from the ground up


Deja vu

Wasn’t it just yesterday, or maybe last week…

No, it must be deja vu.  Haven’t I done this before?

Oh yes, I have.  Only, it was last season.

My, how time flies.

These beauties (the baskets) were loaded up by the other beauties (the ladies) and taken from my hands to their summer residence.

And off they went, just in time for a June snowstorm.




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The mountains likely have a fresh blanket of snow today and we have a fresh fire in our fireplace.  Cold weather aided in changing my focus today, from outdoor cleaning and planning to indoor work.  My hands worked steadily inside the greenhouse today, despite the chill outside.  There were many critical tasks on hand, desperate to be accomplished today, such as smelling the basil, admiring the tomatoes, brushing the thyme leaves, petting the salvia…

Here are a few snapshots from inside the greenhouse today:


And as for tomorrow…some real work may just be in order.

That is, after I muse over the marjoram, breathe in the marigolds, hover over the onions….

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They’re out of the starting blocks!

And they’re off!

Up, up and away.

There has been tremendous growth in the greenhouse this past week. A little extra warmth at night and several bright, spring-sunny days helped to crack open the seed coats.

And of course, a mild, warm day means the heat goes up by leaps inside the greenhouse.  We throw open the doors for a rush of fresh air and (precise) temperature regulation.

Also, not surprisingly, the day we opened the doors of the greenhouse to invite a cool breeze, our heater stopped working later that same night.  Fickle like the weather in March.  Snow, sun.  Heat, no heat. But still they (we) grow, in spite of, or probably because of, the rapidly changing micro-climate of their home.  And there is a deep joy in watching the seedlings emerge and begin.

Hey, anyone feel like throwing out at guess on what the seedlings in any of the above photos are, reaching their first leaves (cotyledons) for the sun?



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New beginnings always feel good to me, especially when they involve planting seeds.  We started out a little later than other years.  Finally giving in to the filling of the fuel tank and the official turn on of “night heat”.  Luckily, the days are warm and long, and the heater quiets not long after the sun lifts from behind the mountains.

The trays are slowly filling.

There is already a descent sized stack of empty seed packets.

The trays are now studded with tiny gems; specks of hope:  artichoke, celeriac, petunia, impatiens…

The list is long, but I always like to think of how much longer it could be if I really let my seed buying get away with me!

And, of course, my dearest little helpers are with me each step of the way.

Checking the temperature, sprinkling these trays ever so gently with water…

And lets not forget the soil.  Any type of digging and movement of soil must be done accordingly with the “right” equipment.

I am very thankful to have an assistant with so much knowledge on these things.

And so we begin, friends and fellow growers. 

Another year of soil and seeds, transplanting and selling.

The pull of the momentum, the lengthening of days and shortening of nights.

The beauty we create has begun to grow.

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To do: Order seeds.

This item of business, ordering seeds, always seems to hover near the top of my to do list. Order seeds, many of them, of course.

Many an hour is spent reading the various catalogs, writing notes, choosing varieties for market and also for personal gardening. How quickly that list of “oh, I must have this” for the garden grows and grows….

But, before I jump into that long, ever changing list of seeds that I have and still plan on ordering…let me tell you about one of my favorite seed companies.

Seeds Trust:

This small, family run business is always inspiring me.  Run by a tight-knit family, their business speaks to me for many reasons.  Let me count thy ways:

  • They promote sustainability in all aspects of their company.
  • They tell the story of their seeds, not just sell them.
  • The varieties they stock keep me coming back year after year. My customers would agree.
  • They have experimental gardens, at high altitude, to really check the growth of the varieties they offer.
  • They are a great source for unusual and also native species.
  • If you call, they actually answer the phone and your questions.
  • Their prices are affordable.

Let me be sure to mention, that they are an online catalog.  I think that many years ago, I may have received a paper catalog, but that was quite some time ago.

Be sure to check out these varieties: this one and this one .  They are two of my long time favorites.

