Posts Tagged Helen Yoest

Garden Bloggers Buffa10 – Will I see you there?

Plans are being made for Garden Bloggers meeting in Buffalo!  This going to be so much fun.  Will I see you there?

This will be my first Garden Bloggers meet-up.  I missed the first two and I don’t want to miss this one. Nearly 40 have said they will be there so far.  Check it out!

Buffa10 Bloggers Meet-Up, 2010;

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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This Month in The Garden – January



Mid-Atlantic Region

Zone 7b

January Maintenance Guide


January is a good time to look back on your gardening year and to plan ahead.

Now is a good time to walk around your garden, shoot some photos and make a wish list of your garden’s hopes and dreams.

It is always a good idea to photograph your garden each month as a photo journal of what is blooming when. But also, looking at your garden through the lens is telling. What you see and what others see are often time two different things. We all have our priorities. What you may pass by everyday because you got use to looking at it will show up and be noticed in print. philbrookraleighyoest-13

It’s no different when seeing one’s self in a photograph. Most of us don’t like what we see, we start picking it apart. Do you like what you see in your garden photographs? So while it is a good idea to walk around your garden to jot down ideas and what needs to be done, it is a better idea to evaluate what you see from photographs.

Take a good look around. January is a good time to look back on your gardening year. Are there things you would like to change? Make a list, keep it handy, and add to it as necessary and check off the tasks once completed…it’s a good feeling.


february-2008-12You will begin to see bulb foliage begin to emerge. It’s OK. The leaves are hardy and if harmed, they’ll grow more. Keep bulbs mulched so they aren’t lifted by heaving resulting from repeated freeze and thaw.


Check that the crown of the rose bush is still covered. Often times, winter winds can blow mulch away.


As the tips of your daffodils emerge, add a general 10-10-10 fertilizers or a fertilizer especially designed for bulbs such as Holland Bulb brand.

Figs do fine in many soil types, but perform best in slightly alkaline soil. To aid in this, given our areas natural acid tendencies, Here at Helen’s Haven™, we add powered dolomite limestone (CaCo3) to the fig bushes.

To keep your pansies happy, apply an organic fertilizer such as bone meal or root simulator fertilizer designed specifically for pansies following the label directions. Re-apply every 4 – 6 weeks.


Stay on top of your weeding by handpicking your weeds from the grass and beds on a routine basis. Dig up wild onions and garlic as they emerge.  If possible, walk my gardens daily and note what needs to be done, creating a to-do list. Then weekly, work through the list!


Plants in the winter still need water. We usually get a gracious plenty of rain in the winter and in the spring, but in times of drought, remember a winter drought can be as severe as a summer one. In fact, a plant planted in the fall that was not watered sufficiently in the winter and dies in the summer is often times blamed as a summer problem when it was more likely caused in the winter. Not that this is much consolation for the dead plant. But it does remind us that plants need water even in the winter.

Pansies have a shallow root system – make sure they get watered weekly, if not by nature, then by you.

For your Plumber…leave the hoses attached to your faucets! Your plumber will love you for it. If this is not the kind of love you seek, remove the hoses from your faucets so they don’t freeze and bust.


Spray for your aphids, scale and mites with a dormant oil. This will help to reduce the number of pest. Wait until the temperature is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer for at least 24 hours.

Camellias (Camellia japonica) really start to shine in January. To discourage Camellia petal blight, remember to rake spent flowers that have fallen underneath the bushes.


Recycle your Christmas tree to the garden for the birds. Fill with “ornaments” of pine cones covered with peanut butter rolled in birdseed and add some dried cranberries for color and good eats. The birds with thank you and you can reap the rewards of watching them enjoy. for-the-birds-291

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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Sunday, January 3, 2010 Puttering in Helen’s Haven

It has been a cold week in Helen’s Haven; so much so, I was too weak to work in the garden at all. Hardly leaving the mid 40s, I felt I needed to wait until the 50s returned.

This month, is my 2nd blog anniversary.  It started as a diary of garden goings on in Helen’s Haven: what was growing, blooming, planted, pruned.  It also included what the kids were doing in the garden.  Their joys in the garden, as well as, their antics.

Today, this Sunday post remains the same, with more focus on the what was done in the garden during the week. Surprisingly, these Sunday posts receive the most hits.  I don’t know what this means, but thank you for stopping by. Actually, this weekly post surpasses my most favorite posting – This Month in The Garden – where I give monthly maintenance tips for our zone 7b gardens.

