Fall Planters and Window Boxes

Fall Planters and Window Boxes

We are now into the fall season and with the gorgeous weather that we have been having, a lot of my flowers from summer are still strong and blooming. I will let them bloom and grow as long as they can!

A few weeks ago, I added some fall touches to some of my existing planters as well as created some new window boxes and one new planter for fall.

In my existing planters of pink and green caladium along with my pink geraniums, I added a small hamelan dwarf fountain grass plant. Next on my list was to create a pretty, small fall planter. I used burgundy, white, pink, and burnt orange mums and finally purchased myself a purple fountain grass plant and added them into a burgundy pot. I have wanted one of these purple fountain grass plants for the past few years.  To add a little bit more of a fall touch, I also added a gourd inside the planter.

I filled my window boxes with burgundy, pink, and burnt orange mums, along with millet, sunflowers, pumpkins, and gourds.

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Existing summer container: pink caladium and pink geraniums. I added the hamelan dwarf fountain grass.

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Fall Planter: burgundy, white, pink, and burnt orange mums with purple fountain grass. (Hidden: you can’t see the gourd in this photo.)

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Fall Window box close up: burgundy, pink, and burnt orange mums with millet and sunflowers. Pumpkins and gourds were additional touches. (Waiting for the pink mums to bloom!)

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View of both window boxes. (This was before I added the pumpkins and gourds.)

What did you put in your fall planters and window boxes this year?

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Bittersweet Cafe

Bittersweet Cafe

I love driving up to the mountains on beautiful, sunny days! What is better than the gorgeous sites and adventures? In my opinion, eating delicious fresh food outside at a lovely landscaped restaurant makes a perfect addition to any day! I’ve only stopped at Bittersweet Cafe twice, but I’ve enjoyed the food and my time there each visit.

Bittersweet Cafe is located in Farmington, PA. They use locally grown food and fresh produce in their unique dishes. Their pulled pork is tasty! A few weeks ago when I was there, I wanted to try something different and ordered their Harvest Apple Salad. It was amazing! Their homemade dressing was so good! I also always enjoy their Sweet Lemon Mint Tea.

I am in love with how they are always seasonally landscaped! I knew fall was right around the corner at the time I was planning on going there and on my drive up, I was hoping they would be decorated for fall. It was such a beautiful, warm sunny day, and I was so excited to see fall flowers and décor as I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant. There is both indoor and outdoor seating. It was so peaceful sitting outside, breathing in the fresh mountain air, and enjoying a delicious meal surrounded by beautiful fall flowers, pumpkins, and sunshine!

If you are ever traveling to Ohiopyle, Nemacolin Woodlands, Fallingwater, or Kentuck Knob (those are a few of my favorite places in the mountains!) make sure to stop and eat or grab a drink at Bittersweet Cafe! You will not be disappointed!

Here are a few pictures from my day at Bittersweet Cafe!

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Mother Earth News Fair Review (Seven Springs, PA 2017)

Mother Earth News Fair Review

(Seven Springs, PA)

2017

mother earth news fair

I can’t believe it was already a week ago (last weekend) that I worked in a vendor booth at the Mother Earth News Fair for the 2nd year. This has become one of my favorite events to work! The first year at the event, I met some wonderful people including the women from Pittsburgh’s “Farm to Table of Western, PA.” Last year, I was amazed at how many vendors participate in this fair.

On a side a note, I’ll explain why I loved this event even more this year!  We all know that life isn’t always pleasant and peachy by any means, it also doesn’t always go as imagined or planned. (This has been especially true for me probably for about the past two years.) Sometimes we get to a point, before we hit a breaking point where we finally have to figure out what brings us any type of happiness… I was outside thinking one day when I thought, what is simple that makes me smile that makes me proud of myself?  Gardening…it’s such a small part of my life, but it was something that I knew that I enjoyed and wanted to learn more about. It all started with me planting small things from time to time, year to year. Nothing crazy, just mosty container gardening. Last year, I started to add a few perennials around the yard. This year, I decided early this summer that I wanted to take a basic gardening class. I was interested in creating a good soil. (Money is always tight, and always seems to be an issue and holds me back from many things. I researched and found a reasonably priced class and decided to register for it.) It was probably one of the best decisions and investments that I have made in a long time! I was so excited to attend! (I was the student that got there early and sat in the front row! A little nerdy, I know, but that’s okay in my book, haha!) This class was wonderful and I looked forward to attending it each week! Sure, you can read, watch YouTube videos, and learn online, but it felt really great and did me a world of good to take an hour for myself a week, with no interruptions, and educate myself in a roomful of individuals with the same interest as me. 

