It was a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. Look what I got up to. Inspired by a diligent neighbor (with the best well-lit windowsill around) I got down and dirty with my seed collection. This is what I planted:
Cup and Saucer vine
Fox red cherry tomatoes
Giant golden slicer tomatoes
Black beauty zucchini
Sweet peas are soaking in the cup (speeds up germination)
Get to it! Times a’wasting.
In the Winter 2013 issue, we featured some of our favorite hand salves for the cold season and into the early days of spring. Abbye, Wilder’s editor, is our beauty fiend and our Maine beauty. If it goes on your skin, Abbye can tell you all about it. Here’s her roster of favorites:
- Sweet Bee Magic, Medicine Mama’s Apothecary, $29.95.
- Badger Balm, $7.99.
- Healing Salve, Fig & Yarrow, $10.
- Crema, Rodin Olio Lusso, $80.
- Revitalizing Body Oil, Tata Harper, $90.
- Sea Buckthorne Hand Cream, Weleda, $11.
- Handcrafted Shea Butter, Alaffia, $8.95.
- Egyptian Magic, $37.
- Hand Crème, Dr. Hauschka, $24.95.
- Wood: Super Thick Hand Cream, $14.
- Ultimate Strength Hand Salve, Kiehl’s, $15.
The magazine failed to give credit where credit was due – the image above was shot by one of our favorites, Joanna McClure.
Turns out NASA and I have something in common. Earlier this week I received a package, courtesy of Wilder, full of Kessil LED grow lights. Since unwrapping the box my brain has been filled with dreams: tropical foliage, seedlings, tomatoes growing in January in my mountain home! LED grow lights happen to be the choice of NASA, too. Not only are they long lasting, efficient, and durable enough to withstand a journey to Pluto and back, but the high quality light produced by LEDs creates vegetables with significantly higher levels of antioxidants: important nutrients which can help astronauts combat cosmic radiation. Besides all that, I think there’s another parallel to be drawn here. Let’s face it, deep space and winter have a lot in common. And what soothes and brightens dark moods better than the vibrant, leafy color, green? Try some out.
While writing a piece a few weeks ago for the lovely Longwood Gardens, I needed some inspiration. My subject for the article, the giant water lily (Victoria amazonica) is steeped in jungle-y history, and grows to monstrous proportions. With one of the largest flowers in the world, many botanists past and present have scribbled excited passages detailing the plant’s extraordinary physiology.
To do the same, I, however, needed the BBC.
New England is widely considered one of the globe’s top spots to engage in a bit of leaf peeping. However, come October, there are a lot of other comings and goings that mark the season’s arrival.
In Paso Robles, California the culmination of the grape harvest season is celebrated at the annual harvest wine weekend, October 19-21, and if you’re more of a beer drinker, you can toast the year’s hop harvest at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. More kinds of beer are on tap at the festival than anywhere in the world! Possibly the largest fall equinox celebrations happen in China, when the annual ‘Autumn Moon’ festivals begin. To get your share of chinese moon cakes, sweet lotus paste, and ring in the changing season, get to the chinatown nearest you. San Francisco’s is particularly good. If your city’s little Italy is closer, Umbria natives feast and drink to the olive season come november, with copious amounts of wine, lavish dinners, and of course, plenty of olives!
But whether you’re sticking with pumpkins, apples, and corn stalks for the season or going for an alternative celebration, plug in your state or county and this site will give you a sampling of what’s going on. Enjoy!
It’s the spring rains. It’s the warm weather. It’s the long and pleasant indian summer. There are a myriad of explanations for the spectacle of leaf color change, but only one is correct.
The fact is leaves change at the same time each year regardless of the weather. Responding to the longer nights of fall, trees start to slow production of chlorophyll, the pigment responsible for making leaves green and photosynthesis possible, towards the end of August (in the Northern hemisphere). As chlorophyll vanishes from the plant’s tissues underlying pigments (the reds, yellows, oranges we all look out for) become visible. Things like hot, sunny days combined with chilly nights cause chlorophyll production to wind down rapidly, setting up a vivid, high impact foliage display. Other factors matter too: Drought during the growing season can stress trees out to the point of early leaf drop, and frost, wind and rain can knock leaves right off the trees before they have a chance to dazzle! So now you know. And next time somebody offers you their opinion on the subject, you be the authority.
