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Colors of Fall: Introducing the Fall Colors Flower Collection

The rustling leaves of the nearby oak tree catch my eye as I pass by on the street. Its leaves have just begun to transform into yellow and brown. Across the street the maple tree is already adorned in oranges and reds. My pagoda dogwood sports hues of deep purple and plum. I feel the magic in nature’s metamorphosis. 

As the days shorten and the temperatures lower, sunlight becomes more prized. We receive pockets of golden sunshine that prompt us to slow down and treasure the moment, which can be difficult to do amid the season’s busyness. After all, a long list of fall chores beckons us. Should I take a moment to savor the crisp weather or use these mild-weathered moments to complete my many garden tasks? The two sides pull at us.  

My garden has transitioned from the bright and clear pinks and magentas of summer flowers to the cozy red and burgundy tones of fall. I’m in the mood to gather the troops and take a trip to our local apple orchard. The delicious result of such an excursion will necessarily be filling the house with the heady aroma of apple butter bubbling on the stove, something that my family always eagerly anticipates.


A while back, as I walked up to the tall russet-colored sunflowers in the corner of my garden, I noticed several gold finches flitting between the seedy centers of the flowers and a nearby fence. I paused so as not to disturb their dinner. Later as I looked again, these same seed heads were hosting a collection of native bees and bumblebees. My idea of clipping off flowers to bring home for a bouquet went by the wayside. How could I bring myself to remove this important food source from my garden pollinators only to beautify my kitchen table? So those gorgeous massive flowers stayed in the garden, beautifying that space and feeding the local bird and insect population. 

I finally took them down at the latest possible moment so as to provide a living bird and bee feeder right in the corner of my yard. Who doesn’t adore a chubby little bumblebee or a bright yellow goldfinch? In trying to find ways to attract these cuties, sunflowers are an easy and beautiful solution.

Mexican Hat

One flower I’ve been very excited to paint is the Mexican hat flower, also known, for obvious reasons, as the thimble flower. I first started planting this flower in my garden when I lived in Colorado. It is a little powerhouse in any xeriscape landscape. The delicate yellow-kissed maroon petals belie the workhorse nature of this prairie flower. Mexican hat flowers are not picky about water, heat, or soil. In fact, they will bloom by the hundreds in conditions where other flowers would simply go on strike. I regularly encounter this gem in a prairie garden near my home, and it never fails to make me smile.

Black-Eyed Susan

I have large groups of black-eyed susan rudbeckias in the flower beds in front of my house. Their bright yellow petals provide a cheerful contrast to the lavender-colored veronica and monarda. The black seed centers are command central for the local pollinator population. This fall, while clearing out the faded blooms, I have discovered a bonus treat to an already striking flower, the deep green leaves that blanket the floor underneath. I couldn’t bear to tear them out, so I left them to continue forming a carpet over the earth. 

Evening Colors and Red Sun Sunflowers

The standard yellow sunflower has always seemed to me like it was smiling. If flowers could have emotions, sunflowers would be perpetually happy. The deep, rich tones of red sun sunflowers and evening colors sunflowers remind me of a summer sunset. Just like that golden hour, the saturated petal colors encourage me pause and soak in their rich hues. For several years now, I have planted a selection of rustic/ruby/maroon colored sunflowers. This “variety-pack” of colorful sunflowers have been such a welcome surprise for me each time I see another one open up and wonder which hue this next flower will be. 

The Fall Colors Flower Collection 

It is with these nesting-like emotions that I offer you my latest collection of floral designs to purchase and enjoy. The gold, rust, and ruby petals remind me of pumpkins, flint corn, bittersweet berries, and apple cider.

We are collectively tying up the loose ends in our yards and gardens to prepare for the indoor life of winter. As you soak in the last moments of autumn, it’s my hope that you can sit back and sip cider, breathe in cool air, and jump into a large pile of leaves. And perhaps write a little note to someone you love.

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Stories of the New Summer Flowers

How is it that something so bright and colorful can bring a sense of calm? I admire the tiny florets that combine to form the grand hydrangea and the tumbling clematis vining up the fence. They are at once complex yet simple.

As the cool spring has moved to toasty summer, the buds have grown to ornate blossoms. The sun kisses them, and they grow larger while their color brightens and deepens. When these flower friends greet me each day, they lift my spirit and bring me peace and joy.

Flowers appear simple, yet they are the lynchpin in a complicated food web. For example, as I write these words, two dainty hummingbirds and a rotund bumblebee dart from flower to flower on the honeysuckle vine right outside my door. Flowers truly are the insect and bird world’s kitchen, or should I say dinner plate.


For years, I’ve had a whimsical clematis vine climbing my fence. Its delicate tendrils curl around the wrought iron with deep purple flowers poking out here and there. Politely reaching up and out, it slowly expands its reach every year. I try to tell it, “grow faster, grow higher, my beautiful vine. You can never be too much for me.” But it takes its sweet time, growing little by little as the years unwind.

Blossoms envelop my clematis vine for many weeks throughout midsummer. I find myself dreaming up new spots where I could place a trellis and tuck in another variety.

With all its colors and variations, clematis is a vine that the gardening world has been collectively enamored with for centuries. Hailing originally from Asia, it was brought to Europe in the early 1800s and finally made its way to the New World. It is regarded by many as the Queen of Vines, and that it is, possessing both grace and beauty.


For myriad reasons, I recommend planting hydrangeas more than any other bush. They are like that person in your life who’s practically perfect in every way. Not only are the flowers beautiful, but their bloom times extend for months, from early summer through to the next year when you finally prune them. Additionally, they get more beautiful as they age, often going from ivory or pale green to pink or even deep rose as autumn progresses.

