Garden Tour Round-Up

Twelve Ideas You’ll Dig

 By Teresa Woodard

Throughout the heartland this summer, private gardeners have graciously opened their garden gates for public garden tours. Whether it’s a pocket garden, estate landscape or suburban backyards, I always find plenty of inspiration. I jot down notes on new plants to try, clever plant combinations and innovative design details to borrow.

Here are a dozen of my favorites.

1)      Design a seating area around a container water garden. It’s a conservation piece, easier to install than an in-ground water feature and adds to the view from indoors.

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20160626_1026512)      Look for a spot to plant an allee of trees like this one of hornbeams.

 

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3)      Vertical gardening: Whether its a wall with fabric pockets, cement blocks or pots on a fence, these vertical gardening options offer a new way to garden up and maximize tight spaces.

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4)      Underplant shade tree and garden bench with liriope. The plant blooms purple flowers in the spring and offers an attractive groundcover to thwart weeds. Simply weed-wack the liriope in the late fall or early spring.

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5)      Support the craft brew craze and plant some hops.

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6)      Be more creative and try the unexpected.

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7)      Spray paint salvaged finds blue then add them to an all-green landscape bed like this one filled with hostas.

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8)      Add this native Queen of the Prairie to a moist spot in the yard.  I love its showy June blooms.

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9)      Go beyond the conventional turf.

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10)   Find a spot for water-loving spring primrose.

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11)   Incorporate more annuals. They add seasonal color and fill bare spots in the landscape.

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IMG_752512)   Create a small bog garden and fill it with pitcher plants like these.

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Save time and work with no-till approach

Mulch layer of maple leaves

A 2-foot layer of maple leaves are down to about 3 inches in just a few months.

By Michael Leach

One of our readers, Rebecca Stultz,  asked about bringing no-till farming practices into the home garden. This was in early March, just as the spring rush burst upon us. Thank you for your patience, Rebecca. We hope this guides you in making yours a more sustainable landscape.

At first, no-till may sound exotic but probably most gardeners use aspects of this approach to agriculture. Do you mulch to reduce watering, weeding and improve the soil? Have you spread sheets of cardboard or layers of newspapers to transform a portion of lawn into a new garden or landscape bed to spare your aching back? That’s part of no-till.

No-till has been out on the farm for years. Time, fuel and soil erosion are reduced simply by skipping traditional plowing. Remains of the old crops serve as mulch that eventually decomposes into organic matter that enhances soil quality. Cover crops are planted to enhance soil nutrition and tilth. This approach requires special seeding devices to minimize soil disturbance that brings fresh weed seeds to the surface where they sprout and cause trouble.

Now to Rebecca’s questions.

When and how should compost and/or fertilizer be added/incorporated in each year’s cycle for no-till?

A professional soil test will show what type soil and its nutrient content, the amount of organic matter and other aspects of your soil so you can tailor amendments precisely.

Some anecdotal information I found shows that Ruth Stout, garden author and contributor to Organic Gardening used no-till for decades. At planting time, she scratched the soil’s surface enough for the seeds to make contact, lightly covered them, and sprinkled cottonseed meal along the “furrow.” Her 8-inch layer of hay (preferably slightly spoiled) continually decomposed and was renewed, so compost, cover crops or other amendments weren’t necessary. She touted thick mulch as a way to eliminate watering, weeding and most other maintenance. That amount of mulch seems excessive but it quickly settles to a 2- to 3-inch mat.

Lee Reich, a national garden writer and no-till fan for 20 years, prepares the planting area by covering it with a 1-inch layer of compost at planting time.

Leaf and grass clippings mulchIf fall leaves are not tilled or forked in, how thick a layer is practical to leave on the beds and still plant rows of seeds?

Remember the mulch is pulled back at planting time  to expose only the soil you want to plant in. You don’t cover the seeds with mulch.

As for handling leaves, personal experience shows that 2-foot layers of sugar maple leaves “stored” overwinter in a vacant bed become a 3- to 4-inch layer by late May. This layer goes to nothing before the next leaf drop. No forking or spading is needed.

Because my leaves are collected with the help of a lawn mower, they mix with grass clippings, that probably speeds decomposition. Even without being chopped and mixed with grass clippings, autumn leaves in the forest all but vanish by mid-summer.

