Stealing ideas

by Sandy Swegel

When I was 13, I was invited to my schools’ first grownup boy-girl party. In the days before cheap clothes came from China, having the right dress could be a very expensive proposition. My mother’s thrifty response is something I remember vividly…we went to the fanciest dress shop in town and looked until I found a dress I absolutely loved. She drew all the details of the dress on a piece of paper. We went to the fabric store and found a pattern and fabric almost like it along with special pearl buttons, and together, she and I made a beautiful dress like the one in the store…or maybe a little better. The dress didn’t really help my adolescent awkwardness, but I felt like a princess.

Creative imagination is a great thing…but let’s be real, we aren’t all good at designing things, whether dresses or gardens. I tell my clients all the time. I know plants. I know what will do well where and how I can make it thrive. But don’t hire me to design your pathways or expect me to know how to turn a blank lawn into a lovely herb knot. I just don’t see it. Fortunately, though, the world is full of magazines and videos and pictures on the internet that helps when it comes to stealing ideas. That’s what I do sometimes in my own garden. I seek out the best gardens of the world, whether from the medieval Dutch cloisters, or from murals of the Aztecs, or from my friend Barbara down the street. I blatantly copy the parts I love best and grow them in my own yard. And I love the garden to pieces because the idea may have started as someone else’s idea, but along the way, with my sweat and toil and interpretation, the garden becomes my own creation.


So start your googling. Try “Tuscan gardens” or “Vegetable gardens of the world” or “ancient Persian gardens.” Or watch all those BBC garden shows and read the garden magazines. Find the gardens that delight you and copy the best ideas to bring into your own yard. You don’t have to tell anyone you copied the idea…just enjoy the view and accept the praise.







Photo Credits:



Best Heirloom Vegetables

Grass and Wildflower Mixes

Pollinator Mixes

Pick More Daisies

by Sandy Swegel

Every January in the middle of some snowstorm, I find a good reason to wander the BBB Seed warehouse to marvel (and covet) huge sacks of seeds waiting to be sorted into packets. There are big sacks of grasses and tiny bags of rare alpine wildflowers. I noticed this year that a whimsical employee who loves daisies had created a shelf of shoeboxes of different seeds that all looked like daisies. What a great idea for a cutting garden!

I started a simple search on our website to see how many daisy or daisy-like flowers we carried and I soon discovered that we are quite obsessed with daisy-type flowers. I found eight flowers named “daisy” and the number soon reached over 25 when I included flowers that look like daisies.

There are good reasons to love daisies beside the fact that they are adorable. Many daisies are also drought tolerant, native, not subject to many pests or diseases and are favorite nectar sources for butterflies and bees.

A short list to get you started on a daisy garden are the flowers with a daisy in their names:

Yellow Daisy (Chrysanthemum multicaule)
Daisy, Shasta – (Leucanthemum maximum)
Daisy, Painted – (Glebionis carinatum)
Daisy, Gloriosa – (Rudbeckia hirta, gloriosa)
Daisy, English – (Bellis perennis)
Daisy, Aspen – (Erigeron speciosus)
Daisy, African – (Dimorphotheca aurantiaca)
Orange Mountain Daisy (Helenium hoopseii)

Then you can move on to the daisy-like flowers such as
Orange and red gaillardia,
Purple and pink echinacea,
Blue and purple asters, and
Two annuals much beloved in American gardens:
Cosmos in pink and white and candy stripe and Zinnias in all colors and sizes.
Finally, cap the season with Sunflowers!

All I can say is, “Hey, Head Honcho Mike! We have a seed mix of poppies (Parade of Poppies). Maybe we need a seed mix next year, “Field of Daisies!”

Photo credit×3894130/a_child_picking_daisies

Pick More Daisies
Best Heirloom Vegetables
Wildflower and Grass Mixes
Native Grasses


Ultimate kitchen recycling

by Sandy Swegel

Winter is going on and on. One day of sun and ice melt is followed by three days of cold and snow. I’ve been cooking a lot, trying to meet my need for gardening by preparing great food. One of the best things about cooking, from a gardener’s perspective, is that I’m making compost! But there is one more way to cheer up a snow-bound gardener and achieve kitchen recycling and that’s to regrow the vegetable scraps rather than just feeding them to the worms.

I first encountered the idea of re-growing food scraps from a children’s gardening book because it’s fun to do and a great way to teach kids about food and where it comes from. But this long winter, re-growing carrot tops and celery bottoms is also a great way to entertain the gardener yearning for Spring.

It’s super easy to regrow your scraps. You don’t even have to have soil, water works. Cute cups or plain bowls or recycled tin cans are good containers. And you just need the tiniest shaft of light to keep things green.

When you shop, choose:
Vegetables with roots (like green onions)
Roots with leaves (carrots, beets)
Whole plants (bok choy, celery or kale)
Fresh herbs (mint sometimes has little roots already growing)

When you’re making salad or soup:
Save inch stubs of carrots and onions. Carrots can go on a shallow bowl or plate of water. Onions can be put in a couple of inches of water in a juice glass.

Save two-inch ends celery or bok choy or an onion.


Growing your scraps is pretty easy
You want to put the roots in water and the top of the plant above water. Ideally, change the water every day so slime doesn’t happen.

As the food scraps grow, you can pot up the vigorous growers like celery and beet greens, and snip from the new growth all winter.

Remember, it’s your food. It should not only be yummy and nutritious and pretty. It should also be fun to play with.



Photo Credits


Best Heirloom Vegetables

Wildflower seed mixes

Grass seed mixes

Best Free Seed Starting Container Ever

By Sandy Swegel

If truth be told, growing seeds and especially food is really just a hobby for me. I do it quite earnestly and often obsessively, but it’s not like I’m not going to eat if I don’t grow my own food. That has not always been true for my ancestors or for people around the world. If they don’t grow their own gardens, they don’t eat. And they don’t have extra money to buy fancy seed-germinating setups.

A great-grandmother I met described for me how she went about seed starting back in the Depression of the 1930s living on the plains in Colorado. It’s a method that she still uses because it works so well and costs nothing. In her retirement she lives in a city townhome and but she still gardens in big pots on her patio…and each Spring she has egg-carton trays full of eggs with seedlings on her windowsill.

We’ve often heard of putting potting soil right into egg cartons. But if you plant right into the eggshell, you don’t end up with broken soggy cartons…and you putting calcium right into the garden where you need it. People who keep earthworms know that earthworms need calcium for reproduction. Eggshells in compost and in the soil make for more earthworms and better soil.

It’s super simple to start your seeds in eggshells. Save some egg shells. You’ll want to rinse them out or you’ll get that nasty sulfur smell if you leave old egg inside. Use a pin to pierce a hole or two in the bottom. Fill with some clean potting or germinating soil. That’s it. Absolutely free. Put the eggs into an egg carton on a bright warm windowsill. The eggs keep moisture in much better than the carton would. When it’s time to plant just crumble the base of the eggshell right into the garden before planting.

I sometimes get the clear plastic egg cartons. Those are really useful because the closed plastic makes a great tiny greenhouse.

You already know how to save money if you’re growing seeds. Growing from seed means each plant costs you pennies instead of dollars when you buy plants. Now you don’t have to pay for the seed containers either.

And if you time it right, you can have super cute eggs full of tiny seedlings for table decorations.



Photo Credits

Best Heirloom Vegetable Seed

Wildflower Seed

Wildflower Seed Mixes

Grass Mixes