Welcome to my Western Pennsylvania garden. Join me on a "Walk Down the Garden Path".

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

12 Days of Gardening Gifts: Day 12, Planthropology

Finally we reach the final day of this gift extravaganza. I almost thought I wasn't going to make it. I am sorry I haven't been visiting your blogs recently, but hopefully after Christmas I will have lots of time to catch up. I've had a lot of fun with this series and I hope you have too. Please know that I wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday season. Now, onto the gift selection.

"Planthropology" is the latest book by Ken Druse, and it's one that I'm sure any garden lover will enjoy. Planthropology is a word he made up to describe the study of plants and their particular history. In this book he shares with us scientific facts, myths, controversies, anecdotes, and good old fashioned garden wisdom. And lots of great pictures to boot.

So if you are looking for that last minute gift for someone else or yourself, you can't go wrong this this book. List price is $50. Amazon.com has it for $31.50.

Other posts in this series
Day One, Amaryllis
Day Two, Jasmine
Day Three, Give-A-Tree Cards
Day Four, Bonsai
Day Five, Hand Lotion
Day Six, Tabletop Tree
Day Seven, Magazines
Day Eight, Garden Gnomes
Day Nine, Stuff for your Vegetable Garden
Day Ten, Whimsy
Day Eleven, 10 Year Gardening Journal

Monday, December 22, 2008

12 Days of Gardening Gifts: Day 11, 10 Year Journal

Warm Hanukkah Wishes to those celebrating today!

When I choose the 10 year journal as the gift for Day 11 of this gift extravaganza, I was thinking of a regular journal, not specific to gardening, but one that could be adapted to gardening. However, while searching on the internet, I did find a 10 year gardening journal! Exactly what I wanted for this gift.

Lee Valley Tools is where I found this gem of a journal.

Because there description says it perfectly, I have copied it here. The journal costs $39.95 and can be started at any time.

"Because you will want to remember your gardening triumphs (and occasional setbacks), A Gardener's Journal is set up as a ten-year perpetual diary, which you may begin at any time.

In the diary section, one page is given to each day of the year, and each page is divided into 10 sections – more than enough for 10 years of personal jottings. In addition to the diary pages, there is also a section on such gardening techniques as composting, digging garden beds, tree care, soils, and garden tool maintenance, to name but a few. We also provide reference material and numerous charts.

There are several pages to record your inventory of perennials, more to record sketches of your garden, yet more to list plantings and harvestings, etc. In all, you will find 544 pages, most of which you can write upon. (An interactive gardening tool?) This format is designed to help you plan your way through years of gardening. Also, for your enjoyment, we have included intriguing notes on the history of plant lore, culled from arcane and often surprising sources.

Hardcover, Smyth sewn, and protected by a sturdy cloth binding, A Gardener's Journal is both a useful reference and your companion for gardening adventures. Measures 9" x 11". Published by Lee Valley."

Other posts in this series:
Day One, Amaryllis
Day Two, Jasmine
Day Three, Give-A-Tree Cards
Day Four, Bonsai
Day Five, Hand Lotion
Day Six, Tabletop Tree
Day Seven, Magazines
Day Eight, Garden Gnomes
Day Nine, Stuff for your Vegetable Garden
Day Ten, Whimsy

Sunday, December 21, 2008

12 Days of Gardening Gifts: Day Ten, Whimsy

We're moving right along in this gift giving series. For Day 10 we are headed into the world of whimsy. And Plow and Hearth is just the place to take us there.

Look at this adorable Elfin Door, perfectly decorated for the holidays. Your garden fairies and elves will appreciate a portal for getting between their worlds.

Elfin Christmas Door - $12.95 on sale for $9.99. 7 1/4" x 8" H.

This is not something I would ever see me having a use for but it does qualify under the heading of whimsy. Does anyone use bush covers like this? You'll have to let me know.

Snowman Bush Cover - $19.95. In their words "Bags made of special non-woven Frost Protek™ polyester fleece cinch easily around your bushes when the forecast calls for a freeze. Stick-on facial features let you give the snowman his smile."

Onto something that I actually own, these cute animal ornaments. Although they were among those items which stayed stored away this year, safely out of Lillian's hands.

