A website for practical garden advice.
Hello and Welcome to our website.
My name is Lisa Durante aka "The Plant Whisperer"
I am a
Master Gardener, certified by the University of Connecticut and a former "Garden Adviser" for White Flower Farm.
I've worked the ground up from nurseries to landscaping to learn about how to make the world a little more
beautiful with flowers and plants in practical ways to fit one's budget. In fact, like most people in the horticultural
field, I am still learning! My specialty is herbaceous perennials and flowering bulbs are one of my favorite things
to add into a landscape.
I am here to offer you information about gardening techniques
as well as practical growing advice and love to share knowledge with the novice gardener as well as learn from the more
experienced green thumbs. Welcome!
Out My NEW Online Stores
|6" replica of Golgatha and the Empty Tomb
|re-use and recycle
Winter Projects with a Interest!
This winter in the Northeast
this year has me feeling a bit like a hermit. Lots of Seed Catalogs are arriving in my mailbox with dreams of the coming spring
and summer. Browsing through Pinterest is a great way to find ideas for indoor projects as well as using recycled items in
the garden and home. I just have become addicted to this website and use many of the ideas that come from the interesting
bloggers. And not just in the garden! I get recipes, patterns, craft ideas and much more. I try to include my own ideas
as well but get a lot more out of browsing Pinterest than I give.
Below are a couple of pictures of what I believe are some great
ideas that I found. One is a miniature replica of Golgatha and the empty tomb made with all kinds of things found in my left
over bin of garden items. I used a 6" terra-cotta dish, a plastic shot-glass, some left over decorative stones from other
projects and a pot of soil from a plant that passed over the winter. I used some twigs found outside to make the crosses and
moss of of another potted plant. The cloche was a part from a cheese dish that had broken just waiting for a moment like this,
it fits over the top perfectly and voila!
This is a wonderful Christian gift for the spring that looks as if it came from a florist. I get to enjoy it until
Easter. One can add grass seed or chia to get it green but I like the moss which is lees maintenance.
New Seed Starting Idea
This is another great idea
using things that are regularly thrown in the trash. A self contained seed starting tray with paper pots that can be planted
right into the ground. It holds water so no messy spills. The black tray absorbs the sun rays to make it nice and warm for
seeds starting. The lid is vented so not too much heat will build up.
This no hassle way of starting seeds is a great idea, albeit not my own idea but that
is what's great about Pinterest.
Lots of sharing things from all around the internet. I used a plastic container that held fried chicken from the
deli (no I cannot fry my own) several paper towel empty rolls and toilet paper tissue rolls. Looking into my gardening cabinet
I found another potted plant that passed and filled with soil that was just ready to go. It's soil was very light and
mixed with quite a bit of peet moss so this was the perfect starter mix for my seeds. Cut the paper rolls up to fit into the
tray, pour the soil over the top no worries for the spaces in between we will use them to plant a seed as well.
I recommend soaking the dry
soil with water and let sit for a day so the it will be ready to receive seeds very soon. I will include pictures as this
up with the soil gel seed starts and this year it will be a breeze.
|full grown Tree Wisteria Bonsai
|A One Year Old New Planting
Tree Form Wisteria: Bonsai!
One of my gardening
passions is taking a small tree whip or vine and shaping it into something special. Potted up and pruned
selectively one can train these vines and trees into a desired form and shape to be kept in containers.
The Wisteria vine,
if left to grow any which way, can be quite messy and very hard to control. This same concept can be used for Trumpet Vine
and fruit trees. Hard pruning on mature plants can also be achieved to start over with a plant that has
become a tangled mess but today we will start at the beginning.
The key is to start early and be patient. Begin in the spring by choosing
a Wisteria offshoot or sucker branch that has a root system attached to it. These are easy to spot on mature vines because
they come up from the ground. If you know someone with a Wisteria they will be happy to share as they produce lots of them.
I like to take ones that already have some nice leaf shape much like an umbrella. Pot
these up in black nursery pots with good drainage and regular garden soil, unfertilized. Once watered, place them in a bright
shady place out of direct sun for a few weeks until a better root system is established and water regularly. I generally do
at least three of the same type if possible in case one doesn’t make it through the first winter. Grow for the entire
season and be sure to mark the color and variety if it is known. I use a rock with permanent marker.
