Friday, April 25, 2014

Begin the Begonia Buzz and Contest Alert

Longfield Gardens in New Jersey is the one of the country's top bulb importers and retailers, including 18 varieties of the Begonia tuber including these below.

 Begonia Non-Stop Apricot

 Begonia Double Roseform Yellow

 Begonia Double Picotee Yellow

 Begonia Hanging Golden Balcony

 Begonia Double Roseform Scarlet

To encourage gardeners to get a jumpstart on spring planting, Longfield Gardens has assembled a gorgeous cloche kit for $30.  It's perfect for Mother's Day or as a gift for your favorite boss, banker or friend.

Everything you need is included: peat pot and soil, heavy glass cloche and rustic ceramic base, and one tuber (from your choice of 18 begonia varieties).

If you lightly water the tuber for five or six weeks, you should see the beginnings of the begonia emerge from the soil. It's then ready for transplanting outside once all chance of frost is gone.

To order: visit or 1-855-LF-Gardens.  New customers receive 20 percent off their order with the posted promo code and free shipping with orders over $50.

And now one of you gets to try this beautiful kit free. 

Here's how you enter.  Click on the word "Comment" below and tell us what other tuber or bulb, beside a begonia, (click here) you would want to force under the cloche next season and why.

Longfield Gardens will choose its favorite response and send the lucky winner a begonia kit with a tuber of its choice.

Not so fine print:
If you're having trouble commenting, try switching browsers, from Firefox to Safari, for example. 

Please check back here to see if you are the winner in order to receive your prize.

Good luck!

Friday, March 28, 2014

To Bee or not to Bee

Mike Turner, who owns Marin Coastal Bee Co., knows bees. He harvests and sells their honey, he removes their nests, relocates their swarms, and helps set up and or manage hives of them for his customers.  You can even order his local honey here.

Mike will discuss the life and habits of the honeybee at the 38th annual Marin chapter of the California Native Plant Society at 11 a.m. on April 12 at Green Point Nursery in Novato where native wildflowers, perennials, shrubs, grasses and seeds will be on sale.  Other talks will focus on butterfly gardening and top native plants for the Marin garden.

You can win one of four plants, grown by the Society's volunteer by entering the contest below.

Image: Deborah Turner

Here, Mike Turner shares his favorite fun facts from The Beekeepers Handbook by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile.   

The Life (and death) of a Busy Bee

In its lifetime, a honeybee produces about 1/12th of a teaspoon, or about five drops, of honey.

It takes 15 adult bees to make one teaspoon, not tablespoon, of honey.

It takes about two million flower visits to collect enough nectar to make 1 pound of honey. 

Image: Bob and Mieko Watkins

A colony can collect 40 to 125 pounds of pollen in a year and eat about 40 to 65 pounds in the same amount of time.

If bees eat eight pounds of honey, they can make one pound of beeswax.

Bees fly from 9 to 15 miles per hour. If bees fly two miles from their hive, they can cover about 8,000 acres of forage area.  This adorable bumblebee, below, isn't known for its honey-making skills, but it's a great pollinator for the garden and needs food, too.

 Image: Bob and Mieko Watkins

If a bee is gorged with 30 mg. of honey, it can cover 34 miles without running out of fuel,  so that's about 1 mg. of honey per mile.  If it is swarming,  it carries 36 mg. Swarms, like the one below in a Mill Valley, CA tree, occur between March and June when hives are bursting with bees and the queen takes off with half of her hive to find a new home.  

 Image: Mike Turner

At the peak of summer, a hive can have as many as 50,000 adult bees and 35,000 incubating young bees.  In a colony of 50,000 bees, 500 die each day.   Colonies can live in beehives built by the bees or by beehive makers like Mike Turner.

An adult worker bee lives 15 to 38 days during the summer.  During the winter, it can live 140 days or more.

Queens, on the other hand can live three to five years.  (The queen, below, is the largest one with a harmless dye on her to make her easily recognized by the beekeeper.)

 Image: Doug Fairclough

She mates -  in flight - with as many as 10 to 15 drones, whose sole purpose is mating, and then lay 1,000 eggs per day…up to 200,000 per year. 

All worker bees are female and perform most of the hive duties, including cleaning cells, feeding the babies and the queen, packing pollen, building honey comb, ventilating and cooling and guarding the hive, waking up or clearing out dead bees, and waking up taking out the trash (dead bees).

It would take 10 stings of bee venom per 100 pounds of body weight to kill an average person.  So, a 200 pound man could be killed by 1000 stings. 
On the other hand, it just takes a few bites of the blossoms of the native California Buckeye to kill a bee. They will avoid them unless there is nothing else to eat.  Then, they’ll take the pollen back to the hive, eat it later, and die. 

Image: Bay

So, Mike Turner's best tip for helping bees is to plant flowers that bloom late in summer when other sources have dried up.

image: Bob and Mieko Watkins

Now for the Contest!  Here are the rules:  Please enter the name of one plant for hungry bees that blooms late in summer and isn’t mentioned in this week’s Fine Living column. We'd love to hear why you like it.  The prize for the first four correct winning entries is a bee-friendly plant, courtesy of the Marin chapter of the California Native Plant Society.  

That's it...good luck!

Tiny print:  The contest is open to any Marin resident. You must leave your first name and the first initial of your last name with your answer, for verification purposes, and you must check back on April 4 to see if you have won and to send  your address.  Please mark your calendar. Prizes will be hand-delivered in Marin that week. 

