Currently viewing the tag: "The Crazy Plant Lady"

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier

Come One, Come All, to L’Hôtel Des Insectes!

Bonjour, and welcome to L’Hôtel Des Insectes! At this hotel, we have first-class service for some of the least valued workers in the world: bugs! Find solace in its many rooms. You can try the temperate brick room, the rustic twig room, the soft hay room, or the shielding bark room. Dine on the finest dried leaves, the freshest larvae, and perfectly aged plant matter. Rooms are free, as long as you, my guest, continue pollinating and munching away at other harmful creatures. A vacation you needed from the hustle and bustle of urban development.

All descriptors aside, bug hotels provide permanent residences to some of the most important insects and pollinators, such as bees (not all live in beehives), spiders, beetles, and ladybugs, all coexisting to get rid of pests. Now, are you ready to provide these guests with a luxury suite?

Bug Hotel

Base/building: This will hold all the shelves, plant matter, and your guests. Try reusing materials such as:

Birdhouses (reuse if possible!);


Thick picture frame;


Gallon Jug;

Large soda bottle (can serve as one room);

Palettes (make a brick base and pile palettes on top).

For more handy gardeners, you can make your own by making a shadowbox out of untreated wood. Glue or drill four-foot-long boards (width: 4+ inches.). Add a backplate, drill in some shelves, and you have a shadowbox!


Next, you want to add in rooms:


Cardboard rolls;

Bricks/cinder blocks;


Layered palettes;

Untreated wood.

Interior Design

Now that your hotel has been constructed, it’s time for some interior design! There is lots of plant matter for you to choose from to attract different insects. Please make sure all plant matter is untreated by chemicals. Here’s the insect guestbook as to “room” preference:

Bees: Bamboo/Reeds, Logs with holes drilled in;

Beetles and centipedes: Logs/bark;

Rove beetles (get rid of slugs!): Twigs;

Spiders: Any material;

Ladybugs love: Leaves, stems.

Other materials possible:


Ripped-up cardboard;

Bricks (holes facing out);

Broken pottery, such as from flower pots;


Overall Tips

Do not paint; your guests just adore the natural decor (and it is healthier for the ecosystem).

If placed on the ground, put a layer of bricks under your hotel first. It is ideal to hang or post bug hotels further up on trees or posts (but isn’t the easiest to employ).

Ensure your hotel is protected from hazards such as rain, wind, children, and pets.

Other ideal conditions include a warm spot near flowers and other flora. Also, don’t make your guests complain about the sounds and smells of the highway! Make sure to place the hotel at least ten feet away from the road.

If you haven’t already, make a (non-painted) sign to name your hotel, so your guests know what to look up in GPS.

Finally, bug hotels do not require much maintenance, as you do not want to disturb your insect guests. So, let the “cash” (aka improved garden conditions) flow in and enjoy!

Seed-Savy Savings Tips

Good day to you, readers! ‘Tis the season we’ve all been waiting for: planning and planting time.

Ready to gear up with your gardening weapons of choice? I personally am dusting off the ol’ trowel, nice thick gloves (a find from the dollar store), and scissors. And…the free stuff ends there, it seems. Gardening Pinterest might have you pulling out a depleted wallet for “the perfect’’ plant. I have had difficulty not adopting plant babies whenever I go to a plant store (darn those amazing front-of-the-store displays).  Reflecting upon this during the cold winter months left me curious and eager to learn from my overspending mistakes.

I was surprised to find a bevy of ways to save on plants and seeds. While I still need to work on the ol’ impulse buying, I’m eager to share (and implement) these tips to save on seeds this season!

Do the Research

It seems like a “no duh,” but I have certainly bought plants that looked like they would yield tasty veggies, only to see them wilt away. I failed to do my research about how they would take to the climate, when the plants might bloom best (and making sure to help them get comfortable before then), and how well they would do with other plants. It’s important to research which plants could be friends and reside in the garden together, and which plants could be deadly foes. Find out which plants are invasive, and which ones will love being back in their native land. And, read the little tags that plants come with! They have well-detailed planting, timing, and other instructions. If tags cannot be found, scour the internet for sunlight details, soil acidity needs, and fertilizer needs.

Make a Grocery List

Make a strict grocery list of plants seeds and seedlings you’re going to look for and have a few dollars for something extra. Be sure to examine your schedule. Will you be able to commit to an intensive plant, or do you need something you can simply water once a week?

Be honest with yourself, as hard as it can be.

Seek Out Veggies

Seek out veggies that you and your family or friends will actually eat. I grew a hearty stock of tomatoes, but I only like them in sauces. As a result, we had to find anyone we had a connection with to take the ‘maters that took up a considerable portion of counter space.

Buy Local

Buy local—not just to support local businesses, but because they will often have the plants and soil that do best in your region. Even if it’s more expensive, it will be worth it, as the transfer (from pot to soil) will go well and most likely increase the longevity of the plant. You can also keep an eye out for local plant swaps and markets, like what the Thurmont Green Team offers ( Catoctin High School also has a lovely and extensive plant sale each year in the spring.

Best Time to Buy Seeds

This is more of a retrospective tip. The best time to buy seeds is early summer and the end of fall. Spring does offer more selection, but usually at a steeper price. Along the same vein, seek out the clearance section, and particularly seek out perennials that will often be dehydrated or done blooming. After watering, they’ll be perfect and ready to bloom for you next year!

The smaller and earlier in development the plant is, the more likely it’ll be cheaper (since you’re going to input your labor instead of paying for the nurseries to grow you a baby squash).

Self-sustaining Gardner

Become a self-sustaining gardener! Let your plant grow and reproduce, then collect seeds and cuttings for the next season. These seeds will be more compatible with your garden, as they have adapted to those specific conditions. Propagate cuttings in water, then after a considerable root system is created, transfer to soil.

Try implementing one of these tips and see what happens! Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to use those extra savings for something fun! Or maybe the Leprechaun will give you a bounty of gold to grow more plants… you never know!

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

Historic Aphrodisiacs (Love Potions)

Enchanté, dear reader! ‘Tis the month of romance, rose petals, and breathy sighs: February!

Maybe you’re trying to figure out what candy to get for your spouse, romantic partner, or class of 30 kiddos (where the sugar high is inevitable). Or perhaps you’re looking to give or do something new or unique to/for someone who means the world to you. How about taking a page from ancient history and making a meal with ingredients fabled to make love potions? And I’m not just talking about stereotypical chocolate. Potion ingredients can range from beets to honey to vinegar (though the last one isn’t the best ingredient for a good date..vinegar isn’t exactly known for smelling minty-fresh), so you won’t be forced to go with just one option to concoct an enchanting elixir. Here are historic herbs, vegetables, and more that were considered to be the perfect love potion!

Pomegranate. In Greek Mythology, the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, was thought to have been the first to plant and introduce the pomegranate tree, infusing the fruit with the power of her love and abundance. In addition, it can also take the edge off for dates, as a study found that it decreased cortisol (stress hormone) levels (Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, 2012).

eets. Less deliciously, Romans believed beets promoted feelings of love. It was purportedly approved by Aphrodite, as she consumed the vegetable to enhance her attractiveness. While it may not directly promote feelings of romance, it is known to promote feel-good chemicals (tryptophan and betaine, and that is if you like beets), which can help boost mood on a big date (Tori Avey).

Honey. Most likely honey is the easiest to make a “potion” with (it’s a smooth move to make a cup of sweet tea on a cold night for a loved one). Honeymooning came from the concept of drinking mead (fermented honey) during and after marriage. Honey is also associated with love and romance (and endorsed by Gods) in several cultures: the Goddesses Hawthor of Egyptian mythology and Aphrodite/Venus of Greek and Roman mythology. Biologically, honey provides a boost in energy, vitamins, minerals, and even a small amount of amino acids!

Figs. Bursting with flavor, antioxidants, and copper, with a uniquely satisfying texture, these small, delectable fruits have been long associated with romance in Greek culture.

Herbs, Honey & Vinegar. Herbs, honey, and vinegar…as a facial ointment. Roman Catholics who created and used this facial ointment did so on the night of October 17. It was believed that overnight the user would dream of being with a loved one or crush, and ask St. Luke to grant this unconscious wish. It was believed that on the next day, St. Luke’s feast day on the 18th, the dream could be made a reality by the Saint himself.

Flowers. Marigolds are proclaimed to be a lucky charm for getting with a crush, so long as these colorful flowers are planted on their path in Greek culture.

From weird to tasty, these love-boosting ingredients make interesting markers of history.

Personally, I anticipate using pomegranate and honey in a recipe to make my love life and taste buds happier! Enjoy your Valentine’s Day, and may it be full of fun, love, and tasty treats!

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

Behind Mistletoe

Everything You Did and Didn’t Need to Know About This Christmas Plant

In Greek, Roman, and Celtic Druid history, mistletoe acted as a panacea- to cure poisons, illness, pain, and more. The most common folklore traced to this tradition comes from Norse Mythology. Baldur (Odin’s son) was condemned by a prophecy to die. Not wanting any harm to come to her son, Frigg ventured about the entire Earth, ensuring all plants and animals agreed to keep her son safe. As with most stories- she forgot one plant. Obsessed with love and beauty, Frigg neglected mistletoe- as it was bland and undesirable. Loki used this oversight and fashioned the plant into a lethal arrow to defeat Baldur, and he did. However, the Gods resurrected Baldur, and Frigg, elated that her son had come back from the dead, declared that she would kiss anyone who passed under the mistletoe and made the plant a symbol of love- not to be forgotten lest it force anyone into bad luck, akin to how she ignored the plant (later interpreted to be that of vitality and fertility).

This evergreen plant seems like a low-maintenance project. After all, you primarily need to take care of the host tree it is attached to and provide full sun to part shade conditions. Like a telemarketer, it is parasitic and will only grow and obtain nutrients and water from the host tree. Keep mistletoe roots and vines in check to prevent further takeover of other trees. The largest it should grow is 3 feet by 3 feet. Some host trees that mistletoe prefers  (and that you can sacrifice) include maple, poplar, aspen, walnut, elm, and oak. While it is commonly used in tradition, it is quite toxic to all organisms, so make sure no one puts it in their salad! It also produces alluring-looking berries, but don’t be tempted! Also, please try to grow it inside (especially the dwarf variety), as it is very invasive. Trash after use (don’t compost!). Finally, since it is such an invasive plant, bugs leave the plant alone!

Some species that you can look for (that won’t be as damaging) include American mistletoe, European mistletoe, and Big Leaf mistletoe. To propagate, you will need mistletoe berries (will be white), gloves, and a host tree. Smash the berries, and press into the bark a little higher than the base of the tree. That’s it! However, it will take a year for the seeds to take. If you want to get rid of some unwanted growth, there are two options you can employ. Begin by cutting away the growth you don’t want. Then apply black plastic on the infested area or use herbicides.

If you (understandably) don’t want anything to do with mistletoe anymore, may this article serve as a basis to know what to look for if you see your trees suffering from an unknown parasite. So enjoy a moment of romance with the knowledge that you didn’t cause your son’s downfall because you ignored this plant.

A ball of mistletoe complete with berries!

*Credit to Gemma Johnstone from The Spruce, Even Andrews of HISTORY, and Rob Dunn of Smithsonian Magazine.

by Ana Morlier

Unbe-leaf-able! Leaf Tips, Tricks, and Crafts

Hello readers and happy October! Isn’t it a re-leaf that the heat has subsided? It’s a re-leaf to walk outside and not have to worry about melting into the sidewalk. Puns aside, ‘tis the month for your yard’s minimalist phase, but instead of donating all the things it doesn’t need to Goodwill, you have to take care of it instead. Or, instead of dirty laundry, it’s…leaves, which smell much better in my opinion! To leaf or not to leaf behind, that is the question! Below are my tips on raking leaves, composting, and other disposal. Followed by the more, uh, fun topic of CRAFTS (where my biases lie; I’ve also been using the same autumn decorations, so these were a great way to spice things up, minus the pumpkin and cinnamon).

Raking Tips (take it, or leaf it!)

If you want a weight-leaf-ting workout, then be my guest and rake wet leaves.

If the ground is frozen, wait or use a leaf blower if you have it.

For faster compost rate, chop leaves up (with a rake, mower with grass catcher).

Wear eye protection and gloves (lots of loose organic matter).

Use smaller leaves for mulch in plant beds (or just use chopped-up leaves again).

