Eco-Friendly Cup Cozies


opencozyFabric cup cozies like this one were on sale at Methodist Church Plant Sale in Monkton, Vermont over the weekend.

My sister bought me one and I’ve been using it. I like that it insulates fingers from hot coffee and catches any drips. But I also like that they are environmentally friendly and pretty, too. Oh, and machine washable.

Someone at the sale said the cozy works around a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Vermonters…I like the way they think.

P.S. I just learned these are called zarfs.

Winter Road Trip: Canajoharie Adventure

There were two things in Canajoharie that were on my list.

The first has been on my list since the summer when I learned that Canajorharie was a Mohawk Indian word that meant the “pot that washes itself.” It was named for a circular rock formation in the Canajoharie Creek.

I wanted to see this geologic feature but never got there this summer so . . . we went today.

When we asked directions, a local said “You mean the boiling pot?” and she pointed us down a steep trail with the warning to watch our footing. It was a little snowy but manageable.

Unfortunately, the pot wasn’t turbulent when we were there. I have read that when the water is high, it moves so violently that it gives the appearance of a cauldron boiling over. It wasn’t that way today. It was cold and the water was moving but not furiously.

The beauty of the shale and slate along the gorge, the long smooth rocks and cooling water would make this a great place to visit in the heat of the summer. I may bring a picnic next time.

Afterwards, we went to look at the gorge from the observation deck near the water tower off Moyers Street. We didn’t stay long, it was cold and windy and getting colder.

Our next stop was the Arkell Museum to see the paintings of James Gurney, author and artist of the Dinotopia series. If you don’t know the work, look here.

The exhibit provides a glimpse into the way Gurney’s imagination works and it is inspiring. In one of the interpretive panels, it says that Gurney’s father told him everything begins with drawing. If you can draw something, you can create it.

What a wonderful thing to say to a young artist.

And it seems that Gurney was listening. The exhibit included many paintings fans of the books will recognize, but also explained how the artist works, how he creates models of the dinosaurs to determine where the light would fall, etc., and how he develops story boards as an outline for his books. It is magical.

You feel like Gurney has shared a bit of himself with you.

Note the details of the imagined world . . . like how Gurney developed an alphabet and how the shop signs are written in that alphabet. Or how along a steep village street, there are stairs for humans and another much larger set for dinosaurs. Gurney is so absorbed in the world of Dinoptia that after a while you believe it is indeed possible that such a world exists. And, furthermore you would like to visit.

The paintings are dazzling in their details. The art is fantastic in content and execution. And the depth of Gurney’s imagination is limitless.

I’m a huge fan and this exhibit is a must see while it is in our area. The exhibit ends Feb. 9th, 2014.

For more information on the hours, directions, etc. visit the museum’s website

Afterwards, if you are hungry, you might like to try Erie Station on West Main Street in Fort Plain (about 10 minutes away). It was open on a Sunday afternoon – many places weren’t – and the food was good and the staff welcoming.


A Magical Morning at Innisfree Garden

innisweb2Innisfree Garden in Millbrook, New York, is an extraordinary Asian garden that will fill you with beauty and leave you breathless.

The first time I visited I remember staring at alliums growing among peonies on a slope. The explosive spiked round alliums contrasted with the smooth round buds of the peonies. It is a plant combination I have never forgotten and just one example of the play of form, texture and shape that inspire this garden.

If you haven’t visited, do so. Do it for you.

You will carry it with you forever.

This morning was special, Innisfree Garden opened the garden at 5:30 a.m. to a group of about 12 photographers. The sun hadn’t dawned when we arrived and scurried to various points around the lake. Each of us off to favorite places where we hoped to capture a bit of the mysterious, the magic, the magnificence that surrounded us.

It was wonderful, dare I say mystical and meditative. The mist was rising off the water, mossy pathways glistened with dew, huge stones added mystery and plantings of trees, shrubs, grasses created incredible tapestries of texture.

The beauty is apparent in vistas as well as vignettes. You will stop in your tracks and try to absorb it all. And as you do, you will notice something more that you didn’t see at first glance. That is part of the wonder of Innisfree.

Here are some images. The garden is open Wednesday to Sundays. You can find directions and details at the website:

I was told they will open the gardens early again in October for photographers who want to be there when the sun is greeting a new day. I plan to go. Maybe I will see you there.






Note — I received this information from Innisfree:
“Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 6.30am
Morning Light at Innisfree, $6 per person.
The garden will open half an hour before sunrise and photographers, painters and garden enthusiasts are invited to experience the spectacular morning light. Naturally, one doesn’t need to arrive at dawn to enjoy this special treat. Bring a picnic lunch (or breakfast) and stay all day.”

I will arise and go now,
and go to Innisfree.
W.B. Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” (1888)

Boston’s Fenway Victory Gardens

v4I’ve been exploring other community gardens.

Recently, I visited the Fenway Victory Gardens, located on seven acres near Fenway Park in Boston. It is the nation’s only remaining, continuously operating WWII Victory Gardens founded by the Roosevelt Administration. During WWII over 20 million victory gardens were grown by Americans and produced nearly half of all the vegetables consumed during the war.

