Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Rousham House and Garden

Rousham House and Gardens, located in Oxfordshire, England, is a place of breathtaking landscape. It was laid out by the iconic designer, William Kent (1685-1748).  The Gothic style house, built in 1635, is still owned by the original family, and Kent's work remains as he designed it all those years ago.

The gardens cover about twenty-five acres, and include small temples and statues of Roman gods and mythical creatures. If you visit, wear comfortable walking shoes. Your wanderings will take you past a herd of longhorn cattle, to grottoes and pools, and onward to vast, open spaces. One path, known as the Watery Walk, follows a slim stone channel that curves downhill under beech and oak trees and leads to a beautiful view of the River Cherwell.

The gardens are open daily from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Children under fifteen are not allowed. (Neither are dogs.) Cost of admission to view the gardens is 5 pounds. Tours of the house must be arranged prior to visiting. The cost per person is 10 pounds, but you must come with a group. The minimum fee is 120 pounds.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Beth Chatto Gardens

The Beth Chatto Gardens, located in Essex, United Kingdom, are the work of award-winning plantswoman, Beth Chatto. In 1960, she began planting a series of gardens in a rather inhospitable patch of British terrain. Naysayers said it couldn't be done in this place of nutrient-deprived soil and less than twenty inches of rain per year. But she followed her mantra, "the right plant for the right place," and created lovely gardens. The Gravel Garden is a shining example. She used one of her parking lots, with its well-draining soil, to study which flowers tolerated little water. More than twenty years later, allium, iris, Oriental poppies, catmint, and sage stand bright and beautiful in this place.

Other gardens include the Water Garden with four ponds, and a Woodland Garden, which shows visitors that beautiful gardens can be created in shady spots.

The gardens are open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Cost of admission is 6.95 British pounds.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Derek Jarman Gardens

Located in the United Kingdom in Dungeness, on the coast of Kent, the Derek Jarman Gardens surround Prospect Cottage, which was once the home of Avante-gard film director, Derek Jarman (1942 - 1994). The garden is most unusual, in that it was created in a desert landscape. It's flat, bleak, and barren - a stark contrast to the nearby rolling green hills and farmland. Basically, it's on the equivalent of a sand bar.

The garden started out by accident. Jarman bought the four-room fisherman's house in 1986. He began using bits of stones and driftwood as outlines of the property. Then he experimented with local plants to see what could survive in the inhospitable terrain. He found that oxeye daisies, California poppies, and sea kale worked. He added things that had washed up on the shore - rope, metal, driftwood, and created sculptures that served as focal points. In the end, Jarman created a colorful and eye-appealing area that surrounds his tar-black cottage.

Visitors may not enter the house, as it is privately owned, but visitors can carefully tread around the garden exterior. The best time to visit is in June and July. There is no charge to see the gardens.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Great Dixter Garden

Great Dixter house and gardens are located in East Sussex, Great Britain. They were the home of legendary gardening writer, Christopher Lloyd. Every nook and cranny of the garden's six acres is crammed with flowering plants. This gives the garden abundant color and texture. Plants seem to dance together here. As Lloyd himself wrote, "If I think a yellow candelabrum of mullein will look good rising from a quilt of pink phlox, I'll put it there."

The gardens are open from the end of March to the end of October, daily from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  The house is open from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Cost of admission for adults is 11.55 pounds, and for children, 1.65 pounds.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Alaska Botanical Gardens

 Alaska Botanical Gardens is located in Anchorage, Alaska.

The gardens, opened in 1993,  cover about 110 acres and contain over 1,000 varieties of plants native to southcentral Alaska.  There's an herb garden, rock garden, and a wildflower walk.  It's a great place to hike with spectacular views of the Chugach Mountain Range.  Nature lovers will enjoy it for bird watching, and occasionally will spot moose and bear.

The gardens are open year round from dawn to dusk.  The cost of admission for adults is $7.00.  For children, admission is $5.00.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Smiley Park Children's Garden

Smiley Park Children's Garden, located in Van Wert, Ohio, was opened in 2007, and was created so that children could learn about the gardening process and all that is involved with caring for a garden.

One very nice thing about the garden, is that produce that is grown in it is given to a local food pantry.

Children will really enjoy the butterfly house, which is a colorful green and pink house with window boxes filled with petunias.  The back part of the house is screened in, so that butterflies can fly around inside.

