Jul 26

Confusion about hydrangeas in the garden


Hydrangea garden view from my office

Why aren’t they blooming? Why are they pink when I want blue? When do I prune?

Well, the link below from Proven Winners tells all including when to have patience.

Now of course, plants don’t always read gardening books so if you have hydrangeas that are not behaving     give them more light, water, or time!



Mar 30

Working in a snowy garden

Where was the snow in February when we wanted it? It was waiting for March when we want to garden and see our spring landscapes. 

One of the many great things about having fruit trees, is they want attention in March regardless of snow on the ground.

Although many of us are itching for things to grow, garlic mustard and other weeds have started as have ticks…so check yourself.

I’ve been shoveling piles of snow on to the driveway to aid Mother Nature, and I was rewarded with daffodil leaves starting to turn green as are primrose leaves. Even my fothergillas are budding out.

To deal with my garden “antsyness,” I continued planting vegetable and flower seeds, and visited Ward’s spring display bursting with flowers and fragrance.

I know true spring will be here soon since it seems to do that every year.

Pruning in the snow. YES!

Mar 28

Prune Time: Get in the Garden Now

apple blossoms


Pruning & Snow – You betcha!
The great thing about having snow on the ground means I could reach high up into apple trees when I was out in the garden pruning this week. The experience also ramped up my fantasies; after a long winter, there is nothing like a landscape filled with pink, white, and rose-colored blossoms blanketing fruit trees in the spring.
Now is the time to prune your apple, crabapple, and pear trees. There are numerous YouTube’s Pruning stimulates growth, increases the sunlight into the plant, improves the shape, and allows airflow – great for reducing pests.
Blueberries rarely need pruning except for removing branches that cross other branches.
Before you get started sharpen and clean your pruners, loppers, and saws. Having a dog nearby to throw the sticks to also increases the fun.
The time to garden has finally arrived. Hurray!

Mar 12

Landscape Design Now for Spring

prairie fire

Now that’s a beautiful Berkshire view out my office!

Okay, you can’t begin planting, but don’t let the snow stop you from planning your garden. Instead, use these frosty days to to take stock of your landscape.

Since you have to be inside anyway, start with the windows you look out most. What would you like to see? A lot of people have windows in the kitchen. Ask yourself when are you there most? How much sun does the area receive in the spring and summer? Do you want to look at vegetables, herbs, evergreens so you have color all year, shrubs, perennials, or a combination of them all?

Do you look at your neighbors’ house or the road in the winter, and would you rather not? This is a great time to think about areas you would like screen.

On the other hand, are their areas where a beautiful Berkshire view exists only when the leaves are down. Maybe you’d like to thin the existing greenery to improve the scenery.

What about where you eat your meals? I love eating breakfast and lunch inside while the birds are depleting their feeders outside. I’d rather they slow down, but I don’t get a vote on this.

There are so many options for improving your landscape all year round including plants with winter interest…but that’s for another day.

Mar 08

Is Design & Landscaping Tax Deductible?

tax deductible

New landscape design and landscaping work may be tax deductible

Landscaping in some cases is tax deductible according to the IRS and many financial experts including information found on Forbes’ websites and on the Huffington Post site (see the article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-steber/home-improvement-tax-tips_b_3491632.html).  I hasten to add always check with your own accountant or advisor before you pursue the following deductions.

You can often take the tax deduction for landscaping on your current tax return if you are a sole proprietor of a business and regularly meet clients at your home office. The eligible landscaping costs must coincide with that part of the home associated with your home office.

The other type of tax deduction for landscaping falls under the category of capital improvements. This deduction kicks in when you sell your home as long as the improvements add to the market value to your home, prolongs its useful life, or adapts it to new uses.  There are many other home improvements in this category so always keep receipts for work and materials.

Landscaping can improve both your life and your bottom line.

Mar 03

How Gardens Combat Winter Blues

My feelings in an earlier blog about loving winter and gardening did not – unsurprisingly – get universally agreement. To help those having a hard time, I offer the following:

Veggies ripe for picking

Coldframe Magic Fresh-picked spinach from your garden for dinner. Sound impossible? Here’s how you do it: Purchase, or if you’re much more talented than I, build a coldframe.  I like the company Juwel, because their products last, and you can purchase an automatic opener accessory, which prevents the coldframe from getting too warm on sunny days and killing your plants.  Plant lettuce, spinach and other cold hardy greens in late fall. Magic:  In late winter, crunch or snowshoe out to your coldframe and harvest hardy greens, even in freezing outdoor temperatures! Spring Bonus: You know how we all want to plant tomatoes, peppers, and other more tender veggie plants before Memorial Day. With a coldframe you can. By the time your cold veggies don’t need or want the coldframe anymore, move it to where you want your tender plants to grow. The coldframe will warm the soil, and provide plant protection until the weather says it’s okay for them to be on their own. I’d like to write more, but I’ve got to pick the spinach for dinner…

Feb 18

I Love Gardening in a Berkshire Winter


A sleeping vegetable garden


I know that’s a sin in some circles, but in winter, all my gardens are perfect – no weeds, no bugs, just a white wonder. I can also walk my woods without fear of Lyme disease, which I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had it.

