Karen Atkins is the owner of Proper Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She designed the Victorian Gardens for the Merrick Art Gallery, the Pioneer Entrance Garden for Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, and many award-winning gardens for residential clients. Karen loves to help and hear from other gardeners.


Cultivating Friends
by Karen Atkins - posted 03/31/14

My favorite part of my new location is our neighbor Dan.  He is fascinating, because there is nothing he can't do. I plan to get plenty of advice from him (and pictures) when he starts vegetable gardening and canning this year. For now, we are enjoying the cans he put up last year. Sweet pickles, savory pickles, tomatoes, and the best strawberry jam I've even seen or tasted. Zoe and David went through a loaf of bread in two days, just so they had toast for slathering. Then they bought vanilla ice cream for it, the gluttons. I had a little swagger, last fall, when I made my own sauerkraut and gave Dan some. We bantered about freezing versus canning it. Then just when I was feeling like, with a little work,  I could be in Dan's league - I asked him where he got his cabbage. I was thinking I could impart some recently gained wisdom about the prices at our local Meijer compared to the Farmers' Market. He looked confused, thinking. Then he slayed me, "I grew it." 

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Time to Order Chicks
by Karen Atkins - posted 03/18/14

This is our first year in MIchigan. Thankfully we've landed in a town with a proper hatchery nearby. This is great, because the survival rate for chicks sent through the mail is not encouraging.  Townline Hatchery in Zeeland in on my radar. They have so many beautiful breeds in their on-line catalog it is hard to decide. I think I'll let Henry and Zoe each pick one. Anybody out there have a preference for any of these breeds that we don't yet have? We can choose from  New Hampshire Reds, Ambers, ISA Browns, Rhode Island Reds, Light Brahmas, Golden Laced Wyandottes, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Black Jersey Giants, or Black Australorps. Let us know if you have a favorite -please comment here or email; propergardensgrandrapids@gmail.com

Thanks, and Happy Spring!

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I Hear You Knocking
by Karen Atkins - posted 03/06/14

That seems to be what Winter is telling Spring.  The other day, I heard tiny, fluttering taps at the front door. It was not, in fact, Spring - but swans.  It seems the sun had warmed the bricks long enough to entice our swans to nest on the threshold. While not exactly a groundhog, I thought this a harbinger I could trust.  Returning from work, David refused to step over the boys. Hiking through drifts around to the back, he fell in a heap of snow - or more accurately a heap of David. Spring can't come soon enough.

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