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The Joys of Urban Gardening

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jul 16, 2018

“Urban Gardening” is a term heard quite often in recent years as we’ve witnessed beautiful flower and vegetable beds flourishing on top of Boston’s highest buildings.  Once unused and covered in tar, these rooftops are being converted one by one into magnificent, landscaped oasis’ that are incredibly purposeful in their design. Not only are these areas transformed into “green” areas where people can connect with the great outdoors but these gardens are also providing a healthy source of food for their proprietors.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant and lettuce are just a few of the delicious assortments of crops Bostonians are harvesting right above their ceilings. Depending on the garden, a percentage of produce are sometimes even being donated to local shelters and food pantries, not only promoting healthy eating but also showing kindness to others who are less fortunate.  Further implementation of these efforts is also used for local food market inventory and restaurants focusing on the “farm to table” concept. Pretty amazing, right?

NBC NEWS FENWAY photo via NBC News - 

You might ask yourself how a slab of roofing is magically changed into these cultivatable platforms that are hundreds of feet up in the sky?  Thankfully, you don’t have to enlist the expertise of a high-priced designer or fancy architect to complete the job. You will on the other hand, need to first make sure that the roof is secure to withstand the weight of a garden.  For this job, you might have to hire a pro but once you get the “ok”, you can pretty much do the rest on your own. First, you’ll need to purchase raised bed brackets that are made out of plastic or other light form of material and put them together.  Wood gets heavy after its been rained on for a bit so unless you are making this garden on top of steel, stick to other options available. Next, fill the beds with soil adding miracle grow or some other nutrient rich compound. Plant your preferred varieties of fruits and veggies and tend to your crop as it grows.  

Did I forget to mention the watering issue? In some cases, it’s possible to install a pipe to have your water connected straight to the roof.  If this is true, then things are going to be a little easier than the guy who has to drag up a water bucket on a daily basis. Check it out and do your homework.  If it’s a problem a plumber can fix, then do it! If not, find a light weight bucket to do the job. It might take longer but look at it this way… You’ll get a heck of a workout in the process! Wait…

Tags: Gardens, Gardening, Gardening in Boston

Rejuvenating a Garden

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jun 13, 2018

Beginning a garden is a wonderful experience.  Tilling the soil, planting seeds, watering, loving and eventually- watching it grow can be one of the most magnificent experiences for a person.  There is a certain amount of affection and nurturing that flowers and vegetables need to be given in able to transform themselves into living, breathing ecosystems, which inevitably contribute a viable abundance of food and pleasure.  Wherever and whenever possible, gardens should be erected no matter what type of sun, soil or space is provided. By cultivating land into these magical, flourishing oases, life on earth would improve exponentially as we know it.

GARDEN CLEMATIS

So, what’s easier…  Starting your own garden or rejuvenating a new one?  The answer to this question is tricky. Depending on where you are and what is already provided for you, rejuvenating a piece of soil that’s once been used beforehand can be just as difficult as starting from scratch.  If the property is loaded with broken pots, planters and other unsightly growing apparatus, the space has to be cleared before you can even get a realistic vision of how you want to rebuild. That goes for old annuals that were never pulled from the ground before winterizing or perennials that don’t agree with your taste. Take day lilies for example… While they are a favorite to many, they can be toxic to beds due to the fact that they spread like wild fire and can take over plots quickly if they are not yanked and pulled back.  Again, it depends on what your taste is but pumping life back into a garden that has been abandoned can require some pretty heavy lifting. But I’ll tell you; if you have the time and patience, it’s worth the effort!


The truth is that any real gardener usually loves taking over an old and dwindling garden because:

  1. True farmers never let anything go to waste.
  2. The soil has been perused which means there is probably great nutrients in the ground, including the waste left by the previously planted plants.
  3. If there are any signs that perennials once existed, there is a chance they can be brought back to life so you might actually save money. If you have ever seen or read the movie/book, “The Secret Garden” you know what I’m talking about).
  4. You can continue someone else’s love affair with their garden-we growers are also hopeless romantics.
  5. Gardeners LOVE a good challenge!

