Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Holiday Winter Holiday Craft Ideas

Its the most wonderful time of the year, so the song goes.  Nature crafts sweeten our lives.  Here are some ideas to brighten your holidays, give you something fun to do with the family, and provide some gift ideas.  These activities can be done with people of all ages, although the ones I feature in photos are all conceived and executed by seniors I work with at nursing homes, assisted living and independent living facilities.  


The first are door hanger decorations.  My father cuts the shape out with recycled card board.  You can use a can or bottle to use as a template for the circle.  These collages can be created for many different holidays and seasons.  Cutting, pasting, gluing may be easy for you, but difficult for my seniors.  Diminished vision due to macular degeneration makes it hard to see the pictures.  Arthritic hands makes it painful to utilize scissors to cut pictures.  Alzheimers disease creates difficulty concentrating and focusing on completing tasks.  With my assistance they are able work through their impairments to create wonderful holiday treasures.  We utilized recycled magazines, advertisements and catalogues as a source of supplies.




Similar in concept but more difficult to do are the holiday wreaths.  These can be a theme of holiday greenery, holiday foods or specific Christmas or Chanukah colors.  I suggest the cutting around the inner circle and outer circle be after all the pictures are chosen and glued.  This saves a great deal of time since the activity must be completed within an hour.  The ones featured below are fall harvest vegetable wreaths.  Old seed catalogues, newspaper flyers and magazines were the source of materials for this project.




Well I hope this gave you some inspiration to create beautiful decorative art with recycled materials.  No two creations look alike, just as our thumb prints are all unique.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Touring Claude Monet's home and garden in Giverny, France.



I was surprised at the huge house Claude Monet had at Giverny.  It is opened for viewing and some of the rooms are exactly as he had them before he died.  His gardens were a great pleasure of his, as well as an inspiration for many of his later paintings.  He liked to entertain and had a large kitchen.  His artist studio was also a large room with a great deal of paintings on display.


The house and garden are on one side of the street while the water lily garden is across the street.  Visiting these gardens was a dream come true, since on my other visits, I did not have the opportunity to visit.




These arbors are full of roses during the height of rose season in June.  Since I was there in September, it gives me another reason to return in June at high rose time. Luckily there were some roses still in bloom.  Some were bushes, some were standards while others were clipped way back after they bloomed in June.


Monet took great pride in his garden and enjoyed planting many varieties of flowers which he then included in his paintings.  He liked to paint them at different times of the day.  As the light and shade varied, this was reflected in the color variations of his paintings.


Well I hope you enjoyed this abbreviated tour of the gardens.  I am still pinching myself to make sure it was not just a dream.  I waited so long to see Monet's garden. I am happy to have photographs and videos to relive the memories.     For more videos please visit and subscribe to my garden channel on YouTube.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Open letter to destroyed alzheimer horticultural therapy gardens


It has been a productive and joyous six years working with you,  the residents and staff at the nursing home.    As a recreation therapist you "get it" and understand the benefit of therapeutic engaging activities more than the average activity director at other facilities.  The nursing home is fortunate to have you there.  



We have nurtured along four butterfly gardens, four vegetable gardens and four herb gardens. They have matured into very beautiful healing gardens where there was cement, fencing and empty beds.



I was shocked to visit the facility today and see most everything thrown away, hundreds of dollars of valuable plants as well as man hours of work gone.  Residents and staff and family members at the units came up to me asking, what happened to the garden?  They have grown to enjoy the therapeutic healing environment.  When I suggested we can plant again, their response was a forlorn "What's the point?" 

The garden cuts down stress, it gives them pleasure, and keeps employees happy at work. The garden also provided a quick snack (cherry tomatoes),   healing herbal teas (rosemary, thyme and tarragon.  The papayas gave a healthy nutritious snack.  All of this is gone.  Luckily the aloe remains.  



Red poisonous mulch is in the  beds, which I had removed in the past. This is an inappropriate mulch for a health facility.  Often the recycled wood is used that is pressure treated with a copper arsenic solution. That is why it is banned from playgrounds.  The red dye stains sidewalks, your hands and may be toxic as well.  If the bad does not state "no recycled wood" it is dangerous.  

