Heavy Frost

A coating of heavy frost covered the foliage in our gardens creating a chilly but peaceful scene.

Heavy frost photos NEPA Frost Crabtree Gardens Frosty Morning1The temperature dropped to 23.5degrees F here in Drums, PA this morning, October 19, 2015. Our area can receive light frost anytime after Labor Day in early September, so we have been quite lucky so far.

Heavy frost photos NEPA Frost Crabtree Gardens Frosty Morning Though we have had mornings in recent days that were below the freezing mark of 32degrees F, we were spared frost because of the wind.

Heavy frost photos NEPA Frost Crabtree Gardens Frosty Morning3Since this heavy frost has now blackened the leaves and stems of tender bulbs such as cannas and dahlias, it’s time to begin their removal for winter storage. It’s not a job we look forward to because it can require a strong back to lift the moisture-heavy, bulb-laden cannas. But the rewards are sweet with an abundance of new bulbs for the next year. I do hope to be able to get a post out with our canna digging process.

Heavy frost photos NEPA Frost Crabtree Gardens Frosty Morning4Heavy frost photos NEPA Frost Crabtree Gardens Frosty Morning5We use this time to transplant before the ground begins to freeze. Cooler temperatures and moisture in the soil will allow the transplants to take hold. We have had a good rate of transplant success moving young trees and shrubs at this time of year.

Heavy frost photos NEPA Frost Crabtree Gardens Frosty Morning2We had some snow pass through the region but no accumulation here. It won’t be too long before there will be a blanket of white covering the grass. Until then, there are plenty of jobs that need doing.

Make it a great day!


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Exploring New Waters

It’s Columbus Day today in the USA. This day honors Christopher Columbus who set out to find a quicker route to the East Indies in 1492. Even though he didn’t achieve that goal, many consider what he did achieve an even greater accomplishment. He discovered the the Americas and became a hero.  Though in today’s culture many would disapprove of his hero title. We would also like to call attention to all the other explorers, no matter what their frontier may have been. They followed their gut and set out in the quest of adventure, hell-bent on proving their theories. Some returned as heros and others lost their lives, their courage and faith was infallible.

Today I set out to build a tiny bamboo raft for a photo but became frustrated with trying to lash the sticks together so I picked a half of a dried milkweed pod and poked a twig from the bamboo into it to create a mast then I added a leaf for a sail. I set it in the pond to grab a photo and it was floating for about 20 seconds before a stowaway fly landed on the sail. What were the chances?

Columbus boat 2015-10-12 024I think his weight caused my little ship to take on water!

What is exploration? Simply put, it’s the action of traveling in or through an unfamiliar area in order to learn about it. We’ve been exploring our gardens for 8 years now and through it, we’ve learned much. Many good things have come about because we chose to explore and like Columbus, we found things we hadn’t planned on.

One of the most interesting journeys that we’ve tackled was a hand-made leather handbag bag business. Is this something that a garden would be well-known for? Not yet! But after one year of developing it, it is proving to be an interesting and exciting choice for us. We’re not certain where it will lead us, but we’re heading in the right direction toward some possibilities that are out there!

All of this handbag talk is actually leading up to a new clue for the “next step” expansion. In the last post I teased everyone with a giveaway. Today is the day we are announcing the prize that will be given away to the winner of a contest that we are holding in Spring 2016 (closer to the date of the opening of our expanded gardens).

This is a sketch of a custom designed handbag created specifically as a clue to the secret project! Here’s the “Explorer”!

The Kristy Bag by CG kristybag.com trend setting handbags leather hand made purses 2It’s pretty cool having such close connections to a handbag designer and manufacturer ;).  Since the handbag  is not even in prototype stage yet, The Kristy Bag by CG was reluctant to allow me to post this sketch. But since today is Columbus Day and Mr. Columbus was a great explorer, I was able to negotiate (pleaded with them) for the release of Kristy Lash’s sketch.

When I commissioned this new “Explorer” handbag for our giveaway, I told Kristy and Dave that I wanted something that might have been used by an explorer. The only requirements I had was that it must be leather and be able to handle dirt or sometimes maybe even a little bit of water, not waterproof, but kind of resistant to water. I trust that they will create another masterpiece!

To give you an idea of what a sketched handbag looks like when it’s complete, here are a few photos.  “Kristy” Tote bag  on top and the “Jennie and “Annie” Canteen below closely resemble Kristy’s sketches.

kristy sketch of bagTrend setting handbag Spicy Kristy Tote The Kristy Bag by CG

Trend Setting Handbags The Kristy Bag by CG Mother Daughter Handbag Mother Earth Canteen Style handbag GreenJenny and Annie Canteen handbags The Kristy Bag by CG Crabtree Gardens Handbag line Trend setting handbags Kristy Lash handbag designer

For more information on our handbags visit our online store www.kristybag.com or blog www.kristybag.wordpress.com 

Looking back on our main garden journey, this morning Facebook provided a memory photo of our Wedding Pergola that was taken on October 12, 2012, exactly three years ago on this date.

pergola under constructionSeeing this pergola standing alone in the upper field reminded me of how great it felt to have a vision come to fruition. I’m hoping that what we are planning to unveil in 2016 will blow this feeling out of the water!

