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Archives for December 2017

Garden club hosts tablescape artist

FITCHBURG — The Laurelwood Garden Club will hold its monthly meeting Friday, Jan. 12, at 9:30 am., at Fitchburg Art Museum, 185 Elm St.

Members and guests will be entertained while learning how tablescapes are created. Sarah Grant, a member of the Laurelwood Garden Club and a skilled designer, will conduct a demonstration and create a tablescape before your very eyes. Grant has created many tablescapes for the Laurelwood Garden Club Scholarship Tea every year.

The program will also feature a slide presentation of previous tablescapes created by members at previous year’s Scholarship Tea events. Member Kathy Foster will narrate the slide presentation.

Refreshments will be provided by Wren Colle and Maggie White, and floral arrangement by Carleen DeBlois.

The annual Scholarship Tea will be held Saturday afternoon, Jan. 20, at l p.m. at the Fitchburg Art Museum, to benefit its scholarship fund. Each table will feature a Tablescape Creation created by members of the club.

A “Tea Cup” Auction will be an added scholarship fundraiser at this year’s Tea. Each year the Laurelwood Garden Club offers a scholarship to a senior pursuing an education in any branch of botany, environmental issues, floral design, horticulture, or landscape design.

This year’s Art In Bloom will be held Thursday, April 26, through Sunday, April 29, at Fitchburg Art Museum. Art in Bloom is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

If interested in selecting an art work for interpretation and information, contact Julie Palioca, Art in Bloom chairwoman, at 978-537-7630, or Jessie Olson, development associate at Fitchburg Art Museum, at 978-345-4207, ext. 306, or visit

The Laurelwood Garden club meetings with speaker/programs are held the second Friday of each month, from 9:30 a.m. to noon, at Fitchburg Art Museum. The meetings are open, and guests are welcome.

If interested in attending or obtaining membership information, contact Palioca at 978-537-7630.

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Paul Cocksedge Studio Designs Canopy for World’s Largest Botanic Garden

Paul Cocksedge Studio recently partnered with Arup to create a 33m-long sculptural shade for the Oman Botanic Garden – designed with Grimshaw Architects and set to be the one of the world’s largest garden botanic gardens.

The canopy was designed using planetary data, and has a figure of eight shape that refers to the sun’s changing position in the sky across the course of a year – as seen from the garden itself.

“It made sense to use the sun, and our perception of its movements as the basis for our design,” said Paul Cocksedge. “Once we started to study the lines of the earth’s rotation around the sun, and explore the science of the planets, we were hooked. There’s so much data, and so many shapes and lines that we could never have imagined ourselves. We based the shade on the sun’s shifting position in the sky, which we plotted using an analemma – a diagram that shows the sun as if photographed from the garden at the same time every day for a year. Every analemma is unique to its location, meaning the canopy’s form is specific to its surroundings.”

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Good to Grow: A garden resolution to make compost – Charleston Gazette

Most people make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, to exercise, to save more. Mine is to make compost. Weird, yes, but compost has been a bone of contention for me.

Compost is great stuff. When properly made, it is fluffy and light and slowly releases nutrients to plants. You can dig it into beds or spread it as a mulch. Compost lightens clay soil and moisturizes sandy soil, increasing plants’ ability to withstand drought.

And, by making compost, you recycle waste: weeds, grass clippings, leaves and vegetarian kitchen waste.

A new startup in Huntington, Grassroots Organic Composting, will soon do this on a commercial scale. If only we had such a startup in each of our communities.

Years ago, my wonderful husband, Jerry, built two treated-lumber compost bins for me. Slats of treated lumber slipped into a channel on the front of the bins, which could be slid off for access to the pile. Lattice sides let air flow in.

The bins were side by side, so (in theory) it would be easy for me to turn the compost from one bin to the other to aerate the pile and speed up decomposition. It was grueling labor.

In the kitchen, we kept a 5-gallon lidded bucket under the sink. No meat scraps went in, but orange rinds, potato peelings, vegetables that had seen better days, all were added.

A 5-gallon bucket, we soon realized, was way too ambitious. By the time it was full, the contents were rotting. Who wanted to carry that mess to the compost bin and then wash the bucket?

