Brace Yourselves

Garden Questions Coming Your Way

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By Michael Leach

A word of warning: The question season is returning. As soon as cardinals start singing songs of welcome to sunrises that come ever earlier, and determined green shoots begin pushing through the moldering autumn leaves, gardeners will be peppered with questions wherever they go.

Not that we don’t get questions all year round. Who hasn’t been at a party or committee meeting or funeral and somehow been identified as a gardener? Next thing you know, questions are flying your way. Doctors and lawyers probably field more questions than we growers, but even my doctor occasionally asks for help (at no reduction in his fee).

There’s no telling when a question will arise. I once stopped by a hospital to visit a friend. Obviously his condition had deteriorated considerably since my last visit about three days before — the waiting area was full of family who’d been summoned due to a sudden turn. The grim silence was broken only now and then by some soft voices.

Despite feeling awkward, I sat quietly, prayed and waited. Suddenly, my friend’s son-in-law, who was sitting several seats away, asked me loudly, “Do you know anything about asparagus?” Laugher erupted. Apparently my “job” was to be part of the comic relief. The man was serious, though, so we talked asparagus awhile.

Because I’m known as a garden geek among the guys who hit the Y before heading off to work, I get plenty of questions. Often I’m wrapped only in a towel and sometimes nothing. (I refer to myself as the naked gardener.) But the info on lawn care, tree planting and tomato blights is as eagerly received as if I were lecturing in cap and gown at a college podium.

A nurse friend tells me medical people try to get patients to talk about hobbies and interests during treatment. Yet, given my experience with the general public, I’m not so sure. I thought one nurse was unusually intent on knowing how to care for her roses for the coming winter. I answered her questions while undergoing surgery for a skin cancer on my nose that involved a small skin graft.

But it wasn’t until I was an emergency room patient that I experienced questioning under the most unusual circumstances (so far). I was being examined following a rear-end collision. The impact was so brutal that my head flipped back and broke the glass in the rear window of my pickup truck. The impact also severed the cable holding the spare tire beneath the now crushed bed. Amazingly, I had no obvious signs of injury, but a check up at the hospital seemed like a good idea. (God was with me, for I never even had a headache afterward.)

Strapped to a body board, the ambulance took me to the ER. While there, word got out that I was the garden reporter for The Columbus Dispatch. Apparently an X-ray tech recognized my name. He had a relative who was a graphic artist I worked with.

Tests, X-rays and then seemingly endless waiting for results. Still strapped to the board, I could only look at the overhead fluorescent lights. There had been only a couple of questions from the staff. I recalled what my nurse friend said about trying to make me comfortable. But the ER doctor quickly dispelled such thoughts. He skipped small talk and asked, “Can you recommend a good landscape designer?”

Who questions you — and where?

OK, so here’s a garden question for you, perhaps your first of the 2017 season. Where do you field garden questions and from whom? Is it the hair salon, soccer field, coffee shop, drug store? You’ve probably been queried in places few of us can image, so please share.

Now a second question: When stumped with a question, where do you turn for help? Please share favorite websites, books and other references.

For instance, among my go-to gurus is the  Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/plantfinder/plantfindersearch.aspx

 

 

Why We Love Moss (II)

Bring Moss Indoors to Enjoy Close-up

By Teresa Woodard

On my morning dog walks, I often return home with carpets of moss tucked in my pockets. I can’t help gathering the green tufts from rotting logs, boulders or the edges of a shady path. No mater the season, I’m inspired to use the treasures indoors to create — a spring nest centerpiece, a groundcover for potted bulbs, a nativity scene or an enchanting dish garden.img_0405

About Moss

While mosses are the oldest terrestrial plants on earth, they have survived for millions of years without roots.  Found on trees, rocks, river banks and even sidewalk cracks, these fascinating plants rely on leaves to transport moisture and nutrients.  Mosses reproduce by casting spores. The thousands of moss varieties are divided in two basic groups — cushion mosses (“acrocarps”) which grow with the stem upright and form mounded colonies, and carpet mosses (“pleurocarps”) which grow with the stem flat and form more fernlike, creeping colonies.  Lately, mosses are gaining renewed landscape interest as a no-mow lawn alternative especially for shady spots.  While they’re most prolific in misty climates of the Pacific Northwest and Maine, many have adapted well to Midwestern growing conditions, even rebounding from dormancy after droughts.img_6196

Harvesting Mosses

Find moss on your own property or check with local garden centers, floral shops or online sources (www.mossandstonegardens.com, www.mossacres.com or www.mountainmoss.com ).  If gathering moss from private property, remember to ask permission first, and avoid taking moss from public parks where it’s illegal. 

