My Nightmare Before Christmas


It’s official.  I’m old.

Although 50 is around the corner; although I wince each time I hear ‘80s music on an oldies-but-goodies radio station; and although the sunlight reflecting off of the grays and silvers in my hair causes a halo effect — I never considered myself old.

Until I went to the mall to shop for some Christmas gifts for my 12-year-old niece.

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That’s A Wrap!

I hope you don’t mind, but in honor of Thanksgiving, I’m offering some leftovers — in the form of a repost.  I’ve reworked it a bit to make it more palatable, but the gist is the same: a couple of crazy Long Islanders will do just about anything to give their yard a tropical look.  Besides, it’s way to cold and blustery today — too cold to hold the camera to redocument this process.

Enjoy — and fresh material is on its way.

I may be the gardener of the house, but Joe also has his landscape loves.  One of his greatest is palm trees.  His absolute fave is Cocos nucifera, the coconut palm.  If it were up to him, coconut palms would be growing everywhere.  We often joke that he would be to coconut palms what Johnny Appleseed was  to apples — only he would be called Joey Coconuts, which does sound a little — alright, a lot — like a character from “The Sopranos.”

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Bloomin’ Update 17: Anticipation

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “In the Bleak Midwinter,” and my thought was to use it as the basis for a “Bloomin’ Update” post with photos of wintry scenes.  But this winter hasn’t been so bleak.  In fact, it feels more like mid-March than mid-winter.  Perhaps a more appropriate title should be “In the Balmy Midwinter.”

Holly berries.

Hardy Geranium

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Bloomin’ Update 16: Ageless & Evergreen

White Pine

First, let me say that I loathe snow.   My loathing is contingent upon the depth of said white stuff.  The deeper it gets, the loathier I get.  While the weather forecasters have reminded us of this year’s snow deficit, that is of little consolation to me. 

I dislike dressing in layer upon layer just to go outside to get the mail.  The cardiologist has given me strict orders to not even think of shoveling this marshmallow world.  And here on Long Island, we are very often on the cusp of snow and water, which means that a snowy day results in a super-sized slushy.  So, let me say that I will not powder this post with words like fluffy and blanket and sugar.  This will not be an ode to snow.

That, at least, is my first reaction when I see snow.  It isn’t until I really look at snow that I can embrace its wonder, how it blows and drifts and catches on branches.  Snow, I think, makes me appreciate evergreens more than ever. 

My window of awe is a brief one, and this is my moment to enjoy winter white.

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It Might As Well Be Spring

What’s up with Mother Nature?  Has she forgotten to look at the calendar?  It’s January, and she should be full of bitterness and coldness and frigid wickedness.  Instead, it seems Mother Nature is having a bit of hot flash, teasing us with a taste of a spring fling.

That’s why I’m more inclined to envision Mother Nature as Scarlett O’Hara, flitting and flirting her way through the folks at a Twelve Oaks barbecue, while I am one of the admiring suitors gathered around her.  My heart beats with every flutter of her eyelashes.  My pulse races with each giggle of her southern feminine charm.  The temptation is overwhelming.  I so badly want to reach out and grab my rake to clean out the flower beds, to let my fingers sift through the soil, to plant seeds and to nurture them to full growth — and I want to do all of this without the protection of work gloves.  I am hungry to be in the garden.

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Holiday Traditions Yule Love

Photo courtesy of

Traditions are a huge part of Christmas.  To mangle a line from The New York Sun, how dreary would be Christmas if there were no traditions.  It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.  For me, traditions come in many shapes and sizes – from Christmas trees to antique ornaments to home-made cookies.  Growing up, holiday baking was a family activity – Mom made the dough, Dad squeezed it out of the cookie press, my sister and I were in charge of the red and green colored sugars.  Butter cookies were shaped like trees; cream cheese cookies, my favorite, were shaped like wreaths.

With age and lack of time, many traditions either fall by the wayside or become chores that compete with day-to-day life.  It seems with each passing year, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain the spirit of the season.

And it’s when I feel myself slipping into that frame of mind that I return to two of my personal favorite traditions. Continue reading

A Letter to Santa Claus

Dear Santa,

How are things where you are?  I know it’s been a while since I last wrote to you, but I have run out of options and I am turning to you and your elves to make this little gardener’s Christmas wish list become a reality.

I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to keep up with your reading, but a few posts ago, I wrote about the lack of G on HGTV.  Far be it from me to tell  you how to do your job, but you may want to consider a stocking full of coal for the network’s naughty executives.  They have not been kind to the gardening population — and, in fact, they have not responded to my letter requesting more G shows.

But if you would like to avoid coal, might I suggest sprinkling them with some inspiring Christmas magic so they may wake on Christmas morning like a renewed Ebenezer Scrooge?   To help you, here are a few ideas for gardening shows that I, for one, would love to watch on a snowy winter morning.

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Bloomin’ Update 14: The Holly & The Ivy

Like most people at this time of year, I have Christmas carols on the brain.  They’re everywhere: malls, supermarkets, non-stop radio stations — it’s hard not to hum a few bars.  That’s what I’m doing a lot of, especially with “The Holly and the Ivy.”   It’s a moving carol, especially when sung by a choir or by folks dressed up like eskimos. 

In my head, though, the song sounds something like this: “The holly and the ivy. Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmm.”  I don’t really know the words — and this, my fellow holiday revelers, is the reason for this post.  My intention was to locate the lyrics and print them with pictures of, well, holly and ivy.  A simple, no-nonsense post —  until I began the research and uncovered a complicated history of the carol.

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To All The Christmas Trees I’ve Loved Before

Part of the blogging experience is visiting other blogs –  for advice, for ideas, and in the case of this post, for inspiration.  I recently visited Visionary Gleam, where Jim Lewis posted “O Tanenbox, O Tanenbox,” a humorous and poignant look at his family’s Christmas tree tradition and the story of the ornaments. 

I am a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to this most wonderful time of year, a fact that seems to worsen as I age.  Jim’s well-written post, however, has left me thinking.  A lot. 

No matter how cynical I have become, the Christmas tree has always remained my favorite part of the holiday.  Now, as I drive around town and peek into the windows of my neighbors and see their decorated trees, I wonder about their stories – and I reflect on the ghosts of my own Christmas trees past – long past and recent past.

There’s a handwritten sentence in the baby book my mother started for me when I was first born.  There, in her cursive writing, is a brief sentence about the moment when the love affair began:  “2 1/2 years old .  Really knows what it’s all about . . . He says the tree has meatballs and a star.” 

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Not-So-Wordlesss Wednesday: Homecoming


I returned home from my stay in the hospital, feeling much — MUCH — better.  Imagine my surprise when I looked into  the garden and saw all of the terra cotta pots lined up like the upstairs/downstairs servants on “Downton Abbey” greeting the arrival of the lord of the estate.

Actually, I had arranged them before the health hoopla for a post on my love of terracotta.  My idea was to call it a family portrait with some smarmy comment about it beging so hard to get everyone together for a family photo.  But with days and days spent in the hospital, as well as all of the doctors and tests, I had forgotten all about that photo shoot and that post.  Oh, well.  You know what they say about best laid plans.

In any event (and in my own warped mind), it was flattering to think that the terra cotta team thought as much about me as much as I do of them.  I really don’t know where this affection for terra cotta began.  I just know that I like the color, the feel, the texture, the variety, the warmth, the weathered age.  When I see them in the garden, I am reminded of sun-splashed Meditteranean vacations, where whitewashed walls are the perfect backdrop for terra cotta pots overflowing with red geraniums. 

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