Resources for the Novice and Expert Gardener

This post is the second in a series of 3 weekly posts focused on gardening resources — whether you’re a novice or avid gardener, I think you’ll find these information sources helpful. Make sure to read the first post in the series, Tips for Herb and Kitchen Gardening.

Spring is quickly approaching—especially here in Charleston, South Carolina—and it’s not too early to start planning your garden. Today, I am sharing books, reference

Gaillardia Flower


sources, and DVDs that I have uncovered. These gardening resources have bee helpful to me (the somewhat novice gardener), and I highly recommend them.


I am a huge, huge fan of public libraries.  I wholeheartedly believe libraries are essential to the health of communities and are more relevant today, in the digital age, than they have ever been.  So, as is always my practice, I went to the library catalogue to find the most informative, accessible, and engaging books and other media on the subject of gardening.

Need a search engine to find gardening books available through local libraries?  Use The World’s Largest Library Catalogue search engine, select a book of interest, and then seek a nearby library.  (Don’t forget that most libraries offer inter-library lending to obtain books that are not in their collection).

5 Gardening Books from the Library

  1. Community Gardening by Ellen Kirby and Elizabeth Peters
  2. Eat More Dirt: Diverting and Instructive Tips for Growing and Tending an Organic Garden by Ellen Sandbeck

    Organic Gardening by Geoff Hamilton

    Organic Gardening by Geoff Hamilton

  3. The Organic Gardening Book by Geoff Hamilton
  4. The Art of the Kitchen Garden by Jan Gertley and Michael Gertley
  5. Advanced Home Gardening: Cutting-Edge Growing Techniques for Gardeners By Miranda Smith

Tip: Another cool aspect about libraries, in addition to just about everything being free of charge, is their programs, events and speakers.  Horticulturists, avid gardeners, sustainability initiatives – all have been speakers and program topics at local public libraries.

Gardening Associations

Often we fail to explore interest groups and associations. I imagine most communities have a garden club or horticultural society where like-minded people come together to share their passion for gardening and to support gardening within their community.

I encourage you to explore one or all of the national organizations listed below which will lead you to local chapters in your geographic area.  The knowledge and the meaningful relationships you develop will enrich your life in ways you could not at first imagine.  And you will have the opportunity to attend lectures and garden tours, shop for seeds and plants, and help support community gardens.

Kitchen Garden

Kitchen Garden

4 Garden and Plant Organizations

  1. American Horticulture Society
  2. American Community Gardening Association
  3. National Gardening Association
  4. Native Plant Societies

Idea: Not able to find an organization in your community? Gather your friends and start one!


While books have long been my preferred source of learning, others are engaged by and learn more from audio/visual formats. There are a whole host of DVDs on gardening practices available through public libraries, Netflix, PBS,, and many other book/media outlets. I have listed below a few DVD titles that I have found worthwhile and recommend.

The Art & Practice of Gardening DVD

The Art & Practice of Gardening DVD

4 DVD Titles

  1. The Art & Practice of Gardening 2PK DVD
  2. Jerry Baker: Year ‘Round Vegetable Gardening (2006)
  3. Healing Through Gardening
  4. The Best of Ground Force: Garden Rescues (2003)

Whether you are looking for fresh inspiration, fellow gardening enthusiasts, or basic how-to resources, there is a source for you.

Have a story of friendship forged through gardening? Please share the story with us in the comment section.

Tips for Herb and Kitchen Gardening

Broccoli from Sara's garden

Broccoli from Sara's garden

I have a confession to make.  I am wildly in love with using fresh herbs and veggies straight from the garden; however, unlike Sara, I was not blessed with a green thumb.

I might not have a natural gift for gardening, but I am a fast learner and I tend to seek out how-to information prior to jumping into a new project or new interest.  And I have been successful in searching for and learning from gardening bloggers, library books and DVDs, and radio and TV programs.  I prefer authors and information to be easily accessible for the novice as well as useful to the green thumbs.

This post is the first in a series of 3 weekly posts focused on gardening resources—whether you’re a novice or avid gardner, I think you’ll find these tips helpful.  Today, I will be sharing with you my favorite online sources I believe you will enjoy and find useful.

Below is a list of gardening bloggers that provide expert advice and tips and whom I recommend to my friends and family.

