Brace yourself! Winter returns

PocketwatchWinter starts with an act of Congress.

By Michael Leach

How else can a gardener — or anyone else — look at the end of Daylight Savings Time?

One night you sit down to supper in the fading amber glow of late autumn sunlight; the next,  it’s a black expanse as vast and forbidding as Siberia.

It’s a mind game. No matter the temperature after time change, winter is as real as any wind chill reading or stinging sleet.

An urge to hibernate grows and reminds us this is the time to gather near the  hearth (more likely a furnace register),  be still, cover up and rest. For weeks this hibernation-like  approach makes for  guilt-free indolence of reading and dozing on the sofa after supper. There is rejoicing. We have a  reprieve from weeding. It’s too cold for watering.

Hope lives on indoors with potted tropical foliage, herbs and a few clippings of summer favorites. My contained garden, even in a room with large, south-facing windows, is appealing but still fails to satisfy as much as a few minutes working warm garden soil filled with free-range plants.

Gardeners are outsiders. We flag under the gray pall, just as a  sun-loving potted plant grows spindly and pale when placed too far from the windowsill. Like the unhappy plant stretching toward the light, we too lean to the window searching for some sign of spring’s return.

Our grounding in the world beyond the glass makes gardening essential. We can almost root into the earth as we till and sow, while our heads remain in the air and sunlight. We are nurtured even as we nurture. Plants literally feed us and give us oxygen, so why wouldn’t they inspire joy when we see them turning green, flowering and breathing life into the stale scene of straw lawns and skeletal trees.

When hope seems lost, Daylight Savings Time returns. What better harbinger of spring than an extra hour of daylight. Instead of hunkering down to dinner in the dark, there’s time to garden after dessert.

Surprisingly, Congress managed to do something at least halfway right.

Garden Creativity: What would Picasso Say?

seated-woman-in-garden-1938Six Timeless Quotes To Inspire Fresh Garden Ideas

By Teresa Woodard

As gardeners reflect on the past season and plan for the next, I thought I’d share these inspiring quotes from painting master Pablo Picasso as they were restated in a recent story in Entrepreneur magazine.

  1. Bad artists copy.  Good artists steal. Just as in the art world, no ideas in the gardening world are new. So, yes, I’ll be stealing lots of ideas —  like elements of this massive border — from this summer’s round of garden tours.IMG_6989
  2. Everything you can imagine is real. A few gardens I saw this year truly stretched my imagination. For example, King Ludwig’s underground garden grotto or the Bellagio Conservatory’s crane topiary may seem a bit surreal, but they do inspire big thinking.
  3. 37301IMG_5480Art is the elimination of the unnecessary. As a garden writer, I tend to collect too many different plants which often creates a cluttered look in my garden. So, a goal for next season is to accumulate more of the most dazzling plants and donate those unnecessary ones to the Master Gardener Volunteers’ spring plant sale. One day, I’m envisioning rivers of plants like these Adrian Bloom designsIMG_9082 IMG_9086 at Chadwick Arboretum.
  4. Action is the foundational key to all success. Can I hear an “Amen”? This truth undoubtedly applies to gardening and anything else in life.  So, check back with me in a year, and see if I took action on the 10 new ideas in my journal to-do list.
  5. journalAll children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. I’m grateful to have teenagers and young neighbors to bring their youthful spirit to the garden. Thanks to them I planted peanuts, apple gourds, ghost peppers and crazy succulents.  Some ghost peppers even ended up in the high school cafeteria and caused several dared friends to lose their lunch as they choked them down whole.
  6. 20151108_140601 I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them. As I hack ideas from great garden designs, I can bend them to my own vision for my space, budget, growing zone and personal style. Here, I’ve planted hundreds — not thousands —  of Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) to achieve my own scaled-back version of this spectacular tulip display.20151024_154441IMG_5641


Check out the After Picasso: 80 Contemporary Artists at the Wexner Center for the Arts, through Dec. 27.sandromiller_irvingpenn


Four Reasons You HAVE to Garden

IMG_2695By Michael Leach

When my sister and I were little and driving Mother crazy with noisy indoor play, she’d shout, “You kids need to go outside and get the stink blowed off.” Turns out she was right, as mothers usually are. Except she had no idea of the benefits of being outside. There’s more than room to run and a dose of Vitamin D awaiting. In recent years concerns about the lack of nature in children’s lives are topics of articles and books, such as Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle. Evidence links “unnatural” lifestyles to disturbing childhood trends, such as obesity, attention disorders and depression.

