Blooms & Bamboo at Longwood Gardens

Visiting Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA is always a pleasure and one I try to do several times a year. Fortunately for me, it is close by. I made a day trip which included a visit to Terrain, a destination nursery/garden center that is worth a trip on its own. For other posts on Longwood, go to- Longwood’s Summer of Spectacle and Christmas at Longwood.

I had never been to the fall Mum display and last week made the hour and a half journey to take it all in, and was blown away by the artful mums and stunning bamboo constructions. Blooms & Bamboo: Chrysanthemum and Ikebana Sogetsu Artistry is the official title, and features masterworks of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, and bonsai. For more information on the behind the scenes, go to The Making of Blooms & Bamboo.

Bamboo archway

The bamboo structures were massive


Created by Headmaster of Sogetsu, Iemoto Akane Tehsigahara, the exhibit features two large-scale displays of bamboo and natural elements showcased in the Longwood Gardens Conservatory. Featuring 635 rods of bamboo manipulated into spiraling, twisting, and intertwining natural works of art that were over 15 feet high, these works of art towered almost to the roof of the conservatory.

If the bamboo exhibits weren’t enough, thousands of blooming chrysanthemums trained into imaginative forms and shapes by Longwood’s own horticulture masters were on display.


My daughter and I posing in front of the massive single chrysanthemum plant that features over 1000 blooms

The first thing you see entering the main conservatory is the massive Chrysanthemum plant that was started in the Longwood’s greenhouse 17 months ago. Beginning more than a year in advance, thousands of chrysanthemums are nurtured and trained meticulously into giant spheres, spirals, columns of cascading flowers, and pagodas. To appreciate the many different types of mums, go to Chrysanthemums: A Class of Their Own. 

Each bloom is supported and tied in
Cross section of the sphere showing how one mum plant is trained
Masses of unusual mums were placed out in the conservatory
Spider mums
Labeled types of mums
Mum pagoda
Mum fan
Smaller mum sphere from one plant
Football mums line the conservatory passages
Mum growing up a wall
Cascading mums draped the conservatory columns
I loved the lavender colored corner of the conservatory
A free form mum

Salvia leucantha, Mexican Bush Sage, complemented the mums
Cuphea ‘Candy Corn’
Cuphea ‘Candy Corn’ set off the yellow orange corner of the Conservatory
Sabra Spike Sage was a great autumnal color


The Japanese art of flower arrangement, Ikebana, was showcased in the Sogetsu school which is one of the styles of Ikebana. The Sogetsu School focuses more on free expression and is based on the belief that Ikebana can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, by anyone. From the number of people who were exclaiming over them, there were plenty of admirers. For more information of Longwood’s Ikebana, go to Art For Anyone: Sogetsu Ikebana.


Numerous examples of Bonsai featuring miniaturized mums were my favorite. Bonsai is the Japanese art form of cultivating small trees or plants that mimic the shape of scale of full size trees. Through different techniques, such as wiring, shaping, and root pruning, these are amazingly like their full size plants. For more information on these, go to Character Development of a Bonsai.

Pomegranate tree
Different mum bonsai

This mum was growing over a small boulder

You can still see the exhibit now until November 17 and you can buy your tickets at Longwood Gardens.

The Well-Appointed Potting Shed

The ultimate potting shed will match your house

You know the phrase-“Your home is your castle!”. For a gardener, just substitute “Your potting shed is your castle” and you understand what gardeners hold near and dear. A comfortable place that you can store your garden implements, tools, and other horticulture paraphernalia in an attractive  and functional manner.

This potting shed has timbered rafters that would look at home in any house
A potting shed with animals in the rafters

A well-appointed garden shed can be a great way to organize your tools, store gardening supplies and set aside a work space for potting, seedlings, and other garden activities. Here are some important ideas to consider when thinking about your garden shed.

Location— Siting your garden shed is paramount. Conveniently located, yet away from other back yard areas like decks and swimming pools, but close to the main house to make wiring and plumbing easier to accomplish. Because it will be the first stop for your garden work, position the garden shed relatively close and convenient to flower beds and vegetable gardens.

