2015 In Review

Outdoor Fairy Garden
Outdoor Fairy Garden

What Are Gardeners Reading?

I am always interested in what my readers are reading and using from my blog and sometimes I’m surprised. Blogging for four years means I have gotten a little better about what people are clicking on and what gets the gardening juices flowing. Looking at my archives and statistics, I see a variety of topics that are capturing people’s interests. Perennial(!) or evergreen blogs that capture readers interest turn up again and again and  I re-blog them with better photos and updated writing. Maybe I need to write a book using one of these topics!

Comments

Pink Zazzle Gomphrena
Pink Zazzle Gomphrena

The Garden Diaries blog was viewed over 110,000 times in 2015 with 58 posts and I have regular thoughtful comments from people. Thanks for all those comments! Keep them coming. Feedback and questions are welcome and help me become a better writer. Readers from over 166 countries read my blog. That just blows my mind! My most commented post was Plant Geek Alert-Pink Zazzle Gomphrena. Lots of interest in this plant and I continue to grow and love it.

Controversial

My most controversial blog was on Butterfly Bushes-Should you plant these? Or not? Picked up by Garden Rant it received lots of comments good and bad.

The Great Butterfly Bush Debate
The Great Butterfly Bush DebateHere are my top read posts overall for 2015

The News

It was a big year for me in the news. My White House experience appeared in The Baltimore Sun and one of my designs appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

1. Broken Pot Garden   16, 649 Readers

Yes, you read that right! This post from March 2013 has had an awesome 16, 649 readers this year alone. Picked up by different Home and Garden sites and one called “Woohome” that has funneled thousands of readers to my site bumps this post to the top of the heap. You can read it at Broken Pot Garden if you haven’t seen it yet.

Broken pot garden
Broken Pot Garden

2. Containers With Pizzazz    16,605 Readers

the garden diaries container
Containers With Pizzazz

One other post which is right up there with “Gnome Home”, with 16,605 readers is my container post “Containers With Pizzazz: Not Your Ordinary Container”. I have refined this post over the years, adding new pictures and techniques to create containers which stand out from the crowd.

3. Swarming of the Bees    4,078 Readers

bee swarm
Swarming Of The Bees

Whenever I do talks on beekeeping, this is the number one question that I get-Why do bees swarm? So, no surprise here with this being a top post. “Wrangling” swarms is something I do every spring and is fascinating and fun. Honey extraction is another beekeeping topic that people can’t get enough of at Extracting the Flavor of the Year-Honey.

Extracting the Flavor of the Year-Honey
Extracting the Flavor of the Year-Honey

4. Luscious Honey Scented Body Butter  3, 734 Readers

body butter
Luscious Honey Scented Body Butter

Surprise, surprise!  I had no idea until I started reading my stats, that this was a top 5! Easy to make with a few ingredients, honey is the unexpected ingredient to make a wonderful soothing body balm.

5. Miniature Garden-Whimsical Creations

3,155 Readers

miniature garden
Miniature Garden Creations

People love miniature gardens! The above mini garden I photographed at the Philadelphia Flower Show and the purple splashes of color and attention to detail makes it stand out for me. Read how to put one together for yourself.

Other Top Posts

Thanks to all my readers who are just visiting or follow my blog. Here’s to another “fruitful” and bee sting free year in 2016.

White House Christmas-2011
White House Christmas-2011
White House Christmas
Decorating the White House for Christmas, 2015
Monarch
Butterfly Watching
Amaryllis Primer
Amaryllis Primer

 

Plant These For The Bees
Plant These For The Bees
Making Of A Labyrinth
Making Of A Labyrinth
Salvia Amistad
Salvia Amistad
Magical Sunflowers
Magical Sunflowers

 

Shade From the Ground Up
From the Ground Up-Choosing the Right Ground Cover For Shade
Sex in the Garden
Sex in the Garden

Gnomes on the Loose

IMG_6384
The gnome on the left is a fishing gnome and the gnome on the right was supposed to be carrying an egg

 

One of my most popular posts on The Garden Diaries was Gnome Home, and has gotten more hits than any other post except for Decorating the White House, so I know that they are popular!  When I started decorating the Baltimore Symphony Show House this spring, I was delighted to find two old gnomes still kicking around in the basement of this house that was built in the 1920’s. Bringing them out in the light of the day, I set them up next to the fairy garden which I created on a mossy hill. The larger gnome above has an inscription “Made In Germany” so I knew that I had some authentic gnomes, made in Germany where they originated.

