A Bottlebrush Arrangement



My favorite floral arrangements are those that bring the outdoors inside.  This weekend, we are visiting the Upper Galilee and we are always amazed by the beautiful varieties of plants and trees that are native to this gorgeous part of Northern Israel.  One of my favorite shrubs found is this part of the world  is the Callisteon, affectionately known as a bottlebrush plant.  The flowers of this shrub resemble a bottlebrush and are unique and stunning.

For this Shabbos, I designed an arrangements using three branches of a bottlebrush shrub and two Monstera leaves brought in from the outdoors.

Shabbat Shalom (peaceful Shabbos)!

Growing Lettuce in TopSoil Bags

When Aaron was a little boy, he loved to join me in shopping for our summer annuals and vegetable plants. We would peruse the aisles of the local garden center, looking for unusual plants and interesting planting combinations and techniques.

We discovered that our local nursery started some of their lettuce and leafy vegetables right inside topsoil bags. We couldn’t wait to try this technique ourselves. We tried it and it worked beautifully, producing vibrant plants with minimal care. Best of all, once we harvested the leafy plants, we would reuse the topsoil for our vegetable garden. It seemed like a win-win.

We have been using this technique for spring gardening for the past many years.

topsoil planters for lettuce  supplies upside down


bag of top soil, potting soil or mixed soil
a knife or box cutter


Place bag of topsoil in a sunny area.  Using the box cutter or knife, cut x’s in 12-15 inch intervals.  Pour one or two seeds into each hole created by the x.

topsoil planters for lettuce with xs cut

Make sure that the soil bag is damp, but not wet.  Seeds should sprout within a week or 10 days.

lettuce in soil bags

At War with Weeds: A Homemade Non-Toxic Weed-Killer

weed killer spray

Our nineteen year old son, Aaron, is our resident landscaper.  Aaron has always been a budding entrepreneur and handy around the house and yard.  When he was thirteen years old, he took some of the monetary gifts that he had  received for his Bar Mitzvah celebration and purchased a bright red lawn tractor.  He convinced us to hire him as our resident gardener to earn back the cost of the tractor and he has acquired other garden tools since then, too.   For the past six years, Aaron has used his tractor to manicure our lawn and yard, his tiller to turn our flower and vegetable garden areas and his edger to edge our lawn.

Problem is…Aaron is studying in yeshiva this year in Israel.  We have had to manage without him and we have had to find easy solutions to our gardens’ overgrown messes. Don has been driving the tractor around the lawn and yard to cut the grass.  I have been planting the vegetable garden and mulching the flower beds.    Aaron will be home for a few weeks in the summer and we have lots of landscaping and maintenance waiting for his expert care.

One of the biggest problems is battling the weeds.   In the past, Aaron has tilled the garden beds with his gas-powered tiller which has cut down on the weeds.   This year, Don and I have had to figure all of it out on our own.  I have discovered this amazing homemade weed killer that does the job without the toxins found in most commercially available products.  This solution works best when used on a hot, sunny day and sprayed in the morning.  The sun will wither the sprayed weeds as long as there is no rain expected within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Here it is:


Our Backyard is for the Birds…now that I have discovered suet feeders

We enjoy sitting at the kitchen table and watching the variety of gorgeous birds that frequent our backyard.  Over the years, I have purchased and created many different bird feeders.  Some were not sturdy enough, others attracted too many squirrels, but most were just too difficult to refill.

Last year, our favorite birdhouse feeder was knocked over by a large fallen tree limb and broken beyond repair . It was time to replace it and I was looking for something that could draw birds as close to our kitchen window as possible.  I wanted something sturdy and inexpensive, something that that would draw birds without squirrels, and something that would be simple to refill.

At the supermarket, I discovered suet bird feeders.  They are simply coated metal grid-like feeders that hold suet cakes securely.  To feed, the birds peck at the suet cake through the metal grid, while squirrels cannot.  These suet feeders are easy to refill by just opening a sturdy latch and they can be hung just about anywhere.  Best of all, they only cost a couple of dollars.

I purchased a few suet feeders to hang near our kitchen window.  I hung one off of a thin but strong ribbon that I tossed over a sturdy branch on the magnolia tree behind the kitchen. I hung the others on the light posts near the window.  I have tried a variety of suet cakes which are simple to install in the suet holders. Now we get an assortment of woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals, robins and finches (with no squirrels) joining our family for breakfast.

Our backyard is simply for the birds….


Branches, Cabbages and Blue Spruce: Winter Planters

For the fall, I plant decorative cabbages in my outdoor planters.  The variety of colors and textures makes me smile every time I approach the front door of my house.  This year, we had warm weather deep into December, but alas, winter is finally here and my cabbages have wilted and faded due to the frost.