So, be off, my fellow growers.  Go, scroll the pages, and enjoy the abundance of information and quality seeds that await you at Seeds Trust.


Preparing to prepare…

Time keeps rolling on, days into weeks.  Glancing at the calendar, anxious gardeners, such as myself, can’t help but get a little excited about the approach of spring.

But mother nature has insisted on reminding us that we do live in a zone 4 growing climate.

There have been no footsteps into the greenhouse, yet.

But soon, these tables,

and baskets,

will be full and growing.  Soon.

But before that happens, we have quite a lot of preparing to do.

Yes, those are weeds behind that frosty plastic (yikes!). They need to be cleared out, after the autumn neglect.

The snow is melting on the outside of the greenhouse, which means the temperatures inside are warm!

And a sure sign that spring is on its way, at least on the calendar…

Hooray for thoughts of spring!

And now…some shoveling is in order, to get into that warming greenhouse…

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Our stack of daily mail has become much thicker within the last month.

It is filled with color.

And none of us can resist thumbing through the color filled pages.

Finding treasures to dream about.

Some are truly dreams in our climate…

But others are very real, indeed. Dreams that we will grow, soon.

Ahhh, yes. This color feels just right, amongst the white, brown and grey of February.


A Basket Recipe

During this time of year, I can often be found working on planting baskets from dawn to dusk. Even amongst the commotion of my dreams, I choose, I turn, I stuff baskets.

The greenhouse slowly becomes a kaleidoscope. Hanging overhead, colorful orbs. Each one unique, mindfully created for my patrons. One order consists of more than 50 baskets.  An assembly line strategy best suits this high volume order. I plan each basket pattern according to desired hanging location and color preferences.

Here is my basket recipe:

My list of favorite ingredients includes:

Coco Fiber Lined Basket: This style of vessel can be used year after year and adds a natural component, when compared to plastic.

Potting Soil:  A high quality mixture, preferably without fertilizer mixed in.

Annual plant selection: Here are a few suggestions.

For Sun:                                                For Shade:

Cascading petunia                                 Lobelia

Sweet Potato Vine                                 Begonia

Licorice Vine                                          Coleus

Mexican Heather                                   Ivy

To plant your basket:

1.  Fill the basket with potting soil, to just below the brim.

2.  Place you center accent plant.

I generally choose either a burst of color or a graceful grass, but anything large, robust or tall will do.

3.  Fill in the blanks.

Odd numbers work beautifully. Work them in around the edge.
One, two, three, repeat…Petunia, Licorice, Cuphea, repeat, etc.

By following this recipe,  your basket will almost immediately have an established look.

And there you have it. A pattern of color to enjoy through summer.

On a hot day, we loaded 50+ baskets into a horse trailer, destined for a beautiful local ranch. Goodbye friends, until we meet again next spring!

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A math equation

Math has really never been my strong suit.  My  teachers and my always-helpful-with-homework parents frequently witnessed the blank look.  Word problems, yep they were a problem.  But really, who uses math anyway?  Ha!

With each new garden season I begin again in my greenhouse with hundreds of seed packets. Friends and other plant-wise onlookers always ask the inevitable question:  “Where will you put all these plants?” .   Then,  they see the blank look, the math stare, as I  innocently say “What on earth do you mean?”.

But the truth is, each year, I am quietly uneasy about where I will put all these green seedlings that I tend.

I innocuously begin with the seeds orders.

When they arrive, I  sort and organize by planting date.

Then, week by week, I tear open the packets and plant.

Each flat has 72 cells.  And if I am lucky, there is one seed per cell.  Often, I am not very careful about being lucky.

When the seedlings emerge, I begin to formulate the math equation.

Frequently I am seen just standing out in the greenhouse.  My husband and children have asked me all too often, “What were you doing out there?  It looked like you were just standing there.”

I was.  I was doing “greenhouse math”.

Here is what my equation looks like:



then multiply:

and multiply again:

equal this…

and eventually this…

For someone who doesn’t really care for math, I’ll take this math equation any day!