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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    I had no idea it was possible to become addicted to bird watching—until it happened to me. When my husband and I recently visited his family in western New York, my father-in-law had assembled an impressive village of feeders in his backyard. Before the trip was over, my husband and I found ourselves spending hours cooing over chickadees and woodpeckers and (my personal favorite) red-breasted nuthatches. Back home in Brooklyn, I needed to find a way to do some bird watching from my own window:

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    Above: I decided to make my own feeder from a design suggested by the Audubon Society. Luckily, this feeder is affordable to make and relies on a favorite wintertime treat: the grapefruit.

    Above: The supplies for this project are simple and likely include what you already have around the house. I used a small Gimlet Hand Drill ($13.95 from Kaufmann Mercantile) to make holes in the side of my grapefruit, but any sharp object will do. A small nail or screw would work perfectly.

    Above: To begin, I cut my grapefruit in half longitudinally, slicing in the space between the top and bottom poles, rather than through them.

    Above: If you're like me, you might pause at this stage to enjoy your ruby red, but if you don't have time for a leisurely snack, slice around the outer edges of your grapefruit's flesh (no need to dig into the white pith) and scoop out the fruit to save for later.

    Above: You'll find that you can get the interior of the grapefruit cleanest just by using your fingers. After I removed the bulk of the fruit with the knife, I pinched the remaining flesh and peeled it from the rind.

    Above: After I'd cleaned out the inside, I made four evenly spaced holes in the rind. I made them about a centimeter down from the top rim to make sure that the twine wouldn't rip through the fruit after it was hung.

    Above: Next, I cut four long lengths of good-quality twine. How long you make your twine will depend on the particulars of your setup. I made the lengths long enough to be able to close them in our window and allow the feeder to hang below the sill.

    Above: Using a nail or drill to guide the twine, push each length through the holes you've made and make a double knot on the other side. I trimmed the ends, but you can leave them long if you prefer.

    Above: I filled my grapefruit feeder with a waste-free feed mixture to avoid scolding from my landlord. This feed includes seeds that have already been hulled and will reduce unwanted fallen debris.

    Above: The only trick now is the waiting. I spotted a cardinal in the bushes outside my window yesterday, and I'm hoping it won't be too long before he spies his next meal. 

    Curious to know if the birds ever feasted? See the proof in DIY Update: A Banquet for Brooklyn Birds.

    Want to try more of Erin's projects? See DIY: Bottle-Fed Paperwhites and DIY: Windowboxes, Urban Edition.

    N.B. This is an update of a post published on January 24, 2013.

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    Is a potting bench a luxury or a necessity? We think both. It's a way to avoid an aching back from squatting to pot plants, a means to contain gardening mess, and provider of outdoor storage. We're thinking a good potting bench can even do double duty as an outdoor drinks station come summer. We've rounded up ten of our favorites:


    Above: This hard-working Cedar Garden Center includes a deep top to contain soil and a tray that can be carried from the table to the garden. It measures a lengthy 73.5 inches long, 24 inches deep and 35.5 inches high; $234.98 through Amazon.

    Above: The Vintage Galvanized Potting Table is made from a salvaged German biergarten table. The top is made from galvanized metal and the trim from reclaimed pine. The table measures 70-by-21-by-30 inches high, and the metal legs fold to pack flat for easy storage or transport; $699.95 at Williams Sonoma.

    Folding Potting Bench ; Gardenista

    Above: For gardeners who prefer to stow their work station when not in use, a Folding Potting Bench from Brookstone measures 28-by-48-by-60 inches when open but folds flat and is available for $149.99 (assembly required).

    Above: Crafted by a German furniture maker, the Larch-Wood Gardener's Table has a weather-resistant larch wood frame and a three-sided galvanized steel work surface with two drain holes. Measuring 39-by-35.5-by-17 inches, the table is practical but compact, perfect for a size-challenged urban garden; £332 at Manufactum.

    Wooden potting bench ; Gardenista

    Above:  A minimal Reclaimed Cedar Wood Buffet and Potting Bench measures 39-by-22-by-36 inches and has a built-in drawer; $169.99 from Hayneedle.

    Above: The Able Table Potting Bench by Maine Garden Products is made to be left outside year round. Built of Eastern white cedar combined with lobster trap wire, it is assembled using galvanized hardware. It comes with six brass hooks to hang garden tools and optional 5-inch wheels under two of the table legs. It measures 50-by- 26-by 45 inches; $282.73 at American Garden Tool Company.

      10 Easy Pieces: Potting Benches | Gardenista

    Above: A Cedar Wood Potting Bench with Sink measures 48-by-24-by-37 inches and is $379.99 from Hayneedle.



    Above: The Poly-Tex Galvanized Steel Potting Bench is durable and easy to clean. It measures 44-by-44-by-24 inches; $130.69 at Wayfair.

    Above: The Palram Greenhouse Steel Potting Bench is constructed from corrosion-resistant galvanized steel. It stands 32 inches high and holds up to 80 pounds. The top shelf can be positioned upside down as a soil tray; $89 at Home Depot.

    Above: For the serious gardener, Big Jakes Garden Center is made of rust-proof aluminum with a clear powder durable coating. It features a removable thick cutting-board-like plastic top, a debris catching gutter on the front, and storage shelf. It measures 19-by-29-by-55 inches; $463.72 from Growers House.

    Above: Like the industrial look? Consider using a heavy-duty powder coated steel Mobile Work Bench as a potting station. It has a tray top and lower shelf and measures 30-by-60 inches; $328.95 at Global Industrial.

    Looking for more potting shed accoutrements? See 10 Easy Pieces: Potting Shed Brushes.

    N.B. This is an update of a post published on November 7, 2012.

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    It's the season for hunkering down in the potting shed: getting things dirty and cleaning up again. And for indulging in a bit of flowery eye candy. 

    Here's a collection of links we've loved this week:

    week in review | gardenista

    Streets overrun with flowers in Lima. Photograph by Olivia Rae James.

    Will MoMA's Sculpture Garden become accessible free of charge?

    Must see: Fashion & Gardens at the Garden Museum in London, opens today.

    forced bulbs muscari l Gardenista

    Making messes with Muscari Bulbs.

    Cleaning up with 10 Potting Shed Brushes.

    Justine makes a Garden From Garbage. See also: Dual-Purpose Veggies.

    Not sure where to start? Tips for Forcing Winter Flowers

    the bouqs eco-friendly rose delivery | gardenista

    The Bouqs: an online flower company with a conscience.

    Corn husk flowers.

    In the Pacific Northwest? Our friend Val got a sneak peak at this weekend's Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle. Hours and information included.

    week in review | gardenista

    No Valentine's plans? Take a Flower Arranging Class. Photograph courtesy of Sunday Suppers.

    Plants with Benefits: An "uninhibited guide" to aphrodisiacs in your garden...

    10 Best Berries to plant right now.

    Lyman Estate Camellias, Spring Awaking, Gardenista

    We're drooling over the Camellia Collection at the Lyman Estate. Photograph by Justine Hand.

    Why are the best garden tools Vintage Garden Tools

    week in review | gardenista

    Gardner Museum Single-Stem Mums against a white background. Photograph by Siena Scarff.  

