Category Archives: Ready, Set, Grow

Trending: Fall Inspires a Moody Garden Color Palette

Garden designers enjoy watching fashion color trends to see what consumers will be wearing and to see if they will extend this palette outdoors.

Pantone, a global authority on color, recently surveyed the designers of New York Fashion Week to report on the latest color trends.

pantone fall 2013 colors

Pantone Fashion Color Report Fall 2013


This season, designers express the many moods of fall with what they are describing as “sophisticated and structured to lively and vivid” colors.

Emerald continues to sparkle, while yellow-toned Linden Green brings lightness and brightness to deeper shades; Deep Lichen Green anchors the greens. Mikonos Blue is a bold, meditative blue, while Acai adds mystery and richness to the palette with its deeper bluish-purple tone.

As for the warmer colors, Samba red brings drama, Koi brings a decorative orange and Vivacious throws in a wild, deep fuchsia.

Rounding out the fall palette are Turbulence, a dark blue-gray, and Carafe, a rich brown.

Give customers a taste of the season by incorporating these colors into your landscape designs.

Read more in the Landscape Insider e-newsletter!

The Top 10 Best Cities for Urban Gardening

Washington, D.C., tops the list of “Best Cities for Urban Gardening,” according to a new study by financial literacy and consumer advocacy website NerdWallet.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

Las Vegas; Phoenix; Seattle and Sacramento, Calif., round out the top five cities, respectively.

“Urban gardening has really taken off,” says Divya Raghavan, NerdWallet analyst. “Cities are cultivating green space to balance harsher urban areas. Some cities are really putting a high value on gardens and green space.”


Washington, D.C., spends $179 per resident on parks and recreation—the most by any of the cities surveyed—and offers 27 garden plots per 10,000 people.


When looking at the top 10 cities, the list includes Fresno, Calif., in sixth place; Tucson, Ariz., in seventh; Milwaukee in eighth; El Paso, Texas, in ninth; and Denver at No. 10.

Read more in the Landscape Insider e-newsletter!

The Early Bird…

I admit it: I am an early holiday shopper.

I love getting my shopping done ahead of time so I can enjoy the holidays with my family. It’s an addiction. And, each year, I nag my friends and family members to give me their lists so I know what they want. This year, we actually started talking about it around Halloween. (I know – WAY too early!)

And I’m not alone. The stores are also decking the halls earlier and earlier each year. Target Corp. rolled out its first holiday ad on Oct. 15 – three weeks earlier than its traditional November kickoff and six weeks before Thanksgiving. The company also announced it will match Amazon’s holiday prices to prevent “showrooming,” or the trend where shoppers check prices inside stores and then order the same products at cheaper prices from online retailers.

Jeff Green, president of Phoenix-based Jeff Green Partners retail consultancy, predicts consumers who are tired of political commercials are welcoming the early holiday ads. With Black Friday sales specials being leaked early as well, Green forecasts a 3 to 5 percent increase in holiday spending this year.

To remain competitive and capture early shoppers, retail shopping analysts recommend landscape and garden professionals start advertising their winter services and holiday products and specials as early as possible this year.

For those eager to maximize their holiday profits – and shopping – it seems the best example to follow is that of the early bird … and we all know how well it turned out for him.

Centerpieces Good Enough to Eat

Lately, cucumbers, cantaloupes and tomatoes have been lining my windowsills and countertops faster than my family can eat them. As I harvest fruit and vegetables and schedule late summer dinner parties and get-togethers, I put my fresh garden goods to better use as centerpieces. Not only are they fresh as cut flowers, but they also bring an unexpected pop of color to my tables.

Tomatoes make a colorful centerpiece.

Tomatoes make a colorful centerpiece.

A cantaloupe, some cucumbers and avocado (all from my garden except for the avocado) make an unusual, yet colorful centerpiece.

A cantaloupe, some cucumbers and avocado (all from my garden except for the avocado) make an unusual and interesting centerpiece.

Tomatoes on My Windowsill

“Tomatoes on my windowsill lined up like happy soldiers.

From pale green as key lime pie to red as sunburned shoulders.

They seem to smile at the sun while they patiently a-ripen.

And when I do my kitchen chores, I smile back enlightened.” - Robin Benzle

Tomatoes on my windowsill.

