Category Archives: retail therapy

Hardy, healthy roses in our own backyard!

Wunderkind Mark Dallas is the brain and brawn behind Galetta Nurseries, a specialty rose grower and retail supplier located just this side of Arnprior.  I say Wunderkind not because he’s a whippersnapper but because he must be young at heart to continue to run an independent plant nursery!

Emily Carr redRosa x ‘Emily Carr’

From the Canadian Artists Series, 4′ tall and 5′ wide, Zone 4, summer flowering, go here and here for more info

I spoke with Mark the other day about his business and the challenges he faces in 2015.  Here is our conversation:

Question:  Why the heck do you do it, especially if sales are down and people can buy roses cheaply elsewhere?

I’ve always loved roses, and I continue to do it because I believe that people deserve to have  roses that are reliably hardy in our cold climate.   The biggest challenge continues to be that most people think roses are difficult to grow.  The hardy roses I grow on the farm thrive in the Ottawa area, and I continue to hope that people will stop buying roses that just aren’t suitable for our climate…and that they will start to focus on the plants that thrive here.

Felix LeClercRosa x ‘Felix LeClerc’

From the Canadian Artists Series, 6-9′ tall and 4′ wide (yes, a climber!), Zone 4, mildly fragrant, flowers all summer long, go here for more info

Question:  What does the future look like for Galetta Nurseries?

To be blunt, not great.  We’re competing with cheap imported roses. Many of these imported roses won’t survive the winter here, but they are cheap, and price seems to be the big driver these days.

We carry a great selection of truly hardy roses at Galetta Nurseries, and we have some very rare and unusual varieties, but we still struggle to convince gardeners that there are reliable roses for our climate.

Morden BlushRosa x ‘Morden Blush’

From the Canadian Parkland Series, 2-3′ tall and wide, Zone 2, heavy bloomer summer and fall, go here for more info

“Please note: Pickering Nurseries will not open for the 2015 season.

The rose growing industry has seen a great many changes in the last 10 years. Unfortunately, the majority of these changes were negative for both the companies involved and their bottom lines. The pesticide ban enacted by Ontario in the mid 2000’s, an increase in hybridizer royalty rates and how they are calculated, a glut of cheap US grown roses coupled with the Canadian government changing both import and export regulations (unable to ship to the US 2013 and additional ongoing issues with our root stock) have left me with no choice but to stop shipping roses for this season. Over the last several years Pickering Nurseries has been exploring alternative propagation techniques and changes to our business model. Both of these things are still a work in progress. We hope to have a small, core selection of rooted cuttings available in the spring of 2016.

It is also with great sadness we announce the passing of Joseph Schraven, my father and founder of Pickering Nurseries, on May 27th.

In closing, I would like to extend thanks to all our long time customers and our colleagues in the industry and we hope to be able to serve you in the future.

Best regards,
Joel Schraven
Pickering Nurseries”

Question:  This makes me so sad.  Who are the other suppliers that have closed?

Enderlein has quit roses to go in to growing marijuana and Adamson’s (in BC) is closing to all but very large growers — they’re the only reliable supplier of own-root.  Lemay near Montreal has cut back from 450 to 40 varieties.  Finally, another retailer in the Eastern Townships who did only roses has quit…..

Morden BelleRosa x ‘Morden Belle’

From the Canadian Parkland Series, 3′ tall and wide, Zone 3, moderately fragrant, flowers all summer, go here for more info

Question:  Are they ones that you have done business with?  Do you just have Hortico now?

These were key suppliers of some of my initial stock for growing on. As you note, Hortico is still around, but they don’t appear to do own-root roses.

Question:  What is your production routine?  Do you grow your roses from seed or cuttings?

They’re all from cuttings:  most roses are hybrids, and they don’t come true to seed.   So the seeds will develop into roses, they won’t be the same as the original plants.

Question:  How do you choose the roses you sell?

Only the ones that will survive here.  I consult with other rose growers in similar climates, and I then test each variety for hardiness and disease resistance.  If a variety doesn’t survive well over many winters,  I drop it.  I expect a survival rate of greater than 99% — while most rose varieties sold in the box stores have a survival rate of 50% of less.