My potting shed is also close to my beehives situated in a meadow, so I am not hauling heavy equipment across the yard. A rain barrel takes care of runoff and I water my nearby veggies with it.


My cornflower blue potting shed is located next to my veggie garden as well as close to the house and the compost pile
My cornflower blue potting shed is located next to my veggie garden as well as close to the house and the compost pile

Although usually small, a potting shed can serve as a focal point as well as offering storage for gardening and lawn tools. It’s also a “canvas” for collections.

Collection of baskets hanging from a shed's rafters
Collection of baskets hanging from a shed’s rafters

Easy Access—A ramp at the entryway to allow your wheelbarrow to roll in and out easily is essential. Doorways should be wide enough for your wheelbarrow and other heavy equipment. Adding a double door can open up one side of the shed and make the interior a pleasant place to work on summer days and allow breezes to enter.

Double doors on my shed allow wide equipment to come in
Double doors on my shed allow wide equipment to come in
A farmhouse sink becomes a focal point at this potting shed; position your shed so water and electricity can be run to it


Figure out your storage options for potting sheds before building one and you have mastered half the battle, because storage is a big part of the reason you have a potting shed. I don’t know many people who actually “pot” up plants in their potting shed, but for relaxing and storage, the potting shed is at it’s best.

My potting shed is surrounded by gardens and has 4 large windows


Light — Include windows or skylights to allow natural light inside. Just realize that windows will take up valuable wall space for shelves and hangers for storage. If your shed will be used to store rechargeable garden tools, like edgers and lawnmowers, make sure you have plenty of convenient outlets.

Potting Table— If your gardening includes lots of containers like mine does, a potting table is a good choice. Make sure you’ve included shelves and a handy spot for potting soil so it’s all within reach. My potting table is outside under an overhanging roof to save on space inside. I rather use my potting shed interior for storage than working. Working outside gives me freedom to get messy!


Have plenty of flat surfaces to work on inside
Potting sheds become a canvas for artwork
Potting sheds become a canvas for artwork

Having electricity and heat are the ultimate for a potting shed,  and it really makes it a year round work station.

Hang It Up — Tools like rakes and hoes can be hung from the walls to keep them organized and within reach.

An old crib bed frame is used for hanging
An old crib bed frame is used for hanging
Be creative with storage
Be creative with storage

I buy over sized hooks for things like garden hoses and pegboard for small tools.

Large hooks hang up boots
Large hooks hang up boots

You could even trace around each tool and label it so they’ll return to the right spot every time, just like Julia Child did in her kitchen. A strong magnetized knife holder can be re-purposed it to hold smaller metal hand tools. 

Clutter Begone — Shelves, bins, and baskets can provide a neat way to store all the items that make their way into your garden shed. The most ingenious way I have seen is using an old crib frame for storage.

Every nook and cranny is utilized for storage
Every nook and cranny is utilized for storage


Use stainless steel commercial shelving for a long-lasting rust resistant storage solution. An old crib, crates, chairs, ladders, and knife racks can be employed to solve storage problems in small areas.

Repurposing stainless steel kitchen equipment for a garden bench
Repurposing stainless steel kitchen equipment for a garden bench
An old crib stores watering cans
An old crib stores watering cans
How about a filing cabinet to store seeds?
How about a filing cabinet to store seeds?

There are many styles of pre-manufactured garden shed kits so try to select one that keeps the look of your house. Or go wild with staining or painting it to stand out.

The ultimate potting shed will match your house
The ultimate potting shed will match your house
Painted shed
Painted shed

If you plan to start seedlings, some racks with either natural light or grow lights might be a smart addition. Combining the potting table with the sink can make clean-up and watering a breeze.

