Coffee For Roses



There is no such thing as a no-maintenance garden, unless you pave the whole thing, and, even then, weeds will find a way through.  ~Janice Wells



If you are a long time reader of this blog, then you know I love garden books.  As a lifelong learner, I am always searching for great garden advice as I know I can’t know everything.  With this year’s garden now put to bed, I am thinking about next year’s garden.  What issues do I need to deal with, what new veggies will I be trying, how can I add more cut flowers to feed my vase filling obsession, and where do I start to make changes?  And of course this doesn’t even address the normal maintenance I need to catch up with finally.

So when I saw this book recently making the rounds on blogs and social media, I was intrigued.  I wanted to see what information I could learn that might save me some time in the garden.  After all who wants to waste time in the garden when there is so much work to do.




Coffee for Roses: …and 70 Other Misleading Myths About Backyard Gardening


 coffee for roses

Author:  C. L. Fornari

Paperback:  160 pages

Publisher:   St. Lynn’s Press (May 15, 2014)

Amazon Price:  $13.61 (Hardcover)





In A Few Words

It is a garden tradition to pass along garden wisdom.  Some of it good, some of it folklore as we may later find out, and some of it based on good research.  And this is the premise with which C. L. Fornari explores 71 common garden practices to DSCN9776uncover what is true, what is not and the history and reasons behind these myths.

The book is laid out in 6 sections as the author goes through some of the biggest myths in these areas:  annuals and perennials; vegetables; shrubs, trees and vines; compost, soils, mulch and fertilizers; insects, diseases, and other problems; and random folklore.

What the author does with each myth is to address the myth and where it originated, discusses her experience with the myth, gives the experts’ advice and any research or sage advice that addresses the myth.  There are also many inserts with additional information.  And the author’s award-winning full color photography is included throughout the book.




What I Liked

I found the author’s use of advice from gardeners from over 100 yrs ago to be delightful.  In preparing the book, she has done a tremendous amount of research.   I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the sage advice and discovering it is much more reliable IMG_2478than much of the myth we find today.  And even more fascinating was the idea that the majority of these myths are in fact from the mid-20th century.

I also really enjoyed exploring many of these long held beliefs because I had been taken in by them as well.  I found the author actually courageous to take these on as you will find some of your own firm gardening beliefs here, and like me you may not want to give up on them.  I actually bristled at a few and thought….no way.  I do this and it works.  Well maybe, but probably not for the most part.

Here are a few of the many myths the author busted that I found intriguing:

  1. Daffodils need to be deadheaded-wow was I thrilled to finally find out this is not so.  And you know I stumbled upon this fact when I couldn’t get to this seasonal chore the last couple of years.  I actually found my daffs did just fine if I left the spent flowers alone and let the foliage compost naturally.
  2. Squash and pumpkins need to be planted in mounds-again this year I discovered that this is not the case.  I started them in my raised bed with no mounding and they did great.  And what about the volunteer plant that crops up never being planted in a mound.  Actually the author notes the term”hill” that the seed packets refer to means cluster.  Well who DSCN8505knew.  And the author actually gives further great advice for planting these veggies that I will be following next year.
  3. Rusty nails help turn hydrangeas blue-if you have ever tried this and you have alkaline, clay soil you know it will likely never happen.  It never happened for me and I drove several in and around the hydrangea…nothing but pink flowers.  I love her explanation of the best methods to help hydrangeas turn blue, and why this method is less likely to work.  Saves me time.
  4. Lighten clay by adding sand-now here I wish I had known this before I added all that sand.  What I can tell you is follow the author’s advice and mine.  Do not do this.  It actually makes the drainage worse and is one reason I now have a bog in part of my garden.  Our solution to this problem is part of a redesign for next year.  But had I known this, I could have actually saved myself, time, money and aggravation.




Not So Much

DSCN8439As I warned, there will be myths here you will want to hold on to.  But perhaps, like me, you will see them in a new light.  Case in point is her challenge of planting marigolds in veg beds to get rid of bad bugs.  After reading this, I do agree that you will not get rid of bad bugs, maybe not even critters who want to munch on your veggies.  But they look great, and like the author are a tradition I continue.  Another reason I like to plant marigolds with my tomatoes is they bring the pollinators to the veggies and any plant that helps with pollination is a great asset.




