Garden Update Five Years On by Susan Harris

Since ripping out the turfgrass in my new townhouse garden in 2012, I’m still waiting for the turfless garden to look DONE, like Evelyn Hadden’s new garden seems to have done in barely a season. Here you see the front garden in late May, after the azaleas were done. The evergreens on the outside are barely growing at all. Wish I were more patient about them but that’s never been my strong point – in gardening or in life. Last year’s new perennials are taking their sweet time, too. Who doesn’t love Amsonia hubrichtii – and wish they could buy them full-grown already? I recently added some Little Bluestem ‘The Blues’ to fill up the border and they looked good immediately, however short. Thankfully my favorite volunteers are going strong and because I’ve massed them over the years, they have a real impact – Rose Campion and Pink Evening Primrose. Vigorous as always is the groundcover Sedum takesimense lining the path. Every visitor asks about it. Sun-tolerant Coleuses have been outst..
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Buffalo’s first green roof, ten years later by Elizabeth Licata

The roof now Buffalo is not landscape architecture central. Aside from a large Olmsted park system (that’s been adulterated in spots), I find many WNY public landscapes uninspired. Private gardens are the thing here; almost 500 of them will be open to the public next week. However, I do have a favorite local landscape architect. I’ve written before about Joy Kuebler’s forward-thinking public and private garden designs. We worked together on an unusual Show House exterior landscape in 2009, but, before that, in 2007, I visited Joy’s house to see my first green roof. It was also the first to be installed in WNY. The 200 square foot roof is over her office, a separate building behind her house. The October installation was quite an event, with local green industry professionals and students invited to witness it. A company from Pennsylvania (Lichtenfels) provided the complex structure, as no local nursery had the training to do this (at that time). In fact, when Joy told people she was..
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What is “cute”? by Thomas Christopher

The other day, a visiting friend gasped when he saw a rat run across a corner of the suburban Connecticut yard where I garden during the week. I shuddered when he told me. I could guess what had drawn the creature: we have a henhouse full of geriatric chickens who are not the neatest of creatures. Indeed, I found the mouth of a burrow in one end of their run, and I took measures to evict the burrower. I didn’t hesitate; I know that if the rat proliferates, the neighbors rightfully will complain and the chickens will have to go. Yet later, as I was pondering this visitation, I spotted a chipmunk sitting in the crotch of the sourwood tree (Oxydendron arboreum) that tops the tangle of bare-knuckled perennials my wife and I grow in front of our house. And the unfairness of the situation struck me. Why is it that the chipmunk, also a rodent, passes as cute, while rats are almost universally hated? In fact, most of the charges leveled at rats also apply to chipmunks. For example, chipmunks..
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The Success of Mississippi State’s “Southern Gardening” by Garden Rant

These days I follow dozens of gardening channels on Youtube, especially those of Extension universities, where there are hundreds of good veg-growing videos are to be found. Except for the topic of turfgrass, videos about ornamentals are a lot less common. So naturally I noticed this guy – Gary Bachman, with an actual Ph.D. – teaching ornamental gardening for Mississippi State’s “Southern Gardening”. The videos – now 190 of them – are made available at no charge to TV stations across the South, about 90 percent of which DO air them on their local news shows. Southern Gardening launched in 1996 and Bachman became the second host of the show in 2010. In a phone call, Bachman told me that for Mississippi State it’s about using nontraditional ways to teach the public to garden. Besides local TV, the videos are available on Youtube, on Facebook, and as a podcast. There’s also a weekly Facebook Live event that’s “strictly no-script.” Bases covered! The approach taken in the videos is very..
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The Garden and Nursery Boat by Allen Bush

Photo from the 1924 film: The Dramatic Life of Abraham Lincoln. I stared out my elementary school window for years, bored out of my skull, determined to forsake fractions for adventure. The Ohio River, my escape route, was a few miles away. My curiosity for the river life was inspired by Huckleberry Finn and amplified years later by Harlan Hubbard’s Shanty Boat and the follow-up, Shantyboat on the Bayous, both published in the 1950s. Carolyn Brooks must have read my mind when she sent me an email a few weeks ago: “I am attaching a charming little clipping I found in an 1837 issue of the New Orleans True American. I never know what to do with the wonderful little tidbits I find on subjects completely unrelated to whiskey, but I try and think of somebody who might appreciate them.” The clipping pertained to botanical goods for sale from the boat of John D. Stack, at a landing in New Orleans that year. Ad from the New Orleans “True American.” March 2, 1837. Carolyn Brooks is an his..
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Garden Bloggers take DC (area) by Elizabeth Licata

