Friday, August 25, 2017

Summer Garden Projects - How to Create & Manage an Exterior Design Project


Now that we’ve witnessed the majesty of the total solar eclipse - we turn our eyes back to the glory of our terroir - our land - our gardens.

No special glasses needed.

Every summer I tackle a home-based garden room project or hardscape design that time and budget allow.

This year, there must’ve been something in the air - and I mean more than those ions swirling - pre-eclipse. Because most of my clients also had some major projects in the queue.

For the month of July especially, we were happily overscheduled; Designing, presenting, installing.

For sheer beauty, for best horticultural practices, and to solve a problem or correct a space flaw. Good garden design offers the single best makeover for a better lifestyle. I just love when my clients text and email me how much they are enjoying their new garden(s) -- how they feel they are in a splendid vacation locale! Nothing beats garden love.

Here then are a few snapshots of garden makeovers -- from concept to completion. I love those HGTV Shows that take the viewer from Yikes to Yesssss! So without too much text -- Pictures are worth a thousand words -- let’s get going with the magic of technology.

Project 1 
Challenge: New patio. Hardscape needs, plus garden beds to soften the look. Careful to not limit egress with garden beds. And produce a new garden under the windows looking out to view and pool.

Before-ish image of patio. Already, the top deck has been removed here. A blank slate.

Here is the interim -- arches are in, stucco going on.

I pick up from here with garden design - here are the before and afters.

This is the artist Jean Galle's rendering that was part of the client presentation. My garden design drawings spring to life with Jean's talent -- allowing the client to readily see the change and design.

Here, the design was to create a series of Pillar Potting Beds

* Five, 3 different sized beds - allowing for egress, conform to pillar and arch metrics and location

* Drainage to channel drain

* Center bed 30 x 24 x 8

* 2 side beds - 30 x 16 x 8 - flush w pillars

* 2 corner beds - angled

Here and below - you see how we laid out the Pillar Planters for size & scale

This is the actual first planting in the new Pillar Planter Beds!

So exciting -- getting there!

Next up was the mason -- our wonderful Irish national mason, Aiden. I had them put in a sleeve for the irrigation hook up later, along with drains in the side window border garden. I asked previous mason, a great Mexican American, who also worked at our home, to put in drainage from the Pillar Planters out to the french drain in the lawn, some distance away. Grading and drainage is key here. The gardens front the bay and the view of the Manhattan skyline beyond. 
Sandy beat up this area rather badly…  Recovery continues in stages...

Window Garden

I wanted to design a 4-season garden that can be enjoyed as a winter garden and not block the view during the summer or warm-weather season. There should also be a plant show element - using perennials for not only low maintainance (even though the Duchess team does the horticultural fine gardening work we need to create a garden bed that doesn’t require fussy care.)  That show part is garden entertainment -- something always in bloom -- lots of color and texture. Good bones.

This is the before. The pavers were removed to allow a garden bed. And like the High Line, not a deep garden bed.

This is the artist's rendering of mixed border to-be:

With the client’s approval - we got to work.

I went with Aiden the mason, to choose the border pavers. I wanted a textured top; nothing too expensive as the plants will swoon over the tops. The gray color will match the pool pavers that will be installed next year -- so thinking ahead.

Needed to take out the weeds and the “dirty” soil that was er, dumped in, following all the construction work. Duchess team put in topsoil blended with horse manure for a rich, bedding environment to welcome the new plants.

Exciting first shot of the new, English Garden bed!

As part of the Garden Design Presentation, offered a number of choices: edible, single plant or mixed border.

Boxwood provides good bones and evergreen look. Together, we decided a mixed border would offer the most bang and joy.

I also wanted plants that provided a pretty look from inside the kitchen windows -- almost a flat top looking down perspective.

Here’s the varied plant list that punched up the color and look and feel of the transitioning outdoor design.