Often, I’m asked how I got started writing a garden blog.  Given that my day job is already as a writer (and garden coach & scout), how do I find the time and interest in writing for free?  My answer, a release.  It is such a release to write this blog.  It’s the only avenue I have to write anything, I mean anything, I want.  I can write in first person, it can be pillar or pale.  It can be about books, plants, travels, people, or profiling a garden.

The profiles came about as I wanted to share great gardens in NC and beyond.  I get to see some great gardens through my work with Better Homes and Gardens and their special interest publications such as Country Gardens and Nature’s Garden.  But for so many reasons, none of which are due to the garden not being worthy of publication, they are not selected.  This gives me a chance to profile their garden as a thank you for sharing it with me.

Reflecting on the last 2 year’s worth of post, I’ve decided to continue much as I have been, with a small difference.  The difference will be frequency.  I’m thinking I’ll continue to post this weekly update.  I find it to be a valuable reference of my garden goings on and I think the reader can glean what they can be doing in the garden, as well.

I will continue to profile gardens (because they are so much fun to write), write book reviews (so, Mr. Media Man, add me to your list), plants (so, Ms. Grower, add me to your list, Helen’s Haven trials plants ) and of course, I’ll continue to write about my cute, sweet kids, named after flowers, and their antics (see the category, Flowers That Talk.)

I’m also going the bandwagon in the What I do in the Garden 365 DAYS IN THE GARDEN.  Not sure if it is a real challenge, but sounds like something I would like to do.

For my long time readers, it is no surprise that I am writing a book.  I haven’t officially started.  I have a committment from my publisher, but I’m still in the process of putting the details together: sample chapter, tone, table of contents, etc.  After this, I hope to actually begin writing the book.  To keep track of all that I am doing, I thought I would begin to include  a BOOK REPORT in my Sunday post.  This will update you and allow me to chronical my progress.

I’ll also include a section on WHAT’S SHE WRITING ABOUT NOW…. This section will link the posts I wrote during the week, as well as, linking This Month in The Garden.  You may ask, Why would I continue with the monthly maintenance guide when the hits are so low?  Cuz one day you will visit and will need it.  When you do, I will be there  for you.  It might not be today, or next year, but when you are ready to read about garden maintenance tips in our zone 7b gardens, you will have the resource as close as your friendly Garden Coach, Helen Yoest at Gardening With Confidence™.


  1. Photographed 6 locations in the garden to begin a new project following a bed’s monthly progress
  2. Cracked ice in birdbaths
  3. Read seed catalogues.


This past summer, I decided to work in earnest to publish my book.  For a very long time, I’ve wanted to help gardeners with their gardens.  As a garden coach, I work with gardeners to build the garden the always desired.  As a garden coach, I guide them on to how to look at their garden.  I believed, there was a book idea there and convienced a publisher of this too.  Then, my publisher, Roger Waynick, Cool Spring Press, started to waffle.

Hmmm, when faced with this kind of reaction, do I defend the book idea or do I walk assuming he knows more than I do.  Or perhaps, just perhaps, my  brilliant idea needed some refining.  My publisher challenged me to do a market study.  So, I did.  Well, he liked the resultes of the survey and apparantely my approach, because, this was posted on Twitter soon after his review, “@gardenpublisher If anyone wants to learn how to sell a book idea, ask @helenyoest. She just convinced me to do a book that I was unsure about. Great job!”

So the beginning began.  Over the New Year’s break, I put together the information in the Cool Springs Press Submission guidelines.  If nothing else, it was an exercise in organization.  Organizing ones thoughts is never a bad idea.  Hopefully, next week, I can tell you how much he liked it as well….hope so!


What do You Want to Know About a Plant?

I’m Gonnas

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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New Year’s Day – Here are my “I’m Gonnas” – Sharing With You My 10 Garden Resolutions


Here at Helen’s Haven, we take every chance to have new beginnings. In the world of gardening, everyday offers  a new beginning; most, sadly, are not necessarily planned.