Leaves can provide shelter for beneficial insects, so forming leaves in a donut shape around a plant is helpful to the plant and bugs.

Crafts (That’s my leaf-style)

Organic Leaf Wreath (shown right)

Materials: Leaves, needle, and thread (yarns can be used if you want to make a garland), wire wreath frame, and twine.


Thread your needle and thread at least an arms width apart (5 feet).

Thread leaf one, back facing the knot, in about the middle of the leaf (slightly close to the stem). The more gentle, the better!

Thread other leaves facing the same way (back of leaf in the same direction). Don’t push together too roughly, but they should be packed in tightly together!

Keep adding leaves to the string until a circle is formed (that fits your wire frame).

When the circle is finished, tie thread ends together.

Turn wreath around so that the stems eventually face outside of the circle (this gives your wreath more volume and a sense of movement).

Place on a wire wreath and tie twine in six areas spread evenly through the wreath. The twine will go between leaves.

Cut a large piece of twine to hang up your creation, and you’re done!

Ghost Leaves

Materials: Leaves, white acrylic paint, Sharpie or black paint, and paintbrushes.


Coat leaves with white paint. Let dry.

Add eyes and a mouth with Sharpie (or black paint!) once the white paint has dried.

Optional: You can also use glitter paint for a fabulous ghost. For better results, paint a coat of glitter paint on top of the white coat of paint.

Leaf Goblins

Materials: Leaves, puffy paint, (optional googly eyes), glue (hot glue or other strong glue, or tape), Sharpie or black marker, white piece of paper (cardstock preferable), or other colors at the crafter’s preference.


Simply hold a dried leaf and add puffy paint eyes, a spooky nose, a silly mouth, and other features. (Here you can glue on googly eyes if you wish!)

Let dry.

Then, glue or tape leaf to the piece of paper, and add arms and legs. Make a scene. (Tip: If you’ve chosen to tape on a black piece of paper, white chalk or crayons work better than colored pencil or paint).

“Spray Paint” Leaf Portraits

Materials: Leaves, masking tape, canvas/watercolor paper, spray bottle (the kind for watering plants), any kind of water, any kind of paint.


Securely tape down leaves with masking tape to any size of paper or canvas you want to work with.

Fill up your spray bottle with a 1:1 ratio of paint to water. Then, spray on the surface—get creative with it!

Try different paint colors and ratios for various effects. Once the paint has dried, remove the leaves, and voila, you have a wonderful portrait!

Leaf Bowl

Materials: Air-dry  clay, leaves, acrylic paint, sealer (Modge Podge or gloss), and a knife.


Start by rolling out your air dry clay to match the area of your leaf- slightly bigger.

Press leaf firmly into the surface of the air-dry clay for 1-2 minutes, or until an imprint reveals itself.

Take the leaf out and cut around the imprint (get rid of excess air-dry clay).

Roll some of the outside edges slightly inward to give the perimeter some fun movement, but do not roll up the tip of the leaf.

Now it’s time to wait! Let the clay air-dry according to the instructions on the package. (Usually one day of drying per side, but it’s perfectly fine if it needs more time! You can’t rush perfection after all).

Now you can paint! Aim for 2-3 layers. Darker colors need fewer coats of paint, while lighter ones need more.

For extra gloss or sealant, use Modge Podge (waterproof if you want to use it like a dish but for non-food stuff).

Happy raking and crafting readers! Leaves are so versatile for many eco-friendly crafts, instead of using foam or other plastics. With natural colors, your crafts will stand out with a lovely scent, dramatic shading, and unique creativity in the best way. Stay cozy and enjoy! I be-leaf in you!

Picking the Perfect Pumpkin

by Ana Morlier

It’s time for the season of great family fun: Autumn! There are so many opportunities for great family-bonding time, whether it’s raking and playing in the leaves, making tasty sweets, or cozying up by the fire (or other heat source). However, the greatest fun of all lies in local farms and corn mazes! Endless outdoor activities, mazes, and fresh produce await anyone looking for more fall adventure—and the opportunity to pick a stellar pumpkin to kick off spooky October! However, finding the perfect pumpkin comes with its own tricky set of criteria for the healthiest or most visually appealing.

Tips & Tricks for Picking the Best Pumpkin

Ripe pumpkins come from vines that are slightly dried up. This also means the most vibrant color has been attained. If you cut a pumpkin from a green vine, it may be more dull or lose coloration. However, the pumpkin’s stem should not be dried up or mushy. A dark green coloration is suggested.

After choosing your pumpkin, cut from the vine, and not too close to the pumpkin.

Check for a hollow sound. You can do this by raising the pumpkin to your ear with one hand, and with the other, knock on any side of the pumpkin. The louder the hollow/echo sound present, the better the pumpkin is!

Hardened pumpkins are important for storage and longevity. You can test this by pressing your fingernails to the pumpkin’s flesh. If its skin or flesh cracks, it won’t last long and decay rather quickly. The skin should be somewhat leathery, but not give in when you push your nail in. Spongy or fleshy spots are not a good thing!

Checking for holes, bruises and soft spots is more important than you think, especially since these are easy entrances for bugs and fungal infections that can rot your pumpkin quickly! Please take extra care to check the bottom of the pumpkin, which is often missed and liked by bugs.

Dense pumpkins can be determined by their lack of or lesser hollow sound and relative heaviness compared to other pumpkins.

When walking around with your pumpkin, hold it by the base. Not only does it lower the risk of a very heavy object falling on your foot (ouch), but if the stem pops off (which it more than likely will if you are walking for a while and holding it by the stem), it leaves an open hole for bugs to get in or infections to occur.

When looking for cooking varieties of pumpkin, small pumpkins will be your best bet in texture, sweetness, and density. Dull-colored pumpkins are ok in this department (as the pumpkin flesh is still good). What isn’t ok are any dark bruises, wet spots (signs of frost), or holes.

Seeds are edible for all pumpkins! So, roast and enjoy.

If you don’t know what to look for in name for cooking pumpkins, some include: “Small sugar pumpkin, New England Pie Pumpkin,  ‘Baby Pam’, ‘Autumn Gold’, and ‘Ghost Rider, Lumina, and crookneck squash/pumpkins’’ (Ianotti). Or, simply ask staff for their suggestions!

Handling Tips

Do not carve pumpkins that aren’t soft enough (aka, akin to carving wood). This is just a disaster waiting to happen with the uncontrolled misstep of any carving utensil. The exterior should protect the flesh inside but still be able to be carved with relative ease. For the easiest carving, lighter-colored pumpkins are your friend.

Balanced pumpkins are really important for your safety and presentation. To test that your pumpkin has even balance, rest your pumpkin down and closely examine your pumpkin if it tilts or falls in a way that can’t be corrected.

Carving size suggestions: Small pumpkins for traditional, easier patterns, medium pumpkins for stencils, and large pumpkins for intricate designs.

Preserving your pumpkin: The more open wounds on your pumpkin (aka from carving), the faster your pumpkin will rot. To prevent quick decay, place in any cool (not freezing), dry place until it’s showtime for your carving! When you display your work, place the pumpkin in a shady spot outside. Sunbeams can damage the color and cause it to rot faster.

You can also coat and then wash the pumpkin’s skin with a half cup of bleach to 4-4.5 cups of water (double if you run out).

While the list seems daunting, trust your instincts and other knowledge about the quality of produce to help you find the way to the perfect pumpkin. These are also mere suggestions. If cuts or abrasions go with the aesthetic you’re going for, pick that one! If you want a green pumpkin for a theme, that’s cool too! Shape, size, and color are all a matter of personal preference, ultimately. Handle these heavy plants with care (no broken appendages, please!) and carve carefully and AWAY from you (that goes to my younger, careless self). Now, get out there and pick some perfect pumpkins!

*Credit to Marie Iannotti of The Spruce, Viveka Neveln of Better Homes and Gardens, Farmers Almanac Staff and Maki Yazawa and Natalie Andelin of Well + Good.

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier

Happy summer, readers! I hope your summer has been lively, fun, and relaxing, maybe crossing off bucket list activities, taking that fun family trip, or catching up on sleep. Summer has certainly been busier than anticipated in this plant-loving household—to the point that some plant care has been neglected…I’m ashamed to say. Despite some free days present in my calendar, I’ve slowly been running out of summer fun ideas since most of them are rather time-consuming. Visiting the local carnivals, checking out state/local parks, strolling about Thurmont square, and spending too much time in any library or bookstore I stop in to.  But I started exploring small ways to sprinkle in summer adventure without grand events or long trips.

Here are some  of my favorite small summer activities for those of all ages—ones that I’ve had fun trying, from when I was a young chap until now.

Plant a storybook-themed garden. Take time to read any garden-themed books, such as Peter Rabbit (Potter), Grow Happy (Lassar), or The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle), then write down all of the plants pictured or described in the book. Or, base fictional plants and veggies on real plants. Select your favorite plants (especially ones that can be harvested in fall) to put in the garden. Draw or print out a character from the book you chose with the plant you selected, then laminate the paper to serve as a colorful stake to mark which plant is which. You can start seedlings indoors so that the whole family can watch the plant grow and (hopefully) share watering responsibilities. Finally, decorate your garden to match the theme or show the characters in the story you’ve read. It could be with statues, more garden stakes, or collecting rocks—the possibilities are endless!

Pick your own fruit. Catoctin Mountain Orchard hosts the harvesting of blackberries, cherries, blueberries, and more. Butler’s Farm (a bit of a drive to Germantown) also hosts the picking of blackberries, raspberries, flowers, and more! Requires reservations. This is a fun and tasty activity for the whole family.

Play in the rain, with or without rain gear! Host a puddle-splashing contest, water fight, or just dance in the rain!

Go on a clean-up hike. Bring gloves and enjoy nature while also giving back: by cleaning up a trail or other public space.

Try a rainbow walk. Task the family with finding objects to create your own rainbow, whether by taking photos, drawing what you see, or collecting objects for a colorful project.

Visit a farmers market. Thurmont Farmers Market is open every Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to Noon (Thurmont Community Park, 21 Frederick Road); Emmitsburg Farmers Market is open every Friday, 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. (302 S. Seton Avenue); Frederick Farmers Market is open every Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (1215 W. Patrick Street, Frederick).

Hold your own outdoor concert/talent show. Let everyone’s passions shine with an outdoor concert! Invite friends, family, or keep it small; no matter the craft, let them act! Make unique awards for every act, queue up fun music as an introduction for every performer, or do anything that brings the theater to your backyard.

Host outdoor or indoor family movie nights. The whole family can chip in and turn your house or backyard into a fancy movie theater! Draw your own tickets, “sell” concessions, create fictional advertisements, or re-arrange furniture. This is great for spending rainy days inside or for having a fun evening with family and friends.

Let your creativity shine. Make a backyard obstacle course or fort or bouquets, flower/leaf crowns, and natural jewelry to embrace nature’s beauty. Sun prints using leaves, flowers, feathers, moss, and sun print paper for some of the best cards and artwork. Light-sensitive cyanotype paper will “print” as white in areas blocked by shadow (thus objects of nature and household items can be used to create the preferred shadow and shape), while negative space (exposed to the sunlight) will “print” as a brilliant blue. Arrange your objects in a dark room first and place a heavy acrylic sheet or glass to flatten organic objects if needed. Then, expose it to the sun. In full sun, the print will be ready in 2-5 minutes; during a cloudy day, this time varies from 5-20 minutes. When the paper is devoid of color (except for white), your print is ready for the next step: rinsing your paper. The longer the paper is exposed to water, the deeper the color blue you’ll get! To dry, place on a paper towel or cloth (something to soak up the moisture, so you don’t have to deal with water spots) and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Then your print is done!

Host a “car” show or parade. Decorate bikes, scooters, skateboards, and wagons to a theme or however your kids want to, and show off your vehicles; play in a band, twirl a baton, and throw a parade!

Camp in your backyard. Don’t forget a campfire, s’mores, and spooky ghost stories while you’re at it.

Geocache. There are locations all over Thurmont, Emmitsburg, and Frederick. Check out the Thurmont Park and Trolley trail! You will need to install an app and bring some small prizes (the size of a golf ball or smaller) to trade with you, but some of the things left behind by others are well worth the exchange!

Host a bug hunt and give out various prizes. The most courageous bug hunter (within reason, no poking at a beehive with a stick, please), most colorful finds, most creative pictures, and so forth.