Animal Ornament Set includes Skunk, Raccoon, and Beaver for $24.95

They also have plenty of garden statues which would also lend a bit of whimsy to your garden or your gift giving. Thus concludes our list of ideas for today.

Other posts in this series
Day One, Amaryllis
Day Two, Jasmine
Day Three, Give-A-Tree Cards
Day Four, Bonsai
Day Five, Hand Lotion
Day Six, Tabletop Tree
Day Seven, Magazines
Day Eight, Garden Gnomes
Day Nine, Stuff for your Vegetable Garden

Saturday, December 20, 2008

12 Days of Gardening Gifts: Day Nine, Stuff for your Vegetable Garden

Being the 20th of the month, which is a day when several garden bloggers often give updates on their vegetable gardens, I thought I would pick today's gift to also center on the vegetable garden. You can go to Tina's blog, In The Garden, to find other vegetable garden updates.

There are many, many websites which sell gardening stuff. For this post, I visited Gardens Alive because I like how they are dedicated to the biological control of garden pests. Even though it may be hard to think about vegetable gardening when there is snow and ice in abundance, it's never to early to start planning for spring. Spring is just three months away, you know.

Jump Start Lighting System - $64.95
Just the thing to get those seedlings started. Especially if your windowsill space is at a premium.

Seedling Heat Mat - $39.95
For faster germination and higher success rate - pamper those little seedlings.

Mason Bee Nest - $39.99
According to the website "Mason bees are up to 90% more efficient at pollinating plants than honeybees. Plus, they don’t sting. You can encourage their presence in your garden by offering a place for the bees to nest. About 2/3 the size of a honeybee, mason bees nest in holes created by woodpeckers and beetles, so this similarly designed nesting habitat will invite these hard-working pollinators to nest and help pollinate your garden. Made of durable, decorative cedar, it is easy to hang. No assembly required; nest includes 10 nesting tubes and 2 replacement tubes. Comes with complete, easy to- read instructions."

And if you can't wait for spring to grow something tasty...

The Portabella Mushroom Kit - $39.95
Everything you need is provided in the kit and it produces in 3-5 weeks. Just add water and place in a cool, dark location, such as a basement.

Other posts in this series
Day One, Amaryllis
Day Two, Jasmine
Day Three, Give-A-Tree Cards
Day Four, Bonsai
Day Five, Hand Lotion
Day Six, Tabletop Tree
Day Seven, Magazines
Day Eight, Garden Gnomes

Thursday, December 18, 2008

12 Days of Gardening Gifts: Day Eight, Garden Gnomes

On the subject of Garden Gnomes, I know people either run hot or cold. I happen to like these industrious and sometimes mischievous looking imps placed sporadically throughout the garden. Mine inhabit the vegetable and herb garden. Although I have to admit, they did take some getting used to, I am now a fan. But despair not, for if you don't like gnomes for your garden or they don't fit into your gardening gift giving scheme, there will be another gift idea tomorrow.

According to Wikipedia Garden Gnomes were first manufactured in Germany in the mid-1800's and the terracotta gnomes were made for people to enjoy the local myths that gnomes helped garden at night. Garden gnomes were first introduced to the UK in 1847 at Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire. Only one of the originals survives and is insured for one million pounds. Garden Gnomes have endured many pranks and kidnappings as well as exclusion from some of the more prestigious garden clubs and events.

Thanks to the internet, I was able to locate Kimmel Gnomes. Their gnomes are not mass produced but are handmade and cast from rare 19th century antique gnomes and from original sculptures by Welsh artist Candice Kimmel. They are glazed inside and out for a frost resistant finish. They are made in the U.S.A. and are outdoor safe and UV protected. Although it is past their ordering date for Christmas delivery, I still had to include them in my gift series because they are everything that the mass produced plastic, tacky gnomes are not.

All descriptions and photos are from Kimmel Gnomes.

Forest 12" green gnome with free mushroom. Regular price $89.95, On sale for $59.95
Forest is a classic gnome. He is handmade in Stoneware pottery and is glazed on the outside and inside so may be placed outside all year round with zero maintenance. A fantastic, large, robust gnome full of character.