Just like a kitchen, combining a deep sink with counters is smart
Just like a kitchen, combining a deep sink with counters is smart
If your potting shed is heated, you can even seed start
If your potting shed is heated, you can even do seed starting


Make the outside inviting
Make the outside inviting

Each and every surface of my potting shed is fair game for hanging and decorating. If you are like me, I gather lots of articles which are interesting, but I really don’t use, but I want to display them.


The outside is just as important as the inside
A potting shed can become a retreat
A potting shed can become a retreat

Beehive Art-Your Apiary is a Work of Art

Architectural rendering of a beehive

Painting hive bodies a boring white was the norm when I started beekeeping 20 years ago. Fast forward to the present and everyone is trying to outdo themselves with wild and beautiful designs decorating the bee yard. Art and beekeeping?…. Great combination of two of my favorite past-times and I can give you some pointers on how to accomplish a beautiful beehive even if you have no artistic abilities. Stencils, spray paint, and stickers can all be used to come up with a design that people will think you spent hours on!

Hive body painted using stencils; photo by Beekeeping Like A Girl

Inspired by the designs seen at Beekeeping Like A Girl and IzzabellaBeez on Etsy, I am now thinking about how I can jazz up my apiary. In the past, I have used stencils as a quick pick-me-up for my hives. Once you paint a base coat, it is so easy to apply stencils and you are done! But I would like to do a full makeover of free-hand painting of my hives.

Beehive Nucs placed close together; the straw is a temporary entrance reducer

If you have lots of hives placed together in a row that look-alike, customizing your beehive makes it easier for your bees to find their proper hive and eliminate ‘drifting’. Drifting bees can get confused if all the hives look-alike and need a special homing designation to get to their particular hive.

Quick stencils place artisitic bees on your hive in a minute

Splash some paint on your hives for quick abstract look, from Beekeeping Like a Girl  

For functionality, start with a neutral base coat and add at least 2 coats to get good  coverage to protect the beehive from the elements to last for years. I troll the paint sections of the big box stores for quarts or gallons that were returned and you can pick up for a fraction of the cost.

I start with neutral shades as the canvas

Everyone paints their beehives to protect them from the elements, but why not make it beautiful and eye-catching?  The bees don’t care, and this is your chance to express yourself. Lasting longer in the heat, sun, and, and bad weather that we can get in the Mid-Atlantic region, paint makes your wooden ware last a whole lot longer.

This beehive looks like a dollhouse, from Beekeeping Like a Girl

Paint the outside surfaces of the beehive and leave the insides where the bee live free of paint.  Use a gloss paint on top of your primer or base coat as it seems to slough off dirt better than a satin or eggshell paint.The color of the primer is not important.  But primer is important to seal and protect the wood, and it enables the final coat of paint adhere better, and helps the surface paint resist moisture and mildew.

This hive certainly stands out to the bees, from Beekeeping Like a Girl

I want my painted beehives to last. And if you don’t want to bother with painting it yourself, just browse IzzabellaBeez and order one of her gorgeous hand painted hives on-line.

Available from the Etsy Shop of IzzabellaBeez
Available from IzzabellaBeez


Available from the Etsy Shop of IzzabellaBeez


Available from the Etsy Shop of IzzabellaBeez

The Year in Review-Top 10 Garden Posts for 2017

Plant These For Bees is one of my all-time top posts

Looking at my stats for the past year, I am always struck by the posts which gather the most views from around the world. Some posts are from as long as six years ago and are still going strong with lots of views, like Swarming of the Bees, Luscious Honey Scented Body Butter, Plant These For Bees, or From the Ground Up-Choosing the Right Ground Cover For Shade. The top four countries that view my blog are the U.S., Canada, the UK and Australia, with dozens of other countries on the list, some I have never heard of.

Pollinator poster available at Etsy

My top post of all time which was originally published in 2012, is Containers With Pizzazz.

Artfully arranged containers using texture, contrasting colors, and different and unusual plants is my mantra and designing outside of the box. A container for every season is the way I garden in pots. Everyone can have their own personal creative planter on their deck, patio, or even inside. Having over 100,000 views over the years, I find the pictures of my containers all over Pinterest.