What do you do if you have the opportunity and have no idea where to begin?  Here is a check list of all the things to be prepared for. You might be surprised how easy it is to get started!


  1. Clear the area of all pottery remnants, collect left behind salvageable tools and collect any other clutter artifacts.  Put them to the side and do not throw anything out until you are sure you have your plan mapped out. You’ll be surprised how much of it you may end up using.
  2. Churn the soil with a tiller or hand-held shovel depending on how large the plot is. You want to get to know your garden and what type of earth you will be dealing with.  Certain crops grow better in certain areas over others and you’ll want to figure out the acidity, moisture and composition as soon as you can.
  3. Take it easy the first year and start simple.  Add a few of your favorite perennials, locate old plantings that might have a little life still in them and focus on seeds that won’t cost an exorbitant amount of money.  It takes a while to get to know your garden and building a plot to what you want it to become is worth the patience. It’s like any other relationship-it takes time to figure out and appreciate one another.

Happy Gardening!

Tags: Clematis, Gardens, Gardening, garden flowers

Flower Bags Are All the Rage

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, May 30, 2018

f you’ve been perusing the nursery scenes lately, you might have seen a cool new way of growing and displaying your favorite blooming flowers.  Unlike other planters and pots filled to the brim with spring and summer blooms, there is an interesting method that clever gardeners have invented to optimize growing power while providing a dynamic presentation.  “Bag-a-Bloom is a funky container system that yes-is made out of plastic bag material. Usually fashioned in black or forest green, these interesting harvesting contraptions allows you to hang wherever there is a spot available.  Depending on the variety used to be planted, long cascades and tendrils can flourish down walls and posts, causing an optimal floral display for all who pass by. I’ve even seen these babies used by restaurants and hotels to create show stopping entryways for an ultimate ambiance splash.  For personal consumption, we can hang them on a hook outside front doors or place on gates, poles and trellis archways. Use your imagination when it comes to Bag-a-Bloom styling and here are some ideas to get those wheels turning!


Coleus

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Coleus is an awesome variety of foliage to add in this type of growing vessel because it will appreciate the heat generated within the plastic as well as enable to the roots to firmly situate themselves in the condensed soil.  This variety grows in a variety of colors including green, purple and even pink so the overall arrangement is tremendous no matter what type of coleus plants you choose. Conveniently, these flowering bags are only good for one season and since the coleus is an annual, you can just toss the whole thing out in the fall.  Remember to hang the bag in a brightly lit area with tons of sunlight and water frequently to keep the plant moist and continuously flowering.

Impatiens


Pansies are probably the top choice for bagged flowers because again, they are an annual that can be discarded at the end of the season plus they are a wonderful spreading décor to hang outside.  Impatiens are pretty tough in nature and don’t demand a lot of fussing over if you don’t have the hours to play full time gardener, which keep their demand high with good reasoning. With partial sun to shade flexibility, impatiens bags are a guaranteed winner for gifts or seasonal garnishing.


Tomatoes


Yes-I know.  Tomatoes are not a flower but you’ll love growing your own juicy veggies all summer long with the convenience of no large garden patches to tend to.  Treating yourself to freshly made salads and other tomato based recipes will become a luxury I guarantee you’ll become accustomed to quite quickly! If you really want to see something spectacular, select a species that possesses long vines and watch a hanging garden appear right before your very eyes!

Tags: Outdoor Living, Gardens, Gardening, Garden Center

Trellis Flower Designs

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, May 16, 2018

The weather is finally looking up around here, which means it’s time we filled up our leaf bags, mulch the yard and do a little planning for a spring season of landscaping!  Many people see this process as a chore but for me- I look forward to the task each year and actually become excited with the possibilities of new plantings I’ve been dreaming of all winter long…. There’s nothing better than gazing at your green thumb efforts once the summer appears so right now is the moment to kick up your gardening to-do’s in high gear!  One area that’s a nice place to start is choosing the seeds you would like to feature in your pots, raised beds or lawn props. Might I suggest focusing on the species of blooms you would like to watch blossom up your trellis? Archway trellises are some of the most beautiful places to harvest vine plants that will slowly creep up the sides to make a stunning veil of buds.  I myself, have a couple I can’t wait to see covered in strands of brightly colored flowers. If you are in need of a bit of research before you plant around your trellis, here are some of the best varieties that do particularly well in this area of the garden.

