I’m waving a Terrible Towel and eating a Hoagie, can you guess where I am?

I really do pinch myself sometimes, thinking about how lucky I am and how many wonderful people I have met in my life, people who have extended the hand of hospitality…just because.

The bees love Pittsburgh too-Steelers Colours!

One of these people is Pittsburgh local, Garden Communicator extraordinaire and one of the nicest people I have ever met, Denise Schreiber. Those of you who follow this blog will remember Denise, who I met in 2015 in Pasadena. Denise and I drove down to Pittsburgh following our GWA conference in Buffalo, in August and I don’t think either of us drew breath the whole trip.

Pittsburgh by night

We talked and laughed and poor Denise had to answer lots and lots of questions about American-life according to her, from this ever-curious Aussie. We arrived at Denise’ home in Pleasant Hills, Pennsylvania which is a borough of Allegheny County and a suburb of Pittsburgh and after a quick tour of her treasure-filled garden, meeting the family, a quick unpack, we headed in to view the “Dahntown” from the top of Mt Washington-what a site, what a city.

They speak an interesting version of American in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is home to NFL football team, The Steelers and is located at the confluence of three rivers and so there are lots of bridges crisscrossing the city. Pittsburgh is an old city built on steel but has undergone dramatic gentrification in recent years to become a vibrant and exciting modern place where they speak an interesting version of American.

When you travel with a local, you get to experience a different side to a city, one that only someone with local knowledge can provide and so it was a joyous moment, when after our night time trip to view the city, we headed down the hill to Denise’s favourite ice cream shop for a cheeky soft serve and chocolate sauce.

Inside…like Alladins cave

As a Garden Communicator, no trip to Pittsburgh would be complete without a visit to Phipps Conservatory, in Schenley Park. Stunning glass art by Jason Gamrath, displaying botanical wonders on a massive scale accompanied by permanently acquired, huge Chihuly pieces and more delicate Hans Godo Fräbel works in the orchid house. These provided enhancement to beautiful displays of flora under glass in this giant conservatory. The Sustainability gardens provided insight into providing habitat for nature right in the middle of a busy city.

Phipps Conservatory

This blue glass is incredible

Bees on Joe Pye weed at Phipps

The orchids were stunning in the Orchid room at Phipps

Monarchs at Phipps in the Nature play area

Chihuly at Phipps

Check out this Chihuly

Glass art at Phipps Conservatory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature corridors in the CBD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The outdoor gardens offered beautiful views of the city and the Cathedral of Learning, framed by a gorgeous hydrangea display.

Cathedral of Learning

Check out these Hydrangeas

Beautiful views of Pittsburgh above the city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denise works as Greenhouse Manager for AlleghenyCounty Parks looks after many of the plantings at South Park, so naturally, a behind-the-scenes tour was on the cards and a fun time exploring the place where she works.

 

We visited The Strip which is home to European Delicatessens, restaurants and a fabulous Kitchenware shop and we ate a Hoagie, a delicious bread roll filled to capacity with sliced meats and cheese-a must do!!!

The Strip

Selecting cheese on The Strip

A garden centre, Trax Farms Market was also on the agenda and this was of particular interest for me as I was able to compare prices and stock available, I just loved their garden gift lines and planter boxes out the front. They were gearing up for Halloween.

Container planting at Trax Farms Market

 

You would not expect to see this in a cemetery in Australia

Jefferson Memorial Cemetery might not seem like a fun place to visit but it’s actually a stunning arboretum and it was there, at dusk, where we saw a family of deer grazing quietly amongst the trees, my first “Bambi” moment.  There’s a life-sized bronze statue of George Washington and very interesting art that one would not expect to find in a cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something, I might not have mentioned is that I’m a bit of a sucker for craft stores so my visit was made complete with a trip to Pat Catan’s, a huge craft supply store.

Our home now plays host to a ‘Terrible Towel’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhrqDBEi9oo

and my son has barely taken off his Pittsburgh T-shirt and Steelers PJ’s since my return a little reminder of my travels to make me smile.

Girls Night In/Out an annual tradition was a wonderful night held at Denise’s home on the last night of my stay with great food and conviviality, celebrating with lots of women working in Horticulture as well as some of Denise’s nearest and dearest friends and family-they sure know how to party those girls.

Thanks to The Schreibers for generously sharing your home and your town with this Aussie, it was a week I will never forget.

 

Breathing new life into Buffalo, one petunia at a time!

Buffalo? you say-why would you want to go to Buffalo? Isn’t it covered in snow and not much else? Wrong….There’s something in the water in Buffalo and I suspect it may be the gardening bug.

 

Stunning Cone flowers

This once mighty and by all accounts wealthy city has in recent years fallen upon difficult times but is currently undergoing major urban renewal and it’s being lead by many in the community who are just crazy about gardens and gardening and all things green and that got my attention. So, I packed my suitcase again, labelled it  ‘USA or Bust’ and headed 11,333 miles or 18238 km which included three plane changes and an 8-hour train ride!

Lovely buildings on every corner

Buffalo Theatre district

Even the office building are into plants

Great spot for a meal-we ate here twice!

