Spa Day for Houseplants

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Houseplants really work hard in our homes. They help make our surroundings beautiful, clean pollutants out of the air, and keep us connected to living green plants during the months we need them most. They work hard, and they can start to look tired regardless of how hard we try to mimic their ideal growing conditions in our indoor environment. We tend to limit the amount of water we give them because we don’t want the saucer to overflow onto the floor. We place them in lighting conditions base on our decorating needs. And then there’s a pet or two (or three), that think they’re their for entertainment value.

One of the things I do regularly to keep my houseplants at their fittest, is to give them a spa day. This is a day when every plant gets a little love, a little attention, a little closer inspection. Spa days can bring problems to your attention, allowing you to correct situations like over/under watering, pests, and build up of dust on the leaves. By addressing these issues, you can add years to the life of your plants and keep them looking beautiful. That’s the reason you bought them, right?

On spa day, everyone gets a shower. But prior to the shower I inspect as I move them. Were they sitting in water when I picked them up? Did I see any of those lovely little fungus gnats fly off when I moved the pot? If so, it’s time to inspect the roots, so out of the pot it goes. If I see further signs of root rot (soil falls away when I take the plant out of the pot or brown mushy roots), it may be time to do a soil change or pot it down a size in pots. Never pot up a size when these kinds of things happen. Did I note webbing on the foliage or any other kind of critter? Time to buy or mix up an insecticidal soap and spray thoroughly prior to the shower.

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After special needs are addressed, turn the shower head on and watering deeply to allow water to flow through the entire pot and out the bottom several times. The foliage will also need to be showered off, but gently. This process also will leach out any buildup of fertilizer salts (a white-ish film on the top of the soil)  in the soil which can be toxic to our plants long term.

Let everyone drip dry before returning to the rightful place in your home. This is also a good time to ‘rearrange the furniture’ and rotate the location of your plants in your home. Plants do respond to new lighting situations and maybe you can find a spot where they’ll be happier.

You will be amazed at how your plants perk up after spa day! It’s almost instant. I’d like to say I do this once a month, but I just do it as often as I can. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Heather Thibeault is a life-long gardener, plant collector, and Burnett's employee.

Heather Thibeault is a life-long gardener, plant collector, and Burnett’s employee.

What’s Growing On This Week? Take a peek!

Isn’t it great to have an early spring? We’re so excited to have our doors open again, and hope you’ll come on out and see us! Pansies arrive Monday the 14th. NOW is the time to get them planted to keep them short and loaded with blooms. Here are just a few pics of things you’ll see this week when you come in.

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This is quite possibly the NICEST crop of fruit trees! Shrubs are starting to arrive, awesome dogwoods, and Okami Cherry trees.

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Carnivorous plants are amazing! Hanging baskets and small pots, several different varieties.

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The early birds get the best citrus trees! Lemon, lime and calamondins. Very healthy looking plants, and active!

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Floor plants for home and office, low light and high light.

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Miniature plants for terrariums, fairy gardens, and windowsills. MANY different plants right now.

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Miniature African Violets. So cute. Some of these little beauties are variegated too.

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Ferns, ferns, and MORE ferns. We love ferns and hope you will too.

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Garden art like we’ve never had before! Some light up, some spin, but these big flowers are just plain beautiful.

Pottery like never before. Oh. My. You'll have to come by to see for yourself.

Pottery like never before. Oh. My. You’ll have to come by to see for yourself.

Garden statues for everyone's taste...oh and the birdbaths are awesome too.

Garden statues for everyone’s taste…oh and the birdbaths are awesome too.

Hope to see you all soon!

Garden Heroes

While the doors of the garden center are closed until March, you may be picturing the hard working crew of Burnett’s sipping a fruity adult beverage on a tropical beach somewhere, right? Actually, this is the time of year that we roll our sleeves up and REALLY get busy laying out the year and working on projects that otherwise wouldn’t get done during our regular seasons.