Fairy garden in a mossy setting
Fairy garden in a mossy setting

Gnome Origins

fishing gnome

Garden gnomes go way back to 1870’s Germany where they were first sculpted out of clay by Phillip Griebel, a sculptor of terra-cotta animals, in the town of Graefenroda. Gnome legends were very popular in Germany and Griebel made Gnome statues that spread throughout Europe. They are still being made there today by Phillip Griebel’s descendants and knowing that, I just am dying to go there. I would love to see their birthplace! You can tour their production facilities and see their informative museum. To see pictures, go to http://gardengnomeshome.com/gnome-directory/gartenzwerg-museum.

Philip Griebel produced gnomes based on local myths about the gnomes’ willingness to help in the garden at night. The garden gnome quickly spread across Germany and into France and England, and wherever gardening was a serious hobby.

Mickey Mouse gnomes?
Mickey Mouse gnomes?

 Just to check on the authenticity of the basement gnomes, I emailed Reinhard Griebel in Grafenroda, Germany and sent a picture of the found gnomes. He confirmed that they were in fact made in Germany and the little guy was still in production.

Fairy garden at the show house was the perfect spot to place the old gnomes
Fairy garden at the show house was the perfect spot to place the old gnomes

Controversial Gnomes

Garden Gnomes are not without their controversy, and were banned from the high-class Chelsea Flower Show until just 2013. Accused of garden snobbery, Chelsea lifted their ban, caving to pressure, and started to allow these popular garden sculptures. Serious gardeners don’t seem to appreciate these cute creatures, so I guess that makes me an amateur gardener!

German gnome, by Wikipedia
German gnome, by Wikipedia

Also, gnomes are the subject of pranks, called gnoming, which is the return of gnomes to the “wild”. Many gnomes have been “liberated” or “kidnapped”, sent on trips around the world, and have become quite famous.  The best known example was a kidnapped gnome taken from a garden in California, and it ended up being photographed with Paris Hilton  in People magazine. These antics just add to the “tongue in cheek” appreciation of gnomes for me. I enjoy that people can have fun with gardening and gardening tchotchkes. There are many clubs and organizations dedicated to the prank of gnoming.

Protest Gnome from wikipedia
Protest Gnome from wikipedia

The best-known of these is the Garden Gnome Liberation Front. Their website is hilarious and says that, “For too long we have let our neighbors usurp the rights of these gentle woodland creatures“. They entreat people to report any gnome in captivity! Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaEh8EABR-s to watch a moving video.

Polish Gnomes

The hot spot of gnomes is Poland. More gnomes are made in Poland and China than anywhere else on the planet, even in Germany. In the Wieliczka Salt Mine, called the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland, gnomes were carved underground out of salt.

Gnomes in Kunegunda Shaft Bottom of the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, photo by Adam Kumiszcza
Gnomes in Kunegunda Shaft Bottom of the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, photo by Adam Kumiszcza

Popular in Polish folklore, in Wroclaw Poland, gnome statues dot the city everywhere and have become a major tourist attraction. A legion of little people cast out of metals, are ubiquitous – in doorways, alleyways, and street corners, but easy to miss because of their size. You can actually do a tour of these gnomes which number over 250, and they have become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, more so than the magnificent cathedral.

Gnomes in Wroclaw Poland from Wikipedia
Gnomes in Wroclaw Poland from Wikipedia

gnome

For directions on making your own Gnome Home, go to Home Sweet Gnome

Tutorial on making a gnome home
Tutorial on making a gnome home
Broken pot garden by Cathy Strate at http://www.fleamarketgardening.org/2013/07/16/fairy-garden-magic/
Broken pot garden by Cathy Strate at http://www.fleamarketgardening.org/2013/07/16/fairy-garden-magic/

Below is another of my broken pot gardens in a much wider pot to give you a totally different look.