Many plants, trees, and bushes are suited to particular climates, called hardiness zones. Being in a northern climate, there are several southern plants for which I have intense zone envy. Some include the more ornate hydrangea varieties, like the lacecap and mountain hydrangea.

These jewel-toned beauties have graced southern gardens for eons. However, thanks to our busy scientists, more of these colorful varieties are becoming available in the northern zones.


If you’re looking for just one very good reason to live in a southern hardiness zone, it’s the ability to grow dahlias as a perennial. These plants sport massive pom pom-like blooms that can stand several feet tall. Humans have fawned over dahlias for centuries, and for good reason.

The flowers come in every color of the rainbow (except blue and black). They can be a dainty two inches in diameter or a massive 10 inches across. Hailing from Central America, dahlias are the national flower of Mexico.

While I can’t quite imagine digging up this beauty just so I could sauté its root, it was originally classified as a vegetable thanks to its edible, mocha-tasting tuber. I guess the powers that be agreed with me because it was eventually reclassified as a flower. One of its most favored qualities is its late summer bloom time. Right when other flowers are starting to fade, dahlias are going strong, and they continue right up until the frost.


As I breathe in the deep purple color and the intoxicating aroma of my newly gathered lavender bouquet, my worries melt away. On gray and rainy days, I often light a lavender-scented votive candle and let the fragrance waft throughout the house, creating a warm, cozy mood.

My love for lavender runs deep, and the scent elicits a deep emotional response in me. I can’t get enough of it. Whether it is in a sachet in my woolens, in the dish soap by my sink, or in a vase on the counter, it’s the one flower I come back to when I’m looking for something special. Maybe it allures me because my northern clime prevents me from growing vast purple fields. Lavender’s relative scarcity up here makes it that much more special.

I suppose until the day I can own a lavender farm, I’ll resign myself to filling my house with lavender-scented tea, lavender candles, lavender soaps, lavender honey, lavender lotion, and lavender water for ironing…Is there ever too much?

The New Summer Flower Art Collection

Now that you see the inspiration behind all of these incredible flowers, you can see why I had to paint them. We really can never have too many flower designs to choose from so here are five more: clematis, lacecap hydrangea, panicle hydrangea, dahlia, and lavender. I hope you enjoy these new designs as much as I enjoyed painting them.

And whenever you sit down to write a note in one of these cards, no matter the time of year, I hope it takes you back to those carefree summer days of sipping iced tea in the garden while the hummingbirds dance all around you.

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Fall Art Release: Vegetable Watercolor Collection

The Hum of Autumn

The dawn is crisp as I step into my garden. This coolness is new and refreshing. I know the day will heat up later, but for now I contentedly pause to breathe in the chilled air. I arrived at the garden early today to assess which vegetables are ripe and ready to be turned into rich pots of sauces or pickled into crunchy delicacies.

Something about the late summer days calms me even though the days and nights are full with harvesting and canning. Maybe it’s because the heat of summer is over and all that I’ve been preparing for since early spring is now bearing fruit.

Harvesting Garden Vegetables

Evenings and weekends hum along with a similar tune. I open the kitchen windows, turn on jazz saxophone music, and start creating from the garden bounty. It’s my happy time. What have I made before that I want to repeat? What new venture will I try this year?


Back in the garden, I start with the carrot patch. I planted three varieties this year. Nantes and Chantenay are the two orange carrots I chose. They are trusty producers, always sweet and juicy. The other variety I planted is Purple Dragon. This is such a beautiful carrot, purple on the outside and orange on the inside. It’s always a crowd pleaser sliced into a salad.


Across the aisle from the carrots are the tomatoes. Let’s just say I went a little overboard when I ordered my seeds last winter. It was a frigid day in the depths of January when I perused the seed catalogs and websites. This is a dangerous combination for me, as I’m bound to start dreaming of summer and a prolific harvest.

Now, as I look over my tomato collection, I’m glad I planted so many varieties. Most are interesting and delicious. I have what I call the United Nations of tomatoes and peppers.

They hail from most corners of the globe—with many countries in Europe, eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Americas represented. Some of my favorite medium and large tomato varieties include German Pink, Japanese Black Trifele, Black Sea Man, and Dester. I’m newly addicted to two cherry tomato varieties, Blondkopfchen and Sunrise BumbleBee.


Planting my garlic has become a cherished tradition for me. I spend many evenings scrolling through the garlic producer’s websites, reading about each type, and trying to choose what varieties to plant. Of course because of where I live, I have to pick from the hardneck options, which thrive in cooler Northern climes. This year I played it safe with the reliable Music variety, and I ventured into the unknown with Georgian Crystal, Pehoski Purple, and Chrysalis Purple.


Every year I challenge myself by planting a new type of vegetable in my garden. One of my favorite introductions was radicchio. This is such a sturdy little plant, whose best trait is that it shines in the very late fall when the days are cool. Radicchio is an Italian chicory. It’s delicious sautéed and tossed into risotto along with Parmigiano-Reggiano and pancetta. The leaves’ complex bitterness offsets the creamy richness of this dish. In addition, radicchio has been the subject of many experiments in my cooking, its flexibility making it an asset to any garden.


On summery Saturday mornings, I hustle into line at the local farmers market to stock up on mushrooms. In my town, a local grower offers several varieties of unique mushrooms, and Chanterelles have become one of my favorites. They can form the base of a rich, savory bisque. They are heavenly when sautéed in butter and white wine and then finished with truffle salt and served over warm brie. Chanterelles are a mushroom I return to time after time, and for good reason.

