Serendipity Discovered, My Banister Garden and Butternut Squash and Bacon Quiche


As you stroll through my garden’s you’ll notice many unusual things sprinkled here and there… peaking out of a cluster of tulips or bowing over a rash planting of zinnias… Friends say that I have a flair for mixing my passion for plants and garden junque, marrying them together into welcoming and intriguing garden rooms. As I place these abandoned and unappreciated objects throughout my gardens it allows me to express my passions using my innate creativity.

Recycling things that no one else wants is something I enjoy doing… I can see the ‘practical’ and artistic use of an old fashioned metal canner… a rusty old wagon wheel… wooden crates or drawers… a wash tub or even more exciting, a derelict water trough… tin buckets, old wheel barrows… garden bikes, chairs… oh the list could go on and on! In my last post I talked about that discovered element… stumbling upon some tiny treasure you’ve been unknowingly looking for. My eye has become quite keen to spotting usable junque at estate sales, thrift shops and even along the curbside. My minds eye is in tune with what I love in my gardens. I’ve been to sales and there and behold an old wooden crate and tin bucket cast off in a corner… yes that will sit beautifully on my porch topped by that tin bucket over flowing with double petunia’s in it!

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As my friends and I walk and talk meandering here and there I watch their faces… I delight in seeing the shocked look at how cute 'they think' my antique metal canner's look planted up with purple pansies… how whimsical that old banister appears in the garden surrounded by a cascade of nasturtiums… and the 'wow' when they see hot pink geraniums in a white enamelware bucket that now sits on a rickety old chair… I love inspiring people, especially in the home and garden.

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I name all of my gardens. When we bought our home the upstairs railing was kicked in and totally destroyed by the previous owners… but a beautiful, old white banister still stood. As the men were removing what was left of it and getting ready to toss everything in a ‘junk’ pile, I was quick to say, “Hold on to that! That’s not junk… that is going in a garden!”… and so was born my Banister Garden.

Legend for The Banister Garden
Here is my rendition of my Banister Garden. This garden is just under 200 square feet.

The Banister Garden Emailver

1. Knock Out Rose Bushes- 2 pink
2. Daylily- 2 orange
3. Creeping Phlox- 3 lavender
4. Burning Bush shrub
5. Lavender- Hidcotte
6. Peony- 2 pink
7. Bee’s Balm planted behind Antique Two Burner Antique Canner filled with geraniums. The Banister stands behind the Bee’s Balm
8. Hydrangea- old fashioned white- just planted last summer
9. Iris- purple
10. Purple Bell Flower
11. Varrigated Sedum
12. Purple Ruffles Basil
13. Spirea- pink
~I have a garden chair that sets in the garden and I usually have a tin bucket planted up on it.
This garden like the Side and Bistro was dug up and replanted as well. I didn’t do all of these gardens in one year, it has been a process going on since 2009. This garden has had many faces as you will see in the photo’s at the end of this post under the recipes.

I’m a bargain shopper when it comes to plants as well as for garden junque. If I can’t grow it myself, swap or get from a family member or friend then I wait for stuff to go on clearance. In 2011 I ‘stumbled’ upon a great deal at a big box store on a couple Knock Out rose bushes. They were discounted 75%… now I never would have paid the full price for these even with all the hype about them… I can’t say that anymore! They are worth every penny… honestly, they don’t stop blooming except for about two weeks in mid summer. I would like to get several more and make a hedge with them in another garden… I always have a garden plan in mind!

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Here are some idea’s for things to combine in your gardens!
*Tin or Enamelware buckets with either geraniums or double petunias.
*Wash tubs- I purchase nice big hanging baskets and plant them right into them… instant wow! I have also planted them with cascading nasturtiums. (see photo).
*Wooden crates and drawers- I like to incorporate right into my gardens. I will take the bottoms out bury part way, fill with dirt and then plant herbs or again hanging baskets. I also like to use crates on my front porch as both planters and as objects to place other pots on.


*Tea Kettles, coffee pots, old oil cans, any other type of metal container plant worthy. I have planted succulents like Hen’s & Chicks in these, pansies and petunias.
*Mailboxes- I have not done this, (yet) but I have seen some really cool ones done up. You need to use a ‘top’ door type- one where the top opens and the mail drops in (see photo at my blog 😉 )
…here are a few other ideas of some things I have seen, but haven’t done and don’t really fit into my garden scheme, but may be of interest to others…
*Old fashioned claw foot bath tubs- I would plant something tall down the entire center- zinnia’s, cosmos, cleome or all and then have something that trails out all around the edges- Wave Petunias, trailing nasturtiums.
*Row boat or other nautical piece- I would bury it and then do as with the bath tub- height and cascade
*Antique Metal Bed frame- Plant the bed’s legs or just set the frame down on the ground and then using appropriate flowers, plant a design of a quilt block- obviously not too detailed- maybe a Bow Tie, Diamond, Nine Patch or something along those lines.
… there are many other ‘found’ objects that you can use… be creative, you know what you like!
~The key to using any type of container is proper drainage!


We are still in the grips of winter and here is Michigan we just got another six inches of the white stuff… so today I thinking comfort food! Enjoy friends!
Butternut Squash and Bacon Quiche

All purpose flour for rolling
1 recipe Flaky Pie dough (below)
8 slices bacon (Off course Garden Gates!)
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
Salt & pepper
3/4 pound butternut squash, peeled, halved and very thinly sliced
8 large eggs
1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c heavy cream
6 fresh sage leaves

1. Preheat oven to 350 digress. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to an 11×15 inch rectangle. Transfer to a 9×13 inch baking pan. Fold edges of dough so sides are about 1 inch high. Prick dough all over with a fork and freeze until firm, 15 minutes. Press on dough, draping over rim of pan. Bake until crust is firm and edges are lightly browned, about 35– 45 minutes or until bottom is dry and light golden.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium until almost crisp, 10 minutes, flipping once. Drain bacon on paper towels. Add onion to skillet, season with salt & pepper, and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 10 minutes. Spread mixture evenly in crust. Top with squash, overlapping slices and adding a piece of bacon every few rows.
3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and cream; season with salt 7 pepper. Pour enough egg mixture over filling to just reach top of crust. Top with sage. Bake until set in center and puffed at edges, 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes.