Harold is a shelf sitter gnome with a grasshopper. 7" x 7" x 4 1/2" - $69.95

Mr. and Mrs. Gnome, set of two 9" gnomes. Regular price $84.95, On sale for $49.00.
Mr & Mrs Gnome have been married for 500 years and they're still smiling! A beautiful gnome couple that will bring a ray of sunshine to any home and garden.

And you can't forget your gnome accessories.
Set of Three Round Cap Mushroom Spikes, 5" to 6" tall - $24.95.
Life-sized clay mushrooms are designed to look like they are growing out of the ground. Use to accent your gnomes. Set of 3.

Other Posts in this Series:
Day One, Amaryllis
Day Two, Jasmine
Day Three, Give-A-Tree Cards
Day Four, Bonsai
Day Five, Hand Lotion
Day Six, Tabletop Tree
Day Seven, Magazines

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

12 Days of Gardening Gifts: Day Seven, Magazines

We all have them, probably piles of them. I know I do and I just pulled one from my stash that's dated 2003. But for Day Seven of this gift giving series, I think Gardening Magazines is just the thing. If you have a favorite that you know the giftee doesn't already receive, maybe you would want to give a subscription. Or if you aren't sure of their taste in magazines, you could pick out a few and give the latest copy of each. A couple of magazines stuffed in a stocking along with the fixings for some hot cocoa would make a delightful gift to be enjoyed by the fireside on a cold winter's night. And winter is the best time for catching up on the latest trends in the gardening world.

Currently I don't subscribe to any magazines, but here are a few that I've subscribed to over the years. Please let me know what your favorites are in the comments. Maybe one or two of them will find their way into my stocking this year.

Horticulture - 6 issues for $19.95. Classic magazine with lots of design and plant info.

Gardening How-To - You receive this magazine when you become a member of the National Home Gardening Club. I believe the magazine is bimonthly and that dues are $1/month, if I'm reading the info on the website correctly. I was a member a few years ago, and if I remember correctly, you could also sign up to test new products. I was sent a type of plant food to test.

Taunton's Fine Gardening - 6 issues for $29.95
This is a bit pricey which is why I don't subscribe all the time but Taunton's Fine Gardening and Taunton's Fine Cooking are two magazines that I LOVE. If you've never read them, you should treat yourself and check them out.

Garden Gate - 6 issues for $20. In Garden Gate you'll find plant info and design info but not one ad. I love that.

Birds & Blooms - 6 issues for $14.98. If you love to garden and watch the birds and butterflies this is the magazine for you. Tons of reader input and ideas. And I don't know if it is still this way but when I subscribed there were no ads.

Backyard Living - 6 issues for $14.98. I think this is published by the same people as Birds & Blooms. It covers gardens, grilling, recipes, and weekend projects. Again, with lots of reader input and ideas and my issues don't have ads.

That's what's in my magazine bin. What's in yours that you would recommend?

Other posts in this series:
Day One: Amaryllis
Day Two: Jasmine
Day Three: Give-A-Tree Cards
Day Four: Bonsai
Day Five: Hand Lotion
Day Six: Tabletop Tree

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I decided to take a break from the 12 Gift series today and give you a brief intermission. Here are some pictures of our tree and some of my favorite ornaments. Of course, there are just a small number of ornaments on the tree this year as it had to be able to withstand Lillian's grasp. But the Little People Nativity Village under the tree and the trains seem to divert her attention from the tree, so there hasn't been any damage to report so far.

This ornament is made from Christmas Cards. It was one of several my girlfriend and I made one year.

I cross-stitched this Santa.

This is one of 12 that my Mom cross-stitched for me. Each is a different Christmas carol. She made a set of 12 for each of her 8 children. That's a lot of x's.

This is one of my ornaments from Royal Copenhagen that I bought when working in Denmark. The heart is a reoccurring theme in their ornaments.

Lillian's having fun playing with her village.

Here Lillian has gathered up all the train cars for some reason.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Twelve Days of Gardening Gifts: Day Six, Tabletop Live Christmas Tree

Today we reach the halfway point in this gift giving series. Let's head back to one of those catalogs which are endlessly filling my mailbox. The catalog du jour is Jackson & Perkins but it's not roses that we will be selecting today. No, it's the Decorated Tabletop Live Spruce Tree.

