Testing Pollinator Plants at Penn State by Susan Harris

Connie Schmotzer is Principal Investigator for pollinator research. Just in time for National Pollinator Week, my Garden Writers region planned a fabulous outing for members – to see the Penn State Trial Gardens near York, PA, especially their trials for pollinator plants. The goal is “to evaluate native species and their cultivars for attractiveness to pollinators and suitability for homeowner and agricultural use,” which is so great, exactly the information pollinator-friendly gardeners need. The large Pollinator Trials Garden (above) was installed in 2011 by Master Gardeners, who planted 4,500 plugs of 86 species and cultivars – all natives to this region. We were told that’s because “a UC Davis study showed them to be four times more attractive to pollinators than nonnatives.” Plants were chosen to provide a long season of flowering, with asters and goldenrods fueling the Monarch butterfly’s flight south. Early bloomers Packera aurea (Golden groundsell) and Zizia aurea (Golden A..
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Community Tree Recovery Renews Hope in 2017

Community Tree Recovery Community Tree Recovery Renews Hope in 2017 By Abbie Eisenhart | June 21, 2017 Jerry and Charlotte lived in their house for 39 years and watched as all but one of the trees they had planted and nurtured were destroyed. “I felt sick to my stomach to see no trees. That’s what this town was built on, and that’s what I miss—the trees,” Charlotte told Arbor Day Foundation staff at a tree distribution event. When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August of 2005, our members asked how the Arbor Day Foundation was planning to help. So many trees were needed to replace those lost in the hurricane, and we worked diligently to help get tens of thousands of those replaced. Those trees led to what the Community Tree Recovery program would become years later, when devastating tornados hit Alabama and Missouri in 2011. Six years later, the Community Tree Recovery program continues to grow and expand. As of today, the program has planted or distributed more tha..
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Yellow Buckeye: A Rugged Beauty

Tree of the Week Yellow Buckeye: A Rugged Beauty By James R. Fazio | June 20, 2017 Aesculus flava (octandra) In 1784 while traveling near the Cheat River — in what is now West Virginia — sharp-eyed George Washington spotted a yellow buckeye with flowers that were purple instead of yellow. He planted seeds of that tree at Mount Vernon where the last one died not long ago. There is something compelling about this tree. It is not graceful like an American elm or a weeping willow, nor charming like a dogwood or redbud. Instead, it has a sort of rugged beauty —massive, a bit unkempt and standing tall and bold in both forest and park. Botanists call its crown “coarse” or “irregular” and its bark thick and “curious.” But they also comment on the bright glow of its showy blooms and the warmth of its fall colors. The yellow buckeye is a delightful sight in the Appalachian Mountains. The striking compound leaves of the buckeye trees provide an accent in both forest and urban sett..
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Wildlife Encounters by Thomas Christopher

I’ve posted before on this blog about the attraction of wildlife tracking in the garden. Garden wildlife, I noted then, reminds me of teenagers – the critters eat distressingly huge meals then typically leave without communicating about what they have been up to or what their plans are. Reading the tracks is the only way to learn what the animals are doing (would that this worked with teenagers). I had a notable encounter of this kind this past month. Something was stomping the plants in my garden. And for a change it wasn’t careless human visitors. Over my many years as a horticulturist, I’ve grown accustomed to wildlife attacking my plants, though more often in the form of slugs, beetles and caterpillars nibbling holes in the leaves or even, as in the case of cutworms, decapitating whole seedlings. On the whole, I find myself better able to tolerate mammalian invaders because, although their individual appetites are far greater, they are also easier to exclude. A welded wire fence ..
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Flingers, First Trip to DC? by Susan Harris

Martin Luther King Memorial along the Tidal Basin Gardening get-togethers like the Garden Blogger Fling and Garden Writer events are the best possible ways to see great private gardens, and the Fling attendees coming to the Washington, D.C. area next weekend will see lots of them. But like Elizabeth, when I visit a city that’s new to me for a gardening event, I often take time off from the private gardens to see the city. Be a tourist! For her it’s making time to see art museums and in D.C., maybe some of the other fabulous and free Smithsonian museums. My own touristy adventures include taking a citywide tour in Seattle, being driven to some crazy-interesting places in Pittsburgh by a locally raised garden writer, and skipping a few gardens to watch the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco, just after marriage equality was declared by the Supreme Court. Lincoln Memorial at dusk. So for any Flingers visiting DC next week who’ve never seen seen DC’s amazing sights, here’s what I and t..
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Ask an Arborist: How do I Know if my Trees Need Water?

