Across the country, flowers are transforming downtowns, attracting tourists to once sleepy river towns and becoming the centerpiece of communities’ destination events. And, for the past 18 years, America in Bloom has been fostering and rewarding these communities for their outstanding efforts.
At a past AIB national symposium, board member and economist Charlie Hall talked about the financial impact of plants. Statistics show horticulture creates 2 million jobs. Plus, America’s public gardens contribute $2.3 billion in community tourism spending, and stores with landscaped areas have expanded sales from longer shopping occasions and higher value pricing.
America in Bloom was founded in Columbus, Ohio, in 2001 and has since awarded top honors to several Midwestern communities. Here are videos sharing several stories. Perhaps, you’ll find inspiration for your own community or discover a new place to visit.
Holland, MI – Known for its famous tulip festival, Holland recently gave tulips fields a second life as they offered community garden plots during the summer months. In addition, 800 volunteers plant tulip bulbs in community parks and adopt beautification projects at museums and more.
St. Charles, IL – Located on the Fox River just west of Chicago, this community showcases its heritage, service and community beatification programs through America in Bloom. Its beautiful river attracted early settlers who relied on the river as a source of power and transportation. Today, the community mixes its cultural heritage with a hip vibrant downtown.
Logan, Ohio – Volunteers are the workhorse of this Appalachian community’s beautification efforts. Statistics show volunteers donated 85,900 hours and raised more than $90,000 for projects like the downtown street beautification, the gateway displays welcoming tourists to the region’s nature attractions and its Washboard Festival. Pretty impressive for a community of less than 10,000!
Special trees, like dogwoods, take root in your heart
By Michael Leach
The affair started with the first glance and continues almost a half century later. As with similar affairs, it’s unrequited love. The object of my affection couldn’t care less and never deigns to notice me. Yet enchantment grows and reaches fever pitch for about a fortnight each spring.
My aloof horticultural love in this case is the pink dogwood tree, Cornus florida f. rubra. I encountered pink dogwoods when taking a shortcut to church through an old cemetery near my apartment in the small southern Ohio city of Portsmouth. This was during my cub reporter days. Jaw-dropping clouds of cotton candy tethered daintily to slender black trunks were scattered across the sward of Irish green grass.
had to have one. I eventually bought two — as Mother’s Day gifts that I planted
at the home place in suburban Columbus. Mother, who had planted two white ones
in the yard, was delighted.
journalistic career took me from Portsmouth to Kentucky, Florida and finally
back to Columbus 30 years ago. I moved into the home place. Every spring since
then, I’ve had my own little pink cloud to look at. Sitting in an old wicker
rocker on the sunporch makes a comfortable, all-weather viewing spot.
of the pinks was cut down almost four years ago, new growth couldn’t keep up
with the dying branches. The second tree was stingy with flowers this spring,
after being a small cloud of pink in previous seasons. Perhaps this is only a
hiccup. Mother’s little white trees slowly declined and were cut down about 20
years ago. This is not great territory for dogwoods.
Portsmouth’s Greenlawn Cemetery launched a memorial pink dogwood plan in the
1990s. Even in that much friendlier clime, they aren’t known for
longevity. However, the ones that do live decades become spectacles. At the
base of many trees are small white marble markers with the names of special
people. Their horticultural legacy is a tree with burgundy foliage in fall, a
silhouette worthy of a Japanese print in winter, and those pink clouds every
recent years of semi-retirement there’s been time to head south to Portsmouth
for a view of the dogwoods. Along U.S. 23 are what could pass for tufts of
clouds that got too close to the branches of the chartreuse wooded hills. They
are groves of dainty white dogwoods, often accented with redbuds. It’s a 3-D
The allure and excitement never dims. Each spring I thank God for granting me another view of pink clouds. And each time I pass the little tree at the end of the sidewalk, I remember Mother.
