Tree Troubles? Send Us Your Photos

by Categorized: Gardening, Landscape, Trees Date:

2014-03-01 00.14.55So many of us have trees that have been damaged in severe weather in recent years or that are just seriously overdue for a pruning facelift.

Before trees leaf out, it’s easier to assess the situation, see what needs doing and determine how to proceed.

If you have a challenging tree, or are just unnerved at the prospect of possibly damaging a beloved tree with your loppers and chainsaw, send us a photo (you can include some closer detail views as well). We’ll consult with experts and arborists and offer as many pruning pointers as possible in a story here and in The Courant.

Send your digital photos (minimum 300 dpi) to nschoeffler@courant.com, with the subject field “Tree Troubles.”

Photos: Storm Sandy tore off most of the back of the Bartlett pear tree (at top), but what remained bloomed prolifically this spring. The October 2011 snowstorm broke off about 25 percent of the branches of the cherry tree (below), including its leader. (If the tree were a clock, virtually all of the branches from midnight to 3 o’clock were snapped.) Most of the broken branches were pruned back, but now vertical branches have filled in that area, and a lot of interior pruning is needed. We’ll ask arborists if it’s healthy to let a tree’s vertical branches fill in gaps. (Photos by Nancy Schoeffler)

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Learn More: ‘It’s All About Connecticut Furniture’

by Categorized: Antiques, Crafts, Design, Furniture, Heritage, Historic Houses Date:

HIGH CHESTIf my article today about Eliphalet Chapin and Connecticut’s golden age of furniture whets your appetite for more, there’s an all-day program  Saturday called “It’s All About Connecticut Furniture,” presented by the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.

The workshop, aimed not only at serious woodworking hobbyists but at anyone interested in historic furniture, will focus on 18th-century Connecticut’s distinct furniture styles, each with its own influences, and how social history, trade patterns and the economy played a role in forming this vibrant, multifacted tradition.

The speakers include Alyce England, associate curator of American Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum, and Christina Vida, curator of the Windsor Historical Society.

Also Will Neptune, who has closely studied the construction techniques, proportioning and workmanship of Eliphalet Chapin; and Steve Brown, an instructor at the North Bennet Street School, the  Boston institution that offers intensive hands-on training in traditional trades and craftsmanship, who also will discuss construction techniques and do some joinery demonstrations.

Bob Van Dyke, the founder and director of the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, said Will Neptune’s presentation will focus on Chapin’s geometric methods in design and pattern layout.

“Nothing was just by chance; it’s all based on geometry,” Van Dyke said. “It’s just amazing.”

Strong Howard HouseThe Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking has been working with the Windsor Historical Society to furnish the ongoing renovation of the historic Strong Howard House (pictured at left) for an innovative hands-on approach to historical interpretation.

Christina Vida has been researching probate inventories and other documents to determine the furnishings and objects that would have been in the house. Reproductions are being made, so that visitors will be able to have a fuller experience. They’ll sit in chairs and at desks, handle textiles and household objects.

woodwork1The Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking is a primary partner in the project, Christina said, and students are now working on a reproduction of a high chest (pictured at top) attributed to Eliphalet Chapin, which is now in the Wadsworth Atheneum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABob says some students at the woodworking school are in the middle of a year-long class on Chapin high chests, and have been making measured, exact copies of Chapin pieces. Students who are interested can submit their finished work to a jury for possible inclusion in the exhibit at the Strong Howard House.

Saturday’s program, at the school at 249 Spencer St. in Manchester (take the first left past the Woodcraft building; the school is in the back of that building), runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The $45 fee includes lunch. You can register and pay at the door, or online at http://www.sapfm.org/ne-chapter-event-registration.

And for more information, call Bob Van Dyke at 860-729-3186860-729-3186.

Photos via the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking and the Windsor Historical Society.

 

 

 

New Roses, Less Of A Wait

by Categorized: Gardening, Gardens, Plants Date:

Royal-Jubilee---David-Austin-English-RoseAttention, rose enthusiasts: David Austin Roses, the renowned Shropshire, England, rose hybridizer, has five new English roses for Spring 2014. Each is a repeat bloomer.

The company also is now making the lineup of its new roses available in North America just two seasons after they’re introduced in Britain, which is speedier than in years past.

Here are the five new beauties:

Boscobel---David-Austin-English-RoseThe salmon blossoms of ‘Boscobel’ change with age to a rich, deep pink.  A Leander hybrid, its flowers start as red buds that open to blooms with an estimated 78 petals per flower.

(And an interesting note on the name: Boscobel is famed as the place where King Charles II hid in an oak tree when Cromwell’s soldiers were pursuing him during the English Civil War in 1651; it’s not far from Austin’s nursery.)

