March 31, 2014



It's rare today, to find an author who will not only research each topic well, but who will bother to jump not on the Internet, but into a car or onto a plane, to go visit a nursery - to experience it, and then to write so thoughtfully about the entire experience. Ruth Kassinger is such an author. I'm not sure how to say this eloquently, but here's the honest truth - her two recent books A GARDEN OF MARVELS and PARADISE UNDER GLASS sit next to my bed table ( well, sometimes on the floor - but hey, that's where I keep my favorite books - you know, the ones I actually pick up and read most every night).

***** The Winner of this book away is AmyO ( who, full disclosure, I know very well - but again, thanks to Random.com - is indeed the winner. Congratulations Amy!******

A GARDEN OF MARVELS is one on those rare books that I can read a few chapters of each night, whispering out loud "Oh wow" or," Oh my God" and still jot notes down in my notebook, for a plant that I might need to find. It's that sort of cross-over book, that I can read, appealing to my horticultural geekyness, and yet I can share it with a non-gardeners, who would find it equally as interesting.

For what it's worth, for  book to remain on my side table for so long is perhaps the best praise I could ever bestow on a book (Really - that Real Estate is hot in my little world - a silly world which is jam packed with journals, iPads, laptops, lorazapam, empty glasses of wine, tv remotes, Candy Crush and bottles of Evian and an alarm clock.) I admit, I am a piece of work, but I do love my personal time when I can read - and there are far too many books that just remain in the bookcase.

So, althgouh I am a bit 'picky' what I choose to read - any book  that can hold my short attention span on the downside of Ritalin for weeks on end deserves praise. Ruth joins a handful of selected favorite authors in this private club of the bedside table including the likes of Wayne Winterrowd, Thalasa Cruso, Bernd Heinrich and Ruth Stout. Yes, all light reading, but totally an informed and immersive sort of reading environment - exactly what I crave.

I spent some time Saturday repotting seedling and orchids in the greenhouse, taking short breaks to read Ruth Kassingers latest book. Here, a Dendrobium linguiforme blooms on a post.

I first met Ruth Kassinger at a garden bloggers conference last September. After I spoke to a large crowd, she came up to me and introduced herself briefly - we chatted about greenhouses, and conservatories, and she handed be her card, all the while telling me about her newest project, a book about building a conservatory, her journey through the process ( which included everything from a diagnosis of Cancer, to overcoming many hurdles in both dealing with a life change, a family death, and rebirth through plants).

Later that month, I received a package in the mail from her publisher with her book Paradise Under Glass. I didn't have high expectations at first, feeling that this could very well end up being a book about dealing with a horrid disease, and then, recovery perhaps. Not something I am sure that I would want to relive right now, at least, not before I go to bed. But once I passed through the first chapter, I discovered that Ruth and I shared a lot of passions in life, and even though she was more on the learning/beginner end of gardening, and in constructing a greenhouse, I could not only relate, I found that while spending each evening on the journey with her, helped me rediscover my passion for plants.

In her most recent book, A GARDEN OF MARVELS, I am continuing on her same journey, but on deeper mission. To be honest I have not finished the book yet, as I am a slow reader, but as I said earlier - there are very few books that I read completely - page 1 to the end, but Ruth's books are in my top 7. I am one third through the book, and delighted with it even more than the first. It's a beautiful hardcover book, with a nice deckle edge and great cover design ( I am a sucker for nice books, with good hand feel, paper quality and typography, and this book has all of that - so refreshing today.

A GARDEN OF MARVELS, By Ruth Kassinger, available at bookstores everywhere, and at Amazon

Ruth must love researching, as she can jump from the history of glass greenhouses, to poly hoop houses in Florida where citrus grafting takes place, back to the 19th century, all within a single chapter. If she has an interest in begonia's or rare tropical conservatory plants, she actually drives north to Logee's in CT to find out from their owners, the exact history of a plant, or even their greenhouse business. She is a story teller supreme, but a factual one - the best kind. No fiction here, just interesting curious backstories, which all seem to connect in various chapters to help her make a point.

I am going to give away my second copy of A Garden of Marvels, so please leave a comment and I will draw next Friday night. Good luck!

March 30, 2014


I am thinking about adding weekly or biweekly ( really? You all know that it might end of being more like bimonthly!)  infographics, just as a nice way to share more info on Pinterest, where these graphics are popular, then shared and thus, helpful to a blogs health. I am in a unique position where I can design my own infographics, and a friend of mine who works at Google suggested that I might improve my ratings with a few infographic posts ever now and then. Please feel free to share wherever you want. I promise that they won't take the place of regular posts. I am certain that there will probably be about a half dozen a year, if I know myself!

As for content, you may discover that a few of these graphics will be directed towards new gardeners who could use some inspiration beyond manure tea recipes and epsom salt tips, and then more than a few will be targeted towards you more experienced gardeners.  I think that I will be staying away from the sort of information that is already out there. No need to repeat content, or to waste space. At the very least, I promise that they will be pretty, and I will do my best to check my spelling!


The winner of the yellow Velthiemia giveaway is number one - Mariane Kuchel! Weird, as I've never had someone who I know, actually win, but so be it. Mariane, congrats! Please contact me about shipment! I will have another awesome plant giveaway this week.

March 24, 2014


Veltheimia 'Yellow Flame' giveaway - win a division of this very plant that will bloom next winter in your house!

