Favorite Valentine Flowers

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.

Go Get A Flower Fix

Orchids on Display Across the Midwest

By Michael Leach

Had enough Midwest winter with its brown, black, gray and glum? Beginning to think your garden is dead, not merely dormant? Are glittering icicles over head a bit too disconcerting and sparkling snow drifts too annoying?

Then head for the tropics if schedule and budget allow — or a reasonable facsimile should you, like me, be lacking in the time and money departments. Instead of Florida or someplace even closer to the Equator, I  took a short drive to a warm, lush place —  Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus.

It was a double treat. Not only were the waterfalls cascading and giant palm fronds overhanging the paths as usual, but the annual orchid show had recently opened. There are scores of exotic blossoms throughout this gift from foresighted civic leaders, which has been expanded and lovingly tended since its debut in 1895.

Other Midwest metro areas boast of Victorian and newer conservatories. However, a tropical experience on a more intimate scale is possible in towns where some garden centers have greenhouses filled with light, warmth and life. Think of this as green therapy.

Among the Midwest public gardens featuring orchid shows during the seemingly endless wait until spring are:

Garden Treasures

A Most Valuable Possession

By Michael Leach

The possession a person values most varies as widely as personal tastes. Cars, boats, houses, antiques, islands and jewels certainly rate as most valued for some. Not me.

Like many people across the ages and continents, I value something that seems commonplace but uniquely expresses its owner. 

While I certainly like a smooth-riding car and comfortable home, my treasure offers so much more than dust-collecting furniture. When calm and isolation are required, I needn’t board a jet (private or commercial) to flit to a distant tropic isle in an azure sea. As for jewels, few pirate chests contain more splendor.

Where else does music, art, history, family tradition, science and sustenance meld in a single creation? Truly this is a many splendored thing.

Those of us who have such a possession give our treasure a unique twist, for the basic elements can be infinitely arranged, timed and colored,  Constant, though imperceptible, change is a given and usually welcomed. Time eventually changes everything, but not always for the better. Cars rust. Paint fades. Roofs leak. We, however, plan for a future that will probably be radically different from where we start. 

Each season, actually each moment, brings changes in hue, shape and content. Over the years, only photographs will bear witness to what it was “back then” and what it is now. Due to the fragility of our most-valued possession, such graphic evidence is all that remains after we leave it behind, as inevitably we will.

Depending on its design and scope, our possession may enfold us in seclusion or put us centerstage in a dazzling show. Some of us have possessions that do both. Broad smiles, sighs of pleasure and occasional gasps of delight are usually heard when we share our possession with others. Our treasure may exude a fragrance no perfume maker can duplicate. It may produce songs Mozart could never compose or colors to make Monet jealous.

No matter its size or cost, we are stewards of an incredibly complex operating system that consists of countless life forms. Can’t say that about a car or diamond ring.

We hold life itself when seeds spill from a little paper packet into our cupped hand. From such tiny, insignificant things, we can produce a living mosaic of seedlings, giants towering a 100 feet, and a host of all sizes in between.

We invite birds, butterflies, bees and toads to share the treasure. Few mansion owners want that kind of company on their polished floors. 

Our treasure is a garden, whether potted plants by the window, manicured acres or postage stamp plots. My garden around the family home place includes sugar maples over a century old ,planted by great-uncles, flowers passed down from almost every side of the family, gifts from gardening friends, and a few new introductions. Some are native plants, others from China or Europe. The Madonna lilies from Grandpa Leach’s garden have been cultivated  since ancient times.  

Money is an essential for creating and maintaining a garden; some say it is the best manure. But the most important ingredient is passion. Ours is a labor of love. We dig, water, prune and fertilize with our hearts. Working with nature, the forever owner of our treasure, we cultivate a vision in three dimensions and a span of time.

We are called gardeners. Is that because our most valuable possession possesses us?

Garden Trends 2019

By Teresa Woodard

Hello 2019! It’s an exciting time for the plant world as the horticulture industry experiences a renaissance. According to the 2019 Garden Trends Report by the Garden Media Group, American gardeners set a record $47.8 billion in lawn on garden retail sales (from bulbs to outdoor furniture), and the average household set a spending record of $503 up nearly $100 over the previous year. And 18-34 year-olds are spending more than ever.

Indoors is the new outdoors for the “Indoor Generation” that averages 22 hours inside a day. Apartment dwellers appreciate the physical and mental health benefits of plants.

