A Home-Grown Alternative
I’ve recently been contributing the text for a book about high-end landscapes in the Hamptons, that playground of the wealthy at the eastern tip of New York’s Long Island. A couple of features unite almost all of these retreats. There has to be a huge “resort-style” swimming pool, of course, and beside that a large arbor for lounging made of ipé wood.
Ipé is a tropical hardwood from Amazonia. Aside from its handsome appearance – its rich, dark color has earned it the nickname “Brazilian walnut” – ipé is valued for its durability. There are claims that even when exposed to the weather ipé will last as long as 50-75 years. That sounds extravagant. I do know, though,, though, that a boardwalk made of ipé on Coney Island, NY lasted 25 years in that difficult seaside, high-traffic environment before it had to be replaced.
So when I recently confronted a need to replace the decking that flanks my own modest screened porch, I naturally thought of ipé. My deck is in a difficult spot in that it is washed by the rain from our roof whenever there’s a storm, and lies buried in snow for much of the winter. The western red cedar we’d used when we built the house 16 years ago is rotting, and I want to resurface the deck with something more durable.
A little research, however, revealed that ipé comes with an unacceptable environmental cost. It’s a relatively uncommon tree, so that logging it in any quantity requires cutting meandering tracks deep into the surrounding forest. It’s also slow growing. Although some suppliers claim to stock only ipé harvested sustainably, an investigation by the environmental organization Greenpeace found that the documentation involved is routinely faked by illegal loggers.
Fortunately, there is a greener alternative available. I found online a supplier of decking made of black locust. This is a tree species native to the eastern United States, that is both abundant and fast growing. Indeed, it can spead so vigorously as to become a pest in disturbed habitats, and is regarded as invasive in parts of the Northeast where it has been distributed as a street tree. Black locust wood is extremely hard – to drive a screw through it, you have to first drill a pilot hole. It’s also extremely durable. Old time farmers favored black locust fence posts because they did not rot even after several decades in the ground. Although it lacks the rich color of ipé, black locust is reasonably attractive, a warm tan when finished.
The 5/4-inch-thick, 6-inch-wide black locust boards I ordered were expensive: the cost was $5.59 per linear foot, plus shipping from North Carolina to Massachusetts. I’ll recoup the expense, hopefully, by eliminating the need to replace the decking during my tenure of the house. Plus, of course, there will be the satisfaction of knowing my deck wasn’t hacked out of the heart of a tropical rain forest. What price do you put on that?
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July 06, 2020 at 09:51PM
Win “The Earth in Her Hands” by Jennifer Jewell
It seems so long ago now but I do remember that Marianne and I were excited to hear Jennifer Jewell talk about her new book – The Earth in He Hands – 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants – at the Smithsonian.
That was in late March, so you all know what happened to the event. At least I was able to hear our colleague Tom Christopher’s excellent interview with Jennifer about the book – the interview that convinced me I really should read the book because it features such an interesting and diverse assortment of women and career paths.
How do these women “work in the world of plants?” By owning nurseries and garden centers, collecting and selling seeds, heading up public gardens, advocating for urban gardens or farming, photographing and writing about gardens, designing gardens, and working as horticultural therapist, scientist, garden educator or historian.
Regionally, the 75 women are from across North America and the U.K., Australia, Japan and India, where Jennifer found Dr. Vandana Shiva. She’s “a celebrated international leader in environmentalism, ecofeminism, and agroecology.” Despite my lifelong feminism, I was ignorant of any “eco” version, and asked Jennifer to enlighten me by email. She wrote:
“As for ecofemisim, it is a philosophical approach to seeing the demeaning/degrading of women and the feminine principles/energies/bodies in the world as being hand in hand with the demeaning/degrading/extractive mindset humans tend to have to the earth – and that both set of problems are born of the patriarchal mindset. That if you change that mindset and its attendant power and abuse of power, both the earth/environment AND the state of/quality of life of and respect for women the world over improve dramatically. This is a mainstay of the work of Vandana Shiva.” So now we know!
The 75 women also represent a wide range of ages, though the book doesn’t reveal their actual ages. I applaud that editorial decision.
