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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Can you guess the species of this pupa?

The Bug Chicks - A site for parents, teachers and bugdorks. The other night in the kitchen as we were cleaning up after dinner, I came across a small green caterpillar on the counter. It must have come from some of our produce. I immediately wanted to photograph it and get it under the scope. But also, it was late, I had just washed a bunch of dishes and I was feeling lazy so I put it in a mason jar with the intention of dealing with it the next day. When I picked up the jar the next morning I didn’t see the small green caterpillar. I thought maybe it had escaped. Or maybe the little rascal had pupated! I opened the lid and my suspicions were confirmed. A beautiful little green chrysalis was attached to the lid. Let’s get oriented. Below you can see that this pupae is upside down on the lid. It created a sling out of silk in order to stabilize and attach itself to the lid. That’s the dorsal side (back) of the thorax and the wings will form wrapped around the front of the body. The ..
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Kentucky’s Ark Encounter Stalled in Dry Dock by Allen Bush

The re-creation of Noah’s ark, sitting in dry dock, six miles from Dry Ridge, Kentucky, looks like a gargantuan Pez dispenser laid on its side. The ark sits in the distance across a dry lake meant to be symbolic of the Biblical flood, but the lake doesn’t hold water. Weeds claimed dominion over the lakebed by mid-October. Gardens that might be planned will have to wait. If “gardens are an “expression of faith” and “the embodiment of hope,” then the Ark Encounter, in Northern Kentucky, is in desperate need of salvation. There is no tree of life at the Ark Encounter. There are scarcely any trees at all. The bedraggled landscaping is now a cheap, boring and paltry mix of chrysanthemums, begonias and kale that you might see planted at any fast food joint. “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground…” Northern Kentucky was once completely tree covered. Ask yourself what will keep tourists coming back once they’ve seen the ark. Consider praying for epic gardens. In c..
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This is the other thing I like about David Austin roses by Elizabeth Licata

On Saturday, my stylist was showing me her long hedge of Knock Outs (various colors, don’t know the type) in front of her house and I have to admit I was a bit jealous. She then remarked that she needed to “cut them all back,” and I tried to tactfully urge her against any such action at this time. She probably will anyway. The next day, I glanced back at my hidden garden/jungle-of-weeds that takes advantage of a narrow south-facing space between my garage and the neighbor’s back garden. I was pleased to see that my ridiculously huge David Austin ‘Darcey Bussell’ was loaded with viable buds. They were also on really tall stems, just as you’d see with a hybrid tea. (The DA English roses tend to have sprays, more like floribundas.) I could easily have cut 5-foot stems, like the novelty ones you see around Valentine’s Day. These roses get going in May and continue into November. The catalog description, like most of the DAs, falsely promises short shrubbiness, but all of my roses from thi..
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3 Take-aways from Garden Writer Meet-ups by Susan Harris

I love hanging out with other garden writers, and have done quite a bit of that this year – at several local and regional events and especially, the Garden Blogger Fling in Minneapolis and the Garden Writers conference in Atlanta. I caught up with old friends, made new ones, and had fun. But did I learn anything useful? Pick up any tips? Three take-aways come to mind. On a tour-bus in Minneapolis I noticed several bloggers using a portable iPhone charger that’s surprisingly small, lightweight, and cheap – just 13 bucks. I bought one and now use it all the time. To illustrate how small it is for this post I asked one of my cats to pose with it – because we just don’t have enough cat pics here on the Rant. In Atlanta I attended a talk by Seth Reed and Mason Day about social media in which we were told that the best way to reach gardeners these days is with Pinterest. My first reaction was along the lines of “Oh crap!” at the thought of doing yet another social media platform. But then..
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