Native Plants are the Wave of the Future. Ask Ed Toth

Greenbelt Native Plant Center by Flatbush Gardener

Recently, an article appeared in the New York Times about Ed Toth, the director of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center (see here) on Staten Island, who is running a project to turn one of the world’s largest landfills  into one of the largest parks in the US using native plants and seeds. Then I heard that this same Mr. Toth was giving a speech at The D & R Greenway Land Trust (see here). Since this GardenLady believes that native plants is the wave of the future and since I enjoy attending lectures on plants, gardens, etc., I decided to attend this lecture.

If you want to visit the D & R Greenway in Princeton, NJ, it has a park to walk around and a lovely building that houses what looks like a nature photography workshop so the inside of the building is filled with lovely photos of nature. In the spring they have a native plant sale.

The lecture Mr. Toth gave was about the work that he is doing creating a seed bank of native seeds and the work he is doing to create the mammoth park and restoring other NY parks using native grasses, plants and shrubs. His group works with D & R Greenway where they are harvesting  bulk quantities of native seeds. After D & R Greenway finishes harvesting enough seed for the Fresh Kills park, they will be able to sell large quantities of native seeds for other big projects- I don’t know whether they will sell to small groups, but one can always ask. D & R Greenway will then be the second largest bulk native seed harvester in the nation.

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TheGardenLady’s Morning Glories

Morning Glories – Full by Knowsphotos

My morning glories (Ipomoea) are in their full glory. Their heart shaped leaves make a dense bower and there are dozens of light blue flowers. ‘Heavenly Blue’, my favorite color for morning glories, are opening daily with hundreds of buds waiting on the sidelines to open for many more days of blooms. I just hope we don’t have an early frost that will kill the unopened buds. The leaves and flowers are flowing over my arbor and also in a mound next to a tree. I hoped these mounded morning glories would climb the tree, but they had a mind of their own. This mound of flowers and the arbor covered in flowers are both in front of my house.  See this photo:

Morning glory vines are also climbing up a “No Parking On This Side of the Street” sign at the bottom of my property. This latter location did not make my local township police happy. I tried to keep the vine off the face of the sign. But the police cut half the vine last year and this year again. Last year I thought it was the deer who tore the vine and blamed the deer. This year, I realized the vine destruction was from human intervention. But even these vines continue to produce lots of flowers and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the police will see the beauty of the flowers as all the people walking by my house have and not cut them back any further.

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Why I Like Garter Snakes in My Garden

Garter Snake by Atomische • Tom Giebel

One day a friend sent me a photo of a tiny frog on one of her plants. She wanted to know if she should get rid of it. The other day when I was raking, I was raking with a young man who helps me once in a while on my grounds. (These are jobs my sons used to do for me. But where are they now when I am getting too old to do it by myself? Married and living far away so that they no longer have to do these chores and pretending that since they moved out the trees must have stopped shedding more leaves.  Why else wouldn’t they be rushing over to help me rake so that l wouldn’t have to spend money to hire another youngster :-)? )

While raking the young man saw a snake and asked me if he should kill it. He said that he didn’t like snakes. l gave him a resounding, ” NO do not kill the snake!”- just as I told my friend that her frog or toad was something she is lucky to have in her garden.  This summer I saw the first toad in my garden. I used to try to coax toads to live in my garden by bringing in toads from a friend’s backyard. She lived close by so I thought our environments were similar. But the toads always seemed to hop away. At least, I never saw them around. But I always wished that toads or frogs would adopt my garden. In the spring one of my favorite night choruses is of spring peepers that are singing in the property that is behind my property.  This is what I believe my friend found on her vegetation.

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Book Review: The Brother Gardeners

I believe TheGardenLady can make the statement that Everyone Loves English Gardens! And who is it who doesn’t love floral arrangements? Or are you allergic and love artificial flower arrangements or silk flower arrangements?

But have you ever wondered how this love started? And who started all this interest in flowers and plants, whether real or artificial?