On New Year’s day, we have an opportunity to plan some resolutions and then hope for the best.  As someone profound once said, “if you don’t have any goals, how do you know when you got there”, or some such talk.  So I have goals for the garden…drumroll, please.  Here are my I’m gonna’s:

10.  I’m gonna stop waking up in the morning and going straight to the window to see if the boxwood hedge in the back connected during the night. The Best and Hardest Thing to Give Your Garden is Time

9.  I’m gonna deadhead like I should.

8.  I’m gonna grow more plants from seed.

7.  I’m gonna sow poppy and larkspur seeds again, even though I know I will fail.

6.  I’m gonna reduce even more lawn. Lawn Reform Coalition

5.  I’m gonna add more native plantings to the garden. North Carolina Native Plant Society

4.  I’m gonna take a series of monthly images at predetermined stops in the garden so I can slide show the beds annual pattern with monthly performance.

3.  I’m gonna stop worrying about where my garden gnomes go. Six Places Your Garden Gnomes May Go

2.  I’m gonna read plant labels and then I’m gonna factor 25% to whatever number they print. What do You Want to Know About a Plant?

1.  I’m gonna kick zonal denial in the butt.  Only plants with a zone wrapped around my zone 7b garden will be allowed in Helen’s Haven…unless it’s for the south side and I can’t help myself.

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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What do You Want to Know About a Plant?

All I wanted to know was if it was favored by bunnies…

As a garden communicator, when I write about a plant, I like to present as much information as possible,  at the same time making it readable.  Also, most times, I’ve had a good experience with a particular plant, bringing me joy and I want to share this experience and hopefully encourage the reader to plant one in hopes they experience  similar joy.  I don’t like to write about a plant I don’t have a personal experience with.

What I want to know about a plant may be different than what you want to know.  The variables per reader are vast.  Most gardeners will want to know about the plant’s USDA hardiness, sun requirements, soil type and the like. There are those plagued with deer who want to know if it’s deer resistance, with nearly every communicator qualifying the answer with, “But as you know,  deer will eat anything if hungry enough.”

I need to know the plants water needs.  I have a waterwise garden design, so I need to know if the plant of my desire will go into my oasis, transitional, or xeric zone.  From there, I can decide if I have room, or if I really want it, I’ll make room by trading up. I find it frustrating when I see a plant I want and have to go to several sources to get all the info about a plant I need.

When I’m gathering gardening info, I’ll gather even more information than I need personally, in the event I really like the plant and want to put it in a clients garden or if I want to write about it.  For example, I am plagued with bunnies.  I need to know if a plant is resistant to bunnies.  I don’t have deer.  However, I will want to know this information to file away for a client’s need or for a writing assignment.

The magazines (me included) are currently writing about the 2009 Perennial Plant of the Year, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ ornamental grass.   A timely endeavor.  I like it.  It looks good in the photos and I want it.  But with having made too many plant purchase mistakes to mention, and finding that zonal denial only benefits the nursery or garden center, I’m getting to where I need to be gaining more knowledge and killing less. If a plant is listed as a bunny favorite, I’ll stay clear of it.   No use building a buffet line for those marauding, munching, members of the cute critter club.

Here is what I want to know about a plant.  The list started out organized and ended up random as I continued to think of things I wanted to know:

Hardiness range. My garden, Helen’s Haven, is in Zone 7b.  I have to really, really like it if  is at the end of it’s zone.  Preferable, I like to have another zone  wrapped around it.  I no longer buy zone 8 plants; those days will be here soon enough if you listen to the global warming conversations, but for now, I’m sticking to my zone.

Water requirement. I will accept most conditions, dry, moist or wet.  I don’t have all the waterwise  zones covered, but I do have most of them  including, sunny oasis, sunny transition, sunny xeric,  shady transitional,  shady xeric and a tiny bit of shady oasis.   I need a plant’s watering need so I know where to plant it.

Sun/shade requirements. Absolutely need to know.  Boy oh boy, this simple concept can be so confusing.  A footnote could accompany just about any plant going something like this – give afternoon shade in hot climates, or give extra water if planted in sun…you get the point.

Height. We all gotta know.

Width. Ditto.

Good for containers. Very useful for those with limited space and those of us who like to use containers throughout the home and garden.

Drainage requirements. For the most part,  Helen’s Haven is well drained.  This is by design.  As I created my gardens, I amended the heavy clay with lots of organic matter.  However, there are parts of my oasis zone that receive a lot of extra water either by my neighbors lawn sprinklers or from fountain splash.  As such, these areas stay wet.