To help get the stink blowed off, I’m launching a new campaign called You H.A.V.E. to Garden. Gardening positively affects you in four significant ways: Your health, attitude, property value and environment. I’ll look at these areas in future posts. Meanwhile, we need to start using science to persuade non-gardeners to take up the trowel and fight for a healthier, saner world by working with plants. I think this is especially important for the “green” industry of commercial horticulture. We all tend to be more enthralled with new varieties and gardening trends, than promoting the benefits of literally greening the world. Something tells me Gen Xers are more excited by the idea of cleaning the air with plants, than the newest variety of pansy I’m trying this spring.

Even a miniscule amount of gardening affects people in positive ways. According to the America in Bloom, the October 2008 issue of HortTechnology cites a study of 90 patients recovering from an appendectomy. Half the patients were randomly assigned to hospital rooms with plants during their post-op recovery. Patients with plants had significantly less pain medication, pain anxiety and fatigue. They also had lower blood pressure readings and heart rates, plus higher satisfaction with their recovery rooms than their counterparts in the control group without plants in their rooms. They also said the plants were the most positive quality of their rooms (93 percent). The patients without plants said watching television was the most favorable aspect of their rooms (91 percent).

If you choose the right houseplants, your air will be less likely to harbor various pollutants such formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide from indoor air according to NASA studies. Some are almost foolproof to grow, such as Chinese evergreen, Aglaonema commutatum, peace lily, Spathiphyllum wallisii, Dracaena fragrans; sago palm, Cycas revoluta, and bamboo palm, Chamaedorea seifrizii.

But there’s more. Outside the home, trees, shrubs and other plants are touted for their ability to remove carbon — plus create oxygen. Not to mention the benefits of a landscape for enhancing the value of your home’s curb appeal and energy savings through wind breaks and shade. Even if we garden enthusiasts can’t quote studies and statistics, we know our passion for plants is good for what ails us. Maybe that’s why, despite the aches and pains of a day of garden work, we can hardly wait to go out and start again tomorrow.

Tip: Avoid 5 landscape health hazards

By Michael Leach

Want to visit the emergency room– or worse? Tackle tree work.

A recent Ohio State University Extension newsletter warned of the dangers amateurs face when cleaning up storm damage with a chainsaw. Curtis Young, lead editor of the weekly Buckeye Yard and Garden Line, got my attention and dissuaded me from borrowing the neighbor’s saw. Why?

Chainsaws can suddenly grab and kick back. (I don’t want to be on a ladder or in a tree when this happens, do you?)

Ear and eye protection are musts. Two hours of chainsaw racket can mean hearing loss. An eyeful of sawdust or metal dust, should the blade hit a nail or other object in the wood, may mean vision loss — instantly.

Watch out for “trunk kick back” or the “sudden splintering of the trunk as it is being cut.”  Pieces could hit the saw operator or, as the trunk shifts,  pin the operator on the ground.

Logs can roll onto legs and feet.

Live wires tangled in the tree — ZAP! — possible electrocution. This one reminds me of comments from my landscape maintenance instructor. He knew guys with patterns of metal watch bands and belt buckles branded into their flesh from such electrifying encounters. They were lucky.

A good rule of thumb I’ve heard:  If the work requires a ladder, call an International Society of Aboroculture certified arborist to make recommendations.

Then make sure the company you hire has worker’s comp and other insurance. One arborist told me, “If I lose my leg, I’ll own your house.”

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