Tranquillity---David-Austin-English-Rose‘Tranquility,’ a Musk hybrid, has buds that “are lightly brushed with red and yellow” and open to petals of pure white, with about 110 petals per flower. The rose apparently has a light apple fragrance, and the plant is nearly thornless.

 

 

 

 

Heathcliff---David-Austin-English-Rose

 

Deeply crimson ‘Heathcliff,’ named, of course, for the complicated and romantic character in Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” is an Old Rose hybrid with large double flowers of rosette shape. The plant has shiny deep green leaves.

The-Lark-Ascending---David-Austin-English-Rose

 

 

‘The Lark Ascending,’ named for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ sublime piece of music, is another Musk hybrid. The flowers with loosely cupped petals — just 22 each — are a soft pale apricot that lightens over time. Its tall, airy growth makes this rose suitable in a mixed perennial border or among flowering shrubs.

And finally, ‘Royal Jubilee,’ at leftRoyal-Jubilee-closeup--David-Austin-English-Rose and at top, is an Alba hybrid in a luscious deep pink. Introduced in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the large, semi-double flowers have broad inward-curving petals, about 35 each, known as a chalice shape. The blooms have a fruity fragrance and the plants have very few thorns. Its wiry stems help ‘Royal Jubilee’ fit in easily with other plants in a border.

Austin senior rosarian Michael Marriott says the right time to plant bare root roses is when the ground is no longer frozen but “but still cool and pliable.” The cool soil helps bare root roses establish strong roots. Optimal daytime temperatures should be 40 to 60 degrees,   before days routinely top 70 degrees.

That means this is about the right time to order.

The complete 120-page “David Austin Handbook of Roses 2014″ is available free and is packed with roses, as well as information on classification and what kind of roses to plant in various sites.

To request a handbook, go to www.davidaustinroses.com, email US@davidaustinroses, call 800-328-8893800-328-8893 or write David Austin Roses Ltd., 15059 State Highway 64 West, Tyler, Texas 75704.

 

 

Winter Flowers In Your Mailbox

by Categorized: Collecting, Flowers And Floral Design, Holidays, Plants Date:

0-0_USPS14STA017a

Call me old-fashioned, but I love choosing stationery and note cards, penning hand-written letters and notes, and embellishing them with a beautiful postage stamp.

I collected stamps as a kid, and they’ve never lost their appeal.

The stamps the U.S. Postal Service just issued are beauties: a quartet of indoor winter flowers — amaryllis, cyclamen, paperwhites and Christmas cactus — that are Forever stamps.

Artist William Low reportedly photographed the flowers at their peak, then created digital paintings of them.

I’m no longer a philatelist (I just collect stamps to share as I use them), but if you are, you can get first-day-of-issue postmarks and covers through usps.com/shop or by calling 800-782-6724800-782-6724.

You also can try the Post Office, but I might just try to corner the market and hoard them for this year’s Christmas cards.

 

 

 

 

My Gwyneth Paltrow Moment: A Chair Collapses (And Is Repaired)

by Categorized: Antiques, Furniture, Heritage, Preservation Date:

Perhaps you remember that scene in “Shallow Hal,” when Gwyneth Paltrow, as Rosemary, sits down and the chair collapses, and Hal, Jack Black’s character, can’t figure out why. (A consummate skirt chaser looking only for gorgeous babes, Hal is hypnotized into seeing women’s inner beauty when he’s trapped in an elevator with motivational guru Tony Robbins. Hal doesn’t realize that Rosemary weighs 300 pounds.)

broken-chair1I had that moment — after the holidays, when many people feel, well, a bit heavier than usual.

One morning I sat down in a sweet little cane-bottomed chair and suddenly found myself flat on the floor.

The destruction was considerable. It was a humbling event, to say the least.

But I wasn’t ready to part with that chair. I’d found it long ago in one of those back-road, “antiques”-but-mostly-junk places in Vermont and bought it for a song. It has a little, somewhat uneven cutout design in the back; I’m not sure how old the chair is, but it’s clearly handmade.

Years ago Richard Mohr, owner of Furniture Clinic in East Hartford, expertly reassembled several nesting tables for me. They had belonged to my great-grandmother but were completely in pieces.

Fearing it might be a lost cause, I brought him the broken chair.

As it turned out, my chair repair was pretty easy, he said, probably just a “3″ on a scale of 1 to 10. And the cost was modest — though probably more than I’d paid for the chair in the first place. No matter.

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In business since 1974, Dick — and production manager Mike Cichowicz, above left, who did the work on my chair — said most of the cost of fixing it actually wasn’t in the woodwork but in replacing, and then darkening, the cane seat.

“I’ve had some disasters in here,” Dick said. “But there haven’t been many pieces we can’t repair — if it’s worth the price. Often people think it’s impossible.”