Indoor spring container
Summer shade container
Fall container
Winter container

My most surprising top post is Luscious Honey Scented Body Butter. Consistently garnering views from all over the world, there must be thousands of people with this body butter in their bathroom. Lots of comments on this post mean that many people have used the recipe and enjoyed it.

Shade gardening is always popular. From the Ground Up-Choosing the Right Ground Cover For Shade has helped many people choose the perfect ground cover for difficult situations. The cliff notes on this post is to plant a lot of Lenten Roses, or Hellebores. A no-brainer, deer proof, evergreen, and beautiful plant, this under-used is probably my top plant in my garden.

Lenten Roses

Swarming bees in Swarming of the Bees, always fascinates people and I have seen many of these phenomenas over the years as a beekeeper. No matter how many times I have seen it, the process of swarming is awesome.

Bee swarms are fascinating to everyone

Decorating the White House for Christmas has been my job for 3 seasons and many people are interested in seeing behind the scenes on how the process is done. My last visit to the White House was documented in Decorating the White House in 2017. I hope to do it again!

Decorating the White House
Glad to be decorating at the White House

After posting about Pesticide-Free Nurseries and Seed Companies, I was overwhelmed with the response. Many people are trying to do the right thing and not use pesticides, I was really happy to find. This post really struck a chord for many readers. 


An array of seed companies that are pesticide free

A Succulent Christmas post was fun to do because I started working on my succulent tree during the summer and it was interesting to see it grow all summer into the Christmas season to make a beautiful and unusual Christmas tree. Unusual and different!

It took 6 months for this tree to look full

Another top post was Miniature Gardens-Whimsical Creations. Miniature gardening is still popular, especially for people who don’t have access to a garden or don’t have the time or money to spend in a garden. Everyone has room on a kitchen counter or windowsill for a mini garden.

A Christmas themed miniature garden
Broken Pot Garden-Home for a Gnome

So, here are my top ten for views:

Containers With Pizzazz

Plant These For the Bees

Deck the Halls-A Succulent Christmas

Miniature Gardens-Whimsical Creations

Swarming of the Bees

Luscious Honey-Scented Body Butter

Pesticide Free Nurseries and Seed Companies

From the Ground Up-Choosing a Shade Ground Cover

Decorating the White House 2017

Broken Pot Garden



Here are my favorite posts:

Garden Trip to Chelsea, Wales, and Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds


A Cut Above- Creating Sculptures from Wood

Illuminating the Season-  A Williamsburg Christmas

Surviving Extreme Weather- Top 3 Ways to Help Birds


Tussie Mussie: The Victorian Art of Expressing Yourself 

Magical Sunflowers-the Fibonacci Spiral


Delaware Botanic Gardens-From the Ground Up

Dahlias-Divas of the Garden


Floating Beauties

Hellebores-Deer Resistant, Low Maintenance, Deer-Proof Perennial

Black Goes With Everything

Black Iris
Iris ‘Black Suited’

Black is Beautiful

There has been an explosion of black flowers and foliage in the past couple of years in the gardening world.  It started out as a trickle and now is a tsunami of everything black! When I go to the nursery and look at new cultivars of annuals, perennials, and shrubs – all shades of black are represented.

A black foliaged smoke tree sets off the white Alliums

Bat Orchid

The Bat OrchidTacca chantieri  is one of my favorites but needs to be grown in a greenhouse. An exotic plant with flowers that mimic a bat in flight, deep purple to black, with ruffled wings and long, hanging filaments, the flowers last for weeks. Large, attractive leaves surround the bloom.

Bat Orchid has dangling whiskers
Bat Orchid has dangling whiskers

‘Black Magic’ Hollyhocks

These blue-black, tall, stately plants look good in any garden. They should be planted at the back of borders to give a beautiful classic garden look. They flower mid to late summer.

