Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Potting Shed and how it came to be...

Please go to For Dragonflies And Me new home at
http://fordragonfliesandme.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/my-potting-shed/

and please go to her Facebook, LIKE & SHARE for additional daily photo's, tips, recipes and great links.  http://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651?ref=stream

I am now posting at The Detroit News, The Good Life blog... I post the link only at the Facebook... hope to see you there... let me know in the comments you followed me from here!

Happy Day,
Jean
 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Creating Garden Rooms with Pergolas, Arbors and and Trellis

New post at Dragonflies... to see the rest go over to her new home at

http://fordragonfliesandme.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/creating-garden-rooms-with-pergolas-arbors-and-and-trellis/


There is something evocative about walking through a rose covered arbor or dreamily strolling through the length of a blossom covered pergola... the air fresh with the scents of sweet mingling with musk... the gentle chirps of tiny birds safely nestled within the confines of the leaf covered shelter.  My arbors and pergola are grand statements, and when friends and strangers alike come into my yard, they are what say, "Welcome to my garden's, won't you stay an visit awhile..." 

There are a multitude of structures to choose from in every shape and size to fit in with any garden style you choose.  What is the difference between the three and how do you incorporate them correctly to create the illusion of having many separate garden rooms? All three have one thing in common: they are structures incorporated into gardens to provide a growing place for vining plants. Here are some tips and idea's to get you started.....


 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Front Porch Garden and Yummy Tuscan Soup

When you drive into my lane my garden's begin to envelope you....although it wasn't so when we moved here. As I've mentioned in previous posts, there weren't any gardens when we purchased our old farmhouse.  We gardeners often have lofty aspirations... we dreamily peruse our favorite gardening magazines, take notes on things we want to incorporate and longingly wait till we can create that new bed, stumble upon a new rose bush and make the season's first bouquet of sweetly scented jonquils.  Spring is only a few days away and although there is snow covering the ground on my farm, I know my tulips and daffodils will soon be peaking up and sending me warm greetings of love....

Please go to For Dragonflies And Me new home at http://fordragonfliesandme.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/front-porch6-emaiver.jpg”&gt
You can see over a dozen great photos and the rest of the story at the above link...

Also, be sure to visit, LIKE & SHARE Dragonflies Facebook page for daily inspirations... see you there,

Happy Day,
Jean

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I've Moved!

Hello to all my Dragonfly friends and followers!
I've moved over to Word Press, so please join and follow me there... my new address is
www.fordragonfliesandme.wordpress.com

I just put up a new post... another in my Garden Plot Seriers..

Serendipity Discovered, My Banister Garden and Butternut Squash and Bacon Quiche

As you stroll through my garden's you'll notice many unusual things sprinkled here and there... peaking out of a cluster of tulips or bowing over a rash planting of zinnias... Friends say that I have a flair for mixing my passion for plants and garden junque, marrying them together into welcoming and intriguing garden rooms. As I place these abandoned and unappreciated objects throughout my gardens it allows me to express my passions using my innate creativity.


Recycling things that no one else wants is something I enjoy doing... I can see the 'practical' and artistic use of an old fashioned metal canner... a rusty old wagon wheel...


see you there... and please let me know how you like my new look!
Happy Day,
Jean

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Bistro Garden, Growing Mints: How To Grow, Harvest & Preserve Plus Lots of Recipes!

The Birstro Garden, Summer 2010
                                                           

I had a vision when we moved to this abandoned old farmhouse. I dreamed of flower beds abounding, greeting my family and friends as they drove up our lane. I imagined a cozy front porch surrounded by lush colors overflowing like wide open arms ready to whisk you into their beauty... I wanted a place where peace was felt in simple things that was a reflection of me.

