Tea Talk: Rustic, whimsical and metallic accents for 2016 gardens

It's time for Tea Talk in the Garden, the new blog series that's a virtual letter exchange between myself and my friend Angie each month. I just finished making some wild berry tea, so grab a cup and join us in the comment section below!

To read Angie's last letter to me, click the postcard below.

My Reply ... 

Dear Angie,

So much has happened that I'm not sure where to begin! Since your last letter, I was able to visit three flower shows: the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show, the Rhode Island Spring Flower and Garden Show and the NYBG Orchid Show.  At the two retail shows (Connecticut and Rhode Island), there seemed to be a pattern in what people were buying, mainly products that emphasize metal work and rustic garden design. Kinetic spinners are really popular this year - people were carrying armfuls of them out of the Connecticut show! I found this awesome star from reclaimed wood, which also features metalwork (a win-win). I was hoping to hang it off my garage (in the peak) but my husband pointed out that it's too big for the spot. It might end up on the fence or on the side of the garage now. But I really like how the green compliments my holly out back.

This is the garden star I purchased from the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show.
Instruments make great whimsical accents!
I noticed in the demonstration gardens from both shows that there was a definite trend of reusing materials. At the Rhode Island show, milk crates were paired with grow bags to show how you can make a milk crate veggie garden. At the Connecticut show, anything was up for grabs for repurposing in the display gardens, including a bench with a seat made from moss and a piano used as water fountain. It's exciting to be gardening in a time where creativity is encouraged to run wild - how dull would it be if all the gardens were expected to be manicured and with a precise, formal flair? Of course, succulents are till maintaining their popularity, as well as air plants. I couldn't even get near the booth selling air plants at the Rhode Island show!

Whimsical garden accents is also a garden trend this year. It seems that the more unusual the pairing, the better the reaction from the crowd! One great example was the use of musical instruments in the garden, as highlighted at the Rhode Island show. I like how trumpets in particular were used as flower accents. I wonder if Pinterest has really influenced gardening, or if people are just using Pinterest as a tool for collecting unusual ideas. (Maybe it's both!) No matter what, I'm loving all the spontaneous items that garden designers are implementing and pairing with nature, and now Im trying to figure out how to feature whimsical accents in my garden, so it's not just about the plants anymore! (Even though I love the plants.)

There are so many bright colors
at the NYBG orchid show!
Then, for a completely opposite experience, the NYBG Orchid Show was overflowing with color and tropical beauty! (If you are in New York before April 17, you should really check it out!) There were thousands of orchids on display, especially in the final room of the conservatory. The show was filled with little vignettes created by staff members and several miniature orchids were on display, which was different than last year's show. To top it all off, the show designers created a man-made mountain - complete with a waterfall! I would have stayed all day and taken photos if I could!

As for my own garden, I hear the finches call to each other outside my window in the early morning, just as the sun begins to rise. The squirrels definitely have spring fever - they are busy chasing each other around the yard and through the trees.
And even though I've brought the forsythia inside to force into bloom, and the days are getting longer, and the sun is getting stronger, I must admit, part of me is really worried that all the bulbs I planted last fall will not come up this spring. Every day I check the front garden along the road to see if any of the crocuses I planted have started to come up. So far, not a leaf in sight. Every morning when I leave for work I pace back and forth, scrutinizing the soil. It isn't possible for voles to eat more than 200 bulbs ... right?

Hollyhock seedlings under my grow lights.
That's one of the tricky parts about spring, isn't it? You know it's coming and you need to hold on to that faith that the flowers will bloom again, even when it seems like it's impossible. I've also started a plant that is new for me to grow from seed this year: hollyhocks. I used to love them when I was a kid, and I'm hoping to get them established in my front garden. I've been using my Gardening by the Moon calendar to plant seeds, and it seems to be working because the hollyhocks sprouted so quickly! I decided to put them in peat pots and then place them inside a clear salad container I had saved. It makes a nifty little greenhouse! How are your seeds doing under your grow lights?

By the way, I laughed so hard when you described the chipmunks in your garden stealing tomatoes! The squirrels in my garden also take one bite and drop and leave it. It kills me when they pick the ripest, juiciest ones! This summer I'll need to find a new location for my tomatoes. Last year I had them in grow pots in the driveway, and even though they were were elevated on bricks, I think it was just too hot for them.

How is your winter garden holding up? I planted garlic in my cold frame this past fall since I accidentally broke the lid off last year. I haven't repaired it yet, so I didn't have a winter garden this year. I'm hoping I can get pea seeds in the ground soon as well as lettuce and spinach seeds.

I really like watching your shares on Instagram for Project 366. I can't believe we're 60+ days into 2016 already. How crazy!

I hope you have been well and I look forward to your reply!

Talk to you soon!


  1. Some of my new bulbs are up, Jen (Commenting from the sunny side of our street!)

    1. That's good! I actually have some crocus and snowdrops up in the back yard. I get more sun back there now then I do in the summer!

  2. I've started some seeds in my bay window--calendula, tomatoes, lavender and alpine strawberries. It is nice to hear about all the creativity in the garden. I am repurposing a huge tub that my husband used for working on a boat motor as a planter. The chipmunks and squirrels can't get to it because it is so the side are so tall. My your crocuses sprout soon!!

    1. Hi Carol! That tub sounds like it will be beautiful! What a great idea!


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