Here, Near the Corner of Deertrack Lane and Whitetail Road

Our deer fencing and compost heaps made it to the New York Times.

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The Most Colorful Day of the Year

Sometimes we feel so lucky to live in this beautiful spot only 35 minutes north of Grand Central Terminal.fall-2016

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Climate Change = More Color

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It’s Not Tough to Make a Trough Garden

It just takes a little patience.

The Garden Club of Irvington is having a flower and plant show next May and I’ve entered the category called “Alpine Garden Troughs or Containers: A collection of three or more of the following plants:Alpine species or cultivars, dwarf conifers. and/or succulents in a container not to exceed 18″ in any dimension. Entries must have been owned and grown by the exhibitor for a minimum of six months. Containers will be viewed from all sides.”

Time to get to work.

3-bonsaijack-amazonIn June, I took cuttings from my daughter-in-law’s rooftop succulent collection in San Francisco.

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In August, I found the right container at the Laurel Group Home and Garden Shop and the right, fast-draining succulent growing medium on Amazon.

A few weeks ago, I removed all the cuttings, which by then had rooted, from the containers where they’d been growing.

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I assembled them in the square container, being careful not to damage the leaves and spikes.

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They’ve been at home on the deck ever since, watched over by Buddha. When I know it’s going to rain hard, like yesterday, I move the container from its sunny spot to a protected location.

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Here’s what the container looks like today.

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It has until the beginning of May to mature, and can be touched up on the day before the show judging, as long as I use plants that I’ve owned for six months, like one of those blue chalk fingers (Senecio vitalis “Serpents”) I’ve been propagating. I hope the donkey tail (Sedum morganianum) and string of pearls (Senecia rowleyanus) go crazy and trail down the sides. Like all plants, they have minds of their own. We shall see.

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Propagate your Plants!

This is the big clean-up season before winter sets in. We’re all raking leaves, cutting back perennials, cleaning pots and tools and putting them away until next spring, and tossing out annuals.

But wait, before you toss all the plants that won’t make it through winter’s freezes, especially certain succulents, why not take cuttings and pot them up for next spring? You can make lots of rooted cuttings from overgrown, leggy succulents.

Here’s how to do it:
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Line up a bunch of small clean florists’ pots. Fill them with seed-starting mix, available at any nursery. I make my own from 50% vermiculite, 50% sifted compost from the garden, and a little perlite. It’s not sterile, but it works fine. Poke a 1″ deep hole in the center with a pencil.

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Clip approximately 4″ to 6″ off the best-looking stems of your succulents. This one is blue chalk fingers (Senecio vitalis “Serpents”), which is hardy in warm climates. I bought one small plant more than five years ago and it has dozens and dozens of great-great-great grandchildren.

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Remove the bottom leaves. At the bottom end, strip off about 1/2″ of the outer skin with your thumbnail and dip it in rooting hormone powder (a tiny bottle has lasted me for years). Set the end into the hole in the seed-starting mix. Tamp the mix around the stem so the cutting stands up straight. Water gently.

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Keep your cuttings in a sunny spot outdoors until the temperature drops below 40 degrees (like tonight—it feels like a mini-hurricane out there). Bring them indoors to a bright windowsill and let them grow over the winter, watering once a week or when the mix feels very dry. In the spring, add the now-rooted cuttings to your mixed arrangements or pot them up into larger containers and let them shine on their own. The ones you don’t have space for make great gifts.

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Above is last years crop and here are two containers I’ve filled with succulents grown from cuttings. If you like to grow Hens and Chicks, Sempervivum (which means ‘live forever’) tectorum, you can remove the baby chicks, keeping a bit of root attached, and repot them, as I’ve done in the strawberry pot. Every trip to Mexico means bringing home at least one pot in my suitcase, protected by the laundry.

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Stop and Smell the Roses

On the way back to the subway from a client meeting yesterday I tiptoed into Bloomingdale’s. I didn’t get any farther than the main entrance, where this arrangement welcomed me, knocked my briefcase and umbrella out of my hand, and got my phone out taking pictures.

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The arrangement is awe-inspiringly perfect in every detail.

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When I got home I tried a number of filters on Prisma, the phone app photo filter that imitates the style of famous artists. This is one of my favorites.

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The Container [and Much More] Store

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When I left San Francisco last month, my daughter-in-law Yan Zhang gave me one tiny cutting from each of the succulents growing on her rooftop garden. I wrapped them in damp paper towels, stuck them in a baggie, brought them home in my carry-on, and planted them in a shallow terracotta pot. Since then, I’ve been looking in local garden centers for the stone trough that will be their permanent home. Baby Succulents

Driving east along Rte 27 in Water Mill last week, I spotted a place that promised to have just that. A quick U-turn brought me to The Laurel Group Home and Garden Shop, where I was greeted at the entrance by an inspirational collection of miniature desert landscapes in troughs. (There’s a trough category in our Garden Club’s flower show coming up next spring, and I’d love to be able to produce a respectable entry.)

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Outside the shop, outdoor room settings beckon and containers of every size and shape are helpfully grouped by color.

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Big, beautiful, but not what I need right now. What would await me inside?

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Indoor garden rooms, furnishings and accessories… and lots and lots of pots.

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And there, on the floor, was exactly what I was looking for, the square trough underneath the round one. It’s made of “Fiber Cement,” a material that looks like stone but weighs 7 lbs, not the 30 lbs or more a cast concrete trough of that size would weigh.

The Laurel Group specializes in large residential and commercial landscape projects, but the manager who assisted me, Jackie Fagereng, was delightfully helpful with my one small purchase.

Next up… planting the container.

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