I'm often inspired while paging through home decor and gardening magazine's and suddenly stumbling upon that perfect element... looking with a wistful eye for anything that will shout out, 'Here I am! I'm what you've been looking for!' ...yet with an unspoken realization that when I find it, I fall in love and I've got to have it... but as I read on I discover the lucky owners found it at a flea market or antique shoppe- no resource shopper there! Yes, I think we've all been down that path a few times too many... at least I know I have. Which brings me to the story of my Bistro Garden and how it acquired it's name. You see I'd been dreaming of a little bistro table and chairs to set in one of my gardens and patiently looking for a couple years... yes years.  I can be patient with some things... I'm not saying a lot, but 'garden junque' is one of those things. In this case I knew what I wanted and I was willing to wait until I came across just the right thing. Then one day while out boutique shopping, A.K.A garage saleing I found it- a petite black wrought iron table with two matching chairs! "Perfect! Just perfect!" I thought... and the price was right- twelve bucks! Oh yeah, that baby was coming home with me and I knew right where she would be going... The Bistro Garden! The set sits on a small patio that I laid using old silo staves that were discarded behind the barn foundation at our first farm.  I'd taken several of them when we moved thinking I would eventually use them as stepping stones in a future garden... gotta have a vision! Anyway, I laid the staves and then used concrete as a 'grout' between them. I loved it... it said, "This looks like Jean!" 


The sidewalk that leads to our backdoor which divides The Side Garden
and The Bistro Garden.
The Bistro is actually the ending point of the garden off the front porch that wraps around the side of the house along a cobble stone walk we created. It is west of The Side Garden with a sidewalk dividing the two. This bed has an eight foot narrow strip that extends upward beside the house to the wall where the back door is (See photo with birdcage and Bleeding Heart). The Bistro Garden had to undergo an overhaul like The Side Garden. We dug up and replanted this bed along with a couple others and laid the black plastic ground cover. Same story... quack grass! The labor was worth it though, this bed is stunning when the lilies are blooming. As you can see in the picture of Taylor standing next to them while in bloom- she is 5'3" tall and the blooms are over her head! Fall of 2010 I planted the Spirea and last year I planted the Hydrangea, so they are not too their full potential yet. The Spirea will give me the height I need up against the wall with it's solid mass of green and beautiful pink summer blooms. Once the Hydrangea meets up with the Spirea my back drop will be quite spectacular. Gardening requires a vision that will take several years to create and a lifetime to enjoy!

Here is my rendition of The Bistro Garden as it appears today.    
Legend For "The Side Garden"
This bed is just over 150 square feet including the narrow strip.

Check out, Like and Share my Facebook page for Dragonflies for extra Tea Blend
Recipes at   http://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651

1. Day Lilies- 10 bushes. Mix of yellow and orange which bloom at different times.
2. Iris - 1 large clump - approx a 30" diameter
3. Hydrangea- white old fashioned
4. Spirea- 1 bush- pink
5. Peony 2 pink bushes
6. Delphinium- mini blue
7. Hosta- 2 variegated, 1 Blue and 1 green
8. Sedum
9. Bleeding Heart
10. Large Pot- I typically purchase a large petunia basket and plant in this pot- instant WOW!
11. Birdcage- Again a garage sale find - only five bucks!...matched perfect with the bistro table set. I typically do one of two things in the birdcage: a) plant morning glories or sweet pea around the bottom and let it climb or b) put potted sweet potato vine inside and let cascade down.
10. There are typically White Allysum cascading over the rocks along the edge.
~There are tulips planted in between the lilies. While the lilies are growing the tulips are blooming; by the time the tulips have faded the lilies hide them. There are also Crocus and Grape Hyacinths mingled here and there.
~To the left of the Iris's is a five year old red Climbing Rose (stay tuned, that's for next blog post!).

Join me next time for The Banister Garden... see you there!

Growing Mints: How To Harvest, Preserve, Make Tea Are you a tea drinker but never imagined you could grow your own? It is so easy you'll wonder why you ever bought the stuff when you could have had it in your own back yard! Please note that yes it is super easy to grow, and it is super easy to get way out of control. It's root system is very invasive and you will have it everywhere if you do not take serious yet simple precautions when planting it.  Don't be mistaken that the only thing your mint is good for is making tea either... there is a world of culinary uses for this wonderful, versatile garden herb... read on for just a few yummy recipes! 
     