Soil structure. This usually goes hand-in-hand with drainage, but not entirely. There’s more to it when growing a living thing.  Every gardener needs to know their soil structure.  We are solid clay.  The kind I imagine potters use to throw pots – I sure would like to throw it about.  But, reality sets in and it does make good soil, if amended properly.

pH. Every plant has a  pH preference.  It is no coincidence here in the south that pines and azaleas are the most common combination.  Not only do the azaleas benefit from the dappled shade provided by the pines, they also benefit from the acid soil the pines provide.  The pH in Helen’s Haven tends to be acid; a common occurrence in the south, which is why our hydrangeas tend to be blue and if we want to change to the color to pink, we need to go through some hoops and amendments, too many for me, besides I like blue.

Does it reseed? This could be a good thing or a bad thing.   I also need to know more than if it is listed as a reseeding annual.  Poppies, Larkspar, Cleome, Monarda are all considered reseeding annuals.  But the the success of each will depend of many factors, including mulching.  I can mulch like crazy and my Cleome and Monarda are snug as a bug and perform beautifully.  If I treat my Poppies and Larkspar with mulch, they will not survive.

Hoes it spreads and  how fast?  Is it Invasive?   You have to look for code words to know.

  • Reseeds freely
  • Spreads by stolons
  • Plenty to share with your gardening friends
  • Oh, it’s easy to pull up if it gets out of hand
  • It’s worth it

Evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous. This is most important in design.  If I’m building a buffer hedge, I may well benefit from an evergreen hedge for year round privacy.  Or I may like the lightness a deciduous hedge offers in the season I’m not in need of as much privacy.

Seasonal interest. It’s good to know when a plant is the showiest.

Deer resistance. More and more people need to know this.  The deer population is growing at about the same rate  land is being claimed for new developments.  I don’t even want to consider how this gets balanced.  But my clients want to know what they can grow that the deer won’t eat.  I make suggestions and then of course I say, “But as you know,  deer will eat anything if hungry enough.”

Bunny resistance. This is my biggy.  I need to know.  I don’t recall reading this as clarification on a plant tag.  As such, I’m always doing extra research, usually with no success.  My success comes if I find it is still standing the next day.

    Origin. Some want to know if it’s native.  Others not.  I think in general it is good to know.  Sort of like all of us.  Our origins are conversation worthy.

    Maintenance. High, low, moderate or maintenance free.  All good to know.

    propagation. Handy to know in the event you only want to pay for this plant once.

    Pests. We need to know.  We re more likely going to choose a variety of plant that isn’t prone to pests, than one that is.

    As I lust over the 2009 Perennial Plant of the Year Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ ornamental grass, I decide to consult the current literature and see how many source reviews I needed to do to get all the information needed necessary to decide if this beauty will go into my garden.

    Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

    Golden Japanese forest grass

    Hak-on-eh-KLO-ah MAK-rah

    Need to Know A B C D E F
    USDA Hardiness zones 5 – 9 5 – 9 6 – 9 5 – 6 need winter protection 5 – 9
    Water requirement Medium Moist Moist
    Sun/shade requirements Full sun to Partial shade Partial shade Sun or shade, woodland Full sun Partial to full shade is best.Full sun tends to scorch the leaves Partial shade in hot climes. More sun in cooler climes
    Height 1’ – 3’ 1 – 1.5’ 18” 12 – 18”
    Width 1’ – 3’ 24” 18 – 24”
    Good for containers Yes Yes
    Drainage requirements Well-drained soil Well-drained soil
    Soil Structure Humus-rich Average soil. Also says humus-rich Average Rich and loamy Humus rich
    Does it reseed?
    How it spreads and how fast.  Is it invasive? Spread by stolons, it is a slow grower By stolons, but slowly
    Evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous.
    Season Interest Summer, fall. Reddish tint in fall Shades of pink and red in the fall. All summer with shads of pink and red in the fall
    Deer resistance Yes
    Bunny resistance
    Origin Honshu Island, Japan
    Maintenance Can divide after many years. Little. Cut back in late winter or early spring.Slow grower so division after many years.
    Propagation Divide in spring By division or plugs
    Pest Few insect or disease problems

    The table above, represents 6 reputable reference I consulted to answer my questions about this plants performance. I have hidden their identify with letters.  But, just to give you an idea, one was a nursery, one an e-magazine, one a botanic garden, two were gardening magazines, one a professional organization.