There's another cute garden called Melody's Secret Garden where children can pass though and arched entry way with climbing roses.  There are two weeping Mulberry trees, so kids can see what Mulberry "bushes" actually look like.

Kids will also get a kick out of Roscoe the Rhino who guards the International Garden.

The newest feature is a crooked house.  Kids can have fun playing inside.

The garden is open daily from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM.  Admission is free.

One more thing before I go:  I shared this on my other blog, but if you don't follow me there, you haven't seen it. This is a video of me playing at Dragoncon in Atlanta. I'm the violist on the far left. Thought you'd like to see it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Exbury Gardens

The Exbury Gardens, located in Hampshire, England, are a real treat for the eyes!  In fact, in December of 2011, they were awarded the Hudson's Heritage UK "Best Garden" award.                     

The gardens contains over 200 acres of rhododendrons, azaleas, and a plethora of rare trees  and shrubs.  They are the inspiration of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild  who passed away in 2009.  Today, his grandchildren carry on the legacy.

 There are several ways to view the gardens. You can walk on the numerous trails, you can ride a chauffer-driven buggy, or you can do my favorite thing:  ride a miniature steam locomotive through the gardens. 

The train will pass through the Summer Lane garden.  From there, you'll catch glimpses of the rock garden, followed by the wildlife pond.  Next, you'll pass the plant nursery and exotic fruit patch.  Then you'll pass by the sunflower field, which if you visit in the summer, is just amazing!  Finally, you'll loop around the oldest tree in the garden:  the Domesday Yew.  The train ride takes about 20 minutes.

The gardens are open daily from March to early November.  Admission for adults is 14 British pounds and 4 British pounds for children.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Five Things to Do with Your Garden Tomatoes

Did you plant tomatoes this year?  If you did, I bet you have a plethora of them now.  Are you wondering what to do with them?  Here are some ideas:

1.  Roast them:  Core the tomatoes and cut in half horizontally.  Place them in a glass baking dish.  Drizzle with about a 1/2 cup olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place in a 200 degree oven and bake 2-3 hours.  Cool.  Refrigerate or freeze with the oil.  Roasted tomatoes can be used for pizza, rissoto, and salad dressing.

2.  Make a BLT.   These are great summer sandwiches.  Get some applewood smoked bacon, sourdough bread, lettuce, mayonaise, and of course, tomatoes.

3.  Make a super-easy sauce.  Core, seed, and dice your tomatoes.  Toss with 1/2 cup bottled Italian dressing, 1 Tablespoon fresh minced garlic, and 2 Tablespoons of fresh cut up basil leaves.  Mix it all together and serve over hot pasta.

4.  Do you have more time?  Try making a cooked sauce.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add 1 diced onion and cook until soft.  Add 2 tablespoons of minced garlic and 1 cup of chopped carrots.  Cook about 2 minutes.  Add about 3 pounds of peeled, cored, and seeded tomatoes.  Cook on low for about an hour.  Cool and puree in batches in a food processor or blender.  Return to pot and add 2 teaspoons sugar, 1-2 teaspoons salt, and 1 tablespoon oregano.  Cook until sauce is desired consistancy.  Use immediately, or cool and freeze.

5.  Can them.  Peel and core your tomatoes.  Leave them whole.  Sterilize jars and keep them in a deep pot of hot water.  In each quart-sized jar, place 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Pack tomatoes into the jar, leaving about an inch at the top.  Ladle boiling water into the jars.  Place lids and bands on.  Place jars in the deep pot, cover, and boil about 40 minutes.  Turn off the heat, wait 5 minutes, remove jars, and let them cool.

What do you do with your tomatoes?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Michigan 4-H Children's Garden

The Michigan 4-H Children's Garden is located on the campus of Michigan State University.  It opened in 1993, as one of five gardens that are part of the Michigan State University Horticulture Demonstration Gardens.

 The children's garden covers about half an acre, and it features 30 different play areas.  These include a dinosaur garden, a pizza garden, a Peter Rabbit garden, an ABC Kindergarten garden, a Teddy Bear and Animal garden, a Storybook garden, and an Alice in Wonderland Maze which leads to a secret garden.

