Sunday, March 24, 2013

Learning How To Mind Your Body While Gardening

I have been slowly recovering from my elbow surgery that I had on January 2nd. And I mean slow. At least to me it’s slow. I have a great physical therapist, though, and I know I’ll get where I want to some point. Right now, I have come to the conclusion, after much discussion, that I cannot do my own mulching this year. No big pile of mulch in the driveway with me hauling a full wheelbarrow to the garden in the backyard, and back again for more. It’s been difficult enough just pruning and clearing out the beds. So if I really listen to my body this time, it’s telling me “no mulching for you this year, missy!”

A good thing that has come out of all of this is that I am finally learning the “correct” way to garden. I got a list of tips from my physical therapist — some of which are common sense (but that I still never followed) and others that are new to me and good to know. Thought I’d post them here as a reminder to myself to garden with my body in mind...and maybe others will find them helpful, too.

Tips for Preventing Injury in the Garden


1. Warm Up
Take a few minutes to warm up and stretch. Walk around your garden a few times. Stretch your hands, neck and back before you pick up that rake or shovel. (I always thought it would be a good idea to warm up, but never did it!)

2. Alternate Garden Tasks
Try raking for 15 minutes and then weeding or pruning for the next 15 minutes. Alternating job tasks is easier on your body because different muscle groups are worked. (Good to know!)

3. Take Frequent Breaks
After the long winter, our bodies aren’t ready for 5 hours of continuous pushing, digging, bending, and lifting. Treat your body right by giving it a break. Stop for a drink, to reapply sunscreen, or to observe nature in your backyard. (I am guilty of only taking breaks on really hot summer days. I have a feeling I’m not the only one.)

4. Ask For Help
Don’t lift a large shrub or several 40 pound bags of mulch yourself if you have not been doing this regularly. Ask a neighbor or family member for some help to avoid straining your back. (This is a big one for me. As much as I know that I should ask for help with heavy tasks, I never do. All the times that I’ve lugged bags of mulch, soil, or compost in my wheelbarrow – usually four bags at a time...)

5. Lift From the Hip and Knees, Not From the Waist
If you must lift something yourself, take a moment to think it through before you lift and then perform it properly. (At least I knew this one and practice it regularly.)

6. Avoid Bending at the Waist
If your knees are painful, use a step stool to pick weeds or plant flowers. Also, consider planting in a raised bed, containers, or window boxes. (Something else I’ve actually been doing right.)

7.  Avoid Extended Arm Reach
Whether you are pushing a lawn mower, pulling out weeds in your garden, or pruning a hedge, keep a gentle bend in your elbows to avoid developing pain in your elbows and forearms. (Wow, wish I knew this one sooner. This is apparently a big one for people like me with chronic tendonitis. My physical therapist said that if you feel you are about to reach, such as when weeding, move yourself closer to avoid reaching. This will be a tough one for me to remember, but I need to do it so that it becomes habit.)

8. Keep Your Wrists in Neutral Position
Avoid extremes of motion, up, down, or sideways, with the wrist as you push a lawn mower or use hand tools. Keeping your wrist in neutral will lower your risk of injury to your hand and wrist. (Another one that’s good to know.)

9. Be Kind To Your Hands
Use padded handles or ergonomically designed hand tools. Wear good fitting protective gloves. (I have a great Oxo hand trowel with a rubber handle and my awesome Bionic gardening gloves, so I’m pretty good on this one.)

10. Be Attentive
Take extra care especially when using power tools or children are present. Inspect your lawn thoroughly to remove debris before mowing. Wear protective shoes. Never attempt to remove something that is stuck in a blade while the mower is still on. (Let’s hope we all know that one.)

Spring Has Sprung

Spring is here, which means it’s time to update my blog header and post some springy pictures.

My Hellebore (Bridal Queen) is always the first thing flowering in my yard. It has become one of my favorite plants. It’s a double variety and sports these playful, purple spots. 

Hellebore Bridal Queen.

I am a little concerned about the Hellebore because the leaves have some holes and brown spots. It hasn’t kept it from blooming, though.

Hellebore Bridal Queen by the greenhouse.

The snowdrops were the next plants to bloom. I planted six bulbs a few years ago, but only half of them seem to ever show themselves. I’m guessing the other half fell prey to the squirrels. These dainty little blooms always make me think of fairies and magic dust. If I remember correctly, this variety of Galanthus is called Elfin.

Snowdrop – probably Galanthus Elfin.

Interestingly enough, my daffodils bloomed before the crocuses this year. Only about four of them are actually blooming yet, though.

Daffodil in the back yard by the greenhouse.

Daffodils in the front yard.

 Only the purple crocuses seem to be blooming this year.

Purple crocus in the herb bed by the screened-in back porch.

Purple crocus in front of the shed.

You wouldn’t know it was spring yet with the below-normal temps we’ve been having this March and the approaching snow. The forecast is for 1-3 inches by the end of the day tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show: Living Up to the Hype

Was “Brilliant!” truly brilliant? Yes, I do believe it was. There definitely was some creative interpretations of the British theme. Unfortunately, you won’t see any photos in this post. I get so annoyed by all the people standing in the way taking photos that I refuse to be one of those people. Besides, I would rather just look, enjoy, and absorb everything. I bring a notebook every year to jot down ideas, but no photo taking happening here. If you want to see some snaps, check out the Green Philly Blog or the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s facebook page.

