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Spring is finally here! We have reached the week in the spring where EVERYTHING makes an appearance. Granted it is still mostly little tiny sprouts and buds, but it is so nice to finally see all my little plant friends coming out of the ground. The weather has been warm for several days now, so everything is coming up fast. We were even able to be outside without coats! I managed to get a little bit of mulch down and part of the first round of weeding is complete. I was comparing this week to last year and we are almost a full month behind (granted we were a month ahead last year).


The daffodils have been in bloom for about a week now. Most of ours line our front steps, which is always a welcome appearance. I am actually thinking that I may divide several bunches this year, as the bunch is quite large and dense. That should allow them to multiply more, which is always welcomed. I may move some to the rear of the yard, to help add some additionally early spring blooms, especially since the squirrels and bunnies have eaten my crocuses even faster this year.


Also in the front yard is the Chionodoxa. Most of these are planted to the right of my front steps. They are there to replace the purple flowers from the vinca.


An ongoing battle for me is to remove the vinca front the front yard (I have almost removed it from one side but in the meantime the other side has been OVERTAKEN by it). It is VERY aggressive, but I have had a soft spot for it due to the purple flowers. It is actually one of the first things I wrote about when I started the blog. So 2 years later, I think the chiondoxa is a good choice, although I need A LOT more. The good news is in their second year blooming they have definitely come back stronger. I was a little disappointed last year, so much that I didn’t order any this past fall. Now I know that I need to order several hundred more (fortunately they are cheap and easy to put in since they are so small).


Speaking of purple flowers, my lungwort just started flowering. It is a favorite of mine, variegated leaves and purple flowers. The only caveat is that it doesn’t like full sun, so it isn’t an option for my front yard. This is another plant that I will be dividing this season. It actually looks terrible when you do it and you think it might not make it, but then it come back the next year all happy.


I thought I would leave you with a picture of the main shade garden. You can see it is still looking a bit sparse. It should really fill in the next couple of weeks, but it is hard to be patient. I also think it is good reminder how hard it is to have a garden that looks good all year around.  Just look how it looked last year at this time…


What is blooming in your yard?

To take a peak at all of my garden blooms click here.

I will be back with some progress on the upstairs hall soon!

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I was suppose to get this post up yesterday, but well it didn’t happen. I did manage to get out into the garden very late in the afternoon to shoot some photos though. I realized that I need to get out there to do some weeding and mulching soon. My neighbors were out last weekend prepping their beds! Now I just need some warm weather (it is actually snowing outside at the moment). I thought I would show the sad state of the yard right now. The grass needs some MAJOR help. And the planting beds are looking bare at the moment. I’ve been trying to think of ways to add year around interest and even have 3 miniature heavenly bamboo to put in (which have been overwintering behind the shed). It is interesting to see how it compares to last year. We are definitely not as far ahead. Last year the daffodils were blooming (and I would say we have another 2 weeks before that will happen).

But on to the plants that are currently making me smile…



The snowdrops are usually the first bulb to bloom in late winter. I actually think that they may be behind schedule. They often bloom in February but mine just started blooming in full last week. Most of mine are transplants from around the yard (I think this is the only “free” plant that came with the house). I think it survived because it can grow in the lawn. The only downside to them is that I inevitably dig a bunch of them up by accident since they die back fairly early. Although I think that may help with the multiplying, as I usually spread out the bulbs when  I do come across them. If you look closely at the picture of the backyard you can see them scattered in the side and rear planting beds.  In the picture above you can see them with some geraniums which managed to overwinter without much complete dying back.


While we are on the subject of crocuses, here is the Barr’s Purple. I LOVE the color and they are suppose to be squirrel resistant but something likes to munch on them in my yard (yes I am looking at you bunnies!). I planted a lot of them in the fall of 2011. Then I admired them last spring and watched them disappear over 3 days, completely munched off. What I don’t understand is if you head over to Swarthmore (the next town over) you see lawns filled with crocuses. I guess maybe the bunnies haven’t made their way over there. hmmm….


