Phipps Conservatory

Phipps Conservatory

Pittsburgh, PA

(All opinions are my own and have not been influenced by any additional outside sources.)

December was a bit of a blur, January hit me hard and did not start out as planned, so I apologize for the lack of posts the past two months. Early on in the month, since I ran out of free days in December, I made plans with my mom to visit Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA.

Although I’ve been to Phipps a few times before, it’s a new experience each time as their exhibits change. Currently, snow is on the ground…I love looking at beautiful green exotic plants and colorful flowers on any given day, but when the weather is gray, gloomy, and snowy, the pop of color makes things feel positive and better in my world! I could honestly spend hours here a day looking at and taking in all of the varieties and beauty of these plants and flowers.

One of my favorite areas to visit is the room with the orchids! They are stunning! Delicate flowers with sharp designs and colors with extraordinary shapes. They showcase such elegance. Another eye catcher while walking through the gardens are the blown glass pieces that are displayed throughout the plants and flowers.

The desert and tropical plants make you feel like you are on vacation somewhere else far away from the city. The size of these plants along with their shapes or spikes show off such character. Warm, humid air hits you as you walk along the palms and banana trees while they tower over you.

I went while the Christmas decorations were still up. Phipps is also a wonderful place to visit during the spring and summer as well. Instead of Christmas lights and décor, you may walk outside through the Japanese garden. Last year they also had plant sales which I am looking forward to attending this year, since I did not make it to any last year.

After a peaceful day, my mom and I enjoyed sitting down in their cafe/restaurant and I sipped on an Americano while she enjoyed a cold pineapple seltzer drink. Make sure while you are there, you stroll through the gift shop near the entrance. I wanted to buy every gardening book that was on their shelves and the small section of jewelry was gorgeous and would make great gifts for others or yourself!

Here are a few of the many pictures that I took while visiting. What are some of your favorite botanical gardens to visit?

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Gift Ideas for Gardeners

Gift Ideas for Gardeners

Christmas is only a few days away! This month has flown by faster than the rest this year. Cold weather and snow have arrived. I’m a not a fan of the cold weather, so I’m already looking ahead to warmer months and greener things! I have found some fun and fabulous gift ideas for those that love to garden!

These gifts can be found at: www.gardeners.com. These ideas and opinions are my own. What gardening gift ideas do you recommend?

butterfly biome 24.99

Butterfly Biome-$24.99

cascadino stack or hang self watering herb planter

Cascadino Stack or Hang Self Watering Herb Planter-$24.99

classic mini magnet succulent gardens set of 34.95

Classic Mini Magnetic Mini Succulent Garden Set of 3-$34.99

daisy stepping stone 9,95

Daisy Stepping Stone-$9.99

dirty little digger 24.95

Dirty Little Digger-$24.99

mini copper succulents set of 3 29.95

Mini Copper Succulent Set of 3-$29.95

mosaic solar light drops set of 34.99

Mosaic Solar Light Drops Set of 3-$34.99

surreal woodlandsbirch horizontal planter 11 inch 17.95

Surreal Woodlands Birch Horizontal Planter-$17.95

teardrop tabletop terrarium 31.89

Teardrop Tabletop Terrarium-$34.99

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?

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?