Archive for January, 2009


Photo cited:  http://downrightcurious.com/photos/images/20080517220334_g9_1088.jpg


When the fiddlehead of a fern emerges from the ground, it is a sight to be savored.  The beauty of the first growth of a fern, the spiral form, the abstract representation of what is to follow.  It is art in my eyes.  It makes me want to break out my sketching pencils and draw.  The golden mean proportion screams in your face as the fiddleheads grow into earthy green fronds. 

Fiddleheads are edible, however, you must make sure that you are eating the correct fern species as some may be a bit toxic and leave you nauseous and dizzy.  The safest fiddleheads to eat are actually from the Ostrich Fern (Matteucia struthiopteris).  This fern is the safest to eat but people say to eat it in small quantites.  The fiddlehead must be harvested when very young, about 10″ above the ground. The taste resembles asparagus.  It is best to cook them and not eat them raw.   I love them sauteed with some olive oil and garlic. 

Check out this website on some other ways to harvest and prepare fiddleheads.  http://www.umext.maine.edu/onlinepubs/htmpubs/4198.htm

The  native habitat of Ostrich fern (Matteucia struthiopteris) is in a woodland environment with moist soil and dappled sun.  Its’ vase shaped habit and feathery fronds resemble ostrich feathers, hence the name.  It can also be seen growing in dense clusters along streams, ponds and rivers. In its native habitat with optimal conditions, ostrich fern can grow to be 6′ tall. Usually in cultivation, it will grow to 2-3′.  Plant this fern in a woodland garden where it can naturalize. 

The texture of a fern in the garden, the form, the color, can bring a sense of beauty to the garden.  There is something unique about the texture of ferns, especially when they grow in masses.  I picture them growing under a grove of trees, blanketing the ground, earthy tones of green. 



Photo cited:  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5a/Matteuccia_struthiopteris.jpg


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So, the winter snow and freezing cold has prevented me from taking measurements of the area for my garden BUT I have still been thinking about the garden.  I decided that I really would like to grow as much as I can from seed. Growing from seed is rewarding.  To take one look at such a small thing that turns into something so beautiful is truly quite amazing.  Growing from seed makes you just feel good.  There is this crazy rewarding feeling.  Like, wow!! I did that!!  How could that be possible?  It is a sense of wonder, of amazement.  In all the years I have been growing, I never lose that sense, ever.  It will be with me forever.  If you are a gardener, you will understand exactly what I am talking about.

As I look outside at the snow on the ground, the frozen hens and chicks on my porch (you know ,the plant!) and the glazed winter harbor, my mind is already fast-forwarding to spring.  I tend to rush winter and never fully appreciate it.  I just simply do not like the chill.  I love the outdoors and my time spent there diminishes greatly when the temperature is below 40 degrees.  I am a warm weather babe, what can I say?  I like the warmth of the sun, tank tops and flip flops, summer dresses, little clothing, tan skin.  I live for warm weather. 

The excitement of spring already runs in my mind, the fresh start, the first crocus bloom, knowing that warm weather is soon to follow.  It is already mid-January which means that March is not far away.  I was born in March and always look forward to the month. In like a lion, out like a lamb.  I love that saying because I was born at the end of March which is really a great time of year.  A time for renewal.  For me anyway…

So on this cold winter day, if you dislike the cold like me, think of spring that lies not too far away. It is something to look forward to.  Think of the crocus that will soon bloom and of the warmer days to follow.  Think of your hands that will soon be sinking into the soil.  Think that spring is near…

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Pour me unto the twisting desert

Let me loose upon the shore

The sun is strong

I see freedom set in its eyes

Pour me unto your willow tree

Twist me around again

Dance like whales upon my shore

Turn me loose again.


Copyright.  Written by Michelle Madonna

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Seeing Clearly

Come, come to my house

I will always let you enter

We must bring our world together


Enter my secret garden of beauty

Look upon the trees

We lie within their branches

And sit between their leaves


We are all born from the womb

I see you inside of me

My eyes have opened

Open yours and you may see


Walk with me as I will walk with you

No matter what your color

Wear my shoes

Run with me as I will run with you

No matter what your color

Look upon each other

We are sisters

We are brothers


Open up and you will see

What is inside of you

Lies right inside of me



Copyright.  Written by Michelle Madonna

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There is something special about wildflowers.  The way they grow in masses, their color, their beauty.  The way they need little attention.  This is why native plants are so amazing to grow.  Give them the right habitat and they will thrive with little care. 

Baptisia autralis, also know as Wild Indigo, Blue Indigo, or Baptisia, is an amazing native perennial that produces indigo blue flower spikes in May-June.  The plant itself is shrub-like and mounded, it has a great form.  Especially when the flower starts to spike, it creates great contrast in the garden.  After Baptisia flowers, it matures to black seed pods which are often used in floral arrangements.  Along with the beauty of its flowers and seed pods, its foliage is just as attractive.  Compound leaves of blue-green color bring a sense of relaxation to the garden. 

Baptisia is native to open woods and streambanks, meadows and prairies. It is best used as a naturalized plant, though Baptisia will definitely liven up a perennial border.  This plant thrives with neglect and does well in poor soils, though it thrives in full sun.  It really is a low maintenance plant. Just beware, once it is established, it does not take well to transplant because of its tap root that grows deep into the soil.  Once you plant it, leave it to naturalize.  Because Baptisia is so low maintenance and  requires little water, it can be a plant that is used in a native garden or a sustainable garden. 

