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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    Located in Kentucky, Hillhouse Natural Farms offers a range of products for the home made from organic flowers and grown in their gardens. We especially like the soy, naturally Mosquito Repellent Concrete Candles (the containers can be used as planters after the candles burn down).

    hillhouse natural mosquito repellent candles via Gardenista

    Above: The eucalyptus, lemongrass, and mint leaf Mosquito-Repellent Candle; $58.75 at Hillhouse. The wild mint, juniper, and tea tree Mosquito-Repellent Candle is $58.75.

    Are you getting eaten up alive on hot summer nights? See Banish the Bugs: New Solutions for Outdoor Entertaining.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published July 28, 2011.


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    Heading to the beach? While you're there, collect some seaweed to use in your garden.  For generations farmers in coastal communities like the Channel Islands have been amending their gardens and fields with it. Rich in nutrients and trace elements like potassium, magnesium, nitrogen, and phosphorous, seaweed can help amend garden soil, and the benefits don't stop there.

    When fresh seaweed is applied to garden beds as mulch, the application can help mitigate weeds, and won't introduce new weeds or pests the way some bark mulch can. As the seaweed breaks down, it contributes to a lightweight loamy soil. Seaweed can even be brewed into a nutrient-rich tea. We've done a little sleuthing and have rounded up six tips for collecting and using seaweed:

    Using Seaweed in the Garden | Gardenista

    Photograph by H Matthew Howarth.

    How to Use Seaweed in your Garden:

    1. Collect seaweed mid-beach: Says EarthEasy's Greg Seaman, collecting seaweed from the middle of the beach is your best bet. Seaweed that's mid-beach is far enough from the water to have had an opportunity to dry out somewhat, but it's not so dry that land-lubbing bugs have had the chance to get to it.

    2. Don't over-harvest: Seaweed has a crucial role in the ecosystem of beaches, so it's important not to strip beaches of it entirely. Greg suggests picking no more than a third of the seaweed from any one patch.

    3. Use fresh seaweed: According to the Royal Horticulture Society, incorporating fresh seaweed into the garden can be a good substitute for farmyard manure. There's no need to allow seaweed to dry before adding it directly to garden beds.

    4. Layer thickly: Seaweed should be added to gardens in relatively substantial quantities. Greg Seaman recommends two applications of seaweed, each about 4 to 6 inches deep. The Royal Horticulture Society recommends a barrow load per square foot of garden. If you aren't able to find seaweed in these large amounts, even a small application mixed with compost or other amendments will be beneficial.

    5. Add it to your compost pile: According to the Rodale Book of Composting, digging fresh seaweed into your existing compost pile can speed up composting. Existing compost bacteria will feast on the alginic acid in seaweed leaves, kickstarting the process.

    6. Make a tea: Fresh seaweed can also be used to brew a nutritive tea. Fill a large bucket with rinsed seaweed and fill with fresh rain or hose water. Allow the "tea" to brew for several weeks, stirring occassionally. Strain the nutrient-rich liquid into a spray bottle and use as an organic (and free) plant food! More details on The Hedge Combers.

    Seaweed for the Garden | Gardenista

    Above: For the least-invasive approach to seaweed collection, harvest seaweed that's washed up onto the beach naturally. Photograpg by Geoff Stearns.

    Seaweed for the Garden | Gardenista

    Above: A wide variety of seaweeds found on the beach can be useful as soil amendment, but green sea lettuce (Below) is used most commonly. Photograph by Rattyfied.

    Seaweed in the Garden | Gardenista

    Above: A 2011 study at the University of Rhode Island tested the effects of green seaweed (ulva spp) on sweet corn, proving its potential as an affordable resource in coastal agriculture. Photograph by Kqedquest.

      Seaweed in Gardens | Gardenista

    Above: Gather seaweed into large trash barrels or net bags to transport to the garden. Photograph courtesy of Farm for Life Project.

    If you're not near a beach, consider Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer, recommended by Brooklyn gardener Marie Viljoen in 10 Secrets for Growing an Urban Balcony Garden.


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    Made of white stoneware, this clamshell on a rope is where your air plants have been dreaming of living. Especially if you hang it in the shower. We spotted it at Fire Escape Farms, where it's billed as a bird feeder, but we'd definitely bring it indoors instead.

    clam birdfeeder clamshell planter via Gardenista

    Above: The Clam Birdfeeder measures approximately 9.5 inches in diameter and is 6.5 inches high. It comes with a natural manilla colored rope.

    For more seashore style in the bath, see World's Best Plant for a Bathroom.


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    A landscaping material, a nutrient-rich soil amendment, and a natural pest deterrent. Who knew the lowly oyster shell was such a boon to the gardener? 

    Oyster Shell, Gardenista

    Above: The oyster shell works hard in the garden.  It is composed mostly of calcium carbonate (95 percent), which means that when mixed into soil (especially when crushed) it provides a slow release of calcium that de-acidifies and helps balance soil pH. It can loosen clays and improve drainage. And, that's just what it does when in the ground. 

    Oyster Shell Path, Gardenista

    Above: On top of the ground, oyster shells act as a hardworking hardscape material. Oyster shell paths originated in Colonial times as a result of early-American recycling efforts. Oysters and other shellfish were a primary source of food, and the thrifty settlers put the discarded shells to use as a paving material. Paired with brick, the oyster shell paths in Colonial Williamsburg make a handsome path. Photograph by Stephen Katz via the Virginia-Pilot.  