    Want to see them in person? Plan a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 

    See the entire week's worth of Gardenista posts in our issue, Potting Sheds.

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    Whether your potted plants live indoors year round or have sought temporary shelter from freezing temperatures, they're probably looking a little sad these days. Are you doing something wrong? Or have they just gone dormant until winter ends? We asked horticulturalist David Clark (who is coddling his own houseplants through a severe winter in upstate New York) for advice about how to perk up winter-frazzled houseplants. Here are his top 10 tips (plus one of our own):


      How to keep a houseplant happy in winter cut back on water l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Mieke Verbijlen.

     Clark, an instructor at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, likes a challenge when it comes to houseplants: he has managed to keep a 4-foot gardenia topiary alive for four years and has collected more than 300 different orchids. But whether you're nursing something finicky like an African violet or a hardy Mother in Law's tongue, your houseplants are going to have a harder time in winter. Here's how to make them happier:

    1. Cut back on water.
    2. Give them sunshine.
    3.  Add moisture to indoor air.
    4.  Stop fertilizing until spring.
    5.  Dust your plants.
    6.  And give them a bath once in a while.
    7. Crank up the heat, then turn it way down (every day).
    8.  Avoid re-potting if possible.
    9. Conduct a weekly bug inspection.
    10.  Give sick plants a natural tonic.
    11.  Sing them lullabies (could it hurt? plants love music).

    how to keep houseplants happy in winter l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

    Water: "Most plants only need water once a week in winter," says Clark. "They will kind of go dormant, especially if they're plants that grow outdoors in summer and they've come from that bright light into a home with lower lighting and lower temperatures."

    How to keep houseplants happy in winter l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by John Merkl.

    Sunshine: Put them in the sunniest spot in the house; most them to follow the sun if necessary. "Most plants will not thrive in a north-facing window because they need more sun," says Clark. The best? A window facing east; you will get sun from 7 am to 11 am and "it's not harsh, like what you'll get in a western facing window," he says.

    How to keep houseplants happy in winter l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Design Sponge.

    Humidity: Most plants thrive with levels of from 50 to 60 percent humidity; in a house the humidity level can go below 35 percent. "In a situation like that, make them a little miniature greenhouse by tenting them under a big plastic bag," says Clark. "Or take a shallow tray, fill it with 2 inches of water and gravel, and set your potted plant in it." As the water evaporates, it will create humidity around the plant.

    Tonic for Sick Plants: The most common disease that plagues houseplants is leaf spot—yellow or brown spots that develop on an outer leaf and move inward. If your plants are suffering, mix a tonic and spray it on their leaves: Dissolve 4 teaspoons baking soda in a gallon of water and add a few drops of Murphy's oil to make a suspension.

    How to keep houseplants happy in winter on a radiator l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Electronomo via Flickr. 

    Keep plants clean: "When they get dusty, that causes plants not to breathe. It plugs their leaves, which have little pores called stomata," says Clark. "If you cover a leaf surface with dirt, it won't get the full effect of sunlight and photosynthesis will be slowed."

    Solution? For smaller plants, give them a bath in a sink with a sprayer. Larger plants can go into the shower. Wipe leaves with a damp sponge. Then off their leaves so they don't drip all over the floor.

    Are you bringing a potted lemon tree indoors? See How to Keep a Potted Citrus Tree Happy in Winter. Bug problems? See Goodbye, Gnats: Pest-Free Potting Soil.

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    At Coton Manor, in the middle of England, there is a ravishing garden. The potting shed, center of operations for the year-round nursery, is in the middle of this garden. It has the best views of the property and I am glad to be stationed by the window once a week. 

    Allow me to take you on a tour:

    Photographs by Kendra Wilson.

    The Potting Shed at Coton Manor. Gardenista

    Above: The first thing you notice on walking into the potting shed at Coton early in the morning is Rodney the parrot, sitting on his perch in front of Winston Churchill. In the spring and summer, he spends the day outdoors socializing with visitors.

    The potting shed is like Kings Cross for plants. As the borders are combed through in the winter by the garden's owner, Susie Pasley-Tyler, and her team, plant material finds its way onto the potting bench. It is cleaned up, divided, re-potted, and labeled before being sent to the mainly outdoor nursery.

    (Looking for a potting bench of your own to dirty? See 10 Easy Pieces: Potting Benches.)

    The Potting Shed at Coton Manor. Gardenista

    Above: A view of the shed from the wintry Rose Walk, with the Herb Garden to the left. The windows above the potting bench reveal a scene of exotic and domestic fowl roaming around the Goose Park.

    On very dark, wet days the potting shed is the place to be. Not warm and not cold, it's a good idea to remember a hat, wrist warmers, and thick socks because the work doesn't involve much moving around. That is, until you find yourself propelled outside with a wheelbarrow, trying to find the right destination in the nursery for trays of newly created potted plants.

    The Potting Shed at Coton Manor. Gardenista

    Above: A two-pronged fork is the most useful tool here, indispensable for combing out matted clumps like this Campanula punctata. Caroline Tait, the nursery manager, was so keen on her vintage fork that she asked Jaap Sneeboer (of the Dutch tool company Sneeboer) to make some more, of which this is one. Sneeboer calls this the Greenhouse Weeding Fork. It retails at about €26.

    (See Shopper's Diary: Vintage Tools from Garden & Wood for more on the value of well-loved garden tools.) 

    The Potting Shed at Coton Manor. Gardenista

    Above: With its bespoke handle carved by head gardener Richard Green, this tool is also known as a "large knife."  Useful for dividing tougher knots, for example the roots of Vernonia, shown here.

    The Potting Shed at Coton Manor. Gardenista

    Above: Sedum spectabile, post-division, pre-potting up. Plants should come in from the garden with a label, even more crucial than the two-pronged fork. For someone like me, it is instructive to know which part of the garden the plants hail, as this determines where in the nursery they will be housed (whether shady, full-sun, etc.). The plant labelling system includes codes which tell you this (if you can understand the code).

    The Potting Shed at Coton Manor. Gardenista

    Above: The best way to label plants discreetly: black label, silver pen (a Black Label Gift Pack Set includes 80 labels and silver pen; £25 Coton Manor Garden online). All the plants in the garden are labelled by the owner, Susie.

    Working in a nursery with unusual plants is a good way to learn about varieties as well as their habits. When winter turns to spring there will be more work outdoors, maintaining stock in the selling area and taking cuttings in the garden for future stock. It is all cyclical.

    Potting Shed at Coton Manor. Gardenista

    Above: The potting bench, with Aconitum (flowering in the garden now) in the foreground. The garden is open to the public for the annual viewing of Snowdrops and Hellebores (as well as aconites) for two weeks in late February and early March. The relentless rain is of some concern however (not to the plants but to the paths), so it would be best to check before planning a visit.

    Coton Manor, Northamptonshire in February. Gardenista

    Above: Coton Manor in Northamptonshire, on a February morning.

    Coton Manor is open to public from Tuesday to Saturday, from 12:30 -to5:30 pm (last admission at 4:45 pm), from April 1 to September 27. Daily admission fees are £7.50 for adults and £2.50 for children.

