Category Archives: Seasons

April Is The Impatient Month

by Categorized: Garden Design, Gardening, Nature, Seasons, Vegetable Gardening Date:

stone bowlBefore you rush willy-nilly into the garden this month… the experts I talked with for my latest gardening story in the April issues of Hartford magazine and New Haven Living offer this advice: Wait.

You don’t want to compress the soil and the crowns of plants you can’t yet see by walking around on too early in the garden, or jump the gun by removing leaf debris and wind up exposing tender shoots to a late frost.

But there is a lot you can do this month to ensure a gorgeous garden ahead. Click here for the story.

Photo by Irene Jeruss / courtesy of White Flower Farm

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





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

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.


2014-02-19 00.52.23

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.


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, email 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













Seeding The Imagination, Now And Then

by Categorized: Gardening, Heritage, Seasons Date:

Before long, the seed catalogs will start to roll in, a virtual feast for imagining the garden pleasures to come. Poring over them is clearly something people have relished doing for a good long while.

What a treat to stumble upon the various blogs of Barbara Wells Sarudy, including one on Early American Gardens. As part of that blog, she regularly posts images of historic American seed and plant catalogs from the Smithsonian libraries.

They’re lovely, and sometimes quite amusing. Here’s the link.

And here’s a sampling:




A Shelton Spruce Makes The Cut: A Big-Time Star

by Categorized: Seasons, Trees Date:

Cutting down a tree can be a chore. Or a relief. Or a bittersweet moment. spruceWhen that tree is 76 feet tall, it also can be quite a spectacle.

A Norway spruce in Shelton, at the home of John and Louse Vargoshe, was cut down today and now heads for the bright lights, big city. It will reign over Rockefeller Center this holiday season, crowned in crystal Swarovski, and be the star of a two-hour TV special when it’s lighted on Dec. 4.

Rose Lichtenfels has the story, with photos by Patrick Raycraft here.

Gilded Pumpkins

by Categorized: Crafts, Decorating, Do It Yourself, Holidays, Seasons Date:

Gilded Pumpkins

Put that carving knife away. Here’s a dazzling idea for decorating pumpkins, spotted at National Home Gardening Club’s website: Gild them.

Sure, the harvest season is supposed to be all about natural colors and rustic textures, but why shouldn’t Halloween have a chance to sparkle?

I like the idea of giving away the glamorous pumpkins to your guests at the end of a party, too.

Photo via National Home Gardening Club



Plants For Fall And Winter Interest

by Categorized: Color, Garden Design, Gardening, Nature, Plants, Seasons Date:

Purple BerriesKevin Wilcox of Silver Spring Nursery in Bloomfield will present a workshop on plants for fall and winter interest, along with tips for their care, Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. at the office of the Connecticut Horticultural Society, 2433 Main St., Rocky Hill.

“We will discuss the various features for fall and winter interest, such as colorful foliage, exfoliating bark and flowers,” Wilcox says, and a slide show will accompany his talk.

The fee is $10 for members of the horticultural society, $15 for others. To register, call the horticultural society at 860-529-8713.

Sourwood leaves


Fountain Grass-Poisson

Red twig dogwood-Messina

Photos, from top: Callicarpa bodnieri var. giraldi ‘Profusion,’ a Japanese species of Beautyberry that Wilcox says grows best with some afternoon shade. Photo via Kevin Wilcox | Silver Spring Nursery.

The color change in the leaves of Oxydendrum arboretum, or Sourwood Tree. This native tree grows to around 20 to 30 feet high and is a member of the heath and heather family, just like rhododendron and mountain laurel. Photo via Kevin Wilcox | Silver Spring Nursery.

Ilex verticillata ‘Sparkleberry,’ or the Winterberry Holly, is a deciduous holly with stunning red berries. Photo via Kevin Wilcox | Silver Spring Nursery.

Showy ornamental grasses such as fountain grass (Pennisetum Alopecuroides) add graceful interest to a garden in winter. File photo by CLOE POISSON | The Hartford Courant

The fiery red stems of red twig dogwood stand out in any winter landscape. Unlike most shrubs, it is at its best after its leaves fall. File photo by RICHARD MESSINA | The Hartford Courant