Organize A Milkweed Plant Giveaway

For two years in a row our local land trust has sponsored a milkweed giveaway at our local farmers market. The momentum has grown and this year we had an eager crowd of friends and neighbors waiting to receive their plants. In addition, there were plenty more who did not yet know the value of milkweed and were delighted to learn they could make a contribution to improving our local ecosystem!MonarchOLC Presentation-red

We contacted two sources for our milkweed plants this year. One source was Monarch Watch, a national organization dedicated to increasing populations of monarch butterflies. They sent us a few hundred plants at no charge except the cost of shipping, because we were using most of them for a local habitat restoration project. Included were common milkweed (asclepias syriaca) and swamp milkweed (asclepias incarnata). Our other source was Helia Native Nursery, a local native plant nursery that propagated the plants themselves and sold them to us for $3.25 per plant. They were swamp milkweed, which has a pretty pink flower when in bloom, and grows nicely in a garden bed.

Next we created a Fact Sheet to have at our booth to help answer questions about the connection between Monarchs and milkweed, and the importance of both. Some Facts include the following:

  • In 2004 550 million Monarchs completed their annual migration to Mexico from the United States. In 2013 only 33 million arrived, representing a decline of 94%!
  • Scientific research concludes that the primary reason for the decline in Monarchs is the destruction of the most important plant to their survival: Milkweed
  • Milkweed is essential to Monarchs because it is the ONLY plant that female monarchs lay eggs on.

For information on organizing your own milkweed plant giveaway contact Dorian Winslow, President of Womanswork, at We can also make the original files for the Fact Sheet available to you and you can customize for your organization. Enjoy!


Dorian Winslow, President of Womanswork, with Stancy DuHamel

Meeting Martha Stewart


Last week I visited Martha Stewart’s estate (aka ‘farm’) in Katonah, NY, just 30 minutes from where I live. My garden club had arranged a special tour by Martha’s head gardener, Ryan McCallister, and Martha herself was our host for tea on the terrace and a question-and-answer session in her vegetable garden.Shaking hands with Martha

I found her to be a friendly and hospitable host, and it was fun to see her gardens, her greenhouse and her collection of animals (dogs, horses and donkeys).  As a woman business owner, I admire her for the business and lifestyle she has created. I had a chance to thank her for the nice things she and her colleagues have said and written about Womanswork products over the years. Most recently Womanswork was named a Design Finalist in her American Made program.

Here are some images I took of her farm with my iphone.


A pretty border had allium and other perennials blooming.


An allee of Miss Kim Lilacs pruned as standards


The main house in the background


Martha standing on her back steps talking with us about her farm




Boxwood and Ginkgo garden Summer House


Inside the greenhouse, everything is organized as we would expect (at Martha’s)


Donkeys in their pen


Tree Peonies were in full bloom


Womanswork gift basket we presented as a thank you for hosting our group.


Happy Mother’s Day Mom

My mother is a vigorous lifelong gardener with varied and naturalistic gardens on her property in northwestern CT, and a small pond which provides a focal point behind the house. She also has a raised bed vegetable patch which produces broccoli, brussel sprouts,  lettuce, tomatoes and beans.  She finds that the rule in her garden is ‘one for me and one for the rabbits.’  Sometimes it’s two for the rabbits to her one.Mom_Screening_Compost

Recently I spent an afternoon gardening with my mother. When I got there she had her shovel deep in her compost bin.  Then she dropped the compost on a screen positioned over her wheelbarrow and began rubbing it through the screen.  The result was the most perfect soil I have ever seen.

When ambling through her gardens she points out the lavender that came from a friend, or the iris she transplanted from their former home in Weston, CT.  There’s one small plant I divided last season and gave to her, a chocolate-y heuchera caramel. In my garden half of the plants are from my mother’s garden, divided over the years and dropped in a pot or wrapped in wet newspaper for transporting to my garden.

It’s part of the fun and the ritual of gardening, sharing and recalling where our plants came from.  My mother’s sister in Minnesota has poppies that came from my great uncle’s garden in Emmetsburg, Iowa.  He died at the age of 97, over 30 years ago, but his poppies still live.  When we look at the poppies we think of Uncle Harold.  I have asked her to collect seeds for me so I can try propagating them in my greenhouse next Spring.

I remember many years ago my grandmother showed me a somewhat tattered photo she had of her perennial garden, established along a high riverbank back in Iowa where my mother and her sister and brother grew up. Although the picture was in black and white I could tell my grandmother saw all the colors in her garden when she looked at it.  She loved looking at that picture.

Gardening is about the past, the present and the future—and the connections we make between them.  A love of gardening is a wonderful gift to pass on to others.  Thank you Mom, and Happy Mother’s Day!MomGarden8

[This story was first published for Horticulture in May 2012. My mother continues to love her gardens in Sharon, CT.]


