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Great Children’s Books To Get Your Kids Gardening

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, May 27, 2015

We all know how important it is to teach our children to love the outdoors but what about gardening?  When I was only seven years old, my parents bestowed my own plot of earth that I could grow my own crop just like they did.  Sure, it wasn’t as organized as the adult plots, having mostly grown lima beans, squash, marigolds and a tomato plant that produced one single fruit the entire season but I was proud of it!  I remember the excitement I felt when I saw sprigs beginning to protrude from the soil and the amazement I felt being able to combine a seed with soil, water and sun to make a delicious edible or beautiful living thing.   I had wonderful role models to learn from since they both had that inner desire to cultivate and yes they were also florists but there was a lot more which contributed to my fondness for gardening.  One essential element that certainly helped was having a bookshelf full of stories themed after this hobby.

 

There is no topic that is uncovered when we’re talking about children’s literature and that includes fabulous titles dedicated to teaching little farmers how to start growing fruits, veggies and flowers on their own.  Between the fiction, picture books, easy readers and non-fiction available, we can locate just about any subcategory of agriculture that we want.  If your child is interested in composting, starter seeds, vegetables, perennials, wildflowers or simply the colors associated with gardening, you can locate these subjects by visiting your local library.  Here are a few children’s stories that particularly caught my attention.

 SecretGarden6

The Secret Garden

By Frances Hodgson Burnett

 

This has got to be the most famous book in history on the “green thumb” matter.  Young readers fall in love with the magical changes of a once devastated garden into a stunning Eden of flowers with the help of a little girl and her companions.  While the characters lead you through a fascinating transformation of roses and other blossoming varieties, they also undergo a transformation of their own within their relationships with one another. 

 

garden_book_kids

Planting A Rainbow

By Lois Elhert

 

This is a beautiful book that educates children on how to plant seeds and bulbs to make a rainbow of color in the garden. Illustrated with bright images that capture the attention of little ones as young as two, “Planting A Rainbow” has inspired millions of readers using soothing descriptions and clever illustrations of bold poppies, lilies and sunflowers.

 

 

Suzie Canale

Westwood, MA 

Suzie also works in the children's department at the Westwood Public Library

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Childrens Book, Kids, #EXFL, Libraries, Outdoor Living

Get Your Hands Dirty - A Gardener's Poem

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, May 25, 2015

flower pot

The snow has thawed and the grass is green,

Winter shovels have been put away,

New England is finally ready for spring,

It’s gardening season, hurray!

 

 

We’ll need compound and soil to patch up the yard,

And the trowels and pots from the sheds,

Gas the lawnmower up and get ready to mow,

Don’t forget to pull weeds from the beds.

 

 

Once the chores from the clean up are finally finished,

Then the prep work is properly done,

Now its time to head straight to your favorite greenhouse,

Where we’ll really begin to have fun!

 

 

Browse the vegetable section and next buy the herbs,

Fertilizer, organic plant food,

Pick out annuals with color and sensational scent,

You’ll see the smell enhances your mood!

 

 

You’ll want to put everything in the ground quick,

But be sure to plan out your design,

Then plant them in soil and water them good,

Soon you’ll grow a garden that’s divine!

Memorial Day Flowers

Posted by Suzie Canale on Sun, May 24, 2015

 memorial day florist

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have lost their lives while fighting for our country.  It seeks to reiterate the importance of respecting these soldiers who left their families behind to travel to foreign places in search of defending all American life and both secure and preserve the gift of freedom and independence.  For many Bostonians, May 25th will be spent visiting the gravesites of loved ones and remembering the tremendous courage they possessed during their service.  Customarily, Memorial Day is a holiday where we gift those who passed with a bouquet of flowers, plants or flags placed on their tombstones.  While some are patriotically representative of a red, white and blue color palette, there has recently been a movement to change this traditional style.  I appreciate this combination but I can’t help but wonder what other designs might be possible for thanking our beloved troops?  What if there’s a way to perk up the Memorial Day sentiment with a twist of color and dynamic texture?  These are some of the new looks that are starting to pop up in floral shops across the city.

 memorial day florist

A spectrum of green has embellished several of the more popular Memorial Day arrangements, particularly for those who were members of the US Army.  While still holding onto the basic red, white and blue sheen, designers are finding that a few stems of lady’s mantle, octoberweed, and green berries help to materialize another level of depth within typically styled pieces.  This added shade not only blends the other three colors for a greater eye appeal but will also display a larger presence while incorporating a special sentimental theme. 