In a food processor, pulse 1 1/4 c all purpose flour and 1/2 tsp slat to combine. Add 1/2 c cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/2 inch pieces; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp ice water; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 2 tbsp more water, 1 tbsp at a time). Form dough in a 1 inch thick rectangle, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerated until firm, 1 hour or up to 3 days).

“So… what are you going to do with a rickety old wooden chair with chipped paint Jean?” my husband asks me…”It’s serendipity Neil….”
Happy Day,
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Banister Garden8 emailver

This photo was taken in Spring of 2009. This was the first ‘face’ she had… the tulips were beautiful and the creeping phlox looked stunning. Notice the lattice on the side of the front porch… The wisteria that now covers that side of the porch was just a baby in this photo.

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Here is a photo of the same garden, same spot but taken in 2012. You can see it is deeper and quite a bit different. The burning bush in the far left corner is larger and now there is the spirea bush in the front right corner.

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This photo was taken in Summer 2011. You can see the black ground cover still laying around the edges from the ‘re-do’ that this garden received early in the spring.

My Bistro Garden, Growing Mints: How To Grow, Harvest & Preserve Plus Lots of Recipes!

The Birstro Garden, Summer 2010


I had a vision when we moved to this abandoned old farmhouse. I dreamed of flower beds abounding, greeting my family and friends as they drove up our lane. I imagined a cozy front porch surrounded by lush colors overflowing like wide open arms ready to whisk you into their beauty… I wanted a place where peace was felt in simple things that was a reflection of me.

I’m often inspired while paging through home decor and gardening magazine’s and suddenly stumbling upon that perfect element… looking with a wistful eye for anything that will shout out, ‘Here I am! I’m what you’ve been looking for!’ …yet with an unspoken realization that when I find it, I fall in love and I’ve got to have it… but as I read on I discover the lucky owners found it at a flea market or antique shoppe- no resource shopper there! Yes, I think we’ve all been down that path a few times too many… at least I know I have. Which brings me to the story of my Bistro Garden and how it acquired it’s name. You see I’d been dreaming of a little bistro table and chairs to set in one of my gardens and patiently looking for a couple years… yes years.  I can be patient with some things… I’m not saying a lot, but ‘garden junque’ is one of those things. In this case I knew what I wanted and I was willing to wait until I came across just the right thing. Then one day while out boutique shopping, A.K.A garage saleing I found it- a petite black wrought iron table with two matching chairs! “Perfect! Just perfect!” I thought… and the price was right- twelve bucks! Oh yeah, that baby was coming home with me and I knew right where she would be going… The Bistro Garden! The set sits on a small patio that I laid using old silo staves that were discarded behind the barn foundation at our first farm.  I’d taken several of them when we moved thinking I would eventually use them as stepping stones in a future garden… gotta have a vision! Anyway, I laid the staves and then used concrete as a ‘grout’ between them. I loved it… it said, “This looks like Jean!” 

The sidewalk that leads to our backdoor which divides The Side Garden
and The Bistro Garden.

The Bistro is actually the ending point of the garden off the front porch that wraps around the side of the house along a cobble stone walk we created. It is west of The Side Garden with a sidewalk dividing the two. This bed has an eight foot narrow strip that extends upward beside the house to the wall where the back door is (See photo with birdcage and Bleeding Heart). The Bistro Garden had to undergo an overhaul like The Side Garden. We dug up and replanted this bed along with a couple others and laid the black plastic ground cover. Same story… quack grass! The labor was worth it though, this bed is stunning when the lilies are blooming. As you can see in the picture of Taylor standing next to them while in bloom- she is 5’3″ tall and the blooms are over her head! Fall of 2010 I planted the Spirea and last year I planted the Hydrangea, so they are not too their full potential yet. The Spirea will give me the height I need up against the wall with it’s solid mass of green and beautiful pink summer blooms. Once the Hydrangea meets up with the Spirea my back drop will be quite spectacular. Gardening requires a vision that will take several years to create and a lifetime to enjoy!

Here is my rendition of The Bistro Garden as it appears today.    
Legend For “The Side Garden”
This bed is just over 150 square feet including the narrow strip.

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Recipes at

1. Day Lilies- 10 bushes. Mix of yellow and orange which bloom at different times.
2. Iris – 1 large clump – approx a 30″ diameter
3. Hydrangea- white old fashioned
4. Spirea- 1 bush- pink
5. Peony 2 pink bushes
6. Delphinium- mini blue
7. Hosta- 2 variegated, 1 Blue and 1 green
8. Sedum
9. Bleeding Heart
10. Large Pot- I typically purchase a large petunia basket and plant in this pot- instant WOW!
11. Birdcage- Again a garage sale find – only five bucks!…matched perfect with the bistro table set. I typically do one of two things in the birdcage: a) plant morning glories or sweet pea around the bottom and let it climb or b) put potted sweet potato vine inside and let cascade down.
10. There are typically White Allysum cascading over the rocks along the edge.
~There are tulips planted in between the lilies. While the lilies are growing the tulips are blooming; by the time the tulips have faded the lilies hide them. There are also Crocus and Grape Hyacinths mingled here and there.
~To the left of the Iris’s is a five year old red Climbing Rose (stay tuned, that’s for next blog post!).

Join me next time for The Banister Garden… see you there!

