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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    Feeling cooped up after the holidays? Feel refreshed instead with this bright, citrus-y stovetop potpourri that does double duty by humidifying the air and helping it to smell good.

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    stovetop potpourri | gardenista

    Above: I usually associate stovetop potpourris with the thick scent of burbling apples, cloves, and cinnamon. This variety of steam pot has its place in the dark weeks between the solstice and the new year, but come January I'm ready for something brighter. 

    stovetop potpourri | gardenista

    Above: Grapefruit peel, rosemary, and vanilla is my current favorite combination.

    stovetop potpourri | gardenista

    Above: The amount of plant material you use is entirely up to you. I used about a quarter of a vanilla bean, sliced vertically to release the richly scented interior; two sprigs of rosemary, and two peels of grapefruit rind.

    stovetop potpourri | gardenista

    Above: Just add water. I like to keep an inch or so of water in my pot at all times to make sure that everything stays moist, and nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Be sure to keep the burner temperature low so the water doesn't evaporate too quickly.

    stovetop potpourri | gardenista

    Above: I keep a tiny enamelware porridge pan on the stove for making steam pots. I purchased my Riess Saucepan at ABC Carpet & Home earlier this year, but any similarly small pot will work as well.

    stovetop potpourri | gardenista

    Above: After heating, the water will slowly turn a dark color, especially as more of the vanilla bean loosens. Use a wooden utensil to give the pot a stir every so often to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. And as always, experiment with other combinations. Lemon, cardamom pods, and juniper berries would make an equally delightful January perfume.

    Intrigued by potpourri? See Alexa's post: Modern Potpourri: The Irresistible Fragrance of a Rotten Pot.

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    I’ve killed more houseplants than I’d like to admit. Some of that is due to having a job that requires me to travel two weeks of every month, and the other part is about not having the patience to provide my potted wards with the care and feeding they need to survive. The first casualty was a braided money tree whose soft green leaves shriveled into brownish-gray wisps after an extended vacation abroad. The second was a basil plant that withered after an emergency harvest for a caprese salad. My biggest regret was a tabletop calamansi tree that died after too much exposure to an overactive space heater. In the battle to make my home greener, the houseplants were losing. 

    Despite my dismal record, I continued to buy plants. Call it hopeless optimism, but I still believe that my house can be filled with green, vibrant plants. Here in San Francisco, I’ve come to love wandering through garden shops like Paxton Gate, Utsuwa, and Flora Grubb on the weekends to search for fragrant herbs, hardy succulents, and handmade planters. As I've given up the wild nights of my twenties for the decidedly more domestic days of my thirties, successfully growing things has become a barometer of whether I can turn my house into a real home. 

    If this story sounds all too familiar, fear not. There is hope. I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks that have helped me to keep my plants alive. 

    My secret is to structure my plant care around my life. Making my plants adapt to my normal, day-to-day activities, means they're flourishing. I’ve placed succulents in the bathroom where they can absorb mist from the shower; put planters above the sink to make it easy to remember to water them, and suspended a hanging plant near a skylight to create a mini-greenhouse. My plants still need attention, but my occasional lapses in judgment are more likely to be forgiven. 

    So far, my strategy is working. I’m coming up on a year of keeping my plants happy and healthy. My six tips are below, but I’m sure that a lot of you out there have great ideas of your own. What tactics do you use to keep your plants healthy? 

    Photographs by Matt Castaños and Mira Kim for Gardenista.

    hanging shell plant in kitchen via Justin Hulog ; Gardenista

    Tip 1: Place your plants in places where you can’t forget them. Giant snail shells filled with hanging succulents and flowering vines hanging on a pot rack soak up stray droplets from the sink. A Hanging Snail Shell With a Tillandsia is $22 from Utsuwa.

    pendant terrarium in bedroom skylight via Justin Hulog ; Gardenista


    Tip 2: Find your home’s natural greenhouses. A bedroom skylight gives a miniature jungle in a glass pendant much-needed light. A Large Teardrop Hanging Terrarium is $40 from Utsuwa.


    succulents get mist from bathroom shower via Justin Hulog l Gardenista


    Tip 3: Figure out which parts of your home naturally support your plants. A family of succulents in the bathroom thrive on mist from the nearby shower. A similar small Tilly Canoe planter (in cobalt) is $34 from Flora Grubb.


    Tillandsia air plant in a seashell at Justin Hulog's house ; Gardenista


    Tip 4: Choose plants that don’t need a lot of work. A tillandsia in a shell requires minimal spraying, thanks to being near a constantly open window that lets in the fog. A Collection of Tillandsias is available at prices ranging from $3.75 to $42.50 per plant from Paxton Gate.


    Manzanita branch as desktop office plant via Justin Hulog ; Gardenista


    Tip 5: When in doubt, pick plants that look good even when dead. A tree made of dried manzanita wood makes a bold statement while requiring zero maintenance. A Natural Red Manzanita Branch is $6.48 (minimum order is two) from Blooms and Branches.

    Succulents in a black planter via Justin Hulog ; Gardenista


    Tip 6: Avoid plants that require long term commitment. The small size of these planted succulents make them easy to carry and move around the house. An assorted Collection of 9 Succulent Plants is $27 from Succulents Galore via Etsy.

    Are you a recovering plant assassin too? See our recent post on Expert Advice: 10 Best Low-Maintenance Houseplants.

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    Your desk needs a houseplant. So does mine. But the last thing we need is to show up at the office one morning, in the middle of a dreary January, to find the little fellow's leaves have shriveled and turned brown. We turned to the team at The Sill, our favorite New York City houseplant delivery service, for advice.

    Queens of all things houseplant, the experts at The Sill shared the down-low on the benefits of plants in the office along with their top recommendations for office-friendly specimens. Oh, and they had some suggestions for how to take care of those plants after they've made their way into the workplace:

    Photographs courtesy of The Sill.

    Office Plants: Care Tips and Recommendations from The Sill

    We've said it before, and now The Sill will say it again, more eloquently: you can't overstate the benefits of having a live, green, growing thing keep you company at work. To review: greenery perks up the appearance of a workspace; boosts morale; reduces stress, and eliminates air pollutants. Result: you will be nearly 50 percent more creative and 40 percent more productive.

    Think of your next plant purchase as a necessity to boost your career, not a frivolous extra. If a lively plant in a stylish planter feels like a treat, remember: a kale smoothie can taste delicious.

    Office Plants: Care Tips and Recommendations from The Sill

    Above: Two office plants in pots from The Sill's Hyde Collection.

    The Sill's Recommendations for Office-Friendly Plants:

    • Focus on easy-care plants; they’ll be okay if you skip a watering or two due to a hectic work week.
    • If you have a cubicle (moderate to low or filtered light), that means a snake plant, a ZZ plant, a pothos, or philodendrons.

    Office Plants: Care Tips and Recommendations from The Sill

    Above: A ZZ Plant from The Sill; $58.

    • If you have a sunny sill (moderate to bright light), get a jade, ferns, succulents or cacti.
    • If possible, choose a plant that reduces air pollutants. Our favorites for the workplace are rubber plants, dracaenas, snake plants, and peace lilies.

    Office Plants: Care Tips and Recommendations from The Sill

    Above: If you get good light, interior window boxes can brighten a conference room.

