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Grow it Garden in Maryland

Maryland gardens are a source of pride for homeowners and the communities they live in around the Chesapeake Bay. Organic and sustainable gardening continue to improve gardening practices.

Find Refuge From the Cold at a Maryland Conservatory

Brookside Gardens

In the dead of winter, I often yearn for the lush environs of a summer day. When the winter doldrums set in, I know it's time to visit an indoor garden. Fortunately, several indoor gardens are within an easy drive of the Baltimore-Washington metro area.

Indoor conservatories provide a leafy sanctuary from the winter chill and can offer inspiration in the form of pre-season displays, so you can plan your own garden for when warm weather arrives. Area conservatories also offer gardening classes with horticultural experts that will advise you on techniques to set up your own outdoor oasis.

On a recent visit to Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County, I discovered a tropical retreat bursting with new life. Amid flourishing bromeliad and sky-high plantings, I heard the rhythmic patter of falling water from a cascade running under the footbridge nearby.

5 Bird-feeding Tips for Maryland Winters

Winter's shorter days and the longer, cold dark nights have arrived. We can find many of our feathered friends who do not seek out warmer climates wintering the next couple months along with us.

birdhouse 1 webWhen I was growing up, my grandfather loved feeding the birds in the winter. We enjoyed many hours sitting indoors next to the wood burner and watching the blue jays, cardinals, black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmice, woodpeckers and sometimes Eastern bluebirds feed from the handmade feeders he built during the summer months.

These non-migrating birds often have a limited natural food supply in the winter because it has been consumed or hidden below the snow. Water, as well as shelter, can also be scarce to a wintering bird. Here are a few tips to help your feathered friends through the winter:

• Refill birdbaths with fresh water.
• Consider purchasing a heating element to keep the ice away.
• Place birdfeeders in sheltered locations away from high winds.
• Refill feeders often to prevent molding and ice on seed.
• Provide seeds with a high fat or oil content.

My grandfather had many handmade bird houses hung from the trees or placed on posts in his yard for them to live in. He was always careful to place the feeders and houses in safe spots away from a predator's reach and far enough from the neighbors' houses and yards to avoid unwanted messes.

Feeding birds in the winter can be a fairly inexpensive and fun cold-weather project for the whole family. Home Depot and many Maryland nurseries have bird feeders and houses kits starting at $25.

Find more winter garden ideas online.

Holiday Decorating With Garden Greenery

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Decorating your home for the winter holidays can be an expensive addition to our budgets. However, by turning a creative eye towards your yard, you can find decorating supplies for free!

Your yard and gardens — or your neighbor's, if you ask nicely — can provide the makings for gorgeous centerpiece arrangements, mantle displays, wreaths and railing wraps.

Here are some ideas:
- Combine evergreens, maple leaves, hydrangea flowers, sage, ivy and pine cones into a floral arrangement. wintergardenfloralarrangement web
- Weave grapevines into wreaths instead of evergreens. They will last year after year.
- Place ivy in water-soaked floral foam or a vase with water to add texture to decorations.
- Try pampas grass in indoor winter arrangements for a beach theme.
- Use dried hydrangea flower heads for dry floral arrangements.

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