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My Favorite Perennials

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, May 22, 2017

There’s a lot to love about summer.  The warm weather, beaches, swimming in the ocean and eating out on the back deck may be what comes to mind for you, when thinking about the arrival of the new season.  For me, it’s the time when I can enjoy the fruits of my gardening labors as last year’s blooms resurface once again.  It’s an exciting experience to watch the return of beautiful plants and flowers replenish my raised beds, almost always promising to grow bigger and stronger than the year before.  Since New England encountered a winter of heavy snow, which kept the ground moist during the chillier months, it’s a pretty good sign this summer’s offering will be impressive.  So what are my most favorite perennials I’m most anticipating within May and June?  Here are my top picks and information on how to grow them.

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Oriental poppies are one of those species that looks impressive no matter where you plant them.  They arrive early in late April when the feathery foliage begins to unfurl and the stem begins to sprout.  You’re going to have to wait for the temps to warm a bit before you see the silky petals make an appearance but when they do, it’s sure to be quite an inspiring presentation.


Hollyhocks are also one of those varieties I can’t get enough of, and even though I’ve planted more than a few, I can’t help adding additions each and every year.  The puffy blooms are stunning in mixed beds and fun to watch spike to heights sometimes towering over five feet tall!  Hollyhocks love nutritious soil and full sunlight, so be sure to plant them in open areas and remember to feed them occasionally.  

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When I was in the wholesale biz, my favorite import was always some variety of hybrid delphiniums.  The majestic stocks of blue, sapphire, white, pink, peach and mauve made such an impact on flower displays, I had to stuff my garden with several plantings.  Similar to the hollyhock in appearance, delphinium also prefers lots of light and performs exceptionally well in crowded beds.  Be on the lookout though for bees since they are also a favorite of the stinging insect.

Tags: Gardening, Perennials, Garden, Poppies, Hollyhock, Delphinium

Memorial Day Inspired Floral Arrangements

Posted by Suzie Canale on Thu, May 18, 2017


Memorial Day is a HUGE holiday for floral celebration!  If you’re a gardener, it’s the weekend you start grazing over the selection from your favorite nurseries and if you’re a designer, well then you might be clipping the last of the lilac bushes to make spring arrangements.  Whichever category you fit in, there’s a ton of fun things you can do to celebrate your passion for flowers.  For me, I probably can be sized up as belonging to both genres, especially when it comes to my love for planning and up keeping my own perennial garden.  The beds have to be filled with dirt, the weeds have to be pulled and the returning plants have to be groomed for a successful arrival into a new season.  It’s a lot of work, I know but I can tell you first hand, it’s worth the effort.  Did you know that gardening can improve several different facets of your life including:

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  1. Physical Health 
  2. Mental Health 
  3. Outside Social Relationships
  4. Intelligence               
  5. Behavioral Aspects          

Those are some pretty great reasons to foster a hobby for cultivating plants and flowers!


If you are interested in floral arranging, Memorial Day also has some great opportunities to flex your creative muscles since New England native species should be up and blooming.  Bulb plants such as grape hyacinth, tulips and fritillaries make excellent additions to bud vases and nosegays while forsythia and other flowering branches make striking centerpieces when gathered in clumps together.  If you don’t find any of these plants growing nearby in your yard, now is an excellent time to visit a greenhouse and begin planting some of your favorites for next year!  This holiday inspires fantastic sales brought to you by those in horticulture business so be sure to check out your local deals!  

Tags: Garden Center, Gardening, Memorial Day, Gardening in Boston, Holidays

Proper Gardening Clothing and Safety Gear

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, May 10, 2017

Okay, okay…. I know you’re dying to get out into that backyard of yours and start digging now that the weather has warmed up a little but before we get started you need to be aware of some safety precautions first.  Many times, I have been guilty of becoming a little over zealous when it comes to my gardening and I sometimes forget how important it is to protect myself from nature’s elements.  Too many times, I’ve run outside without protecting the key areas of my body from burn, infection or bruising winding me up inside for a few days or worse-the doctors office.  Since gardening is many of our favorite pastimes, we wouldn’t want to ruin our good time and efforts by hurting ourselves in one of the many ways possible when we forget to plan ahead.  If you’re getting ready for a long season of digging in the dirt, take a look at these safety tips that will keep you healthy and happy through the warmer days ahead of you…

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The first thing you need to do is find an old pair of sweats or jeans that you can wear which will cover your legs and then grab a hat to protect yourself from the heat of the sun. Next, make sure to wear real gardening gloves and a durable pair of boots that will protect your feet from bites, grime and other unpleasant problems.


