Thursday, September 11, 2014

Is Your Garden Incomplete?

Every dyed-in-the-wool gardener knows that no garden is ever finished. The word “complete,” however, has a more nuanced meaning, in the sense of having all of the parts (paths, focal points, ornaments, etc.) you intended. Since gardening involves a lot of continual tinkering and tweaking, your garden may be complete without ever being finished.

Gardens can also be made to be incomplete. The action of outside forces, such as storms that uproot trees, or a neighbor, town, or utility that cuts them down is one example. Suddenly there’s a sunny spot where once there was deep shade. Or, a wonderful view is revealed that gets your juices flowing about how to make it into a new garden centerpiece.

How do you know if your garden is incomplete? Here are three clues to get you started:

1.    Something irritates you every time you look out the window, walk out the door, or pull into the driveway.

2.    You feel “exposed” and seek indoor shelter, rather than enjoying your outdoor space.

3.    One part of the garden doesn’t seem quite right, but you can’t put your finger on the problem.

What is your experience? Can you add two more clues?

4.    _______________________

5.    _______________________

Get more information about how to create a garden that refreshes your spirit at:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dee Weeder Review

This month I began reviewing gardening products over on Monica Hemingway’s Gardening Products Review website. It’s a handy place to get the scoop on the latest gardening gear and gadgets before you buy. You’ll find honest, no-holds-barred, objective critiques on everything from gardening gloves to power tools written by people who are out there in the trenches on a daily basis.

Speaking of getting the scoop, my first review is on a hand tool called the Dee Weeder. Check it out at and see why I gave it a five shovel rating.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

When Life Gives You a Hurricane – Make a Birdhouse!

 “The hurricane devastated our wooded lot; we’re still in clean-up mode. I was determined to create something that would symbolize the positive energy of new life that can grow up out of death and destruction – the hope of birds nesting and laying their eggs in a house made from the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy.”                      .....Dan Freed, Wood Artist

I know this may sound trivial compared to what has happened to folks at the shore, but most of our trees are more than 60-feet tall. Hurricane Sandy seemed to hover over us for hours and the sounds of the trees creaking, crackling, and collapsing was horrible. Anything more than a light breeze still puts me on high alert.

Best in Show
The Undergardener has put his demons behind him, though. A wood artist, he exacted the ultimate revenge by using pieces of those shattered trees to create a work of art that is also a birdhouse. He calls it “Hurricane Sandy – Brought to Justice.” What made that revenge extra-sweet was that the birdhouse was awarded Best in Show at the Skylands Juried Art Exhibit in May.

Since then, Sandy has been making her way around Sussex County. She was on display at the county administration building during June and will show up at the Sussex-Wantage branch of the Sussex County Library in September, where Dan will be giving a talk on woodworking for families and kids on September 27th at 1:00pm.

The Inspiration
In the spirit and philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement, from which he takes inspiration, Dan says, “Nature has an equal power of renewal, which was the seed of my intention to transform that torn root ball into something to help heal the pain,” The central piece is actually a birdhouse constructed of cherry, walnut, and maple. Sandy’s wild and wooly hair is made from the roots of a 100-year-old ash tree that had been the focal point of the back yard and a black cherry that was also blown down. Sandy’s head is mounted like a trophy. A placard reminiscent of a mug shot, showing her arrival date as the ID number hangs from her neck.


“Think Bride of Frankenstein. I wanted to depict all of Sandy’s horror and ugliness, yet show respect for her power,” he said. “I pretty much worked out all of my hostilities about the hurricane through that piece. It restored balance to my life and I hope that, in a small way, it can do the same for others.”

An artist and self-taught woodworker, Dan developed his skills over a lifetime of experimenting. His interest in wood as a primary medium was kindled by a boyhood friend who became a professional cabinet maker. “The simple aesthetic pleasures of touching a finely finished piece of custom furniture always had a special appeal to me,” he said.

Dan began his explorations of sculpting wood in the early 1990s making custom walking sticks, which he sold at the Peter’s Valley Craft Show for several years. Since then, his focus has shifted to furniture and garden projects here at home.

Help us put the Sandy birdhouse on tour.
He’d love to have “Hurricane Sandy -- Brought to Justice” tour all of New Jersey’s 21 counties. If you can help us find a location for her in your town at a public venue, such as a museum, library, administration building, arts council, etc., send me an email at loisj7(at)gmail(dot)com.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Eagles Have Landed

The Duke Farms eagles, that is. By 7:17 this morning when the screenshot was taken, one chick had hatched and another was pipping. The third chick is not due until Sunday but, since the first two were late in arriving, it's likely the third one will be, as well. You can watch live at:  

The eagles' tree was downed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. They built a new nest in a nearby tree and researchers were able to locate the camera so that it has a perfect view of the nest. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Orchids in Bloom

Whether you like your orchid shows big or small, ‘tis the season.