Use a spatula or perennial knife to scoop under the moss, collecting a thin layer of soil along with the plants. Always collect responsibly, taking only small amounts from any single colony, so the slow-growing plants can regenerate.20170117_085517_001-2

Creating a moss container display

Choose a wide, shallow dish with drain holes.  Consider a ceramic dish, a bird bath, a hollowed tree branch, a hypertufa trough, a faux bois (French for “fake wood”) container to mimic a tree trunk, or a simple plastic saucer from a larger pot. Avoid metal containers, since many mosses are sensitive to metals and chemicals.

Assemble moss and accessories. While gathering moss, search the woodland floor for potential accessories.  Possibilities include stones, lichen-covered bark and shelf fungi from the sides of trees. Miniature hostas and ferns and even dwarf trees also make good accent plants.

To assemble the container,  start with a layer of gravel for drainage.  Add a layer of well-draining potting mix and insert accent plant(s) and larger accessories.  Cover remaining exposed potting mix with pieces of moss.  Use a single variety or various combinations of mosses.  Water thoroughly with rain water and gently press mosses in place.

Situate your potted container in a location that best replicates its natural conditions – most likely with bright indirect light and access to rain water. Try placing the containers on shady porch steps, in the garden beneath trees or along the northern shaded side of the house.  Moss containers can also make “visits” indoors to be enjoyed temporarily as a table centerpiece.

Keep the moss container watered exclusively with rain water, since tap water may contain minerals harmful to these sensitive plants.  Thoroughly water weekly, and adjust frequency depending on the weather.  Mist moss between waterings. moss container

Learn More

To learn more, visit Ohio Moss and Lichen Association’s website at www.ohiomosslichen.org or check out these books:   Moss Gardening by George Schenk, New Methods in Moss Gardening by Richard Smith, Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer or Mosses of the Great Lakes Forest by Howard Alvin Crum.

 

 

 

 

Garden Gratitude

20140927_092612_AndroidBy Teresa Woodard, Michael Leach and Debra Knapke

Happy Thanksgiving to our wonderful Heartland Gardening friends! In honor of the holiday, we borrowed a few lines from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43.

How do we thank thee?  Let us count the ways . . .

1)              A bounty of fresh produce that tastes even better when planted with our own hands and served at peak ripeness and flavor.20140823_181915_Android

2)              Fresh cut flowers to brighten our homes and share with friends.

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3)              An ever-evolving meadow that’s a welcome habitat for finches, hummingbirds, Monarchs and swallowtails.Coneflower

4)              A collection of spring ephemerals and other pass along plants that are a delightful reminder of the friends and family that have shared them with us.jack-in-the-pulpit-2015_04_23-22_54_15-utc

5)              The education we gained from our garden failures and triumphs.Lilium canadense

6)              The physical and mental benefits of gardening chores. Raking leaves not only results leaf mulch and strong arms but also a chance to relish the lingering fall season.

Michael Leach7)              Being nurtured by simply sitting in the garden, gazing in silent wonder at all the forms of plants and animals — God’s incredible creativity.IMG_1687

8)              The promise of spring that comes wrapped in little brown bulbs that we plant in the fall when the garden is moving into dormancy.

9)              Realizing that my garden is perfect in the moment and if there is something that needs changing, there is always next year.

10)          That a garden is full of possibility…IMG_0028

11)          For all the friends we have made through the years because  of our shared interest in plants and nature.

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The Signs of Fall: early, late and unusual

By Debra Knapke

On the morning of November 10th I woke up to the first frost in my garden caused by temperatures in the high 20s. The overnight temperatures dipped into the low 30s the week before, but because of microclimates caused by tree cover and topography, no frost touched my plants.