Plant List:

  • Lavender ‘Hidcote Blue’ 12” x 12” summer
  • Salvia ‘Marcus’ 8” purple
  • Aster ‘Happy End’ 3” Pink autumn
  • Achillea ‘Love Parade’ June - Sept. 18-23”
  • Toad Lily Tricyrtis - 30” h x 12” w
  • Gaura- ‘Stratosphere Pink Picotee’ 18-24” May - September
  • Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’ 12-18”
  • Eupatorium ‘Baby Joe’ 2-3’ purple - Autumn - I had to get this -- not only do I love it -- I have the big Joe in my border garden -- but the client’s name is Joe!
  • Hydrangea serrata ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff’ 18-24” x 18” blue to pink - Love this size and color - even in the winter.
  • Delphinium grandiflorum ‘Summer Blues’ 10-12” spring to summer
  • Baptisia ‘Screaming Yellow’ - 2-3’ x 2’ spring/ early summer -- We planted these in the blueberry garden bed for texture and color contrast (love blue and yellow - so French).
  • Liatris ‘Kobold’ 2’ x 12-15”

Everyone was thrilled with the results. 
I just love when the client clasps their chest and repeats, “Oh my gosh. Oh my god!” Over and over. And then takes the time to text how beautiful it all looks and how the family is enjoying. 
Such garden glamour...

Good garden design is hardscape, grading and drainage planning, careful selection of plants -- all with a recognition of lifestyle and personalities.

This is the start of a change in the use and look of the outdoor space. More summer projects to report on.
What projects have you taken on this season?

If you want to make a change in your garden design -- after all, lifestyle changes occur so outdoor needs can grow from a child’s play area with lots of turf to one that boasts more of an outdoor living area with kitchen, sitting areas, and healthy edible gardens.

Tips for creating a garden room

Planting gardens and hardscape construction both require a professional. Whether you ultimately end up with a DIY project, it’s best to get a seasoned pro to offer ideas and design concepts and a suggested budget estimate. Yes, that will cost money - just like you pay an architect or an attorney or other professional for their talent; but at the same time you will benefit in terms of time and budget by bringing in outside counsel.

From there, you can retain the garden designer as a garden coach - helping lead you through the process but with you doing most of the work and labor involved in researching hardscapes and plant choices, shopping the nurseries and quarries, securing soil, mulch, pavers and more for the bones of the landscape space.

Did I mention irrigation and lighting?

And finally there is the installation of the plant material - by season, height, color, texture -- to garner maximum benefit. Knowing plant companions and interactions is knowledge accrued from experience and learning. I myself attend as many lectures and garden tours with horticulturists as my schedule allows. I bring that knowledge to my clients’ projects.

If you choose to have your garden designer carry through the project to completion, you can rely on their design and build expertise -- and follow up for the fine gardening maintenance that will need to be provided. Gardens are dynamic. They require care - even if low maintenance plants are selected. After all, they are living things! And there’s no denying it -- Gardens are an investment. Gardens and good landscape design (vs. “mow, blow, & go” lawn care) add to the value of a home with estimates ranging from a ten to 25% boost to a home’s cost.

And the intrinsic value is well -- priceless...

What luxury and enduring garden glamour….

Friday, August 18, 2017

Total Eclipse Cosmic Cocktails to Celebrate Celestial Canoodling

There’s no doubt that Total Eclipse 2017 is surely helping to eclipse all the ahem, other-worldly happenings that seem to be streaming in from other planets or outer space of late! Oh this is fun writing and researching. So many puns. )Plus a pun is also called a “paronomasia” which in itself seems like a sure-fire paranormal stressful state!)

The good news is that the Total Eclipse is really about art and science coming together. Many folks refer to it as the “sun kissing the moon.” How romantic is that? Not since 1918 have we witnessed such celestial canoodling.

I’ve worshipped the stars and invoked their magic on more occasions than there are stars in the sky (!) -- ever since my beloved father, George, took me to the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History when I was a little girl. There, we purchased an index-sized card that swung open in order to chart four sky maps -- both the winter and summer skies - looking north and south.

