Sunday, November 12, 2017

Winter is Coming

November 12, 2017:  We worked at the Healing Garden for a little while today.  We've had a little dry spell, so we, Bud and I, thought we would get some grading done on the hill.  Bud picked up a few more donated bales of hay from Nate O'Neil in Woodbury.  We've been using hay as a barrier for erosion control, it works pretty well. 

Some topsoil was moved to the center of the garden and grading was done on the hill, but not in it's entirety.  It was still pretty muddy in sections, so those areas need to dry out more before grading can be completed.

The garden doesn't look as good as it did in past weeks.  The leaves are falling from the oaks and making a mess everywhere.  This bothers me a little.  I know it's a construction site, but I really want it to look nice for people that come to see the progress.  I keep imagining what it's going to look like when it's done; I see green grass, the flowers blooming and the trees planted.  I see the new fence in and benches all in place.  I'll keep those images in my head and hope that others see that it's a work in progress when they visit.  It would break my heart to hear anyone complain at this point.

Here's what I mean by it just doesn't look so nice. Winter is on the way.

This is the hill and the overlook area that needs grading but too wet to do all at once.
On the flip side, despite the weather and the cold, the grass seed that we had such a hard time keeping down, is coming in.  It will not be a lush grass at this point but a few more good days of cool weather and warm sun should help those seeds germinate.  When grass seed freezes it doesn't germinate as well as if it were fresh. It will come up though, and it should look nice by May.

There are going to be a few more nice days of weather and I hope to take advantage of it.  I will be working on other projects for next year this week, but I'm hoping to spend a little more time at the Healing Garden.

Until next time: Patience is sometimes hard to come by when your excited about getting something done.  I need to remind myself that everything will happen as it should.  So until we meet again, I wish for you, patience.  And hope you and I have the patience we need to make what we love to do - perfect.

Let's Keep Moving

November 4, 2017:  We had another volunteer today, his name is Paul Fortier from Woodbury.  He was a hard worker!  We needed to reseed a lot of the area that we seeded due to some washout from the rain.  This time we came with bigger guns, so to speak.  We had some straw that comes in rolls that you put down on top of the grass seed.  We held it down with staples that we put in the ground and small rocks to keep it from blowing away on a windy day.  This seems to be a good solution, so let's hope for the best.

Paul raking the topsoil for the second dose of grass seed.

That's Bud Neal

Paul and Bud posing for today's photo

Grass seed down, one more time.  I think this time, we have a solution.
Special thanks to Paul for his time and work. It was a pleasure getting to know you.

Until next time:  Persistence: continuing firmly or obstinately in a course of action in spite of difficulty of opposition. source  I have learned that sometimes persistence is the only way you can be successful.  I hope your day is forward, not sideways, not backwards, but forward.  We can all use a second chance sometimes.  With a little persistence, we might just get that second chance. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Progress on the Healing Garden

Well, it's November and the garden is in continual movement.  We've had some wonderful moves forward and few tiny steps backwards, but for the most part, I'm please with the progress.  I love how Mother Nature works with you when your planning something like a garden.  Sometimes, I feel like my work can be for nothing, but I found from past experiences, that if I slow down and stop trying to control everything, mother nature will show me how to move forward.  One thing that's always in the back of my mind is that I am only a worker, like an ant or a bee, on this wonderful planet.  What I do is temporary.  Nature will always be my supervisor, there's no union or employee protection, and there is no certainty in my results.  I need to watch and listen to what the environment that I plan to alter is doing, or what I do, will be for nothing.

Our first attempt at seeding - left to right, Rita Smith, Chris Donnelly, and Bud Neal

To date, our failure has been putting grass seed down.  I pressed for seed to be placed before the rain was due around October 23rd, so Bud and I quickly made sure we had all that we needed to seed the outside portion of the garden.  Everything was down on October 22nd, and the rain came October 23rd, and it didn't stop.  Most of what we did got washed away.  While evaluating the garden after the deluge, we found the erosion areas and was able to make a new plan on how to move forward with erosion control.  About a week later we came up with a new plan.  This time we're hoping the rain will be a little more gentle and the warm weather will stick around long enough to get the grass seed started.  We'll know in a week if the change worked.

Bud Neal looking over the seeded areas

Meanwhile, while the grass implementation was being planned again, I still needed to get the gardens dug out.  The poor soil was still in two of the gardens, the largest and the smallest, and it needed to be dug out.  Luckily for me, I have a husband who has five very close friends that were willing to take on the challenge of digging and moving dirt. So on November 3rd, they all showed up and dug out those gardens.  With a lot of work and some fun, it was accomplished.  I had gotten some more compost that was donated by a composter who makes what he calls Agrimix.  I love this compost.  He was nice enough to offer what ever I need for the garden, so I got another two plus yards to put down in the gardens after the soil was dug out.  Now the gardens are ready for winter.  Mother Nature will do what she does best on weather and I'm hoping by spring, that the compost will be perfect for blending with topsoil.  Once blended, I'll have the soil tested, make a few adjustments and then planting can start.