    My, my this exercise thought me a lot.  Did it you?  I had other referenced I could have considered, but I had enough trouble importing this table as it was.  But it didn’t matter, the sources I referred to all varied as you can see above.

    Notice all the blank blocks?  Me too.  Who knew?

    Sadly, I still do not know if this plant is favored by bunnies.

    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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    Sunday December 27, 2009 Puttering in Helen’s Haven

    What a week in the garden.  It rained on Christmas, so I didn’t have to make up any excuses about being outside.

    Nature put her breaks on me so I could focus on celebrating with my family.  Then lo and behold, the skies cleared, the temperature rose, and I was out playing in the garden once again.

    The wintertime is a great time to clean up, gear up, and read up on gardening for the next season.  But in Helen’s Haven, the winter is a season we celebrate.  Helen’s Haven is a four season garden with plenty of interest in each season, especially the winter.

    As I cut back The Red Bed, I evaluated what I wanted for the coming year.  The castor beans were a huge hit this year.  Bold, lush and red; the drama they brought can be matched by no other.  However, after the frost, when they needed to be removed for the season, it was like felling a forest.  I may have had a bit more than needed; especially considering the amount of work they were after the frost.  Castor beans will continue to grace The Red Bed, but in smaller numbers.

    I have plenty of seed to share.  Let me know if I can send some to you!

    Also in The Red Bed, the hedgerow I started last winter is taking shape.  Having planted daylilies there (divisions from clients and friends), they became a maintenance headache.  So, as much as my neighbors love them, I decided they needed to go.  I made an attempt to remove them, but I know I didn’t get them all and will be after them for quite a while.  I left one patch on purpose because I do love them.

    But the goal for the south side is to have a nice tapestry hedge to attract wildlife.  The plantings included in the hedgerow are, a spice bush, camellia, variegated box, Rose of Sharon, Gold Totem Pole, Knock Out Rose, Japanese Black pine, Abelia ‘Little Richard’ and Forthysia.  These plantings are a continuation of the Southern Magnolia that anchors the Southwest corner of the house.

    Fledging Hedgerow

    Another area in The Red Bed that needed my attention was the Forsythia.  There were four big clumps that needed to be removed.  This is one of my favorite harbingers of spring; but it can get a little unruly.

    The aster, banana, elephant ears, daisies, ruellia, salvias were cut back.  kk decided he had no room for the Invincibelle Spirit, so I planted it in The Office Border.

    For some time now, I have considered putting in an edge along the back lawn area where it meets the twin beds.  Left over from a job were 15 Ever-edges.  Laying them out to see how they will look, there they sit until I can decide.  It’s looking like it will be a good investment to at least try.  There are enough to be able to tell if the look is something I want.  Cut edges just don’t last long enough.  Given the look of that back area, a crisp formal edge is necessary.  Whether I go with this edge or another, an edge will be addressed in 2010.

    Added Christmas tree cuttings to the wildlife brush pile

    Wildlife brush pile

    Fresh Cut Christmas Trees Versus Artificial Trees

    Christmas Tree Afterlife for Wildlife

    Merry Christmas to All and to All Good Gardens

    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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    Christmas Tree Afterlife Will Delight Wildlife

    After Christmas, when your tree has served a charming tradition, your tree can have an afterlife as protection for the wildlife.


    Here, at Helen’s Haven, we put our tree in the Mixed Border to go form hanging glitzy ornaments inside to tweet treats outside.
    Making Tweet Treats: Gather the kids, birdseed, cranberries, bagels, peanut butter and string. Spend a couple hours creating treats for your birds

    Detail of Lily's tweet treat

    Other “ornaments” to hang include orange halves, popcorn garland, and suet balls.


    When the birds come to the tree for tweets, they will also find cover.   Whether the tree is upright in the yard or lain on its side, the birds will enjoy a quick escape from prey and the elements.  Christmas trees provide cover as a whole tree or with the side limbs snipped away and piled for a wildlife brush pile.


    A tree erected downwind of the prevailing wind can offer your bird friends some protection from the cold, desiccating winds.

    Come spring when the foliage returns, winds settle down, and natural food sources abound, your tree can be chipped and turned into mulch for the garden or material to delineate paths.

