Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin

The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin (Clarkson Potter March 2009) is a beautifully-photographed and well-written book that has opened my eyes to the possibilities of growing delicate gardens indoors under glass. I've never been one to grow a lot of plants indoors, although a lot of my friends have over the years. To me, indoor house plants have always been just a lot of waxy green leaves cascading all over the place. And terrariums seemed a throwback to the hippy 1960's and 70's.

But Tovah's new book infuses this genre with grace and charm. As she says, "You might have been all 'brown thumbs' when it came to houseplants, but this is different. With the aid of glass, terrariums are a much more forgiving venue than a windowsill." She is right. Instead of having a room full of scraggly houseplants, a terrarium gives the gardener an opportunity to focus in on one small, contained garden space. It has a whole Japanese Zen appeal to me. The terrarium might be the ideal indoor plant garden to have at your work, office or school room.

The New Terrarium gets you started with some of the basics of design, shows all the different vessels that can be used including cloches, cold frames, aquariums, apothecary jars and more, which plants will do well including begonias, ferns, mosses, orchids and more and how to take care of this miniature greenhouse garden. The photos by Kindra Clineff are superb.

Tovah Martin ( was a guest on my Northeast Public Radio program and she is known as the queen of indoor plants. She has long been associated with Logee's Tropical Plants ( in Danielson, CT and no one knows more about indoor plants than Tovah. This is a great new book, well worth having.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Organic Vegetable Garden at the White House

An organic vegetable, herb and small fruits garden will soon be producing food on the grounds of the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama, a group of school children and staff broke ground today. According to The New York Times the Obamas’ garden will have 55 varieties of vegetables — from a wish list of the kitchen staff — grown from organic seedlings started at the Executive Mansion’s greenhouses including cilantro, tomatillos and hot peppers. Lettuces will include red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic. There will be spinach, chard, collards and black kale. For desserts, there will be a patch of berries. And herbs will include some more unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil. A White House carpenter, Charlie Brandts, who is a beekeeper, will tend two hives for honey.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Woodland Garden St. Patrick's Day 2009

Here is a view of the woodland garden behind my house that I have been working to create over the past five years. The Pieris japonica and the Rhododendron maximum (rose bay) were already here, although they are much larger now than at first. I installed the arbor and planted the Buxus (boxwood) and the other large R. maximum I transplanted last fall from another part of the yard. All seem to be in good shape after the rather long and harsh winter of 2008-09. There are also some wonderful azaleas and some other great shrubs out there as well as perennials that like a part shade woodland environment. As the season progresses, I will post more photos so we can all see how well things are growing in my woodland garden.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Raspberries in the Garden

This spring, I am going to plant a row of Heritage red raspberries in my backyard garden. My wife was looking at garden catalogues the other day and mentioned how great it would be to eat fresh, juicy raspberries in summer. So, why not? I ordered six Heritage raspberry plants from (I found a special they were offering in my Sunday magazine.) is another reliable source charging $3.75 per cane plus shipping. Each plant should produce a quart of berries each year. Bare root stock should arrive in a few weeks and I will plant them in a sunny location about three feet apart. Heritage berries don't require any trellising and they are easy to take care of as long as they are planted in a well-drained area. Heritage raspberries were introduced by Cornell in 1969 and they advise growing Heritage for a single late August early September. In early spring before new growth begins, cut the old canes as low to the ground as possible to encourage buds to break from below the soil surface. Remove and discard the canes. Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Garden Calendar and Events

Here's a list of some of the great garden activities taking place this spring in the Hudson Valley, Berkshires and the greater Albany area. If you have an announcement you would like for me to post to my blog, send me an email at

Sunday, March 15, 2009, 10 am Successful Landscaping with Native Plants. The Phantom Gardener (845) 876-8606

Monday, March 16, 2009. 6th Annual Natural Landscape Design Conference Investing in Ecology: Native Gardens and Natural Processes. Co-Sponsored by The Native Plant Center and New Directions in the American Landscape. 8:30 – 4:00 p.m. at Westchester Community College

Saturday, April 11, 10:00am-1:00pm094GAR139C The Deer Resistant Landscape.

Saturday, March 21. Maple Fest: Celebrating the Wonderful World of Maple Syrup.
Time: 0:00 a.m.­3:00 p.m. Cost: Free. Experience a taste of the sweet world of maple sugaring as part of the New York Maple weekend at the Agroforestry Resource Center.

Saturday March 28, Water Features in Your Garden a lecture with British water gardening specialist Anthony Archer Wills at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, at the intersection of Routes 102 & 183 in Stockbridge, MA. Anthony Archer-Wills, born in Great Britain, has made his passion, water gardening, his profession for forty years. Join him for an informative talk from 10 to noon. Registration is required. The cost is $16 for Members $21 for non-members.
To register, call the Berkshire Botanical Garden at 413-298-3926.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Geraniums Indoors Looking Great

I have six pots of geraniums (Pelargonium) sitting in a south facing window that, today, with the sun shining on them, look really fantastic. After a way too long winter, these beautiful plants are making me feel like spring is on the way. All of these plants are from one pot given to me by my mother-in-law many years ago before she passed away. She started this plant from seed and it produces a lovely pink flower. Every year in the late summer I bring the pots indoors. I cut the stalks severely, let the cuttings suffer for a week or so, and then re-pot them. In winter they sit inside and endure the cold dark days of that chilly season. This year, just after Christmas, they started to look spindly and weak. So I cut them all back very severely, to the point where I feared I may have cut too much. But after a couple weeks they started showing new sprouts. Now they are looking bright green and bushy and they have a couple flowers starting to emerge. Around Mother's Day they will go back outside to their customary spots on the semi-shady front porch and on the mostly sunny back steps. I am looking forward to the joy they always bring.