The mulch was piled onto the base of all the shrubs, which can kill the plants.  The agricultural extension office suggests keeping all mulch several inches from the base of plants.  

All our cherry tomato plants are gone, they must have sprayed a toxic herbicide on the garden beds. 

I know the administration would not intentionally do harm to the residents and staff and family members.  Why no one was informed before is a mystery to me.  It was a sad day at the nursing home this morning indeed.  

Robert Bornstein
www.robbornstein.com 

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Top Gardens of Paris Part II

These gorgeous informal flower beds complement the formal gardens of Tuileries garden.  It was nice seeing all the annuals that do not grow in South Florida.  The color combinations, height variations and textures were beautifully designed.


The Chateau Bagatelle on the grounds of the huge rambling garden bois de boulogne on the outskirts of Paris.  This rose garden has been on my bucket list ever since I saw an Audrey Hepburn PBS show "Gardens of the World."  In one of the episodes devoted to roses, she toured this wonderful garden.  Although the ideal time for roses is June, there were some gorgeous ones like the standard in the photo.  I shot a video in the garden, here it is.



  

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The top gardens of Paris

The gardens of Paris are unique and special for a variety of reasons.  Many are historic, some dating back to when they were part of vast private estates of royalty.  Others are the brainchild of artistic genius such as Claude Monet's gardens of Giverny.  The city has some large gardens in the center, as well as many smaller gardens in the periphery.


Even the gardens near the Eiffel Tower were gorgeous. 
 The formal Luxembourg gardens were softened by a casual bed of flowers.  There are many statues throughout this garden.  

Walking all day long provided the opportunity to discover some amazing vertical gardens in the city.  This was a small one as you can see I am standing there  for scale.
Marie Antoinette's farm gardens were a treat to behold, so charming.  There were veggie gardens, flower gardens and farm animals throughout this small cluster of homes.  These are located on the grounds of Versaille.


The great history, the wonderful gardens, the delicious bakeries and food all combined to make this a wonderful vacation.  

I just returned from a few weeks of touring these gardens.  The annuals were in top form, the grass a luscious deep green, and the trees and shrubs were well maintained and healthy.  My last trip to Paris was in the winter, so there is no comparison to late summer.

I also shot several garden videos for my youtube channel.  They will be ready soon for viewing.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fabulous Florida Palms

Living in the subtropics affords us the luxury of growing hundreds of different palm trees.  There are about a dozen native palms, and then the rest are exotics brought here over the years by plant explorers such as David Fairchild.  David worked for the United States Department of Agriculture and his body of work was so impressive a friend of his, Robert Montgomery had a botanical garden named after him.  That is how Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden got its name.


Over the years I have written some articles about the garden for Examiner.com such as these:

Fairchild Tropical Garden Chocolate Festival 
Fairchild Tropical Garden Mango Festival
Fairchild Tropical Garden special offers

At Fairchild Garden, there are over 700 different kinds of palms!   Most big box nurseries only sell the most common palms, therefor, if you want special ones you must hunt specialty nurseries or buy them at Fairchild when they have their palm sales.



Here is an article and slide show of gorgeous palms planted in landscapes in South Florida.

Fabulous Florida Palms 

I have many different palms in my garden, both native and exotic.  I like the shade they provide for my understory tropicals.  I like that they do not have harmful root systems so can be planted closer to the house than a large tree.  It is nice planting ones that prune themselves, meaning their fronds come down by themselves when dead.  Other palm fronds hang from the tree and you need a pole saw to remove them.


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Friday, August 16, 2013

Dragon Fruit

I love my newest addition to my edible landscape.  The first time I ate one was a few years ago purchased at a local supermarket.  The sign for Dragon Fruit intrigued me.  It looked like a red hand grenade.  It was $4.99 and was in the specialty fruit section located on a shelf within a wicker basket.

I took it home and researched it a bit on the internet to learn how to eat it.  It was pretty good and reminded me of a cross between a kiwi and other cactus fruits I had previously tried.  I discovered the fruit is native to Mexico, Central America and South America.  It is a tropical fruit that grows on a rambling cactus.  The scientific name is Hylocereus.