Broken pot garden for a gnome
Broken pot garden for a gnome

Happy Gnoming!!

Top 14 Garden Trends for 2015

 

Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black

I don’t need to read tea leaves or get out my crystal ball to figure out what is bubbling up in the horticulture world for 2015. Traveling to lots of nurseryman’s and flower shows, cutting edge gardens, and keeping up with my blog, gives me a good handle on what is up and coming in the gardening world. Some of these are trends have been around and are still going strong, while others are just getting a foothold, like smoking or drinking your garden!  Or one of my personal favs,  Orange is the New Black!

Orange is being used everywhere in the garden
Orange is being used everywhere in the garden

 2014 Trends

For a read on the 2014 trends, go to Top 12 Garden Trends For 2014. What was trending a year ago still is gathering steam, like grafted vegetables, especially tomatoes. I grew 3 grafted tomatoes last season and I need to grow some more to say for sure if the extra work (grafting when young) and expense is worth it.

 1. Native Pollinators-Pollinator gardens are still going strong for native pollinators such as mason bees, honeybees, and butterflies. But in keeping with back to nature gardening, people are thinking about plants that sustain pollinators as well as birds, so we are looking for and planting multi-use/season plants. The newest wrinkle is creating a monarch way station to feed the monarchs on their long migration. Go to Monarch Way Station to see how to set your own up.

Monarch on Zinnia

2. Bambi Proof– With the skyrocketing growth of deer and the distress of seeing your hard-earned cash become salad, people are demanding low maintenance deer resistant plants.

Disney wedding 078See my Deer Combat post for strategies on planting for deer, and What is Deer Resistant, Blooms in the Winter, and is Evergreen? for the ultimate deer proof plant – Hellebores.

helleborus

 

3. New Cultivars- The pace of new cultivar releases increases every year so that I can’t keep up with all the new varieties rolling off the plant benches. But think colorful foliage plants, dwarf plants, and new varieties of old fashioneds on steroids like the new gomphrena ‘Pink Zazzle Gomphrena’. Plant breeders are looking to amp up the size and color of flowers to appeal to consumers. Oodles of color and larger flowers, are the order of the day.

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‘Pink Zazzle’ Gomphrena

4. Food in Jars- Definitely, not your grandma’s canning! Preserving food in small designer batches like chutney and tomato jam, make growing veggies fun and creative. Go to my post All Jammed Up! Easy Tomato Jam to make a delicious chocolate-laced jam. People are having a new kind of party-preserving ones! I know because I have had several, like Jam Session for strawberry jam.

Tomato Jam
Tomato Jam

5.  PPA-Geranium ‘Biokovo’- Finally a  perennial Geranium made this coveted list, the Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year. Geraniums are the unsung heroes of the perennial world – tough, attractive during most of the season, long-lived, and an underused deer-proof ground cover. Not a glamorous plant by any means, but I would not be without these workhorses. See Choosing the Right Ground Cover For Shade for more examples of under-used ground covers.

012 (3)
The deeply lobed leaves of Biokovo Geranium turn an attractive russet color in the autumn and winter

6. Eco-Chic/Homesteading- Raising bees, chickens, rabbits, and goats has gotten quite trendy. As an off-shoot you can make your own soap, body cream, and cheese even! Go to my post Beekeeping Start-Up, How to Jump Into the World of Beekeeping, and Beekeeping 101 to see if this is something you are dying to try. My post Honey Scented Body Butter is one of my top five post for hits. Go figure….

Beehive

Growing your own food organically still tops the list of most gardeners and is intimidating to newbies. Start small, take it slow, and don’t bite off more than you can chew, is the best advice I can give. As you grow more confident and are successful with a small garden, move on to larger projects. Talk to any gardener in August, and they will wish that they didn’t have such a large garden to weed and water! Many people are buying organic veggies at the local farmer’s market if they don’t have access to space for a garden, or alternatively growing edibles in containers.