Because of this approach, I can guarantee all the roses for a full year.

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Question:  Do you give advice about growing roses to your customers?  Is it foolproof?

Yes: every purchase comes with a full set of instructions, and there’s a detailed web site describing most of the issues that people will have to deal with.  I also send out regular email notices to remind people of any special care instructions.

Generally, though, the roses I grow don’t need much care at all.  They just need to be planted and watered occasionally, and they don’t need any special winter care — we just leave them alone for the winter and they survive very nicely.

I also send out regular email newsletters outlining the best practices for pruning and care.

B Hope for HumanityRosa x ‘Hope for Humanity’

From the Parkland Series, 2-3′ wide and 2-4′ tall, Zone 3B, marks the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Red Cross, go here for more info

Go visit Mark at his home and nursery this spring and summer.  But in advance of that, visit his website for his 2015 Availability List of roses.  I guarantee that you’ll find several roses that you won’t be able to live without!

Website:  http://www3.sympatico.ca/galetta/index.html

Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/GalettaRoseNurseries

Sorry, Mark’s roses are *not* available by mail order.  Pick-up only.

942121_381927818575643_819908953_n Rosa gallica var. officinalis ‘Versicolor’ (aka Rosa Mundi)

Dates prior to 1581, 3′ wide and 3-4′ tall, Zone 4, fragrant blooms in mid-summer, extremely resistant to black spot, go here for more info

Fernwood Nursery in Hubbards, Nova Scotia

My old plant-loving compatriot, Iain Jack, has opened what else but an online fern nursery at his home in Hubbards, Nova Scotia.

Iain was an awesome member of our team when I owned my garden store, Hortus Urbanus, in Old Ottawa South for ten years between 1997 and 2007.  He was with us for a couple of years and when he left, we were all very sorry to see him go.  He left to return to Nova Scotia, where he and his partner had purchased a house — and being a Maritimer, he heard the call of the sea.

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I did an interview with Iain asking him about his new life making plants and here are his words…

In brief, what is your career history?

Horticulture and social work have been the two major career themes in my life.  Some people don’t see a connection (both nurturing professions, I say),  but I’ve even been lucky enough to find a few ways to combine my interest in plants and people. For example, community development with community gardening groups, recreational horticulture with persons with dementia, running my own nursery…and botanical ‘retail therapy work’, like at Hortus Urbanus

And your connection with Nova Scotia?

I grew up in the Annapolis Valley an agricultural area in NS. When I was a kid it was all about the apples. Now there’s a lot of vineyards. NS is very international these days 😉

In the 1980’s when I was leaving Halifax for big city Ontario, more than one person said to me before I left “you’ll be back; they always come back.”  I guess it was true.  We bought our current home in St Margaret’s Bay, just south of Halifax, in 1998 and have loved living by the sea since. Peter’s a big sea kayaker.  I like it too, but for me it should be more like being in a hammock!

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Isn’t it cold there?

As you might’ve been hearing on the news these days, NS can have some pretty awesome weather. The Atlantic ocean moderates (Z6a here), but it also rages sometimes.  As a growing environment, though, I can grow a lot more than I could when I was a gardener in Ottawa.  As a producer, I’m able to test the limits of a wider variety of plants to (my) garden situations as well.  The limits of tree ferns are still for the folks in SW BC, oh well 😉

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Ferns?  Are you crazy?  Aren’t they boring?  (I ask as devil’s advocate…)

I think it might be like other things, once you start to notice the differences and details of something it can become endlessly fascinating.  Ferns are that way to me.  The shapes of fronds,  the different forms, habits and colours, even spores under a microscope – there’s a huge diversity, and so much new stuff to learn.  Growing them form spore makes for a good horticultural challenge because of their life cycle – It’s like I discovered penicillin every time a sowing is successful!  Yay me!  As a gardener, and a lover of woodlands, ferns are essential.  They can be formal, perfect vases, relaxed groupings, to downright-unrestrained ground covers. “50 shades of green” doesn’t begin to cover the subtle range in the fern colour palette, not to mention various tones of red, mustard, purple and silver.  Fiddleheads are often covered with hairs or scales in silvers, bronze, gold, and black.  And then I discovered dry land and alpine ferns.  Well, you know how that story goes – mountaineering anyone?  Not really, not yet! See? very inspiring 😉

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Ferns were very popular in Victorian times and shortly after in more than just horticulture, including art and architecture. The fern crosier was much-loved in art-deco.  Really neat imagery and symbology.