 

Since Memorial Day pieces are usually shades of the American flag, why not separate the pieces into beautiful bouquets of single color?  Have your florists make three separate arrangements of red roses, white hydrangea and blue delphinium to create a sophisticated presentation.  You can also request several smaller nosegays and allow each family member to place one each at the gravesite. 

 memorial_day_flowers

Although there is a wide range of colors that can represent the topic of “honor”, there is considerable evidence that blue is the strongest tint to reflect this emotion.  Several people believe that while blue is certainly a beautiful color, there aren’t enough floral varieties to choose from.  The truth is, agriculturalists are breeding more and more hybrids because of the growing demand.  Delphinium is definitely one of the easiest to come by but asking for scabiosa, jasmine and bachelor buttons.  For those looking for a plant, several florists now carry philanopsis plants that have conveniently been dyed blue as well. 

Tags: Floral Design, Memorial Day, Flower Arrangements, Patriotic Flowers

Tri-Color Pasta Salad for Memorial Day

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, May 22, 2015

Memorial Day Backyard Menus for Bostonians

 pasta_salad

Memorial Day is early this year, which will be celebrated on Monday, May 25th and many of us are beginning to plan our menus for a festive and delicious backyard meal!  Officially reserved to respect those who have lost their lives serving our country, this holiday is also associated with marking the first day of summer with a barbecue hosted for family and friends.  Boston grillers will be making quite a spark with their meat selections of beef, pork and chicken but many including myself get stumped on deciding the extras.  Most of the time, you’ll see long picnic tables filled with chips, dip, potato salad and coleslaw but what’s a girl to do when she wants to add a little something special to this year’s buffet?

 

Now we don’t have to go crazy with overwhelming hot sauces or exorbitantly priced marinades, I assure you.  We can put a little extra sizzle in our food without making unnecessary prep work or incurring ridiculous grocery bills.  The idea behind your meal should reflect simplicity and freshness since now is the time where local fruits and vegetables are becoming available.  Here’s what I’ve found for a yummy barbecue side dish that’s fun and easy to whip up in a jiff.   Don’t be afraid to improvise your own culinary preferences when trying it out on your own!

 

Tri Colored Pasta Salad

I love this dish and look forward to cooking a batch as soon as the weather warms up for summer.  The ingredients are easy to find, affordable and even healthy to boot! 

 

You’ll Need:

1 Box of Barilla Tri-Colored Rotini                         1 Large Yellow Onion

2 Large Ripe Red Tomatoes                                                3 TBSP of Olive Oil

1 Large Green Bell Pepper                                      ½ Cup Ken’s Italian Dressing

Salt/Pepper To Taste                                               1 TBSP Rosemary

 

In a pan with olive oil, sauté both the green pepper and yellow onion adding seasoning of salt and white pepper until softened.  Set the pan aside until cooled.  Cook the box of pasta according to the package and strain well with cold water until the noodles are cool.  Dice the two tomatoes and add to a bowl.  Add the room temperature contents of the sauté pan as well as the chilled pasta and mix well.  Next, spice it up with salt, pepper and rosemary along with the ½ cup of salad dressing.  Place in refrigerator for three hours before serving and enjoy a scrumptious and colorful dish perfect for celebrating Memorial Day!

Tags: Memorial Day, Chef, cooking, Outdoor Living

Best Flowers for Window Boxes #gardening

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, May 20, 2015

It’s finally springtime in New England and if you’re anything like me, you’ve been spending whatever extra time you have cleaning up the backyard, raking forgotten leaves from the fall and re-soiling the raised beds for summer plantings.  Sweeping up the decks and fixating patio furniture is also on the to-do list along with pulling out the pots and urns that will need to be filled.  One important warm weather task that you won’t want to forget is the designing of this year’s window boxes!  These spiffy little gardening accessories are perfect for any home including apartments and condominiums so you’ll want to stock up at your local garden center or hardware store.  Although window boxes are constructed with a wide variety of materials including vinyl, plastic and ceramic, in my experience the best are usually made with wood such as pine or cedar.  You’ll find that they compliment most outdoor paint, brick and tile as well as protect your plants better than other compounds.  Most containers can be securely fastened to window ledges or just placed on railings that have a wide width.  If you are not using screws to connect directly to the outside wall, be sure to place the boxes on the ground when wind or storms are present to prevent breakage. 