‘Snow White’ & the Gardener

Once upon a time in the middle of summer, when the rays of sun were glistening like white and golden crystal dew drops on grass blades, a gardener sat on a bench looking at her garden bed. She thought to herself, “Would that I had cherry tomatoes white and golden as shimmering dew drops and sweet as sunny days.”

Soon after that she planted a tomato that ripened lemony white on strong, green vines with a taste as sweet as sugar.

'Snow White' tomatoes ripen to a pale yellow. Plants perform best if staked.

‘Snow White’ tomatoes ripen to a pale yellow. Plants perform best if staked.

From then on the gardener enjoyed salads more colorful than rainbows, and she lived happily ever after.

'Snow White' tomatoes have a sweet, fruity flavor.

‘Snow White’ tomatoes have a sweet, fruity flavor.

Red, yellow and white cherry tomatoes make a colorful salad.

Red, yellow and white cherry tomatoes make a colorful salad.

So Fresh & So Green

Sweet and lemon basil.

Sweet and lemon basil.

Basil always explodes in my garden. It’s one of those never-fail herbs that can be clipped whenever needed for a quick recipe or to whip up a fresh Caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes from the garden – yum! This year, I planted both sweet and lemon basil, and I was determined to make a mixed basil pesto with the harvest.

Lemon basil in a cool water bath after blanching.

Lemon basil in a cool water bath after blanching.

As with anything freshly made without preservatives, pesto starts out a bright green shade but then can turn brown fairly quickly. Recently, my mom shared a tip: Blanch the basil first before mixing to help the pesto retain its vibrant emerald color. While it’s an extra step, it’s worth it to make a pesto that looks as good as it tastes. Plus, blanching the basil – I blanched lemon and sweet basil separately – made my kitchen smell wonderful!


  • 1 cup lemon basil
  • 1 cup sweet basil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ½ – ¾ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil – in my batch I only needed about 1 tablespoon
  • ½ cup Italian parsley
  • Salt & pepper to taste


Fresh pesto blended.

Fresh pesto blended.

Blanch the basil in boiling water for approximately four minutes. Put into an ice water bath to cool. Then put through a salad spinner to drain water and lay out on paper towels to dry/drain water for another hour or two. Press another layer of paper towels over basil to squeeze out any excess water. Blend garlic, pine nuts, cheese, a large bunch of herbs and a little pepper in a food processer. Add remaining herbs one bunch at a time, scraping the edges of the bowl and blending until each addition is finely chopped. With blender running, add oil and blend until desired consistency. Add salt to taste if necessary.

Since I blanched the basil first, and it’s hard to completely dry, the slightly damp basil added a little more water to the recipe requiring less oil to achieve my desired consistency. I also cut back on cheese and olive oil since I’m on a health kick and believe with this recipe you can get the flavors you want without adding all the additional calories.

Pesto can also be frozen for three months, according to Gourmet magazine. They recommend sealing it in plastic freezer bags and pressing out excess air for best results. I’ll be trying that this fall with my remaining basil harvest.

Enjoy this pesto on chicken, pasta or toast!

Peach & Tomato Gazpacho = Ultimate Summer Treat

Eating tomatoes in the summer is like biting into sunshine – warm, juicy bursts of bright. What’s even better is tomato plants require little space, are fairly easy to maintain and yield approximately 10 to 15 pounds  of fruit, according to the Clemson Extension Home & Garden Center.

My daughter, Sylvie, with some of my Early Girl tomatoes.

My daughter, Sylvie, with some of my Early Girl tomatoes.

But, as Harry Connick, Jr. croons, some gardeners have different views on not only how to pronounce this fruit’s name but how to handle the bittersweet feelings that come with this low-maintenance, high-production treat. Though families love the taste of fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes, sometimes they run out of ideas on how to consume them as red globes quickly fill up windowsills and countertops.

Wondering what you can do with your large cache of tomatoes? Worried that a fruit overload could invade your kitchen and inspire an Attack of the Killer Tomatoes sequel? Don’t panic. Here’s a recipe I recently tried from Gourmet that not only turns your excess crop into a delectable dish but also uses other herbs and fruit from your garden.

Peach & Tomato Gazpacho

Chopped up peaches and tomatoes

The most time consuming part of this recipe was chopping up the fruit.


  • 1 1/2 lb tomatoes, chopped (4 cups)
  • 1 lb peaches, pitted and chopped (2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup crushed ice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallot (1 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water


Peach & tomato gazpacho ingredients ready for blending.