We will have more photos of the earth moving in a few weeks so until then, thanks for following our journey.

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Look Up, Around and Down

Last evening there was a rare event that we could see from our gardens in Northeastern Pennsylvania, USA. A total lunar eclipse of the Supermoon. It’s actually being called a Bloodmoon because of the reddish color it took on from Rayleigh scattering, which is light scattering off molecules of air. It’s the same thing that causes sunrises and sunsets to be so colorful.

Tom Kolesa Total Lunar Eclipse Blood Moon September 2015

Supermoon lunar eclipse blood moon as photographed by Tom Kolesa.

Tom Kolesa Lunar Eclipse Blood Moon September 2015

Supermoon lunar eclipse September 27-28, 2015 as photographed by Tom Kolesa.

Much earlier in the evening Dave and I sat on the benches in Yo.gar.den and enjoyed the cool temperatures and disappearance of gnats while we gazed out over our new circle of reflective white pea gravel. We felt peaceful. The round shape and light colored surface reminded us of the full moon that would be appearing in several hours.

yogarden circle Crabtree Gardens moon circle lunar eclipse circle

With the numerous garden jobs still nipping at our heels to continue with our expansion, just sitting quietly and being grateful for the opportunity made us aware of the need to just stop and reflect upon the entire universe that surrounds us. Call it mindfulness, awareness or even mindful awareness, whatever it is, it works for a spiritual recharge or tune-up. It reminds us that our spirit is made up of energy and because of that energy we remain interconnected with every thing through a universal consciousness. We are energetically connected to things we see and even what is unseen. It’s pretty deep to understand but when you realize how it works, it can alter your life in many positive ways.

I don’t want to get too much scope creep here so I better get back to the gardens. It’s not a secret we’re expanding but the theme and purpose is still being kept under wraps. Last post gave several clues to lead you in the direction we are headed. Today’s post will recap the last few weeks of improvements to the gardens along with more subtle clues. All garden improvements that were shown in this post can be accomplished by home gardeners without the use of chemicals.

Update to Yo.gar.den: I mentioned in the previous post that there were several areas being worked on simultaneously, they are Yo.gar.den and “Next Step”.  To clear up the confusion, Yo.gar.den is the meditation garden that was started through karma yoga which is the Hindu path of service to others. It is an action that is carried out as an offering. A few people from The Lil Yoga Barn’s yoga community volunteered their time and energy to help clear out the area around our shed back in 2013 so that we could begin to develop a meditation garden. Through the work service of these karma yogis, the bramble and field area around the shed was cleared and Yo.gar.den began to take shape.

yo.gar.den clearing karma yoga

A natural ares near an old shed became the starting point for a meditation garden project called Yo.gar.den.

yo.gar.den clearing karma yogis

Karma yogis help to haul and spread mulch over cardboard near the old shed to keep the field grasses away from shed.

Yo.gar.den’s continued development has been slow-growing over 2 years with the efforts of Dave and me as time, energy and health permits. Without bringing in heavy equipment or using any chemical weed killers, we were able to organically smother the field grasses to create additional planting areas for a more managed look with the use of sheet-mulching. See “Beginning a New Garden in Spring” for more on sheet-mulching and yo.gar.den.

The semi-circular grassy area in front of the shed in yo.gar.den was used for meditation and sometimes lined with hay bales for seating.

yo.gar.den clearing meditation on hay balesI had always envisioned a labyrinth there, but after doing research, I was inspired to develop something more unique which will tie in with our “Next Step” project. Without giving away the whole concept, I’ll just tease you with the circular base which is only a part of what the finished area will be. There will be wooden posts erected in a few weeks.

Here’s how it took shape.  A 20′ diameter circle was outlined and sod removed from inside.

Yo.gar.den circle remove sodYo.gar.den circle

yogarden circle yo.gar.den circle Crabtree Gardens meditation garden

“No man is an island” Poet John Donne

Colmet metal lawn edging was installed and 6 cubic yards of Maryland river rock pea gravel was added giving a 4″ thick covering.

Yogarden Circle Garden Maryland River Rock Pea Gravel Crabtree Gardens Yogarden circle lawn edging

Here’s a photo of the circle base with the new yo.gar.den stepping stone placed by the little explorer, Lucas. These next two photos are by Robert Ferdinand Photography.

yo.gar.den explorer with stepping stone

“The Little Explorer” Photography by Robert Ferdinand

yo.gar.den explorer in pea gravel circle

“I Am the Universe” Photography by Robert Ferdinand

There were many rocks removed during the digging of the circle and they were re-purposed in the dry stream bed that’s in-progress at the left side of the shed. It will“flow” toward the new planting area and be incorporated into the design there. More on that in future posts.

yogarden dry stream bed in progress Crabtree GardensUpdate on “Next Step”:  Remember the rainbow photo in the previous post? It led to the area where “Next Step” expansion is taking place. A portion of the lower field was cut in order to gain access to the small island of trees that grew there from seed dropped by birds even before we purchased the property in 2007.

Next Step 2015-09-16 009The area we are expanding around is in the center of the lower field and was created by a raised pile of rocks that were plowed into the middle when it was a used for farming years ago.

Next Step rocks on island Crabtree GardensIt’s now just a tiny island that we will be developing into a vision that Dave and I had as we first saw it sitting in the middle of the plowed field when we allowed a neighbor to farm our land for the first three years we owned it.

