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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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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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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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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Winning Writers and Gardeners at the American Hort Society by Susan Harris

Last night the American Horticultural Society held its annual awards gala at its headquarters (above, an estate formerly owned by the Geo. Washington family) on the shores of the Potomac in Alexandria, VA. I was there, along with two GardenRant award-winners an assortment of movers and shakers in the plant world. The weather was perfect and so was the whole event. Awards were presented for books and for awesomeness in various categories – the Great American Gardener awards. Here’s a peek through some Achilleas to the Potomac River. Now for some winners! Here’s our own Tom Christopher with Larry Weaner, co-authors of the award-winning Garden Revolution. On the far right is award-winner Allen Bush descending the stairs with Tom Fischer, editor of Timber Press. (He won the Garden Communicator Award.) Book winners from left are Larry Weaner, Tom Christopher, Tom Fischer (accepting Joseph Tychonievich’s award for Rock Gardening) and Marta McDowell, who won for All the President’s Garden..
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Garden show-offs and lawn proselytizing at a DC museum by Elizabeth Licata

From the exhibition website Here’s one item not on the agenda for this month’s Garden Blogger’s Fling in Washington, DC, but I don’t plan to miss it: “Cultivating America’s Gardens,” at the National Museum of American History in Washington. It opened last month and is on view through August 2018, so there’s plenty of time for everybody to see it. For all the years that we’ve been flinging in cities such as Seattle, Chicago, Toronto, and Austin, I’ve usually managed to sneak away for an afternoon to take in a great museum or two, wherever we are. Fling tours are always of gardens, of course, so if you want other cultural attractions, you have to break away for a few hours—which I ‘m happy to do. I had no idea this show was happening, until I saw yesterday’s article in the New York Times. It contains minimal information, but did have this: The oldest garden in the US? This is debatable. Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts competes for the title of the oldest public garden (1831), ..
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Take the Sting Out with Nutritious Nettles by Allen Bush

A rich seam of stinging nettles in Salvisa, Kentucky. My daughter, Molly, decided to harvest nettles on our farm in Salvisa last year. I wondered, Why? I must have been lost in the woods. Suddenly, more herbalists are singing the praises of stinging nettles. Urtica dioica is loaded with vitamins and minerals and is also a valuable, anti-inflammatory, weedy herb. The leaves can be harvested fresh or dried for a nourishing pick-me-up tea. And they can also be blanched for pesto. Some of you may never have encountered a stinging nettle. Mike Berkeley a partner of Growild Nursery in Fairview, Tennessee, and co-creator of the Native Plant Podcast, said, “You run through the woods naked and you’ll find stinging nettles. So, you need to take precaution if you want to make an herbal tea or pesto with stinging nettles. They have tiny little daggers called trichomes that can irritate your thin skin or even the thick hide of a horse. (My wife, Rose, is a rider and she said, “Oh yeah, horses ..
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Natives – A Moving Target? by Thomas Christopher

Will the wild orchids in my woods survive the changes of the next half century? There was a certain irony in the timing, given America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Still, last week was the time when a group of Master Gardeners had asked me to give them a lecture about the possible effects on gardening of global climate change – and how gardeners can do their part to meet this challenge. Because my wife is a geologist who studies long-term climate change, I had expert help with the scientific aspects of this issue. Different climate-modelers present different scenarios of what is likely to happen as our current century unwinds, but virtually all agree that unless we kick our addiction to fossil fuels, our climate will grow significantly hotter by the end of this century. Indeed, the way things are going now, it looks as if by 2100 summers in upstate New York will be as warm as those of present day South Carolina. Obviously, this sort of transformative change will hav..
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Beach Landscape Hits and Misses by Susan Harris

Some people go to the beach to enjoy the ocean. I do that (a bit) but mostly find myself looking at plants, at gardens. So in late May I walked down the boardwalk at Rehoboth, Delaware and stopped to admire the cedar-shake homes and especially the windswept plants that look just right at the ocean. Quite a contrast with this absurd display of manicured turfgrass. It looked even worse last fall when it was festooned with Trump signs. (Why are we not surprised?) I love this home and garden a block or two off the beach. The roses are Rugosas, not the usual Knockouts. A cute beach cottage with Knockouts and whimsy, too. This lovely home uses a large swath of Liriope to replace about half the lawn. This hellstrip along the beach could sure a nice groundcover. Maybe just divide those daylilies. Don’t you just want to enclose all this plants that were dropped into the turf in one big border? I can’t figure out if this was once a monoculture hedge that lost a plant in the middle or if ..
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