Saturday, November 14, 2009

Putting It To Bed

Some simple tips for putting your gardens to bed til spring...

  • If you happen to have a mulching leaf vacuum and you have oak sure to use that wonderful stuff as mulch for your Rhododendrons, Azaleas, blue Hydrangeas and other acid-loving plants. There's nothing better! Even if you don't have one of those machines (they ARE noisy and gas-guzzling), your oak leaves, whole, will provide a nourishing mulch and break down faster than other leaves do. Virginia Umberger, who taught me everything about the significance of each individual plant, would keep a ready supply of oak leaves through all four seasons to use as mulch. She is in her late nineties and still carrying water from her rain barrel to the sun garden across the street.
  • My mom, who taught me everything about the universe of fine gardening from the start, and who still tends to her beautiful gardens with an eye to the immaculate, doesn't have oak leaves on her property. She knows the value of pine needles which are in ample supply, and uses them to advantage in her Rhododendron and Hydrangea beds. I must post some photos of her gardens.
  • Cut back to an inch above ground all of your perennial plants. if you're enjoying the seedheads or post-frost foliage then by all means don't cut back!
  • This is an optimal time to divide, transplant perennials if they've outgrown their spots.
  • Bring Hydrangea heads into the house...just place into containers (leaves removed) for all-winter enjoyment.
  • No pruning of Roses, Butterfly Bushes, Caryopteris til early spring! If in doubt about anything, don't prune. Doing so now encourages new growth which will be vulnerable to the cold, and may well kill the plant.
  • When there's time, I like to edge all beds for a neat appearance through winter.
  • Containers....remove plants, soil, and turn upside-down. Concrete containers will be ok with soil. A planter you really care about that may be too heavy to store or turn over can be safe-guarded by covering the opening with a piece of plywood, then wrapping the entirety with bubble wrap (you may want to then cover with burlap and raffia which looks a whole lot nicer).
  • We plant bulbs through mid-January. Don't stress if you haven't the time right now. A word of caution...bulbs can easily become moldy and be sure yours are stored where there is good air circulation and little moisture if you're not going to be planting for a while.
  • Dahlias...if you have a dry spot indoors for storing them, lift from the ground with an inch or two of the stalk remaining, and wash the dirt off. Check every so often during the next few months, with a water sprtizer in hand, if they are too dry. They can be divided now (check for new growth nodules to determine which will be viable next year) w/ a sharp knife or in early spring. You'll be replanting them in April. Or...if the following months are not terribly wet, your tubers will be safe in the ground with a 12 inch layer of leaves and landscape cloth, attached to the ground with sod staples (available at most garden centers) to cover.
  • Cannas are somewhat more forgiving than Dahlias of how they're stored. Wash them and place them in your garage or basement, plant in late April/early May.
  • It's not too late to repair your lawn with fact, it's the easiest time of year for establishing. Call or email if you want a top-quality resource.
  • The winter garden has its own charms. Be thoughtful of that as you prepare.

We can help with all of the above and more.
Let us know if you have need.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Botany of Desire

New PBS series, based on a book by Michael Pollan...check out the show's very entertaining site.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Autumn Leaves, Warmly

This is for you, Yas...

The late, much adored Eva Cassidy.

Sparkling the Autumn Garden

Summer flew by in record time. Yesterday we were planning and prepping our beds for summer gardening. Today we're bemoaning the very first frost-blackened tips and thinking...ok, time to put energy to clean-up!

There is a special beauty to the autumn garden. Overblown Impatiens against colorful foliage...Dahlias doing what they do, on steroids, in neon overdrive...even the cover of fallen leaves on the garden the autumn sun casts a sparkle upon the earth...and the invigorating smell of it all. If you can wait til a complete frost to attend to end of season chores, then by all means do. That means removing or cutting back those annual and perennial plants that are gone by, allowing those that are still respectable to show off. A bit of thought to the interplay of forms and colors at this time of year, when grooming the garden, is a worthy effort.

Leave Hydrangeas intact until we're assured of an overnight frost. Then cut the heads, with stems...before the frost!!... and bring a bundleful indoors. Remove foliage, put directly into a big bowl and enjoy the carmine, lime, cream, and violet hues all winter.

Someone on a side street in Chestnut Hill has smartly...or serendipitously...combined raspberry red Mums with what remains of a planting of summer's bright orange "Fire" Profusion Zinnias. Wish I had a photo to share. Delicious.