The Vegetables of Fall

Autumn vegetables: from artichokes on my hors d’oeuvres platter to the bundle of flint corn gracing my front door, this group of vegetables is in a league all its own. They shine in both beauty and flavor. They elevate my cooking game. I say that tomatoes are my favorites, but that’s not really true. After all, then I’m abandoning the peppers, olives, onions, and squash in my life, and I could never do that.

These vegetables are at their delicious height right now, and I can do nothing but slow down and savor their bounty. In the spirit of these bountiful garden harvests this fall, I’m sharing my gourmet and autumn vegetable greeting card designs with you. I hope you find these pieces of art will bring joy to each person you send them to. Visit my shop to view the designs available in this new card collection.

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Summer Flower Cards: About the New Art Collection

Every summer growing up, my family would pack into the car and travel across Minnesota and North Dakota. We’d end up just into the eastern slice of Montana at my grandparents’ ranch. As we drove west, we couldn’t help but notice the countryside getting more and more arid. As we drove past the stunning North Dakota badlands, the multicolored lines in the rock formations jumped out at us in their stark beauty. As we drove, fields of sunflowers and corn turned into rolling hills with rock outcroppings, and fields of wheat transformed into cattle pastures.


My grandparents’ ranch was located on a great, open prairie. Rolling fields of wheat, barley, and hay greeted us as we drove down the gravel road leading to the homestead. Upon turning into their driveway, however, our eyes turned to another scene. Billowing beds of brightly colored petunias circled the white stucco house. My grandmother, always one to turn a challenge into something of beauty, had found one of the few flowers that thrives in hot sunny spaces. Give petunias some soil, water, and sun, and you’ll have a colorful profusion of flowers all summer long.

On the hot, dry expanse of northeastern Montana, she created and tended a garden so lovely that it welcomed visitors into her space. The desolate nature of the location was lost in the colorful floral greeting.


In recent years, I have followed in my grandmother’s footsteps by planting an inordinate number of flowers in my vegetable garden. Planting flowers not only helps out the pollinator insects, but it also allows me to share flowers far and wide. After all, flowers always seem to lift our spirits and brighten the day of everyone who gets to enjoy them.

The flowers I leaned into were zinnias. I purchased them in many colors and sizes and proceeded to plant them in every nook and cranny I could find, and they did not disappoint. They flowered, and flowered, and flowered some more from late June until frost finally took them in October. Zinnias will always hold a special place in my heart because of their uniquely colorful hues and their ability to bring life to a kitchen table.


I’ve had trouble deciding who loves nasturtium more: me or the robins. Promptly after I plant my nasturtium seeds, the robins descend, feverishly digging around in my planters, searching for the seeds to eat for dinner. On the off chance that one of my seeds evades their notice long enough to become a flowering plant, nasturtium tend to bloom with abandon.
All parts of the nasturtium plant are edible. The flowers and leaves appear as often in my salads as they do in my bouquets. Then, the seeds produced after the flowers are done blooming taste delicious when pickled with other garden vegetables.

Nasturtium plants’ brightly colored flowers, quirky twisted stems, and circular leaves are an essential addition to my planters. Together with basil, I tuck them in and around my tomato plants, using companion planting to my advantage. The flowers cascade down from the pots, acting as both an attractor for pollinating insects and a deterrent to the destructive ones that might want to do harm.


In xeriscape landscaping, the goal is to choose plants that thrive on neglect. In this area, yarrow is a frontrunner. Yarrow prefers hot, dry, sunny conditions, so it is an obvious choice for water-challenged regions of the country. Yarrow is also an excellent pollinator flower. On any summer day, you’ll find it covered with bees and other pollinating insects. Yarrow comes in colors ranging from white and yellow to pink, red, and burgundy, so it can compliment many types of flower beds.

The downside of yarrow is that it has a tendency to multiply, so regular weeding of the baby plants is necessary if you want them to stay in the boundaries of your landscaping. When you’re weeding yarrow, dig down at least a foot to get out the whole rhizome. Any broken off piece of the rhizome can become a new plant.

In addition, remove the flowers as soon as they are fading to control the spread through seeds. A single plant can produce thousands of seeds, which can remain viable in the ground for up to nine years. While there are many great reasons to grow yarrow, don’t plant it unless you can keep it in check.


Roses are in full bloom, the billowy bushes covered in red or pink. Their aroma captivates me as I walk through the neighborhoods. I come upon an old wooden arch covered in the climbing pink variety. These look to have been growing here for years, their tangly branches reaching up and over the arch, forming what would be the perfect backdrop for a garden wedding.

I think of my mother-in-law, who was a gardener and grew the old fashioned hybrid roses. These varieties possessed a fragrance that is challenging to find in current varieties. What I would give to have some of her rose bushes in my garden.

Garden roses elicit memories of times past. A small bouquet of roses sitting in a vase next to my cup of coffee: This was a common scene when visiting my mom, aunts, or mother-in-law. Fresh roses, hot coffee, a spot of something sweet, and meaningful conversation make for fond remembrances.


Pansies tend to be the first flower I purchase in the early spring. As the tiresome gray winter months transition to spring, the weather slowly warms, and the days lengthen. 

As the spring dawns, the purples, oranges, yellows, and pinks of pansies are the perfect antidote. The faces of the flowers almost look as if they’re smiling, and their colors no doubt brighten anyone’s day. 

As soon as the nights warm, a planter full of pansies settles in by my front door. As neighbors pass by, the pansies tell of times to come, affirming that more color is on the way. Green grass, yellow daffodils, red tulips, and purple iris will be here soon. The pansies are just the doormen to the gateway of spring.