GEORGIA_OKEEFE_MORNING_GLORIES

Morning Glories: Morning Glories are pretty much a staple flower when matching a bloom to an archway trellis.  They exist in a variety of cheery hues and can survive with little fuss from the gardener. Just take a pack of seeds and pour near the base of the structure and they’ll do their own thing throughout the entire summer!

trellis-inspiration-225x300

photo via http://handydad.tv/diy-trellis-in-a-weekend

Clematis:  These are another great choice and will not disappoint those who want to quickly cover their trellis with wild looking blossoms!  Another species growing in many different colors, clematis will return each year in the spring although it will die once the heat appears in July and August.


Ivy Sweet Pea: This particular variety of sweet pea is capable of growing in a cabled vine that is simply gorgeous when scaling poles, arbors and trellises. They are extremely delicate in appearance but manage to take their curly leaves and tiny buds to great lengths if allowed.  


Wisteria: Wisteria is very popular in the United States and is able to last for generations if grown in temperate areas with shelter from severe ice.  These heads will drop in cone-like shapes and create beautiful overhangs for people to walk underneath as well as provide a pleasant aroma to the air.  

Tags: Garden, Gardening, Gardens

Outdoor Hanging Plants

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, May 11, 2018

Hanging plants have risen in popularity over recent spring and summer holidays which appeal to a large and varying customer base.  We can explain this phenomenon by taking a look at the outdoor arrangement’s beneficial characteristics that are namely but not limited to:


  1. Vast color availability
  2. Extensive species composition
  3. Limited care responsibilities
  4. Cost Affordability
  5. Ease of transport

Plus….

DIPLODENA

THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL!


A stunning hanging basket that you can show off to neighbors and friends for months afterwards!  Display options can be from archway trellises, lattices, door hooks or poles with appropriate hardware. As long as you find a sturdy location that will keep the plant secure, you can place your blooming gift where ever you prefer!  There’s nothing like a fresh basket of blossoms swaying outside in the wind to dress up your home for spring cleaning so start browsing local greenhouses and nurseries to find your dreamy  hanging basket!


Gorgeous variety combinations include but are not limited to:


  1. Nasturtiums
  2. Ivy Geraniums
  3. Bleeding Hearts
  4. New Guinea Impatiens
  5. Lantana
  6. Million Bells
  7. Lobelia
  8. Dipladenia
  9. Verbena
  10. Petunia

Tags: Gardens, dipladenia, Graden

Gardening in Ancient Egypt

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Mar 16, 2018

As you all well know, I’m a garden lover who looks forward to raising a new batch of crops each and every year.  This spring, I was curious to do a little research on ancient horticulture to see what civilizations from long ago used to replenish their beds.  As you may have figured, each demographic of the world composes their gardening ritual in their own specific way making the process a specialized skill across thousands of different cultures.  One that I found to be particularly interesting was the growing model performed by the ancient Egyptian civilization. Although the country is located across the globe, we can learn a few things about the process and platform utilized to harvest a fascinating scope of plants and flowers.  

Le_Jardin_de_Nébamoun.jpg

The Garden, fresco from Nebamun tomb, originally in Thebes, Egypt, now in the British Museum, London, U.K. Painting on plaster, 72 x 62 cm

The first thing we need to know is how important the Nile River was to those who had the duty of planting the gardens.  Being the primary source of water, the Nile is responsible for the efficient yet stunning formatting chosen to raise both plants and flowers.  As you can see by the side photo, beds were created to resemble a square box instead of a flat surface which here, we are accustomed to seeing.  The reason for this complex shaping was to give water a better chance of seeping into the soil instead of being wasted by spillage. By growing a “box-like” containment around their harvests, gardeners believed there was a better chance of keeping their efforts hydrated for longer periods of time.