  Some of the fun things kids can do are find lambs ear and feel the leaves, smell chocolate mint, dance on dance chimes, and cross over the Monet bridge.
 The garden is open Monday through Friday from dawn to dusk.  Admission is free, but parking is $3.00 for 1 1/2 hours or $5.00 for 3 hours.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How to Make a Succulent Container Garden

All of the hot weather we've been experiencing has made me grateful for the succulents in my garden.  They can handle the heat, and don't need a lot of water.  They also come in a variety of shapes, colors, textures, and sizes.

Succulents are easy to grow in containers.  Here's how to do it:

1.  Choose the succulents you wish to use.  Two to four different types work nicely.  Here are some possibilities:  Hens and chickens, aloe vera, jade plants, and donkey's tail.

2.  Select a container.  Shallow bowls with good drainage work well. I use the same kind that I use for planting my container lettuce garden.

3.  Design your garden.  Do this with the plants still in the pots.  Place them in such a way to create interesting texture and color combinations.

4.  Use cactus potting mix when you're ready to plant them.  You can also use sand and small pebbles around them to create an interesting effect.  I think black river stones look nice, too.

5.  Place in a location that gets a few hours of direct sun, and a good amount of indirect sunlight.  Too much direct sunlight isn't good.  It'll burn the leaves.

6.  Keep the soil moist, but not wet.  In the winter, when the plants are dormant, water less frequently.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Viceroy's Palace Garden

The Viceroy's Palace Garden, located in New Delhi, India is considered one of the most beautiful in the world.  It is part of the property of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India

The garden covers 13 acres.  It was designed in the late 1920s by Edwin Lutyens.  There are beautiful ornamental fountains, walls, gazebos, flowering trees, gorgeous flowers, and shrubs.  Indians call it "God's own Heaven." 


The gardens are open to the public only two weeks out of the year, in late February and early March.  Expect security to be tight, but it is certainly well-worth the visit!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Ault Park

Ault Park, located in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a little gem that was very close to where I used to live in Cincinnati .  It's a 224 acre park in the Hyde Park/Mount Lookout area of Cincinnati.

 The gardens were designed by renowned landscape architect, Albert D. Taylor, and named after Levi and Ida Ault who played a big roll in developing Cincinnati parks.  They  were opened to the public on May 30, 1930.  The gardens have changed quite a bit through the years.  Today, the main attractions are a dahlia garden, and the Hilda Rothchilde Memorial Old Fashioned Rose Garden.

 There is also an Italian-style Pavilion located on the grounds, which is a popular site for weddings. 

The gardens are open year round from 6 AM to 10 PM.  Admission is free.

Before I go, I'd like to share a promo video that I did for the upcoming anthology, The Thing That Turned Me. Release date will be the end of August. (It's been moved from the original date.) I this video, I share a little about myself and the piece I wrote for the anthology.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fellows Riverside Gardens

Fellows Riverside Gardens is a free public garden located in Youngstown, Ohio's Mill Creek Park.  It covers 12 acres, and includes an assortment of gardens.  It is probably best known for its variety of roses. Three of its gardens are dedicated to roses:  The Formal Rose Garden, Climbing Rose Allee, and the Rose Garden Terrace.  If you wish to see these gardens in full bloom, the best time to go is in June.


Other gardens include the Blue Garden, the shade garden, and the perenial border walk.

If you visit the gardens in the spring, you'll absolutely love all of the spring flowers.  The grounds are planted with 40,000 spring bulbs.  You'll see crocus, tulips, narcissus, and other colorful blooms.

The gardens are open year-round from dawn to dusk.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Green Bay Botanical Gardens

Opened in 1996, the Green Bay Botanical Gardens in Greenbay, Wisconsin, contain forty-seven acres of gardens and natural areas that showcase Wisconsin's seasonal beauty.

Within these forty-seven acres is the Gertrude B. Nielson Children's Garden.  It covers only a half an acre, but there are so many neat things for kids to do.  Some of the fun features include a tree house, a slide, a vine maze, a re-circulating pond, and a giant sundial.