Now, I realize this tree is not for everyone. But it is the perfect size for many households who have downsized or travel away from home at Christmas or shortly thereafter and don't want to deal with a big tree and all the decorations. Or what about the shut in or nursing home resident or the youngster starting out who might not put up a tree in an apartment? These trees come fully decorated with lights! Of course, I don't know what you do with the tree once Christmas is over. Over at Poor Richard's Almanac, they wrote about the debate between cut, live, and artificial trees where they did touch on the subject. You can read about it here.

But back to Jackson and Perkin's and their live decorated trees. They currently list three on their website, ranging in price from $69.95 - $89.95. Here are pictures of two of them, as you can see, very prettily decorated.

They also sell Rosemary Trees in different presentation pots ranging in price from $29.95 - $39.95. These are undecorated.

Or you could be like Cameron at Defining Your Home Garden and buy one at the local market for at least half that. All you have to do then is add the decorations. Check out Cameron's post here on her Rosemary Tree. When Christmas is over you'll be able to cook with this tree.

No matter what size tree you have or whether it is cut, live, or artificial, that is not where the Spirit of Christmas lies. The Spirit of Christmas is in each of us, just waiting to be shared with the world.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Twelve Days of Gardening Gifts: Day Five, Luscious Hand Creme

Today's gift is one which is useful during all seasons. During the outdoor gardening season, my hands are constantly dry due to digging in the dirt. I wear gloves, but not always, and regardless, my hands dry out terribly. And now that it's winter and the furnace is running constantly to protect us from the frigid outdoor temperatures, my hands are in a constant state of dry and cracked. I feel like Scarlett O'Hara, when her hands were so rough from working at Tara, after the war.

What better to protect and rejuvenate that dry skin than a luscious, luxurious lotion. Here are a few which qualify. If you know of others that you wish to sing the praises of, please do so in the comments. I'm always looking for a good hand lotion.

The Body Shop has lots of products that I really like, from their Body Butters to their Hand and Foot Care items to their Makeup products. But since this post is about hand lotion, let's focus on that. My choice is the Spa Wisdom Africa Spa Honey Butter. According to the website, the key ingredients are lanolin, shea butter, honey, and beeswax. I have this product and it does wonders on my dry skin, making my hands feel silky smooth. It works great on dry, cracked feet too. A 4.4 oz jar is $22. I've had mine for a couple of years now and it's almost gone. I don't use it all the time, just when my hands and feet are really bad and a little goes a long way.

Another great thing about The Body Shop is that they participate in Community Trade programs. Community Trade is a targeted purchasing program of accessories and natural ingredients from disadvantaged communities around the world.

Another good hand healer that I've used is Burt's Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Creme. This also works great on my dry hands and I love the smell. It's key ingredients are sweet almond oil, aloe, and vitamin E. A 2 oz. jar is $8, and like the Honey Butter, a little goes a long way.

The last one that I'm going to mention I know I've used before, but I've never owned it. But my memory reminds me that it was very good for my dry skin and I know there are people who swear by this creme. It is of course none other than, Udderly Smooth Udder Cream. Originally invented for use on dairy cows, it is now used for dry and chapped skin. According to their website, Udderly Smooth Udder Cream is "a greaseless, stainless, water-based moisturizer with a light fresh fragrance." It is also available fragrance free and comes in 2 oz. tubes, 4 oz. tubes, 8 oz. jars, 10 oz.with pump, 12 oz. jars, 16 fl. oz. bottles and 32 fl. oz. bottles at your local store. They also sell it online where a 12 oz. jar is $5.75.

So that's my pick for today. Hand lotion would certainly be a gift I would love to receive. Stay tuned for the next gift pick. We're almost to the half-way point!

Other posts in this series
Day One, Amaryllis
Day Two, Jasmine
Day Three, Give-A-Tree Cards
Day Four, Bonsai

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Twelve Days of Gardening Gifts: Day Four, Bonsai

Continuing on with the tree theme in our line of gifts, today I offer you a Bonsai. Bonsai literally translated from the Japanese means tray planting. Bonsai can be either indoor or outdoor trees and refers specifically to the training and artistic vision applied to the tree. Bonsai is an art which requires practice, a good aesthetic eye, and patience. Many different species are used for Bonsai, including junipers, pines, maples, and flowering and fruiting trees.

