Gardens to Drive For: Cemeteries

Make Haunting Fall Memories

Cemeteries, such as Cincinnati’s Spring Grove, offer a quiet place to savor fall color.

By Michael Leach

Can’t make it to New England — or even a state park — for a fall foliage tour? Not to worry. A free show probably grows in a nearby city park or venerable cemetery.

Cemetery? Sounds scary to some, I suppose, but not me. Among pleasant childhood memories are those of quiet times with my grandmother, mother, sister and aunt in a well-tended, park-like cemetery near the Ohio River.

As we walked slowly from stone to stone, I heard stories about this uncle, that cousin and those family friends. My grandmother occasionally pinched a seed head from the potted plants. She sowed the seeds in her crazy quilt back garden not far from the cemetery.

Not everyone has such memories but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a few using your gardening passion as a guide. Besides the appealing stillness found in most cemeteries, the trees can be award winners.

Two historic cemeteries I occasionally visit boast state champion trees, the largest known specimens. Cemeteries are tree-friendly places with few plagues of urban life to stunt or damage. Seeing a giant makes it easier to understand why some people worship trees.

My favorite cemetery is Spring Grove in Cincinnati. One of the loveliest places I’ve seen, Spring Grove is like a sculpture park. In places it evokes English country estates with its enormous trees, grassy grounds and “follies,” such as a small Greek temple beside a placid pond. Never mind these structures are mausoleums. The names here, such as “Proctor”  and “Gamble,” read like a who’s who of Cincinnati.

But most cemeteries offer similar combinations of art, history, genealogy, nature, quiet — and fabulous fall color. Go see for yourself.

Garden Happenings: Pumpkins

Check Out These “Smashing” Pumpkin Events


Circleville Pumpkin Show (Photos by Jack Mader)

By Teresa Woodard

This weekend, the Circleville Pumpkin Show will celebrate all things pumpkin with giant pumpkin weigh-ins, a super-sized pumpkin pie and plenty of pumpkin-flavored foods.  This small central Ohio town of 13,000 expects 400,000 visitors for its106th annual pumpkin show, October 17-20.
The show kicks off with a weigh-in among area pumpkin growers vying for a coveted giant pumpkin trophy and perhaps a shot at breaking the world record set earlier this month when a Rhode Island pumpkin grower broke the one-ton mark with his 2,009-pound pumpkin at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts.

Weigh-in at Circleville Pumpkin Show

No doubt, this season’s drought conditions presented challenges for many Midwestern pumpkin growers. A recent story in the Columbus Dispatch reports the drought reduced the number and size of pumpkins in many Ohio patches, but the summer’s abundant sunlight also produced more-attractive pumpkins. And growers who irrigated their crops have both better-looking and bigger pumpkins to offer this year.  Two Midwestern states, Illinois and Ohio, are among the country’s top pumpkin-producing states with Illinois ranking #1 as home to Libby-branded pumpkin products and Ohio ranking #3, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

To learn more about giant pumpkins, check out these resources:

Bulb Planting

Time to tip-toe with tulips, crocus, daffodils and more

Daffodil Thalia

By Michael Leach

So many worn phrases accurately apply to bulbs: Can’t judge a book by its cover; small but mighty; big things come in little packages; the more the merrier. My mind flounders trying to find a clever new, way to describe them.Certainly the spring-flowering corms, rhizomes and bulbs we plant in fall can’t be judged by their nondescript appearances and size. Their cheery and sometimes fragrant flowers look nothing like the brown and beige knobs we plant now. The tiniest snow crocus creates enormous visual impact on a  late February day.

Crocus tommasinianus

When it comes to the spring flowers, I always rue not planting more of everything. As Wordsworth observed, “a host of daffodils” makes a memory that delights long after summer rolls in.

Whatever the phrasing used in describing bulbs and such, their planting time has arrived.

Trouble is, this end-of-the-season ritual comes when waning inspiration and energy are directed toward shutting down. This year the task will be especially onerous due to my drought-tortured soil  that is dry as flour below a granite countertop crust. Small explosives seem a far better choice than shovel or bulb planter.

To soften things up, I could water the site a few days ahead of planting. But an uncertain schedule means I’ll probably skip a morning workout and muscle my way through the concrete-like soil, all the while ruing the dull shovel blade I neglected to sharpen.

Once I get a hole dug, I’ll add 2 or 3 inches of water and let that soak in hoping the emerging roots chase the water. In “normal” years, I skip this. (As you probably know, only plant in a well-drained site or the bulbs will rot.)

Next comes the bulbs. I usually plant two or three types in layer-cake style. Big ones on the bottom, mediums in the middle and small ones on top, backfilling between each layer. If bulb fertilizer is at hand, I use it as recommended on the package. A lack of fertilizer, however, never seemed to hinder performance but this is recommended. Then I soak the area thoroughly and move on to the next dig.

Bulb experts also recommend:

  • Avoiding bulbs that are shriveled or have soft spots, rot  or green shoots.
  • Making holes about three times deeper than the diameter of the bulb. A 1-inch bulb needs a 3-inch deep hole.
  • Planting pointy ends up. Some types lack a pointy end. No matter, even upside down shoots eventually find their way to the surface.
  • Pairing bulbs with plants that don’t need a lot of summer watering. This also masks homely, fading bulb foliage.
  • Planting in groups — not single file — and buying as many bulbs as you can afford. After all, the more the merrier!

Favorite Flora: Cypress Vine

Cypress vine – Ipomoea quamoclit

By Debra Knapke

Yes, the flowers are that intense scarlet!  The cypress vine is an annual vine that graces the garden in the late summer to mid-fall.  It is shy about opening its blossoms on cloudy days, but a bright overcast day is enough to send it into a frenzy of bloom.  All August and September I have watched a female hummingbird visit in the morning at lunch and at dusk.  She has chased other hummers away; it seems she thinks this is her private stock of nectar.

I really do nothing to for the cypress vine other than guide the initial twining stems onto the various trellises I have scattered in my garden.  It likes a moist soil initially – a challenge this summer – and a full sun exposure.  After the first moderate to hard frost, the vine dies, but it leaves behind its legacy of seeds; lots and lots of seeds.  I scatter them in my garden and share with others who want to enjoy this scarlet beauty.

Favorite Flora: Native Trees

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is
now.” — Anonymous

By Teresa Woodard

Happy October! As this month brings cooler temperatures and hopefully more rain, it’s a great time for planting trees. I recently met with Ed Kapraly of Riverside Native Trees in Delaware, Ohio and gained a better appreciation of the value of native trees.  They not only provide beauty but also offer important food and shelter for backyard wildlife.  To learn more, read the Ohio Magazine story “Living Legacies”.

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