    Oyster Shell Patio, Gardenista

    Above: An oyster shell garden courtyard at the Zero George Street Hotel in Charleston. 

    A great alternative to gravel, crushed oyster shells can be used as a cover material for paths, patios, courtyards, driveways, and even bocce ball courts (the crushed shells don't hold water or imprints from shoes and balls). As shells get walked on or driven over, they break into smaller pieces to create a stable walking or driving surface. Like gravel, oyster shells require periodic replenishment. For large areas, it is wise to purchase bulk crushed oyster shell which can be found at some landscape suppliers (or, surprisingly, mushroom farming suppliers like Myco) and is comparable in cost to crushed stone. 

    Oyster Shell Path, Gardenista  

    Above: At Sleepy Hollow Farm in Michigan, the proprietors created a garden path using crushed oyster shells sold as a chicken food calcium supplement in the local feed store. Photograph via Sleepy Hollow Farm Life.

    Oyster Shell Path, Gardenista  

    Above: An oyster shell path in a kitchen garden does double duty as a pest repellent. According to the gardeners at White Flower Farm, crushed oyster shell placed in the planting holes under bulbs and other tasty plants will keep small underground pests like moles and voles who don't like the gritty substance from burrowing up and feasting from underneath. The texture of the shells also naturally deters leaf-eating slugs (they won't slither across the rough surface). This was the only chemical-free method that worked in my fight with Pacific Northwest slugs: I tried the beer trick. I ran around with a salt shaker (and closed my eyes). But, it was when we lined our garden beds with crushed shells, that the slug fest came to an end. Image via Garden Cuizine

    Black Prince Tomatoes, Gardenista

    Above: Oyster shells help neutralize soil acidity for tomato and vegetable gardens. Mix crushed oyster shells into the soil for container gardening. The coarse texture promotes drainage. Photograph via White Flower Farms.

    Oyster Shell Soil Amendment, Gardenista

    Above: To use oyster shells as a soil amendment, sprinkle crushed oyster shells in the bottom of planting holes for vegetable and bulbs. Using coarse crushed shells, as opposed to oyster shell flour, provides an even release of calcium throughout the growing season.

     

    Oyster Shell Soil Amendment, Gardenista

    Above: The White Flower Farm Potting & Garden Oyster Shell Amendment is $10.99 for the 10-pound bag. 

    For more Gardenista-recommended ideas, see our complete list of Garden Supplies.   


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    Clambake, anyone? Cook your catch over hot coals at the beach in a portable galvanized steel barbecue bucket spotted at Old Faithful Shop:

    galvanized steel portable beach bucket via Gardenista

    Above: A galvanized Bucket BBQ has a steel grill insert to hold coals and air holes to add circulation; it's marked down to $34.95 (from $45.95) at Old Faithful Shop.

    portable barbecue bucket for beach parties via Gardenista

    Above: The bucket, which has a wooden handle, measure 13 inches in diameter and is nearly 12 inches tall.

    For more beach party ideas, see 12 Tips for a Perfect and Easy Barbecue in a Public Park.

    Looking for a lightweight charcoal or wood burning grill to take to the beach? See 10 Easy Pieces: Portable Grills


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    We've all been there. Enticed by the natural beauty of pebbles, shells, and other treasures tumbled by the sea, we spend our beach vacations collecting and gathering to our hearts' content. Then we get home. Now what do with all that flotsam and jetsam?

    Artist and photographer Jennifer Steen Booher of Quercus Design has a bright idea. An avid beach comber herself, the year-round Bar Harbor resident has spent years turning her foraging expedition finds into timeless images. This summer, on a misty morning in Maine, my family and I were fortunate enough to meet up with Jenn at Hull's Cove, one of her favorite beach combing haunts, to learn how to make our own vacation portraits.

    A find, Beach Finds Into Art, by J. Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Score! Oliver makes the find of the day, a chunk of beautifully worn cobalt glass the size of the half dollar.

    finds, Beach Finds Into Art, by J. Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Solvi displays some of her treasures.

    Solvi and Jenn, Beach Finds Into Art, by J. Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Artist Jennifer Steen Booher admires Solvi's discoveries.

    old pennies, beach combing by J Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Old pennies tell a story of their own.

    beachcombers Beach Finds Into Art, by J. Hand for Gardenista

    Above: A congress of fellow beach combers on a misty morning at Hulls Cove on Mount Desert Island.

    our finds, Beach Finds Into Art, by J. Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Back home, we get to relive our vacation all over again as we survey our finds.

    brown and green, Beach Finds Into Art, by J. Hand for Gardenista

    Above: A composition in brown, and another in green. Arranging our finds on a light background, I photographed them using a tripod. Jenn uses a professional light board for her vivid images. I over exposed mine a bit to create the dramatic, stark background. A little color boost in the edit brings out the brilliance of the glass.

    blue Beach Finds Into Art, by J. Hand for Gardenista

    Above: A composition in blue is a year-round reminder of our vacation. The final photos can be simply taped to the refrigerator or inspiration wall, or professionally printed and arranged into a grouping of larger portraits. They can even be made into notecards to send to others.

    Beach Combing in grey by J. Hand for Gardenista

    Above: A rich combination of natural and human history: our finds ran the gamut from glass to coins, shells to stones. 

    shell Beach Finds Into Art, by J. Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Experimenting with different angles and apertures.

    beach glass portrait by J.Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Because it was the brighest spot in my home, I shot my images on the painted window sill in my kitchen. But you could experiment with different textures and backgrounds. A flat piece of driftwood would also be nice.

    yellow green glass, beach combing art by  J Hand for Gardenista

    Above: A minimal portrait in yellow and green.