If you have trouble registering your comment, try switching browsers to Safari and see if that helps. To keep it fair and transparent, only comments posted here are eligible.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Great Green Cycler GIve-away

The Green Cycler is an all-in-one odorless composting shredder and storage unit that operates like a paper shredder for produce chopping up fresh fruit and vegetable scraps into ideal sized pieces for the compost pile.

It can reduce green waste volume up to 80 percent and accelerate the composting process by at least 10 times.  

Gail Loos, the Denver mother of two, who invented the Green Cycler insisted upon an ergonomic design with dishwasher safe components, dual-action handles that go back and forth to help chop tough scraps, stainless steel blades that are safe to remove and never need sharpening, a fully removable lid with a viewing window, a drawer that holds up to a gallon of shredded scraps, micro vents to reduce odor-causing bacteria and promote quick decomposition, and lever-activated suction cup feet to keep the machine steady when the handles are turned.  It's also all made in America.

The Green Cycler ranges in price from $99.99 to $139.99

Contest rules:  Please be the first to post the correct answer to this question and win a Green Cycler.  I will need your address to send the prize so make sure you check back here for the announcement of the winner by Friday December 27.  If you're the winner, please email me your address.

Here's the question:
According to Planetsave, what is the third best way, behind giving up cars and household fuels, to prevent (global warming) pollution?

Here's a clue:  musician Jay-Z is doing it, Bill Clinton and now Al Gore are doing it, and baseball great Hank Aaron was doing it before all of them.

What is it? 


Monday, March 12, 2012

Bouquets to Art Contest Winner

Thank you Kimberly Dietrich, Kim B. and Randy Fong for your delightful answers!

Even though we conduct our contests the old-fashioned way - pulling random numbers- we were all inspired to bring in some lavender. It is simple and beautiful and fragrant.

The winning number was #1 so that means commenter #1, Kimberly Dietrich, is the winner of this contest.

Congratulations from all of us, Kimberly, and enjoy the presentation! 

And, thank you to everyone for commenting.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Contest: 2 tickets to Bouquets to Art

Win two tickets to a floral demonstration by the fabulous Mr. Shane Connolly during Bouquets to Art 2012...and admission to all the floral displays!

Images courtesy of Shane Connolly. (Not of the royal wedding)

For more on the man who oversaw every detail of the flowers for Prince William and Catherine Middleton's wedding including the bouquet and bridal party flowers, the field maple trees in Westminster Abbey and the wedding dinner at Buckingham Palace, click here.

Tickets are good for the talk at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14 at the de Young Museum.

In the comment box below, tell us the names of the flowers you grow and the favorite way you like to decorate with them.

That's it.  The winner will be selected Saturday March 10 and announced here.

Good luck!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Going Coastal

Summer was far too fleeting and we aren't really ready to say goodbye so we're saying hello to the beach motif of Cottage Coastal Store, Inc.

Cottage Coastal, an online home accessories store based in sea-breezy Belvedere, California, has made a splash from Nantucket to Santa Monica with its beach-and-cottage inspired frames, lighting, pillows, mirrors, tableware, throws, wall art and other decorative objects.  Its focus is on quality American handcrafts.

And, even better, Cottage Coastal is diving in to help a non-profit organization make some extra clams by donating a pillow of your choice (click here to see) for your favorite non-profit group's next auction or fundraiser.  Just post its name, tell us all the good it does and the group that is nominated the most, wins. We LOVE this contest.

Image from Charlotte Macey
"Beach Huts" napkins  •  
Handstitched • Cotton • 
Set of four or six • $55 or $82

Image from Sugarboo Designs
"To Carry All My Love You A Hundred Hearts Would Be To Few" 
 Linen pillow with feather insert • 24-inch •  $120.

 Image from Thred
Handcrafted cotton boudoir pillow • 12 by 16-inch • $150

Image from Suzanne Nicoll

Handcrafted and antiqued wooden plaques • 
Whitewash, distressed blue/aqua or coral •  
28-inches high •  $148 each.

Image from Sugarboo Designs
"When In Doubt"
24-inch linen pillow with feather insert •  $120 •

 Image from O'Brien & Schridde Designs

Frames •  
Hand painted and weathered  •
  $60 to $90

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Artful Anniversary Cakes, Cupcakes and (dog) Cookies

When you turn 70, we think you should have your cake... and your cupcake... and still eat the dog cookies.

How lucky for the American Craft Council, the largest juried craft show in the West, that six stylish Bay Area bakeries, including two specializing in dog treats, agree.  They whipped up fantasy interpretations of selected show pieces in celebration of ACC's big anniversary.

This decorated decadence will be on display at the American Craft Council San Francisco Show  at Fort Mason Center from August 12 to 14 but dig in now with this sneak peak. 

Cake designer: Maralyn Tabatsky • Have Your Cake •  So. San Francisco
Artist: Thomas Maras

Cake designer: Sandra Estrada • Canine Confections •  San Francisco
Artist: Michele Friedman 

Cake designer: Katrina Topp • Katrina Rozelle Pastries • Oakland •
Artist: Molly Dingledine

Cake Designer:  Jesse Figueroa • Barkn Belly Bakery • Morgan Hill
Artist: PJ Floyd

Cake designer: Kelsey Robinson • The Whole Cake •  San Francisco
Artist: Kiwon Wang

Cake designer: Julie Durkee • Torino Baking • Berkeley
Artist: Seug-Hea Lee

Cake designer: Dianna Gilley •  Sweet Treats Just Around the Corner •  • San Ramon
Artist: Danielle Gori-Montanelli

Images courtesy of ACC