Growing Mints: How To Harvest, Preserve, Make Tea Are you a tea drinker but never imagined you could grow your own? It is so easy you’ll wonder why you ever bought the stuff when you could have had it in your own back yard! Please note that yes it is super easy to grow, and it is super easy to get way out of control. It’s root system is very invasive and you will have it everywhere if you do not take serious yet simple precautions when planting it.  Don’t be mistaken that the only thing your mint is good for is making tea either… there is a world of culinary uses for this wonderful, versatile garden herb… read on for just a few yummy recipes! 
So here are some tried and true planting tips-
~Planting behind or beside a garage works well if it doesn’t matter where it goes and can be mowed if it gets in the lawn.
~If you want to put some in a garden, think container.  My tea bed is in my Potager. It is in an elevated area where we laid black ground cover down and up along the inside of the rocks; filled with dirt and planted. Even with these precautions the roots still manage to weave their way through the woven plastic and end up in areas where I don’t want it. It is more manageable, but still needs to be dealt with and removed.
~Use tires: Dig a hole about 6 inches deep where you will put the tires. Lay black plastic in hole and let lay over the edges of the hole about 3″ – 6″; place two to three tires stacked one upon another over the plastic covered hole; fill with dirt to about 3″ from top. Plant 1 tea plant- it will be enough! You will need to thin it out regularly. If you have access to tractor tires, even better but plant 2 plants.
Where ever you decide to plant your tea, be sure it has good drainage and full sunlight.
You can see to the right the elevated Mint Tea bed. It measures about
15’W x 12D.  I would say I harvest about 8 -10 bushel of tea off this bed.

***see below recipes for several shots of The Birstro Garden during different stages over the last few years.***

 Harvesting your tea can be done repeatedly throughout the growing season. First in spring, wait for the tea to reach at least a foot in height, cut back about six inches. Try not to cut back so far that you don’t leave any leaves. You can harvest your tea right up to fall.

There are three options to preserve your tea leaves, choose one or all!

1. Use the leaves to make concentrate- see recipe below “Garden Tea Concentrate”. You can store your concentrate in plastic freezer containers to enjoy all winter long!
2. Dry the leaves: Lay de-stemmed leaves on a cookie sheet and bake in a 200 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the leaves are brittle.  Crumble leaves and store in airtight glass jars or plastic containers. Follow recipes when ready to use.
3. Freeze dry: I love to use this method. Simply remove leaves from stems, wash and pat dry; place 2 cups of packed leaves in freezer quart size bags and freeze for up to six months. To use, simply remove bag and use as directed in your recipe!

There are more Mint Varieties than you can shake a stick at. My personal favorites are not listed in the Richter’s catalog, but they are Lemon Balm and Balsam.  As I mentioned a few post’s ago, Richters has one of the best mint varieties I have ever found.
Here are all the mints listed in their catalog.
Spearmint Group: English, Moroccan, Spearmint, Improved Spearmint, Scotch, Vietnamese
Peppermint Group: Chocolate, Peppermint, Variegated, Swiss
Other Mints: Applemint, Banana, Corsican, Ginger, Grapefruit, Mojito, Orange, Pineapple, Menthol, Pennyroyal
The Westerfield Mints: Hilary’s Sweet Lemon, Berries & Cream, Candied Fruit, Candy Lime, Pink Candypops, Citrus Kitchen, Cotton Candy, Jim’s Fruit, Fruit Sensations, Fruitasia, Italian Spice, Julia’s Sweet Citrus, Margarita, Marilyn’s Salad, Marshmallow, Oregano, Thyme Mint, Sweet Pear, Wintergreen, Korean Mint, Mountain Mint


Now that you know how to grow, harvest and preserve mint along with the many options in varieties there are, what else can you make with it other than tea?  Here are some easy and interesting recipe’s that will get you started using the Mint you have grown and harvested.  Enjoy!

First off, lets look at how to make tea!

Garden Tea Concentrate
Use any flavor Mint Tea Leaves

1 1/2 c sugar
5 c water
2 c packed tea leaves, stemmed and washed
1-2 tbsp lemon juice- optional

Boil water and sugar together for 5 minutes.  Add washed & stemmed leaves-turn heat off.
Put lid on and let steep—leave the leaves in the syrup for 5 hours.
Remove leaves and wring them out.  Add lemon juice if desired
COLD: Add 1 cup tea concentrate to 3 cups water.  Chill and serve.  Very refreshing on a hot summer day.
HOT: Add hot water and a bit of honey
Go to my Blog Spot at to get a Raspberry Lemon Tea Recipe- my favorite!


Brown Rice Salad with Mint Leaves
1 c brown rice
1 c fresh peas
2 tbsp chicken broth
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp Olive Oil
1/4 c fresh mint leaves
Salt & pepper to taste

Prepare rice according to package directions.
Add peas and cook 2 more minutes.
Meanwhile, mix broth, lime juice & olive oil together.  Add mint, salt & pepper to taste.
Add dressing to  rice and peas.

Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad

4 c 1-2 inch chunks melon
1/4 c (4oz) crumbles feta cheese,
1/4 c loosely packed fresh mint leaves, torn & washed
2 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
120 macadamia nuts, chipped (optional)

in a large bowl combine watermelon, feta cheese, mint & olive oil.  Season with pepper & sprinkle with nuts.  Cover & chill for up to 4 hours.

Minty Hot Fudge

1 c water
1 c sugar
1/2 c thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
Mint chocolate chip ice cream

1.  In a small, heavy saucepan, stir together water and sugar over medium heat until sugar dissolves; bring syrup to boil.  Remove from heart.  Stir in mint leaves.
Let stand 1 hour.
using a slotted spoon, remove mint leaves from syrup.  Whisk cocoa into syrup.  Bring to a boil.  Add butter and whisk until smooth,’
Refrigerate sauce, uncovered, until cold.
Serve over mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Cover and refrigerated to store.

