Winter Heaving of Peony Roots

This is the first time I ever had Peonies heave over the winter.


Winter can be trying on peonies, particularly for the newly planted, less-than-ideally sited or poorly mulched. Flower buds can withstand sub-zero temperatures, but the continued freezing and thawing of more mild winters can result in what is known as heaving. This term refers to the resulting force of a layer of ice forming beneath the surface of the soil. The expansion of this ice pushes a layer of soil upwards. The cumulative effects of this process can be quite pronounced, particularly after a like the one we experienced this year with many periods of freezing and thawing. Its frost heaving which is responsible for delivering us a fresh crop of ‘Connecticut potatoes’ each spring, as rocks come up to the surface. So as you begin your spring clean up, inspect your peonies for signs of heaving.

Peony roots that are not firmly set in the ground or which are in…

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Bright Farms……….very disappointed in so many ways……


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Wow….that is the safest thing for me to say at this juncture.  I was so happy a few months ago when I heard, read and blogged that Bright Farms was going to build the areas biggest indoor greenhouse and farm, in partnership with a large well known grocery store, which would provide opportunities and jobs for the residents in Ward 8.  I do not know why I assumed that some basic functions had been performed to make such an announcement in the media ……little things like DUE DILIGENCE…or better yet a SITE SURVEY.

I am going to keep this simple.  When one starts a garden, one of the basic functions is to first of all walk the site.  Familiarize yourself with the grounds that you will be growing on.  Envision your design and imagine the possibilities. As an avid gardener, Mother and Grandmother, I am adamant about testing the soil…a simple basic soil test. You can send the soil sample to Virginia Tech or other soil testing labs for a small fee to let you know what the possibilities  are as well as the safety of the soil for food crops or other things you might want to grow.  If you are going to have an outdoor farm on a new site as well as a new facility and you are planning on breaking ground and be up and running in the spring of any year…I find it hard to believe that no one knew this travesty before now.  What about BASIC Due Diligence???

Why would it have EVER been okay to grow food on a site that obviously has a rusting bus on it or that was a dumping ground – legally or illegally – without testing and remediation of the soil???  18 feet of the unknown (could be asphalt or worse), insulation and roofing materials and rusting petroleum containers.  I have to ask – THIS WAS OKAY TO GROW FOOD TO SELL IN WARD 8 OR ANY COMMUNITY????  I actually find this quite appalling.  I have to seriously rethink where I shop for my local produce if this was thought to be acceptable. THANK GOD FOR LOCAL FARMERS AND FARMERS MARKETS AND THIS IS WHY THEY EXIST.  No one should ever think that it is okay to grow food crops on any ground that has not been tested to do so.  Even if you build it up…ROOTS GO DOWN, WATER RISES AND CONTAMINANTS SOMETIMES REMAIN IN THE SOIL FOR YEARS AND YEARS.  Just think, after years and years of saying that Roundup had no residual issues in the soil…now we are constantly hearing otherwise.

There is a lot of blame to share for this travesty from the Big Corporations to the local political officials and partnerships, who were not too honest about the land and it’s issues as well as the false promises to the residents of Ward 8 and surrounding communities, to the people of Ward 8 who did not raise their voices boldly and loudly to get answers to the questions that the Commissioners were asking.  Someone could have used their cell phone cameras to bring this travesty to light prior to NOW.  COMMUNITY HAS A VOICE, THE VOTE AND THE POWER TO MAKE THE NECESSARY CHANGES TO ENSURE THAT THEY ARE WELL SERVED.

I am saddened that even NOW we don’t know the power of our voice to bring light to the improprieties that continually happen to the under served communities in our area.  What would be worse is if nothing is done and these dangerous chemicals and environmental hazards – as well as the continued dumping – are not dealt with immediately, so that further seepage into the ground and groundwater can be stopped.

The final insult is that the alternative is not another location in DC…..but in Virginia. Hmmmm …..perhaps this why the crowd funding campaign stopped and there was a stillness in the air whenever this project was mentioned…it seems that someone perhaps knew something prior to this exposure in the media. At some point people must wonder if this was ever really meant to be……….at this point, I think not.

Such a sad reflection of the many entities that have had their hand in the pot on this project……$700K could have been better utilized in so many ways for the greater good.

The light is not so bright as this is just NOT the way to do business….ANYWHERE!!!

Reports are rampant …….snow is on the radar…Do you have a snow plan?

IF more snow than anticipated happens, what’s a gardener to do?  Well I have a few suggestions


First send up a prayer….


Then pray a little harder from your personal garden central (aka sacred space)


Find another fanatical gardener to play seed cards with….


