Gardening With Kids

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.”~Robert Brault.

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One of my earliest gardening memories is standing barefoot in the soft dirt of my neighbors vegetable garden. We were picking carrots for canning. I remember picking potatoes bugs with a childhood friend. My grandmother always had garden chores for me to do. All these little things contributed to my love of gardening. The thrill of watching things grow! Where am I going with this? Never underestimate how much gardening will effect a child. When I say  gardening with ‘kids’, I don’t mean baby goats, I mean children, young people, tiny humans! Those little people that mean so much to us.

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Kids love to plant!

Why Garden With Kids?

Kids ask a lot of questions. Hundreds a day in fact. As I think about the opening quote, I realize that my son doesn’t really ask much about gardening. He’s learned so much already. Since he was a newborn, he’s been in a carrier or in the stroller watching me work. As soon as he could, he was digging in the dirt. The beauty of sharing gardening with children is that they get to see first hand how things grow. They don’t need to ask where carrots come from or how they grow. They even know that all food doesn’t have to come from the grocery store. It can come from their own garden, a neighbors garden or a local farm.

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Planting peas is always a fun spring activity!

What to Grow With Kids

Young ones can help with growing nearly anything but some things are easier to do than others. When planting, the bigger the seeds the better. This way little hands can grasp the seeds. Peas and beans are a great start. Pumpkins, cukes and zucchini are all easy to grasp and push into the ground. Potatoes have been one of the favorites around here to plant and to dig up. Radishes and carrots are exciting to harvest. When choosing your vegetable varieties, why not appeal to the eye with bizarre colors and shapes. Purple string beans, pink and white radishes or rainbow carrots!

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Picking small fruits.

Gardening doesn’t have to be limited to veggies. There’s nothing like that first strawberry, raspberry or blueberry! Start a strawberry or raspberry patch. They may not make it to the house but little fingers love plucking berries. Another idea is growing flowers. Try a few bold choices such as sunflowers, gladiolus or marigolds. You could even designate a garden just for them.

Peas on the vine.

Gardening Chores

Not all things grow well after they’ve been dug up and replanted. Not all things like to be run over with a dump truck. For several years now I’ve utilized fencing for our gardens. Some things just can’t be disturbed. On the other hand, there’s lots of things for kids to do. Give them a watering can, they’ll water everything! Have your little one pick beans, cherry tomatoes or peas.

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Watering.

We have acquired an assortment of child sized tools. Not only are they easy to work with, it really makes them feel a part of things. No matter what task is at hand, he can go grab a trowel, a leaf rake or a hoe. These pint sized tools are even great for adults when cleaning out tight spaces. We’ve even found gardening gloves in tiny sizes.

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Kids gardening tools.

Have Fun!

There are so many ideas out there for gardening with kids. Try growing a bean teepee. Grow a whimsical sunflower house or start a miniature garden. Many of our summer and fall activities are agriculturally based. Strawberry picking, hayrides, corn mazes and apple picking. Take these opportunities to educated them about food and growing. Talk about bugs and worms. Most of all, have fun when gardening with children. Take the opportunity to teach. Use these moments to explain things. Even if they never grow up to garden, the skills that you share can last a lifetime. If you don’t have children of your own, garden with the kids in your life. Nieces, nephews, grandchildren, friends or neighbors. It’s a great way to spend time with them.

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There are surprises along the way!

Introducing them to gardening at a young age can get them interested in trying new things. I had a dear young friend of mine who used to help me harvest lettuce. He needed to try every single kind. He even liked the spicy ones. Even though he’s almost grown now, I’d like to think that those memories will stay with him. My son doesn’t like to try things but he calls out flower names as we drive through town. He describes them as ‘gorgeous or beautiful’! I’m thrilled to instill a love of gardening in him!

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Stop to smell the flowers!

In our garden, the peas are plumping up. Cherry tomatoes have set their fruit and the lettuce is still coming. The peonies have been in full bloom and the roses are flourishing in the warmer weather. Booming thunder showers have helped with the watering. The nearby fields have been hayed and the corn fields are starting to get knee high! If you have some kids around you, get them out in the garden. So much awaits you! Thank you for your interest in Everlongardener this week and don’t forget to subscribe for seasonal gardening posts!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Salvia in bloom.
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Dogwood in the morning light!