  1. At Home Herb Garden Advice you will find a wealth of information, advice and tips for growing and using herbs.  This blog was created and is written by herb garden enthusiasts.  The beauty of Home Herb Garden Advice is the access it provides to the guidance, tips, and how to’s of dozens of gardening experts. Find a contributor you like?  Just click the author’s name and find all of their articles regardless of where they are posted
  2. The Herb Gardener:  I love the friendly, at ease approach Sara takes with her blog posts.  On her blog you will find herb gardening tips to keeping pests at bay to herbal recipes.  When I speak of information that is accessible to the novice, Sara’s writing is a wonderful example.
  3. Kitchen Gardeners International: This site is home to the non-profit Kitchen Gardeners International and promotes kitchen gardening, home-cooking, and sustainable local food systems.  The information and engagement with fellow kitchen gardeners is simply great.  With over 3,500 members, their forum is the place to post a question, respond to those posed by others, and find information on all sorts of kitchen gardening dilemmas.   Want information on organic gardening?  Or looking for how to create an urban garden?  It’s all here.

    Garden Fresh Tomatoes

    Garden Fresh Tomatoes

  4. Bloggin Herb Man:  The Bloggin Herb Man is Di Di Hoffman.  Di-Di is the self-proclaimed South Afica’s Blogging Herb Man and has excellent credentials in the world of herbs and herb gardening.  He is the owner of Bouquet Garni Nursery – South Africa’s top potted herb growers – and director of the South Africa Herb Academy.  Terrific blog and expert advice.
  5. “The best gardening advice I ever received was this: Don’t worry so much, there is always next year.” This sentence hooked me on Willi Galloway’s blog.  Willi, the West Coast editor of Organic Gardening magazine and the Garden Expert on, blogs about what is happening in her garden and kitchen, shares growing guides and recipes for her favorite foods, and tells stories about other people who like to grow and eat real food.  A Mother’s Day gift that my mom always appreciates is a gift for the garden.  Here you will find ideas for gift giving and more.

Spring is right around the corner so catch up on your gardening expertise and get going on your garden plans.

Who is your favorite gardening blogger?  We would love for you to share favorites with us in our comment section.

Lessons in Grace and Hospitality

Etiquette expert Marjabelle Young Stewart has consistently named Charleston at the top of her unofficial list of the nation’s best mannered cities. What is it about Charleston, this southern gem, that warrants such an esteemed ranking? Nestled deep within the breeding and pedigree, Charleston holds precious its sense of hospitality and politeness. A soft, gentle way of behaving is done with such ease and grace that it turns every head in appreciation.

I went straight to the source for some insight into manners…my Mom, a 13th generation native of South Carolina.

Flowering Jonquil

Flowering Jonquil

My early memories of my mother involve mixing butter and flour for pound cake for special occasions, “practicing” using the confusing multiple pieces of silverware at the dining room table and hand writing thank you notes. As I got older, she taught me the nuances of allowing men to open doors for me, stand between me and the road on sidewalks, carry my bags and buy my cocktails. And always, dress to impress.  Blue jeans belong only in the field I was told.

With manners, it’s all of the little things that count. One of those little things is gifting.  I asked my mother to share with me lessons on grace and gifting passed down to her.  Here’s what she told me:

“Gifts for any occasion would have been home made. Hostess gifts could be flowers from the “cutting” garden in spring and summer, camellias and jonquils at other times. Homemade pickles and preserves in decorative baskets were also a favorite. Crocheted borders to linens, hand-sewn monograms or tatting were also popular.

Thank you notes were always required and must be handwritten not printed. Writing notes in a proper Emily Post form was actually taught in school, as was the proper way to respond to RSVP’s.”

Thank you note

Thank you note

I am grateful for all my mother taught me about gracious living.  Charleston Naturally has been inspired by these lessons of grace, fine living and hospitality.

What did your mother teach you about manners?  We’d love to hear from you in our comment section.

Stresses to Your Tresses? Advice on Winter Hair Care

Stresses to Your Tresses? Never Fear, The Grooming Guru Advises on Winter Hair Care.

Charleston Naturally interviewed Barbara Brant-Williams of The Grooming Guru on the best care for hair during the winter months. A cosmetologist with thirty-seven years of experience making clients beautiful, Barbara also teaches for product companies, is a makeup artist and gives consumer seminars on at-home personal care and product ingredients.