Patio Baby Eggplant is made to grow in containers
Patio Baby Eggplant is made to grow in containers
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Buying organic vegetables at a local farmer’s market is a trend that just keeps spreading

 

7. Slow/Thoughtful Gardening-Growing plants that need less water, are more pest resistant and better for the environment just got pushed up the garden trend list. People are becoming more responsible in plant selections, educating themselves about the varieties before going to the nursery, or looking it up on their smart phone while at the nursery. There are tons of plants that don’t have pot appeal in the spring when most people visit the nursery, that languish on the benches. Instead these plants should be jumping in the cart, because they are a better choice than a spring fling plant. Good examples are fall blooming perennials like Monkshood-Deadly Blue Beauty or Autumn All-Stars.

Monkshood blooms in  October
Monkshood blooms in October

8. Growing Super Foods/Edibles-The ever-increasing interest and use of edibles in containers and in the garden is still up there. Think berries, fruit, and lots of kale(dinosaur, preferably). Okra is another super food that is coming into its own. Go to Okra-Superfood Superstar for more information. The only problem for me is that I don’t like okra!

Aug 2010 016
Dinosaur kale is very trendy

 

So many people don’t have the time or space to devote to a large vegetable growing operation, but when the edibles are contained and automatically watered, it becomes doable.

Growing edibles in easily accessible, self watering containers is very popular
Growing edibles in easily accessible, self watering containers is very popular

8.Water Friendly Gardening- I know, I know, this has gotten a little long in the tooth in gardening worlds. But really, as a landscape designer, water friendly gardening besides deer proof plants, is the number one request. Rain barrels, rain gardens, and using natives that use less water are high on client’s wish lists. See Rain Barrel Eye Candy.

 

Painted rain barrel
Painted rain barrel

 

9. Cool Nurseries-Nurseries are becoming a destination, not just a place to buy tomato plants. Look at Flora Grubb (yes, that is her name!) at Grubb Heaven in San Francisco who says “My goal is always to provide a fascinating encounter with the natural world”. It is not just a gardening store, it is an experience. See Annie’s Annuals and Escape to Surreybrooke, for more destination nursery adventures.

San Francisco fling 044 - Copy
Me having fun at Annie’s Annuals in San Francisco

10. Sedum/Succulent Mania-It has just begun; Look for colorful fantastic shapes and new ways of using them. Succulents are tough, can take abuse and neglect, and come in a dazzling array of shapes and textures. See Succulent Creations for ideas.

Array of colorful succulents
Array of colorful succulents

11. Small is Big- Miniature/Fairy GardeningPredicted by many to have run its course, this is still running strong with smaller versions (terrarium sized) of regular sized plants. My most popular blog by far is still Home For A Gnome. When I posted this, I was getting more than 2000 hits on my blog a day, where normally I get around 200. I will be doing a fairy/miniature gardening demo at the Philadelphia Flower Show this March, so people are still enthralled with the miniature idea.

Gnome Home
Gnome Home

 

Outdoor miniature garden
Outdoor miniature garden

12. Drink and Smoke Your Garden-Growing your own organic herbs to muddle in a drink, or adding a sprig of lemon thyme in a drink, or making tea from culinary herbs is all the rage.  But I am seeing another related trend just beginning and gathering a little steam, and that is growing marijuana. With the decriminalization of weed in many states, growing your own is not far behind. Growing is legal with the recent passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado, where you can cultivate up to 6 plants per adult in your home. Just think of the grow lights and plants that will be flying off the nursery shelves when this hits!

Cannabis plant
Cannabis plant

 

Steeping herbs for tea

13. Repurposing/Old Meets New-Personal style is reflected on how you design and decorate your outdoor spaces. Whether it is a bottle tree that you created or pallets repurposed to build outdoor furniture or containers, this is both an interior and exterior trend.

