Bulb-Planting Rules I Break by Susan Harris

Who doesn’t love spring-blooming bulbs? I love all of them (well, except for hyacinths) and used to plant a large assortment every fall. Above are shots from my former garden, where I planted tulips, yanked them out after the blooms faded and had the fun of trying new ones in the same spot the next year. But no more. Now I ONLY plant bulbs that come back year after year and aren’t eaten by squirrels or deer. (Hooray for daffodils!) And I’ve entirely changed how I arrange them and plant them. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but when I was a gardening newbie I planted a couple hundred full-sized daffodils (my fave was Ice Follies), one bulb per hole and spaced evenly throughout the garden. It looked ridiculous. So over the years I gradually rearranged them into clumps, masses and sweeps – which we all know look better than one-offs. Planting bulbs too close together And I gradually switched to planting bunches of 5-10 bulbs in each hole because I like the look and it’s SO much easier ..
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Goodbye, and thanks for your service by Elizabeth Licata

In (somewhat) better days Trees are suffering. First, there are the pests; among the most current are the emerald ash borer, the mountain pine beetle, and the wooly aldegid. Then there are the ravages of fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters; it was awful to see the defoliation in the Caribbean earlier this year (though growing conditions there should promote faster replacement than we’d see in Buffalo). And then there are the always-ongoing threats of bad planting and bad maintenance. One of only two trees on our actual property—we are surrounded by trees we don’t own—was just cut down last week, the last in a series of must-do pre-winter tasks. A big sugar maple, it had been weakening over the past five years, and now posed a serious threat to neighboring structures. We think it’s many decades old, but aren’t sure of the exact age. During garden tours, visitors have always been surprised to be seeing such a large tree in an urban courtyard garden; it grew directly against ..
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Video: Best-Performing Native Plants in my Garden by Susan Harris

These days we’re all paying more attention to beneficial wildlife in our gardens, and to that end, looking for good native plants to grow. But which ones? Those official lists of state or regional natives don’t really help the aspiring eco-gardener make their choices. So many of the listed plants aren’t even in the trade! Instead, I always recommend asking experienced gardeners. Gardeners like me, for instance. In this short video I gush about the 10 best-performing native plants I’ve ever grown, and by that I mean they look great and are easy-care. No fertilizers or fungicides needed. And except for the Oakleaf Hydrangea, no regular watering after the plants are established. They are: Black-Eyed Susans, Coreopsis, Purple Coneflower, Spiderwort, Joe Pye Weed, Golden Groundsel, Amsonia, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Crossvine, and Redbud. And in the video description on YouTube I add three “bonus plants” that aren’t in the video for lack of decent photos of them: Ninebark, Penstemon and Little B..
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Can these Junipers be Saved? by Susan Harris

My latest gardening obsession is making over the landscape in front of my housing co-op offices, where the top priority is to do something about the overgrown junipers. Planted too close to the sidewalk and doors, they’d been sheared back, which caused much unsightly needle-browning. The problem wasn’t just that they were encroaching onto sidewalks, either. Their looming presence over the doors made the female staffers feel less than safe as they exited, especially at night. Something had to be done, and right away. So the team of staff and volunteers working on this decided to have the junipers closest to the sidewalk removed, and it was super-gratifying to watch those bad boys being yanked out of the ground by a Bobcat excavator. Unfortunately, this exposed even more dieback and browning in the adjacent junipers (above). So ugly. But man, I live for pruning projects like this! Oh, the mountain of dead juniper branches I gleefully (obsessively) compiled, ignoring the dozen or so c..
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A Glimpse of a Lunatic’s Garden by Allen Bush

Jamie Dockery, wizard of farm and garden. August 12, 2017. I don’t know anyone on this planet, or galaxy, with more runaway enthusiasm for gardening than Jamie Dockery. And that’s not all. Besides his rabid determination to grow anything with chlorophyll, Jamie also raises little cows, little goats, chickens, ducks, donkeys, and tends an aviary with finches and canaries—all of this on his ten-acre farm in Salvisa, KY, not far from the Kentucky River. Ansel, the newborn, black and white calf. March 26, 2017. “I’m a full blown nut job,” Jamie confessed during a lecture he gave early last spring called: “A Glimpse of a Lunatic’s Garden.” This was one of nearly 50 talks Jamie presents each year as part of his day job as the Fayette County Extension Agent for Horticulture Education. Jamie’s first love, after his livestock, is perennials, but he is no one-trick pony. He’s extremely knowledgeable on trees, shrubs, and fruits and vegetables, too. The little cows in early May. Jamie trial..
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Are Images of Gardeners in the Media Finally Improving? by Susan Harris