Outside the Hirshhorn in DC (by Jimmie Durham) First, it must be stressed that I am not a good tour taker. I love looking at gardens, but I can enjoy a smaller garden pretty quickly, and then I’m done. I’m better in big public gardens, where you can keep moving and there’s always something different around the corner. That said, I found plenty to absorb my attention during the recent DC-area garden bloggers get-together, which was packed with really cool gardens, small and large. Organizer Tammy Schmitt did a great job. However, I was not able to see all the gardens on the schedule, as it was my first trip to DC and I had to take time out to see all the iconic sights that are probably old news to most of you. Hillwood And finally, just one more caveat. I was probably the only person there shooting with an iphone. One blogger had three cameras with her, two hung around her neck at all times, and everybody else also had professional SLR equipment. Click here, which has the posts from ..
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I’m a City Center Gardener by Susan Harris

People in my town routinely pass this garden spot as they walk from the parking lot to the town center (appropriately named Roosevelt Center, since the town was built as a New Deal works and housing project). But walk a few more steps and just before reaching the Center you see this pitiful sight – only imagine the bare space covered in weeds most of the year. Besides weeds, there were established Nandinas and some sad, crispy hostas and a hydrangea, left over from a shadier era before the first tree there died. Why the weedy mess? Because the city stopped using herbicides without having an alternative weed strategy. Avid gardeners will understand my reaction to the high-visibility weed patch, which was to get SO sick of the eyesore that I finally adopted the spot. I did it not guerrilla-style, but with the permission of the city’s director of horticulture, who immediately saw the adoption as lightening his crew’s workload. So here’s the first stage of the much-needed make-over, wi..
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Editing for Autumn by Thomas Christopher

I’ve been spending a good deal of time recently at Wave Hill, the 28-acre horticultural paradise in the Bronx – I’ve been asked to write a book about its garden art. Wave Hill is famous for many things: its matchless collection of exquisite plants, its daring color combinations, and its use of plant architecture, among others. I’m particularly impressed by the craftsmanship of the gardeners. In particular, I am struck by how they are preparing now for the fall displays. Exquisite details such as this are the glory of Wave Hill The fall garden has long been a special focus at Wave Hill. In large part, this reflects the pattern of its visitorship. The supporters of the garden (although Wave Hill belongs to the city of New York, the bulk of its funding comes from private sources) are mostly out of town in the summertime, as are many of the residents of Wave Hill’s Riverdale neighborhood. Besides, whereas packing a garden with bloom in spring or summer is relatively easy, accomplishing t..
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joe gardener Goes Live! by Susan Harris

For months I’d been dying to set my eyes on Joe Lamp’ls new website joegardener.com, hoping for a lot. It launched last week and at the risk of gushing, it includes everything a how-to-garden site should have and some stuff I didn’t think of. In Joe’s words to me on the phone recently, it’s a “hub for accurate information in the formats people want.” Like all of us, Joe laments the loss of “gardening on TV – there’s nothing out there.” After Scripps Howard bought HGTV it concluded that advertising won’t support a real gardening show, so it offers backyard make-overs with lots of furniture and at least one fire pit. In Joe’s words, “This lack of consistent, reliable sources for accurate, trusted and professionally produced garden-related media is a big problem…And people are turning to the Internet for that.” Yet even on the web, Dave’s Garden, now owned by Internet Brands, is nothing more than customer reviews, with no editorial judgment in sight. Joe sums up the problem: Unfortun..
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Perfect Prairie Meadow? More like Field of Broken Dreams by Bob Hill

Queen of the Prairie My lust for the perfect prairie meadow show – aided and abated, of course, with the need for a new septic system – began with the lacy-pink flowers of Queen-of-the-Prairie, or Filipendula rubra. I had not seen The Native Queen in all her glory until purchasing our history-worn Hoosier farmhouse and six acres of weeds. I’m not even sure now if that American native was already presiding out back in our long-neglected field, or was an early purchase by a would-be nursery owner who had no idea what the hell he was doing. I just remember Her crown of cotton-candy flowers, deep pink and fragrant, gracefully floating above five-foot stems that one normally non-salacious garden site described as “naked.” Any way you phrase it, it was love at first sight. Laugh, if you must, but much of the same literature also mentions that Native Americans used Queen-of-the-Prairie as a treatment for various heart problems and as an herbal aphrodisiac. I also vaguely remember readin..
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