I’ll tell you what is boring; having deer browse your entire garden. When I was considering a nursery start-up, one of the main criteria in crop selection was its palatability to deer. No, seriously.  I have a strong interest in the native plants of this area, and that took me to ferns. There’s 50+ species in the Acadian forest region alone.  Not so much when compered to thousands in tropical parts of the world, but enough to keep me out hiking to see them for quite a long time.

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I also had the good fortune to meet the operators of two separate fern specialty nurseries in the Seattle area when I was there a few years ago. Even though NS and Canada is a smaller market, I felt affirmed that ferns could make a great mail order crop and that there could be a greater interest in using them if folks knew more about ferns and could get plants that solved their landscape problem.  Hence Fernwood’s mission: “to explore and promote the diversity and landscape value of native and hardy exotic ferns.”

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Unlike cloned plants, spore-grown ferns can show a good amount of individual variation.  Wholesalers and mass purchasers wouldn’t probably like that kind of variety, but I’m excited by the small differences that can show up in any batch.

What does your day look like being the “Fern Guy”?

It really depends on the season, of course.  There’s always some spore sowing on the go.  Sowing trays are sealed to hold humidity (then it’s waiting and not a lot of direct intervention) and temperature and lighting is important to regulate.

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It’s about this time of year I start getting invitations to talk about ferns to gardener and field naturalist groups.  I really like those gigs.  Whether it’s natural history or container gardening, folks are usually gung-ho to hear about something that’s not been talked about before.

In the spring I like ‘market fern guy’ day.  I work alone quite a bit, so a chance to interact and maybe chat is fun.

Summer fern guy spends a good amount of time looking after watering at the nursery. Small pot sizes mean I don’t use a lot of water for irrigation, which is good, but they dry out more quickly than larger ones, and need more regular attention. Any kind or amount of automation is helpful here, I think.

People probably think of NS as a foggy, mossy place (and it is), but our forests can be rocky, and dry in the summer.  So, ferns hardening off outdoors may need supplemental watering as well. The other, more fun thing, I do in the summer is collect spore.  It kind-of seems my head is constantly down looking at every fern for “ripe” spores, here in my own collection, or out-and-about anywhere there’s ferns really.  Ailsa, I carry a jeweler’s lens around my neck with me now for examining ferns…I’m a real fern nerd, of sure.

What is your Cairn terriers name?  Does he/she eat/dig/destroy your garden?

Jock. He and our Sheltie Lucy are out working with me most days, so he’s never by himself, which is when cairn’s take everything upon themselves, I think.  Also, we decided early to focus on ‘chase the ball’ as his obsession and were careful to never activate his ‘terroir” gene 😉

Is operating a fern nursery everything you imagined it would be?

And more!  Really!  Right now I’m a one person operation, so I really do operate ‘everything.’  I like that aspect of running my own nursery. That said, and truth be told, I wouldn’t know how to use my ‘smart phone’ without Peter, my partner and biggest supporter.  He’s helped me assess and plan the idea for the nursery.  Even though any one task probably wouldn’t satisfy me all day, that hardly ever happens, and I’m usually going happily from task-to-task.  You know how many things you have to do just to get ready to mix soil, right?  There’ always something to do and if it doesn’t get beyond your comfort, I think that’s great.

What’s the best thing about your life now and what is the worst?

Working with the days and seasons, without a doubt, is the one of the best.  I hope it won’t sound too hokey, but I find it way easier to get with schedule imposed by the rhythm of the growing seasons than with one imposed by a clock and calendar.  One of the worst things – I’m terrible with any kind of schedule and I work by myself!  More seriously, whether it’s business planning, horticultural problem-solving, or collaborative design, I don’t get to enjoy and benefit from working directly with others in the same way I could in other jobs.  So I look for those opportunities when I m able.