To embark on this new hobby or to set someone up for this pastime requires a little planning and knowledge. I found several websites offering trees of various prices and ages, equipment, how-to books, and info right on their site.

Bonsai Boy of New York has a wide selection of trees, even artificial and preserved ones. Now even the non-gardener can enjoy the beauty of a Bonsai. Here is just a sampling of what they have available.

Medium Juniper Procumbens "nana" Bonsai Tree - $29.95 on sale

According to the site "This dwarf Juniper from Japan is the most popular evergreen in the U.S. When we think of a traditional bonsai and what it should look like, we think of a "Juniper Procumbens Nana." It is very hardy, long-lived, and tolerates many adverse conditions. This is an excellent tree for the beginner."

Artificial Flowering Golden Shower Bonsai Tree - $59.95

According to the site "The flowers and branches of this artificial Golden Shower tree are created from luna clay, making them very flexible and, therefore, can be adjusted to your personal preferences or left as shown in the image. The hand-painted flowers are so life-like that people will want to touch them to see if they are real. This tree will retain its beauty for many, many years to come and can be cleaned with a dampened cloth."

Monteray - Double Trunk Preserved Bonsai Tree - $89.95

According to the site "Neither plastic nor silk, this real live bonsai tree that was carefully crafted and preserved to protect its natural fragrance, color and texture indefinitely. No watering, trimming or maintenance is required."

I wonder how they do that.

Indoor Bonsai Trees also has a wide selection of trees and offer a do it yourself Bonsai starter kit.

American Bonsai Society is a site full of good resources.

Bonsai Gardener is a site with a collection of articles pertaining to everything Bonsai.

Other posts in the series
Day One, Amaryllis
Day Two, Jasmine
Day Three, Give-A-Tree Cards

Friday, December 12, 2008

Twelve Great Gardening Gifts: Day Three, Give-A-Tree Card

For Day Three of the Twelve Great Gardening Gifts, I go back to the mailbox for inspiration. We received a envelope from The Arbor Day Foundation with the following thank you gifts if you become a member: 2 Give-A-Tree Cards, A Rain Forest Rescue Calendar, and The Tree Book. All for the basic $10 membership. And who can forget the free address labels, I love those.

What intrigued me though, were the Give-A-Tree Cards. So off I went to their website to investigate. Every card plants a tree in one of the National Forests in honor of the card recipient. What a great way to honor someone while helping reforest America. Due to the large numbers of recent fires, there is a great need to replant trees in our National Forests. And I know I don't have to tell you about the many species of wildlife that make the forests their home.

The cards are $5.95 each, quantities of 100 or more are $3.50 each. You can order at their website and get cards for various occasions besides Holiday cards. There are also Birthday cards, Just Because cards, Special Occasion cards, and more. If you normally buy cards at a card store, this is really not that much more. Of course, if you buy cards at the Dollar Store like me, it is quite a bit more. Regardless of the cost, it would certainly be a nice gesture to show your support of a good cause.

Another thought I just had was that this would be a great way for a company to do something green. A lot of businesses spend lots of money at the holidays (maybe not as much this year as most), but if they were going to spend the money anyway, why not have it do something for the Earth as well. The cards can also be custom printed and a logo included.

Be sure to check out the Arbor Day Foundation's website. Besides the Give-A-Tree Cards, they do have other gift ideas. The Earth could always use another tree.

Other posts in this series:
Day One, Amaryllis
Day Two, Scented Jasmine

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Twelve Days of Gardening Gifts: Day Two, Jasmine

For Day Two of my gift giving list, I will stay with White Flower Farm's catalog just a bit longer.

Every time I look through this catalog I stop at the Jasmine page. There is something about these exotic, delicate looking flowers that calls to me. Maybe it's the thought that I know I would love to have that scent lingering throughout the house. I think I may have once sent a jasmine as a gift. Is it wrong to give gifts that appeal so strongly to yourself? I guess not, as long as you believe it would also appeal to the recipient.

