It’s the Year of Garden-Park Connections by Susan Harris

Have you heard that 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service? Well, here’s the press release, and here’s Find Your Park, a growing collection of stories about people connecting with the parks. (The connection is easy for Michelle Obama – she lives in one, and has family connections to another one – the Pullman National Monument.) The Park Service Centennial will be getting tons of attention when the Philadelphia Flower Show opens today because the theme this year is “Explore America: 100 years of the National Park Service.” I’m attending the show next week, so more will be revealed. I’ve already gotten into the centennial spirit, though – thanks to an art contest and exhibit by the Park Service and the U.S. Botanic Garden. They solicited artworks portraying indigenous plants in any of the 400+ national parks, in any medium. (The results are on display until October 2.) Works by 78 artists were chosen from hundreds of entries showing off plants from such parks as Gr..
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Trump, a Cabbage Palm or Sassafras by Allen Bush

Photo courtesy of Andrew Cline and shutterstock.com I had no idea it was National Margarita Day. A Sanibel Island waitress mentioned it to us a few weeks ago. I was trying to focus on palm trees, but Donald Trump, his outsize ego and disturbing pretense, wouldn’t go away. I ordered a margarita. My aunt and brother-in-law were vacationing on Sanibel Island with Rose and me. I offered lessons in palm tree identification on morning beach walks. We spent afternoons reading, napping or spotting blue herons and white pelicans at the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Milton, my brother-in-law, was my best pupil. He easily learned the coconut, royal and cabbage palms. Cabbage palm fronds. Walter Mondale was sitting at the table next to us when we ordered margaritas. A dangerous shift in national politics has occurred since he was a player in Washington. The Minnesota senator, and vice-president under Jimmy Carter, lost badly to Ronald Reagan in a 1984 bid for the presidency. That was..
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Garden Flags with Shibori and Permanent Dye by Susan Harris

The last time I posted about making garden flags you saw them dyed with Rit and then stenciled with acrylic paints. All 66 flags of them will hang in my front yard and screen my view of a parking lot. There’s another screening problem in my back yard, and this time I used tie-dye and other Shibori techniques of binding, stitching, folding, twisting, or compressing cloth that have been used since the 8th Century in Japan. Those techniques gave me the 42 flags above. Honestly, tie-dye never appealed to me, and I didn’t think the multi-color, psychedelic look would appeal much to my neighbors, either. But it turns out more subtle effects are possible. That’s what I learned by watching at least a dozen videos that taught me to create the rectangles, starburst, fan and stripes that created the flags above. I learned by watching these fold-technique videos, and these, too. Basic stripes are shown here. Here‘s one about why use fiber-reactive like Procion, rather than Rit. I used squeeze b..
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Trends I won’t be following this season by Elizabeth Licata

This is what’s trending in the house right now: Erlicheer tazettas from Old House Gardens At this time of year, the inboxes of garden writers (and editors of any genre) are flooded with trend report and predictions of what people will be planting, buying, and installing in the coming season. Most of it is so silly that my delete finger doesn’t stop moving enough to read more than a sentence or too. But, just for fun, here are the ones I will definitely be ignoring: Apps and devices that will work together to send me messages about my plants No. Way too fussy. And unnecessary. I do like plant ID apps though and informative ones like Armitage’s. Though—when it comes to getting info on your device, Wikipedia and the various extension websites are fairly comprehensive, depending on your needs. Plant “tables” This came up when one of my garden designer friends suggested I have a succulent table. I can see why some might find that novel and attractive, but I like the easy mobility of cont..
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European Garden Travels with Carolyn by Susan Harris

Vlinderhof If I ever go on a European garden tour, I’ll choose one that features gardens that are interesting to American gardeners and designers and about gardening today, not the usual tour of gardens that are over 100 years old. It might be a tour designed and led by garden designer Carolyn Mullet, especially the one she calls Piet Oudolf and Dutch Wave Gardens. Here’s the lucky bunch on last summer’s inaugural tour. Writer Helen Yoest was one of the lucky tour-goers (seen standing in the photo to the left of Piet Oudolf) and raved about it in this blog post and this one, in which she explains the Dutch Wave movement and its connection to prairie fardens, meadow lawns, and similar naturalistic styles. She devoted a whole blog post to Oudolf’s own garden. Helen emailed me to add that “What was especially interesting about this tour was that it was a Dutch Wave Movement root-tracing tour…The highlight of the trip was visiting Hummelo and meeting Piet and his wife Anja. Carolyn (R..
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Preserves work in every season by Elizabeth Licata