A list of great autumn color picks based on region:
Northeast and midwest: black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) and staghorn sumac (Rhus hirta)
Southeast: smoke bush (Cotinus americana) and red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Southwest: Mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa) and skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata)
Pacific northwest: hardhack (Spirea douglasii) and Pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesii)
Mountain states: New Mexican olive (Forestiera neomexicana) and waxflower (Jamesia americana)
Hot spring temps have produced an earlier than usual apple season this year- three weeks earlier, to be precise! Devastated by a string of late frosts in April, apple trees are also producing less, and the summer’s whopping drought has led to smaller fruit size. Thankfully, neither heat nor frost nor lack of water affects this ultimate autumnal fruit’s taste so whether you’re into gingergolds, lady crisps, black twigs or winesaps, get out there and get ‘em! And check this site out to find an orchard near you.
Image by Peter Watkins
Prior to 1968 the citizens of Britain enjoyed the profits of a particularly delicious law: If any part of a plant (be it blossom, branch or fruit) hung over into a neighboring property, said neighbor was free to reap the bounty, no questions asked. Although things have changed nowadays, community groups keep the tradition of sharing the harvest going. In long season cities like those on the west coast, edibles roll down the street in abandon come autumn. Plums, apples, pears, quince- you name it, they’re here, and what perfect sense it makes! Everyone agrees a good street tree does so much for a city, beautifying and cleaning the air, but with the added bonus of a sweet and juicy edible fruit a simple street tree becomes exciting too. Imagine clocking the progress of some purpling figs as you wend your way to work each morning. Or plucking some vivid cherries while scrambling to a late afternoon meeting? So if you’re in the market for a street tree, consider one that bears fruit so you can share the tasty love. And if you’ve already got one overflowing, ripe and ready, take a look at these organizations that can help you harvest and distribute your bounty to those who want and need it.
If you live in a city, your garden is up against a whole host of challenges. If it’s not your plot’s less-than-ideal partial shade giving you problems, it’s the air pollution, the higher pest loads of cramped spaces, or the constant watering containers need. And it’s definitely always the soil.
Cities began as the hubs of dirty, smoke belching industry. Urban soils are often rife with the vestiges of these productive times and are despairingly poor in organic content as a result. But plant health and garden vibrancy begins down deep in the earthy confines of the soil, and amending your garden’s beds is often the answer to all your horticultural ailments.
Doing a soil test is a good first step on the road to better soil. PH kits can be purchased for a few bucks at any nursery and will give you some indication of what you’re working with. A low PH reading (below 5) can create problems for a lot of garden plants, reducing their ability to take up important nutrients. Most cooperative extension programs offer low cost (or sometimes free) soil testing for gardeners. These are far more in depth than simple PH testing and will tell you (among other things) how much organic content is in your soil, and how much limestone to add if your PH is too low.
Sufficient organic soil content is crucial to any garden, but particularly to those situated in cities. Organic matter is responsible for keeping the soil aerated so roots can grow long. It ensures proper water retention in the soil. And it delivers all the nutrients plants need to stay strong and maintain the defenses that ward off diseases and pests. The organic matter in city soils washes away once the landscape is denuded and natural augmentation can no longer occur from surrounding vegetation. Standing open to the elements for decades (and sometimes centuries) urban soil gradually declines in quality, and becomes more and more compacted as the rush of city life swarms over it. But if a plant can’t extract the nutrients it needs from the soil, it will weaken. And if a soil doesn’t have enough organic content to effectively hold moisture, plants will wilt. Giving your plant healthy soil is like making sure it has its five a day. So if you’ve got plant problems that have had you scratching your head, and you haven’t looked at the soil yet get down on your hands and knees and get to it.
It seems the most mind blowing inventions in the world of horticulture are also, no brainers. Take the raised bed, for example. Problems with drainage? Soil too cold for early planting? Slap on some 2×4 s and voila! Raised bed! Problem solved.
The oh-so elegant Versailles Planter is another kind of ‘well, duh’ invention, and I just love it. Packed with fastidiously trimmed topiaries, these hefty planters once lined the straight, airy pathways of the Palace of Versaille in 17th century France. Ingeniously designed with sliding or hinged sides, the planter opens up and allows for easy root trimming. Frequent pruning kept shrubs happy year after year in their palace home. Plenty of tasteful recreations are available nowadays or build your own with these handy instructions.
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