An Interview with Pamela Hubbard

Astolat Farm

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings.”  ~W.E. Johns




I am always excited when it is time for another interview post.  After receiving an award from Julie@Gardening Jules, I had promised to do several interviews of some amazing bloggers and share them with you.  It is such a pleasure talking at length with bloggers.  Getting to know online friends more intimately.


And for this next interview, I am driving (figuratively) south to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania to visit with Pamela Hubbard@Pam’s English Cottage Garden.  I have known Pam for about as long as I have been blogging.  And I am always inspired by her beautiful and creative gardens, especially the way she incorporates native plants into her cottage garden…a favorite garden style of mine.



pam's header




So let’s meet Pam……..


Pam Hubbard 1524BF


I was born in England. I taught first grade in the school that I, and my father before me, attended as children. In the sixties I married and had two children. I immigrated to America in 1978 where I met my second husband, Duane. We have four grandchildren: all boys. In this country I was an elementary school librarian for more than ten years, then an elementary school principal for twelve. I retired to garden in 2005 and then began studying to be a Penn State Master Gardener.



1. Pam, why did you start your blog?


I started my blog eight years ago for two main reasons: I wanted to share my passion for gardening with others and I wanted a record of my progress toward achieving my dream of creating an English cottage garden in the Poconos. I derive great pleasure from looking at my early postings and realizing I have attained this dream!




Cottage Garden

2. What a great dream and accomplishment, Pam.  I assume that your blog name comes from your love of English Cottage Gardens.  Tell us about this type of garden, and why you love it so much?


While I am very proud to be a naturalized citizen of the USA, like many expats I feel the need to maintain my heritage. My grandmother had a small cottage garden that I remember fondly. Creating something similar in the Pocono Mountains began in my dreams long before I retired. I love this style because it is quintessentially British. Ethne Clarke described an English cottage garden as,

“… above all things a place of uncontrived beauty, 

easily enjoyed, where labour is well rewarded 

and quiet pleasures satisfied.”

Ethne Clarke and Clay Perry
English Country Gardens

Ethne says it all.





3. I couldn’t agree more with Ethne.  Pam, I know you live on a farm.  That must be a wonderful experience.  Can you tell us more about it.  It’s history, etc.


Duane and I live in the circa 1850 house where Duane lived all his life, Astolat Farm. There were no gardens here as the property was a kennel where Duane’s mother raised Shetland sheepdogs. She was hailed as the world’s top Sheltie breeder in her day having twice won Best-of-Breed at Westminster Dog Show. Originally the place was called Astolat Kennels. My mother-in-law took the name, Astolat, from her favorite book, Idylls of the King, a Scottish legend by Alfred Lord Tennyson – very appropriate for a kennel with a Scottish breed of dogs.




Dude and Billy

4. What a fabulous heritage for your husband’s farm and family.  And you have some farm animals too; a miniature horse and pigmy goat.  How did you come by these unique creatures?  What are their names?


Dude and Billy are my gardening buddies. Dude is a tiny miniature horse and Billy is an overgrown pigmy goat. My mother bought Dude as my retirement gift when he was seven years old. My husband bought baby Billy as a companion for Dude because this is a small crop farm with no other animals. Dude and Billy are inseparable.




Kitchen Garden

5.  Oh Pam how special they are.  Besides English Cottage Gardening, do you have some other types of gardening you enjoy?


I enjoy many types of gardening. Besides my English cottage garden I have a shade garden, a woodland garden, a container garden and a kitchen garden. I also enjoy miniature gardening, a wonderful activity for children, so one of my grandsons, Jonathan, helped me make several fairy gardens that are situated around the property. I like to garden indoors during the winter and recently discovered the joys of making terrariums and dish gardens, other forms of miniature gardening.




Best of Show

6. Wow Pam that what a diverse number of gardens to keep you busy all year.  Recently you have been getting all kinds of honors for your gardens, including from your local fair.  Tell us more about that.


I enter vegetables and flowers in our local fair every year. I couldn’t do this without Jonathan’s help. He stays at our house for Fair Week, preparing all the specimen jars and choosing the best vegetables to show. On opening day he helps me set up displays. After the judging it is such fun to check our exhibits to see if we won any ribbons. We always seem to do well and last year I received my first Best in Show award. In addition, last year was special because the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society awarded my garden their blue ribbon. I felt very honored.




Miniature Garden

7. From all your pictures, Pam, I would say these honors are so well deserved.  Besides your garden, what are some other creative endeavors that bring you joy?