The more mulch the better

“Whatever you use, don’t skimp on mulch,” Barb Flick says in an Oregon State University Extension article.  “A heavy layer not only keeps weeds from growing, it also keeps the underlying soil moist, greatly reducing the amount of watering you need in the summer.”

Using a thick mulch over several years adds more organic matter helps soil become like a sponge in absorbing water, says Mike Hogan, Ohio State University Extension educator and professor.

If the recommended 8 to 10 inches of mulch is hard to come by, Flick suggests using sheets of cardboard or layers of newspaper on the ground. This smothers out most weeds and keeps weed seeds from germinating. Cover this with a layer of mulch.

This is what Christine Voise does. In addition to her regular job as geographic information system and accession specialist at Ohio State University’s Chadwick Arboretum, she grows fresh vegetables for restaurants. Thick mulch keeps plants — and gardener — cleaner because there’s no mud to splash onto leaves, fruit or track inside.

Water once

Voise only waters the plants after planting and relies on a thick mulch around to get them through. Years of heavy mulching has enriched the soil to that sponge-like quality.

If straw is used as a mulch around plants, in the fall should it be left on the beds under the leaves or put in the compost bin?

Add mulch whenever it’s needed. Whatever the material — leaves, straw, hay, compost, grass clippings — it all eventually decomposes. If there’s still several inches of straw or other mulch on the beds, fewer leaves will be needed to maintain the desired cover depth.

What cover crops work well in suburban garden beds? 

There’s plenty to learn about cover crops in an article in the July 8, 2015 edition of Organic Life.  Cover crop benefits include suppressing weeds, building productive soil and helping control pests and diseases.

You may not need to use them. A thick mulch also cuts weeding, watering, soil erosion, while improving soil quality after it decomposes.

Personal experience makes me leery of cover crops. The only one I tried was so vigorous it took weeks to kill and delayed planting.

Precautions — Common sense dictates some basic sanitation no matter what approach you use to gardening. Reduce chances of diseases or pesky insects hanging around to attack future vegetable crops by collecting vegetable leaves as they fall off. Remove spent plants for municipal composting collection. If you have a hot compost pile, such debris can be disposed of there because high temperatures kill pathogens.

 

 

City Parklets

20160622_133501A Big Idea for Pint-Sized Urban Green Spaces

By Teresa Woodard

Two Midwestern cities — Chicago and Columbus — are converting public parking spaces into postage-stamp-sized parks called “parklets.” And, thankfully, they’re outfitting them with plants and seating areas.

According to Governing Magazine, the parklet idea started in 2005 in San Francisco when a design company descended on a downtown parking space, fed the meter and created a p0p-up park complete with sod, public benches and leafy trees.  They called it Park(ing) Day, which eventually became an annual event.

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Pocket Park in New York City

Late in 2009, New York City adopted the idea of pint-sized parks as it converted street spaces into pedestrian-only plazas.  San Francisco opened its first permanent parklet in March 2010 and has since completed 27 parklets and has plans for another 40.

 

In Chicago, the parklets are called “People Spots.” The first opened in 2012 in Andersonville, and five more followed as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Make Way for People program to turn streets, alleys and vacant city-owned parcels into vibrant urban hubs.

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People Spots (Images from City of Chicago website)

 

In Columbus, a non-profit group PlaceMakes has opened four microparks, including three temporary parklets and its latest West Cherry Street project.  Here, two underused city blocks have been temporarily closed and turned into a dynamic public space. Community residents painted the street bright blue with big red and small yellow polka dots. They further enhanced the space with picnic tables, planters and a community mural – all funded by grants, business donations and volunteers. They’ve also organized a “Cherry Sunday” series including events from poetry readings to vertical gardening workshops.

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A few blocks away, the latest Columbus parklet stands in a parking space in front of a cafe and just got approval from the city to remain two months longer than planned – until September – because it’s been so successful. The parklet features a wooden structure with seating, planters and two semi-transparent lithographs of Columbus buildings by local artist Leah Storrs. The parklet is also equipped with solar panels that power the letters “A,R,T” on a sign mounted on the street side that reads “PARKT.”

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Check out these websites to find a parklet or build one near you.