How To Avoid Garden Overwhelm

I’ve talked with several friends this spring about their gardens and many of them are feeling overwhelmed. Life is really busy…

I’ve talked with several friends this spring about their gardens and many of them are feeling overwhelmed. Life is really busy for most of us these days. Ticks and other biting insects keep us indoors. The somewhat dismal spring weather we’ve had has weeds flourishing and seeds rotting in the ground. With all of these factors working against us, how can we avoid garden overwhelm?

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Life throws us countless curve balls. By missing a week or two in your garden, things can really go downhill fast. When you finally get out to the garden, it’s hard to avoid garden overwhelm. Unless your vegetable or flower beds are completely carefree, they do need weekly attention.

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A weedy spot in our garden.

Don’t Take On Too Much

When spring finally hits we can feel unstoppable. When drawing up a garden plan it’s easy to plan way too much. When I look through seed catalogs, I circle everything that catches my eye. I reason that I have plenty of space for this or that. I know what you’re thinking. You don’t just want peas, you want green and purple podded ones. You want 4 kinds of garlic and 28 tomato plants of different varieties. The struggle is real! It’s just not possible for every gardener to grow everything. Another consideration is harvest time. If you don’t have enough time to deal with crates of tomatoes and 100 radishes all at once, plant fewer plants. You could even try planting several different types with different maturity rates.

So many things to do…

A trip to the nursery is no better. I may start out with a list but then my eyes hit those colorful seed packets and fresh, young seedlings stretching out on tables before me as far as the eye can see. You go in for a few basic things and end up with a carload. Just planting may cause overwhelm.

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Seed packets.

So, what can be done to eliminate garden overwhelm? Make a list and stick to it. Leave a little bit of room to possibly try something new. This year, I purchased a few geraniums for the porch and some annuals for the shed window boxes. Other years, I’ve tried to cram flowers in so many pots here and there. Then, I find I have little time to water them. It can be hard when you are staring at endless lines of hanging baskets that are just gushing with flowers. Ask yourself, will I have time to water and deadhead them? Why not choose a few high impact plants rather than many smaller ones? If you’ve been reading Everlongardener for any amount of time, you are familiar with the many ideas I’ve shared for simplifying your garden.

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Zucchini are finally up!

Check Your Garden Daily 

I know that this may sound like a lot, but checking on your garden daily can head off future problems. Just taking your morning tea or coffee out to the garden can be a refreshing experience. Try an after work detox by strolling through the garden. Maybe some post-dinner weeding during the cooler part of the day. This way you can see what needs water, check if any pests are eating leaves or you might notice that a certain weed is taking over your carrots. A few minutes a day may not even feel like work. Make sure that when you pull those weeds you get the root. This means it will take longer for them to come back!

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There’s always something to weed!

When harvest time comes, if you neglect checking on the garden, you may even miss the harvest completely. Imagine if you didn’t look over your cucumber or zucchini plants for a week! The harvest would completely get away from you.

Mustard greens going by.

It’s better to do a few things well than to do many things haphazardly. Focus on a few things if you are strapped for time. I made a few simple suggestions in 5 Easy Vegetables For The Beginner Gardener. If you can’t pull off having a vegetable garden every single year, consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Members pay a local farm for a weekly share of fresh produce. This gives the farm spring capital and provides the customer with plenty of weekly vegetables. I have a friend who wondered why she was growing lettuce when the farm down the road sells a head for $1.50. She has a point. Another option is to make a weekly trip to your local farmers market. Anyway that you choose, eating local, consciously grown food is one of the joys of summer!

We joined two of the garden beds last week.

Amid all that spring entails and the speed with which summer passes by, try to get out while the weather is warm. Garden if you can and if it makes you happy. Just don’t get overwhelmed. Hope you liked seeing some of my weeds this week! We’ve been picking away at one project at a time around here. Many other things are going on. We are now in for some gorgeous Summer days in mid-coast Maine. Here are a few shots from the garden. Thanks for checking out Everlongardener this week and don’t forget to subscribe in the sidebar!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Second round of basil, hope it makes it!
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A few strawberries!
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Peonies are opening!

From my garden to yours, over and out!

Grow a Reliable Crop of Mizuna Mustard Greens

One thing about being a gardener is the opportunity of trying new veggies and interesting varieties. It’s fun, delicious and colorful to plant different things every year. From the Brassica family of Asian greens or mustard greens, comes mizuna. If you want to add color and mustard flavor to your table, add mizuna to your planting list!