Keep an eye on the
plant because it will send out long reaching vines. It is important to clip these vine-y parts off the plant through the entire
season by just snipping. Watch the shape and determine which way you want it to grow by pruning it every week or so. In Late
Autumn, re-pot the plant (which should now have a great root system) in a nursery pot 2 times the size that is needed and
sink them into the ground for the winter in a sunny location. A good pruning will encourage flower buds to form after the
second or third year. (If you cannot put them in the ground, bring them in a garage or cold area that will not freeze during
the winter months for overwintering.) After the first season, repot the Wisteria in late spring to allow
room for growth. This will force the plant to form flower buds for spring. When mature enough, first growth that will emerge
is the flower buds which look like acorns and will grow larger, longer and spread out when ready to bloom. This may take several
growing seasons to achieve but each year the plant will get larger and the same steps should be followed until the size you
wish to have is achieved. Wisteria is generally very late to break dormancy (show growth) be patient.
Pruning through each and every season is important to maintain the shape and encourage great blossoms.
Once the plant has
matured, when repotting, the root system will need a pruning as well in late spring to keep the plant from winding around
its own roots. This should be done after blossom so as not to disturb the blossom and growth and recover through the season.
This maintenance can be done each year or at least every two years.
I Love training plants into tree form because
they can be moved to any part of the yard. This can be done by growing the Wisteria in the ground but takes much longer and
a lot more patience. Whichever way you choose to grow them is well worth the effort the first time you
see the beautiful fragrant blossoms hanging from the branches of the Tree Wisteria.
|I made this one for Margaret-)
Imagination at work in the soil – Fairy Gardens
Do you have a tiny
mind? Are you a believer in Faeries? Whether Gnomes, mushrooms or even miniatures are your delight, a fairy
garden may be just the thing. I have a couple of friends who build these tiny gardens and loved the creativity that went into
them so I decided to give it a whirl. Most fairy gardens are actually “in” the garden or at the base of a tree
hidden in plain sight and a surprise to the wanderer. Others are made as a dish garden or even smaller in a teacup or other
abandoned piece of crockery.
The theme is to use things that are already on hand. Store bought
items are fine as well but this was my personal challenge. Broken crockery, small decorative pots and anything teeny tiny
I could find around the house tossed in those catch-all’s we have in almost every room including the jewelry box. Plants
from the garden, Succulents like Hens & Chickens or creeping Sedum are good choices as well miniature young plants such
as Clover, live Moss, bits of tree bark and so on.
Oh how I was truly involved and love what a creative mind it inspires
to make it all fit. I do believe that I have already changed this piece ten times! It is thrilling process to watch the dish
garden change and build into a miniature fantasy that will tell a story of a favorite gnome or fairy.
Start with a saucer or dish of
any kind; it can be an old piece of ceramic or a plastic dish that is at least 1.5” deep. Fill with soil and begin your
creative journey. I shopped at a local Goodwill and found some medium and large terra cotta saucers but
just about anything that will hold soil will do, again use your imagination. Here in the photograph, I used pieces of a favorite
Orchid cachepot that had been knocked over and did not want to toss as a fence surrounding the entire diorama. Some smooth
river stones mark the walkway into an upturned flower pot. I used a simple small Clover plant under another broken piece of
crockery and some pieces of rooted Creeping Sedum. Moss will work well covering a roof of a broken balsam birdhouse I had
for a gnome home. A dried leaf will shelter the miniature adobe from the heat of the sun. Give
it a try and see what you can come up with. Send me your photographs of your fairy garden at www.PlantWhisperer.com or share them on our FB page.
Now all I need is
some type of character to complete my story. “Once upon a time…”
“May your gardens
be weed free for weeks at a time!”
|A Few Days show Bean in the jar. Peas were planted
A Fun Way of Starting Seeds
in the Northeast is a necessary task in order to have a maximum harvest in some varieties of garden veggies. Beans, Pumpkins
and Gourds are examples of what can be started early indoors and grown for a nice transplant in the spring. Fickle New England
weather can wreak havoc in the garden if patience is not exercised. Now that we can start a few seeds, here is a cool way
to get them started.