Consider the Dahlia...take quiet time this winter to peruse some of the many fine catalogs available online (my favorite resource is Swan Island Dahlias ). Growers and hybridizers convey their passion with brilliant photos of out-of-this-world blooms and exuberant new introductions. You'll be hard-pressed to turn away, even if you're aware of the tedious staking and deadheading (and digging in fall if you want to re-use the tubers) required to keep this class of plants vital and producing. Once the weather cools, Dahlias put on a razzle dazzle show unlike anything else in the plant world. Bouquet combinations are unlimited.

In the next few posts, we'll discuss efficient and garden-smart ways to put your bit of the earth to bed for the winter.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More in the Warehouse

267 625 4002,
or Open House Sept. 12 and 13, 10 til 5.
1406 East Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor PA 19038

Prices at wholesale and below.

Help, please as we sadly close Look East. These photos are a sampling of what's in store. Only available to top designers and fine stores til now.
See posting below for full details.

In the Warehouse

Posted here are photos of Look East's warehouse. A significant collection of art and craft and antiquity from Southeast Asia.

Read post below...we're closing Look East, selling to businesses and to the public. If you appreciate this aesthetic, then it behooves you to get to the warehouse asap where we're offering these treasures at wholesale and well below. This is quite the collection.

Please contact us if you'd like to stop by, or plan to visit on
Sept 12, 13, 10 til 5.
1406 East Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor PA 19038
267 625 4002

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Treasures to Go

It's with enormous sadness that, after 6 years, I am dissolving Look East: traders in Asian style. I no longer have someone to manage, travel, sell and I haven't the time, given landscape responsibilities, to do it myself. AND, it takes a special talent that I haven't got! (though I was an exceptional traveler to the East and a world-class shopper!!)

Most of you haven't had the tour of the warehouse. We'd been selling business to impressive roster of interior and landscape designers, architects, the finest garden shops and nurseries, home furnishings stores, restaurants and other corporate entities. Up and down the East Coast and in Dallas. We did not sell directly to the public but you may have seen pieces from our collection at your favorite shops or featured in design publications. A few of you, friends of the landscape business, have stopped by.

You can't begin to imagine, if you haven't visited, the array of amazing treasures, old and new, from Burma, Thailand, Lao, Cambodia, Viet Nam. Things you don't find anywhere, except perhaps similar in the most sophisticated design mags and books. Search Architectural Digest (keywords "Asian Style" for example) to see how these pieces enhance whatever your personal style may be.

So...we're opening the warehouse for a public sale, prices greatly reduced to move them out. 50 - 80% off retail and on larger sales, we'll deal. Please help us do that!! Be prepared to drop your jaw when you do. The warehouse is a museum of indigenous art and craft from that part of the world...each piece embued with the gentle spirit of its maker and the culture.

Ceramics, teak architectural elements, statuary, textiles and wearables, fine art, water features, candles, bronzes, musical instruments, furniture, and more. For indoor and outdoor living. If you've been looking for a Buddha image that speaks blessings to you for your home or garden, you'll likely find it here. View our photo album for a sampling of what's in store.

I'll be posting more on this blog site about the event and about particular pieces and how they're made, and also will send notes to all on our list with particulars. In the meantime, if you'd like to stop by beforehand, call and we'll make the time!

I mean it...4400 square feet stuffed with extraordinary, spirit-enhancing objects, and I need your help to give them all good homes!!! Help!!!
Please share this link with your friends so we can get the word out.

Mark your calendar...
Sept 12 and 13, 10 a.m. til 5 pm. Other times by appointment. 1406 East Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor PA 19038
267 625 4002

Blessings to all, hope your summer is a delight.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hobbit House

Wouldn't this be fun?! House in Wales, with lots of surprises inside. Handmade of natural materials at very little cost.

Click here to see more photos and a plan.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Crazy year for tulips...a late spring and lots of rain made for a simultaneous burst of early and mid-season blooming varieties against an Irish-green backdrop...on a weekend that was record-breakingly hot. The heat shortened the bloom period; but for a few peak days, wow!

Folks have asked what to do after bloom time.

Tulips don't come back reliably the next year. With that in mind, on most of our properties we lift the bulbs after the flowers are gone, plant new ones in the fall. If you wish to leave them in the ground, take chances on their return with bloom, then cut off just the spent heads. Leave stems and foliage to wilt. This is what will nourish the bulb below. When the foliage can be removed very easily (without a tug), also remove the stems.
At that time sprinkle Bulbtone on the surrounding soil.

Repeat in the fall.