I dumped weeds and leaves in the bin and our compost bucket waste, but, alas, I did not follow the rules. I was supposed to add two parts brown matter (dried leaves and weeds) to one part green matter (grass clippings, kitchen waste). I probably reversed that ratio, giving me a pile with too much nitrogen in it and a sour smell as the nitrogen converted into ammonia gas.

The uncovered bins also were likely getting too much water, which reduces airflow and adds to the smell. The smell, however, attracted raccoons and other adorable wildlife that pulled pieces of compost out through the lattice and left what they didn’t want in our lawn. Ugh.

For all these reasons, I gave up composting. But every time a gardening guest ate a meal at my house and asked to put table scraps in the compost bucket, I guiltily had to admit we had none. Ouch.

Last summer, I stopped at the Manna Meal garden in South Charleston, where perfect vegetables are grown in perfect compost. They have a roofed composting system, and the wonderful volunteers check the compost temperature, add the correct ratios of brown to green, turn the piles with a front-end loader and screen the black gold before adding it to the garden.

Impressive, but this system was way above my pay grade.

Visiting the Making Pitt Fit Community Garden in Greenville, North Carolina, run by my buddy, Joni Young-Torres, led me to a compost tumbler, a recycled plastic bin on metal legs with a crank handle. I tried turning the handle on a pretty full tumbler to mix and aerate the compost, and lo and behold, I could do it.

Joni suggested I get two of these, so I could fill one up to a weight I could still turn and then start filling the other one. It would be raccoon-free and a manageable size for me.

I put a Yimby tumbler on my Santa list. The manufacturer claims you can make compost in as little as two weeks. I also asked Santa for a small kitchen compost container using activated charcoal to keep the scent fresh.

Now Santa, a.k.a. Jerry, will kindly put the bin together, and if I like it, I will get a second bin. I’m determined 2018 will be my year of making compost (again)!

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Roger Mercer: Thank you to all who have helped our Cape Fear Botanical Garden grow

It’s time for me to say thank you.


Supporters of the Cape Fear Botanical Garden have held many banquets and dinners and such over the years to thank me, the late Martha Duell and Bruce Williams for getting the garden started about 26 years ago.


The funny thing is, I should be thanking all the people who have worked constantly over the years to make the garden great. The dinners should have been in their honor.


There is no way I can express the gratitude I feel for so many people for the enormous amount of work they have done. But If I had to thank one person more than any other, it would be Duell, who put herself totally behind the effort to make the garden happen and continued to work hard for 25 years to make it a success.


Yet, I feel a debt of gratitude that goes beyond that. Because the garden couldn’t have succeeded without the volunteer efforts of hundreds of people who give their money generously and their time freely to work there.


The leadership and support of our board members, public leaders and business leaders have been remarkable.


The military, especially, has been involved in the project, with the help of hundreds of hours of soldiers’ time and use of heavy military equipment have been donated to make the garden better. In addition, money can’t buy the kind of exceptional leadership the people with military experience can provide. These folks get things done.


The main thing to know about the garden is that it is going to get better. It is already great.


A large, $10 million visitor has been completed to make the garden more accessible, understandable and hospitable. Many first-time visitors have never been to Fayetteville before. They turn off Interstate 95 when they see the botanical garden sign and their first impression of our city is a great one.


If you haven’t been there, you should know that our botanical garden is special. It has extraordinary vistas of Cross Creek and the gorges the creek has carved into the landscape.


There are native azaleas, ferns, gingers, dogtooth violets, and many other plants that are rare or especially beautiful.


In addition, there are extensive plantings of decorative flowers, trees and shrubs that are suitable for use in home landscaping. You can make your own landscape better by getting ideas from the experts who planned and planted the decorative beds and protected the wonderful wild plantings at the garden.


The garden has an extensive camellia collection, a large pond, bridges, overlooks, a gazebo where weddings are held, an old farmhouse and nearby plantings of crops common to the Cape Fear Region for schoolchildren to see close up.


The garden’s directors are working hard to finish paying for the $10 million visitor’s center. The garden could use donations, more volunteers and more members. Go visit the garden, if you haven’t already, and join, if you like what you see.


The garden belongs to the citizens of the Cape Fear Region whose hard work and donations made it possible. The people did such a great job that the garden is verging on becoming one of the greatest gardens of the world.


We need a good hard push and a few more years of planting, planning and growing to put the garden over the top. But our garden is something we can all be proud of.