Caring for Bulbs After they Bloom



Daffodils from my garden, with little white Snowflakes (Leucojum)

Where I live in Dutchess County NY, daffodils are one of the few bulbs deer do not graze so gardeners are planting more varieties of daffodils to get variation in their early spring gardens.

After your bulbs are finished blooming, remove flowers so they won’t put energy into producing seeds. For naturalizing, however, leave flowers and allow reseeding. At the NY Botanical Garden, daffodils are allowed to naturalize into large drifts on a hillside.


Daffodil drifts at the New York Botanical Garden in Bronx, NY. Daffodil leaves are left to fade until mid-June before the grass is mown.

Don’t braid or fold and band the leaves as they are dying, as is sometimes recommended. It’s best for the leaves to be fully exposed to the sun. The foliage provides essential nutrients that will help the bulb recharge for next season, so don’t cut leaves back until they yellow and eventually turn brown.

Plant your bulbs in a location where the yellowing and fading leaves won’t be a distraction. I try to plant them in a garden bed where other plants will grow in and hide the fading leaves of the bulbs.

To learn more about caring for your bulbs after they bloom, click here.


A Cold Snap in Early Spring


Sometimes in early Spring after bulbs have emerged from the ground and are beginning to flower, a sudden cold snap will bring temperatures down below freezing for a few days. More often than not, I’m amazed at the resiliency of these hardy plants. We are experiencing a cold scap in the northeast and we had snowfall on two consecutive nights earlier in the week in our Zone 6 region.HelloSpringApril5

The exact effect caused by a sudden cold snap depends on a number of different factors, including the type of plant, regional location, temperature and length of snap. Remember, cold snaps are defined as a short and sudden spell of cold weather; therefore, the temperatures should rise back to their normal levels within a couple of days.

Daffodils– There are many varieties of daffodils, all of which blossom in spring. When a cold snap approaches, gardeners are oftentimes fearful of the effects it will have. Like tulips, however, daffodils are naturally protected against mild-to-moderate cold snaps. If you believe the freezing temperatures are going to last longer than expected, you can place some extra mulch around the base of your daffodils for an added layer of thermal protection. Once the temperatures begin to rise again, though, you’ll need to remove the mulch so the daffodils can easily breathe again.Daffodils in snow2

Tulips– Because they bloom early in the spring, tulips can handle short cold snaps with ease. As long as the temperatures go back within 48 hours, they won’t suffer any serious damage. A tulip’s shoots and buds are usually the most protected from the cold, as they have a natural barrier against the cold weather. On the other hand, tulips with open blossoms may experience a slight burn from the freezing temperatures, especially if it lasts for longer than 48 hours.

Hyacinth– Hyacinth is a plant that’s native to the eastern Mediterranean, Iran and Turkmenistan, but it’s since been successfully introduced into several other regions. This bulbous flowering plant blooms with bright purplish blue coloring that’s a welcomed addition to any garden. So, how well does hyacinth handle short spells of cold weather? Some gardeners will find they do quite well, while others may experience their plants going into shock. Hyacinth is considered a spring-blooming flower, but this doesn’t necessary mean they will withstand freezing temperatures. The best thing you can do in the event of sudden cold snaps is to protect hyacinth with extra mulch for additional warmth.

Our Favorite Early Spring Table Decorations


Egg-shaped pinch pots by Amanda Ann Palmer


Passover table decoration from


Easter table from


Bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley


Eggshells become votive candles on


Jelly beans hot glued to tree branches on

ornamental cabbages sized-700x990

Ornamental cabbage ‘Crane’s White’ on



Lilac and lilac-colored eggs at


Lily of the valley -daffodil posies,



How To Grow Microgreens


The Early Spring issue of Country Gardens with a feature story on our greenhouse also has an interesting story about growing microgreens. Here’s a link to the Country Gardens website with How To information on growing microgreens.CountryGardensCoverCC

I started 3 crops myself, using 3 handmade plates by the talented Vermont potter Amanda Ann Palmer. Because microgreens are harvested a couple of weeks after the seeds are sown, a shallow dish with no holes for drainage is perfectly acceptable.


Dorian’s bok choy microgreens growing in a handmade ceramic plate by Amanda Ann Palmer

Within 5 days of sprinkling seeds on a bed of soiless potting mix, our bok choy and arugula seeds sprouted. Basil will take a little longer. We did put them on a heating mat designed for seed germination. Some plants germinate and grow faster than others. Check with your seed provider.

My crop is in the bright sun on our kitchen windowsill and I expect we will be able to ‘harvest’ them by snipping off the plant just above the soil, stem and all, in about 5 days from now. Use your Womanswork Incomparable scissors for this task!Scissors_Yellow

I grew fond of microgreens over the past couple of summers at our Pawling Farmers Market. One of the vendors had trays of arugula, watercress and other tiny microgreens that she would snip off for an eager clientele each Saturday. At home I would sprinkle them on salads or put inside sandwiches. There are lots of ways to use microgreens, and they add taste as well as texture to a dish.