One of my favorite parts of the ‘off season’ is the planning process. This is when we think about you most. What you want to see. What  you want to grow. What you want to learn more about. How we can inspire you. How we can help you be successful in your garden ventures.  It’s a time of looking forward while reflecting on the best parts of where we’ve been. These thoughts got me thinking about the people who taught and inspired me to grow as a gardener. I call them my Garden Heroes. My Garden Heroes were the people who made plants and gardening exciting for me.

I’ve got sweet memories of many years ago, driving with my grandparents in their faux wood paneled station wagon to Logee’s Greenhouses in Danielson, Connecticut. We would be there for hours breathing in the deliciousness of the earthy perfumed greenhouses and examining every bloom. The plants were always candy for the eyes, but it was the glimpse of the young and horticulturally-hip Tovah Martin who worked there for many years, that I remember most. To this budding plant lover, she was cool. I read one of her earlier books The Essence of Paradise over and over. To put it plainly, she just made houseplants and gardening,  sexy…and still does to this day as she continues to inspire me on her facebook page Plantwise by Tovah Martin.

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Another of my Garden Heroes that some of you may remember was the New England TV star of Victory Gardens, Roger Swain. I was a captive audience as Roger strapped on his snow shoes in the middle of winter  and trekked out to his cold frames, plucking out some delicious root crop to cook up for dinner. Amazing, I would think, and what on earth is celeriacIMG_5492 I watched  many episodes of Victory Gardens sitting next to my grandfather, who inevitably would elbow me halfway through the show asking (with his perfectly dry sense of humor) “what’s that guy got that I ain’t got?” Other than his own television show?….and, celeriac? Nothing. Because it was my grandfather who really has been my greatest Garden Hero, always doing something in the garden and making it look fun. Garden Field Trips were a family affair that I remember more than I remember most things, and of course they always ended with a trip to an ice cream shop. I miss him and our garden talks and walks, but I have a life-long hobby because of his encouragement.

Is the passion to plant something passed on from generation to generation? Or is the art and enjoyment of gardening something learned by watching and listening? I think it’s both. But one thing is for sure, my Garden Heroes provided the inspiration to just get out there and get my hands dirty.

That’s what we’d like to do for you in this New Year, inspire you to just get out there and get YOUR hands dirty. Have fun gardening, make it a family affair, make precious memories, and make your home and surroundings more beautiful than ever.  But most importantly, Be someone’s Garden Hero.

The way of our planning process for the new season is lit by the light and focus of how we can inspire you, and how we can help you be more successful at it. We’d love to hear from you if you have ideas for us.

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Heather Thibeault is a life-long gardener, plant collector, and Burnett’s employee.

Dreaming of Strawberry Shortcakes

A member of one of the facebook plant groups I read regularly, announced with glee “ONLY 5 more months until spring!”. That kind of statement is enough to make this New England gardener throw herself in front of the first snow plow she sees a bit anxious. Keeping myself busy with garden chores that will make the ‘in’ season easier is key to passing time in the ‘off’ season. So I make lists. Things that I know need to be done, but may forget as the garden goes more and more dormant.

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My best garden helper and chief fertilzer producer, Gandalf, joined me in the garden.

Today I got to cross one of those things off the list as I reset my strawberry garden. Strawberries seem like one of those fruits that you can plant and then let grow while you collect buckets and buckets of strawberries every summer, right? They are, after all, perennials. AND  they do keep making more of themselves by sending out Mini-Me’s on runners. Endlessly. Unfortunately, all that replication will make them start to choke themselves. Plus, the original strawberry plant I planted had a life expectancy of 5-6 years, and it’s been at least 7 years since I’ve dug the beds out and started over. Between the little babies everywhere and obnoxious weeds, my strawberry bed has definitely been neglected, resulting in fewer and smaller strawberries as the years have passed.

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So here’s what I do to reset a strawberry bed. I start by using a pitch fork and loosen up the soil from one end to the other. Then, on my hands and knees, I grasp the crowns of the strawberry plants, digging my fingers deep in to gather as much root as I can, gently lifting the strawberry plants out of the ground. I weed as I go, making a pile for compost and a pile of strawberries that will be replanted. Once the bed is cleaned out, it’s time to prep for planting.

