Category Archives: Home and Garden

Pink Orchids and Beautiful Late Day Light

Pink orchids and beautiful late day light in our music room.

A photo posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on


Magnolia soulangeana ©Kim Smith 2015Yesterday while in Boston to meet with clients at their home on Comm. Ave, I couldn’t help but take a snapshot of the glorious saucer magnolias blooming along the avenue. I wished I’d had more time because just as I was leaving, the sun began to poke out. The stunning display that you see lining the south-facing side is the genius of one woman and when I have time, will write more about her brilliant accomplishment to which we are all the beneficiaries, more than fifty years after planting!

Commonwealth Avenue Boston Magnolia soulangeana ©˚im Smith 2015Magnolia soulangeana Commonwealth Avenue Boston

At the Gloucester HarborWalk Gardens, we planted two species of magnolia adjacent to each other. Many arboretums, such as Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, plant several species of the same family in close proximity to provide an opportunity to learn by comparing the differences and similarities. I wanted our community to enjoy a mini-arboretum experience by planting two of the most beautiful magnolias that grow well in our region, the saucer magnolia and Magnolia virginiana, or laurel leaf magnolia. Stop by in the coming weeks to visit our gorgeous magnolias in bloom. M. soulangeana will bloom first, followed by M.virginiana.

The Friends of the HarborWalk will be back at the HarborWalk this Sunday (tomorrow morning), beginning at 9am. We’ll meet in front of the Gloucester House. Come lend a hand–its work, but fun with this growing great group of community-spirited friends. Everyone is welcome!

Please leave a comment in the comment section or feel free to contact me if you have any questions at



I created the following five-step easy fact sheet for a friend after receiving her timely request about organic lawn care information. Not surprisingly, as it is that time of year when the so-called “green” lawn care specialists are busy plying their trade. Kate’s note also came on the heels of a recent unfortunate incident that I experienced while walking along Niles Beach. I noticed a peculiar smell for quite someways along the walk, emanating from a man spraying chemicals to an expansive lawn. After walking all the way around Niles Pond, to the Retreat House and back, upon my return, he was still spraying! And the odd odor was stronger than ever. Where does the homeowner think all the toxins applied to the lawn will wind up–mostly across the road into the ocean!

Our Reader’s question:

Dear Kim

I have a neighbor who is on the water front and is new to the area. He just built a house. He asked me about lawn fertilizer and weed keeper applications and someone who could do them. Naturally I gave him my opinion but I wonder is there a brief, homeowner friendly document that addresses why we should not be using any of these products on our lawns. And the impact on habitat and wildlife and us!

You know that Chris and I have never used them.

Thanks so much I really appreciate it.


The following fact sheet is based on my many years of working with homeowners and businesses. Although the gardens I design are pollinator friendly, they are primarily designed for people. Poisonous pesticides have no place in people, pet, pollinator, and planet friendly gardens!

I also highly recommend another option and that is turning your lawn into a wildflower meadow and the reasons for that are manifold however, this fact sheet only addresses organic lawn care.

If you would like a pdf of the fact sheet, please comment in the comment section and I will be happy to send it along.


Organic Lawn Care Guide for Massachusetts and Rhode Island

 Lawn Care Fact Sheet for a Toxic Free New England

You don’t need a lawn service or an arsenal of poisonous pesticides to grow a beautiful lush green lawn. Follow this basic five-step formula to build a healthy organic lawn. Spring and fall provide the best opportunity to convert a poisoned lawn to a lawn that is safe for children, pets, and the environment.


Mow High, Often, and with Sharp Blades.

Long grass has more leaf surface, which enables it to grow thicker and develop a deeper root system. Longer grass makes it more difficult for weeds to germinate and also shades the soil surface, keeping it cooler. Sharp blades prevent tearing and injury to the grass. Leave short grass clippings on the grass where they recycle nitrogen.



Aerating soil reduces compaction, which is a prime cause of weeds. Leave the corings behind after aerating, and then apply compost so that it can reach the root zone.


Feed and Fertilize Gently.

Just after aeration is the best time to apply compost. For a small lawn, use a wheelbarrow and drop piles in intervals around the lawn; rake to approximately a quarter inch thick. For larger lawns, a spreader is recommended. Always apply compost and any organic fertilizer sparingly. Excess nitrogen and phosphorous run into waterways and into the ocean when it rains. Overuse of fertilizer creates thatch build-up.


Water Deeply But Not Too Often.

Water only when the lawn really needs watering, and then water deeply. Water early in the morning to prevent fungal disease and reduce evaporation.


Choose the Right Seed and Overseed. 

Spreading grass seed over an existing lawn is the tried and true way to get a lush green lawn that is free of weeds. Thick, healthy grass provides no opportunity for weeds to germinate. Choose a seed combining Kentucky blue grass, fine fescue, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and white clover mixed specifically for sun or partial shade.