So here are some tried and true planting tips-
~Planting behind or beside a garage works well if it doesn't matter where it goes and can be mowed if it gets in the lawn.
~If you want to put some in a garden, think container.  My tea bed is in my Potager. It is in an elevated area where we laid black ground cover down and up along the inside of the rocks; filled with dirt and planted. Even with these precautions the roots still manage to weave their way through the woven plastic and end up in areas where I don't want it. It is more manageable, but still needs to be dealt with and removed.
~Use tires: Dig a hole about 6 inches deep where you will put the tires. Lay black plastic in hole and let lay over the edges of the hole about 3" - 6"; place two to three tires stacked one upon another over the plastic covered hole; fill with dirt to about 3" from top. Plant 1 tea plant- it will be enough! You will need to thin it out regularly. If you have access to tractor tires, even better but plant 2 plants.
Where ever you decide to plant your tea, be sure it has good drainage and full sunlight.
 
You can see to the right the elevated Mint Tea bed. It measures about
15'W x 12D.  I would say I harvest about 8 -10 bushel of tea off this bed.
***see below recipes for several shots of The Birstro Garden during different stages over the last few years.***


 Harvesting your tea can be done repeatedly throughout the growing season. First in spring, wait for the tea to reach at least a foot in height, cut back about six inches. Try not to cut back so far that you don't leave any leaves. You can harvest your tea right up to fall.

There are three options to preserve your tea leaves, choose one or all!

1. Use the leaves to make concentrate- see recipe below "Garden Tea Concentrate". You can store your concentrate in plastic freezer containers to enjoy all winter long!
2. Dry the leaves: Lay de-stemmed leaves on a cookie sheet and bake in a 200 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the leaves are brittle.  Crumble leaves and store in airtight glass jars or plastic containers. Follow recipes when ready to use.
3. Freeze dry: I love to use this method. Simply remove leaves from stems, wash and pat dry; place 2 cups of packed leaves in freezer quart size bags and freeze for up to six months. To use, simply remove bag and use as directed in your recipe!

There are more Mint Varieties than you can shake a stick at. My personal favorites are not listed in the Richter's catalog, but they are Lemon Balm and Balsam.  As I mentioned a few post's ago, Richters has one of the best mint varieties I have ever found.
Here are all the mints listed in their catalog.  www.Richters.com
Spearmint Group: English, Moroccan, Spearmint, Improved Spearmint, Scotch, Vietnamese
Peppermint Group: Chocolate, Peppermint, Variegated, Swiss
Other Mints: Applemint, Banana, Corsican, Ginger, Grapefruit, Mojito, Orange, Pineapple, Menthol, Pennyroyal
The Westerfield Mints: Hilary's Sweet Lemon, Berries & Cream, Candied Fruit, Candy Lime, Pink Candypops, Citrus Kitchen, Cotton Candy, Jim's Fruit, Fruit Sensations, Fruitasia, Italian Spice, Julia's Sweet Citrus, Margarita, Marilyn's Salad, Marshmallow, Oregano, Thyme Mint, Sweet Pear, Wintergreen, Korean Mint, Mountain Mint

 

Now that you know how to grow, harvest and preserve mint along with the many options in varieties there are, what else can you make with it other than tea?  Here are some easy and interesting recipe's that will get you started using the Mint you have grown and harvested.  Enjoy!

 
First off, lets look at how to make tea!
Garden Tea Concentrate
Use any flavor Mint Tea Leaves

1 1/2 c sugar
5 c water
2 c packed tea leaves, stemmed and washed
1-2 tbsp lemon juice- optional

Boil water and sugar together for 5 minutes.  Add washed & stemmed leaves-turn heat off.
Put lid on and let steep—leave the leaves in the syrup for 5 hours.
Remove leaves and wring them out.  Add lemon juice if desired
TO MAKE TEA–
COLD: Add 1 cup tea concentrate to 3 cups water.  Chill and serve.  Very refreshing on a hot summer day.
HOT: Add hot water and a bit of honey
Go to my Blog Spot at www.fordragonfliesandme.blogspot.com to get a Raspberry Lemon Tea Recipe- my favorite!
 