Happy Day,

This photo was taken in early April, 2012. The weather was beautiful and so we decided to get busy ‘ahead’ of schedule! The boys will often help clean up in the spring. Here you can see their is not much to look at yet, but…


Here it is all cleaned up, mulched and ready to start showing off. You can see some of the tulips in between the lilllies, the hostas and sedum.  This photo is actually from 2010.  If you look underneath the large window with the flower pots, notice there is no rose bush to speak of… keep watching though!
You can see the patio that I made using the silo staves well in this picture.
Here is a shot of the narrow strip that goes to tghe back door; one in early spring in one in early summer. My bird cage stands 4′ tall if that gives you an idea of the size of this Bleeding Heart. She will blooms prolifically in spring and then continues all summer long with a few blooms here and there.  She loves this spot and I am able to take babies off her every year. You can see a Sweet Potato vine in the bird cage in photo to the right.
Notice in the photo (2009) to the left the arbor in the back ground is not covered yet and there is no sign of the rose bush under window shelf. This is a beautiful shot of the hostas. Now the photo to the right only two years later (2011). The arbor is well covered and the rose bush is enormous
This garden is located on the east side of the house therefore it only gets the morning sunshine so the hosta’s and bleeding heart do well! You can also the delphiniums. This is one of my favorite gardens.
Photo to the left (2009) you can see the small rose bush peaking up behind the iris’s. In the photo to the right, notice the potted petunias. As I mentioned earlier I am patient over some things… but waiting for planters to explode with colors is not one of them. I always purchase several extra hanging baskets to put in my large planters around the gardens… instant wow! 😉 
Here you can see the new Sprira I planted in 2011. She will eventually get almost as tall as the rose bush.  The Hydrangea is in between the two. It will not get as tall therefore giving a hilly feeling. 
Here are the lillies in full bloom… as I mentioned earlier, Taylor is 5’3″ and the blooms are over her head. This photo was taken in 2010.

The Bistro Garden, early summer 2012


Plan Your Perennial Garden Now and Designing Plot Plans

This is a photo of one of my garden journal pages. It shows a section of  my
front porch and gives details on several things purchased!

“If ever I loved thee, my garden ’tis now…” Yes, I am longing for the beauty and relaxation of my gardens in these cold Michigan winter months. The garden is my place of rest… it’s where I go when I feel weary, when I need to wind down, when I long to escape the stresses of life… It is my Eden here on earth. Many people have strolled through my gardens in awe wondering when and how I manage to care for them all with my busy farm and market life. I always say, “This is not work! This is where I come to get away from the work!”  But alas, that is not true for all.  If you are a die hard gardener or someone looking to create your own little Eden, it doesn’t have to be difficult and it surely won’t happen all in one season. My gardens have been born over a period of seven years and they will continue to grow, change and flourish in my tender loving care for many more.  Now is the time to start planning and designing your new dream gardens. You may feel like how do I begin? What plants should I choose? Where am I going to put this bed?  The next couple months will give you ample time to decide on what, where, how and when and whether to order plants or wait for the nurseries. These are all important questions that need to be addressed before the big day of breaking ground. That day is right around the corner…don’t let your dreams sit stagnant and lifeless, start planning now.

Here is The Side Garden in early spring. You can see there are several Archi-
tectural elaments- picket fence, antique feed cart, step stones. Notice the thick
mulch cover early in the season. I will not have to worry about the weeds get-
ting a hold on me.  2012

 In the next few posts here I am planning on giving my own ‘renditions’ of my garden’s. I will show all the photo’s of them at my blog spot.  Hope you are inspired, enjoy friends!

There are several factors to take into consideration when you start the process of designing your garden plots.
1. Decide on Location: This is the first step. It will determine what type of plants you will purchase, whether irrigation will be necessary and if so, what type.  Will it be up against a building? In the middle of the yard? An extension of an existing garden?
2. Type of Garden: Do you want a perennial bed/border with a few annuals as fillers? Is this a small bed that you would like to plant up with annuals each year to have it different and versatile? Is it to be a split of both annuals and perennials?
Will it be a formal garden, herb garden, rose garden or kitchen garden?  These are all important factors that need to be made early on.
3. Plant Selection: Once location and type are determined you can start choosing the plants. Take into consideration if this is a shady, part shade/ part sun or direct sun all day location.  This will play a huge factor on plants. Decide whether you will order some and/or purchase at nurseries. What about getting started with plants from family and friends when they split their plants this spring?
For an extensive list of perennials follow this link:
4. Architectural Elements: This is very important, but type of garden will determine what those elements will be. My gardens are Cottage Style, so I get to use all kinds of what I feel are cool Garden Junque items! Stone statuary, bird baths, arbors/trellis’, iron work, picket fences, wheel barrow, crates/drawers, buckets and boots… and the list can go on! Determining what you like can help in choosing the type of garden. Will you have walk ways? If so, what will be the stepping stones?
5. Irrigation: will you use sprinklers/hoses, underground sprinkler systems, above ground drip lines, soaker hoses?
6. Mulching: is so important! Mulch will help maintain moisture and hold back weeds. Again what you choose should fit with your garden style.  Mulch- what color, lava rock, white marble stones, bark, etc.


Documentation is a key element in helping you along the garden design path. I highly recommend that you Keep a Garden Journal for specific notes on what was planted where, where the plant was purchased, and any other important details.
1. Draw your Garden Plan layouts (see mine attached). This will give you something to work off. It may change from the original design, but having a place to start is so helpful. 
2. Keep all tags and receipts from plants that have a warranty in your journal. This is especially important for large, expensive items such as trees, shrub’s/bushes and fruit bearing plants. It is very frustrating when you loose a year of growth when a plant doesn’t make it through the winter. But if you have that receipt, at least you won’t have to ‘buy’ another one!

This was one of my first plot plans. At our first farm I had decided to tear up the entire front yard and design a 9 part garden with a pond in the center.  I then drew up each of the nine sub gardens as well with details.  This helped in all my planning.