As you enter the show this year, you go through the giant royal gates and see a long allĂ©e of birch trees that leads to a huge Big Ben clock. Every so often the clock, which is a video screen, changes to a video that shows all sorts of pop culture icons/celebrities of England while playing the Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc. The flower show has gotten a little more “techy” the last couple of years with these kind of things.

Main exhibitors of special note: 

Schaffer Designs: Kudos to these floral designers for thinking outside the box with their Jack the Ripper theme. Normally floral designers like to do over-the-top, pretty things. These guys showed us just how creative and SPOOKY floral design can be. A wall of roses with a bed made out of thorns, hand sculptures protruding from a wall holding red thread with clematis climbing up it, dried red roses hanging from a ceiling, and more...all with dark, dramatic lighting and a man shouting out newspaper headlines about Jack the Ripper. Who knew flowers could be so creepy. Seriously, one of my favorite exhibits. Definitely check out this video of their exhibit. It doesn’t do it the same justice as seeing it in person, but gives a general idea of it.

EP Henry: A traditional landscape with stone arches, a fountain pool, and of course, EP Henry paving. The surprise here was if you looked closely at the statues framed by the arches, you would see that the one in the middle was not a statue at all, but a living person – skin and clothes all white – moving slowly from one pose to another. Must be a tough gig to look like a statue. She did a great job. I didn’t even realize she was a real person at first.

J. Downend Landscaping: A cricket theme with a cricket shed and statue of a cricket player in a nicely designed traditional garden setting. They have some photos on their facebook page.

Waldor Orchids: I liked the theme of the orchid hunter in the Amazon. Victorian England was obsessed with orchid collecting, so much so that it was referred to as Orchidelirium.

• The American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD): Seriously fantastic interpretation of the crown jewels. A throne of roses with a crown made of flowers sitting on it, various jewels and crown jewels interpreted in flowers along with glass jewels, so realistic and so well done. AIFD does a great job every year, but I was really bowled over with their exhibit this year. They have some photos of the exhibit on their facebook page.

Smaller exhibitors of special note:

• The four exhibitors that did the Kitchen Garden competition were all very well done. I especially liked the “Enchanted Evening Elixirs” by the Elverson Garden Club.

• All four of the exhibitors that did the Entryways competition blew me away. They were so well done that I would’ve had a hard time picking first, second, and third place. The theme was Brit Lit and the literature represented was “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” (whimsical and dreamy) “Pride and Prejudice,” “Dracula,” (spooky with bat shapes for plant markers) and Beatrix Potter’s “Peter Rabbit” (with rabbit shaped plant markers, Peter Rabbit’s blue coat, and Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden). Dracula was the winner.

• My mom knows some ladies in the Moorestown Garden Club, but that isn’t why I’m highlighting them. They did a fabulous job of interpreting Douglas Adam’s “A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” with a stone wall with books mixed in, a purple alien foot print, the books as garden bed edging, and other little hints that you would only pick up on if you had read the book.

Petals Lane, Inc: Petals Lane did a superb job creating the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party setting from “Alice in Wonderland,” complete with a fanciful table setting, mushrooms made of fabric and mums, and sculptures of Alice, the rabbit, and the Mad Hatter. Check out the photos of the exhibit that they posted on their blog.

•  Delaware Valley Collage: DVC did a creative and well-thought-out exhibit about invasive plants using a Sherlock Holmes mystery theme. Their website describes it best: DelVal’s exhibit, “Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of Dr. Black’s Garden,” allows participants to play detective. Participants have a chance to help Sherlock indentify species of invasive plants and insects that may surround their own homes. Part of the display is a tunnel or “garden of death” with black lights that participants can walk through.  The tunnel highlights different invasive species, which glow under the lights.

I always have to stop by to see the work of the Philadelphia Society of Botanical Illustrators. I was really impressed with the level of quality in almost all of the pieces this year. Judy Simon in particular had some great work, as well as many others. Here’s a link to the illustrations that were included in the show.

The area where they showcase individual plants loving cared for by eager entrants was redone this year to highlight these plants and show them in their best light. It is called Hamilton Horticourt, named after Mrs. Samuel M.V. Hamilton, who has been a flower show participant since 1984 and gave a $1 million gift to make the new display happen. It is well-lit and stages the individual plants beautifully.

Somewhat of a disappointment this year was Michael Petrie’s exhibit. Don’t tell him I said that because I’m a big fan. His focus was more on the copper sculptures and less on the floral elements/landscape. 

My mom, older sister, and I spent four hours at the flower show. That’s a lot of standing/walkind and can often lead to what I call “visual overload.” Really, there is only SO much one can look at in the space of so many hours. As always, I wish it wasn’t so expensive so that I could go back to see the few things we missed and frequent more of the vendors. We are always so exhausted by the time we get to the vendors that we don’t spend a lot of time there. Some vendors who got my business this year: Twig Terrariums and Hudson Valley Seed Library.

Bottom line: The 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show is “Brilliant!” and worth a visit. AND the money goes to a worthwhile organization, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and their great programs.