It’s a pretty impressive garden with 500 plots. Talking to a few of the gardeners and walking around you get a clear idea of just how enormous this garden is and how diverse the gardeners are.

I saw plots about 15 by 25 that looked like a back patio with chairs, a few flowers and a tomato plant and I saw others with every inch planted with things to eat. I also saw beautifully landscaped plots of trees, shrubs and flowers and other plots that were pretty much a tangle of weeds. There is also a learning center with bees! And I saw more than one garden with elevated raised beds.

Here are a few of the photos I took:V-1v7v220130722_1919

Green Roof Graces Ingenious Chicken Coop

w-coop1I visited a garden this weekend that had a chicken coop touched with both whimsy and practicality.

The wooden coop was attached to a wire enclosed cage for raspberries. Built with four by fours and hardware cloth (a sturdy wire mesh) the cage was large enough for several rows of berries and for the tallest berry picker to stand upright with ease. My best guess was that it measured 30 by 30 feet.

No deer, raccoons or birds could possibly enter. The adjacent wooden chicken coop had a hatched door that could be lifted and give insect pecking chickens the opportunity to enter. An advantageous arrangement for both the fowl and the farmer.

And, as if this cleverness wasn’t enough, the roof of the hen-house was covered in succulents including . . . yes, hens and chicks. wcloseup

Small Scale Garden Big on Imagination

Mostly, the garden is made of succulents along with herbs such as the rosemary "tree" and thyme shrubbery.

Mostly, the garden is made of succulents along with herbs such as the rosemary “tree” and thyme shrubbery.

It was love at first sight.

We were having lunch at The Black Cat restaurant in Sharon Springs, NY and tucked in a corner of the outdoor deck was a shop called Garden Creations. One of those creations was this delightful miniature garden in a bowl.

Sweet, petite and perfect as a centerpiece for an outdoor table. Or you can take this idea a little further and create an elfin garden tucked among your flower beds. Perhaps using a tiny birdhouse or creating a house of twigs like you imagine a fairy might do. Great project for imaginative young ones to help create and then play in with little dolls.

Either way, this would be a charming addition to an outdoor space and play area.

Amazing Cooperstown Day Trip

Our first stop was lunch at Origins Cafe, a restaurant inside a greenhouse at a nursery.

Our first stop was lunch at Origins Cafe, a restaurant inside a greenhouse at a nursery.

When I can share a day with a gardening friend shopping for plants and antiques, stopping to eat at a restaurant inside a greenhouse and then enjoying an exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum of one of my favorite painters, that’s a very good day.

When I can add taking in great country views of rolling hills, lakes and streams from the passenger seat of a shiny convertible with the top down that’s an over-the-top, life-is-good, curls dancing in the wind, fun-filled day.

Cooperstown, New York is always a great destination. There’s so much to do there. If you don’t know the area, visit the Cooperstown website: You’ll likely have more on your wish list than you can do on a day trip.

So plan on going back. I will be. There’s a giant pumpkin festival in the fall and a pumpkin regatta! And yesterday an antique dealer told us about two antique shops which “carry just what you are looking for” that were just too far away given the time we had. Thus, another trip.

Once we rolled into the town known for the Baseball Hall of Fame we headed straight to Carefree Gardens, 558 Beaver Meadow Road, for lunch at a Origins Cafe, a restaurant inside a greenhouse. What gardener wouldn’t love that.
The nursery and greenhouse are run by mother, Mary, and her daughters Kristin and Dana, respectively. The daughters created a restaurant in what was once a hoop house and the tables and chairs are nestled in and around pots of colorful and fragrant plants, babbling fountains and flowering trees.

While we were waiting to be served, a light, fresh floral scent got our attention. We tried to determine what it could be. Mary finally helped us out by leading us to the thigh-high lemon tree in bloom. Such a clean, delicate fragrance . . . something I will remember if I ever have a house with a bright sunroom.

The daughters have created an inspired lunch menu using fresh local and organic ingredients. Some produce like the Swiss chard, lettuces and herbs are right from a neighboring greenhouse. Cheeses, breads and fruits and vegetable are sourced from local farmers.

C-lemonadeWe had lavender lemonade made by steeping lavender with lemon slices and adding lemon juice and evaporated cane sugar. It was more refreshing and less sweet than regular lemonade. The drink was served over ice with a few lavender blossoms sprinkled on top of the sliced lemons and ice. They do other botanical drinks such as lavender and elderberry spritzers and strawberry mint lemonade.

C-lunchThe menu is vegetarian. We ordered black bean burgers but some patrons at other tables ordered salads and paninis. Everything was prettily presented with an edible flower as garnish. The restaurant has a relaxed feel, the family is friendly and welcoming and though you just arrived, you feel comfortable . . . as though you are returning for the umpteenth time.

The daughters don’t have culinary training but certainly do have a knack for flavors and are adventurous in their use of herbs.

I had a lemon verbena pound cake for dessert, there were mint rosemary cookies on the menu and my friend had a rhubarb cake with a creamy texture that was pudding-like and very, very good.