    Jennifer Steen Booher, Beach Combing Series 47, Gardenista

    Above: A consummate beach comber, Jenn's professional images feature a rich variety of Maine finds. A 12-by-12-inch image of Beaching Combing Series No. 47 is available via her Etsy site; $40.

    Jennifer Steen Booher Beach Combing Series No 35, Gardenista

    Above: Beaching Combing Series, No. 35 by Jennifer Steen Booher. Jenn is also happy to make a custom portrait for you. Just send her your finds and she'll create a professionally photographed composition. For more information on available sizes and pricing, contact Jenn via her website.

    Jennifer Steen Booher, Beach Combing Series 17, Gardenista

    Above: Beaching Combing Series, No. 17.

    N.B.: Join Jenn at another inspiring Bar Harbor spot at Winter Wonderland Hike.


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     We've been big fans of Brooklyn baker Hannah Kirshner ever since she taught us to make Perfect Cold Brew Coffee. In the new Corner Store Entertaining issue of her Sweets and Bitters Quarterly cookbook, she lays out a plan for throwing an instant summer cocktail party. Try it tonight:

    cocktail recipe from sweets and bitters quarterly via Gardenista

    Above: The menu includes summer cocktails—martinis, Tom Collinses, and daquiris—and the sort of retro appetizers your mother made for a reason; everybody likes caramel corn, fried chickpeas, pimento cheese, and homemade onion dip. 

    Says Kirshner: "Cocktail parties can truly be corner store entertaining (especially if you keep a well-stocked bar), and yet they always feel classy and festive."

    Tom Collins cocktail by Sweets and Bitters Quarterly via Gardenista

    Above: Did we forget to mention you need colorful straws? Trust us on this.

    Hannah Kirshner's Tom Collins 

    Ingredients

    • 2 ounces London dry gin
    • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
    • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
    • Soda, to taste (about 2-3 ounces)
    • Lemon twist or slice

    Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill it to the brim with ice, seal, and shake hard until nearly too cold to touch. Strain into a tall glass over fresh ice. Top with the soda and garnish with the twist or slice of lemon.

    caramel corn recipe from Sweets and Bitters Quarterly via Gardenista

    Above: Ah, yes, the caramel corn. "Popcorn is delicious...buy who are we kidding? This is a cocktail party! So I suggest you drench it in a buttery, spicy, crunch caramel coating," says Kirshner.

    Sweets and Bitters Quarterly caramel corn via Gardenista

    Above: For a full list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions to make caramel corn and Kirshner's other cocktail party appetizers, go to Sweets and Bitters. The Corner Store Entertaining edition is $16; Gardenista readers will get a 10 percent discount through the end of August; use coupon code GARDENISTA at checkout.

    For more of our favorite Sweets and Bitters recipes, see Required Reading: Sweets and Bitters Quarterly.


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    As a native Cape Codder, I've always been fond of seaweed. So when I recently ran across designer Karen Robertson's pressed seaweed DIY on Garden Design, I had to give it a try.

    DIY pressed seaweed, gathering supplies at the beach, Gardenista

    Above: Any project that starts with, "Step 1, head to the beach," is going to be a-okay with me. Here I employed my little helpers (Oliver and Solvi) to assist in finding seaweed specimens. We carried them home in a bucket of clean seawater.

    Materials: For this project all you need is: seaweed, 140-lb water color paper, cardboard, weed cloth or other mesh fabric, an artist's brush, two pieces of wood, and something heavy to weigh the prints down. 

    DIY pressed seaweed, specimens, Gardenista

    Above: After you gather specimens, place them in your sink or a white bucket filled with clean seawater.

    DIY pressed seaweed, step 3, Gardenista

    Above: Fill another bucket with 2 inches of water. (I used the other half of my double sink.) Then slide a piece of watercolor paper into the tub and arrange the seaweed on top keeping both paper and seaweed submerged.

    DIY pressed seaweed, step 4, Gardenista

    Above: Carefully lift the paper out of the water tilting it this way and that so the water drains away, but you still maintain your design (more or less). Then using a small brush, reposition the seaweed into the desired composition and brush away any unwanted bits of seaweed or sand. 

    DIY pressed seaweed, mesh cover, Gardenista

    Above: Carefully place your arrangement on a piece of corrigated cardboard and then gently place a piece of mesh fabric on top. You can layer several prints this way.

    DIY pressed seaweed, Gardenista

    Above: Place all your prints between the two flat boards and place something heavy on top, like a brick or your Introduction to World Art books. Wait several days depending on the relative dryness of your climate. A fan also helps.

    DIY pressed seaweed, finished prints 1, Gardenista

    Above: After several days, remove the weights and layers to reveal your prints. (If they are not yet dry, then it is fine to just put them back under the weight.) Using Google, I looked up the names of my specimens and wrote them in pencil.

    DIY seaweed prints on mantel- Gardenista

    Above: Two framed prints now grace my mantel. The most delicate specimens and simple compositions turned out to be my favorite.

    DIY seaweed prints on mantel- Gardenista

    Above: After trying this project, I do have one addition to Karen's tutorial: more translucent and delicate seaweeds make better (and less messy) prints. 