Finally, take time to just be outdoors. Read, dance, do a puzzle, play baseball, kickball, (any sport, really), eat, swim, sunbathe. Anything to enjoy the summer before the cool autumn months roll in. Despite the act of merely walking into a store now, resulting in unwanted school stress, try to relax and enjoy whatever summer brings. Not every day has to be full of major events, such as the zoo or amusement park—it can be whatever you make of it, whether that’s showing off your talents or making art as a family. Live in the moment, enjoy togetherness, and have fun!

Photo Credit to Run Wild My Child

The various shades of sun-print paper throughout the process of soaking the sunbathed paper.

Credit to: Run Wild My Child.

DIY Natural Dyeing

by Ana Morlier

Happy summer, readers! Have you broken out the popsicles, yet? Or are you preoccupied with downcast, wilting plants that are (too) slowly adjusting to the summer heat? They’ll be fine…is what I tell myself. Really, all that matters is if the plant stays mostly green, right? Anyway, enough of my own gardener insecurities. It’s time for a fun experiment. The fourth of July and its consequential parties are rapidly approaching an otherwise (hopefully) wide-open summer schedule. Unless you’re the parent of a new driver, in which anxiety and bonding time intermingle with the family car. Though, hopefully, you are (alternatively) testing ties of friendship and family in friendly games of Mario Kart, now that you have the time. But beyond new drivers and errands, it’s time to spice up your regular summer checklist activities. No more store-bought T-shirt dye kits that hurt the environment. It’s time for creativity! Make your patriotic (or just for fun) dyed items all the better with your own natural, homemade dyes!

Materials for Mother-Nature-Grown Dyes

Red: Madder (Rubia Tinctorum) — This is undoubtedly a rather angry plant with thorny leaves, weed-like growth, and frustratingly extensive root systems. However, it has been used for centuries throughout the world for its alarming red color. Madder roots are used for dye, so buckle down and pull out one of its snake-like roots, wash it off any dirt, cut it into smaller pieces, and leave it in cool water before chopping for dye.

Pink: Goat willow (Salix Caprea) — A plant with mild softness perfect for those of us who long to stroke the uniquely soft fur of goats but have no space or are allergic. Despite its flowers possessing delicate white and yellow wisps, a pink dye can be created with the addition of bark.

Orange: Dyer’s Tickseed (Coreopsis Tinctoria) — And you thought I was making up the last one! I mean, Tickseed? With such beautiful blooms sporting purple, brown, and yellow all in one flower,  it’s hard to understand the correlation between ticks and these flowers. Anyway, despite all of the previous colors I listed, this plant produces a rather vibrant orange dye. Even better, it’s native to North America, flowers for a long period of time, and is an amazing pollinator. The plant’s flowers are used specifically to make dye.

Yellow: Marigolds — In every article (it seems), I emphasize what an amazing plant this is for pests and pollination, so nothing more can be said. It’s also non-toxic, so still wear gloves but don’t fret if your skin comes in contact. The plant’s flowers are used specifically to make dye. Dyer’s Chamomile (Anthemis Tinctoria) — No, I did not add the “Dyer” part to make extra sure you’d believe chamomile can be used for dye. If you thought that was bad, there is a variety of marigolds called “sauce hollandaise” which is less vibrant, akin to hollandaise’s butter-colored sauce that… I’m not a huge fan of. The plant’s flowers are used specifically to make dye. Onions — (for rust coloration). Black Tea — (Rust/Beige/Charcoal).

Blue: Woad (Isatis Tinctoria) — Upon initial Google search, one might think this plant would be best at producing yellow dye due to the coloration of its blooms. But just like Indigofera, Woad’s leaves house a vibrant blue color. This plant requires a large radius to grow and is a European plant, so try to contain it in one area to prevent its invasion in your garden. Use only leaves for dye. Cornflower (Centaurea Cyanus) — For once, this produces a dye matching the color of its flowers: a blue-violet dye. Use flowers for dye, but save a couple for our avian friends, who love a tasty snack of seeds.

Now for making the dye! There are several different ways to go about this, so experiment with plants and material varieties to find vibrant colors. Always use gloves when working with plant materials and doing these processes. Dyes can be used for fabrics (such as shirts, tote bags, etc.), yarn, and fibrous materials. Even after dyeing, colors from natural dyes can fade quickly due to sun or wear and tear. However, it’s difficult to tell how materials will react to each plant dye, so you may have to experiment a bit to find the best dye and material combination. Finally, all dye methods should result in total color coverage.

Heat bath: Swish plant materials in a pot of water for two to four minutes. Then take out plant material and place in a boiling pot of water. Use about 1-2 cups of water, depending on how much dye you want (for example, 2 cups of water for a larger handful of plant material). Leftover plant fiber can be taken out, dried, and ground into powder. Clothing pieces can be placed in the leftover hot water, filled with dye until the color sets. Please use caution with the hot water! Alternatively, you can let water containing the pigment cool, then dye your items.

Steaming: First, soak the plant materials. After soaking, chop and place on the item you wish to dye. Be intentional; plant placement will determine the color and pattern that will result. Roll up clothing pieces to set plant materials in place, wrap them in plastic wrap, and put them in a steamer or over steaming water. Steam for 10-20 minutes and let cool before unwrapping.

Solar dyeing: Place clothing, fabrics, and even yarn in a jar of hot water with the plant you want the dye from. Add enough hot water to cover the fabric and plant material entirely in the jar. Put a lid on and set in the sun. Timing (of how long to “steep” the dye and material in the sun) will depend on your own judgment. Try for an initial hour, then check the jar. If it appears that the fabric has absorbed color or the pigment has diffused, your material dyed should be ready!

And there you have it! For simplicity’s sake and consistent dye shade, I recommend the last dyeing option. There are certainly better explanations and visual guides given by the website and YouTube channel, Textile Indie. Check it out! Finally, have patience, as it takes trial and error to discover the complexities of the dyes and the best dying process for you, but also have fun! After all, you can say that you’re a potion master as you create amazing and unique items.

You got this, readers!

Pictured are completed solar dyeing jars.

Credit to: Natasha Goodfellow and Lottie Delamain of Gardening Etc, and the Textile Indie.

Image Credit to Natalie Stopka on Pinterest

Tips & Tricks to Juicy Watermelon Success

by Ana Morlier

Finally, summer has arrived! And you know what that means: watermelon season! The time has come to roll out—literally—the watermelons. Grocery stores have already started with melons of varying degrees of ripeness and sweetness. But wouldn’t it be more impressive to come to a family gathering with a delicious watermelon you lovingly grew and cared for? Get those gardening gloves on, readers, and take to the soil. It’s “rind” (get it?) to grow your very own watermelon!

Here are tips and tricks to growing your own deliciously satisfying sweet treat: watermelons.

If temperatures drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit,  use a cold frame or poly tunnel to protect against the cold. These plants like it hot!

Have patience—watermelons can take from 80 to 90 days to grow! However, if you want a juicy home-grown melon sooner, try growing a Sugar Baby melon.

It is better to sow seeds directly in the ground than to transplant a pre-bought baby plant, as the seeds take better to the soil.

Compost can enhance the flavor of watermelon greatly! It is recommended to cover the plant with 1-2 inches of compost (moist compost or slow-release fertilizer). Start with nitrogen potent fertilizer, then move to potassium and phosphorus fertilizer when fruits begin to grow.

Let your watermelon soak in that summer sun! Plant in an area that receives 8-10 hours of sun. More sunlight=more photosynthesis=more glucose/sugar production=Sweeter melons!

Give watermelon plants lots of moisture: at least 1-2 inches of water a week.

Keep vines and leaves! They act as shade and keep moisture near the plant and soil. In addition, keeping vines allows the plant to spread out, not to mention allowing for better pollination of flowers (aka more baby melons).

Plant flowers around your watermelon to keep pests away: dill, marigolds, and tansy flowers are great choices. Be on the lookout for squash bugs (with an appearance akin to stink bugs) and cucumber beetles (tiny, yellow-and-black striped buggers); they will thwart your dreams for delicious, healthy watermelons.

Do not plant watermelons if you’ve already planted zucchini, other melons, pumpkins, or squash in the same area in the previous year. Crop rotation is key.

If you must transplant a watermelon plant, here are some tips:

Soil must be at least 70 degrees when planting occurs. Do not transplant on an extremely hot day, as the procedure will be harsher on the patient.  Aim for a warm day with a little shade or cloud coverage present. Keep both you AND your baby seedling cool!

Water plants an hour before you plant seedlings.

Try your best to disturb roots as little as possible.

If seedlings or plants are wilting or turning yellow at first, don’t freak out and run to the nearest nursery for another plant. This is a natural reaction to transplanting. Just keep watering regularly and look for pests.

Prêt à manger or zut alors!? How to judge watermelon ripeness, and how to pick:

Flip your watermelon over and examine its “belly” or field spot. If a shade of yellow or gold appears (especially bright yellow), it’s time to eat!

Judge by sound. Collect an unripe watermelon and one you think is ripe. Knock on each with your knuckles (and hope a little gnome doesn’t pop out!). A ready watermelon will sound more hollow than an unripe melon. Make sure to try this a couple of times and get a second set of ears!

Check the leaves When ripened to perfection, the entire vine, tendril, and leaf will be yellow or brown.

If good to eat:

Rotate the fruit until it comes off the vine.

Cut (with any cleaned tool) the melon at the stem.

What to expect when you’re expecting…watermelons:

2-3 watermelons will usually come from one vine.

Slow growth may be due to a reaction to transplanting, or cold temperatures.

If the plant is thriving but not producing any fruit, or it dies quickly, your problem is most likely pollination. With both male and female flowers, attaining balanced pollination can be difficult. Either attempt to attract more pollinators in the area with flowers or a bee watering hole, or manually pollinate the flower.

Fruits may not be sweet. This can be due to many factors, including under ripeness, not enough fertilizer, or watering. But often, picking before ripe (which is when sweetness and glucose really develop) leads to a lack of flavor.

Pests! Other than the ones mentioned earlier, pests can be sprayed off with a power spray, handpicked, smashed, and/or sprayed with a pesticide such as neem oil or insecticidal soap).

Fungal infections, oh my! These can be due to hot weather or a lack of resistance in the plant variety.  To prevent this, rotate crops, use drip watering (as opposed to overhead watering, which actually spreads pathogens. Water soil, not the canopy!), space plants for air circulation, and remove any diseased crops.

May this guide assist in your success in growing the tastiest watermelon! Don’t forget to stay as cool (and hydrated) as a watermelon this summer. And to brag as much as possible about your daring endeavor, and the trials and tribulations you faced in creating this organic work of art.

Pictured is a crop of watermelon plants with plenty of air circulation and room to grow.

Credit to: Credit to Cassie Johnson of Grow fully.

Crafty Companion Gardening

by Ana Morlier

Spring has sprung, and it’s time to plan for the daunting task of deciding who gets a spot in the elite garden bed (or stays in a sad seed packet for who knows how many years). For more seasoned gardeners, I see you with your saffron and perfectly grown basil (puns intended). This article may be a tad repetitive for you. Just know that you can be proud of your Pinterest-worthy plants and that you are truly a pro in gardening. I humbly bow down in respect. For novices such as myself, companion gardening seems quite genius and explains why my plants have been, uh, not doing so well in the past. It’s time that my lonely (and only surviving) mint plants made nice and shared the garden bed. Below is a list of my recommendations for plant bed layouts, along with some nifty pest-repellent plants.

Pest-Repellent Plants

Get rid of bugs, attract the right pollinators, and offer a shade gradient for sun protection! Herb troubleshooting for getting rid of these pests:

Basil: Thrips, moths, armyworms. Attracts pollinators.

Dill: Ladybugs love it and get rid of your aphids and pesky spider mites

Garlic: Deters aphids, onion flies, moths, and Japanese beetles.

Mint: Aphids, ants, flea beetles. Grow at your own risk—it’s very greedy for land.

Sage: Carrot fly, moths.

Sunflowers: Pollinator, supportive for vines and other growers.

Tansy: Attracts both pest-killing insects (ladybugs, wasps) and deters cutworms.

Marigolds: Flower pollinator and all-around pest removal service.

Borage: Attracts bees, makes strawberries and tomatoes taste better.

Plotting the Plot: The Plot

All plants listed are warm-weather-loving plants (soil temperature minimum 50 degrees Fahrenheit), requiring 6-8 hours of sun. Make sure tall crops do not block pepper or tomato plants.