Sweet Pea

Sweet peas are the iconic spring vining flower that climb up trellises and over garden gates, spilling over the tops of large planters. Their intoxicatingly sweet scent brings me back to the cottage gardens of our grandmothers. Long treasured for its sweet fragrance, this flowering legume has graced the walls of gardens since the 17th century. 

Sweet peas are easy to grow, and they quickly add color to any garden space. Being a legume, they enrich the soil because of their nitrogen-fixing quality. These early flowers will also bring pollinating insects into your yard, a much desired trait. 

One of the best ways to plant sweet peas is to intermingle them with other vining plants, such as pole beans, around the base of a tall bamboo tripod. Place this in the center of your garden, and the birds and insects will be sure to visit. 

The Summer Flower Cards

Flowers abound, filling my garden and my vases. The gray of winter seems more bearable contrasted against the vibrance of flowers present in the summer months. I’m soaking up the beauty while it lasts.

These flowers have inspired the creation of my latest watercolor art and greeting card designs, the summer flower collection. Composed of designs of eight distinctive summer blooms, I hope this collection warms your heart and the hearts of those to whom you send them.

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12 Beginner Garden Tips for Growing Your Garden

Gardening should be simple, but it’s often more involved than it seems. Especially if you’re new to growing your garden, what can you do to ensure your plants have the best chance of succeeding? What beginner garden tips will help you get a bigger harvest and healthier plants? 

There are several strategies that can help you as you go through the garden season. Often, learning from other people’s mistakes and experiences with growing a garden can help you make fewer mistakes yourself.

I’ll discuss 12 beginner garden tips that will help you give yourself the best chance of success with your space. Implement these strategies, and you’ll see your garden take off. 

1. Supplement Your Soil 

Your soil is the lifeblood of your plants, and healthy, rich soil produces larger, more productive plants. Good soil will nourish your plants’ roots and improve the success of your garden year after year. 

One of the key beginner garden tips is you should supplement your soil regularly. This will feed the microorganisms that live in the soil. A few tried-and-true supplements for your soil include:

  • Heated compost – add twice a year, in spring and fall
  • Compost tea – add monthly throughout summer
  • Mycorrhizal fungi – add when planting 
  • Fish emulsion – add monthly throughout summer

2. Water in the Morning

One of the key garden tips for new gardeners is to learn how to water in a way that minimizes the potential for disease and maximizes the benefit to the plants. First, ensure you water in the morning. This will allow time for the water to dry out before nightfall, when the likelihood for disease is higher. Second, watering in the morning will help your plants make use of the water to protect their roots during a hot summer day. Moisture is the primary defense against high heat, so watering will help your plants tolerate a hot day. 

Another way to help decrease the risk of disease is to focus your watering on the dirt below the plant rather than the leaves. Avoid getting the leaves wet, and just focus on watering the roots. 

Get in the habit of watering your garden in the morning rather than in the evening.

3. Weed Your Garden

Weeds will grow bigger and stronger than your plants, and if left alone, they will deter your plants’ growth. Weeds can also attract harmful insects and cause disease in your plants. Therefore, it’s important to keep them out of your garden. It’s ideal to weed before you plant your garden, again about two weeks later, and then throughout the rest of the season as needed. 

4. Use an Organic, Compostable Mulch 

A great way to keep most weeds away is to apply a compostable mulch to your garden beds and aisles. Weeds need heat, light, and moisture to survive, so when mulch covers the ground, weeds will grow less easily. Mulch will also help by providing nutrition to the soil as it decomposes. 

Remember to apply mulch after you’ve removed weeds from the space and after your seedlings are large enough to see so you don’t cover them up. A few of my favorite options for types of mulch you can use include: 

  • Seed-free straw
  • Hardwood shredded mulch (not cedar or cypress)
  • Dried leaves
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Partially decomposed compost
Add a high-quality, compostable bed covering to your garden aisles and around your plants.

5. Use Organic Insecticides

When following organic practices, it can be hard to know how to handle insect control. My garden tip for this is to use products that are safe and organic, as they will help protect your plants from disease and invasion. A couple of the best organic insecticides to use in your garden include Neem and Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which you can apply on your plants several times throughout the summer. 

6. Plan Your Placement

Where you put your plants matters. Look at the instructions on the back of your seed packets or plant labels, and place your crops in sun, partial sun, or shade depending on what each one prefers. 

It’s also important to think about the sun and how tall plants may shade the plants north of them, as well. Therefore, I recommend drawing out a garden map and planting your space with a clear plan for why you’re putting each plant where. 

7. Use Companion Planting

Companion planting is a perfect way to improve your yields and set your plants up for success without needing to do much extra work. The concept of companion planting is that certain plants do better when they are planted near other plants. On the other hand, some plants do worse when next to certain others. 

Therefore, do your research, and incorporate companion planting when designing your garden. A couple examples of easy companion plants include: 

  • Corn, beans, and squash
  • Tomatoes and basil, carrots, or lettuce
Implement companion planting strategies to benefit your plants.

8. Fence to Keep Animals Out

A simple garden tip for growing your garden and not having it eaten by rabbits and deer is to build a fence around the garden space. This can be as easy as digging a few t-posts and using chicken-wire, or you can build a more substantial wooden fence. The key with garden fencing is to ensure there are no big holes where animals can sneak through to grab their lunch. 

9. Space Your Plants for Maximum Growth

Crowding out your plants by planting them too close together can stifle their growth. When you’re planting plants, remember to plant them far enough apart to give the adult plant plenty of room to grow.

Space plants like onions, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers far enough apart for the adult plant to grow.