Houseplants Craze: In Nov. 2018, the New York Times reported plant influencers in their twenties and thirties are fueling a new generation’s obsession with houseplants that’s growing faster and more tenaciously than English ivy. Horticulture stars of Instagram, like Houseplantclub, now have book deals, sponsors and hundreds of thousands of followers. In addition, a host of highly curated houseplant stores including Midwestern ones like Stump, Fern, Darling Botanical, Art Terrarium and Mod Gen are cleverly promoting plants such as pilea, fiddleleaf fig, succulents and Monstera (#MonsteraMonday).

New Plant Performers: Today’s newest annuals and perennials are more than pretty.  To make it past tough trial garden managers, these new introductions also must appeal to pollinators and stand up to the Midwest’s weather extremes.  This year’s standouts include Allium ‘Millenium,’ Agastache rugosa ‘Little Adder,’ Vinca Tattoo series, Celosia argentea ‘Asian Garden,’ Mangave ‘Inkblot,’ Portulaca ColorBlast Double Magenta, and Gomphrena ‘Truffula Pink.’ Check out the complete list of trial managers’ favorites.

‘Stem to Root’ Edibles: While plant-based diets remain hot, it’s no surprise the trend spills over into vegetable gardening and support for local growers. One theme that is gaining momentum is the stem to root concept. Advocated by Ohio chefs like Jamie Simpson of the Culinary Vegetable Institute and Cara Mangini, author of The Vegetable Butcher, they teach ways to use all parts of a vegetable.  For example, Jamie showed me how to make an asparagus salad sautéing the tips, shaving ribbons of the stalks and pressing the stem ends into a juice for a dressing.

Plants As Social Change Agents: More and more communities are recognizing the power of plants as catalysts for social change. Downtowns are carving out more green spaces for public parks. Urban neighborhoods are planting community gardens to bring nutritious produce to food deserts. Streetscapes are being redesigned with more plants to attract consumers and create an environment for increased spending. All over the country, gardens are being planted to engage veterans, convicts, at-risk teens, recovering addicts, women’s shelter residents, cancer patients, college students, immigrant families and more.

“Living Coral” Color of the Year: Pantone’s color of 2019 is “Living Coral,” and the plant industry has plenty of offerings in this hue and some even in the coral shape and name. Check out ‘Firestorm’ sedum adolphii, ‘Coral Fountain’ amaranthus, ‘Kudos Coral’ agastache, ‘Queeny Lime Orange’ zinnia, ‘Orange Peach’ cockscomb and ‘Peachberry Ice’ coral bells.

Are there fewer dragonflies, fireflies, Monarchs, praying Mantis and ladybugs, today?

Insect Apocalypse: The plight of pollinators and Monarchs has been in the news for several years, but a German study on insect decline is drawing attention to threats on the broader insect population. Personally, I’ve been tracking dragonfly counts as a part of the Ohio Odonoata Survey, and the experience is giving me a new appreciation for the role habitat plays in supporting healthy insect populations. In the gardening world, gardeners can help curb insect decline by creating healthy habitats and by learning responsible pest control practices such as IPM (Integrated Pest Management). Joe Lamp’l of Growing A Greener World does a great job of explaining IPM for home gardeners.

Plastic Waste in Gardening: Last year, plastic straws were on the hot seat as communities began to ban them and food service companies like Starbucks and McDonalds announced plans to phase them out. National Geographic coverage of floating plastic masses in the Pacific Ocean spurred further conservations about plastic pollution and the need to reduce single-use plastics. The gardening world is taking positive steps by organizing plastic pot recycling events and developing compostable containers.

Plant Spotlights: Each year, several garden groups select a plant to promote. For 2019, the National Garden Bureau selected one annual (snapdragon), one perennial (salvia remosa), one bulb (dahlia) and one edible (pumpkin).  The Perennial Plant Association named Stachys ‘Hummelo’ as the perennial plant of the year. The American Hosta Growers Association named ‘Lakeside Paisley Print’ as the hosta of the year. And Hampton Court Palace Flower Show named ‘Starlight Symphony’ as the rose of the year.

Wishing you a happy new year of gardening!