Kim Smith Contact Information:


My Pollinator Garden Talk and Short Films Screening at the Hamilton Wenham Public Library

Male Luna Moth ©Kim Smith 2013Male Luna Moth and Phlox davidii

Please join me on Wednesday evening, April 29th, at 7pm at the Hamilton Wenham Public Library where I will be giving my Pollinator Garden program and screening several short films. This event is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

Catbird eating  dogwood fruits ©Kim Smith 2014Catbird and Dogwood Fruits

Monarch Butterfly depositing egg ©Kim Smith 2012Female Monarch Butterfly Depositing Egg on Milkweed 

I am currently booking programs for 2016-2017 and would be delighted to present to your club, library, school, and private or public event. See the Programs Page of my website and feel free to contact me at with any questions.

©Kim Smith 2014Willowdale Estate Topsfield

My Pollinator Garden Program Open to the Public!

Please join me for a special event on Thursday evening at 7pm at the Tewksbury Public Library where I will be giving my Pollinator Garden program. This event is free and open to the general public. I hope to see you there!

I am currently booking programs for 2016-2017 and would be delighted to present to your club, library, school, and private or public event. See the Programs Page of my website and feel free to contact me at with any questions.

This past week I presented a screening and Q&A of Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly film and program to the Ipswich Town and Country Garden Club. Marion Frost, two time past President and six time Program Chair for the club had some very kind things to say about my program. Marion grew up in Gloucester!

Read Marion’s note here.

The short film BomBom Butterflies, winner of the Rockport Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award, gives a glimpse of the full length documentary Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

Happy Spring Chicks! Brought to You By Backyard Growers

Sweetest and Cutest Baby Chicks at Backyard Growers Main Street! Stop in and have a peep!

A video posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Cutest Fundraiser Ever!

Meet Backyard Grower’s chicks! There are four different families of chickens, with a triplet in each. The babies must be sold in groups of three because, as Meghan explained, when a new baby chicken is introduced to a flock, if they don’t come with their own posse, they may be bullied by the flock. The four chicken families are Rhode Island Reds, Silver and Gold Laced Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, and Easter Eggers, which lay blue eggs!

Baby Chicks Backyard Growers ©Kim Smith 2015Buff Orpington is on the left, Easter Egger on the right (I think) 

Lara and Meghan have named each family of chicks after a TV show, Downton Abbey and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example, and each chicken is named after a character in the show. See Backyard Growers Facebook page to find out the names of the chicks and visit their beautiful new website for more information on the Cutest Fundraiser Ever!

Stop In and Have a Peep!

Backyard Growers Baby Chicks Meghan ©Kim smith 2015Meghan and Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Red Chick Easter Egger ©Kim Smith 2015Happy Spring!

Meghan Backyard Growers Baby Chicks ©Kim Smith 2015



Helping Our Feathered Friends Make It Through The Last Weeks of Bitter Cold

American Robin Crabapple ©Kim Smith 2015Outside my office window is a pair of stately hollies, our “Dragon Ladies;” aptly named for their prickly foliage, and adjacent to the hollies is a sweet scented flowering crabapple. The autumn fruits of this particular crabapple are chunkier than most and, I simply assumed, must bear the worst tasting crabapples imaginable because year in and year out, the fruit is never, ever eaten by the birds. When flocks of robins arrive in our garden in late January, the winterberry and hollies are stripped bare of their fruits in a day, or two, at the most, after which the robins head to our neighbor’s sumac and then further down Plum Street to our other neighbor’s smaller and much better tasting crabapples.

American Robin eating in crabaplle tree Turdus americanus ©Kim Smith 2015

Not this year! A pair of robins is setting up house along the garden path and they vigorously defend the crabapples from other robins. In late winter, robins typically switch over to worms, but with the ground still frozen solid, they are continuing to look for tree fruits. Unfortunately, much of it has been consumed.

American Robin eating crabapples Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Repeatedly, I noticed that our robin couple was struggling to eat the crabapples. They would snip off a stem and then drop it onto the brick path below and peck and peck and peck. A robin’s bill did not evolve to crack open grains and as it seems in this case, nor for penetrating our unusually hard crabapples. A great deal of energy was being spent to get a morsel of food, which is never a good thing because it can leave a creature weakened and at risk of freezing to death.

Robin flying ©Kim Smith 2015Robin on the wing

I picked a few berries and made a crabapple mash, placed it under the tree and, within hours, all the fruits were devoured! Now when feeding the pets and filling the bird feeders each morning I pluck a small handful of crabapples, mash, and place in the pie tin below the tree. I’ve experimented with adding blueberries and raspberries to the dish, but they prefer the crabapples.

If we move very slowly when walking down the path, they now allow us to come quite close—and what a treat to observe from this distance—beautiful, beautiful robins!

American Robin Turdus americanus ©Kim Smith 2015JPGDo you think we will be rewarded with a nearby nest? I hope so!Crabapple in snow ©Kim Smith 2015