Mostly Shrubs for a Low-Maintenance Superstar Garden by Susan Harris

There’s nothing like working to improve city landscaping to turn you into a realist, having abandoned what you really want for what’s most likely to happen, given the usual constraints of manpower and budget. In my last post I showed readers the sad, unweeded state of one of my town’s most prominent perennial beds and suggested it needed to be returned to turfgrass. (Please read about the constraints of the site before freaking out.) But this post is a happy story already because just across the parking lot is our equally historic Roosevelt Center (named because the town was created as a project of the New Deal) and here the beds look great with almost no maintenance – thanks to full-grown shrubs. Yes they’re the common ‘Anthony Waterer’ and even commoner Nandina domestica, which probably wouldn’t be chosen today, but it’s thriving and a popular place for birds nests. Above is a panorama shot of the most common pedestrian approach into Roosevelt Center on the right. You can see ther..
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Time to “Rethink Pretty” in the Garden by Allen Bush

Benjamin Vogt and I began an email exchange last March after I read his very interesting A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future. A few weeks ago, Benjamin had a sign posted on his property in Lincoln, Nebraska that warned him about the public nuisance he had created. He won the fight to keep his front and back yard prairie, but this got me thinking. It seemed like a good time to share our exchange. Portions have been edited and expanded. Onward Benjamin. I wrote my book to make folks as uncomfortable as I felt. I wrote it to question horticulture, landscape design, and all environmental movements. I wrote it to invigorate the discussion and get us to grapple with humanity in ways we avoid in order to protect ourselves from the reality of our lost love. I wrote it in order to unearth aspects of environmentalism I thought weren’t explored enough. I wrote my book out of depression, fear, and anger in order to discover a strength we all possess — the..
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What’s your corpse flower’s name? Ours is Morty. by Elizabeth Licata

It’s that time of year again. Our local botanical gardens has joined the ranks of other such sites across the US to introduce a titan arum (“corpse flower”) event, based on the bloom cycle of the plant. I have never seen one of these in bloom and am not sure I’ll get there in time for this one. Indeed, I have heard that the stench of the plant is already fading. But I’m fine with anything that helps the gardens, and this does provide some botanical education as well. I am sure many of you have corpse flower events in your areas. That’s all I have to say, but here are the thoughts of columnist Bruce Adams, who writes a weekly post for the Buffalo Spree website: They actually cut it open this time. Interesting! Ahh, smell the aroma If you’re fond of the odor of dead bodies, you’re in for a treat at Buffalo’s and Erie County Botanical Gardens. The details: Corpse flowers typically bloom every seven to ten years. They are the second biggest flower in the world (think Audrey II from Lit..
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Returning a Town’s Perennial Border to Lawn?

Buttresses and bas-relief sculptures seen behind Knockout roses Of all the historic buildings in my town, my favorite is what’s now the Community Center, so it’s full of artists, dancers, seniors and really everyone else, every day. I love the Arc Deco buttresses on the front facade. And I wrote here about the bas-relief sculptures between them depicting the Preamble to the Constitution, with the excuse to write about it here that they illustrate “Promote the General Welfare” with someone gardening. Speaking of gardening, a few years back the City Horticulturist was a real gardener, so of course he ripped up a prominent patch of turfgrass and installed in its place a large border of perennials and roses. If you’ve started and maintained perennial beds yourself you won’t be surprised to learn that once the real gardener was gone and a regular maintenance crew took over, using power tools only, no hand-weeding or herbicides (after complaints), the garden changed for the worse. The pho..
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Embracing an “invasive native”

Like many beginning gardeners, I was initially attracted by easy, “do it all” solutions. I soon learned that there are no such things, but that was after I bought a can of “wildflowers for shade.” I sprinkled the seeds into an impossible spot between a big maple, our back wall, and the neighbor’s boundary fence. (The great thing about these seed cans is that there is no indoor-starting, soaking, stratification or any of that geeky seed stuff. They are just assumed to work if directly sown, no matter what they are.) (with the gallium, hellebore, and a few other things) Eventually a few plants came up, but I only remember the hesperis matronalis (Dame’s Rocket), a known thug around here that did not survive for long. The sole plant that remains, eighteen years after I sprinkled those seeds, is anemone canadensis, which, at first, I took for some kind of geranium (cranesbill), but eventually looked up and found its true identity. For a while, it stayed where it was sown, putting up a dis..
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If snake killing is wrong, then my dog Opal doesn’t want to do right