I keep it over my writing desk today. It’s as much a tribute to space and my enduring curiosity as it is about my love for my father and his ability to nurture the fascination, imagination, and magic of the stars. As I must confess that the ancient star constellations or asterisms are almost impossible for me to trace. Rather like a parlor game; except that my husband is great at pointing out Aquila (Eagle), Sagittarius (Archer), Leo (Lion) not to mention the easy ones such as the Dippers and the Canis Minor (Little Dog). So much beauty and legend…

There’s no doubt this celestial phenomena is stirring artists and curiosity seekers. Today’s New York Times has a feature about the artist Howard Russell Butler’s exhibit at the Princeton University Art Museum, highlighting the mash up of art and science at the last total solar eclipse. The Times also offers a musical, top-20 Play List to accompany and enhance the sensual elements surrounding the artful eclipse. I like “I Put a Spell on You” by Alice Smith, “Time” by Pink Floyd or Dark Star by the Grateful Dead.
But my favorite site for all things eclipse is Nasa Total Eclipse - especially their suggested party tips and activities and downloadable activities that can spark your viewing experience. Who throws a bigger party than spacemen, er space people?!

Nasa says, “Many eclipse enthusiasts host parties in local community centers, museums, observatories, parks or open fields. Even your own backyard is a good place to throw a party.”

If you’re throwing your own party or bringing celestial treats to another, here’s a few excellent drinks to further the magical darkness...


Total Eclipse -- neė Ashes to Ashes - created by Jordan Bushell, Mőet Hennessy National Brand Ambassador. This is one of master mixologist Jordan’s more brilliant contributions to my soon-to-be-released book, Finishing Touches: The Art of Garnishing the Cocktail (available in presale now.)

I think it’s perfect for toasting the total eclipse, don’t you?

Here’s what it looks like in the book:

And here’s how to make the dark cocktail:

  • 1.5 oz Hennessy VS
  • 1 oz Tawny Port 10 year Old
  • 1/2 tsp activated Charcoal
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters
  • Garnish – cocktail Cherry (luxardo) and or 1 red rose petal
  • Glass – Rocks

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir to combine, pour into a rocks glass


With a cherry and/or a rose petal.

From Finishing Touches: Dark and foreboding in look and yet the drinks is full of flavor, Ashes to Ashes was named for the charcoal but also for the end of things for every end is a beginning and this balanced and approachable drink is also deep and contemplative in it’s flavors. You want to sit with it as it begins to warm up in the glass and reveals more and more of itself.

The charcoal does not add any actual flavor and thus is one of the garnishes; if a garnish is not there for the flavor it can still have a purpose, in this case, dramatic effect. We drink and eat with our eyes first, as a drink comes across the room to us, or is handed across the bar we are already imagining different flavors it will have. When a black drink is presented, it creates mystery and thus an open palate. The rose petal and or cherry provide a contrast, bright red, dramatic.

Patrón Platinum Margarita

(photo courtesy of Patrón Tequila)

How beautiful is this cocktail?


  • 2 oz Platinum Patrón Tequila 
  • 1 oz Dolin vermouth Blanc
  • 2 dash rose water 
  • .25 oz agave syrup
  • .5 oz lime juice

Stir all ingredients with ice for 30 seconds then pour in a mixing glass. In a mixing glass add 
1 bar spoon edible platinum color
1 pinch xanthan gum
Stir for 10 seconds pour in your coupe glass.


With an edible orchid using edible silver sprayer marshmallow flavored to coat the orchid.

Heart of Gold - Leeann Lavin


  • 2 jiggers Goldschlager - a Swiss Cinnamon Schnapps Liqueur 
  • 3-4 jiggers cold Ginger Beer - homemade or hand-crafted artisanal, such as Reed’s: sparkling, filtered water sweetened by a blend of cane sugar, pineapple juice, honey, fresh ginger root, lemon & lime juices and spices. 
The cinnamon of the schnapps harmonizes with the spices in the ginger beer.

