Monthly Archives: February 2015

Horticulture Scholarship: Apply By March 9

by Categorized: Horticulture Date:

hydrangeaAnyone in Connecticut know of a horticulture student who needs money for college?

That’s the question from Nancy DuBrule-Clemente of Natureworks, who is on the board of the Connecticut Nurserymen’s Foundation, an industry-sponsored endowment that provides funds for scholarship and research.

She says the group has “a fabulous scholarship and NO applicants.” The scholarship is $5,000 per year for four years. The application deadline is March 9.

For more information on how to apply, go to or click here.

summer_hillkousa_dogwoodPhotos via Connecticut Nurserymen’s Foundation

Red Carpets And The Oscars

by Categorized: Antiques, Color, Decorating, Glamour, Rugs And Carpets Date:

This Sunday the red carpet rolls out for all the Academy Award stars and hopefuls, so I can’t resist sharing this blogpost from Doris Leslie Blau, a rug gallery in Manhattan that sells antique, vintage, contemporary and custom rugs:  “5 Oscar-Worthy Red Carpets.”


The folks at Doris Leslie Blau selected “a handful of A-list textiles,” including “Best Geometric Design,” a modern Swedish flat-weave design (at left).

Then there’s “Best Persian Picture,” a late 19th century Sultanabad rug on an ivory field (below right).Red-Carpet-Persian








Red-Carpet-GlamFor glamour, there’s this French Art Deco rug (at left) signed by modernist architect Jacques Adnet. The folks at Doris Leslie Blau cite the old-Hollywood appeal of its scalloped frame and center design, and opine that those “who walk across it are inclined to start feeling ready for their close-up.”

Could be a winner in the foreign language category…


Red-Carpet-DiamondsThere’s also an American rag rug with an all-over diamond pattern (at right) — “a clear audience favorite,” the blogpost says.

Last year, Doris Leslie Blau’s blog delved into the history of the red carpet tradition, in a post amusingly headlined “Before the Oscars, a look at how big red became the thoroughfare of modern royalty.” Read that whole post here.

The red carpet was added to the Oscars in 1961, according to the post, which cites the Academy of Motion Pictures’ Margaret Herrick Library’s Linda Mehr as its source. Five years later, when the broadcast switched to color, the rosy hue of that famed walkway was clinched.

Little wonder. “Red is the color of blood and power. Cheerful, robust, vibrant, strong – a bold, red textile can imbue a bit of glamour and stateliness into any space, even if there’s no chance of Brad or Angie crossing the threshold.”

These days, the red carpet that will be stretched out for the stars at the Dolby Theatre is 600 feet long. And it will be freshly vacuumed on Sunday.

85th Annual Academy Awards - ArrivalsJennifer Lawrence at the Oscars in 2013, via Doris Leslie Blau, via Gloss.






‘I Am So Ready For Spring’

by Categorized: Flowers And Floral Design, Garden Design, Garden Ornaments, Gardening, Horticulture, Landscape Date:

2015-02-19 04.24.14The temperature was in the 20s, yet flowers were in bloom everywhere.

The Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, which opened today and runs through Sunday at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, comes at just the right time of year.

I overheard this refrain at least three times this afternoon: “I am so ready for Spring.”

People were out in force, shopping for vegetable seeds, garden ornaments and big bunches of pussywillow branches, checking out landscapers’ displays, picking up ideas and brochures and inspiration, and delighting in the experts’ seminars (I caught Roger Swain’s delightful and information-packed talk on “Vegetables That I Have Known & That You Will Love”).

Vendors displayed everything from fencing, fountains, peonies, pavers, jewelry, soaps, outdoor kitchens, tools and tulips to books, bonsais and butterflies.

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens of South Deerfield, Mass., displayed a case filled with exquisite, fluttering butterflies from around the world, and was selling cups of tiger swallowtail and black swallowtail butterfly eggs, which will hatch when the time comes. General manager Kathy Fiore also offered information sheets on which plants will attract specific butterflies to yards in New England. She said many people had been approaching her table to talk about the plight of monarchs and the need to plant milkweed, which monarchs require to lay their eggs and which newly hatched caterpillars need to feed.

“”People are aware of it, conscientious about it,” she said. “The plight is out there.”