Writing brings me so much joy. Unlike you, however, I’m not a ‘creative’ writer. How I wish I could write poetry like yours, Donna. All my writings are research based, and of course, I’m talking about garden writing. I write a monthly article about ‘Gardening in the Poconos’ for our local newspaper, the Pocono Record. Also, my articles have appeared in various online sources. I’m currently writing an article for an English publication, The Cottage Gardener. I love garden photography, too, but feel I’m not very good at it. Every year I say I’m going to take more photography classes and I am happy to say I just signed up for some.




Entry Garden

8. Oh Pam, how wonderful to be published in so many publications.  And I can’t wait to hear more about the photography class.  What would you say is your creative process?


My work, whether designing a garden, writing about gardening, or teaching gardening classes, is completely research based. When I’m writing, I begin by reading, reading, and more reading. For material I go to the land-grant colleges – my favorite being Penn State Extension, of course, as I’m a Penn State master gardener. Research-based writing tends to make for some rather dry prose, so I liberally include personal stories from my own experience.


Research is very important , and I am so glad you remind us of it.  And I think those personal stories are also important so gardeners know you have such extensive experience.




Woodland Walk

9.  Let’s shift gears a bit.  I know you have traveled to many places, so where would you like to travel next?


 I just finished planning a summer vacation. Duane and I feel there is still so much for us to see in the USA, so this year we will explore some parts of New England we haven’t yet visited – via a few gardens, of course. I have a son and his family in Arizona, but would you believe I never visited the Grand Canyon? … Next year’s trip, maybe.

Oh The Grand Canyon is a must…lots of history and fabulous spots to visit in Arizona.  




Shade Garden

10.   Tell me what famous person or not so famous person would you like to meet?


I would like to meet Dame Judy Dench, one of the most celebrated actresses of my generation. Her work spans so many genres from Shakespeare to comedy, and I love all of it. I admire how she continues to devote herself to her craft despite being unable to read her scripts due to macular degeneration. The infirmities that come with aging (she recently had knee surgery) do not hold her back, and in this respect she is my role model.


She is an amazing actress, and person…and I agree a fabulous role model.




Arbor to Kitchen Garden

11.   If it is possible to pick a favorite book or song, what would you choose?


This is the most difficult question, Donna, because I have so many favorite books. I read at least one novel, usually historical, each week and often my favorite is the one I’m reading at the time. Right now it is The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. This is the second time I’ve read this book, as I wanted to refresh my knowledge of the story and characters before reading Grissom’s recently released sequel, Glory Over Everything. In the gardening genre, my favorite is The Cottage Garden by Christopher Lloyd. I nearly said ‘Christopher Lloyd’ in answer to your last question, but he passed away in 2006. I haven’t yet visited his garden, Great Dixter, and nearly gave that in answer to your travel question.


You know I would love to visit some of the great gardens of Great Britain, so maybe some day we can visit together!




Kitchen Garden Border

12. After several year of blogging, I am always fascinated to know what keeps someone blogging.  So Pam, what keeps you blogging?


As I’m sure you know, I am obsessed with gardening, and garden blogging is part of the passion. My garden continues to evolve, every year is different, and therefore I continue to have much to say about it. In addition, I made so many wonderful gardening friends who follow my blog and/or I follow theirs. I love belonging to this greater gardening community and it keeps me blogging.





13.  The blogging community is amazing.  Is there anything else you want to tell us about your life, and what might be next for you?


I have my first book in the works. It’s been on my desk for a long time, but I was forced to put it on hold through a couple of years of ill health. Now my health is at an optimum level and I’ve turned back to my book with great enthusiasm.

 Just want to end by saying how honored I feel that you asked me to participate, Donna. I enjoyed answering your questions enormously. Thank you, my friend.



Pam the pleasure has been mine, my friend!  As I said, I love these interviews as I get to know my fellow bloggers on a different, more personal level.  I hope one day soon to drop by and visit your lovely farm and gardens…and meet Dude and Billy in person.  And you continue to inspire me to keep expanding my creative horizons.  I hope you will keep us posted about the book project.


I hope you enjoyed getting to know Pam a bit more.  I know I certainly did!



pamPlease make sure you visit Pam in all the amazing places she hangs out.




All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Photos are the sole property of Pam@Pam’s English Cottage Garden, and their use in this post is by permission of the photographer.

