Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day of the Dead & All Hallow's Eve

Ever since a Fall trip to Mexico with our daughter about six years ago, we've been setting up a Day of the Dead alter each year. We're not Mexican, but our daughter likes doing it and delights in the fact we do it and no one else does. Her school is pretty diverse, but only a handful are aware of the holiday – and one of those is her Spanish teacher. Above are the cupcake skulls. We also made traditional sugar skulls that we painted and gave to her classmates. They're made of meringue powder and sugar painted with tempera paints. No they're not intended for eating. Yes, three of her classmates ate theirs. Can't vouch for how tempera paint tastes. Probably better than paste.

Above is the alter. Left is a close up. Each item on the alter has a meaning. Most importantly, there needs to be a photo of a deceased loved one you're honoring. In our case, having had no one close to us pass this year, we have out a photo of some servicemen that have died in the past year.

Cut-out banners–purple (for pain), white (for hope), and pink (for celebration). There's also shells to represent water; candles for fire; corn or chili for earth, and a musical instrument for wind. There are three sugar skulls representing the trinity; a small cross; bread; fruit; candy; and a towel, soap and bowl so the "ghost" can wash their hands after the long trip back here to earth. There's also a pitcher of water and their favorite alcohol to quench their thirst (we chose a beer as being a favorite of the military). Marigolds are a must, as they attract the ghost to this banquet. A feather represents the dawning of a new day, a black dog represents a guide accompanying the soul to the afterlife and a frog represents twilight of another day.

This is a very intense and expensive holiday for self-sufficient, rural-based indigenous Mexicans. They might spend as much as two-month's salary on their alter. in return, they believe that the happy spirits will provide protection, good luck and wisdom to their families.

We also do the expected carving of the pumpkins, which we just finished. A friend out in the sticks grows a field of pumpkins for her kids' school and usually has between 200-250 she donates for their school pumpkin sale. We get there before the school pumpkins are picked and get a good selection to chose from. This year we picked three and one was a vary handsome dark green pumpkin. Do you do anything out-of-the-ordinary for Halloween?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The no-water underwater garden

It's not quite a no-water garden, but if you were trying to design an underwater garden, above water, would cactus be the first plant on the list?

This Finding Nemo-inspired garden stands just outside Disney World's EPCOT Center's The Seas pavilion. The "arrangement" of plants is a clever stab at recreating the various coral, sea grasses and other odd-looking plants you might see while snorkeling.

There are some beachy-looking plants that do look like their underwater cousins. There are some great colored-grasses swaying in the breeze/currents and cactus as stand-ins for coral–without the great breadth of colors coral comes in. But I suppose the limited palette of greens makes the characters stand out all the more.

I miss some great-looking fan-shaped plants & coral. This is outdoors, so there wasn't much they can do with lighting - I didn't see it at night, they probably have it lit wonderfully.

It's got the requisite stone & sand base, and just enough colored plastic sea grass spikes to keep the illusion going. There's also coral-looking stilt-walkers wandering around, and the ubiquitous Nemo soundtrack music–which gets annoyingly repetitive pretty quickly.

My favorite part though, was the hidden bubble machine spitting out a continuous stream of bubbles, which you can't see in the photo. They gave another dimension of cleverness to an already well-composed garden. And what backyard couldn't use a bubble machine?

For my past posts on Disney & its gardens, visit:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Garden Gate Magazine spread on a Buffalo garden

Buffalo snags another spread in a national gardening magazine!

The December 2008 issue of Garden Gate magazine features a two-page spread entitled, "Small-Space Secrets" featuring the garden of Alec (at his parents' home) at 72 Lancaster Avenue here in Buffalo. Just down the street from me. I walk by this garden every other day or so. It's been great to see it through different seasons & pay attention to the care & attention Alec gives it. He's much more diligent about deadheading than I am. Or most of our neighbors. Or most humans.

The article highlights five tips to make a garden terrific. You'll have to buy the magazine to get the tips. You can find the plans & plant list for this flower bed at Garden Gate's Web Extras.

Garden Gate
doesn't credit the gardener, nor even mention where this garden is. It is unfortunate to not recognize Alec's hard work and for Buffalo's "growing" reputation for its urban garden culture. But hey - you know that all now!

This garden was also featured on a past Garden Gate cover, you can see my post about that here. It also appeared also on the cover of People Places Plants in the spring of 2007.

Garden Gate magazine has a circulation of just over 400,000. The magazine, published by August Home Publishing, is based in Des Moines, IA. The photographer is Garden Gate magazine staff photographer, David McClure.

People Places Plants, published by Paul Tukey, a gardening magazine for the Northeastern U.S. is based in New Gloucester, ME. The photographer for this cover was Buffalo's own Don Zinteck, the Garden Walk "staff" photographer, and photographer of the Garden Walk Buffalo book. Available at a retailer near you (provided you're in Western New York state).

More of Don's garden photos can be found at the Garden Walk Photo Gallery. It's like garden porn.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Buffalo's Shed Spread

The Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop for this month is on Sheds and Outbuildings. I've been collecting images of the variety of sheds and outbuildings from the local garden tours I went on this summer. Obviously, many come from the tour that I am the president of, Garden Walk Buffalo.