Here are the details about going to the garden and becoming a member in Friends of the Botanical Garden:


 Address: 536 N. Eastern Boulevard, Fayetteville 28301


Phone:  486-0221


 Winter hours ( through March 11): Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Last daily admission 3:15 p.m.


Holiday hours: The garden is closed Thanksgiving Day, Dec. 24-25, and Dec. 31-Jan. 1.


 Admission: $10 for adults, $9 for military with ID and adults 65 and older, and $5 for children ages 6-12. Children 5 and under get in free. Members are admitted free and receive reduced rates on classes and other activities, as well as reduced or free admissions to 300 other botanical gardens.


Annual membership costs: $50 per person, $70 per adult couple.


Go to for more details or call  486-0221.



Send your questions and comments to Roger at or call 424-4756. You may write to Roger at 6215 Maude St., Fayetteville, N.C. 28306

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Here comes Wabi-sabi: Embracing ‘imperfections’ a theme for homes, gardens in 2018

Wabi-sabi may sound like the Japanese horseradish sauce that you get at sushi restaurant, but it’s actually one of the hot trends for the home and garden for 2018.

Predictions for the year to come are fairly consistent on national level websites, such as HGTV and “House Beautiful,” and much of it involves the growing interests in mind and body health being reflected in your personal domain.

And wabi-sabi could be the umbrella in which many of the other trends seem to fit under.

Let it be

Wabi-sabi is a centuries-old Japanese aesthetic that celebrates natural imperfection, whether is overgrown perennials and weathered pots to rusted or industrial metal furnishings.

The Garden Media Group says the Asian reverence for the healing power of nature also will be reflected in rooms dedicated to meditation, indoor plants and water features; and for the garden, “rainscaping,” Zen features and the idea of “shinrin-yoku,” or forest bathing (walking in woods), which might involve planting more trees in your backyard.

“We all know gardening works wonders for our physical health,” says Katie Dubow, creative director at the trend-spotting firm. “In our 2018 Garden Trends Report, we’re looking at new ways people are transforming their spaces, indoors and out, to further improve their mental well-being.”

Country Living magazine says that “Mindfulness — the ancient Buddhist tradition of immersing yourself in the present moment — has become a huge buzzword in wellbeing over the past few years and it’s set to have a strong influence over how we design and appreciate our gardens in 2018.”

The therapeutic smells of lavender appear to be having an influence on what appears to be the color of 2018, purple.

The Pantone Color Institute, a corporation who creates proprietary colors used in variety of manufacturing industries, declared “ultra violet” the color for the new year.

Pantone calling it “complex and contemplative.”

“Enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance,” the institute’s website says, adding that Prince and Jimi Hendrix used purple as an expression of individuality.

“Nuanced and full of emotion, the depth of Pantone 18-3838 Ultra Violet symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity, spurring individuals to imagine their unique mark on the world, and push boundaries through creative outlets.”

What’s happening here

What happens nationally, which is typically driven by New York, Los Angeles and other major cities, doesn’t always translate to South Carolina, but some of it does.

In that way, handmade items — which tend to be more natural and have slight imperfections — are strong in the Palmetto State.

Blacksmith Sean Ahern, owner of Ahern’s Anvils on Brigade Street, is keeping his shop busy, noting that the dominant theme of what people want is “more of a style than any particular item.”

“There is a high demand right now for things to look rustic or industrial,” says Ahern.

“But most importantly, the best part of this is that people want ‘handmade’ items. The appreciation of the craftsmanship has definitely come back into the spotlight. It’s really wonderful; it is though the door to creativity has been wedged open to allow for fresh ideas and designs to flow through.”

Ahern says his work will shift from fire screens and fireplace accessories to railings, decorative gates and garden trellises in the spring.

Similarly, landscape architect J.R. Kramer of ReMark Studio says he’s done several projects incorporating corten steel, which develops a stable rust-like appearance when exposed to the weather.

“That’s something a little different for Charleston,” says Kramer.


Columbia area interior decorator Tina Grimes of DBT Interiors credits do-it-yourself TV shows and social media for stirring interests in moving people to “trend decorating styles,” noting that some of her clients have been asking for shiplap, rough-sawn wood boards often used in barns, rustic structures and historic homes; and barn doors to add to an interior of a home.