On the other hand, you will end up thinning the crops you plant from seed. Therefore, plant your seeds according to the directions on the back of your seed packet. Once your plants germinate, remove the extra seedlings by pulling them with your fingers. Thin the seedlings until you achieve the correct distance apart, as found on the seed packets for each variety. 

10. Add Pollinator Plants

Incorporating pollinator plants into your garden is a garden tip that is practical as well as beautiful. The flowers of pollinator plants will attract beneficial insects like bees and butterflies into your vegetable garden. Not only are pollinator plants beautiful, but also having more of these insects around means they will pollinate your vegetables, thus helping your plants produce higher yields.

Plant flowers within your vegetable garden to attract beneficial pollinator insects to your garden.

11. Deadhead Your Flowers

When growing your garden, one great way to ensure your flowers keep blooming throughout the summer is to deadhead them. Deadheading means removing the dead or dying flower heads, and when you do this, it promotes further growth and blooms on other parts of the plant. 

12. Plant Mint in a Pot

Another foundational garden tip is to never, I repeat never, plant mint in your garden bed. Mint is an invasive plant, and its root system will take over and crowd out your other plants you have growing in your garden. It will also be hard to remove because it will return year after year.

Instead, plant your mint in a dedicated pot just for mint. You can plant multiple varieties in the pot if you desire. This will enable you to enjoy mint without the negative effects of it overgrowing in your garden. 

Always plant your mint in its own pot.

Learn More About Growing Your Garden

Gardening in your own backyard is a rewarding experience for anyone. My online vegetable gardening course walks you through the entire process of growing your garden, from deciding where to locate your garden to planting and taking care of your young plants. 

To learn more about how to design and plant your garden, visit the garden course and sign up. 

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The Charm of Garden Bulbs: New Watercolor Art

It seems like spring has had to work overtime to get winter to exit the scene this year. But finally, the rains are here, the grass is greening up, and the trees are beginning to bud. More than anything, the lovely spring bulbs are starting to bloom. In this vein, I’d like to introduce you to my new collection of garden watercolor art, the flowering bulbs.

Spring Bulbs

I have always had a thing for early spring flowers. Maybe it’s the grayness of winter; maybe it’s the stark empty branches of the trees. First, I see crocuses and muscari, then daffodils, and then tulips and irises. As these flowers begin to shine their colorful faces for all the world to see, it does something to my spirit. Just like that, life is new and fresh. 

The birds’ chirping seems louder and happier. People are starting to move outdoors. Runners and cyclists are taking advantage of the warming days to exercise on the paths and streets of my city. In every spring thaw, life emerges after a deep winter sleep.  

Gardening with Bulbs

Years ago, I sort of went wild planting bulbs around my yard, choosing everything from fritillaria to muscari to many unique interesting varieties of tulips, daffodils, irises, and lilies. I planned it in such a way that we had bulbs of many kinds constantly blooming from early spring well into summer. 

Some of the advantages of planting bulbs in your landscaping and garden beds include: 

  • They are perennials, so they come back year after year.
  • Spring bulbs are often early to emerge, offering spring color. 
  • Most bulbs are low maintenance.
  • Bulbs multiply on their own, so you can divide them and spread them out in your beds or give them away to friends.
  • Many bulbs are deer and rodent-resistant (amaryllis, daffodil, snowflake, crocus, muscari, iris).
  • Lilies have a long bloom time, and you can stagger the bloom times of the various bulbs by planting a mix that bloom at different times throughout the spring/summer. 

This year already, I have seen muscari, tulips, and daffodils in bloom, and they never cease to enhance the landscape with picturesque vibrance.  

Learn more about creating a garden this year through my virtual home gardening course. You still have time to sign up and get started with planting your garden this spring.

The New Garden Watercolor Art Collection

It is with these flowers in mind that I painted the new garden watercolor art bulb series, choosing to include lilies, tulips, iris, and daffodils. I painted them with the bulbs attached, hailing back to the many vintage botanical paintings I’ve enjoyed looking at over the years. 

I’ve created these designs into both cards and art prints. The cards are available individually as well as in packs. I’m also excited to announce that for the first time, I’m offering these four flowers as smaller individual art prints, matted into an 8×10 inch size.

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Art from the Garden

My Love for Art

In my kitchen hangs a painting of a sprouting potato. An unassuming thing, but it brings me joy. Its creator was Betty Strand, an artist and family friend. I’ve always been enthralled by art. Drawings, watercolors, sketches, weavings, batiks, pottery; the list could go on. My walls certainly reflect this passion, and art takes up residence in every possible area of my home.

As you all know, my fascination with cooking and gardening is all-consuming, and a day doesn’t go by that I’m not dreaming about freshly sliced heirloom tomatoes or something of the sort. So why not tie my love for art with my love for all things food and garden? Thus an idea bloomed.

My original sketches when forming the idea to create garden art. You can see I carried some of my original designs into my later finished pieces. 

As I thought about what I could offer you, my mind went to the passion I have for drawing and painting. If only I could give you a taste of the garden within the home, a reminder of the daffodils and crisp sweet peas of spring when you are surrounded by a January blizzard. The garden and kitchen bring me such contentment, and I hope they will bring you the same. Whether you hang my creations on your walls or send them as a greeting card to a friend, I hope they will brighten each blustery day.

Why I Love Paper

Over the years, as I have wandered through little boutique shops on lazy Saturday afternoons, what always catches my eye is their fine art paper and supplies. I don’t quite know why this is, but I have always had an odd obsession with beautiful, high-quality pens, pencils, and brushes of every ilk.