Forcing Bulbs Indoors for Early Spring Bloom


Forcing bulbs to bloom indoors in late Winter is a way to enjoy the magic of Spring flowers a little early.


If you received a free package of our pink Foxtrot tulip bulbs, they are ready to be potted up indoors as soon as you get them. This is because they have spent the winter in a cool warehouse in Pennsylvania. (For other Spring blooming bulbs, you need to put them in a cool, refrigerated location for 6-8 weeks before potting them up indoors.)

Follow these instructions for forcing your bulbs to bloom this spring indoors:

  • Fill a pot with potting soil or a soilless mix purchased at a garden center or home center. Make sure your pot has good drainage to prevent bulbs from rotting.
  • Plant the bulbs, pointy end up, so that the top of the bulb is just above the soil line.
  • Water well and leave in a sunny windowsill.

Green growth will emerge within 10-15 days. Wait approximately 4-5 weeks for blooms. When your bulbs have finished blooming put them in a dark, cool place. You can plant them outdoors in the Fall and watch them emerge the following Spring, or keep them indoors for forcing again next Spring.

Your Foxtrot tulip bulbs will grow about 10-12″ high, so they are not prone to flop over in their pot.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Read About Womanswork In Country Gardens Magazine


We are thrilled to be featured in the Early Spring 2016 issue of Country Gardens, a high circulation magazine published by Meredith. Last Spring we were visited by Matthew Benson, award-winning garden photographer, who took the lovely photos of our greenhouse. Then over the summer Irene Virag and her husband spent the afternoon with us for the story. She is a lovely person who won a Pulitzer prize for her journalism.

Click here to be taken to a flipbook version of the entire article.

Which Plants Want A Winter Rest?


Which Plants Want A Winter Rest?

Many plants native to warm climates can be grown in colder zones as perennials, but require a rest period during cooler months, which encourages them to bloom or fruit again. Dormancy in plants occurs when the environmental conditions are not suitable for the plant to grow; this is most often during a cold or dry season.300px-Clivia_miniata_(BG_Zurich)-06

Here are a few popular plants I have in my garden, and the techniques Northern gardeners can use to overwinter them:

CliviasClivia miniata

Clivias are native to shady, subtropical woodland areas of Eastern South Africa. In the wild, they go dormant during the dry part of the year. This rest time promotes the development of new buds.

In temperate regions, you can promote flowering of clivias by creating a dormant period: put the Clivia in an environment with a temperature of 50 degrees for 6 to 8 weeks, with very little light (a basement or garage), and just enough water to keep the soil slightly moist.

After the end of the dormant period, the stem will lengthen and a bud will develop. When new growth begins, move to a place with 65-75 degree temperatures and bright, indirect light.

Click here to visit The North American Clivia Society’s website, which has a wealth of information and links about clivias.  

Potted Fig TreesFicus caricaFigTree-Womanswork-Blog

The fig is believed to be indigenous to western Asia. It is in the mulberry family. In Mediterranean and Middle Eastern climates, figs may have two or even three fruiting seasons, but have rest periods in between.

Figs are sometimes wrapped to withstand cold winters outdoors, but potted figs can be overwintered in a garage or cool basement. Allow the fig to go dormant by reducing water. The plant should stay outdoors through a light frost, to encourage the sap to move down toward the roots. Move it to a dark location that stays just above freezing. If your location is light, wrap the plant in dark fabric to keep it dormant. About two weeks before the last frost, the plant can be moved back outside. Choose a protected area, such as near a wall, until temperatures warm up.

Lee Reich is a fruit growing expert with lots of practical information about growing figs in colder climates:

Lily of the Nile -Agapanthus africanusagapanthus

Agapanthus, also known as Lily-of-the-Nile, or African Blue Lily, is a showy blue or white flowering perennial, native to South Africa, where it grows in the shade, under trees. They have a dormant period during the winter months.

To overwinter agapanthus indoors, move pots indoors after a light frost. Cut back the foliage. Keep them in a cool, dark location, with temperatures between 35 and 45 degrees Farenheit. In late winter or very early spring, bring the dormant corms into a warm area and water thoroughly. In a few weeks, new growth will emerge. They can be placed back outdoors after danger of frost is over.

For more information about overwintering Agapanthus, visit the Missouri Botanical Garden website by clicking here.

Amaryllis, a relative of agapanthus, can be treated in a similar fashion, though it doesn’t require very cold temperatures for the dormancy period. Bring amaryllis inside before the first heavy frost, cut back foliage to the top of the bulb, and keep in a dark, cool location (50-55 degrees Farenheit) for 8-10 weeks. When new growth emerges, water and move to a bright location, with temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees.

Other Plants That Like a Dormant or Rest Period:


Calla Lily


Christmas Cactus