pastoral views

This has been our view on the weekends for the past two months.  We have a place up in the Catskills during the winter.  The rolling hills (or one could argue mountains) aren’t as big as others on the East Coast, but they’re still beautiful.  And provide a much needed break from weekday urban living.



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Plant Combinations

I seem to be having a moment with Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa)!  I’m really digging its look and texture.  It likes shade and can be grown in containers – an idea for a future container.

I saw this particular combination at NYBG and really liked the contrast of color and texture.

NYBG Plant Combos

Hydrangea, Japanese Forest Grass, smidge of Hosta in the lower left corner.


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Frida at NYBG

We had a sick day field trip with my older daughter last week to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden.  We both thoroughly enjoyed it – fun to see an exhibit in so many corners of NYBG.

Although, I suspect my daughter most enjoyed the Mexican objects for sale in the garden shop.  The NY Times reviewed the exhibit back in May.  If you’re in the area and looking for something fun and interesting to do, I highly recommend a visit.  Another fun piece of the exhibit is the Cantina set up just outside the cafe – you can get Sangria/Margaritas, chips and salsa and enjoy the festive music.


Frida Kahlo at NYBG

Casa Azul at NYBG

Casa Azul at NYBG


More of Casa Azul


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Painted Ladies

This morning was our annual butterfly release shindig.  The past number of years we’ve been watching caterpillars transform into chrysalis and then emerge as butterflies in late May/early June. For more details on the process read this article.

This year we had four of them.  There were lots of giggles about the butterflies licking the kids fingers, funny that they can actually feel that (or so they say.)

It’s a super easy and and interesting project for the kids to enjoy.  You can easily order a kit along with the caterpillars on Amazon.


Painted Lady ready to take flight.


Another Painted Lady ready to take flight.

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We Have Beans!

Not enough to make a meal, but so fun for all of us to watch grow

pot grown bush beans

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What to Grow Between Stones?

We’ve pondered this question, attempting to answer it years, with some success as well as many failures.

When we first installed the bluestone patio I had a vision of Creeping Thyme growing between the stones.  A childhood friend had a black cement pool surrounded by a bluestone patio with thyme growing between the stones.  The origin of my fantasy.  It was really beautiful.  The pool was situated with a gorgeous view of the Green Mountains.  I still think about that pool 25 years later and the Thyme surrounding it.

Anyway, enough of my day dreaming…one key to all plants thriving between pavers is adequately watering after the initial planting.  Our garden heats up like a sauna when the dog days of summer kick-in, so watering thoroughly in the mornings keeps these small plants happy.

A few plants I love for between the stones:

  • Corsican Mint -releases a deliciously minty fragrance when touched and when it’s thriving it fills in the spaces without growing over the over the stones.  See the picture below
  • Creeping Thyme.  Although this has proven to be an unreliable plant for me between pavers, in some areas with part shade it thrives.
  • Hens & Chicks – these are great for growing in a hot spot in a stone wall.  See the picture below.
  • Mazus – this is a great plant that spreads quickly.  One downside,  it sends out runners and can quickly cover your stones with its mat-like growth.  That can easily be remedied by trimming it back, but it does take a bit of maintenance.
  • Moss – this a great filler that you can easily whip up in your blender (more on that a later date) and the cost is minimal.

Once the plants are established and happy I tend to fuss over them a bit less and let them grow on their own.

Corsican Mint growing on the left and moss trailing between the

Corsican Mint growing on the left and moss trailing between the stones heading to the right.

Hens & Chicks happily nestled in the stones of a raised bed.

Hens & Chicks happily nestled in the stones of a raised bed.

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Tool Arsenal

Some of the tools I find super helpful in maintaining perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees.


Plant-tone from Espoma, a small shovel, bypass loppers

I’m a fan of the Plant-tone products from Espoma, which you can find at most garden supply stores, Home Depot and even on Amazon.  A small shovel is great to have on hand and a set of bypass loppers for trimming larger branches.

Small trowel, Felco bypass clippers and a Felco handsaw

Small trowel with a serrated edge, bypass pruners and a small handsaw

A few other crucial tools – I love this little shovel with the serrated side edge, bypass shears, and a handsaw.  Felco makes terrific gardening tools.  My bypass shears and handsaw are made by them.  As I mentioned, you can find all of these at most garden supply stores, Home Depot and Amazon.

Looking at these pictures I realize how filthy my tools are and that they need to be cleaned.  Clean tools prevent diseases from spreading from one plant to another, and is a crucial element in garden maintenance.  I need to get cracking with the cleaning!

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Pruning: Leggy Salvia

Don’t you hate this?  Your spring starts out great. Everything is rockin’ and rollin’ in the garden and then ‘splat’ your plants flop or end up with some yucky bug or fungus.  Today I’m looking at my Salvia plant and getting to the bottom of how to revive and perk it up.

Based on a combination of googling and reading The Well Tended Perennial Garden I have two options.

  • I can dead head or prune back the purple bracts  – basically what’s left of the flowers once blooming has faded.
  • My second option is to prune the entire plant back to the basal foliage/growth.  Basal foliage is the newly emerging growth at the base of the plant.  This option would  encourage new growth for the entire plant.

I’m torn on which approach to take, but in a small garden the size of mine, it’s best to keep the plants tidy.  Floppy branches touching other plants, or laying on the ground combined with our hot, humid weather can encourage pests and diseases to move on in.


Salvia – blooming beautifully!

leggy, 'open-up' Salvia

Leggy/floppy/opened-up Salvia









If I I decided to prune back the purple bracts, I would cut back to where I see the new growth starting to emerge.  The flowering bract is in the center, with new growth on both the right and left.  Check out the picture below.

On the right and left of the bloom sits the new growth.  Prune the middle bract to revive the plant.

On the right and left of the bloom sits the new growth. Prune the middle bract to revive the plant.

To prune back to basal growth, I would cut the whole plant back to the newly emerging leaves.  With this approach, I will have a bit of a hole in my garden, but should encourage another good bloom later in the summer and avoid the flopping.

To prune back hard, cut back to about 4 inches.

Basal growth is at the base of the plant.



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Backyard Bloomin’ Beans

We have blooms on the beans that the kids planted earlier in the spring.  Hopefully this means they’ll grow and we can enjoy them before the attack of the squirrels or other urban animals.

Over the years we’ve attempted to plant various edibles, aside from herbs, but have never had great luck.  The tomato plants seem to thrive, but we don’t actually see the fruit on the plants until around October (go figure?)  This year the beans got planted in sizable contains with rich soil and a chaser of seaweed mulch.  They seem to be doing pretty well, but it’s still early.


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Crushed Sewer Lines, Oh My!

Last year marked big, unexpected changes for us in the landscape of our backyard.  We found out in the spring that we were the unfortunate victims of a crushed sewer line.  To be fair, the pipe was 100+ years old, so it was bound to happen at some point.  When you live in a 1840’s brownstone, the only way to remedy the problem is to have a crew of workers  hand dig to uncover the sewer line and replace.  Ugh.


This is what it looked liked before, right when we had redone the bluestone patio.

We had been wanting to re-do some things, so it was a blessing in disguise, just not the price tag.  We hadn’t changed much of the actual hardscape since we had moved in, with the exception of the stones.

And then here it is minus the Weeping Cherry on the right and a large portion of the bed removed.  I hadn’t counted on how much dirt was going to need to be hauled through our house.  Luckily one of the workers ended up taking the dirt to his house to use.

IMG_1481And then here it is a year later…


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