Opal in her glory days When I lived near the Luray TN bottoms, the dogs and I often walked the field road to the back of a farm tract known locally as “the island”. This was several hundred acres surrounded by water – swamp, stream and man-made ditches and canals. More accurately, I walked, and the dogs trotted, tumbled, trailed or ran. From a bird’s eye view, I imagine a wildly moving circle of four legged beasts with one slow moving two-legged beast toward the rear. My squatty brown dog Opal was a snake killer. She so enjoyed it, that if I yelled “SNAKE!” to warn any unsuspecting dogs, she leapt into action, surging forward and scanning eagerly for action. I learned instead to shout “RABBIT”! and point the safest direction. One day I experimented with shouting “SNAKE!” as she napped on the porch. She peeled up from deep sleep at full roar, thrilled at the prospect of doing combat with her hated foe. Opal had a face that looked like a caricature of a benevolent snapping turtle, and ..
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Returning a Town’s Perennial Border to Lawn? by Susan Harris

Buttresses and bas-relief sculptures seen behind Knockout roses Of all the historic buildings in my town, my favorite is what’s now the Community Center, so it’s full of artists, dancers, seniors and really everyone else, every day. I love the Arc Deco buttresses on the front facade. And I wrote here about the bas-relief sculptures between them depicting the Preamble to the Constitution, with the excuse to write about it here that they illustrate “Promote the General Welfare” with someone gardening. Speaking of gardening, a few years back the City Horticulturist was a real gardener, so of course he ripped up a prominent patch of turfgrass and installed in its place a large border of perennials and roses. If you’ve started and maintained perennial beds yourself you won’t be surprised to learn that once the real gardener was gone and a regular maintenance crew took over, using power tools only, no hand-weeding or herbicides (after complaints), the garden changed for the worse. The ph..
Read More

If snake killing is wrong, then my dog Opal doesn’t want to do right by Carol Reese

Opal in her glory days When I lived near the Luray TN bottoms, the dogs and I often walked the field road to the back of a farm tract known locally as “the island”. This was several hundred acres surrounded by water – swamp, stream and man-made ditches and canals. More accurately, I walked, and the dogs trotted, tumbled, trailed or ran. From a bird’s eye view, I imagine a wildly moving circle of four legged beasts with one slow moving two-legged beast toward the rear. My squatty brown dog Opal was a snake killer. She so enjoyed it, that if I yelled “SNAKE!” to warn any unsuspecting dogs, she leapt into action, surging forward and scanning eagerly for action. I learned instead to shout “RABBIT”! and point the safest direction. One day I experimented with shouting “SNAKE!” as she napped on the porch. She peeled up from deep sleep at full roar, thrilled at the prospect of doing combat with her hated foe. Opal had a face that looked like a caricature of a benevolent snapping turtle, and..
Read More

Embracing an “invasive native” by Elizabeth Licata

Like many beginning gardeners, I was initially attracted by easy, “do it all” solutions. I soon learned that there are no such things, but that was after I bought a can of “wildflowers for shade.” I sprinkled the seeds into an impossible spot between a big maple, our back wall, and the neighbor’s boundary fence. (The great thing about these seed cans is that there is no indoor-starting, soaking, stratification or any of that geeky seed stuff. They are just assumed to work if directly sown, no matter what they are.) (with the gallium, hellebore, and a few other things) Eventually a few plants came up, but I only remember the hesperis matronalis (Dame’s Rocket), a known thug around here that did not survive for long. The sole plant that remains, eighteen years after I sprinkled those seeds, is anemone canadensis, which, at first, I took for some kind of geranium (cranesbill), but eventually looked up and found its true identity. For a while, it stayed where it was sown, putting up a di..
Read More

Embracing an invasive native by Elizabeth Licata

Like many beginning gardeners, I was initially attracted by easy, “do it all” solutions. I soon learned that there are no such things, but that was after I bought a can of “wildflowers for shade.” I sprinkled the seeds into an impossible spot between a big maple, our back wall, and the neighbor’s boundary fence. (The great thing about these seed cans is that there is no indoor-starting, soaking, stratification or any of that geeky seed stuff. They are just assumed to work if directly sown, no matter what they are.) (with the gallium, hellebore, and a few other things) Eventually a few plants came up, but I only remember the hesperis matronalis (Dame’s Rocket), a known thug around here that did not survive for long. The sole plant that remains, eighteen years after I sprinkled those seeds, is anemone canadensis, which, at first, I took for some kind of geranium (cranesbill), but eventually looked up and found its true identity. For a while, it stayed where it was sown, putting up a di..
Read More