Hollyhocks display nicely against stone walls
Hollyhocks display nicely against stone walls


Black Magic Hollyhock
Black Magic Hollyhock

You have to know how to use black for the best effect. I like to place black flowers or foliage next to very bright intense colors, such as hot pink or lime green to get the biggest impact. The black color gives the eye a rest when you pair it with bright vibrant colors. If you place black plants next to darker hued plants, it just doesn’t work and the black color fades in the background. So use black carefully and site it with some thought.

Anvil of Darkness Iris

'Anvil of Darkness' Iris
‘Anvil of Darkness’ Iris

The bearded black Iris’s are particularly showy with the velvety falls of  black draped against the foliage.

Black and White Iris
Iris ‘Full Figure’

How to Use Black Well

Black plants can also echo other plants that have black stems, black venation or black undertones. I find that if you have a boring or blah border/container, black instantaneously ramps up the visual interest. It can become a focal point if you have a particularly beautiful black plant and enhances nearby plants.

Black in a container makes it stand out
The black foliage of ‘Purple Knight’ Alternanthera picks up the black venation of the petunias

There are all different hues and variations on black and sometimes the amount of sunlight a plant receives will affect the coloration. Also, juvenile foliage will generally be a darker, more intense, shade. In the plant trade describing many of the black plants, you hear adjectives such as chocolate, deep burgundy, midnight, dark purple, or coffee.

The black foliage of the Canna makes it stand out
The black foliage of the Canna makes it stand out and picks up the venation of the larger leaf

Jack in the Pulpits

Arisaema sikokanum with chocolate coloration

The Japanese Cobra Lily, Arisaema sikokanum, is an elegant cousin to our native Jack In The Pulpit. The spadix is a pure marshmallow white which gives the flower such great contrast.  It looks like a flower all decked out in black tie ready for a party. And the scarlet berries make this expensive plant worth the money for their multi-season interest.

An unfurling Jack in the Pulpit
An unfurling Jack in the Pulpit


Black petunias don’t seem natural. But I really like their velvety texture and tones and the Black Phantom one is a stunner and has real ‘wow’ impact .  Many black flowers are black wannabees because they are more a dark purple, but the black petunias are closest to the true black color.

‘Black Phantom’ petunia

black Petunias
Black Petunia playing off of the black Phormium

Black Elephant Ears
Black Elephant Ears


Chocolate Ajuga used in a container

Black Sempervivum ‘Dark Beauty’
Black Parrot Tulip
Black Parrot Tulip
Black Hellebore
Black Hellebore
There are even black tomatoes
There are even black tomatoes

Art of the Seed

Botanical Illustration is Alive and Well


At this time of year, I actually have time to look through the seed catalogs that I have stacked up. I automatically throw away any miscellaneous catalogs that come to my mailbox, but still keep the seed catalogs. I much prefer to order seeds from a print catalog than on-line. The tactile experience of leafing through the beautiful pages of a seed catalog is not the same as ordering on the computer. I get to see what is featured brand new in the front of the catalog, and visit old friends in the later pages. And some of the art work that is done with botanical illustrations is outstanding and should be framed!

Seed Art
Seed Art

Botanical illustration fortunately is not a lost art.  It is still being pursued today and you can see great examples at Renee’s GardensHudson Valley Seed Library, and Botanical Interests.

Rack of seeds for sale
Rack of seeds for sale

Renee’s Garden Seeds

According to Renee’s Garden Seeds website, her seed line is a “personal selection of new, exciting and unusual seed choices of time-tested heirlooms, certified organic seeds, the best international hybrids and fine open-pollinated varieties”. Her seed packets are water color illustrated with personally written descriptions, growing tips, planting charts, harvesting information, and cooking ideas. It is a company run by gardeners, for gardeners. Organic for over 25 years, Renee Shepherd has several cookbooks filled with garden fresh vegetable and herb recipes to use up all those fresh veggies.

Tomato seed packet
Tomato seed packet

Hudson Valley Seed Library

Hudson Valley Seed Library commissions artwork for their pack covers. Over 300 artists applied to be pack cover artists last year, and 24 new varieties were added to their collection of art packs with heirloom seeds. Their blog claims that the seeds are art packs – heirloom seeds and contemporary art, all in one pack. You can plant the seeds, then frame the art!