This rock pile is the same type as the one we found at the meditation garden (next photo) when we first began to reclaim that area. There, we covered over the rocks with cardboard and a heavy layer of wood-chip mulch to choke the remaining vegetation. Virginia creeper, which turns a gorgeous shade of crimson red in fall is starting to cover the area now. A few plants like bleeding hearts and sedum were added to the outer edges where there are fewer rocks. This area behind the shed is finally growing into a nice little woodland.

Virginia creeper in Yo.gar.den Crabtree Gardens Woodland gardens Naturalized gardening

Virginia creeper can be seen turning a red color as it covers the woodland area near Yo.gar.den.

Sorry for jumping between areas!

Back to the “Next Step” lower field expansion: Some of the rocks  here will be moved to yo.gar.den’s dry stream bed and the remaining pile that’s left will be covered with topsoil excavated through the leveling of the main walkway leading down into the new space. Once the topsoil is in place we will be planting 600 spring-blooming bulbs. There is a definite restriction as to what will grow in this area because of the deer population. Daffodils (Narcissus spp. and cvs.) and  flowering onions (Allium spp. and cvs.) will not be bothered by the wildlife so we opted for both. In addition to a mix of purple and white allium, two of the daffodils that we chose were Narcissus ‘Sailboat’ and ‘King Alfred’. (Just gave another tiny clue here and there’s several more in this post too!)

There will be much more happening down in the lower field after the topsoil gets moved so stay tuned for our updates. For those of you on Pinterest, we are giving photo clues on “Next Step” Project on Crabtree Gardens, LLC page. Here are photos of the the colorful bulbs ordered from Van Engelen. All photos credited to Van Engelen’s website.

Allium Van Engelen

Purple and white Alliums

Narcissus Van Engelen

‘Sailboat’ Daffodils

Narcissus Van Engelen1

‘King Alfred’ Daffodils






We will be having a great giveaway in the coming months but it’s a little too early to mention what the item is because it might just give away too much of a clue! Thanks for sharing our posts, it gives us the energy we need to continue with our venture.

“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” Leonardo da Vinci

Robert Ferdinand Photography Blood Moon 2015

Photo credit: Robert Ferdinand Photograpahy


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Keeping A Secret in Our Gardens

We have been quite secretive about what our plans are for the “next step” now that yoga classes have ceased here at the gardens (previous post Synchronicity and the Stepping Stone). Many of our friends, prior yoga students, photographers and others remain curious about what we are planning since we have all but curtailed garden visits.

We have several areas that will be taking on new looks and we will be offering a new, locally-unique experience with the completed expansion.  But for now, we are going to focus on the largest project at hand. In the interest of having some fun, Dave and I decided to lead everyone along on our journey by giving clues as to what we’ve got planned. Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow and do what feels right.

In order for our followers to have an equal playing field, we are going to give you the clues that we’ve shared on Facebook up to this point. This isn’t a contest just yet 😉

Clue #1: A photo of the rainbow shared on Facebook on July 6, 2015

Here’s what I said: “Oh wow! This is just amazing. Dave and I took a walk outside to talk about our expansion and a rainbow appeared dead center of where it’s taking place! This is giving me the chills.”rainbow 2015-07-06 010Clue #2: A video of Dave trimming bamboo and making a pile of bamboo poles was shared on Crabtree Gardens, LLC Facebook page on July 11, 2015.

I said:”Giggling at this one. I love Dave Crabtree he is such a good sport! Stay tuned for more clues of our expansion.”

The video was posted to Facebook. My apologies, the mp4 file won’t upload so the best I can do is this snapshot. dave with bambooHere’s the caption: Here’s a video of what’s going on in the gardens today. We said earlier that we felt like we were in the islands waking up to the smell of our mimosa tree. Dave took it to the next level-;) so keep watching for what’s happening with our awesome expansion. We will keep giving you clues.

Clue #3: This event was shared on Facebook with the first clue word.

I said: “Get your Zen on with Michael Barata out on the decks next Friday August 14. This will be a special garden experience. The decks will be surrounded with TIKI torches, which speaking of, is a tiny hint to our “next step” !!!!

Get With Your Flow Meditation Experience

Get With Your Flow Meditation Experience

Clue #4:  Today’s photo!Sun Next Step Secret Garden Expansion Crabtree GardensThere were four clues given so far and many more to come! Thanks for keeping company with us.

Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World. Christopher Columbus

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Synchronicity and the Stepping Stone

It is with mixed emotions that I write this post. Yesterday marked the end of a 30-month chapter in our book.The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Outdoor Yoga Meditation Law of Attraction Synchronicity (10)

The Lil Yoga Barn’s community gathered on the decks and practiced together at the farewell class taught by Angela Preat.The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Outdoor Yoga Meditation Law of Attraction Synchronicity (1)

It was a celebration of gratitude in every person’s heart. Gratitude for gardens that offered them a respite from their hectic lives. Gratitude for the teachers who offered positivity and encouragement through their classes.The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Outdoor Yoga Meditation Law of Attraction Synchronicity (7)

Gratitude for the peacefulness and joy that was brought to everyone who walked from the parking area through the gardens enroute to the barn to sign in before class.