Final Thoughts

It is hard to hear that long held beliefs really have no scientific basis or actually may be a detriment, but I was happy to learn  some of very useful advice.  Besides it was very entertaining reading about folklore and learning some “new” best ways to DSCN9832garden from long ago.  So do I recommend this book; yes, highly recommend this book no matter how long you have been gardening.  It is a great book to curl up with this winter, and explore some of the best garden myths now uncovered.  Oh and don’t forget to check out C. L. Fornari’s blog, Coffee For Roses



“Some beautiful things are more dazzling when they are still imperfect than when they have been too perfectly crafted.”
 La Rochefoucauld



In A Vase On Monday


As I do every Monday, I walk through the garden looking for what plants might make for a lovely vase to bring indoors.  And now with winter weather blowing through the garden, it is a quick, cold trip outside to look for interesting foliage and plant material to create an arrangement.  Cathy@Rambling in the Garden hosts this wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday.  I am also linking in with Today’s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Rambles, and Judith’s meme, Mosaic Monday.  



I had an idea of what I wanted to cut for my vase before I ventured outside.  Which was a good thing as windchills were in the teens with a dusting of snow whipping around me as I went after my targeted plant material.  And here is the arrangement….


dried roses vase 2

Can you believe it, my cattails from earlier vases were still going strong, so I easily reused them for this vase.  I may even have a few more for another vase next week if they don’t pop and become fluff.




dried roses vase

So what else is in the vase.  Dried coral-colored fairy roses were calling out to me again as they would add some color, even after being touched by frost and dried naturally.   Then autumn colored foliage and seedheads from St. John’s Wort were still hanging in there but not for much longer so I cut a few.  I love the curly foliage of bayberry and the dried miscanthus grass that are shining in the winter garden.  And I think they both add wonderful subtle colors to the vase. I wasn’t sure how I was going to display the dried grass, but pulling it apart and adding it throughout made for a nice effect.  Almost like raffia ribbon. 

So that is the vase for this week.  I need about 16 more to have a vase a week through winter.  Will I make it?  I think I might.  It is amazing what you can find in your garden even in winter, under a bit of snow.


Next up on the blog:  Wednesday I will have a native plant profile.  And Saturday brings another Seasonal Celebrations.  Time to celebrate the seasons.  I hope you will join in to the meme.  Even though I don’t want to see winter come, I rejoice at the solstice as we begin to see more sunlight and are closer to spring.   sharethelove

I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.     




  1. Cathy says:

    That book sounds really interesting and fun too, I shall have to try and get my hands on a copy. Love the vase this week – is that blue sky in the background too?! Wonderful! Have a great week Donna!

    • Donna says:

      No Cathy it was a cold, gray, rain-snow day so I took the picture in my kitchen which has a blue wall and then did a few special effects so it looked like it was outside. Glad you enjoyed it all…have a great week yourself!!

  2. DeniseinVA says:

    I love how you have arranged your cat tails in a vase Donna, they look very striking. Your flower photos are always delightful and I enjoyed all the information you found in that very interesting book. Thank you for once again linking with Today’s Flowers and have a great week!

  3. Julie says:

    Interesting book Donna, seeing things in a new light is invaluable as if you put several gardeners together and they will almost all tell you a varying way to do something.

  4. Beth says:

    Hi Donna, You are very creative for in a vase Monday – yes, even in late fall you have something beautiful to bring in. I really enjoyed your book review. It sounds like a book I would enjoy reading.

    • Donna says:

      Glad you enjoyed the book review Julie….I am hoping to have enough things to bring in even in winter for my vases….a great challenge for this snowbelt gardener.

  5. Christina says:

    the book sounds fun, but some things don’t have scientific proof but doesn’t mean they don’t work – only large companies have money to fund research and they do it to prove their products work not that other (more natural methods work). I love how you used your cat’s tails this week, I wouldn’t have thought of using them in such a tight way but it works perfectly. That’s why this meme is so good, it gives us all such good ideas.