It’s plant sale time and you will find me in the role of plant ambassador at the Chadwick Arboretum Sale on Friday morning from 8 to 11 a.m. I will be there to answer questions and find plants that will work in your garden. At 11:00, I will be a guest of All Sides with Ann Fisher on WOSU-89.7 and answer more questions.
One question I anticipate from listeners and sale visitors is: what are the effects of the record precipitation last year – 55-plus inches – plus the wet winter and spring? In Central Ohio we are already 6” above normal for this time of year, and much of the Midwest is experiencing similar weather. My response will be: “Good question; let me consult my crystal ball.” Then I will relate what has happened in my garden.
One casualty of last year’s rain and wet winter was my thyme lawn. It looked approximately 95% dead on April 23rd when this picture was taken. It is slowly coming back, and I can now adjust the death toll to 85% dead. By this time in May I should see flower buds forming; however, I am happy to see any green leaves.
This spring may be different than what we think is the normal* spring, but I do want to remind you that Mother Nature has offered other mercurial springs over time. Last year, we had several “100-year rains.” Most of my plants made it through, but I lost several lavenders, some hens and chicks, and a few sages. The daffodils planted in that swamp were not especially happy and flowered less last year and this year.
In May of 2006, we had low overnight temperatures in the 30s which threatened the tomatoes and chilies in my vegetable gardens. Yes, those are newspaper hats.
And in 2009, we had freezing overnight temperatures (in the mid-20s) during the week of May 23rd. You are looking at Remay fabric which is much easier to use than making 25 paper hats.
So my best advice is to wait, observe and mark the places where plants have disappeared. Then drive over to the Chadwick Plant Sale or to your favorite garden center and purchase replacements. This is where the old adage, “when you get lemons, make lemonade”, is very appropriate.
Wishing you a productive Spring!
P.S. – *normal is relative; happy to hear what you think is a normal spring.
In her March 27th post, Teresa offered a
wonderful selection of books for children.
One was The Giving Tree. Shel
Silverstein’s story is simple: a tree gives her all to the one she loves.
We annually celebrate trees on Arbor Day; the last Friday in April. The Arbor Day Foundation is the caretaker of this event, and it has announced a bold and wonderful initiative called Time for Trees. In four years’ time the Arbor Day Foundation intends to “Plant 100 million trees in forests and communities around the globe. Inspire 5 million tree planters to help carry the mission forward.” This timing coincides with the 150th anniversary of the first Arbor Day.
But we don’t always value our trees and sometimes,
incautious decisions are made.
In a community where generations have loved and worked with
nature there are those who do not fully understand the consequences of removing
trees. Several weeks ago in Mansfield, Ohio, the Richland County Commissioners stated
that the ten tuliptrees and one pin oak that have graced the front of the
Richland County Administration building for decades were hazards, allowed birds
to roost, and were in the way of a the installation of a new monument.
They were removed. There are plans to replace the trees. It will take years for the new trees to mature, but it is heartening to know that trees will come back to frame the municipal building.
In honor of trees, I offer this short ode:
The Giving Tree – a short list of the reasons we owe
trees our love and respect
Trees shelter us; they are nature’s sunscreen.
Trees cool us: three trees correctly placed around a house
can lower utility bills up to 20%.
Trees draw pollution out of the air: carbon monoxide,
nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter released by the
burning of fossil fuels.
Tree roots, and the soil systems that surround them, purify water.
Trees provide storm water control by slowing water and diverting
wind; thereby slowing erosion.
Trees store carbon; lots of carbon.
Trees – and all plants – perform photosynthesis where they
combine, water, sunlight and carbon and make sugar. Without this amazing
process, life would not exist as we know it.
Trees offer food to all life: while they are living, bark,
branches, roots, leaves, fruit, and seeds feed bacteria, fungi, insects, birds,
mammals… us. When trees fall and go back to the Earth, they nurse new
communities of life.
When trees are numerous in a community, mental health is
increased and crime is reduced.
The older the tree, the bigger its diameter and canopy, the
more a tree gives to us and others. Young ones – just as with animals – reach
maturity slowly and offer these benefits at a much lower degree.
