Public Garden Plant Sales

Bring on the Bonanza of Plant Sale Treasures

By Teresa Woodard

The plant-buying frenzy is about to begin, and there’s no better place for one-of-a-kind plants and great gardening advice than a public garden’s plant sale.  Besides, the sales generate significant income for botanic gardens, arboreta and plant societies.

There’s a month-long series of sales throughout the Midwest.  Many feature auctions, pre-sale party nights, workshops and book signings.  To get first dibs on plants, check out the pre-sale events typically offered to members. No doubt, the membership privilege is well worth the $25-$50 annual dues.

Also, come with questions.  Many of the volunteers have first-hand experience growing the plants for sale.  So, don’t be afraid to ask for their favorite tomato plant, native shade tree or miniature varieties.  The only danger is you may end up with a trunk full of wonderful plants.

Here are a few favorites:

Favorite Edibles: Peas

Dwarf Gray Sugar Snow Pea from Johnny's Select Seeds

Dwarf Gray Sugar Snow Pea from Johnny’s Select Seeds

By Debra Knapke

“If you don’t like peas, it is probably because you have not had them fresh. It is the difference between reading a great book and reading the summary on the back” ― Lemony Snicket, Shouldn’t You Be in School?

My childhood perception of peas was based on peas out of a can: mushy, tasteless, army-green-colored excuse for food. My dad had a garden, but it was filled with tomatoes, carrots and lettuce. I’m betting peas were absent because they needed to be started early, and that just didn’t fit into my dad’s schedule.

In college I helped shuck peas and discovered their true flavor and texture. What a revelation.

I don’t plant peas every year, but when it fits in my schedule, peas are my food-harbingers of spring and early summer harvests. Their only competitor is asparagus, but that is a post for another day.

When do you plant peas? The rule of thumb is to plant them as early as you can work the soil starting in mid-March; St. Patrick’s Day is often given as a target date. My target range is closer to April 5th to April 15th which is when I can get into the garden. Right now my peas are about one to two inches tall.

I am impatient and don’t usually plant peas that need to mature and be shucked. I gravitate towards the snow and snap pea cultivars which are delicious in their raw state or when lightly sautéed or stir-fried. I confess to using frozen peas in recipes that call for the “seed” (pea) instead of the “fruit” (pea-pod). At a restaurant I had an elegant appetizer that consisted of a pea and mint pesto spread over baked ricotta. I have yet to replicate it; maybe this year.

Here is a simple side dish for freshly harvested snow or snap pea pods (all amounts are determined by what is available from your garden):

Pasta with Sautéed Peapods and Mint Pesto – for two


½ to ¾ c       spearmint leaves and tender upper stems, rinsed and patted dry

3-4 TBS         olive oil

1 clove          garlic

In a food processor, combine the above ingredients.


3-4 cups       peapods, rinsed and drained

1 TBS             olive oil

Sauté the peapods in the olive oil until they are bright green and tender-crisp.

Toss the pesto and peapods with six to eight ounces of your favorite pasta. Garnish with toasted pine nuts or pistachios. You may wish to dress with one tablespoon of high quality olive oil. A fantastic olive oil – available online – is Lucero Meyer Lemon infused olive oil.


Earth Day — Score 1 for Rachel Carson

Bald_Eagle_-__Helga__-_Haliaeetus_leucocephalus2Bald eagles make history in borough of New York (headline in The Columbus Dispatch, Sunday April 19, 2015)

By Michael Leach

A pair of bald eagles is nesting in the Big Apple for the first time in over 200 years, according to the Associated Press story.

Rachel Carson would be so pleased with this news.Silent_Spring_First_Ed

The eagles are incubating at least one egg on a treetop nest on the south shore of Staten Island, the city’s most suburban borough. Almost as amazing, bald eagles were spotted this year in the other four boroughs, which includes skyscraper-covered Manhattan.

Not bad considering the entire state had no eagles by the 1960s. Eagle populations across the country had declined so much that the national bird was declared an endangered species in 1978. Last year there were 254 nesting pairs in New York state.

AP reports the comeback is “…largely the result of  environmental protections, particularly the ban of the pesticide DDT.”

