#TBT: GardenRant Takes Over the World by Garden Rant

Dear readers: We’re fast approaching the 10th anniversary of GardenRant’s arrival on the web – June 13, 2016. So to start the celebrations, we’re posting oldies but goodies – for Throwback Thursday. GardenRant wasn’t announced here, though – no one would have found it on its first day. Co-founder Amy Stewart made the announcement on her blog, and it starts us off with a bang. The GardenRant team will be celebrating our first decade all year, and invite you to join us! A few months ago, I started talking with Susan Harris of Takoma Gardener and Michele Owens of Sign of the Shovel about a modest little idea we had to stage a horticultural revolt. We were tired of what the mainstream gardening media has to offer–warmed-over garden tips, repurposed press releases about the ten thousandth new coleus on the market, dull little essays about the wonders of spring–and we were convinced that bloggers could overthrow the gardening establishment in the way that they are transforming coverage of p..
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When The Aster Hitched a Ride by Allen Bush

I received a letter from Raydon (pronounced RAYd’n) Alexander 25 years ago. A passalong plant was on the road to distinction. Aster ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ at the National Arboretum. Photo courtesy of Caroline Seay Borgman and the Garden Club of America. January 15, 1991 Dear Mr. Bush, I am taking the liberty of sending you an aster that should, I think, be more widely distributed. I can see from your catalogue that you have a healthy interest in the genus. I was especially delighted to find A. grandiflorus. If you find the item I am sending as garden worthy and distinctive as I have, it seems only natural that you should be the one to offer it to the world of perennial lovers at large. This particular variety…I will call it ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ (for it certainly is) you may call it what your will…has been passed from garden to garden in South Texas for at least 50 years but until very recently was not available in nurseries even locally and remained unidentified. Since no other ast..
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Wild means wild by Elizabeth Licata

Erythronium americanum image courtesy of Shutterstock The season is almost upon us here in Western New York. Snowdrops came and went in early February, though I see just a few late bloomers emerging—they might be some fancy hybrids I put in last September. I don’t bother with crocuses, but do expect plenty of lesser-used ephemerals—like eranthis—and I would love to have some early native wildflowers. But therein lies the rub. They just don’t want to stay. I’ve tried. We have an excellent native plant nursery nearby that has supplied Central Park and others, and several area garden centers make an effort with woodland natives. So far, however, I’ve pretty much wasted my money. I was warned about mayapple (Podophyllum), but no need—it’s been introduced into a few shady, dampish places, but it couldn’t care less. It refuses to take over my garden, as my mother-in-law said it would. Hepatica disappeared almost immediately. Trillium struggles, and the jury’s still out on Arisaema triphyl..
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How to Have a Flowering Lawn by Thomas Christopher

Last week I spotted the first snow crocuses (Crocus chrysanthus) and snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) opening their flowers in my lawn — they are just one of the benefits of the fine fescue grasses that I grow as turf. These grasses are the basis of the “no-mow” lawns that you see advertised by various companies, especially Prairie Nursery and Wildflower Farm (which sells its seed mix as “Eco-Lawn”) . I actually make up my own mix of half a dozen different cultivars of hard, Chewings and creeping red fescues, buying the seed from a local retailer and blending it myself. If your conditions suit these grasses – you need a well-drained, preferably not-too-rich soil – they offer a number of advantages. They are drought and shade tolerant and they are naturally short so they can be kept neat with just 3-4 mowings a year, or even allowed to grow un-cut if you don’t mind a more tousled look. This last point brings us back to my early spring bulbs. These are difficult to naturalize in a convent..
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It’s the Year of Garden-Park Connections by Susan Harris

Have you heard that 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service? Well, here’s the press release, and here’s Find Your Park, a growing collection of stories about people connecting with the parks. (The connection is easy for Michelle Obama – she lives in one, and has family connections to another one – the Pullman National Monument.) The Park Service Centennial will be getting tons of attention when the Philadelphia Flower Show opens today because the theme this year is “Explore America: 100 years of the National Park Service.” I’m attending the show next week, so more will be revealed. I’ve already gotten into the centennial spirit, though – thanks to an art contest and exhibit by the Park Service and the U.S. Botanic Garden. They solicited artworks portraying indigenous plants in any of the 400+ national parks, in any medium. (The results are on display until October 2.) Works by 78 artists were chosen from hundreds of entries showing off plants from such parks as Gr..
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Trump, a Cabbage Palm or Sassafras by Allen Bush

