Can’t Container Myself

It is time to make a major decision. I had to retire a few large, annual containers last year that I have had for as long as I can remember. Man. Those containers had been many colors, had seen a few porches to call home, were a heck of a bargain, and I was comfortable with them. I knew just how much soil they held. I knew how many plants to get for each container without so much as a second guess. I was acutely aware of how to water the containers for optimal and happy plants. Don’t get me wrong, I am also very excited about adding new containers to my plant scheme. Do I go tall? Do I go metal? Square? Round? Wire and coco lined? So. Many. Options. It’s pretty exciting!

I am trying to decide if I go with new containers, am I ready to go out on a stem and try some new plant combos?!  … Whew! So much change to consider! I’ve had a combo of creeping jenny, purple fountain grass, wave petunias, and ivy geraniums on my mind. I think this combo of plants would be easy enough to care for and would thrive in the south facing area they would call home. Not that I won’t be adding my fave green spikes, impatiens, and million bells in other areas… But I am thinking of this foursome planted up in containers parked in FRONT of Boston Ferns, they will get sun – but a much needed shade break in the afternoon. So much to day dream on … I can’t CONTAIN myself.         So many puns. So little time!

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What are you planting and where this Spring?



To Touch Souls

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa

Why is silence such a staggering, if not authoritative word? To some, winter is the great silence. Some may liken silence to death or sorrow. Alright. I know. I don’t do broody emo posts … but think about it. Silence. Mother Teresa eluded to great things coming from silence. Now. I am not going to argue with the brilliance of Mother Teresa, but I am going to beg a bit of a different point of view. The natural and celestial scenery she describes as existing in silence actually offer me the opportunity to HEAR my favorite symphonies in the entire world.

What do you enjoy hearing in your moments of “silence” in nature? I love working in “silence” to hear birds chirping, water dripping off my freshly watered pots, wind rustling through the plants and trees, swings squeaking in the near distance, freshly baited fish hooks slapping the unrippled water, dogs panting happily … I could go on for ages. But my goodness! I feel so rich in those silent moments.

In the garden, outside in the fresh air – I realize that I am sharing moments that are capable touching the souls of those I love. I consider it a gift to work side by side with my children, free of distractions and external noises that rob us from hearing the beauty of Mother Nature’s symphonies. These moments are tremendously beneficial when teaching children about all of the good that is surrounding us. To give the gift of encouraging curiosity, to help hone in horticultural skills, to assist in how to discover often missed or unseen natural habitats – all done “silently” by virtue of simply providing an OPPORTUNITY and not jam it up with words – WOWZA, that’s something to behold! I want to practice the art of providing a canvas and keeping lips zipped and suggestions stuffed, we don’t offer enough silent canvas moments anymore.

Now that May has literally poured and stormed herself onto the calendars here in my zone 5B gardens, I am greatly looking forward to getting outside and working in the gardens. I have a lot of clean up to do, I leave grasses tall and brown for the winter birds and leaves on top of the landscaping beds to help insulate my perennials from Old Man Winter. But the clean up is a rather fun excursion, I am always tickled when I brush away leaves and say hello once again to my garden treasures that provide beauty all season long. I relish the quiet moments I will spend chop chop chopping away grass reeds and sedum canes. The only thing I am not too keen on is chasing the crazy weeds away from my garden beds, this year they have bounced back with a vigor like I’ve never seen. I suspect our mild winter could be to blame for that.

Here’s to May and all the sounds you can hear in total silence!

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Ahhhh, my sweet and thoughtful and talented friend isnfinally putting her sage and heartfelt thoughts out there for the masses. Don’t miss this.

Life Is Better in Pink

A Beautiful Mind?

Every great story has a great beginning, like “In the Beginning” or “It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of the Times”. My story, well, I can’t even tell you when it started. My story starts everyday. Much like Groundhog Day, but way better. I am not destined to live the same day over and over again until I make the right choice. I am gifted with a new day, new blessings, new challenges, new heartaches, new laughs, new experiences and more opportunities to see God.

I often don’t feel like I take after many people in my family. But I do think I have my grandfathers flair for storytelling. I love to share stories with my friends because it allows me to see the humor in the situation and relax.

Everything about society is against us in that so little that we are…

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Before & After

My sweet and talented and very much so missed friend, Nitty Gritty Dirt Man. How I love your stories.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Man


This post should have been posted weeks ago. My initial plan was to list it as a Wordless Wednesday piece featuring before and after photos of my Florida garden, courtesy of Google maps.

But as I often do for a Wordless Wednesday post, I like to add a few words — only this time, the words were making a wordless post a bit wordier. So Wednesdays came and went, and as I stared at the two photos — the before and after of a landscape — I thought of my own before and after.

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April … The New May?!


Strawberries loaded with blooms
Muscari show is nearly over. Ah, the joys of Spring.
Holy hydrangea! I’m ignoring this plant until it blooms. Don’t want to curse it!
Wild Blue Baptisia, always forgetting if it blooms on old or new wood! Better safe than sorry.
Forget me what?! Love that I tossed these seeds last fall and voila!
Tulips are nearly done after the April showers. Still a treat.