And there hasn’t been much that Dick and Mike haven’t seen. The shop is filled with wood furniture in need of surgery, major and minor, — from fire damage and water damage to broken spindles and badly chipped veneers — or just a facelift. One armoire had a top ornament that had been held in place, rather precariously, with sewing needles. Wire springs on an upholstered piece needed replacing, and Dick said they were using aluminum crosspieces.

“Sometimes you just have to think out of the box to figure out how to fix them,” Mike said, adding that their motto could be: “Yeah, we can figure out something for that.”

A major problem with wooden furniture from the 1920s and 1930s is that furniture makers had started to use synthetic glues, rather than horse hide glue, the advantage being that it was quick-setting. But it can dry out and crystallize.

Particularly in winter, Dick and Mike explained, furniture can get loose because the wood shrinks and that can break the glue joint. (One false move, and you’re flat on the floor.)

One precautionary measure you can take is to rotate chairs through the seasons — in other words, don’t leave that older rocking chair by the fireplace all winter.

Dick made one jesting remark that is worth taking seriously: “We tell a lot of people that if they try to fix it themselves, the price is doubled.”

The Furniture Clinic is at 212 Brewster St. in East Hartford. Call 860-569-8655860-569-8655, go to http://furnitureclinic.webs.com/ or email  furniture_clinic@att.net.

 

 

Spring Is Just About Here

by Categorized: Composting, Do It Yourself, Elizabeth Park, Flowers And Floral Design, Garden Design, Garden Ornaments, Gardening, Gardens, Horticulture, Houseplants, Insects, Landscape Architecture, Plants, Seasons, Trees, Vegetable Gardening, Wildlife Date:

MIO5X098_7873_9Forget about that pessimistic, unreliable groundhog. The surest sign that spring is just about here is the annual Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, which runs through Sunday at the Convention Center in Hartford.

After so much snow, the fragrance of flowers and mulch is intoxicating. Booth after booth — there are more than 300 — offer ideas and information for your “Backyard Paradise,” as this year’s show is titled. And there are numerous seminars from gardening experts.

Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For details:www.ctflowershow.com.

The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut’s juried show also is inspirational, with designs that have rhythm, movement balance, intriguing textural contrasts and some playfulness.

2014-02-19 00.54.53This medley in chartreuse (right), including papyrus, carnations, hydrangea, spider mums, lily grass, bells of Ireland, variegated aspidistra, amaranthus and steel grass, is by Amber Pratt of the Garden Club of Kensington.2014-02-19 00.53.392014-02-19 00.57.11

 

 

 

 

Carolyn Bernard of the Garden Club of Madison (above left) plays around with the idea of apples and oranges in this whimsical tabletop display, which also includes Brussels sprouts, asparagus and spray roses.

 

The dynamic swirl of birds of paradise with monstera, apidistra and sabal palm (left) is by Barbara Deysson of the Shippan Point Garden Club.

 

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The artful drama of this design (right) by Cathy Ritch of the Long Hill Garden Club in Trumbull includes anthurium in and under water in a glass globe, accented with wire mesh and blue swirls.

 

 

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Duane Luster of the Country Gardeners of Glastonbury garden club combines heliconia with philodendron, bamboo, fasciated (fantail) willow and red maple (left).

 

 

ButterflyJuried flower show photos by Nancy Schoeffler

Rice paper butterfly from Magic Wings, a Massachusetts butterfly conservatory. Photo by John Woike | The Hartford Courant.

 

Hartford Blooms: A Call For Gardens

by Categorized: Architecture, Elizabeth Park, Flowers And Floral Design, Garden Design, Gardens, Heritage, Historic Houses, Landscape Architecture Date:

The afternoon could not have been bleaker, slushier, grayer or more dismal.

But Mike McGarry, the former Hartford city councilman who founded Hartford Blooms 20 years ago, burst the afternoon drear into full blossom as he described with infectious exuberance the glorious plans Hartford Blooms has for June: a nine-day garden tour extravaganza, June 21 to 29, with garden, architecture and history tours around the city, garden lectures and evening receptions at the Butler-McCook House.

hydrangeaHartford Blooms presented a garden tour last year in the West End, and the year before on Ashley Street. This June’s event incorporates that, and so much more.

“We’re collaborating with a wide range of organizations to show how important gardening is to beautifying and unifying our city,” Mike said.

There are so many glorious gardens — private gardens, public gardens, gardens at churches, businesses and institutions — and so much outstanding architecture “right under your nose,” Mike said.

hartford bloomsRemarkably, the tour book that will be a ticket to all activities and tours over the nine days is priced at just $10.