Photo courtesy of Andrew Cline and shutterstock.com I had no idea it was National Margarita Day. A Sanibel Island waitress mentioned it to us a few weeks ago. I was trying to focus on palm trees, but Donald Trump, his outsize ego and disturbing pretense, wouldn’t go away. I ordered a margarita. My aunt and brother-in-law were vacationing on Sanibel Island with Rose and me. I offered lessons in palm tree identification on morning beach walks. We spent afternoons reading, napping or spotting blue herons and white pelicans at the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Milton, my brother-in-law, was my best pupil. He easily learned the coconut, royal and cabbage palms. Cabbage palm fronds. Walter Mondale was sitting at the table next to us when we ordered margaritas. A dangerous shift in national politics has occurred since he was a player in Washington. The Minnesota senator, and vice-president under Jimmy Carter, lost badly to Ronald Reagan in a 1984 bid for the presidency. That was..
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Garden Flags with Shibori and Permanent Dye by Susan Harris

The last time I posted about making garden flags you saw them dyed with Rit and then stenciled with acrylic paints. All 66 flags of them will hang in my front yard and screen my view of a parking lot. There’s another screening problem in my back yard, and this time I used tie-dye and other Shibori techniques of binding, stitching, folding, twisting, or compressing cloth that have been used since the 8th Century in Japan. Those techniques gave me the 42 flags above. Honestly, tie-dye never appealed to me, and I didn’t think the multi-color, psychedelic look would appeal much to my neighbors, either. But it turns out more subtle effects are possible. That’s what I learned by watching at least a dozen videos that taught me to create the rectangles, starburst, fan and stripes that created the flags above. I learned by watching these fold-technique videos, and these, too. Basic stripes are shown here. Here‘s one about why use fiber-reactive like Procion, rather than Rit. I used squeeze b..
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Trends I won’t be following this season by Elizabeth Licata

This is what’s trending in the house right now: Erlicheer tazettas from Old House Gardens At this time of year, the inboxes of garden writers (and editors of any genre) are flooded with trend report and predictions of what people will be planting, buying, and installing in the coming season. Most of it is so silly that my delete finger doesn’t stop moving enough to read more than a sentence or too. But, just for fun, here are the ones I will definitely be ignoring: Apps and devices that will work together to send me messages about my plants No. Way too fussy. And unnecessary. I do like plant ID apps though and informative ones like Armitage’s. Though—when it comes to getting info on your device, Wikipedia and the various extension websites are fairly comprehensive, depending on your needs. Plant “tables” This came up when one of my garden designer friends suggested I have a succulent table. I can see why some might find that novel and attractive, but I like the easy mobility of cont..
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European Garden Travels with Carolyn by Susan Harris

Vlinderhof If I ever go on a European garden tour, I’ll choose one that features gardens that are interesting to American gardeners and designers and about gardening today, not the usual tour of gardens that are over 100 years old. It might be a tour designed and led by garden designer Carolyn Mullet, especially the one she calls Piet Oudolf and Dutch Wave Gardens. Here’s the lucky bunch on last summer’s inaugural tour. Writer Helen Yoest was one of the lucky tour-goers (seen standing in the photo to the left of Piet Oudolf) and raved about it in this blog post and this one, in which she explains the Dutch Wave movement and its connection to prairie fardens, meadow lawns, and similar naturalistic styles. She devoted a whole blog post to Oudolf’s own garden. Helen emailed me to add that “What was especially interesting about this tour was that it was a Dutch Wave Movement root-tracing tour…The highlight of the trip was visiting Hummelo and meeting Piet and his wife Anja. Carolyn (R..
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Preserves work in every season by Elizabeth Licata

While I do enjoy visiting the warm glasshouses of our splendid botanical garden during the winter, the experience can pall. Though it’s lovely to view orchids, bromeliads, succulents, towering palms, and a wide variety of tropical oddities, it can get to be a bit routine. And you’re not getting much of a workout. Fortunately, a non-skiing plant and wildlife lover has plenty of options in the winter—even in Buffalo. A few weeks back, I visited one of six Audubon Society sites that hug the southeastern edges of Western New York. The main site, Beaver Meadow, is in the wonderfully named North Java (pronounced Jaiva, OK?). It has a visitor’s center that is lined with windows in the back, all the better to catch the action around a large group of feeders. Beyond the feeders are wooded trails around a large pond. You can comfortably watch the birds from inside, or go outside and hang quietly—they come right back. Then you can take a walk around the pond and take in the undeniable beauty of ..
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