    • Donna says:

      I agree and the author doesn’t necessarily support any of particular product more she talks about what works best especially naturally, and what may not work at all.

      I am glad you enjoyed the vase….I loved reusing the cattails (hint next week’s vase will reuse some as well as I had so many). It helps to stretch out the materials as scarcity is setting in now.

  6. Alistair says:

    No need to dead head Daffs did it for me Donna. I have wondered about it in the past, especially when you see masses of them planted and know they couldn’t possibly be dead headed.

  7. nicole says:

    Beautiful vase today Donna!!! And this book looks and sounds like such a treat! I sometimes wonder if the plants just chuckle at us as we try all of these different remedies to make them grow! I am adding it to my list! Wishing you a joyous week! Nicole xo

  8. Judith@Lavender Cottage says:

    I reviewed this book sometime during the summer and just donated my copy for a silent auction. I included the book, a coffee travel mug and box of cookies in the bag. 🙂 The book did have a lot of good tips, even for seasoned gardeners.
    Dried roses and cattails, a nice combination in your vase this week Donna.
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday.

  9. Jason says:

    It’s really hard to understand how that thing about adding sand to clay took hold. I mean, you only have to try it once and see what happens. Also interesting that so many of those myths took hold after WWII. I wonder if that was partly because there were so many first time homeowners at the time. This does look like a great book.

  10. Angie says:

    That sounds just like my kind of gardening book. I’m not too big a fan of some as they are a bit to technical for my ability but this one sounds as if it’s possibly on my level. I must add it to my list for Santa. Thanks for the recommendation.
    Lovely vase, very elegant looking.

  11. C.L. Fornari says:

    Thanks for the great review of Coffee for Roses. I had great fun writing it and tried to make the book as entertaining as it is informative. But beyond that, I LOVE the “In a Vase on Monday” feature and will continue to look in on these posts in the future. You are a gardener after my own heart….

    • Donna says:

      I could tell you had a ball writing the book as that comes out loud and clear within the pages. And I am pleased you enjoyed the vase…it is not my idea, but one I really have latched on to as it really puts me more in touch with my garden… would be wonderful to have you visit anytime and I hope you will pop in from time to time especially on Mondays!

  12. Susan Clark says:

    I’m almost nervous about reading C. L. Fornari’s book, what long held, dear to my heart myth will be shattered? On the plus side it seems much I find time consuming and frustrating will now be discarded, oh the freedom!

    • Donna says:

      I was almost afraid to read the book and I definitely bristled at a few at first, but truthfully I was grateful to learn more sound advice for the freedom to discard those techniques that are time consuming!

  13. Chloris says:

    I enjoyed your review of the book Donna. But what about coffee grounds for roses? Is that a myth too?
    A very pretty arrangement, I have never thought of using bulrushes in an arrangement but they are very effective.

    • C.L. Fornari says:

      Just wanted you to know, Chloris, that coffee is good for roses…it’s just not any better than manure or compost made of other organic materials. Coffee grounds are organic matter and roses love organic matter, but the coffee doesn’t have any special “rose woo-woo” to it. Whether we routinely put coffee, banana peels, or eggshells around our roses, it’s the organic matter that’s important. It could also be apple cores, tea leaves and seaweed that’s placed around our plants.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Chloris…I have used the bulrushes in several arrangements so far and they really last more than a month in a vase if cut early enough. As far as the coffee for roses I am grateful that the author answered your question as hers was far more comprehensive than mine would have been!! 🙂

  14. Cathy says:

    The first photo of your vase on Monday makes it look as if it is emerging from a lake like Excalibur!! You say ‘dried’ roses – are these just dried on the plant or have you preserved them somehow? Whatever it is they look really effective with the split miscanthus and the other its, so I have every confidence in you finding another 16 vases although it does concern me a little that you chose to calculate how many would be required 😉 Thanks so much for your continued support 🙂

    • Donna says:

      I thought i would give the vase a bit of extra effect in that first picture Cathy. The roses were naturally dried on the plant…..actually flash frozen with the Polar Vortex and then after several days of freezing temps, cut by me so they were still soft to the touch not papery. I did go a bit over the top with the number calculation….a sort of countdown…t for me the number is a sort of challenge to see if I can indeed make of vases until spring blooms reappear here. 🙂

  15. Susie says:

    Interesting review of the book. It’s probably a good idea to update ourselves on gardening beliefs. Was just instructed on a recent order from a well-known bulb company to deadhead daffodils. On adding sand to clay, I always read it’s best to use compost to improve either sandy soil or clay soil. Your vase turned out great for so late in November. Cattails have always intrigued me.