How many varieties of fern do you sell?

There’s over 50 different species and varieties in my collection right now.  Not all those are for sale at any one time though. Each species has it’s own production cycle, which means there’s usually a few different things available each year.  I try and make sure there’s always something for each type of situation gardeners might have, from moist or dry soils in shade, to wet or dry areas in sun, and anything in between.  Or as I like to say, “there’s a fern for that spot.”  I’ve collected my stock plants from jas many sources as possible, including: imports from large US wholesale growers, donations of spores from other growers, membership in fern society spore exchanges, occasional purchases from seed companies when available, and the odd find at a local garden centre.

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What is your favourite fern?

Each next one I look at – honestly!

Ok…Maidenhair Spleenwort,  Asplenium trichomanes.  It’s the cutest little native evergreen fern for moist rock gardens and rock walls in shade to part sun.  But so international as well;  in the UK, I think (except for it’s gorgeous cultivars) it’s considered “common” for it’s habit of growing in every rocky nook and cranny.  Here it’s a much less common treasure, but is equally great for those rocky places that need special detail.  Keep it up close to an edge where it can be admired.

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Who are your customers?

Nova Scotia gardeners have been great supporters, inviting me to their annual convention twice, traveling to the annual Rare & Unusual Plant Sale held in Annapolis Royal and purchasing some ferns, finding me at farmers markets, or visiting the Fernwood while out on garden tours.  Local gardeners seem genuinely excited to know its okay to admire and include ferns in their cultivated spaces. Because of our semi-rural location and small population, Fernwood has always been planned to grow further as an online, mail-order nursery.  Speaking as someone who really knows what “gardening on the edges” means, geographically anyway, I’m also excited about the idea of making cool plants available to folks who don’t necessarily live near a large garden centre.  So far, I’ve shipped plants to Ontario, Quebec, and NB. and with great feedback, so I feel confident about how well my ferns ship.  They are a shade crop after all, so a few days in a box under the right conditions is pretty easy for them.

How do people get their hands on your ferns?

There’s a catalogue on the Fernwood website that describes all the ferns I’m currently growing. There are annual spring and summer availability lists posted there too. The availability lists have an order form that includes pricing and shipping information.  I ship plants using Canada Post’s expedited parcel service, at cost. It offers the most economical rates and can easily reach most places in Canada within a week. It’s different for everywhere so people should check the order form. I’m still figuring it out as well, because cost is partly weight and the balance between moisture for the plant and too much weight is important in both respects. Water’s heavy! Anyway, not to be evasive, it probably wouldn’t be too far off to say you could get about a dozen Fernwood plants to the more populated areas of Ontario for under $20 shipping. 12 plants! Not bad, in my experience. Remember, all plants are alive and in active growth. No dormant, bare root material sold.

After this season I’m looking forward to working on the online cataloguing and purchasing component of the website. I keep wanting to get photos up, and that’ll be a great time to incorporate images.  For now i’m not really starting anything new until I’m able to convince the city that a 50’ greenhouse isn’t industrial agriculture! and the scourge of rural suburbia …

I ship ferns when they’re well-established in 4” pots. At that stage they’re still small enough to ship economically, and at the best size for success in most applications.  Prices are between $7-10, varying by type and depending on challenge and length of time to produce (for example, a few can be ready in 18 months, but others can take 3 years to get to a salable/plantable size).  At local sales I often have larger sizes available at different prices.

The Secret Gardener Nursery

More relationships break up in January than any other month I read.  Also more people sign up for gym and dating site memberships. January is tough enough.  Let’s try to make it a tiny bit easier.