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Gardens of Amun from the Temple of Karnak, painting in the tomb of Nakh, the chief gardener, early 14th century B.C. (Royal Museum of Art and History, Brussels.)

Once we understand how Egyptians kept their crops lavish in such an arid environment, we can begin to look at the specific varieties of flora and fauna they chose to grow.  Initially, most gardens were made primarily as a sole source of food, choosing vegetables that were tolerable of the desert conditions. As time evolved, the inclusion of plants began to be added although not for nutritional benefits.  Acacia and Sycamore Trees became pleasurable “garnish” as well as small bushes such as Cypress and Olive branches which increased the landscape architecture as well as provided shading. Once plants began to show more popularity in the Egyptian gardening palette, it wasn’t long before the idea of inserting certain species of flowers became the next logical step.  Poppies, lotus, anemones and even certain breeds of roses soon appeared, creating a dynamic specimen of beauty with a multi-purpose value of feeding families. Usually seen near temples, gardens then were attempted to be placed inside tombs to pay homage to the Gods of long ago.

Tags: Gardens, Gardening, Vegetable Garden

Floral Attractions in New England

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jul 21, 2017


The weather is beautiful here in New England and we’re finally footloose and fancy free to travel to the destinations we’ve been longing to see throughout the dreary months of winter.  For some of you, it may be a resort or maybe a beach where you can swim the shores of our Atlantic Ocean.  For me, it’s the time of year where flower gardens are in full bloom, making a road trip to a floral destination sound extremely enticing.  Thankfully, this region is loaded with talented gardeners who harvest robust crops of floral masterpieces in july and August (if we’re lucky, maybe even September).  So if you’re a flower lover who might be interested in learning a thing or two from the aces in the trade, here’s a list to pin to your maps this summer!


Wellesley College Botanic Gardens

Wellesley College Botanic Gardens

106 Central Street

wellesley college garden.jpg

photo credit via http://www.wellesley.edu

Wellesley is a beautiful town to visit, which is home to historic houses, a quaint shopping center and of course, the prestigious educational center of Wellesley College.  Although most of the students have left for the summer, this college gives you another reason to stick around and it’s all thanks to the beautiful botanical gardens thriving on the grounds.  Open daily with no charge to visit; this should be at the top of your list to visit this summer.


Fells Historic Estate and Gardens

Route 103A / P.O. Box 276

Newbury, NH, 03255

fells garden.jpeg

photo credit via https://thefells.org/gardens-at-the-fells

If you’re a history buff, you’ll like this location because not only does it have some of the most beautiful gardens you will ever see, there is also a rich background tied to the property regarding the famous statesman, John Milton.  Along with stunning flowerbeds surrounding the property, you can also enjoy the wooded trails if you hike as a hobby.


Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum

Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum

101 Ferry Road / Route 114

Bristol, RI, 02809

bithewold gardens.jpg

photo credit via: http://www.blithewold.org/

Also referred to as “An American Garden Treasure”, this location will have you saying “WOW” as soon as you get there.  One reason is due to their vast collection of plants and flowers, which range from exotic to romantic if you’re looking for some diversity in your travels...

Tags: Flower Travel, Gardens, New England, Gardening

Garden Weddings

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jun 19, 2017

There are all sorts of themes available for Boston’s soon-to-be-brides, which appeal to a large spectrum of different tastes and preferences.  For example, for those who love sand and surf, a beach ceremony might be the right location for you to say your “I do’s” or if you are really into art, a museum would be a lovely option.  If you add a little imagination, you and your wedding planner can design the ideal place to hold this monumental occasion, particularly if you’re into beautiful flowers and gardens.  

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Awhile back, I had this friend who dedicated most of her spare time towards harvesting one of the most stunning perennial gardens I’ve ever seen.  She loved her beds so much in fact that when it was time for her to walk down the aisle, she asked if she could walk down the pathways of her garden instead.  The whole family adored her idea and with a bit of help from landscapers and florists, she made her dream come true.   