Silent Spring, Carson’s 1962 book, documented DDT’s threats to eagles, other wildlife and people. I’ve always considered Carson, who died from cancer in 1964, as the silent spirit behind the first Earth Day in 1970. Her’s was hardly the only cry of alarm about what people were doing to the planet, but her passion, coupled with solid documentation, made it hard to ignore. Carson had a lonely vigil for a few years until popular thinking changed.

Our planet is still in danger from what seems a never-ending list of ills. But this report of eagles nesting in New York gives hope.

Thank you Rachel Carson.

Happy Earth Day.

Cincinnati Flower Show: Back in Bloom

10 Don’t Miss Stops at the New Riverfront Location

By Teresa Woodard and Michael Leach

From fabulous table settings to window boxes to jaw-dropping display gardens, the Cincinnati Flower Show’s long awaited rebirth in a new venue won’t disappoint. The horticultural magic is as powerful as ever.

Set in white-tented splendor in a downtown riverfront park, the show blossoms between the wide, brown Ohio River and condo and office towers. The colorful oasis caused our jaws to drop more than once as we wandered Tuesday morning with wonderful hosts Kevin O’Dell and Marie Huenefeld.  The event opens today and runs through Sunday, April 19.

Here are 10 things we suggest you see or do:

1. Cincinnati landmarks interpreted in elegant table settings. For instance, Fountain Square suggested in frothy, white orchids spilling from a multi-tier container. The focal point in this tent is a small dining table with crystal chandelier overhead that looks like a magazine cover shot.fountain square20150414_111241_001

2. Less elaborate but no less appealing are the window boxes and hanging baskets played out in visually appealing — and practical — combos of plants. In the same vein are containers and miniature gardens.

IMG_5447Jungle container

3. Shopping is back, too. Be sure to check out Vintage Revival’s jewelry from beloved china patterns.Jewelery vendor

And of course you can buy plants of the most unusual nature and favorites, too.

We also spotted a different take on garden flamingos — a small stone for the body, and black wrought metal outlining legs, neck and head. Not for everyone, but they brought a smile.

4. Display gardens in all sizes and styles, from a penthouse terrace to a Findlay Market of yesteryear, complete with antique wooden boxes, bare, clear light bulbs and seedings in tiny peat pots. One tent features display gardens created by Cincinnati horticultural stops including world renown Spring Grove Cemetery, which shows off some of the plants it has introduced to the horticultural market.

Findlay market

5. Pigs flying and otherwise can be found in all shapes and sizes, a natural for a city once nicknamed Porkopolis due to the number of slaughter houses. See if the kids can count all the pigs they see.20150414_115445

6. Children will find programs just for them and planting opportunities. There’s a display inspired by a rooftop garden at school near the heart of town.IMG_5457

7. Plenty of learning opportunities with guest speakers including P. Allen Smith and Jon Carloftis.


8. Impossible to miss are really big containers of pink petunias hanging from poles and sitting atop posts. These plants, donated by Proven Winners, give the park a festive, party atmosphere.20150414_122535

9. Inspiring garden ideas including our host’s own garden design.

10. A post-event plant sale

Tips for Daffodil Success

Daffodil favorites

By Michael Leach

Easy-growing daffodils bring smiles of delight each spring. To ensure the best chances of success with these poet-inspiring flowers, we offer suggestions from the Buckeye Yard & Garden onLine produced online by Ohio State University Extension.

* While adaptable to a range of conditions, some places won’t work. If you have heavy shade, try early blooming varieties. If you have wet soil, don’t plan on daffs. Good drainage is essential.

* Apply bulb fertilizer in early spring as foliage begins to emerge. Too late for this year, but do this next if you like.

* Skip the folding, braiding and tormenting of foliage after flowers fade. The more leaf surface exposed to sunlight, the more food the bulb produces to power next year’s show. If fading foliage offends, interplant bulbs with perennials that will begin growing later in the spring and hide the yellowing daff leaves.

Snapshots: Michael’s Daffodils

Leach curbHello, Yellow!  Golden Daffodils and Trim Add Plenty of Curb Appeal

By Teresa Woodard

Our fellow blogger Michael Leach definitely has a green thumb, and his gardening efforts this month are showing some golden results! At his home southwest of Columbus, Michael planted hundreds of daffodils around the family farmhouse where he grew up as a child and returned in 1988 to make his own and transform the gardens. Check out these recent snapshots of his spring paradise.Daffodils and old maple tree

Century-old maple trees were planted by Michael’s uncles who built the home in 1890.Back edge of propertyMore daffodils frame the rear view of Michael’s property.