3.Photograph your gardens. I suggest doing this in the early and late parts of each season (spring-fall). Each year you will have a wonderful and accurate account of how things grew.  If you really liked a particular planting or arrangement you created with annuals, be sure to include the tags with a photo of the bed, along with where you purchased the plants. It is very difficult to remember the varieties and where you got them. Not all nurseries/catalog’s carry the same items. 
4. Keep Ideas: I often see planting designs and architectural items in other gardens that I would like to replicate in my own. I take photo’s to put in my journal otherwise I would never remember everything. I also photocopy ideas out of gardening mag.’s and store them there as well- I don’t like to rip pages out!

My garden journals have been such a help to me over
the years.  They are not just helpful, but a lot of fun to
go back and look through.

When we purchased our farm seven years ago, it was an empty, foreclosed mess with not a flower bed to be found. Just one bare patch of dirt stared me in the face every time we walked into the back door.  This was the first bed I planted and I foolishly did so without a long term goal.  I wanted color and I wanted it now.  After the first year and the war against me from the quack grass, I was forced to dig up all the plants and do it again.  This time I did it right! We laid black ground cover over the dirt, set  rocks around the perimeter and then filled in with rich soil. I was able to replant most of what I had there while adding several new plants.

Here is my rendition of The Side Garden as it appears now. No longer a bare patch of dirt, but a work of art. Legend For “The Side Garden” please see attached drawing. This bed is just under 200 square feet.

The Side Garden is lined on both sides and the front with boiling ball size rocks. The back side is sloped down with pieces of slate about the size of a sheet of paper.
1. Peony- 3 plants, 2 Varieties- 1 early bloom and 1 mid bloom
2. Hollyhocks- Because these reseed prolifically I only allow about 7 plants. They are single flower pale pink and pale yellow.
3. Iris- Root beer
4. Hosta- 1 ‘Blue’
5. Aster- 3 in back center and 1 behind the antique metal feed cart – all purple
6. Lavender- Hidcotte, 2 plants on each corner
7. Creeping Phlox- 2 plants, both pink
8. Hardy Geranium- 3 plants, all pink
9. Lily- Tiger 1 plant
10. Sweet William- 3 to 5 plants, multi colors
11. Sea Lavender 1 plant
12. Calendula- multiple plants that flow over the side of the rocks along with Sweet Allysum
13. Double Pink Petunia’s are planted each year in this Antique Feed Cart that I pulled out of a junque pile behind a barn several years ago. It has moved three times with me.
14. Jack Mani Clematis growing up an Antique Iron Gate purchased at an Antique shoppe!
15. Several Terra Cotta clay tiles and a Chimney flu are planted each year with different annuals.
16. An old wooden chair has a tin bucket with geraniums planted in it.

Here are several shots of the side garden during different parts of the season.

Early spring in The Side Garden here. In the above photo you can see the tops of the Peony plant and spring tulips.  The photo to the left has a good shot of the Sweet Williams, Hosta, Sedum, Lily, Iris’s and the Terra Cotta clay tiles.  2012 and 2011

Once the Peonies start to bloom this garden gets quickly filled up.  The Hardy Geranium makes a wonderful ground cover across the front.  2012                 

Side and corner views show the growth of the gardens.
These two shots were from 2011. Photo to the right shows Lavender starting to bloom and Sweet William in bloom.

Above below left photo shows the bed nicely. Along the front corner under the Lavender you can see Alysum growing. I planted it the first year and have never had to again. It is a prolific reseeder. I have it through all my walkways and cascading over just about all the gardens. 

 Here we go in the fall! This is one of the Asters that is planted behind the Antique Feed Cart. Last year I planted Zinnias in it… but never again! I love Zinnias, but they have near the impact that I usually have with the double Petunias. The orange in the background are both Calendula (up front) and Nasturtiums in the back.

Here’s a sneak peak of the next garden I will show you all… The Bistro Garden!
Happy Day,


Creation Of My Potager

I am in love with gardening…and I am in love with writing about and sharing my gardens with others. My desire is to instill this passion in that person that is drifting out there… dreaming of just a tiny little piece of it… yet not knowing where to begin. I want to inspire the lover of dirt and blossoms to create yet something new and different… I want others to indulge in this romance… show how gardening can bring joy to someone that has sorrow. Gardening whether on a small or large scale, on a balcony or in an acre field affords a luxuary that is so pure.  It doesn’t need to cost a fortune or be an emaculate English garden… your garden should be an extension of your heart and soul. I hope that today I can stir that up in you… enjoy friends.

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I thought it would be interesting to show you the process of how our Potager came to be.  It’s quite interesting the way I got to give my daughter her ‘kitchen’ garden. You see we raise hogs here at The Garden Gate Farm along with poultry, eggs and produce. Well, one day (although there’s been many others!) the pigs got out! Pigs love to root up the ground and they made quite a mess out of this area. So much that Neil looked at it as ‘too much too repair, go ahead and make another garden!’… don’t need to tell me twice! So I gave the good news to Taylor and what better spot than right outside the back door! Good pigs 😉

So, three years ago we started. It has evolved and grown… quite a bit actually.

Photo #1 2010

Photo’s 1 and 2 are not quite the beginnings of our Potager. Though camera happy I am, I never took any shots of what it looked like after the hogs got through with it! I was too excited to get going on this project to worry about the ‘before’ pics I guess. So we started with black ground cover, then rocks and then added the rich composted pasture dirt of our beef farmer neighbors. In the front, left to right:
Three day lilies, tulip bulbs planted in between.
Back row- several containers which will hold herbs- concrete drain tile, wooden drawer, 4 plastic pots burried half way, antique tool box.
In the far back behind the lilac bush up against the garage there is an elevated garden that holds our Mint Garden Tea.

Photo #2m 2010

In this photo, you can see the raised beds in one of my gardens. This now is where our hoop house sits. You can also see the black ground cover. We have a terrible time with ‘Quack Grass’, (devil weed in my book!). It is necessary to have this or the whole garden would be taken over with very little hope… especially with organic means.