While I do enjoy visiting the warm glasshouses of our splendid botanical garden during the winter, the experience can pall. Though it’s lovely to view orchids, bromeliads, succulents, towering palms, and a wide variety of tropical oddities, it can get to be a bit routine. And you’re not getting much of a workout. Fortunately, a non-skiing plant and wildlife lover has plenty of options in the winter—even in Buffalo. A few weeks back, I visited one of six Audubon Society sites that hug the southeastern edges of Western New York. The main site, Beaver Meadow, is in the wonderfully named North Java (pronounced Jaiva, OK?). It has a visitor’s center that is lined with windows in the back, all the better to catch the action around a large group of feeders. Beyond the feeders are wooded trails around a large pond. You can comfortably watch the birds from inside, or go outside and hang quietly—they come right back. Then you can take a walk around the pond and take in the undeniable beauty of ..
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Sustainable Cow Pots for Better Garden Plants by Thomas Christopher

The best kind of sustainability is to take a waste product and turn it into a valuable resource; to turn garbage, as it were, into gold. There’s a farm family in northwestern Connecticut doing just that these days, and in the process it’s also creating an opportunity for gardeners. Amanda Freund is, along with her sister Rachel and brother Isaac, the third generation of her family to work the Freund Family Farm in East Canaan, Connecticut. Historically it has been a dairy farm and the Freunds still milk some 300 cows. Keeping that kind of herd creates a potential for serious pollution: the farm’s acreage sits in the watershed of two rivers and its cows deposit some 30,000 lbs. of manure and urine every day. But, says Amanda. her father Matthew decided to treat the manure piling up in the barn not as a problem but as an opportunity. Twenty years ago he installed a digester that extracts methane from the manure, producing enough gas to heat the family home while also separating the man..
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Public Gardeners Tackle the 2016 Blizzard by Susan Harris

Did you all see the Smithsonian’s blizzard video? You know, the panda playing in the snow. You probably shared it. But to this gardener, the blizzard story I love wasn’t online anywhere. It’s about horticulturists sleeping on cots at the Smithsonian and other public gardens – deliberately, not because they’re snowed in. Their winter duties include being there ahead of blizzards, because they’re the snow-removers. And thanks to the Smithsonian’s butterfly garden horticulturist, James Gagliardi, there are photos to tell the story. Here he is in warmer times, then measuring snow during the blizzard, along with James’s photo of some of the food provided to the gang of 20 Smithsonian gardeners who spent three nights on cots and four long days clearing snow. In the evenings they played card games, watched TV (for weather news, I was told, but surely not just that!) and for some, dropped in at the nearby Holiday Inn that managed to stay open. And for James, snow-removal doesn’t start unti..
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My Granddaughter and I Take On Johnny Appleseed by Allen Bush

Should we strive for a “blemish-free, plastic-red saccharine orb” in Salvisa? I don’t think so. Shutterstock photo. As a young boy, I would have chosen a gumdrop tree over an apple tree any day. Baked apples, applesauce and candied apples were my answer to An Apple a Day. Any apple coated with sugar was worth sampling. My mother would throw a fresh apple into my lunch box, but the Hostess Twinkie was what I wanted. That fresh, locally grown apple was there in case of starvation. But last year, with a little more seasoning, I returned to apple trees. Until then ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ was the only apple I’d ever planted. The delicious dessert apple, very popular in England, died from neglect the first year. That was 35 years ago. It has taken me this long to build up courage to try growing apples again. I planted a little orchard on our farm in Salvisa, KY, last March. Four trees. The heirlooms ‘Black Twig’ and ‘Arkansas Black’ will be new additions this year. My friend, Jamie Docker..
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Catching up with Dr. A by Elizabeth Licata

Here we are at the Plant WNY CNLP Education Day (totally insider/geek event) It’s been a while! Horticulturalist, professor, breeder, and—as we know him best—author of Herbaceous Perennial Plants and many other standard texts on garden plants, Allan Armitage, has been absent from our blog pages for a couple years. I was happy to hear that he was the featured speaker at a Buffalo industry event—the annual Plant WNY CNLP conference—Friday and stole him from his local fans long enough for an interview. Here’s what we talked about: Gardening trends Armitage firmly believes the standard gardening space has changed: “The garden of today is the deck/patio/porch/veranda. People like you and me (hardcore gardeners) will do what we always do, but big gardens are becoming small, solution-based gardens. People are decorating with plants, and, though independent garden centers are holding their own, most are shopping at the big boxes. People get containers and they choose plants by colors. They’r..
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