    See the garden location, Coton, Northamptionshire, NN6 8RQ, below:

    For more of Coton Manor, see The Trouble With Chickens (and Ducks, Donkeys, and Flamingos).

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    Located just off South Congress Avenue, Austin's main drag, the Hotel Saint Cecilia occupies a sloping, shady acre-and-a-half plot anchored by six monumental Southern live oak trees. When famed hotelier Liz Lambert first saw the property, she envisioned her first guest as "Mick Jagger with a Bentley in the driveway." Hence, the turntables in every room, vinyl record collection, and vintage posters from the 1970s.

    When it came to designing the exterior spaces, landscape designer Mark Word (working with his partner Billy Spencer) channeled Lambert's vision of a retreat for rock and roll royalty, adding a jazzy note to the exteriors with a black and white chevron tiled patio, black and white striped awning, and red rattan Parisian café chairs straight out of a Godard movie.

    "Here in Austin and other parts of Texas, we've experienced record temperatures and severe drought several years running," Word says. "It's best to choose your plants carefully and water them only as needed." To that end, he used what he calls "tough natives, succulents, antique roses, and exciting exotics."

    N.B.: Lambert commissioned a limited edition Hotel Saint Cecilia Perfume from local perfume maker Roux St. James, based on "the scent of sweet tea white roses, cultivated from the hotel's garden, along with grass, wood, and musk"; $100 from the hotel's gift shop (available online as well). Valentines, anyone?

    Photographs by Michael A. Muller for Gardenista unless otherwise noted.

    Hotel Saint Cecilia Austin/Gardenista

    Above: The chevron black and white tile extends from the indoor bar to the exterior, creating an outdoor patio.

    Hotel Saint Cecilia Austin/Gardenista

    Above: The Bastille Chair from TK Collections is handmade in France (to the trade only). Another good source for French café chairs is American Country Home Store; the St. Germain Rattan Chair is $299.

    St. Cecilia Hotel Patio/Gardenista

    Above: A vertigo-inducing pairing of black and white; the awning provides shade and plays off the chevron tiled patio flooring.

    Hotel Saint Cecilia Austin/Gardenista

    Above: Clayton & Little Architects, an Austin firm, overhauled the interiors of the 1888 Victorian (known as the Miller-Crockett House) with a wraparound porch; the architects also added a cluster of bungalows around the pool.

    Hotel Saint Cecilia Awning/Gardenista

    Above: A view of the hotel entrance.

    Hotel Saint Cecilia Citroen/Gardenista

    Above: Moves Like Jagger: A vintage Citroën is permanently parked at the entrance (Lambert's version of the Bentley).

    Hotel Saint Cecilia Austin/Gardenista

    Above: The 50-foot-long lap pool is located on the site's downhill slope and overlooks downtown Austin; a neon sign glows red at night.

    Hotel Saint Cecilia Bench/Gardenista

    Above: A secluded seating area with a foliage screen and asymmetrical path. Photograph by Patrick Wong via Mark Word.

    Mark Word DWR Planter/Gardenista

    Above: Mark Word tends to a Gratia Square planter from DWR; photograph by Amanda Elmore. Other favorites with Word? "Mexican Sycamore (Plantanus mexicana, actually native to the Northeastern New Mexico but works well in our region); Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor); Stemodia (Stemodia Ianata), and Wooly mullein (Verbascum thapsus). These plants can handle the extreme heat and yearly temperature changes as well as heavy soil and all have great foliage and texture."

    Where to shop for plants in Austin? Word's own nursery is called Jardineros and is well worth a visit.

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    As a public service message to our male readers as we approach Valentine's Day, we asked Gardenista friend and masculinity adviser Joel Stein, a longtime Time magazine columnist and the author of Man Made: In Which a Dad Learns to Be a Man for His Son, for tips about how to buy flowers. (And if I were him, I would totally tweet this to my 940,000 Twitter followers.) Here's his advice:

    I have spent most of my life being flower-phobic because I thought that buying flowers was kind of the equivalent of using a pickup line. It seemed very cheesy. I'm from New Jersey, and it seemed very un-masculine.

    Then at some point, right after I met my wife, Cassandra, when I was 28, I realized that all the things that seem cheesy in the third person are very romantic and sweet when they're happening to you. So I bought flowers in Chelsea, and I was walking back to my apartment—and all of a sudden I looked across the street, and I saw a bunch of teenage girls pointing at me and laughing. It was a bunch of tough looking girls. And it was my greatest fear: "They think I'm just some dorky dweeby guy carrying flowers."

    Gardenista: Joel, not to interrupt, but can we get to the advice part?

    Sex in the City: Joel Stein's Tips for Buying Valentine's Flowers; Gardenista

    Above: A Hand-Selected Designer Floral Bouquet in two sizes is from $48 to $100 (plus shipping), from Food52 Provisions. Order by Wednesday.

    Joel: The problem is flowers all look the same to guys. I know they come in different colors, of course. But you can't buy by color. There's also semiotics, and that's a blur. Flowers are symbols. You don't want to make a mistake by buying the wrong ones. Different flowers mean different things; there are class issues, like with handbags. I know that a woman carrying a Coach handbag means something, but I don't know what. With flowers, there are some that are cheesy, and some that are good, and some that broadcast a certain kind of Upper-West-Side-y-ness, and you as a guy have no hope of parsing that on your own. 

    Gardenista: So, ask for help?

    Joel: Yeah, throw yourself on the mercy of the florist guy. I ask for help. We have some kind of subtextual conversation where he tells me what's in season, and I nod like I'm the one making the decision.

    Gardenista: How much should you spend on Valentine's flowers?

    Joel: Price is not the best signifier. It can throw you off because roses are expensive, but they're too lazy, too lame, not cool enough. Too cliché.

    Sex in the City: Joel Stein's Tips for Buying Valentine's Flowers ; Gardenista

    Above: A 24-stem Large Bouquet is $100 from Food52 Provisions.

    Gardenista: Should you find out the favorite flowers of the person you're buying for, and just get those?

    Joel: That works. Cassandra at some point told me she really likes peonies... no, not peonies. Something with a scent.

    Gardenista: Lilacs?

    Joel: No...or maybe. Well, anyway, I bought them for ten years and then she changed her mind. If that happens, one thing you can do is see what all your friends are buying and then buy the same flowers. Stick inside your demographic. Then you won't make a huge mistake or buy something insulting.

    Sex in the City: Joel Stein's Tips for Buying Valentine's Flowers ; Gardenista

    Above: A 12-stem Small Bouquet ($48) is from Food52 Provisions.

    Gardenista: Flowers sound really stressful for a guy.

    Joel: You have no idea.

    Gardenista: Maybe chocolates are a better Valentine's gift?

    Joel: No! No! Chocolate's a minefield. There are body issues there. If you're going to buy dessert for a woman, you're better off getting a one-night-consumable item than a box that lasts a month. You don't want to hear about it for 30 days: "Do I look fat? Do I look fat? Is this chocolate making me fat?" I think a box of chocolates is more of a burden than a gift.

    But I should make it clear that Cassandra has chocolate bars hidden all around the house. I think she's OK with the baseline temptation of a chocolate bar, but the extra excitement of a box of chocolates would not be so good.