“Basil Pepper Pizza” Plot

Basil (loves water and mulch) is perfect for water retention. Peppers (I recommend bell, but try any variety of spicy pepper). Plant now! Early May is a great time to get started. You may need to plant (any type of) beans between the tomato and pepper plants to separate root systems and allow both to receive nutrients. Do not water from above, with only 1-2 inches of water per week. Tomatoes (early summer recommended). If buying from a nursery, you’ll want to avoid plants with flowers, fruit, or yellow leaves. Look for sturdy, dark green shoots. Purslane (great for keeping basil in shade, while making tomatoes and peppers taste better)! It’s also an edible leafy vegetable (despite claims of it being a weed).

“Cornucopia” Plot

Rosemary (natural insect repellent). Pole beans (enhance corn flavor through nitrogen control). Seedlings have weak roots and hate the cold and moisture, so plant outside and monitor carefully. Finally, have a trellis, teepee structure, or other support for this plant—it grows quickly and needs lots of (emotional) support, just like the rest of us. Squash (my favorite vegetable because it is super tasty sauteed, but it grows so well and is quite hearty). Must be a summer squash variety to eat with skin-on, which also includes yellow squash. Loves moisture! Corn (beans will climb up it in a greeting embrace). Strawberries (If you want to have a strawberry party at the end of the month, plant June-bearing varieties. A strawberry explosion all at once!). Day-neutral is your best bet for a continuous harvest. It won’t grow well in a plot that previously hosted tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants due to resentment from the last party.

“Garden Salad” Plot (Be ADAMANT about weeding! I take my all-uppercase words seriously)

Lettuce (keep soil moist but not soggy). It will certainly let you know that it is, in fact, not okay with wilting leaves (if too dry). It’s perfectly fine to water it any time of the day. Put in the shade of taller plants or shade cloth, so leaves don’t turn out bitter (due to bolting). Corn and tomatoes will be your friend on this one). Carrots (try not to plant in rocky soil for non-funky looking veggies). Sandy soil is best with lighter watering. Chard (cut when a foot tall, down to 3-5 inches, so it remains sweeter, if that can be said of this leafy vegetable). Make sure everyone gets a fair share of water because sharing is caring in your garden, in this case. Onions (plant marigolds with this one to offset pests). Let emerging onions breathe, but tiny immature guys can be covered with a bit of mulch. Mulch will let you off the hook for watering since it retains moisture well, so only one inch of water per week if you use this secret weapon. Another tip: More water makes onions sweeter and more nitrogen makes bulbs larger. Finally, tomatoes that are grown nearby can deter thrips from eating the fruits of your labor.

You can find many more pairings at the Old Farmer’s Almanac website (Search companion planting). The website also has an addicting little mobile game—I mean, an app, for planning your garden bed virtually (and maxing out your screen time for the day). You can enter in regional details, and the app will even plan out weather and pest patterns with lots of resources for planting and troubleshooting. You can also use Kitchen Garden Planner at Gardener’s Supply (website) and Garden Manager.

Lettuce commence planting season in this onion of flavors and vegetables. To purslane and beyond!

Sunflowers supporting their bean brethren. 

Credit to: Credit to Catherine Boeckman and editing staff at Old Farmer’s Almanac, and Barbara Gillette of the Spruce.

DIY Wildlife Habitats

by Ana Morlier

Happy April, readers! A lovely month of spring flowers, planting, and, hopefully, more time outside. With all of these advantages, it’s time to give back to the Earth during the renewal of spring, to do your due diligence on Earth Day.

Let’s make strides to undo the urban human destruction that destroys local habitats. Let’s create a safe haven for all animals. Here are a few tips and tricks to make your yard more wildlife-friendly! And, remember, any new plants you use should be native to Maryland.

Natural Food Options for Animals (small wildlife)

Nectar (hummingbird feeder, native flowers).

Pollen (native flowers, butterfly weed, ironweed, false blue indigo, etc.).

Foliage such as ferns (groundcover, lady, Christmas), wool rush/grass, black chokeberry, fothergilla, oakleaf hydrangea, and sweet pepperbush.

Old or rotting trees (which can provide lichen, moss, and fungi for all sorts of animals and insects).

Bugs are actually quite important for birds, acting as an important food source. For example, hummingbirds love nectar, but also graze on mosquitoes, gnats, and even spiders for protein.

Add food sources. If you’re okay with having larger animals in your yard, add food sources such as berries, nuts, and seeds. These might include black-eyed susans, black chokeberry, lowbush blueberry, inkberry holly, winterberry holly, and red chokeberry. In addition, acorns, pinecones (for birds), and seedy flowers.

Animal Upkeep

A birdbath. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy! It can be a flowerpot, formal birdbath, or even an old cake pan (that has depth). Make sure you have a plate or pan to catch water under the bath.

A water source for bees and butterflies. Something as simple as filling a bowl (plastic, ceramic, etc.) with pebbles and a small amount of water so they can perch on the pebbles to drink. Honey bees especially love salt water. Bees in general will be more attracted to the source if it has an earthy scent like moss, wet earth, salt, and even sugar. They are also attracted to the scent of chlorine, thus why you’ll see so many floating bees in the pool. You can use chlorine beside the water source to attract more bees, if desired. After the bees get used to the location you’ve set the watering station you won’t have to keep adding extra scent. Coming to the watering station will become a habit for bees.

Make a toad abode. All you’ll need is a small entrance in a flower or terra-cotta pot (flipped upside down for cover) for the toad to get into. Even a carved-out tree stump works. Make sure there is some gravel, mulch, or plant life around the abode.

Once again, provide shelter. Tall grasses (wool grass, little bluestem, yellow Indian grass), shrubs (listed above), and trees (can be dead) are best for shelter and hiding.

Other Tips

Allow weeds to grow, as it also offers groundcover.

Resist the urge to use insecticide! If you absolutely need to, make sure the insecticide is a natural substance, such as neem oil, vegetable oil, or vinegar.

Hold off on deadheading if the flower stalk has lots of seeds. Wait until birds or other critters have taken as much as they need, then deadhead.

If you have pets, try attracting pollinators with flowers only for a safer environment (without the risk of encountering other animals).

Always try to plant perennials if you can for year-round sustainability.

If you have the time, plan out the bloom time of plants so you have flowers, berries or nuts at various times of the year.

May this be a helpful guide to starting out making a natural habitat.

The best resource for the layout and plants in your garden is the National Wildlife Federation. The website has a plethora of resources and information for any setting, such as school, work, and animal-specific habitats.

Thank you for giving back to the Earth during the renewal of spring, and best of luck!

Photo Courtesy of Rusty Burlew of Backyard Beekeeping

Credit to: University of Maryland Extension, Rusty Burlew of Backyard Beekeeping, Monica Russo of Audubon, and the National Wildlife Federation.

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier


Good day, readers! How has your indoor plant adventuring gone since last month? While conditions outside are constantly fluctuating, now is a great time to experiment with indoor plants, both as decor and practicality (being a great boost to mental health). Discovering indoor plant varieties will take you to a variety of independent greenhouses, open year-round, or your local home-improvement stores. Plus, you’ll find plenty of deals on plants that have suffered neglect at the hands of their caretakers. One of the most fun and intricate projects I recommend during this time is creating a Pinterest-worthy and enchanting terrarium! Whether you choose to add a bit of magic with fairies and miniature figures and furniture or keep a regal, yet earthy, tone with just plants is up to you. Here is what you’ll need to know about this stunning, organic centerpiece!


Drainage layer. Drainage holes on traditional pots are difficult to come by with fancy glass pots or containers, typical of terrariums. It also may let in unwanted pests. Some typical fillings include rocks, aquarium gravel, and sea glass. Try for a color scheme, like bright, cool colors, which will be visible from the glass container.

Filter/separation layer. Catches excess moisture before the drainage layer. It also helps keep the drainage layer retain its color, separating it from the soil layer.

Charcoal Layer (optional). If you’re using a closed terrarium, this can be handy for preventing harmful bacteria and thus, odor. Charcoal specifically for terrariums can be found at pet stores and nurseries.

Soil layer. Any soil can be used, including potting, succulent, and regular soil, just as long as it fits the needs of your plant. If your terrarium is exclusively air plants, you can stick to just a drainage layer and add plants on top.

Decorative layer. Where the fun begins! Add plants, sculptures, moss, miniatures, or whatever suits your vision!

Other Notes

Avoid fast-growing plants, as they can crowd your terrarium and prevent other plants from receiving sunlight.

Try using dwarf plants for a more fairy-like scene.

Choose plants that prefer humidity, as the rock layer will catch moisture and humidify closed containers. Succulents only belong in open containers.

Choose a container that has a wide opening so you can add the various layers and change out plants, in the case of withering.

Open containers are less likely to have problems with bacteria and fungus compared to closed containers.

Some affordable terrariums include goldfish bowls, aquarium bowls, mason jars, glass cookie jars, and even plastic containers.

More specialty containers include Wardian cases (looks like the glass version of a dollhouse), which may be more costly; cold frames, a classic bell jar (looks like the container that held the rose in Beauty and the Beast); and apothecary jars.

There will most likely be a terrarium or at least a dwarf plant section at your local greenhouse. While not the case for large-scale businesses like Lowes, specialty stores like the Dutch Plant Farm (on Baughman’s Lane in Frederick) will have sections with displays and brochures about how to make a terrarium just right for you with available plants. Always feel free to ask an employee when in doubt about plant location in the store or what resources to buy for your terrarium!

Open the lid of closed containers once a month, and leave it off until the condensation disappears, then place it back on top.

Remove/prune yellow or damaged leaves regularly. Do not fertilize.

Terrarium Plant Recommendations (all require bright to medium indirect light with regular watering)

Polka dot plant: Its pastel-pink coloration adds a mystical, yet whimsical, pop of color to your terrarium. Perfect for emphasizing the fantastical environment.

Baby tears: This extremely leafy plant looks like a mini-bush with a fairy-like scale.

Croton: Also adds a pop of color, though with darker tones and warm colors of orange, yellow, and red. You can find it in a range of colors and leaf sizes.

Ferns: Autumn (red-orange for a warm color scheme), woodland (the image you conjure up when you think of a fern; shiny, dark green leaves), button (small dot-sized leaves).

Pilea (sometimes called “pancake plant,” with bright green, round leaves).

Purple clover.


Moss is the best thing to happen to your terrarium! It can be placed anywhere and will not compete for space with other plants. As long as there is high humidity, you’ll only need to water it lightly or so that it stays moist to some degree. It hates chlorine and other chemicals, so use rainwater or distilled water. Water evenly, which can be done with a spray bottle. Moss also prefers indirect light.

Acapporus moss grows in clumps, such as cushion or mood moss. It’s good for filling up areas that are difficult to grow or place plants.

Pleurocarpus moss grows in sheets, such as fern moss, and sheet moss.

Sphagnum moss is great for adding to a red color scheme.

You can use moss from outdoors, but, more likely than not, it’ll be used to cold temperatures and might hate being in a terrarium. If you’re dead set on outdoor moss, keep your terrarium in the coldest room of your house, and place plants comfortable with cold temperatures with the moss.

And there you have it, one terrarium recipe ready to go! This can be a great activity with children, as they can help you plan out your terrarium. Devise a color scheme, fairy scene (that can be adjusted to your child’s imagination), and arrange a watering schedule. It’s best to use a spray bottle, both for the plants to get just enough water and for children to develop fine motor skills while using the bottle. May this project bring you some luck and magic! Ádh mór (best of luck)!

Want to re-read any of my old articles? Visit for archived articles or to suggest topics for me to write about.

Credit to: Kerry Michaels, Debra Lagattuta, and Jessica Wrubel from The Spruce; Dan from Terrarium Tribe, Taysha Murtaugh from Country Living, and The Dutch Plant Farm of Frederick.

  by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

New Year? Meet New Zen

Happy January, readers! While January may seem like a rather bleak time for us gardeners, there still come advantages and ways to keep up our green thumbs (houseplants, a gardener’s current best friend). This is also a rare opportunity for peace and relaxation. Think about it, no relatives to please, no gifts to give, and no repetitive songs to listen to. It’s time to focus on the present moment. Time for you. What better way to ground yourself and connect with nature than with a Zen garden?

Cultivating and maintaining Zen gardens can offer a visual meditation or provide a means to do an activity mindfully, even if for a short time in your day. Zen gardens were inspired by the Song dynasty gardens in China. However, the approach was perfected in Japan by Zen Buddhists working to represent the simplicity and calm of nature through practice. The training is still quite popular today across the globe, and today you can take this long-cultivated ritual into your home!