Photo #3 2010

Here we have erected the Pergola and I have started the Rose Garden on the other side.  This is the same year but later in the summer.  I have now planted a ‘Miss. Kim Lilac Bush in front corner, Purple Bell Flowers, some Tulip bulbs. Sage, Thyme, Creeping Phlox, Sweet Autumn Clematis and several climbing Rose bushes along the length of the Pergola.

Photo #4 2010

Here is another shot from a side angle. You can see the step stone path and beside it are two Russian Sage. These are covered with honey bees all summer.  You can also see some tulips blooming. 2010

Photo #5 2011

This photo is year two 2011. The lilies have matured, the sage is blooming and the clematis’ are growing.

Photo #6a  2010

The Rose Garden 2011! At least that’s what it will be along with many other things growing in it.  We soon started getting the ground cover laid, rock’s around and dirt down.  Although the planting didn’t begin until much later…

Photo #6b 2010

The beginnings of The Rose Garden 2011 still… Please note that there is a white climbing rose bush at the center of the pergola. You will see a photo coming up of it last summer when she bloomed for the first time. 

Photo #7 2010

Again black ground cover was laid, rocks and then dirt. Stage 3 will be right beside this.

Photo #8 2010
#8- Summer 2011. Starting to get some plants in the Rose Garden. Front corner has a beautiful David Austin Shrub Rose, Peony type. See below photo for one of it’s blooms from last year. I have sedum, more sages, bee’s balm, creeping phlox, thyme, purple bell flower and lavenders planted in this garden.  The greatest challenge I had with this spot was managing the weeds in between the perennials.  I added straw from our barn as a thick mulch to help.
Photo #9 2012
This is a shot of the rose in the front corner, above photo last summer 2012… She is absolutely stunning!  She will be 3 years old this summer!


Photo #10 2011

Here is a shot of the Herb Garden in the Potager. This was taken in 2011. As you can see things are filling in nicely.  I always put Basil in the 4 pots, parsley in the tool box. Oregano is growing in the drawer. I like to use stone word markers with the herb names on them.  Adding structural elements to the garden gives interest to the garden and creates a natural feeling.

Photo #11 2011

Late Spring 2011. The clematis are starting to grow up beautifully and by the end of this summer they had tripled in size. Sweet Autumn is an aggressive climber and quite invasive if left unmanaged.  The rose in the front bottom right corner is growing beautifully.   Compare to photo #3

Photo #11a 2011

Here is the pergola walk way it’s first year with the mulch before I removed and replaced it with the pea gravel. See photo #7.  Didn’t even have our patio yet!  Spring 2011

Photo #12 2012

Here is a photo of The Rose Garden from the back side. This photo was taken last summer (2012) early summer.  The sages are only about a third of the size they will get, sedum’s, shrub rose, iris’s, and a new boxwood in the front right corner. Also in this garden, chives and some new Hydrangea starts that will be big and beautiful in a couple more years. As you can see I have covered the ground in straw as a thick mulch to hold back weeds and retain moisture.

Photo #13 2012

Here is a shot of The Rose Garden from the front about a month after the above one was taken.  The large plant front right beside the wheelbarrow, which BTW is for decoration, is a Comfry plant. You can see her tiny buds ready to open. 
Also, remember that little rose bush in photo #6 & 8? That is her in the middle – the whole thing! She was spanned about 8′ in width. 
Watch for a shot of the garden bike covered with nasturtiums coming.
Also note our NEW hunter green steel roof!

Photo #14 2012

This is a shot from the back side of the Potager last spring. The roses are just starting to leaf out (front left corner), the tea bed is growing lovely. The purple haze in the back left corner is the Russian sage in bloom. I mulch with straw to help with weeds. 

Photo #15 2012

Photo #15 Front of the Potager last early summer.  #16 was spring when the creeping phlox was in bloom. See the patio in the background?

Photo #16 2012

You can see in #15 & 16 the growth of the clematis on the pergola. Also, purple bell flowers & the Russian sage blooming in 15.

Photo #17 2012

This photo was taken at the same time as #15. If you compare to photo’s number 3, you can see it just about 2′ tall, then in #11 jut growing to about 5′. She is a beautiful climber that by the end of last summer had canes that bent right over the top of the pergola- which is 5′ wide.  There are two Sweet Autumn Clenatis’ here. Each section is 8′ wide- just 3 three years old.  You get a lot of bang for your buck really quickly with this beauty. Plus you get the bloom in fall!

Photo #17 2012

By summers end the clematis were grown right over the top of the arch’s. When we originally put down the path, I used mulch. Big mistake! The chickens loved it and continually dug holes and scratched it all over the step stones. I happened to be paging through one of my favorite gardening Mag’s, Country Garden’s and saw a garden path just like this! I shoveled up all the mulch- about 20 wheel barrow full which I used to mulch the beds. I then ordered several tons of pea gravel and wheel barrowed about 20 full to fill in- no more chickens!  The path leads to our back patio which you can see in photo #15 and then also bends to the right leading to the hoop house, greenhouse’s and hog’s.  I used slate for the paths.

Photo #18 2012

Here I used the slates to make images in the path… a sun and a daisy.  You can be as creative as you allow yourself to be.  My motto in decortating both my home and my gardens is to make me & my family happy and comfortable.  Again, your gardens should be an extension of your heart and soul!

Photo #19  2012

This photo shows the empty space that you see in photo #7.  This area now leads through the arbor you can see in photo #7 as well.
I planted nasturtiums on the edge of this side of the garden… it just poured over and climbed all over my garden bike! It was spectacular. See below for the shot of that.  You can actually see the plants right behind the tires.

Photo #20 2012

See the bike seat… truly amazing what these plants will do when given the room to sprawl. I love them for both the beauty they give and the fact that I can add them to my garden salads for a peppery flavor.