For the first time my Golden Lotus Hellebore is blooming! I picked it up from Carolyn’s Shade Garden in the Fall 2011. I bought 2. It looks like I only have 1 left and it didn’t bloom last year.  I was pretty excited to see in now though! It is currently facing away from the house, so I had to really lean down to get this shot. It is a double hellebore and is quite pretty in person.


My regular hellebores which are a mix of white and white with a purple edge are also blooming. This patch, which came from a friend, started off fairly small but has turned into quite a nice grouping. I have even spread some of the seedlings around. Unfortunately the seedlings are still too young to bloom, but they seem to have settled in nicely.


I wanted to show off the leaves of these tulips. This is Red Riding hood from  Brent and Becky’s. I bought these probably 6 years ago or so from them. It produces small red flowers that sit low the ground, but the leaves are really the star. I’m also impressed that they have come back so well, since most tulips tend to die back after a few years.


Finally I will leave you with a picture of the heavenly bamboo (nandina ‘Gulf Stream’) in the front yard. I planted these in front of the bay window back in the Fall of 2011. They have filled in so nicely! My plan actually worked!  And as a bonus they max out at 30″ tall, so no pruning required! I still need to do some more planting around them, but It is nice to have year around color here.

What is blooming in your yard?



I hope everyone had a nice weekend! We had a good one here. I am finally feeling better and some time with the family was just what I needed. So for once I actually have my decorations up early! I was taking down some more of the Christmas decorations and I decided to go ahead and decorate for Valentine’s Day.


Funny enough the inspiration came from a Christmas ornament. I ordered a couple of clearance ornaments at Urban Outfitters a couple of weeks ago. One of them was this LOVE one, no doubt inspired by Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia (a favorite of mine). I was getting ready to put it away for next year, but then I thought it might make for a good Valentine’s Day decoration.  I pulled out some red books from the Living Room bookcase and decided to leave out some of the pink Christmas ornaments. Finally I mixed in some white ceramics that I am starting to collect.


The tree stump ceramic box is new. I picked it up at 90% off at Target. It is actually from GamaGo (which is usually known for its cartoon characters and t-shirts). I had seen it right before Christmas and thought it was cool, but for $19.99 decided to pass. When I saw it in the clearance section it didn’t even have a tag so I brought it over to the price check machine and was happily surprised when it came up at $1.99. There was only one, so I quickly put it in my basket. The ceramic acorns and pine cones are also a post Christmas 70% off sale from Target. The squirrel unfortunately is not. He is from Jonathan Adler, we picked him up this summer on our trip to NYC. He usually lives on our desk.


I like to think that I am getting better at “staging” this area. I guess there is nothing like practice and spending some time looking through a camera lens.


Animal Coat Hooks

November 16, 2012 — 5 Comments

I’m not quite sure where the week has gone but I am really looking forward to the weekend. Sam had has Kindergarten Thanksgiving Feast the other day and it was so great to see the kids dressed as Native Americans and Pilgrims. It is amazing to see the teachers work their magic. Imagine 44 kids all perfectly well behaved, singing songs and having a meal of mini muffins, popcorn and apple slices together. We need to finalize our Thanksgiving menu here and I am going to try to perfect my pumpkin pie this weekend. I am also going to see if I can finish the coat rack in time. Speaking of which, in my search for the perfect coat hook I also came across some really nice animal hooks.

Metal Animal Hooks

I am planning on interspersing a few of these metal ones on our coat rack, to keep it whimsical and inspire the kids to use it. I actually picked up a couple of brass beetle knobs on clearance at Anthropologie a couple of weeks ago. My kids love bugs, so I think they will be excited to use them.

1. Rabbit Knob, Anthropologie $12

2. Fox Knob, Anthropologie $12

3. Octopus Hooks, Urban Outfitters $14

4. Deer Hook, Urban Outfitters, $12

5. Bull Dog Hook, Urban Outfitters, $12

6. Squirrel Hook, Anthropologie, No Longer Available

I thought I would also show you some more colorful options. That I think have the right mix of fun without being too cutesy.

Colorful & Fun Animal Hooks

I really like some of these fun hooks. I think my favorite is the T-Rex head. Too bad it appears to only be available in England.

