old-fashioned annuals are new again


In talking with garden friends and nursery staff, it seems old-fashioned annuals are back in vogue this year. Perhaps it’s botanical comfort food during the recession, or maybe it’s just a natural cycling around again. Whatever the reason, here are some tried-and-true annuals to enjoy in your garden this year. — Jenny P.

Impatiens — Lots of colors and wonderful for shady areas! They like lots of water, though, so don’t let them dry out.


Geraniums — There is something so cheerful about these plants! Choose from red, pink, white, or salmon. Let the soil dry out a bit between waterings and remove the old flowers by snapping them off at the base of the stem.


Marigolds — Sunny and ruffly — there’s a reason our grannies planted these! And here’s an added benefit: if you like to vegetable garden, plant marigolds around the edges of your garden to deter pesky veggie-eating bugs.


Begonias — Small flowers in red, pink and white, with green or bronze foliage. Plant them close together for more impact. They’ll also take a bit of shade where the many other annuals want full sun.


Zinnias — There are so many colors and varieties of zinnias that you’re sure to find one that fits what you’re looking for! Just remember to be careful of overhead watering; zinnias are susceptible to powdery mildew and don’t like water on their foliage. Aim the hose at the base of the plant or use a drip system.

Photos, top to bottom, via: Sanna Mattson MacLeod, Human Flower Project, Cordite Country Show Notes, Weidner’s Gardens, Parks Wholesale Plants

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putting more homemade green cleaners to the test


For my birthday earlier this month, I finally got something I’ve been asking for since I could talk: a puppy. My husband and I adopted a beautiful, tiny Pomeranian from F.I.D.O. Rescue and, as you can imagine, I’m over the moon! As any new owner has to, we had to doggie-proof the house from top to bottom. That included ditching all the harsh bleaches and chemical-heavy cleaners that make your eyes water and can harm a curious pet. I started by mixing up some of Mary’s highly recommended green cleaners, then found some more concoctions that worked just as well as more toxic recipes. After the jump, check out some recipes for furniture cleaner, drain cleaner, grout cleaner, oven cleaner, mildew cleaner, and oil/grease cleaner. — Katie D. (more…)

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the sharpest knives in the drawer


My knives are by far my most used and loved kitchen tools. They weren’t cheap by any means, but when you are a serious cook, you need serious equipment…serious equipment that I had neglected completely for two years. The blades were nicked, chipped, and impossibly dull. Cutting onions was sheer torture. So I finally gave in and took my knives to be professionally hand sharpened — and to be shamed by the proprietor:

“What kind of honing rod are you using on this?”

“Um…nothing. Sorry about all the nicks.”

When I got them back I was delighted with the results: knives sharper then when I brought them home from the store — we’re talking straight razor sharp — that diced up an onion as if it were nothing at all, and with nary a tear in sight! The knife sharpener advised me to get a ceramic honing rod (which is thankfully much cheaper than metal rods) for knife upkeep in between professional sharpening. I’ll never let them go dull again! This all leads to the question: How sharp do you keep your knives? — Megan B.

Photo by Flickr member Coultl

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great garden colors: here’s how to make them work

Unless you want a crazy-quilt cottage garden featuring every color in the rainbow (and hey — those are good, too!), most people want to choose two flower colors that will pop….but which two? If you’re ready to step outside the norm, here are some eye-catchers to try.

Red & White: To avoid this combination seeming “been there, done that,” add some silvery-green in the foliage to liven things up. This duo is great for Christmastime as well as mid-summer flag-flying gardens!


Red & Purple: There is something a bit Monet-ish about this combination that makes it classic and yet slightly unexpected.


Silver & Purple: This combination is classy but never dull. I think silver foliage with nearly any color instantly creates an elegant but modern feel. Try silver and orange or yellow for an even more updated color scheme!

Orange & Lime Green: These two colors will give your garden a citrus-y tropical feel guaranteed to jolt you awake. If you’re really feeling daring, throw some purple in!


Chocolate & Green: There is all kinds of foliage in chocolate colors, and when it’s offset by any shade of green, it feels sophisticated and new.

Don’t play it safe this year! Even your garden needs updating once in awhile. — Jenny P.

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bike month for the space-impaired: foldable bikes from areaware

IF Mode

May is National Bike Month and this week, May 17-21, marks Bike-to-Work Week. In New York City, the land of bike rentals and designated lanes, it’s not hard to find a bike for a casual afternoon ride if you don’t own one, but the thought of biking to work is bittersweet because New York is also the land of tiny apartments, and renting one such space means I have little room for the ride of my dreams. It’s not surprising, then, that I was included in a mass of onlookers at Areaware’s booth at last weekend’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair. The demonstration? The collapsible capabilities of the IF Mode, a foldable bike designed specifically for commuters. At $2,250, it may be a tad pricy for me, but is an interesting idea for those short on space. What do you think, readers? Will you be biking to work this week? Own a foldable bike, or have any other crafty storage solutions to my bike bind? — Sarah C.

Check out Areaware’s complete line of foldable bikes, and click here to find a bike event in your area. Happy cycling!

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