The Garden Walk Buffalo photos are by GW photographer Don Zinteck. He let's me use his photos as long as I plug Garden Walk with them. That being said, visit Garden Walk Buffalo the last weekend of July each year!

Above is my favorite shed/bench combo ever. It belongs to past Garden Walk Chair, Arlan. He designed and built it himself (well, I'm sure Dom helped). It contributes mightily to the park-like setting he's established in his small yard of great ideas. Visit here to see his strawberry steps.

Like the post title says, this is a spread of sheds–the photo above of Cornelius' doghouse probably pushes the definition of outbuilding, but it's tough to argue with Cornelius. His house is special in that it matches his owner's house, not only in style, but in colors. See more about Cornelius in my post about his garden, Never work with kids or animals.

Then, there's Lou's Japanese Tea House. It's probably the most unique "out building" on Buffalo's Garden Walk, again stretching the spread of what a garden outbuilding entails. This photo's a couple years old and after many limbs came off some ancient trees in a storm a few years ago, it was replanted to accommodate the new sunshine in the yard. It's actually way more lush now. The walk down Lou's driveway is like teleporting yourself to Japan– just like Hiro Takamori does every Monday evening!

Above is Sydney's play house. A very popular stop on Garden Walk Buffalo. This minimal yard makes maximum use of its size. Sydney's parents design & built the house. It is as sweet and beautiful as Sydney is. Although she's growing too tall to play in it.

I found this shed on the Black Rock & Riverside Garden Tour this summer. It looked so much like a beach shack. It reminded me of the tool sheds & shacks from the place we used to stay at in Amagansett, in the Hamptons, years ago. It's a charmer.

Again, pushing the limits of a backyard outbuilding, I've had this photo I took on the Williamsville, NY garden tour for a while. A very unassuming front yard led to a backyard with a deep valley and creek - complete with a covered bridge! The bridge actually led over to an above ground pool that was surrounded by gardens. This was awesome–you could tell from the awe on some people's faces as they rounded the corner of the house. This was no little covered bridge. They throw parties on it.

Once you crossed the covered bridge from above, and climbed a short hill, and peered over some hedging & fence - this fairy-tale like outbuilding took over your attention. It's obviously used now as a pool house, but originally may have been a structure relating to the creek hidden on the other side - a gatehouse or something.

On the Parkside Garden tour, another tour in the downtown area of Buffalo (we have lots of garden tours) was this potting table against a shed wall. The garden is an over-the-top celebration of all that is Victorian. This garden has to be seen to be believed. It's a must see garden on this garden tour.

This photo about 15 years old. This was the carriage house at the first house I owned. A car could not fit in it, so it was certainly NOT a garage. I show it not because It's spectacular, but you can see how much potential it had. I had such big plans for it - new windows, studio space, second-floor barn-style doors wide open, skylights, cupola and more. Never got around to it. The current owners, who are also on Garden Walk Buffalo (I made them be on the Walk when they bought the house - condition of the sale!), have done a great job with it - it's purple now, and handsome as all get out! I get to visit it each year for Garden Walk and see what else new they've done to it.

And here's my challenge - the front and side of my own garage/outbuilding. I've got a collapse-able potting table on the front (if it didn't collapse, I'd never fit my car in it in the wintertime. There's a trellis over the garage door that roses are climbing (slowly) on. The other side of the garage has the plum/apple/pear tree diamond-shaped espalier. Plans? A mural on the garage door perhaps? Solar panels on the roof? A cupola? When other more immediate projects get done, this is on the list.

Friday, October 10, 2008




After having visited Provence a few years ago, it was hard not to be taken aback by the rolling fields of lavender. I decided on the spot to plant some lavender when I got back home. I planted this lavender right by the sidewalk, so passers-by can appreciate the scent.

While on the barge cruise though Provence, we visited a lavender distillery. Lavender has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The guide told us lavender production had been dwindling, slowly, from just after the middle ages to about the 1950s. The change in the 1950s? The American invention of the modern washing machine.

Turns out, that once the washing machine took hold, lavender was a preferred detergent additive. Production soared. These days, laundry detergents may still have the smell of lavender (perception), but more than likely, it is a chemically-induced, faux scent (reality). Currently, lavender production is aimed toward medicinal uses and specialty skincare products.

Lavender likes more sun than you see it getting in this location - but it seems content here. It does over winter here in Zone 6. It does NOT like to be trimmed back significantly (my assistant groundskeeper killed two plants this past spring). The lavender does like sandy, rocky soil and, once established, likes it on the dry side.

Do you have lavender? What's your perception?

Monday, October 6, 2008

The absolute largest beetle you've ever seen

If you've seen a larger dung beetle, please bring it to my attention (this is one-and-a-half storeys tall)! This inflatable beetle is made from recycled Hollywood movie and Gucci billboard vinyls.

The beetle is the creation of Toronto artist Max Streicher, whose "ginormous" inflatables of people, horses, clowns and this bug have been exhibited throughout Canada, Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Isreal, and now, here in the states.