    We also made art this summer with our collection of sea glass. shells, and driftwood. If you too brought back treasure from the beach, see DIY: How to Turn Flotsam and Jetsam into Wall Art.

    For another kid-friendly DIY project, see my DIY Leaf Prints.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published on June 14, 2013.


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    I grew up on the Long Island Sound where the coast is mostly a calm place (mid-summer beach-goers not included). Waves lap gently along the water's edge, the sea breeze barely tousles your hair. On a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I got reacquainted with another kind of coastal experience. Along the Oregon coast, the Pacific dances to a different tune, sending waves crashing into the sandstone and basalt cliffs. The coast is wild and moody and the wind is strong enough to work your hair into a tease that any '80s hair band would envy. Edged with old-growth forests that teeter precariously over sandstone cliffs, the Oregon coast is a place for adventuring, not listlessly thumbing through magazines from the comfort of a beach chair. Well, when in Rome. 

    Easily accessible from Oregon's scenic Highway 101, Oswald West State Park in Manzanita hosts 13 miles of Oregon Coast Trail for eager day-hikers. Trails wind through old growth Sitka spruce forests, neat and organized second-growth forests, and finally along the craggy and wild Oregon coastline. My husband and I tackled several of the hikes (one of them with a surfboard in tow, sans handsome tote).

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    Hike of the Week: Oswald West State Park, Oregon | Gardenista

    Above: The Oswald State Park Trail Guide outlines 16 trails, ranging from quick 1/2 mile jaunts to the beach to longer trails that traverse the coastal cliffs. One of our favorite hikes spans from Arch Cape to Cape Falcon. The 6.5 mile (one way!) hike alternates between dense forest and coastal vistas. If you find yourself on the north coast of Oregon, I suggest packing a lunch (Olivia's Avocado Sandwich would be perfect), tying on some comfortable sneakers, and having yourself a coastal adventure or two.

    Hike of the Week: Oswald West State Park, Oregon | Gardenista

    Above: The trails are well maintained throughout the park, with wooden bridges to get you through the muddy sections, but a word of warning: in some places, especially along the coastline, the trail is somewhat narrow. I'd recommend long pants to avoid too many scrapes.

    Hike of the Week: Oswald West State Park, Oregon | Gardenista

    Above: A portion of the Arch Cape to Cape Falcon trail winds through second growth forest, where the younger trees are almost eerie in their symmetry.

    Hike of the Week: Oswald West State Park, Oregon | Gardenista

    Above: Old growth Sitka spruce and ferns make for a forest that looks positively primeval.

    Hike of the Week: Oswald West State Park, Oregon | Gardenista

    Above: The Oregon coast is rich with mushrooms—especially the delectable chanterelle and matsutake varieties—and an ideal place for mushroom foraging. Just make sure you know what you're looking for. The mushrooms above make for excellent faerie houses, but not a very good dinner.

    Hike of the Week: Oswald West State Park, Oregon | Gardenista

    Above: If you can arrange it, plan your hike for a sunny day—yes, they do exist—and you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the coast.

    Hike of the Week: Oswald West State Park, Oregon | Gardenista

    Above: Take a moment to pause at the various vistas along the basalt and sandstone cliffs that mark the coastline. This overlook was the perfect spot for a picnic.

    Hike of the Week: Oswald West State Park, Oregon | Gardenista

    Above: Standing above the beach, listen to the rumble of the basalt rocks as they're drawn repeatedly back into the ocean.

    Hike of the Week: Oswald West State Park, Oregon | Gardenista

    Above: Finally, as you hike along the coast keep your eyes peeled for seals who sun themselves on the rocks below, though I promise you, you'll hear them first.

    A map of Oswald West State Park:


    View Larger Map

    See more of our Hike of the Week posts and start planning your next adventure.


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    Here's an idea we like: wall-mounted baskets as potting shed or kitchen storage (think pruners, gloves, etc.).

    Above: Good idea No. 4,354,243 from Martha Stewart; a wall-mounted bicycle basket for garden tool storage. The Nantucket-Style Front Handlebar Wicker Bike Basket is $20 from After School.

    Above L: A set of two Woodchip Wall Baskets is £24 from Rockett St. George. Above R: The Market & Fruit Picking Pack from Kaufmann Mercantile would work well for wall-mounted storage; $104.

    Above: Wall-mounted baskets via Martha Stewart.

    Above: A Wicker Basket with Rope Handle is on sale for $7 (down from $19) at Save on Crafts.

     

     


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    If ever there was a place where a low-maintenance lawn would come in handy, it's at a beach house. While you're there, you have better things to do than wrestle a mower, and when you're not there, well, you're not there. And you need something that won't grow too wild, or burn out too quickly, in your absence. 

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    a low-maintenance lawn perfect for a beach house | gardenista

    During my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I had the utter delight of a six-night stay at my brother-in-law's family beach house (Above) on the Oregon coast. Built on a cliff overlooking the ocean, the house is an architect-designed but family-built compound of connected cottages constructed to replace the family's previous house that very nearly tumbled into the sea during the height of El Nino-related beach erosion in the 1990s.

    Safely distanced from the seaside cliffs, the new beach house was completed over ten years ago and Molly, my brother-in-law's mother, has been nurturing its wild lawn ever since. Without dismissing the gleaming glass and silvery shingles of the house itself, I admit that the perfectly unruly lawn is what first caught my eye on this recent trip. I chatted with Molly to find the secret to her success.

    a low-maintenance lawn perfect for a beach house | gardenista

    When Molly first set out to develop the lawn, she sought the advice of her friend, John Brookes, noted garden designer, who advised her: "Just see what comes." The truth is that his words were partly friendly advice to let native plants thrive on the property, and partly an admission that he wasn't willing to take on the task of designing a garden by the sea himself. Salt air, a constant battery from the wind, and the added complication that beach homes aren't often a primary residence can make designing a beach house garden something of a challenge (just ask Justine).