“It does offer a way to achieve texture in a room,” says Grimes.

Grimes also says that many of her clients are “busy moms who have multiple children” and that they are seeking furniture fabrics that are both attractive and durable, noting that she’s a fan of Crypton Home and Revolution Performance Fabrics.

Both are Greenguard-certified and inherently add a built-in stain, moisture and odor resistance technology to the fabric to be used by many manufacturers of furniture, says Grimes.

Bringing the outdoors in

Ashley Walsh, a Realtor with Century 21 Barefoot Realty in North Myrtle Beach, says trends for Charleston and Myrtle Beach differ, but that she does think the New Year will bring more of the natural look indoors, both in patterns, materials and colors.

“As far as interior design goes, green is coming back,” says Walsh.

“Green went out hard. It was a color that seemed dated, but it’s coming back, especially emerald and chartreuse.”

Naomi Hannan, store manager of Candelabra in Mount Pleasant, echoes that prediction. Home décor will start moving away from grays into more colorful territory. Inspired by the fashion world, bolder accent colors will be prevalent, she believes.

At the same time, décor “will still lean toward natural elements but with cleaner lines to be more minimalistic in appearance,” Hannan says. “Trends for lighting seem to be moving to more artisan fixtures, which complement the minimalist designs.”

She adds, “I think overall in 2018 design will be high contrast, clean lines, and bold patterns, deep color pops, and high drama lighting.”

Local plant guru, B.J. Stadelman, of Haegur Plant Truck says he’s seeing “a shift back to interior landscaping.”

“If you look at the 70s’ plant style, (it featured) huge, interesting leaf shapes and stellar silhouettes. I think we’re going to see more and more of those post mid-century style,” says Stadelman.

Examples of plants that Stadelman thinks will be in demand include sansevieria, bird’s nest ferns, cast iron plants “and any ficus, really.”

“My absolute favorite plant right now is staghorn fern,” says Stadelman. “I’m going to spend 2018 making sure everyone knows what that is.”

Another trend he thinks is posed for a comeback is “hippie-era macrame.”


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Dye gardens produce full palette of natural colors – Las Vegas Review

University of Nevada Cooperative ExtensionThe University of Nevada Cooperative Extension grows herbs in its demonstration garden at 8050 Paradise Road.University of Nevada Cooperative ExtensionThe University of Nevada Cooperative Extension grows herbs in its demonstration garden at 8050 Paradise Road.Bill Hughes  Your HomeMonique Portanger, a member of the Las Vegas Fiber Arts Guild, works at the antique loom in her home.Bill Hughes  Your HomeMonique Portanger, a member of the Las Vegas Fiber Arts Guild, works at the antique loom in her home.Bill Hughes  Your HomeMonique Portanger, a member of the Las Vegas Fiber Arts Guild, uses plant byproducts from vegetables, flowers, herbs and roots to dye textiles. Examples shown here are pomeg ...Bill Hughes  Your HomeMonique Portanger, a member of the Las Vegas Fiber Arts Guild, uses plant byproducts from vegetables, flowers, herbs and roots to dye textiles. Examples shown here are pomeg ...Bill Hughes Your Home
Monique Portanger, a member of the Las Vegas Fiber Arts Guild, uses plant byproducts from vegetables, flowers, herbs and roots to dye textiles. Examples shown here are pomegranates, onion skins, hops, hollyhock flowers, bay leaves, flower petals, lichen and mosses.University of Nevada Cooperative ExtensionThere are many types and sizes of gardens at the Univerisity of Nevada Cooperative Extension's demonstration gardens, with components to invite people, a ...University of Nevada Cooperative ExtensionThere are many types and sizes of gardens at the Univerisity of Nevada Cooperative Extension's demonstration gardens, with components to invite people, a ...

Fresh basil, rosemary and onions.

What may sound like the ingredients of a good soup recipe are actually herbs and vegetables found in a natural dye garden. This unique approach to gardening yields natural dyes used for a variety of purposes including fiber art materials such as yarn and fabric as well as eggs, vinegars and bath products.

“I’ve learned a lot about the connection to nature,” said Monique Portanger, a longtime member of the Las Vegas Fiber Arts Guild, “and how much nature can give to you, not only in terms of health benefits but also in terms of the colors.”

