LED lighting keeps improving, but that doesn't mean that I am completely open to converting over just yet - then, as what happens with a top blog sometimes, I get an email from an LED company. At first, I almost deleted it (really - I think I did deleted the first few). Believe me when I tell you that I sometimes get requests for partnerships and sponsored posts for some of the strangest non-gardening products. Heck, sometimes, even the relatively-close-to-gardening-offers are so off-brand that I can tell immediately that they never even read my blog - (I may do a post about these sometimes, since some are quite funny).

The SUPERBRIGHTLED website has links to many, many, many YOUTUBE videos on how to install the various lights in your garden.

Now, back to why I finally changed my mind about LED lights - - with this offer, my imagination started to run. I couldn't help it! I had visions of Disney's 'World of Color' fountain lights, and Las Vegas' Bellagio-style supernovas! As my imagination ran, I could see our summer garden transform into a boutique hotel in Miami Beach, with all the tropical and lush bananas, alocasia and cannas illuminated from below spots (maybe even with color-change features!), but for that, I will have to wait until next spring.

I love how these bright LED lights look in the evening, something which was difficult to capture with my camera, but believe me, I want to order lots of these lights for our other walks now - it's where my Christmas lighting budget will be going.

The way I see it, I have the entire, long New England winter to plan for our garden illumination, and every spare $100 bucks or so, will go towards another feature (this walk would cost around $100) for materials - which really is only a few dollars more than those cheap, ineffective solar lights from the big box stores.

Joe helped install the lights along the studio walk, which only took on tool and about a half hour.

I hope that this post will change your outdoor life - at the very least, it will change your nighttime garden appearance or your entrance. As for electricity cost, LED's use much less electricity than incandescent bulbs - we leave ours on 24/7 now, and even our elderly neighbors have commented on how safe they feel when they look down into this portion of our garden  from across the street - which once was black at night ( they liked it when we kept the lamp posts on!).


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