Botanical Interests

Starting out in their spare bedroom in 1995, Curtis and Judy wanted to make sure that gardeners were getting the information they needed to be successful from their seed packets.  As a result, they have created a unique seed packet that is beautiful as well as informative.

Botanical Interests seed packet
Botanical Interests seed packet

Botanical Interest‘s seed packets are like mini-encyclopedias, full of information to help out the inexperienced as well as the experienced gardener. I love their collections, like the “Baby Vegetables”, or the “Bee Happy” collection. The colors and detail on all their seed packets are extraordinary.

The inside of a Botanical Interests seed packet contains lots of useful information
The inside of a Botanical Interests seed packet contains lots of useful information
Kale is beautifully illustrated
Kale is beautifully illustrated

Early Seed Growers

Commercial growers of seeds and nursery plants played an important role in the development of horticulture in America. Many early seed growers and nursery owners were horticultural experimenters and botanical enthusiasts, and were largely responsible for the introduction and spread of new garden species in the United States, and the development and popularization of new plant varieties for the American garden.







Crimson Poppies at The Tower of London

Sea of red poppies at the Tower of London
Sea of red poppies at the Tower of London

A sea of crimson poppies has sprung up in a 16 acre barren dry moat surrounding the Tower of London. Starting on July 17, a total of 888, 246 hand crafted ceramic poppies, each one representing a British military death in WWI,  have been individually placed in the moat with the final one being placed today, November 11, culminating with a ceremony and a two minute silence to honor the dead.


The art installation is called “Blood Swept Lands And Seas of Red” and is literally a sea of blood-red tide of poppies. Each poppy represents an individual who did not grow old.



An army of volunteers will dismantle the exhibit, checking, cleaning and packing each poppy to be shipped to new owners. Each poppy was sold for 25 pounds or about $40 to benefit the six armed forces charities. More than five million visitors trekked to the Tower of London to view this incredible art installation. Photos courtesy of Amy Sparwasser.



This 3 minute Youtube video shows the scope of the installation:


Orange is the New Black

Collage of oranges seen in Portland, Oregon at the Garden Bloggers Fling
Collage of oranges seen in Portland, Oregon at the Garden Bloggers Fling

Orange is the new black in flower colors. If you like black flowers and there are plenty, look at my post, ‘50  Shades of Black’.

Nearly black clematis
Nearly black clematis

Bright and bold orange flowers  are being used more and more in gardens and hybridizers are churning out new varieties of orange flowers all the time.  A few things to remember about using  orange flowers is that they appear closer than they really are, making them easy to see at a distance, and orange can also make a small garden seem larger.

Orange draws your eye
Orange draws your eye

I love this new trend of bright orange as I was getting tired of the typical perennial border in hues of pink, blue, and lavender. Orange amps up the color impact and opens the possibilities of creating some beautiful new color combos.

Magic Yellow flame Mimulus
Magic Yellow flame Mimulus

The sizzling effect of the different hues of the color orange was brought home to me on my recent trip to Portland, Oregon.

The color orange really pops in this mosaic at Floramagoria in Portland, Oregon

Orange was front and center and it inspired me to plant more orange flowers and orange foliage plants like this peachy colored Heuchera called Peach Flambe.

Orange and peach Heucheras are a dime a dozen


Orange is a color with a very wide range of hues from peach and apricot, to copper and ochre.

Rudbeckia Joy Creek Select
Rudbeckia Joy Creek Select

According to Pantone, the global authority on color,  orange expresses energy and vibrancy. Tangerine Tango was the color of the year in 2012, so maybe the trend has taken a while to catch up with the plant world. But every time I turn around, it seems like a new variety of flower that hits the market is bright orange with names like these Echinaceas –  Flame Thrower, Hot Papaya, Mama Mia, Tangerine Dream, and Tiki Torch.