Photo #21 2012

Remember that rose bush? here she is from a frontal postition. The white blossoms are hard to see, but they are there.  Unfortuntely we had just had a rain, one of few, and it knocked down the sages, left and right in photo.  For sake of perspective, I am standing right in front of the garden bike taking this photo.

Photo #21a  2012
Here is a close up of the white rose… so simple yet so elegant.

Photo #22 2012

Here is a shot of the Rose Garden and Pergola from the corner back side. The sedums were just beautiful and you can see the purple haze of the sages. The bright color of the nasturtiums is so radiant.  Also note that growing along the rocks are thyme and creeping phlox.  You can also see the pink rose bush beside the sedum. This is a shrub rose. I am standing in front of the hoop house here.

Photo #23 2012

Here is The Potager late summer last year. It is very full and overflowing from this perspective. Tomatoes, kale, onions, lettuces, potatoes and more growing behind the Herb section.  This is a very productive garden and we enjoy being able to slip out the back door and grab those fresh picked yummies just before we are ready to eat them raw or cook with them. There are a few things that I don’t grow here due to the size of the finished product- sweet corn and vining squashes. I do typically include either a yellow squash or zuchinni bush type, but not both because of cross polination.  I will succession plant lettuces, beets, green beans and scallions. I don’t bother with certain crops here because I grow so much of them in my raised beds. For example, chard and spinach.  Along the front of the rocks is not weeds… what you see is creeping phlox, thyme and calendula spilling over onto a narrow piece of grass. As mentioned earlier, the clematis has just about covered the entire Pergola across the top and side. At the far end is yet another one.  This whole mass is only 3 plants that started out with about three 2′ vines only three years ago! At every post, which is set 6′ apart there is a climbing rose bush.

Photo #23 2012

This is a small bed that hold’s a larger quantity of sage and oregano. There are also, a couple day lily, bee’s balm and lavender. In the far right corner growing on the back post is a Chinese Wisteria. My goal is that this will cover the back side and over the side of the pergola eventually running in with the clematis. This will give my spring and fall bloom.  This bed is directly behind the Rose Garden. In photo #18 of the step stones, this would be to the right.  The next photo of it has the Rose Garden to my back.

Photo #24 2012

In this shot you can see the now in place hoop house with raised beds filled with beautifully growing lettuces and cherry tomatoes.  This shot is late spring to early summer. Notice the lavender in the front left corner loaded with buds.  I also have a Blue Fescue in center front. The Bee’s Balm is beuatiful when in full bloom!

I am looking forward to the coming season when I can once again go and have some quiet moments in my gardens… I hope you enjoyed seeing the birth and growth of our Potager, but more importantly, I hope it inspired you!

Happy Day!





Spring Jobs ‘To Do List’, Plan a Plant Exchange, Successful Plant Division and Yummy Chicken Paprika!

I took this photo last spring of the front garden. You can see the rows of
Aspragus well into it’s late stage. The bottom left corner is a part of
one of my Rhubarb rows.

For me and I believe many others, Spring holds a promise for newness of life! It’s when I look out and dream of new flower beds, anticipate the coming springs first crops of asparagus and rhubarb…savoring the memory of their here today, gone tomorrow presence. I scan the yard and think of all the jobs that I will have to get done as soon as nicer weather affords me time in my personal Eden. I anxiously await the first buds to pop on the lilacs… those small, brave tulips and daffodils, reaching up out of a cold, hard ground to the warming sunshine ready to burst forth into simple beauty! I love to meander out to my potting shed and start cleaning out and reorganizing…strolling through The Potager scanning for baby lettuces sprouting from scattered seeds… imagining the bounty and longing for my quiet time that I am able only to have in my gardens. If you are an avid If this is your first year or the beginning of one more of many, lets look to those promises and plan on a great new gardening year!  Enjoy friends!

This was my ‘new’ garden last year! It is our farms “Sausage Garden”. This
is where we grow the herbs for our sasuage blends.  Like I said… I dream of
new gardens!

Be sure to check out my new Facebook page for extra recipes, links, photo’s and more.

Most of my readers know that I love anything to do with organization and List Making. I could never do without lists… grocery, housework, to-do, seed inventories or packing for trips (not that I take many, LOL). Lists make our lives easier, especially for forgetful folks like me! Today we’ll focus on Spring Garden Jobs. Here is my personal list for you to save and print out if/when you would like. You have my permission to use and share it with friends for personal use. LIST IS LOCATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST.

Keep a journal!  A journal can be your best friend if you let it. Document all the changes you make, take photographs of major projects, renovations and specific growth of particular plants that you want to watch mature over years, like trees.  I stand my children beside a newly planted tree and take a photo every year. It is amazing to see how much they both grow and change!
I also go over to see what plants will need to be split, pitched and replaced if died over the winter and what spots need to be filled in.  Keeping these detailed notes also allows me to remember who may have given a particular plant along with the who, what and when; no more guessing on age or variety. It also gives you the ability to see what worked and didn’t. I know as a busy wife, mother, farmer, market vendor and manger, I could never remember everything that I change, plant or didn’t like/work. 

Here are a couple really good site’s to check out for gardening info!
Gardening Tips and Tricks
Weekend Gardener at
Seeds Of The Month Club
Be sure to keep posted, coming up in my next post I will touch on DRAWING UP YOUR GARDEN PLAN!
Planning a Plant Exchange is a great way to share all those ‘splits’ you will end up with this Spring after cleaning up your beds. I know for myself, I can hardly pitch a plant, it just seems mean! A plant exchange is not only rewarding and fun, it’s a great money saver in the long run As most of you know I also love to entertain… I don’t get to do it as often as I would like, but when I do I try to make it special for my guests! I gave all the How-To’s last year on hosting a Plant Exchange (XXXXX), so today I thought I’d focus on some info on types of plants that transplant well.  I have also added tips on division and transplanting. 