Tulips are the divine extravagance!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rare Finds

This is a destination not to be missed, I promise you!! It's jaw-droppingly beautiful. And the folks at this nursery are entertaining, knowledgeable and passionate about what they grow.

The nursery is located about one hour's drive from Philadelphia.

From Hank Schannen and the Rare Find Gang...

"Over the next 3 to 4 weeks our five acres of rhododendrons will be coming into peak bloom. Help us celebrate a glorious spring by visiting and strolling through our woodland garden and appreciating the thousands of different rhododendrons and azaleas we grow. We offer the largest variety of hardy rhododendrons, evergreen and deciduous azaleas in the country. Now is the time to visit and see the plants in our garden, and choose from the wide variety of sizes we have for sale.

"Our garden and nursery are open to the public Wednesday thru Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. We are closed on Sundays. We carry almost 1,000 rhododendrons and 2,000 plants in other genera, including rare shrubs, Japanese maples, magnolias, conifers, grasses, and perennials.

"If you cannot visit us, you can order through our web site; shipping is in full swing. If you need directions and a map, you can download it by clicking here.

"We look forward to your visit or hearing from you."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bamboo and Paper Homes

From Re-Nest, beautiful shelter proto- types made of folded paper and bamboo. Designer Ming Tang created these serene structures to meet the needs of earthquake victims in China. Read more.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Easy Food Gardening

Sign on at One Million Gardens' web site and receive a packet of heirloom seeds, free!
...enough, they say, to grow 100's of pounds of food. The site provides a 52 week course in organic backyard food production and features online videos of gardening techniques.

Read's entry to learn the 10 easiest food crops to grow, specific soil ph and tips for planting and growing each.

I'd add:

  • Remember to give your seeds and plants loose, organically amended soil. Manure, mushroom compost, household compost are all fine amendments. Add liberally!! Green sand is a mined mineral, available at garden centers, that provides the soil with potassium (for disease resistance and overall plant vitality), loosens clay and binds sand. Raised beds offer best control of soil quality.
  • If you have rabbits, groundhogs, squirrels or other guests squatting on your property, be sure to fence your garden. Apply wire netting to the fence, and dig it into the ground at least six inches straight down and then a good six inches perpendicular, into the garden area. Planting marigolds at the perimeter of your garden will further discourage munchers. Bird netting over berries and grapes will keep birds from taking your entire crop. Leave a few for the birds, though! And check often to ensure that no animal has become entangled in the net.
  • Fertilize, if you must (a rich, well-amended garden bed does away with the need for fertilizer) with fish emulsion, sea kelp (both available at area garden centers) or manure tea, which is made by filling a potato sack or other porous material with manure, placing it in an old trash can, adding water and letting it sit for a few days...then applying the liquid to plants. If your garden is planted in less than wonderful soil, apply any of the aforementioned weekly.
  • Create sturdier support systems than you initially think you'll need for climbers and tall plants. Purchase or make your own. Be diligent to attach new growth, regularly.
  • Hang banana peels near plants to control aphids.
  • Provide lots of sunlight, water as needed and weed around the plants every so often.
  • Harvest and enjoy!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Arvo Part

Arvo Part, Minimalist Estonian composer, 1935 - present. His work is otherworldly, with emphasis on the space between the notes. This quiet piece, "Mirror in Mirror", has been adapted to the scores of several films and may be the most familiar. His body of work is extensive, ranging from the secular to, more recently, soaring sacred compositions.

Having lately come upon him, his work speaks to me profoundly. If you enjoy this piece, I urge you to check out other aspects of his music.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Build a Fountain

This Old House's web site offers a simple tutorial for turning any old thing into a fountain. Figure a $100 to $200 investment, but it can be done for a lot less if you repurpose something you already have, such as a fabulous urn or an old ornament. Just about anything...or any gathering of things, really!

The plan can be adjusted to include a submersible solar pump, for the energy-conscious. Here's a good one, for under $20, that comes with an array of nozzle heads.

Speaking of fabulous urns, consider this plan for turning one into a fountain. Check out our site, Look East: traders in asian style for a selection of exceptional, handmade Southeast Asian water jars, well-suited to this project. Some are one-of-a kind. We sell to the trade, so contact us if you have interest and we'll direct you to a local retailer or sell directly if one is not nearby.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Conserve Energy...Plant a Tree!

Did you know that you can conserve energy by:

  • Planting deciduous trees on the South side of the house to shade it in summer and let the sun in during winter months. Air conditioning costs can be cut from 10 to 50%.

  • Planting evergreen trees on the North side to act as a windbreak in winter as well as in summer when hot breezes can permeate your home.