The dung beetle above, is shown where it is on display until January 25, 2009, at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University in Niagara Falls, NY. Full disclosure: I am on the advisory council for the Museum. Please visit (it's free!) and leave a big donation.

This is the single largest gallery space in Western New York and the beetle pretty much fills up the room. An integral part of the exhibition are the educational programs built around it, including the Niagara University English, biology, philosophy and theater departments.

If you find a bug this size in your garden. You're allowed to use non-organic bug killers, chemical warfare is acceptable in this case.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Communicating Horticulturally

Iris - faith, wisdom, valor and promise

This post started out as junk mail.

Years ago, I researched and collected a list of plant meanings for a direct mailing I did for a client. Yes, I'm not afraid to admit it– I do design some direct marketing materials. Okay, junk mail. But I always try to have some part of the mailing be a relevant educational item. Some day I'll post about the snowflake field guide I did for a science museum snowflake exhibit.

Then I decided to make this list a small flyer to hand out during Garden Walk each year. Information is fluid and can be repurposed for almost any need–as long as you own the copyright!

A long-time friend, who happens to be the creative director (designer) of People Places Plants magazine, was in town for Garden Walk two years ago. The magazine, published by author, founder, and former HGTV host, Paul Tukey, is based in New Gloucester, Maine.

She was here briefly to get her son off to summer camp, but was here long enough to pick up one of my flyers–and six months later asked if People Places Plants could use it as an article. They published it in their Spring 2008 issue. I got a byline and everything!

I first posted about it here. At that time, I didn't feel as though I should post the whole article (just a list, really) here, as the magazine was still on the shelves. And I wanted people to have a reason to buy the magazine. Layanee's garden, of Ledge and Gardens, was featured in an article in the same issue.

But sufficient time has passed, I think, and I have the whole article here for your reading pleasure.

I've ordered a bouquet of orange lilies for you, to be delivered today. Keep an eye out for them.

If you have anything to add to the list, please do!

Communicating Horticulturally
For centuries, plants have had special meanings attached to them. Of course, they’re just plants, and they’re only interested in communicating to pollinators. But still, you should read this first before you give that bouquet of tuberose or cornflower to the wrong person.

Acacia - Friendship
Agapanthus - Secret love
Alstroemeria - Devotion
Amaryllis - Pride, timidity, splendid beauty
Anemone - Expectations
Aster - Elegance and love
Azalea - First love, temperance
Baby’s Breath - Innocence
Bachelor Button - Hope
Begonia - A fanciful nature
Bells of Ireland - Good luck
Bouvardia - Enthusiasm
Buttercup - Childishness
Calla Lily - Magnificent beauty
Camellia - Red: Unpretending excellence
White: Perfected loveliness
Carnation - Red: Alas poor heart
Pink: I’ll never forget you
Purple: capriciousness
Striped: Sorry I can’t be with you
White: Innocence
Yellow: Disdain
Red: Love
Chrysanthemum - White: Truth
Yellow: Slighted love
Cornflower - Celibacy
Crocus - Youthful gladness
Daffodil - Regard, you are the only one
Dahlia - Dignity and elegance
Daisy - Gentleness, innocence, loyalty and romance
Dandelion - Rustic oracle
Delphinium - Flights of fancy, ardent attachment
Fern - Fascination
Forget Me Not - Faithful love, undying hope, memory, do not forget
Freesia - Innocence
Galax - Encouragement
Gardenia - Purity and sweet love
Gladiolus - Strength of character
Heather - Admiration and beauty
Hibiscus - Delicate beauty
Hyacinth - Playful joy
Iris - Faith, wisdom, valor and promise
Ivy - Wedded love, fidelity, friendship and affection
Jasmine - Amiability
Jonquil - Affection returned
Larkspur - An open heart
Lavender - Loyalty
Lemon Leaves - Everlasting love
Lilac - Purple: First emotion of love
White: Youthful innocence
Lily - Orange: Wealth
White: Sweetness
Yellow: Gaiety, walking on air
Lily of the Valley - Humility, sweetness, return of happiness
Lotus Flower - Estranged love
Magnolia - Love of nature
Marigold - Grief
Morning Glory - Affection
Myrtle - Home, love
Narcissus - Egotism
Orange Blossom - Innocence, eternal love, marriage and fruitfulness
Orchid - Love, beauty and magnificence
Pansy - Thoughtful reflection
Peony - Happy marriage and prosperity
Primrose - Young love
Ranunculus - Radiant, charming
Rose - Pink: Perfect happiness White: Charm and innocence
Red: Love and desire Single Red: I love you Burgundy: Unconscious love
White and Red: Unity Orange Passion
Yellow: Joy and gladness
Rosebud - Beauty and youth
Rosemary - Remembrance
Snapdragon - Presumption
Star of Bethlehem - Purity
Statice - Remembrance
Stephanotis - Marital happiness
Stock - Lasting beauty
Sweet Pea - Blissful pleasure
Tuberose - Dangerous pleasure
Tulip - Love and passion
Red: Declaration of love
Violet - Faithfulness
Wax Flower - Riches
Yarrow - Healing


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