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I’ve grown many types of mustard greens over the years and I really do love them all. One drawback to growing them is that they do suffer from insect damage. After a while I realized that the mizuna, particularly in shades of red, are unharmed by flea beetles or aphids. Sometimes referred to Japanese mustard greens or spider mustard, these greens are great in salads or sandwiches and you can use the more mature leaves in cooking if you like. Just treat it like spinach.

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‘Ruby Streaks’ mizuna.

My favorite variety of red Mizuna is ‘Ruby Streaks’. It’s lacey leaves have greenish undersides with burgundy red streaks stretching across the top. Mizuna is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat. This type is widely available from most seed suppliers. Other types that may appeal to you include ‘Red Splendor’, ‘Early Mizuna’ or ‘Scarlet Frills’. One review from Baker Creek Seeds describes it as being the “easiest green to grow for my tough soil/weather conditions, including shameful neglect. Grows all seasons for me (and holds in most winters) without any problems.” Sounds like a winner! I’m sure we can all relate to that part about neglect.

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‘Ruby Streaks’ mustard.

What can you expect for flavor? Well, as the name mustard greens denotes, these greens have a very mustard essence about them. ‘Ruby Streaks’ has a surprisingly sweet, hot flavor. The hotness is not overpowering though and you can still taste the flavor of the greens. Each nutrient packed variety of mustard greens that you choose to grow will have it’s own unique flavors and qualities.

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Mizuna leaves add so much to a salad!

Mizuna can easily be used for microgreens. In the garden, plant in spring through fall for a summer full of mustard flavor. Mizuna only takes 21 days for baby greens to mature and 40 days for adult leaves. Even if warm temperatures cause mizuna to bolt, continue to harvest it’s leaves as long as you like the flavor. Their pretty yellow flowers are edible too. With small sprigs of mizuna sprinkled through a salad, the mustard taste will add quite a zesty pop! Because of it’s long growing season, mizuna could quickly become one of your 4 season favorites! Mizuna is a hardy addition to a fall planted garden and will readily self-seed if allowed.

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The small flowers of mizuna.

What are some of the unique crops that you love to grow? Speckled beans, purple podded peas? Of course, most of us can’t grow everything but it keeps things fresh when we try new colors and flavors. With these hot days this week the garden has really shot up. Beans are continuing to poke through the ground, the peas are reaching for the sky and the irises are blooming like crazy! Along with the warmth, the evening mosquitoes are attempting to carry us away! I’m leaving you with a few garden pics of what’s going on here. Have a great week out there!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Peonies in bud!
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The bees are crazy for the rhododendrons.
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Iris in the evening light.

How to Create the Perfect Salad Garden

If you have just a small space for a garden, why not try growing a salad garden. It is one of the best ways to utilize a tiny space. Short on time this summer? A salad garden can be the perfect solution to a busy schedule! Downsizing your garden? Just starting out? Low maintenance and with very little commitment, a salad garden may be all that you need!

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First of all, what is a salad garden? Growing salad greens? No, not just salad greens. A true salad garden uses a small space to grow all of the components of a salad. Each salad garden can be tailored to individual tastes and needs. This will give you the most crop variety using a very limited size garden. Many of these veggies take up very little space compared to beans or squash for instance.

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Several types of tomatoes!

What to Grow

The foundation of any salad would of course be the greens. Do you like spinach? Adore arugula? Head lettuce or loose leaf? Lettuce mixes may be a great place to start. A variety of colors and flavors to brighten your plate. Baby chard or beet greens can add color and flavor. Kale is another great green to put in a salad garden. Try growing 2-3 rows of various greens. Look for some heat tolerant greens for mid-summer harvests. I use ‘Summer Lettuce Mix’ from Fedco.

Kale is a delicious green for the salad mix!

A few cherry or grape tomato plants will provide your table with a continuous harvest once they start producing. Plant a few slicing tomatoes if you have space. You will probably end up with more than enough tomatoes. These fruits are known for their intensely sweet flavor from ripening in the sun. Sometimes they don’t even make it back to the house! For a smaller garden, choose 2 plants and for a larger space try 4 plants.

A bountiful harvest.