    Molly is nothing if not determined. And so she endeavored to create her own low-maintenance lawn using native seeds collected from seed savers in the area. Molly relied on lawn mixes developed by local nurseries. Nichols Nursery in Albany, Oregon, was the first she found. Their Northern Ecology Lawn Mix is $11.95 for a 1/8 lb. bag. More recently, she's used a mix from Hobbs and Hopkins in Portland; their Fleur de Lawn. A 1-pound bag is available for $29.95. As Molly explains, "My 'lawn' is a humble mix of whatever has survived."

    The process was a slow one—with many of the seeds taking up to three years to germinate. Ten years in, the meadow largely takes care of itself. The family mows the lawn just twice a year, in the spring and fall, making sure that the plants have had ample opportunity to self-seed between mowings. 

    a low-maintenance lawn perfect for a beach house | gardenista

    Above: Molly confides that maintaining a uniform height is a challenge in a meadow. The dwarf yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a solid addition that doesn't overpower the grasses, but adds a pleasant variation.

    a low-maintenance lawn perfect for a beach house | gardenista

    Above: This time of the year the meadow is filled with grasses, clover, and yarrow, but in the springtime, it's full to bursting with bright blue baby blue eyes (Nemphila menziesi) and buttercups.

    a low-maintenance lawn perfect for a beach house | gardenista

    Above: Stretching out in the yard in front of the beach house, the meadow might not be the best spot to play croquet, but its soft grasses are still perfectly pleasant to walk on in bare feet. You can take my word.

    a low-maintenance lawn perfect for a beach house | gardenista

    Above: Gratuitous sunset shot? Maybe. But just look at that sweet flowering lawn.

    For more lawn-alternatives see Fields of Green: Five Favorite Lawn Substitutes.


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    This week on Remodelista, Julie declared her love for ceramic ice cream cones, Janet discovered the ultimate dishwasher, and Alexa dubbed electric kettles the new "it" countertop appliance. Here are the top five posts from Remodelista:

    ceramic ice cream cone holders via Gardenista

    Above: Julie doesn't like mushy edible cones; Alexa thinks ceramic representations of food are corny. We're agnostic, but what's with those sprinkles

    square picnic table via Gardenista

    Above: The holy grail of picnic tables.

    Bosch new series of dishwashers via Gardenista

    Above: Remodeling? Janet discovered the ultimate new dishwasher

    electric tea kettle via Gardenista

    Above: Alexa puts the kettle on.

    bike basket as potting shed storage via Gardenista

    Above: Julie and Martha have a meeting of the minds (again).


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    August is now well upon us, in what can only be described as a fairly corking summer. Here in GB the last six or seven summers have been pure endurance. Rain, cold, mist, sleet, hail—the works. The worst was last year, where the miserable summer literally slid without pausing into a miserable winter. If it hadn't have been for the Olympics, we would have had a collective nervous breakdown. The great British countryside suffered emotionally too, but also financially as harvests were ruined, county shows were rained off, farmers' markets were left desolate. It wasn't pretty.

    Clemmie Hambro garden in Exmoor August 2013 via Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Clemmie Hambro.

    And lo, a summer that actually looks and feels like summer has befallen us. Endless sunny days, and some actual proper heat accompanied by the odd whimper that it might even be too hot. Whimpers are shot down with icy stares in case they break the spell. 

    cosmos wildflowers via Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by In Cherl Kim via Flickr. 

    Here in the garden in Exmoor things are blown, blousy, beautiful. The main thing that has caught me unawares is the sheer height that plants have reached this year. Usually the summers are very wet with some warmth to keep things going with the result of a lot of growth, but slim line flowering and things generally standing upright.

    This year, due to the heat I have had full on growth as well as wonderful, huge flowers, which is lovely, but everything—even stuff that doesn't usually—has flopped. And there is nothing worse than trying to prop up plants after floppage; it's like to pin a drunkard to a lamppost.

    The heat of course has led to this wonderful glut of flowers, but a side event is that things have not been ravaged, and I mean ravaged by slugs. Slugs like the wet. So ha ha ha to the slugs. I keep finding dahlias in that borders that got totally eaten, presumed dead, last year and have somehow fought their way through the winter to flower again this summer. Buy anyhow, note to self—a lot more early staking to be done next spring.

    dahlias in a pot via Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Anna Torburg via Gardenista.

    Due to the ravening slug problem of the past, and the expensive and upsetting demise of many dahlias, this year I have planted them all in pots, mixed with cosmos, by the front door. And it has been rather a success, especially next to the canna that I wheel out year after year. The overall effect has been that of "exotic." Not usually a word associated with the wilds of Exmoor.

      Border phlox in garden bed via Gardenista

    Photograph by Dinesh Valke via Flickr.