Gratitude for the sights, sounds and fragrances of nature that surrounded the decks during class, including the “shantis” (bunnies). JoAnn, we owe you a nod for coming up with that name.The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Outdoor Yoga Meditation Law of Attraction Synchronicity (6)

Gratitude for the love that was shared here.The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Outdoor Yoga Meditation Law of Attraction Synchronicity (5)

Most of all, gratitude for Angela’s vision which helped to build a special yoga community through unending faith and love for her passion for teaching.The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Outdoor Yoga Meditation Law of Attraction Synchronicity (2)This change is a time for renewal and reflection. A time to look back on the past years and notice how our lives have changed through yoga.The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Outdoor Yoga Meditation Law of Attraction Synchronicity (9)

The beautiful people we have met and amazing connections we have made were all made possible through it.  We’ve taken some notes on improving and we’ve learned so much and are grateful for it.The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Outdoor Yoga Meditation Law of Attraction Synchronicity (4)

The energy that our garden provides is special. We hear comments from people all the time that the feeling they get here cannot be duplicated. Possibly because of the positive energy and labor of love that we continually put into actualizing our vision.The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Outdoor Yoga Meditation Law of Attraction Synchronicity (12)

Each plant that you see has been lovingly planted by Dave and me. We don’t believe in using chemicals or pesticides and believe that everything that lives in our gardens has a purpose. We love nature and nature loves us and she rewards us with good energy. A garden is more than just plants, it’s a feeling that allows you to grow.The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Outdoor Yoga Meditation Law of Attraction Synchronicity (3)

Throughout the last few weeks, I tired to stay upbeat each time I spoke to Angela. As I said, mixed emotions presided. Saddened by the loss yet excited for our future, I kept telling myself that I would be able to get through seeing the final yoga class on the decks, and I did.

After class, among a few close friends, Angela and Robert presented Dave and me with a token of gratitude. During this confusing time, it was something that seemed to make it all very clear for me.  Written onto a card with a monarch (Angela knows my passion for the monarch butterflies) were the words that I needed to see. Mandala 2015-07-06 011

The Yoga Barn was a stepping-stone to our future. This beautiful hand-painted mandala on a circular-cut stone was made by Ariell Stewart of Mandalas by Ariell.Yo.gar.den Mandala stepping stone hand painted Mandalas by Ariell1

Several weeks ago, I saw a photo on Facebook of this exact stone, unpainted, which was destined to be the base for a stepping-stone mandala made by Mandalas by Ariell. I really loved the idea and I commented that I wanted one. I learned that the unpainted stepping-stone had been commissioned to be the stepping-stone that was to become ours. Synchronicity happened when I needed it.Yo.gar.den Mandala stepping stone hand painted Mandalas by Ariell2

So in all of my attempts to hold back my feelings, I failed to do so at the sight of the stepping-stone. The most interesting thing is that we have kept our future plans very secret and have not discussed them with anyone. The fact that this stepping stone will “fit” into one of the proposed changes that we have planned is a synchronous message.

I constantly open myself up to the things that the universe sends my way. I’m certain that this is a sign that we are again, on the right track with what we have planned. This stepping stone will be a constant reminder that we must continue to take steps to be able to get where we are going.

It is with the aid of the “special energy” that our gardens provide that we will embark on an exciting path. (Angela refers to the energy here as “magical”).  The next several months without visitors will allow us to do the necessary maintenance and construction for the expansion of our vision.

We offer our sincerest gratitude to Angela, Robert, Lucas and the entire yoga community for allowing helping us to take the next step. A special “thanks” to Robert Ferdinand Photography for providing the beautiful photos of this event.


“A garden is more than just plants, it’s a feeling that allows you to grow.” Sandi Crabtree

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Broken Delphinium Flowerhead

An English cottage garden brushed with the regal spires of blue delphinium in early summer is a coveted scene for many. These tall, top-heavy beauties tower above the phlox and foxgloves. Often times the weight of the flower head will cause the thick stem to snap in windy areas. Staking is recommended as a precaution.

English cottage garden Drums PA  Delphinium stem

Unfortunately, you may encounter the dreaded sight of one of these beauties hanging upside down on the plant. What is the gardener to do when a delphinium breaks and you can’t bear to part with the gorgeous flower ?  If you’re like other beginner delph growers,  you probably blame yourself for not staking it correctly or maybe even ignoring the need to stake it in the first place (hmmm… that would be me).

English cottage wreath blue and white2

The first step in getting over the loss of a broken stem is to admit the shortcoming if it’s on your part and move on. Sometimes nature can be inconsiderate and there’s really nothing you could have done to prevent it in the case of disease, insects or even high winds and rain. The second step is to quickly turn a negative into a positive.

There are several options for this type of plant emergency.

Option 1: Use it as a cut flower. I chose this option for this morning’s wind-snapped bloom.

Delphiniums have brittle, hollow stems and don’t take up water easily. You will need to help it absorb the water. Using a sharp blade, cut the thick stem at a point above the break. and fill the hollow stem with water.

Delphinium stem1

You can use a slow stream of lukewarm water from the faucet or an eyedropper.  Vibrate the stem by gently tapping it with the flick of a finger until the water travels down into the stem.