1. Yellow Giraffe Hook, Urban Outfitters $14
2. White Elephant Hook, Anthropologie, $20
3. Aqua Squirrel Hook, Land of Nod $29
4. Red Reindeer Hook, World Market, $13.98
5. Bastis Tail Hook, IKEA $2.99
6. T-Rex Head Hook, Dwell UK, $14.95
7. Blue Bunny Hook, The Modern Baby UK, $9.95 (also available in other colors)

Which one is your favorite?
I’ve picked out a couple of hooks for our coat rack. Can anyone guess which ones?

I hope everyone has a great weekend!


Our Desk Alcove (with Spike)

So this is where I work (most of the time). It is funny that it has taken me this long to show it you. I guess I spend too much time oogling other peoples offices and somehow felt that ours was a little lacking. I actually quite like our little alcove. I have a nice view of my overgrown trees and plants and I really like having our desk downstairs. Both Mr. S. & I spend a fair amount of time here and it is nice to be with the rest of the family. Unfortunately it tends to get cluttered up with paperwork and toys. For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to purge a lot of the papers and reorganize all of the “stuff” while also adding in some of our favorite tchotchkes.

Desk Area made out of an Ikea Wood Counter

Our desk area is the only “addition” to our house. We moved a couple of walls at the back of the house when we switched our kitchen and dining room. Our back porch and refrigerator room became one space and we added this 3’x7′ bump out to fit a desk. The space sits directly opposite from the piano and abuts the back french doors. The desk is made of the Numerar Oak Counter top. It is in a size that is no longer available (3’x6′). We cut a little bit off of the width and used those pieces to fill the sides to make a custom fit. There is also a 2×4 structure supporting it with joist hangers (it is a pretty heavy counter). We also have some low office units from Ikea (which appear to no longer be available) sitting below the desk. I made the valance and cut the Ikea roller shades down similar to the adjacent Dining Room. I have also added 1 vintage saarinen office chair and am still on the lookout for another reasonably priced one to replace our red Ikea office chair.

Wall Shelves

As part of my goal of making our space more pulled together (but still personal) I switched out some of our boring storage boxes and mixed in some favorite items including a Ben Franklin bust (our favorite Philadelphian), a vase painted by Sam a couple of years ago, a Missoni box, a Robot print and a small race car. On the upper shelf I added a couple of the green storage boxes that we really need and a small trebuchet that I bought Mr. S.  I also added a couple of his vintage albums.

My current favorite grouping

I really like that there is a mix of practical items with fun whimsical things that bring a smile to my face.

Photos, Ceramic Squirrel & One of my husband’s favorite photos by Leif Skoogfors

I have also been working on adding some personal photos to the desk. I am still on the lookout for the perfect tray to layer in below them, but I like being able to see a couple of our annual holiday card photos. We also picked up this awesome squirrel  from Jonathan Adler on our mini NYC vacation last week.

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PawPaw Fruit in July

One of the questions I get most often when people visit my garden is about my pawpaw tree. What is it? What are those weird potato looking fruits? What does pawpaw taste like?

PawPaw Flowers in Spring

I first came across the PawPaw tree (Asimina triloba) in my tropical garden phase about 7 years ago. Here was a plant that is totally native (to most of the eastern US), but had tropical qualities including a fruit I had never heard of! Fortunately at the Scott Arboretum plant sale (held every other year) they usually have small trees for sale. I patiently planted one almost 7 years ago and waited and waited. Meanwhile I had never actually tasted this custardy fruit (I went purely on the what I could find online).  About 4 years ago I finally got to taste one (from the Farmer’s Market in Reading Terminal). I bought it home and cut it open. It wasn’t as good as I was expecting. It was soft,  mushy and messy and it had giant seeds inside which made it even harder to eat. I thought that maybe I had made a mistake and I was going to end up with fruit that I didn’t actually like but took solace in the fact that it was a pretty tree. It wasn’t until another year when we got a lone pawpaw off of our tree (the squirrels ate a lot of the flowers in the spring). Again I thought the taste was okay, but not everything I hoped for. Finally last year, when we had 5 or 6 ripe fruits, I actually tasted one to my liking. I am pretty sure now that  I didn’t let it ripen enough. I had been waiting for them to be soft to the touch like a peach, but I think pawpaws are actually better once they are all brown and look like they are going bad. I cut one of my brown fruits up (thinking that I would probably be throwing it out)and tried it, and discovered that it was in fact quite tasty! It had a tropical flavor of a mix between a banana and a papaya I thought. Of course this was the last of my fruit for the year, so I have be anxiously awaiting this years fruit to see how it tastes! Fortunately this year it looks like we have about 20 or so fruits ripening.