A repurposed Christmas tree set up as a bottle tree
A repurposed Christmas tree set up as a bottle tree
Repurposing stainless steel kitchen equipment for a garden bench
Repurposing stainless steel kitchen equipment for a garden bench
Using vintage watering cans as decorations
Using vintage watering cans as decorations

14. Orange is the New Black

When I visited Portland this summer and toured some cutting edge gardens, the frequent use of orange flowers and accessories struck me.  Black plants used to be the “in” flower and foliage color,  see 50 Shades of Black, but I think orange has overtaken black for the hottest shade. Maybe it hasn’t hit the east coast yet, but we are always behind the trendy west coast. See Orange is the New Black post to see how orange has come a long way.

Orange Abutilon
Orange Abutilon

Orange is the new black

Miniature Christmas Garden Craze

 

Globe terrarium
Globe terrarium
Globe terrarium sitting on a Hopkins desk top
Globe terrarium sitting on a Hopkins desk top

Maybe it is just me. Since I had an order for 40 of my miniature gardens as gifts at the local Johns Hopkins for the staff of one of the hospitals, I am going crazy with Christmas decorating in miniature. Instead of  dreaming about sugarplums, I’m dreaming of miniature gardens in an endless line that I am decorating! I love making these small creations that people can enjoy for months to come.

I love this little footed terrarium for tiny scenes
I love this little footed terrarium for tiny scenes

For my popular posts on making miniature gardens, go to Miniature Gardens-Whimisical Creations, Fairy Gardens, and Fairytale Christmas.

Mini garden with gnome
Mini garden with gnome

It merely takes a small glass terrarium container, bonsai pot, or low terra cotta container and you can make your own. For materials, I use small Christmas balls, reindeer moss, miniatures, sheet moss, and small potted plants from a local nursery. I use either woodland plants for a moist container or succulents for a drier one.

Gnome home
Gnome home

For details on making gnome homes in a cut away pot, go to Gnome Home.  You need to cut a chunk out of a terra cotta pot to create this and I give you instructions on how to cut the pot.

Woodland garden
Woodland garden
Mini succulent garden
Mini succulent garden
A succulent container that you would keep on the dry side
A succulent container that you would keep on the dry side
A woodland Christmas scene that you would water a little more
A woodland Christmas scene that you would water a little more

All of the plants will get much larger and can be kept in bounds for at least a year. Transplanting and replanting would be in order when the plants grow too large for the container and you could keep the planter going for several years or more.

Christmas miniature garden
A larger Christmas garden
I used this Christmas tree ornament for a tiny snowman
I used this Christmas tree ornament for a tiny snowman

Step By Step

Step by step for making miniature gardens
Step by step for making miniature gardens
  • Place potting soil in container with drainage: Alternatively, if you have a glass type terrarium, place gravel in bottom with some horticultural charcoal ( few tablespoons, available at garden centers)

  •  Plant a variety of plants with different textures and colors, starting with the largest ones first; I used from 3 to 5 plants for each small garden

  • If a woodland garden, I like to place moss in between the plants to hide soil; If a succulent garden, place small gravel on surface

  • Place any pathways, ornaments, reindeer moss, or gnomes at the very end; I like to use colored glass chunks for added color

  • Water thoroughly until the soil is saturated and place in a filtered sun spot for woodland scenes and full sun for succulent ones

  • For care, I stick my finger down into the soil to see if it is moist or not; For succulent gardens in the winter water every few weeks, and for woodland ones, water about once a week, depending on how warm and dry your house is

007

 

Mini gardens dropped off at  Johns Hopkins
Mini gardens dropped off at Johns Hopkins

Happy Gnoming!-Home for a Gnome

Home for a gnome out of a broken clay pot
Home for a gnome out of a broken clay pot

Broken clay pot gnome gardens are one of my favorites to create and people love seeing those little gnomes getting the perfect home. One of my most popular posts on The Garden Diaries was Gnome Home over a year ago, and has gotten more hits than any other post except for Decorating the White House, so I know that they are popular!  This time, I thought I would delve deeper into the origin and history of gnomes and I came up with a few surprises.