If you don’t already have a gardening bag, I highly suggest on picking one up at a gardening store or even HoMe Depot.  It’s an excellent way to stay organized by finding your tools when you need them but more importantly, it will keep them easily attainable avoiding mishaps and accidents.  Make sure that you place all sharp-sided blades down and be aware of anything that might catch or snare while carrying the bag with you.


I’m sure you already know this but it is imperative that gardeners take their skin safety seriously when spending time outdoors.  If you’ve already followed my clothing suggestions, then  you have a hat that will protect your head.  Be sure to also stop at CVS or Walgreens to purchase your seasonal sun block to cover arms as legs, too!

Tags: Gardening, Garden, tools

April's Cool Weather Is Perfect for Pansies

Posted by Suzie Canale on Sat, Apr 15, 2017

Spring is finally here and so isn’t the frenzy for pansies!  Pansies are the number one flower sold from garden centers and florists this time of year, particularly here in Boston where the weather can still be temperamental.  It’s not uncommon for New England to have an intermittent rough patch of chillier weather during the months of March and April (and perhaps even a touch of S-N-O-W) so this variety is the perfect fit to withstand these conditions.  Even though the pansy looks pretty delicate, the bloom is considered a “toughie” in the flower world due to the fact that they can withstand temperatures anywhere above twenty-six degrees Fahrenheit.  That means unless the ground freezes, your pansies have a fair shot at surviving because of their natural hardiness found in their stem and root system. Very few other flowers can perform as well making this breed a highly attractive and highly demanded plant.

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Another reason to invest in this species as your first springtime landscaping addition is their beautiful assortment of availability in color.  This blossom is readily sold in a spectrum of rainbow shades including straight and variegated tones.  Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink-it’s all at your fingertips if you’re looking to match a certain shade to your home or simply desiring to create a potpourri assortment.  If you would like to browse some of the fancy flavors, here are a few to get you started!


Delta Pansies


Deltas are the most typical kind of pansy you’ll find in the northeast because they easily rebound off of difficult weather and also have the ability to overwinter in some regions.  These varieties also have a large face with over thirty colors and mixtures, which continue to grow year after year.  If you’re the impatient type, you’ll love Delta’s since they are the earliest bloomers out of any other subunit.  







Tags: Gardening, April, Spring, Pansies

Seedling Discovery - Grow Something

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Mar 10, 2017

Pre-spring preparations can be well underway and you don’t need to be outside to do it.  Certain seedlings can be grown right inside your home as long as you choose the right varieties and materials to support your green thumb efforts.  If you have kids, they’ll love this project since it will give them something to look forward to when the boredom of being locked inside gets the best of them.  


Follow these easy set up directions and begin sprouting your spring garden while the snow is still spread across the ground!

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When To Start:

This is a tricky question because the answer varies depending on the type of plant you’re wishing to grow.  For vegetables that take a really long time to mature such as peppers and tomatoes, you might want to begin at the middle to end of March.  For flowers such as morning glories that need less time to foster, try planting them in starter soil at the end of May to early June.  A good tip is to be sure to read the back of the seed packets for further information that will help you make the right timing decision.


What You’ll Need:

The best part of this project is that you need very few materials, which is both cost effective and convenient.  Grab these items at your local Home Depot or for those who are wise, dig them out of your potting shed to reuse from last year.