Poetry Sunday-April Spring



April Spring



The soul stirs under bright April skies,

Raw and cold, with warm sun, clouds rolling by.



Rain pours down and pools throughout,

Replenishing the soil; pushing worms out.



Everywhere in the garden is the rush to grow,

Fresh green foliage wrapped with bright colorful bows.



More voices join daily in the garden’s song,

First robin’s, then peepers all the day long.



And my heart quickens its beat on this glorious stage,

As April moves to May and writes a new page.



 © Donna Donabella 2016


April springs are unique and special.  The weather shifts from cold and rainy to warm and sunny, even within the same day….trying to settle.  This year it has been very unsettled.  The blooms continue to pop up more and more throughout the garden decorating garden beds throughout….much like presents with bows.


The flowers here are pretty spring bulbs known as, Chionodoxa, or Glory of the Snow.



I am joining in with Poets United for their weekly poetry link up for poets who blog.

glory of snow collage

I am also linking in with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.





I leave you with a few additional words about April spring.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.

april spring

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations in the Garden: On Perspective


“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
~Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden



For me, I would say the world IS a garden.  A big, beautiful garden full of plants and wildlife, so much more fascinating than I could ever dream them to be.  And the intricate webs of life, that are woven in this garden, are so important for us….for you and for me, and for the plants and wildlife we live amongst.



With Earth Day being celebrated tomorrow…or is it anymore….I am reminded of the call, in 1970, to change how we treat the world, the environment we live in.  It meant something important and special to me, that first Earth Day.  Finally a way to recognize what we must do to change how we are treating our planet.



IMG_0412And the rallying cry, ‘Earth Day Everyday’ was a perfect mantra for me.  A young 13-year-old wanting to make a difference.  I knew so little then…and now some 46 years later after all I have learned, and all I try to do, I wonder do I make a difference at all.  Will my one garden, grown organically, using less water…will it matter in the grand scheme?  Will it matter to the wildlife in my one plot?



And realistically in the grand scheme of things maybe not.  But for me it does matter.  I was taught respect.  Something I find sorely lacking these days.  And the respect that we may give others who have earned it, also translates to a respect for the earth that supports us.  Indeed it is essential that we respect the earth.  That we do our best to do no harm.



I know I am not perfect, nor can I be.  But my efforts do help the microcosm of life, here in my one plot.  The rabbits nest here, the animals find food here to support themselves and their young.  Unlike those around me, who spray every bug until it dies, I cultivate the insects.  I welcome them home.  And my garden is abuzz with their sounds throughout the season.  These insects are the reason my flowers grow, my fruits and vegetables produce, and birds and babes flock here to nest and raise their young.



IMG_0381From my perspective, it is really rather simple… no harm.  Stop spraying your weeds and the insects.  The chemicals not only are killing the wildlife around us, but they are killing us.  More and more research is showing that our exposure to chemicals is causing diseases in us and our pets.    And the chemicals found in our food, is where we get the bulk of these chemicals that are deadly to us.



I am not going to regale you with research article after research article.  They are there if you chose to read them, or even believe them.  But if we use common sense, why would we want to poison our bodies.  Once I started eating only organic foods, I found many of the health issues I had subsided, and the inflammation in my body was drastically reduced.  Not scientific research…no.  But good common sense….do no harm.



If chemicals kill weeds and insects, then it follows they poison us too on some level.  Have you ever used some of these chemicals.  I did a long time ago, and even poisoned myself….I was deathly ill after prolonged use….several days of spraying to rid myself of lawn and weeds.  I was lucky to escape with my life in tact.  But then I was only focused on getting rid of the weeds…can’t have weeds you know!  Now I live with the weeds.  The weeds that support wildlife.  I’d rather have weeds, and wildlife and my life, than a chemically sprayed world devoid of life.



IMG_0413Can you tell I am impassioned about this topic?  Am I preaching to the choir?  Yes, and I am up on my soapbox too.  And maybe my voice will reach very few, but that is not going to stop me from doing what I know in my heart is the right thing….do no harm.  This is my perspective, and only you can reach your own conclusions based on how you see the world.



I ask that you take a moment this Earth Day, and consider my words.  Look at the world from a different vantage point.  Shift your view, to see the world through the eyes of others that we share this planet with.  Look at the future for yourself and your children, your family.  Bury your face in the grass and see the teeming life there that we depend on, and that depends on us to first do no harm.




How are you celebrating Earth Day?  What is your perspective?