Spring usually goes from: “It’s never, never, never going to
arrive” to “I’m weeks behind schedule” in 17 nano seconds or less. Gardeners
are body-slammed from the tedium of winter house arrest into a frantic, aching
rush tackling endless chores.
But don’t panic. We are here to help with suggestions based on our experience of tasks that are best done sooner than later. One of the first things you should decide is what to-dos can wait for later in the season. Pick your battles wisely. For instance, if it’s too wet, cold or the schedule too packed, skip some of those early vegetables and plant them in late summer for fall harvest. Here are other ideas.
Take photos of borders and beds to
see what areas need filling when bulb planting time arrives. Memories fade
almost as quickly as the snowdrops and hyacinths.
Apply weed preventer to reduce
tedious work in pavements, beds and borders. Organic and nonorganic products
are available, but nothing is 100 percent effective. Unless arctic
conditions are expected to persist for weeks, I start in late winter with
the brick patio and walk. These face south and warm quickly. The gravel drive
is next and then beds and borders. Following label instructions, apply just
before rain and save watering the products in. Record-setting precip last year
— much in the form of gulley-washing downpours — mean more frequent treatment.
(Caveat – preventers don’t distinguish between desired self-sown flowers and
Drop everything and schedule an
escape to a nearby state park, botanic garden or stretch of lovely country
driving. Spend a few hours or better a day savoring the joy of spring
fever. What a waste of time, you’re probably thinking. If poet William
Wordsworth had spent that fateful spring day planting potatoes and cabbages
instead of “wandering lonely as a cloud” among the “host of golden daffodils,
all he would have had was a crossed-off to-do list. Instead, we have his
timeless ode to spring and some of it glorious flowers. Your spirit needs
lifted just as much as his. Hit the road.
Now is the time to weed. Spring
rains soften the soil which allows annual and perennial weeds to be removed;
roots and all. Weeding can be a morning meditative practice. It is also an
opportunity to roam your gardens with a cup of tea in one hand and a weed
bucket in the other. Just make sure the weeds go into the bucket and not your
Start your seeds for melons, squash,
kohlrabi, and cabbages inside. Direct seed into the garden crops that like
cooler soils: peas, lettuces, mesclun mixes, tatsoi, mizuna, kale, collards,
dill, and cilantro. Transplant the tomato and chili seedlings that you started
in early March into larger pots.
Visit the garden center to shop for cold-loving
herbaceous plants like pansies and violas, primroses, and snapdragons.
These spring beauties add early color to borders and containers. Even try
mixing them with edibles like lettuce and kale for your spring
containers. Cuttings of willow and yellow-twig dogwood add further
Watch for the early ground bees.
Their small burrows are easy to step on and crush
Sit for a moment or three and marvel
at the life that is emerging from the ground. And remember to breathe…
Rework tired beds. On a cool overcast day, dig everything from the bed and place the plants on a tarp in the shade. Divide overgrown plants, toss unhealthy ones, move some to other beds or give others away. Work compost into the bed then replant the existing plants and add others as needed.
Edge beds while the ground is soft. A clean edge adds definition to borders and helps control weeds. See Michael’s post on edging.
Prune dead, damaged and diseased branches from shrubs. After spring-flowering shrubs bloom, they can be pruned for size and shape. Also, remove suckers from crabapples and the base of trees like magnolias.
Remove invasive plants from natural areas, perhaps a wooded area at the back of your property. Look for bush honeysuckle, garlic mustard, multi-flora rose, lesser celandine and autumn olive – all aggressive plants that crowd out other valuable plants and wildflowers. For tips, see http://ohiodnr.gov/invasiveplants or join an invasive plant volunteer work day at a local park.