    The Sill's Office Plant Care Tips: 

    • Get to know your plant. Put it on your desk. Check the soil. A good rule of thumb to go by is if the first 1 to 2 inches of potting soil is dry, it could use water.
    • Never let you plant sit in a saucer of water for more 30 minutes; if necessary, pour off the excess water.
    • Plants follow a seasonal schedule. During the winter season, most offices in New York City are blasting their heaters, which tend to create dry, arid conditions for plants. Consequently, sometimes the winter requires a little extra water for indoor plants.
    • First plant? Grow that green thumb by following an indoor plant blog or subscribing to a newsletter.
    • Plants, like most people, are most comfortable at temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees. Do your best to avoid placing your plant near vents, radiators, and exterior doors, which might create hot or cold spots and drafts. 
      Office Plants: Care Tips and Recommendations from The Sill
     Design tip: More is definitely merrier when it comes to office plants. 

    Office Plants: Care Tips and Recommendations from The Sill

    Above: An array of office plants make their home in a midtown Manhattan office.

    Are you feeling down about your own sad-sack houseplant? The Sill is starting a new "Pimp My Pot" service for New York customers to pick up office plants and give them makeovers before returning them. For more information and for pickup dates, head to The Sill

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  • 01/08/14--06:30: DIY: A Desktop Zen Garden
  • Sometimes working in a creative field can feel like living in a Tom Cruise spy film. Like when you open an email from your editor inquiring if you might be willing to create a desktop Zen garden of the "non-tacky, non-cheesy" variety. Talk about Mission Impossible. But I've always said that extreme challenges often lead to the most innovative solutions, so I chose to accept this, ahem, task. 

    Of course, my first thought when I read "desktop Zen garden" was of those tiny, sand-filled trays, with stones and little rakes. (Do these qualify as the "cheesy" kind?) But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the reason that these versions didn't resonate with me was because they were someone else's idea of Zen. (Plus those gardens don't have any plants.)  The second part of the mission Michelle offered me—should I choose to accept it—was that the post be about bringing a bit of living greenery into the office. Sand is not alive, nor is it particularly conducive to the work place. Clearly I needed a different approach.

    Then I thought about what a Zen garden really is. Specifically, it is a small-scale landscape—most often with rocks, sand, and minimal plantings—designed to conjure the elements of a grander vista. More broadly speaking, it is a place of tranquility, where one is in harmony with nature: a place not just of contemplation, but also one that encourages a thoughtful interaction and exchange with the natural world.

    Where is this place for me? Once I presented myself with this question, the answer was clear: the coast of Maine. From there the project was easy as I set about to create my own miniature, desktop Down East.

    N.B.: Is Maine not your particular Zen-scape? This general idea can be adapted to any type of mini garden, provided you consider a few basic principles. See below for a list of materials and step-by-step instructions:

    Photographs by Justine Hand.

    desktop zen garden, supplies, Gardenista

    Above: Supplies for my Maine garden included (L to R): Calocephalus, a native to Australia reminiscent of the gray "old man's beard" that hangs from the trees in Maine; European cypress, one of the few evergreens that does not need to be planted outdoors, and club moss, which reminded me to the many ferns blanketing the forest floor.

    After I had my concept, I faced another challenge: The Maine seashore is outside. My mini coast would be inside, a place not suited for many outdoor plants, in particular that signature of the Maine profile: the stately evergreen. So with the help of an expert at Winston Flowers, my local florist/nursery extraordinaire, I selected some look-alike plants that do very well indoors.

    desktop zen garden, base, Gardenista

    Above: The next step is to create a base of soil, rocks, or other material suited to your own particular "zen-scape."

    Another thing to consider when creating your garden is that there is no such thing as a plant that does not need light. But those of you who work in a windowless space need not despair. Hannah at Winstons recommends choosing plants adapted to low light situations and then moving them into a bright conference room, or taking advantage of your boss's corner office, over the weekend.

    desktop zen garden, cypress, Gardenista

    Above: For the focal point of my garden, I chose a miniature European cypress (Chamaecypari Iawsoniana “Ellwoodii”).

    Note that if you choose to plant a mini tree, like I did, you will need to treat it as a bonsai, trimming it back (hand pinching recommended) regularly to keep it small. But part of the idea of a Zen garden is that it does require interaction and considered care.

    desktop zen garden, club moss, Gardenista

    Above: I anchored my cypress with the club moss (Selaginella kraussiana 'Aurea') and Calocephalus (also known as silver bush).

    Another piece of practical advice from Hannah: When choosing a grouping of plants, be sure to select varieties that prefer the same soil, light, and water conditions.

    desktop zen garden, layering, Gardenista

    Above: For the final strata of my "shoreline," I layered some moss from my yard. Then it was just a question of the finishing touches: beach stones and a stick to conjure the ocean-tumbled rocks and driftwood of the Maine Coast.

    diy desktop zen garden, completed, Gardenista

    Above: Like a miniature Maine horizon, my Zen garden will remind me of my favorite summer landscape all year long. (The painting, in case you're wondering, is by my 8-year-old son, Oliver, who rather serendipitously was learning about Chinese watercolors.)

    diy desktop zen garden, stones, Gardenista

    Above: Finally a use for all those beach stones I've collected over the years!

    Stones are an important element of most Zen gardens. In ancient China, where these gardens originated, rocks were used to represent the legendary mountains of the immortals. In and East-meets-West combo, I used stones to make a mini cairn like those that mark the trails in Maine's Acadia National Park, while at the same time creating the requisite harmonious balance in my composition. Also, Zen gardens are not static places, and the stones as well as the plants reflect this. I can imagine playing with my rocks, adding new ones, and even rolling them in my hands for a little calming reflexology.

    false cypress, desktop zen garden, gardenista

    Above: Texture is also an important principle in Zen gardens. Here feathery plants contrast with spiky sticks and smooth stones.

    shoreline, desktop zen garden, Gardenista

    Above: Though water need not be present (and would certainly not be recommended near a computer), in Zen gardens it is often implied. Rather than relying on ripples of raked gravel or sand, I conjured water with rocks that look like an ocean or river bed.

    desktop zen garden, sunlit cypress, Gardenista

    Above: A day later and my Zen garden is already beginning to inspire. I love the way the light is hitting the greens this morning.

    diy desktop zen garden, light, Gardenista

    Above: Though the garden is seemingly simple, its subtle complexity is revealed by slanting sunlight.

    DIY Desktop Zen Garden


    1.  Calocephalus or silver plant, available in a 4-inch pot at Annie's Annuals; $7.95.
    2. European or "false" cypress, also known as Chamaecypari Iawsoniana “Ellwoodii”  or Port Orford Cedar; readily available at this time of year.
    3. Club Moss, available at Pernell's; a 3-inch pot is $10.
    4. A shallow vessel. One could even use a pie plate. With all those rocks, I chose a lightweight plastic planter that looks like enameled wood (similar ones are available at Terrain). 
    5. Beach stones. Mine have been collected over the years, but if you don't live near the coast you can buy them online. Water Color Sky sells groups of Nine Ocean Tumbled Stones; $4.99.
    6. Quality potting soil such as Coast of Maine Bar Harbor Blend; $21 for 8 quarts.

    Continued Care:

    Maintenance of your garden depends largely on the type of plants you use. Mine will require weekly waterings and decent sun. If you choose a desert theme, your plants will require less water. Plants in dry office spaces may also benefit from regular misting. (Note: The world's easiest desktop garden is stones in a dish with a few air plants on top.) Be sure to consult an expert on your specific plants.

    N.B.: Do you think a desert motif might be more in keeping with your concept of Zen? Let Michelle's succulent Tabletop Garden inspire.

