By Caitlin Brown

This year I decided I was going to become a gardener and grow my very own vegetables and herbs in containers. Now, mind you, my mom is a pro and I knew I could defer to her, but I was determined to learn on my own. So, I went and bought the necessary gardening tools and was prepared to get my hands dirty and see if the proverbial green thumb ran in the family.

First thing on the agenda: defer to someone else — the salesperson at the local gardening center was more than happy to help, and I was still happier to get the help. The beginning of my education was going pretty well. I noticed these people were on to something because everyone was so darn smiley. These plants, and just the thought of them ending up in my garden and watching them grow made me almost giddy. My first lesson: plants can do this to you.

Okay, so I’m all excited about the funky colored lettuces, cool sounding ones like Kohlrabi and purple sage in the back of my car with two enormous bags of organic soil, each of which weighs more than I do and then I get the creative bug. I had seen a container garden on Pinterest where veggies and herbs were planted in fancy, vintage wine crates. So, I head to Val’s Putnam Wines in Greenwich, and they are happy to give me a bunch free of charge.

I load them in the car and am exploding with excitement, so I head to Whole Foods, thinking… <I got this> and proceed to go seed crazy. Now, it’s one thing to have lettuces and such that have already started to grow and come with a little marker of what they are to put in the dirt. But, excitement got the better of me. I ran home, drill holes in the bottom of the crates, and start to plant. Within no time the seeds have sprouted and nothing gives me greater joy then checking on their progress, but sadly I have no idea what they are. (Note to other beginners: take notes.) My second lesson: gardening is about learning from mistakes.

Here was my take home: I learned to take a few deep breaths before planting seeds. Unfortunately, I did not read the packets and space accordingly. Also, before splurging at the garden center, think about what you want to plant, what your sun dictates, and what plants can grow in your containers. Luckily, the garden center folks were great resources. If growing vegetables, make sure the soil is organic, and when you plant make sure that you have 10 inches of soil. Leafy vegetables and herbs are okay in a five-hour window of sun.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you get it wrong. The pros will tell you that gardening is all about trial-and-error. Keep a journal and note what worked and what didn’t but never give up, because it’s so darn fun.

I definitely caught green fever. The green thumb torch was passed onto me and I wear the badge of beginner gardener proudly.

By Paul Hicks

Pullquote: Gardening success on a smaller scale

When we recently moved from a home on an acre of land with lots of gardening space to a condominium with a few small planting beds, our cultivation of plants had to be adjusted along with a number of other habits.

The first step was to find successful indoor plants, even though they require more care than just sticking them in the ground and turning on the sprinkler system.

Our horizon expanded when we discovered tillandsias, commonly called air plants, which are native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of the New World. Probably the best-known variety is Spanish moss, which grows in our southern states.

Most tillandsias are epiphytes and need no soil, because water and nutrients are absorbed through their leaves. The roots are mainly used as anchors to a host tree or other plant. Since they derive no nourishment from the host, they are not parasitic.

Tillandsias are generally adaptive and hardy enough to flourish indoors with adequate lighting and care. Air plants grown indoors generally need to be watered about two to three times a week, often by spraying the plant, and occasionally by feeding with watered-down orchid fertilizer. Bright filtered light is recommended, but plants will tolerate brighter light in higher humidity or with more frequent watering.

All tillandsias are supposed to bloom, and some will on a regular basis. It is apparently quite common for some species to take on a different leaf color when they are about to flower. Those plants flower once before dying, but what are called “offsets or “pups,” which develop around the flowering plant, will continue to thrive.

Zenaida Sengo, author of “Air Plants: The Curious World of Tillandsias,” writes that, “There is a widespread but somewhat misleading belief that air plants die after they bloom, which is not entirely true…the plant only begins to fade after it has produced a few to several offspring. …which are able to survive on their own One grower advises: “Do not discard to the mother plant yet, as long as she is still alive she will continue to produce more pups for you…

To remove the pups, they should be at least one-third to one-half the size of the mother plant. Hold both mother and pup at their bases and gently twist in a downward motion. If this does not happen easily, you may need to remove the pup by cutting downward as close to the mother as possible.”

A good way to learn about air plants is by watching some of the YouTube videos that show the varieties, as well as how to care for and display them. One of the most informative is produced by Oklahoma Gardening: As one of the videos points out, children and grandchildren will find air plant care as much fun as their parents and grandparents.

We have started with a <tillandsia xerographica> and a <tillandsia juncea>, but there are many more that are appealing. For those of us living in reduced spaces, air plants are good examples of how to adapt and succeed on a smaller scale.


By Janice Llanes Fabry

Pullquote: “I noticed I had plenty of items that screamed ‘repeal and replace’, or was that the television news I left on?”

To keep or not to keep, that is the question. Spring is a great time to dispose of those nonsensical things we’ve accumulated. I have been canvassing my house to determine which of my possessions to preserve, which to purge.