On my garden tour trip last summer, we visited a charming plant nursery in Hudson, New York, called The Secret Gardener. IMG_0674Behind a vintage wrought iron gate, this nursery is clearly a work of love and attention. IMG_0676Our first view was after closing and we peered in and saw the beautiful pots, colourful vignettes and wood framed building that housed the cash counter and a selection of choice tools and accessories. IMG_0863We made a point of returning the next day before it closed and were delighted to walk around the beautifully curated sales and growing areas, carefully avoiding being drenched by the plumes of water. IMG_0868A boulder dressed in lichen and moss, an rusted iron table with a bright red dump truck planter and everywhere you look, artfully orchestrated plantings.IMG_0866   Not simply arrangements in planters, but striking islands of colour and joyful perennials bursting from the ground.         IMG_0854   Even opportunities for moments of repose.  This could be your garden!       IMG_0858   But here in this nursery, there is always work to be done …propagating…   IMG_0856   ….watering…. IMG_0860   ….deadheading and primping…. IMG_0873   If you’re in this neck of the woods, it would be unfortunate if you didn’t visit this unique nursery.  Because there aren’t many like it.  And you will be deeply and deliciously inspired. IMG_0874

Hello? Is anybody there?

Well, every once in a while, when I suddenly have a spare moment, I take a look at my blog, yes this one, and see if there’s something new.  Clearly, I may or may not have several other people who do the same.  I have come to a conclusion:

This blog will not write itself.

Sorry for the absence.  This time of year is one of abundance.  And here in Ottawa, with this rain, weeds and those plants that we don’t want, are taking advantage.  And it is largely my job to dispatch them as well as make sure several gardens are looking pretty good.  And like the cobbler, my own garden is the last to be tended to, and then after that, the allotment.  And then, a distant last-last, is this blog.

I wish I could telepathically post blog entries and let you know what I’ve been doing each day, that is, if its been a worthwhile endeavour.  There’s nothing worse than reading about someone’s boring exploits.

I could have told you about this:

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A preview of the extraordinary topiaries being made at the Montreal Botanical Gardens for the annual International Mosaiculture festival being held from June 22 to September 29 at several locations in Montreal this year.

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And the exciting and inspirational plant and garden accessory show at the same location earlier in May that I attended (on a rainy and cold weekend) known as the Great Gardening Weekend.  Does anyone in Ottawa know about this?  The folks at Budd Gardens do; they showed up selling an incredible assortment of hosta – sorry, no pics of them but hey, you know what a bunch of hostas look like.

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The number of vendors that I had never heard of, the plants I had never seen before and the creative displays were all a revelation to me.

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This is May 24th folks.  It can be touch and go in terms of weather, and even more so in terms of getting plants to look good in pots so that gardeners will want to take them home.

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Despite the weather, it was a great visit and a wonderful way to spend a day.  I neglected to take a photo of our plant-jammed cart at the end of the day, but trust me, I still haven’t planted everything.  AND we didn’t even get lost getting there OR get stuck in traffic for too long coming home.

Strangely, there were only *two* vendors selling food.  This one below sold raw salads and rolls, with healthy sweet treats and yummy drinks.  The other, next to it, dealt in waffles.  Why wasn’t there more food?  Don’t get me wrong – what we had was wonderful, but I’m sure anyone selling cafe-au-laits and hot soup would have made a killing that weekend.

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I’m doing an overhaul of my own garden and hope to feature it in the next little while.  Meantime, maybe I can convince one of my clients to let me showcase their garden.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to visiting a very well-known and internationally respected garden next month.  In order to ensure my experience is pure, I am staying away from looking at any pictures of it.  Any guesses?  It is a 7 hour drive away.

Emma Dibben: illustrator and allotment gardener extraordinaire!

These luscious figs, just enticingly juicy enough to make your mouth water and purple enough to evoke jewel-like baubles, are the work of English artist Emma Dibben.

If these images look at all familiar to you (like these delightful French Breakfast radishes), it might be that you’ve been lucky enough to acquire a re-usable Waitrose shopping bag.

Emma graduated from Falmouth College of Arts  with a degree in illustration in 2004 and makes her home in Bristol.  Today she has an impressive list of clients besides the mythic Waitrose …

… so you may have also seen her work in issues of House & Garden magazine, BBC Gardens Illustrated, Conde Nast Traveller, The English Garden and other print media.

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But fans of her work can also buy her originals or signed prints either from her own website or from the Bristol Contemporary Art website here.