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    Not all office plants get the love and attention they deserve. 

    When San Francisco-based photographer Kirk Crippens began work on Foreclosure, USA—an examination of the effects of the foreclosure crisis in Stockton, CA—he found himself in the upper office of a shuttered grocery store. He explains: "The place was a bit of a mess, and in the corner of the office I came across a forgotten houseplant. It was a sad sight and as far as I know, the only living thing that was left behind." Crippens took a photograph of the plant, and after shooting that first lonely office plant, found himself inspired to capture photographs of its neglected compatriots in other workspaces.

    Crippens largely allowed the project, called Plants on the Job, to progress serendipitously, occasionally relying on tips from friends who would call saying, "Have I got a plant for you."

    Below is a sampling from Crippens' collection. But he explains that the work is not complete. And yes, in case you know of an office plant that's suffered more than its share of neglect, Crippens is still taking tips. Leave your tales of office plant woe in the comments section below.

    Kirk Crippens' Plants on the Job | Gardenista

    Above: A near leafless philodendron perched next to a troubling sign.

    Kirk Crippens' Plants on the Job | Gardenista

    Above: A decidedly unlucky bamboo.

    Kirk Crippens' Plants on the Job | Gardenista

    Above: A plant so far gone that we're not sure what it might have been. Any guesses?

    Kirk Crippens' Plants on the Job | Gardenista

    Above: Ponytail palm gone wrong? We think so.

    Kirk Crippens' Plants on the Job | Gardenista

    Above: Looks like this umbrella tree is in desperate need of a rain shower.

    Kirk Crippens' Plants on the Job | Gardenista

    Above: Crippens hasn't named the individual photographs in his collection, but we're calling this one Death by Plate Glass Window. The poor little jungle got positively fried.

    Have we depressed you? Quick: browse our collection of posts on thriving Houseplants.

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    Does your office feel a little too Dilbert? Here's a quick fix: banish institutional cubicle culture with a little greenery (a plant or two will improve air quality too). Here's some inspiration, featuring a few of our favorite workspaces from the Gardenista Photo Gallery.

      Gardenista Photo Gallery of Work Studios l Gardenista

    Above: Studies show you're more creative—and productive—if your workspace feels like home. We're rounded up 40 Stylishly Personal Work Studios that reflect their owners.

    Gardenista Gallery photos of office plants l Gardenista

    Above: See the difference a few Hardworking Plants can make in an office; see 50 Green Offices.

    Does a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree belong in an office?

      Gardenista Gallery of Photos potted topiary houseplants l Gardenista

    Above: Our favorite desktop plant? Hard to choose, but Tiny Topiary ranks up there.

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    Here's a confession of sorts: I don't really like living plant walls. They make a space feel claustrophobic. Even spooky. And that's before I think about the work of maintaining a thriving tropical jungle indoors. 

    Herewith: a plant wall for the lazy among us. Without soil, the care and maintenance for this wall is limited, making it the perfect addition to a spare office space in need of a little greenery.

    Photographs by Erin Boyle

    make your own living wall: lazy person's edition | gardenista

    Above: Begin by choosing a vessel. When I've tackled hanging gardens in the past, I've roped up bottles. But in an office setting, I wanted something that would be a little more solid. These Wall Mounted Teardrop Vases ($4.95 each from CB2) have a flat back; they lay flush against a wall, instead of bobbing around the way a hanging round bottle would. They also come with a small hole, so they can be easily mounted. 

    make your own living wall: lazy person's edition | gardenista

    Above: Next, choose your plants. I picked three vining houseplants that root easily in water, thrive indoors, and are known for their air-purifying traits: a philodendron, a pothos, and a large-leafed variegated ivy. If you're going for a slightly less tropical look, most herbs root equally well in water—and will last and last. I once kept a fragrant cutting of cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus) alive in a beaker for nearly a year.

    make your own living wall: lazy person's edition | gardenista

    Above: For each cutting, use clean scissors to make a diagonal snip just below a leaf. Be sure the leaf node will be underwater where it will root quickly.

    make your own living wall: lazy person's edition | gardenista

    Above: You might find it easiest to plan your wall layout after you place the plants in the vessels. When I made put together my wall, the added bulk of each plant helped me to decide how much space I wanted between each vase. I recruited my husband to help me measure even spaces between the vases (a level is a helpful tool for this part of the process).

    make your own living wall: lazy person's edition | gardenista

    Above: A hanging clipping with the leaf node underwater. You'll likely have most success in rooting plants if you use just one stem per vase. Use tap water that's been left to sit overnight or filtered water to make sure that your delicate cutting isn't harmed by chlorinated water. 

    make your own living wall: lazy person's edition | gardenista

    Above: The vases all hung up, waiting for the roots to grow.

    make your own living wall: lazy person's edition | gardenista

    Above:  Fill each vessel with just enough water to cover the end of the stem and replenish if necessary. Because the cutting will root and continue to grow, the water in your vases will stay clean (no need to worry about smelly water from decaying flower stems).

    make your own living wall: lazy person's edition | gardenista

    Above: There you have it: the lazy woman's living wall, no drywall screws or soil required.

    Interested in vertical gardens? See The Next Generation: Woolly Pockets All Grown Up and An Instant Vertical Garden Kit for Small Spaces.

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    The perfect place to grow food crops is where it’s dry, sunny, and 68 degrees all year round. California? The Algarve? Actually, it’s somewhere closer to home—or in this case, work.

    According to Dutch artist Nienke Sybrandy, the work desk is the perfect climate for an artificial season; a fifth season so to speak, allowing us to grow food crops while we work—instant salad all year round.

    Photography by Sander Moerman.

    Above: "The crop diary can be integrated into the office diary," says Sybrandy. "One can casually tend to the crops, when surrounded by them on the Desktoop."

    Above: Sybrandy and Wand designed Desktoop, a desk that does double duty as a mini farm. Developed as a prototype in conjunction with the Utrecht Manifest No.4, the biennial for social-design; Desktoop is currently being tested by the Agricultural University of Den Bosch and Philips LED.

    Above: The side of the desk is used to store gardening tools while the desk drawer, redundant because there is less use of paper, has been converted into a greenhouse.

    Above: The desk light is replaced by a grow lamp. Price for Desktoop is on request; for more information, go to Studio NSybrandy.

    N.B. This is a rerun of a post that originally published on September 18, 2012.

    Interested in growing your own greens? See Sow Now for Winter Salad.

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    Housed in a former train station dating to 1834—the oldest in the Berkshires—No. Six Depot café and coffee roasters in West Stockbridge, MA imports coffee beans from around the world from small farms that use organic practices.

    It's a family business. Co-owners Lisa Landry and Flavio Lichtenthal, who opened  No. Six Depot in July, work alongside their teenage children, Sebastian and Paolo. In October, the family business expanded into an adjacent gallery space where No. Six Depot hosts art exhibits, live music and dance performances, and poetry readings. For more information, see No. Six Depot.

    Photographs by Jennifer May except where noted. 

    No. Six Depot coffee roasters in West Stockbridge ; Gardenista

    Above: No. Six Depot serves breakfast, lunch, and once-a-week dinners. Before opening No. Six Depot, co-owner Lichtenthal spent the previous ten years as head of the kitchen program at Gould Farm, a residential therapeutic community for adults with mental illnesses where a 650-acre farm produces its own vegetables, meat, and dairy products. The farm recently published a 100th anniversary cookbook with his recipes.