An excellent, exciting book that tells the story of gardening and gardens and all the people involved in their creation, that you must read is “The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire & The Birth of an Obsession” by Andrea Wulf.

This book tells about the relationship and interrelationships of all the big characters who were involved in early plant history. These are people like the Ameican, John Bartram, who collected the plants from the American colonies that were sent to English plant lovers. And Bartram’s relationship with Ben Franklin and what Franklin had to do with plants in America that is an additional facet of an amazing multi-interest life.

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Asters in My Fall Garden

20110706 aster by martius

I wrote that Chrysanthemums and perennial asters are in my fall garden. Those seem to be the main flowers when one thinks of fall flowers- those and goldenrod. Because I grew up with wild asters in meadows, I never thought of asters as an interesting plant for a garden. I always preferred chrysanthemums. But nurseries have been coming out with such pretty new asters and they seem so easy to raise and such a delightful addition to the fall garden, that I am having a change of heart about them.

These herbaceous perennials are better known in the UK as Michaelmas Daisies because the peak season of flowering is September and October, with Michaelmas day  falling on the 29th September. Gardeners and horticulturists are becoming more and more excited about asters. Hundreds of species and cultivated varieties are grown in gardens throughout the temperate regions of the world because they grow from Hardiness Temperature zones 2 to 9.

Most asters are native to North America, so if you like to grow native plants asters are a must have. Those who enjoy encouraging wildlife to come to your gardens, asters host a number of insects and animals. It is a food source of Monarch butterflies, painted lady butterflies, and the honey bee as well as the goldfinch and others. Some sources say that deer and rabbits don’t eat asters- other sources say they do. I haven’t seen my asters eaten yet. Asters are shelter for the painted lady butterfly, the goldfinch, the northern Bobwhite, the American toad among others.  See here.  If you would like seed to sow a meadow with asters, check out this.

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How to Protect Tulips from Deer

Red tulips at my place by Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi

What is it about tulips that make them so special? Over the years I had felt so frustrated that I couldn’t grow tulips because the animals would eat them. I used to drive by homes that had rows of tulips and wonder why the deer ate mine but not theirs. And then the next year, their tulips, too, disappeared.

One day, I went on a tour of Derek Fell’s garden. Derek Fell is a famous photographer of gardens and flowers among other subjects.  See here. He had opened his property for tours. Derek Fell lives in deer country yet when I visited he had a huge display garden filled with tulips. There was no fence around the entire property, just a low fence around the tulips. I hope my memory serves me about the fence. But a low fence would never keep deer out of a tulip bed. I was amazed. That was when he told me that he used Liquid Fence as a deer and rabbit repellent. It was then and there that I became a believer and started using Liquid Fence on all my plants. And last year, I was rewarded with the tulips I planted the previous fall. They all produced beautiful flowers. Not knowing what to expect, I had bought the cheapest small bulbs that year so that I would not waste money if they were eaten. Wonder of wonder. Here I had tulips flowering once again after a hiatus of at least 30 years. I could not be happier.

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Review: New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques

I love to visit our local library to see what books are new in horticulture, gardening, landscaping, plants, insects, etc. During my last visit I found a book that I think readers of TheGardenLady will really find valuable. Put out by the American Horticultural Society, it is the “New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques” which calls itself  “The Indispensable Illustrated Practical Guide.” This book contains both photos, they say there are over 1000, and wonderful color illustrations that are very clearly drawn for understanding. The book tries to cover planting techniques for all Temperature Hardiness Zones.