The use of plant byproducts from vegetables, flowers, herbs and roots to dye textiles has been around for centuries and is regaining popularity all over the world.

“Dye gardens are fascinating because the constituents in the plants that give the natural dye colors are the same constituents that provide some of the medicinal benefits in the plants,” said Christine Dalziel of Joybilee Farm in Washington state.

Dalziel has been studying natural dyes for over 18 years.

“So if you are coloring cloth with the plants, you are also transferring that comforting, healing virtue to the cloth,” she said.

A dye garden can be grown easily in a designated garden, existing landscaping or in containers. However, before planting, there are a few things to consider when setting up a natural dye garden.

One consideration is the proper selection of native plants to ensure compatibility with the desert climate, as dye content is significantly influenced by temperature, humidity and sun exposure. Most plants in a dye garden are grown from seeds or starter plants.

“It can be hard to find seed for some of these dye plants,” said Dalziel, who recommends resources such as Seed Savers Exchange or Richter’s Herbs in Ontario, Canada. “The herbal seed houses still stock seed for these rarer dye plants.”

Although herbs and vegetables thrive in the desert climate, they need additional water and will not be as lush as herbs grown in more humid climates, according to Glenda Thompson Bona, a master gardener with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and chairwoman of the Master Gardeners of Southern Nevada Herb Committee.

“Herbs will take the heat and withstand hot summers,” Bona said. “They will even tolerate full sun. When the summer heat makes vegetables shrivel and turn brown, most herbs are still green and happy.”

According to Bona, the two different planting times for our area are spring (late March to June) and again in the fall (September and October).

“Since the soil in our area has very little organic material, you do need to supplement,” Bona said. “In our gardens, we mixed in compost and some top soil. We mulch on a regular basis and we do not fertilize our herbs!”

If planting a designated garden, it is important to plan it out, planting in rows based on the height and lifespan of the different plants, said master gardener Cameron Stay.

“The biggest thing is planning the garden,” Stay said. “If you don’t plan the garden right, it won’t come out right.”

Growing dye plants is easy and, upon harvesting the plant material, dyeing is not difficult. Some vegetables or herbs can be used by simply boiling the plant material in hot water for an extended period of time — doubling the amount of water to the amount of chopped plant material.

Once the desired color is achieved, dyeing is accomplished by straining the plant material from the water and immersing the desired fabric or other fiber into the dye. Natural fabrics such as cotton and wool take dye more easily.

Portanger stated an onion skin is a good example of creating a natural dye from boiling plant material. Bona uses purple basil to infuse her vinegars.

“Adding purple basil to wine vinegar was such a great surprise,” Bona said. “In less than a half hour, the color of the liquid changed to the prettiest pink.”

However, creating some permanent dyes may require treating the fabric or yarn with a specific compound known as a mordant before dyeing. Some common mordants include aluminum and chrome.

Portanger cautioned that some mordant compounds, such as copper and tin, can be poisonous and recommends using separate pots when using natural dyes. The mordant makes the dye colors brighter and less likely to fade.

“People who are interested can just dabble,” Portanger said about growing a natural dye garden. “They don’t have to do a lot to get something out of it. It’s a lot of fun. I love it.”

Natural dye plants for our desert climate

These plants are based on recommendations made by the Master Gardeners of Southern Nevada and members of the Las Vegas Fiber Guild. Colors vary by cooking method, with or without a mordant.

■ Rosemary

■ Calendula (commonly known as pot marigold)

■ Purple basil

■ Madder

■ Blue-flowered lupine

■ Comfrey

■ Eucalyptus leaves

■ Hollyhock flowers

■ Rabbitbrush

■ Yarrow flowers

■ Lemongrass

■ Cliffrose

■ Lavender

■ Roses

■ Sage

■ Aster flowers

■ Dahlia flowers

■ Zinnia flowers

■ Iris flowers

■ Yellow onions

■ Beets

■ Carrots

■ Red cabbage

■ Peppers

■ Cucumber

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Winter gardening tips that are sure to cure your cabin fever





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Extension Connection: 2018 Garden Calendar Available

My 2018 Garden Calendar is now available.

My 2018 Garden Calendar is now available. It provides garden tips, a calendar of events, and a picture each month spotlighting University of Illinois Extension volunteers and programs.