The largest gnome is located in Poland at 17.7 feet high
The largest gnome is located in Poland at 17.7 feet high

Gnome Origins

Garden gnomes go way back to 1870’s Germany where they were first sculpted out of clay by Phillip Griebel, a sculptor of terra-cotta animals, in the town of Graefenroda. Gnome legends were very popular in Germany and Griebel made Gnome statues that spread throughout Europe. They are still being made there today by Phillip Griebel’s descendants and knowing that, I just added a stop on my planned Germany trip. I would love to see their birthplace! You can tour their production facilities and see their informative museum. To see pictures, go to http://gardengnomeshome.com/gnome-directory/gartenzwerg-museum.

Controversial Gnomes

Garden Gnomes are not without their controversy, and were banned from the high-class Chelsea Flower Show until just 2013. Accused of garden snobbery, Chelsea lifted their ban, caving to pressure, and started to allow these popular garden sculptures. Serious gardeners don’t seem to appreciate these cute creatures, so I guess that makes me an amateur gardener!

German gnome, by Wikipedia
German gnome, by Wikipedia

Also, gnomes are the subject of pranks, called gnoming, which is the return of gnomes to the “wild”. Many gnomes have been “liberated” or “kidnapped”, sent on trips around the world, and have become quite famous.  The best known example was a kidnapped gnome taken from a garden in California, and it ended up being photographed with Paris Hilton  in People magazine. These antics just add to the “tongue in cheek” appreciation of gnomes for me. I enjoy that people can have fun with gardening and gardening tchotchkes. There are many clubs and organizations dedicated to the prank of gnoming.

Protest Gnome from wikipedia
Protest Gnome from wikipedia

The best-known of these is the Garden Gnome Liberation Front. Their website is hilarious and says that, “For too long we have let our neighbors usurp the rights of these gentle woodland creatures“. They entreat people to report any gnome in captivity! Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaEh8EABR-s to watch a moving video.

Polish Gnomes

The hot spot of gnomes is Poland. More gnomes are made in Poland and China than anywhere else on the planet, even in Germany. In the Wieliczka Salt Mine, called the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland, gnomes were carved underground out of salt.

Gnomes in Kunegunda Shaft Bottom of the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, photo by Adam Kumiszcza
Gnomes in Kunegunda Shaft Bottom of the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, photo by Adam Kumiszcza

Popular in Polish folklore, in Wroclaw Poland, gnome statues dot the city everywhere and have become a major tourist attraction. A legion of little people cast out of metals, are ubiquitous – in doorways, alleyways, and street corners, but easy to miss because of their size. You can actually do a tour of these gnomes which number over 250, and they have become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, more so than the magnificent cathedral.

Gnomes in Wroclaw Poland from Wikipedia
Gnomes in Wroclaw Poland from Wikipedia

Continue reading “Happy Gnoming!-Home for a Gnome”

Broken Pot Garden- Home for a Gnome!

Broken Pot Gnome Garden

026

To see un updated version of this post, go to http://thegardendiaries.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/happy-gnoming-home-for-a-gnome/

Christmas gnome home
Christmas gnome home

I saw this on Pinterest one day and pinned it to a board and forgot about it. But I noticed it the other day and decided to make it. It was harder to do than I thought because cutting a terra cotta pot is not easy. So easy to shatter and crack, terra cotta is extremely hard.

Gnome home
Gnome home

I had a dremel, an electric cutting tool available at Home Depot, and thought that was the best way to go about it, but wasn’t sure.  So, I called the 800 number on the Dremel web site and they were very helpful and recommended using a carbide tile cutting tip, which worked like a charm! I did it outside because of all the dust it threw out, and wore goggles and a face mask. Also, I soaked the pot before cutting to soften it a little.

Gnome home tutorial
Gnome home tutorial

Here is the process:

Gather materials-dremel, goggles, face mask, pot, carbide tip
Gather materials-dremel, goggles, face mask, pot, carbide tip
Cutting the terra cotta pot with a dremel and carbide tip
Cutting the terra cotta pot with a dremel and carbide tip
Big chunk cut out
Big chunk cut out
Place the piece in the pot and start adding potting mix
Place the piece in the pot and start adding potting mix
Add a pathway of smooth stones and plant
Add a pathway of smooth stones and plant
Broken Pot Fairy/Gnome Home
Broken Pot Fairy/Gnome Home
Broken pot gardens
Broken pot gardens