    I suppose this is summer's second trimester and the late bloomers are beginning to flower. Crocosmias (I just love that gaudy orange), border phlox, lilies, Japanese anemones, St. Johns wort, dahlias, cannas, hydrangeas, the pinking up of the sedums and the various grasses—all are now coming into their own to give the garden a whole new identity. Crisp, acid greens and general pertness have been overtaken by chocolates, burnt oranges, and inky purples. It's generous, plump, and slightly bilious. And to be honest, that is not a whole lot to be done. A pulling of a nettle here, cutting back of dead foliage there, and a lot of basking in the sun, listening to the bees hum, pretending I can't hear the children.

    For more of Clemmie Hambro's English Gardener Diaries, see Euphoric Over Euphorbia and School's Out: 3 Kids, 11 Baby Chicks, and a Garden in Bloom.


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    Off the coast of Washington state, a 25-acre family compound on Decatur Island feels like summer camp: there's whale watching, and sailing, and hiking, and, in the distance, views of the rest of the San Juan archiepelago.

    Designed by Seattle-based architects Tom Bosworth and Steve Hoedemaker as a cluster of buildings where family members can both come together and retreat to their own personal spaces, the Nettly Wood Compound has a master cabin, a picnic pavilion, a guest cabin, a writer's hut, and a renovated barn. Sited on a slope to take advantage of views and natural light on the wooded parcel, the structures are connect to one another by a single path:

    Photographs via Bosworth Hoedemaker.

    Above: Porches are deep enough to invite family members to sit outside even in the rain.

    Above: The renovated barn.

    Above: Buildings are connected to one another by a single, continuous footpath.

    Above: Trees cut down during construction were milled for timber framing.

    Above: The structures were sited for both privacy and scenic views.

    Above: A secluded writer's hut is on the edge of the woodland.

    Above: Full height windows capture views. (N.B.: For 40 more images of Family Compounds, see our Gallery of rooms and spaces.)

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published on August 1, 2012.


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    If you arrive at Red Pig Tools in Boring, Oregon and the shop looks closed, just give the bell attached to the barn a rollicking ring and chances are Bob or Rita Denman will appear and give you a personal tour. 

    Red Pig Garden Tools are some of the only hand-forged garden tools currently made in the US. On my recent visit west, I couldn't resist a visit to the storefront. In the barn that Bob built using reclaimed boards from two different 100-year-old barns, shoppers can find more than 1,000 kinds of tools, many of which Bob makes with the help of just one other full-time employee on the property.

    As the son of a tool and die machinist, Bob Denman headed off for college to become an English major. But after a long career in advertising, Bob found himself as a product development consultant to Corona Clippers and before long, he was making tools himself. Now 70, Bob began his blacksmithing career relatively late in life, learning the trade some 20 years ago from an older blacksmith. But in case you thought that English major was going unused, there are plans in the works for an upcoming book. 

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: Follow a rural road in Boring, Oregon, to find Bob Denman hard at work making hand-forged garden tools.

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: During my recent visit, Bob showed me his process. Here, Bob fires up the forge.

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: The propane-powered forge where every Red Pig Tool is born. 

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: Bob will tell you that any blacksmith worth his salt makes his own tools. Here, an assortment of tools in Bob's smithy.

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: Bob's forge and workshop are currently housed in a shop at the rear of his property, but a newer barn next to the retail shop is nearly finished and will allow all visitors to see the tool-making process start to finish.

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: Bob begins the process of making his Fulcrum Weeder; it's $22 from Red Pig Tools. 

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: Bob hammers the weeder's forked end.

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: A vice grips the weeder and allows Bob to ply the hot steel into the correct shape.

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: Bob attaches the wooden handle to the weeder using a drill that belonged to his father.

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: If no one's in the shop when you arrive, just give the bell a ring or head down to the white farmhouse at the end of the driveway.

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: Red Pig Tools is open Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 am to 6 pm.

    red pig tools: hand-forged garden tools | gardenista

    Above: Piles of cultivators and hand rakes ready for sale. 

    For more information and to purchase tools, head to Red Pig Tools or visit the store for your yourself.

    For more hand-forged garden tools, see Fisher Blacksmithing Tools For the Gardener

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    Nature has wired us to feel protective of babies, with their oversized, floppy heads. The big, round leaves of a fiddle leaf fig tree make it the house plant equivalent of a newborn. So it was probably inevitable that the fiddle leaf fig has become the latest "it" house plant—and that I fell in love with one (and that you will too, eventually) and wanted to bring it home. But can I keep it alive?

    At the plant store, I was told to keep it in indirect light. And to let the soil in its pot dry out completely before watering it. And to be careful when I transplanted it—"don't put it into a pot that feels too big or it will get freaked out," the plant store owner advised—and to sing it lullabies at night if it had trouble falling asleep. In other words, this was a finicky plant that needs a lot of, um, special attention. Great.

    As I drove home, I frowned at the 4-foot-tall native of West African lowland rain forests, sitting beside me in the passenger seat (should I have strapped it into a car seat?). It suddenly looked bigger than it had at the plant store. And yet somehow more delicate. Had I just spent $49 on a plant that was going to shrivel up and die in a week?

    There is no way I can simulate a rain forest experience in a humidity-free Northern California stucco bungalow. But there was a glimmer of hope. Indirect light? That I can do. Outside my kitchen windows, the neighbors' shrubs loom so high and thick that only watery green light seeps through the glass. 

    I pulled into the driveway and, hoping for the best, lugged the (heavier than I remembered) plant inside to sit next to the dishwasher. It looked pretty good there. Really filled the space. And maybe it would even thrive.

    But the next morning, when I went into the kitchen, the fiddle leaf tree was missing.

    Photographs by Michelle Slatalla.

