The Latest Dirt - Garden Thoughts
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What Winter?

I have noticed that it is getting dark later and on some days the temps are such that I only need a light coat. Spring is coming…sigh. But where was winter? Where were the freezing temperatures and colossal snowstorms that had school children crossing their fingers and meteorologists throwing around words like “bombogenesis”? In years past my brother and I would gleefully trade stories of the drifts in front of the doors that forced us to just stay inside for a while. Despite the crazy weather in the rest of the country New England, or at least Massachusetts, has gotten off easy. Up until February 12, 2019 we had received only a little over 2” FOR THE WHOLE WINTER. 

Now it’s not that I love snow - although the first storm or two are pretty – it’s just that I have things to do! What does a gardener do in winter you wonder? All the stuff he/she did not get to during the growing season.

Since I am a small company, without lots of elves to help, the list is long. It includes things like filing bills, organizing financial records, tackling the piles of ribbon and accessories that were used for holiday containers, cleaning tools and returning them to their proper homes (anyone seen my Felcos?).

Of course there is also the requisite daydreaming over catalogs. I hide my stack in out of the way places so my family won’t question me when I say I am busy. If winter is long enough I may even get a chance to do some things around the house – paint the guest bedroom, reupholster the Morris chair, clean out the linen closet, and have breakfast with some friends.

But with this winter no such luck. Things are undone and may stay that way. I know many of you are ready for spring and never fear I will be too.

But if we got just one or two more good storms I could finish going through my catalogs.

Meet The Crew

I am the proud founder and owner of The Captured Garden but the success of the company depends on more than just me. I only have two hands and would never be able to handle all the clients that come my way. Thankfully, I have a wonderful crew of women that make me look good.

Let me introduce them: 


Mercedes has been with me the longest. She started out as my graphic designer so if you have ever seen my business cards you know she is incredibly talented. She has a great eye and I depend on her opinion. Over the last few years she has gotten her hands dirty – literally – by helping me with planting. She has started designing some containers and, no surprise, she is as talented with plant material as she is with printed material. Mercedes is always smiling and I can count on her to bring her fashion sense to every install. She is also a dancer and performs in The Urban Nutcracker at holiday time. She has more energy than anyone I know and juggles a lot.

I am very grateful for her.


Ellen is a wonderful addition to The Captured Garden. She is quiet (at least in comparison to the rest of us!) and thoughtful and when she has something to say it matters. At first Ellen was unsure of her ability but I kept insisting she “could do this” and guess what…she can. This is not her first gardening job; she worked in public gardening while she lived in Michigan.

Ellen is also a very talented singer and songwriter ( although she would not join me as I was singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” during our winter container installation.

Maybe next year, Ellen?


Lauren is The Captured Garden’s most recent hire. She was attending a workshop I was giving and started talking about her love of gardening, working with her mother in the garden as a child, and how I must love what I do. I sensed a kindred spirit and when she mentioned applying for a job at a local nursery I asked if she would like to work with me.

Thankfully, she said yes.

She jumped in feet first and has not looked back. Lauren is a great addition and seems to know what needs to be done before I even ask. She has a great design sense and asks a lot of great questions. She seems intent on learning and maybe that stems from the fact that she was a teacher for years.

Each member of The Captured Garden has her own story and yet we all work together so well. Most days seem more like a bunch of friends that get together, share stories, laugh….and dig in the dirt. We are occasionally looking for members to join the team.

If you think you might be a good fit email me:

Spotted Lanternfly

Sounds like something a character out of a Dr. Seuss book might bring home as a pet, right?

Problem is, it is not fictional or friendly. 

Spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), is neither a fly nor a moth but rather an invasive planthoppper that is native to Asia. It was first discovered in Pennsylvania in September 2014. It has since been reported in Delaware and New York and recently in Connecticut. 

The adults and immatures of this species damage host plants by feeding on sap from stems, leaves, and the trunks of trees. Sap from the wounds where feeding has taken place can cause sooty mold and also attract bees, wasps and other insects that are attracted to the sugary sap. One of the favorite hosts for Spotted Lanternfly is Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) although it has been found on over 70 species of plants. 

While the Spotted Lanternfly has not yet been spotted in Massachusetts it poses a significant threat to our state’s landscape. For more information, including identification, visit the UMass Center for Agriculture website. Report any suspicious findings to the Massachusetts Department Of Agricultural Resources via the Invasive Pest Reporting Form.

The Good Witch

One of my all-time favorite plants for the late winter/early spring is witch hazel (Hamamelis).
This is an easy going, low-maintenance shrub or small tree that is at home in any garden. The best part about witch hazel is that between January and March it covers itself with beautiful, dainty four-petaled strap- shaped flowers.

I have planted one in the back garden where I can see it from every window. On those days when I feel that winter will just not end I glance outside and see the branches covered in yellow; I have hope.

Forget forsythia, as a harbinger of spring witch hazel cannot be beat.
Many witch hazels have beautiful fall foliage – not surprising since they are from the same family as Fothergilla, another favorite of mine with outrageous fall color.

The best witch hazels for home gardens are Hamamelis x intermedia which represents a group of crosses between H. japonica and H. mollis. These witch hazels are upright spreading with a loosely branched habit. They will grow 10 to 20’ high by 10 to 20’ wide. Many witch hazels have yellow flowers. 

One of the most popular, and the one that I have planted, is ‘Arnold Promise’ which was raised and introduced by the Arnold Arboretum. Other colors such as red and orange are also gaining favor. I have planted ‘Jelena’ for a client and its coppery red flowers are gorgeous. ‘Diane’ is a nice red-flowered variety.

Keep in mind that the darker flowers on some witch hazels may not show against a dark background so site them carefully so they can be enjoyed to the best effect.

Witch hazels are also highly fragrant; make sure you site them where the scent can be enjoyed. I once came across one that had been planted (not by me) in a back corner near the dryer vent. What a waste.

Witch hazel grows best in full to part sun; it will tolerate shade but flowering will be less profuse. Witch hazel appreciates summer watering but does not like wet feet. Make sure soil is well-drained. A winter chill will promote better flowering. Witch hazel is not bothered by any serious pests and even deer tend to leave it alone.

Plant guru Michael Dirr has said, “Why these plants are not in greater use is beyond me.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Learn More About Our Garden Design Services

Flower Show Season

It’s that time of year again.
We winter weary gardeners can get a tease of spring and scratch the gardening itch with great area Flower Shows.

I am fortunate to be speaking at the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show on February 22. I will have two talks: “Beauty and the Bees” which will discuss better ways of designing with pollinators in mind, and “Power Couples” where I will share some of my favorite perennial parings for gardens and containers.

I am also thrilled to be returning to the Philadelphia International Flower Show and will be speaking on perennials on March 7th.

Both of these shows are great and definitely bucket list worthy trips. If you are able to attend either, or both, I highly recommend it!
Learn More About Upcoming Lectures and Workshops
I spent some time the other day walking in the garden. I picked up fallen branches, adjusted a few errant plant markers and admired the witch hazel blooms. As I was making a mental to-do list for spring I noticed a single snow drop poking through the soil. It reminded me of the Rumi quote, “Don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet but the roots are down there riotous.”
As quiet as things seem now, the garden is getting ready for spring. And so am I.
See you in the garden,
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