Helpful tips to prepare for the Plant Exchange:
  (Taken and adapted from Country Gardens Magazine, Spring 2006, pg. 55-57).
How to divide, care for and prepare your transplants for the exchange:
*The best time to divide a plant is shortly after it emerges in spring.
*Try to divide the plants as close to the plant exchange date/time as possible.
*Loosen the soil around the plants perimeter and then use a sharp spade or knife to cut through the roots to divide.  Be sure to keep a large root clump with the plant to ensure successful transplanting.
*Put your divisions in practical, temporary containers: paper cups, disposable aluminum muffin cups, tin cans, plastic containers, plastic plant pots/ terra-cotta pots or any other container you have handy. Just be sure to add drainage holes to water tight containers. 
*Give a tag/label with each division including: name/variety of plant, sun/shade requirements, mature plant size- height and diameter, water/soil requirements, zone hardiness, perennial or annual. A nice description for ‘new’ gardeners will be so appreciated.
*Make sure to plant/water as soon as possible once you have the plants in their new location.
How to harvest seedlings:
*Be sure that the seedlings are at least 3-5 inches tall with at least 2 sets of true leaves.
*Get all the plants roots.
*Replant the seedling into a small container with appropriate drainage holes and gently water immediately.

Red Oak Leaf lettuce seedling in one of the raised beds along side spinach.



Plants that divide easily and transplant well include:
*Day Lilies
*Bleeding Heart
*Bee’s Balm (Monarda)
*Black Eye Susan, Shasta Daisy’s and any Coneflowers
*perennial Geraniums
*Purple Bellflower
*any early blooming bulbs that have bloomed and died back at least half way- Snow Drops, Crocus, Daffodils, Tulips
~I always say, if in doubt, do without… so if you are not sure about one of your plants, ASK! Or look up in a good garden guild any special tricks that certain plants may have before you divide if you are not sure.
I took this photo of my Bistro Garden two years ago in mid Spring when all the hosta’s were fully open. In the back you can see my front arbor, which is now completely covered by a Sweet Autumn Clematis… see photo of it on my Dragonfly Facebook
Here is the same location but taken last year in early summer. Notice the arbor now covered in Clematis… she is stunning when in full bloom… and oh the aroma she gives off. This is an example of  taking shots of the same location but at different times and years can give you. 

Last summer I bought a yellow climbing rose bush to give to my son as a token of ‘our friendship” He planted it and then I took the phot of him and it… in a few years it will cascade and cover this side of the picket beside the front arbor.


This is a very favorite recipe in our home. It was Neil’s mothers recipe that she had made and over the years I have adjusted it a bit to serve our large family. It is super yummy and worth the efforts in making!

Chicken Paprika

1 Whole Chicken, cut into pieces with or without skin/bones
1/2 cup Safflower Oil
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 large onion, diced
8 cups water
2 Tbsp. Paprika
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 cup sour cream
1 bag Spaetzel dumpling noodles

1. Put flour in a large bowl; coat each piece of chicken and place in a large skillet with hot oil, reserve left over flour; fry chicken pieces in hot oil until browned all all sides; remove chicken to plate.  Put remaining flour and diced onions in pan and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
2. Add to skillet and onions: water, paprika, salt and pepper and cooked chicken; cover and simmer for 1 hour.  The water will thicken as it cooks. Stir occasionally.
3. While chicken is simmering, cook Spaetzel dumpling noodles according to package directions so they will be ready when chicken/gravy are done; about 1/2 hour before.
4. When chicken is done, remove from gravy into a bowl; cover to keep warm; add sour cream to gravy and blend in until dissolved.
5. When dumplings are done put them in a bowl and ladle 1/2 of the gravy over top and the rest over the chicken. 
Serve immediately.

Happy Day,

Spring Garden Job To Do List, by Jean Smith        
May be copied and used for personal use only.
Date Task     Comleted Y N Notes    
  Front Porch/Patio Areas          
sweep/ blow/ rake
put out furniture
repot planters/ window boxes
repairs if any- make note is so
touch up painting- pots
correct any patio stones
new project
new project
new project
  Flower Bed Clean/Prep          
clean any debres left over
check for dead plants
remove and replace
make note of what
amend soil/add fertilizer
make note of what
Divide plants
make note of what
Plant  trees
list what & when
Direct seed any spring flowering annuals
Forget me not
English daisy
sweet William
Transplant  before leaf buds open
ornamental trees
Fertilize Peonies when 2-3 inches tall
Divide and transfer any flowering bulbs after they have died back and divide flowering bulbs after they have died back
Clean ponds/fountains/water featues
repairs- make notes
Date Task     Comleted Y N Notes    
  Vegetable Garden/ Raised Beds          
amend soil
make note of what
make note of when
clean any debris 
plant spring crops when soil is ready
EARLY peas greens spinach chard
radishes lettuce kale parsley
LATE potatoes carrots
onions beets
check trelises/ posts/ fences
repair raised beds if loose
add soil if needed
  Potting Shed/ Storage Shed           
General Tidy after winter
sweep out
re-organize pots/ labels
repair any tools that need
oil/ sharpen tools
inventory items:
check hoses/sprinklers
make a list of what you need as you go
check mower- plugs
sharpen blades/replc.
check tiller(s)
have supply of gas/oil for machines
  Pruning/ Propogation            
evergreen shrubs before growthj re growth
spring flowering shrubs after flowering
propagate deciduous shrubs
winter jasmine
Date Task     Comleted Y N Notes    
  Weed/Pest Control            
make sure debris is cleaned up to avoid snails and slugs
as soon as roses start to leaf out, dust with an organic powder
repeat once a month all summer!
watch for Tent Worms in your trees, webs in trees
as soon as visiable, spray with organic spray
****use burn technique*** please research this before you do it.
on sidewalks