 

 

 

Pollinator Week

20160622_181447 (2)A Love Affair: Bumbles and Common Milkweed

By Debra Knapke

Every second and fourth Wednesday, the Governor’s Gardeners work in the Heritage Garden at the Ohio Governor’s Residence. The Heritage Garden is special and the only one of its kind in the United States. It showcases Ohio’s natural history by representing the five major ecosystems – also called physiographic regions – of the state I call home.
I’ve been a member of the Heritage Garden Committee since 2004 and have assisted in the design of two areas of the garden. I have taken a lot of pictures of this special place and am constantly amazed at the beauty of these vignettes of Ohio’s natural landscapes.
Today, when I arrived, I was drawn to the area where the common milkweed is in full bloom.  Imagine the sound of hundreds of bumbles (short for “bumblebees”) and the sweetest perfume that floats on a breeze. What a perfect way to celebrate pollinator week: showing them busily at work and apparently very happy. Please excuse my human assumption that they are happy, but I was happy, so they must have been happy, too.
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It is not easy to catch bees as they harvest nectar and pollen from thousands of flowers. If you look closely, you can see several bumbles in the picture below. On the left-most umbel of flowers you can see a bumble with loaded pollen sacs.
Asclepias syriaca close Heritage Garden 6-22-16 resizeGuy Denney, former Chief of Natural Areas and Preserves for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and one of the first advisors for the Heritage Garden, said that this stand of milkweed is one individual plant that has colonized this patch of the garden. This plant well deserves the “weed” portion of its name. plant it only if you have room to spare or are willing to “edit” your stand of plants.
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I will be watching for seeds later in July. Can’t wait to start my own patch of common milkweed.
Learn more about National Pollinator Week (June 20-26) and check out Debra’s post on pollinators and their favorite plants.

16 Favorite Midwest Garden Tours

Check out this season’s garden tours for a bounty of inspiration.

By Teresa Woodard

This summer, garden gates across the Midwest will open to welcome guests for tours.  In search of inspiration, I attend several tours and walk away with a list of ideas and renewed motivation to spruce up my own garden.  Here are several don’t-miss tours.

What’s your favorite garden tour?

Asters, Sages and Milkweeds, Oh, My II

Pollinators and Plants for Pollinator-Friendly Gardens – Part 2

By Debra Knapke 

Last week, I introduced you to the pollinators in Part 1. Now, it’s time for the pollinator plants . . .

Let’s start with general plant groups and work toward some specific choices in each group. This is a start. Any plant that is not wind-pollinated has an associated pollinator. Once you start exploring your plant options, the sky is the limit.

Aster family

Most members of this family provide a perfect perch for many insects. You will see an array of bugs, beetles, flies, bees, wasps and spiders  crawling on the composite daisy flowers (Note: spiders are actually looking for their next meal; it’s a bug-eat-bug world out there!).

Echinacea purpurea skipper

Echinacea purpurea — purple coneflower, plus a skipper

Achillea filipendulina

Achillea filipendulina – yarrow; a full sun plant!

 

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Silphium laciniatum – compass plant, a stately native

 

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Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’ – one of the last flowers for butterflies & other pollinators

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In October, a honeybee sips a late drink from a ‘Purple Dome.’

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Zinnia angustifolia ‘Orange Profusion’– narrowleaf zinnia is an annual that is a pollinator magnet.

Bean/Pea family

Not only do the bumbles and other bees like the pea and bean family, but this group of plants has a lovely relationship with several species of bacteria that can fix gaseous nitrogen into a form that can be used by plants. Nitrogen is often the most limiting nutrient in built landscapes. This plant offers a way to fix the problem.

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Baptisia australis – false indigo – is one of the most enduring plants in the garden.

Milkweed family

We have many species of milkweeds and butterflyweeds that are native to the Midwest. A recent study found that swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is the most likely to be chosen by the monarch butterfly as a larval host in the Midwest.  The Mexican tropical milkweed – Asclepias curassavica – is the host plant for the monarch when it travels south for the winter.

