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Cool Plant Designs for Outdoors

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

Gardens are made to be enjoyed, to provide food from our vegetables, to produce stems of beautiful blossoms for our homes and to satisfy our green thumbs as our beloved hobby.  For many Bostonians, the design and shape of the beds is imperative to expressing our gardening personalities along with their contents of various plantings.  It is in the nature of those true gardeners who design every last nook and cranny from their flowerpots to window boxes in order to manifest the most spectacular display for the summer season.  There will be hanging baskets, vine curled trellises and exploding foliage sprouting from every inch of soil available and just in case we find another ingenious innovation that might look splendid within our gardening efforts, we save room for that too…

Trending this year is a new way to architect plant appearances and honestly, it’s a pretty cool change from your typical straight as an arrow plantings.  By using diagrams constructed by our regions most talented horticulturalists, we are able to now manipulate the pathway of shoots, tendrils and leaf formations to create art for our gardens!  Not only will the contemporary techniques update your flower and vegetable beds but they will also inspire others to join in the fun!  Sometimes children and spouses are reluctant to participate in backyard toiling but I guarantee, these ideas will get everybody up and excited about getting their hands in the dirt!

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Stunning Reading Nook


Constructed from

growing stems of

Myrtle structured

to form a hut.

   Recycled Shoe Rack For Lettuce


            Talk about your clever ways to go

                      green and saving space!

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   Child’s Shopping Basket of Greens


   Inspire the little ones with this

   shopping cart reused for growing

   cabbage, basil and peppers.  Line

   the inside with moss and watch

   the basket literally fill with veggies!

    Wheel of Herbs


   So fun for a pretty backyard piece!

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Garden Show, outdoors, Outdoor Living, Vegetable Garden

Activities For The Dog Days of Summer

Posted by Suzie Canale on Tue, Aug 18, 2015

Summer days are winding down but we still have a few precious weeks to fill before our kids are back on the busses and headed to school.  The end of August can sometimes be challenging for parents to find activities that are both affordable and entertaining for their children.  After all, we want them to have fond memories of summer 2015 so it’s our job to figure out a plan before its too late!  Fortunately, we live in a wonderful city chalk full of things to do and New England in general has a plethora of hidden haunts perfect for family fun.  Don’t let the dog days get you down with boredom and pick one of these great places to visit before autumn arrives!

Zoar Outdoor

7 Main Street / Route 2 (Mohawk Trail)

Charlemont, MA

If you haven’t been here yet-now’s your chance to rip down the rapids of Deerfield River in canoes, kayaks and rafts!  If the fast track isn’t your taste, rest assured that they also offer zip lining and biking through gorgeous trails.  The breathtaking view of cascading mountains and edge of your seat excitement will make this a favorite summer time spot for years to come.  

Quassy Amusement Park

2132 Middlebury Road (Route 64)

Middlebury, CT

Massachusetts has many amusement parks that are filled with wild rides but if you’re looking for something a little quieter, you might want to check out Quassy Amusement Park of Middlebury Connecticut.  This charming festival of fun is rated on the low-key side with traditional rides that are suitable of younger children or those with sensory issues.  Carousels and a Ferris Wheels are some of the attractions as well as a full list of delicious carnival foods.  

Ogunquit, Maine

Along with our lobster and clam chowder, New England is also famous for its stunning coastal waters.  From the Cape to New Hampshire, each state has a long list of pristine beaches to visit.  One of our favorites is Ogunquit Maine where dunes line silk strewn sandy shores.  Bring your appetite too because this area also offers a multitude of seafood eateries that are top notch and live up to their reputation for serving fabulous cuisine.  

Tags: outdoors, Outdoor Living, Summer

Boston’s Best Summer Berry Picking

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jul 20, 2015

Picking your own berries is an awesome activity for the whole family and lucky for us, Boston’s suburbs are bursting with farms that dedicate much of their time to providing us with these tasty past time.  Whether you’re interested in blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or strawberries, locations in and around the city have just what you’re looking for!

Why do you ask is berry picking so important for children?  Well, for starters it teaches them about growing healthy food and how to obtain nutritious food that’s important to our diets.  Besides that, the more things you can do outside instead of in front of the television the better.  With so many locations convenient and affordable to visit, you’ll find you can select just the right place to accommodate your family.  Unfortunately, Boston’s harvest weather is short.  Be sure to visit websites for seasonal picking dates so you don’t make a wasted trip where you’ve missed the crop. Check out what’s in your area or one of these fantastic local farms that I have taste tested myself!