Put ice cubes in goblet

Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker

Remove ice from goblet. Pour strained cocktail into iced goblet glass.


Crystallized ginger - highlights ginger beer/ginger root ingredients (or maraschino or orange rind studded with cloves) clipped on glass with gold jewelry pins.

Garnish option

Spun, gold sugar wafers cotton candy on a lollipop stick (can provide recipe)
You can also pour the cocktail into old-fashioned glasses with ice and garnish.

Food Pairing

Posh Pretzels & Piglets

Serve with classic cocktail party, German hot dog-inspired favorites: pigs in a blanket, artisanal pretzels and hearty mustard.

Entertaining Tips

Add glamour to the common beer & pretzel or beer and hot dog. Play off the heart of gold- use mirrors under the goblet glasses to amplify the gold flakes floating in the Goldschlager; create heart-shaped glitter accents.

Sprinkle glitter gold on mirror plates to shine, use gold baskets as serving vessels

Linen napkins with gold embroidered detail add a golden touch.

Silver Blue Moon

Available at Sir Henri in NYC by Beverage Director, Gil Bouhana

Photo courtesy of Nolet’s Dry Gin



Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass. 


With lavender* or more traditionally, a brandied cherry.

*My notation: be sure to use English lavender. French lavender is used for beauty products such as soap, while the English lavender is used in food preparation, including cooking and drinks.

Reyka’s Take My Breath Away by Anna Levy Mains

(Photo courtesy of Reyka vodka)


  • 2 parts Reyka Vodka
  • ½ part Dolin blanc vermouth (Dolin is my hands-down favorite vermouth; it is appropriately botanical and delicious.)
  • 1 part cucumber juice 
  • ¼ Lime
  • ¼ part Wasabi simple 

Combine all ingredients into cocktail shaker. Shake, strain

Use a cucumber ribbon and orchid garnish; serve.

*Wasabi simple was 1 oz wasabi powder by volume to 8 oz of simple syrup

Mixologist Mains hails from Oklahoma City’s In the Raw Sushi Bar, Knucks Wheelhouse, and Rockford Cocktail Den.

Hudson Summer Smash

(photo courtesy of Tuthilltown Spirits)



Add apple slices, simple syrup, and two or three mint leaves to shaker tin (or pint glass half of ‘Boston Shaker’) and muddle together. Add Hudson Four Grain Bourbon and ice and shake well. Strain over fresh ice in Old Fashioned/rocks glass and top with splash of ginger ale. Float port (or wine) on top of the drink by pouring carefully over the back of a bar spoon.


With mint sprig.

Free Cosmic Stuff

With more than 750 locations, Pilot Flying J is the latest to get in on the fun.

Guests of Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers can receive a FREE standard size Milky Way candy bar or pack of Eclipse chewing gum when purchasing any beverage in-store (excluding alcohol). This offer is available in the myOffers section of the myPilot mobile app. The solar eclipse promotion is valid for customers in the U.S. from Aug 21 until Aug. 25.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

PaperSoil Launches Happy, Rainbow-Colored 'Jar Gardens'

PaperSoil Launches Jar Gardening
If gardens could smile, this little rainbow of a container garden would be grinning, blowing bubbles, and turning cartwheels.

And if it wasn’t so effective and so darn easy, you’d be forgiven for just having fun with this charming garden project using the soon-to-be-released product and ingredients created by PaperSoil. More about the company in a minute.

Let’s get right to the fun part. PaperSoil discovered a way to make make “soil” from recycled colored paper. I suspect that it’s actually recycled paper that is colored using vegetable or natural dye. Nevertheless, it’s a phenomenon I just found out about. The company calls it “jar gardening.” How cute is that?