 

If you’re getting ready to place a veil on your head and are interested in learning how to create this look in the midst of your own green thumb efforts, here’s what you need to keep in mind…  It’s really important to select a date that’s appropriate for this sort of occasion.  I assume you would want plants in full bloom but this being New England, it can get tricky nailing down an exact pinpoint of when this will happen.  Spring is a fussy season that can bring bad weather like rain, sleet and even snow meaning you should try to lean towards the end of June or the beginning of July.  If your flowers are mostly annuals, head towards August because they’ll need more time in the sun to grow and expand if you’re looking to make a dramatic impact.  

 

The other thing you need to think ahead about is keeping your garden pruned so it keeps blooming.  Many species will wither away if not regularly kept up and maintained.  Keeping a pair of clipping shears is an excellent way to be reminded of this task.

 

The benefit of hosting a garden wedding is knowing the floral arrangements have already been taken care of leaving you without the expensive bills to pay later on after the honeymoon.  The simplicity is wonderful because all you have to do to design pretty table pieces is take a few snippings from your favorite blooms and place them delicately inside glass jars.  You can also utilize their ready availability by making them into wistful wildflower bouquets, too.  Delphinium, sunflowers, nasturtiums, sweet pea, hollyhock, zinnias, roses, hydrangea and sedum will all work wonders for your hand-held bundles.  

Tags: Garden, Wedding Flowers, Weddings, Planning a Wedding, Gardens

Allergies and Flowers

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Mar 22, 2017

At certain times of the year, allergies are at their worst here in New England and many suffer from ailments such as running nose, watery eyes, scratchy throats and other unpleasant woes. Pollen from flowers, the re-sprouting of grass and re-budding of trees are only a few of the sources that cause discomfort for those inflicted by allergic reactions.  I’m one of the lucky ones who aren’t affected in the slightest by seasonal changes that induce environmental changes having to do with flora and fauna.  

 

PHEW!  

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Photo credit: via www.bio.brandeis.edu

As florists, we should be aware of these common issues with our product and always ask customers if there are any issues they may have towards certain plants and flowers.  Roses can be a big one but many designers are unaware that several other typically used species can be problematic for sensitive customers.  No matter if the season is winter, fall, spring or summer, flower industry employees should be well educated in order to promote the health and happiness of our clientele.  After a little research, here’s what I found to avoid for those who fall within this category.  

 

Birch: I know this may not seem like a flower or plant (it’s a tree) but it’s used in abundance within holiday centerpieces and bouquets.  Birch grows in a beautiful white covering of bark but many people are allergic to this branching and can cause serious reactions just by touching the outer skin.  Try using pine as a substitution because it’s cheaper, festive and possesses a nice aromatic scent.

 

Goldenrod:  Man- unless you want to hang a sign on your door that says “Allergy Sufferers Beware”, you might want to nix the spring bloom during May and June.  It’s inexpensive and easy to find but the pollen that’s omitted from the stem and head is enough to put a person in the hospital if they’re sensitive.  Try using euphorbia or another pretty yellow product that has half the pollen and just as much impact on your arrangements.

 

Wisteria:  Wisteria is a tough one to say “no” to because its elegance can be such an asset to an event’s flower planning but if there’s a chance of making someone sick, you’re going to have to find a replacement.  Wisteria is one of the worst flowers for allergies although the delicate flowers and stunning stem formation want you to put it everywhere, especially in weddings.    The gorgeous white and purple blossoms can cause major reactions specifically a swelling of the throat to name one of he more serious effects.

 

Top Flowers to Avoid:  It’s really hard to scratch off some of these beautiful flowers from your buying list when considering allergic reactions but these are some of the more serious ones to look out for.  Mountain Thistle can bring about terrible irritation of the eyes if made contact with and a lily’s odor can make a person sneeze for hours.  Other species to be vigilant about are roses, zinnias, pansies, petunias, crocuses, columbine, verbena and geraniums.  

Tags: Flowers, Gardens, Health, Allergies

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: Gardens, Gardner Museum, Nasturtiums, Gardening, Spring

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