A few of you have been writing to see if I would ever be interested in selling some of my plants from the greenhouse. I may to that sometime, but I am just not set up for it, nor have the time to properly market them - but I can do giveaway plants! So this week, I am offering a selection that is more uncommon, but not completely rare, just rare enough that trying to get one before they sell out from the one or two bulb catalogs that may offer it, often happens. I am offering a division of the easy-to-grow windowsill bulb Veltheimia, in its rare yellow form - 'Yellow Flame'.

TO learn more about this giveaway - click below!

March 22, 2014


Although winter prevails outdoors, under glass, there seems to be no holding back spring. This Primula x Kewensis selection is a very nice one - I can't believe how many flowers it has open at the same time.

I can't believe that I haven't posted in a week, that's just not like me, but I've been busy preparing for a new position at work, which I am pretty excited about. I can't really say much about it, as it's just one of those more secret positions again, but it involves futuring, and my new title will be imbedded innovator.  It does mean that I will have a new office in downtown Providence at Hasbro's new building, with lots of windows and light, which means that I can have plants, so that part is very exciting!

I thought I would share some images from inside the greenhouse today, as even though the official first day of spring happened this week, as many of you know, much of the country is still deep in the clutches of winter, at least, we are here in the North East, with another snowstorm predicted for this week. This is the first year that I can remember, where our Witch Hazels have not bloomed yet, nor crocus, or even snowdrops - the ground is still frozen solid. I suppose that it is good for the plants, since often here in New England, it's our early thaws and then sudden cold, that kills many plants. Hopefully, once it melts, things will remain that way.

Lachenalia species and some hybrid selections are the current show stoppers in the greenhouse at the moment. This bright yellow one in the center is one which is easier to find in fall bulb catalogs - it's one of the Lachenalia 'African Beauty' series. As easy to grow as paperwhite narcissus, I believe. 
Click below for more:

March 12, 2014

Revisiting, Revising and Editing Those Lists

I need to audit my tomato collection. It's time to balance our how many heirlooms to grow, and how many hybrids. Am I the only one who thinks that the heirloom tomato is over-rated a bit? Just a tiny bit?

While there is still plenty of snow on the ground (at least here in the North Eastern US), I am taking some time to look through the many 'To-Do' lists, and 'Must Get' lists which I have made over the past year, as well as taking some time on a cold Saturday night to look through photos in iPhoto - I find this a great way to revisit plants that I want to order, or remind me about plants I want to remove or edit-out to the garden, and sometimes a better way to remind me about some plants not to continue growing at all.  Here is what I found.

Click below for more:

March 11, 2014

Building a Community Garden with Troy Bilt

As I mentioned in my last post, Troy-Bilt invited 6 of us bloggers, known as the Saturday6 to help Troy-Bilt construct a community garden in the community of Perrine, Florida. Troy Bilt flew us down to Miami for two days, as part of our Saturday6 sponsorship duties, and since we are the same Saturday6 as last year, the event was fun, and it was nice to visit with our old friends, as we come from all corners of the country.

Read more, click below!

March 9, 2014

Vizcaya Palace: Connections and Crossroads

A limestone urn with a brilliant, giant bromeliad, Aechema blanchetiana, of which there are many named varieties, each grown for it ability to develop a strong, coral color in the bright, tropical sunshine.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to take a couple of days 'off' in Miami, Florida,and while not a vacation, I can't lie and say that it was all work. The truth is, I was invited along with 5 other bloggers by Troy Bilt, to help create a community garden as part of their involvement with the Keep America Beautiful program, of which they ( and Lowes)  are a corporate affiliate of, as both corporations are sponsoring partners. The two and a half days were filled with tours, product updates, dinners and some fun, but mostly we all worked on planning this community garden, a venture which somehow all connected once I discovered the amazing connections which exist between Vizcaya, Florida's agricultural history, and with some incredible people who we met at our Keep America Beautiful project. In the end, it's all just another story about America, about it's many connections between people and a crossroad of cultures.

Read more, please click below:

March 5, 2014


A hybrid Japanese selection of Primula malacoides with wider petals and a more colorul eye. This strain from Sakata Seed, is more floriferous than wild collected seed, but each have their qualities, be they delicate and twiggy, or full of blossoms and fragrant.

How about some fragrant primroses to take away some of these winter blues? OK, it's snowing again today here, a soft, gentle snow, the sort of snow that if this was November, we would be humming Christmas carols and thinking about the Holidays - but it is March, and with night-time temps dipping just below zero (-2 last night), I think we all deserve a little primrose therapy. Here are a few pics of various types of greenhouse primroses that you can try growing in a cool room, or on a winter windowsill in your home.

Click below for more:

March 2, 2014


Even though I am still ordering seeds, I am beginning to sow some that need an early start. At this point in the process, I need to organize seeds by the germination requirements, or I risk missing an important date, such as, when to remove a tray of Cuphea seeds from the fridge, or when to subject Tropaeolum seeds to 40º temperatures.

Even though I started ordering seeds in late December, there are still many to be ordered, but suddenly it's March 1st, and I am a little late with my seed sowing, so it's time to catch up. I did sow some little treasures in January and February that needed a good, head start such as  pink heirloom Italian Cardoon, some snapdragons and even some florist Gloxinia ( Sinningia speciosa), which are so hard to find anymore. Along with some onions, heirloom red celery and leeks, that's about it for seeds sown by Matt so far. Most of these need warm soil temperatures (above 80º F) in which to germinate well, but now that they are all up nd growing, I've relocated them to the cooler greenhouse, which makes room under my lighting system for more trays.

Click below for my list: