Archive for the ‘Flowers and Plants’ Category

In the Spring Garden – guest blogger Billerica Garden Club

The Billerica Garden Club is very active in the community. They hold their May plant sale each year just in time for Mother’s Day (the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend), often exhibit at the New England Spring Flower Show, participate in Yankee Doodle Homecoming, prepare corsages for the annual Sweetheart Dinner for seniors who have been married to each other for 50 years or more, and participate in the annual Green Up Clean Up Day. In addition they have adopted several areas in town to maintain – Billerica Town Common, Memorial Walkway behind Billerica Memorial High School, as well as Marshall Island in Town Center. And as a special project in the community members of the club present gardening projects at area nursing homes and the senior center, including maintaining a butterfly garden at Billerica Crossings
In The Spring Garden
How to handle Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs in April
Did you know that the perfect time to plant dahlias, lilies, and gladiolas is during April? Well, these flowering bulbs actually do well during this month, so make sure that you mix a few organic ingredients or some compost into the soil where these are planted (combine bulb fertilizer, as well as aged manure and peat moss). This certainly will help nourish both the soil and flowers.

Apart from flowering bulbs, you can also start planting annual seeds. You can plant asters, cosmos, marigolds, and even zinnias for starters. Now, other than annuals, if you have perennials, they have to be divided. They can be moved into a different area of your patch, or extras can be given out to your gardener friends. In addition to this, if you have a water garden like a pool or pond, utilize this by adding aquatic plants after the first half of the month.

What to do with houseplantsYour houseplants can do well with a little bit of spring-cleaning in the month of April. And one of the best gardening tips for this would be to remove irregularities such as yellowing leaves, withered flowers, or even dead branches. Plants may also be able to breathe better when the dust from the leaves are removed using light spraying. Pinching is also advisable especially for plants, as this helps invigorate new growth and volume. Continue to inspect for insects and fertilize at half strength. Cut the plants back if they are getting leggy.

Nourish your Flower BedsShoots have been driving up out the ground for weeks now, so you know that Mother Nature is doing her part to get your flowers and shrubs back to their beautiful selves. Why not give them a boost with a layer of compost? Clear out any old leaves or sticks, weed your gardens and then sprinkle an inch of compost throughout your flowerbeds. Water the beds and then cover with mulch to keep it in all in place.

The Practice of Container GardeningHave you ever tried bringing plants inside your home or placing them out on your garden using different kinds of containers? You probably have but have not been too conscious of how to prepare it the right way. Container gardening can be very beneficial in a lot of ways. So if you happen to have a very spacious garden (an area that you’re too lazy to fix but would still want to have plants around), or live inside an apartment or condo unit (an area that has no yard space for use), then you can definitely do some container gardening at your very own convenience.
Whether you’re into some flower, herb or container vegetable gardening, the material for which you will plant and store these should have a good drainage system. You can choose to use an array of containers such as plastic bins, baskets (anything that will help hold in your organics), but you will always have to take note of the drainage factor.

As an alternative to planting your organics under the ground, you can fully concentrate on the containers itself especially if these were houseplants (for indoor container gardening). When growing different kinds of plants, you also get the chance to nurture these with some well-preserved soil. When the soil is of high-quality, then you can be assured that your plants will grow free from diseases. Other than that, when you do this kind of gardening, you’re also eliminating the possibility of weeds cluttering your garden. Apart from that, you are also given the chance to move your containers around, should the need arises.

Check out more information at:

Is your garden doing double-duty? Is it a fun, happy view that exudes energetic energy? That’s the philosophy behind the selection of Tangerine Tango as Color of the Year for 2012, according to color expert Catherine Falqoust. Check this website out for more ideas on colors in your garden:

What about planting seeds? If you are growing plants from seed, don’t oversow. For fine seed, mix it with sand so it is easier to spread over a larger area.

Perennials and Flower Borders• If you didn’t clean-up your borders in March, do it now. (It’s important to remove weeds now while they’re still small and haven’t flowered yet it’s also easier to remove now instead of when they are fully matured.)
• Cut back all ornamental grasses to 6-12″ if you haven’t done it already, and don’t wait any longer to do it. It may already be difficult to cut off the dead leaves without also harming the new ones.
• Plant, divide or move perennials – it’s now or never! Okay sure, you can still do it in May, especially planting new ones, but it’s best to get all this jostling around of perennials done before it gets hot. Continue dividing perennials. If the perennial bed was fertilized in the fall no need to do it now — the plants haven’t used the fall treatment yet. Remember that compost, which helps the plants take up nutrients by maintaining good soil structure, is not fertilizer. Continue making notes of the location of flowering bulbs and bloom time — you’ll be glad you did when it comes time to plant more bulbs in the fall.

Here are a few key tasks for the month of April:
• This is the last opportunity to plant any bare root trees, shrubs or hedging.
• Herbaceous perennials like Yarrow or Butterfly Weed or Bearded Iris over time can form large clumps and become very congested. Now is an ideal time to divide and re-plant. Simply dig out large clump and separate using garden fork or spade and re-plant. Ideally this process should be repeated every 3-5 years. Check out the website from Colorado State University for more information on Herbaceous perennials:
• Time to plant summer flowering bulbs (Dahlia, Gladiola, Lily etc). It’s also a good time to plant evergreen shrubs and trees.
• You can also apply a top dressing of bark mulch to planted beds to conserve moisture and impede weeds. It also creates an attractive neat and tidy look to the border. (Tip: water soil before applying top dressing)
• Continue to cut/remove the faded blooms of spring bulbs; do not remove foliage for at least 4-6 weeks in order to allow the bulbs to replenish food resources for next year. Lawns can be cut more regularly now especially if ground conditions are firm and dry. When mowing begins, set mower blades to cut high — 2 inches for shady lawns — to encourage well grass rooting and discourage weed growth. If the lawn is mowed on schedule, the clippings will not need to be removed. They will decompose and return essential nitrogen to the lawn.
• General lawn care includes tidy edges, rake and remove thatch. Apply a weed & feed to encourage healthy grass growth and discourage weeds, but be careful, grass can be easily damaged ‘scorched’ with excess dosage, if in doubt use liquid feeds. Wet area first before applying liquid feed. It’s also time to check and start your in ground sprinkler system to make sure everything is working correctly.
• Check planted borders for any new weeds; a quick tidy up with the hoe will significantly reduce the need for any weeding later in season. Remove any blooming invasive weeds such as Dandelion which will self seed profusely throughout the garden. Might help to remember, ‘One year’s seeding is seven years weeding’.

In a normal spring daffodils can be taken inside to enjoy them. The daffodils that are open and in full bloom tend to get destroyed, but the ones still in bud are more resilient, so you can pick them for vases inside the house.

You can add to hanging baskets and containers a water-retaining gel or even to the compost, which will swell up and retain moisture for a lot longer. Give your plants a good watering two to three times a week, stopping just as baskets start to drip, but before the water runs out the base of the containers, so as not to waste too much.

Are you keeping up your Garden Journal with bloom dates and spring events in this most unusual spring? Make notes now of the places where spring-blooming bulbs, planted next fall, will look perfect next year.

Check out the book on Rain Gardens: Sustainable Landscaping for a Beautiful Yard and a Healthy World
by Lynn M. Steiner and Robert W. Domm
In recent years, awareness has risen not only about the problem of water collecting in places where it shouldn’t, but also the problem with run-off, and what to do with it. All sorts of toxins run unfiltered into our waterways. Not good. What’s a homeowner to do? One of the answers comes in the form of a pretty simple solution: rain gardens. Lynn Steiner and Robert Domm have compiled a comprehensive guide for constructing them in their new book, Rain Gardens. With explanations that are easy to understand, and illustrations and photographs that show and tell, the home gardener can plan and build a rain garden for their own property with confidence.
Check out the review at:

What about those pesky animals that pick at your flowers and vegetables? One good way to protect your garden is to put a chicken wire fence around it. You can also put old shear curtains over blueberry bushes they make very good netting and if you wrap a brown paper around the root of your tomato plants and leave about 3 inches above the soil line that will protect them. Also, Marigolds planted throughout the garden will keep Aphids away and are quite beautiful to look at. These are just a few ideas for helping protect your hard earned work creating that beautiful garden. More to come next month. By the way does anyone have any ideas on how to get rid of wild Turkeys they are all over my neighborhood!

One last thing that needs to be talked about and that is Poison Ivy – that nasty plant that causes us extreme annoyance and now would be a good time to kill it before it starts to grow too much. Last year I tried something different see the recipe below:

Heat to boiling1 gallon of white vinegar with 1 cup of salt until clear then add 8 drops of liquid detergent after you heat the vinegar with salt then let cool and spray or pour over Poison Ivy and it will kill the plant and anything else that is there. I tried this last year and it worked great! Keep in mind that it will kill any plant that is in the soil. This is all natural and no side effects!

Happy Gardening!

Become a member of the Billerica Garden Club by visting their website at Or join your own local garden club. They provide an invaluable service within any community

February On My Mind and Heart – Guest Blogger Annette Presseau

When I think of the month of February I think of snowstorms because I live in the New England and snow is the norm this time of month but this year we have had a very mild winter so far and not much snow which is very unusual.  I actually miss the snow (I know that sounds a bit crazy!) but when it snows there is a calmness after it stops and a serenity which is very peaceful and calming which is something in our busy lives that we sometimes miss.  Have you ever heard the saying to “stop and smell the roses”?   In our daily lives we need to stop and smell the roses sometimes to be thankful for what we have because there is always someone else who is worse off than we are.  Have you ever gone out to put the trash out and looked up on a clear night and just admire the moon and the stars?  Our lives are just a small bit of the whole universe and it’s pretty amazing!  So, stop and look sometimes at the world around you and be amazed at what you see!


Flowers, Plants, Flowers!

Yes, it is too early to plant flowers but what about getting some house plants to liven up the dreariness of February or pick up some cut flowers to freshen or brighten up your home?  Flowers will definitely lift up your spirits!  What about changing your décor maybe move the furniture around or add some new decorations.  Even a essential oil diffuser would add fragrance to a room. When the weather gets you down do something that makes you feel good and you will be amazed at how much better it will make you feel.


Research has shown that these 10 plants below are the most effective all-around in counteracting off gassed chemicals and contributing to balanced internal humidity:

  • Areca palm
  • Reed palm
  • Dwarf date palm
  • Boston fern
  • Janet Craig dracaena
  • English ivy
  • Australian sword fern
  • Peace Lily
  • Rubber plant
  • Weeping fig

Read more at:

In the website above it is suggested that one plant should be allowed for approximately 10 square yards of floor space, assuming average ceiling heights of 8 to 9 feet. This means that you need two or three plants to contribute to good air quality in the average domestic living room of about 20 to 25 square yards.

Although many plants like light, they do not all have to be placed near windows. Many indoor plants originated in the dense shade of tropical forests and have a high rate of photosynthesis.  These are ideal for the home and can be placed in darker corners.  When positioning plants try to strike a balance between light and ventilation because the effect of plants on indoor air pollution appears to be reduced if they are set in a draft – very interesting isn’t it?


What else is good to do in February?

February is also a great month for experimenting with cooking meals you get a two for one punch you heat up your house and get a healthy meal!  If you are eating but finding that your energy level is not up where it should be then check out the 10 foods that are supposed to help kick energy into high gear:  Apples, Avocados , Blueberries, Citrus fruits, Oatmeal, Peanut Butter, Raw nuts, Sweet potatoes, Watermelon and Yogurt.  I started eating Yogurt again and I do find that it does make me feel better.


What about that medicine cabinet?

If you’re like me you have too much stuff in that medicine cabinet and maybe this is a good time of year to clean it out and update your first-aid kit. You can visit this website: to find out about safe disposal of your medicines.  Make sure that you check expiration dates on everything and get rid of what is outdated.  I know that I have some things that I haven’t checked in quite a while.


Museums anyone?

This is also a great time to visit museums and there are a lot of them out there just check online to find different ones to visit.   Check out this website for Boston museums:


Exercise anyone?

Cross-country skiing benefits heart and soul and knows no age barriers and the greatest part of cross-country skiing is the sheer joy of being active outdoors at a time of year when many go into hibernation.   Just plain old walking does wonders for your heart and is a great exercise.  What do you do to exercise in the winter months?

February also makes me think of having a healthy heart and ways that I can improve my health in general. Recently I read on the Internet that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability. The most common heart disease in the United States is coronary heart disease, which often appears as a heart attack. In 2010, an estimated 785,000 Americans had a new coronary attack, and about 470,000 had a recurrent attack. About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event, and about one every minute will die from one. Do you know what the Heart Attack Symptoms are? I know that I didn’t until I looked at this website:



New Year’s Resolution List

How are you doing with your resolution list?  Were you able to at least do one thing on the list?  I haven’t succeeded yet but I’m still trying to achieve it.  Remember that it takes 8 tries to change a habit so keep on trying and don’t give up.


Have a Heart – Pay Attention to Your Ticker

Heart attacks don’t always strike out of the blue — there are many symptoms we can watch for in the days and weeks leading up to an attack. But the symptoms may not be the ones we expect. And they can be different in men and women, and different still in older adults. Last year, for example, a landmark study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Institute found that 95 percent of women who’d had heart attacks reported experiencing symptoms in the weeks and months before the attack — but the symptoms weren’t the expected chest pain, so they went unrecognized.

Don’t let that happen to you. Here are some common heart symptoms you’re likely to ignore — and shouldn’t.


Nausea & Stomach Pain

One of the most overlooked signs of a heart attack is nausea and stomach pain. Symptoms can range from mild indigestion to severe nausea, cramping, and vomiting. Others experience a cramping-style ache in the upper belly. Women and adults over age 60 are more likely to experience this symptom and not recognize it as tied to cardiac health.  Most cases of stomach ache and nausea aren’t caused by a heart attack, of course. But watch out for this sign by becoming familiar with your own digestive habits; pay attention when anything seems out of the ordinary, particularly if it comes on suddenly and you haven’t been exposed to stomach flu and haven’t eaten anything out of the ordinary.


A sharp pain and numbness in the chest, shoulder, and arm is an indicator of heart attack, but many people don’t experience heart attack pain this way at all. Instead, they may feel pain in the neck or shoulder area, or it may feel like it’s running along the jaw and up by the ear. Some women specifically report feeling the pain between their shoulder blades.


A Telltale Sign

A telltale sign: The pain comes and goes, rather than persisting unrelieved, as a pulled muscle would. This can make the pain both easy to overlook and difficult to pinpoint. You may notice pain in your neck one day, none the next day, then after that it might have moved to your ear and jaw. If you notice pain that seems to move or radiate upwards and out, this is important to bring to your doctor’s attention.


Inflammation: The Hidden Time Bomb Within You

A sense of crushing fatigue that lasts for several days is another sign of heart trouble that’s all too often overlooked or explained away. Women, in particular, often look back after a heart attack and mention this symptom. More than 70 percent of women in last year’s NIH study, for example, reported extreme fatigue in the weeks or months prior to their heart attack.  The key here is that the fatigue is unusually strong — not the kind of tiredness you can power through but the kind that lays you flat out in bed. If you’re normally a fairly energetic person and suddenly feel sidelined by fatigue, a call to your doctor is in order.


Catching your breath

When your heart isn’t getting enough blood, it also isn’t getting enough oxygen. And when there’s not enough oxygen circulating in your blood, the result is feeling unable to draw a deep, satisfying breath — the same feeling you get when you’re at high elevation. Additional symptoms can be light-headedness and dizziness. But sadly, people don’t attribute this symptom to heart disease, because they associate breathing with the lungs, not the heart.

In last year’s NIH study, more than 40 percent of women heart attack victims remembered experiencing this symptom. A common description of the feeling: “I couldn’t catch my breath while walking up the driveway.”

When the heart muscle isn’t functioning properly, waste products aren’t carried away from tissues by the blood, and the result can be edema or swelling caused by fluid retention. Edema usually starts in the feet, ankles, and legs because they’re furthest from the heart, where circulation is poorer. In addition, when tissues don’t get enough blood, it can lead to a painful condition called ischemia. Bring swelling and pain to the attention of your doctor.



This is an odd one doctors can’t yet explain in that those who’ve had heart attacks often remember experiencing a sudden, unexplained inability to fall asleep or stay asleep during the month or weeks before their heart attack. (Note: If you already experience insomnia regularly, this symptom can be hard to distinguish.)   Patients often report the feeling as one of being “keyed up” and wound tight; they remember lying in bed with racing thoughts and sometimes a racing heart. In the National Institutes of Health report, many of the women surveyed reported feeling a sense of “impending doom,” as if a disaster were about to occur. If you don’t normally have trouble sleeping and begin to experience acute insomnia and anxiety for unexplained reasons, speak with your doctor.


Flu like symptoms

Clammy, sweaty skin, along with feeling light-headed, fatigued, and weak, leads some people to believe they’re coming down with the flu when, in fact, they’re having a heart attack.  Even the feeling of heaviness or pressure in the chest which is typical of some people’s experience in a heart attack may be confused with having a chest cold or the flu.  If you experience severe flu-like symptoms that don’t quite add up to the flu (no high temperature, for example), call your doctor or advice nurse to talk it over.  Watch out also for persistent wheezing or chronic coughing that doesn’t resolve itself; that can be a sign of heart disease, experts say. Patients sometimes attribute these symptoms to a cold or flu, asthma, or lung disease when what’s happening is that poor circulation is causing fluid to accumulate in the lungs.


Rapid & Irregular Pulse

One little-known symptom that sometimes predates a heart attack is known as ventricular tachycardia, more commonly described as rapid and irregular pulse and heart rate.  During these episodes, which come on suddenly, you feel as if your heart is beating very fast and hard, like you just ran up a hill except you didn’t.  “I’d look down and I could actually see my heart pounding,” one person recalled.  It can last just a few seconds or longer; if longer, you may also notice dizziness and weakness.   Some patients confuse these episodes with panic attacks.


Older Adults

Heart attacks in older adults (especially those in their 80s and beyond, or in those who have dementia or multiple health conditions), can mimic many other conditions.  But an overall theme heard from those whose loved ones suffered heart attacks is that in the days leading up to and after a cardiac event, they “just didn’t seem like themselves.”


Rule of Thumb

A good rule of thumb, experts say, is to watch for clusters of symptoms that come on all at once and aren’t typical of your normal experience. For example, a normally alert, energetic person suddenly begins to have muddled thinking, memory loss, deep fatigue, and a sense of being “out of it.” The underlying cause could be something as simple as a urinary tract infection, but it could also be a heart attack. If your body is doing unusual things and you just don’t feel “right,” don’t wait. See a doctor and ask for a thorough work-up.  And if you have any risk factors for cardiac disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, or family history of heart disease, make sure the doctor knows about those issues, too.  Check out the website below for more information on heart attack symptoms:

And last but not least I like to leave you with a Valentine’s Day poem that I found on the Internet:

Hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day!


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