Now it’s time for some serious name-dropping! I loved discovering in the book all these women I actually know, starting with the ones in my area: Susan Pell, Beth Tuttle, Ira Wallace, Claudia West and Cindy Brown. Then there are the ones from elsewhere whom I know or have at least met: Lorene Forkner, Mia Lehrer, Marta McDowell, Debra Prinzing, Margaret Roach, Rene Shepherd, Flora Grubb, Annie Hayes and, of course, GardenRant co-founder Amy Stewart.
A writer I’ve never met but would dearly love to is Jamaica Kincaid, who to my surprise is wearing a “I can’t breathe” T-shirt in the book. I hadn’t realized that the phrase became a meme back in 2014 after the killing of Eric Garner.
But back to Amy Stewart, one of the 75 “extraordinary women.” Amy’s profile covers her biographical journey and her many books but also quite a bit about GardenRant:
“Beyond her books, she has helped catalyze change in the horticultural world through the energetically irreverent GardenRant blog platform, which injected the field with some much needed (often female) sarcasm and deep critique of its precious and often-elitist posture.”
“In 2006 Amy cofounded GardenRant with garden writers Susan Harris and Michele Owens, and later, Elizabeth Licata. For its tenth anniversary Amy describes the new undertaking as ‘a modest little idea we had to stage as a horticultural revolt. We were tired of what the mainstream gardening media had to offer—warmed-over garden tips, repurposed press releases about the ten thousandth new coleus on the market, dull little essays about the wonders of spring—and we were convinced that bloggers could overthrow the gardening establishment. Like all good revolutionaries, we began by writing a manifesto.
“The manifesto began ‘We are convinced that gardening matters.’ To Amy,it was critical that for gardening to matter, gardeners had to “get out of the lifestyle section and as far away from home decorating as possible. We’re talking about how we interact with the plant kingdom, not how to choose a throw pillow. This shit is important! We’re flabbergasted at the idea of ‘no maintenance’ gardens. Gardening is something you do. It’s not something you buy and arrange around the exterior of your home in between fluffing the aforementioned throw pillows.’
“GardenRant was a compelling twist in gardening conversations that leveraged the new powers of the socially connected digital world to disrupt the gardening-as-consumerism model. Amy describes the beginning, recalling,’You could not say things critical of a company, or any-thing like “I f ***ing hate nandinas and they should be banned.” It was so boring.’ GardenRant opened doors in garden communication and addressed a blind spot for plantspeople that needed attention.'”
Thanks, Jennifer, for that nice reminder of our origins and for finding so many other women for us put on our radar and be inspired by.
Win the Book
Just post a comment here (or on our Facebook page) about why you want the book, and we’ll choose one at random. The deadline is a week from Monday – July 13.
In the meantime, check out Jennifer’s award-winning podcast Cultivating Place: Conversations on natural history & the human impulse to garden. It’s sooooo good. And learn about Jennifer here.
via Blogger http://wendyimmiller.blogspot.com/2020/07/win-earth-in-her-hands-by-jennifer.html
July 04, 2020 at 10:51PM
House Committee Releases Climate Report that Values the Next Generation of Farmers and Ranchers
Young farmers and ranchers are at a climate crossroads: they work every day on the front lines of the climate crisis, while their stewardship of natural resources is key to combating climate change. It is imperative that Congress take steps to address the climate crisis that puts their operations at risk by empowering them to address environmental concerns head-on. On June 30th...
via Blogger http://wendyimmiller.blogspot.com/2020/07/house-committee-releases-climate-report.html
July 03, 2020 at 08:51AM
A Gentle Plea for Chaos
Is there any reason to welcome chaos? It is the inevitable balance to stagnant order. In the Grand Garden, chaos is vitally necessary for life to thrive. Mary Vaananen joins us for her 4th Guest Rant.
THE BRITISH AUTHOR Mirabel Osler’s wonderful book was published in the 1980s, a time when British gardening was of a certain tidy proper look. Mirabel’s gentle plea was for gardeners to allow the magic back into their gardens by handing back the reins (just a little or a lot) to Mother Nature. Self-sown plants weaving a tapestry within garden beds was, to Mirabel, idyllic, unplanned and imperfectly perfect.