Wildflowers have this unique air about them.  Look at a wildflower meadow, it is nature at its best.  I have this dream of planting a wildflower meadow, to watch it grow, to see its colors, to see the way the butterflies will swim above the flowers.  This dream will come true one day.  The vision I have is unique, it is special.  And it will involve Baptisia australis. 


image cited:  http://www.prairiemoon.com

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I think of rain and I think of where it lands, on the leaves of trees, on the soil.  I imagine it soaking into the ground and into the roots of plants to help them grow.  I see the water percolating into the deep aquifers of our earth.  And then I learn that our aquifers are being depleted at an alarming rate. One never thinks of water in this way.  We constantly run our faucets, irrigate our plants and pave our roads and never think that some of these things actually have adverse effects on our environment. Well, if you think that water is an unlimited resource, it is not. It is a resource that is being depleted and if we do not educate ourselves and try to conserve and protect it, we may soon run out.  And how will we live without water as a resource?  It is a scary thought. 

How can we minimize our water use? 

There are sustainable ways to incorporate rainwater harvesting into our lives.  Especially if you have a garden to irrigate. Rainwater harvesting is actually an ancient practice that dates back thousands of years ago. And it is a technique that is really gaining popularity in garden design and landscape design. 

How does rainwater harvesting benefit us and our environment?

  • It conserves water usage
  • It contains no chemicals, unlike chlorine that is in tap water
  • It is basically free or low-cost
  • It is a sustainable landscape practice which will benefit our environment
  • It reduces a demand for water, which is especially beneficial in arid climates
  • It prevents stormwater runoff by capturing water before it runs into streams, harbors, oceans, etc..

The easiest way to harvest rainwater is in an outdoor tank or rain barrel.  I am not going to get into the more complex ways to harvest rainwater, like in underground storage tanks or underground cisterns.  Underground rainwater harvesting is really for farms or large-scale gardens.  I am focusing on smaller gardens or sites. 

Rainwater is usually captured from roof runoff.  The water is transported from a gutter or pipe into a barrel or storage tank.  This water is also know as grey water and is non-potable.  It is only to be used to irrigate the garden.  It is also very important to make sure that your roof is not treated with chemicals before you harvest the water. 

As for the barrel or storage tank, I prefer a wooden barrel.  It is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.   It is a better fit in the garden.  You can even plant some flowering vines near the base to grow around the barrel.  It will be a little more expensive, but worth it.  Now the rain barrel must be dark in color to block sunlight which will inhibit algae growth.  It must also have a cover to prevent mosquito breeding.  A spigot must be located at the bottom of the barrel to release the water.  And it has to have an overflow pipe in the event that the barrel overfills with water.  And this will happen!!   I have seen it. So make sure to divert the excess water away from the foundation of the house. 

In addition to rainwater harvesting, you can minimize water usage by using native plant material.  Native plants require minimal water, if any at all, depending on the ecological and enviormental requirements of the plant.  Check with your local nurseries or native plant societies to find out about plants that are native to your area. 

I am on the search for a rain barrel for my garden, so I will keep you posted on the progress…

Here are some useful links as well:




Water is not an unlimited resource. Try to conserve a little bit.  Start small.  Try to harvest some rainwater for your garden. You will be doing something good for our environment. You will be doing something good for yourself.  Think of the aquifers that are depleting.  Think of water next time it rains. Think of it sustaining our lives, sustaining our environment, sustaining our earth…..

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My new cottage-ahhhh, a blank canvas for a new garden. How refreshing it is to start anew.  Especially when it comes to gardening.  My love of gardening goes way back to when I was a child.  I can remember picking black-eyed susans with my grandmother in the meadow near our home.  I remember the happiness I felt when I picked those flowers.  They were such beauty for my little green eyes, my little mind, my little soul.  My little gardening soul was born within me. And it still lives deep inside of me. 

I look at my small cottage in the deep of winter with creative thoughts in my mind.  I took some pictures this morning to show you that it really is a blank slate.  Nothing planted at all.  I cannot wait to see the progression of my new garden.  It actually is quite unattractive right now, especially in the dead of winter on a grey, cold morning.  Wait and see how I can turn this unattractive, barren soil into a beautiful garden.

This weekend I will begin measuring my little cottage and its surrounding bare soil where I will plant.  I will also begin some conceptual sketches of the garden.  What do I want  this garden to be?  I definitely want flowers and I definitely want some herbs and vegetables.  I would also like to start a living wall.  Please see my post on living walls to get an idea of what they are.  This garden will be beautiful, it will be created from my mind, my thoughts, my ideas.  What a sense of fullfillment I will have when it actually comes to fruition.  This is the most amazing part of gardening.  I mean, gardening never actually really ends. It is a continuous journey.  But one that changes, matures and evolves. 

This blank canvas that I have is the beginning of my garden, the beginning of my journey.  Stay with me as I go on this journey.  And please, if you have suggestions or comments, please give them.  It is always nice to hear from fellow gardeners.



Side of cottage and shed-really needs some help!!!



Front of the cottage-also really needs some help!!!



Winter view to the Huntington harbor from my deck.

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