Continue until the stem fills with water. When the stem can’t take anymore, ever so gently plug it with a moistened cotton swab. Be careful not to split the stem! You may need to remove some cotton to allow it to fit inside. Then slowly plug the stem with the swab by pushing it inside-gently.

Delphinium stem2

You can wrap the stem bottom with a couple twists of a rubber band to contain it so it doesn’t split. Cut the stick of the swab short and place into a vase with lukewarm water. Theoretically, the paper stem of the cotton swab will act as a wick and allow the stem to soak up additional water. I am not sure if the plastic-stemmed swabs will work the same. The cut flower head should last about 6 days.

There, you rescued the bloom and can now enjoy it close-up indoors! Let it be a reminder to put stakes in the delphiniums ASAP. I found this great link for staking delphiniums and their general care.

Option 2:  You can simply place the delphinium into a vase without any water and let it dry completely. Display this everlasting stem in your home away from moisture and direct sunlight. My beautiful blue Pacific Giant ‘Blue Jay’ delphinium looks beautiful against the white beadboard in the front porch.  English cottage  blue and white

The individual florets can also be dried flat individually as accents for wreaths, bows even gift wrapped packages or other crafts.

Pressed flowers English cottage wreath blue and white3

In the photo below, a few of the lower florets were taken from the main stem and inserted into faux boxwood on a grapevine wreath.  They will shrink and dry in place just like the hydrangea heads did at the top a few years ago. You can also dry them flat.

English cottage wreath blue and white


English cottage wreath blue and white1Option 3: Press the single florets or whole stock in a thick book between several sheets of absorbent paper and add weight on the book with a brick or comparable heavy item. Don’t use paper towels because the texture will embed into the flowers. When pressed and dry in about a week, use the colorful florets as accents in homemade greeting cards, book marks and other crafts.

Pressed flowers English cottage wreath blue and white2

Option 4: There is a slight chance that the flower head may continue to bloom on the plant after it bends but is still connected. I’ve not had any experience with this but have seen websites that claim it can be done. By creating a “splint” from a popsicle stick or several bamboo skewers, you can try to secure it above and below the bend using floral tape or strips of nylon/cotton.  I haven’t tried this method on broken flower heads because I always opt to use them as cut or dried flowers.  If the flower stem is severed, then choose one of the other options because the connective tissue of the plant is damaged.

I purchased my delphiniums in May of 2014 online from Graceful Gardens. Everything was labeled and packaged quite well and I would order from them again.

My order:

Delphinium Belladonna
Delphinium Blue Lace
Delphinium Pacific Giant Blue Bird
Delphinium Pacific Giant Blue Jay
Delphinium Pacific Giant Galahad
Delphinium Pacific Giant Summer Skies
Delphinium Centurion Gentian Blue – NEW!
Delphinium Magic Fountain Sky Blue

English cottage wreath blue and white4

It’s amazing how quickly these tiny plants grew into such tall specimens this year. My beautiful, blue delphinium flower head was standing about 5′ tall at the Cottage.  Heavy rain heavy coupled with wind were no match for it last evening.  Believing that the fence would help to protect the delphs from the westerly winds without stakes, gave me a false sense of security.

English cottage wreath blue and white5

The snapped stem is visible at far right.

Growing these English cottage beauties is going to be a challenge since we are a low-maintenance garden and staking is just one more chore. We are in a windy area so it’s necessary. I’m feeling determined and vow to be better-prepared earlier in the season so that next year’s blooms will have every chance to be spectacular. I hope they return for another show.

English cottage blue and white delphinium

Delphinium Pacific Giant ‘Blue Bird’

English cottage blue and white1

Delphinium Pacific Giant ‘Blue Jay’

How about your delphiniums? Where do you grow them with success and do you have any tips to share? What do you do with broken flower heads? I’m looking forward to hearing suggestions. In the interim, I’m gathering my stakes.

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Getting into the Vortex

Law of Attraction fact- Do what you love and more of it will come to you. A few cooler overcast days preceded by two inches of rain made for perfect, day-long, working-weather in my book. So, for the past few days, I’ve been taking advantage of this universal law.

Gorgeous gardens Country Gardens English Gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PAThe overcast days enabled me to get great photos of some things that I truly appreciate. I call this getting into the vortex.  I knew more good things were coming to me.

Gorgeous blue gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PA

I am learning to be more mindful when I garden, thanks to my insightful husband. Instead of worrying about the usual raft of things that continually speed through my mind, I force myself to concentrate on the task that I’m doing. Even weeding is starting to have positive effect on me. The mindfulness is working quite well, I must admit. I do feel different. Dave claims he can tell by the tone of my voice when I’ve been working outside.

So while cleaning up a few dead stems that were still standing in the bronze fennel (yes, it’s June and I did not remove them), I spotted this gorgeous creature. Actually this post was motivated by my finding this eastern black swallowtail butterfly larvae munching on bronze fennel which is a host plant for the eggs, larvae and chrysalis.  Bronze Fennel for Swallowtail Butterfly  Country Gardens English Gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PA

Finding one of these caterpillars is like hitting the jackpot for me 😉  I know that I’m working along with nature and this is my reward.