Mixed bulbs by back steps Michael creates many charming vignettes like this mix of bulbs at the back steps and a spring container arrangement at the yellow garage door.Yellow garage door Rear view of home Rear view of home

Original farmhouse trough An original trough from the farmhouse

Magnolia bloom Garage and back doorSide entry

Front walk with scillaSide walkway

Buck decorated seasonallyThanks for sharing your garden, Michael!


Favorite Edibles: Carrots

Credit: World of Carrots Museum

Photo Credit: World of Carrots Museum

By Debra Knapke

Bugs Bunny did for carrots what Popeye the Sailor did for Spinach.bugs bunny book How many lip-locked, head-swelling children were coerced into eating their carrots by mothers cooing, “…but Bugs Bunny eats HIS carrots.” Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny of Looney tunes fame)

Carrots are one of my favorite snacks, especially ones just harvested from the garden. I am envious of Michael’s success with his carrots – bragging rights, indeed – as the past few years have not been the best carrot-growing years for me. But, this is the year. I have: five varieties I’ve not tried, good compost, a dedicated spot and I will be planting in late May/early June to avoid the carrot maggot. Well, that’s the plan.

I decided to go back to basics and grow all orange varieties this year, except for ‘Atomic Red’. I am intrigued with the health claims for this lycopene-loaded carrot and its reputed deep, deep red color. The others are all faster maturing, smaller varieties. ‘Parisienne’ and ‘Romeo’ are small round carrots while ‘Little Finger’ and ‘Babette’ have slender, cylindrical forms. Another goal this year is to do more pickling; ‘Little Finger’ and ‘Babette’ will be perfect for pint-sized jars.

As I looked for ways to increase my success with carrots, in my books and on the web, I stumbled upon a website in England that is dedicated to the glory of the carrot. John Stolarczyk, founder and curator of the World Carrot Museum has gathered an impressive body of information that is useful and a bit quirky. I’m thinking I need to make a “flutenveg”, a variation of a set of pan pipes. I’m not sure of the tone quality it produces, but who cares? Laughter will cover any off-pitch note.

If you want a more comprehensive list of carrot cultivars by color, Edible Cols springtake a look at my picks in the “What to Plant” section in the latest Edible Columbus.  There is a carrot for everyone’s taste. There is still time to order seeds or visit your favorite garden center to pick up a few varieties. Below are a few quick notes that will help you be a successful carrot grower.

  • Carrot seeds are usually directly sown into the garden; the taproot is easily damaged if transplanted.
  • Sow carrot seeds shallowly; consistent moisture is important for good germination.
  • Longer roots need deeper, friable soil; if you have clay or rocky soils, choose shorter carrots.
  • A potential pest is the rust fly maggot; plant at the very end of May or early July to avoid the first generation of egg-laying flies or use row covers to exclude the fly.

And, if carrots are not your ideal vegetable, here is another point-of-view from the incomparable Mae West:

I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.


Wanted: More Beekeepers to Sustain Local Stock

By Teresa Woodard

I really don’t need another hobby.  Yes, my teenage kids are growing more independent, but I already have a full plate with gardening, chickens and pets.  So, do I really need to take on beekeeping?

After Saturday’s beekeeping workshop, I’m convinced I should finally put to use our homemade bee box that’s sitting idle in the basement and purchase my first “nuc” or starter colony of bees. I learned beekeeping not only offers sweet honey rewards and promises of increased backyard garden pollination, but more importantly contributes to the local beekeeping community’s grassroots efforts to re-build the Midwest’s honeybee gene pool that was recently wiped out by varroa mites.

Did you know?