How it Works

The PaperSoil kit, if you can call it that, (it’s all so intuitive and simple that you really don’t even need directions) arrives packed with six different rainbow-colored paper soil bags, seeds, a teeny, tiny shovel (repurpose for your fairy garden?), a mini plastic watering squeezer with a needlepoint top, and a kind of old-fashioned milk jar that stands about 5 inches or six inches. You can use the jar in the kit -- or use any glass container you have. Or think about creating a composition of jars at varying heights. Or use one tall jar. The possibilities got my imagination fired up once I came to understand how it all worked. The concept is so refreshing; so new that it takes a bit of wonder to to get your garden art ideas flowing.

I could see creating a cheerful tablescape for a brunch or outdoor garden party. Or a fun project for a child’s party. You could just pile all the different colored paper soils in cups and have the kids layer their soil selections in the jar -- or mix up the colors. Squeeze a bit of water on top. It kinda’ works like making an ice cream sundae -- with sprinkles. Kids of all ages can make their own rainbow jar garden to take home and watch in awe as their seeds sprout.

The company says the light-as-confetti “colored recycled paper is specially created to replace the traditional soil of jar plants or the water in glass vases, bringing color and cheer into your home or office.” PaperSoil additionally suggests using the jar gardens in your car. Not exactly sure that’s the best environment but hey - if it can put that bit of zen oxygen in your motoring - and you have a steady, flat surface - I’m on board with it. Especially because this PaperSoil can help conserve trees, water, soil.

According to PaperSoil:

  • This is a fresh idea -- completely new technology that replaces the traditional soil with recycled colored paper, contributing to the protection of the environment in an entertaining way. 
  • It’s Eco-Friendly -- certified by SGS, the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, ensuring that PaperSoil meets European Union environment standards.
  • An Easy Method -- just plant the seed and then just water them. PaperSoil technology is ideal to prompt the growing of plants.

Color Options

The PaperSoil kit comes with everything you need. (The magic wand though, is mine…)

Because of international regulations, the company cannot ship seeds but does offer a number of seeds to optimize the gardens, including pretty, yet easy-to-grow plants, including a choice of Zinnia Elegans, Mimosa Pudica, Four O’Clocks (I love seeing this old-fashioned plant favorite as part of the feature seeds), Catgrass, Mint, Impatiens Balsamina, Cosmos Bipinnatus, Ipomoea Nil, and Sunflowers, - although I’m not too sure how these last few plants in particular would do in the small jar I received. Perhaps better to order enough PaperSoil and plant in a tall glass container or vase.

This is my happy Jar Gardening results -- placed on a morning sun windowsill, the seeds sprouted within a week!

And here’s an instructional (but fun) Papersoil YouTube video.

Further, the garden novelty company has just 40 hours to go on their Papersoil Kickstarter campaign. It looks like they’ve exceeded their goal - but hey -- get in on a good thing -- there is a collection of Pledge Rewards that will tickle your Green Thumb.

Hats off to garden technology and new, fun ways to engage with plants. Please do write me with your PaperSoil Jar Gardening ideas and success - why its garden glamour is practically made for Pinterest and Instagram!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Protect our Pollinators - USPS Unveils Butterfly and Bee Stamp Art to Honor Native Habitat. Celebrate with Entertaining Honey Cocktail Recipe!

The U.S. Postal Service announced they are paying tribute to the beauty and importance of pollinators with stamps depicting two of our continent’s most iconic: the monarch butterfly and the western honeybee, each shown industriously pollinating a variety of plants native to North America.

The Protect Pollinators Forever stamps were dedicated at noon, August 8th at the American Philatelic Society National Summer Convention StampShow in Richmond, VA. And I was the first to buy the Pollinator stamps at my local Post Office!

“Bees, butterflies and other pollinators sustain our ecosystem and are a vital natural resource,” said U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer Gary Shapiro, who will dedicate the stamps. “They are being threatened and we must protect them.”

Scheduled to join Judge Shapiro in the dedication are American Philatelic Society President Mick Zais; The Pollinator Partnership President & CEO Val Dolcini; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director for External Affairs, Midwest Region, Charles Traxler. U.S. Postal Service Director, Stamp Services Mary-Anne Penner will serve as master of ceremonies.