 There are seven gardens within the children's garden where kids can explore natural wonders.  These include the Einstein Garden, Peter Rabbit Garden, Sensory Garden, and Frog Bridge.  
The gardens are open Monday through Saturday from 9-4.  Admission is $7.00 per adult and $2.00 for children.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens

Stan Hywet Hall and gardens, located in Akron, Ohio, is one of my favorite places to visit.  It was originally the vast estate of the Seiberling family, founders of the Good Year Tire Company.  The estate originally covered more than 3,000 acres.  Now it covers 70 acres.
The gardens were designed between 1912  and 1915 by the famous American landscape architect, Warren Manning.  The gardens are divided into ten sections:  The English Garden (Gertrude Seiberling's favorite), Birch Allee Vista, The Dell, Grape Arbor, Great Meadow, Japanese Garden, Lagoon, West Terrace, the Great Garden, and the Breakfast Room Garden.  My personal favorite is the Breakfast Room Garden.  With its blue, white, and gold color scheme and lovely fountain, it compliments the Breakfast room of the manor perfectly.


 The gardens open April 1st and remain open through December.  Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am - 6 pm.  Admission for non-members is $8.00 per person.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens are located on the campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.  Plans for the gardens began in 1931, when  Alexander Elg, chairman of the Botany Department at the university decided to create gardens featuring plants native to the area.

The gardens were opened to the public in 1985, and they've expanded to include flora and fauna from all over the world.  The gardens feature sections of Australian plants, Mediterranean plants, African, and European plants.  There's also a Bonsai Japanese garden.  In addition, there's a tropical house, an herb garden, and a Bible patch, featuring 70 species of plants mentioned in the Bible.

If you visit, be sure to see the 2000 year old burial cave located on the grounds that were discovered in 1902.  The cave has the inscription, "Bones of Nicanor of Alexandria."

 The gardens are open daily from 7:00 AM to sunset.  Admission is 20 ILS for children, and 35 ILS for adults.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Schoenbrunn Palace Gardens

The gardens at Schoenbrunn Palace, located in Vienna, Austria, were opened to the public around 1779.  The Schoenbrunn Palace was the former summer residence of the famous Hapsburg family.

The palace gardens are essentially baroque in style.  There are several interesting structures located throughout the gardens.  One is the steel Palm House, pictured on the bottom.  Neptune Fountain, with its groups of Greek - Roman statues, is a picturesque focal point.  There's also a zoo - the first in the world.

    Two other gardens, not to miss, are the dry landscape Japanese garden, and the tea garden, both presents of goodwill from Japan to Austria.

The Palace gardens are free.  They are open year-round from 6:30 AM to dusk.  There is a charge to visit the Labrinth Garden and Palm House.  Admission is 3.30 euros.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Choosing the Right Fertilizer for Your Garden

 It's time for gardening to begin.  And that means a little bit of soil fortification through fertilization.  Do all of the different fertilizers have you a bit confused?  If so, here's a brief tutorial.  There are three main ingredients in fertilizer bags:  nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  Nitrogen is for foilage growth, phosphorus is for flowers and roots, and potassium is for overall health.  When you look on a bag of fertilizer, you'll see a set of three numbers.  These represent the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that are in the mix.  So, a 5-10-5 mix has 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 5% potassium.

"Okay," you say.  "So what do I need?"  Well here's how you decide:

1.  Test your soil.  Those tests you get at the store will tell you your pH, but not necessarily what nutrients are missing in your soil.  So I would recommend contacting a government agency or local university to have a soil test done.  These are usually free (or there might be a small fee).  This will tell you exactly what kind of nutrients you will have to add to the soil in order to grow your desired plants.

2.  If you aren't able to test your soil, then pay attention to your plants to see what they need.  If the leaves on your plants are yellow and unhealthy, select a fertilizer with a high nitrogen count (21-3-3).  Be aware, if a plant has too much nitrogen, it won't produce flowers.  If you want to produce more flowers or fruit, choose a fertilizer with more phosphorus.  Note:  purplish leaves usually indicate a deficiency in phosphorus.

3.  If you want a general guideline, follow this:  1-2-1 is a great mix for vegetable gardens, 5-10-5 is a good all-purpose fertilizer.