Later on a friend and rare fruit hobbyist gave me a few cuttings of his Dragon Fruit plant.  I planted them amongst the roses in a sunny part of the garden near my driveway.  It took awhile for them to mature and start producing flowers and fruit. The first year it produced only one flower and the fruit rotted on the vine before I was able to harvest it.  This was my first dragon fruit video.


This year the plant is much larger and the first fruit was eagerly watched over and I harvested it successfully. I decided to shoot a video to mark this wonderful accomplishment.  It was so delicious I could not stop eating it throught the video! It was much sweeter and juicier than the store bought fruit I had purchased.


After I shot the video, the plant started flowering profusely.  Here are some photos of the beautiful flowers.  The flowers are short lived, bloom at night and are pollinated by insects or bats.  The next morning they wither away and the fruit starts forming.


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Sunday, August 11, 2013

A new vision of the garden

Well I finally decided to go under the laser and improve my vision with Lasik surgery.  This Friday I had the surgery and now have perfect distance vision and my close reading is improving  rapidly.  I am composing this with no glasses.  It is so exciting, I have worn glasses since I was in the third grade.



I think it is a miracle.  Colors are more vivid.  Depth perception is increased.  I am so happy and this is only the second day.  Every day I will heal more and get back into the swing of normal activities.  The first week I am not allowed to garden!  While the eyes are healing, no dirt can come in contact with the eyes.  No sweat can enter the eyes.  I have to sleep with goggles so I will not rub my eyes by mistake.  No water can touch the eyes for the first week as well.



My doctor mentioned to me that quite of few of his patients remark they see leaves on trees for the first time.  He was intrigued by my horticultural therapy profession.  It turns out his wife is an accomplished nature photographer and is interested in placing her magnificent photographs in senior residences.  He gave me her card and I will contact her soon.



Here are some wonderful blooms from the garden this week.



Thank you for visiting my private backyard garden.  I got an anonymous call this week asking if they could come down to pick fruit in my garden.  I returned the call and got an answering machine.  I explained I do not have a farm, it is just a small urban yard and there is not enough fruit to to have people come and pick.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Summer in the garden

Well we are mid summer in the Fort Lauderdale garden.  We have 6 months of hot sticky wet weather and 6 months of warm dry weather in South Florida.  We had 27 inches of rain since June, and the mosquitoes are out in full force.  The bees, butterflies and birds have been very active.  The photo below is of our state butterfly, the zebra longwing.



To stay cool, I have been drinking iced tea with mint, iced coffee and coconut water.

The royal poinciana trees are in full bloom, and they are always a joy to behold. Here is an article and slide show of the trees.
Grand Dame of trees the royal poinciana

YouTube asked its contributors to make an introduction to their channel, so I completed this last weekend.  My food and garden channel is taking off!  Thank you for subscribing and viewing the videos.


Two weekends ago was the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden  Mango Festival.  I was asked to write an article there for Examiner.com, and I wrote two.  Here they are!

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden features a mango festival featuring the mangoes of Mexico

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden features a mango brunch

I have been so busy picking mangoes and starfruit, pruning, weeding and planting lately in my backyard garden.  At my horticultural therapy business, I have been picking up new accounts and coming up with new activities for the older ones.  In the summer the heat is too strong for the seniors so we do more indoor activities.  I have been very remiss in writing my book though, so much going on!

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Anticipating an urban harvest

There is always something to eat from the garden.  Right now the second crop of mangoes are ripening.  This is a rare occurrence, usually we only get a short crop, and are inundated with ripe mangoes in a few short weeks.   This second batch is plentiful, but the fruits are half size.

The critters are already feasting on the unripe mangoes, so I have to pick them early and have them ripen inside the house, in the sink.  I use a large pole picker, as seen in this video.  You are all welcome to subscribe to my youtube channel, greatly appreciated!
The sugar apples are still green, but are starting to turn yellow.  They usually are ready after the mangoes, but this year we are having an overlap.  It is wonderful to pick and eat directly from the tree.  Urban farm fresh!  Just a bike ride from downtown Fort Lauderdale.  This video shows how to slice a star fruit.  Did you know once they are sliced, you can float them in a drink?  Fun!