    • Donna says:

      Interesting Susie that they are still instructing to deadhead the daffs. I remembered recently that I have a meadow full of them that have been growing for at least 6 yrs and I have never deadheaded them. The clumps have tripled from the original size.

      I have used compost with clay and it helps although you have to do it every few years as it reverts to clay again at least here. The vase was fun and I was so surprised what I could still find to use…

  16. Beth says:

    What an interesting idea for a book — I’m glad someone has done the “investigative journalism” to determine what is true and what is myth. And I’m glad you’ve reviewed it for us. And like you, I’m going to keep planting marigolds (and any other flower I like) in veg beds to make them cheerier. Thanks! -Beth

    • Donna says:

      Glad you really liked the review Beth….and yes I couldn’t stop planting my precious marigolds with my tomatoes…they just look too pretty together.

  17. Kris P says:

    You’re a brave woman, Donna, to venture out into the cold to gather materials for your vase, which is lovely as usual. On the theme of “Coffee for Roses,” you might like Linda Chalker-Scott’s “The Informed Gardener” and her follow-up, “The Informed Gardener Blooms Again,” if you haven’t already come across them. Chalker-Scott is a professor at Washington State University and quite frequently (and often vehemently) debunks garden myths.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Kris I will check out this author too. It will be cold from now on as I venture out to fill a vase and some days I will be brushing away snow too….but I am up for it and think it will be fun actually!!

  18. Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern says:

    Sounds like a great book Donna! I know we learned in Master Gardening class to never give out “mythical” advice, only research-based advice. There was also an episode on Growing A Greener World dispelling garden myths. I love learning the reason or philosophy behind them. I love, love, love your cattails! I just used some in my winter arrangements in my window boxes but I’m sure they are now blown away. Once again, WWW has struck. My husband just mumbles the Gales of November …

    • Donna says:

      I hope the wind wasn’t too bad there….I am with you about learning the reason behind the myths….fascinating stuff Kathy! Happy Thanksgiving.

  19. Nadezda says:

    I do agree with you Donna, I prefer to plant zucchini and Squash in my raised beds, they are warm and grow faster than in soil. Happy Thanksgiving day!

    • Donna says:

      Glad you liked the roses Pat…they are ‘William Baffin’. A most resilient and prolific rose that braves the weather/soil and flowers with abandon as I never prune or fertilize it..

  20. Dana says:

    Hi Donna, I loved reading your review of the book! I really want to get my hands on it, now. Funny how much we carry in our heads without knowing where it came from (or even doubting its validity!). Your arrangement is lovely, too. I really like the cat tails! I hope you are keeping nice and warm in that terribly cold weather! Dana

    • Donna says:

      I am actually in Arizona right now with family…we had about 10 days of cold in NY before we left, but it is nice to be in the warm sunny weather for a while. And I agree about how we just follow some advice without questioning it…glad you enjoyed the vase too Dana!

    • Donna says:

      What a joy to hear from you….I have been thinking a lot about you lately and hoping you were doing fine! I am doing well finally. I had surgery in May but things are now getting back to normal.

      We had about 8 inches a couple weeks ago and that froze the garden finally as we had not had a killing frost yet. Then just frigid cold temps and a dusting here or there. We were spared the horrible snow they had in Buffalo and it seems we are not getting much from the storm moving up the coast now, but I am not home right now.

      I will note the new web address for your blog….I hope you find some time to visit my blog again and my new blog too. Wishing you well.

  21. Jean says:

    Another book to add to my ever-expanding “to read” list. It sounds both delightful and educational — and I am forewarned that I will probably have to get over my resistance to giving up some long-cherished myths.

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