Don’t even get me started on art paper. Sheets of all sizes and colors stacked in cubbies that line an entire wall. Paper hung in large sheets on racks. The thicker the better, I say, and ideally it has some great texture, as well. Paper is such a simple thing, but I love high quality, thick paper, paper with frayed edges, and envelopes in unique shapes that tie shut with little leather strings.

I no doubt leave the boutique a poorer but happier woman, loaded down with a stack of thick cotton vellums, rolls of paper, several pens, and brushes of various sizes and thicknesses. 

The finished card sets. How do I show paper in a still image? Just rest assured, the paper I found passes the Cami test. Thick, linen-textured, faint ivory color, divine. 

The Creative Process

Drawing and painting is an activity I have come back to time and again over the years. It’s in my bones, a part of who I am. I started off this project by sketching. Then I painted. They were small at first, and then they evolved to larger, more refined paintings that can stand the test of time.

Left: my original artwork as well as some of the original, smaller designs. Top right: close-up of a few of my original ideas. Bottom right: the finished card sets. 

There have been many iterations along the way, and I am sure there will be more. It is my pleasure to introduce you to my initial three collections, selections of favorite fruits, vegetables, and garden flowers. I am excited to continue creating more designs as well.

As we tread in the new water of this artistic endeavor, I hope you appreciate my lovingly painted watercolor art. I also wish for you to find meaning in the prose that I crafted to inspire and teach about each plant. I hope these designs printed on thick, beautiful, linen cardstock will make charming, classic greeting cards. Finally, when these pieces of art adorn your walls in frames, I hope they provide an elegant reminder of our collective love for plants.

I am excited to launch this new venture, and I look forward to hearing your suggestions for future designs.

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The Autumn Garden’s End

One Dreary Autumn Day

It had rained overnight, so as I stepped out the door, a fresh layer of fallen ochre-colored sugar maple leaves greeted me. Like gemstones, when strewn on the wet gray cement, the autumn leaves were almost luminous.

Oak and maple leaves in the fall with the play between the yellow, orange, rust, and wine colors, continue to inspire me. As the world around them is shutting down for winter and is becoming brown and gray, they shine in their brilliant splendor for all the world to see. 

Autumn bounty from the garden

Autumn Animal Visitors

I watch as a squirrel carries a large walnut in his mouth over to a spot in the lawn where he starts to dig. Nope, not quite the right spot. He moves a few feet over, then moves again. Finally he finds what he deems the perfect location to bury his precious nut. He starts to feverishly dig, into the hole drops the nut, and it’s quickly buried.

A mama cardinal lands on the fence and sits, looking over the situation before flying into the feeder to get an afternoon snack. It seems that all the birds are back in our yard. They’ve been out in the bushes, trees, and prairies all summer, but now they’re back at our feeders. It’s good to see them, the little nuthatches, the red-breasted woodpeckers, the slate-colored juncos, the chickadees, and of course the cardinals. 

Kale and green tomatoes from the garden.

Clearing the Garden

I turned away from my little friends. There was a laundry list of things to get done, and I had to get busy. I needed to harvest the last of my vegetable garden before the temperature drops. Working outside in the cold, I picked the season’s final tomatoes. It has been a great year for tomato production, but the vines started to turn brown. I pulled them out of the ground and stacked the cages. 

Next, it was on to digging up the carrots and beets. Then the leeks and onions, Then the peppers, eggplants, and cucumbers. My baskets filled up, and yet there was more to do. I dried the beans to shuck at a later time, so I laid those out on a tarp in the garage. I clip the herbs and store them in freezer bags for me to use this winter.

Autumn bounty from harvest time.

Planting for Next Year

The final task of the day was planting my garlic in my newly empty garden bed. I chose some interesting varieties of garlic this year, and I’m excited to get them planted. There are a couple of purple varieties, one that grills up nicely, and a couple that will be sweet when eaten raw. I picked all of them for their lasting quality, as I hang them in my kitchen to use throughout the winter. First I dug holes in my rich dirt, buried the cloves, labeled the spaces, and covered the bed with piles of the dried oak and maple leaves. At last my work was done. 

Top left: onions from the garden, bottom left: more garden bounty, right: kale leaves from the garden.

Transition to Winter

It’s almost as if I just finished up reading a riveting novel. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey and now am in the final chapters. I don’t want the book to end. But end it does. Such has been this summer, the greenery, the garden bounty, the profuse flowers, the long, idyllic evenings. The chapters in this summertime novel are long and have captured my heart. Closing the cover to this book is bittersweet. 

With late autumn we move our lives indoors. We take the piles of vegetables on our counters and create rich stews and braises. We don sweaters and light candles. Soon the lovely scent of fireplaces burning will permeate our neighborhoods. The next novel, a wintertime one, is at my doorstep, and I’m ready to begin reading.

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Roasting as a Pastime

Roasted Italian Memories

The evening was stormy. Cracks of thunder played overhead. As we hurried up the old cobbled street, our feet danced around the growing puddles and streams. We were staying in an ancient hamlet buried in the hilly Umbrian countryside. Upon stepping into the trattoria, we took in the aromas of roasting meats, pizzas, breads, and vegetables.

A gorgeous and massive medieval pizza oven took up one entire wall of the kitchen. Stacks of olivewood sat neatly stacked to one side. This was my first exposure to the unabashed, divine nature of roasting. The cozy warmth on a cold and rainy night. The taste of a perfectly charred beet, halved garlic heads drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, wild mushrooms and fennel bulbs. They pulled me in. I was hooked and haven’t looked back. I relegated the taste of bland canned beets and garlic powder from my childhood to the cobweb-filled attic of my memory bank. Going forward, it was roasting or nothing. This was a sort of genesis, a new horizon. I moved from steamed carrots to roasted carrots, from boiled baby potatoes to toasted wedges.