If I had to redo my garden, I would have planted more edibles.  I am all planted out and the only way to add more is to take trees and shrubs out.  I may do just that...
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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Grieving the loss of a loved one in a garden of healing

Recently a dear friend of mine passed away from cancer.  She loved her garden and found inspiration in many places, including my garden.    We shared cuttings and helped each other in the garden from time to time.  She lived a few blocks away from me so it was easy to see each other.  She loved my jungle look and replicated it in her garden.  The tropical plants, small rock path slightly curving


is very similar to my design.  She made hers more formal with stepping stones and black plastic edging.   Hers path opened up to a grassy area enclosed by a fence.  A friend of hers recently confided to me she took him to my garden to see it a few years ago while I was away from the house at work.   She told him she wanted her garden to look like mine.  

This beautiful Queen Crape Myrtle I planted years ago sure overcame a challenging time.  She had a cutting growing in the corner of her yard in a pot and could not decide where to plant it.  Years had gone by and the roots extended way down through the drainage holes into the soil.  We could not even lift up the pot, we had to dig it out and cut the tree away from the container.  Since we could not get all of the roots, I trimmed the branches.  Luckily it did not die during transplanting.  It has since thrived and as you can see above it looks great. 

She loved her cat so much.  This plant is called cats whiskers and grows prominently near the house entrance.  It is nice to make a garden match your personality.  This garden is bold, colorful and full of life, just like its owner was.  


Good bye my dear, and happy planting up above.  

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cerasee Tea for Health

Cerasee is a popular herbal tea of the Caribbean Islands.  It is utilized for many ailments, as it is a blood cleanser.  Women use it to sooth monthly cramps, as well as to treat urinary tract infections.  The tea is used to remove parasitic worms from the body.  It cleanses the liver and kidneys.  If you google cerasee tea, there is a great deal of information about all the benefits.

I never knew about cerasee tea until I brought it inadvertently  during a flower arranging class from my garden and a certified nursing assistant told me all about it.   The cerisee vine grows like a weed in my garden so I started bringing it to work for the nurses to use.  I decided to make a video about it on my YouTube garden channel.


People started asking me for the tea and seeds so I started a business.  I sell the tea in bulk gallon bags for just six dollars, including shipping.  Seed packets of a dozen seeds are three dollars including shipping.

To brew the tea, boil water and then pour it over about a four inch piece of vine and leaves.  Leave the tea to steep in the water for a few minutes, then strain into a cup.  You can also put the leaves in a tea infuser and steep in  boiling water.  It is a bitter tea.


To order tea, just leave your contact information on my website, www.robbornstein.com

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Men and women drink the tea as a tonic, but not all the time since it can be hard on the kidneys and liver.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Secrets, tricks and best bets for your successful garden this spring

For most of the country, this is the time to start tilling the soil, adding organic amendments, buying the seeds, starts and accoutrements to begin the planting season.  (Those of us in South Florida are winding down our main fall to winter vegetable planting season.)  This is a new article I wrote for Examiner.com giving you top tips for your new spring planting.  Click on the purple sentence below to read article.

Best goals for your garden this spring


Fresh lettuce greens are quick and easy to grow.

I am excited to share this wonderful method of organizing  seed packets.  I have tried many methods over the years.  I have kept them in boxes, bags and recipe card holders.  On one of the social networks there was a post on utilizing small photo albums to hold seed packets.  I love it!  Here is a quick video to show you how.


It is also fun to try new varieties  it keeps gardening interesting.  Remember to rotate crops, they produce bigger yields and it helps the soil as well.  I never spray any insecticides and always have plenty to eat, even in my small urban garden.  I am going to try some yard long beans and maybe some tropical root crops this summer.  New to me also is a tropical green called callalo, which is utilized like spinach.  You may know it as amaranth.


Creative salads from garden produce is always a healthy easy to digest meal during hot summer months.


Cherry tomatoes ripen quickly and can be diced and added to salads, omelettes   sandwiches and burgers.


The mango tree is putting out a second set of blooms this year for two crops of fruit, very unusual.

I hope you find these tips useful and have a happy, productive, fun, healthy growing season.


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