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Asclepias tuberosa – butterflyweed for butterflies and bees

Mint family

Species in this herbal family should be in every garden.  Many of the species are our favorite culinary herbs (basil, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme…) and many have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial attributes. The bilabiate flowers have long throats that lead to the nectaries. I have watched bumbles chew into the base of the flower because they could not enter the flower through the “front door.”

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Lavandula angustifolia – English lavender with skipper

 

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Salvia elegans (red, pineapple sage) and Salvia leucantha (blue, Mexican bush sage) are hummingbird dream-plants. I have been “strafed” in the garden by hummingbirds when I have stood in the flight path to the flowers.

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Salvia officinalis – common sage which is tasty and beautiful.

Parsley/Celery family

Another family that contains many herbal plants and some of our most potent poisons, not only feeds pollinators but also attracts the “good” bugs that eat the “bad” bugs – at least from the human perspective.

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Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ – bronze fennel is another multi-tasker in the garden. It is a culinary and medicinal plant. It hosts a variety of butterfly larvae while offering pollen and nectar to many insects.

 

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Eryngium yuccifolium – rattlesnake master – a tea made from its roots is reputed to be an antidote for snake venom; not sure I would trust that. Its flowers attract a myriad of insects.

 

All of the above are herbaceous perennials, but many trees and shrubs provide food for pollinators, too. Below is a bumble on her way to becoming drunk from the flowers of a littleleaf linden tree – Tilia cordata.

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Wishing you awe in the garden!!!

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Asters, Sages & Milkweeds, Oh, My (I)

Pollinators and Plants for Pollinator-Friendly Gardens – Part 1

By Debra Knapke
Pollinators and plants: a beautiful symbiotic relationship that is usually mutually beneficial.  A plant gets to propagate itself, while the pollinator gets food. We’ve always known that these relationships exist, but there are threats that are interfering with plant and pollinator interactions. Global Climate Change, habitat reduction, and pesticide use are just a few.
We can be part of the solution. Resist using pesticides in the garden and let the “good” bugs have a chance to eat the “bad” bugs. Buy more plants and create pollinator habitats in your garden.
In order to choose which plants, you need to know who you are inviting in.
Meet the pollinators:
Bees
In the June/July 2016 National Wildlife magazine it was reported that bees contribute $300 billion toward global agricultural systems.  We are fortunate to have a diverse group of native bees in the Midwest. If you are interested in learning more about identification and good landscape practices for supporting our native bees, check out the resources at the Ohio State University Bee Lab website.
The non-native, but very important honeybee will benefit from the same plants and practices that you would use for our native bees.  This is a case where native/non-native is a non-issue. Both native and non-native bees are essential to our well-being.
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Bumblebee on annual larkspur

Flies
Some of the bees you see are actually flies; often called Hover flies or Syrphid flies. A bonus of this pollinator group is that the larval stage is a voracious eater of aphids.

How can you tell bees and flies apart? A quick way is to note the number of wings: bees have two pairs; flies have one pair.

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Fly on witch hazel

Sometimes we do not give flies their due in the insect world. I would like to offer this thought: without a small tropical fly, we would not have chocolate.
Hummingbirds
This flying jewel is particularly fond of deep-throated flowers. They typically live in the Midwest from the beginning of April to the beginning of October. On their quest for nectar, they also transfer pollen between flowers.61006 050
Butterflies, Skippers and Moths
Monarchs have been the poster child for creating habitat for pollinators, but there are so many other butterflies, skippers and moths that benefit from a ready source of nectar and their required larval plants. Some pollinators are night visitors. A moon garden filled with night-blooming white and pale yellow flowered species offers food to night-flying moths.
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Asclepias curassavica with monarch larva 8-9-15

Asclepias curassavica — tropical milkweed — with monarch larvae

 

There are other pollinators, but this is not meant to be an exhaustive treatise. It is an introduction. Hopefully you will be intrigued enough to do some research of your own.
On Friday, look for my follow-up post on pollinators’ favorite plants.

Beautiful Brassicas

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By Teresa Woodard

Yes, I’ve planted flowering kale to add fall color to borders and containers, but I had no idea how amazing brassicas — kales, cabbages, turnips, kohlrabi and mustards — could look in the landscape until last week when I visited the spring display gardens at the Riverbanks Zoo & Botanical Garden in Columbia, SC.  Brassicas are best grown in cool seasons – spring and fall, so consider purchasing some plants to add this spring or planting some seeds in August for a fall show. Fellow blogger Deb Knapke will follow up this post with another on growing tips.