Sunshine Farm

41 Kendall Ave

Sherborn, Ma


This place is great because they offer both raspberry and blueberry picking options plus the fields are right next to each other making it easy to navigate.  Pint sized cartons can be bought in the market for $6.00 and you can spend as much time as you want enjoying the day in the middle of their beautiful grounds. By the way, save room for ice cream because there’s a convenient stand right next door!

Ward’s Berry Farm

614 South Main Street

Sharon, MA

I love this farm because not only can you pick blueberries but if you return in the early fall, you can also dig for your own potatoes.  Green thumbs will also enjoy the stunning greenhouses attached to their very own store providing a large selection of delicious homegrown foods and freshly baked breads.  If you have little ones, they’ll have fun climbing on the structures located on the playground, too!


Tags: Gardening, Kids, outdoors

Tips for Sunflower Survival

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jul 15, 2015

Sunflowers are one of my favorite blooms to watch stretch and grow in my garden.  Their sunshine happy faces, their bold green foliage and striking color all are reasons why I strive to cultivate a crop every summer.  The trouble is, I’m not the only fan of this seasonal beauty.  Sunflowers are also anxiously awaited by several critters, insects and wildlife that can’t wait to sink their teeth and claws into the soft baby leaves that appear first once the seedlings begin to develop.  

Time and time again, I’ve carefully devised several strategies to stave these pests away but every year I wake up to that fatal morning where I witness the horrifying site of chomped sunflower stems.  Could have been rabbits or maybe even a hedgehog but one thing’s for sure, these forest delicacies were mowed down as soon as the plant could provide a hearty meal for some lucky vermin.

Or worse yet- how about the terrible damage inflected on the leaves by ants and other creepy crawlers that find sunflowers a tasty salad?  

So what do we do?  Forget the sunflower all together?  Nah.  Just hang in there and look these tips over to help ward off predators from your lovely patch.  

Tips For Sunflower Survival

#1.  Sunflower stems are only enticing when their foliage is soft and young.  Most animals will leave them alone once they have reached a height of 1 to 1 ½ feet tall so applying bird’s netting or a mesh blanket over the plant when it is in its early development will shoo most pests away.

#2 Place a container such as a soda bottle that has had the top quarter cut off over the seedlings.  This not only will keep away rodents but also create a nice greenhouse effect to nurture speedy growth.  

#3 To keep away slugs and other slithery foes, gently spray the sunflower with a water mixed with a little dish soap.  They absolutely hate that combination and it wont hurt the flower at all.  

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, outdoors

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jul 13, 2015

New England gardeners should be pleased to know that their tomatoes will surely be making their summer debut within the next few weeks.  Particularly if you have invested in varieties such as “Beefsteak”, “Early Girl”, “Fireworks” or “Jet Star”, your crops will surely be bursting with an abundance of brightly colored red fruit.  Although we’ll have to wait a bit longer for further seasonal types such as “Ponderosa Pink”, “Hillbilly” and my favorite, “Mortgage Lifter” to ripen to perfection, we’ll still have plenty to pick from to get Boston’s veggie lovers started.


So now that we have tomatoes, what should we do with them?  Cook them of course!

Tomatoes are not only a delicious vegetable but they have several beneficial health attributes as well.  For one thing, they contain large amounts of Vitamin A and C, not to mention a good helping of folic acid.  They have also been know to preserve brain and nerve tissue plus provide the body with aiding functionality of low blood pressure rates, conversion of glucose into energy and also act as an antioxidant to fight against diseases such as diabetes, depression and cancer.  All in all, it’s a good thing to always have in our diet and lucky for us, there’s a ton of ways to include tomatoes in our meal schedule.  Here are three dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner where we can enjoy the taste and health benefits!


Toast and Tomato is a tradition in my family where it is most enjoyed during the lazy mornings of summer and there is no question that this fare tastes the best if they’ve come from your own garden.  All you have to do is toast two pieces of wheat bread and lightly spread a low fat butter or substitute across the surface.  Choose your variety of tomatoes and thinly slice the fruit making sure the pieces aren’t too bulky because if they are, you’ll have a doozy of a time eating it!


The BLT is a widely overlooked sandwich and is sometimes ignored for its overwhelming simplicity but as we all know, sometimes less is more.  All it takes to cook this mouth-watering treat is a warm roll, a fresh couple of iceberg lettuce leaves, 1 to 2 pieces of well sautéed bacon and the star ingredient- a juicy red slab of red tomato.  If you would like to lower the calorie intake, just swap the bacon for a turkey or soy option.


Ratatouille is probably one of the most decadent yet simple dishes that tomatoes are the most celebrated.  Since the concoction is traditional within a multitude of cultures, we are lucky to have a variety of recipes to choose from.  My favorite involves adding chopped green pepper, onion, garlic, zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms to a simmering pot and seasoning it with salt and pepper.  Once the ingredients condense, add a can of tomato paste and a bunch of your own tomatoes.  Allow to cook until resembling a sauce and serve as is or serve over rice or pasta.  

