Ali Lawrence has been gardening since she was five. She was born and raised in Alaska but now resides in Pennsylvania where her family grows a large garden every year. Her passions include writing haikus and finding new ways to use her essential oils! Read more articles from Ali at HomeyImprovements.com and connect with her on Pinterest.
 

 

Inside Look at Philadelphia Flower Show 2017
by Ali Lawrence - posted 03/08/17

tulips flower show in philadelphia

I'm bursting with excitement for this weekend's trip to Philadelphia to see the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show. This year's theme is Holland: Flowering the World which will transport you into the Netherlands.

You join my tour of the flower show on SnapChat or Instagram. Be sure to follow me by this Saturday morning on March 11th so you don't miss the live video and photos. I'll also be posting a follow-up article here on Pennsylvania Gardener Magazine next week. 

For those interested in experiencing the magic in person, you can buy tickets here for the Philadelphia Flower Show. The show runs from Friday, March 10th to Sunday, March 19th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. 

There are three international designers at the flower show:

1) Bart Hoes with his style of growing edibles in combination with perennials and bulbs. 
2) Nico Wissing who designed the Ecodome at this year's show that will feature sustainable Dutch practices.
3) Carrie Preston who has recreated a classic Dutch "stinze" garden.

You will also want to check out The Hamilton Horticourt where you can view succulents, orchids, bulbs and variety of other plants that will be judged. At the back of B Hall, you can join the Gardener's Studio to listen to presentations covering topics from bees to bulbs. To see what young gardeners have in mind, check out the Educational Exhibit.

In addition, the Philadelphia Flower Show offers several unique experiences for all ages:

1) Teddy Bear Tea: Bring your child to the this adorable tea party on March 19th starting at 11:30am. There will be petite food and children's entertainment. (Separate ticket is required and must be purchased online.)
2) Garden Tea: A peaceful and delicious way to spend an afternoon. The Garden Tea is already sold out but availability might change so visit them at the flower show to double check. Two times are available daily.
3) Garden Spa: A new addition this year! Take a break from walking and enjoy healthy concoctions, facials, and massages. Offerings differ each day so check their site for details. (Separate ticket is required and may be purchased at the show or online.)
4) Make and Take: Great for kids and adults, choose to make a flower crown, miniature bulb or succulent garden. (Separate ticket is required and may be purchased at the show or online.)
5) Early Morning Tours: These VIP experiences are available from March 13-17. (Tickets should be purchased online ahead of time as this sells out quickly.)
6) Butterflies Live: California's SkyRiver Butterflies created this interactive exhibit for all ages. Visitors will learn about butterflies, pollination and native plants that attract butterflies.
 (Separate ticket is required and may be purchased at the show or online.)
7) Flowers After Hours: Join the Philadelphia night life at the flower show through the I Love the 90s event Saturday, March 11 at 9:30pm. Purchase tickets here.

You can feel good about purchasing tickets at the Philadelphia Flower Show since the proceeds go to benefit the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

 

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4 Unusual Edible Plants to Grow
by Ali Lawrence - posted 03/03/17

This summer I’m expanding my garden to include some unique edibles. Your typical veggie is fine and dandy but sometimes you want your garden to surprise you. What’s the point of growing your own food if you don’t grow things you can’t find in a store. There’s something magical about getting seeds to plants you’ve never seen and watching them grow in front of your eyes for the first time.

Hopefully this list will inspire you to let yourself go wild and try a few plants with uncommon flair and color.

cucamelons - unique edible plant

1.     Cucamelons

Nicknamed “mouse melons,” these miniature melons grow to be a little over an inch in length. Crunchy and easily grown, cucamelons vine vertically toward a height of eight feet. Don’t leave them too long on the vine, though, because the skin may become tough. Ripeness occurs when the cucamelon is about the size of a grape. The taste is like cucumber with a splash of lime.

Cucamelons originate in South Americaand were part of the Aztec diet. They’re perennial plants, and once established, will thrive every year. Plant in a sunny area away from strong wind, and keep in mind that maturity time is about 80 days.

2.      Pineberries

Pineberries are basically the original strawberry, with white flesh and red seeds. The white color doesn’t come from any genetically altered plant strain.

Some of the original Chilean strawberry strains remained with European breeders, and that’s where today’s pineberries come from. They went into mainstream production about ten years ago, but you won’t find these in your local grocery store. To have a regular crop, you’ll need to grow your own pineberries. They best thrive in USDA zones 4-8 but also work well in multiple zones when planted in containers, with at least six hours of sun.