I attended the 2017 Garden Writers Association annual symposium which was held at The Buffalo Convention Centre at the beginning of August and the news is all good.

My friend from Arizona, Horticulturist, Arborist, and Blogger, AZ plant lady and I spent a couple of wonderful days exploring (walking, lots of walking) the city together before the conference. We ate twice at the same place-it was so good and we also snuck in some doughnut holes at Tim Hortons.

Like many cities, Buffalo has great bones, clean wide streets and really beautiful architecture, an interesting and diverse food culture, lovely lake views, theatres, good soil (important for us gardeners) and another magical, essential ingredient passionate people- willing to beautify their city and showcase it to the world in order to re-build it and give it a new identity.

A Farmers Market in the main street was in full swing during one of our morning walks. The blueberries were the biggest I have ever seen and they tasted so juicy and sweet.

Don’t these look delicious?

Farmers market baskets

Eat your greens

Juiciest blueberries I have ever tasted

I can’t un-smell these beauties

We stumbled across a small but very worthwhile community education garden at Canalside and under a freeway overpass where edibles and perennials for beneficial insects were thriving in raised beds. Each bed contained decorative garden ephemera as well as practical information to show adults and children, how easy it can be to grow veggies in their homes in small spaces.


Canalside is also home to test gardens and magical views of the eastern end of Lake Erie.

Lake Erie and the test gardens

Rebuilding Buffalo one petunia at a time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our conference took place the week after Garden Walk Buffalo, which is an annual event with more than 400 (!!!!) gardens open to the public on one weekend. More than 350 garden communicators gathered to visit the best of these gardens and more.

Buffalo is on the precipice of something great, I’m looking forward to seeing how this hidden gem of a city emerges from its cocoon like the butterflies that are being encouraged by its gardeners.

If you are visiting Niagara Falls then why not jump over the US border and check out Buffalo in August-the gardens are just lovely.

 

Special Thanks to the local GWA organising committee and for all the gardeners who shared their gardens with us for #GWA17

https://gardensbuffaloniagara.com/events/garden-walk-buffalo/

 

 

The power of being in the moment

 

Have you ever wondered why so many avid gardeners seem calm and smile often? Why they see beauty in a leaf or the petals on a flower, why a bug is of interest to them? Why they derive pleasure from small simple things.My Garden

I was visiting a client this week and she happened to say to me that since they had their new garden installed there was one piece of advice that I gave to her husband after I put the garden in that he really listened to. One, I thought to myself, I said so much at handover, what is the one piece of advice? Reticulation, Fertilising routine, growth habits, seasonal changes….. It took me a while for this “significant” moment to really sink in…what was it that had I said that this highly successful and very busy man had listened to?

Aha, then she said it..”hose in one hand tea or a beer in the other”

Tea Cup, Green, Tea Bag, Teabag, Outdoor

On completion of a new garden, I always say to my clients that each morning they should go out into their new garden with their morning brew in hand  and walk around the garden, sometimes I say to the guys, walk around with a beer or a wine in hand and the hose in the other when you get home from work. Ooh look!

Why do I give this advice?

The time that one takes to “water” your garden, and it need be no more than fifteen minutes is an opportunity for the new garden owner to take a moment out of their busy day and connect with nature.

It’s a twinkle in time when one can see what’s happening in the garden, see what creatures have decided to make it their home too and check out the birds that fly in and out of the garden space.

It’s an occasion to monitor what’s growing vigorously and what has come to a stop for a while. It’s an instant to make a mental note of jobs you might want to undertake on the weekend and prepare to deal with any pests and diseases.

Image result for watering the garden image

My view is that this time provides the homeowner a second to reflect upon their garden before they head off to work and  consider what their hard work has rewarded them and re-ignite that spark to get through the stressful day ahead.

It’s also three shakes of a lamb’s tail to just bend down and breathe in the heady fragrance of beautiful, healthy blooms.

take time to sniff a fragrant bloom

take the time to sniff a fragrant bloom

It’s a chance to see the changing seasons before they head out into the world for the day,  but most of all it’s a moment to zone out in a kind of spiritual, meditative sort of way. Yes, I know I’m placing great importance on this part of the day but I really believe in this piece of life advice I’m dishing out for free

.Tea, Tea Cup, Nature, Teapot, Outdoor

Consider the moment, watering pots and plants, perhaps pulling out a weed or two but at the same time just breathing and thinking about nothing except sipping that drink and the beauty of nature at work in the garden.

You are present, you are “in the moment” and that may not happen until tomorrow when you do it all again.

Reflecting upon leaf on a body of water

Reflecting upon a beautiful leaf on a body of water

 

It’s addictive that’s for sure…why not have a think about making this part of your daily routine too and if tea is not your thing, I can vouch for the fact that it works with coffee, wine, champagne or beer or even water if you must and far better for the soul than pounding away on a treadmill or taking a spin class with some uber fit, lycra clad, fake-tanned, protein fuelled bloke yelling at you to go harder, faster, stronger, in a smelly, sweaty gym, I say!

Image result for image of spin class instructor