This experience gave me the confidence to expand and fill my backyard with new and old favorites of plant, flower, and vegetable varieties.  I felt that it wasn’t a waste of money because I at least had a little bit more confidence and knowledge now that I could take of care of these plants.  It’s the best feeling waking up, looking out your window and admiring the shapes, colors, and beauty these creations of nature provides us.  Also, there is fun in picking and cooking with your own herbs and vegetables!  It’s a hobby that I love and continue to learn more about!

Now, back to the Mother Earth News Fair Review! (Sorry for the long explanation and venting!) So knowing what I did from attending the event last year, I was kinda in (nerd mode) again and researched the fair weeks in advance. I looked at their website, printed out maps, calendars, and schedules for workshops. I also researched some of the speakers and got my highlighter ready for what I was interested in!

Unfortunately, I did not have time to participate in any of the workshops while working, but the research still paid off because as I took a break on Sunday, I was able to make a beeline and gather information from the booths that I knew I wanted to visit. One thing that I appreciated that Mother Earth Fair did was keep vendors in a similar set up from the year before. That way if you do have limited time, you can make sure that you hit up your favorite booths if you remembered where they were set up from the year before.

Seven Springs was a great location! It was gorgeous up there! The weather cooperated and we had chilly mornings and beautiful days! I would take that drive in the morning any day.  Such a burst of refreshing air, with leaves starting to change colors…Beautiful!!!  The venue was packed with people who varied from locals to visitors from various states. The pictures from the workshops were also filled. If you love gardening and sustainable living, this is one event that I highly suggest you go visit!

There are Mother Earth News Fairs held in Kansas, Texas, North Carolina, and PA. Some of my favorite booths that I visited this year were: Funky Fresh Family Farms, Farm to Table Western, PA, The Gardener’s Workshop, Sow True Seed, Mockingbird Meadows Farm, Metalledwith, The Bookstore, Fruition Seeds, Mother Earth’s Natural Organic Root Cider, (I’m not sure if it was this or the Fire Cider that I had from the Herb Angel, but I noticed a huge improvement in my sinuses over the next few days without having to take anything for them.) I’m anxious to plant my Marshmallow seeds that I purchased from Herb Angel. Sacred Plant Traditions was another booth that I enjoyed. The lady working the Harris Seeds booth was so friendly and she hooked me up with free purple carrot seeds! I’m also looking forward to learn more about the PA Women’s Agricultural Network and see what they have to offer and how I can educate myself in the future through their workshops.

The 2017 Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs was a success for the booth that I worked for, as well as a whole for the entire fair. I could’ve definitely spent 3 days learning new and different things each day, as well as attending workshops or taking it day by day to spend time at vendor booths and have time to talk to them and generate connections and network. Thanks, Mother Earth News for a great fair at Seven Springs! I’m already looking forward to attending next year!

Here are some pictures of me before arriving to the fair and our vendor booth at the fair.

Pennsylvania Gardens and Arboretums

Pennsylvania Gardens and Arboretums

http://visitpa.com/articles/gardens-and-arboretums-pennsylvania

One of my hobbies is gardening.  Some days, all I need to make me feel better is to put my hands in dirt and plant something.  I love to watch what I plant grow and bloom as time moves along.  Flowers and plants just have a way of brightening up a day.  An enjoyable way to spend a day would be taking a walk through some of PA’s best gardens and arboretums.  The link above will give you a list to gardens and arboretums near you in PA.

Here are some of the ones closest to where I live.

Laurel Highlands

  • Laurel Hill State Park

This park is beautiful and peaceful.  I was here a few years ago.  We camped out (RV Style-More Glamping than Camping). It was such a wonderful time!  Thankfully, I was with an experienced camper, since I am not, haha.  It was such an enjoyable weekend!  Now, I’m in the mood for a campfire, some hobo pies, wine (yes, a glass of wine) and s’mores!!!  I’d love to go back!  The park was clean and well kept.

  • Ohiopyle State Park

Although this was not listed on the webpage, this park hits close to home.  I recently drove up here since this park is very close to where I live.  I had the windows down, and the drive to Ohiopyle was just absolutely gorgeous!  There are bike trails, restaurants and pubs, white water rafting, and so much more.  There are natural water slides.  Cucumber Falls is a must see! I recommend getting some ice cream or eating at Firefly Grill or Falls City Pub!  If you are spending some time up there, a few other attractions to visit would be Kentuck Knob, Fallingwater, and Nemacolin Woodlands.  An intimate, beautiful, peaceful cafe that I suggest would be Bittersweet Cafe. It’s so important to take in the beauty so close around us! If you live in the Pittsburgh area, take a day or weekend and take a ride south, and explore the Laurel Highlands!

Pittsburgh and its Countryside

  • Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Inc.

I love Phipps! It is beautiful to visit in any season.  They have everything imaginable.  Butterflies, palms, orchids, herbs, children’s discovery garden, bonsai, a Japanese garden, and more!  They offer classes and have events throughout year.  One of my favorite times to visit is during the Christmas season.

