Robinson Crusoe’s Ten Favorite Perennials by Allen Bush

It’s the dead of winter, and you might be wishing you were stranded—with amenities—on a desert island with Robinson Crusoe. But Robinson Crusoe is not on a desert island. He is stuck in Kentucky. Crusoe is not afraid of cannibals or mutineers, but he is tired of scraping ice off the car windshield. You may dream of fresh beach towels and fruity tropical drinks, but when Crusoe stares out the window, he sees only ashen skies. Crusoe worries about Donald Trump’s presidency, also, but he is resolute. He vows to be a good citizen and make his garden great again, but these are difficult times. Snowdrop, crocus and witch hazel blooms are weeks away. Crusoe is growing moody. He remembers the advice of his father during the atomic bomb scare in the very early 60s. Crusoe’s elementary school teacher polled the class every Monday morning, asking how much progress each family had made on its bomb shelter. Eventually, everyone had a retreat from certain Russian annihilation, except, of course..
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Planting Trees to Attract Birds

Landscape Design Misc Trees Tree Planting Planting Trees to Attract Birds By Brianne Wolff | January 5, 2017 While birds are a joy to watch and listen to all year long, it is particularly during the long winter months when their bright and cheerful presence is even more appreciated. Following an especially cold and dreary winter, the coming of spring brings thoughts of planting trees and shrubs to attract these delightful feathered friends. While they certainly enrich our lives with their presence when they grace our yards and gardens, we, too, can do much for them by providing necessary food sources and habitat. By planting certain species of trees and shrubs, you can provide year-long natural food sources for these creatures, particularly during times of year when food is scarce. Selecting several trees or shrubs that have berries during different times of the year are great choices—and most also provide beauty in the form of spring blossoms or vibrant fall foliage. Gre..
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The myth of the plant killer by Elizabeth Licata

I find bulbs are my most reliable houseplants. May 2017 be the year that nobody insists to me that they have a “black thumb.” Except that I know it won’t happen. I was at a small New Year’s Eve party when one of my non-gardening friends asked for advice about an aspidistra (cast iron plant) she’d just received as a gift, adding the usual “I kill plants” confession. It was kind of cute, and totally sincere. She wants to keep her gift alive. But if she doesn’t, it won’t be because she has a “black thumb.” It’s because houses are dangerous places for plants—in fact, the only time that someone tells me she’s killed a plant, it’s always a houseplant. Most of the houses where I live are centrally-heated in winter, fairly dry, and fairly dark—in other words, plant hell. I always have a hard time keeping my plants alive through the winter; right now, I have a lemon tree and a ficus that are just barely hanging in there—this is why I like forcing bulbs—and I’ve seen many others perish. But th..
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Society of Municipal Arborists Announces its 2017 Urban Tree of the Year: Chestnut Oak

Misc Trees Society of Municipal Arborists Announces its 2017 Urban Tree of the Year: Chestnut Oak By Michelle Sutton | January 3, 2017 The 2017 SMA Urban Tree of the Year is native to much of the Eastern United States. Hikers from New York to Tennessee who ascend to dry ridges will often see the deeply furrowed, blocky barked trunks of chestnut oak (Quercus montana) (syn. Q. prinus). The bark is so distinctive, it may be the only ID feature one needs. There’s growing interest in using chestnut oak in the urban environment because it is pH-adaptable, handles dry soils and periods of drought, has a beautiful mature form, requires minimal pruning, and tends to be free of major pests and diseases. The common name “chestnut oak” owes to the leaves looking like those of American chestnut (Castanea dentata) and indeed both are members of the beech family, Fagaceae. Other common names for chestnut oak include rock oak, rock chestnut oak, or mountain oak—referring to its customar..
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2016 Year in Review

The Bug Chicks - A site for parents, teachers and bugdorks. Sometimes you have a year that just blows you away. For us, 2016 was that year. It was an incredible year with awesome opportunities and forward momentum. As you read this, it may seem that I (Kristie) handle the majority of the work. This is because Jess got a full-time job back in 2015 so that I could restructure the business. We are moving away from a local workshop based biz model to a more national brand focusing on video, consulting and teacher training. It’s the only way we will be able to survive and THRIVE. We still teach children across the states, but will have more ways to reach people! Jess joins me for big brand events, but currently I handle the business, teaching, writing and partnerships. (Buy me coffee??) Don’t worry- Jess is still a Bug Chick and my BFF! Hopefully, Jess can come back to full-time soon. I started this business (Solpugid Productions which grew into The Bug Chicks) back in 2004 and Jess and ..
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Goals for a New Year by Thomas Christopher

