Showing posts from January, 2008

Eric Maisel

Guest Blog Today I’m interviewing my writing coach Eric Maisel, about his book The Van Gogh Blues, which was recently released in paperback. Eric is a licensed psychologist who specializes in working with creative people. Gardening creatives, whether they are landscape professionals, garden writers, or just plain folks, occasionally suffer from the same self-doubts and blocks as other creatives: Are we up to the task? Are we about to make a big, expensive mistake? Why is this project stuck in neutral? Check out Eric’s advice on how you can protect the meaning gardening holds for you, regardless of what else is going on in your life. Lois: In Van Gogh Blues, you talk about the writer who faces the shock of the blank page and the novice painter who experiences the shock of a blank canvas. What advice would you give to a beginning gardener who is faced with the prospect of creating a garden on a bleak suburban lot in a new development? Eric: The answer sounds like a clich

Conservative Conservation

I'm sure each of us can come up with rationalizations of why we aren't willing to give up something that could put a big dent in energy conservation and unrecycled waste. In my case I confess, I just don't understand how they can make a 40- or 60-watt equivalent flourescent light bulb that looks like an ordinary light bulb, but not one that is 100 watts. When they do, I'll switch. Maybe. I don't want to give up that yellowish glow. Plastic bags. I heard a spokeswoman from the plastic bag manufacturing industry say:"The public demands them. We're just giving people what they want." Well, that's not exactly how I remember it. One day these ghastly things just appeared in the supermarket and the supermarket demanded that I use them. I don't remember any demonstrations of legions of housewives marching on Washington saying, "Giver us plastic bags, or give us death!" Modern appliances. It took me five years to find a propane range th

Plant Stewardship Index

Just this week I had a great chat with Janine Vannais at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve about their Plant Stewardship Index for residents of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. The PSI, is explained on their web site, . An automated calculator assigns a numerical value to the various plants on your property (Garlic mustard = 0; Witch-hazel = 7) and computes indices that denote the overall health of your property in terms of the native plants it supports. Be prepared to spend some time entering your data. I chose to do it all at once, so it was somewhat laborious to enter my 54 species, but you can actually work over several sessions and revise the database as you go. The 3,500 listed plants can be found by common or scientific name, and there are photos that assist in identification. The program also notifies you if you have any rare or endangered plant species and provides a link to the appropriate state agency. Frankly, I am surprised th

Trouble-free Compost

We count among our most valuable gardening tools our paper shredder. That’s right, an office sized paper shredder. We originally bought it because we are conscientious recyclers and recognized how much mail and home office waste paper we were tossing into the garbage each week. But once I started shredding our daily newspaper, I realized what a valuable garden resource it is. In wet weather, the newsprint often turns into pulp within a week, sometimes before Dan has time to mix it into the pile. We empty the bin over the top of a week’s accumulation of kitchen waste. The newspapers act like a blanket, causing the kitchen waste to decompose faster. We have no lack of leaves and keep a separate mound of them adjacent to the compost pile, to add as needed. The leaves usually end up making their own wonderful black gold, with the earthy fragrance characteristic of the rest of the forest. The compost pile has no odor. In winter, of course, it all works more slowly, but we’re in no

Gardening Resolutions for the New Year

Here it is January 4 th and I’ve already achieved two of my resolutions for 2008: I maintained my weight over the holidays and I put in my order for a Golden Dragon Clivia. Gardening resolutions? Why not? They’re more fun than the other kind. I’ve got a loosely organized plan for the grounds immediately surrounding the house, but we have neither the time nor the purse to get it done all at once. I enjoy watching the garden evolve as I see how closely it grows into the picture in my mind. As with many gardeners, the picture keeps changing. Next in line is my resolution to select climbing roses for the arbor. My list is too long, but at least I can choose among a half-dozen wonderful selections. I’ve also succumbed to the charms of the Late Dutch honeysuckle, Lonicera serotina Florida, but have yet to choose a clematis. My next resolution is to get to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve for their spring sale and see what kind of blue natives might be suitable for