Special Note:  The pictures here are of Iris reticulata that grow in early spring.  I took pictures of the same clump of iris from different perspectives.




I leave you with a few additional words on perspective.  I welcome you to download this photo and share it.


All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Nature’s Healing Balm


“What a joy it is to feel the soft, springy earth under my feet once more,
to follow grassy roads that lead to ferny brooks
where I can bathe my fingers in a cataract of rippling notes,
or to clamber over a stone wall into green fields that
tumble and roll and climb in riotous gladness!”

~Helen Keller



When spring gets into full swing….where the flowers are coloring the landscape, and the warm breezes drift around me carrying intoxicating scents….I am calmed, I am rejuvenated, I am healed.



And it isn’t just in spring….it is anytime I am in nature really.  I have a strong need to be here where I can observe a special world that moves to its own slow rhythm and pace.  Being surrounded by the constant noise of machines and voices, the smell of exhaust from engines, the bright light of screens, and the endless push, push, push to get things done, I need a place to go where I can feel a healing balm descend on me body and soul.  Where I am reminded to breath slowly….to look and listen…to take in the world around me with every sense I can muster.



glory of snow (1)

But there are rules when I enter nature’s world….and these rules must be observed if we are to get any healing effect from it.  You must surrender to this world in silence….open up your eyes and ears.  Breath deep, and drink in every smell.  Feel the temperature, the air and light on your skin.  Be there in the moments that present themselves.  And for heaven’s sake, bring no electronics with you…well maybe a camera from time to time to capture a bit of it.  We cannot notice this special world when we are engaged in looking at a screen or talking to another person.  This is a world to enter alone.  To give ourselves to fully.



Recently, I have been keeping a digital journal of Moments of Fulfillment in my garden.  Moments I am beginning to write down in a journal and on my other blog, monthly.  The moments that bring light and lightness to my heart.  Where I feel at home, and at peace.  Let me show you a few of these moments that have been a healing balm for me this spring.




When a sky, this color, presents itself, you must capture the moment in your mind as you sit and gaze on it….just by looking at its magnificence I am instantly calmed.  And the tears that well up in my eyes, at its miracle, match the raindrops still on the branches of the tree.





Sitting on the Wall Garden, I can watch the first pollinators roll around in the crocus pollen…they are drunk and high with their first drink of spring.  And the high is catching.





The tiniest of bulbs are now popping up all over the garden.  And because the landscape is so bare, you can’t help but notice them… blues…..





And pale pinks….nestled in and among the new growth and spent debris of last year’s garden.  Hardly noticeable sometimes unless you stop and look closely.  Even getting down on hands and knees.  Sometimes I will even lay upon the earth and stare at their beauty.





There are surprises around every corner.  A clump of dried grass is so much more upon closer inspection.  The thought of new life, or life that never came to be.  Pondering the mystery brings me solace.





And visiting nature after a refreshing rain can bring its own special beauty.





One of the most incredible sounds is the sweet song of the spring birds.  Calling to each other.   Whistling a tune.  They just seem so happy, that each time I hear their songs, I break into a smile that lights my heart.  For me there is no better healing balm than nature…whether in my own garden, or in a park across the street, or a nature center across town.



Where do you find solace and healing?







Special Note:  The pictures here are of the recent early spring in my garden.




I leave you with a few additional words the healing power of nature.  I welcome you to download this photo and share it.

touch of nature

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Wildlife Lessons: A Survivor’s Tale


“All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.”

~Yann Martel, Life of Pi




I had a different story for you today.  One that started out with beautiful spring skies, and warm breezes, birds chirping and arriving to their summer homes a bit early.  And then the bottom dropped out, and we had this….this frigid cold, and snow….days of snow.  Snow that froze my daffodils and hyacinths to the ground and kept them there for 4 days.




Snow in April is common here.  We get dustings, and even up to 3, 4 or 5 inches.  But it melts fast.  In all my days here, I have never seen so much snow in April, 8 or more inches for 2 days, and no melting even when it stopped.  Cold January and February temps, in the 20s and teens, instead of normal early April temps in the 40s and 50s.



And as I tell this story, our snow is still here.  And my flowers are still suffering.  But the more poignant part of the story was not about me, and my whining about my poor flowers.  It was about the birds, and especially the American Robins.  They came back in March.  The last to arrive were here on the first full day of spring…our lovely warm spring that has disappeared.