  • Siting your air conditioning system in a shady spot or on the North side of your home.

  • Locating a trellis and vine on the South side of the house.
  • Planting shrubs in close proximity to the house to create a lower windbreak in winter, keep out heat in summer.

  • Making gardens...plants release moisture which cools the air as it evaporates.

  • Installing a solar powered fountain, for the same cooling effect.

From the National Academy of Sciences...

The NAS estimates that urban America has 100 million potential tree spaces (places where trees could be planted). It further estimates that filling these spaces with trees and lightening the color of dark, urban surfaces would result in annual energy savings of 50 billion kilowatt-hours...25% of the 200 billion killowatt-hours consumed each year by air conditioners in the U.S. This would reduce electric power plant emissions of carbon dioxide by 3.5 million tons (32 metric tons) annually and save users of utility-supplied electricity 3.5 billion dollars each year.

Photo from

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Colony Collapse Disorder

Here's an informative article on the demise of honeybees. Israeli Acute Paralytic Virus is thought to have been imported with seemingly healthy Australian bees by American beekeepers in 2004. A healthy bee population is essential to pollinization of food crops as well as ornamental plants, so the problem is being aggressively researched. Pesticide exposure, environmental stress, bacterial and fungal diseases and a parasitic mite are also thought to have contributed to what has affected from 50 to 90% of U.S. commercial honey bee colonies over the past several years.

In the meantime, there are other bee species that are effective pollinators, and there are ways to encourage them to make their hives in your garden areas. I've been researching the topic and will address it further in the fall, when orders are taken for spring delivery of the bees. I'll include resources and also links to makers of the most effective types of bee houses.

For this spring, be sure plenty of early-blooming plants are located in the vicinity of your fruit trees when they come into flower, to ensure good yield. Funded by the Haagen Daz Corporation (which credits honey bees for almost half of their 60 ice cream flavors!) The Penn State University Master Gardeners Program offers homeowners and professionals their guidelines for creating bee-friendly environments.

Note: Honey bees are NOT aggressive stingers.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Children of Autumn

From crew mate Mark Arnosky...

Seeds of Fire
Dripping Down
Falling with Grace
Plunk, Plop, Patter
Resting their beds
green or brown or multicolored

Seeds of Fire
Sinking in
Disappearing in earnest
Down, Down, Down
Fire banked in loam
green or brown or red

Seeds of Fire
Coals now
Waiting, quiet anticipation
Listening, feeling, saving
for the right moment
It's almost upon them

Coals of fire
Time has ripened
strain, push, Break
reach, Drive

Coals of Quiet Fire
ignited by rain
showing their Beauty
up up up
spreading arms wider
All green All new

Unstoppable Green Fire
Dancing Wider, Higher
competition intense
striving for the canopy
winners gain the light
losers receive dark shadows
the latter a placing none wants

A Fire Reborn
Wholly Majestic
Radiating pure strength
Prepared to give
Their children to Autumn
When their Hair
Turns to yellow tipped red
When the Cold Wind Blows
When the Soft Bed Calls.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Web Site

Our new site is up. Please visit, let me know what you think and how we can improve it. Mind's a work in progress!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Might As Well Be Spring

Stacey Kent
from Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair

Rose Prep

It's time to prune your roses! The following is by no means an exhaustive how-to. But ample for ensuring a healthy start to the rose season. Refer to this article throughout the summer when maintenance pruning will encourage new growth and bloom, remove dead wood, improve air circulation and provide a pleasing plant shape. Maintenance pruning should not be done past August.

Do not prune non-recurrent old fashioned or once-blooming roses now...wait 'til after bloom-time. If you prune them now, you'll lose the bloom.

Do not prune newly-planted roses, other than dead wood, and be very conservative when pruning roses that have been in the ground for only a year.

For all other classes of roses:

  • Keep pruners clean, sharp and well-oiled. It's always good practice to dip pruners in alcohol before moving to a new plant.
  • Wear durable gloves and long sleeves! The thorns don't get you, you get them, though it seems otherwise.
  • Remove debris (leaves, etc) from around the plant.
  • Look at the entire plant, but begin pruning by looking first at the base. You'll make better decisions that way. Make cuts at a 45 degree angle, about 1/4 inch above a leaf bud that faces to the outside of the plant. See image below. Too much above leaves an unsightly stub. Too close to the bud means it won't develop.
  • Cuts must be clean, not ragged. Hence sharp pruners!!
  • Remove all dead, diseased wood (branches that look black, shriveled, mottled). The pith (interior) of the branch at the cut should be white...if discolored, prune lower to find white pith.
  • Remove any branches that are thinner than a pencil.
  • Remove sucker growth below the graft.
  • Remove any foliage that remains on the newly-pruned bush. This is important to ensure that any latent infection is not carried forward.
  • Plan to prune 1/3 to 1/2 the volume of the bush. Remember that you'll always wish you'd pruned smaller once the bush hits its stride.
  • Once you're done, step back and look at the plant. If you think it's still too congested at its center, remove more canes so that air will circulate well. If you're pruning a shrub rose,create a desirable shape.
  • Scratch compost (manure, mushroom compost, household compost) into the soil around each rose. I mulch my rose beds with mushroom compost.

Developing technique takes practice, but remember that you're not likely to kill the plant if you make a mistake...and once the weather warms, your roses will grow like crazy anyway.

Earth Hour

Yasmin sent this note, as a reminder to mark your calendar...

On March 28, 2009 at 8:30 p.m., join millions of individuals, governments, businesses, and other organizations around the world in celebrating Earth Hour by turning off your lights for one hour in a symbolic action to bring attention to climate change.

This simple act is intended to deliver a strong message about the need to implement immediate solutions to what is believed to be the greatest threat our human species has ever faced. Switching off lights for one hour will unite us in a commitment to stop climate change.

If every household in New Jersey turned off the lights for one hour, New Jersey would save 500 MW of electricity and $1.8 million in electricity costs. In addition, during that same hour we could avoid emitting 230 metric tons of carbon dioxide which is equivalent to planting 5,815 trees or taking 15,151 cars off the road for one day.

Earth Hour began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia with 2.2 million homes and businesses shutting off their lights for one hour. In 2008, this event became a global sustainability movement with about 50 million people in 35 countries participating.

Landmarks such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Rome’s Coliseum and the Times Square billboard all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent every hour.

This year, organizers hope that over 1 billion people in 1,000 cities around the world will participate in this awareness event. Well-known landmarks will dim their lights, including: the world’s tallest hotel building in Dubai - the Burj Dubai, Toronto’s CN Tower, Moscow's Federation Tower, Australia’s Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower and Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, and Table Mountain in Cape Town.

In the United States, the National Education Association, representing 3.2 million teachers and education professionals pledged its support, as did the 1.4 million-strong American Federation of Teachers. You can do your part to put Pennsylvania on this map.

We can do this in fun ways by going star watching with our kids, having a candlelight dinner at home with family and friends, throwing a neighborhood block party, or doing something more with your town and local businesses to encourage them to shut off non-essential lighting.

For more information, please visit:

Friday, March 13, 2009


Here's a really cool product for those of us who mourn our freshly-harvested salads when the season says indoor hydroponic system for growing lettuces, cherry tomatoes, chile peppers, herbs, sprouts. No mess of soil. Compact and attractive enough to grace a kitchen counter. Plants grow efficiently on water, air, nutrients and a built-in grow light. Yield occurs in 4 to 5 weeks, and plants keep on producing for many months if you harvest regularly.


There's a page on the site with entertaining, actually, videos of time-lapse growing. Blips. Though I suppose if you want to grow bounty and variety you'd do better to develop a hydroponic space in your home and do it more expansively, this space-saving gizmo might be just enough to satisfy.

The system is available at Primex Garden Center in Glenside, PA.

Hummingbird Hits Window

Years ago, while planting beneath a large window, on a very lovely property, on a peaceful day, a sudden thump broke the peace and a hummingbird dropped to the ground right next to me. I cradled the little thing in my palm...thinking it was dying...and called the crew over to see a stilled hummingbird. In perhaps ten minutes the bird suddenly took flight. It's a snapshot in time that I won't forget.

Thinking often since about all the birds who fly into windowpanes who aren't as fortunate as that little guy, I've wondered what would suit both bird safety and human eye. Some folks attach netting to the exterior window. There are many fairly unimaginatve decals on the market that helpfully interrupt reflections of trees and sky.

I recently came across a resource for delightful ones.

Sweet Nothing offers a number of designs, each available in dozens of colors, your choice. (I suppose that bright reds, blues, oranges and yellows should be avoided, since those are the colors that attract hummingbirds.) Some of them can be combined to create a window mural. The decals are suited to any smooth surface.

Sweet Nothing will also accommodate your custom design. Vinyl decals are shipped with instructions.

The image at the top of this entry is of the elements of four snails, before assembly. Below are a few interior applications.