Tagged Gardening

Sliding into summer; creative projects

I’ve been enjoying that in-between feeling where the last blossoms of spring are falling and the snorts of hot air are pushing the new plantings towards the sky. Nights are sometimes still cool here and the unpredictable New England climate makes my mind wander into centuries past when creativity here was necessity to thrive. It’s a good reminder for me to stay in that creative place and it settles my modern-day angst.

The vegetable garden is planted. Four types of tomatoes, 6 types of peppers, eggplant, artichoke, cardoon, celery, 2 types of summer squash, 2 types of cucumbers, tomatillos, celery, more greens, dry beans and fresh beans, winter squash, potatoes…In the raised beds, the kale and spinach and broccoli are telling me that they wish to go to sleep now—“it’s too hot mom”—so I will let them go soon and plant again for fall when the cooler temperatures make them happier. The garlic looks good and soon I will cut their curling blossom shoots (called scapes) so they do not flower and the bulbs will continue to grow until fall when I pull them for winter.

spring veggie garden; janebalshaw.com

I have already harvested and dried my herbs for the season. Their flavor and aroma is best in early to mid-spring before the heat of summer has changed their constitution by concentrating their more acrid resinous oils. Its still not too late; before they blossom, cut them first thing in the morning before the sun has hit them and dry them very slowly by hanging or laying in a basket in a warm room or attic. I will use some for cooking, some for sachets and some for tinctures in the facials I give and skincare products I make.

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My annual window boxes have been planted for long over a month now. I decided to go with a fairly muted palette this year inspired by the local grower’s petunias and a new crazy colored coleus paired with that purple potato vine; inky purple, burgundy-brown, acid yellow with a hit of red, a split-complimentary color scheme.

Coleus window box 2; janebalshaw.compotato vine and coleus color gradation; janebalshaw.com

I always love an American flag in the summer and this year I designed a quilted interpretation for the front door that ties together plant colors. Since commercial fabrics fade in the sunlight I instead painted my flag on a solid piece of fabric with textile paint which, after setting with heat, will not fade. I use colorless Jacquard brand paint that I custom mix with Createx brand tints.

painting the flag quilt; janebalshaw.com

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I’ve been reading “Summer” from Stillmeadow Sampler again, a gift from my mother-in-law years ago. Written by Gladys Taber in 1950, it chronicles her life by seasons living in her 1690’s home in Connecticut. There was a colonial revival in the 1940’s and 50’s when many New York based writers retreated to old farmsteads in New England. Living in such old dwellings and utilizing the historic land was quite a departure in the era of TV dinners. There is a lot of creativity expressed in those pages and the name of her home, Stillmeadow, expresses the non-static approach to living a creative life which I strive for.

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Last week-end my son helped me build a woven fence to contain my blue thistle.  It is of the wild variety and was given to me from the Shaker Village gardens here in Canterbury from their original plantings.  It is sentimental but given it natural habit, it falls forward.  The fence should help.  We had just trimmed our trees so the fresh green branches we used just bent into shape held by tension around the stakes.  The color of the stakes will mellow with time and it will all blend right into the landscape.

building the thistle fencd; janebalshaw.com

I hope this post has given you some inspiration to put your own ideas to use this summer.

Please stop by my OPEN STUDIO this summer on Saturday July 30th from 12-5.  I will have some of my latest artwork on view PLUS my studio is open to former students to come have a day of practice with my tools.  Read more about it here…

Also visit the Canterbury Fair that day from 9-5!!

Love, Jane

 

Change of season creative inspirations

fall pumpkin:pepper; janebalshaw.comIts fall and the gardens are winding down here at my country home and studio.  This time of year is always settling to me as though the plants and I have run a long, hot race through summer and now we can rest on our laurels.  Artistic inspiration always comes.  Here is what I am thinking…

hydrangea:nasturium; janebalshaw.comThe color of the end-of-season hydrangea and heirloom nasturium makes me want to get back to my hand appliqueing in similar tones.  I am making a baltimore album type quilt a little bit at a time, year by year.DSC05864

The gray bark of the maple trees is inspiring me to finally do something with the wood grained fabric I painted last year.  Maybe I will get something created with it for Open Studio next month.wood grained fabric; janebalshaw.com

HOW TO: Apply a thin coat of textile paint to your paint board, run a wood-graining tool through it then very carefully lay either wet/rung-out cotton fabric [like above] or dry fabric on top of the paint.  Roll a brayer on the fabric to “print it” with the paint below.  Pull off carefully and let dry.  Set paint with heat, wash and iron.

Although my rose geranium is still lush, it may freeze soon so I have clipped some stems of it and made starts already for next years planting.  I make gorgeous rose geranium tinctures to use in my summer facials.  Clip a tip off your geranium and pull off the lower leaves.  Prepare a pot of good soil by moistening it with water and poke a hole down the center of the soil (I use the handle of a wooden spoon.)  Dip the stem into powdered Growth Hormone and insert stem into hole.  Press dirt around it.  It will root where you pulled the leaves off and grow into another full sized plant.geranium starts; janebalshaw.com

I pulled down the worn out vegetable plants at the back door to clean up the entrance to my studio collecting the last bits.  David dug up the potatoes out of the compost pile.  I think I will make my stuffed pepper dish.   Maybe an au gratin of potato with some rosemary on another day.fall harvest; janebalshaw.comEven the bees are slowing down enough for a photograph.  Columbus Day week-end is always a good bench-mark for closing her down and buttoning it up.  Enjoy your close to this season!zinia:dalia; janebalshaw.com

 

Old House rehab 2; completing the exterior

IMG_1036color gradations with plantsThrough stops and starts working against mother nature’s autumn time clock, the exterior of our little house project is completed.  That before & after computer mock-up I did really helped me plan my colors with the plant material, purchasing at the end of the season while trying to imagine their blooms at other times of the year.  Except for the hydrangea around the corner of the house and the burgundy leaves of the Purple Emperor stone croft, all plant color is imaginary right now showing off against that magenta door and those sage green shutters.

Rule of thumb when planning groups of color – whether combining plants or quilt blocks or home interior accents, choose your favorite 2 or 3 colors then use their varying shades of light and dark to produce richness, depth and interest.  Matchy-matchy color schemes with each item the same exact color ends up looking a bit cartoon-like and more commercialized.

Plant material collage

WHAT WE DID:

  • Scraped off paint on all woodwork – garage door and 2 porches.
  • Sanded, washed, painted with oil primer then finished with 2 top coats of latex paint on all woodwork. (NOTE: you must use an oil-based alkyd paint primer on old wood.  It’s natural browning bleeds through latex paints.)
  • Sanded, washed and painted front and back doors with 2 coats of paint.
  • Wire brushed, washed and painted both sets of concrete stairs with new gray concrete paint.
  • Installed shutters.
  • Installed vinyl lattice at each side of driveway.
  • Sprayed to kill all over-growth weed material.
  • Pulled out killed weed material, turned over & amended soil with processed cow manure (“processed” means heated to a high temperature to kill all weed seeds.)
  • Removed worn out and dislodged landscape cloth.
  • Planted and mulched new beds

DSC05761DSC05763IMG_0996BEFORE AND AFTER