    No. Six Depot coffee roasters in West Stockbridge ; Gardenista

    Above: Co-owners Landry and Lichtenthal bought the old train station in 2012 and renovated it with friend and designer Adam Medina. Photograph by Lisa Landry.

    No. Six Depot coffee roasters in West Stockbridge ; Gardenista

    Above: "Literally everything was made or designed by Adam and us, from lights to counters to tables to shelves," says Landry. The project made use of reclaimed materials, including salvaged school slate boards used to make the back counter. Photograph by Roland Pabst.

    No. Six Depot gallery space in Stockbridge MA l Gardenista

    Above: The gallery space at No. Six Depot. Photograph by Lisa Landry.

    No. Six Depot coffee roasters in West Stockbridge ; Gardenista

    Above: Canisters of imported olive oil.

    No. Six Depot coffee roasters in West Stockbridge ; Gardenista

    Above: Among the items for sale at No. Six Depot are teas, coffee beans (whole and ground), and salts. The tea selection includes some rarer types, such as Sechung Oolong; a Rose Congou, and a Jasmine Pouchong; teas are available online for $8 per 4-ounce bag. 

    No. Six Depot coffee roasters in West Stockbridge ; Gardenista

    Above: Designing bags for the coffee beans was the work of Nashville-based Perky Brothers, who created packaging and a brand identity for No. Six Depot. 

    No. Six Depot coffee roasters in West Stockbridge ; Gardenista

    Above: Coffee beans are roasted on a refurbished vintage Probat roaster (circa the 1960s). Co-owner Flavio Lichtenthal roasts by hand in small batches of no more than 12 kilos. He has a temperature gauge, but on the old-fashioned machine "he roasts using eye, ear, nose," says Landry. "Each crop and bean are unique and it's very manual."

    No. Six Depot coffee roasters in West Stockbridge ; Gardenista

    Above: He generally cooks the beans to a medium roast. Only one roast—Heart of Darkness Blend ($10 for a 10-ounce bag)—is a dark roast. His Seck-Sie Blend ($10 for 10 ounces) is composed of a mix of one Sumatra bean roasted three ways: light, medium, and dark.

    No. Six Depot cafe manager Sascha ; Gardenista

    Above: Café manager Sascha Woolfe; photograph by Roland Pabst.

    Handmade in Italy, the Victoria Arduino espresso machine uses a lever system to create pressure. "We are hand-pulling espressos (versus a push button)," says Landry. "It's a very Neapolitan way to pull espresso."

    No. Six Depot coffee roasters in West Stockbridge ; Gardenista

    Above: The breakfast menu includes homemade granola with fruit and local yogurt from Berle Farm in upstate New York. On Friday nights, No. Six Depot is also open for dinner. 

    six depot bags of coffee beans by Jennifer May ; Gardenista.jpg Above:

    Above: For more of our favorite coffee shops, see The Greenest Coffee Shop in the World.

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    Earlier today we admired the way Dutch artist Nienke Sybrandy urges us to grow a garden in the office (why not sow lettuce in your desk?). We forgot to mention...we're also charmed by Sybrandy's solution for workers whose offices don't have windows or natural light. Bring a plant to work anyway—and sit on it.

    Plant throw pillows by Nienke Sybrandy ; Gardenista

    Above: Plant Pillows feature typical office plants, digitally printed on cotton, at prices ranging from €60 to 225. For ordering information, see Studio NSybrandy.

    Plant throw pillows by Nienke Sybrandy ; Gardenista

    Above: "Plants have become fashion accessories, similar to candles and pillow covers," says Sybrandy. "These plant pillows represent the 'new bonding.' They are durable so you can hold them securely."

    For more of Sybrandy's work, see Salad Days: Grow Your Own at Work.

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    It's January and the season of cleanses and detoxes is upon us. Full disclosure: I don't really go in for the idea of cleanses. I'm far too devoted to cheese and chocolate to imagine voluntarily giving them up. But I do like the idea of resolutions, and for me a perennial resolution is to drink more water.

    In the summertime I tried to trick myself into drinking more water by dreaming up elaborate herbal additions: sweet woodruff, strawberry and stevia, lovage and lemon balm. (See Herbal Essence: Just Add Water.) But now that winter is here and beautiful California citrus is making my wind-whipped New York eyes smart with desire, I've decided to make an herbal water that's refreshing and citrus-y, with the optional addition of a little something that's downright risqué.

    If I were to lose my mind and subsist only on this water for a day or two, I might consider it a cleanse, but for now let's just call it rejuvenating and agree that keeping a pitcher of it desk-side this winter might be a good idea.

    Photographs by Erin Boyle

    sip on this: cleansing citrus water for a new year | gardenista

    Above: The main players. The amounts of herbal material in this water may not be enough to work life-changing magic. But in large doses ginger and lemon can be good for regulating the digestive tract (though bad news for cleansers: they might actually make you more hungry). I added them mostly because they taste delicious. Lemongrass is often used as an antioxidant, so along with adding a zing to the mixture, it might do a little side work clearing toxins from the liver and pancreas.

    Mint? Delicious again, not to mention good for settling the stomach and adding a touch of sweetness to a tart blend.

    Cara cara oranges because they're beautiful and tasty and low in acid; they won't make the water too strong. And cayenne pepper? It's daring and believed to kick start your metabolism, which sounds promising, don't you think?

      sip on this: cleansing citrus water for a new year | gardenista

    Above: The ingredients prepared. I scrubbed (but didn't peel) my ginger and citrus before cutting them into thin rounds, and I gave my herbs a good rinse before adding them to the pitcher. Giving the mint a little squeeze is also a good idea. It will bruise the leaves just enough to release the essential oils. 

    You can experiment with the ingredients—adding as much or as little of each as you have on hand, for instance—to tweak the flavor of the herbal water.

    sip on this: cleansing citrus water for a new year | gardenista

    Above: Letting the ingredients sit in the refrigerator overnight gives the water the chance to absorb all of the flavors. If you want a milder taste, simply prepare the water, give it a stir with a wooden spoon, and enjoy.

    sip on this: cleansing citrus water for a new year | gardenista

    Above: For the brave, a dash or two cayenne pepper turns the whole thing a beautiful light orange. You might need to offset the spice with a drizzle of honey or sugar water, and promise me you'll do your best not to get any up your nose.

    For a milder approach to herbal water, see Herbal Essence: Just Add Water. If you prefer to detox by soaking up some quality time at the spa, consider giving your feet an Herbal Soak.

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    Designed by San Francisco-based O + A, the Silicon Valley offices of Evernote feature an exuberant explosion of tillandsias against a white wall. Some people might think the vertical garden looks like fireworks on the Fourth of July; we're reminded of a starry night sky:

    Vertical garden at Evernote offices ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via UltraLinx.

    Vertical Garden at Evernote offices ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via UltraLinx.

    Up close, you can see that individual tillandsias are mounted on metal plant holders.

    Flora Grubb plant hook thigmotrope vertical garden ; Gardenista

    Above: A steel plant hook that screws into a wall, a set of three Thigmotrope Satellites is $40 from Flora Grubb.

      Xerographica tillandsia via Sea and Asters ; Gardenista

    Above: A tillandsia Xerographica; photograph via Sea and Asters.

    There are more than 500 known species of tillandsias, members of the bromeliad family. Trying to decide which to pick? See 5 Favorites: A Tillandsia by Any Other Name. Or Shop all our Tillandsia Picks.