Brown Rice Salad with Mint Leaves
1 c brown rice
1 c fresh peas
2 tbsp chicken broth
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp Olive Oil
1/4 c fresh mint leaves
Salt & pepper to taste

Prepare rice according to package directions.
Add peas and cook 2 more minutes.
Meanwhile, mix broth, lime juice & olive oil together.  Add mint, salt & pepper to taste.
Add dressing to  rice and peas.


Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad

4 c 1-2 inch chunks melon
1/4 c (4oz) crumbles feta cheese,
1/4 c loosely packed fresh mint leaves, torn & washed
2 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
120 macadamia nuts, chipped (optional)

in a large bowl combine watermelon, feta cheese, mint & olive oil.  Season with pepper & sprinkle with nuts.  Cover & chill for up to 4 hours.


Minty Hot Fudge

1 c water
1 c sugar
1/2 c thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
Mint chocolate chip ice cream

1.  In a small, heavy saucepan, stir together water and sugar over medium heat until sugar dissolves; bring syrup to boil.  Remove from heart.  Stir in mint leaves.
Let stand 1 hour.
using a slotted spoon, remove mint leaves from syrup.  Whisk cocoa into syrup.  Bring to a boil.  Add butter and whisk until smooth,’
Refrigerate sauce, uncovered, until cold.
Serve over mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Cover and refrigerated to store.

Happy Day,
Jean
www.fordragonfliesandme.blogspot.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651?skip_nax_wizard=true
www.wreninthewillow.blogspot.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wren-In-The-Willow/137572243072292?ref=hl
 
This photo was taken in early April, 2012. The weather was beautiful and so we decided to get busy 'ahead' of schedule! The boys will often help clean up in the spring. Here you can see their is not much to look at yet, but...
   

Here it is all cleaned up, mulched and ready to start showing off. You can see some of the tulips in between the lilllies, the hostas and sedum.  This photo is actually from 2010.  If you look underneath the large window with the flower pots, notice there is no rose bush to speak of... keep watching though!
You can see the patio that I made using the silo staves well in this picture.
 
 
Here is a shot of the narrow strip that goes to tghe back door; one in early spring in one in early summer. My bird cage stands 4' tall if that gives you an idea of the size of this Bleeding Heart. She will blooms prolifically in spring and then continues all summer long with a few blooms here and there.  She loves this spot and I am able to take babies off her every year. You can see a Sweet Potato vine in the bird cage in photo to the right.
 
Notice in the photo (2009) to the left the arbor in the back ground is not covered yet and there is no sign of the rose bush under window shelf. This is a beautiful shot of the hostas. Now the photo to the right only two years later (2011). The arbor is well covered and the rose bush is enormous
This garden is located on the east side of the house therefore it only gets the morning sunshine so the hosta's and bleeding heart do well! You can also the delphiniums. This is one of my favorite gardens.
 
 
Photo to the left (2009) you can see the small rose bush peaking up behind the iris's. In the photo to the right, notice the potted petunias. As I mentioned earlier I am patient over some things... but waiting for planters to explode with colors is not one of them. I always purchase several extra hanging baskets to put in my large planters around the gardens... instant wow! ;-) 
Here you can see the new Sprira I planted in 2011. She will eventually get almost as tall as the rose bush.  The Hydrangea is in between the two. It will not get as tall therefore giving a hilly feeling. 
Here are the lillies in full bloom... as I mentioned earlier, Taylor is 5'3" and the blooms are over her head. This photo was taken in 2010.
 
 

 
The Bistro Garden, early summer 2012
 

 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Plan Your Perennial Garden Now and Designing Plot Plans

This is a photo of one of my garden journal pages. It shows a section of  my
front porch and gives details on several things purchased!