I prefer the hill method of planting strawberries. It takes a little more time, but worth it in the long run.

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Sources claim that the hill method produces larger and more plentiful berries, but I prefer it because it’s easier to identify the runners (and cut them off) as they run down the hills. With the whole bed of soil loosened, I start by making a row of organic material. Today, I used manure and compost. Then, I use a hoe to mound the soil up the hill the entire length on both sides. This makes sort of a moat on either side of the row. I pat the hill from the top and the sides, kind of like making a sand castle. Before planting my little strawberries, I give the hill a light watering.

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Using my finger to make holes, I pop the strawberries into the hill, being careful to keep the crown at soil level.

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Don’t plant the strawberries too deep, keep the crown at soil level.

It is very important to mulch the strawberries, so I finish off the hill with chopped hay called Mulch Master.

Watering the newly planted strawberries is very important. I will make sure to water them until the temperatures really drop and I have no choice but to put away the garden hoses until spring. Now, my helper and I can rest assured that the strawberry beds are ready for spring, and move on to the next garden chore.

Enjoy your day….and garden on!

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Heather Thibeault is a life-long gardener, plant collector, and Burnett’s employee.

All My Apples in One Basket

DSC_0236Right before the hard frost we had last weekend, I finally picked the apples off my trees. They are more than just apple trees, they are memory trees. Trees gifted to me on Mother’s Day gift 6 years ago. It was a beautiful spring day and my husband and daughter spent the day with me, picking out two kinds of apples trees and planting them in just the right spot. Time spent shopping for them, planting them, and chatting about what we would do with ALL the apples we’d have someday….that’s what I think of every time I see those trees. Other than water, my little trees have not had much attention paid to them. Every morning since spring, as I do the mad morning dash to get the chores done and out the door, I glance at those shiny apples in the distance hanging from the trees.

The forecast is what made me slow down and finally pick them. My illusions of grandeur were dissolved as I got up to the tree to pick ‘the bounty’. It really looked like FAR more apples, and prettier ones, from a distance. They were pretty spotty, and some misshapen. Nonetheless, I took one inside to cut it open to see if this project was worth my time. And. Honestly. It was the BEST tasting apple I’ve ever had. The inside was white as snow and perfect. Perfect, because it was mine. And I grew it.

Burnett’s Hands-On Workshop motto this year is Never Stop Growing. I’ve always firmly believed that. Never stop learning about things that matter. Master things one thing at a time. I will spend some time this winter reviewing pruning techniques for fruit trees, and organic control for apple diseases. I’ve already learned that the fall clean up I do with the trees is a pretty important step in better fruit next year.

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My basket of apples may not win ribbons at the county fair or feed my family for an entire winter, but at least for tonight, we shall have pie. And next year, there will be SO many apples, there will be pies in the freezer.

Below is my recipe for French Skillet Apple Pie. Feel free to substitute brown sugar for the coconut sugar. If you’d like my recipe for homemade bisquick, please email heather.t (at) burnettscg (dot) com, and I’ll share it with you.

French Skillet Apple Pie

Peel, core, and slice apples. Mound them up high in a cast iron skillet (use a pie plate if you don’t have a skillet). Use as many apples as it takes to pile it high.

Combine the following ingredients and pour over apples:

  • ½ c homemade or store bought bisquick
  • ½ c milk
  • ½ c coconut sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T melted butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

For the topping:

  • ½ c homemade or store bought bisquick
  • ½ c chopped pecans
  • ½ c coconut sugar
  • 2 T cold butter

Combine the first two ingredients, then ‘cut’ the butter in.

Using your hands, cover the mound of apples with the topping. Bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour or more as needed. The length of baking time will depend on the type of apples you use. Use a fork to determine if the apples are done enough to your liking.

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 Enjoy your day!

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Heather Thibeault is a life long gardener, plant collector, and Burnett’s employee.

 

 

 

Leaves are Falling, But Garden On….