    Gardenista: Are you going to buy flowers for Valentine's Day this year?

    Joel: I don't think so. I think flowers are best used either as a random surprise or as an apology. Of course apology flowers are tricky—that's a whole different conversation—but they sometimes work. Valentine's flowers feel treacly and obvious. But on the other hand, they do go over well....I've got a coupon for ProFlowers. Maybe I should jump on this right now.

    N.B.: Feeling the pressure? Here are The Best $50 Roses You Can Order Online.

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    Farrah Sit is the mastermind behind Light + Ladder, a Brooklyn collaborative of independent artists who design meaningful handmade home goods. Their belief that "the home should be like a garden" comes to life through the products they design, available through an online shop.

    One of Light and Ladder's latest collection includes the Chromo, a stacked self-watering ceramic planter. The two-piece planter reduces watering chores while promoting root growth. A lower reservoir provides a place for both water and ample drainage, encouraging a balanced moisture level in the soil and making for deep happy roots.

    The Chromo Self-Watering Planter Collection by Light and Ladder I Gardenista

     Above: The Chromo Self-Watering Planter Collection is available in small (shown here) and tall planters; they come in Brown, Sage and Ivory.

    Light and Ladder Small Chromo Self-Watering Planter in Ivory I Gardenista

    Above: The Small Chromo Self-Watering Planter In Ivory measures 5 inches tall and 4.25 inches wide; $90. A Tall Ivory Planter measures 9 inches tall and 4.75 inches wide; $100.

    Light and Ladder Tall Chromo Self-Watering Planter in Grey and Sage I Gardenista

    Above: The Tall Chromo Self-Watering Planter in Grey and Sage is $100.  All Chromo planters are made to order, and the reservoir and pots of the planters can be mixed and matched to achieve a two-toned look. If you prefer to mix sets or customize a planter, contact owner Farrah Sit directly.

    Light and Ladder Small Chromo Self-Watering Planter in Brown I Gardenista  

    Above: The Small Brown Chromo Planter is $90. A crevice on each pot is both beautiful and functional, providing a good spot to grip the planter during refills. 

    Are you on a planter hunt? See our post 10 Easy Pieces: White Hanging Planters

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    Recently, while browsing around my favorite florist shop, I noticed a clump of rare blooms dusted in a wintry heather gray. I picked one up. "Silver brunia," the floral expert informed. "Aren't they lovely?"

    "Yes," I agreed as I reached for a blushing hydrangea nearby. "And what about this unusual cocoa-pink Queen Anne's Lace?'

    "It's called 'Chocolate,'" she said. I smiled, and thus my Valentine's Day bouquet was born.

    Photographs by Justine Hand.

    Winter Romance Bouquet, with Silver Brunia, pink hydrangeas, Gardenista

    Above: Taking advantage of the wide selection of unusual plants at Winston Flowers in Boston, I selected wintry hues and textures for my "homage to winter" Valentine's bouquet—adding just a touch of pink, of course.

    Winter Romance, Silver Brunia, Gardenista

    Above: Though it reminds me of a snow-covered evergreen forest, Silver Brunia Nodiflora is actually native to South Africa. Available for purchase online at McMinnville Wholesale Flowers; $14.95.

    winter romance, false cypress and David Austen roses, Gardenista

    Above: Creamy David Austen roses (which have an intoxicating smell) and false cypress also embodied the feel of the winter woods.

    Winter Romance, Silver Brunia Bouquet, pink hydrangea and chocolate queen annes lace, Gardenista

    Above: To soften the spikier aspects of my arrangement and to add a bit of Victorian- era romance, I chose the soft, snowflake forms of pink hydrangeas and chocolate Queen Anne's Lace.

    Winter Romance, Silver Brunia Bouquet, assembly, Gardenista

    Above: Brunia does not require any special treatment, but as with all woody stemmed flowers, a long diagonal cut will allow it to draw more water. (This is also recommended for the hydrangeas and roses.)

    Winter Romance bouquet with Silver Brunia, finished, Gardenista

    Above: So as not to obscure the dynamic forms of the flowers—and to capture something of a wild feel—I left my winter romance bouquet loose and a little unruly.

    Winter Romance, Silver Brunia Bouquet detail, Gardenista

    Above: The heathered tint and ball-like structure of the silver brunia lend an enticing texture and contrast to the bouquet.

    Winter Romance bouquet with Silver Brunia, long view, Gardenista

    Above: A bit of hanging cypress and a reindeer antler found by my stepfather on the Alaskan tundra complete my wintry scene. 

    Winter Romance bouquet with Silver Brunia, close, Gardenista

    Above: With fresh water everyday, my bouquet should see me through to Valentine's Day.

    N.B. Want something more classic for Valentine's Day? Lindsey's find, the Bouqs Company's Roses are among the best I've ever seen. Or if my winter romance arrangement is too traditional, try Janet's look featured in The Un-Pink Bouquet.

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    Cut flowers are the holy grail. No matter how small your garden, you should be able to grow enough to snip a bouquet's worth every week without creating sad bald patches. The secret? Plan ahead—and plant ahead—with tips from Seattle-based Erin Benzakein of Floret Flower Farm, who grows more than 260 varieties of flowers.

    "You don’t need a ton of space. Just a little spot," she says. "If you pick the right varieties, and get your spot ready, you can do it." Here's how:

    Photographs via Floret Flower Farm.

    Floret Flowers DIY sweetpeas cutting flowers l Gardenista

    Above: Erin Benzakein, and her sweetpeas.

    1. Germinate seeds indoors. Plant seeds indoors a month before the last frost date. "You'll need supplemental light because a windowsill may not be sunny enough; if your seedlings are weak and leggy, they'll get squished in the summer after you set them out in the garden," says Erin.

    To germinate seeds, she places trays on top of the refrigerator (where it's warm) and then she transfers the seedlings to a tabletop, to sit about 3 or 4 inches below fluorescent grow lights. A Compact Tabletop SunLite Garden with full-spectrum light bulbs is $149 from Gardener's. A Heat Mat to keep seedlings at a temperature of 70 degrees is $39.95 from Gardener's. 

      Floret Flowers DIY sweetpeas cutting flowers l Gardenista

    Above: Sweetpeas from Floret Flower Farm, where Erin also grows 3,500 dahlias and 2,500 sunflowers (among others) every year.

    2. Choose flowers that are easy to grow and produce a lot of blooms. "There are certain work horse plants. The very easiest are zinnias and dahlias and cosmos," says Erin. "You can expect from 15 to 30 flowers from a zinnia. You can get bunches and bunches of flowers off one cosmos plant."

    Erin Benzakein's favorite seed sources:

    • Long-stemmed Zinnia "Blue Point" in shades of pink, white, yellow, red, and orange is $2.79 from Renee's Garden.
    • With a mixture of pink, red, and white flowers, a Cosmos Versailles Mix (developed especially for cutting) is $3.65 per packet from Johnny's Seeds.
    • A Grower's Choice Selection of seven types of sweetpea seeds is $34.65 from Enchanting Sweetpeas.

      Floret Flowers DIY sweetpeas cutting flowers l Gardenista

    Above: To sprout sweetpeas, Erin soaks seeds in water for 24 hours first.