New this year are hyperlinks to information on various topics in the monthly tips. Just click on the underlined-blue links while viewing the electronic copy and it will take you to the connecting ILRiverHort blog, Pinterest pin, or YouTube video.


January displays Master Gardeners (MGs) from Fulton Mason Counties learning more about irises at MG Margaret Kelly’s iris garden. A tip and corresponding hyperlink explain how to plant an indoor edible garden.


February features the Peoria MGs providing gardening information at the Spring Home Show held at the Peoria Civic Center. Next year’s show is February 23-25. Learn how to test the viability of last year’s leftover seed in a Pinterest link.


April’s photo reveals Fulton County MGs hosting a miniature garden program. A linked chart shows planting times for garden vegetables. April is the time for frost tolerant plants, such as spinach, lettuce, and radishes.


June shows Tazewell County MGs having fun while they teach about gardening during their annual Plant Bingo Event. Next year’s event is June 7 at a new venue in E. Peoria. Instagram users can link to a video on proper mowing heights for healthier lawns.


July pictures Mason County Junior Master Gardeners harvesting potatoes grown in straw bales. All fair dates are listed, as well as a link on how to reduce mosquitos in your yard.


October illustrates Horticulture Educator Kari Houle teaching tree identification to this fall’s Master Gardener trainees. Our 2018 MG training will begin in April or May. Fall is the time to plant garlic.


November has a picture of Master Gardener trainees with Master Naturalists during one of their combined classes this fall. Master Naturalist training will be in June next year. Tips and links discuss spring flowering bulbs and tool care.


My entire garden calendar is available for as a free pdf-format download at While there check out my ILRiverHort garden blog, links to my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages, and our many other gardening sites.

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This week’s gardening tips: vegetables to plant during January and gardening resolutions

Vegetables to plant in January: Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, radishes, shallots, snow peas, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips. 

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Eight of the best Instagram gardeners to follow in 2018

For years, I’ve sniffed at Twitter, rolled my eyes at Facebook and snorted at Snapchat. But then just when I couldn’t get any more toploftical, along came Instagram to win my heart and prove me completely wrong when it comes to the world of social media. Why so? Because at its very best it’s a potent mixture of beautiful, original imagery and informative, witty, inspiring text. Not only that, I’ve learned so much about gardening as a result of the generous nature of Instagram’s community of gardeners and growers, whether it’s discovering how to pre-sprout ranunculus, stop pesky mice from eating my sweet-pea seed or finding out which are the best gardens to visit on a flying trip to Amsterdam. Which is to say nothing of the joy of meeting/making online friends with like-minded people from all over the world. So thank you Instagram. I never thought I’d say this, but you rock.

(Fionnuala Fallon can be found on Instagram as @theirishflowerfarmer)


Belonging to the stately home of the Duke of Devonshire, the beautiful cutting garden of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire is one of the rising stars of Instagram, due in no small part to the work of its brilliant head gardener, Becky Crowley. Her daily-updated Instagram feed features a smorgasbord of botanical beauties – it might be a photograph of pastel-coloured varieties of dahlias, or Crowley’s favourite tulips for cutting, or the finest sweet-pea varieties for scent/length of stem – all of it set against the wonderful backdrop of Chatsworth’s historic gardens and glasshouses. @beckycrowley


An increasingly familiar name in the world of international horticulture, the British market gardener, author, permaculturist and “no-dig” exponent Charles Dowding’s Instagram feed illustrates the many benefits of his organic, soil-friendly approach to food-growing, from the impressive productivity he has achieved to the health of his plants. Add in the fact that the no-dig approach is so much kinder to backs and it’s no wonder that Dowding’s very 21st-century methods of growing food are becoming increasingly popular with Irish gardeners. @charles_dowding


Wicklow gardener Jimi Blake’s Instagram feed is a window into the world of this passionate plant boffin, from his latest horticultural crushes – rare salvias, extravagantly beautiful begonias, choice woodland species – to his trips to some of the very best gardens and plant nurseries in Europe and the United States. Add in lots of lovely images of his large country garden, Hunting Brook in west Wicklow, plus a smattering of shots of his two dogs, the lovely Doris and Billy, and it’s no wonder that he’s winning hearts on Instagram @huntingbrook