We have loads of robins who visit us.  They pair off, and make their home claiming the land between every 2-3 houses.  Staking their territory to start their home and raise their young.  And our pair has been coming here now for 3 years running.  We know because the female greets us every morning by banging on the window.  She is the only one to ever do this, and she has been doing it now for three years.  But that is another story you can read here.




DSCN3136The robins are used to a bit of snow, and cold.  But this snow swallowed the ground, and not a bit of it was left uncovered.  Why is this significant?  Because robins eat worms and insects in spring, which were nowhere to be found in the snow.  See my poor daffodil buds languishing in the snow.




DSCN3151And it didn’t dawn on me that they would be suffering until I saw this.  Our female struggling in the Barberry branches.  At first I thought, why would she choose to perch in this thorny bush, where the branches are vertical and packed tight with barely any breathing space.  And then I saw it….




barberry collage

She was eating the berries formed last fall.  We have never seen any birds eating these berries.  Which is a good thing, as the seeds then are scattered (if the birds eat the berries), and this invasive bush colonizes in forests pushing out the native understory plants.  But this day I was glad for the barberry berries as were the robins.

I do have lots of berry producing bushes that are native and preferred by the birds, but those were picked clean in late summer and fall.





Another sign they were eating these berries, was the tell-tale red droppings in the snow, and on my front porch bench.





They found evergreens or trees with dense branches for some shelter, but their isn’t much here as the trees are not leafing out for another month.  For birds to survive the cold, it is essential they have food, stay still, especially if they can’t find much food, and use their metabolism to generate heat. And they puff up their feathers to keep the cold air away from their skin, and trap body heat.





Of course they need water to drink, but all puddles and ponds were frozen.  So at first, I saw them eating snow often to stay hydrated.  As the snow on the driveway and roads melted and formed tiny puddles, they drank from those.




bird footprints

Seeing their little foot prints in the deep snow, broke my heart.  They seemed to prefer staying on the ground, even sitting on top of the snow in sheltered areas.


I have plans to take out the barberry bush in the next year or so, but I will make sure we replace it with a nice berry producing bush, and maybe add a couple more along the side of the house just in case.  After all, we have lots of bird friends who like berries, so the more the better.




I guess I should have realized the burden this unexpected weather would put on these birds, but we are so used to seeing birds here all winter.  Of course our full-timers, as I call them, are acclimated to our climate and know how to survive.  Unfortunately for the visitors, they are not used to this, but boy they are wired to survive, and find what they need.


I was buoyed by their feistiness, and their determination.  It pulled me out of my snowy weather doldrums, and made me see the bigger picture beyond my flowers….which I bet may survive after all.  I won’t count them out yet either!




With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.  I am also linking in with with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday, and Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.



Note:  I’ll tell you the nice spring critter story next month, and give you any updates on the robins.  Also please excuse some of the pictures…between the weather, dirty windows and screens they made for some dark and out of focus shots.



I leave you with another thought about nature and surviving.  Feel free to download the photo and share.


All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-16.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

Poetry Sunday-Ode To A Toad





Ode To A Toad




On the ground or in the pond

Amongst the leaf litter

Toads can be found.



Sweltering suns can force them to flee

Below ground

Or in deep meadow green.



On warm, gentle nights the ‘whirring’ begins

Rushing to ponds

For the courting whirlwind.



In morning look closely and you’ll spy,

On stout stems,

Pearly stings of eggs loosely tied.



In no time at all these glistening beads

Alter their form-

To inky blobs between the reeds.



Warts galore they begin to forage

 For worms, slugs and ants

 Their surrounds, exploring.



But with the sun waning, the air turning cool,

Underground to slumber

Dreaming again of warm nights by the pool.




©Donna Donabella 2016



I wrote this poem in early spring as I was anticipating the toads returning to the pond.  Each stanza talks about the life of the toad, from where they live, laying their glistening bead-like eggs and hibernating again below the soil when fall returns.  I have not seen or heard them yet as it has turned cold.  But once their song starts, it sings us to sleep every night from spring through summer.


The toads pictured here are found in my garden and pond from spring to fall.




I am joining in with Poets United for their weekly poetry link up for poets who blog, and Sanaa@A Dash of Sunny for her Prompt Nights every Friday.  I am not sure if this poem fits with the ‘Surely You Jest’ theme, but I think some people think it amusing that I have written a poem to a toad!

toad collage

I am also linking in with  Judith@Lavender Cottage who is hosting Mosaic Monday.




I leave you with a few additional words about toads.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.

ode for a toad

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.