Monty Don Shines on Netflix by Susan Harris

When next-door neighbors combine their front gardens – before and after. Good news! England’s beloved gardening guru Monty Don is now streaming on Netflix with his make-over show Big Dreams Small Spaces. Currently just Season 2 is streaming – six 1-hour episodes, each covering two gardens. Unlike the outdoor make-over shows that HGTV’s programming has devolved to, it’s the right kind of make-over show, produced by people who really know gardening and aren’t trying to fool anyone about how easy it is. I love this show because: Homeowners do all the work themselves, with Monty coaching them every step of the way. First they share their own ideas with Monty and his reaction is possibly the most instructive part of the show. I found his focus on paths particularly helpful – their importance, choosing a route that feels natural, and creating a destination. Next we follow the homeowners as they visit gardens that Monty suggests they see for ideas – gardens chosen based on the style of gar..
Read More

Arborist Advice: Mulching 101

Tree Care Arborist Advice: Mulching 101 By Arbor Day Foundation | March 28, 2018 Guest post by John Lang of Friendly Tree. With spring right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about your yard again. One item that should be at the top of your list is applying mulch to your landscape. It’s one of the most important things you can do to keep your trees and plants healthy, but it’s also one of the easiest things to over apply that can have negative effects on your plants. This season is the perfect time to start mulching. Before you get your gardening gloves on, you should know that if done improperly, mulching can actually kill your trees and plants. So, here’s what you need to know to mulch right. First, Choose the Right Kind of Mulch The right kind of mulch does more than just make your yard look good; it adds valuable nutrients to the soil, helps to retain moisture, suppresses weeds and protects your trees’ roots from damage. For trees and shrubs, organic m..
Read More

Of Kids and Kudzu for a Better World

Students competing in the 2015 fair We who worry and wonder about our social-media-obsessed youth and the future of horticulture found some relief at a recent gathering of the Louisville Regional Science & Engineering Fair. And it all sort of came down to kudzu – the vine that ate the South. The fair was a gathering of our future leaders – grades six through twelve – at the Kentucky Science Center in downtown Louisville, not too far from the monster metal bat fronting the Louisville Slugger Museum, itself mimicking the ash wood of yore. The fair’s 22 categories included Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Robotics and Intelligent Machines, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Plant Sciences. Bioinformatics Whiz that I am, I was asked to help judge the plant sciences stuff. We gathered on a rain-splashed Saturday morning, about ten judges in the plant sciences field in search of coffee, a 600-calorie doughnut and some instructions. The instructions were given by several peo..
Read More

Of Kids and Kudzu for a Better World by Bob Hill

Students competing in the 2015 fair We who worry and wonder about our social-media-obsessed youth and the future of horticulture found some relief at a recent gathering of the Louisville Regional Science & Engineering Fair. And it all sort of came down to kudzu – the vine that ate the South. The fair was a gathering of our future leaders – grades six through twelve – at the Kentucky Science Center in downtown Louisville, not too far from the monster metal bat fronting the Louisville Slugger Museum, itself mimicking the ash wood of yore. The fair’s 22 categories included Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Robotics and Intelligent Machines, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Plant Sciences. Bioinformatics Whiz that I am, I was asked to help judge the plant sciences stuff. We gathered on a rain-splashed Saturday morning, about ten judges in the plant sciences field in search of coffee, a 600-calorie doughnut and some instructions. The instructions were given by several pe..
Read More

When Porches Feel like Garden Rooms

For decades I gardened on the edge of a wooded valley, which I could see best – for views like this one in the spring – standing at the edge of my deck. From inside the house the best view was from my kitchen looking out the door to the deck, seen here in October. The deck was my favorite part of the house – large enough to hold parties, actually large enough for the neighbors to call it an aircraft carrier. Also large enough to be a huge job to clean and preserve every couple of years. When I left that garden six years ago I thought I’d miss the deck and the view into the woods terribly. (Which was predicted by one of my movers, who asked me “How can you leave this?” as he looked out over the woods – and that was in late December.) Turns out, I don’t miss the deck, thanks to my new screened-in porch, something I’d wanted all my life. I wanted the porch for its known advantages – a bug-free and dry place to hang out. An outdoor space that accommodates indoor stuff like cushioned ..
Read More