    Fiddle leaf fig tree likes filtered light in kitchen via Gardenista

    "Have you seen my fiddle leaf fig tree?" I asked my husband, who was standing where I had last seen the plant.

    "Is that what that was?" my husband asked, not looking up from his iPhone. "It was in my spot, so I moved it."

    "Your spot?" I asked.

     "It was blocking the espresso machine," he said. "Plus, this is where I like to stand when I tweet."

    He tweets a lot.

    "I don't suppose you remember where you #movedit?" I asked.

    fiddle leaf fig tree care sunny growing tips via Gardenista

    I found the fiddle leaf fig tree in the living room. It looked a little forlorn standing against a wall, but at least it was shielded from the window by a curtain. I figured it would be safe there until I had time to figure out a permanent solution.

    "Isn't it cute?" I asked my husband. "Doesn't it look vulnerable and cuddly, like a baby if a baby had big round leaves instead of big round eyes?"

    "I like puppies better than babies," my husband said. 

    fiddle leaf fig leaf closeup via Gardenista

    That afternoon at 4 pm, disaster struck. Sunlight started streaming in through the window (southern exposure).  I had to move the plant.

    A fiddle leaf fig tree is not something you want to be carrying all over the house. It is unwieldy. Plus, with a skinny trunk and those floppy leaves, it looks like it could tip over at any minute if perfect balance is not maintained.

    And really? The kitchen was the best place for it. If only my husband and the plant could share #thespot.

    fiddle leaf fig tree Ikea rolling plant stand via Gardenista

    "It can be like a buddy film," I told him. "You and your pal the plant."

    We were standing in the kitchen, my husband and my plant and I. I had gone to Ikea and purchased a rolling plant stand called the Socker Plant Stand. It cost $5.99, was made of galvanized metal, and had three rubber wheels. I demonstrated how they worked.

    fiddle leaf fig tree in kitchen via Gardenista

    "See how easy it is to move the plant out of the way when you want to tweet or vacuum?" I asked.

    "Now I have to vacuum?" he said.

    fiddle leaf fig tree in family room via Gardenista

    The next morning I found the fiddle leaf fig tree in the family room.

    "It must have rolled itself over there," he suggested.

    fiddle leaf fig tree in bathroom window via Gardenista

    The next day, it was in the bathroom. It loomed large in there, hogging all the sink space.

    "It better not use my toothbrush," my husband said. 

    fiddle leaf fig tree growing tips and care via Gardenista

    Today is the fifth day we have had the fiddle leaf fig tree. I cannot tell yet if it likes it here or thinks that living in our house in Northern California feels anything at all like living in a West African lowlands rain forest.

    But I think my husband is getting attached to the plant. When I tracked it down this morning—it was back in the living room—I noticed someone had watered it. 

    It is only a matter of time before he starts telling it a story at bedtime.

    Wondering whether a fiddle leaf fig tree is the right house plant for you? See our earlier post Consider the Fiddle Leaf Fig.

    See more Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees in our Photo Gallery.


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    If you’ve noted clusters of lavender and yellow wildflowers blooming in sunny fields, you might be looking at the delicious wild radish.

    In late summer and early autumn, foragers seek wild radishes for their spicy seed pods, which taste great fresh, pickled, or sautéed. Their edible flowers also add a spicy kick on salads and in the springtime, their leaves are great steamed.

    Photographs by Marla Aufmuth for Gardenista.

    Above: Wild radishes are easy to find in Northern California, but make sure you are foraging in an area that doesn't have any industrial run-off nearby—and if it's private property, be sure to ask permission. For a roundup of quality scissors, visit Gardenista's post Japanese Garden Scissors.

    Above: The seed pods of the wild radish are peppery and crunchy, sort of like the roots of their relative, the domestic radish.

    Above: One of the rules of ethical foraging is to never harvest more than one third of what is available. Leave seeds so the plants can reproduce.

    Above: A popular way to prepare radish pods is to pickle them. For this recipe, you'll need about 2.5 cups of wild radish pods. As well, you'll need two dried red chili peppers, six black peppercorns, one tablespoon of sea salt, six tablespoons of sugar, a half teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds, three quarters of a cup of hot water and one half cup of cider vinegar.

    Above: Combine water, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a canning jar and shake until everything has dissolved. In a different jar, pack the washed wild radish pods. Add the spices, and pour the water-vinegar mix over the pods. Let them sit for about two weeks before eating. For more canning tips, see 10 Easy Pieces: Canning Essentials.

    Above: Add pickled wild radish pods and their flowers to salads for nice texture, color, and plenty of peppery flavor.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published October 2, 2012.


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    Norm Fire Buckets come with a removable oil container and can be used for instant bonfires—and, when the weather turns, they can be used as indoor plant pots (the handle makes it easy to suspend from a plant hanger).

    Above: The Norm Fire Bucket is $69.95 from Horne.

    Above: The buckets come in three different sizes.

    Above: When not in use, the bucket can be used as a planter.


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    I come from a family of campers. But when I was growing up, the extent of our true wilderness experience was as far down a dirt road as our lumbering blue Dodge Caravan could manage to take us. Still, from the time from when I was age zero to a very recalcitrant 17, my family hit about every state and national park along the East Coast. My parents would load the back of the minivan with meticulously rolled sleeping bags, Tupperware bins filled with camp supplies, and enough hot cocoa mix to keep their four daughters sufficiently nourished. It wasn't adventure camping per se, but it did make me accustomed to sleeping in tents. And in case you had any doubt, yes, I became a Girl Scout.