    3. When it's time to transplant seedlings, improve your soil—before you plant. "Not doing it is the biggest mistake you can make," Erin says. "I've tried to cheat so many times, but I always come back to this: you have to feed the soil."

    Let's say you're going to plant a clump of flowers in a tiny, sunny spot of soil that sits between two shrubs. "Dump a big bucket of compost on the area, then use a fork or shovel to dig it in to a depth of 6 inches, because that's where the feeder roots will be," she says. "Then spread a thick layer of organic fertilizer on top—and dig that in. Then, before you plant, top dress the soil with another sprinkling of compost. It makes all the difference."

    Floret Flowers DIY sweetpeas cutting flowers l Gardenista

    Above: A sweetpea seedling, ready to transplant into the ground.

    4. Interplant flowers among the other plants in your garden. "All you need to have cutting flowers for two months this year if you plant five cosmos, five zinnias, five sunflowers, and a handful of dahlias," says Erin. "Tuck flowers inside of already existing beds or shrubbery if there’s an open spot that gets good sun."

    Floret Flowers DIY sweetpeas cutting flowers l Gardenista

    Above: Drip irrigation in a greenhouse at Floret Flower Farm.

    5. Make sure your flowers get enough water. Plant roots need deep drenching; Erin uses a drip irrigation system from Dripworks; for home gardeners, she recommends soaker hoses. "They use about one quarter as much water as overhead watering," she says. A 50-foot Flat Soaker Hose is $19.95 from Gardener's. 

    Floret Flowers DIY sweetpeas cutting flowers l Gardenista

    Above: Erin pinches out the central stem before transplanting a sweetpea seedling to encourage it to branch out.

    6. Protect tender seedlings from wind by planting them in a protected spot. "Where we garden is a wide open field, and we actually lost one of our greenhouses to wind," says Erin. "It just ripped the plastic off and it went down the field."

    Home gardeners can protect plants from wind by planting them against a fence or tucking them into sunny spots next to tall, strong shrubs. 

    Floret Flowers DIY sweetpeas cutting flowers l Gardenista

    Above: Last year's sweetpea crop at Floret Flower Farm.

    7. Keep deadheading. "You'll get a lot more flowers if you deadhead through the whole season," says Erin. "Once you let them go to seed, the plants tend to put all their energy into that instead."

      Floret Flowers DIY sweetpeas cutting flowers l Gardenista

    Above: Looking for a comprehensive reference book? Erin swears by Sarah Raven's book Grow Your Own Cut Flowers ($32.10 from Amazon)"It's the best book ever," she says.

    For more, see DIY: Sarah Raven's Cut Flower Bouquet and 10 Tips for Growing Cutting Flowers from Barberry Hill Farm.

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    In keeping with our Valentine's theme this week, we've stumbled upon this utilitarian yet romantic outdoor kitchen in Puglia, a renovation project of Elia Mangia Design Studio. Cooking (and eating) here is somehow more appealing than cuddling by a fire.

    We've sourced the elements to recreate the look:

    Mediterranean Utilitarian Outdoor Kitchen in Puglia, Gardenista

    Above: The outdoor kitchen is sited in a renovated trullo, a style of stone hut native to the region.

    Outdoor Mediterranean Kitchen in Puglia, Gardenista

    Above: The ingredients are truly simple, but admittedly the white Mediterranean walls add a certain charm. 

    Nexgrill Tabletop Grill, Gardenista

    Above: A tabletop stove is the easiest outdoor cooking solution. A Nexgrill 2-Burner Table Top Gas Grill is $129 at Walmart.

    Black Plastic Utility Tub, Gardenista

    Above: We like the utility tub used as an outdoor sink; a Black Plastic Utility Tub is $18.39 from Midland Hardware.

    Orange Outdoor Extension Cord, Gardenista

    Above: In the right setting, even a plain orange extension cord looks like a design element. A 25-Foot Outdoor Extension Cord is $9.99 on Amazon.

    Bayco Fluorescent Utility Light, Gardenista

    Above: In case the string lights hanging from the olive trees fail to provide enough light, a Bayco 18W Fluorescent Work Light is $19.97 at Walmart.

    Bialetti Stovetop Espresso Maker, Gardenista

    Above: Ubiquitous in Italian kitchens, indoors and out: the Bialetti stovetop espresso maker. A 3-cup Bialetti Moka Express is $24.62 on Amazon.

    Vintage French Style Cutting Board, Gardenista

    Above: Any cutting board will do, but several vintage French boards are available on Etsy. This French Style Chopping Board is $56.04. 

    Black Wok with Wood Handles, Gardenista

    Above: A Wood-Handled Wok is $9.38 from KitchenInspire.

    Catch another stellar outdoor kitchen, this one in the Netherlands, in Steal This Look: The Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen

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  • 02/11/14--09:00: DIY: Flowers a Man Can Wear
  • Flowers for men? Why ever not. Boutonnières, like this one designed by Farmgirl Flowers’ Rhiannon Smith, can have a rakish, unstudied appeal. Cheaper than a necktie, and more fun, this small yet sweet token of your affection would make a charming Valentine’s Day gift.

    Photographs by Brian Hildebrand.

    succulent_boutonniere valentine's flowers for men ; Gardenista

    Above: Gather your supplies, all easily procured at the craft store.

    Succulent Boutonnière by Rhiannon Smith (see more of her work at Rhiannon Flowers).


    • 10 inches of 22 gauge floral wire
    • 14 inches of floral tape
    • 2-3 inches of ¼ inch thick ribbon (optional)
    • For your flowers and greens, go foraging. “If you're going out and foraging materials yourself, it makes it more personal,” says Smith. “It’s fun to go in your backyard and find something you can use. Men really like unexpected materials.” 
    • You’ll need a larger, round flower as a focal point, a sprig of berries or rosehips, and a leaf. For this boutonnière, Smith used a rosette from a succulent as the focal point, a bit of privet berry, which grows all around San Francisco, and a pistachio leaf. But you can also use baby pomegranate, or a round ranunculus flower as your focal point. Rosehips or tiny flowerbuds could be used in place of the berries. Any leaf that catches your eye will do.  


    1. Create a stem for your succulent rosette. Take 6 inches of floral wire, and pierce the rosette through its center, up through the base, towards its showy face, leaving about 3 inches of wire below the base. 
    2. Come back down through the rosette, close to where you originally pierced it, forming a “U” with the wire. 
    3. With 7 inches of floral tape, wrap the pair of wires from the base of the flower down towards the stem.
    4. Trim the ends so the stem is about 2 inches long, or longer, to balance out the arrangement. 
    5. Gather your foraged finds into a pleasing arrangement with the rosette in front, and wind a 4-inch length of floral wire around the stems to secure.
    6. With another length of floral tape, cover the stems and wire, and trim the excess to about 2 inches, or whatever length looks best. 
    7. If you’re using a bit of ribbon, there’s no need to tie a bow. Smith uses a simple square knot. 
    8. Finally, present your gift to the person in question, and blush. 

      succulent_boutonniere valentine's flowers for men ; Gardenista

    Above: An array of boutonnières made for a Farmgirl fête. Sunflower was involved, as well as ranunculus, craspedia, dusty miller, privet berry, eucalyptus and olive leaf.