With this week’s launch of Joanna Gaines’ book “We Are the Gardeners,” I’m reminded of the joys of reading garden-themed picture books. Their beautiful illustrations and engaging stories appeal to kids of all ages – including big kids like me. As a bonus, these books often weave in valuable life lessons like patience and environmental stewardship as well as more practical ones like seed planting and tending soil. Here are 14 favorites (including three additions from Deb) to enjoy with your own children and grandchildren. They also make great gifts.
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Author and illustrator Lois Ehlert of Milwaukee, WI, draws in readers with her colorful paper collage illustrations. Her rainbow of flowers entices readers to plant their own colorful cutting garden. Other favorites by Ehlert include Leaf Man, Growing Vegetable Soup, Eating the Alphabet, Waiting for Wings and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (illustrated by Ehlert and written by Bill Martin Jr.).
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carl
While many are familiar with Eric Carl’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar about a caterpillar’s journey and transformation to a butterfly, his lesser known The Tiny Seed illustrates another life cycle – one of a flower through the adventures of a tiny seed.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein teaches the
value of giving from the perspective of a tree that gives and gives sacrificially
to a young boy throughout his life.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Chrysanthemum, the mouse heroine of this story, loved her name until she started school and her classmates teased her about being named after a flower. She eventually meets her music teacher Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle and suddenly blossoms.
The Secret Garden
An unlikely trio of children — an orphan girl, a nature-loving local boy and a spoiled boy in a wheelchair — make friends in a Yorkshire mansion’s abandoned garden where their friendship grows as they transform the garden.
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear – by Don and Audrey Wood
I’m always growing or harvesting local strawberries and even worked a summer on a strawberry farm, so I fell in love with Little Mouse who does all he can to save his strawberry from the Big, Hungry Bear, even if it means sharing it with the reader. Other berry-loving books include Jamberry by Bruce Degen and Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Based on a true story, Alice
Rumphius or the “Lupine Lady,” strives to make the world a more beautiful place
by scattering lupine seeds everywhere she goes along the coast of Maine.
Curious Gardner by Peter Brown
I’m moved by this young boy Liam’s quest for a greener world, one
garden at a time. While out exploring one day, he discovers a struggling garden
and decides to care for it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the
dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world.
Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole
Come to the garden
that Jack planted. With each new page, readers are introduced to more and more garden
treasures — seeds and seedlings, buds and leaves, and eventually flowers and
the birds, bugs and butterflies they attract.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
Messner shares the hidden world beneath the garden and its soil
teaming with insects, water, nutrients and plant roots. Readers will gain a new
appreciation of soil’s valuable role in the garden throughout the seasons.
The Carrot Seed by Ruth
This delightful story shares the hope of a young boy. When he plants a carrot seed, everyone tells him it won’t grow. But he faithfully waters his seed, pulls the weeds, and waits… until a carrot plant triumphantly emerges.
Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork
This is a delightful introduction to Monet, Impressionism
and Giverny for pre-teens and older. For younger children use it more like a
picture book and skip most of the text. An older book, it can be found at used
book stores and in the library.
There’s a Hair in My Dirt by Gary Larson
When your teenager says that he or she doesn’t read kid’s
books, hand over this dark, comedic tale of nature and the assumptions we make
about how it all works. A tale of caution is told by Father Worm to little worm
and the tale’s ending has a twist. This book should be required reading for
every biology student. Warning: this is Gary Larson and there are one or
two off-color words in the captions.
Tales of Peter Rabbit and His Friends by Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter’s beloved stories are packaged many
ways. You can find anthologies and sets of small books – great for
little hands – of the individual stories. Whichever form you choose, be sure to
check that they are illustrated by Beatrix Potter. Her charming animal figures
beautifully accompany her short, sweet vignettes that relate the lessons of
life. These are stories that stay with you for your whole life.
Buds are nature’s promise that spring is coming — eventually. Pussy willow catkins and plump star magnolia buds practically shout spring long before they bloom.
Butif you’re like me, waiting for spring seems interminable. Instead of mopingabout gloomy winter, take matters into your own hands and create a glimpse ofearly spring in the comfort of home. Sometimes I have forsythia andold-fashioned flowering quince from the garden to grace my table well beforethe Super Bowl.