 window boxes

                                                photo credit:Flower Factor via Flickr

Once you have everything set up the way you like, it’s time to start thinking about what you want to plant.  Depending on your taste for color and texture, you’ll be pleased to learn that there are lots and lots of beautiful flowers to choose from that thrive in this type of growing environment.  If you’re looking for an early blossom that can withstand colder temperatures common to April and the beginning of May, the pansy is just what you’re looking for.  These cheery early bloomers come in almost every shade including red, yellow, purple and orange.  Installments can either be one tint or interchanged with one another forming a sensational rainbow spectrum.  If you want to wait it out a bit for the thermometer to raise a smidge, your options increase greatly.  Nurseries typically try to wait out the impulse buyers and will temporarily hold off filling their racks with product that they know can’t live outdoors through the night.  So in the case, patience is a virtue.  Right around mid to late May, greenhouses are ready to show you their goodies that are properly habitable for the New England summer season.  Be on the lookout for geraniums in red, white and pink, which make fabulous window box treatments.  Easy to maintain and a plant that thrives on the heat, they create quite a commotion with their extra large heads and intoxicating smell.  Another breed that is sure to impress are fragrant herbs such as rosemary and lavender.  They are virtually impossible to kill, are often priced reasonably for the frugal customer and compliment outdoor dining events with their delicious scents. 

 window box flowers

                                                photo credit: Flower Factor via Flickr

Enjoy the rest of the spring clean up session and get ready for the stunning gardens you’ll be able to plant within your window boxes!

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Plants, outdoors, Outdoor Living

Hollywood Stars' Gardens Grow

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, May 18, 2015

 

New Englanders aren’t the only ones preparing their raised beds for a successful season of gardening, heck no!  Hollywood starlets are also rolling up their sleeves and getting down in the mud with their own preferences of vegetable and flower harvesting.  Contrary to popular belief, some of the most famous actresses and actors forgo the service of professional landscape artists and rely solely on their own creative capabilities when designing pots, window boxes and garden plots.  Some of which, are so beautiful that we all could take a lesson or two from their impressive green thumbs.  Did you know that several big named thespians try to match their persona with varieties of plants and shrubbery?  Did you know that some even request months and months beforehand certain breeds of poppies and sunflowers from nurseries around the world?  We all could learn a few tips that have been discovered from these silver screen talents and hopefully incorporate some of their ideas with ours!  Here are a few of my favorites that I will surely be intertwining throughout my gardening efforts this summer. 

 tori

                         photo credit: torispelling.com

Tori Spelling is known for her naturalistic adoration for the outdoors.  Recently she acquired a piece of property that hosted its own farm complete with chickens, goats and rabbits.  Along with these adorable animal inhabitants, the actress also has a fondness of agriculture, reaping crops of vegetables such as heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots.  Although the successful entrepreneur and heiress has no shortage of local greenhouse expertise, Spelling has managed to develop her own techniques of fertilizing soil with seaweed and coffee grounds.  Having a strong belief that people should grow their own organic fruits and veggies for optimum health, she has also been believed to grow outstanding fields of gigantic pumpkins for Halloween.  What a lucky bunch of kids she has to have such a fantastic farming mom! 

 SARAH_PARKER

Sarah Jessica Parker may live most of the time in her posh Manhattan flat but little do most know that she has built her own victory garden on the rooftop!  Containing a stunning eclectic assortment of multicolored ceramic pots holding green beans, spinach and eggplant, the Sex in the City icon has managed to grow sunflowers in the shades of yellow, orange and red in iron urns, which line the edges of the garden.  Word has it that she prefers colors that reflect the New York skyline at sunset, so she cleverly incorporates varieties of gerbera daisies, cabbage roses and nasturtiums to match the preferred palette of glowing spectrum.   

 

Sandra Bullock is another impressive gardener who has been speculated to adore native southern growth typical to her hometown of Virginia.  Wistful spikes of soft wildflowers are often photographed throughout her ranch as well as massive plantings of blue hydrangea and weeping willow trees.  Bullock also contends to leave on the property naturally growing dandelions so that her son, Louie can enjoy blowing the petals off once the plant has fully matured.  Sandra’s taste has been paired to being “free spirited” and unfettered by the popularity of contemporary design. 

Tags: Gardening, Movies, Celebrity Florist, Hollywood Florist

How to Jump Start Your Growing Season

Posted by Suzie Canale on Thu, May 14, 2015

I walked outside this morning and felt the warmth of the sun that is steadily indicating the summer growing season is near.  New Englanders understand this elation all to well since we patiently wait through six months of chilly weather until we can be reunited with our gardens.  It doesn’t seem fair that states such as Texas, Florida and California can pretty much tend to crops almost the entire year while we have to suffer the harshness of annual blustery winters. 