  1. A bag of soil
  2. Pots or starter seedling kits
  3. Seed packets
  4. Water
  5. A sunny window

How to Start:

  1. Place a seed in an inch and a half of dirt and make sure it is well covered with soil.
  2. Sprinkle the container with a small amount of water and be sure not to flood the pot.  They are only seedlings so it is very easy to over water and drown them out.
  3. Put the seedling next to a sunny window that allows ample light for growth potential.  Be sure that there is also enough heat and avoid areas with chilly drafts.  

Tags: Gardening, Seeds, Vegetable Garden, Garden

Climbing Flowers for Homes

Posted by Suzie Canale on Thu, Mar 02, 2017

Spring is right around the corner and that means summer gardening is soon to follow!  During the months of March and April, it’s still too cold to begin harvesting in the backyard but it is the perfect time to start planning for materials and other necessities you’ll need.   On your list, be sure to write down shovels, mulch, soil, plant food and any other gardening tools you prefer to use during the outdoor season, particularly the seeds you’ll want to start as soon as the weather warms.   Seeds are a wonderful way not only to save money but to also preoccupy the time before the earth thaws to a comfortable temperature.  Select any blooms that tickle your fancy and give them an early boost by planting them indoors, inside containers set by a window.  This will benefit your garden if we have a late spring arrival as well as spark their longevity once it’s time to re-pot to the outdoors.

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photo credit via Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

One area pre-started indoor seedlings can become extremely useful is when they are being implemented to scale the exterior of houses.  If you’re a fan of this landscaping style like I am, you’re probably already dreaming about the species of sensational blooms you intend to display.  Do you love Morning Glories or do you prefer purple clematis to scale your home’s architecture?  Believe it or not, there are millions of choices available to you and most are successful no matter what the material of your house is built out of.  So if you’re bored with simple side plots and window boxes as your main gardening project, take a look at these stunning species that make dynamic and romantic presentations when utilized as New England floral climbers.  


Morning Glories

Morning Glories are fantastic garden climbers and reproduce shoots quickly once they get going.  Their beautiful blue heads are shaped like trumpets and open and close from sunrise to nightfall.  They are typically annuals although they drop seeds and will re-generate the following summer so be sure you have a large enough space for them to grow maturely.  


Clematis

Clematis is usually a favorite of well-experienced gardeners because it is a colorful yet dependable plant to include in your flowerbeds.  Available in a wide array of hues, they are capable of climbing anywhere you train them to although they won’t multiply so they can live happily in a small area of land.


Nasturtium “Flame Thrower”

Nasturtiums are my number go-to when it comes to planting seeds because they are fiery in color and gorgeous when they begin to extend their tendrils, which clip onto whatever is closest.  Much like the Morning Glory, the heads are bell-like except the blooms stay open throughout the day.  


Trailing Sweet Pea

Another one of my beloved varieties is the Trailing Sweet Pea, which curls itself over other flowers it’s nearby with its delicate bending stems and foliage.  They are soft pedaled plants and will often disappear once the heat arrives from summer but they will make a massive impact on your gardening efforts from April to late June.

Tags: Gardening, Spring, Gardens, Nasturtiums, Gardner Museum

Ten Thorny Flowers Worth Getting Pricked For

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jan 27, 2017

Dark Thorns

 

Darkness,

it seeps through every crack and corner,

gathers up your tears,

never lets you go.

On the other hand,

thorns may do the same,

but you can get past thorns…

 

By Adriana Wilson

Oct 30, 2015

 

In the flower world, there are a zillion different colors, textures, shapes and sizes that give every bloom their unique distinction among the others.  It is due to this fact that people are drawn to particular species which appeal to their personal tastes.  For example, those who are drawn to powerful aromas may opt for a bouquet of lilies while someone else might enjoy varieties that are architecturally interesting.  In this case, orchids would be an appropriate choice as well as tropical breeds like birds of paradise, heliconia and protea.  Whichever way you sway, there’s something for everyone within floral cultivation, even if you’re someone who likes a prickly assortment.