We are experiencing what some call seasonal shift. Weather is variable. This is a given. Two years ago Central Ohio experienced an early frost – October 3rd – which was followed by an extended warm spell. This year the occurrence of the first frost in early November makes it the latest in my gardening life.

What does this mean for our plants? On the bright side, if you were behind in your vegetable garden clean-up, you have enjoyed an extension of the tomato, pepper and squash season. But the weather could interfere with plants going dormant for winter.  The ground has stayed warmer longer and this could interfere with the process of plants getting ready for the winter; “going” dormant. If our temperatures take a rapid dive down and stay there, this could affect growth for next year.

Think of it this way. The soil is still warm which promotes growth. But the ambient air temperature is cold so the signal to the plant is: go dormant. (Temperature is not the only factor that affects a plant’s dormancy process. Decreasing light levels have an effect on the dormancy “countdown”, too.)

Talk about conflicting messages! Which signal should the plant respond to? Send energy to support new growth at shoot and branch tips or keep the carbohydrates stored in the roots for next year’s growth? It is a plant dilemma.

fall-16-11-8-echinacea-last-gasp-cropTomatoes and squash aren’t the only confused plants. Here purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is sending out a few late October flowers. Note that there are new leaves emerging from the crown and the new flowering stems are short; about 6” tall. Contrast that with the stems from summer which are brown and done for the season. The only reason the stems are still there is the seedheads – not present in this picture – which I have left to feed the birds that visit my garden. This plant is responding to an extended warm fall. You also see fall blooms on magnolias, rhododendrons, and other woody plants that have already produced their flower buds for 2017.

Will this affect next year’s growth? Probably not for most herbaceous plants. For woody plants it depends on the species, how much growth is pushed out-of-season and how quickly the temperatures fall and then stay in the teens, 20s, and low 30s.

While the fall growth and bloom of the purple coneflower is uncharacteristic, consider the blooms and leaves of the hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium). Its life cycle is opposite most of our garden plants. It blooms in late August though early October then its leaves emerge in late September, last through the winter, and go into dormancy in late spring when temperatures rise. This year, the flowers started later and lasted until October 31st.

fall-16-10-2-cyclamen-curled-stem-resizeAbove is hardy cyclamen in full bloom on October 2nd. This is later than in previous years. Usually full bloom is mid-September with a few flowers remaining in early to mid-October. Notice the coiled flower stems; these are the developing seedheads. The coiled stems bring the seedheads close to the ground where ants harvest the seeds for the coating on the surface. After removing the coating, the ants discard the seeds. I mention this in case you have wondered how some of your hardy cyclamen moved up to 50 feet away from the main planting.

fall-16-10-31-cyclamen-hederifolium-leaves-resizeOn October 31st there are still a few flowers and the leaves have fully emerged. These leaves will remain under my dawn redwood through winter and early spring.

fall-16-11-8-nasturtium-resizeAnother sign of a later-than-usual fall is the blooming of the nasturtiums along the deer fence around our vegetable garden. These tender annuals from Central and South America usually succumb to light frosts. This is November 8th which is unprecedented in my garden. However, after an overnight low of 28 in the early hours of November 10th, it became a pile of mush.

fall-16-11-8-borage-borego-officinalis-cropBorage, a prolific self-seeding annual, also took advantage of a late fall. This is a seedling of a plant that I removed from the garden because it had reached the end of its flowering life. I scattered its seeds so that I would have a full stand of borage for next year. But what I have is a lot of seedlings now. My fingers are crossed; hoping some seeds did not germinate so that there will be a 2017 stand of borage.

fall-16-11-8-salvia-elegans-golden-delicious-cropGolden Delicious pineapple sage (Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’) is a tender perennial from Mexico and Guatemala, cold hardy in Zones 8-10. Usually it blooms in September, in time to be one of the last food sources for hummingbirds. This year its blooms were too late. Hummingbirds take off for warmer climes by October 1st, and my pineapple sage plants did not bloom until the second week of October.