Roasting Beets

Let’s take beets. It seems simple enough. I slice the freshly scrubbed beets into wedges, toss them in olive oil, sea salt, and coarsely ground black pepper. Next I spread them in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, placing them in a hot oven to roast (400 F). After cooling the beets, I drizzle red wine vinegar and a good quality olive oil and then add sliced green onions and toasted pumpkin seeds. I lightly toss the mixture and lay the salad over a bed of arugula.

As we tuck our forks into this ruby salad, a refreshing sweetness greets us. Roasting the beets has concentrated their sugars and given the tips of the wedges a slight crunch. The overall result is delicious.

Roasting vegetables produces a depth of flavor one doesn’t get with the other types of cooking. An almost caramel tone develops in them.

Roasting Cauliflower

Let’s look at cauliflower. Take a whole cauliflower, steam it for a few minutes in a pot of boiling salted water, after taking it out, rub it all over with olive oil, salt and pepper, and place it in a very hot oven (475 degrees) for 20 minutes or until toasty on the top surface. This version of roasted cauliflower is absolutely scrumptious served with a cool yogurt cilantro sauce.

Roasting Eggplant

Another vegetable that benefits immensely from roasting is eggplant. Roasting transforms the interior of eggplant into an almost buttery consistency. I recently made an iteration of an Israeli staple where I roasted the scored and oiled halves of an eggplant until they became nicely browned. Then I topped each half with a citrus, pomegranate molasses, and tahini mixture and broiled those halves for a couple minutes until they turned caramel in color. I covered these halves with dollops of a yogurt cucumber mixture, sprinkled toasted pistachios, slivered mint, and Italian parsley.

Adding Complexity with Sauces

The dry heat of an oven amps up the flavor of what can normally be a rather plain tasting vegetable. Roasting adds the char on the edges and a caramel-like sweetness. With a bit of creativity accented by fresh herbs and cool flavor filled sauces, roasted vegetables move from the ordinary to the deliciously sublime.

Using whole-milk yogurt as a base and adding refreshing ingredients such as lime, lemon, cilantro, Italian parsley, basil, dill, cucumber, scallions, and spring greens like arugula, sauces and dips can compliment the depth of flavor in roasted vegetables. It’s the savory counter to ice cream on a slice of pie. You can definitely do without it, but oh, its addition is so wonderful!

Vegetables Galore

We are about to enter into the season of ubiquitous vegetables. Tomatoes, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, beets, carrots, onions, cabbages, and squash of all varieties will soon be at our fingertips. Try roasting these.

When garden produce is starting to pile up on my counter, I pull out a sheet pan, lay down parchment, spread out any variety of vegetables, drizzle them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and add whole garlic cloves, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. Then I place the pan in a very hot oven (400 F). Simple prep, yet it yields a divinely complex result.

However you end up using the vegetables in the end, roasting first will give a new dimension of flavor to the dish. Be it a salad, a soup, a side, an hors d’oeuvres, or a braise, roast and then combine. You won’t have any regrets.

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A Year for Beans

“Never ever ever mess around with my greens. Especially the beans!” My sentiments exactly. This line from the musical Into the Woods echoed through my mind as I watched the beans twist and curl their way up the fences. This summer was, for me, an adventurous journey into the world of funky, heirloom beans. 

Too Many Kinds to Count

There were so many varieties, each with distinctive patterns and colors. White beans inside yellow pods, black or brown beans in green pods, pink stripes, purple stripes, deep purple; these are just a sampling of this summer’s collection. Even multiple continents made an appearance. There were beans from Italy, Ireland, the U.S., Germany, France, the Netherlands, and even a bean developed in good ol’ Minnesota. 

I used the forgotten spaces of the fenceline to plant the pole bean varieties. I tucked the bush beans into open areas or spaces previously used by early spring vegetables like radishes.  Because beans need to be planted once the soil is warm, you can inter-plant them with plants like sugar snap peas and radishes that bear quickly in the spring and then are done. Beans mature much later than radishes or peas, so by planting them in the same space, you are maximizing your garden yield. 

A Beneficial Legume for The Garden

Beans are part of the legume family. Legumes are a beneficial type of vegetable to plant throughout your garden because legumes fix nitrogen. They pull atmospheric nitrogen out of the air, and then the bacteria attached to its roots convert the nitrogen into a form usable as a nutrient for the plant. When the plant is done, the usable forms (ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites) are available in the soil for the nearby plant roots to use. Biological nitrogen fixation is an example of nature using its own plants to fertilize itself. 

Companion Planting the Beans

This concept is also referred to as companion planting, where plants mutually benefit each other when planted next to one another, a practice that has been done for centuries. Native Americans mastered this age-old practice when they would plant a combination of vegetables they named “the three sisters.” First they buried corn kernels into the ground in the shape of small rings, and then they surrounded the corn with beans. Lastly, they planted squash in the spaces between the corn/bean rings. The beans fertilized the soil for the corn and squash, using the tall corn stalks as a trellis to climb. The squash formed a high thick carpet on the ground that cooled the roots of the beans and corn, allowing them to thrive. The squash’s thick prickly leaves also served as a deterrent for animals that might want to come and nibble on the crops. 

The Health of Beans

Beans are not only good for the soil; they are likewise good for your health. A wonderful source of the B vitamin folate, they are also high in fiber, protein, iron, and magnesium. As a nutrient-packed, low fat, and very inexpensive vegetable, let’s just say their return on investment is huge. For each single little bean buried into the sweet summer dirt, you will reap a hundredfold in harvest.