“We’d like to thank the U.S. Postal Service, not only for supporting StampShow Richmond, but for bringing stamps that are sure to be a hit with collectors,” said Zais.

Andy, husband of a favorite cousin of mine - Teri Lewkow - is a postal hero in Florida. For years I’ve heard the stories of how much his route customers appreciate and love him. I can’t help thinking with the introduction of the Protect Pollinators stamp art collection - we can now thank our Postal team, or mail carriers, for not only supporting our native landscapes but also for bringing such beauty right to our doors as a hopeful reminder to respect our environment. Sort of like the Johnny Appleseed of the plant kingdom; spreading love like so much native seeds and blooms.

The stamps feature a monarch and a coneflower (photo by Karen Mayford); a monarch and a zinnia (photo by Bonnie Sue Rauch); and a monarch and a goldenrod (photo by Justin Fowler);

Further, a western honeybee and a golden ragwort (photo by George D. Lepp); and a western honeybee and a New England aster (photo by Michael Durham).

These insects are go about their business every day, providing the vital ecological service of pollination.

“As with their fellow pollinators — other insects, birds and bats — they are rewarded with sweet nectar as they shuttle pollen from blossom to blossom. The plants are rewarded too. They can then produce the seeds that bring their next generation. Humans also benefit. We can thank insect pollinators for about a third of the food that we eat, particularly many of the fruits and vegetables that add colorful variety and important nutrients to our diet.”

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and western honeybees (Apis mellifera), also called European honeybees, are two of North America's most iconic pollinators. Both travel far and wide. Monarchs can flutter thousands of miles in one of nature’s most wondrous migrations, a multigenerational round-trip that can cross southern Canada, the north-south breadth of the contiguous United States, and deep into Mexico, where they rest for the winter before returning north.

While western honeybees do not naturally migrate such distances, beekeepers truck their hives on long-haul migrations, accommodating agricultural growing seasons around the nation. These bees are far and away the continent’s most vital pollinators, servicing almond, citrus, peach, apple and cherry tree blossoms, plus the blossoms of berries, melons, cucumbers, onions and pumpkins, to name just a few. Surpluses of honey, created from nectar by honeybees as a nonperishable food source for their hives, is yet another benefit to humans.

Regrettably, in today’s world, “these pollinators need mindful human intervention in order to thrive. The hives of western honeybees have lately been raided by parasitic mites and plagued by Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious condition which disorients bees and causes them to abandon their hives. While monarch butterflies, utterly dependent on milkweed plants throughout their range and specific mountain forests in Mexico, face collapsing populations as these habitats disappear to accommodate farming, urban development and illegal logging.

Throughout North America, efforts to halt logging, study the effects of agricultural herbicides and pesticides, and plant long swaths of flowers along stretches of highway and other such rights-of-way offer promise. On a grassroots level, individuals and groups can help provide for pollinators by planting locally appropriate flowers — a win–win for people and pollinators alike.

“The Protect Pollinators stamps are being issued as Forever stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce price.”

Joining the Pollinator Party

The USPS is joining a heroic network of organizations working to promote awareness and educate citizens about what we must do to protect the health of pollinators - critical to food and ecosystems through conservation and active participation.

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge was launched by The National Pollinator Garden Network, “an unprecedented collaboration of national, regional, conservation, and gardening groups to address the critical decline of pollinators by asking all Americans to plant for pollinators.”

You can register your pollinator gardens and your personal eden will be added to the Pollinator Partnership Map.

I just registered our country house gardens! It’s fun. And you’ll be kind of deputized - to become an ambassador of the plant kingdom helping to reach the Million Pollinator goal.

You can also sign on as a volunteer to the Pollinator Action Team. And you’ll love the artful Monarch Butterfly map poster.