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Barberry ‘Crimson’

Just because the leaves are falling off the trees and the night time temperatures dip a little low, doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy being outside in the garden. Now is a fantastic time to add to your gardens and landscape and take advantage of the end-of-season savings. Here are some gorgeous pics of top quality plants you can still buy at Burnett’s.

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Beautiful gold color you can enjoy year round with Chamaecyparis ‘Vintage Gold’.

 

Autumn is a great time to add interesting color to the dull areas of your landscape. Consider some evergreens that you can enjoy even in the winter months. Evergreens actually come in a rainbow of different colors!

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Juniper ‘Blue Star’ is true to it’s blue name. Great blue-sliver color.

 

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Juniper ‘Hetzii’ is a columnar evergreen with beautiful little cones.

 

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Want REALLY great fall color? Look at this Rainbow Leucothoe!

 

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Picea ‘Baby Blue’ is as cute as can be. It’ll also provide shelter for the birds in winter.

 

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Pieris ‘Avalanche’, or more commonly known as Andromeda, a spring bloomer and shade lover.

 

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Rhododendron ‘Checkmate’ is an April/May bloomer, but is also showy and beautiful with mahogany foliage in fall and winter.

 

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Variegated Dwarf Cypress is one I’ve been eyeing all season….a winner!

 

Farewell Summer Annuals…

DSC_0234I have a hard time saying goodbye to summer…the deep blue skies, bare feet on grass, the abundance of blooming plants…

Believe it or not, the plant that I have the hardest time letting go of, isn’t know for its blooms at all. Coleus. If you planted coleus this year, you know how beautiful and HUGE they are by seasons end. Even right now with the cold nights we’ve had, coleus just seems to shine it’s jewel toned foliage.

Why not let a little summer live on a little longer by filling vases with coleus cuttings? They are a great cut ‘flower’, sending out little roots, making them last a long time. But don’t delay in bringing those cuttings in! Really COLD nights are coming quickly and the tender plants of summer will soon be a beautiful memory…making room for some fall mums.

Enjoy your day!

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Heather Thibeault is a life long gardener, plant collector, and Burnett’s employee.

 

Time to Bring the Houseplants Indoors!

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Houseplants waiting their turn to come inside on the back porch.

Looks like the weather is taking a turn to much colder temperatures here in Southeastern Connecticut! My policy has always been to pretend that cold weather will never come until it can’t be ignored any longer. It’s called denial. SO, I tend to wait until the last possible moment to bring in my beloved houseplants and other plants that I don’t want to part with just yet. My collection includes plants like large citrus passed down to me from my Grandmother, to small plants like maindenhair ferns and ivy. Every year there seem to be a few more new little lovelies that I just had to have.

I’ve decide that I have two personalities. The Spring me (who seems to be FAR more energetic) , and the Fall me. The Fall me doesn’t really like the Spring me very much right now, as I’ve had to go on a scavenger hunt looking for all the places I tucked and stashed my tender houseplants around our property.  Apparently I’m also stronger in the Spring, as I had to use a dolly to get one of the larger plants inside as I muttered under my breath questioning “whose idea was it to put you so far from the house?”.

Whether you have one plant or a dozen to bring inside, here are some things that I do that may help you as well. My ritual is to collect all the plants first and bring them to the back door. That’s day one. I’ve found that if I break up the task of bringing them all in, it doesn’t seem like such a big job. As I’m collecting them I pull the weeds from the soil and remove dead leaves, debris, and cobwebs. I access pot size and only repot larger if absolutely necessary. Next, preferably on a sunny day, everyone gets a bath, including the pots. When the leaves are dry, it’s time for an application of insecticidal soap. Just in case some critters think my house might be a good place to spend the winter. Having saucers ready and on hand for each plant will also make the return from summer vacation easier. Some years I’m able to think ahead enough to have washed them all in the dishwasher prior to needing them. Some years…not so much, and I scramble looking for them.

Now all the plants are safely inside, making the house feel like a home again. Outside, the garden still needs some help getting put to bed for the season. But inside gardening has just begun.

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Heather Thibeault is life-long gardener, plant collector, and Burnett’s employee.

Hope your day is full of flowers and sunshine!