CN: Winter weather can wreak havoc on one’s hair and skin. How does winter weather effect hair care?  What common problems do your clients encounter?

B: From artificial heat sources to cold outdoor weather and varying temperatures, the climate for hair and skin in the winter is arid. One might find dry patches, dry scalp, static electricity, deeper wrinkles, more split ends and of course, dry hands.

CN: Agh! That does not sound good. What recommendations do you have for women and for men who want to look their best in the winter?

B: Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize your hair, body and face…morning and evening and hands throughout the day. And remember, moisture is not the same as oil. There are many oil free moisturizers for the hair and body. Use essential oils after bathing, while your skin is still damp. This rule applies to the face as well. Using a moisturizer on dry skin puts a seal on the skin, but is not nearly as effective. It’s a good idea to also moisturize from the inside out. Make sure you are getting enough essential fatty acids and omega 3’s and 6’s.

CN: Your top tips for winter hair care?  


1) Scalp massage and weekly deep conditioners. In the case of dry and flaky scalp, tea tree oil massaged into the scalp and left on for 10 minutes before shampooing should provide relief.

2) Brushing the hair and stimulating the scalp at night, or before shampooing, is a good rule to follow.

3) For those of you who flat iron, make sure you protect your hair with heat deflecting products before using a tool that varies from 250 to 450 degrees.

4) For any type of hair exposed to blow drying, use body building, protective products.

CN: What type of Charleston Naturally products would you recommend using?

B: The natural and organic products that Charleston Naturally features are some of the very best for hair and for skin.  These include:

  1. Intelligent Nutrients Hair and Scalp Treatment Oil (for moisture and flake reduction)
  2. John Masters Dry Hair Nourishment and Defrizz (to treat dry tresses)
  3. John Masters Pomegranate Facial Nourishing Oil (for dry skin – improves appearance of wrinkled face skin)
  4. Stem Organics Rejuvenating Face Oil (for dry, wrinkled skin)
  5. John Masters Blood Orange and Vanilla Body Milk (for dry skin)
  6. Intelligent Nutrients Anti-Aging Moisturizer (for dry skin and ongoing maintenance)’s offer of FREE shipping is good through March 1, 2010.  Stock up now on your favorite products!

You can find Barbara at Strawberry Blonde, Charleston, South Carolina.


Top 5 Valentine’s Day Gifts for Her

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it can be a feat trying to find the perfect gift for your loved one that doesn’t involve jewelry or extravagant dinners—although that would be a nice bonus. Give her a gift that reduces her stress, makes her feel great, rejuvenates her senses, and induces relaxation. It’s a win-win for all parties involved.

We believe pampering yourself and your loved one is the key to feeling refreshed and revitalized.

Below are our team’s top 5 Valentine’s Day gifts for her

Deep Steep Bath Tea: With the relaxing aromas of lavender and chamomile, the Deep Steep Bath Tea is the ultimate stress-reducing bath component. Formulated with sea salts, herbs, and essential oils, this aromatherapy bath tea works to revitalize skin cells, moisturize, sooth discomforts and aches, and reduce tension in the mind and body.

Deep Steep Bath Tea

Deep Steep Bath Tea

Deep Steep Body Lotion: The ultimate complement to the Deep Steep Bath Tea, this soothing soy body lotion boosts your skin’s natural ability to rehydrate with detoxifying organic herbal extracts. Chemical, preservative, and paraben free, Deep Steep body lotion is comprised of nature’s finest elements including organic oils, butters, and vitamins. You can also purchase the Deep Steep Spa Travel set, which contains a miniature bubble bath, body wash, polish, lotion, butter, and moisture stick.

Deep Steep Body Lotion

Deep Steep Body Lotion

BsaB Pure Aromatherapy Essential Oils: Extracted from plants, these 100% pure, and undiluted essential oils are the perfect way to disperse relaxing aromas into the air. Whether enjoying a bubble bath or relaxing with a book, the subliminal scents of the essential oils help the mind and body to relax. Oils can be used in an essential oil dish or diffuser. She can also add the essential oils to her bathtub. Simply add a few drops to a spoonful of milk, and pour into the bath water (the milk prevents the essential oils from floating on the water’s surface). The oils come in three different scents: Deep Summer, Silence, or Secrets.