Use any container you wish! Whether utilizing a small bowl, square block, or sandbox, any size will do, just as long as the container can withstand the water if you decide to use live plants.

Fill your container with:

Fine white gravel or sand. If you are using fake plants, use enough to fill your container. With real plants, get enough to top baseline soil about an inch.

Rocks (try for neutral colors. No two rocks should be the same, in size or shape). Rocks should meet the scale of your container and not create a singular focal point, which may distract from the rest of your garden.)

Steel or wooden garden rake (for larger scale projects. You can also use a fork, order a mini rake, or use a paintbrush).

If you don’t feel like freestyling it, no worries! Zen Garden kits are available anywhere, from Amazon to Five and Below.

Mindfully Creating Your Zen Garden

Take a couple of deep breaths to center your mind.

Fill the bowl with sand for fake plants, being sure to have patience with yourself if a few errant sand granules make their escape to the floor.

If you are using real plants, fill containers two-thirds full with dirt and the rest with sand after plants are inserted.

When planting real plants in your garden, dig holes for whatever plants you choose. You can include succulents and air plants for a model with less maintenance, moss, grasses, etc.

Be sure to cover any areas left unoccupied by plants with rocks, gravel, and/or sand.

When adding plants, try to keep it minimalist! You do not want to crowd your Zen garden. Leave plenty of room, so you can draw patterns in the sand.

You Can Create Your Garden in Two Ways

Island model: Groups of stones are clustered together (in “Islands”), with plants in the middle of the grouping. The surrounding gravel or sand then mirrors the fluid, graceful nature of the ocean, especially if you choose to trace trails into the pliable materials.

Perimeter model: Plant/place plants on the perimeter of your garden, then border them with stones to separate plants and water from the sand. In addition, you will have more “sand canvas” to “draw” upon. Another idea is to have some plant outcroppings on the perimeter of your garden, with larger stones bordering these plants to prevent water and all of the sand from coming through.

Setting Your Zen Garden Into Action

Make sure your space is as quiet as you can make it.

After setting your plants and dirt in place, take in the scents of the space. Notice the smell of earth or the fresh scent of plants to center your mind into the present moment.

Place or rearrange stones within your garden. Formations should not be symmetrical, but organic and bare, in order to reflect the raw beauty of nature. Take time to notice the texture, temperature, or other details of the rocks and sand that you touch. Feel free to cluster rocks in groups of three (as is common), but do what feels right to you and your vision for the aesthetic flow of your garden.

Different shaped rocks have various meanings, which can also help you in creating a garden with a mood that suits your own:

Sanson-ishigami: One large rock, representing a deity (or Buddha in some traditions) with two supporting stones.

Vertical rocks: Wood/trees.

Flat, horizontal: Water.

Arching stones: Fire.

Low/Reclining: Earth or metal.

Try out different combinations but remember not to crowd your garden. Larger rocks are especially helpful for mirroring the impressive nature of mountains or replicating other landmarks.

Once satisfied with stone placement, get out a tool (such as a mini-rake, fork, or other means to manipulate sand) and slowly, mindfully, trace patterns into the sand. Generally, you want to recreate a water-like effect, such as how water ripples and spreads after a stone is thrown. It does not have to be circular, as long as lines create flow in harmony with each other, and look fluid and wave-like. Notice the sounds your tools make creating this design, and the weight of your tool. Also, notice your breathing as you move this part of the earth and become one with it.

When completed, take time to appreciate your work and its natural beauty. Notice emotions such as gratitude, connection, and mindfulness. If you don’t notice these, take time to check in with what you may be feeling. Mindfulness might bring more attention to a difficult emotion, rather than tranquility. If you notice frustration, that’s completely normal! Your Zen garden acts to center you (and works in meditation, too) in a busy world of disconnection with our bodies and emotions.

Once this step is complete, rake away any patterns. While it sounds self-defeating, the practice reminds us of natural impermanence and prevents attachment, allowing for flexibility and flow. Put tools away and appreciate yourself for completing the practice.

This is a simplified example of a Zen garden creation and perfect for those beginning the practice. Just the simple acts of becoming mindful of your surroundings, breathing, and actions are enough to help refresh and rejuvenate a person for the rest of their day. This is also helpful for those who have trouble sitting still during meditation, as gardening supplies a means of movement, flow, and mindfulness. May this practice provide you peace and tranquility in the new year. O genki de (take care), readers!

A miniature Zen garden, featuring tan gravel and moss.

Credit to: Credit to Faena Aleph, David Beaulieu of The Spruce, LanguageDrops, Kira from Your Body the Temple, Craft Schmaft, Tilen Space.

  by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

Navigating the Trials  & Tree-bulations of    Christmas Trees

Merry December, readers! Now that the season of excess leftovers (still sitting in one’s freezer, never to be finished) and forced-family reunions are over (for now), it’s time for the winter celebrations to begin! I see that eye roll! Yes, I am fully aware that Walmart and other stores have brought “Christmas joy” well before I have, even in terms of trees and plant gifts. Instead, you will learn all the dos and don’ts of maintaining a Christmas tree in this article. You’ll also (hopefully) learn how to keep your leafy companion alive longer than the shelf life of eggnog. Here is my guide to Christmas tree-keeping!

Choose Your Fighter—What Tree Is Right for Me?

Either way (potted or cut tree), unless you are purchasing a Norfolk pine or rosemary tree, you’re going to need quite a bit of space. Potted trees do indeed take up slightly less space but are quite heavy and will need to be planted into the ground whenever the season is over. Again, unless it is a Norfolk pine, Christmas trees cannot stay in a pot. Potted trees are also going to need significantly more attention (I know, shock of all shockers), whether examining for bugs, root rot, over- and underwatering and overgrowth of the pot. Whereas for a cut tree, you’ll mainly need to make sure the water levels are above the end of the stump. Perhaps for bugs if extremely noticeable.

Potted trees allow you to gift a tree back to the Earth, but make sure you have a nice big pot for it, then find room somewhere in your yard to plant it permanently.

If you already feel the guilty beads of sweat rolling down your climate-conscious self, have no fear! There are many ways to reuse cut trees: Use needles as a natural mulch; cut off boughs to protect perennial beds from cold and snow; use the trunk as a flowerpot or fence (if you’re feeling crafty); rent a chipper and make wood chip mulch; use branches to support growing plants. But do NOT burn the tree in house fires or in wood stoves. Use renewable pellets if you feel so inclined, but you cannot burn tree remnants, or else you’ll inflict damage upon your most sacred heat source. Certainly not recommended during the dead of winter.

Once you have decided what tree type will work best for you, it’s time for some field research (pun intended). Basically, walk up to the tree you want and test its needles. For a healthy pine, the needles will bend and not break, and will be dark green and shiny. Healthy fir needles will break sharply and also retain an emerald color and shine. If you want to doublecheck that your tree is healthy, reach inside the trunk, and slightly shake the tree or branch. Only a few needles should fall. In addition, fresh growth and sticky sap are also quite a good sign. Both indicate that the tree retains moisture well.

Buy One, Get One Tree…Buying Tips

The later you buy a tree, the more likely you’ll have a fresh, green tree for Christmas. Most advise buying a tree in the first or second week of December.

Netting is excellent in protecting your tree from harsh winds but wrapping it in an old blanket is even more effective in preserving the branches.

If you are grabbing a tree from a pre-cut lot, cut a small portion of the trunk off at home to ensure proper circulation. Cut ½ to 1 inch off the trunk, without angling.

When you first set down your tree, try to check it 3-4 times a day since the tree will drain water pretty quickly. Add fresh, cool water (tap water is fine). Try to keep the tree trunk in a larger water basin so it has enough room and more than enough water to soak in (a stand with room to hold a gallon of water minimum and an opening wide enough to contain the whole tree trunk).

How to Keep Your Tree Lookin’ Like a Fine Pine

Keep your sen-tree in a cool place, away from any heating vents, heaters, or furnaces. Not only will it be less of a fire hazard, but it will keep the tree healthier for longer. It is perfectly fine to situate a tree next to a window, as it remains cool from external temperatures.

If you have heated floors, stand the tree on a mat or other surface to avoid contact with the heated floor, preferably in an area without direct sunlight, or even in a darker location.

Give your leafy companion a day or two to adjust to the new environment before putting on ornaments.

You can never overwater your tree! Make sure it is watered well above the end of the trunk or else the tree will dry out quickly.

Don’t add sugary substances (such as the rumored 7-up). While it won’t directly kill the tree, mold and bacteria buildup certainly will. Any additives will not make your tree healthier. If anything, it breeds an environment for mold. So, keep it simple with cold water, and your tree will be just fine.

Potted Tree Care

Use long, large, containers to give the tree roots plenty of room, with ample drainage. If you notice leaves turning yellow or other problems, the tree may be indicating that it has outgrown its pot or watering is not sufficient.

To keep it fresh for Christmas day, it is advised to not place/pot the tree in your home until one week before Christmas.

Check for watering information on the label, but aim to keep the soil moderately moist, perhaps watering every other day.

Signs of a Suffering Tree

Feed me, Seymour! Some signs of a suffering tree are: excessive needle loss; lack of smell; dried, brittle branches; and quickly yellowing branches.

If you observe these, check the water level! It may also be pests (you can take care of these with pesticides. I like to use natural neem oil), excessive heat, or decay from being bought too early. Trimming problem areas can reduce some damage, and providing fresh, cool water can help.

May these suggestions lead to a healthier, happier plant, to a place where you have one less thing to worry about during the holiday rush. I and my many leafy friends would appreciate it if you took the time to stop, breathe, and admire your hard-working tree.

Take care of yourself, and your tree, and relish this time of kinship. Even during the busiest of times, don’t forget to stop and smell the pine.

by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

Glorious Gourds

Happy November, everyone! Time for a month of thanks, warm foods, and delightful decorations. What better way to celebrate this festive month than with gourds? While you may only note them for their scant appearance on the dinner table, the gourd is a rather unappreciated vegetable. As detailed below, you can make hearty meals, embellishments, or bowls, amongst other purposes. Read on to find a new way to appreciate the gourd.


As the name implies, these types of gourds make lovely decorations. The most common ornamental gourd you’ll find is the winged gourd. They can be smooth, bumpy, multicolored, plain orange, or yellow. The varieties for this gourd are seemingly endless! Daisy gourds are another striking variety. When viewed from above, the gourds appear to have a flower pattern with colors of white, yellow, green, and orange.

Four different orange pumpkin isolated on white background. Vector autumn collection. Garden vegetables harvest. Halloween theme


All the gourds that accompany fall flavors! To make spaghetti squash, wash, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, then bake with a bit of butter in the hole in the center. Once it’s cooked, run a fork along the length of the squash. The fibers are about the same size as spaghetti noodles and will break apart. Once separated, add a bit of salt and pepper. For a succulent squash soup, peel the skin with a vegetable peeler and microwave for 5-6 minutes so that it is easier to cut. Place in a crock pot or soup pot with two cups of chicken stock, chives, butter, garlic salt, pepper, and a dash of dill. Acorn squash can also be roasted for a savory treat.


To make use of these types of gourds, one must begin by drying out the gourds. Gourds certainly take quite a while to dry, but when they do, you can make your gourd into anything you want! In the past, gourds have been used as bowls, ladles, and canteens. You can also use your dried gourd to make flower pots, vases, or whatever you think of! The key is to draw a line to cut the circumference of your chosen object, as it provides a guide to cut along and prevents any uneven layers. The best types of gourds for this purpose include canteen, bushel basket, and bottle.

Instructions to dry: Wash the exterior, rinse until water runs clear, and let dry (outside, preferably away from cold and sun). Best places to dry your gourds are in the garage or the barn on an even, elevated surface for six weeks, minimum (you can dry in your house, but just know that they will smell as they dry out!).

Scrape any mold off with a butter knife or wipe it off with a rag. Rotate the gourd every one to two weeks to ensure air circulation.