Another nature windfall happened about two weeks ago, as we installed 7 wooden birdhouses that our friend Jim built for the gardens. He signed each one and noted the bird that it would attract.  As we were just finishing up, with one house yet to be installed, a bluebird (male) was hovering around one of the houses that was standing. We watched as the bird tried to fit in the hole, but it was too small. So Dave quickly removed the house that was up and replaced it with the bluebird house that was left.  As soon as the bluebird house was up, that curious bluebird came back and sat on top of the house then checked out the hole. We were astonished!  It was almost as if he was waiting for it to go up. We were humbled and we both felt an odd connection to that bird. Little did we realize that there was such a bird-housing crunch.  We sat under the pergola and watched how quickly the birds landed on the houses we just installed. Within 2 days six of the homes were occupied.

The only unoccupied home was for a robin. It was installed on the barn under the eaves.  Robins usually build nests on the wreath in the window so it seemed like a good location.

Robin House on Barn Country Gardens English Gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PA

As I took time wandering around today with a camera in hand, I was fortunate to get this photo of a male bluebird perched on top of the bluebird house.

Bluebird on Country Gardens English Gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PA

Seconds later, the female showed up with a beakful of nesting material.

Bluebird nesting material Country Gardens English Gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PA

I waited to see her put the nest material inside but she flew when she noticed me. I’m hopeful for the bluebird family.

There are predator birds everywhere and I noticed one hanging around an old gourd birdhouse that I hung in the herb garden a few months ago. As I shooed away the black bird, I saw a chickadee with food. When I peeked into the hole, I saw a tiny open beak inside. From what I can tell, there are two little ones in there. Who knew?  I guess it’s time to bring out the box of apple gourds that’s in the barn and start drilling holes.

Bird house gourd  Country Gardens English Gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PA2

I noticed that the blooms this year are extremely abundant! I don’t know if it was the cold winter or generous snow cover that had an effect . I don’t ever remember this many peonies opening at the same time on one plant.

Single Pink Peony beautiful private gardens Pennsylvania Crabtree Gardens

The Virginia spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) plants seems to have exploded with blue blossoms this year too.Blue White Yellow  Country Gardens English Gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PA

I’m equally impressed with the show of early yellow Dumortier’s daylily (Hemerocallis dumortieri). It’s an amazing show!

Early yellow daylily Dumortiers Country Gardens English Gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PA

I love these early daylilies because they are so fragrant. I like to mix them with the burgundy leaves of fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’) because the backside of the flower has a bit of burgundy shading. The burgundy adds a great contrast to yellow. (Not to be confused with purple loosestrife the noxious weed.)

Early yellow daylily Dumortiers Country Gardens English Gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PA1

And since we’re talking about yellow, don’t you just adore this yellow tree peony? This is the last of 4 blooms this year. It was planted in the fall and I’m impressed that it came through this winter so great.

Pennsylvania Leatherwing beetle on Yellow tree Peony Country Gardens English Gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PA

As I reached over to take this photo, I noticed a beetle inside. It’s the Pennsylvania leatherwing beetle (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus).

Pennsylvania Leatherwing beetle on Yellow tree Peony Country Gardens English Gardens Crabtree Gardens Private Gardens in PA1

These beetles are aphid eaters and great pollinators  .

Insects are a part of nature and they are food for the birds. When you think about using chemicals to kill them, remember you are taking away the food source of the birds that visit your garden. Be mindful and appreciate all of nature, not just the flowers.

I’m off to move a mountain of mulch and getting in the vortex once more.



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Honoring Earth Day

Flower mandala Green Man Tire Planter Earth Day Crabtree Gardens Drums PA

In honor of the birth of the modern environmental movement which started 45 years ago  this month, we created our version of a fresh flower mandala for Earth Day 2015. The word “mandala” is Sanskrit loosely translated as “circle” and the geometric design is intended to represent the universe. Our flower mandala was created using a mix of spring blooming shrubs and flowers taken from our gardens.

The colorful collection was arranged inside an upcycled vintage tire planter that was painted blue. Flower mandala Green Man Tire Planter Earth Day Crabtree Gardens Drums PA2It seemed befitting to use the tire, since recycling has become one of the most important concepts to have gained popularity as a result of this environmental movement which has positively affected our environment.

Flower mandala Green Man Tire Planter Earth Day Crabtree Gardens Drums PA1The center point for our mandala was created using a copper face of the “Green Man” which has a history of symbolism throughout many cultures. A human male face is usually depicted protruding from a leaf shape or with leaves surrounding it, which represents the unity of humans with nature. This vegetation deity is also interpreted as a symbol of rebirth and new growth. The Green Man was chosen as a center point for this project to recollect the original reason Earth Day was founded; to bring public awareness to the problem of air and water pollution and its detrimental effect on our environment. It led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of  Clean Air, Water and Endangered Species Acts.

Though our example is not made to the exact mandala geometry, here’s how it was created:

1) The copper “Green Man” was centered on top of organic soil in the planter.

Flower mandala Green Man Tire Planter Earth Day Crabtree Gardens Drums PA6

2) Short tip branches (8-10”) were clipped from blooming forsythia (Forsythia spp.) shrubs and arranged in a ray pattern with the stem end pushed under the copper face. The tips ends laid on the inside edges of the tire. The predominant color yellow (sunlight) signifies hope.

3) Star magnolia blossoms (Magnolia stellata) were placed in a circle close to the face. The magnolia flower is symbolic of love for nature.