Over the years I have observed the differences between the plants in my backyard and front yard with respect to plant emergence, bloom times and senescence. It is a mixed bag of results, but one species I felt I could count on to be “on schedule” is Ginkgo biloba. The trees in the backyard show their fall colors at least three weeks before the one tree in the front yard. The back trees drop their leaves by the first week of November, and the front tree starts dropping leaves a day or two before Veteran’s Day.

fall-16-11-8-ginkgo-stupka-resizeAbove is Stupka ginkgo in the backyard that still has some green-tinged leaves and as of Veterans Day, dropped few leaves. Below is a branch from the front tree on Nov. 10th, but the fall color is only edging the leaves. On the 11th, more branches have solid golden leaves, and there is no sign that the rain of ginkgo leaves is about to begin. That may not seem like a significant difference, but I have watched this tree for 30 years and have raked leaves out of the thyme lawn under the ginkgo every year before Veterans Day. November 12th update: ginkgo rain has begun, but it is slow and intermittent. The overnight low was 28 degrees and that frost signaled the ginkgo to let go. The leaves on the ground are all gold. I’m predicting that the gold-edged leaves will fall last without transforming into gold.

fall-16-11-8-ginkgo-front-egded-in-gold-cropAutumn Glory Comes in Many Ways

The perennial queens of the fall garden are the asters. They offer butterflies, bees, wasps, flies and more the last nectar feast of the season. My asters are always late, often not blooming until mid-October and continuing until a hard frost. I have taken them for granted. So I have no data for you, just an entreaty to plant them as they support so many of our garden residents. Below is October Skies aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies’) cascading over a log. The other aster image shows a bumble bee caught by cold temperatures. She was not moving early (7:00 am) on the 10th.

Unfortunately I had to remove an ailing Engelmann spruce. In the top branches, I found another sign of fall: an eggcase of a Carolina mantis. I am ecstatic. I saw a pregnant female during the 2015 gardening season, but hadn’t seen any of her progeny this past season. Here’s proof that someone was here. I tied this branch to another tree outside and look forward to seeing baby Carolina mantids next spring.

carolina-egg-case-11-2-16-in-engelmann-spruce-cropOne last example of the variability of fall and this season in particular is expressed below. The spicebush – deep gold color in front – is on time with its color and leaf drop, but the pawpaw in the background are not quite at their peak, solid golden color. Usually these two plants are in color together. Please pardon my anthropomorphic wonderings… but, it seems that the spicebush kept to its schedule, but the pawpaws took advantage of the extended, warmer fall by not shutting down their chlorophyll factories. This led me to think about which attributes will determine the success of a plant in a time of climate change. Flexibility and the ability to adapt will be high on the list.

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Wishing you a lovely fall . . .

Coda — November 13 in the early morning hours, the temperature fell to 23.1 degrees. While at breakfast I watched as the front yard ginkgo lost all of its leaves except for the ones that had not changed. Now at 9:30 a.m., one by one, even the green leaves are falling. It is mesmerizing.

 

 

 