C-5This is a great restaurant to come to with friends and sit among the flowers. After your meal, you can shop the greenhouses which were well-stock with herbs, vegetables and flowering plants. There is also a small shop with a selection of Peruvian hand-made goods from the sisters’ travels. Kristin told us that she and her sister travel to farms around the world working and also gathering sources for the restaurant. Last winter they worked on a Mediterranean olive farm and now use that farm’s olive oil in their recipes. Talk about knowing who you are buying from!

One guest confided in me that Origins’ smoothies are delicious, fresh and low in sugar. And that they sometimes have homemade ice cream on the menu which she said was reason alone to come again. Lucky local!

After lunch we took in the Wyeth exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum and then made our way home through back roads enjoying long views of rolling hills, farmers working in their fields, picturesque barns and cows grazing leisurely.

On the drive we talked about future adventures and agreed that Carefree Garden’s little gem of a restaurant will be included. After all, there were so many enticing offerings. Here’s a link to the menu so you can see for yourself.!menu-&-farms

And there are those two antique stores we didn’t get to.
Happy Gardening and Happy Garden Road Trips.

The King’s Garden

1KGI think I may have found the perfect day trip for gardeners and their history-buff, or scenic beauty loving or camera happy spouses.

It’s a trip to Fort Ticonderoga, where in addition to the fort, the Pell family gardens, a garrison garden and a medicinal herb garden are open to the public. (Admission to the entire property is $17.50 for adults)

7kg2KGA brick wall encloses the family garden adjacent to the Pell home. It was designed by trailblazing landscape architect Marian Coffin in 1921 and still holds up today as a beautiful space with architecturally charming alcoves and hide-away rooms to retreat from the sun. Earl, one of the gardeners, told me that the ladies of the time would have afternoon tea in one of the alcoves-like structures and later in the evening, the men would go there to smoke their cigars. You can imagine it and probably wouldn’t mind having a space like this for yourself.

9kg8kg Earl was planting the vegetable garden while we were there and took a moment to answer questions, point out the resident osprey and explain the construction of a wattle fence which is made by weaving the trunks of saplings around posts hammered into the ground. It has a rustic appeal that would be appropriate in an English cottage garden or at an Adirondack retreat.

I’m sure you will come away from this outing with ideas for your own beds and borders. I saw lovely plant combinations, attractive stonework, a reflecting pool and nice use of Goat’s Beard, a native plant, that was in full plume yesterday. It is great as a back of the border planting as it stands tall – up to six feet – and dramatic with creamy white flowers that are big and bold (see bottom photo). Goat’s beard is a perennial and many people think it resembles an oversized astilbe. If you decide you would like to grow goatsbeard, choose a moist location for best results. 5kg4kggoat'sbeard

Oh…and when you’ve spent enough time wandering the gardens, there’s a terrific fort with massive cannons, informative exhibits, an art gallery including an oil painting by Thomas Cole, and breathtaking vistas to take in.

There is also a cafe and gift shop. In the cafe, produce grown in the garden is served.

There is so much to say about this wonderful attraction. I suggest you visit the website for more information: Note that garden workshops and classes are held occasionally.

It is a fabulous day trip. When you go, bring your camera. Wear a hat and comfortable shoes and slather on the sunscreen.

Antique Garden Tools

antique1On a rainy day like yesterday, exploring the antique stores in Ballston Spa and having lunch with a friend were both wonderful diversions from the too-wet-to-be-in garden.

Look what I discovered on our explore. Old garden tools! Interesting to look at aren’t they? The box was bright and colorful. And some tools looked homemade by some resourceful gardener.

P.S. To the Rain Gods: Enough is enough. I would love a string of bright sunny days with a light breeze….just saying.




Vermont Garden Trip

Horsford2This time of year it is a pleasure to visit different garden centers, see what they have and add to and tweak what you are growing in your garden.

When I was in Vermont yesterday, I stopped at Horsford Gardens and Nursery on Route 7 in Charlotte, which is south of Burlington.
The nursery has been in operation for over 100 years and is well-stocked with annuals and perennials, vegetables, herbs, flowering trees, shrubs and fruit trees and conifers. There is plenty to see.

As I walked around taking photos, I found the premises to be well-tended and the plants healthy. Pictured below is one side of an area full of perennials for shade and sun. Horsford

One of the things I liked most was they test what they sell so you can be confident these varieties will withstand cold northern winters. “Our roses are the hardiest varieties, grown right here in Vermont,” the website states. Nursery hours are Monday to Sunday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

I bought an astilbe that has a reddish stem and an eye-popping heuchera with color that will add a touch of drama to my back garden border and a Verbena bonariensis, an annual known for attracting butterflies.

While walking around, I admired a Locust tree in full bloom. These trees are putting on quite a spectacular show this spring with an abundance of white flowers. If you get to this nursery soon, be sure to sniff the row of peony that greets visitors near the parking lot adjacent to the garden shop. Great fragrances. A treat for the nose.Horsford5

The shop sells watering cans, gifts, bulbs, bird baths, pots and more.

Horsord3It was a good stop.

If you are looking to combine this trip with another attraction: Shelburne Museum is not far away and the Open Days Garden Conservancy tours will be in the area on June 22.

Happy Gardening. Natalie