Gardeners in the play “Native Gardens” My recent rant about stereotypes of gardeners in a new play got me thinking about the images of gardeners used in advertising and elsewhere. The garden-club-competing gardeners in the play typify the demographic so often used to portray us – white and elderly. More of the same can be found by searching “gardener” at istockphoto, where these images of older women especially bug me because they convey the surprising (to all real gardeners) impression that gardening is about fussing over flowers. You and I know that gardening requires hard work – digging, hauling, and wrestling branches with pruning tools. Thankfully, iStock’s offerings include more diversity than just older white women. On Google image there are plenty of young people and quite a bit of pruning going on. Searching “gardener” on Shutterstock yields mostly super-fake images of gardens and just a few actual people, most of them young. Pexel’s gardener images are even stranger, st..
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Still crazy after fourteen years by Elizabeth Licata

Pre-blog, my garden practice gets lost in the fog of history. I know I started gardening seriously in 1999, when we bought property, but I am not quite sure exactly what I was doing month by month until 2005, when I started documenting it with a blog. And that’s the only reason I started; it wasn’t to rant, exactly, though that came naturally early on. It was to keep track of what I was doing. Now, I don’t much care about keeping track, but I was wondering when I started bulb forcing en masse, which has been my normal fall gardening activity for some time. I see an ebay “you won!” email for a vintage forcing glass from 2003, so it must have been at least since then. After about ten glasses froze, I stopped putting those in the root cellar, instead just pulling bulbs from soil and transferring them to the glasses when the time was right. I know that not too many gardeners bother with any of this; many find the bulb-chilling period too onerous, and, I am sure, think the whole process i..
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A Back Porch Recipe for Peace by Bob Hill

From left: dogwood and winterberry. bark of three-flowered maple. Gardening offers me an outside recipe for inner peace, or at least the opportunity to go hide on our screened-in back porch and ponder the meaning of life, mortality and the furrowed bark and brilliant fall colors of our three-flowered maple. I look out, and the pink and white dogwood trees I planted almost 40 years ago at a time and place in life where I was as uncertain and vulnerable as they are now fully grown, their arching limbs solid and secure, and yet still reaching out beyond all that toward whatever must be. I sit alone on that porch of our 150-year-old farmhouse and see a once bare and weedy landscape flowing with such home-made history, promise and fate, becoming every day more aware it’s all passing me by. What began with my hands will quite soon be out of my hands. My recipe to deal with that approaching finality is to enjoy the moment, to look out where the dogwood limbs almost touch the bright-red fr..
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Dueling Gardeners on Stage by Susan Harris

Though not a big theater-goer, I HAD to see the comedy “Native Gardens” when it played in DC because it’s about next-door neighbors representing different demographics and attitudes toward gardening. I’ll admit that I laughed, but the stereotypes in the play – of people and of plants – bugged me no end. First, the dueling couples. The people on the right are passionate about their garden, involved in the local gardening community, and enter their garden in the Potomac Horticultural Society’s garden contest every year. They’re old, white, a defense contractor and a retired bureaucrat, and just in case we’re not sure what to think of them, we learn that they’re Republican. Are they representative of gardeners today or negative stereotype from another era? Either way, I’m offended. The couple on the left are the opposite in many ways, and clearly the darlings of the playwright and the audience. They’re young, Latinos, a successful lawyer and his PhD candidate wife who advocates for nati..
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There’s fall color—and fall color by Elizabeth Licata

Every day on my way to work, I always look at a certain house, just before I make my final turn. It is the one vibrant spot of color on a block, which, though perfectly nice, is typified by sedate, small front lawns and a few foundation plantings. But these people. These people are gardeners and plant lovers. They start with daffodils and tulips in April/May and continue with perennials and roses throughout the summer. But, interestingly, you don‘t really notice the roses until very late in the season, when they are almost the only plants blooming. The image here shows what they look like at the chilly, rainy end of October, with Halloween 5 days away. (I didn’t get too close because I do not know the homeowners and didn’t want to be lurking around their property. ) I love that the roses are different heights—not just one big planting of Knock-Outs, for instance. Roses en masse never look that great as a composition; their individual forms show up better in close-up. But still, as Nov..
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