Conversations in the Garden 2019-02-26T12:37:21+00:00

Welcome to the award-winning Small Town Gardener® –
a collection of articles filled with humor and gentle gardening advice.

  • a clean cut edge

First, Do No Harm

March 15th, 2019|

I intended yesterday to have a little walk around the place, observing what was and what wasn’t coming up. And I did. But these things always evolve (some would argue, devolve) into a large scale [...]

  • flooded field

Reflections and Tasks for A Wet Winter

March 8th, 2019|

As if to punish me for my naiveté in penning an article in January on the subtle joys of a Mid-Atlantic winter, the Mid-Atlantic immediately doubled down, presenting us with icy wind, freezing rain and single digit temperatures. Eyes watched me carefully for retracted statements, [...]

  • tulip bulbs in water

Forcing Bulbs for An Early Spring

March 1st, 2019|

It may be cold. And windy. And fairly miserable at six in the morning when you’ve misplaced the car scraper. But with a little know-how and a bag of bulbs, we can bring the sights and scents of spring into our living rooms and offices. [...]

Conversations in the Garden®

Deer: When You’ve Finally Had Enough

Fresh from speaking at a seed swapping seminar a few weeks ago at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, I am pumped up to begin this year’s [...]

Electric Scooters: Efficient Transport. Ridiculous Fun.

Three weeks ago while attending the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS) in Baltimore and walking the streets of that city in between meetings and meet-ups, I [...]

National Seed Swap Day: A Chance to Organize

Organizing, Sorting and Preparing your seeds and yourself for National Seed Swap Day.

  • flooding, garden

Flexibility in the Midst of Uncertainty: A Chat with Scott Aker

In the last days of 2018, there was one email I looked forward to each morning in amongst the coupons and the Groupons and the chaff [...]

A Case for The Mid-Atlantic Winter

The winters are tough out here.  I know that I write from the muddied perspective of an ex-Californian (becoming more ex by the minute), but damn. [...]

Coping with Snow in Your Landscape

A winter scene has been setting up all night as we slept, and as I write these words, the snow has covered all.  I will save [...]

Staying On Top of Cool-Season Weeds

How should one weed in the winter? Those with a strong attachment to their recliners might say ‘one shouldn’t,’ and leave it at that. I completely [...]

  • miscanthus sinensis, canna pretoria, baby lace hydrangea

Ignored but Glorious: My Favorite Plants of 2018

I did a great deal of traveling this year touring gardens, attending conferences and visiting plant trials.  I do not say this to inspire envy in [...]

  • amaryllis, holiday flowers

Saving Your Holiday Amaryllis

The New Year is beckoning, and the human condition being what it is, the decorations that made your home festive and exciting a few short days [...]

  • christmas wreath, holiday wreath making, natural wreath

Nail It! Three Tricks to Make a Gorgeous Natural Wreath This Season

It's the weekend before Christmas, and even though you've tried to ignore it, the spirit is in the air and you have an itch to undertake [...]

Marianne Willburn

Passion & Pain.

Perspective & Purpose.

That’s what gardening brings to our lives – a sense of connection to the world around us.  And that’s what this site is all about  […]

Are you gardening in the Mid-Atlantic?

March’s Garden

Even though we know better in the Mid-Atlantic, expectations of spring are high in March. The weather of today will not necessarily be the weather of tomorrow; but whether we’re dealing with a blissful weekend warm-up, or our largest snowfall of the season, we know one thing for certain [...]

Carex Tours Chelsea
111, 2018

What Can We Learn From British Gardens?

Fresh from an exhaustive three weeks driving 1800 miles to tour British gardens and their associated tea rooms, I am full of ideas and inspiration for next year’s planting schemes. The British know how to do it. The hype is real. But what exactly is that ‘it’ comprised of? Cottagey color? Architectural hedging? Jam covered scones and cups of milky sweet tea sipped in salvia scented patios? Or are they just dazzling us with their accents and that gentle Gulf Stream? To answer that question for myself, I’ve combed through thousands of photos, dozens of wow moments, and a ratty notebook that smells vaguely of real ale to boil ‘it’ down to ten garden concepts I have seen illustrated throughout the United Kingdom - both when I lived and worked there and during subsequent trips over the last fifteen [...]

  • christmas wreath, holiday wreath making, natural wreath

Nail It! Three Tricks to Make a Gorgeous Natural Wreath This Season

It's the weekend before Christmas, and even though you've tried to ignore it, the spirit is in the air and you have an itch to undertake one last decorating project: [...]

  • longwood, longwood christmas, floating christmas trees

Ten Tips for a Day Trip to A Longwood Christmas

Every year around this time, I get into a car with my husband and a couple friends and make the journey over hill and dale and White Marsh Shopping center [...]

Get Your Festive On

December. Joy, Mirth, and seventeen other one word slogans on cotton dishtowels.     Are you ready? We are sent out to achieve the impossible this month.  In the midst [...]

  • circular steps, luytens, succulents, great dixter

Experimentation as Energy: Lessons from Great Dixter

Just before leaving for Great Britain three months ago, I threw an overnight case in the back of a friend’s overworked Prius and headed down to Raleigh to attend a [...]

NEW! Mungo’s Journal

  • chair dog

I Crack Myself Up Sometimes

Here’s something fun to do if you’re bored. And you’re a dog. (And I’m both some days.) Freak Them out.  I mean REALLY. Freak. Them. Out. [...]

All You Need to Know About the Super Bowl in One Photo

Yep. Big snore fest. Shots of Gisele Bündchen were worth opening my eyes for every once and awhile. Even Frisco thinks she's fine and he has [...]