PawPaw Tree in my yard

So why plant it? First of all because it is a lovely medium size native flowering tree (in fact the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly only lays eggs on this type of tree). Secondly because it provide a fruit that you can’t buy at the store (or not normally at the Farmer’s Market either). I had one of the Amish farmers from our Farmer’s Market tell me last year that they keep the pawpaws to themselves and make pawpaw butter. Third it is really interesting tree and fruit and a good topic of conversation (interesting fact: it is the largest edible ingenious fruit in the US). Another benefit is that it is a really good source of vitamins.

In my research I discovered that it was an important source of food for the Native Americans and early settlers and that is was a popular tree on farms though out the US (Lewis and Clark wrote that they were quite fond of them as was Jefferson). It lost popularity in the last 75 years as produce began to be shipped. These potato looking fruits bruise easily and are not the most attractive looking specimen. Apparently there area lots of old farm cookbooks that have recipes.  The good news is that there is a small cult following of pawpaws. There is even an annual festival in Ohio every year. I found this interesting article which includes a recipe for PawPaw Ice Cream. I think I will be making some later this summer!

I have about 10 seeds saved in the fridge from last year. I am thinking of trying to grow them to see how many I can get to germinate. So please let me know if anyone is interested in giving one a try and I will send you a seed to grow yourself!

Here are a few more interesting PawPaw Links:

Kentucky State University PawPaw Program

PawPaw Lassi Recipe

NPR’s Food Blog: The Salt’s Story on the PawPaw


Arbor w/ Forget-Me-Nots in Foreground

It has been another beautiful week in the garden. More and more plants are growing and there are new buds to be seen. A couple of my River Birches are just about to leaf out, which is very exciting! I love their beautiful leaves and it provides a lovely buffer from my neighbors.

Euphorbia (Wood Spurge)


My Euphorbia came from the Scott Arboretum Plant Exchange a few years ago. At first I was not to excited by it, but it seems to have settled in now and is producing its lovely flowers. I have heard that it is poisonous (especially the sap), so I need to keep the kids away. The Forget-Me-Nots are also from the Plant Exchange. They are biannuals, so you need enough to produce seeds for the following year. I seem to have finally gotten the right mix, I have even had to pull some out. I do quite enjoy them.


Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts

In the full shade area my trillium are up and looking lovely. They only appear for a short time, so I have to make sure to enjoy them while I can. Once the summer heat comes they disappear until the next year. I planted these from bareroot that I bought on ebay. I thought I had killed them since they didn’t sprout the first spring. So needless to say I was very excited when they sprouted the following year. My bleeding hearts only started sprouting last week but I already found the buds of the flower on one of the plants. I love bleeding hearts, and I have divided mine several times to get more. They are such a classic spring time flower.

Paw Paw Tree Flower Buds

Lastly my Paw Paw Tree started budding up this week. The flower will turn a lovely deep purple in a couple of weeks. The only downside is keeping the squirrels away, who definitely think these buds are delicious! This is especially important if I want any Paw Paw fruit this summer. We usually get about 3 fruits off of the tree, but I am hopeful we can increase our yield of these sweet custardy potato shaped fruits.

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Barr's Purple Crocus

With the warm weather and the 10 day forecast, I think we can safely say that winter is over and I better start moving on the garden. It rained last night and the garden is ripe for some attention. I started weeding last week and hope to get some more pulled tomorrow. I am also already thinking that it might be time for mulch since some of the soil is looking a little bare.  There is lots to look at in the garden now!

My Barr’s Purple Crocuses that I planted last fall are up. They caught me off guard because their leaves are quite small so I didn’t see them until they started blooming last week. They are suppose to be squirrel resistant (we will see!).