However, some tours will have limited capacity, so it’s a good idea to purchase your book now. Make checks out to Hartford 2000 with “Hartford Blooms” in the memo line, and mail to Hartford 2000, c/o CREC, 111 Charter Oak Ave., Hartford, CT 06016.

Or stop by the booth Hartford Blooms is sharing with the Elizabeth Park Conservancy at the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show this weekend at the convention center.

Hartford Blooms also is still lining up gardens for the tours. If you’re interested in showing off your garden — whether it’s grand or just a lovely pocket garden, go to www.HartfordBlooms.org.

And here’s Mike’s op-ed in The Courant, “Hartford Blooms Sets Mega Garden Fete,” with more details: Click here.

You’ll see what I mean by infectious enthusiasm.

 

 

An Upcycling, Repurposing Wonderland

by Categorized: Accessories, Antiques, Art, Books, Collecting, Crafts, Decorating, Design, Fabric, Furniture, Garden Ornaments, Heritage, Holidays, Home Products, Just Because, Mid-Century Modern, Recycling, Seasons, Shopping Date:

Blaze and Bloom 012Blaze & Bloom is a riot. So many imaginative, funky, zany, witty ideas packed into one airy, historic space in Hartford.

Four West Hartford friends – Katie Wickham, Jennifer O’Connell, Julie Jones and Tracey George — who are neighbors and all have kids, started the business in 2011. Back then, they held two backyard sales a year — in the fall (Blaze) and spring (Bloom). They specialize in giving new life to discards and otherwise reusing, repurposing and sometimes completely reconceiving old stuff — old maps, blueprints, books, fabrics and furniture.

Blaze and Bloom 016Take, for example the Zenith bar. Yes, it’s a mid-century TV console that swivels. They pulled out all the wires and tubes and other weird stuff (apparently quite a job), painted the interior red and added lights, transforming it into a one-of-a-kind cocktail bar for a family room or man cave. Cheers!

Jennifer spotted a 9-foot porch trellis, rusting and old, by the side of the road. (“I love rusty and old!” she says). She upended it, wove in a wide strip of burlap to look like a Christmas tree and added lights.

Katie has a big collection of old road maps (Esso vintage) and blueprints — and decoupages them onto tables, desks and chests.

Blaze and Bloom 002A vintage road map of Manhattan is framed with an old window: throwaways refashioned into a very cool artwork for $75.

“We believe in recycling, reusing, refurbishing, upcycling,” Katie says. “We don’t like to throw anything away. There’s so much inherent value.”

The Blaze & Bloom philosophy is, essentially, “We can do something with this. It still has a life. We can keep it out of the trash.”

Strips of vintage fabrics are turned into holiday garlands. Christmas balls now dangle from an old round needlepoint stretcher.

Blaze and Bloom 019The pages of an old book are intricately folded for displaying photos. An old piano stool is now covered with an old potato sack, “to give it a more hip life,” as Katie says. And the “item of the week” is a nifty metal catchall — made from segments of an old factory conveyor belt. If you need to get organized, there were two when I stopped by this week,  priced at $55 and $65.

Jennifer says they love the hunt, and buy a lot at estate sales and garage sales. “We just all see things and when we fall in love with them, we say, this will be a great piece to sell. There’s no formula.”

Sometimes the new life of an old item isn’t immediately clear. Jennifer stenciled the word TABLE on a table.

“People loved it, everyone laughed, but nobody bought it,” she recalls. Then Katie decoupaged a map on it, and, Jennifer says, “Voila — it was transformed. It sold in an hour.”

Blaze and Bloom 013 Blaze and Bloom 023 Blaze & Bloom also has an enticing array of vintage neckties, glassware, jewelry and more.

While the four friends started out just for fun, in July they got serious (though they’re clearly still having fun). They moved into a terrific space at 50 Bartholomew Ave. in Hartford — just down the street from the Design Center on the corner of Park Street — that used to be the RLF showroom and long before that was a metal file factory in the 1800s.

The building also houses landscape designer Cynthia Dodd’s Dirt Salon, the new Birch Papery, puppeteer/kinetic artist Anne Cubberly’s workshop and a variety of other artists’ studios. The whole place has a really wonderful, creative, collaborative vibe.

Blaze & Bloom has been open just a few days a month since the summer, but starting on Jan. 4, it will be open from 10-5 every Saturday, and by appointment. And it’s open today, if you’re on the hunt for a one-of-a-kind gift.

For more, go to www.blazeandbloom.com, email blaze.bloom@yahoo.com or call 860-888-2087, 860-816-0880 or 860-305-0172.

Blaze and Bloom 005Blaze and Bloom 015Blaze and Bloom 004Blaze and Bloom 011Blaze and Bloom 009Photographs by Nancy Schoeffler