How?A big greenhouse? Magic? Nope. I “force” the buds into opening. Besides the liftsuch eye candy provides, snipping a few branches is an excuse to get into thegarden and do something.
Forcing is a simple process. For quickest results, let nature do some of the work. The later in winter you make cuts, the shorter the wait. I’m so impatient, the first cuts come just after New Year’s Day, preferably when temperatures are in the 40s or better 50s. This gets the juices going a bit. Depending what part of the Midwest you call home and local weather conditions, you may already have the earliest of flowering shrubs blooming their heads off. In that case, experiment with some of those that open later in spring.
Bringthe stems indoors, dip the cut ends into powdered alum to enhance water uptake,place them in a suitably sized container, and fill it with water. I leave mycuttings in the cool, dimly lit cellar for a couple of weeks until buds swelland hints of color appear. (I’ve also had success simply putting the cut stemsin a coolish bedroom.) This transition reduces chances of buds blasting intoshabby blobs, not blooms.
Thenit’s off to the living quarters for the grand opening. Blossoms can last for aweek or so, depending on the type of plant. Star magnolias are the day liliesof woodies, but quince sometimes goes nearly two weeks. Such stems look fine ina container by themselves, or they’ll ad’d an artisan touch to one of thosebargain-priced clusters of florist flowers or pots of forced spring bulbs.
Isuppose later flowering beauties, such as lilac and crabapple, can be forced.But I never have time to try. Long before getting around to these, nature providesbunches of daffodils, sprigs of hyacinths and of course forsythia and quince inthe garden. By then the grass is green, and occasionally a balmy south windwhispers of even better things to come. Such diversions — not to mention thelong gardening to-do list — keep me from expanding my forcing horizons.
Perhapsyou’ve tried tried some of the later flowers and want to share yourexperiences. Please do.
Yes, some food foragers hunt for mushrooms to savor, but I seek out these “flowers of the forests” for other reasons — the thrill of the hunt, the chance to photograph their beauty and the puzzle of finding their ID.
I wasn’t always this way. My first introductions to mushrooms were through friends who invited me to go morel hunting in the spring. I tagged along but never seemed to have the eye or patience to spot the elusive honeycomb-capped delicacies on the woodland floor. I seemed to get too distracted by the wildflowers in bloom. By luck one fall, my soccer-loving son and I were hiking and spotted a puffball mushroom thinking the large orb was an abandoned soccer ball.
This fall, my indifference for the fungi world changed when another friend invited me to a mushroom workshop. Predictably, the audience kept asking the presenter if this one is edible or that one was poisonous. But each time, he would respond “I just like to hunt for them not eat them.” I thought “how bizarre” to be a mushroom expert but have no interest in their culinary value. After the talk, my friend and I headed to look over his impressive collection spread across a big table. There were striated shelf fungi, big puffballs and even dainty red-capped ones. We oohed and awed at their diversity in color, texture and form, all found throughout Ohio.
No surprise, I returned home with a new set of eyes. I started looking for the more obvious mushrooms and fungi – the bright-orange Chicken Mushrooms and patterned Turkey Tails. Then I noticed more obscure ones — oyster mushrooms up the side of a decaying tree and velvet foot mushrooms on a decaying log. I ordered a Midwest mushroom guide and borrowed a more comprehensive one from the library. Gradually, I started seeking out others on the underside of logs or on newly fallen dead trees. I even experimented with making mushroom spore prints to confirm IDs. Thankfully, we had a wet winter with many warmer days, which are ideal for winter mushrooms.
So, in the next few weeks, I encourage others to explore this amazing fungi world, especially as the woods thaw and before they’re covered with a layer of competing green growth. While I’m still a novice, I share the following images and resource links with hopes others might also discover these fascinating fungi. For the mycologists reading this, I welcome your help with the IDs. Happy hunting!