Take care of a little light reading and help the economy…….


Take care of some heavy reading and vacation planning…..

Or just brace yourself and prepare for an interesting commute. I am not sure how tomorrow will turn out,….but I am prepared.

2015….Where is Winter??


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Happy New Year??? I really wanted to say, hey what about that snow storm by now…..but alas no snow here…AT ALL!!  What a bummer.  The plan to nest in, read garden catalogs, order some seeds, clean up my garden room has been foiled.  Instead i am wandering around outside peeking at what nature has gifted us with that normally goes unnoticed.

Today while walking along the woods line, I noticed some wild briars had swollen buds….excited for Spring, I think they might be reacting  to the mild winter temps.

The Mahonia shrubs were just waiting to share a fresh yellow burst of sunshine and delightful fragrance that they are known for.


The Sarcococca is beginning to open into bloom and share the decadent scent that makes you wonder where in the world is that fragrance coming from??

As always the Camellia blooms and buds delight my heart and gives me reason to pause and admire the beauty that surrounds us….not that I need a reason.  I am in love with nature and the surprises that it shares with us….it dismays me that most people do not take time to notice.



I also noticed that the buds on my Tree Peonies were more noticeable than last week, hmm what could this mean???  Spring is less than 100 days away and still no snow.

I have noticed that the yew (aka deer dessert) have diminished in size since September…I know my yard is a deer walk through, but not a fast food walk through for the growing deer population in my area.   As I consider my Spring plant purchases, I will definitely replace these yews with something a little less tasty.  As every gardener knows, the garden is ever-changing.

The shrinking Hydrangea’s, I will spray with a deer repellant that I purchased earlier in the year….on the next warm day.  I stupidly thought that the deer no longer found my year appealing – why I fool myself I do not know. My neighbors are even wondering what in the world do we do about the deer?  That remains to be seen on many levels.  I choose to plant things that might be fragrant and unappealing to their taste buds.

So as I share on my first musing of this year, I just know that the snow fairy will come.  She will spread some snow to blanket my garden and give me an excuse to curl up in my reading corner with my seed catalogs, garden design magazines and a big cup of something warm to dream of Spring……..I am waiting…….



Anthuriums….You Can Grow That!!


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Months of bloom, prettier than a poinsettia (a great holiday alternative) and beauty shiny green heart shaped leaves – who wold not want to grow an Anthurium??

Also known as the Flamingo Flower, Anthuriums became popular when Samuel Damon introduced this South American tropical to Hawaii.  With selective breeding through the years to increase the bloom size and enhance the available color palette, Anthuriums have become quite popular and have an array of colors to include not just red, pink and white, but orange, coral blush and salmon.


Anthuriums require a few basic things to stay in tip-top shape:

  • Room temperatures need to be kept consistently between 70 and 90 degrees;
  • Humidity is very important and should be kept between 80 and 100%. A daily misting will help in keeping the air surrounding the plant humid;
  • Indirect light will mimic the native environment that the Anthurium grows in the wild.  If the leaves begin to brown or have a bleached out appearance or spots – move the plant out of the light, as this is merely scalding of the leaves;
  • Free draining soil will allow oxygen access to the roots.  An orchid mix is great for its non compacting qualities when it is time to repot;
  • a slow release fertilizer will fill the nutrient requirements, like the leaf litter in the forest;
  • never allow the soil to dry out.  A moist environment will keep the plant healthy and happy.


Anthuriums will bring joy and with minimal care, blooms can be achieved from the Holidays until Valentines day……..and maybe beyond!!


Heaven Is A Garden – Designing Serene Outdoor Spaces for Inspiration and Reflection by Jan Johnson

I cannot say enough great things about this book.  Jan Johnson hit a home run when she found the photos and the words to create this gift.  Sometimes books on gardening tend to either be too wordy with not enough photos or vice versa….too many photos and not enough words.  Trying to create a balance can be difficult, but Jan Johnson proved that it could be done.

The book is not very big in stature, but it is packed with information that can be used whether you are a landscaper or a private homeowner.  In the first chapter called  The Power of  Place, Jan describes how we can certainly create our own personal spaces that would feed our souls and strengthen our well being.  Jan Johnson demonstrated this by sharing examples on landscaped sites she designed  or was inspired by, that give inspiration and cause one to reflect.   One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 3 –  Calling on the trees.