How is Spring shaping up in your neck of the woods? Here is Zone 5b things are up, awake, and BLOOMIN’ in my gardens! Pinch me! I can’t believe what the warm April days and gentle rains have done for all of my favorite, typically too-quickly-fading Spring flowers.

A quick check tonight has left me delighted. Most all of my variegated hostas are up and 75% leafed out. The strawberries are in bloom and setting their first, sweet and juicy fruits. Low and behold – I also saw a columbine with no less than seven buds, days away from opening! What an incredible Spring we are having.

I am holding out hope again this year for a poppy show in my gardens, no luck yet – but I’m a determined little lady. I also went out on a limb and sowed some dahlia seeds, it will be my first time doing so. I am tempted to get out the zinnia seed packets, but I think I will play it safe for a few more weeks, it would break my heart to lose any of my precious rays of summer delight!

Hope you enjoyed a glimpse at what I saw walking through my gardens this evening as the birds hunted worms and I enjoyed the one-of-a-kind scent of freshly cut grass. As you see, I haven’t even been brave enough to pull all the leaves back from my plants yet! Did you hold onto your hats – Could you believe the shot of the {{gasps}} HYDRANGEA that I managed to winter over. Hip hip HOORAY! Sure does feel like May, how about in your gardens?



Give Peas a Chance!

All we are saying … Is give peace (errrr) PEAS a chance!!

Did you have hail, ice, or snow in your garden last week?! It’s as though Mothee Nature threw herself a bit of a temper tantrum. Hard to believe more than a third of us had all three of those elements in our gardens, all in the same day, all in the first week of April!

I am most reluctant to buy annuals for containers this early, but I am most content with my last minute scrambles to sow more poppy and sweet pea seeds. I am on a mission. {cue the theme music to Mission Impossible}

There are 3 flowers I cannot get enough of:

Sweet peas. Poppies. Ranunculus. It is my mission to have poppies and sweet peas. This year. The ranunculus, I will most likely buy a clutch a few times and enjoy in a vase in the house. In my gardens though? Yes. It IS my year to shine! I’ve read many an article on poppies. I’ve decided to treat them like I did cosmos when I finally got them right, plant in cruddy soil, ignore, enjoy, self sow and repeat. Total joy. I’ve tried a million ways, sooner or later the poppy fairy has to come visit me – right?! But alas. Sweet peas. Let’s dig in there.imageDo you grow sweet peas? I am hearing a lot of my garden friends talk about the challenges and winning moments of those precious sweet peas. I am also very happy to hear other gardeners say “wow. Took me a few years to get it right!”

One of the most important revelations I made this year is that I typically plant sweet peas FAR too late. Hello. Get thee into the garden, Helen! It just feels so funky pushing snow aside to sow seeds. I’d just as soon not have to plant in the snow, feels weird. Mud is clumpy. No birds chirping and worm hunting. No confidence in sticking seeds in the ground when it’s FREEZING! Feels so wrong. But I am complying. I am crossing my clumpy mud covered fingers. I am super stoked to get a chance at some sweet pea madness!imageWhat are you top three fussy flowers that you covet for your gardens?


Good Grief a Garden Giveaway!

Time is ticking on the clock …

You have until 12am tonight to enter for a spectacular #giveaway from Botanical Interests!

I have won the best prize by being able to share with all of YOU the opportunity to win 1 of 4 prize boxes from the lovely and talent folks at Botanical Interest. Don’t forget to check out their gorgeous website here !

How do you enter?

Twitter: Follow Botanical Interest (@BotanicalSeeds) and I (@HandyHelen) Twitter


Instagram: Follow  @botanical_interests   and @handyhelen

OR Share a post on Facebook and make sure to use the hashtag! Then share the photo below OR one of your faves that you have grown from Botanical Interests and make sure to include the hashtag #HandyBotanicalSeeds16 !

Do you have any faves that you grow from Botanical Interests?

4 winners will be drawn at random and announced tomorrow 3-4-16

Valid for US residents only.


What’s Growing On?

imageNot much has happened in Zone 5b Indiana this year. Not much snow, not much sunshine, not much rain. Have you had a winter like this?

The not-so-much winter has made me have cabin fever more than normal. I love snow! I love sunshine! I love having 4 seasons. I don’t like the dull drums of boring muddy winter.

I did a tap dance the other day when I arrived home from work and saw my summer grass plumes and conifers covered in a sticky snow. Wahoo! Signs of winter. The ground and trees took a pretty, soft shape! I had to snap and share the moment. After all, it was a fleeting moment … The groundhog says spring isn’t too far away!


October’s A Treat!

Trick or Treat

Smell my Feet

My Garden Still Has Goodies to Eat!

I cannot believe that it is the last week of October and there is still harvesting to be done! This may be the most fruitful month my garden had all season! A rainy, rainy season and some learning pains with blight & monster-mint led to a somewhat quiet garden yield this year.