Alternative method (illustrated in photo on left*): Tie a string to the stalk and hang to dry in a well-ventilated building, from tree branches, or fencing. Drill three holes in the bottom of your gourd (use a nail) and weave a string through these holes and hang, so the holes face the floor. Place a plate or newspaper below the gourd to catch any moisture from the holes. May you celebrate fall in a squash-tacular way! Whether you make a delicious meal, cool craft, or decoration, may it bring joy to you and your family. Happy November everyone and thank you for reading this column! Want to re-read any of my old articles? Visit for archived articles or to suggest topics for me to write about

by Ana Morlier

Weird and Wonderful Plants

Happy Halloween month, readers! Are you mentally prepared for the trials and tribulations of Halloween? From accumulating costumes to satisfying the pop-culture preferences of the whole family to making Pinterest-ready treats, one’s patience and mental capacity are stretched rather thin. Decorations are an entirely separate matter, as everyone is decking out their lawns and houses with all manner of monsters and inflatables. Have no fear, as this month’s column will give you a unique set of decorations that will be sure to surpass your neighbor’s eerie interior design. These plants enhance the sensory fears of Halloween. With unusual silhouettes, deep, drab color palettes (black prince snapdragons), putrid smells (Voodoo Lily), and unusual textures (Frankenstein cactus), you’ll be sure to scare guests with an all-new, organic level of terror, aside from the usual petrification that spawns from examining the receipt at the Halloween store. Here are my favorite spooky plants!

Bat flower plant (pictured right) is native to Australia and Asia, so growing it in a separate container is advised to prevent overpopulation and invasion. The plant earns its name from the long, black petals of the blooming flower that looks like bat wings or ears, as the seed pods give the illusion of eyes and a jaw. It is also known as “tiger beard” due to the long bracteoles that protrude from the center of the flower. It is, indeed, a spooky plant and may even shock guests with its unusual silhouette. Surprisingly enough, this is a perennial, so it will haunt your enclave year after year! Grow in partial sun, in well-draining soil, and keep the soil moist throughout the day. You can expect blooms in late summer and fall. Keep in warmer parts of your house, as it thrives in temperatures 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also use fertilizer for orchids to enhance plant growth.

Voodoo lily (A. henryi), also known as the devil’s tongue lily, bears a creepy color palette (ranging from a deep crimson to a dark mauve) and profile. Be warned: it does emanate the unsettling smell of a rotting carcass to allure a different sort of pollinator. As bees and butterflies merely pollinate more colorful flowers, the voodoo lily adapts so that insects usually attracted to the smell of decomposing animals pollinate it. Its dark, lengthy spadix- or central stalk common in Lillies, both emanates the smell and warrants its name, as it looks like quite the wicked tongue. Grow in well-draining, sandy soil in partial to full shade. Grow in temperatures 60 degrees or higher. Like the bat flower, let the soil dry out between waterings, as too much watering can lead to root rot. Requires mild-to-high humidity which can be accomplished with a humidifier or by misting the leaves.

Black prince snapdragons aren’t exactly creepy plants, but the deep, blood-red blooms certainly add to any mysterious color scheme! Grow in well-draining soil. Let the soil dry out until your next watering (moisten but not soak soil), avoiding watering blooms. Grow in full sun to partial shade. Expect blooms in the fall.

Cotton ball cacti (also known as old man cactus) have the appearance of a fluffy ghost and can be made quite friendly with the addition of googly eyes. Grow in well-drained soil and water every 2-3 days. Requires more water in the summer.

The Frankenstein cactus bears both a creepy name and an unusual shape. Out of its thick green stem protrudes a fan-like alabaster crest, lined with pink and crimson borders. It is certainly “out of this world.” Grow in full sun to partial shade, in an area with medium to high humidity and airflow, watering only when soil is dry.

Hopefully, these plants will make a small dent in your list of decorating to-dos. Whether you go for an all-out spooky theme of voodoo lilies and bat flowers or a friendlier, pleasant theme of cotton ball cacti and black prince snapdragons, you’ll be sure to make a statement, perhaps as a mini shop of horrors, minus Audrey II’s “feed me Seymour” vocalizations (unless you’ve majorly neglected your plants!). May your Halloween be entertaining and enjoyable.

Credit to: Cayla Leonard from Happy Sprout, Amanda Welch of We are Huntsville, Cynthia Haynes from Iowa State University, World of Succulents, Epic Gardening, and Peg Aloi, Marie Iannotti, and Jamie McIntosh from The Spruce.

by Ana Morlier

Natural Crafts

Happy autumn, readers. As we settle into this cozy month of natural beauty, let’s make the most of what we have! Rather than visiting expensive craft stores, you can simply use surrounding flora and fauna to make stunning accents to your home. All projects here are family-friendly, so grab your kids for some decorative fun. Here are my top favorite (and relatively easy to make) natural crafts!

Pinecone Rose Bouquet

You’ll need: pinecones; twigs (sturdy enough to hold the weight of one pinecone on top of it); paint; hot glue gun and glue; newspaper/spare paper (to be used as a protective surface when painting the pinecones).

Before painting, ensure excess seeds are removed by blowing on the pinecone. A hair dryer can be used for any particularly stubborn seeds, and it’s not a big deal if there are some present when you paint. A flat paintbrush will be the most helpful to cover more surface area and any nooks and crannies that are easy to miss. Since you’ll be working with an outdoor object, try to use an older paintbrush, as the pinecone will wear out some of the bristles of any kind of brush. Cut the twigs as long as you need to fit the vase, 7-9 inches works best for most vases. You can paint the twigs green or keep them the same color. Once all paint has dried, hot glue one end of the twig to the base of the pinecone. Repeat to make a bouquet.  Deposit in a vase and enjoy! (Visit Creative Green Living for visual reference.)

Leaf Lanterns

You’ll need: leaves; parchment paper; base: cardstock box, the bottom half of a soda bottle, the bottom half of a milk jug, or any other base; glue (preferably liquid, like Elmers); tealight candle.

Collect leaves that will fit your jug, and rinse and dry before using. Dry the leaves by putting them between sheets of newspaper for better absorption. Try to compress the papers together by placing books on top of the papers for at least an hour. Once dried and compressed, staple or hot-glue the parchment pieces to the exterior of your cardstock box. Cut out two sheets of parchment paper that will wrap around and fit your base. Cover one sheet in glue dots. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as the leaves you’ve collected will securely hold to the adhesive. Place as many leaves as you’d like on the glued sheet. Try to make sure they don’t overlap, as it is more aesthetically pleasing and lets more light through. Add a thin layer of glue dots to the top of the leaves or other areas that are lacking adhesive. Then place the second parchment sheet on top. Flatten the whole sheet with books and let dry overnight. Once dried, wrap and hot glue the leaf parchment sheet to the base you chose. Place tealight inside the base and voila! You have yourself a beautifully-themed lantern. (Visit Kids Craft Room for visual reference.)

Maple Seed Dragonflies

You’ll need: maple seed wings: helicopter-like seeds; small twigs (3-5 inches); paint; paint brushes; hot glue gun.

Make sure maple seeds are dry before painting. You can stick with a solid color paint scheme for the wings. Or for a realistic, stunning effect, go with a multicolored color scheme (ex. Light blue, purple, navy). Paint on newspaper or parchment paper to avoid any paint spills. Let dry, then select two pairs of maple seed wings. If the seed pods have split in two, simply hot-glue them back together. Place a glue dot on the twig’s upper part, leaving enough room for the second set of wings (that will be glued under and above this first set) and a head. Let dry. Place a new glue dot on the back of the glued-on wings, connecting it with the twig (the wings will overlap slightly). And your craft is finished! You can glue them on planters, place them in your plants, suspend them as a mobile with a fishing line, string, or twine, or glue them together on cardstock and hang them on the wall. (Visit Church Street Designs for visual reference.)

I hope you attempt and enjoy these crafts! They provide the perfect opportunity to spend time with family, making unique, autumnal crafts. Enjoy some nice cider in the presence of your romantic, homemade lantern, or brag about your everlasting bouquet. Celebrate fall in all its glory with those you love!

Want to re-read any of my old articles? Visit for archived articles or to suggest topics for me to write about.

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier

Unforgettable Garden Getaways

Happy summer, readers! Summer is quickly waning, and for many others like me, only two weeks of sweet summer freedom are left. If you’re like me, then you’ve been anxiously pondering how to make the most of the rest of your summer. I realized that vacations don’t always have to be far-flung tropical destinations with sandy shores or rustic mountainscapes. The same relaxation or thrill of a new place can be found closer than you think, and without the stress and extra cash needed to travel far. Today’s article is a roundup of my favorite garden vacation spots that can be enjoyed in a day! Each one promises adventure and enjoyment for all through a myriad of unique attractions (depending on the garden). Give yourself some clarity and fun through the haze of back-to-school shopping and scheduling by treating yourself to a trip to one (or all!) of these four family-friendly gardens.

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA

Though the trip can be a bit long (about 2-3 hours), the destination is worth the journey. The gardens feature a wide variety of attractions. The extensive conservatory hosts a variety of tropical plants that burst into colorful life in immersive landscapes. Parallel to the conservatory, large water fountains provide a spectacle to watch, especially during nighttime shows that see the fountains awash in light and synchronized to music. Longwood is also home to vast wildflower fields, natural treehouses (that are sure to delight children and kids-at-heart), topiaries, seasonal landscapes, a museum-house, and even live music. And that’s only naming a few features of this immense garden! Don’t worry about packing a lunch. Longwood offers a variety of delicious food, from wood-fired pizza and gourmet seasonal dishes at the cafe to high-brow cuisine at the 1984 restaurant. Want to do an adult night on the town? Longwood also features a beautiful beer garden, brimming with fine spirits and beautiful plants. There is truly something fun for everyone to enjoy. Tickets are a little pricey: general admission is $25.00, but the gardens are sprawling and endless, a perfect place to enjoy nature in all its glory. You can even bring a bit of Longwood home with you at the decently-priced gift shop that offers live plants. Longwood is open most days: Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, from 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, from 10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.

Ladew Topiary Gardens, Monkton, MD

This beautiful 22-acre topiary garden is only two hours from Thurmont. Not only do the gardens feature ornate topiaries, but also include a nature trail, fountains, sculpture gardens, lily ponds, and a historic mansion museum. No need to power through the gardens until your feet are sore; the gardens feature a multitude of beautiful benches and chairs to stop, relax, and take in the sights. Other amenities include a butterfly house, yoga, camps for younger children, and informative presentations on plant life. To stay updated on these and other fun experiences, be sure to check the event schedule on General admission is $15.00 for adults, $10.00 for those 62 and older, $4.00 for ages 2 to 12, and free for children under 2. You can plan a visit anytime, Thursday through Tuesday (excluding Wednesday), between 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

You can find a variety of gardens in this 50-acre estate, featuring an “Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Style Garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden, and the Woodland Walk… a Perennial Garden, Yew Garden, the Maple Terrace, and Fragrance Garden.” In addition, they also have two large conservatories, according to the website ( Not only is admission free, but it is only an hour away from Thurmont! Donations are encouraged in order to keep these beautiful gardens for all ages well-maintained. Explore the outdoor gardens every day of the week, from 6:30 a.m.-8:30 a.m, and enjoy the conservatories from 10:00 a.m.-5 p.m.

Lilypons Water Gardens, Adamstown, MD

These beautiful ponds are only a 30-minute drive from Thurmont and include free admission! The many ponds feature a plethora of local aquatic nature, including massive lily pads, wide varieties of lotus and lilies in stunning bloom, and beautiful birds specific to the aquatic habitat, as detailed by signs along the trails. A fair warning: Not all the trails are made of gravel or mowed, so wear galoshes, pants, or long socks to protect yourself from ticks and scratchy, long grass. Koi, aquatic plants/flowers, and other fish are available for purchase if you are especially inspired by the gardens. Most trails are generally unoccupied, so visiting offers a serene walk with lovely, lively lily pads to keep you company. Discover all that Lilypons has to offer, Tuesday through Saturday, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

 I hope you take the time to visit at least one of these exquisite gardens! Each one is sure to provide stunning natural beauty, tranquility, and delight from discovery, no matter what age you or your loved ones are. Or, stay local and support the National Parks here in Maryland by visiting and donating. Want to re-read any of my old articles? Visit for archived articles or to suggest topics for me to write about.

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier

Flowers of Pride

Happy July, readers! Summer is truly in full swing, with fun festivals and events aplenty. But let’s focus on the main holiday. We’re talking patriotism, fireworks, gatherings, and cookouts galore. I’m talking about the Fourth of July/Independence Day!

