How to Grow Smiles in Containers

These foot shaped pavers are popular items easily sourced at nursery outlets. Pairing them with a container is brilliant. And sure to grow a few smiles along with all those beautiful flowers!

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Now I have Nancy Sinatra in my head singing These pots are made for walking and that’s just what they’ll do, one of these days these pots are going to grow all over you…


The Story Behind the Pink Flamingo Lawn Ornament

Don Featherstone is an artist. You probably don’t recognize the name, but unless you have spent the last six decades on Mars, you are familiar with his work. It is likely that you even own some of his art, given that his creations have sold by the millions for over half a century.

It all began in 1957 when a young Don Featherstone, fresh out of art school, flung open his palette of possibilities and picked plastics. He fondly recalls his first creation; a 3 D duck. Like many artists, conventional wisdom was shoved aside in pursuit of perfecting his craft. For five messy and memorable months, Don shared his home with a live duck just so he could sculpt a water fowl that looked like a water fowl. In plastic and completely anatomically correct. He named the duck Charlie and later released him in Coggshall Park.

It was his second creation, however, that would become a North American icon.

One day, flipping through the pages of National Geographic, he came across a picture of a flamingo and the pink plastic garden bird was born. North Americans proved to be insatiable consumers of the bird. Decades later, when asked to explain why people still purchased an average of a quarter million pairs of flamingos every year, Don explained, “It’s tropical elegance for less than ten bucks.”

There are those for whom a “T” word other than tropical comes to mind when spotting a plastic pink flamingo. Don sees it differently. “The pink plastic flamingo isn’t tacky,” he says. “It’s what people do to them that’s tacky. If you took a tractor tire, painted it red, white and blue and surrounded it with pink flamingos, it gets to look pretty tacky, especially in front of a (run down) home.”

Tacky or not, the man raked in a bird based fortune. Remember the original duck? It might surprise you-or possibly not-to learn that for years it sold bill for beak as frequently as its pink cousin. Even more mind boggling than that, these are only two of the 600 to 800 plastic lawn ornaments that kept Don’s company, Union Products, most buoyantly afloat.

To Don’s credit, he once tried to launch a flamingo model dubbed “The Flamingo Deluxe” that sported nifty wooden yellow legs in place of the metal ones, but oddly enough, they didn’t sell.

“It’s almost like flamingo people think that real birds have metal legs in their natural state,” he lamented.

If you have a set of those wooden legged flamingos they are likely worth far more than ten bucks.

Other than the leg switch, the pink flamingo has remained virtually unchanged since its conception almost 60 years ago.

For the serious art collector, there are a few things to keep an eye out for if you want to be certain your flamingos are the genuine Featherstone original.

1. The bird’s beak must be yellow with a black tip.

2. In birds produced after 1987 Don Featherstone’s autograph will be found under the bird’s tail. It was removed briefly in 2001 but after a boycott on buying birds with unsigned butts, the signature quickly returned.

3. Featherstone Flamingos are ALWAYS sold in pairs; one in the grazing position and the other on the alert.

Don retired as president of Union Products in 2001 and five years later the company  closed its doors and ceased production of the iconic pink birds. The molds were purchased and in 2010 the pink flamingos were once again flying off assembly lines, this time under Cado Products.

Don passed away on June 22, 2015 at the age of 79.

When asked how he would like to be remembered, Featherstone once responded with, “I did something that people enjoyed, something that amused people. That’s so much more satisfying than say, designing something destructive like the atom bomb. And I’ll tell you something about people who put out flamingos – they’re friendlier than most people. Remember, they don’t do it for themselves, they’re doing it to entertain you.”

Hope you have a very friendly and entertaining flamingo sort of summer. I think Don would like that.

Flock of plastic pink flamingos

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How to Freeze Berries

Spread clean, dry, whole berries on a cookie sheet and set in the freezer.

An hour later transfer the frozen berries into a lidded freezer container.

This ensures the berries freeze individually instead of clumping together into one big mass. Now it is easy to scoop a few frozen berries out of the container for using in smoothies, desserts, etc. as you need them. You can even use them to make jam during the winter when you aren’t so busy in the garden.

While the image above shows an assortment of berries you can freeze using this method, it also shows some twigs, leaves and stems in the mix. Obviously, these should be removed prior to freezing your berries!

What’s Growing on in the Red Boxes

After a lifetime of huge, rambling-and sometimes overwhelming-country gardens I am embracing my first year of community gardening. I am so grateful for the loan of these four red rental boxes. I can’t even tell you what they mean to me.  I saw a quote attributed to Doug Green that read “I am more myself in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” Amen to that.

This is what the red boxes looked like when I first spotted them back in April…

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And then a little later after topping them up with compost, adding some stakes for the pea and bean fencing and doing a little early seeding and transplanting…

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Crisscrossed with shallots, red and yellow onions and garlic, it isn’t exactly square foot gardening but it’s close. Crammed gardening…that’s what it is! And yes those are potatoes in tomato cages. I circled them with early peas and am planning to wrap string around the cages for the peas to climb and then harvest and remove them before the potatoes are ready. Not sure how that will work. The potatoes may be starved for light and no doubt it will be a challenge to hill them. I plan on just sprinkling mulch on top to avoid any green potatoes. We’ll see…


And here is a picture of a red box taken just over a week ago. Over the last month we have had snow, rain, frost, couple days of 27 C weather and then more rain. There is nothing like the determination and resiliency of a plant to keep growing forward! We should all be so tough and resilient.

So many lessons to be learned from a garden. It’s so much more than just kale.


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How to Freeze Rhubarb

Freezing rhubarb is a complicated, intensive and laborious process…NOT!

To freeze rhubarb you simply freeze it.

It really is that easy.


Cut the stalks into one inch pieces and pop into a freezer bag.

That’s it.

No fuss, no muss, no cooking, no steaming…just raw rhubarb chopped, bagged and frozen.

Tip – Washed rhubarb stalks should be thoroughly dry before chopping and freezing to prevent the pieces from sticking together.

Frozen rhubarb will keep in your freezer for a year.

*WARNING While the stalks are nutritious and delicious-albeit a bit sour-the leaves are poisonous and must not be consumed.




Why Are Ants On Your Peony Buds?

Peony buds are amazing. One second they’re the size of a ping-pong ball and the next…bam! They burst into a bloom bigger than a baseball hat.

And then there’s the beauty. Peonies are breathtaking. They invite you to lean down and bury your face in those buds and blooms. But what…what the…are those ants crawling up your left nostril? Aaaahhhhhh!

close up of white peony flower

What’s up with all those ants hanging out on peony buds anyway?

Folklore has it that peony buds are covered with a thick wax and require help from the ants in order for them to open. The theory goes that ants eat the wax film and voila! The petals are free to burst into bloom.

I love that.

Fauna working with flora to make beauty happen.

It happens all the time.

But not in this case.

A peony bud will bloom whether there are any ants around or not.

So why are the ants there?

For the same reason we gravitate to the dessert bar. Ants love to sip at the sweet sap secreted by the peony bud.

And boy, is it sweet…a can of soda measures in at 10 percent sugar content, while the sap from a peony measures between 20 and 25 percent!

The ants-while being a bit of surprise to find crawling up your left nostril-are harmless. Some studies even suggest their presence deters harmful insects from damaging the flowers. So maybe the ants are working with the peonies to create beauty after all.

bouquet of roses and peonies isolated on white background