We often look back on a person’s career and think we see the pivotal career-moment: “Ah, this is where it happened”. But Nick McCullough is not new to the world of landscape and garden design, and the Philadelphia Garden Show is his next – giant – step.
Nick has been building his skills for close to 20 years.
First as a student of art history and horticulture and, then with training in
design in England, Nick positioned himself to blend art, plants and a creative
eye to create contemporary gardens.
Teresa and I had a sneak preview of Nick’s talent when he
submitted a design for the Perennial Plant Association Landscape Design Award
program. The shade garden design was a
subtle interplay of green, gold, silver and white perennials and shrubs. It was
His design for the Philadelphia Flower Show is the polar opposite of a calm, enfolding shade garden. Think sun, mirrors, colors exploding, and immersion in nature. For a more detailed description of his design, visit his Thinking Outside the Boxwood blogwhere Nick explains his inspirations and the execution of his design.
We wish Nick success as he presents his garden to the public,
and we look forward to his future ventures.
Choosing a favorite flower to share for Valentine’s Day is a difficult task. Dozens could be given with a list of reasons for each. But we’re trying to keep this simple. Perhaps it’s best to say we’re offering our first among equals as a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, a holiday of love and flowers. Perhaps you have a favorite. Please tell us what it is and why.
Michael’s Pick: White Lily Tulip
The white lily flower tulip lacks fragrance, repeat bloom, multiplication, long flowering and longevity. However, this tulip with its simply elegant flower, excels at symbolizing my favorite time of year — spring. It blooms about the time crabapples and the pink dogwood are making spectacles of themselves. The spice bush is adding wispy charm and tantalizing fragrance, and common lilac perfumes the air. Foliage on sugar maples and other woody plants is emerging into a chartreuse haze, making the scene so lovely it almost hurts to gaze upon it. This type of tulip graces gardens far and near. While walking the grounds of the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul many years ago, I noticed a lily flower tulip bas relief on the metal plate of a small fountain. That’s one way to add elegance year round.
Debra’s Pick: Organic Purple Roses
In the language of flowers the rose is recognized as the
classic expression of love: white for pure love or sympathy, pale pink for
innocent or young love, yellow for friendship or jealous love, and red for desire
and deep, sensual love.
The fragrance of roses takes me back to my childhood. My Nana was a rose grower and many of my earliest garden memories are of running around her garden being surrounded by the heady scent of roses. I remember Peace and Mister Lincoln and grew them in my early gardening life. I eventually let these two roses go as I was not willing to spray and fertilize these finicky hybrid teas, like my Nana did, to keep them looking “perfect”.
Several years ago I found organic roses for sale on the internet and I bought lavender roses for Valentine’s Day. Their fragrance took me back to the beginning of my passion for plants and gardens. And this is appropriate: lavender roses symbolize enchantment and love at first sight.
Teresa’s Pick: Daffodils
In the depth of winter’s cold and snow, I dream of daffodils. While I may not go as far as dancing with daffodils like poet William Wordsworth, I do get a little scissor-happy cutting lots of bouquets to bring indoors or share with friends. It’s no wonder the American Cancer Society adopted these cheery yellow blooms as the “flowers of hope” for the annual Daffodil Cancer Awareness Days. I first planted daffodils 20 years ago when we moved to the country. Since then I’ve planted dozens more especially after learning they were undesirable to hungry deer and immune to Ohio’s late spring snows and frosts.
Writing assignments about daffodil collectors – including Michael Leach — gave me further inspiration to plant more. I’m grateful these collectors shared valuable growing tips and pass along a few here: 1) plant them in the fall in clusters of six to eight, 2) avoid planting them in wet or irrigated places, 3) salvage flopping double daffodils by cutting short bundles and placing them in canning jars for support, 4) camouflage daffodils’ fading foliage by planting them near hostas or daylilies and 5) underplant taller daffodils with muscari.
Pick up a pot or bundle of daffodils at your favorite florist or even grocery store and share some hope with your Valentine for spring days ahead.