Front Planter with Sedum

My daffodils are also in full swing and will probably peak this week. I am hoping that they don’t wilt too quick with the warm weather. The lungwort (Pulmonaria Saccharata ) are a good 2-3 weeks ahead of last year.

Additionally a LOT of my plants have sprouted. With the mild winter it is looking good for most of plants surviving (if not thriving).

Goals for the garden in the next week: weed, mulch, pull out the ivy in the hedge, pull out miscellaneous vinca and pachysandra. It is a little wet today and I don’t feel like getting to soggy, but I am hoping by tomorrow I can really get in there with the kids (who really enjoy pulling out the weeds).

What is blooming in your yard?

*This is my first time joining the monthly Bloom Day at Carol’s May Dreams Gardens. It is quite interesting to see what is blooming in other people’s gardens all around the world!  I recommend stopping by  Carol’s May Dreams Gardens to see the list of all of this month’s participants.


May 2011 Image w/ Bulb Rendering Including Allium 'Karataviense' (forground) and Nectaroscordum (background)

I spend a lot of time thinking of ways to add more color and a longer growing season to my garden.  My back shade garden (mostly part shade with some part sun towards the front) is the planting bed that I am the most satisfied with right now. It has a pretty long season of interest and changes throughout the season, but I  have not used bulbs in this area except for some snow drops that I have moved to this area over the years (from the lawn and other planting beds). I thought this year was a good time to try and some additional pops of color! I was originally inspired by this photo from Tovah at Plantswise.

Allium 'Karataviense' mixed w/ heuchera (coral bells)

I thought the combination of the shorter allium ‘karataviense; and coral bells was quite beautiful and unexpected! So when I ordered my bulbs this year I tried to think through this area is some detail. I’ve created several renderings over pictures of this garden to help highlight my new additions (since they are just bulbs in the ground right now).

Close Up of Allium 'Karataviense' in front and Nectaroscordum in the middle

To contrast the shorter allium I have also added some taller nectaroscordum to the middle of the bed. These have long stalks and the buds look interesting as well. The little nodding pinky flowers are quite unique.

Nectaroscordum from Brent and Becky's Bulbs

Allium 'Karataviense' from Brent and Becky's Bulbs

Also to add some interest to the planting bed earlier in the spring I have been working on adding more hellebores. Also I have added a bunch of Barr’s Purple Crocus (which the squirrels are not suppose to like). Here is a rendering of the garden earlier in March.

March 2011 w/ addition of Crocuses front and Hellebores middle

Barr's Purple Crocus

New Helleborus 'Golden Lotus' Strain of Winter Jewels (planted in Sept.)

This area is now all planted with the bulbs. Now I just need to finish planting my other bulbs in the front yard. Fingers crossed for a few more nice days!

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Nature in our Yard

July 20, 2011 — 1 Comment

Large Praying Mantis

Catbird sitting on her nest (which has 3 blue eggs in it)

It is amazing to me how many animals, birds and insects visit and live in our small yard! When we first moved here we tended to only see squirrels and robins. Of course there wasn’t much here for the wildlife, except for a few bushes and trees. We have not used any chemicals in the yard in years (with the exception of wasp spray for some ground wasps next to the patio and a patch of poison ivy about 5 years ago).  Although our grass is not particularly lush, I feel like we are getting paid back in wildlife. Last week I was pulling some weeds out of a shrub and almost took out a Catbird nest. Fortunately I saw the 3 beautiful blue eggs and proceeded to very carefully put the vine back on the bush (so much for the front yard looking nice).  On Monday we saw a huge Praying Mantis on the deck (sitting on the tomato plant). The kids loved it. It moved around for them and then pretended to be a branch. We have also been seeing lots of butterflies, bumble bees and hummingbirds (partially thanks to my plantings of Native Honeysuckle, Bee Balm, Butterfly Bushes and Butterfly Weed). I just came in from running errands and as soon as I opened the back gate I saw the bunny munching on the lawn (definitely a mixed blessing) a robin, a little gray bird and a finch flying around. It makes me very happy that I can provide a home for some of these little animals. We also have a bird bath for the birdies and the squirrels (especially important in the hot weather). I also have a bird feeder which I am forgetful about filling.

Who are you sharing your yard with?

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