 

 garden_kidsOr is it? 

We northerners have managed to come up with a trick or two when it comes to stretching our growing period.  Professionals within the agricultural industry have passed on a few tips including the manipulation of imperative essentials such as temperature, fertilization, zone guidelines and light distribution.  It seems really complicating but by adding a few alterations to your anticipated gardening plans, you’ll be able to jumpstart your green thumbs at little extra cost. 

 

Starter Seedlings

Starting your seeds inside before the suggested date can not only add months to your hobby but also strengthen the specimen allowing it to become hardier and more resistant to environmental changes.  You can place seeds in special indoor pots sold by Home Depot and Lowes or simply use an empty egg carton.  Once the soil and seed have been prepared, place near a window with maximum sunlight.  If you’re worried about cold drafts, place a clear sheet of saran wrap over the containers, which will create a greenhouse effect.  Perfect starter seeds include peas, cucumbers, marigolds and tomatoes. 

 

Early Protection

If you have taken the leap and planted your goodies prior to recommended planting season, hopefully you have put them in a raised bed since the soil will warm faster than the earth beneath the ground.  Keep a steady eye on the weather forecast and if a frost pops up as a possibility, cover your plants with heavy plastic or tarp.  If the area is nestled within trees or a heavily shrub area, you might even be able to get away with laying newspaper on top, which will also keep them warmer. 

 

Pruning

Now that we’ve talked about the preseason, how about we come up with something for the post season?  Pruning can add extra time to your favorite flowers once the fall threatens to retract their beauty.  Keeping the stocks strong can be done simply by taking off the dead heads of past blooms and shortening the length of the stem.  Water continuously and don’t forget to protect with a layer of plastic if the cold begins to creep in!

Tags: Garden Center, Gardening, New England, Gardening in Boston

Songs to Sing to Flowers

Posted by Suzie Canale on Tue, May 12, 2015

Songs to Sing to Flowers

 land_of_chocolate_cosmos

The other day I was thumbing through some books in the children’s department of our local public library.  As I was making my selections of Mo Willems and Eileen Christelow, the door to the story time room opened and a dozen or so smiling six year olds piled out holding their crafts of pea pod seeds planted in a Dixie cups.  Parents greeted their kids with “Wow, what did you make?” salutations and with heart felt appreciation, thanked the librarian who read books about gardens and then proceeded to teach the enthusiastic group how to grow their own.  Taken in by the pleasant commotion, I glanced over at the gleeful scene grinning at the fact that our library resources maintain the ability to not only encourage literacy and enrichment education programs but also provide the push for creativity.  That’s when I saw her, a little girl still standing inside the reading area, holding her cup and by the looks of it, whispering to the contents.  Compelled to learn more, I stepped closer for a better view when the group facilitator turned to me and said, “She’s singing to her plant!  Isn’t that amazing?”  Nodding my head, things got more interesting as another classmate joined her friend and also began humming a tune.  Pretty soon, children were gathering one by one and singing sweet notes to their projects with the intention that they would grow stronger and faster if encouraged with a hymn.

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                                                photo credit: Flower Factor

That amazed me.

 

It wasn’t that the scene was just adorable to say the least but most of all, it was inspiring as well.  We have all heard the old wives tale about talking to our plants but what if there is actually truth to the suggestion that higher nurturing of our harvests really can be attained by human voice?  Maybe these small children were on to something?  If they are right, the power of music can in fact increase the viability of All living things.  Intrigued by this unfounded hypothesis, I searched to find the best songs for our kids to sing to their gardens, not only improving the plant’s prosperity but allowing our children to connect with nature in a whole new level.  I liked this one the best so give it a go and get your flowers blooming with music!

 

April Showers

To the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell"

 

Dark clouds gather outside,

The wind begins blow,

A raindrop falls and then another --

April showers!

 

I am not afraid.

The rain is very good.

It softens the earth and helps the plants

Make May flowers.

Tags: Garden Center, Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Music, Kids

The History of Mother's Day

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, May 08, 2015

Most of us know that Mother’s Day is a time to say “thank you” to the number one woman in our lives who has made everything possible-our mom’s!  We plan ahead with a nice bouquet of flowers, a brunch at her favorite restaurant and a sentimental card that proclaims our appreciation and hope we can someday become half of the inspirational person to our children as she has been for us. 

