Parc de Buttes Chaumont

Paris has many beautiful parks and gardens.

A couple of years ago, we took a week in May to visit Paris and London.  No trip would be complete without outdoor time — which often includes a park, arboretum or garden.  On this trip, we took a Metro ride to the 19th arondissement, to the Parc de Buttes Chaumont.

It was lovely — a mix of things to see and spaces to explore. Some manicured, some wild. Despite its large scale, each spot still felt small and intimate enough to enjoy.

Worth a visit!

Under the wire

It’s been a beautiful Fall — the weather has been slow to turn cooler, the leaves slow to turn color, gradually revealing their vibrant hues.

The milder weather has allowed me to extend some seasonal tasks a bit, such as transplanting perennials and planting bulbs. Most were planted a couple of weeks ago, and I finished up the job today.

There’s not much room for anything new in our garden at this point. But the disruption of the front beds for our home improvement work allowed me to replant some favorite bulbs – chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow) and a white tulip, “Spring Green.” It looks pretty with hostas and other emerging greens around it, and adds subtle coolness among so many bright spring shrubs and flowers.

I also transplanted some grape hyacinths that were tucked way back in a side bed.  The Winterberry Holly had grown high and wide in front of them. Because of their detail and size they’re best displayed up close, so a move up to the front was in order. Their thin, strappy leaves emerge at this time of year, making them easy to identify for transplanting.  What  will follow is a display of small, beautiful blue flowers in the Spring — like this:

Grape Hyacinth

As I dug into the soft earth next to the house, I suddenly noticed two queen honeybees.  How odd!  They looked stunned, drunken and slow.  Not what I expected in November. A quick online search revealed that the queens hibernate in soft earth like this. I felt terrible disturbing them. I left them, and when I checked back later, they were gone. I’ve never seen this before. Perhaps it’s due to the unusually warm weather and how late I’m doing this work — normally it would have been done a few weeks ago.

Next, the remaining bulbs went in.  They’re super easy to plant. I think people tend to stress out about amendments and fertilizer. It’s true, if you’ve never gardened or have a new plot post-construction, your soil may need some enrichment. After the construction of the walk was done a few weeks ago, I added a layer of compost-rich soil — but that’s pretty much it, for me.

First, I put in some narcissus — an early variety from the 1940s that may even have been around when our house was built.  I’ve planted them in other areas and enjoy that they’re the first daffodils to appear. They’re at the bottom of the steps, where seeing them poke through the soil or snow in February or March will give me hope, and where they’ll be a welcome sight in bloom from the street or from the steps.


Then, in the back next to our patio, tulipa orphnaida flava.  I’m not usually into warm colors in the garden, but these are petite, wispy tulips. Late blooming.  One year, I combined them with Queen of the Night – example of that in the same bed, below.

TBlack Emperor Tulip  Tulip “Queen of the  Night”

It was a surprisingly pretty combination, and actually quite muted. It would have been nice to replicate this if I had the time — I’ll have to see if any of the local garden centers have any of these bulbs left tomorrow. In any event, these little bulbs looked interesting on our bluestone patio, before they were tucked into the ground.


It’s the refresh the garden needs.  Most importantly, it will provide a pleasant surprise in spring, when we’re longing for color and a pretty view from our windows. Until then, we’ll enjoy the slow turning of the seasons, keep raking the leaves, and await the restful sleep of the garden under an eventual snow.


Today’s website recommendation: Turning Earth.  It’s been around a while and provided early inspiration when we first started our garden here in this house.  It still inspires!

Absolutely no relationship to the season

Fall is bulb planting time — and spring planning time.  So I’ll offer a few photos of different spring and summer plants as thought starters.


Hostas under a Japanese maple — classic combo for that shady spot.


This lovely double wild daylily is from a dear friend and neighbor.  Adds a nice accent of hot color in the mid-summer slump.


An azalea that I picked up at the arboreteum annual plant sale. Haven’t seen this variety since.

Let photos and memories of your favorite season inpsire your planting plans.  Happy gardening!

Fall Feasts

It finally feels like fall!  Hooray!

This is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.  No, M. didn’t mention it (for once!), but anybody who is Canadian living in the U.S. has mentioned it this weekend. They celebrate at the right time for harvest.  Our U.S. Thanksgiving is great, but a little late to be a harvest celebration.

The garden is still giving us enough for our own feast.  It makes me so happy to see how well the first season in this new plot went.  Each weekend we’ve had such a nice array of fresh veggies, herbs and flowers to grace our table.  Today’s visit: more beautiful golden tomatoes, the last of the basil, small “baby” dill, gorgeous-smelling thyme, a few peppers, the new little kale shoots, chard. Plus these lovely Montauk Daisies.  Such a great way to remember and honor my dad, who rustled some cuttings on his daily run and rooted them for me. They’re huge now.  They seem to like the sunny community garden vs. the shadier home environment.  Makes sense — Dad lived at the beach in his retirement and as the name suggests, they’re from a sunnier climate.

bee montauk daisy get planting

Speaking of feasts, check out this photo of the bee on one of the daisies.  You can see the little pollen sacs on each side — the little guy’s getting ready for his own bee feast.

