Thursday, May 7, 2009

April eLetter

Linda Finn
eLetter Linda Finn Garden Design
Garden eLetter
April 09
Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.
- Chinese Proverb

I wouldn't ordinarily take the DIM view of anything..but I am finding that with all that is going on it the world around us, everyone seems to be reverting back to the "old" days of Doing Things Myself ( DIM!). When it comes to your garden ( yard) that is great! Any of my clients (or friends!) who want to dig holes, plant their own plants, build a stone wall , prune that nasty yew that has taken over .....terrific! The more that people are actively engaged with there gardens, the more they not only appreciate them, but they are better maintained and just plain loved more. Of course, it does help to sometimes get advice, get help with the heavy lifting and even to have a plan drawn up to work on over time .
I have caught the DIM fever myself and have been obsessed with building my own pond and stone retaining wall. My family 's enthusiasm is long worn off because it is taking me an inordinate amount of time to finish, but it is starting to come together! I even brought home some frog ( we think) eggs from our vernal pond in New Hampshire And this morning discovered tadpoles ! How many of us mucked around in ponds ( unsupervised no less!) when we were young? How many of our children have that opportunity to experience the joy in that?

It always seems as if we need to help mother nature along ..especially in the spring when we are anxious to see green and blooms. Before you add any fertilizer ,fungicide, pesticide or herbicide ,though, make sure the targeted plants REALLY need it. It may seem that it wouldn't be harmful to add more even if it isn't entirely necessary, but "plants that are ovefertilzed, especially nitrogen-based fertilizers, produce succulent growth, increasing susceptibility to plant-feeding insects and mites. The higher levels of amino acids, which are the primary food source used by insects and mites, can increase their reproductive ability. In addition, plants that receive excessive levels of fertilizer may have thinner leaf cuticles, which are easier for insects and mites to penetrate with their mouthparts."- University of Illinois Extension for more info.
There is much research and information regarding the soil structure and the microbes and living organisms within the soil which also help with plant growth and development. The use of nonselective herbicides on your lawn can also kill the beneficial organisms that protect plants in your soil. The ONLY thing you should be adding to your soil is COMPOST and Mulch ( with the exeption of roses......'heavy feeders'). If you are concerned about a specific plant or think your soil is lacking in any nutrients, the best idea is to take a sample and send it to the University of Rhode Island lab for testing. go to for more information.
If you have been using fertilizers on your lawn and gardens , you may have to wean them from these products. It will be worth it in the long run. You will have healthier soil, less insect problems and infestations and you don't have to worry if your kids come in with a blade of grass in their mouths or a dandelion salad for you .
Look for more information next month on Compost Tea and the benefits for your garden.

Favorite Plants

Halesia tetraptera 'Rosea' (above)This Pink Carolina Silverbell has bell shaped flowers which has a variable hue depending on climate and soil. The Fall foliage is bright yellow and drops early. It is a native plant to the Midwestern and Southern states where is is found as an understory plant often near streams. It should be planted in a partly shaded location and is considered a small to medium sized tree which will to approximately 35 feet tall and 25 feet wide.

Kerria japonica 'Golden Guinea' (right)
This Kerria's single flower is up to 2 inches wide! It blooms in spring and will do well in sun or full shade . It tolerates draught and gets to a size of approximately 5 feet by 5 feet.

Both of these plants can be purchased at Sylvans Nursery in Westport MA. Definitely worth the drive! For directions and more information : www.SYLVANNURSERY.COM

Monday, March 23, 2009

Grow an Edible Garden this year!

This has been a long cold, winter for everyone. As much as I love the snow, I am anxious for spring. It is so wonderful to see bulbs making their way through the cold earth ! This month I am thinking about including edible plants in my borders and expanding my cutting garden. Now is the time get your seeds started! There are many websites to go to and of course, your local nurseries have their seed packets just waiting for a new home! The sun is warmer, the days are longer...can't be long before we will be outside planting!

Vegetable gardens don't have to be unsightly...a combination of thyme, violets and onions make an attractive planting.
Here is a short course on edible plants to get you started: Mild flavored flowers include Pansies , Violets and Violas, Day lilies, Roses, the crimson flowers of the Scarlet Runner beans and the bright blue blossoms of Borage. Nasurtium petals which can be described as spicy are also delicate enough to be used in almost anything. The part of the petal you want to avoid is the "heel" , where they join together, and the heart of the flower. (You can also eat the leaves of the Nasturtiums as well..sometimes described as a cross between mustard and watercress.)
Marigolds, Calendulas and Chrysanthemums have a more assertive flavor , with an acrid edge that you can get of hint of in their fragrances. The flowers of herbs such as Lavender, Hyssop, Thyme and Sage can vary , so be sure to taste before using. when xperimenting, just be sure the flower is safe to eat..then nibble away!
At you can find Sunflowers of all sizes, from "Elf" ( 14-16" tall) to the "Kong" hybrid that grows 14 feet tall. These produce edible seeds for both you and the goldfinches.
To find out more about Daylilies and to get a recipe for "Daylily cheesecake" go to for Tranquil Lake Nursery's webpage ( they are the largest grower of Daylilies in the northeastern U.S located .in Rehoboth Mass.)

Linda Finn