BsaB Essential Oils

Nature Girl Vitamin O: Formulated from rich hazelnut oil, wild-crafted shea butter, and organic oils of Tunisian Neroli and Indian Sandalwood, Nature Girl Vitamin O moisturizes skin with a subtle and captivating scent, and enhances the look and feel of skin by adding a hint of shine to the collarbone, or wherever she chooses to apply it.

Nature Girl Vitamin O

Nature Girl Vitamin O

Stem Organics Travel Well Kit: Comprised of Gentle Cleansing Milk, Smooth Skin Exfoliant, Antioxidant Toning Infusion, and Fresh Start Serum, this essential travel kit is perfect for on-the-go skincare and for use on all skin types.

Stem Organic Travel Set

Stem Organics Travel Set

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How to Create the Ultimate Bubble Bath

One of the best ways to pamper yourself doesn’t require a day at the spa or a weekend getaway. In fact, you don’t have to leave your own home. It’s as simple as drawing a bath.

Below are our tips on how to create the ultimate bubble bath:

Scrub the tub: No one enjoys the feeling of a slippery tub coated with soap residue. Do a two-minute scrub down of the tub to eliminate any lingering soap deposits. You want to step out of your bathtub feeling cleansed and rejuvenated.

Calm the senses with meditation music: Find a time when the house is quiet. Turn off your phone, TV, and any other distracting electronics. Put on soothing meditation music such as sounds of the rainforest, Tibetan flutes, sounds of the ocean, or calming rhythms.

Set the mood with candles: Surround yourself with soft illumination. Dim the lights, and light a few candles at the edge of your bathtub. If you can’t put candles at the edge of your tub, simply grab a small side table on which to place your candles.

Add scents for the soul: Use calming aromas such as lavender, eucalyptus, or rosewood to induce relaxation and add scented bath salts, bubble bath, mineral soaks, or bath tablets to your bath water. Adding the essence of calming aromas to your room is a key component to complete relaxation. Bath salts and scrubs can be used to eliminate any impurities from the skin while helping to rejuvenate and facilitate new cell growth. And bubble bath and mineral-rich soaks help reduce tiredness, stress, and fatigue and work to invigorate the senses.

Treat your eyes to relaxation: Reduce stress and headaches, and increase energy with a warm washcloth, gel eye mask, or chamomile tea bags applied to your eyelids. If you have some under-eye puffiness, chilling the washcloth or gel eye mask will help to eliminate this unwanted appearance.

Twist up your hair: If you have longer hair that might get in the water, gently twist it up with a soft tie or small towel. If you pull too hard on your hair, you are only adding more stress to your body, and the pulling causes more tension and discomfort.

Grab extra items before you situate yourself: Grab your book, magazine, or other reading material, as well as an extra towel to dry your hands if you’re reading.

Don’t forget your bath accessories: In addition to salts, scrubs, and soaks, using a natural sea sponge to lightly extract any pore impurities will help purify and soften your skin.

Comfort your head with a pillow: Eliminate any feelings of discomfort while in your bathtub. Find a small pillow or roll up a soft towel, and place it beneath your head as you situate yourself in the tub.

Now lean back, relax, and soak. You deserve it.

If you’re looking for some of the best products for your ultimate bubble bath, we offer hand-picked bath products that add revitalizing minerals to your skin, sooth your senses, and reduce discomfort and tension in your body. One of our favorite bubble bath products is the Deep Steep Bubble Bath, which combines essential oils, vitamins E and B5, with a fusion of organic aloe, olive, Hawthorne, barley grass and rosehips. Choose from lavender and chamomile scented, tangerine and melon scented, or rosemary and mint scented.

Banish Dry Skin the Natural Way

Banish Dry Skin the Natural Way

Winter can take a toll on your body and cause skin to become dry, flaky and downright uncomfortable. Even here in Charleston we can have cool weather, that when combined with dry, indoor heat, causes my skin to look and feel like the hide of an alligator.  No kidding.

Since the skin on your body is naturally drier than facial skin, the most effective rehydration strategy is to indulge in the creamiest, heaviest lotions.

To protect and pamper your skin during the dry wintry months, look for products with butter - both in ingredients and product description. Butter is thick, hydrating, and restorative.