We all typically look through our closets to determine what clothes we’ve outgrown, figuratively and literally. What is it they say about editing a wardrobe? If you haven’t worn it the last four seasons, get rid of it. A similar formula can be applied throughout our homes. If a thingamajig hasn’t served a purpose or conjured up a strong sentimental attachment in the last year, give it the heave-ho.

Over time, my taste has become less traditional, more contemporary. While part of me wants to relinquish most of my furniture or will away its Chippendale carvings, cabriole chair legs, and damask upholstery, I know there are ways to salvage what I have and refresh the design.

As I surveyed the house, room-by-room, I compiled a mental longlist that included freshening up wallpaper, replacing heavy drapes, and upgrading light fixtures. Before I pulled our traditional Persian rugs out from under my husband’s feet, however, I figured I’d start small. The most obvious feature of contemporary design, besides the ubiquitous “clean lines”, is minimal clutter.

Clutter, of which I am guilty, seems to be the most obvious obstruction to my home’s new transitional look. And my clutter is of the worst kind, deliberate and neat, so it’s not as if it disappears when I straighten up a messy room. Some time ago, I heard an interior designer say that items arranged in an odd number are more appealing. Though three is the magic number, over the years I reinterpreted it as five, seven, and nine.

For instance, why can’t I just have a single beautiful vase? Nope, mine was in a grouping with a few other vases of different sizes or amidst various tchotchkes. I have clusters of candles, a bevy of books, a collection of Staffordshire enamel boxes, just to name a few culprits taking up every inch of space on shelves, counters, and tables.

The “new” me is here to corroborate the philosophy of feng shui experts who believe clutter is tantamount to stagnant energy. Cutting down on the candles, culling faded paperbacks from my shelves, tossing away some throws draped over chairs, and flinging a bunch of decorative pillows was liberating.

Parting with some of the countless beloved frames documenting all twenty-something years of my children’s lives was sweet sorrow. I admit I couldn’t have done it without strong motivation: making room for photos of the two grandchildren we’re expecting this summer.

Feng shui proponents say de-cluttering can be therapeutic and increases energy flow or “chi.” I continued my inspection with renewed determination.

I noticed I had plenty of items that screamed “repeal and replace,” or was that the television news I left on? Anyway, as I combed through the house, I spied a chipped candelabra that I replaced with candlesticks from the kitchen. I exchanged a planter on a windowsill that had faded in the sun for a vibrant fabric planter that I purchased at Sarza, the new African home accessories shop in town.

I even went deep into the abyss and scrutinized the laundry room. I couldn’t believe I was still using an old wicker hamper with bleach-splattered spots that had faded into my subconscious. A few trips to Bed, Bath, and Beyond later, I had revamped my whole dingy laundry room. A new hamper prompted a new wastebasket that triggered new hand towels that led to a new ironing board cover, all color coordinated. After all, this space should feel as fresh as the laundry I’ll spend so much time folding now that I have all this energy.

Bookshelves, cluttered and not.

A contemporary fabric container from Sarza brightens up the window.

The No. 1 myth about baby birds is: if you find one and return it to its nest, the mother will reject it. This is untrue! If you find a nestling on the ground, do your best to return it to the nest.

Did you know the berries of Eastern Red Cedar/Juniperus Virginiana feed more than 54 species of birds, while Kousa Dogwoods feed just four?

Did you know garlic isn’t just for pasta sauce? This powerful herb has antifungal properties capable of wiping out a case of Athlete’s or Gardener’s Foot. Steep six crushed cloves in a gallon of water for one hour, then soak your tender soles for 20 minutes and you’re a new athlete.

By the way, garlic contains allicin, which has natural antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic properties — admittedly anti-romantic ones too. It also acts as a decongestant and expectorant. So, the next time you have a cold, and desire chicken soup, add a clove of minced garlic to turbo-charge the age-old remedy. 

Did you know that parsley, considered a punctuation mark on most dinner plates, reduces bruises? Next time you have an unsightly bruise, crush, chop, and apply a handful of chilled parsley.

Western practitioners believe laryngitis is caused by a virus or by bacteria, while many Chinese healers believe heat and poison in the lungs are at fault. Then again, depending on the patient, some spouses may decide to enjoy the silence — and provide no treatment. On the other hand, Chinese homeopathic treatment consists of licorice and peppermint tea. Some healers suggest adding honeysuckle flower, which like chicken soup can’t hurt.

At the first sign of a migraine, dip the flattened end of a toothpick into cayenne pepper and sniff a little bit into each nostril. In addition to offering natural pain relief, cayenne pepper is a reliable source of magnesium, which helps ward off migraines. Adding cayenne to foods may help prevent future headaches.

To relieve hay fever symptoms — runny nose, sneezing, itchy and red eyes — chew a 1-inch square of honeycomb. Swallow the honey and continue chewing the waxy gum for ten minutes, then discard. Buy honeycomb that was collected locally, so that it contains the same pollen that is causing you discomfort. To help immunize yourself, begin chewing a 1-inch square daily a month before you typically are affected. How sweet it will make life be.