    Flora Grubb plant hook vertical garden thigmotrope ; Gardenista

    Above: Each thigmotrope holds a single tillandsia. We recently visited Flora Grubb to get step-by-step instructions for designing and installing a Starburst Vertical Garden.

    Wondering how to care for your tillandsias? See Gardening 101: How to Water an Air Plant.

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    Itching for a little office sprucing in the new year? If applying for a LEED-certified renovation isn't in the cards, consider these six easy ways to freshen your office and make sure that your work space is doing its part to make the environment (inside and out of your own four walls) a priority.

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    green your work space | gardenista

    1. Add more plants.

    Offices are often places rife with volatile organic compounds that leach from industrial carpeting, printers and copiers, and office furniture made from synthetic materials—not mention paint, varnishes, and even copy paper. While scientists disagree on plants' ability to filter the air completely, even if plants can't soak up all the office air nasties we're convinced that introducing hard-working houseplants will at the very least brighten the mood. Looking for a quick fix? Build the lazy person's version of a living wall. See DIY: A Living Wall for the Office.

    green your work space | gardenista

    2. Recycle.

    We know that it's 2014 and we're all supposed to already know how to recycle, but offices are notorious for skimping on recycling services. Make sure you have a devoted bin for recyclables and commit to being a low-waste workspace. Limit your use of takeout food containers, switch to paperless invoicing, and for goodness sake, bring a reusable coffee cup to the corner café. (Bonus points for buying organic beans. See Shopper's Diary: No. Six Depot Roasters in the Berkshires for more on one of new favorite roasters.)

    green your work space | gardenista

    3. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. 

    Despite the overstated hype of the January 1, 2014 incandescent light bulb ban in the US, the truth is that there are still plenty of ways to purchase incandescents (this Verge article parses the nuances of the confusion). Voluntarily switching to compact fluorescents, however, will save on energy costs and make you feel virtuous.  

    green your work space | gardenista

    4. Use zero-VOC paints.

    Headache from those paint fumes? Your brain is trying to tell you something. If you feel like adding a fresh coat of paint to your space, opt for a choice with zero organic compounds. The Green Depot's Ivy Coatings Custom Color Paint is a high quality option with great results. 

    For more choices, see 10 Easy Pieces: Eco-Friendly Paints.

    green your work space | gardenista

    5. Commit to tap water.

    Turn your afternoon chat around the water cooler into an afternoon chat around the water pitcher. Bottled water and water delivery systems are the norm in many offices, even when there's perfectly good tap water just a faucet away. If the water in your building is safe to drink, use the resource you already have. You'll save on delivery costs and reap the cosmic benefits of knowing that fewer carbon emissions were emitted on your behalf. See Sip On This: Cleansing Citrus Herbal Water if you need motivation. 

    green your work space | gardenista

    6. Scour thrift shops for solid wood furniture.

    If buying beautiful Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood furniture is prohibitively expensive, consider thrifting solid wood furniture and sprucing it up with a zero-VOC paint job. Inexpensive office furniture made of particle wood and cheap wood is often coated in formaldehyde and finished with VOC-rich paints, varnishes and lacquers. Embrace vintage furniture made of real wood and breathe easier.

    What did we miss? What little changes are you making in your work space this year?

    See more office-inspired posts in this week's issue: Office Space.

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    We might have creaked our way back into the office this week, but we've got some serious greenery up our sleeves that we can't wait to share with you in 2014. 

    Here, a collection of inspiration we rounded up from around the Internet this week. Turns out we're not the only ones happy to turn a fresh calendar page.

    Emma Robertson Oakland studio, Gardenista

    Above: Bright light in Emmadime's studio and just the right number of office plants.

    What makes an office place buzz? This infographic on Productivity Boosters will tell you (spoiler alert: plants!).

    a fragrant bouquet | gardenista

    Above: Step by step, Sophia builds a delicately Fragrant Bouquet.

    Ten Teas to Stop Your Sniffles, our own Nettle Tea among them.

      cecilia fox flower shop | gardenista

    Above: Melanie Stapleton of Cecilia Fox has us wanting to up and leave for Australia. Photograph by Eve Wilson from the Design Files.

    Looking for a place to corral your growing plant collection? We've got our eyes on this Marble Tray DIY

    the home of maria cornejo and mark borthwick | gardenistj

    Above: We can't imagine a better place to spend the afternoon than the plant-filled home of Maria Cornejo and Mark Borthwick. Photograph by Mark C. O'Flaherty.

    Science says so: Plants Do Compete and Take Time Off

    ferm living plant stands | gardenista

    Everyone's going gaga over Ferm Living's new Plant Stands. We understand entirely.

    The Flower Stills from Chelsea's Floral Arranging Classes have us wanting spring already. Photograph by Lisa Waringer.

    false cypress, desktop zen garden, gardenista

    Need a desktop distraction? Plant your own Zen Garden.

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    I first noticed the Twig Terrarium store on my way to Runner and Stone, the Gowanus restaurant and bakery. The two are neighbors, comprising a tiny pocket of cool on unlovely Third Avenue, which, even though it now boasts Brooklyn's first Whole Foods Market, is dominated by gigantic storage facilities, old-school pizza shops, and 19th century warehouses. 

    Twig stands out because its big plate glass window is full of terrariums, making it a startling, mirage-like vision of green against its harsh surroundings. Later, when I sat down to chat with Twig owners, Michelle Inciarrano and Katy Maslow, I discovered that the shop is an oasis for other reasons as well.

    Photographs by Ronda Smith unless otherwise noted.

    twig terrarium storefront in brooklyn ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Twig.

    The two women, friends for decades, have created a distinctly welcoming environment. Customers are free to browse shelves of pre-made terrariums and kits, present an idea for a personalized glass enclosed garden, or learn to make one themselves. A custom idea can be as specific as a photo you want replicated—complete with tiny people, zombies, tombstones or whatever you like. Or it can be just a description of a vague idea.  Inciarrano and Maslow are experts at coaxing inspiration from their clients.

    Twig Terrariums Shop in Brooklyn by Maximus Comissar l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Maximus Comissar via Brooklyn Spaces.

    The Twig founders say that next to the presentation of a finished creation, the best part of their business is working with customers. There's a cushy sofa under the sheltering limbs of a fake tree where customers can lounge. In fact, if a clearing in a fairy tale forest had comfortable seating and indoor plumbing, it would probably resemble the Twig boutique. 

    Twig terrarium shop in Brooklyn ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Twig.

    But there's nothing make believe about the Twig studio. If you ask me, it's the perfect place to invest in the ultimate office greenery. Michelle Inciarrano spent a clearly traumatizing period of her life working in a beige cubicle. She regards terrariums as horticulture therapy for the frazzled office worker. For one thing, if you provide your small enclosed garden with a spot that is out of direct sunlight it will delight you for years with only very minimal care. A moss terrarium requires only a light misting every 2 to 4 weeks.  

    twig shelves | gardenista

    Above: A shelf peppered with terrariums. Big business is clearly convinced of the benefits of providing workers with plants under glass. Half of Twig's 2013 customized holiday orders were for corporate gifts and Inciarrano and Maslow have been commissioned by corporations to develop and lead team building terrarium workshops.

    Twig ruler and hanging terrariums via gardenista

    Above: Hanging terrariums blend well with natural objects and vintage tools.

    twig terrariums | gardenista

    Above: For those who prefer plants not under glass, Twig recently added a gorgeous line of kokedamas, string gardens which are created using Japanese bonsai techniques. They come rooted in a ball of soil and are ready to hang. A mandeville kokedama is $280.00 at Twig.

