The American Arborvitae

Tree of the Week The American Arborvitae By Sheereen Othman | January 17, 2017 Thuja occidentalis Did you know the American Arborvitae was the first North American tree introduced to Europe? In fact, that’s how it earned its scientific name. Occidentalis means “west,” the direction from Sweden where the tree was discovered. Once colonists took the tree back with them to Europe, it quickly grew as a popular species in landscapes and gardens. But the beauty of this evergreen wasn’t the only trait colonists introduced to Europe, they also introduced natural remedies derived from the arborvitae that they learned from the Natives. The needles on the arborvitae was a cure for scurvy and full of vitamin C. Natives called the tree oo-soo-ha-tah, which meant “feather leaf” because of the flat, feather like leaves the arborvitae had. The common name, arborvitae is the Latin form of the French phrase “l’arbre de vie,” which translates to “the tree of life.” Indeed, this tree has ..
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A trendy wish list for 2017 by Elizabeth Licata

These salvia came in inexpensive 4-packs from a benefit sale. Not having even looked at any of the usual predictions or surveys regarding general gardening behavior, here is my wishful thinking for the coming year: More six-packs, fewer pricy branded pots I am lucky enough to be able to order interesting new cultivars from the yearly sale our botanical gardens has—and they actually come in 4- and 6-packs for $4. Such packaging is becoming ever more rare. At the garden center, I know I’ll be seeing the usual 4.5-inch (sometimes already root-bound) pots of branded annuals for as much as $6-7. Sure, they have 6-packs, but they make sure they’re the most boring, has-been plants in the joint. No more Plant Nite emails from Groupon These are killing succulents for me. Most of the promotional shots show some fishbowl-type containers with lurid hues of colored sand layered below a few plants and maybe a couple of those rocks that have words on them. I’m assuming the wine must make these see..
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New African American Museum’s Landscape by Susan Harris

Photo credit: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let’s visit the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, located on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The critically praised building is the work of Tanzania-born, London-based architect David Adjaye. I see from his firm’s website that he’s about to be knighted. Photo credit: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol The museum has been SO popular since its opening in September that I haven’t fought the crowds and wait times to see the inside – yet – but did pay a visit in October to check out the landscape by Seattle-based landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson of Seattle. The water feature shown above – called a scrim – is a signature of Gustafson’s work and I’ll have to assume it’s here because I couldn’t get anywhere near it. Fencing to control crowds obscures the view for anyone without a ticket (that would be me). This is as close as I could get. So for a tour of the design ..
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What Makes Good Coffee?

Arbor Day Coffee What Makes Good Coffee? By Jon Ferguson | January 12, 2017 Arbor Day coffee is organically grown under the canopy of the rain forest in Latin America. Every delicious cup you drink preserves 2 square feet of rain forest, provides growers with a fair wage, improves local infrastructure and increases access to healthcare and education. The simple act of drinking responsibly grown coffee can make a big difference. Measuring the Quality of Coffee As the Foundation’s coffee quality specialist, I’m responsible for ensuring all coffee sold by the Foundation meets quality standards set forth by our coffee team. Our goals are to make sure all coffee selected from our network of shade grown farms are delivered to exceptional standards and roasted to perfection. But I’m often asked, how is the quality of coffee defined? Jon Ferguson coffee cupping. How often do you find yourself in a conversation with a friend or family member who has a completely different pref..
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Butterfly weed—why not by Elizabeth Licata

Many of you have heard that 2017’s “Perennial Plant of the Year” is Asclepias tuberosa/butterfly weed. It’s not a surprising choice—attention to attracting and supporting pollinators, especially butterflies, especially monarchs, has been peaking for the past few years and shows no sign of declining. A good thing. Normally, I pay scant attention to “plants of the year” and all the other marketing ploys (trends, predictions, surveys) put forth by the gardening industry. And, no, I will not be using a trademark symbol anywhere in this post. But. In this case, the announcement happened to coincide with another email I received, this one from a local nature preserve, Reinstein Woods. Reinstein is holding a native plant sale to benefit the organization (a lovely preserve that features educational outdoor programs all year round, even at this time of year) and help spread the word about the benefits of native plants. Included in the sale is just about every type of milkweed, including this ..
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The Pioneer Cabin Tree

Misc Trees National Forests Tree of the Week The Pioneer Cabin Tree By Sheereen Othman | January 10, 2017 When great trees fall in forests, small things recoil into silence, their senses eroded beyond fear. When Great Trees Fall, Maya Angelou Photo Credit | Flickr, Malina Jones One of the country’s most iconic trees toppled over Sunday afternoon as result of heavy winter storms hitting California and Nevada. The “Pioneer Cabin Tree” as it was named, was one of a few tunnel sequoia trees in California. The tree was located on Calavera Big Trees State Park —a state park protecting two groves of giant sequoia trees. The Pioneer Cabin Tree was one of the park’s most visited trees. The Pioneer Cabin Tree’s exact age isn’t known, but other trees in the park are estimated to be more than 1,000 years old. A tunnel was carved into the 32-foot diameter trunk of the of the tree back in the 1880s, and for awhile, cars could drive through the tunnel. In recent time, only hikers an..
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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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