  • Botanic Garden of Western PA

I have not been here yet.  It is also known as the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.  This is on my bucket list!  I really hope to explore it before summer ends.  It looks like there are a variety of trails to walk on. It is only 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh.  There are adult workshops, geocaching challenges, and events.

  • Chatham Arboretum

There are many varieties of tree species. It is said to be a wonderful place to relax and meditate.  The arboretum provides an outdoor classroom for students.  The grounds are perfect for a stroll.

The Alleghenies

  • Arboretum at Penn State

While this may be a bit of a drive from Pittsburgh, I had to put it on the list.  I’m adding this to my bucket list as well!  I’ve never toured the Arboretum at Penn State, but I am a PSU grad, so anything in State College, holds a special place in my heart!  The last time I was up there visiting my cousins and celebrating my cousin, Caleigh’s 21st birthday, I noticed the arboretum.  The weekend flew by and I didn’t have time to stop by.  I love how their mission strives to achieve beauty and renewal.  A venue for art, enrichment, and discovery.  It is said they have gardens and groves, sculptures and special attractions, as well as a children’s garden.  Another bonus is that there is no admission fee and free parking!

I am looking forward to visiting some of these local gardens and arboretums this summer.  Have you been to any of these? What are some of your favorite garden and arboretums to visit?

 

National Pollinator Week

National Pollinator Week

If I’m not working, reading, or writing, then you can most likely find me outside. I’ll be pruning and dead heading plants or flowers, pulling weeds or tilling soil, planting new plants and flowers, or feeding and watering the ones that I have.

How have I never heard of National Pollinator Week? It is an International celebration! As I researched to learn more, I found out that it started in 2006 by the US State Senate to bring awareness and recognition of how important pollinators are to our world and how valuable they are to our ecosystem. This year it was celebrated June 19-25, 2017.

You may be thinking to yourself, “What are pollinators?” Birds, butterflies, beetles, bats, and bees are all pollinators. These pollinators sustain our ecosystems, help plants reproduce, and help with our food supply. Did you know that our landscapes could collapse if it wasn’t for these pollinators? They are very important for us and our environment. The website pollinator.org has tons of information and promotes “National Pollinator Week.”

We need pollinators and pollinators need us! Many pollinator populations are declining due to loss of nesting habitats and feeding. We can help pollinators by providing them with proper plants. Planting and placing plants in home gardens, schools, farms, and near highways will help supply pollinators. Other ways to help them would be to buy locally, shop at farmer’s markets, spread the word and create awareness.

There are Eco-regional planting guides available online and there is even an app for your phone to help you determine and decide what plants will attract pollinators.

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of people talking about the importance of native and heirloom plants. It is a good idea to incorporate these types of plants into your gardens. Bees have been, and still are on a decline, and now I’m beginning to hear that monarch butterflies are on a decline as well. Monarchs love milkweed. This plant in your yard will provide monarch butterflies with food.

If you are asking yourself how to create an environment for pollinators, you can plant a variety of flowers that bloom throughout the seasons of spring through fall. Also, limit the use of pesticides. Make sure to provide shelter and water for pollinators. Just as we need water, water is important for wildlife and nature as well.

It can be quite enjoyable watching pollinators connect with nature. You can watch them by going for a walk, or just sitting outside and paying attention to your surroundings. Look at the plants, flowers, animals, and pollinators around you. Take it all in, and in no time at all, you will be connecting yourself back to nature as well!

The website pollinator.org suggests some great ways to create awareness to others by providing ways to show the importance of pollinators. Some of their suggestions were using a symbol or pictures of pollinators next to the foods that they pollinate. Another idea was hosting a cooking class or creating a menu that showcases the food we eat to bring awareness to people as they sample and taste foods that we enjoy. Pollinators are important in that they help produce what we need to be able to have foods, spices, beverages, and even some medicines. This makes the situation more realistic knowing that if pollinators keep declining, we will have less of these foods, spices, and medicines in our daily lives.

It is important to bring awareness not only one week out of the year, but throughout the year. We need to educate not only adults, but children as well, because they are our future!

What are some of your ideas to bring awareness to others about the decline and importance of pollinators to others? How do you celebrate National Pollinator Week?

April Showers, Bring May Flowers…

April Showers, Bring May Flowers…

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful and enjoyable weekend! Although it was a rainy Saturday, Sunday was absolutely gorgeous out, and I hope that you did something that made you feel happy and put a smile on your face!

After debating back and forth about attending the Penn State Master Gardeners, Garden Marketplace at the ice rink at Shady Side Academy, located in Fox Chapel, I decided to go by myself and check it out. Let me tell you, that I am so glad that I went! Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies. I, by no means, am a professional gardener, but I get so much enjoyment while I’m outside planting things and watching them grow! I was completely overwhelmed not only by all of the gorgeous plants, flowers, and herbs, but by the friendliness, kindness, and knowledgeable gardeners and vendors that were there. There were native plants, unique varieties, perennials, annuals, and herbs galore! I was so excited walking down each aisle, imagining how I could landscape these beauties of nature into my own secret garden one day.