Orange Echinacea
Orange Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’
Orange Abutilon
Orange Abutilon ‘Bartley Schwartz’

 Not only flowers are turning up orange, accessories are turning up the heat with eye-popping color.

Orange accessories seen at J J De Sousa's garden in Portland
Orange accessories seen at J J De Sousa’s garden in Portland

Garish and striking with flaming orange shades, or subtle peachy shades paired with creams, olives, and greys, orange is a color that many designers fear and avoid. The picture below has greys and olive-green intermixed to enhance and soften the color impact. Using an orange urn was a brave choice and it worked beautifully with the right shades!


Orange urn with orange Kangaroo Paw at the Kuzma garden in Portland
Orange urn with orange Kangaroo Paw at the Kuzma garden in Portland

How to Use Orange for Best Effect

Here are a few pointers for designers who are hesitant to jump into the orange maelstrom.

  • To bring out the best in both bold and pale oranges, blend them with their color wheel complement blue. Fiery orange flowers paired with blue or lavender will make your border sizzle.

Orange and blue colors complement each other
Orange Nasturtium and blue Hydrangea colors complement each other

  • Orange is in its element in sunny, bright exposures. Choose hot orange flowers for hot sunny climates and softer peaches and apricots for regions that are a bit cooler and experience cool, cloudy weather. Soft yellow goes great with a soft peachy orange.

    An pastel orange color for a cooler, shadier exposure
    A pastel orange colored Begonia for a cooler, shadier exposure
  • Because orange enhances appetite and promotes sociability(according to color studies), plant plenty of orange-flowering plants near outdoor eating areas.

  •   Incorporate orange into your garden by using orange terra-cotta pots, copper accessories, bamboo, metal art, and orangey brick accents.

    Orange really pops on this mosaic seen at Floramagoria in Portland, Oregon
    Close up of orange element in mosaic

    orange gate
    Orange carrot gate at J J De Sousa’s garden

Colored bamboo for accents
Orange bamboo at Floramagoria in Portland
  • Include plants that bear orange fruits: pyracantha, sea buckthorn, and bittersweet, as well as some roses and hollies.

    Orange berries on Mountain Ash with creamy flowers of Yucca
    Orange berries of Mountain Ash with creamy Yucca flowers

    Bright orange can make a statement. Use it carefully!

    Bright orange gnome in garden


Scarecrow on Duty-The Fun of Creating a ‘Scarey’ Scarecrow

Scarecrow made out of found objects
Scarecrow made out of found objects

Scarecrows are fun to create from found materials in all shapes, sizes, and materials! Fabricated from a left over metal trash can and dryer vent pipe, and sheet metal findings from a house installation, my scarecrow was a fixture in my garden. When a recent blog posting of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society announcing a scarecrow contest hit my computer, I was all over it! I gussied up my 5-year-old scarecrow a little, adding a blue watering can, and pulled a wiry red wig out of the trash can (my daughter is into costuming), and added their insignia (PHS harvest festival) to the front of my scarecrow.  She was ready for primetime and I clicked a few ‘posed’ pictures of her. A week later,  I received word that my ‘garden goddess’ won the contest and was happy for her!

My scarecrow in dressed down mode
My scarecrow in dressed down mode
Creative stuffed scarecrow
Creative stuffed scarecrow

If you ever get a chance to go the family friendly PHS Harvest Festival held every fall, the event is fantastic. I have judged the veggie displays in the past and the displays have been over the top with the varieties and colors. Their blog is On the PHS blog, you can see pictures of the competition of “Garden Giants”, larger than life vegetables, and “Garden Bounty”, showcasing generous displays from local gardens.

The PHS is a great organization that puts on the incredible Philadelphia Flower Show every spring, that if you have never been, will knock your socks off. If you want more information about this wonderful society, go to to check out their list of event and happenings.

The basket below is from my recently judged fair closer to home at the Hereford Farm Fair. This fair is for entries from people 18 and under. Quite impressive!