    Twig row of kokedamas via gardenista

    Above: Kokedamas are available in a variety of plants. A large bromeliad kokedama, right, is $290.

    As 2014 begins, Twig's founders are already making new plans for what Maslow calls their "horticultural sculpture".  They are working with glass blowers to design custom containers with rounded organic shapes drawn from nature. Inciarrano and Maslow showed me two prototypes which they have named "the stomach" and "the worm." There will also be experimentation with larger containers.


    There are plans to expand into new territories by participating in the International Gift Show and in more local exhibitions such as the Philadelphia Flower Show where they are multi-prize winners for their innovative terrarium designs.

    Is a DIY terrarium on your list of New Year's resolutions? See Gardening 101: How to Make a Terrarium.

    For further reading on terrariums, check out DIY Tabletop Terrariums and Under Glass: Geometry Inspired Terrariums.


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  • 01/12/14--03:00: DIY: Bookshelf Compost Farm
  • When we run across a really amazing gardening idea—like desktop composting or a bookshelf garden—we get really excited. We find out everything we can about the product, publish photos to give you ideas for using it, and do research to figure out where you can buy it. Unless it's not for sale anywhere. Then we feel disappointed: "But this would have been so useful to have!" And we have to shelve the story. But not this time.

    An ingenious desktop compost and bookshelf garden system we ran across the other day is too intriguing to ignore even if you can't buy it ready made in a store. So we asked Hamburg-based Charlotte Dieckmann, a design student at Hochschule für bildende Künste, the University of Fine Arts, for tips on how to recreate a working version of her Parasite Farm for your own office. Here's her advice:

    Photographs by Alexandre Giesemann.

    GARDENISTA: First, can you tell us how you got the idea for the desktop compost and bookshelf garden system that you call Parasite Farm?

    CHARLOTTE: The Idea began to occur in my kitchen, because I love to cook with fresh ingredients to get delicious and healthy food and as a result, I had a lot of fresh kitchen waste,that i had to throw away. Each time i opened the garbage bin, i felt guilty because those were good nutrients that i just didn‘t want to eat, and that made me thinking about how i could use them in a more reasonable way.

    Then I met Nils Ferber and he already had made some experiments with composting kitchen waste with compost worms. So we decided to try it again togethe and did research on everything concerning worms and composting and how to do this in your apartment. We stumbled on some composting systems, but none of them corresponded to our perception of usability and aesthetics.

    GARDENISTA: How did you make it—what materials were used and how did you fabricate it?

    CHARLOTTE: We decided to build a prototype that you would be able to use. We made some paper models and 3-D models on the computer to get an idea of how it would look. Then we worked on the component parts ourselves in the workshop of our university and gave some tasks away that we couldn‘t do ourselves, like laser cutting the aluminum or powder coating. We used aluminum, stainless steel, plastic, acrylic glass, silicone, and wood to build the prototype. But we think that a mass production would need some redesign to make it easier to fabricate, and also changes in the selection of the materials.

    GARDENISTA: How does the composter work? We can see that you put the food waste into the desktop bin. Then what happens?

    CHARLOTTE: To aerate the compost sufficiently there are ventilation slots on the bottom side of the notch and on the backside of the container. If there is enough oxygen, you can have almost smell-free compost that smells like forest soil. Add straw from time to time to help regulate the moisture.

    The microorganisms and the worms need water to live and to be able to move. Therefore form 60 to 80 percent of the compost should be water—and that will come from the food scraps themselves. No need to add extra.

    CHARLOTTE: After a few days, the water contained in fresh vegetable or fruit scraps runs through the drawer and is stored in a translucent tank. It can be added into your watering can via a small pump and be used as liquid fertilizer for your plants. A small window on the plant box edge indicates the level of water.

    CHARLOTTE: About three months later, the vermicompost is entirely converted. To harvest some humus soil you simply shake the grate a bit and pull out the drawer underneath. The nutrient-rich humus soil can be distributed on the earth in the bookshelf planter and provides the plants with the nutrients that they need to grow.

    GARDENISTA: For readers who want to make their own version of the parasite farm composter, do you have any advice?

    CHARLOTTE: I think the easiest and cheapest way is to use two buckets, that fit into each other. The upper one should have many little holes, so that the liquid can drain into the lower one, which has to be emptied once in a while.

    The upper bucket should be filled with a layer of cardboard and then a layer of crumpled newspaper and again four layers of newspaper, so that the worms don‘t fall through the holes and drown. This last layer should be sprayed with water. Than you put a layer earth in the bin before you put the worms in.

    GARDENISTA: Where do you get the worms?

    CHARLOTTE: Order on the Internet from a worm farm. (N.B.: Uncle Jim's Worm Farm has a selection of composting worms.)

    The upper bucket should be covered. To get an smell free aerobic rotting some holes in the cover would be good, but you need to cover the holes with a fly screen. That‘s it!

    GARDENISTA: For the bookshelf garden, fill planters with the compost and install a bright, full spectrum plant light such as the T-5 Grow Light Fixture ($99.95 from Gardener's).

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

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    There may be people who have done more to revolutionize cooking in America than Mollie Katzen, but I don't know any. I was thinking about this the other day, as I driving across the bridge to visit her at home in the Berkeley hills. She's primarily responsible for introducing vegetarianism to America—not as a religion or a fad diet or a health movement, but because vegetables taste good. That was a radical idea in the 1970s, when The Moosewood Cookbook arrived on the scene while most of us were still eating canned asparagus (yes, it's as bad as it sounds) and "frozen cut vegetable medley" and things called niblets that came in bags. It's no wonder that her friendly line drawings and handwritten recipes for tabouli, mushroom strudel, and cranapple walnut cake made Moosewood one of the ten best-selling cookbooks of all time. She's written ten more since—including, by the way, the one that invented kale chips.

    Moosewood was my first cookbook, of course. I bought it when I was a newly married first-time homeowner wondering what to do with that thing called a stove that came with the house. The sesame-peanut noodles in a later Katzen cookbook (Still Life WIth Menu) remain to this day my go-to choice for a buffet party, and her new The Heart of the Platewhich I was headed to her house to talk about—is full of genius ideas for how to eat from the winter garden. So it would be fair to say that as I drove up the steep driveway to her house, I was feeling a little intimidated.

    Until she opened the door, a slight woman wearing the uniform of Northern California (quilted vest, black yoga pants, pretty scarf), and asked, "Do you want to see my garden?" 

    Photographs by John Merkl.

    Mollie Katzen's edible garden in Berkeley ; Gardenista

    Above: Mollie Katzen in her arugula patch.

    She is smaller than I expected ("people always say that," she says) and far slimmer than anyone who loves food so much deserves to be, and friendly in a happy-to-meet-you way, despite having been confronted about four zillion times by strangers who immediately blurt, "Moosewood was my first cookbook." Which I did.

    She nodded politely, as if she'd never heard that one before, and said, "My editor Phil Wood, who founded Ten Speed Press, used to say when people asked him to identify the appeal of Moosewood, that 'there was a layer of formality completely missing from the book.' "

    That same layer of formality is completely missing from Katzen, as well.

    "Here, taste this," she said, offering me an arugula flower.

    It was a little peppery.

    "Delicious on salad," she said.

    Garden Visit: At Home With Mollie Katzen in Berkeley

    Above: Mollie Katzen's raised beds; she dug down 10 inches and laid a layer of mesh to keep out gophers. She improves the soil regularly with steer manure and compost.