"If ever I loved thee, my garden 'tis now..." Yes, I am longing for the beauty and relaxation of my gardens in these cold Michigan winter months. The garden is my place of rest... it's where I go when I feel weary, when I need to wind down, when I long to escape the stresses of life... It is my Eden here on earth. Many people have strolled through my gardens in awe wondering when and how I manage to care for them all with my busy farm and market life. I always say, "This is not work! This is where I come to get away from the work!"  But alas, that is not true for all.  If you are a die hard gardener or someone looking to create your own little Eden, it doesn't have to be difficult and it surely won't happen all in one season. My gardens have been born over a period of seven years and they will continue to grow, change and flourish in my tender loving care for many more.  Now is the time to start planning and designing your new dream gardens. You may feel like how do I begin? What plants should I choose? Where am I going to put this bed?  The next couple months will give you ample time to decide on what, where, how and when and whether to order plants or wait for the nurseries. These are all important questions that need to be addressed before the big day of breaking ground. That day is right around the corner...don't let your dreams sit stagnant and lifeless, start planning now.
     



Here is The Side Garden in early spring. You can see there are several Archi-
tectural elaments- picket fence, antique feed cart, step stones. Notice the thick
mulch cover early in the season. I will not have to worry about the weeds get-
ting a hold on me.  2012
 In the next few posts here I am planning on giving my own 'renditions' of my garden's. I will show all the photo's of them at my blog spot.  Hope you are inspired, enjoy friends!

There are several factors to take into consideration when you start the process of designing your garden plots.
1. Decide on Location: This is the first step. It will determine what type of plants you will purchase, whether irrigation will be necessary and if so, what type.  Will it be up against a building? In the middle of the yard? An extension of an existing garden?
2. Type of Garden: Do you want a perennial bed/border with a few annuals as fillers? Is this a small bed that you would like to plant up with annuals each year to have it different and versatile? Is it to be a split of both annuals and perennials?
Will it be a formal garden, herb garden, rose garden or kitchen garden?  These are all important factors that need to be made early on.
3. Plant Selection: Once location and type are determined you can start choosing the plants. Take into consideration if this is a shady, part shade/ part sun or direct sun all day location.  This will play a huge factor on plants. Decide whether you will order some and/or purchase at nurseries. What about getting started with plants from family and friends when they split their plants this spring?
For an extensive list of perennials follow this link:
http://www.gardenguides.com/perennial-plants-flowers/
4. Architectural Elements: This is very important, but type of garden will determine what those elements will be. My gardens are Cottage Style, so I get to use all kinds of what I feel are cool Garden Junque items! Stone statuary, bird baths, arbors/trellis', iron work, picket fences, wheel barrow, crates/drawers, buckets and boots... and the list can go on! Determining what you like can help in choosing the type of garden. Will you have walk ways? If so, what will be the stepping stones?
5. Irrigation: will you use sprinklers/hoses, underground sprinkler systems, above ground drip lines, soaker hoses?
6. Mulching: is so important! Mulch will help maintain moisture and hold back weeds. Again what you choose should fit with your garden style.  Mulch- what color, lava rock, white marble stones, bark, etc.


 

Documentation is a key element in helping you along the garden design path. I highly recommend that you Keep a Garden Journal for specific notes on what was planted where, where the plant was purchased, and any other important details.
1. Draw your Garden Plan layouts (see mine attached). This will give you something to work off. It may change from the original design, but having a place to start is so helpful. 
2. Keep all tags and receipts from plants that have a warranty in your journal. This is especially important for large, expensive items such as trees, shrub's/bushes and fruit bearing plants. It is very frustrating when you loose a year of growth when a plant doesn't make it through the winter. But if you have that receipt, at least you won't have to 'buy' another one!
     

This was one of my first plot plans. At our first farm I had decided to tear up the entire front yard and design a 9 part garden with a pond in the center.  I then drew up each of the nine sub gardens as well with details.  This helped in all my planning.