  • Bee varieties: In the United States, there are three basic types of honeybees– Italian, Caucasian and Carniolan – and many variations of each as they adapt to local conditions.
  • Southern vs. northern bees:  Bees imported from southern states are not adapted to the Midwest and in turn are less apt to ward off troublesome mites. New beekeepers using local versus imported stock are much more likely to be successful.
  • Drones: Drones, the male bees responsible for mating the queen bee, are in short supply, so a boost in drones numbers will help diversity honeybees’ gene pool.
  • Queens: Queen honeybees mate just once in their lives, within weeks of emerging as an adult. On their maiden flight from the hive, they travel to mate with drones from another colony. They mate in mid-air, at about 20 feet above the ground, with seven to 15 drones.  After mating, the drones die, and the queens return to the hive to lay eggs.  Check out this interesting queen bee mating clip from the movie More Than Honey.
  • Sex determination: A queen determines whether a particular egg is fertilized or not. Unfertilized eggs become drone honey bees, while fertilized eggs develop into female workers and queens.
  • Swarms:  At nearby Mockingbird Meadows, this honey and herb farm takes another approach. It allows its “feral” hives to swarm and also collects swarms from the community as a way to increase bee population.

Perhaps, my fellow bloggers have the right idea. Michael Leach offers his backyard to a neighbor beekeeper who keeps a hive behind his shed (see Oct. 2013 blog post on beekeeping ).  And of course, Deb Knapke creates a safe, chemical-free haven for various pollinators and offers a season-long smorgasbord of their favorite flowers for foraging.

To learn more about beekeeping, check out beekeeping schools offered this spring by state beekeeping associations.

“If bees were to disappear from the globe, mankind would only have four years left to live.” — Albert Einstein

Bragging Rights Prompt Efforts for Year-round Harvest

Simple Techniques to Reap Early Rewards 

In my part of the Midwest, planting potatoes, peas and other cold-tolerant vegetables on St. Patrick’s Day is a garden tradition best kept in the breaking. Usually, it’s way too cold and wet.

So imagine my delight from digging potatoes and  snipping a few tiny, tender collard and Asian greens on St. Patrick’s Day.

Boasting boosted agriculture

Some of you probably have even better harvests to brag about,  after all, bragging is a somewhat shameful but timeless element of gardening. I suspect one reason agriculture caught on with our paleo-forefathers may have been one-upping each other on the size and flavor of prehistoric veggies. Flowers might have factored in as well, assuming our paleo-foremothers were as delighted with a bunch of blossoms in a man’s hands as many women are today.

Times change but not bragging rights. Producing the first tomato of the summer prompts incredible antics by some growers: choosing  Early Girl or other can’t-wait-to-set-fruit varieties, coddling seedlings under grow lights, using mini greenhouses, and muttering mystical chants passed down from those first gardeners.

Enough about chest thumping. In the case of my potatoes, they aren’t the first of the season but the last of last season.

Secrets of success

My approach is  a mix of old and new. Grandpa Leach once described to me the vegetable pit on the hard-scrabble farm of his childhood. My memory isn’t clear on details, but the pit was something of an outdoor root cellar lined with straw. The vegetables were placed in layers and covered with straw and soil. Supposedly root veggies, cabbages, potatoes and some fruit stayed fresh in the cold, moist conditions. They dug food throughout the winter. (No small thing, considering the tales I heard of about walking to school through 4-feet deep snow from November through March.)

Being lazy, I skipped the excavation. I even skipped digging potatoes, which don’t keep very long in my cellar. Instead, mulch was piled thickly over the potato bed. A lot more mulch was needed this bitter winter — about half the potatoes dug St. Patrick’s Day were partly to totally mushy. The rest, however, are unscathed and delicious, as only home-grown Yukon Golds can be.

The collard greens were sown Aug. 15 and grew to micro-green size before serious cold weather arrived in early November. Immediately after seed planting, I secured floating row covers over the beds.

Protection service

Designed to thwart insects from accessing the greens, the row covers serve as something of a windbreak. I discovered this by accident a few years ago when I was too lazy to remove it after winter arrived. Even in the horrid winter of 2014, I picked a few leaves of collards and kale on St. Patrick’s Day. In milder winters, various greens can be picked all season, though growth slows to zip from mid-November to mid-February.

Can you top this?

Besides greens, I discovered the carrots, planted in late summer (tag is missing), came through just fine under the row cover. A couple dug on March 30 were sweet and crisp.

OK, that’s my story. What’s yours? Surely someone can top all this.

Inspiring ideas

For more inspiration about year-round harvests check out, site of Eliot Coleman’s  Maine vegetable farm that uses no heated greenhouses.



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