Tags: Chef, cooking, #EXFL, outdoors, Outdoor Living, Vegetable Garden

Backyard Fun and Games for Summer

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

The kids are finally out of school for summer vacation and families are busy making their seasonal plans for entertainment!  The next few months can be tricky for some parents and anxiety may sit in due to the frustration of coming up with new activities.  I think we’ve all heard those agonizing words of “I’m bored” and “What are we going to do now?” at some point or another and there’s no doubting that summer scheduling can become a bit challenging.  How can we keep our children occupied for the next two months without emptying our wallets completely? 


This year I’ve swapped some of those expensive ticket fees for parks and movie passes for some quality games that I can set up right in my own backyard!  Over the past recent years, adults have been faced with the technology age of iphones and ipads that have swapped their kid’s time in the outdoors for time on a screen.  So what if we lure them with some play that they can enjoy within a healthy environment underneath the sun?  The benefits of this strategy are endless including physical fitness, fresh air and face time with their loved ones.  These are my top picks for my family’s backyard fun!


                                        photo credit:


If you’re going to put up any net, make it a badminton set!  Components of this game are very simple which include a net, racquets and a birdie.  The object of the game is similar to tennis accept that the birdie is lightly tapped from one side to the other.  Since the equipment is light in weight and the net sits a little lower than others, kids from all ages can join in!



This traditional and colorful challenge was first invented in 1856 in England where it became known as the game of civility.  The goal is to knock your chosen ball through small arcs called “wickets” and be the first one to make it to the finish pole line.  I love this one because it involves heavy hand eye coordination and is also a great tool for teaching other similar sports such as miniature golf.



                                           photo credit:

Scavenger Hunt

You don’t have to necessary buy expensive games to have a good time!  Why not make your own entertainment by rigging up a backyard scavenger hunt?  Make a list of five to ten items that your kids can search for such as pinecones, buttercups or a clover and watch them run wild with excitement!  One suggestion before you begin is to be absolutely sure that your objects in the hunt are available in your area and make sure they wont be trampling through dangerous areas with poison ivy or oak. 

Tags: Kids, #EXFL, outdoors, Outdoor Living, Games

Gardening Calendar for July

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

July_Calendar-page0001 an easy reference guide for the novice, intermediate or expert gardener.

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, outdoors, Vegetable Garden, Garden Calendar, July

Outdoor Design Trends for Summer 2015

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jun 26, 2015

The summer is bringing on the heat and that means we are able to transition from hiding within the limitations of our homes to the fun season of outdoor living!  There will be holidays, barbecues, pool parties and dinners served alfresco so we’ll need to amp up the décor of our decks, patios and backyards.  No, we won’t need to ring up extravagant home shopping bills just yet.  With a few lighting, color and texture tips, you’ll be able to transform that dull yard into a fabulous Eden for you and your friends to enjoy.  Here’s what’s hot this summer for 2015 according to some of my favorite design companies!




                              photo via Restoration Hardware

I’m in love with the new lighting ideas that are making their way out of design rooms this season.  Particularly the “filament bulb strung lights” models are grabbing my attention, which are perfect to be hung on trees or deck eaves.  They are replacing the lantern look of previous summer catalogs and providing a more sophisticated look for evening settings.  The gentle luminescence of the bulbs provide a romantic glow to your nighttime affairs and are exactly what’s needed for those intimate moments when things start warming up in July and August!


                                                            Ceramic Potting Gardens


                                               photo credit: Pottery Barn

I don’t know about you, but I’m so excited for this look to be returning this summer, which is being showcased by Pottery Barn!  Ceramic pots are not only super easy to pick up on your travels for low cost but they actually become more trendy when they have been a little chipped or the paint has worn down.  Make sure you clean them well before potting your favorite plants and try to get creative by adding complimentary pops of color to your containers.  Once they have been designed, place the pots strategically on your deck, patio or around the barriers of your backyard garden, pool or lounging area. 


Bright Fabric Is In


            photo credit: Crate & Barrel

Another fab line from Crate & Barrel has decided to go bright and bold with their outdoor pillows and cushions.  Orange, lime green and teal seem to be this company’s go-to color palette, adding popular ocean and beach themes within the textiles.  You might frown a bit at the cost but keep in mind that these are so cute and versatile that they can be brought indoors once the cool weather returns to New England.

Tags: Gardening, outdoors, Outdoor Living, Pottery, Design

Gardening Calendar for June in Boston

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jun 01, 2015


Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, outdoors, June, Garden Calendar

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

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