    A Christmas tree’s afterlife will be the birds winter delight!

    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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    The Sunday Before Christmas, and all Through the House…

    The Sunday before Christmas, and all through the house,
    The children are bouncing, all over the couch.
    The presents were wrapped, with some noticable tears,
    By the kids in hopes, to see what will be theirs.

    The tree had fallen, and still laid on its back,
    It’s Christmastime, there’s no use giving flake.
    Daddy in jammies, and I on his lap,
    We had just settled down, for a long night cap.

    When out in the garden, I could see a body,
    I strang from his lap, nearly spilling my toddy.
    I tripped over the tree, creating a clatter,
    No harm to me, but many ornaments did shatter.

    Nose pressed to the window, and squinting to see,
    I saw a lady, walking away with a tree.
    Not understanding at all, what I just saw,
    I decided to ignore, this women’s shortfall.

    At Christmastime we plan, and prepared,
    Barely acknowledging, those in despair.
    In our world, where we are rich in family life,
    I’m saddened by others, who have other plights.

    I come back to Daddy, who is righting the tree,
    Asking if the noise, woke our little three.
    Up the stairs, we climb for a peak,
    We find little angles, snoring asleep.

    We stare at each other, with amazement and wonder,
    At the gifts God has given us, but we no long ponder.
    Children have made, our own world complete,
    But we always liked it best, when they were fast asleep.

    Merry Christmas to all to all good sleeps!

    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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    Metro Magazine – Winter Interest Under Way for Umstead Hotel and Spa

    Winter Interest Under Way For Umstead Hotel and Spa

    In the winter, the garden is often thought of as the pause season until spring returns; an interruption in the time when a garden can be beautiful.  Often, the winter season isn’t based on the solstice, but rather, from first to last frost; too long a pause not to plan for the season.

    With the fine weather we experience from the Triangle to the coast, we have the potential to garden year round.  No snow to compete with, we can add to the landscape so that our gardens can be just as interesting in winter as they are in spring, summer or fall.  What you do in winter, will also enhance other season’s appeal.

    Even with a professional design, the winter interest aspects are often overlooked.  It’s never too late to evaluate your garden’s winter appeal.

    The Umstead Hotel and Spa, in Cary, NC, recently did just that.  Landscape designer, Suzanne Edney, of Custom Landscapes, Inc., was brought in to evaluate and add winter interest elements to the 6 acres surrounding the Five Star hotel.

    “My mission was to give a ‘sense of place’ by using cultivars and ornamentals that have characteristics of North Carolina plants,” says Suzanne.  Working directly with Ann Goodnight, Suzanne evaluated and added to the existing design.  What Suzanne found was many of the plants used in the original design were deciduous perennials, therefore, the landscape looked bare from December to April.  Suzanne’s design added to the ground plane and broke up a single plane of plantings.

    This sense of place is an important factor for hotels of this caliber. As Suzanne explained, “When you arrive at The Umstead Hotel and Spa, you want to know that your are in NC, not in Italy or Miami or some other place.”

    Plum yew, juniper, and Hellebores were some of the ground covers used in the design along with boulders to fill voids while giving the eye a restful place to pause.  Grasses were added to give movement, evergreen vines, perennials and shrubs such as Clematis Armandii, poet’s laurel, Fatsia, roof iris, Spirea, and Deodara Cedar were added for winter interest and to add rhythm to the design.

    Implantation of the design began this fall and will continue through the winter.  It will be most interesting to visit often during this time to see how the transformation progresses.

    Now and after the holidays is a great time to evaluate your winter landscape.  Plan on making your winter more interesting with plants and other elements such as boulders, benches, or accents.  You too will be enjoying your garden all winter long.


    The JC Raulston Arboretum hosts an annual A Walk in the Winter Garden program in February each year.  Enjoy a winter garden themed presentation and tours and see what the winter garden has to offer.  Visit their Web site at for details

    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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    Plantluck Dinner – A Winter Solstice Celebration Meal

    Happy Winter Solstice

    On Monday, December 21, 2009 at 12:47 PM EST we can take a collective breath as we begin to see the days grow longer.  Longer days are here again.  As we go from the point of days with shorter daylight to days with longer daylight, there is a cause of celebration.

    To celebrate, Helen Yoest (that’s me!) of Gardening With Confidence™ and 3 fellow social media friends created a Winter Solstice meal just for you.