    Walking around her garden, she was full of suggestions for ways to eat seasonal crops in winter—even if you don't happen to live in a climate like Berkeley where kale, lettuce, artichokes, parsley, citrus, and rosemary thrive in January.

     "When in doubt, there's always apples—dice or slice them into a salad," she said.

    Garden Visit: At Home With Mollie Katzen in Berkeley

    Above: Lettuces in January; welcome to Northern California.

    "I eat pretty much the same thing every night," she said, "a huge amount of vegetable cooked with a second vegetable, and a little bit of carbs. I call it the food flip. Instead of having pasta with vegetables, I have vegetables with a little bit of pasta."

    This sounds like an entirely reasonable way to eat if you have a big winter garden. But what if you don't?

    "What if you're stopping off at a grocery store on your way home from work?" I asked.

    "The secret is to have a larder stocked with essential ingredients, and then all you have to do is buy one vegetable on the way home, and you can make dinner," she said.

    Larder essentials (she ticked them off):

    • Onions
    • Olive oil
    • Chile flakes
    • Flavored vinegars ("Collect them," she suggested.)
    • Citrus (Lemons, limes, or oranges)
    • Garlic
    • Lentils

    Kitchen Visit: Eating from Mollie Katzen's Garden in Berkeley

    Above: A 5-foot-high wire mesh deer fence makes this lettuce possible.

    A delicious way to eat winter vegetables: "Slaws," said Katzen. "Grate a root vegetable like kohlrabi and an apple together and it's delicious."

    Kitchen Visit: Eating from Mollie Katzen's Garden in Berkeley  

    Above: Katzen points out a patch of parsley hiding under an artichoke plant. 

    Root vegetables and winter fruits that taste good grated into slaws (by themselves or in combinations with each other): 

    • Cabbage
    • Carrots
    • Yellow or pink beets ("Red beets are too staining," she said.)
    • Pears
    • Apples
    • Broccoli and cauliflower stems

    "Toss the slaw with olive oil and lemon juice; it's very refreshing," she said.

    Mollie Katzen edible garden Berkeley ; Gardenista

    Above: Katzen allows the kale in her garden to flower and self sow in new patches.

    Chop up kale, blanch it, and add it to lentils for a winter main dish. "The best cooks I know do as little to lentils as possible," she said. "Just use really good ingredients—good olive oil, sea salt, and kale."

    Kitchen Visit: Eating from Mollie Katzen's Garden in Berkeley

    Above: An artichoke plant (L) and parsley flourish in the garden.

    "The artichokes sneak up on you," she said. "For a long time there aren't any, and then one day you look, and there's an artichoke."

    Mollie Katzen edible winter garden kale Berkeley ; Gardenista

    Above: A kale tree of sorts; a 5-foot-high stalk ("it's a year old, at least," she said) continues to sprout new leaves at the top.

    In Katzen's Vegetable Heaven, published in the mid 1990s, she included a recipe for baking kale chips. "In those days, it was green curly kale, because that was all we had," she said. "But any kale will work."

    Mollie Katzen edible raised bed garden in Berkeley l Gardenista

    Above: Tools of the trade in the garden.

    Katzen, a voracious tweeter and follower of food bloggers, has a few favorites, including:

    • Leela Punyaratabandhu of She Simmers ("delicious Thai food")
    • Gabi Moskowitz of Broke Ass Gourmet ("incredible, economical recipes")
    • Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks ("where she's taking vegetarian cooking is very exciting")
    • Alana Chernila of Eating from the Ground Up ("I love the new approach of her book The Homemade Pantry")

    Mollie Katzen Berkeley kitchen smoky brussels sprouts The Heart of the Plate ; Gardenista

    Above: In the kitchen, she keeps a bowl nearby to collect scraps for compost.

    Although a lover of vegetables, Katzen is not a vegetarian. "I think my love of vegetable recipes comes from growing up in a kosher home; you were trained 'you don't eat meat outside your mother's home because you don't know where it came from,' " she said. "Once a week my mother would make a dinner that was dairy—no meat—and those were my favorite meals. I loved the diffuse spotlight, the smorgasbord where no one dish was the main event."

    Mollie Katzen prepares smoky brussels sprouts heart of the plate ; Gardenista

    Above: Katzen cooks on a six-burner Viking stovetop.

    Some tricks to make cooking dinner easier (and more fun):

    • If you are going to blanch kale, no need to wash it first.
    • If it feels like it takes too long to quarter the Brussels sprouts, halve them instead.
    • If something isn't getting as brown and crispy as you expected, add a pat of butter to the skillet.
    • If you are going to seed a pomegranate, do it under water in a bowl "so you don't end up with the kitchen looking like a crime scene."

    Mollie Katzen cookbook The Heart of the Plate Crudite Chips ; Gardenista

    Above: In Katzen's latest book, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation ($23.78 from Amazon), she includes a recipe for making Crudité Chips: Use a mandoline to thinly slice radishes and raw rutabagas into thin slices. Refrigerate them in a bowl of water for an hour. "They curl up and get ridiculously crisp," she said. "Delicious."

    For more of Katzen's winter garden recipes, see Smoky Brussels Sprouts and Onion.

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     The rap on vegetarian recipes in the 1970s was that many were so loaded with cheese and butter that they might as well have been desserts. Not so these days. "Nowadays the ingredients we can get are so great that you don't even have to do anything to them," says Mollie Katzen, author of The Moosewood Cookbook (my first cookbook, and perhaps yours). In her new cookbook, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, she demonstrates what she means. Here, she makes her Smoky Brussels Sprouts and Onion recipe:

    For ingredients and step-by-step instructions, see below:

    Photographs by John Merkl.

    Mollie Katzen Smoky Brussels Sprouts and onion Berkeley kitchen ; Gardenista

    Above: This is a perfect weeknight dish because you can  trim, slice, and blanch the brussels sprouts a few days ahead—on Saturday or Sunday, when you are feeling relaxed—and store them in the refrigerator until you need them. 

    Mollie Katzen Smoky Brussels Sprouts and onion ; Gardenista

    Above: Mollie trims off the bottoms of each sprout, then halves or quarters it depending on its size. But no pressure. "If that seems like too much work, leave them whole," she suggests.

    mollie katzen the heart of the plate cookbook ; Gardenisat.jpg Above:

    Above: The secret to this recipe is patience: let the blanched sprouts sit undisturbed in the skillet until they get brown and crispy. Then stir in some softened onion, wait a few more minutes, and serve.

    Mollie Katzen prepares smoky brussels sprouts heart of the plate ; Gardenista

    Above: The Heart of the Plate is $23.78 from Amazon.

    Smoky Brussels Sprouts and Onion

    Adapted from Mollie Katzen's The Heart of the Plate

    Yield: 4 servings


    • 1 cup onions, chopped and sauteed until soft
    • 2 pounds 5-minute-blanched, halved or quartered Brussels sprouts
    • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon (negotiable) or more smoked paprika and/or chipotle powder
    • Up to ½ teaspoon salt 
    • Black pepper


    Put on a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, trim and halve or quarter the sprouts (unless tiny) and add them to the water when it boils. Let them simmer for from three to five minutes, or until mostly tender.  Drain them thoroughly in a colander, shaking them dry.

    Place a large (10- to 12-inch) skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute, than add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Sprinkle in the paprika and/or chipotle powder, spreading the seasoning into the oil to get the flavor distributed.