3.Photograph your gardens. I suggest doing this in the early and late parts of each season (spring-fall). Each year you will have a wonderful and accurate account of how things grew.  If you really liked a particular planting or arrangement you created with annuals, be sure to include the tags with a photo of the bed, along with where you purchased the plants. It is very difficult to remember the varieties and where you got them. Not all nurseries/catalog's carry the same items. 
4. Keep Ideas: I often see planting designs and architectural items in other gardens that I would like to replicate in my own. I take photo's to put in my journal otherwise I would never remember everything. I also photocopy ideas out of gardening mag.'s and store them there as well- I don't like to rip pages out!


My garden journals have been such a help to me over
the years.  They are not just helpful, but a lot of fun to
go back and look through.
When we purchased our farm seven years ago, it was an empty, foreclosed mess with not a flower bed to be found. Just one bare patch of dirt stared me in the face every time we walked into the back door.  This was the first bed I planted and I foolishly did so without a long term goal.  I wanted color and I wanted it now.  After the first year and the war against me from the quack grass, I was forced to dig up all the plants and do it again.  This time I did it right! We laid black ground cover over the dirt, set  rocks around the perimeter and then filled in with rich soil. I was able to replant most of what I had there while adding several new plants.












Here is my rendition of The Side Garden as it appears now. No longer a bare patch of dirt, but a work of art. Legend For "The Side Garden" please see attached drawing. This bed is just under 200 square feet.





The Side Garden is lined on both sides and the front with boiling ball size rocks. The back side is sloped down with pieces of slate about the size of a sheet of paper.
1. Peony- 3 plants, 2 Varieties- 1 early bloom and 1 mid bloom
2. Hollyhocks- Because these reseed prolifically I only allow about 7 plants. They are single flower pale pink and pale yellow.
3. Iris- Root beer
4. Hosta- 1 'Blue'
5. Aster- 3 in back center and 1 behind the antique metal feed cart - all purple
6. Lavender- Hidcotte, 2 plants on each corner
7. Creeping Phlox- 2 plants, both pink
8. Hardy Geranium- 3 plants, all pink
9. Lily- Tiger 1 plant
10. Sweet William- 3 to 5 plants, multi colors
11. Sea Lavender 1 plant
12. Calendula- multiple plants that flow over the side of the rocks along with Sweet Allysum
13. Double Pink Petunia's are planted each year in this Antique Feed Cart that I pulled out of a junque pile behind a barn several years ago. It has moved three times with me.
14. Jack Mani Clematis growing up an Antique Iron Gate purchased at an Antique shoppe!
15. Several Terra Cotta clay tiles and a Chimney flu are planted each year with different annuals.
16. An old wooden chair has a tin bucket with geraniums planted in it.

Here are several shots of the side garden during different parts of the season.
















Early spring in The Side Garden here. In the above photo you can see the tops of the Peony plant and spring tulips.  The photo to the left has a good shot of the Sweet Williams, Hosta, Sedum, Lily, Iris's and the Terra Cotta clay tiles.  2012 and 2011


Once the Peonies start to bloom this garden gets quickly filled up.  The Hardy Geranium makes a wonderful ground cover across the front.  2012                 




















Side and corner views show the growth of the gardens.
These two shots were from 2011. Photo to the right shows Lavender starting to bloom and Sweet William in bloom.

Above below left photo shows the bed nicely. Along the front corner under the Lavender you can see Alysum growing. I planted it the first year and have never had to again. It is a prolific reseeder. I have it through all my walkways and cascading over just about all the gardens. 


 Here we go in the fall! This is one of the Asters that is planted behind the Antique Feed Cart. Last year I planted Zinnias in it... but never again! I love Zinnias, but they have near the impact that I usually have with the double Petunias. The orange in the background are both Calendula (up front) and Nasturtiums in the back.




Here's a sneak peak of the next garden I will show you all... The Bistro Garden!
Happy Day,
Jean