Emma has an allotment garden which she has blogged about since 2010 and this is where she gets much of her visual inspiration.

I find the best illustration is done by those who have seen, felt and tasted their subject.

Emma clearly has a green thumb and exercises it regularly on this plot of verdant earth.

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Sometimes with company…

Winter on the allotment

She is a committed allotment-er and grows not simply veggies in the ground, but fruits and berries from trees and vines.  I think her allotment is not simply abundant but also beautiful.

Even in the winter –

 

Her artistry both on paper and in the garden has truly given me renewed inspiration for my own plot which, by the way, just experienced tomato devastation.  So at my virgin allotment in the ‘colonies’ –

– with tomatoes that I had grown from seed and planted thus-ly:

They now look like this one:

I have been told by Mary, a veteran allotment-er, that the culprits are field mice (our guesses had been giant cutworms, voracious earwigs, rabbits, groundhogs, etc…).  Well, live and let live I say so immediately went out to the Lansdowne Market the following day and purchased four new tomato plants: 2 Brandywine and 2 I can’t remember (another heirloom variety).

As you may remember from last year, I had high hopes for this allotment and my hopes have not been dashed.  This season we have grown and already harvested different varieties of greens as well as some Rainbow chard.

Here is Monet’s Garden mesclun from Renee’s Seeds.

In the last couple of weeks the plants have grown exponentially!  I have also snagged some blackberry, raspberry and haskap plants from certain death on a rack in a Loblaws garden centre as well as several shrubs that I received to trial as a result of my membership in the Garden Writers Association.  Lucky me!  So, although my allotment is several minutes from home and completely at the mercy of mice and men, I am hopeful that it can begin to flourish as a place of ornamental experimentation and tasty produce.  I may even buy some fruit trees!

I’ll be back again with more photos.  In the meantime, I will dream of Emma’s beautiful plot and devise ways to make mine half as lovely.

The Paris Market – in Savannah!

Savannah, Georgia, brought us many surprises.

As a recovering retailer, I still get a twinge when I find a store that I would love to own.  Such is The Paris Market on 36 West Broughton Street in downtown Savannah.

This ‘consumer experience’ has it all:  toiletries, decorative accents for the home, books, childrens toys, jewelery, candles, furniture, bedding, tableware … and more!

I wandered into this place on our last day in this wondrous city and stumbled around, speechless, looking at all the beautifully chosen items but also at the inspired vignettes that were everywhere.

I love creams, balms, brushes, sprays and soaps as much as the next girl, but it wasn’t until the lovely ex-Aix-en-Provence sales woman behind the counter said, “Take a look downstairs – it is beautiful down there as well,” that I knew I had entered my very own retail Nirvana.

Here.  Try to resist.  I dare you.

Are you still with me?

Is this not a treasure trove?

You’ll be lucky to get out of here with your life….and your wallet.

The details here are so striking, you’ll be haunted by them.

Go.  If you get a chance.  And spend.  You won’t find another store like this.  Anywhere.

Winter colour

So Environment Canada has finally admitted what we’ve all been thinking:  that is, weather is getting harder to predict so, I say, what’s the point of doing it at all?  Everyone seems to be wrong until after it’s happened.

I’ve heard that the West will have colder than usual temperatures and we’ll have milder than usual ones, but more snow.  I guess that’s okay with me.  I’d rather have a good snow covering, blanketing the garden and protecting it from harsh winter winds, if there are any.

This is a diving board used by beavers; no sign of any in this December landscape ;c)

It is perhaps, the quiet before the storm.

I understand the paintings that show snow as blue and the winter light, red.

I think there is a beauty to this early winter landscape too, with its more muted tones, but nonetheless, I realize how much I crave colour again when I visited Mill Street Florist and saw some of their holiday creations.

I love how the choices are entirely natural (well, almost entirely, with the exception of the chartreuse dyed reindeer moss):  winterberry, mini pomegranates, magnolia, ornamental cabbage centres, viburnum (Viburnum tinus) berries, grapevine, moss, evergreen branches and pheasant feathers.  Lovely.

How will you satisfy your craving for colour this winter?