Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

March 2013


It’s no news to most of you that spring has been slow this year. Exceedingly slow. While I’m starting to see signs in life in my landscape (snowdrops are blooming), it’s my houseplants that are really providing my garden delight.

There are lots of great reasons to have houseplants:

  • They help clean indoor air (and according to the O2 for You website, the EPA ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top threats to public health).
  • Looking at houseplants helps reduce stress, improves concentration, and helps our memory (says some research).
  • Houseplants add moisture to the dry, heated indoor air we suffer with in winter (and early spring this year)
  • There’s a houseplant to work with every style of decor
  • And ultimately, it’s nice to be able to look at something nice and green on your desk or in your home.


Houseplants aren’t hard to grow. Some people think so, but if you choose the right plant for your space and lifestyle, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits without having to feel like your sacrificing your time to maintain them. By the way: Need help picking the perfect plant? Use our Houseplant Finder!

When I get home, I’m greeted by the lush leaves of a 6-foot-tall banana I’ve had for about five years now; the wonderful scent of Arabian jasmine; and a host of other beauties.

Do you have houseplants? If so, what are your favorites?

Looking for an easy project to give your front yard a fresh look this spring? Plant your parking strip! Taking advantage of that narrow stretch of yard between the street and your sidewalk is one of my favorite landscaping ideas. (Note: In many municipalities you need to get permission from the city first, as well as check on any restrictions they may have on plant height and planting distance from signs or obstacles such as fire hydrants.)

Here in Iowa, the grass in that part of the yard is one of the first to go brown when hot summer weather hits. It can also be a pain to mow. Filling your parking strip with heat- and drought-tolerant annual or perennial flowers keeps it a cinch to maintain and adds a welcoming note to your landscape.

When I suggest planting  your parking strip at local garden club talks and other speaking engagements, there’s usually someone in the crowd who points out planting the parking strip makes it hard for visitors to get to your yard. That’s certainly true, so if you have a lot of visitors, consider dropping a couple of  steppingstone paths to connect the street and sidewalk. Paths look charming create an even more welcoming look to guests.

Have you planted your parking strip? If so, I’d love to see pictures! Post them on our official Better Homes and Gardens Facebook page! 

Do you garden in raised beds? There are lots of great reasons to have a raised-bed garden, not the least of which is they look good in the landscape. One of my favorite benefits is that raised beds allow you to control the soil since you have to fill them. If you’re stuck with challenging clay, for example, no worries: Just add high-quality top soil to your beds and you won’t have to worry about sticky clay ruining your day.

Happily, because they’re so beneficial to gardeners, raised beds are growing in popularity. I hear that from you, my readers. But I’m also hearing it from the industry. For example, the folks at Yahoo! sent me some surprising stats about how more and more people are searching raised-bed gardening on the internet.

Check out our stories here on BHG.com for more info. We have everything you need, including step-by-step instructions to building your own raised bed.

Is there anything missing you’d like to see us write about? Comment below to let me know!

Last week I escaped the freezing rain and melting snow that seems to define March in Iowa to attend the Philadelphia Flower Show in our City of Brotherly Love. The 2013 theme was “Brilliant” for all things decidedly British. There was a handsome new million-dollar Hamilton Horticourt for plant competitions, which historically were the reason the show was started in 1829.

According to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the show’s producer, the plant entries have doubled in the last decade to almost 6,000. PHS president Drew Becher attributes this to “younger competitors, high school garden clubs, and college students who’ve had success growing herbs on the kitchen windowsill, and garden clubs and social media spreading the word,” he says. “It’s become sexy again.” Check out the size of this yellow clivia in the Horticourt.

We’ve always thought plant competitions were sexy around here. But I also loved seeing more emphasis on organic gardening, native plants, and wildlife habitats, and a growing culinary presence under the general theme of “From Garden to Table.” However, the centerpiece of the flower show was a high-tech recreation of Big Ben with palace gates and a fast-paced video with rock music, flashing lights, and iconic images such as the royal family and the Beatles.

Loved bumping into my old friend Jerry Fritz from Linden Hill gardens in Ottsville, Pennsylvania. That’s us above catching up in front of his retail display. I also loved meeting Trenny Robb and Bob Michaud of Sutton, Vermont. They make the coolest custom Arts and Crafts lamps out of copper and brass with mica lampshades embedded with plants and petals from their own garden. Here’s the first one that caught my eye made the leaves of Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla).

Their business is called High Beams (www.highbeams.com). They also had lampshades with bloodroot, horsetail, Solomon’s seal, grapevine, even maidenhair fern. Don’t be surprised if you read about them in a future issue of Country Gardens.

I don’t like to mow the grass in my yard. I know it’s good exercise and a chance to enjoy sunshine and fresh air, but I’d rather spend time weeding and watering than pushing a lawn mower. It turns out I might be missing out on an opportunity to get happier. I read a news release from the University of Queensland’s school of biomedical science that indicates a handful of chemicals released by cutting grass can reduce stress, make us feel happier, and improve our memories.

Plus there’s the long-standing research that people feel good after a workout from the release of endorphins, so if you use  a push mower to get in a little extra exercise, it’s all the better.

It makes sense, especially when you think about how many people list freshly mowed grass as one of their favorite scents. And it’s nice to have another positive quality to add to the list of reasons why we should garden. It’s all-around good for our physical and mental health!

What do you think? Does mowing the lawn really make you happier?

It’s another snowy morning here in Iowa. Though skies are gray and bleak, you can still enjoy winter color in the garden. The variegated foliage of ‘Color Guard’ yucca, for example, is a delight.


I’m also enjoying the textures in my yard. My contorted white pine, for example, is putting on a splendid show despite its rich green color.


If your garden is like mine and still buried under a blanket of snow, what’s providing winter interest for you?

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