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Flowersthat produce thorns have always received a bad reputation and it is mainly due to the notion that they cause more pain than beauty.  While I admit I’ve had my fair share of “bites” from roses while on the design bench, I’ve learned that thorny blooms really do have a lot to offer.  Bright color, expansive heads and fascinating details make them a welcoming commodity to most importers around the world.  Mother Nature may have tested these varieties by gifting them with “handle with care” stems but the floral industry isn’t backing away.   By wearing appropriate gloves and learning a thing or two about texture and tone, designers are whipping up gorgeous arrangements using some of the prickliest species in existence!  Keep your eyes out for these featured florets that are popping up everywhere in 2017.  

Tags: Gardening, Roses, rose bush, thorns

Different Ways to Gift with Flowers

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jan 04, 2017

When we meet that special person, we often seek ways to impress him or her in order to show them how we feel.  Maybe it’s a dinner to a fancy restaurant or maybe it’s a Hallmark card that’s says just the right sentiment, but whatever we decide, we want it to be a perfect match for that individual.   If you’re a flower lover, you probably choose to send flowers that perhaps might consist of a dozen roses, a bouquet of favorite blossoms or even a single stem of buttercup or daisy.  Yes, flowers have been the most popular way to connect with a person and have continuously been an effective conduit to show them how you feel.  

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photo credit via aboutflowers.com

Here’s an idea… what if you could be a bit clever on how you gifted them? Instead of just wrapping up any old bunch of flowers, how about using your noggin to think of interesting ways to impress their unique sense of self?  What are their likes, dislikes, hobbies or dreams?  As soon as you figure that out, you can implement your creativeness to really give them something special!  No two people are the same and neither are two roses.  Here are a few ideas to get the wheels really turning towards impressing the love of your life!  


For Those Who Love to Bake

A colleague recently told me about this movie she watched where a baker was wooed with a case of “flour”-you know, the cooking kind?  I thought this was so brilliant and really showed his love for her individuality while still sticking to a traditional gesture.  By making a pun based on her occupation, he was able to connect with her in a deeper, more meaningful way as well as show a sense of humor.  Sure, she probably would have kissed the guy anyways if he handed over a pile of orchids, but the effect wouldn’t have been nearly as strong, nor would have been the scene.  If you’re trying to get a special baker’s attention, this might be the “sweetest” way to do it!

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For the Book Lover

If you’re trying to get the attention of a book lover, you’re going to have to use your head.  Although a vase full of wildflowers will surely be adored, why not pick out a few titles that are written about flowers instead?  You can either grab a few floral designing books, gardening manuals or even a novel such as, “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh or “Flowers in the Attic” by V.C. Andrews if they like a good thriller.  Your courtship will be extra intellectually sentimental as well as useful reading material for the future!


For the Gardener

I personally love this approach because not only will a gardener appreciate the message but they’ll be extra excited to have a head start for planting.  Seeds that are the most thoughtful would either be varieties of their favorites or choosing perennials instead of annuals.  Perennials will come back year after year and will remind them of you each time they bloom.  

Tags: Gardening, cooking, Flowers, Gifts, book

Fall Chores Equal Great Workout

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Nov 21, 2016

I was working in the yard over the weekend where I was preparing for the end of fall and the beginning of winter to arrive.  I took notice of all the multi colored leaves scattered on the ground as well as the shrubbery bulging with angular branches and although it looked festive it also left a huge mess.  You probably know what I’m talking about if you’re from New England and have started similar tasks to get ahead of the frost, which will surely freeze the earth to ice.

 

I’ve always been well aware of the importance of these chores but what I didn’t realize is the great workout that can be utilized during autumn primping and preening!   You’d be surprised by the amount of calories one can burn in only a half hour’s work of outdoor raking, weeding and other relatable undertakings.  The bending, stretching and pulling all works crucial muscles and is just as effective as bench pressing in a gym or taking a cardio class.  These activities can be ideal for supporting a stronger body and assisting with weight loss efforts in a fun and flexible manner.

 

If you’re interested in trying this new approach to promoting a healthier and fitter you, try these simple home and garden projects that will get you started!  You’re yard won’t be the only one who’ll be looking good this season!

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  • Raking Leaves     

       Burning calories is a snap when you pick up a rake because it’s estimated        that a person can fire off over 300 in only an hours worth of work.  You might want to keep in mind that the process of bagging them will charge up to another 100-200 calories.