Garden Downsizing

How can I bid farewell to a jealous lover?
 By Michael Leach
There was no plan to create a lovely but demanding mistress some 30 years ago. Back then, the goal was to grow a beautiful view framed by the sunporch windows, create a sense of privacy in the backyard and reduce mowing time on the narrow acre-plus lot. No matter what the end result might look like, anything would beat gazing at the neglected border along the garage, the overgrown round flower bed in the center of the back lawn, the aesthetically challenged auto body shop next door, and the rear ends of the modest tract houses along the back lot. Attention would be given only when necessary to the family home place that had stood for about a century when I returned to help my ailing father.
First on the agenda, revive the perennial border, eliminate the round bed and cut mowing time. About half the vast lawn was dotted with shrubs and trees planted higgledy-piggledy. It took over an hour just to trim around them with a push mower. Then came the three-plus-hour ride atop the lawn tractor to cut the rest.
The dots eventually were connected to make an eye-pleasing whole in wide beds covered with English ivy and vinca (highly recommended at that time). Transplanting existing small trees and shrubs, planting new woodies and perennials, faithful mowing and regular edgings, building a low wall of salvaged stones, and endless weeding gradually transformed not only the appearance of the sunporch view windows but also my goals.
After only a few years of intense labor my vision of those borders and beds brimming with perennial color was amended to adding splashes of spot color and bursts of seasonal extravagance, such as the hundreds (maybe a couple thousand) daffodils glowing in the spring sunshine. Abandoned was an ambitious scheme for a fanciful gazebo sitting beside a large pond on the former horse pasture known as the back 40. This idea remains only a successful landscape design class project.
Though my jealous mistress held first place in my heart, loyalties were divided between a journalism career, travel whenever  and wherever possible, and necessary — but dull — house work and renovation. This sapped enthusiasm and energy. The garden, meanwhile, evolved into a high-maintenance landscape.
This evolution went unnoticed until  three or four years ago when a gardening friend asked what new projects I planned for the season. None. All I hoped to do was keep up appearances. Gone were the occasional and pleasurable hours of dabbling in the dirt and playing with plants, some of the simple joys afforded by gardening. Instead, I faced weekly hours of repeat and seasonal chores: weeding, edging, pruning, raking, watering, leaf management, bed cleanup, over and over and over. I rarely took time to smell the roses or anything else as I raced from one chore to the next. Even with hiring a couple of guys to mow, there never seemed enough energy or time to properly manage the half-acre or so of borders and beds or groom the small vegetable garden.
How did this happen? I totally ignored the key factor in the equation. Over time bodies decline, plants keep growing bigger. It doesn’t matter how much effort I give, the flora retains the upper and increasingly heavy hand.
Three decades ago it was easy to do 6 to 8 hours of work on Saturdays and other off days and be ready to do almost that much again the next day. The readiness and desire for dirt therapy remain but not the stamina.
So the time is approaching, perhaps next year, perhaps five from now, to scale back. Reality, or is it the wisdom gained with age, seems to be winning over the idealist, the dreamer, the one who never imagined he would think wistfully back to age 50— or be stunned at facing 68 in a few weeks.
Routine maintenance, whether indoors or out, erodes my enthusiasm as I trudge along in vain hopes of checking off items on an endless to-do list. I assure myself there’s more to life than weeding, watering and stooping (or dusting and vacuuming for that matter.)  A condo with a balcony or tiny house with postage stamp yard are current dreams. It’s time to scale back, I assure myself.
Such assurance fades as I stroll along the brick garden path that I laid down after building a small brick-paved patio adjacent to the sunporch perhaps 25 years ago. I cross a swath of lawn to view the little goldfish pool (a family project about 50 years ago), and then wander a few yards more to sit on the bench under the sycamore tree. Was it really 40 years ago I tugged the little sycamore whip from a stream bank in Adams County (Ohio) and brought it home to plant? Little did I know that when the time came for me to hold down the home place, the tree would offer welcome shade on countless breaks from toil and long pauses to simply sit and gaze in wonder at the green and flowery world all around.
After I walk the little brick path the last time, what will become of the flowers that have been in my life for decades? Some of the plants, the peonies for instance, have been part of my life from earliest memories. Grandma Leach and Papaw Stewart passed along peonies from their gardens as soon as we moved here in 1952. These have no names, but their blooms are as familiar and welcome as the faces of friends.
Even when I can no longer pinch back faded flowers and plant seeds, I shall still treasure plants — and the memories of creating (and maintaining) a living landscape painting that grew and bloomed beyond the sunporch windows.
But enough musing, the ivy needs cut back from the sidewalk again and those impatiens are begging for water as usual.
Scaling back — Surely there are readers who’ve scaled back and lived to tell about it. I’m looking for suggestions on how to approach it and no doubt others are, too. So please share suggestions. What worked or is working for you?

Garden Moment at ATL

magical-garden-artArt brings garden feel to subway tunnel

 By Michael Leach

I didn’t expect to have a garden moment in the subway of the Atlanta airport, but it happened. 

Shunning the train to get  in some needed walking en route to my gate, I passed several pieces of sculpture by African artists in one of the connecting tunnels between concourses. The greenish color of some of the stones, the serene faces and fluid lines suggested life outdoors and fresh air. I coveted several as focal points in my landscape.