Digging out the Scented Garden. Left to right: Joe Casorio and Jack Scalia

Digging out the Rock Garden. Left to right, Steve Wysowski, Bill Ingellis, and Pat Parente

A big thank you to all the volunteers and the generous people that have donated and worked so far.  I absolutely love the spirit that this project brings.  I know the men inside the home are out checking on our progress.  Sometimes we see them outside; they'll stay for a little while and watch us work.  Other times we see wheelchair tracks in the soil, which tells us they were out there making their rounds.  This joint effort came from one idea from Bud Neal, but it has blossomed into a community effort bringing people together for our veterans.  I'm so proud to be part of this project.

Until next time:  may the spirit of nature bring you to a good place, a garden of hope, a community of togetherness, a place to heal.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Healing Garden Dream and Start

I have a new project that is near and dear to my heart.  It's called The Healing Garden at the Connecticut Healthcare and Residential Center in Rocky Hill Connecticut.  It started about three years ago when a friend of mine, Bud Neal told me about wanting to plant a few trees at the Veterans Home in Rocky Hill.  He had been going there for years engaging the men and women that are either there short-term or living there.  He's a vet and commander of the American Legion in Woodbury, CT.  His credentials are a mile long with other avenues of business and life, but short term of it, he felt his connections would help in planting a number of trees instead of one or two which was the original plan.  He asked if I was willing to help, and of course I said yes.

After walking the area that he had chosen for the trees, he and I brainstormed an idea of a garden with five trees.  He wanted all the trees to ultimately have the branches touch showing unity.  Each tree would represent the five armed services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.  With the help of Chris Donnelly another friend, we marked out a path and roughly marked where the trees would be planted.  I drew up a sketch of the idea and sadly the whole thing was put to bed, for a while.  From there, Bud would gently nudge the commissioner, and a few other people at the Healthcare Center.  There were a few road blocks, but three years later and two commissioners later, we got the okay to move forward with the garden.

Bud made his first phone call to a large business that he had connections with through the Army.  He was in the service with owner and Vice Chairman of O&G Industries, Inc., Ray Oneglia.  They had talked a few times and initially Ray had committed to building the walkway that would go through the garden.  When Bud made is second call to Ray to tell him we got the okay to go ahead with the job, within a few short days, and a talk with the GM of O&G, Leo Nardi, the walkway was started.  An excavator and three men were at the site at 6:30 on Wednesday morning on October 11th and construction began.

construction begins

It took about one week from start to finish for the walkway.  We needed it to be wheel chair accessible so measurements were made often.  The slope could only be a certain pitch for wheelchair access, so measuring for that was always a priority also.  We even had a few of the men and women that were in the hospital come out and try the walk before the final coat of asphalt. 

digging and checking the grade
Our test drivers and workcrew

After our test drivers gave us an evaluation, there were a few changes to be made.  We were ready for the asphalt.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Gardening

I love late fall when the holidays are approaching and summer seems distant.  Life slows down from the summer busyness and fall clean up, so I shift my thoughts to decorating for the holidays.  I have a few customers that like the look of natural greens for decorating, which is what I love also, so I make some of my own creations for them to hang on their doors or where ever they want them.

This wreath was for a large piece of granite in the entry way
of a fence.
When I collect greens, I store them outside in the shade.  The days are cool in late November but the sun can still get pretty warm and dry the greens up fast.  I cover them with a tarp so if it snows or rains, I don't have work with the greens when they're wet.  I found the quality of the wreath frames are important when making wreaths.  The good ones hold the greens and don't bend when full.  The ribbons for bow making are also important when it comes to making full puffy bows.  It's easiest to make bows that have wired edges.

A variety of greens, when assembling a wreath, gives way to more of a three dimensional look.  It doesn't take many varieties to make the wreath interesting, it's where you place them that makes the difference.  In the wreath pictured here, there is hemlock, white pine, holly, winterberry, cedar, and spruce.

If you are a do-it-yourself kind of person, look everywhere around your property for what ever you can use.  I cut some Witch Hazel and birch branches and implemented them with some of my designs. The three dimensional look was very satisfying.

Until next time:  My wish for you is to have a healthy and happy year ahead.  May the holidays, which ever ones you celebrate, bring you love, happiness, and peace of mind.  See you next year!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Grass Seed at 30 Degrees

Usually when I do something in the garden now, I have a purpose.  I don’t just throw a plant in the dirt and hope for the best.  I usually have some knowledge behind my purpose and place a plant in a specific location because I’ve done a little research and know that the plant has the possibility of thriving in that area.  I am usually pretty sure that the soil has good nutritional value and the sun is about right for the plant.  Well, today I kind of threw that practice out the door and planted grass seed on a whim.