 

  1.   If That Snowflake Should Fall Before Christmas

       Look-it’s just part of the package when you live in the northeast that a          few flakes can fall before the official start of winter.  In this case, don’t be  too upset about it because you can eliminate around 600-700 calories in  just less than one hour.  If it’s the heavy, wet, stuff, tack on another 100- 150 calories.  

 

  1.  Pruning Shrubs

       You might not think this involves a lot of movement but in reality,  holding a pair of shears and snapping away scraggily limbs can do a lot for your physique.  Muscles are easily flexed and           strengthened during a single half hour of this activity and can leave your arms in a firmer toned state than before.

 

  1.  Weeding

       I’ve mentioned this in other summer blogs but this is so effective, it  warrants re-mentioning.  Weeding is a wonderful way to give your legs  and arms more flexibility as well as exercising fine motor skills.  Calories  burned in one hour of this chore can equal over 250 and can also         stimulate relaxing hormones that will leave you in a happier frame of mind.  

Tags: Gardening, Fall, exercise, outdoors, Health

Closing Your Garden for Winter

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Nov 04, 2016

We are well into the fall season and leaves are drifting to the ground right on cue.  Plants are a bit frozen, fruits and veggies are long gone and flowers are shriveled up tightly, which are all hints to us that the season for growing in New England is over.  In some parts of our state, you may have already seen snow (I shudder to thing).   For me, it’s a very disappointing next few months but accomplishing outdoor tasks are far from over.  There’s a lot to be done before next years cultivation of newly flourishing gardens and right now is the time to do it.  Last Sunday, I spent hours preparing raised beds and the surrounding grounds for a chilly winter freezing so that next spring, I’ll be raring to go out there! 

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The truth be told, many avid gardeners forgo the whole process of shutting down their green thumb efforts and decide to deal with the aftermath the following April.  I’ve been tempted to take the easier path and just skip the whole thing as well, but considering the time and extra cost I’ll have to succumb to, it’s really not the smart way to go about things.  The ordeal isn’t that bad once you’ve got a system going so in order to help you, I’ll pass along mine!  Before the weather turns to sub zero temps, consider these facts and easy care tips to maintain your gardens throughout the entire year.

 

Setbacks of Ignoring Winterization

 

  1. Leaving tools and ceramic pots outdoors during storms and frigid temperatures can damage and break these necessities we use throughout growing season.  Extra money will need to be spent on replacing what is lost and can incur considerable budget blunders. 

  2. The time wasted cleaning leftover plants that will not return for another year can take up valuable space in your garden planning.  Instead of starting off fresh with new additions, you’ll be stuck yanking roots systems that you’ll find trickier since they’ve been in the ground for over a year.

  3. Instead of emotions of happiness and elation we typically feel when celebrating a new gardening year, we can actually regress into anger and disappointment when we have to start spring with unrewarding work such as raking and weed removal.  We want to keep things positive, so make time in your schedule to things done!

  4. Let’s face it-when we haven’t done our job at the end of fall, things turn out to be much, much messier when the calendar flips to May.  Who wants to stare out the window and see dirty remnants of last years harvest when we could be gazing at sprigs of early pretty perennials?

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Fast Tips to Close Your Garden for the Season

 

  1. Anything that is fragile or breakable (including ornaments and containers) should be safely put away on “low” shelves within garages, storage sheds or greenhouses.  If we have a windy winter, you’ll be glad they’re not up high where they can fall down. 

  2. Remove all veggie, fruit and annual plants from beds because they will not re-grow next spring.  Keeping them planted past their prime can solidify their roots making it difficult to pull after a freeze. 

  3. Store any chemical products such as weed killer, turpentine or other gardening food in an airtight area to avoid possibility of fire.

  4. Place reusable items such as garden stakes, tomato cages and netting in dry areas of your home so that they can be utilized again.  Saving these materials not only will save you cash next year but also support “going green” which helps keep our environment healthy

 

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, winter, Gardens

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