    Feeling romantic? Browse the rest of our Valentine's Day Ideas.

    Hoping for a Valentine's Day sans red roses? See DIY: Winter Romance in a Silver Brunia Bouquet 

    Utterly stumped? See Joel Stein's Tips for Buying Valentine's Flowers

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    A couple of weeks ago during one of New England's many recent snow storms, I witnessed a minor miracle of Nature: a robin convention in my yard.

    Despite their reputation as "harbingers of spring," robins don't necessarily go away in the winter. But they can be very elusive. Roosting in large numbers, high in the trees, they won't come down for your seeds. If you want robins to flock to your snowbound yard, you need to plant a winter berry garden. 

    Photographs by Justine Hand, except where noted.

    Winter Robins eating Rose hips, Gardenista

    Above: Unlike summer, when robins spread out in breeding pairs, in winter robins flock together in large groups call "conventions." In some parts of the country, these conventions have been known to include hundreds or even thousands of birds! And as in the famed Hitchcock movie, when a convention descends on your yard, the effect is thrilling. 

    Winter Robin in a burning bush, Gardenista

    Above: Despite the wind and snow, this little robin remains a cozy 104 degrees under those fluffed up feathers. His recent meal of berries from my Burning Bush (a 2.5-quart plant is $6.98 from Lowe's) will also help him generate the energy he needs to stay warm.

    Winter Robins eating Crab Apple, Gardenista

    Above: With their favorite food source—worms, of course—beneath the frozen ground, the winter robins turn vegetarian. Of course all the sweet berries get eaten in the summer and fall, leaving only bitter fruits like these crabapples or the rose hips below. No need to pity the poor robin though, because with each cycle of freezing and thawing, these berries become increasingly sweet.

    Winter Robin Food, incoming on a rose hip, Gardenista

    Above: In addition to these rose hips, the robins in my yard ate burning bush berries, crabapples, winter berries, and even bittersweet. 

    Winter Robin Food, crab apple, Gardenista

    Above: You may notice that your winter robins look a bit different. I thought this was just a winter coat. But my stepfather, an ornithologist, informed me that these are probably from Canada. (I guess snowy New England in south to some.) 

    Winter Robin Food, snowberry, Gardenista

    Above: Next year, I'm going to make my winter garden even more enticing with snowberries, another robin favorite. A 1-quart pot of Amethyst Coral Berry Snowberry is $16.99 from Proven Winners. Photograph by Dale Hameister.

    Winter Robin Food, Bay Berries, Gardenista

    Above: Last fall I used these bayberries to make candles, but winter robins prefer to eat them.

    Winter Berry Bird Food, Cedar waxwing and juniper, Gardenista

    Above: Of course robins aren't the only birds that enjoy a winter fruit snack. Here a cedar waxwing bulks up on juniper berries. Photograph via The Lake Today.

    Winter Robin Food, Mountain Ash in Snow by Joe Schreiber, Gardenista

    Above: Mountain Ash ($22.99; ships in spring from Gurney's) is another robin favorite that also adds color and texture to a winter garden. Others include hawthorne, chokecherry, juniper, and red cedar. Photograph by Joe Schreiber.

    N.B.: Don't have a garden for winter berries? Try enticing feathered friends with Erin's easy "Grapefruit Bird Feeder."

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    It's easy to see why a Valentine's rose once had some cachet. Before imported flowers became the florists' standard, a blooming winter rose was mysterious indeed. But now roses in February seem unimaginative and frankly a bit strange, since they don't flower (in the UK at least) until May or June.

    Far better to give something seasonal, though there isn't much around besides snowdrops. Or is there? Rachel Petheram of Catkin Flowers at Doddington Hall makes a local Valentine's bouquet, grown in cold and windy Lincolnshire:

    Photographs by Kendra Wilson.

    English seasonal bouquet in February. Gardenista

    Above: Rachel keeps her cut flower business "pretty low key" at this time of year, before the cutting garden becomes more productive in March. However, there is still plenty to choose from: the hellebore, euphorbia, rosemary, and mauve stocks shown here are from the garden at Doddington.

    English seasonal bouquet in February. Gardenista

    Above: The makings of a February bouquet. "First, strip all the leaves from the lower part of the stem and line up your ingredients in front of you," says Rachel.

    From the top, ornamental cabbage, Euphorbia oblongata, white anemone. Berried ivy, golden green Skimmia x confusa 'Kew Green', flowering stocks, and rosemary are all grown at Doddington, as are hellebores and foliage plants Senecio cineraria 'Silver Dust'. The latter provides a contrasting foliage to the acid green euphorbia.

    English seasonal bouquet in February. Gardenista

    Above: White Anemone 'The Bride' from Fens in Lincolnshire, home to many traditional flower growers and nurserymen.

    "Lincolnshire is a great growing county," says Rachel. "We have wonderful soil. But you adapt to what you can grow: my zinnias are about four inches high so I grow something else."

    English seasonal bouquet in February. Gardenista

    Above: Say it with cabbages. Shown here, ornamental cabbage 'Crane's White', again sourced from Fens, where it would have been raised in an unheated glasshouse. Long-stalked Ornamental Cabbage 'Crane's White' available as seed from Unwin; £2.99 per packet.

    "People aren't so keen when you say you are going to put cabbages in their bouquet," muses Rachel. "But they are so blowsy and pretty, clients are always won over." It helps to see them as cabbagey roses, rather than rosy cabbages.

    English seasonal bouquet in February. Gardenista

    Above: Putting it all together. "Make a 'fan' of the ingredients in your hand," says Rachel. "Use your other hand to turn the stems to about a quarter, keeping the fan shape as far as possible. Then start again: add all the other pieces and twist."

    English seasonal bouquet in February. Gardenista

    Above: "When all the plant material has been used, bring the posy together and tie it tightly where you've been holding it," says Rachel. "Use string, raffia or paper-covered wire."

    English seasonal bouquet in February. Gardenista

    Above: "Luscious, dark hellebores contrast with the pretty pink cabbages," says Rachel. "They are quite vampish and stop the cabbages from looking too sweet—if cabbages can be called sweet."

    To make hellebores last longer in a vase, sear the stem tips in boiling water for ten seconds the night before and leave them standing in a bucket of water. When hellebores develop seed heads, they last "loads longer."

    English seasonal bouquet in February. Gardenista

    Above: "Catkins create movement," says Rachel. This curly hazel is from a friend's garden, but the usual variety is all over the hedgerows right now, as is berried ivy. Catkins are an old favorite with Catkin Flowers.

    N.B.: Rachel sources most of her seed for cut flowers from Higgledy Garden and Chiltern Seeds.

    Local flowers for Valentine's Day could lead to local flowers for weddings: DIY: Secrets of Growing Your Own Wedding Flowers.

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  • 02/12/14--06:30: 10 Easy Pieces: Bird Feeders
  • For bird lovers everywhere, here's a roundup of ten modern bird feeders to draw avian neighbors to your yard and liven up your winter landscape. 

    10 Easy Pieces: Bird Feeders | Gardenista

    Above: The stainless steel Blomus Nido Bird Feeder comes with stake and suspension hanger included; $81.89 from All Modern. 