Of course this book is not all inclusive, no single book can be. That is why every year more and more books are written about plants or landscaping or gardening. There seem to be more and more new plants each year, and more ideas or changes in landscaping or new techniques developed that gardeners want to learn about. But at 4 1/2 lbs, this book packs a lot of basic information. Some books are quite classic in that they give information that is always useful, always timely even many years after the publication. This “New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques” is one such book. It gives clear, explicit information about so many of the How to Do things with plants or in a garden. For example, do you want to reduce your lawn but aren’t quite sure what to plant in its place? There is a chapter devoted to this topic of lawn alternatives. Are you curious about the pests enjoying your fruit before you do? There is a chapter on Common Problems. Do you want to trim your shrub roses or wisteria? Check this book our of your library just to see how to prune with their clear illustrations. It explains things about your garden in a concise, simple and clear way with those wonderful illustrations.

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Some Things to do in the Garden in October

october garden 33678 by flora.cyclam

I am getting ready for winter and thinking of next spring. Are my readers also doing the same?

I did my first major raking. Living with so many trees, this raking will be ongoing until the last leaf has fallen. But I never throw any leaves away. They are always saved. I don’t leave any leaves on my street. I greedily collect those, too, for composting. I hope you have compost bins for your leaves.

I just planted over 60 tulip bulbs for next spring. Now I have to hope that no varmint eats the bulbs. Unlike daffodil bulbs, tulip bulbs are not poisonous so animals may want to dig them to eat. But the vision of tulips in bloom, is worth the risk. Last year I only lost a few tulips. I have been talking to nursery people to ask what they do to safeguard bulbs and have been told that they put in red hot pepper flakes in the holes with the bulbs. They buy the cheapest giant economy size of pepper flakes for this purpose. I used up my old bottles of pepper flakes and also put in some moth balls into each hole with the bulb food. Then I sprinkled Tabasco sauce or hot chili oil plus stale ground black pepper on the ground after I covered the bulbs with soil. Hope that will detract those cheeky chipmunks.

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Annuals for the Fall Garden: Morning Glory and Mexican Sunflower

morning, glory by Aunt Owwee

Two other plants that I love in my fall garden are annuals. I planted the seeds directly into the ground outdoors, so they got a slow and late start. But they are finally taking off.

One is the morning glory. I planted a few seeds on either sides of my arbor hoping that they would cover it. I planted a few seeds near a tree that I wanted them to climb. And I planted a few seeds near a sign on my sidewalk that says, No Parking on This Side of the Street. The township was unhappy that the morning glory vine might obstruct their sign, so they tore half the vine off. But it didn’t matter. The morning glory vine climbed back up. But now I check the vine every morning to remove any tendrils that want to cover the face of the sign. And the vine is starting to bloom.

The morning glory seeds planted near the sweet gum tree that I wanted to climb had a mind of its own and refused to climb the tree. But no matter. The mound of morning glory vine in front of the tree is producing lots of morning glory flowers. But the pièce de résistance is the arbor. The vine has grown over the arbor in such a lush covering that with its heart shaped leaves and stray tendrils swirling around, it is a sight to behold even without flowers. But when the flowers open it is truly a sight to behold. The flowers seem to be opening slowly but there are tons of buds. Here’s hoping for a late frost.

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Outdoor Designer Garden Furniture

Garden bench for Kai by kretyen

Part of preparation for winter, now that fall is seriously with us, is storing outdoor furniture. That is a major problem for me since storage space is at a premium. The other problem, as I look at my garden furniture while stowing it, is that it looks so shabby. I cannot even call it Shabby chic.

I would love some clever outdoor furniture that is funky or interesting but can stay out in all weather. I have two pieces of furniture that I like. My favorite bench is an old park bench, the kind that is made of such heavy wrought iron that you cannot budge it. It used to sit on my grandmother’s front porch- so you know it is an antique. I took off the rotting wood and repainted it to match my front door and front of the house which is a silvery gray and fuschia. I love the look. This bench can weather any season.

The new piece that I treated myself to this year is a bench made from concrete. I bought it because it was on half price sale at my local nursery. I worried that it might look like it belonged in a cemetery. But it looks like it fits in a garden. And I don’t have to store it for the winter.

Still I wish I had really nice outdoor designer furniture.

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