    Add the drained Brussels sprouts, using tongs to arrange as many of the sprouts as your patience permits cut-side down. Sprinkle in ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and let the sprouts cook, moving and rearranging the sprouts occasionally —scraping the pan, as necessary—for about eight minutes, or until they become soft and shaggy . To check on their smokiness, pull out and taste a leaf.  If you want deeper flavor, sprinkle in more powder, directly onto the sprouts, and mix it in.

    Push some of the sprouts aside to make a little space, then add the sauteed onions, along with an additional drizzle of oil. Salt the onions lightly, and cook for another five to ten minutes, stirring often, until the sprouts are deeply colored and the onions are shiny and sweet. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. 

    Optional Enhancements:

    • Top each serving with olive oil-fried eggs.
    • Deglaze the pan with bread crumbs or a thick slice of fresh bread. (Add some extra oil to the pan, scraping into it some of what might have stuck, and toast the crumbs or bread directly in this flavor bonanza.) 
    • Diced potatoes (up to ½ pound) can accompany the Brussels sprouts all the way from the cutting board to the blanching water to the skillet.
    • Throw in some spinach (a few handfuls of clean baby leaves) when you add the onion.
    • Top the dish with diced ripe, sweet tomato in season (or halved, very sweet cherry tomatoes).
    • Drip on a few drops of red or white wine vinegar or serve with a squeeze-able wedge of lemon.
    • Add up to a teaspoon minced or crushed garlic with the onion.

    Earlier today, we visited Mollie Katzen at home. For more easy dinner suggestions, see Kitchen Visit: Eating from Mollie Katzen's Winter Garden in Berkeley.

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  • 01/13/14--09:00: DIY: Reviving the Cold Frame
  • Cold frames can seem like damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't season extenders. By the time it's warm enough to plant, your garden beckons for your attention in every other direction. You blink, and summer's in full glory. Blink again and you're staring outside at your abandoned cold frame, where some heads of lettuce managed to rot and freeze. No more! Along with a houseful of holiday helpers, I schemed a solution to rejuvenate your winter garden and put your cold frame to work protecting tender plants until spring.

    The secret? Capitalize on the forgiving nature of herbs. They'll survive a cold night, can withstand a forgotten watering or two, and will provide a perfect sparkle of green under those panes of glass. Pick a selection of cold-hardy herbs from your local nursery, scoop up some terra cotta pots, and prepare yourself to perform some sleight of hand winter garden magic. 

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    revive your cold frame with herbs | gardenista

    Step 1: First things first. Clean off the windows of your cold frame—just like with car headlights, even a slight film will make a big difference in how much light your plants can absorb. 

    revive your cold frame with herbs | gardenista

    Step 2. Tidy your space. Clear garden residue and turn the soil lightly. It's another gift of cold frames that the ground underneath them will be frozen less solid than the rest of your garden. 

    revive your cold frame with herbs | gardenista

    Step 3: Spread a thick layer of compost, potting soil or topsoil to replenish your soil, and then dig 6-inch holes for each of your potted herbs. This will help insulate against extreme temperatures that can build up in cold frames and will make it easy for you to move them inside if the weather takes a sudden turn for much hotter or much cooler. 

    revive your cold frame with herbs | gardenista

    Step 4: Before you nestle the herbs inside the holes, you'll want to upgrade from their plastic nursery pots. I chose frost-tolerant varieties of scented geraniums, winter savory, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram—and terra cotta pots. (If your herbs are coming directly from a greenhouse, consider hardening them off in a garage or shed for a few days to acclimate them to the temperature change.) Firmly tamp down the soil around the edges of each pot, leaving just the top lip exposed. Water plants thoroughly, and water the soil around them as well for extra help cozying them in. 

    revive your cold frame with herbs | gardenista

    Step 5: Luckily for those of us with no patience to wait for spring, cold frames can be adjusted to different climates. In colder areas, you can bury the edges of the cold frame in hay, chopped leaves, soil, or sand for greater insulation, and lay blankets on top for the coldest nights. In mild climates, you can vent the windows during the day and plant a wider array of less sensitive herbs.  

    revive your cold frame with herbs | gardenista


    Step 6: Prop open the windows for ventilation on sunny days—too much heat can kill plants much faster than frost. After outside temperatures reach 40 degrees, you'll want to vent them, and lift them up entirely if temperatures rise above 50. (Don't forget to close them back in at night.)

    revive your cold frame with herbs | gardenista

    No cold frame to speak of? Shop our picks for 10 Easy Pieces: Cold Frames and 5 Favorites: Cold Frames to Warm Up the Garden.

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    The best vegetable peelers are those that go unnoticed; they just do their job smoothly and quietly. It's only when we have to fight with dull blades, peel clogs, and cumbersome handles that peelers get attention. We've done our research and put together a collection of vegetable peelers sure to please.  

    Kuhn Rikon Straight Vegetable Peeler, Gardenista

    Above: It's not often that the product with the most consistently high ratings is also the most affordable. Said to be one of the most effective peelers by chefs and consumer review sites, the Kuhn Rikon Straight Peeler from Switzerland is made of plastic and carbon steel; $4 at Williams Sonoma.

    Oxo Good Grips Pro Swivel Peeler, Gardenista

    Above: The Oxo Good Grips Pro Swivel Peeler receives accolades for its comfortable handle, swivel top, and great peeling performance. Made with die-cast zinc and a stainless steel blade, it has a potato-eye scoop at its tip; $12.99 at Amazon.

    Zena Star Vegetable Peeler, Gardenista

    Above: Swiss made, the Zena Star Vegetable Peeler has a super sharp and wide Tungston steel blade (not recommended to be run through the dishwasher), and a stainless steel body; $4.95 at Simply Good Stuff.


    Rosle Extra Fine Straight Peeler, Gardenista  

    Above: There is something elegant about the kitchen tools from the German company Rosle, and the Rosle Extra Fine Straight Peeler is no exception. Made of fine grade stainless steel with a swivel head that accommodates both left- and right-handed cooks; $27 at Williams Sonoma.

    Rosle Horizontal Vegetable Peeler, Gardenista

    Above: For those who prefer a Y-style peeler, the Rosle Horizontal Peeler swivels as you peel; $27.95 at Crate and Barrel.

    Messermeister Pro Touch Vegetable Peeler, Gardenista

    Above: The Messermeister Pro-Touch Fine Edge Swivel Peeler is known for being extremely sharp and is designed with a high arch to prevent peel clogging; $7.95 at Cutlery and More.

    Swissmar Vegetable Peelers, Gardenista

    Above: Lightweight Swiss-made Swissmar Peelers, Set of 3 have side cutters for removing potato eyes; $17.95 at Williams Sonoma.

    WMF Vegetable Peeler, Gardenista

    Above: The stainless steel WMF Profi Plus Horizontal Vegetable Peeler features a heavy duty hanging loop; $17.95 at


    Microplane Straight Edge Peeler, Gardenista

    Above: Many find the wide ergonomic soft grip handle of the  Microplane Straight Edge Peeler very comfortable, while fans of old-school style peelers might not be able to make the adjustment; $11.95 through Amazon. 

    Michel Bras Peeler Set, Gardenista

    Above: A collaboration between French chef MIchel Bras and the maker of Shun knives, the Michel Bras I Peeler Set features interchangeable cutlery-grade stainless steel blades for thick and thin peeling. Made in Japan with smooth resin and polypropylene handles, this peeler requires an investment of $80 at Williams Sonoma. 

    Put your peeler to work. Peruse our collection of Garden-to-Table Recipes.

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