When I first walked into the Marketplace, I noticed the local daffodil society’s annual show and competition. I never realized how many different types of daffodils existed. There were some really pretty varieties that I have never seen before.

After walking through the aisles two times, I went back around and made a few purchases. I loved the idea of them having a plant check, (similar to a wine check, only instead of wine, it is for your purchased plants.) This was such a great idea, because it isn’t always easy carrying around a bunch of plants of different shapes and sizes. This Marketplace, really put me in a wonderful mood!  (All that beauty and the wonderful smells!)

On Sunday, I woke up knowing that I needed to plant what I purchased on Saturday. That required adding additional dirt/soil in my flower beds so that I could begin planting. Instead of making things easy on myself and just buying an already prepared soil mix, I tried to make a more organic mix on my own. I mixed organic topsoil, mushroom compost, and organic gardening soil. I will say this process took a lot longer than anticipated, but hopefully in the end, it will be worth it, and my perennials will grow back year after year. Knowing that May is here, I wanted to hang up my hummingbird feeder. I made my homemade hummingbird food and hung up the feeder.  Now, the waiting begins in hopes that the two hummingbirds from last year return again soon! I’ve always wanted a space that I could create with flowers that would attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Today, I planted a butterfly bush, bee balm, bearded tongue penstemon, two types of salvia, english daisies, and blonde platinum lavender. Also, pineapple sage, mint julep mint, pesto basil, and rosemary to start off my herb garden. After the outdoor gardening, I spent some more time planting several seeds that I had from packets. I’ll be anxious to see what grows, since I tried planting many things that I’ve never tried before. You can never have too many plants or flowers, and I can’t wait to add more beauty to my garden throughout summer! Have a great 1st day of May everyone! 

Here is just the initial start of my garden…

Valentine’s Day DIY Plant Craft

Valentine’s Day DIY Plant Craft

Life gets in the way sometimes too often, and we miss out on doing things that we enjoy. I love being creative or trying fun new craft projects from time to time. After having enough of these cold, dreary days, I decided to purchase two plants. The first plant I chose had beautiful hot pink flowers, which was the perfect thing to brighten up a lot of the grey, chilly days that we have had here. (An added bonus was that it was on clearance for $0.98, and I thought it needed a home ♥♥♥♥ ) The second plant that I purchased was also affordable. It was only $3.48. Both plants were purchased at Home Depot.

Once I found my plants, I stopped at Michaels and picked up two different sized terra cotta pots and terra cotta dishes. I chose these to fit the size of the plants. I already had acrylic paint, washi tape, paintbrushes, and mod podge at home.

Next, I was excited to get creative, use my brain and come up with designs. I wanted to use my washi tape and chose to use the colors of pink and red in honor of the upcoming holiday. Since my flowers were hot pink, I chose a pale pink to make the flowers pop and then used the other colors that would match the washi tape. The bigger plant, which has shades of oranges, yellows, and reds outlining the leaves, would look nice with something red on the pot. What else better than a huge red heart for Valentine’s Day? The creative juices were really flowing this day, because I came up with the cute quote, “Love Me and Watch Me Grow!” This cute little saying tied in perfectly with Valentine’s Day and with taking care of plants!

The different design possibilities are endless! These also make really cute, personal gifts. Next time, I’d like to purchase a few cool cacti and an aloe plant. Once spring comes a little closer, I will be super excited to plan what herbs and flowers I’ll want to grow for spring and summer.

Creating and painting these pots was an enjoyable and great way to relax! Plus, the finished product is so pretty to look at! I can’t wait to design more pots for my plants in the near future!

Here is what you will need for a DIY Terra Cotta Pot Project

Materials:

  • Terra Cotta Pot (Depending on the size of your plant.)

  • Terra Cotta Dish

  • Purchase a plant

  • Potting Soil

  • Acrylic or Outdoor Patio Paint

  • Paintbrushes

  • Mod Podge (optional)

  • Washi Tape (optional)

  • Paper Plates or Newspaper (to paint on)

  1. First, place the paper plates or newspaper down where you plan on painting so that you don’t get any unwanted paint on your surface.

  2. Next, create a design and choose your paint colors.

  3. Then, let the fun begin! Start painting and decorating your plant pot! I let the paint dry thoroughly. (The first coat took a few hours to dry.) I applied two total coats of paint to my project. I painted Mod Podge over the pot with the washi tape to seal the tape to the pot.

  4. Let the pot sit for at least 24 hours before adding the potting soil and planting your plant.

  5. Water your plant, love it, and watch it grow!

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