Flower mandala Green Man Tire Planter Earth Day Crabtree Gardens Drums PA7

4) The next concentric circle was made with hellebore flowers (Helleborus x ballardiae ‘HGC Pink Frost’). These five petaled flowers signify the five human senses that connect us with nature. The gift of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell allows us to fully engage in this worldly experience.

Flower mandala Green Man Tire Planter Earth Day Crabtree Gardens Drums PA4
5) Tip cuttings of Wate’s pine (Pinus virginiana ‘Wate’s Golden’) were added next. Pine is is considered the tree of peace. (At far right in next photo.)

6) Short tip cuttings of blooming willow (Salix spp.) branches with fuzzy catkins that early pollinators adore were added in the next circle. Willow symbolizes learning from the past. It’s so appropriate for bringing awareness to the bee decline which is attributed to several reasons including the use of pesticides.

Flower mandala Green Man Tire Planter Earth Day Crabtree Gardens Drums PA57) Finally the outermost circle was made by alternating hydrangea and magnolia blooms. The blue(-ish) colored hydrangea panicles represent clean water. Hydrangea comes from the Greek word “hydor,” meaning water, and “angos,” meaning jar or vessel.

Flower mandala Green Man Tire Planter Earth Day Crabtree Gardens Drums PA10

The symbolism created by our fresh flower mandala expresses Crabtree Gardens’ belief and hope that environmental awareness and care for the natural resources provided by our beautiful planet will help us to achieve a symbiotic relationship with nature allowing a greener world for future generations.


Flower mandala Green Man Tire Planter Earth Day Crabtree Gardens Drums PA8

Now that you see how easy it is, you can create your own fresh flower mandala using what you have available in your own garden. What will you put in your mandala?

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Beginning a New Garden in Spring

Spring! The geese are heading north and you can smell that cold fresh moist earth in the air. The spring bulbs are beginning to break ground and there’s a whole new garden in the works here!

Crabtree Gardens for Standard Speaker

Our snow covering is just about gone. I was even a bit shocked to see some perennials greening up in the herb garden this morning.

Naturalized garden low maintenance gardening techniques Crabtree Gardens soapwort in early spring

Double soapwort (Saponaria officinalis ‘Rosea Plena) has new growth forming at the crown.

The ground is starting to thaw on the surface but it’s still rock hard beneath. It looked deceivingly warm out this morning because the sun was so bright. I made a decision that today would be the start day for the second step in developing a new garden space that is taking shape in our “yo.gar.den” meditation area.

yo.gar.den: a plot of sacred ground where organic plants and yogis are cultivated for the purpose of spreading universal LOVE.  Origin: Defined by Angela Preat-yoga instructor at The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens.

We sanctioned the yo.gar.den area around our shed to be used as a meditation garden and now it’s time to get moving with some planting areas.

yo.gar.den meditation garden Drums, PA Crabtree Gardens

Our shed is pictured here in summer 2014. Tall field area to left is where new the new planting area will be.

Garden shed transformation yo.gar.den Crabtree Gardens meditation garden

Original condition of shed in spring 2013. Standing inside is yoga instructor Angela Preat, owner of Yoga with Angela, LLC and developer of The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens.

This time of year is my “big work” season. I can’t take the heat or humidity and I would much rather dress in layers when it’s cold instead. Since the ground was still frozen, there was no mud. I usually start a big job in very early spring and then as it gets warmer, I’ll do easy tasks. The work started by moving a big pile of cardboard out of our garage that I had been stockpiling for sheet mulching the new planting area. The cardboard came from a much appreciated delivered donation of water heater boxes that were being discarded by our plumber and they were taking up room in our garage.

If you’ve been following along on the growth of our garden, you already know about my fondness for the sheet mulching technique. It may seem as if this is all that I do in the garden because I’m constantly promoting it by writing about it. This method allows me to start new planting areas without bringing in any heavy equipment, topsoil or labor.  I’m always working a few years ahead so the soil has time to prepare for the new plants it will receive when the area is ready. We are building our gardens organically over time which I’m hoping will start to set new trends among landscapers and garden professionals in our area. It’s a better choice for the environment.

If you would like know more about the sheet mulched gardens created here, visit a previous post about our tree trunk planter or you can check out my article Like Water Under the Bridge  written for statebystategardening.com.

Naturalized garden low maintenance gardening techniques Crabtree Gardens sheet mulched area in early spring

Two years ago this area behind our Rondel started as field grass that was sheet mulched. In summer  of 2014 perennials were planted and straw was laid between them for mulch.

The new garden area that I began working on today was a large portion of unmown field which was mostly goldenrod, field grasses and blackberry canes. In early fall of 2014, ten 8′ lengths of rough cut 4×4’s were laid out designating the front border of the area that would be covered with sheet mulching. You can see how full it is in this next photo.

building a new garden right on top of blackberry canes and weedy areas Crabtree Gardens naturalized gardens

This photo shows a small portion of the 4×4’s that were laid out defining the new garden. The tall field and blackberry bushes can be seen. The woman modeling a new leather “KristyBag” handbag in the photo is Kristy Lash who is the handbag designer at The Kristy Bag by CG. (Crabtree Gardens handbag line.)