Some nurseries may stock pineberries, but they are also occasionally available on Amazon. Make sure you order the self-pollinating types, preferably the White Carolina, White D, or White Pineberry.

3.     Purple Podded Peas

Aside from being fun to say five times fast, purple podded peas are beautifulas they grow on the vine. The pods are purple and the peas are green.

It’s easier to tell when these are ready to eat, too! In terms of taste, they’re just like ordinary green peas. You don’t grow them any differently than normal peas, but there are some claims this variety should be more protected when growing.

4.     Oca

Known as the New Zealand Yam, this hardy root crop tastes like potatoes bathed in lemon. Some consider the oca to be “the lost crop of the Incas,” originating from South America.

In terms of texture, the oca is similar to a crunchy radish when raw. It’s usually prepared by boiling or roasting with herbs, just like potatoes or radishes. When cooked, ocas have a softer texture more similar to yam or squash than potatoes. They resemble bumpy oblong red potatoes when harvested, and if you let them grow for their flowers, they produce small daisy-like flowers.

These plants are unusual and lovely additions to grow from seed in your garden. Watch the white pineberries, cucuamelons and purple podded peas thrive happily in the sun as they wind upward. Drizzle a little olive oil and herbs over your roasted ocas, and enjoy a lovely picnic under the sunset this coming harvest.

Photo by poppet with a camera

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Beautiful Garden Trends for 2017
by Ali Lawrence - posted 02/17/17

Soon the last frost will be here and your green thumb will be itching to sow seeds. Everyone is springing forward early with a passion for all things green and greenery, which means it’s the perfect time to start planning your garden for planting season! Get started on 2017’s best gardening trends and come spring, your garden will be bursting with the inspiration and color of nature!

Remember Elephant Ear Plants

elephant ear plants

They say elephants always remember, and elephant ear plants will be the most memorable feature of your garden this coming season. These plants are shaped like big elephant ears and bring a tropical look to any landscape.

Elephant ears are wonderful to use as a focal point in your garden. Plant at the borders of walkways and around ponds. If you are making a container garden, many types are also well-suited to grow in containers.

Elephant ear plants prefer moist and rich soil and need a bit of shade to thrive. As soon as the frost has cleared, plant tubers two to three inches deep into the ground, with the blunt end facing down.

Feel the Love With Soft Pink Plants

The beauty of soft pink petals is trending again this year- both in home décor and in the garden. The color is similar to rose quartz, which is a symbol of love, friendship, composure and compassion. Think of rose quartz plants like thyme pink chintz, cherry blossom, Belinda's Dream rose, mountain laurel, dogwood or peony.

These lighthearted blooms thrive in many conditions, and you’ll find a soft pink plant to suit your plot. Plant these near your doorway, a bench or a porch to promote a sense of interconnectedness and love among visitors.

Succulents Keep It Low Key

Succulents are perfect if you prefer low-maintenance plants or don’t have much room or time to dedicate to your garden. Focus on cultivating an indoor succulent garden for your home or office. For small plants, the foliage of succulents is very showy and inspiring to the eye.

Due to adaptive traits, succulents thrive indoors in dry environments just as well as they do outdoors with bigger roots and fleshier bark. Most will need to be placed by a window for bright light, such as by a southern or eastern window. They prefer well-drained and sandy soil. So, half sand and half potting soil works well for succulents. If you mix succulents in a larger container, make sure their care needs and rates of growth are fairly similar. With only a little water needed, these plants are low-key and beautiful!

Check out my post on how to create beautiful hanging terrariums for your home or outdoor space.

Help the Bees and Butterflies

The bees and butterflies haven’t got much love with increasing urban development and people’s war on “weeds.” Many are now listed as endangered and are so important to the cultivation of food and the beauty of every garden.

Help the bees and butterflies by creating a small garden area focused on them. These are also known as pollinator gardens, and the most common bee and butterfly beneficial plants are natives that grow wild naturally. Leave a section of your yard to grow wild or plant natives such as milkweed, butterfly bush, lobelia, dandelion or bee balm. Avoid using commercial pesticides and consider more natural options for extra pollinator ally points.

Show Some Hexagon Love for the Bees

Don’t stop there! Go bee crazy and decorate with honeycomb-like hexagon shapes all over your garden and yard. Construct hexagon stepping stones for your walkway. Build six-sided hexagonplanters for your pollinator plants and herbs. Place garden tools on hexagon shelving. Let guests set drinks on hexagon coasters as they admire your beautiful bee and butterfly garden.

Get pen and paper and start laying out your garden plot now!

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