If you’ve never tried growing a vegetable or herb, why not give it a whirl? It’s fun and easy, and you always put your garden in pots on your patio if you don’t have space.

That was then, this is now

Some thoughts for for a new gardener:

Keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I received a wonderful garden journal as a gift, and it has provided insights, occasional entertainment, and perspective. I go through spells when I use it, and long stretches where I don’t.  But it can be helpful to read about past gardening challenges, weather patterns and their effect, or which plants flourished and which failed. It also helps keep an inventory of what you planted, when, and where.

Journaling can be done with photos. Compare the photos below from two summers: 2005 and 2015. This was a bed I would tweak endlessly in the early years, when I was a new gardner.  Straight lines evolved to curves.  Time can help, or it can get away from you — then you realize how much things have grown and certain plants are “taking over” and getting a run of the place. Photos can show you the plain truth.

Side bed 2005 summer   


Another great piece of advice I received:  Start with good foundation plants — these are  plants that add “bones” to your garden, winter, spring, summer and fall.  It’s harder to retrofit them later.  These sometimes tend to  be larger items within your planting scheme — shrubs, or small trees — so plan enough space for them to grow.

And don’t forget fences and hardscaping as a key part of your design.

Last, but not least:  take time to smell the flowers!

Weekend breakfast

We’ve been fortunate to have a community garden plot up near the Frelinghuysen Arborteum through the Morris County Parks System.  Even though there’s now a community garden within walking distance of our home in town, we don’t want to leave the wonderful community where we’ve been tending our little organic plot for more than a decade.

This year, we were given the opportunity to move to a sunnier location within the garden. Moving a 20 x 20 plot full of plants was a project — especially in the cold, damp early April weather.  But we were greeted with a welcome gift, a nice surprise from the former gardener, who had moved to California over the winter– some asparagus. Not too shabby.

Last weekend, we took home quite a harvest, including carrots and yellow squash  It made for a really nice breakfast this morning.  I simply washed the greens and gently scrubbed the carrots – no peeling necessary, they were so small.  After some fine slicing, these were sauteed with the squash and a bit of olive oil and fresh herbs.  On the other side of the pan, eggs.  Grated some pepper on top, and there was a simple, delicious, one-pan meal. You could grate a little cheese and add toast, if you wished.

What could be an easier, prettier dish on a Saturday morning? Colorful, fresh, flavorful… and maybe even healthy. You could exchange other fresh green for the carrot fronds – spinach, kale, chard or beet greens. Why not give it a try?

Speaking of great food, there are so many inspiring sites! Turntable Kitchen is a recent fave. Food and music, what could be better?  Their savory rye waffles are the great base for a Sunday morning breakfast. I have also long been a fan of Zoe Francois.  Zoe Bakes is always inspiring. And Will Cook for Friends is both yummy and gorgeous — her food photography is amazing.

New discoveries

Better half is working late (NYC agency life), so what better way to pass the time than take in the garden — and a glass of wine — from our porch?  Took a quick walk around with hose in hand, and noticed some promising, yet not-so-typical things:

The oak leaf hydrangea, which had grown large over the years, suffered an unusual dieback this past winter. I’ve seen this with the macrophylla variety, but not with something woody like this. I did a dramatic pruning in late spring and it has finally done something I had only read about:  grown shoots all around the main plant. Nothing to look at, so no photos, but it gave me hope!  Pruning directed the energy to the good stems and this renewal.

The inkberry hollies, which are kind of loose looking by nature, have become huge this year. This is also kind of unusual, especially as they’ve taken a beating under snow and ice these past two years. I don’t think they can be shaped, so turning around what to do with them in my head. When all else fails, leave as-is.

My stepdad shared an old gardening adage with me long ago that has proven to be a gardening truth:  The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps.

The hollies have been in for donkey’s ages, but they’ve finally leaped.


This blog is dedicated to people who are interested in gardening, so I really must provide some inspiring and practical advice. Next time!  Happy gardening, L.







Okay, just in case you think this is all about putting a bunch of stuff in the ground and seeing what happens, it’s not.  It’s not about digging in the dirt, buying a carload of annuals from the garden center (inspired by those ads that promise “lots of color!”), or adding everything you see or want.

It’s about design.

Well, yeah

It’s what makes this fun – or a big part of it. What other creative endeavor grows and changes with time?  How the planting relates to the structures around it — and the ways in which you use the space — makes it even more interesting.