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..
Tree of the Week
American Mountainash: The Witchwood Tree
By James R. Fazio | July 4, 2017
Looking for a shield to cast off witches and malevolence?
Travel back to 18th century Europe and residents would tell you to use mountainash wood as a guard to keeping witches away. Old folklore tells stories of people planting mountainash trees near the front of their houses and burning twigs to lay outside their home entrance to ward off evil. Some people went as far as making necklaces of ash wood. So, when colonists first moved to America and discovered American mountainash —cousin to the European mountainash — it was said that “the witches who crossed the ocean with the first colonists were soon exorcised by the very air and the sky of the New World.” The tree was said to bring good luck because of its five-pointed star, or pentagram, on the stalk of each berry. Pentagrams were considered symbols of protection. Although the tree may have been useful to keepin..
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..
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:
Which Small Trees will Work for your Yard?
By Sheereen Othman | June 28, 2017
Trees are great landscaping tools to beautifying your yard, creating privacy, and adding color. Numerous factors go into deciding what tree is suitable for your yard. Planting the right tree in the right place is crucial for the health of your trees, and for the safety of nearby structures. There are trees suitable for every landscape, including those with limited space.
Check out these small landscape trees that are perfect for adding color in smaller yards.
Sargent Crabapple Malus sargentii
This compact landscape tree is a spring star, with abundant clusters of fragrant white flowers making their appearance in May. Its dense, spreading crown and zigzagging branches add to the appeal, often making the tree wider than it is tall.
Because of its size, the Sargent crabapple is useful for planting under utility lines, in confined yards, as privacy screens and hedges and on slopi..
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..
Tree of the Week
Hackberry: One Tough Tree
By James R. Fazio | June 27, 2017
The hackberry has appropriately been called, “one tough tree.” Colonists had enough other trees to choose from that they didn’t pay much attention to the hackberry trees. They found them scattered throughout forests rather than in solid stands. The quality of the wood relegated its use mostly to barrel hoops. On the drier plains, it was used along with any other wood that could be obtained for flooring and other parts of the homestead. The first colonists paid it the indignity of calling it ‘hagberry.’ This was either mistaken identity or because they found it similar to the wild cherry species by that name in Scotland. The tree eventually became the ‘hackberry.’
This tree has some unique characteristics. The bark resembles warts on young trees and changes into ridges as the tree matures. Witches’ brooms are also common among hackberry trees. Witches’ broom is a disease where..
Not a good mix
This was to be a post touting the glorious weekend I had exploring the DC area with fellow garden bloggers. But, while I was away, I received news that a nest of birds we’d been hosting has possibly fallen prey to one of the many free-roaming/feral cats that plague our neighborhood. There are several of them—some obviously pets and some from the feral population—that regularly treat our courtyard garden as part of their territory. They’d like to get at the pond fish, but don’t want to risk immersion, and they are definitely after any and all birds. And, of course, they love to treat our garden as a great big litter box.
I have friends/neighbors who insist on letting their cats out, asserting that they deserve this freedom and that bird casualties are part of the cycle of life. Many scientists disagree with this stance, including ornithologist Peter Marra, who states in a National Geographic interview, “Domestic cats are as much a part of the natural order as a cow, pig..
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..
Community Tree Recovery
Community Tree Recovery Renews Hope in 2017
By Abbie Eisenhart | June 21, 2017
Jerry and Charlotte lived in their house for 39 years and watched as all but one of the trees they had planted and nurtured were destroyed.
“I felt sick to my stomach to see no trees. That’s what this town was built on, and that’s what I miss—the trees,” Charlotte told Arbor Day Foundation staff at a tree distribution event.
When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August of 2005, our members asked how the Arbor Day Foundation was planning to help. So many trees were needed to replace those lost in the hurricane, and we worked diligently to help get tens of thousands of those replaced. Those trees led to what the Community Tree Recovery program would become years later, when devastating tornados hit Alabama and Missouri in 2011.
Six years later, the Community Tree Recovery program continues to grow and expand. As of today, the program has planted or distributed more tha..