Twelve Days of Christmas: #12

Twelve Drummers Drumming

By Anita Van HalRepost from Dec. 25, 2014: Pipe Down to Hear What a Garden Has to Say

By Michael Leach

A dozen piping pipers could be fine in some gardens, but for most of us,IMG_3166 wind chimes and fountains are the only tolerable decibels.

Unless bluejays squawk about a lack of peanuts, the wind roars through frantic tree tops, or a riding mower pretends to be a biker-gang Harley, sound rarely breaks into our consciousness in a garden. That’s largely due to gardens being places traditionally sought for their quiet. Yet a garden can be “noisy.”

The garden’s gentle, subtle tongue speaks in the rustle of leaves. It whispers with the warm breath of breezes caressing our skin. It hums startlingly when a hummingbird whirs past in zigzag swoops.

Colibri-thalassinus-001-editThe garden talks, too, in the silence of fireflies dancing in twilight.

I take for granted some of this “chatter” or worse, block it with a mind too concerned about weeding, watering and countless other chores. We may even ignore our gardens’ soothing comments because we are too busy listing their deficiencies.

A garden blesses all our senses. It wants to be our personal spa and use invisible “hands” to restore our beings as surely as a masseuse eases physical aches. For the garden to heal us, we must let go; then listen to and follow nature’s command.

The garden’s message comes from the Creator who made the first garden, the one we keep trying to recreate. Ours will never be the perfection of Eden, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to the story of paradise. Gardens still speak that same language.

Twelve Days of Christmas: #11

Eleven Pipers Piping

By Anita Van HalRepost from Dec. 24, 2014: The Grass Connection with Woodwinds

By Debra Knapke

I have memories of high school friends sucking on their reeds for their clarinets, oboes and bassoons before a rehearsal or concert. The reeds needed to be pliable, or we would hear the ear-splitting shriek of a squeezed-out note. Little did I know that the little piece of reed would reappear in my life in the form of a large grass that I teach in my plant classes.Arundo donax with Rudbeckia Biltmore 98 resize

Arundo donax or giant reed grass is an impressive specimen in the garden at 10 to 15 feet tall and easily spreading five to six feet wide. I describe it as a “corn plant on steroids.” If you like the look of this structural plant, but don’t have the room, consider using the variegated variety: A. donax var. versicolor, pictured below in a beautiful combination with our native black-eyed Susan. 2 Arundo donax plant Niagara Bot 01 resize

There is a dark side to this plant. In warmer states, there is a clone of giant reed that is invasive. Kentucky, Missouri, West Virginia and the southern region of Illinois comprise the northern border of its invasive march. In these states, giant reed has a long enough season in which to produce seed.  For now, Ohio does not have any stands of the invasive genotype, but that will change as global climate change progresses.  Another reason to use the variegated plant: for now, it does not produce seed.

‘Wishing you melodious Christmas music.

 

Twelve Days of Christmas: #10

Ten Lords A Leaping

By Anita Van Hal

Repost from Dec. 23, 2014: Reach for the sky — to create garden excitement

 By Michael Leach

“Leaping” conjures images of Johnny-Jump-Up doing his jack-in-the-box imitation,  perhaps inspired by a prod from mischievous red-hot pokers. All the while Lord Baltimore the hibiscus looks on in glee and ignites the sky with Fireworks goldenrod and blazing stars.

P1030075Punning aside, “leaping” draws the eye upward. Such vertical elements are must-haves in the landscape, whether we’re talking window boxes or estates. Verticals come in many forms and serve as exclamation points. Like exclamation points, they are used only with utmost care or they lose their punch.

A series of verticals becomes the rhythm of trees in an allee or pillars of a long pergola. Shadows of such verticals transform pavement or lawn into a giant page of notebook paper.

Literally leaping — Water jets, a la Versailles, leap.  Same goes for the humbler fountains in city parks and college campuses.P1030113 But few of us have the means or staff to keep gallons by the gazillions pumping into the air. A pity, for the effect is magical, especially so when illuminated at night.

IMG_3887 Visual leaps also come from accessories, such as arbors, sun dials, tuteurs, sculptures and columnar plants.

A favorite “recipe” — One of the most comforting and soothing combinations for me is a porch swing  hanging from the sturdy limb of a capacious shade tree — the meatloaf of landscaping. The vertical trunk and pair of ramrod chains play a harmonious counterpart to the wide, welcoming horizontality of the seat. Few better places exist for spending a summer afternoon.