    10 Easy Pieces: Bird Feeders | Gardenista

    Above: Stina Sandwall's chimneyed Pip Pip Bird Feeder comes in white, black, green, and red lacquered steel; $130 from Scandanavian Home.

    10 Easy Pieces: Bird Feeders | Gardenista

    Above: The Barcelona Bird Feeder was inspired by Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion. This modern combination bird feeder and bird bath is made from sustainably harvested Acacia wood; $200 from Leibal.

    10 Easy Pieces: Bird Feeders | Gardenista

    Above: We imagine this Flythrough Copper Bird Feeder, made in the Blue Ridge Mountains, only becomes more beautiful over time. It comes with a copper hanger; $79 from Kaufmann Mercantile.

    10 Easy Pieces: Bird Feeders | Gardenista

    Above: Made by Cincinnati-based Ingleside Pottery, this spherical white porcelain Bird Feeder is one of our favorites; $80 from Cut Modern. A pinhole drain keeps bird seed from becoming soggy. 

    10 Easy Pieces: Bird Feeders | Gardenista

    Above: The shallow bowl of the Rope Bird Feeder allows plenty of surface area for hungry birds to snack. The feeder is suspended from twisted cotton rope and a piece of copper tubing hides the knots; $72 from Pigeon Toe Ceramics.

      10 Easy Pieces: Bird Feeders | Gardenista

    Above: Designed by Amy Adams of Perch! in Brooklyn, this ceramic Bird Feeder offers snacking birds a little shelter. The feeder features a non-toxic glaze and is suspended from a leather cord; $98 from Branch Home. Replacement leather cords are available. 

    10 Easy Pieces | Gardenista

    Above: A sweet hut of a bird feeder, this ceramic Bird Feeder with Bronze Glaze is $80 from Cheryl Woolf Pottery.

    10 Easy Pieces: Bird Feeders | Gardenista

    Above: The wire mesh structure and metal rings at the middle and bottom of this Bronze Hourglass Feeder provide equal opportunity for perching and clinging birds and are strong enough to withstand damage from squirrels. The bird feeder is collapsible and can be stored in the off-season; $54 from Terrain.

    10 Easy Pieces: Bird Feeders | Gardenista

    Above: If squirrels are a particularly pesky issue in your backyard, consider the classic design of the Heritage Farms Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder; $40.49 from Casa.

    More of a DIY-er? Make your own Grapefruit Bird Feeder or consider planting a Winter Berry Garden.

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    We browsed our gallery for private garden spaces perfect for sharing words or a quiet cup of tea. By happenstance, all the gardens we chose are shaded; we're thinking you'll bring your own sun.

    For more inspiration, browse our gallery of Small Space Gardening.

    Small Outdoor Living Room in San Francisco, Gardenista

    Above: A "Lilliputian backyard" behind a San Francisco home feels larger than it is thanks to designer Alma Hecht's strategy of subdividing the yard into distinct outdoor rooms. A "living room" in the back corner of the garden is hidden from the main house by a freestanding fountain. For more of Hecht's strategies, see Small-Scale Gardening in San Francisco. Browse our gallery of Outdoor Furniture for sourcing ideas of your own.

    Small Gallery Garden with Driftwood by Paula Hayes, Gardenista

    Above: New Remodelista + Gardenista Designer Directory member Paula Hayes designed this tiny garden on a lot behind a gallery on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Pieces of driftwood serve as informal seating. For more small garden ideas in the big city, see all of the New York City projects in our gallery.

    Townhouse Garden in London with Ancient Fern Trees, Gardenista

    Above: A private corner shares space with 250-year-old Australian tree ferns in a small courtyard garden in London's Piccadilly. See the rest of the project in A Secret Courtyard Garden in Piccadilly, Ancient Tree Ferns Included, and find more prehistoric greens in our gallery of Ferns.

    Secret Garden by Richard Miers in London, Gardenista

    Above: Garden designer Richard Miers created a shaded "secret garden" at the back of a terraced house in London, complete with a water feature. For the rest of the garden, see Bloom Time with UK Garden Designer Richard Miers and browse examples of Brit Style gardens in our gallery. 

    Corner Seating Area in London Garden, Gardenista

    Above: UK garden designer Anna Wardrop stacked oak sleepers to create a corner seating area and raised beds in a small garden in London. Find out what she planted in Design Sleuth: Town Garden in Stoke Newington, London. Inspired to tackle a hardscaping project of your own? See our galley of DIY projects.

    For other unlikely romantic outdoor spaces, see Design Sleuth: Romantic Curtains for a Greenhouse and Steal This Look: Romantic Outdoor Kitchen in Puglia.

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    Roses do not last long enough in the garden. I know you agree. June may come and go, but you and I would like to be gazing fondly on pink velvety petals in December, as well. I believe this to be the reason wallpaper was invented.

    UK designer Kevin Dean, a self-described "keen plantsman," has captured the essence of rose—big, blowsy, overblown, beloved by your grandmother, and yet entirely modern. It has been nearly five years since Julie and Francesca discovered his English Roses wallpaper collection at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, and I only wish they'd brought a few rolls home. (As you know, I agonized for months before I figured out how to Pick the Perfect Wallpaper for my guest bath.) 

    kevin dean floral rose wallpaper

    Photograph via Kevin Dean.

    Above: Digitally printed on linen using inks made with organic pigments, the English Roses collection of wallpaper is £85 per roll (measuring 10 meters long by 52 centimeters wide). For more information, see Kevin Dean.

      kevin dean's fireplace with vase of roses

    Above: Photograph via Design Sponge via Flickr.

    Perhaps the inspiration for the English Roses collection came from real life; here a vase sits on Dean's mantelpiece at home.

    kevin dean rose pattern wallpaper detail

    Above: Photograph by Geishaboy500 via Flickr. 

    For more see Walls, Windows & Floors: Kevin Dean Textiles and Wallpaper.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published June 13, 2013 during our American Beauty week.

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    On Jennie Love's two-acre farm in Philadelphia—a rare rural outpost within the city limits—you will not see any long stemmed roses fresh off the plane from Colombia or Ecuador or Thailand or Kenya. Her flowers are grown here on land that William Penn once cultivated.

    Love, the proprietor of Love 'n Fresh Flowers, is anything but a conventional florist: the flowers she sells are also grown by her. Love acquired a lot of her gardening skills and knowledge of plants at Longwood Gardens, where she also took courses in floral arts. Much of her business is providing flowers for weddings. 

    Most of her bridal clients—she estimates 70 percent—come to her through word of mouth and already understand that the flowers she provides will be determined by what is in bloom, not what will fit in a pre-designed arrangement. For the other 30 percent, who are not so familiar with the idea of locally sourced flowers, Love sees her role as an educator, explaining why local is important and better and wooing them with her unique creations.

    Photographs by Jennie Love via Love 'n Fresh.

    Love n Fresh Flowers ; Gardenista

    Above: Dahlias thrive in one of two greenhouses on the farm.  

    Love not only has a green thumb, she also has farming in her blood. She grew up on a fifth-generation dairy farm in central Pennsylvania, then left for college and a career in corporate marketing. But the love of farming stayed with her, and she says she always knew she wanted to grow flowers.

