#TBT: Top ten houseplants, according to me by Elizabeth Licata

From a local orchid show It’s houseplant time, at least in the northerly zones. So it seems like a good time to repeat this post from November 2008. I think I pretty much agree with this list, except maybe the sansevieria and the spathiphyllum, both of which I’ve gotten sick of. And I think I’d be tempted to move seasonal bulbs to #1. (I don’t know why I had African violets at #1. Maybe the order wasn’t in terms of preference—I do not remember.—Elizabeth This was requested in a comment to my recent Behind closed doors post, so I am obliging. But don’t expect any big surprises, or even much originality. There’s something about indoor gardening that breeds impatience. Even the most conscientious of us would rather not be bothered by too much fussing over our interior plants, no matter how long they have served well and faithfully. Here’s the key to my simple numerical rankings: Killability: 1 (You may as well compost this now)-5 (You could maybe kill this with boiling acid) Beauty: 1..
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The bad leaf advice—it’s baaack! by Elizabeth Licata

My leaves are not as pretty as this. It’s that time of year again—gardeners are getting silly advice from the Wildlife Federation and other nature-centric organizations about why they should try to leave their leaves in place to provide wildlife habitat and “natural mulch.” Many gardening columnists and Facebookers are picking up the NWF’s 2014 “Leave the Leaves for Wildlife” post and running with it—again. I won’t go into the reasons this is mainly BS for most gardeners, as Susan has already done a fine job with that in this post. (Suffice it to say she calls this “terrible, no-good gardening advice” and proceeds from there.) I am among the many gardeners who do not live in natural forest environments. I have a winding, urban garden surrounded by (mainly) big maples that dump big, fat mats of never-decomposing leaves all over my property in late November. These must be removed; they smother plants and soil and won’t be any easier to get rid of in spring. So I bag them up and leave m..
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Bulb-Forcing Videos by Susan Harris

Forcing spring-blooming bulbs is a popular topic here on the Rant, thanks to Elizabeth, our bulb-forcer extraordinaire. She inspired us at Good Gardening Videos to find videos demonstrating bulb-forcing to recommend to viewers – people like me who learn best by being shown. These 8 videos on the topic have been selected by our horticultural consultant, Carol Allen. “Forcing Bulbs in Glass Vases and Containers” by White Flower Farm. “Forcing Bulbs for Winter Color Indoors” by Planet Natural Garden Supply Co. in Bozeman, MT. “Spring Bulbs for Christmas” by Grow Veg in the U.K. Amaryllis “How to Plant Amaryllis” by Better Homes and Gardens. “Planting Amaryllis Bulbs” by Laura at Garden Answer. “Forcing Amaryllis Bulbs” by Central Texas Gardener. Paperwhites “The Secret to Growing Short Paperwhites” by Garden Answer. “Growing Paperwhites Indoors” by P. Allen Smith. Bulb-Forcing Videos originally appeared on Garden Rant on November 12, 2016.
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“Most Beautiful Bike Trail in the East” by Susan Harris

Need some calming images? I sure do, so I’m sharing a few from my glorious visit to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware last week, where I greeted this sunrise. I always rent a bike at the beach, then cruise around slowly, admiring the residential landscaping. But for this visit I took the advice of a long-time bicycler who told me he’d lived all over the U.S. and recommended the trail through Henlopen State Park as the most beautiful in the East. No argument here. It’s gorgeous and utterly flat – my kind of bike trail. None of the plants along the way are ones I’d seen in gardens. Along the way there are some historical landmarks, like Fort Miles, where I posed my rented bike for this shot. There are foot path options for when your butt needs a break from the bike seat. I passed this on the way to lunch in Lewes, a lovely historic town. The weather was grand, warm enough to lie on the beach or in my case, walk for miles, saying goodbye to the ocean for the season before coming home to the..
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Don’t forget to vote—and even if your candidate doesn’t win, you can win this book! by Elizabeth Licata

We have a winner! Congrats: Linda Gribko! We posted about All the Presidents’ Gardens when Timber ran a contest to win a trip to DC, but didn’t get into too much detail. It’s a really fun book; it’s also very well-researched by author Marta McDowell and exhaustively covers every administration from George Washington to Barack Obama, complete with lists of head gardeners and plants. Readers will find that Frances Cleveland (1885–1889, 1893–1897) was the first to plant Japanese maples at the White House and that Henry Pfister, my favorite of the WH head gardeners, had almost a dozen forcing houses, including two for roses, one for grapes, one for violets, and two for orchids. Those were the days. Bulb forcing was common and Ffister grew over 300 pots of fuchsias. He also seemed to have been obsessed with a plant I’ve never heard of, cineraria, sort of a bushy combination of daisy and dianthus. It’s a long way from the prosaic bedding schemes of many public institutions today. The Kenn..
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Aunt Rose’s Garden by Allen Bush