Among my favorites were Galactic Dancer by Tapfuma Gutsa, Woman Showing Traditional Salute by Edronce Rukodzi, and Caring Mother, by Lameck Bonjisi.

galactic-dancer-statue

“Galactic Dancer” by Tapfuma Gutsa

woman-showing-traditional-salute-statue

“Woman Showing Traditional Salute” by Edronce Rukodzi

 

 

caring-mother-statue

“Caring Mother” by Lameck Bonjisi


Adding further outdoor ambience was a colorful installation suggesting a leafy canopy running the entire length of another connecting tunnel.  Recorded tweets and trills of bird songs added to the fantastical effect of being deep in a whimsical, shaded garden.

Had I known my flight would be delayed by nearly an hour, I’d have hoofed it through the rest of the tunnels to see what was on exhibit. Or backtracked to look more closely at the photo exhibit and permanent exhibit of Atlanta’s history. 

To learn more about art in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport visit: http://www.atl.com/about-atl/airport-art-program/.

Plant Lust (Part 1)

Professional Conferences and Trade Shows = Plants, People and Gardens

By Debra Knapke
One of the joys of my profession is being surrounded by plants. Discovery of “new” plants is a main occupation at the professional meetings and tradeshows that I attend throughout the year. These meetings are filled with anticipation, excitement, revelation, and, for lack of a better word: plant lust.
Two recent conferences re-affirmed my third choice of career in horticulture. In July, Columbus, Ohio hosts Cultivate. This four-day event, organized by AmericanHort, is the largest Horticulture-Greenhouse-Landscape Trade Show and Educational Short Course in the United States. It offers an international assemblage of companies and an amazing array of plants and products. I take lots of pictures and notes to remind myself of what I want to use in my courses and design work, and what must be tried this year or next.
Below is a very small sample (out of 89 images) of the variety of what I saw in June.
Strange Plants for Special Situations;
 Imagine rows and rows of tables holding new plants for 2016. There is something for everyone! Many were snapping pictures of the above spiny specimen. Dyckias (Dyckia brevifolia) look like they are either from outer space or from the deep ocean. They require lean and dry soils and will “melt” during an extended wet spell.  Last year and this year my plants had to return to the greenhouse during our rainy spells.
Celosia Dracula Cultivate 7-11-16 crop
All I could think was –The bold puckered leaves and deep maroon inflorescences of Dracula celosia are just begging to be combined with a fine to medium silver foliaged plant. Not usually an admirer of celosia, I realized that I was feeling a bit of plant lust for this audacious annual. Dracula will be in one of my containers next year; possibly with dusty miller or one of the silvery helichrysums (Helichysum petiolare).
A Beautiful Blender
Begoniz Mistral Yellow Cultivate 7-11-16
Soft yellow flowers combined with dark green to maroon foliage placed in part to medium shade is like a breath of cool air similar to the winter wind that this plant was named for: Mistral Yellow begonia. I am currently growing the orange selection in my garden; next year I will grow yellow.
Plants in Combination

Helianthus Vincent's Choice Cultivate 7-11-16 cropSunflowers (Helianthus Vincent Choice) in combination with lisianthus (Eustoma grandifloruim ‘Black Pearl’ and ‘Rosanne’) make a luscious combination in a vase. Plant lust hit again…


Talented designers compete in several categories. One category is: here is your plant, create an arrangement around it for a center piece, a mantlepiece or a bridal bouquet. The plant this year was one of the tender hen and chicks (Echeveria hybrid). This is not your grandmother’s bridal bouquet.
succulents framed Cultivate 7-11-16Carrying on our current love affair with succulents in the home and garden, many framed displays of succulents were scattered around the trade show. This “picture” was one of three set up along one of the primary cross-paths in the show. I was trying to think where a four by four foot display would fit in my living room.
succulents 3 frames Cultivate 7-11-16The other two easels were mixes of succulents, grasses and ferns. Note the potted plants close to the center of the picture. These turmeric plants (Curcuma hybrid) were selected for their gorgeous flowers. I grew turmeric years ago thinking that I would harvest and dry the rhizome for use in the kitchen. The flowers were beautiful, but not as free-flowering as the new hybrids. Note to self: another plant that will be grown next season.