Peach & tomato gazpacho ingredients ready for blending.

Purée two thirds of tomatoes and half of peaches with ice, shallot, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 2 teaspoons tarragon, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a blender until very smooth, about 1 minute. Force through a medium-mesh sieve into a large glass measure, discarding solids (I skipped this step). Stir in water to desired consistency.

Toss together remaining tomatoes and peaches with remaining tablespoon oil, remaining 1/2 tablespoon vinegar, remaining teaspoon tarragon, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl. Serve soup in bowls topped with tomato peach salsa. Makes four servings. Total time to prepare: 20 minutes.

I used fresh tomatoes and tarragon from the garden and store bought peaches, but there are a few farms around here advertising pick-your-own peaches, so I’m going to try fresh peaches next. The ice in the recipe gives the soup a nice chill if you don’t have time to refrigerate. I served this dish as an appetizer before fish tacos one weekend and guests loved it. The leftovers tasted even better the next day after the flavors had more time to mesh. This dish tastes like pure summer in a bowl!

Little Miss Sunshine

I have lots of little bits of low-maintenance sunshine blooming this summer in one of my front beds courtesy of a StoryBook® rose variety called ‘Sundance Kid.’

Full creamy canary 'Sundance Kid' blooms

Full creamy canary ‘Sundance Kid’ blooms.

The blooms are dainty and delicate with an almost old rose quality, but tough as the Sundance Kid himself, offering just the sort of bloom power I was looking for in such a sweet and petite rose.

These sunny little blossoms begin as apricot buds. As they open, they blush peach and then erupt fully the color of soft, rich butter.

The peach blush fading as the yellow blossom begins to bloom.

The peach blush fading as the yellow blossom begins to bloom.

‘Sundance Kid’ is from All American Daylillies & Perennials’ Gardens of Glory collection, and are said to be highly disease resistance, heat tolerant and cold hardy. So far, these compact shrubs (15 to 28 inches) are holding up extremely well in Ohio’s intense heat and drought. The shrubs are also said to do well in all zones and need little pruning.

This “once upon a time” has certainly turned into a “happily ever after” for this gardener.

The Girl & The ‘Fairy Tale’ Eggplant

There once was a girl with a garden full of glorious sun. She struggled with what to do with this space that soaked in the rays and the heat – a challenging spot for more delicate plants, especially during a record-breaking summer drought.

A couple of leftover tomato plants thrived in the space last year and that gave the girl an idea. She would widen the bed and turn the 30-feet-by-6-feet into a haven for fruits and vegetables. Nestled by her home, it seemed the perfect fit for tomatoes and other sun-loving goodies she could feed her family.

In addition to a few plants she had grown in the past, this fresh bed gave her the chance to try some new things, including eggplant. She planted a variety called ‘Fairy Tale,’ an All-American Selections winner that promised to produce miniature eggplants in striking violet and cream stripes.

Lavender flowers grow into rich violet and cream jems.

Lavender flowers grow into rich violet and cream jems on ‘Fairy Tale’ eggplant.

To her delight, the plant grew well in her new garden, producing lovely lavender flowers that turned into 4-inch marbled violet delicacies – the perfect “finger food” for her children to admire (both in the garden and at the dinner table).

Not only were these jewels beautiful, but they were ready to pick in approximately 50 or so days, so they could be enjoyed sooner than traditional eggplant varieties.

'Fairy Tale' eggplant in all its 4-inch cream-and-violet-striped glory.

‘Fairy Tale’ eggplant in all its 4-inch cream-and-violet-striped glory.

Ah, the joys of choosing a few tender violet fruits in July and grilling them up with a little oil, salt and pepper! This simple recipe seemed to  highlight their sweetness and deliciousness best.

While this tale my have no dragons or knights or epic battles, it does have a little love story. The girl discovered a bewitching, plump, plum-colored fruit she can enjoy straight from her garden all summer long.

'Fairy Tale' eggplant - ready to slice, toss with oil, salt and pepper and grill for the perfect summer treat.

‘Fairy Tale’ eggplant – ready to slice, toss with oil, salt and pepper and grill for the perfect summer treat.

The girl’s only regret: Not planting these ‘Fairy Tales’ along the edge of her garden bed (instead of toward the back) so their dreamy petals that turn into jewel-toned fingers can transform her garden into a space truly fit for fairies and kings.