Twelve Days of Christmas: #9

Nine Ladies Dancing

By Anita Van Hal

Repost from Dec. 22, 2014: Honoring the Mother Mary

By Debra Knapke

It seems appropriate for this season that we celebrate plants that reference the Mother Mary.

If you see Lady as part of the common name, it is probable that this is a plant that was precious to the Mother Mary.  There are many stories that combine Mary’s love of plants and how they figured in different moments of her life.

Other common names that relate to Mary include virgin and, of course, the eponymous: Mary. In 2004 I was one of many Ohio authors at a book signing event in Cleveland.  We were at tables in alphabetical order.  My table partner was Vincenzia Krymow, author of Mary’s Flowers: Gardens, Legends, and Meditations: Living Legends of Our Lady. We had a delightful time discussing plants, philosophy and life as we waited for someone, anyone, to buy our books.

The plants loved by Mary are beautiful and many are herbal. If you decide that you would like to create a garden that honors Mary, consider these nine plants:

  • Lady’s mantle – Alchemilla mollis –
  • (Our) Lady’s thimble – Campanula rotundifolia
  • Virgin’s bower – Clematis vitalba
  • (Our) Lady’s slipper – Cypripedium calceolus
  • Christmas rose; rose de Noel – Helleborus niger
  • Mary’s dying plant – Lavandula officinalis (L. angustifolia is the valid name)
  • Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Marigold – Tagetes sps. and cultivars
  • Costmary – Tanacetum balsamita

‘Wishing you remembrance and love for this season.

Twelve Days of Christmas: #8

1513-12DaysofChristmasStamps_02 - Copy (3)Reposted from Dec. 21, 2014: Eight Maids A Milking

By Debra Knapke

I have had a love affair with campanulas since I started growing them in the mid-90’s.  Call me fanciful, but their floral cups and stars look like pretty blue skirts in the garden. And, if fairies truly exist, these skirts would be their fancy dress.

Campanula rotundifolia
Campanula rotundifolia
Campanula Chewton Joy
Campanula ‘Chewton Joy’

What does this have to do with Eight Maids a Milking? One of the special characteristics of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae) is that they contain a latex-based, milky sap that either tastes bad to predators or clogs their sucking mouthparts. Think about sipping on a rubber-glove cocktail, and you’ll get the idea. A plant has to develop protective mechanisms if it is to survive being eaten by any animal that wants a meal.

Campanula portenschlagiana
Campanula portenschlagiana

Other plants have used this strategy. The milkweed/dogbane (Apocynaceae) and euphorbia (Euphobiaceae) families also contain an unpalatable milky sap. The poinsettia, one of our favorite Christmas decorations, will ooze sticky droplets from damaged leaves and stems.

I have been told that these droplets are very bitter… I cannot confirm that from personal experience.

‘Wishing you a tasty holiday free from bitter experiences.

 

Twelve Days of Christmas: #7

Reposted from Dec. 20, 2014: Seven Swans A-Swimming

1513-12DaysofChristmasStamps_02 - Copy (2)

By Debra Knapke

We have all grown up knowing the story of the ugly duckling in some form. Hans Christian Andersen allegedly stated that this tale came out of his own life because he was the different child, “a tall, ugly boy with a big nose and big feet” (1) who matured into an accomplished singer and storyteller.black swan Kew Lake 9-92 crop

There are other tales that feature one or more swans.  The swan is used as a symbol of transformation, of understanding oneself and finding balance, and of having grace and inner beauty. And like the many other birds, pairs often form life bonds.

In real life, take care when you approach a swan. That gliding beauty may grace you with her presence, but she may just as easily attack, especially if she has young. A 30-pound flying bird with a six- to eleven-foot wingspan is not an animal to be messed with.

Swanplant (Asclepias physocarpa)

Swanplant (Asclepias physocarpa)

A different swan ornaments our gardens. The swanplant, a tender shrub, is a species of milkweed from South Africa. Its balloon-like seedpod is attached to the stem by a curved pedicel that mimics the graceful neck of a swan. It is difficult to see in the below picture, so you will just have to start it from seed next spring to see it. Sources for swanplant are limited.  One source is joyfulbutterfly.com.

‘May you cultivate inner beauty and find balance this season and in the new year

1 – stated by British journalist Anne Chisholm (2005) in her review of Hans Christian Andersen: A New Life by biographer Jens Andersen, published in the US in 2006.

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