    We treated this meal like a potluck dinner.   Each of us offered up what ever we fancied,  but agreed the recipes would be plant-based – not necessarily vegetarian; but a recipe that used a plant as it’s main ingredient.  As such, we are calling this meal, a Plantluck Dinner for a Winter Solstice Celebration Meal.

    The planners for your Plantluck Dinner for a Winter Solstice Celebration Meal:

    Lynn Felici-Galllant
    Indigo gardens

    Kath Gallant/Blue Moon Cafe
    Fan Blue Moon Market & Cafe on

    Teresa O’Connor
    Seasonal Wisdom
    Fan Seasonal Wisdom on

    Helen Yoest
    Gardening With Confidence
    Fan Gardening With Confidence™ on

    Kelly Senser

    Solstice Stuffed Acorn Squash



    4 medium acorn squash, locally harvested if possible

    2 cups Lundberg’s long grain brown rice

    1/3 cup shredded carrots

    1/3 cup minced, dried sweet cranberries

    1/3 cup minced, dried sweet apricots

    1/3 cup whole, hulled pumpkin seeds

    1/3 cup minced red onion

    1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

    3 tablespoons maple syrup

    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

    3/4 teaspoon salt

    1/4 teaspoon black pepper

    4 tablespoons chopped parsley

    2 tablespoons chopped mint

    Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut the top ¼ of the acorn squash, and remove all seeds. Place the squash and the tops face down in a roasting pan. Add ½ cup of water and cover loosely with foil. Bake at 350° F for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the squash is soft to the touch. Set aside.

    Meanwhile, blend 2 cups of Lundberg’s long grain brown rice with 4 cups of water and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 50 minutes. When the rice is tender, drain and pour it into a large bowl and allow it to cool. When cool, add the carrots, cranberries, apricots, pumpkin seeds, red onion and 2 tablespoons of parsley.

    Whisk together balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, mint, pepper, remaining salt and remaining parsley. Toss with the rice and fruit medley. Fill each acorn squash and enjoy!

    Lynn Felici-Gallant and Kath Gallant

    Recipe by Kath Gallant, Chef and Proprietor of the Blue Moon Café, Exeter, N.H.

    About Kath & the Blue Moon Café:

    For nearly 15 years, Kath Gallant has nurtured the New Hampshire community through the Blue Moon Café in Exeter. The award-winning café serves creative, abundant cuisine, and is committed to earth-wise education about food and wellness. When not in the kitchen, Kath tends a 2000 square-foot organic vegetable, herb and flower garden that supplies fresh fare to the café, and is presently at work with her sister-in-law, garden designer and writer Lynn Felici-Gallant, on the café’s first (and much-requested!) cookbook.

    Today, Kath and Lynn are serving up Solstice Stuffed Acorn Squash.  “I love this dish, especially at the holidays. The natural shades of the rice accented with the vibrant jewel-toned cranberries and apricots served in a savory squash reflect the colors and the spirit of the season,” says Kath.

    This dish will be on my Solstice celebration table.  “Rice and fruit-filled acorn squash is my favorite of Kath’s recipes from Blue Moon. It is at once healthful and beautiful, and the combination of flavors, fragrance and textures satisfies all of my senses,” says Lynn.

    Seasonal Wisdom’s Kale with Feta and Bacon

    Here’s a tasty way to eat more healthy winter greens.  This recipe combines nutritious kale with bacon and goat cheese to create a delicious dish your entire family will enjoy.

    Lucky for us, kale grows well in winter in many places, and it’s hard to beat this green’s high nutritional content.  Kale is simply loaded with vitamins A and C, not to mention B vitamins, calcium and other minerals.  At our house, we make this dish whenever nutritious comfort food is needed on a cold, winter night.


    3 slices of bacon or vegetarian-style bacon (preferably organic, local or sustainably raised)

    1 bunch of kale leaves, chopped

    1/3 cup of chopped red peppers (I use frozen peppers from my garden)

    1 medium sized onion

    1-2 cloves garlic

    2/3 cup of vegetable broth

    1/4 cup of dry white wine

    1-2 tablespoons of feta cheese

    1 tsp of Dijon style mustard

    1 tsp fresh thyme (1/2 tsp of dried thyme)

    1 tsp fresh rosemary (1/2 tsp of dried rosemary)

    Pinch of cayenne

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Fry bacon until crisp. Place cooked bacon on paper towels to drain. In remaining bacon fat, sauté garlic and onions in cooking pan at medium heat until onions are translucent. (If using vegetarian-style bacon, add olive oil while cooking bacon and also while cooking onions.) Then, add red peppers and cook a minute or so to soften.