The lovely sound of waterfalls and water features splashed gently through a number of the 18 lush landscaping displays, including Creative Contour Landscape Design in Middletown, which took best-in-show honors for landscape design (photo at top).

Creative Contour owner Jennifer Noyes created a marvelous gazebo topped with sedum and succulents, over an inviting outdoor table. A river literally ran through it: Water flowing through a narrow trench along the middle of the length of the table then cascaded into the shallow pool surrounded by daffodils and other plantings.

“My whole goal is to make people think differently about their yards,” Noyes said.

2015-02-19 03.34.37The landscape designed by Pondering Creations in Terryville (photo above) as a rock garden packed with plants also featured little waterfalls and a pond. It was honored with the Best Horticulture Award.

And Hillside Landscaping Co. of Berlin earned the Best Design Award.

A waterwheel gently rotated through the koi pond in the display created by Comets to Koi of Branford.

2015-02-19 03.40.53And Rob Townsend, owner of Aquascapes of Connecticut in Portland, had built an Oriental azumaya, hand-cut and hand-planed, with a panel of etched glass. The display (photo above) was landscaped with tulips, Lenten roses and Japanese maples, and an unusual copper fountain sculpted like a Japanese maple shimmered with droplets of water.

The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut’s flower show boasted several hundred entries in a variety of categories, all with a “Ports of Call” theme —  from the “Far East” (very petite arrangements) to “Caribbean Cruise,” “Jacob’s Ladder” trained plants, “Haku Lei” floral hair wreaths, and, in keeping with weather outside the show, “Into the Arctic,” where one cool arrangement paired orchids with silvered English ivy.

2015-02-19 03.08.27In the “Coral Fringed Barbados” division, the arrangement created by Alice Luster of Country Gardeners of Glastonbury (photo above) — with Asiatic lilies, green spider chrysanthemums and dried palm fronds — had collected a number of ribbons, including first place in the design division, the Designer’s Choice Award, Terry Stoleson Award and an Award of Design Excellence.

The show continues Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For details, Click Here.

Photos on this page by Nancy Schoeffler.

For more photos at the show by Hartford Courant photographer Stephen Dunn, Click Here.



Spring Fever? Here’s An Intoxicating Cure

by Categorized: Composting, Crafts, Garden Design, Garden Ornaments, Gardening, Gardens, Horticulture, Landscape, Nature, Plants, Seasons, Vegetable Gardening, Wildlife Date:

CTFlower&GardenShowCascade“After that hard winter, one could not get enough of the nimble air.”  — Willa Cather, “My Antonia”

If you’re yearning for the intoxicating fragrances that are the very breath of spring, “the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere” that Willa Cather so aptly described, there’s no need to feel discouraged by the mounds of snow that still abound.

The 34th annual Connecticut Flower and Garden Show opens Thursday and runs through Sunday at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, and while the show is not the same as an actual spring day, it does offer a tantalizing preview of springtime to come, which is particularly welcome this time of this year.

Photo SwirlThe show covers nearly 3 acres and includes 18 professionally designed gardens that cover more than an acre. Yes, these gardens are indoors, but the sights and scents are so pleasing to one’s winter-weary senses.

Nancy DuBrule-Clemente of Natureworks in North Branford said her winter-battered spirits were completely turned around when she started setting up for the show earlier this week. “Huge witch hazel trees forced into perfect bloom, piles of mulch and sod, flowering plants absolutely everywhere — my soul was soothed and I came home singing a joyful song!”

CTFlower&GardenShowFlower&FireplaceThere are more than 300 booths with displays of flowers, plants, garden ornaments, bulbs and seeds, gardening books, patio furniture and more. If you can dig beneath the snow in your yard, bring along a half-cup of soil to the UConn Cooperative Extension’s booth for a free soil test.

I always love the eye-popping creativity of the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut’s Advanced Flower Show — more than 250 entries that could inspire you to new heights of artistry when arranging a few flowers of your own.