Recycle an old mason jar and
use clear crystal earth found at most craft stores. fill the jar half way and throw in a packet of seeds. Place in a sunny
area. Each day you will be able to observe the germination process and share it with others. First the seeds growing, swelling
then bursting open with the roots and first leaves finding their way out into the world.
By the time they get going the jar will be filled with life and each seedling will be easy to take
out of the jar to transplant into a 6" pot filled with nutritious new soil that is well drained and well fed. Don't
let the seedlings get too large in the jar because they will become entangled. What a great project for school kids to learn
the anatomy of a plant-)
I do not recommend this
project for small children as the little beads may prove to be tempting to eat.
Peas take a day or two to germinate and mine are already
in the ground for 2012.
As you can see the seedlings will be easy to transplant into 6" diameter pot
with a fertilized potting mix. These can be grown indoors until planting time. This will help give them a great start and
an earlier harvest!
It's Spring...here we go!
PEONY’S FROM HEAVEN
A visit to “Cricket Hill Garden” Thomaston, Connecticut
Tree Peonies or Paeonia (pronounced Pee-oh-nee) have been part of the Chinese culture for hundreds of years and is
the national flower of China. Tree Peonies are a highly regarded plant and were not available for many years. Festivals are
dedicated to these beautiful woody ornamental plants that have blooms as large as 10” across. David & Kasha Furman,
Owners of “Cricket Hill Garden” in Thomaston took some time out from their busy schedule to
show me around the Peony farm, which has been in business since 1988. “We got our first plants from China in 1990-1991
and have been buying them from China ever since.” Furman has a wonderful sense of humor and welcomes
conversation as well as questions.
As you drive into “Peony Heaven” at Cricket Hill Garden, there are paper umbrellas placed strategically
over several of the plants to protect the blooms and is a most exotic sight. Tree Peonies (woody plants) bloom a bit earlier
than the herbaceous type (die back each fall to the ground). Kasha Furman works with the Herbaceous Peonies, which also come
from China as well as Central Asia (Chao Dynasty). Typically blooms start around early to mid June and peak just as the Herbaceous
Peonies start to show off their colors in late June. The Oohs and Ahhs never stop from one plant to another. Furman says the
most popular variety changes as the plants bloom “It depends on what’s blooming that day.” When people see
these beautiful and fragrant flowers, that’s the one they want to purchase. When asked what his personal favorite is
he states with humor, “That’s like asking me, what’s my favorite Son?”
Planting must be done carefully and the Furman crew offers a step-by-step video to their customers. Peonies must be
planted while they are dormant (not yet growing). There is a small window of opportunity in early spring between late March
and early April, just as soon as the ground can be worked. Most planting in the northeast are done in the fall starting in
late September to early October and that is the recommended time for transplanting or moving a Peony plant.
Peonies have a complicated root system.
The planting hole should be at least 2’ around and should be planted with the crown no more than 2” below the
surface. Planting a Peony too deep can cause poor flowering. Place the roots into the hole with a mound built up in the center,
fan out roots and place soil over them. Water the hole (this is called “mudding in”) and repeat this step several
times until the hole is filled in being careful about the plants depth in the soil. Winter protection (not mulch) should be
used after the ground has frozen to prevent the root system from being heaved out of the ground by frost. Mr. Furman also
states that he only uses organic fertilizer for his plants. “We are very careful about the ponds here and our birds.”
which is alive with the sounds of frogs in mating season. When asked if this couple takes care of the farm all by themselves,
Furman squints his eyes and says that he and his wife put out bowls of porridge each night and “The pixies do the work.”
Cricket Hill Garden is located on 670 Walnut Hill Road in
Thomaston, CT. Kasha and David Furman will answer your calls at 860-283-1042 and they have a wonderful website at www.treepeony.com with a treasure trove of information. The Furman’s have visiting hours
while the Peonies are in bloom. Call ahead for details. Prices range for a plant that is at least 4 years old are from $60.00
to $150.00 (depending on how difficult they are to grow). They have one 10-year-old plant that sold for $600.00!