Harvesting and Storing

I began harvesting the long, thin French varieties in July. They add a delightful crunch to salads. You can steam them with a touch of butter and lemon or steam and quickly cool them to dip into aioli on an antipasto platter. The wax and purple varieties came next. These went into stir fries, soups, and casseroles. Finally, a breakpoint arrived where I halted harvesting them so the remaining could mature and become dried beans for this winter. 

This is where I find myself now. I have brought all the beans in from the garden. I have threshed the driest of the bunch to get the beans out of the stiff, dried pod. The rest find themselves spread out in the basement until they are also ready for threshing. 

I have pulled out a select few from each variety to plant again next year. I will store these in a cool spot until early next summer when I will plant them. The remaining dried beans are awaiting incorporation into our winter menu of hearty stews, casseroles, bean salads, and dips.

Garden grown beans offer a welcome consolation in these cool, dreary, autumn days. Whether it’s a cassoulet or a bowl of ham and bean soup, these are the gifts summer has given to winter. The memory of delicate purple flowers gracing the tips of vines exploring their way up and over the fenceline. Tiny little bean pods transforming into delicious adult counterparts. I taste these memories as I bring a spoonful to my lips. 

Yes, as the fairy tales have claimed, beans are certainly magical. And they are not to be messed with.

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Random Beauty: Self-Seeding

It was a cool, late spring afternoon. The sun shone, but there was a slight bite in the air. We were itching to dig outside in the dirt. My kids inspected the garlic patch, which was by now a foot tall. They called out to me, “Mom, we can’t believe you haven’t weeded the garlic. Look at all the weeds coming out of the ground.” I came over to inspect, and then I started to explain each little plant. This one was arugula. That one was fennel. Over here was dill. There was cilantro. These weren’t weeds at all. They were self-seeding plants from previous years.

Self-Seeding: What is it?

Self-seeding happens when a plant is left to flower and then go to seed. In the summer sun, these seeds dry out and drop onto the ground or are blown by the wind. They sink into the soil and stay there until the time is right for them to germinate and grow into a new plant. This is nature’s way of sustaining itself. It’s also how a weed can go from one plant to 300 in no time flat.

Over the past number of years, I have been increasingly intentional about letting my herbs and vegetables produce flowers so the beneficial insects have nectar to eat. On any summer day, fennel, cilantro, arugula, and lettuce flowers are covered with little hoverflies or bumblebees busily sucking in the sweet nectar these flowers provide. As they move from flower to flower, these diminutive bugs play the essential role of pollinating our fruit and vegetable plants.

Why Self-Seed?

Many might say that letting plants self-seed is the lazy gardener’s way of operating. That is true in some respect. It can also be a frugal way to garden. When you let plants self-seed, you don’t have to buy the seed or plant the seed. It just comes up on its own.

I tend to have a favorable perspective on the philosophy of self-seeding. I love the whimsy of a coleus flower poking up in the middle of my radishes or a bachelor button in my beets. Cilantro taking root within my carrots brings me joy. Loveliness arises when a broad, white dill flower stands proudly next to the cucumbers. Order is laced with beautiful disarray.

Ordered Chaos

Yesterday as I was harvesting berries, tucked up under the branches of the mulberry tree which the birds planted years ago, I noticed that the clematis had vined up around a lower mulberry branch. The plum-colored flowers intertwined with the dark purple berries. This simple artistry caught me and drew me in. The intentional encircling the accidental, the fanciful result of order marrying chaos.

Many gardeners set aside a designated garden space for self-seeding plants. Sometimes they combine this with their perennial vegetable garden. Perennial vegetables include plants like asparagus, rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries, walking onions, thyme, chives, and oregano. If these two categories mix in the same space, technically one never needs to plant these vegetables and herbs again. As the saying goes, “One only plants tomatillos once.” Tomatillos are famous for self-seeding.

Exceptions to Self-Seeding

There are a few caveats in this whole discussion. I do weed extensively in places where I do not want self-seeding plants to grow. For example, a lot of dill came up in a section where I had planted beets. I harvested the dill when it was five or six inches tall, opening up the space for the beets to grow and thrive. A similar thing happened where I planted my Basil Genovese. Arugula was happily growing very tall, shading the tiny basil plants. Guess what I ate for dinner last night? An arugula salad. The dill is going to top a baked slab of fish shortly.

Another point I want to be sure and mention is to not let invasive plants self-seed. As much as the bees go crazy for mint flowers, I am fastidious about plucking them off the mint plants before they can drop their seed and spread around the garden. The same holds true for both regular and garlic chives. Heirloom tomatoes can be included as well simply because if you let tomatoes drop onto the ground and they rot there for the rest of the summer, a tight collection of tomato plants will sprout the next year. These will undoubtedly be planted in the wrong spot and too tightly together. You can carefully transplant a few of them into the intended spots, but the rest will probably go into the compost pile.

Compost Plants

Speaking of compost piles, there’s many a squash or plant that has emerged from its surface because someone discarded their extras the previous summer. Again, the delightful unintended consequences occasionally graced upon us by nature. The idea of something as delicious as squash growing out of the rot of compost is a concept paralleled in many aspects of life. I suppose this is what attracts me to the random beauty of self-seeded plants.

I will savor the cilantro in my mango salad. The radish flowers (a plant I’m allowing to self-seed for next year) are going into a bouquet on my dining room table. The sunflowers and bachelor buttons will bloom and then dry to drop their seeds for another year. Beauty moves forward, magnifying into the future.