When Porches Feel like Garden Rooms by Susan Harris

For decades I gardened on the edge of a wooded valley, which I could see best – for views like this one in the spring – standing at the edge of my deck. From inside the house the best view was from my kitchen looking out the door to the deck, seen here in October. The deck was my favorite part of the house – large enough to hold parties, actually large enough for the neighbors to call it an aircraft carrier. Also large enough to be a huge job to clean and preserve every couple of years. When I left that garden six years ago I thought I’d miss the deck and the view into the woods terribly. (Which was predicted by one of my movers, who asked me “How can you leave this?” as he looked out over the woods – and that was in late December.) Turns out, I don’t miss the deck, thanks to my new screened-in porch, something I’d wanted all my life. I wanted the porch for its known advantages – a bug-free and dry place to hang out. An outdoor space that accommodates indoor stuff like cushioned ..
Read More

Forsythias need to be free

By Barbara Eckstein via Creative Commons As much as I long for spring, there is one sight I am dreading. It’s the clipped hedges that were once beautiful spring-flowering shrubs, but now have become boxy travesties of their natural selves, dotted here and there with a few flowers that have managed to survive the pruning frenzy. The worst offenders are the over-pruned forsythias. These are really noticeable, because the yellow of forsythia is among the first signs of spring in Western New York. It should be a wild blaze of yellow, not a tortured row of bare branches dotted with yellow. Here’s a quote from my cooperative extension site: Hedging destroys the natural beauty of the shrub and limits the number of blooms to a thin mantle of blooms on the sheared surface. The most beautiful shrubs have blooms throughout the plant, up and down the stem. Right. That’s what I’m saying. I’m no pruning expert, but there are plenty out there and a survey of them indicates that the best time to pr..
Read More

Forsythias need to be free by Elizabeth Licata

By Barbara Eckstein via Creative Commons As much as I long for spring, there is one sight I am dreading. It’s the clipped hedges that were once beautiful spring-flowering shrubs, but now have become boxy travesties of their natural selves, dotted here and there with a few flowers that have managed to survive the pruning frenzy. The worst offenders are the over-pruned forsythias. These are really noticeable, because the yellow of forsythia is among the first signs of spring in Western New York. It should be a wild blaze of yellow, not a tortured row of bare branches dotted with yellow. Here’s a quote from my cooperative extension site: Hedging destroys the natural beauty of the shrub and limits the number of blooms to a thin mantle of blooms on the sheared surface. The most beautiful shrubs have blooms throughout the plant, up and down the stem. Right. That’s what I’m saying. I’m no pruning expert, but there are plenty out there and a survey of them indicates that the best time to p..
Read More

Introducing Scarlet Fire® Dogwood

Landscape Design Introducing Scarlet Fire® Dogwood By Arbor Day Foundation | March 19, 2018 Guest post by Dr.Thomas Molnar, Rutgers University Are you looking for vibrant flowering trees to add to your yard, but also in need of a tree that is low-maintenance? Scientists at Rutgers University have developed a kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) hybrid that is deep fuchsia in color and more resistant to common dogwood pests than the native kousa dogwood. It’s called the Scarlet Fire® Dogwood and it is shattering the nursery industry. Dogwood breeding has been a focus at the university since 1970 under the direction of famed plant breeder Dr. Elwin Orton. Dr. Orton is most well-known for his hybrid kousa dogwood (Cornus florida x C. kousa) releases such as Stellar Pink® and Celestial®, and more recently the Venus® dogwood (Cornus kousa x C. nuttallii). One of the earliest goals of the Rutgers breeding program was to develop a dark-pink kousa dogwood, as the kousa dogwood is a pe..
Read More

The Gardener as Laborer and Artist’s Model by Susan Harris

At the National Portrait Gallery, where I visited the new Obama portraits, it’s not ALL presidents and other known faces on view there. In fact, the “Sweat of their Face” exhibit is just the opposite; it “combines art and social history with representations of American laborers across genres and centuries of art.” Among portraits of laborers – a riveter, a migrant worker, a “sandwich artist” at Subway – there’s this statue of “The Gardener (Melissa with Bob Marley Shirt).” Now as the subject of portraiture I love Melissa, but she raises some questions. First, to my eyes she looks more like a home gardener than a “laborer” at gardening, someone paid to do it for others. And the possible misuse of the term “Gardener” to identify a paid laborer is an example of wildly different interpretations of the term. For example, when my nongardening friends see me calling myself “Gardener Susan” they wonder why I’d identify myself as a poorly paid worker – or a very uncool hobbyist. I can’t eve..
Read More