Stony Hill Farms’ 26th Annual Orchid Open House starts today and continues through Sunday, March 9th. It includes free lectures, and wine and cheese tasting stations hosted by vendors from Sussex County. Stony Hill’s orchid house is located along Route 24/513 West in Chester, NJ. Go slow along the driveway; it’s narrow, but has several pull-overs where two cars can pass.

We visit each year, if only to inhale the fragrance of the Miltoniopsis (not all are fragrant) and Dendrobium nobile. Their plants are all bloom-size, reasonably priced, and I’ve learned how to keep most of mine alive. They also offer a nice selection of cachepots. I like Stony Hill because it’s a small, family-owned business that’s a pleasant drive from where we live. Quarters are a little cramped when everyone flows out of the lecture and into the greenhouse, and you may have to wait in line to pay for your purchase, but everyone is cordial and the staff has their pack-and-pay process down pat. There are plenty of folks in the greenhouse to answer your questions about specific plants, growing conditions, etc. Get driving directions and more info at

Those willing to trek across the Hudson can treat themselves to an orchid show of dramatic proportions at The New York Botanical Garden’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory through April 21st. This year’s theme is Key West Contemporary. For the more adventurous, there are musical events, poetry readings, talks, book signings, and all sorts of orchid classes, as well as guided tours. You can get a taste of the show via videos on the NYBG website: 

Those who live closer to Philadelphia than New York might prefer to cross the Delaware and travel to Longwood Gardens for their Orchid Extravaganza, which continues through March 30th . Longwood offers a wide variety of programs throughout the month, so check out their calendar to see what else there is to do on the day of your orchid trip .


Friday, February 7, 2014

Share The Love - give me a piece of your mind

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/
Here’s your chance to play a part in shaping the future of Cultivating The Inner Gardener. Please take a few moments to weigh in and tell me a little about yourself, share your thoughts about how you prefer to receive information, what your interests are, and my newsletter (even if you aren’t a subscriber). There are just 10 questions that you can answer in 5 – 7 minutes (most are checkboxes). Take the survey now by clicking here . I’ll be closing it on Valentine’s Day.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2013: The Year in Review






Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

Looking back. 2013 was a year of ups and downs and all-arounds during which I eventually returned to the place where my journey had begun. My connection with the natural world has always been a profoundly spiritual one and that is where my strengths lie. While I do enjoy the horticultural eye candy that the growers spread out before us each spring, my mission and my message run much deeper.

The past year has provided opportunities for me to more fully integrate my interests in physics and metaphysics to produce a clear vision of how people who love to garden can begin to repair some of the damage that humankind has done to planet Earth. This approach doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I can tell you from experience that there are more of us out there than you can imagine.

Two years of transition.
I spent 2012 recovering from breast cancer, testing my physical limits, and trying to keep pace with my previous hectic schedule. From that experience, I created a program that deals reducing the stress generated by cancer and cancer treatment through gardening.

Then came Hurricane Sandy, which devastated our garden and woodlot but, thankfully, not the house. We spent most of 2013 cleaning up and starting to repair the damage.

2013 also saw the germ of an idea grow into a pilot project on sustainable gardening resources. I traveled to Pennsylvania, Quebec City, and Los Angeles to present the concept to professional educators and was delighted to learn how widespread interest in this topic has grown.

Garden tours in Washington, DC and Montreal, CA called out to me, as did the Garden Writers Association Symposia in Tucson and Quebec.

At the same time, there was renewed interest in the Cultivating The Inner Gardener book concept from some unexpected corners. Six weeks evaporated as I made major revisions to my proposal.

What’s in store for 2014 - For me:
o    More repairs in the storm-damaged garden
o    Plant vs. deer experiments in the woodlot
o    Continued collaboration on sustainable gardening resources
o    Cultivating The Inner Gardener – still in search of  the just-right publisher
o    Introducing Garden Away Your Cancer Stress to the world via a new website, speaking engagements, and a book proposal
o    More garden and wildlife tours

For you:
My blog and newsletter will reflect these changes, in content, distribution, and frequency. Over time, the newsletter will transition to Mail Chimp, you can expect to see some surveys, and subscribers will receive occasional emails that offer new and inspirational ways for us to work together.

Make 2014 a great gardening year!