Proven Winners sets up booths that showed how their plants could be used on decks and porches. While you might not want as many plants in the above two “idea rooms”, it definitely makes you think of fall display possibilities; and then, there is next year…

perfect garden Hieft Seed Cultivate 7-11-16
Lastly, here is the perfect garden: buy everything in bloom, arrange, plant, add water, and sit back and enjoy with a glass of wine in hand.
Stay tuned for Part 2.

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

The Kiss of the Sun for Pardon

Magnolia buds

Buds on a star magnolia offer promises of brighter, warmer days ahead.

 

By Michael Leach

Winter brings special magic to the garden. Visions of snowy branches, frosty twigs and bluish moon shadows on clear frigid nights come to mind. But sunshine is part of the potion.

Sea oats

Seeds of northern sea oats glow in morning light.

 

In this part of the Midwest, winter sunlight can be a rare and fleeting phenomenon. Weeks of gray skies are not unusual. So there is delight when the sun makes an appearance. When those welcome rays appear in early morning and late afternoon,  the garden glows softly with the burnishing effects from the sun low on the horizon.

ornamental grass

Plumes of ornamental grasses stand out against the somber backdrop of evergreens.

The poem on a garden plaque I keep meaning to buy starts, “The kiss of the sun for pardon … .” That kiss in winter, no matter how brief and infrequent,  warms my heart regardless of the temperature.

 

sycamore

Sycamore branches are tinted with the first rays of a February day.

In recent weeks I collected images of this warming touch. Perhaps they will inspire you to go forth in the remaining days of winter to look for special effects and golden vignettes before becoming overwhelmed with all the work that lies ahead.

Prairie dock leaf

The withered giant leaf of a prairie dock wears the gilt of sunshine on a winter morn.

 

yucca

Love ’em or hate ’em, yuccas seem magical at dawn on a clear winter day.

 

A walk in the woods in late afternoon brings enchantment and the voice of the woodland.

 

 

Thanksgiving from the Garden

What our garden inhabitants might be saying about us

By Debra Knapke

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and even the backyard critters are weighing in their thanks.

From the birds: We have enjoyed the seed cones and suet you have placed outside. The new spicy seeds and suet are epicurean delights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

From the squirrels: Thank you for all the food you have put out for us. Our problem-solving skills have greatly improved as we have played the games you have so nicely provided for us. Please note: we do not like the spicy seed cones and suet that you have provided this year.

Photo from Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources

Photo from Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources

From the skunks and opossums: Thank you for the kitchen scraps that you kindly left out last year.  We noticed that you are now placing them inside the large fenced-in area. Please consider leaving the scraps in a more accessible location; we deserve a pleasant Thanksgiving, too.

Photo from Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources

From the frogs and toads: We have enjoyed the moist places you have provided for us in your bog and rain lily pots. The area under the fig tree is nice, too.frog in bog crop 08 toad rain lilies crop

 

From the deer: The hostas were particularly delicious this year. We tried some other plants that were new to us; quite tasty!IMG_2376 crop resize 2

From the assassin bug: The bean trellises attracted quite a few insects for my eating enjoyment. I apologize for startling you as you were picking beans for dinner. I hope you noticed I moved quickly away from your hand.

assassin 3 8-23-07 crop resize 2

I was not carrying my camera while harvesting beans, so here is an assassin bug in my magnolia.

 

From the bees: Thank you for the myriad of blooms that sustained us through this tough season. The spring was very wet and it was a challenge to gather nectar and pollen in the rain. We made up for it in your summer and fall flowers.63006 013

 

From the spiders: We appreciate that you did not remove us from your window by your sink and over your front door (sorry about scaring your daughter, but we noticed that your granddaughter thought we were cool). both places were perfect for catching unwary insects.

She was about 1” in diameter when her legs are pulled in close to her body as you see here. Fully extended she was over 1 ½” in diameter. Here she is perched above the door, in the shade, during the day.

She was about 1” in diameter when her legs are pulled in close to her body as you see here. Fully extended she was over 1 ½” in diameter. Here she is perched above the door, in the shade, during the day.

PS: Thank you to all of the species that share “my” garden. I have enjoyed watching you and learning so many lessons.

 

 

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