Chapter 3 shares a bit of history about trees and how they should be revered and respected. Trees can create positive moods and have been celebrated for many century’s for their mystical powers.  In Buddist tradition, trees are adorned with tags that have positive thoughts written on them.  The wind, as it meanders through the tree branches, blows these positive thoughts into the air, giving wings to the possibility that these wishes will come true. Jan also eloquently shares how trees speak to us.  Certain trees have certain attributes that we identify with.  The Ash tree helps us maintain a positive outlook, while the Beech promotes tolerance and inner strength.  The Hawthron helps us be in the present, right here at this very moment and the Hazel inspires creative endeavors and healing.

The rest of this book offers thought’s on water, rocks and color,  As I continued to read, I found myself thinking about some of the visions that I incorporated in client spaces that just made sense to me….and now my thought processes have been qualified.  Certain plant combinations, certain rocks that I love and certain characteristics of trees that I hold dear to my heart…it is as if inside, I knew that gardening is a highly spiritual experience.  Connecting Heaven and gardening is a win win scenario in my opinion.  Thank you Jan Johnson for the words and the pictures.  Of the 44 places listed of gardens to visit for inspiration and example, I only have 38 more to go!  Looking forward to the gardening journey with this book by my side.

I strongly suggest this book for holiday gift giving or for a personal read during this season of nesting.

Sunday Morning Gardening…Inner Growth…a beautiful thing



I tend to be drawn to inspirational words, photos and life examples. I don’t usually look for these things, however I like to think that these words, photos and life examples present themselves to me.  This past week, I saw this and it spoke to me. Visually, I enjoyed  the borrowed view of the picture. I enjoy borrowed views as they tend to carry you deeper and deeper into usually something quite beautiful and unexpected. Mentally, I digested the words.  Each line of this verbal feast, fed my inner being.
As a gardener, thinking about these words allowed me to reflect on 2014 and how through it all, I am still smiling.
Though a life changing health event with my Dad – my best friend and garden buddy – I continued to have Faith that the final outcome would be positive.  I changed the way I eat and continue do what I LOVE  and seriously pay attention to what my intuition or inner voice shares with me about all situations. I have learned that breathing correctly and deeply, enables me to smile through all of the negative energy that is in the world today.
As I begin to set new goals for 2015, I am committing to continue doing what I Love, continue planting seeds of hapiness where ever I go, move my body more through exercise as well as other fun activities and most importantly,smile as I continue my journey on this borrowed view in life.
Gardening is more than just a physical activity, we cultivate our inner spirit daily by weeding out thoughts that we don’t feel work with our personal landscape. We also plant positive thoughts that enhance our inner garden.  What words have you seen that have spoken to you, as you cultivate your  inner garden?

Schlumbergera….or Christmas Cactus….YOU CAN GROW THAT!!!

At this time of the year, it is easy to find Christmas Cactus in your local garden center.  However, it is winter, they are cactus and they are blooming…. when it is cold outside.  What is up with that???


Well first you have to know a bit of history about the Princess of the season.  Not just the Christmas season, I found that there are not only Christmas Cactus, but Thanksgiving Cactus, Crab Cactus and Holiday Cactus….hmmm…the Holiday Cactus is better known as Easter Cactus, due to the bloom time.

20141122_154229 There are two major groupings of Schlumbergera – Truncata and Buckleyi.  The Truncata group is an early blooming species that encompasses the Easter or Holiday Cactus. The flowers are held a bit more upright.  The upper and lower leaves of the bloom are also shaped differently.  The Buckleyi group blooms later, the flowers hang down and are more symmetrical.  What we know as Christmas Cactus is generally in this group.  Originally from the tropical climate in Brazil by plantsman Charles Lemaire the first recorded species was in England in 1852 by Mr. W. Buckley.  In England they were used as ornamental plants in their heated greenhouses.  The late season flowering was a hit among those that enjoyed new and different plants.  At that time there was another species called russelliana. As breeding of the originally three species in the early 1950’s created different strains, the older more original strains became extinct.


The care and feeding of what we know as Christmas Cactus is rather simple:

  • a small, free draining container, with free draining soil with a touch of grit;
  • cool, but humid indirect sunlight area.  Cooler nights will induce bloom;
  • water once a week and mist the foliage.  Too much water will cause rotting and bud drop.  Too little water will lead to its demise.  Wet feet are a definite NO!;
  • stop watering around October if you want it to bloom at Christmas.  A saucer with   pebbles and water below the pot will create the humidity needed for optimal           growing conditions;
  • Christmas Cactus flowers best when it is in a half pot or root bound pot.  When        transplanting in the Spring make sure that your new pot is not too big.

For a hardy plant that can be passed down for generations with the proper amount of subtle neglect try Christmas Cactus……..YOU CAN GROW THAT!!

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