The Riverbanks’ spring display garden offers plenty of inspiration. Just check out these fanciful and edible leaves and clever planting combinations.

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Ornamental Kale: Brassica oleracea (Acephala Group) ‘Peacock Red’

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Curly Kale: Brassica oleracea (Acephala Group) ‘Starbor’

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Kohlrabi: Brassica oleracea (Gongylodes Group) ‘Azur-Star’

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Cabbage: Brassica oleracea ‘OS Cross’

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Kohlrabi: Brassica oleracea (Gongylodes Group) ‘Delicacy Purple’

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White ornamental kale: Try the Crane series for cut flower arrangements.

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Upper right corner is Siberian Kale or Brassica napus (Pabularia Group) ‘Winter Red’

 

Giant Red Mustard produces a contrasting yellow flower.

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Cool season flowering plants like pansies and violas make great companion plants for brassicas.

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Kohlrabi paired with violas

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Collards take on more beauty as they flower here in yellow blooms.

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An planting of curly kale beneath a Chinese fringe tree

 

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Visit Riverbanks Zoo & Botanical Gardens’ spring display in its 34,000-square-foot walled garden area.

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Radicchio Cichorium Intybus ‘Fiero’ (Not a brassica but a beautiful edible.)

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Radicchio add eye-catching conical shapes in the spring display garden.

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A 300-foot-long canal featuring cascades and pinwheel fountains serves as the focal point of the impressive spring display in the walled garden at Riverbanks Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Cincinnati Blooms!

A million blossoms transform Cincinnati into a floral capital this weekend

By Michael Leach

The Cincinnati Flower Show’s orchids, bird of paradise, jasmine, gardenia, zinnias and hundreds of other types of flowers delight  visitors through Sunday (April 17) in park along the Ohio River downtown. IMG_9069

Not far from there, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden amazes visitors with the splendor of 107,000 tulips in full bloom. Under the brilliant sun, the satiny blossoms glow like stained-glass flowers.IMG_9173

Blogmate Teresa Woodard,  Diana Lockwood, The Columbus Dispatch garden writer and a Garden Writers Association newbie, and I were fortunate to attend a tour of both venues Wednesday with other GWA members. Part of the fun at the show was having Kevin O’Dell, of Kendrick & O’Dell Landscaping, as tour director. He’s one of the show’s organizers and long-time driving force.

At the zoo, Scott Beuerlein and Stephen Foltz pointed out highlights.

Our only regret? Lack of time. We never got to two other gardener must-sees, Spring Grove Cemetery and Krohn Conservatory. Maybe next year.

A World of Blooms

The 2016 Cincinnati Flower Show Celebrates Flowers of Sister Cities

By Michael Leach

The Cincinnati Flower Show is a dangerous event for all shades of green thumbs, the Pinterest-pixilated and those desperate to do something — anything — with their landscapes.

Why?  

You’ll be inspired to attempt new and daring things with plants.

You’ll fall in love with window boxes and want to try them because you never imagined so much charm is possible in such small spaces.

You’ll be amazed at the appealing model landscapes showing what’s possible in spaces not much bigger than a half dozen window boxes.

Findlay market

 

Your jaw will hurt from dropping so often at flowery table settings that make you wonder how they ever thought of that.

You’ll be tempted to overload your vehicle with unusual plants, elegant garden accessories, imaginative jewelry, horticulturally themed art and more.market-shoppers

You’ll indulge in savories and sweets that cater to all manner of tastes.

You’re likely to be lured into sampling wine or bourbon at planned tastings. (Kentucky is just across the wide, muddy Ohio River.)

You’ll be able to choose from a range of educational experiences, such as a luncheon lecture by Andrea Wulf, author of garden and gardening history books; a Q&A with Ron Wilson, host of a weekly call-in radio program, and  Rita Heikenfeld, herbalist and culinary whiz; learning about wedding flower from Sharon McGukin, author and floral designer; and gathering design tips from a former White House chief florist.

You’ll wish you had scheduled even more time to tour the horticultural treasures the city offers.20150411_111206_001

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