In the words of WFF's writer:
"Fragrance Beyond Description in the Dead of Winter"
"Jasminum polyanthum is a handsome, subtropical vine whose dark green leaves provide a perfect backdrop for its January display of elegant and exquisitely fragrant white flowers. This is the perfume of Arabian nights, a rich, sweet scent that will fill a house or lightly carry through a southern garden."

It goes on to say: " Jasmine is easily grown as a houseplant but will not tolerate dry heat or dry soil, and temperatures above 65 degrees F are to be avoided while the buds are developing. If plants are placed in a cool spot and enjoy bright, indirect light, we guarantee bloom."

They offer their jasmine in several different pot presentations ranging in price from $42 - $62.

Check back tomorrow for the next gift in the series Twelve Days of Gardening Gifts.

Other posts in this series:
Day One, Amaryllis

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Twelve Days of Gardening Gifts: Day One, Amaryllis

In amongst the truckloads of catalogs which are overloading my mailbox lately, I have found some inspiration for a garden blog post, actually twelve garden blog posts. These are not the coveted seed catalogs, eagerly awaited and carefully hoarded for later perusal on a winter's night, while dreaming of spring. I am talking about the catalogs from clothing companies, toy companies, tool companies, and over-priced gift companies. We get several every day and most of them go right into the recycling bag. I did keep a few out just to look and see what pretty things were available, not intending to buy, just out of curiosity. These were mostly garden related catalogs, by the way. I saw several nice things that I would love to have but would never buy for myself, which is when I thought of doing a series of posts highlighting twelve great gifts for the gardener in your life. Things that they probably wouldn't buy for themselves, but would love to have.

Today's selection brings us to the White Flower Farm's catalog. The one labeled Distinctive Holiday Gifts. Although not on the cover, the first several pages are filled with the gorgeous blooms of amaryllis. Now, I don't need any more amaryllis. I have a big planter in my basement right now, waiting to be brought out after Christmas to see if I can get my beauties to bloom again. But just because I don't NEED any more, doesn't mean I don't WANT any more. And I think I did buy most of my bulbs from White Flower Farms, so I can vouch for them.

There are several lovely varieties to choose from, I'll just highlight a few.

'Ice Queen': double blossoms of purest white, touched with yellow-green at their throats ($32-$62).

'Sumatra': narrow, orchid-like petals in color blends ranging from deep orange to coral ($30-$72).

'Red Nymph': enormous, scarlet, fully doubled, abundantly petaled blooms ($32-$75).

And my sentimental favorite, 'Sweet Lillian': a small flowered variety of cotton-candy pink marked with a white star ($29-$49).

There is even an option to send freshly cut amaryllis ($69-$99) if you would rather a bouquet over bulbs.

All photos from White Flower Farm.

Stay tuned over the next two weeks for the other 11 gifts that your gardener would love to get (well, at least that I would love to get!)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Zygocactus - A Big Bloomer

While at this time of year there is not much going on in my outside garden, it is the time for the inside plants to shine and take center stage. So over the next several indoor months, this blog will just have to focus on the inside beauties with the occasional update to the outside.

In that spirit, I bring you pictures of my blooming Zygocactus. I hesitate to call it a Christmas Cactus because it does bloom at Thanksgiving for me, without fail, every year. There is also an Easter Cactus which obviously blooms in the Spring. The tag that came with my "Holiday" Cactus does not indicate a botanical name other than Zygocactus and gives the following information.

Features: Thick, succulent leaves and large flowers.

How to Grow: Indirect light. Moderately moist soil. Cool/moderate home temperature 60-70F (15-21C).

I give it exactly what is called for. It gets bright, indirect light, it is watered about once a week, and we keep the temperature in the mid-60's during the winter. I do turn it every so often so it gets even lighting all around. Every year we get great blooms as you can see for yourself. We keep this plant in an area where Lillian is not too often, which is good. She is very intrigued by the blooms and likes to touch them and pull on them, which will make them fall off.

I did read that it is fairly easy to propagate these from leaf cuttings. And although I have never done so, I may try it. They would make great holiday gifts in a year or two!

This is my entry in my blogging friend Fern's latest contest at Life on the Balcony. You can check out the contest by clicking the link to her site, but to give you the gist of it, you are to post a photo of your favorite, most beautiful indoor plant. Thanks Fern, for always sponsoring such interesting contests.