Sure, we can find our cookout and summer crops easily at the grocery store. Who can resist the allure of a shiny, promising watermelon near the checkout? Or failing to leave grocery stores without partaking in sales that leave you with more cherries and corn than you could ever wish for (or eat)? Independence day isn’t just about getting together the perfect haul to have a cookout that outdoes your neighbor’s. Our nation’s independence was achieved through hard work. That hard work extended not just through the fight against suppression and corruption, it continued in daily life, too, when colonists didn’t have the amenity of fast transportation or electricity to keep food cold and convenient as we do now. Come with me, readers, on a journey to understand how the colonists also enjoyed summer crops—through the same determined spirit that granted our nation freedom.

Thanks to prior colonization of the Americas from Europeans and other nations, many of the crops of colonial America are quite similar to the ones we have now. Crops raised at this time of year included many summer delicacies such as watermelon, apples, and stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines, etc.). These simple fruits may not seem to be a delicacy to us now, since we can easily find any of these year-round—fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, among other preserving techniques. Such crops were certainly precious to colonists lacking refrigeration or advanced farming techniques to keep growing seasons longer. Besides, what tastes better: canned or fresh? I don’t know about you, but canned watermelon doesn’t exactly sound appealing.

Due to the plentiful nature of wild strawberry crops in Maryland, summer tables in the colonies were often graced with cakes and puddings that utilized the sweet and tangy fruit to elevate flavor and appeal. Strawberry tarts were a common favorite. Preserved strawberries were added to spices and, if available, nuts to make the filling and layered with an available biscuit or pie dough.

To accentuate any dish, spice gardens were essential in the colonies. Seasonings such as allspice, ginger, and cloves were used for cooking and curing meat. One could also find salad greens, such as dandelions, sorrel, and cabbage, in addition to herbs, such as marjoram and thyme. Salads could be served cold. However, due to the versatility of the greens and the influence of English cuisine, these greens were often cooked then served. This was known as pot salad and typically filled with rich dressings and served at “supper” midday.

Potatoes and corn were also staples. Cornmeal was commonly used in breakfast breads or chowders. Potatoes were also used in soups and chowders, which were substantial and hearty dishes. Root vegetables, stored or fresh, were also used and complemented soups and chowders (which were popular dishes in Maryland, considering the thriving seafood trade).

The aforementioned fruit, as well as raisins, currants, and cranberries, was commonly utilized in “intermeal eatings” (snacks), especially important in keeping hungry children at bay. Slumps, grunts, and brambles were all synonyms for the same concept of topping fruit with a biscuit dough, then steaming the fruit and dough together, resulting in a sweet-savory confection. Another popular colonial snack was known as “Betties.”

Spiced fruits (usually currants and raisins complemented the dish, but apples were used most commonly) were topped with breadcrumbs. The fruit was the standard source of sweetness, besides molasses. Some desserts (such as apple pie) were even eaten as a main course for suppers—as supplies for it (butter, eggs, flour) were quite expensive or rationed.

I hope you try some of these colonial-era foods! May they inspire you to change up your typical celebration spread and honor our ancestors. Happy Independence Day, readers!

Colonial-era “slumps” with biscuit dough dumplings, topping a blackberry fruit base.

Credit to: Food Timeline: Maryland, Maria Scinto of Our Everyday Life (For colonial pastries), Theresa McCulla of Harvard Library, A Taste of History, and Taste of Home.

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier

Flowers of Pride

Red (Life)

Coleus: Prefers morning sun and afternoon shade (partial shade) and moist, well-drained soil.

Caladium: Medium-bright, indirect light; water when the topmost soil is dry.

Anthurium: Bright, indirect light; moist soil.

Orange (Healing)

Marigolds: Natural pest-repellent; evenly moist, well-drained soil; full sun.

Orange Pansy: Prefers morning sun and afternoon shade (partial shade) and moist, well-drained soil.

Dahlia: Well-drained soil; full sun.

Yellow (New Ideas/Sunlight)

Lily: Keep soil moist; full sun to partial shade.

Carnations: Keep soil moist; full sun to partial shade.

Daffodil: Well drained soil; full sun.

Green (Prosperity/Nature)

Bells of Ireland: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil.

Creeping Jenny: Moist soil; partial shade.

Sorrel: Full to part sun; moist soil.

Blue (Harmony/Serenity)

Hydrangea: Moist, well-drained soil; full sun to partial shade. A deeper blue will be present with more soil acidity.

Perennial Geranium: Moist, well-drained soil; full sun to partial shade.

Morning Glory: Well-drained soil; full sun.

Purple (Spirit)

Bellflower: Well-drained soil; full sun.

Moses-in-the Cradle: Well-drained soil; full sun.

Cordyline ‘Tango’: Prefers cooler temperatures; if its leaves turn brown, an excess of fluoride may be present. Use bottled water instead and keep moist.

Black (Diversity) & Brown (Inclusivity)

Black Velvet Petunia: Full sun; well-drained, moist soil.

Black Coral Elephant Ear: Prefers warmer temperatures; full to partial sun; well-drained soil; can endure drought.

Coleus: One of the easiest plants to grow; cool, evenly moist, well-drained soil.

White/Pink (Representative of transgender community)

White Lilac: Full sun; well-drained soil.

Daisy: Full sun; moist soil; tolerant to drought.

Mosaic/Nerve Plant: Indirect light; evenly moist soil.

Bleeding Heart: Part to full shade; keep soil moist.

With these flowers, your garden will be a rainbow of inclusivity and aesthetically pleasing. Thanks for reading, and happy Pride month!

Credit to Almanac, Balcony Garden Web, Birds and Blooms, Bloomscape, Country living, Flower Glossary, Forbes, LGBTQIA Resource Center, Masterclass, Petal Republic, Plant legend, Proflowers, Sunday Gardener, The Leafy Place, The Spruce, and Verywell mind.

  by Ana Morlier

Gratitude Plants

Happy May, everyone! Finally, the time of beautiful weather and even more exquisite blooms is upon us. Not only should we appreciate the beautiful essence of nature, but also the women in our lives that support us. Show your gratitude this Mother’s Day with these plants!


Irises: Express gratitude for hard work.

Plant care: Keep in full sun, with moist, well-drained soil. Flowers bloom from late spring to early summer. Flower colors vary, and include purple, blue, white, and yellow.


Zinnias: Thinking fondly of a person, despite physical distance.

Plant care: Keep in full sunlight for at least six hours, with well-draining potting soil. Avoid placing near areas of extreme temperatures (such as by a vent). Zinnias prefer warmer temperatures. Water soil so that it is moist but not wet (press a finger into the soil, and if your finger is wet/soaking, the plant does not need to be watered). Zinnias bloom between late spring to late fall. Flower colors include pink, purple, yellow, orange, lavender, white, red, and green. 


Pansies: Gratitude and fond recollection of a person.

Plant care: Keep plant in partial to full sun, with well-draining soil. Water to maintain moist (not soaking wet) soil. Pansies’ blooms come in colors such as white, yellow, purple, and blue.


Parsley (an unlikely contender that can accent any bouquet): Gratitude for knowledge.

Plant care: Keep parsley in well-draining, moist soil. The plant requires partial shade to full sun. Foliage grows in all seasons.

Sweet Pea Flowers

Sweet Pea Flowers: Gratitude for fond memories.

Plant care: These flowers bloom from a shrub, so they should be grown outside. Plant requires partial to full sun. Plant in well-drained soil, and water about an inch daily. Try not to let it dry out, but it can withstand 1-2 days without water. Purple and pink flowers bloom from mid-summer to fall.


Daisies: Gratitude for loyal affection.

Plant care: Grow daisies in full sun, with well-draining soil. Water regularly, especially in the evenings or mornings, to prevent soil from drying out. “Deadhead” or remove dying flowers to encourage new growth. These plants should be grown outside. Both their flowers and foliage can make for a stunning bouquet.

No matter how you express your gratitude—through plants or time together—take time to celebrate the mothers in your life. Or, if you’re a mother yourself, take time to look out for your physical and mental well-being and care for yourself! To mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and female caretakers everywhere, know that you are appreciated and are making a major difference in this world. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication. You “grow,” girl!

My personal favorite flower of gratitude: Pansies.

  by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

A freak storm hit Frederick County and Adams County in Pennsylvania on June 18, 1996, and stalled over the region as it dumped rain. When the storm ended on June 19, it had dropped 11 inches of rain in Northern Frederick County.

“A series of storms, like boxcars, followed the same line, dumping all their rain on the same spot,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Rivers and creeks overran their banks. Water covered bridges and flooded into basements. The Frederick Post reported that residents near the Monocacy bridge at Bridgeport “woke to find their homes in the middle of an ocean.”

Farmers lost crops that were inundated in water and mud. Even some livestock in fields were floated away, often being found in neighboring farms, if found at all.

Police, fire, and ambulance units spent a busy day responding to calls. Both of Emmitsburg’s ambulances were disabled in the flooding, and one was missing for a while because the radio shorted out in the water, and the crew was unable to communicate.     

The Monocacy River reached a high-water mark of 24.45 feet, a record.

“In our nomenclature, it’s much greater than a 100-year flood,” USGS hydrologist, Bob James, said in an interview.

A Maryland State Police helicopter had to rescue one man stranded on top of his car at Flat Run. Four young women ran into a similar problem when their car stalled trying to cross over Owens Creek at Annandale Road. The helicopter was unable to reach them because of tree cover, so an air boat was sent to them. The water was 28 to 36 inches deep on the road. One firefighter was swept away during a rescue and had to be rescued himself.

“The entire town of Emmitsburg was closed to traffic for several hours Wednesday morning (June 19th) as overflow from Toms and Flat Run creeks virtually surrounded the Frederick County town,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

At least 47 basements reported flooding in Emmitsburg. Some had water as deep as five feet. Emmit Gardens, the lowest point in town, had to be evacuated.

“This place was like a little island to itself,” Art Damuth told the Gettysburg Times.

Four people died in the flood, but only one from the north county area.

The Red Cross set up at Mount St. Mary’s to provide food and shelter to displaced families.

As the water receded, people assessed the damage to their homes. The Town of Emmitsburg estimated that $100,000 to $200,000 damage had been done to municipal properties. Although the amount of damage didn’t reach a threshold for federal aid, the north county death apparently was enough for Congress to waive the threshold and offer aid to the north county area.

In the aftermath of the flood, officials from Emmitsburg and Frederick County looked at ways to mitigate future flood damage, such as dams or dredging Flat Run. In the end, the most cost effective option that helped the most people was to flood proof 20 homes in Emmitsburg by elevating the homes and building walls around them. The Frederick News reported it “is among the first and largest flood-control proposals advanced in western Maryland after three severe floods in the mountainous region this year.”

The plan also included the regular clearing of brush, fallen trees, and debris from Flat Run. The estimated cost for this plan was estimated to be around $100,000.

“Moving people out of their homes or building a dam are both impractical. This is a good plan,” Emmitsburg Mayor William Carr told the newspaper.

Teacup Planter

Set the mood for a spring tea party with this planter! You can find many floral or patterned teacups in thrift stores. This craft is, in essence, a mini-fairy garden, but with Easter-themed sentinels. 

Materials needed:

    Small to medium-sized teacup (floral or nature pattern)

    Any small plant, preferably succulents (I recommend Purple Waffle, Calico Kitten, Pink Polka Dot Plant, Pink Splash Plant, Pink Nerve Plant, Purple Shamrock, and Boat Lily)



    Easter/Spring themed figurines, such as a rabbit, gnome, or a bird

    Small decorations, such as mini Easter eggs, mini flowers, etc.

Directions: Coat the bottom of the cup with gravel, then insert the plant. Next, coat the surface with enough gravel to cover the roots, allowing at least an inch of space from the gravel to the lip of the cup. Finally, place your garden figurine on top of the gravel however you wish, as well as any additional decorations you prefer. If using a grass-like plant or a plant with many leaves, consider hiding the figure within for a more playful aesthetic.

Hoppy Bunny Planter

Materials needed:

    Washed tin can or other small-medium sized containers (that can be painted and hot glued)

    White paint

    White foam

    Pink foam


Googly eyes

    Any plant (I recommend daffodils or paperwhites)

    Potting dirt

    Medium-sized stones

Directions: First, paint the exterior of the container white. Let dry. Meanwhile, cut ear shapes out of white foam and slightly smaller ear shapes with pink foam. Hot glue pink foam over the tops of the white foam. Next, create the hands and feet: cut out two white oval shapes for feet, then cut out one medium-sized pink oval and three small pink circles per foot for the paw pads. Once cut, glue the pink paw pads to the two-foot shapes. Glue the ear piece on the back of the container when dried, with the pink side facing the open mouth of the container. Next, glue the feet to the base of the can, facing you. Cut out a small white oval shape as a nose, and glue in the middle of the can, facing you. Glue eyes on top of the nose, then draw a nose on the white foam and a mouth under the nose with a sharpie. Next, pot your flower of choice: line the bottom of the container with medium-sized rocks, layer with dirt, place the plant over top, then cover roots with dirt. Your rabbit craft is complete!