The thick, large cardboard pieces hold the blackberry canes down well enough to smother them. Every now and then when one finds it way up through,  I’ll take a shovel and dig it out then cover with more cardboard.

I wanted to show the very beginning of the process of this new garden because many people just can’t believe how well sheet mulching works on super-weedy areas. So I’m giving you more proof that it does. It is a slow process. It’s kind of a laid back way to start new gardens and most importantly, there are no chemicals used to harm environment.

I knocked down the unruly things that were still standing like the new blackberry canes and other thick dead stems by stepping on them near the crown. I’ve been testing knocking things over rather than cutting them because the sharp  stems poke through the cardboard and light gets in. It seems to be working. I also always used to mow everything short, but then when I thought about it, everything would eventually decay so I just left it where it was and saved the energy of mowing.

The heavy snow this winter had done a great job of knocking down the dead grasses and goldenrod so I took advantage of it now in its flattened stage, before any greening started. There aren’t any rabbit nests (that I saw yet) so it was a good time to cover the area. I am finding that sheet mulching is much easier when the field is dead and thick cardboard helps tremendously. It’s different with lawn grass, that’s quite easy to smother at anytime of year.

I simply laid the cardboard down and overlapped it across the entire area. This is just the beginning. I still have more area to cover! Naturalized garden low maintenance gardening techniques Crabtree Gardens sheet mulched area in early spring1

Heavy cardboard was laid on top of open field and weighed down with items until mulch could be applied at a later date. The wooden border laid out last summer is seen at right (that was step 1 ).

The wind was whipping up and taking the cardboard with it so I just used whatever I found that had weight. You will see some concrete blocks, containers that were left over winter, old wooden furniture and even some lightweight chairs that I turned over just to hold it down from blowing away.

There is a considerable snowfall amount predicted here in the next day, so this is the perfect time for getting a jump on this project. The snow will weigh down the cardboard and decomposition can begin just as soon as the microbial activity starts when the soil warms. Just as soon as our wood chip mountain begins to thaw out, I will start moving it over on top of the cardboard.

I’ll update as I make more progress at yo.gar.den. In the meanwhile, I will be figuring out what to do with about 50 large daffodil bulbs that were never planted in the fall. I just ran out of energy, what can I say. Rather than throw them out, I’m going to take my chances with them. I’ll let you know how in the next post.

It will be three quick months and Summer Solstice will be here!

Yo.gar.den goes to NYC June 2013 The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Trend setting yoga studio outdoor yoga yoga in the gardens Drums PA

Our yo.gar.den shirts made an appearance on the streets of NYC in June for the Summer Solstice.

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Yoga in the Snow – Snoga Remembered

Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 7

On a beautiful Sunday one year ago today, our first Snoga yoga class took place on the decks.  It was one of the most talked about events that we have ever hosted. I thought I would share it again for nostalgic reasons and also because both Dave and I really do miss seeing all of the wonderful people who frequented our gardens.

The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens is a very unique yoga community! It was a balmy 32 F on a calm winter day here in Northeastern PA at our snow covered garden. An early morning call came in from Angela Preat of The Lil Yoga Barn about a spontaneous event she planned on organizing in a few hours later that day.

Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 10She felt it would be a great  time to take advantage of the winter garden scenery by holding an outdoor yoga class on the decks surrounded by the recently fallen snow. (Only Angela could pull this off 😉 )

Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 8She got the most recent inspiration for it from Molly, a yogini who suggested doing a yoga class in the snow.Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 9

Angela had mentioned it last year but had never pursued it. This time it seemed the perfect time to test it out.  Since we were on the verge of getting considerable additional snow accumulations she felt it was an opportune time to raise the spirits of the yoga community and embrace the snow and winter with this “FLASH EVENT”(my keen words).

Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 11Angela posted the notice on The Lil Yoga Barn’s Facebook page and tagged all of the yogis that she thought might be available. It was a spontaneous and wonderful idea!

Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 1 We were so excited when we started to see cars following in a parade along the road in. The parking lot was filled.

Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 12Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 13

Everyone was told to dress in layers and bring a yoga mat to lay on the decks which were shoveled in the morning by Robert Ferdinand (In-house photographer/manager of The Lil Yoga Barn).

Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 5

Yogis could be seen in colorful winter outerwear brightening up the pristine white landscape on the cold and still-frozen wooden decks. They were very adventurous souls! Robert took wonderful photos of this trend setting yoga class.

Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 4The Snoga Event was FREE and only lasted half an hour.  Since this kind of class has never been done here before, Angela kept the class short. Afterwards, we invited the chilled but exhilarated yogis into the Carriage House for a cup of hot cocoa, cappuccino and cookies.

Both Dave and I felt so blessed to have this yoga community embrace this unusual opportunity at a moment’s notice . With less than comfortable temperatures and having to trudge through the snow to get to the decks for a half hour of the most unique nature-enhanced yoga we have seen here, the community responded to the challenge.  And for that, we extend a heart-filled “Namaste” to all, even those who wanted to be here but couldn’t and especially Angela and Robert for the wonderful home and community they have helped to create here at Crabtree Gardens.

Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 3Trend setting yoga studio Drums PA The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Meditation Snoga The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Robert Ferdinand Angela Preat Winter Yoga Retreats yoga decks 6





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