4. There are also fertilizers for specifc plants.  Always follow the labels on the packaging when fertilizing your plants.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

George Washington's River Farm

George Washington's River farm and gardens are located in Alexandria,Virginia.  The property covers nearly 25 acres and overlooks the Potomac River.  The farm was owned by George Washington from 1760 until his death in 1799.  It now serves as the headquarters for the American Horticultural Society.Children can enjoy this historic site, as well.  There are a dozen small gardens made just for kids.  These include a Fairy Tale garden, Hummingbird Garden, Butterfly Garden, Scratch and Sniff Garden, Maze Garden, and Bat Cave.
The Wildlife Garden is a big favorite for kids.  They can hang out at the pond, pictured above, and spot little creatures like turtles, goldfish, and frogs.
The gardens are open Monday through Friday. Admission is free.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Topiary Park

I don't know about you, but I've always found topiaries to be fascinating focal points of gardens.  If you like topiaries, the place to visit is Topiary Park, in downtown Columbus, Ohio.  The seven acre park is famous for its topiary interpretation of Georges Seurat's famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.

The park was dedicated in 1992, but it goes back to the early 19th century.  It was once a part of the Old Deaf School Park. The concept came from artist, James T, Mason, who teaches sculpture at the Recreation and Park's Department of Cultural Arts Center. He designed and installed the frames and living topiaries.
The garden contains 54 topiary people, eight boats, 3 dogs, a monkey, a cat, and a pond, which represents the Seine River.  The largest feature is 12 feet tall.

The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Admission is free.  The best viewing is April through November, when the greenery is in bloom.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Beijing Botanical Gardens

The  Beijing Botanical Garden, located in Beijing, China, was established in 1955. It is the largest botanical garden in northern China.  Eleven themed gardens make up this 400 hectare complex.  These include a tree garden, rose garden, peony garden, and traditional medicinal herb garden. The gardens contain over 6,000 species of plants.

 In addition to all of the beautiful plants, the garden contains several historic sites, including the Cao Xueqin Memorial Hall, Tomb of Liang Qichao, and the Temple of the Sleeping Buddha.
With its ponds, elegant bridges, and gorgeous flowers, the Beijing Botanical Garden is a place of great beauty.

 Admission is free, and the garden is open daily from 7 AM to 5 PM.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Brookside Children's Garden

Brookside Children's GardenThe Brookside Children's Garden is part of the Wheaton regional park in Maryland.  Probably the most interesting feature of the garden, is the tree house pictured above.  It is constructed of recycled material.  Kids can climb the stairs, then play with wooden blocks or construct things with other natural materials.
The garden also features a gnome hut, where kids can follow stepping stones to a tea party, and a water garden, where kids can observe frogs and other assorted water creatures.
Brookside Gardens Pictures
The Brookside Chidren's Garden is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission is free.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

United States Botanical Gardens

Located in Washington DC, the United States Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. Established in  1850, it has grown to house about 26,000 plants, including medicinal plants, orchids, and cacti.

The Conservatory, built in 1933, houses a jungle, desert, and primeval paradise.

Outdoors, the National Garden features a variety of mid-Atlantic plants.

The gardens are open 10-5 daily, including weekends and holidays.  Admission is free.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

How to Get the Most From a Home Vegetable Garden

It's always nice to go to your back yard and pick a tomato fresh off the vine. They are so much better than most store-bought ones. Here are some tips to make growing your own vegetables in whatever space you have.

1. Grow What You Love. Make a list of what you truly love to eat, and plant accordingly. What good is it if you grow cabbages and you don't like them?  

2. Grow for Flavor. Think about veggies that don't hold up well in grocery stores. Tomatoes and corn are good examples. These vegetables seem to lose their flavor a few hours after picking.

3. Grow Crops With Bountiful Harvests.   Find plants that give all season-long. Tomatoes, beans, peas, and squash bear all summer long.

4. Grow Crops in Pots.  If you don't have much land to work with, a lot of vegetables can be grown in pots. Just make sure the pots they are planted in allow ample room for growth.

5. Use Succession Planting. Crops that are once-and-done kind of veggies can be planted numerous times within the season. When one is done, start another. Leaf lettuces are a good example of this.

6. Grow Vertically. Use trellises and tripods for vine crops. It saves space, prevents the vegetables from rotting on the ground, and even looks pretty in your garden. Cucumbers, pole beans, and winter squash are good examples of veggies that can be grown this way.

7. Mix Edibles With Ornamentals. Vegetables don't have to be combined to a garden of their own. They can look pretty with other flowers. A tomato plant on a tripod can look really nice mixed with red zinnias.