 

But how did this holiday begin?  You might be surprised to learn that mother’s have been honored for centuries!  Throughout several different cultures and religions, these women have held great meaning since time began although they may not have been recognized on the same date at the same time.

 mars-and-rhea-silvia

Ancient Greece was the first recorded region to pay homage to mothers, particularly using the wife of Cronus, Rhea, as the initial symbol for honorarium.  Later, the Romans followed using their own deity, Cybele (a mother goddess), to represent the occasion.  A spring celebration named “Hilaria” marked this sentiment, which used festivities of parades, feasts and music to establish the occasion.  Christians also joined in the tradition around the 1600’s in England calling their version, “Mothering Sunday”.  The holiday was represented on the fourth Sunday of Lent and called for special services during sermons emulating the Virgin Mary.  Christians were then encouraged to visit their “first church” and return to the homes where their mother’s lived.   A mother’s womb symbolized both the first home and first church that a person experienced.

 

So you’re probably wondering when Bostonian’s began the ritual of Mother’s Day?

 

Well, it wasn’t until 1908 when a woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial service for her mother, Anne Jarvis, three years after her passing in Grafton, West Virginia.  Particularly proud of her mom’s work nursing and caring for soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, the daughter mandated a campaign to honor all mothers on the second Sunday of May.  By the year 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed an act making Mother’s Day and official holiday for the entire United States of America. 

 220px-Anna_jarvis

It wasn’t long before Anna succeeded in her efforts when businesses saw a massive opportunity for market growth within this realm. Industries such as card companies, growers and candy saw major expansion possibilities and began to market their products for this celebration.  Hallmark and Hershey’s widened their advertising campaigns to appeal to this new niche and infused a necessity of gift buying for mom on her special day. 

 

Originally asking observers to write a hand written letter explaining their sons and daughter’s heart felt love for their mothers, Anne flew into a rage outraged by the exploitation beginning to take place.  Jarvis set out on a mission boycotting the American holiday, petitioning for it to be taken off the official calendar.  The activist then participated in several sit-ins and protests using the carnation as the official flower of Mother’s Day. 

 

Suzie Canale,

Westwood, MA 

Tags: Holidays, Mothers Day

Mother's Day Greenhouses in Massachusetts

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, May 06, 2015

Looking at the calendar, I realized that Mother’s Day was soon approaching on May 10th and it was time to begin making plans for this year’s special day with mom!  Customarily we sit down beforehand and plan our annual route to one of our favorite places in the world, New England greenhouses!  The snow is just about gone around the yards and our flowerbeds can definitely be readied for plantings.  While April is the month to accomplish tasks of yard grooming, debris pick up and other landscaping chores, May is the month for the actual potting and replanting of the goodies being grown as we speak. Since the middle of Mother’s Day month hosts temperate night temperatures accommodating for successful spring growing, now’s the time to get shopping.  My mom and I know this green thumb standard inside and out and feel there is no other better way to celebrate Mother’s Day then picking out our first nursery beauties.  Whether you decide to visit the North Shore or South Shore farms and greenhouses, I can tell you throughout the years we’ve hit most of them and have found some gems.  Here are a few of our favorites that we would like to share with you this Mother’s Day!

 

North Shore                        mahoneys_garden_center                                           

Mahoney’s Garden Center

242 Cambridge Street

Winchester, MA 01890

Phone: (781) 729-5900

 

This operation has eight different locations across Massachusetts but I love the one located in Winchester, MA the most.  This family owned business covers everything including orchids, ground covering plants, perennials, annuals, tropical trees, ceramic pieces, patio furniture, vase ware and soil needs so it’s a real one stop shopping experience.  Other perks include ample parking, a rewards program and their own farm store with homegrown fruits, veggies and fresh baked goods.

 

South Shore                                     mothers_day_greenhouse

photo credit: boston.com

Kennedy’s Country Gardens

85 Chief Justice Cushing Hwy

Scituate, MA 02066

781-545-1266

 

This was my flower haunt when I briefly lived in Scituate, MA that I really enjoyed.  What was great about this place was the assortment of product they had in a manageable area that allowed easy browsing and buying logistics.  They have a fabulous assortment of rose bushes as well as an adorable parrot located in their greenhouse who also greets customers as they enter and exit.  If you bring the kids, don’t forget to visit the Koi Pond where they can feed the fishes and enjoy the pretty view!

 Suzie Canale

Westwood, MA 

 

Tags: Garden Center, Gardening, Boston Greenhouse, Holidays, #EXFL, Mothers Day

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