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How to Make an Ice Wreath

I first saw instructions for this project on The Artful Parent blog and thought it was incredibly clever — and I can’t believe that I never saw a similar ice wreath during all the frigid winters I spent on the Great Lakes. If I lived in a cold climate at the moment, I’d be gathering together all the materials I needed to make my own ice wreath, and figuring out where to hang it.

ice wreath

photo courtesy of Jean Van’t Hul at The Artful Parent blog; used with permission

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Winter Jasmine: An Early-Bloomer Often Mistaken for Forsythia

Copy of Jasminum_nudiflorum - wikimedia commonsThis has been an especially brutal winter for folks in many parts of the country — including the northeast, the midwest, and even the southeast, where gardeners are used to having flowers all winter. It’s one of those years when the earliest blooming plants will be especially welcome. Winter jasmine is one of those. It can bloom so early in the year during a warm spell that I’ve heard older Southern gardeners call it “January jasmine.” Continue reading

Yard Art: Bottle Trees Add Color to the Winter Landscape

IMG_0255_RESIZEDI shot this photo of a cobalt blue bottle tree one winter while I was taking a little road jaunt with my friend Connie, somewhere up near Adairsville, Georgia. It’s funny, sometimes when I mention bottle trees in a conversation, people don’t know what I’m talking about – so maybe this is your first one too, and I’m glad I could introduce you.

I think of bottle trees as a Southern tradition in yard art, mainly because I never saw a single one before I moved to Georgia. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and some of them are truly creative. I’ve always been a bit enamored with cobalt blue glass myself, and I save all the blue bottles that come into my house, though I tend to perch them on a windowsill and not out in the yard. Maybe someday I’ll have a bottle tree of my own… Continue reading

Surviving the Polar Vortex

Frozen Garden Hose and water pipe connectionMuch of the country experienced an extreme cold spell last week. The weather forecasters called it a polar vortex and depending on where you lived, it swept through with a fury between January 5th and 8th.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the meteorological explanations on the news for yourself, but here’s the way Scientific American recaps it:

“The polar vortex is a prevailing wind pattern that circles the Arctic, flowing from west to east all the way around the Earth. It normally keeps extremely cold air bottled up toward the North Pole. Occasionally, though, the vortex weakens, allowing the cold air to pour down across Canada into the U.S., or down into other regions such Eastern Europe.”

During the vortex, the daily temperatures being reported in Minnesota and the Dakotas were truly mind-boggling – 20 to 30 degrees below zero! Where I live in Atlanta, we had a record low of 6 degrees, combined with an extended freeze where it didn’t go about 32F at all for several days, which is unusual here. Continue reading

Salvaged Items Become Garden Ornaments

If you’ve ever doubted that gardeners are the most innovative people under the sun, just look at the photos below. I shot these on a summer garden tour for inspiration.


I took this shot at the home of Atlanta landscape designer Paula Refi — that’s the side of her garage you’re looking at! A salvaged mantel piece was painted, outfitted with mirrors, and bolted to the outside wall. A stone “hearth” completes the illusion.

This next idea is also clever: Continue reading

New Year’s Resolutions for Gardeners – Why Not Wait Until Springtime?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hamed/277221852/sizes/l/A quick search online just yielded hundreds of results for the phrase “new year’s resolutions.” Many of them were articles in a format I just abhor – lists of tips, most of which are neither helpful nor practical; many of which are downright laughable.

But my favorite, if only because it was that rare fresh take on the topic, was an article from Times of India that came up near the top of the search results. I got a kick out of the fact it took a decidedly pessimistic tone. It said:

“Thinking of starting all over again with the turn of the New Year? Don’t bother because making resolutions is a near pointless exercise, psychologists have clarified.”

Here’s what I think: the part that’s pointless is pegging the desire for change to a somewhat meaningless date on the calendar, in this case January first. Continue reading

Cyclamen Is My Favorite Winter Flower

white cyclamenFor many years, I’ve favored cyclamen over poinsettias when choosing a flowering plant to brighten up the indoor landscape at this time of year. To my mind, cyclamen is so much more interactive than poinsettia. From the day you bring it home, a poinsettia begins a slow decline toward the compost heap. Its colorful bracts are already formed and no new ones will appear. Before long, it will begin dropping its bottom leaves and start to appear thin and frail. A cyclamen, on the other hand, will entertain you for many weeks with active growth. Continue reading

Product Spotlight: Build a Raised Bed in a Snap Without Tools

M-brace product shotThere’s a product on BluestoneGarden that’s caught my fancy, even though I’ve never personally used it. It’s called the M-brace, and it’s a set of four corner brackets that can be used to build a raised garden bed of any size in just minutes. I not only love the ease and functionality of this product, but I but absolutely adore the way it turns a raised bed into garden art, with whimsical cut-out designs. I know that raised beds are often used for functional areas of the yard, like vegetable gardens and cutting gardens, but I’m always a fan of yard art.

It also occurs to me that the M-brace is a great way to give a raised bed as a gift this holiday season. The four corner brackets come in a square box that would wrap up nicely with paper and ribbon, and the recipient wouldn’t have to work very hard at all to assemble a raised bed that will be a beautiful addition to the garden in spring. Continue reading

Dreaming of the Perfect Potting Bench…

Fotolia_37834181_XSWhat is it about potting benches that makes them a universal dream among gardeners? It seems like everyone wants this perfect place to putter, to organize tools and flowerpots, and to work a little horticultural magic. When you don’t yet have a spot like this, a potting bench at least seems within your reach, unlike a greenhouse or potting shed, which can turn out to be very complicated dreams (and expensive ones!)

I saw the potting bench in the photo below during a garden tour last summer, and it really caught my fancy. I love the way it fits into this little nook that’s formed by the angles of the house, and the fact it’s sheltered by the overhang so that tools stay dry. It’s close to the back door, and there’s a water spigot right around the corner. It looks like there may even be an electrical outlet right there — what more could you ask for? Continue reading

Bulb Planting: A Pep Talk for Procrastinators

bag of bulbs I didn’t buy any flower bulbs this fall, but maybe you did. Maybe you bought armloads of them, lured in by the siren song of those pretty pictures on the bulb packages. And maybe many of those bulbs still haven’t gone into the ground. I know all about this, because I used to do the same thing, buying more bulbs than I could plant in a couple of weekends (at least the way I do it). Often I was still planting bulbs into December, which I can easily get away with here in Atlanta. Continue reading