On Washington’s National Mall with Aunt Rose. The sun rose along the Potomac River on Monday morning and swept across a canopy of bright fall colors. Quickly reaching the huge silver maple, along the fenced property line, then swung straight down the middle of Aunt Rose’s long, narrow Georgetown garden. Nothing momentous had happened overnight. The elections weren’t until the next day. As the city came alive, the purple monkshoods looked as fresh in November as they would have a month earlier. Nothing could stop a blue Lobelia siphilitica, flowering surprisingly late in the season from a crack in the brick walk. The translucent, triangular seedpods of the hardy Begonia grandis were ripening. Monkshood, Aconitum carmichaelii. Rose Blakely has lived and gardened in Georgetown for six decades. She worked for Republican senators on Capitol Hill for many years. Those were different times. There was more political give and take across the aisle between Republicans and Democrats. I suspec..
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Stone Moving by Thomas Christopher

“Old School” That is how a man from the local quarry described my methods of lifting and moving stones. I use no machinery more complicated than a pair of wooden timbers – “shears” – lashed together with hemp rope, and a block and tackle or, at most, a “come-along,” a hand-cranked winch. Skeptical though he was, the quarryman couldn’t deny that I get the job done. With my simple equipment I have slowly lifted and swung into place stones weighing more than 1,000 lbs. I use these 19th century implements and methods not just because I am thrifty. It’s true, I don’t own a backhoe and don’t care to rent one. But I also prefer the pace of the old tools. Moving stones with heavy equipment is an almost casual process: you jerk the stone from the ground and plunk it down, and if you don’t like the result, you just snatch it up again. When working with hand tools, however, moving a stone is a deliberate process. You must confront the stone first, assess how its weight is distributed and how t..
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Marijuana, the Hottest Plant in Horticulture by Susan Harris

Have you noticed what’s on the shelves in the gardening section of what’s left of book stores? LOTS of new or newly updated guides to growing marijuana, medical or otherwise. The bookstore-challenged can search “marijuana horticulture” on Amazon and find over 400 titles! Marijuana blogs are also hot, reporting on advocacy and regulatory issues, in addition to horticultural techniques. Two popular ones are The Weed Blog and the Growing Marijuana Blog. (By the way, a little reading has informed me that “marijuana” is considered by some to be a racist term for “cannabis” – because using the Spanish word associates the drug with a minority group. Before the move to criminalize pot it was apparently referred to by the more neutral and scientific term.) The latest example of marijuana-mania is the news that Scotts Miracle-Gro is all in, to the tune of $400 million! From Forbes: This spring Miracle-Gro took its pot plan on the road. It began selling a new line of hydroponics equipment and..
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The HORROR (II) by Elizabeth Licata

Halloween could not be better timed in terms of horticultural nightmares for the Western New York gardener. It’s a wet, gray time; leaves are falling, perennial foliage is shriveling, and outdoor tasks are undertaken in an atmosphere of chilly reluctance. Welcome to my world of fright and despair. Ugh This is what they call fall interest. Beware I neglected to send the check to the Farmer Pirates, so this bucket’s been sitting with the same stuff in it for months now. Bulbapalooza Really? What was the thinking here? Jungleland Oh no. It won’t be a hassle keeping these alive through the winter. Terror from above They wait. Just in time to ruin Thanksgiving weekend, these trees will empty themselves, covering everything in a sodden mass. What happened? It seems like only days ago, I had a relatively attractive exterior space, with a reasonable amount of color and scent. It was nice! Boo, I say. Boo. The HORROR (II) originally appeared on Garden Rant on October 31, 2016.
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Turning a City Corner into a Garden by Susan Harris

I got really tired of looking at this weedy corner, just a block from my home. A city-owned spot, it was filled with poison ivy, English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, and volunteer shrubs impeding driver visibility. So in August I began The Great Clean-up, which yielded a ginormous pile of plant material to be hauled away. Unfortunately, the clean-up also yielded this sting and about nine others like it. I took this selfie and posted it online, looking for help identifying whatever had attacked me en masse as I was pulling English ivy away from the base of a tree. I had neither seen nor heard any insects, so was surprised by what felt like needles suddenly jabbing into assorted parts of my body, including spots covered with layers of clothing. Whatever the insects were (probably some ground-nesting wasp), they hurt like hell and had me totally spooked. So I waited until this month to continue the clean-up, in hopes that they’d be gone and thankfully, they were. (I’m told they were kill..
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