Ask An Arborist Tree Care Ask an Arborist: How do I Know if my Trees Need Water? By Arbor Day Foundation | June 16, 2017 Tree watering is a key part of tree care, but it’s difficult to specify how much water trees need. No two trees are alike, and several factors and conditions will impact how much water a tree requires. The age, size, location, climate, soil, and type of tree play a part in how much to water your tree. Younger trees generally require more frequent watering than mature trees because their root system isn’t established, as a result they use more energy establishing a root system and require more water. In the first couple years of your tree’s life it isn’t uncommon to water twice a week. But as the tree matures, how you water it will change. Since roots grow deep, trees prefer a deep watering less often versus watering frequently and only wetting the surface of the soil. That is why drip systems are the preferred method in the industry, because it allows w..
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A Gardening Education: Alberta and Omer by Allen Bush

Photo courtesy of Joseph Hillenmeyer. While I wait for my first social security check to arrive later this month, I have been thinking about two crucial mentors. Alberta Coleman and Omer Barber fostered my gardening career. They were as different as a peony and a prickly pear. I volunteered to work with Alberta Coleman in the Vista program in 1973. Alberta founded Tenant Services, a non-profit in Lexington, KY, that advocated for the poor. She approached her job with perseverance and compassion. Clients came to Tenant Services because they had no money to pay rent; we had no money to pay their rent. We worked with the desperate poor to hold off evictions, helped them find jobs, and juggled their meager budgets. It was hard, frustrating work. Alberta made it seem as if there was no problem that couldn’t be solved. I planted my first garden the year before I met Alberta—lots of tomatoes and green beans. There were a few flowers, too. I still love the blazing orange-red blooms of the h..
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Bur Oak: Tough Tree for Tough Places

Tree of the Week Bur Oak: Tough Tree for Tough Places By James R. Fazio | June 13, 2017 Quercus macrocarpa Despite its acorns being called “frilled,” there is nothing dainty about the bur oak tree. The frills around its gigantic acorn are wild and woolly, and the top of the cap is corky and tough like the armor of an old-time gladiator. Its bark, too, is rough and dark, and the trunk massive. Landscape architects call its crown “coarse textured” and loggers and woodworkers are attracted to its very hard wood. Pioneers were amazed when they first encountered the “oak openings” of the Midwest. These were like bits of paradise — grassy and ready to farm — and interspersed with bur oaks they could use for shade or good wood. Further west, they found the bur oak standing like giant sentinels where the woodlands finally gave way to the tall grass prairies. Today, we call this ecological edge the ‘savanna’ and know that the bur oaks can grow there because they resist the flames..
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Ask not for whom the lily beetle tolls by Elizabeth Licata

Keeping calm and carrying on under the shadow of the lily beetle Finally, they’re here. For at least 5 years, now, I have been hearing tales of destruction and dire prophecies from friends and garden visitors who live to the east and northeast of Buffalo. “Do you have the lily beetle yet? They’re everywhere in (Rochester/New England/Ithaca, etc.). I don’t grow lilies any more. They ate them all.” Cringes of horror all around. I assured the visitors I had not seen this dire creature, but they assured me it would make its way west. And it has; indeed, I’ve read about infestations in Wisconsin and Seattle, so maybe it bypassed Buffalo at first as it swept across the country. Or maybe it took a while to find its way into the urban core. I have not experienced any widespread devastation (yet), but everything I’ve read and heard is true. The red beetles nibble away at leaves and lay eggs, which grow into repellent black masses of goo that feed on the leaves’ undersides. They are gooey bec..
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How Much does your Tree Save you?

Misc Trees How Much does your Tree Save you? By Sheereen Othman | June 9, 2017 Measuring the value of your trees Trees do so much for us, they are active members of our communities. Cities across the country save millions of dollars annually from the hard-work of urban trees. Whether it’s cleaning our air, purifying water, shading buildings, or beautifying landscapes, trees have proven to be valuable in community infrastructure. The same could be said about trees in neighborhoods. When we commissioned Wakefield Research to conduct the 2016 NeighborWoods Month Survey, we learned what homeowners think about trees. We discovered that 63 percent of people surveyed would never buy a house that didn’t have trees in the yard. Trees are a deciding factor when buying a new home. In fact, Americans would pay 18 percent more for a house with trees in the yard. Trees are some of the least expensive items you can add to your landscape and immediately earn value back. Landscaping wit..
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