Seed and nursery catalogs are also more fun in the winter. My mind can design freely without a time constraint or deadline. I’ll probably change my mind when the hellebores start, but change is one reason I love designing gardens.

So bring on the snow!

Jan 31

CMC Manor – a New Landscape Design Project in the Berkshires


front2This linkis to a new group in the Berkshires who have restored Mepal Manor, a Berkshire Cottage and Italian-style villa in New Marlborough, and are bringing a new kind of residential help to the Berkshires for people with substance abuse issues.
I am thrilled to be working on the landscape design aspect of this important program.
Like all my clients, these people are wonderful!

Nov 13

Warm Berkshire Words

first snow
It was in the low 20 degrees today, and I was missing working in the garden, but then was warmed by this note from a special lady!

I enjoyed it so much and feel so energized for all the projects that now lie ahead. I can’t tell you how reassuring it is to have someone come in with an expert eye and who also personally cares about helping me make my home look beautiful. For the first time since I moved in, I feel like I have a plan with concrete, achievable goals. Thank you so much for traveling out to see me – those few hours you spent will be of help to me for years to come.
All my best,
Olivia Karis-Nix, Castleton, NY

Jun 26

Love at First Bite

Love at First BiteBelow is article in the Spring Edition 2013 of Edible Berkshires

On our first date Chris Blair offered to cook dinner for me. As an architectural designer he felt the need to redo his kitchen, but consequently, given his addiction to cooking, he was suffering withdrawal. To ease his pain, he searched for places to cook. I happily obliged, since the way to my heart, mind, and soul and anything else was and is through my stomach.

I beamed when he came prepared with all the fixings: beautiful lamb and spices for a Lamb curry and even a pan; however, I blanched when he pulled out “The Fanny Farmer’s Cookbook.”  Fanny was great for simple, American fare, but Indian food?

The joy of being wrong. He emerged from a clean kitchen – which I loved – and served one of the best curries I ever had eaten.

Bok choi was another early date food where mercifully I kept silent when I watched him burn butter and then braise the quartered bok choi in the pan with a little chicken stock. At the meal, I grabbed a glass of water prepared to drown the burnt flavor, but instead closed my eyes and savored the caramelized vegetable, which resulted from his browning the butter, not burning it.  That was 26 years ago; now I take my job seriously as Chris’ sous chef, his vegetable gardener (but as a landscape designer, I have to sneak in edible flowers), and wife providing him whatever our Zone 5a can grow including zucchinis.  While most people bemoan the abundant yield of zucchinis, Chris sees it as opportunity to dice them in 1/2-inch pieces, which he cooks in olive oil. He stresses the greater the surface exposed, the more the flavor. Sometimes he’ll combine it with my shallots, other times garlic scapes.  I’ll try the same method, and it’s never the same; I think he sneaks a little truffle oil or some other surprise soupçon on top.

Chris makes terrific fennel salads with shaved parmesan cheese and a fennel soup with just onion, leeks, hint of garlic all simmered in a chicken stock. It tastes like it’s filled with cream, but there’s not a drop of dairy. So one summer I grew fennel, but the bulbs were so small that it wasn’t worth dedicating the private space these vegetable snobs demand – they will only grow with others in the mint family.

Someday I want to raise chickens for him to make into a stock, but so far I can’t get pass the Disney doe, Bambi, effect as he calls it…chickens are just too cute to kill.

Of course summer means tomatoes. At our home that means green tomatoes coated with corn meal and fried gently and eaten immediately, burning your fingers.  The red tomatoes, he seeds and cores so all that remains is the flesh, an ideal ingredient for his new passion, terrines. His porcini, artichoke and tomato terrine is another reason to love hot weather.

Fall affords him so many cooking opportunities. Chris insists on waiting till we have a frost for really good kale. My job is to wash and de-rib the kale leaves, which he transforms into a pile of thin strips. After a quick steaming and sautéing with garlic, he’ll pour just a dash of decade aged balsamic vinegar on top before serving. Chilly temperatures also sweeten Brussels sprouts, which he chops into small pieces and roasts with olive oil and salt.

People constantly tell me how lucky I am to married to someone who loves to cook and is so good at. True, but I made conscious choice decades ago thanks to his lamb curry and burnt butter.

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