By Mark Keegan

Although Rye is constantly evolving, its character has remained remarkably intact from the days I grew up here in the 1970s and later. My neighborhood, the epicenter of which was the corner of Rye Beach and Halsted avenues, was a whirl of kids riding bikes and playing kick the can. Whenever possible we were outside playing and exploring. We did fun things, dangerous things, and mischievous things, much as those before and after us.

We would play hockey in the street and retrieve errant balls from the sewer. We set up camp in pines higher than my house and swayed in the breeze. We buried time capsules and created treasure maps. We rode our bikes in long processions, snaking through the neighborhood endlessly. We subjected all our neighbors to ding-dong-ditch, rarely fooling anyone. We played in the leaves, mud, and sand. We carved our names in trees and looked for our lost dogs. Generally, on most days, we had a heck of a lot of fun.

Many of the houses in my old neighborhood were built in the 1920s. Some of these are taking advantage of the Rye Historical Society’s new Historic Marker Program. If your home predates 1942, when Rye became a city, it is eligible for a marker. The handsome bronze markers indicate the date the home was built and celebrate our rich architectural heritage.

One such home with a shiny new marker is at the northeast corner of Forest and Rye Beach. This lovely brick home was built in 1927, at considerable cost, by Fred Ponty, who owned Paradise Park nearby. As he built his home, his park and the adjoining Pleasure Park, were being demolished to make way for Playland.

In 1940, the Stover family bought the home, which became host to an ongoing property tax protest beginning in 1956. Clotheslines with tattered rags and other unsightly offerings were increasingly displayed in this peaceful protest. Litigation regarding the ordinances passed to quash the protest eventually made its way to the Supreme Court where the City prevailed.

Another plaque can now be found on a well-preserved 1922 Mediterranean-style home across the street. It was built as a summer home for a coffee merchant who lived with his family on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The next owner was the noted racecar driver, Charles Moran, who raced at LeMans and at the Indy 500. When I was growing up, the well-respected attorney Judge DeCaro lived there with his family.

It’s encouraging to see the current stewards of some of our historic Rye homes recognizing and sharing that heritage.

<To apply for an historic home marker, visit the Square House, or call 967-7588. The cost is $200 for members, $225 for non-members.>

By Caitlin Brown

While most garden enthusiasts are familiar with Sam Bridge, the business, few know about the family that grew this business.

Sam Bridge was a born gardener. By 1930, he was planting geranium cuttings in his father’s cow pasture for his mother and her friends. After earning certificates in horticulture at Cornell and The New York Botanical Gardens, he won a scholarship to study at Kew Gardens in London. His time there was cut short, however, because of the looming war. He returned home to enlist and was sent to the Pacific.


Sam Bridge’s daughter, Mary Joe

After returning from military service, he went back to his passion and his family’s home on Doubling Road in Greenwich (a stone’s throw away from Sam Bridge Nursery). According to Sam’s daughter, Mary Jo, the eldest of three and part owner of the nursery today, her father “felt it was time to take a bride,” so he began a relationship with Mary Reynolds, whom he had known since childhood when they students at a one-room schoolhouse on North Street. He proposed soon after.

“When she said yes, she came with 45 acres,” Mary Jo said with a smile. This is the same 45-acre farm that had been in the Reynolds family since 1686, a gift from King James II. The 20 acres where the nursery stands have been in use solely for agricultural purposes since the original colonial land grant was given.

When Bridge married into the Reynolds family, he moved his greenhouses from his family’s home to the Reynolds farm. Doing so required selling half of the farm’s property to build what would be his first Lord & Byrn greenhouse in 1950.


Potted plants and shrubs aplenty

Before the greenhouse, Sam sold mainly perennials, grown in the ground, in beds. Soon after, he would sell them in pots. The perennials could only sell in the fall, so, in the spring, he sold rock garden plants. The greenhouse changed things in that it allowed him to sell annuals. For many years, Sam Bridge nursery was more a mom-and-pop business. “He did everything himself,” said Mary Jo.

It’s not like that anymore.

Starting in 2014, Sam Bridge Nursery went through a massive renovation, building a 26,000-square foot greenhouse structure to house all their plants — they grow over 500,000 annuals, perennials, and seasonal crops. But it wasn’t an easy decision. The Bridge children — Mary Jo, Sam, and Ron — were in their 60s, wondering what to do going forward.

“We were conflicted and thought, ‘do we sell or will our kids take it on and keep it going?’ We sat them all down and asked if they would commit to growing the business,” recalled Mary Jo. “They unanimously agreed.”

When the nursery had a number of greenhouses, salespeople would have to go through many to find what they were looking for. Having a single large one makes things much easier.

“One of the good things about the new structure is that it’s more energy-efficient,” said Mary Jo. “All the water is recycled from the roof, the floors are heated, and curtains contain the heat at night. Also, the greenhouse is dividable, so we can have three different temperatures at once.”

All the Bridge kids have a specific role in the business, just as their parents did. “Family businesses are a challenge,” acknowledged Mary Jo, “but we’ve transitioned into a cohesive team and we love what we do. We grew up doing this and we’ve grown up with our customers. I think Dad would be proud.”




Inside the 26,000-sqaure-foot greenhouse


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