    Add herbs, mustard, broth, white wine, and salt and pepper.  Stir to mix well.

    Then add chopped kale and stir well. Cover pan and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. A few minutes before done, add feta and stir well. Serve warm.

    This recipe makes a yummy side dish.  But these greens also make a great quiche:  simply add a cup of milk or almond milk; 3/4 cup of shredded cheese; and three eggs to the above recipe. Pour mixture into uncooked pie crust and bake at 375° F for 35-40 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when a toothpick stuck in the center of the quiche comes out clean. Let it sit a few minutes before serving.

    Teresa O'Connor Seasonal Wisdom

    About the Author: Teresa O’Connor (aka @SeasonalWisdom on Twitter) writes about gardening, local foods and seasonal folklore for online and print publications as well as on her blog

    Teresa co-authored “Grocery Gardening: Planting, Preparing and Preserving Fresh Foods,” (Cool Springs Press) – coming out in January 2010 – where she reported on  nutritional research about produce, and provided tips for purchasing fresh foods locally.

    GWC’s Sweet Potato Casserole


    6 Sweet Potatoes

    Bag of mini-marshmallows

    Some butter – optional – I happen to put butter in everything

    Some brown sugar – I used 1/4 cup

    Proportions can change depending on  your preference.  Add more or less of any ingredient to suit your taste

    Boil potatoes with skins on.  Can be boiled a day in advance.  When done (when a knife easily enters the potato) let cool.

    After the sweet potatoes have cooled enough to handle, remove the skins.  At this point, the skin will just slide off.

    Pre-heat oven to 350° F

    Place ingredients directly into an oven proof dish.

    Chop or mash the sweet potatoes with a folk.

    Sprinkle brown sugar over top

    Sprinkle 3/4 mini-marshmallows over top

    Dot with butter (if desired)

    Mix all together

    Cook at 350° F for about a half hour or until heated through.

    Add the reminder of the mini-marshmallows on top for garnish.

    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

    Recipe for Apple Crumb Pie

    Crust (if you don’t already have a favorite of your own):


    1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon margarine

    1 cup flour

    1/4  teaspoon salt

    2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

    Step 1: Using a fork, cut margarine into flour and salt (already in bowl); combine until particles are about the size of small peas.

    Step 2: Add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until the flour mixture is moistened and dough almost cleans the side of bowl.

    Step 3: Gather dough into a ball and place on lightly floured surface. Using floured rolling-pin, roll dough until it’s about 2 inches larger than inverted pie plate.

    Step 4: Fold dough into fourths; place in pie plate.

    Step 5: Unfold and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side.

    Step 6: Decorate edge as you deem fit. I use my fingers to create wave pattern (image 4). Note: I actually use both hands, but I needed one to snap the photo. :0)

    Pie filling:


    4 or 5 golden delicious apples (or your favorite baking apple)

    1/2 cup sugar

    1 teaspoon cinnamon

    Step 7: Peel and slice apples, then place inside crust

    Step 8: Mix sugar with the cinnamon. Sprinkle over the apples.

    Step 9: Mix all ingredients together until moist and crumbly. Place on top of the apples.

    Crumb topping:


    1/2 cup sugar

    3/4 cup flour

    1/3 cup butter (margarine may also be substituted)

    Step 10: Bake pie at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, until edges are lightly browned.


    While I bake this pie for various occasions, it’s a family tradition to present this dessert—warm from the oven—to each child’s teacher during appreciation week in May. We draft a poem to go along with it, which typically begins something like this: “An apple for the teacher is a customary treat/So we baked you a pie to let you know you’re sweet …” Fun for all!

    Kelly Senser is a nature-loving mom who enjoys wildlife gardening and outdoor play. She’s a senior associate editor at National Wildlife magazine. Follow Kelly on Twitter @klsnature.

    I hope you enjoyed our Plantluck Dinner – Winter Solstice Celebration Meal.  A meal sure to please all of us looking who are forward to longer days!

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