How about holiday music?
As much as I have a problem and need counseling about my addiction to buying cool plants and garden gnomes, my better half has a real problem with holiday music. When we packed up and moved last month, I counted about 50 in all and he’s probably added 10 more this year. That’s right, we have 60 holiday music cd’s – it’s enough music for about five days.
We do have our favorites and we play them often – usually they are requested by one of our kids. Here’s my top five festive, frolicking features:
Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas, Ella Fitzgerald – Ella is perfection. No recording of the classic Christmas songbook surpasses this 1960 recording. This was my first purchase and will always be my most favorite.
BEST CHEESY GOODNESS
Christmas Is A Special Day, Fats Domino – A family favorite… that lazy N’awlins drawl, the electronic keyboards and rhythm machine. A bit cheesy, but loads of fun. Jingle Bells from this CD is traditionally our first song each year – promptly played after the Thanksgiving feast.
Snowed In, Hanson – I know you are all saying, “She didn’t just write Hanson, did she?”, Well , my friends – this is one of the best rock –and-roll, dance party in the living room, get you up moving holiday cd’s ever. Don’t knock it till you try it. This is from their “Um Bop” days, so they were much younger then.
BEST FOR DANCING
Mambo Santa Mambo, Christmas From the Latin Lounge – Fun, campy music… samba, rumba, cha cha, and of course mambo! From the wonderful sultry Celia Cruz to the adorable “Donde esta Santa Claus” by Augie Rios. We probably play this collection more than any other. This one is difficult to find and quite pricey, but well worth it if you can get it.
BEST NEWER RELEASE
Barenaked for the Holidays, Barenaked Ladies – “Jingle Bells” which starts out slow and quiet, like Dave Brubeck’s “Farewell Jingle Bells”, then launches into a rip-roaring rendition that gets everyone on their feet. We play that song over and over. Kids can’t get enough! It also contains the best, most sing-able version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, I’ve ever heard. Lots of original songs and very well done.
Let’s move onto gardening tools. Two things I can’t garden without are the Cobra Head and my Dutch hoe.
The Cobra Head was given to me as a sample a few years back at a Garden Writers Association symposium. I fell in love with it the first time I used it. I then lost it at a community gardening event, so I had to buy another one and it’s even better the second time around because they keep improving it. It weeds like no other weeding knife and really sneaks into paving cracks with ease.
The other tool I love and can’t live without – besides my Felco pruners, of course – is my Dutch hoe. These are not super available in the states, but some fine tool makers carry them. Gardenia makes a detachable head line that includes a Dutch hoe attachment. I found a company online carrying them. This is the best weeder for mixed and perennial borders. Just scrape back the mulch, scrape the soil and scrape off the weed tops. After a few times you will eradicate the weeds without using any harsh chemicals. It’s the Dutch way.
Next, let’s talk gardening gloves.
I have bought so many pairs of expensive gardening gloves over the years and none of them last or allow me to garden freely – as if I had no gloves, which is what I really want. A volunteer, while I was managing part of the US National Arboretum, gave me a pair of really cheap gloves for Christmas. I thought to my self, “Thanks, but these will last one day.”
Wouldn’t you know, they have outlasted the most expensive gloves and I still have the same pair today – nearly 4 years later? Of course, like any gardener, I am constantly losing gloves, misplacing them in all sorts of places in my garden, so I have now have several pair.
And the bestest, cheapest gardening glove is (Drumroll…..)
Nitrile gloves from Gardener’s Supply. At $6.95 each, yes, that’s right, I said $6.95 – you can get a pair for each day of the week. They come in fashionable colors too, so you could match your gardening outfits of moods.
Now you have gloves to protect your hands, tools to make your job easier and some kickin’ holiday music to rock out to on your iPod while gardening, how about we add some of my favorite, can’t live without plants?
You didn’t think we could get away with a favorite things list from this plantweenie without plants, did you?
How to choose???
I always hate when some reporter asks me what my favorite plant is. That’s like asking you to choose between your children.
I’m going to quote my favorite kid’s show and say, “Break it down now…” as only DJ Lance of Yo Gabba Gabba could say.
Breaking them into garden climes –my can’t live without list:
For shade: Hellebores (Christmas roses) – I’m really loving this new LOVE series from Belgium. Anyone out there growing ‘Candy Love’ yet? These are new to me, but the shades of the blooms are stunning. I can’t wait to add more to my new garden. Here’s a link to a picture on the Pine Knot Farms website.
And of course no list of shade plants would be complete without my all time most indestructible shade ground cover – Tiarella ‘Octoraro’ from The River Series bred by Sinclair Adam.
Last, but not least, my favorite foil for the shade garden has got to be Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’. Perhaps it’s my love of chartreuse, but this plant brightens any shady spot, it makes the perfect backdrop for just about any color, and it can take incredibly tough situations.
For Sun: Anyone out there bet I was going to say coneflowers? How can anyone have a sunny border without them?
My favorite for this year is our new Echinacea ‘Southern Belle’. this new beauty is a long-lasting, incredibly saturated, blooming machine.
My other favorite would have to be garden phlox (Phlox paniculata). We have a new selection called ‘Thai Pink Jade’ that smells like sweet candy. Not your typical phlox fragrance and it is a compact, really disease resistant plant to boot. A winning combination.
I also have a secret love for fragrant lilies. My favorite these days is the regal lily (Lilium regale) with its elongated, trumpet-like blooms. The fragrance will knock the socks off of you AND your neighbor. I brought my clump with me here to my new home. I can;t wait to see them again in June.
What about shrubs?
This is the time of year I say to myself, “ Self – you need to plant more winterberry hollies.”
Who wants to pay $12/ bunch for a handful of fruit-covered branches?
I want to have a border of them in the back of the property, in multiple colors, from which I can decorate – for free – till my fruit-loving eyes are content. So, plant some winterberry hollies (Ilex verticillata) in multiple shades for months of enjoyment and lavish holiday decorationg.
My most favorite tree has to be a Persian ironwood. (Parrotia persica). The shape, the fall color and the overall attitude of this tree is amazing. We had a lovely specimen at the US National Arboretum. It is a coveted tree in many gardens and should be planted as a specimen, where it can be enjoyed for the lovely, rounded shape – not in a mass planting, where it will get lost.
What’s left? Tropicals?
I must mention our breeder Brian Williams here because I think he has the most exciting selections (and you should see what’s coming…) – on the market right now. One of my new favorites is his Colocasia ‘Bikini-tini’. This elephant ear is hardy to zone 6, with a good mulching and the dark green “cups” are held high on strong, chocolatey stems. They even hold water, so it makes a lovely addition to any border – and a nice outdoor shower for your garden gnomes.
Gnomes need showers too…bet you never thought of that. Did you?
Annuals? My favorite from this year had to be the new selection of Penisetum rubrum – the annual red fountain grass – called ‘Princess”. It grows so quickly, fills large containers and adds that much needed dark color to the backdrop of mixed annual plantings.
Oh, and lastly, I almost forgot “brown paper packages tied up with strings.” I do adore simple wrapping and an even simpler string or ribbon tied bowed. No stick-on bows for this gal. My mom taught me how to tie a proper bow at an early age. A great skill to have, eh?
Keep it simple.
Happy shopping…and weeding!
Partner, Plants Nouveau