How do you take your garden lumps?

I take mine with a heaping order of Google and Twitter! Thanks to modern technology and social media, I have learned to take less-than-ideal garden losses in stride. I have discovered a generous gardening community willing to share experience and knowledge this year in two specific areas: 


I wasn’t very pleased to lose an entire bed to over-zealous spearmint in my garden. But, I have learned not to grow mint directly in the ground in my zone 5B garden (unless I want to try to be a commercial grower of the stuff – and ummm, that’s a no). Ok. So. Mint in containers – check.

Blight. Really? This is one I have heard about, patted shoulders for other sufferers, and not ever experienced. Now that I have – I am well prepared … Wait. The thing about blight is that you cannot prepare. Bummer. Big, bad, blighty bummer. I have however learned more about crop rotation and soil prep. I have been considering a re-do in my raised-bed garden set up. I have decided that there has never been a better time than now. I have some suspect soil that will be covered and treated/watched next year because it was the bed that contained the contaminated tomatoes, and I have also decided that I am going to reconfigure some of my raised beds to mimick a keyhole garden layout. It’s exciting and liberating to change the layout and style of my raised-bed garden. Gardening with cinder blocks is quite enjoyable! So, blight is a nasty, nasty word – but I’m going to beat it by applying some knowledge and changing directions. Blight can bite it? Check.

And how about this October? I can’t believe we are still picking … Strawberries!!! Whoddathunkit? And green peppers? Small, but – hey, who am I to complain? A harvest is a harvest, right?!

What are you still harvesting? We are still harvesting those warm and fuzzy feelings of beautiful zinnias and snapdragons. Blight or mint or rain be darned, we still have evidence of  a good, happy, and beautiful year! 


Week 12 Growing Now 2015! 

Have you been growing along with the weekly garden tour the talented Beth Billstrom of More Than Oregano put together this Spring?

Beth is a gardener, a writer, a photographer, an activate-tionist (I made that word up for her, she encourages and inspires others to activate themselves in their community, and spread that notion onto others, furthering the community  activation cycle!!) AND an artist! Don’t miss out on Beth’s of and her creative and easy to understand gardening experiences! Cheers to #GrowNOW2015 , week 12! 

My flowers have been resting a bit the last few weeks. The weather has turned hot and dry, and the gardens are a little confused. I believe that the tremendous amount of rain we had in June and July spoiled the plants and thusly created a shallow root issue. While this is not a complete devestation as a gardener, it creates an interesting issue this late in the garden game. My large, mature plants in both the ground and containers are very large, but very wimpy as far as their watering needs. I have to keep a close eye on the plants on these hot and sunny days, they require watering very frequently. Are you plants experiencing any spoils of the monsoon start turned hot summer?

Perennial glory continues on. You know what my bestie’s grandma always said about perennials? 

Regarding perennial gardens:

“The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap!” – Glennie


Randomly, the best looking tomatoes of the year are a stealthy patch that volunteered in one of my flower beds. During clean up last year, I laid a pile of garden debris in this flower bed while carrying things to the compost pile. Guess a seed or two made it and surprise! Healthy tomato plants are growing with snap dragons. Go figure!  

I will be gently weeding around this hydrangea bush. I really just do not want to go near it, it is happy and blooming and in five years of zero hydrangea luck – this is a major win. I feel like if I look at this bush and the equally lovely companion growing next to it, that I will jinx their happiness! The limelight hydrangea that is in a different, sunnier flower bed has also decided to bloom!   

I am experiencing the joy of a cosmo party in my garden. I let the flowers go to seed last year to see how they would reseed this year and it is an incredible show. I just love cosmos. My favorite are the very simple and classic blend of white, pink, and darker pink/magenta. They are adorable. I do also have orange cosmos that are really neat to see grow. I plant them near my purple butterfly bush and I like the color combo for a completely different look.    

My mammoth sunflower show is about to begin! I believe that the flower heads will be smaller than average this year due to the wet and cool start of the growing season. Small or not, I am just glad that they will be popping open soon and putting on their spectacular display! I will be saving and drying the heads for fall decor by way of creating a bird feeder with twine and the dried flower head.    

 I experimented this year with giving petunias another try in my containers. Some did incredible, others not so much. I have experimented with deadheading and pinch the plant back and in other containers, just letting the plant do its own thing. The containers that I have let go, do their own thing look far superior in comparison. And when I say far superior, I mean it! Perhaps a fluke, but I’m definitely keeping this experiment in the front of my mind if I decide to use so many petunias again. Which, I don’t think I will. I miss my other standard cast of characters, especially the super combo of million bells, impatiens, and dusty millers! I even decided to see what would happen if I threw a few cosmos in pots, they don’t look too shabby! 

I’m just tickled at what a jungle of blooms my perennial beds are becoming. I love the cottage look and I think I’m finally closing in on my vision!! As long as there is room for a few zinnias each year, life is good. #BeTheGood and inspire a child to design a garden – crayons and graph paper work magic for the imagination!!