Radishes are among the quickest crops to grow in the salad garden. Spring and fall are the best times to grow radishes. They prefer cool temperatures. Their tiny seeds can be sown in between rows of carrots or lettuce. Choose radishes that are mild or spicy hot! Radish varieties like ‘French Breakfast’ and ‘Cherry Belle’ mature in as few as 25 days. That’s less that a month away from garden goodness! If you plant a few seeds every 2 weeks, you will have a continuous harvest instead of them ripening all at once.

 

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Radishes are great addition to the salad garden.

Growing a few rows of short season carrots can make a big splash in your salad bowl. Homegrown carrots have a flavor that can’t be beat. Use smaller carrots as you thin them. A quick growing type like ‘Mokum’ takes a mere 48 days to reach 5-6″ long. Grow purple, white or yellow carrots for a color show that your won’t believe.

Colorful carrots in a salad!

Get it on Paper

Measure out the area that you can use for your salad garden. Do you have room for a 3×6, a 6×6, 5×8 or maybe a more ambitious 12×5 plot? Even the smallest choice will provide a weekly harvest from the garden. Draw your space on paper to see how you will arrange it. Taller plants such as tomatoes should be in the back of the garden. A larger garden could include small amounts of chard, broccoli, peas, peppers and beet greens. Try mixing in herbs such as basil, dill or parsley for adding to salad or for cooking. Scallions or chives can be great for flavoring too! What would your perfect salad garden include?

A variety of seeds!

When you’ve decided where and what you want to plant in your salad garden, prepare the ground. If the soil needs amendments, add a few inches of compost. Plant directly into the soil. Some organic granular fertilizer can also give the salad patch a boost. For some tips on how to start from scratch, check out the article How To Start A New Garden.

Succession Planting

By leaving some space at planting time, you will be able to sow more seed for carrots, greens or radishes every few weeks. This means that you will save some of your seeds for later. As some crops go by, the new ones will be maturing. Succession Planting ensures continual salad garden success throughout the gardening season.

Tender fresh greens!

A wonderful salad garden could easily be modified for container or deck planting. If you have very little land or are an apartment dweller, salad gardening may be for you! If a large vegetable garden seems totally out of reach, why not grow a salad garden this year? It’s not too late to put the perfect salad garden in!

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Gorgeous bowl of salad greens.

I’ve been itching to get back in the garden! June is upon us! Hopefully this dreary, damp weather moves along for good! It was so good to feel the warm sun on my back yesterday! Most of the veggies are up in my garden. I still have a few things to plant. More carrots, maybe more salad greens, the rest of the onions and scallions. This weather has been great for growing weeds. Some of my wilder garden spots need attention. What’s up in your garden so far? I would love to hear from you! I very much appreciate you stopping by to read Everlongardener this week. With some warm, sunny days coming, try to get out and soak up some sun!

Hilary|Everlongardener

A Gallery of Spring Wildflowers

Spring has been slow this year. I usually refrain from complaining too much about the weather but I have to say that it’s hard to ease into late spring when the heat is on in the house. When every other night your husband says he needs to build a fire to take the edge off! A few weeks ago, it barely got out of the forties on some days. Our Maine landscape is finally a lush green color everywhere you look! On a recent walk with my son I found that my neighborhood is full of spring wildflowers. Would you like to see a few?

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Although I love designing flower gardens and growing a yearly vegetable garden, there’s something about the flowers that appear every spring. As if spring is not really here until we’ve seen our favorites. Like these flowers above, called Bluets or Quaker Ladies. Probably the first to appear in May. Within a ten minute walk from my house I found such diversity that I couldn’t stop trying to capture what I saw. Many of these spring wildflowers go by several different names. I will be using common and scientific names throughout this post. A few of our wildflowers have been introduced from abroad years ago and have naturalized here.

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Euphorbia growing along the road.

Introduced from Europe in the 1800’s, Cypress Spurge or euphorbia cyparissias, is not in a traditional flower form. Each yellow umbrel is made up of many clusters of petal-like bracts. This vibrant, low growing plant has been cultivated into countless varieties over the decades. As a cultivated perennial, it can make a huge show in a home garden.

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My little protected area of Lady’s Slippers.

Since our land was cleared years ago, the Lady’s Slipper orchid was only spotted on occasion. Now, with parts of the forest going untouched, our small patch has grown to be a tiny grove of flowers. Each plant grows two leaves and only one stem with a flower.