It’s not that I’m completely ignorant to this; I’ve done it before.  I’ve also talked to a few of the old time Yankees that I know, like my dad, that have told me that this is a good time to plant grass seed.  It’s cold out, very cold for this season as a matter of fact.  The ground is still frozen in Connecticut, but it’s starting to thaw little by little.  We had a tremendous amount of snow this year so that makes the ground perfect for germination.  Today is cold, not reaching more than 32 degrees F, so that’s not so great.  

Here's my evaluation on this:

First of all, I’ve done this before - two times to be exact.  It was a little earlier in the season the last time I did this.  There was still snow on the ground at the time but the days were getting longer and warmer and I thought it was an appropriate time to do it.  I threw the seed on top of the snow where there was about 2 or so inches, and then on the ground where there were bare areas.  I didn’t put any pre-emergent down in my yard in the spring, so I wasn’t worried about killing off the seed before it had a chance to germinate.  I didn’t think about it again until July, which is when I noticed how great the lawn looked.

It’s later in the season this time, but because the winter has been hanging on like Velcro, I thought it was a good time to do it.  Here are some things that I think might be helpful if you’re thinking about doing it too.

*Check the ground.  The areas that I seeded are thawing and somewhat soft – this is good.

*It’s freezing today - not so good.  Grass seed could die off a little in the freezing temperatures.  I don’t know at what temperature the grass seed can die, but I do know that the percentage of germination diminishes when it freezes and I know that it won’t all die.  So you might not get the germination you would if the temperatures were warmer.  Instead of 98% you might get 80%, so plan on that when putting the seed down.

*Grass seed likes a cool germination period, so don’t worry that it’s too cold, unless of course it’s like 10 degrees F.  

*Spread the seed and walk away.  Don’t water it unless you are in a drought, then my advise is don’t bother to even put the seed down.  If it doesn’t all take, you have nothing to loose.  Remember I’m not suggesting starting a new lawn like this, I’m only suggesting to over seed a little to improve the lawn for the coming season.  Don’t spend a lot of money on this.

*Last but not least if it snows again, don’t worry about it.  If there a deluge of rain, the seed may wash away if the area that you seeded is on a slope.  It doesn’t usually all wash away though and you can fix it when the weather gets a little better.

So for all the expert advise that I or some other gardeners may give, this is not one of them.  One bit of advise that I will give though, is that if your grass continues to not do well in the same area over and over again, then get the soil tested.  It takes all the guess work out of planting and saves a lot of time and headache.

So until next time:  may your grass be healthy and happy, and may our mowers get started soon.  Remember, good things come to those that wait.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Getting Started

I've been gardening since the age of thirteen.  My husband and I have owned four homes and we have done extensive rehabilitation on the properties that we have owned in different parts of the country.  The most recent property is here in Connecticut.  In 1997 I started expanding my gardening to other properties beyond my own.  After leaving my job as president of a non-profit in 2008, devoting my time to the outdoors has been my priority.  It was then, in 2008, that I started working for an arborist and began studying arboriculture.  I worked four years there learning about trees, diseases, and insects and am now involved with organizations like the Connecticut Tree Protective Association, I'm a member of the New England chapter of ISA, and have attended numerous seminars along with attending Arboriculture 101 (classes focused on the study of trees).  I entered the Master Gardener Program through the University of Connecticut in 2011 and graduated in 2012.  For those of you that don't know what the Master Gardener Program is about, it's a sixteen week study course of horticulture. Classes include botany, soil structure, insects and diseases of plants, tree identification and research, herbaceous perennial identification and research, entomology, pathology, etc.  Projects include a final exam, putting together a lengthy book of research on trees, shrubs, and invasive plants, and forty hours of specific horticultural volunteer projects.  I completed the program to became certified in 2012 and am currently holding an 'Advanced' status.  That means I've gone well beyond the initial program.

My business is based on the idea that we all need a place to rest and enjoy our outdoor spaces. Through my travels and friendships, I realize that there are many of us that are happiest when we surround ourselves with the purity of nature, it makes us feel calm, a little bit healthier, and it brings us to a better place in our mind.  That's why in this chaotic world, I feel it's important for us to surround ourselves with places where we can feel safe from stress. I believe that when we surround ourselves with a chemical free environment and a healthy landscaping, then not only are the plants happy, but our souls will rest.

So whether you are a small business or a homeowner, I would love to help you find a place to rest your soul.  I want to help you make good decisions on what to plant in your yard or special place.  Together we will make a sanctuary where bees and birds can rest and feed, and you can enjoy the view without the worry of touching something toxic.  I can help you make your yard fairly maintenance free by choosing the right plant for the right place.  I can help you do the work, or I can do the work for you.  I can also assist in the maintenance and help you plan for the future so it's easier on your budget.  Please understand that I am not a landscaper, I focus more on the smaller rooms within your yard.  What I do takes time and careful thought.  I need to understand who you are and what's important to you, so I can make your gardens about you.  You will not see the final results of my work instantaneously.  A beautiful garden is the result of thoughtful planning, time, care, and in most cases hard work.

If you think you want to talk to me, send me an email at and I'll get back to you as soon as I come in from working and clean up.