    Love n Fresh Flowers ; Gardenista

    Above: Perennials are an important part of the mix of plants grown on the farm.  

    Love n Fresh Flowers ; Gardenista

    Above: A stem of tiny tomatoes can add interest to a bouquet.  

    In addition to what she grows, Love often adds foraged elements to her arrangements: wild clematis, sweetpeas, and goldenrod are favorites. 

    Love n Fresh Flowers ; Gardenista

    Above: Flowers in fields at Love n' Fresh.

    The farm's motto is "from seed to centerpiece" and she strives to live up to that, growing as wide a variety of flowers and plant materials as possible in all seasons. 

    love n fresh flowers ; Gardenista

    Above:Poppy seed pods combined with narcissus in a spring arrangement.

    Love sees the local flower movement as similar to the local food trend. Last year she participated in an online bouquet-making smackdown called the Seasonal Bouquet Project with Seattle farmer Erin Benzakein of Floret Flower Farm. While she is hopeful the commercial floral industry will change its practice of importing flowers grown by underpaid third world workers using chemical fertilizers, she knows it will take time and says she hopes to see progress in the next decade.  

    love n fresh flowers ; Gardenista

    Above: White anemones in an antique pitcher.  

    For now Love says she is happy with her life as a farmer-florist.  Cultivation is relentless and physically demanding work.  She says she farms from sunup to sundown and then, after dark, creates her arrangements. (Sleep? What is that?) But she is nurtured by the people who buy her flowers.  Neighbors who are customers have become friends.  And Love believes that when people see that local flowers are kinder to the earth and naturally hardier, longer lasting, and more varied than imported blooms, they will share her passion for the blossoms that she nurtures.

    For further reading on another unconventional florist see Emily Thompson, Florist to the Stars.  See how a New York bride is doing her own wedding flower farming in Tara Getting Married.

    Have you ever seen two acres of sweetpeas in bloom? See Ask the Expert: 7 Tips to Grow Cut Flowers in a Tiny Garden from Floret Farm.

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    For the last several months on Gardenista, we've been sourcing the best in Exterior Paint colors to help you make one of the toughest household design decisions when the time comes. Today, we scratch the surface of exterior stains—a different beast entirely.

    Stay tuned for more stain color breakdowns; for now we've paired some of our favorite stained exteriors with approximate color matches to start you thinking: 

    Swatch photos by Meredith Swinehart

    8 Favorite Exterior Stain Colors, Gardenista

    Above, left to right: Behr Semi-Transparent in Cape Cod Gray; Timber Pro UV Semi-Transparent in Ebony; Olympic Solid in Forest; Olympic Solid in Wedgewood; Behr Semi-Transparent in Chatham Fog; Behr Semi-Transparent in Colonial Yellow; Olympic Solid in Winning Red; and Behr Semi-Transparent in Slate.

    Best Yellow Exterior House Stain, Gardenista

    Above: We used Behr Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing Stain in Colonial Yellow to approximate the color of this Minnesota home by Minneapolis-based Albertsson Hansen Architecture. (We applied two coats of stain on our swatch.)

    Best Dark Brown-Black Exterior House Stain, Gardenista

    Above: This modern Venice Beach home sports a Semi-Transparent Stain in Ebony from Portland, OR-based natural finishes company Timber Pro UV. See a slideshow of the entire house on Dwell.

    Best Red Exterior House Stain, Gardenista

    Above: We've long admired this Berkshire Mountains artists' studio by Deborah Berke & Partners; for a close match to the stain, we chose Olympic Solid Stain in Winning Red. Read more about the studio in Architect Visit: Deborah Berke Artist's Studio in New York.

    Best Medium Wood Exterior House Stain, Gardenista

    Above: Behr Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing Stain in Chatham Fog approximates the look of this Swedish ski house. (We applied two coats to the swatch to achieve this effect.) Explore the whole retreat in A Minimalist Ski Resort in Sweden.

    Best Blue Exterior House Stain, Gardenista

    Above: This color combination is reminiscent of Berkeley, California Craftsman-style homes. Recreate the look with Olympic Solid Stain in Wedgewood. Photograph by Eric Wittman.

    Best Green Exterior House Stain, Gardenista

    Above: A red-stained barn is hard to beat, but this brilliant Irish green comes close. Olympic Solid Stain in Forest is a good match. Photograph by Eric van den Brulle via Clic Bookstore and Gallery.

    Best Gray Exterior House Stain, Gardenista

    Above: We like Behr Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing Stain in Cape Cod Gray to match the Eastern Seaboard look of this Deborah Berke & Partners Connecticut weekend retreat. (We applied two coats to our sample.)

    Best Black Exterior House Stain, Gardenista

    Above: Achieve a dark black (but not completely solid) finish with Behr Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing Stain in Slate. For more on this Catskills home, visit the project on Design Sponge.

    Planning to paint this spring? Explore the colors in Gardenista's outdoor paint series in Black, White, Gray, Red, and Green.

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    Valentine's Day comes at the moment I need it most. By February, wooly socks and furry blankets have begun to lose their magic. Even if warmer days are weeks away, I appreciate the promise that Valentine's Day brings (and whether I have a special Valentine or not, I use the holiday as an excuse to indulge in a little flower-shaped pick-me-up). In that spirit, here's how to create wall vases with nothing more than a few medicine vials, a nail, a length of twine, and blooms from the florist.

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    Above: I love how the scale of the tiny spirea blossoms matches the miniature size of the vials.

    Above: Last weekend, I headed to my favorite neighborhood flower shop, GRDN,  and came home with an armload of goodies that say springtime: quince branches and spirea, freesia, and ranunculus.

    Above: I have a set of vintage medicine vials that I've been using lately as miniature hanging flower vessels and I recently discovered that the Container Store carries modern-day versions in three different sizes at prices ranging from 99 cents to $1.49 apiece. Surface area is at a premium in our Brooklyn apartment; rather than crowding things with an oversized bouquet, I like the idea of hanging flowers in smaller doses.

    Above: The threads in the top of the glass where the cap usually goes are the perfect place to secure your thread—and because the vials are so lightweight, there's no need to search for studs before you hang them up.

    Above: After adding loops of string to the vials, I put them on the floor and filled them with my booty from the flower shop. Adding flowers can make the small vials top heavy, so you might prefer to fill them after they're hung on the wall. I used quince blossoms and spirea in the tiniest vials, and I added ranunculus and freesia to the larger ones.

    Above: On the wall above our kitchen table, I interspersed my vials with a favorite Czech postcard and with old family photos. That's my great-cousin dancing with his sweetheart.

    Above: I strung larger vials in our sunny window frame and alongside our curtain.

    Above: In some cases, I hung two or three vials together on the same nail to create a slightly larger arrangement.

    Above: I don't know about you, but I'd take subtle additions of peaches and pinks over a dozen red roses any day of the week, and on Valentine's Day, especially.

    Want to try more of Erin's DIY projects? For our favorites, see DIY: Bottle-Fed Paperwhites and DIY: A Grapefruit Birdfeeder for Our Feathered Friends.

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

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