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A rare patch of white flowers.

Last year, we had a rare appearance of two white Lady’s Slippers. I don’t think we will have any this spring. These stunning jewels of the forest get their name from the flower resembling a woman’s shoe.

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Lady’s Slippers on the side of the driveway.

I can’t recount how many times I’ve tried to photograph these unique blooms. If you ever get a chance to walk the trails at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens this time of year, you will find several breathtaking displays of Lady’s Slippers. I’ve never seen so many in one place. If picked or over-collected, these frequently spotted orchids could easily slip into the rare category over time. For more specific information on our Maine orchids, go to Lady’s-Slippers in Maine. You never know what you might see on a hike in the Maine woods!

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Dainty wild blueberry blossoms.

Once I passed the blueberry field, I noticed that our low-bush blueberries were in bloom. A flower with a sweet promise of blueberry pies, muffins and jams. Our local blueberry fields put on a continual color show. Right now, the fields are green and white. Soon the blooms will turn into tiny green berries that will ripen in August.

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Purple violets.

At my neighbors farm, the ditch was full of purple violets. One cluster after another, untouched by the weed trimmer. Violets come in several colors including, white, yellow and blue. There are many different kinds of violets making it hard for the untrained eye to identify them. In times past, a small bouquet of purple violets could mean love or faithfulness and white might signify innocence, purity and chastity. I’m not sure what a fistful of dandelions means but I receive this all the time a small person I know!

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The fragrance is overwhelming!

Lily of the Valley holds many memories for me. The scent is strong and can transport you mentally to another place and time. This spring bloomer can make an excellent ground cover but will take over any flower bed. They are often found at the base of old steps or a stone foundation. Pull individual stems from the plant to create a tiny, aromatic bouquet!

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Happy forget-me-nots on the roadside.

I’m so drawn to blue flowers! Forget-me-nots love to lace their way through moss covered areas with dappled light. Often, they can be spotted along the edge of a brook. They can be found in shades of pink and white also. I can’t tell you how many bunches I’ve picked. Forget-me-nots work wonderfully with bleeding hearts. Each flower has 5 petals and a bright yellow eye. Multiple flowers rest atop each stem. These small blue blossoms make excellent flowers for pressing.

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Blue bead lily.

This blue bead lily or Clintonia borealis, can be found hiding in among forest trees. A perennial forest plant named for the blue berry that appears after blooming. Each flower stem will have 3-6 lily like flowers bloom from it. Once established, the blue bead lily will grow in clumps to make a nice show of yellow long into June.

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Star flower is from the primrose family.

This fragile woodland plant is such a dainty spring wildflower. Almost insignificant until you get closer and find it has a delicate beauty about it. This North American perennial blooms in May and June and travels by rhizomes.

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A native rhododendron.

I have rarely seen the native deciduous rhododendron. I happened to capture this recently. Rhodora, rhododendron canadense is a member of the heath family. It prefers bogs and rocky slopes. For some great information on this wild shrub, go to Rock Gardening Maine Style. I would love to see this naturalize near my gardens but it probably won’t happen. If you see one of these, be sure to take a few pictures.  I won’t say that it’s rare to spot the rhodora, but I don’t see it often.

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Buttercups are now emerging from the lawn.

Buttercups are often considered a troublesome weed in a lawn or garden, but along a country road they are lovely. We will never forget the old childhood question about liking butter! But who doesn’t like butter? Our common buttercup, Ranunculus repens, is in the Ranunculus family. If you’ve ever battled it’s tenacious root, you know how tough these guys are. The flowers petals are very shiny and bright. They make excellent flowers for pressing.

These are just a handful of flowers that we see in our area. There were plenty more that I haven’t spotted yet. If we are able to look beyond the cultivated garden beds, we can see a whole world filled with some of the tiniest flowers. Many of our wildflowers are protected so find out before you pick! Plant names change over the years so if you know that one of these names has been changed, just give me a shout. I’ve been playing around with a new site called Go Botany. This is a wonderful new website for plant identification especially for New England. The site is easy to use and helps you quickly find individual plant types by category. It has the capability to identify over 1,200 native and naturalized plants. I also utilize an older book called Spring Wildflowers of New England by Marilyn Dwelley. I hope you have enjoyed taking a walk with me this week. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to share these treasured blooms with you. Thank you for coming along!

Hilary|Everlongardener