Here you can also get your hands on a planting guide, by region, to help the Monarch butterflies on their astonishing winter migration to Mexico. Hint: plant milkweeds. I do in my gardens and my clients’ too. Consider the apt-named Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa. They are gorgeous - a bright sun-kissed hue that you and butterflies will find irresistible.

And don’t forget the colorful daisy-like Native: Coneflower Echinacea.

I took this photo in a favorite garden client’s “Butterfly Garden” it is the ying to the yang of the garden’s other side, the “Dinosaur Garden!” Here the Echinacea seduces the Monarch.

I also belong to The Xerces Society. If you’re not familiar with this organization, please check it out. Xerces offers a fascinating peek into what I think is a secret world of invertebrates with their bi-annual publication, Wings, as part of membership.

Most folks are aware of the plight of the bees and their shocking colony collapse disorder. Xerces writes: “Alarmingly, recent work by the Xerces Society in concert with IUCN Bumble Bee Specialist Group, indicates that some species have experienced rapid and dramatic declines more than others. In fact, more than one quarter (28%) of all North American bumble bees are facing some degree of extinction risk.”

And Climate Chaos, especially, “is affecting bumble bees by changing bloom time and subjecting populations to fluctuating temperatures and weather extremes,” adds Xerces.

Overall, Xerces works hard and smart to conserve Monarchs, Bumble Bees, as well as some creatures you’ve probably never seen before!

Protecting our Pollinators is the critical element of the Xerces mission. Bear in mind, “Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85% of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species. The United States alone grows more than 100 crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S.,” according to The Xerces Society.

We’ve all seen the slogan posted as a shield or poster at Farm to Table restaurants and as bumper stickers, “No Farms, No Food.”

But in truth, we should be sporting the tagline, No Pollinators, No Food.

No kidding...

Ordering First-Day-of-Issue Postmarks

Customers have 60 days to obtain first-day-of-issue postmarks by mail.

I got mine. In fact, Mary who was managing the desk the day the stamps were unveiled, wasn’t aware of the Pollinator stamps. I showed her my email from USPS. She asked her boss, who said they had indeed received them; he needed to register them so I could purchase a sheet. Paydirt! I was number one - the first to buy the Pollinator Stamps. They are almost too pretty to use. I love the stamp art.

You can purchase new stamps at United States Post Office locations, at the Postal Store or by calling 800-782-6724. The USPS says you should affix the stamps to envelopes of your choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others and place them in larger envelopes addressed to:

FDOI – Protect Pollinators Stamps

USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services

8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300

Kansas City, MO 64144-9900

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for postmarks up to a quantity of 50. For more than 50, customers are charged

5 cents each. All orders must be postmarked by Oct. 3, 2017.

Ordering First-Day Covers

The Postal Service also offers first-day covers for new stamps and stationery items postmarked with the official first-day-of-issue cancellation. Each item has an individual catalog number and is offered in the quarterly USA Philatelic catalog, online at or by calling 800-782-6724. Customers may request a free catalog by calling 800-782-6724 or writing to:

U.S. Postal Service

Catalog Request

PO Box 219014

Kansas City, MO 64121-9014

You may view many of this year’s other stamps on Facebook at or via Twitter @USPSstamps.

Share the news on social media using the hashtags #ProtectPollinators and #PollinatorStamps.

Entertaining with Honey

We celebrate Bees for their pollination prowess, of course. Plus, we couldn’t love their honey more!

Taste the terroir of local, natural honey -- some taste salty as does a honey farmer near us who borders the sea. Other honey suggests lavender or orange blossoms or native wildflowers.

Honey tasting inspired this cocktail from my upcoming book, Finishing Touches: The Art of Garnishing the Cocktail (available in pre-sale) and named for a favorite garden client, Maria - who has her very own honeybee hives! (Her beekeeper is the same man who tends Bon Jovi’s honeybees. Shhhhh!)

You’ll find the history of honey mead fascinating. Honey is Love.