A basket of veggies that won first prize at the Hereford Farm Fair
A basket of veggies that won first prize at the Hereford Farm Fair

A Cut Above – Creating Sculptures from Wood

Play area at Oregon Ridge Nature Center

It doesn’t seem possible to be able to use the words ‘chainsaw‘ and ‘art’ in the same sentence.  The chainsaw is such a workmanlike and crude tool that it is always surprising to me what beautiful carvings can be made within a couple of hours with the right kind of wood and a noisy, sawdust spitting, dangerous chainsaw. But when I visited Oregon Ridge Nature Center recently, my eyes were opened to the possibilities, as soon as I saw the new play area that was designed with all chain saw creations by Pat Hundley, a local chainsaw artist.

Creations from Logs

These chainsaw creations are perfect to decorate your garden or outdoor space and will last for years. You can get one to hold up your mailbox, embrace a sign, use as a play set for kids, or just for decoration.

Bear emerging from log by Pat Hundley

Chainsaw art has become very popular, especially in timber heavy areas of the country. In western Maryland, Deep Creek  Lake is chock full of chainsaw artists on every corner, advertising their masterpieces. There is even a new TV show called Chainsaw Gang, which features premier chainsaw artists from around the country who battle each other to deliver incredible works of art.

Fox sculpture by Pat Hundley

I talked with Pat Hundley, who has a day job as a teacher for Baltimore County Schools, about how he got started in this unusual hobby. He said that he got started after Baltimore Gas & Electric did some tree trimming at his house and left some logs behind. Pat got the idea of carving a bear out of one as a surprise for his wife. An hour later, he created a bear coming out of a log and he hasn’t stopped since.

One of Pat Hundley’s creations

Pat says it takes about an hour to do a bear and he will charge around $100 for the piece, depending on the complexity. The carving can last for years if you seal it at least twice a year with deck sealant and/or polyurethane. He paints some of the pieces also to make the details pop. Pine is the primary wood that he carves in as it is readily accessible in MD, but he uses anything that becomes available. Pat is friendly with some tree removal professionals to obtain the materials that he needs.

Painted Bald Eagle on log by Pat Hundley

The most popular design that Pat does is the bear emerging from a log and I can see how that one would fit right into my garden! Pat sells his creations at local craft shows and by word of mouth.

There are special tools of the trade to make the detailed carvings come to life. Pat uses guide bars or carving bars called ‘quarter tip’ and ‘dime tip’, that have very small ‘noses’ that allow finer cuts for details such as fur and feathers.  The important advantage of these special bars is that they do not produce ‘kickback’ when using them, and are much safer than the standard bars.

Pat in action

In order to reach the high levels of skill required to be a “chainsaw carver“, a good amount of instruction and practice is required in the safe operation of a chainsaw. This is then followed by plenty of study and practice in carving basic shapes which then ultimately leads on to more ambitious projects. It is extremely important that anyone using a chainsaw wear the proper protective clothing, like leather chaps and ear protection. A cut from a chainsaw is not just a cut, it  can actually remove a chunk of flesh and bone.

Chainsaw Women

Chainsaw art is a relative recent art form dating back to the 1950’s. Not only is it seen as a sculpture, but also as performance art or spectacle –  with the noise, flying sawdust, and very fast carving results. It is stunning how fast the carving comes to life, as opposed to old-fashioned carving using mallets and gouges that can take much longer. Also, the detail that you can achieve with chainsaws amazes me.

Turtles by Cherie Currie

I was also delighted at the number of women who make a living out of chainsaw art. There is even a group called ‘Chainsaw Chix’ which is the first group of all-female sculptors. Go Girls! Chainsaw art is not limited to the United States either. There are international artists all over and competitions all around the world.  There is even a chainsaw carving school in Toei, Japan.

World's tallest Virgin Mary carving at Schochw...
World’s tallest Virgin Mary carving at Schochwitz, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, I just need to find that perfect spot in my garden to showcase one of these pieces of art!