I have eschewed New Year’s resolutions this year – I typically set myself impossible goals such as moderating my seed purchases and then feel doubly badly about the ensuing order-orgy. But I do have some goals for 2017. I’m going to cap the cost of my seed expenditures by indulging my impulse purchases at Pinetree Garden Seeds. This family-owned business offers a very impressive selection of heirloom and organically produced seeds. Most of these items sell for less than $2.00 per packet, considerably less than the $3.95 and up I am finding to be standard at my other favorite retailers. I’ve always been pleased by the quality of the seeds I have received from Pinetree, so why not indulge myself at a bargain rate? I’m not going to try grafting tomatoes again this year. I noticed no difference in the performance, in my garden, of grafted and un-grafted plants. I’m going to broaden my horizons and focus on design rather than just plant accumulation. Specifically, I’m looking forward to ..
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The Landscapes of McMansion Hell by Susan Harris

For making me laugh while I learn, I LOVE the architecture critic Kate Wagner and her highly opinionated blog McMansion Hell. Who could resist her “Pringles Can of Shame ™” award in the photo above? So I recommend McMansion Hell for making me laugh and for educating me with “What the Hell is Modern Architecture?,” the “Pictorial History of Suburbia,” and other great stuff on the site. Now to readers who might suspect sheer snobbery in Kate’s snarky criticisms, rest assured that there’s a higher purpose behind it all – making the point that McMansions are bad for the environment. She’s a proponent of dense, walkable and diverse neighborhoods. So I wasn’t surprised to find McMansion 101 – Landscaping, where Kate rants about the humongous yards and ridiculous plantings around these overbuilt homes. She begins with pointing out three common “Yard Tropes,” like the tiny “Soul Patch” of turfgrass. Haven’t we all seen seen plants around homes that were mere “obligatory green bits” and won..
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8 Uses for your Tree After Christmas

Holiday Misc Trees 8 Uses for your Tree After Christmas By Sheereen Othman | December 29, 2016 The end of Christmas doesn’t have to be the end of life for your living Christmas tree. If you had a real Christmas tree you can extend its life and use beyond the home. Here are 8 ways to responsibly recycle your Christmas tree for other purposes. Mulch The most common use for your tree is to make mulch or compost out of it. Whether it’s with the woodchips or needles, mulch is a great way to keep your yard trees healthy and moist during the cold winter season. Pine needles are full of nutrients that enhance the PH of your soil if its more alkaline and allow your soil to breathe without becoming dense and compacted. 2. Wildlife habitat The tree doesn’t have to be living for wildlife to take over. Hang bird feeders to attract birds and watch your tree evolves into a bird sanctuary. Other critters will soon follow as they nest in the branches of the tree. 3. Fish Feeder Whe..
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Dying on the Vine? Part I by Allen Bush

2015 Baltimore Perennial Plant Association (PPA) symposium. (L-R): Ed Snodgrass, Mary Vaananen, Georg Uebelhart, Allen Bush and Mary Anne Thornton. This is the first of a two-part series on the decline of plant societies and garden clubs. Tomorrow, Scott Beuerlein explains how to dig out of the hole. Many of us who garden, and who benefit from garden group gatherings, have kept quiet about the decline of plant society and garden club memberships. We don’t like to talk about our sense of loss. We feel the same as we did when our teenagers came home two hours late after curfew. We scolded the kids to little avail and kept quiet about it with others. We didn’t want the neighbors across the street to call Child Protective Services. 2006 PPA at Expo Flora Montréal. It’s hard to predict what will happen to most of these plant groups in ten years. Maybe gardeners will cloister again behind a monastery wall, sow seeds and preserve plant species. After all, the Gingko, extinct in the wild, ..
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At the closing of the year by Elizabeth Licata

I always leave this stuff up as long as possible. In our region, the end of the year corresponds rather neatly with the end of the gardening season. Yesterday (Boxing Day), I was texting with a friend who was taking advantage of the freakishly balmy temps to finally getting some bulbs planted I had given him. He wanted to know how deep. It’s a bit risky to plan bulbs this late, as they won’t have much time to get established, but better to do it than waste them. Aside from intermittent bulbing, though, there is little left to do gardening-wise. Now the back garden becomes a wildlife sanctuary (of sorts), with a suet feeder and a seed feeder set up by the pond. The seed feeder is squirrel-proof; if a squirrel jumps on it, the outer guard comes down, blocking him (or her) from the seeds; it seems to work pretty well. The suet is also somewhat enclosed; only smaller birds can get to it. There are also plenty of pickings on the ground. Do I wish we had more interesting birds? Yes. But I’..
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