If the Instagram feed of Gardenista isn’t already on your radar, then what can I say, except that you’re a social-media dinosaur. Okay, I’m kidding, but do follow this feed, whether to lust after those luscious shots of beautifully-designed gardens from around the world or to ooh and ahh at snazzy, Bauhaus-inspired birdhouses, tiny terrariums and gorgeous botanical collages. Its Instagram feed also serves as a portal to the very popular Gardenista blog ( where keen gardeners can happily while away hours feasting on beautifully illustrated stories of the latest gardening tips and trends. @gardenista_sourcebook


The Instagram feed @theplanthunter belongs to the popular online magazine of the same name, a digital publication “devoted to celebrating plants and the varied ways humans interact with them. Edited by Sydney-based writer and landscape designer Georgina Reid, it features contributions from a host of talented writers, artists, gardeners, ecologists, photographers and landscape architects. The result is an fascinating mish-mash of plant-related imagery that sucks you right in and makes you want to know more about the stories behind them, whether it’s the remarkable wild flora-inspired textiles of Edith Rewa or the newest clever apps helping people to green up their homes and offices.


The official Instagram account of the world-famous Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew,  @kewgardens, features a succession of seductive garden-related images, from the floral installations of artist Rebecca Louise-Law on show in the garden’s Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art until next March to the “Big Stink” giant arums – one of the largest flowering structures in the plant kingdom – that flowered in the garden’s conservatory earlier this year. Add in generous dollops of fascinating horticultural facts and figures and it’s easy to see why it has hooked itself more than 125,000 followers.


If houseplants are your thing, then you’ll love @urbanjungleblog, the Instagram feed devoted to “bringing some green into our homes”. Cue lots of luscious shots of elegant, leafy interiors from around the world filled with giant monsteras, spiky succulents and exotic terraiums. They’re a small but delicious taster of what you’ll find on the blog of the same name, which features contributions from a worldwide community of indoor plant lovers offering ingenious suggestions as to how to creatively green up your gaff. Yes, some are definitely on the whacky side, but then that’s part of the fun.


So many Instagram feeds seem to scream “Look at me”, but not Dan Pearson’s, which is both quietly elegant and refreshingly understated, much like his design work. A magical mixture of snatched moments from his long career as a garden designer and plantsperson of international renown, it also charts the evolution of Hillside, Pearson’s 20-acre country garden in Somerset. So along with discreetly glamorous shots of some of the many gardens he has created for distinguished clients including the fashion photographer Juergen Teller, expect charmingly intimate shots of his first haul of summer raspberries or homemade hummus. For more of the same, check out, Pearson’s and his partner Huw Morgan’s excellent online magazine. See @coyotewillow

Now is the time to take advantage of the post-Christmas lull to browse the latest offerings from seed suppliers.

This week in the garden 

Spring may seem like a million moons away right now but the canniest gardeners make a point of getting their seed orders in really early in the new year, well before stocks of the most coveted/newest varieties run out. Now’s the time to take advantage of the post-Christmas lull to browse the latest offerings. Recommended Irish online suppliers include, ,  and

The winter-flowering shrub Chimonanthus in bloom in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. Photograph: Richard Johnston

Botanical inspiration

If you’re wondering about ways to give your garden more all-year-round interest, then why not pay a visit to the treasure that is the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, a place that will provide oodles of inspiration as regards the very best plants for winter flowers as well as attractive evergreen foliage and colourful bark/stems. See for opening hours.

Last chance for bulbs

Remember those bags of spring-flowering bulbs that you bunged in the garden shed a couple of months ago, guiltily promising yourself that you would definitely find the time to plant them once you had a moment or two? Well, that moment has come and it’s now or never, so no more procrastinating. Yes, their flowers might be a little shorter and later to appear than their autumn-planted equivalents but I promise you that it’s still well worth getting them in the ground. Don’t worry if they’ve already begun to sprout, just make sure to plant them the correct way up – foliage to the top and roots to the bottom – and to handle them extra-gently while planting.

Diary date: Wednesday, January 10th (8pm), Kill o’ the Grange parish centre, Kill Lane, Foxrock, Dublin 18 – “The Secret Lives of Gardeners’, a talk by James McConnell and John Curran on behalf of South County Dublin Horticultural Society. Visitors €5.

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