Upcycled Rabbit Planter


     2-liter soda bottle (washed)

     Paint (white, teal, pink, pastel colors)

     Crafting Scissors

     Any plant (I recommend kalanchoes, button poms, and statice)

     Potting dirt



Directions: Sketch the outline of a rabbit’s head, including ears, on one side of the bottle, leaving the bottom three inches of the bottle free. Carefully cut the bottle around the lines drawn and cut the circumference of the bottom half of the bottle, creating two pieces: the head of the bunny (including the ears), and the planter portion of the planter, the bottom portion of the bottle. Next, paint the entire exterior of the cut-out bottle with teal or pink paint. Let dry. Sketch out the rabbit’s face, including ovals for the ears, eyes, whiskers, heart-shaped nose, and mouth. Paint the inner ears and nose pink, white or teal, or any color that contrasts with the overall color of the rabbit. Draw on whiskers, nose (when dried), and eyes with a sharpie. Let dry, then plant selected flora. Your hoppy planter is ready to celebrate the holiday!

I hope you enjoy making these crafts! Even if your house is already chock-full of Easter decorations, these planters can make great gifts for loved ones who lack Easter cheer. Who knows? Maybe your rabbit sentinels in your teacup planter will do so well at hiding an Easter egg that your egg will stay hidden until next year when candy has expired, but the festivities continue with your thriving plant. In any case, I hope you have fun with these crafts, dear reader. Have a happy Easter!

Want more photos of this article’s crafts? Look for the crazyplantladybanner profile on Instagram.

Finally, come show Catoctin High school some support by coming to see a show! This year’s theater production, State Fair, is accompanied by a miniature carnival. Bring the whole family for a grand night of fun, amusement, and singing! Performances will be held on April 8 and April 9. Can’t wait to see you there!

Credit to We Know Stuff, Flowerups, Leafy Place, Petal Republic, Good Succulents, Urban Succulents, and Crystal Allen from Hello Creative Family. Additional shout-out to my editor, Ava Morlier, and the Banner editors!

  by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

Happy February, everyone! Finally, a month with an exciting holiday—Valentine’s Day—is upon us. I’m sure other columns in the Banner have helped you get an idea of how you want to celebrate this holiday, from setting up the perfect meal to the perfect date! Now, it’s my turn to help you with the gifting aspect of the holiday. Here are three Valentine’s Day plant crafts. These witty and elegant crafts will have your loved ones saying, “I do (love you and your crafting skills)!”

1. Pun-y Planters

Materials needed: Paints, flower pots (small to medium size, any composition), dirt, and plants as recommended below.

Instructions: Plant your favorite succulents in small pots. Paint the exterior of the pots with cute messages (some ideas are listed below).

For succulent plants (including aloe vera, barrel cactus, crown of thorns, flaming Katy, jade plant, and the Easter cactus, to name a few):

I’m a succ-er for you!

Aloe you vera much

You had me at aloe

I love hangin’ with you!

Our love is unbe-leaf-able!

(Any prickly cacti) I’m stuck on you!

Lookin’ sharp!

You grow, girl!

Puns for moss (including moss balls, glittering wood moss, plume moss, and American tree moss, to name a few. Moss usually requires low/indirect sunlight levels and may require acidic soil. Check product information or ask employees at your local greenhouse):

You are my moss favorite person!

You are moss-some!

Creeping Jenny—I love hangin’ with you!

Any leafy plant—So very frond of you!

My love blooms for you!

2. Heart Topiary

Materials needed: Any long-vine plant varieties (such as the creeping Jenny, English ivy, string of hearts, or string of buttons), strong twine or wire (that can stand on its own), dirt, a medium-sized pot, and string.

Instructions: After planting your chosen flora in a pot, twist your twine into a heart shape. Put each end deep into the dirt, ensuring that it can stand up independently. Next, wind your plant’s tendrils around the heart shape. You may need to tie tendrils with a thin string.

Make sure to secure the tendrils tight enough to hold the vine in place but not cut off the “circulation” of the plant. Once finished, present your elegant creation to your loved one!

3. Heart-felt Mobile

Materials needed: (4) Air plants, string (preferably in pink, purple, white, or red.), foam, felt, cardstock, wooden dowel (see modification below), hot glue gun/sticks.

Extras: Photos, puns, positive affirmations, and love notes written or glued on cardstock. Foam/felt cut-out hearts.

Instructions: Cut four (or more) lengths of string (5-7 inches) for each of your air plants. Make each string a different length and try for two or more colors of string. Tie your air plants to the end of each string, securing firmly. Next, add extras mentioned above along the length of each string segment. Once added, secure each string to a long rod (a dowel rod is preferred; however, you can also glue strong cardboard strips together and cover the exterior with foam). Tie, then hot glue each string to the rod (for extra security!). Finally, tie then hot glue a long string on each end of the rod to act as a hanger for the mobile. Your mobile is ready to “hang around” and brighten the space of your amour!

I hope these crafts will bring joy to you and your loved ones! These crafts seem daunting to make at first, but when completed with patience and love, you’ll find the inner creative genius within (and impress your valentine while you’re at it).

Don’t forget to show yourself some love this Valentine’s Day. Take some time to practice self-care in addition to bonding with your loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day in advance, lovely Banner Readers!

  by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

The Crazy Plant Lady’s Gift-Giving Guide

Now that we’ve gotten our first taste of connecting with relatives over the Thanksgiving Day holiday, it’s time to prepare for round two! As the 25th of December draws near, we all find ourselves scrambling to find presents for those family members who can’t decide on what they want for Christmas or are hard to buy for. So, why not buy them the gift of kin? In the cold season of exterior plant decay, give them an indoor plant to keep them warm all year. ‘Tis the season of gift giving, and here is my guide to bring cheer to you and the gift recipient. Here are my top favorite plant-related gifts! Some items on my list may or may not be a subtle hint of my Christmas list for my own family.

Best Homemade Gifts

Who says garden stakes are just for the outdoors? Create your own with markers or paint; draw animals, fun designs, or even memes!

Flower pots are the best gift to personalize! Color the exterior with markers, paint, duct tape, or other mediums. Personalize it with a kind message or drawing.

Create a magical scene using succulent plants to act as shrubs or trees! Materials you may need include a large container (such as a stockpot or plastic tub), dirt, succulents (the more colorful the better), small furniture, fairies or toy figurines, gravel, pebbles, sand, and other accessories of your choosing!

My Favorite Practical Gifts

Spray bottles. A backup spray bottle is always helpful. I have a spray bottle for plants on each level of my house! Spray bottles disperse moisture much better than traditional watering cans do and present ease of use.

Plant Scissors (regular scissors will do as well). These are nifty for deadheading flowers or decayed leaves. Gardeners will be less likely to accidentally deadhead lilies with their pizza scissors!

Gloves. Everyone could use more garding/planting gloves.

Potting Soil. Potting soil is perfect for gardeners who like to buy new plants for projects or start new seedlings.

Composter. These can get pretty expensive, so shop with caution.

Hedge clippers. Every gardener’s must-have.

Self-watering planter. A self-watering planter is perfect for all gardeners, no matter their experience level. Even experienced gardeners need a break from watering their plants!

Gift cards to local nurseries. These can help support plant life and local businesses while letting gardeners purchase the new plants they want.

Plant subscription boxes. Plant subscription boxes expose gardeners to new plants that might not be common at the local plant store. Succulents Box is the best subscription for those on a budget, and The Sill provides plants and resources for budding gardeners.

My Favorite Plants…That Thrive Even In the Care of a Non-Green Thumb

Mother of Millions. Mother of Millions is a prosperous succulent that grows quickly, looks impressive, and can grow despite neglect.

Fern. Ferns are elegant plants and survive well in low-light conditions.

Calathea plants. Calathea plants prosper in low light and are unique with their striped leaves (sometimes tinged with white or pink) that look festive no matter the season.

Aloe plant. Aloe is an extremely tough plant to harm. It appears chic in any container you put it in and helps soothe burns, acne, and itchy skin.

Spider plant. Spider plants are luscious, decorative plants that produce many seedlings in a short span of time. I’ve found that they are easy to revive if neglected (just by watering normally) and survive even in the colder temperatures of one’s house.

Air plants. Air plants can be found by themselves or in whimsical containers at most gardening stores. These plants scarcely need any water or much attention and look funky in any decorative container you put them in.

Bamboo. Lucky bamboo requires only a container, rocks (as a base), distilled water, and low light to survive. They make lovely table centerpieces and ship on Amazon.

Now that you are armed with this list and a budget, I hope your gift-giving is successful! Another wonderful present to give to others is your presence. Take time to celebrate the season not just for the gifts, but for each other’s company—now that we can all appreciate it again. May your Christmas be filled with joy, kinship, and, most importantly, PLANTS!

Credit to Dacey ORR of The Spruce, Kayla Fratt of PlantSnap, and Lauren Ro of The Strategist. Thanks to the staff of The Catoctin Banner and the readers for this one-year anniversary of my first article!

A humble fairy abode is pictured surrounded by succulents.

  by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

Living Centerpieces

Happy Thanksgiving month, everyone! Whether you’re hosting or attending a Thanksgiving feast, it’s important to thank others and encourage the festive Thanksgiving mood. Centerpieces fully set the tone of your Thanksgiving feast. Consider this: Would you rather display thoughtful decorations that invite your guests with cozy yet elegant vibes or decorations that will make you feel like you are sitting at the kid’s table again? Relatives will quickly regret their previous comments over the state of your garden with the stunning living centerpieces listed below. Succulents, bursting with color, will present their vibrant colors and extraordinary shapes for much longer than wilting store-bought flowers. A quick Pinterest scroll may inspire some ideas, but the picture-perfect versions are much harder, in reality, to put together. Here are three easy centerpiece ideas that will perfectly charm your guests and start your Thanksgiving out beautifully. They also make great gifts!

Pumpkin Planters


A pumpkin (with seeds and pulp removed)

Your favorite succulents (For fall colors, use Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’, ‘Golden Sedum’ Echeveria ‘Orange Monroe’, Desert Cabbage, Stick on fire, Jellybean plant, or Red Burst)

Plant succulents (and dirt) in a container, then place the container in your pumpkin. You can hide the empty space with leaves or shrubbery you find outside. A plastic or ceramic pumpkin/turkey-shaped planter works just as well. Simply plant succulents in the planter, and you’ve got yourself a centerpiece!

Turkey Table-Toppers


Metal tin or can (or another container that hot glue, regular glue, or tape can adhere to)

Wide Popsicle stick (It should look like a peanut, but regular popsicle sticks work too. You can also cut out a larger peanut shape from cardstock)

Large, spiky succulents that can easily fill the top of your container (such as Aloe vera, Haworthia, Echeveria, and Agave succulents) with dirt

Hot glue or tape


Googly eyes

Insert dirt and plant your succulents in your selected container. Next, hot glue your googly eyes to the popsicle stick, drawing on a beak and a gizzard underneath the eyes. Hot glue or tape this stick to the front of your container. Now you have yourself a turkey centerpiece!

Rustic Burlap Planter


Glass jar

Twine (ribbon works just as well)

Burlap (other cloth can be used)


Hot glue gun or tape

Red air plants and succulents such as Echeveria agavoides ‘Lipstick,’ Dragon’s Blood Sedum, Sempervivum ‘hens and chicks,’ Sticks on Fire euphorbia, or the jelly bean plant

Add dirt and plant your succulent in the jar. Cut burlap so that it covers the circumference of the jar. Hot glue the cut burlap to the jar. Tie on twine or ribbon. There you have it! An elegant, yet homey, fall centerpiece.

I hope these ideas will inspire you to create other homemade decorations. Your imagination is the limit! Remember to not only thank the special people in your life, but also the seedlings, growers, and workers that make your Thanksgiving meal possible. Stay warm, happy, and healthy, and thank YOU for reading my column!

From: Marcel Iseli-Plantophiles, Balcony Garden Web, Kat McCarthy-The Succulent Eclectic, Succulents Box, Jacolyn Murphy, Lindsay Hyland-Urban Organic Yield