In your search for the right body moisturizer, you’re likely to come across body butters such as…

Shea Butter – natural fat obtained from the fruit of the karité (commonly called the Shea Tree), a tree indigenous to Africa,

Dry skin can feel like an alligator's

Aloe Butter – derived from the leaf of the aloe which is a South African Lilly-like plant,

Avocado Butter- an emollient that is high in fat and contains good-for-your-skin Vitamins A and C,

Mango Butter – from fruit kernels of the mango tree, it’s protective against UV radiation and has a slight sweet scent.

I’ve found using a combination of an exfoliant on my body (2 -3 times-a-week) plus generous use of a really great butter and oil-infused moisturizer helps keep my skin soft, healthy, and in great condition.

Scrubs and Exfoliants

Scrubs work great in the winter because scrubs and exfoliants are really the only products that will get rid of those layers of dry, dead skin from places such as elbows, knees and heels. When you choose an exfoliant, make sure you find one with super-hydrating ingredients. One of the best is ‘I LOVE ORGANIC’ by Nature Girl. Packed with a host of organic ingredients like jojoba oil and sunflower seed oil along with Vitamins A, C & E, ‘I LOVE ORGANIC’ sugar scrub is the perfect primer for body moisturizer.

Moisturize and Protect

I’m particularly fond of Nature Girl’s body balm ‘NATURE LOVE’ for a super-rich moisturizier, which comes in Lavender & Orris or Ylang Ylang subtle scents. Packed with an extra-rich and protective combination of shea butter and essential oils that hydrate, condition, and tone the skin, you won’t find anything better! On those days that a lighter lotion seems best, I reach for one of Deep Steep’s soy body lotions packed with organic oils, butters and vitamins.  Or, John Masters’ Blood Orange & Vanilla Body Milk (the scent is intoxicating).

So, be good to yourself and to your skin.  Find the most effective ingredients and choose organic and natural products whenever possible.  A little scrub here, a dab or two of lotion there, and you’re on your way to healthier, better looking skin.



I don’t know about you but I have a blast searching for, finding and ‘gifting’ stocking stuffers!  The big gifts are great, sure – but nothing’s better than hitting a bulls-eye with that just-perfect, sometimes quirky, often novel stocking stuffer.  And, some of the funniest Christmas morning videos and photo-ops are those starring the beloved family pooch opening his treat bag.  Yep, don’t forget your best friend at Christmas.  It would be criminal to do so.

Ready for Santa!

Ready for Santa!

To get you started with guaranteed-to-please gifts for Pooches and their Human Beings, we have some personal faves to share with you:

For the Pooch you love – - well, nothing beats a Molly Mutt Dog Bed Duvet. I mean, really – dogs love ‘em!  Looking to get your pup all groomed up and looking her best?  The Charleston Naturally team of testers highly recommends John Masters Organic DogPoo Dog Shampoo and Aubrey Organics line of pet grooming products. And, a little Spot Organics’ Peppermint Dog Breath Spray will be well-appreciated by all. So, toss in a treat or two (always a good idea to pop some food in the stocking) and your Pooch will be tail-wagging and saying “whatcha got, watcha got … what’s in there for me?”

And for the People Who Love Them, we offer these special little treats.

For the tree-hugging, earth-loving gals you can’t miss with Erbaviva’s Organic Deodorants which are probably the purest, cleanest deodorant on the market.  In Lemon Sage or Jasmine Graperuit. Perfect for sensitive skin.  Combine them with one of Lapin Vilardi’s Cosmetic Bag Gift Sets and you have a fabulous present!

Here in the Lowcountry, Oyster Roasts are king this time of year and we always need plenty of oyster knives/openers so everyone has the tools to fill their bucket and open oysters while they’re hot.  Probably true in your friends & family circle, too.  Get one of Charleston Naturally’s Oyster Knife Gift Set for an authentic and unique gift.  It’s a great gift for men and women. And, for the manly men who need encouragement to use sunscreen, drop a bottle of John Masters Organic Sunscreen SPF 30 into their stocking.  Even the most stubborn of men can’t resist it.

Wondering what we’d recommend for a perfectly elegant little remembrance for that special woman in your life?  It would have to be one of Intelligent Nutrient’s Organic Aromatics.  Show her just how much you care.  Luscious, fragrant scents for skin and hair.

You can’t go wrong with any of these great gifts.  And, there’s more to explore at Charleston Naturally!

Happy Everything -