Maria's Mead: Nectar of the Goddesses - Leeann Lavin

This heavenly cocktail is inspired by honey mead, the world’s oldest spirit; the beverage offering man his first “buzz!” The history of this sweet nectar - or Ambrosia as the Greeks called it - was believed to be descended from the heavens as the “drink of the gods” -- and goddesses! Bees were thought to be driven to the sky to honor the goddess of love, Aphrodite and later, bees were seen as the messengers of the gods. Delivering such sacred love letters it’s no surprise that bees and honey are tied to a fruitful marriage.

The very term “honeymoon” comes from the ancient tradition of giving bridal couples a moons worth of honey–wine.

The “recipe” for honey itself is eternal: honey is flower nectar collected by honeybees -- its different compounds give honey its distinctive flavor and aromas unique to a region’s flowers and blooms. Honey’s enduring properties of taste and healthful properties continue to reward us with a kind of intoxicating love potion.


1 jigger potato vodka- I recommend hand-crafted spirits such as LiV small batch distilled from 100% Long Island potatoes or Tito’s vodka.

1 jigger Sorbetta Strawberry Liqueur- crafted from LiV vodka and fresh homegrown strawberries

2 jigger Owl’s Brew White & Vine tea crafted for cocktails - blend of white tea, pomegranate, lemon peel, & watermelon

.25 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

.25 oz honey -- locally sourced honey with its genius loci - or “spirit of place” - lends a unique flavor triumph to Maria’s Mead.


Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker over ice. Strain and pour into white wine glasses or wine goblet.

Garnish with fresh strawberry wrapped with lemon twist, held with a decorative cocktail pick - or as I did, with a bee-u-tiful Bee Jewelry pin.

Food Pairing and Cocktail Composition:

Honey Mead cries out for honey-dripping canapés that stand up to its sweet side, including strong cheeses, spicy soups and vegetables.

With the homegrown honey taking center stage, what better treat to pair it with than another star?

Goat Cheese & Mushroom Honey Stars:
Pizzettes with fig and tea preserves, culinary lavender, sea salt, goat cheese,

Raw honey drizzle


pizza dough

1/3 lb mushrooms

Fig and black tea preserves

12 slices goat cheese


lavender salt

1 tbs olive oil

Sea salt and white pepper


Preheat oven to 400F.

Sauté the mushrooms in olive oil, add sea salt and pepper and let cook until the liquid evaporates.

Roll the dough very thin, about 1/16 of an inch thick. Using a cookie cutter or a glass - cut the dough into shapes. Place the shapes onto an ungreased cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal (to prevent sticking)

Place a smidge of cooked mushroom mixture on each dough shape, topped with the preserves, then a bit of crumbled goat cheese.

Sprinkle with lavender salt (be sure to use the English culinary lavender), and honey drizzle .

Bake for about 10 minutes until the crust is golden brown and cheese has melted.

Can serve hot or cold.

Pair the canapes with dried apricots, Villa Cappelli Lemon Rosemary Almonds and shelled green pistachios.

Entertaining Tips

Everyone’s favorite pollinator, bees are captivating and beguiling. Set up a cocktail composition using some of the honey bee’s favorite habitats, especially fresh flowers. Fresh lavender in tiny vases, and sunflowers, for example, are welcome to bees and guests alike.

Decorate with honey accessories, such a glass honey pot filled with golden honey that also provides the amber gold for dripping on the cheese, canapes, and nuts.

There are a plethora of honeycombs, bee skeps, yellow and black candy kabobs, water-colored macarons, especially yellow, green, black and white, and bee-themed jewelry scattered throughout the composition that add a bee-utiful presentation sure to inspire all kinds of love. Position table setting holders with the local honey’s personally-branded gift logo (spread the honey goodness).

Sprigs of French lavender, and ivy or morning glory, clematis, or other vine twined around the composition and bejeweled with bee jewel studs, add to the garden ambience.

Use color-happy serving pieces & cocktail napkins.