    A recent visit to the Minam River Lodge in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of eastern Oregon has significantly expanded my wilderness experience. Accessible only by foot, horseback, or small single-engine plane, the lodge isn't a place the Boyle family minivan would have been able to access.  But that doesn't stop Boyles on foot. Besides, don't let the wilderness location fool you, what the lodge lacks in paved roads, it makes up for in amenities. There are hot showers, warm meals, and a wood-fired hot tub to soothe sore muscles. If you book a night in the newly built cabin, you might decide never to leave.

    My husband and I recently made the 8.5 mile hike into the wilderness. Here, a few details:

    the minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: Recently under new ownership, the Minam River Lodge has served visitors to the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowa Mountains for more than 50 years. A multi-phase reconstruction is in the works, but for now a spruced up version of the original lodge remains, welcoming hunters, packers, wandering cowboys, and over-eager hikers from Brooklyn alike.

    the minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: Single-engine airplanes land on the airstrip adjacent to the lodge.

    the minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: Visitors who aren't up for the hike can charter flights from nearby airports. Private planes are also welcome to land. On one morning we there, a family flew in for breakfast.

    minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: The little Minam River burbles past the lodge—hikers have the treat of hiking alongside it on their way in—and at this time of year you can spot spawning salmon. Guests can head out for adventures on their own, or the lodge can refer guests to independent guides for horseback trips.

    the minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: The first in a series of new log cabins planned for the site. The cabins are built entirely on site and with materials sourced locally; from timber to river rocks.

    the minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: Inside, the cabin has two beds, a bathroom, a kitchenette, and a wood stove; $250/night.

    the minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: Coffee enjoyed on the front porch is a good reminder of civilization.

    the minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: On mile seven of our hike, James and I vowed that next time we make the trip we'll be arriving on horseback.

    the minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: I first learned about the Minam River Lodge because my sister Laura is busy building its vegetable garden. The garden provides much of the fresh produce for the guests and crew. Stay tuned for her wilderness garden survival tips later in the week.

    the minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: Family-style breakfast, lunch, and dinner served inside the main lodge daily.

    the minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: For guests seeking to rough it, there are two teepees on site; $95/night. Campers also may pitch their own tents; $40/night. But a word to wise: don't listen to too many campfire stories about cougars and bears before spending the night in a teepee.

    the minam river lodge | gardenista

    Above: After the long hike in, guests can take advantage of the wood-fired hot tub. No extra charge for the spectacular view of the night sky.

    For booking and confirmations, email info@theminamlodge.com or call 541.508.2719.

    For another unusual (and unusually fun) Pacific Northwest campsite, see Little Cargo Container in the Big Woods.


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    Create an instant bonfire with these versatile fire pits, perfect for the campsite, the patio, the lawn (but not recommended for use on wood decks or surfaces).

    Above: Sarah swears by the Cast-Iron Fire Bowl, which measures 23 inches in diameter and has two built-in handles for portability. The lower bowl collects ashes and elevates the fire to better dissipate heat; $465 at Design Within Reach (a grill-top accessory is also available).

    Above: The sleek stainless steel Brasero Fire Pit from Italian company Gandia Blasco is 20 inches in diameter and costs $1,345 at Unica Home.

      solid base fire pit via Gardenista

    A Revolver Solid-Base Fire Pit is made of powder-coated steel with a black finish and has a hardwood tabletop; $147.46 at Amazon.

    Above: Designed by Eric Pfeiffer, the Loll Modern Recycled Outdoor Fire RIng is made of unfinished US steel that will develop a patina over time. Available with a recycled poly top (in a choice of eight colors) to create a table surface when the grill is not in use; $590 for the base ($689 with the Lid) at Loll Designs.

    Above: Made from heat-resistant fiberglass and steel, the Lava Rock Propane Fire Bowl attaches to a standard propane tank (a coordinating tank cover is available). The fire bowl measures 43 inches in diameter and is currently on sale for $955 (marked down from $1,195) at Restoration Hardware.

    Above: California FirePit offers the 24-inch Monterey Fire Pit and the 30-inch Tahoe Fire Pit; both can be used as for cooking or as an open pit fire. Crafted of cold-forged steel, they are $649 and $749, respectively, at Backyard Fire Pits.

    Above: The Solus Firebowl Hemi 36 is available with a natural gas or propane burner; contact Solus Decor for pricing information.

    Above: Concrete Creations fire bowls and pits are made by hand and can be used with wood, propane, gas or gel; for information on the Concrete Asian Wok Fire Bowl (shown), contact Concrete Creations directly.

    The Big Bowl of Zen Firebowl is made of 100 percent recycled American-made steel and measures 37 inches in diameter; the bowl can be used for wood fires or can be converted to natural gas or propane through a small hole in the center of the bowl (which also provides drainage); $1,500 (including shipping) from John T. Unger Studio.

      cowboy cauldron fire bowl via Gardenista

    Above: Cowboy Cauldron founder Mike Bertelsen grew up in the high desert of the American West, where campfires were a part of life. When he began spending time in Virginia, Bertelsen became enchanted with colonial crafts and cooking, as well as the art of the blacksmith. With Cowboy Cauldron, Bertelsen's goal was to develop a fire pit that would not only function as a fire feature but could be used as a portable cooking device. To learn more about the company, go to Cowboy Cauldron.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published on July 4, 2012.


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