And through the show there will be more than 80 hours of seminars by horticultural, garden design and gardening experts, including:

Mar Jennings on “Creating Casual Luxury in Your Home and Garden”;

Garden photographer and author Ken Druse on “Making More Plants: Propagation” and on “Natural Companions”;

Garden author and photographer Amy Ziffer of Sherman, whose “Shady Lady’s Guide to Northeast Shade Gardening” is an invaluable guide, on “Shade Revealed”;

Roger Swain, former host of “The Victory Garden” on PBS and HGTV’s “People Places & Plants on “Vegetables That I Have Known and You Will Love”;

Bob Buettner, Connecticut Florist of the Year in 2010, on “Floral Arranging”;

Organic gardener, photographer and lecturer Karen Bussolini of South Kent on “40 Great Plants for Connecticut Gardens” and “Gardens in Winter.”

The list of seminar topics goes on and on — “Create and Enhance Wildlife Habitats in Your Surroundings,” “Rain Gardens,” “Daylilies,” “America’s Romance with the English CTFlower&GardenShowDaffodilsGarden,” “Composting and Soil Health,” “Water Gardening Basics,” “Working with Wetlands on Your Property,” “Disease Control in Home Vegetable Gardens,” and many more. For the complete seminar schedule and details about the presenters, Click Here.

The seminars are included in the price of admission, which is $16 for adults, $14 for seniors age 62 and over (Thursday and Friday only); $4 for children age 5 to 12, and free for children under age 5.

Hours are Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Convention Center is at 100 Columbus Blvd.

For more information and details on parking, including free parking, Click Here.

DSC05134Photos courtesy of Connecticut Flower & Garden Show





‘The Sculptural Book’

by Categorized: Art, Books, Crafts, Design, Just Because Date:

Earlier this month, Nick Paumgarten described the staff of The New Yorker’s move from the office at Times Square to the new 1 World Trade Center megatower. His account reminded me in some ways of The Courant newsroom’s move a few months ago — the streamlining it involved and my own ensuing sense of an incredible lightness of being.

Pile of BooksStill, I have to admit, this passage from Paumgarten pained me:

The things we keep around! But mostly it was paper, whole forests’ worth. Thousands upon thousands of orphaned books, some hoarded for novelty appeal, or a nascent interest, or a bygone assignment, or out of allegiance to (or guilt about) writer friends — an “accretion of intention,” as one acquaintance put it — were trucked off to Housing Works and the like. Many more perfectly good books were sent to their doom, like so many unclaimed stray dogs.

He went on to describe how the process “felt a little like going through the belongings of a dead loved one, except that the dead loved one was you. What was worth saving? Not as much as you’d anticipated, once you got into the spirit of paperlessness.”

I was comforted by this observation from him — that “The thing that’s worth keeping is the thing you do next.”

But I found myself cringing about all those books.

Trouble is, at our house the books are taking over. We’ve run out of bookshelf space, and the reasonably tidy piles here and there — not yet completely out of control, but getting there — have started to seem like permanent installations. Many are books that I doubt I’ll ever find time to read or re-read, even if I were to devote myself to reading full-time for the rest of my life. (What a heavenly notion!)

I can jettison an old turtleneck without blinking an eye, but a book is a different matter. I find it difficult to say adieu.

I thought of all this when I heard that Hartford artist Anne Cubberly and LB Munoz are presenting a five-session workshop on “The Sculptural Book” at the downtown Hartford Public Library’s Hartford History Center. Participants will transform old or discarded books into new artworks — sculpting the pages, adding pop-ups, sewing and altering words to create new meanings.

Sessions are on Saturdays at 10 a.m.Sculptural_book, beginning Feb. 28, through March 28.

Register in person, or call 860-695-6300.


Meanwhile, California-based artist and writer Lisa Occhipinti has a new book out, called “Novel Living: Collecting, Decorating, and Crafting with Books” (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, $24.95,

Laura Pearson with the Chicago Tribune has more on Occhipinti’s book about books here:

Novel Living

Lucky Bamboo

by Categorized: Botany, Holidays, Plants Date:

Former Courant colleague Bill Daley of the Chicago Tribune takes a look at lucky bamboo, a fortuitous plant for the Chinese New Year, which arrives this Thursday, Feb. 19, and other food and flowers that are ripe with symbolism for the holiday.

Turns out lucky bamboo isn’t bamboo at all:


Not Really Bamboo

Lucky bamboo resembles bamboo but is in the Dracaena family. It’s sold in many shapes and with various numbers of stalks. The plant pictured here has eight stalks, a number that symbolizes wealth and prosperity in Chinese culture. (Photo via ML Harris, Iconica)