Since her book was published in 1989, others have come along speaking the same language. Cultivating Chaos, Sowing Beauty, and Planting in a Post Wild World all look towards making sustainable plantings that are beautiful, with natural spaces as role models. Planting the way nature plants.
Chaos in horticulture is de rigueur these days…on trend as the influencers would point out. Think Oudolf and Lurie. Catch the Dutch Wave! Or prowl the wild artfulness of the German steampunk Landschaftspark. Chaos is cool.
Ms. Osler was a fan of Christopher Lloyd (an original influencer) and perhaps her visits to Great Dixter ignited a love of, or fueled her fires for, the exuberant and (seemingly) only slightly tamed landscape.
I would love to accompany Mirabel on a stroll through the Lurie garden in downtown Chicago. Though not the swooning type, she might have to pause and take a seat to regain her composure. I know I did.
Chaos is not a warm fuzzy British grand-mum kind of word. We evolved to remove chaos in our surroundings if at all possible, increasing chances of survival. Like a black walnut tree with its juglone defenses, we tend to keep competition at bay and sight-lines open. As we have evolved, so too have plants developed clever systems of ensuring their survival. They outwit us most times.
Meet Ruellia humilis…WILD PETUNIA…a member of the Acanthaceae family. The Genus was named for Jean Ruel (1479-1537) French physician and botanist. All about Ruel, and Charles Plumier (the monk who became botanist to king Louis XIV of France), who named the plant for Ruel, at another time.
I don’t think anyone suspects chaos in humility. Ruellia humilis…humilis meaning humble or low… has a widespread native range throughout Eastern North America from Pennsylvania to Florida and west from Minnesota to Texas. Its low-ness, about a foot high, makes it perfect as a path edger, in a rockery or front of a sunny border. Bloom times vary with the region, but here in my garden it gives forth its dusky lavender flowers beginning the end of June through September…during the hot dry months when many other plants are finished with their business. Flowers are one and done…open in the morning and are closed and hanging limp by evening. Good thing there are so many.
This humble hardy petunia depends on chaos for its perpetuation. In October, seeds “explosively dehisce” from the seed pods. That’s a new phrase for most of us. Explosive dehiscence characterizes the entire Acanthaceae family (around 4100 species) and is probably the most interesting method of seed dispersal nature has invented yet. Click for a video on seed dispersal
Triggering the explosions are small, hooked stalks…a modified funiculus (remember Funiculi, Funicula? Click the link for a lively listen) cradling each seed that eject them from the capsule as the seed pods dry. Think Jai alai.
Research done by a trio of undergraduate physics majors on Ruellia ciliatiflora at Pomona College in Claremont, CA worked out what happens in that moment of explosion that launches the seeds so far. The seeds launch with extreme backspin contributing to the aerodynamics. “It just looks like this gentle, beautiful motion” Dr. Dwight Whitaker Professor of Physics at Pomona, said.
Beautiful, gentle chaos?
After typing the word chaos into Dictionary.com, and yielding
I realize the precision of the Ruellia seed capsule and the synchronization of the seed launch is anything but chaotic. It is elegant indeed. A sowing all-star, this WILD PETUNIA has proven very hardy, vigorous and adaptable. Yes, it will seed around the area…figure a 10 ft radius. I have not experienced it being overzealous. If it appeals to you, site it well and enjoy it here and there.
The very soul of a garden is shrivelled by zealous regimentation. Off with their heads go the ferns, lady’s mantles or cranesbill. A mania for neatness, a lust for conformity—and away go atmosphere and sensuality. What is left? Earth between plants: the dreaded tedium of clumps of color with earth in between. So the garden is reduced to merely a place of plants. Step – one, two. Stop – one, two. Look down (no need ever to look up, for there is no mystery ahead to draw you on), look down at each plant. Individually each is sublime, undoubtedly. For a plantsman this is heaven. But where is lure? And where, alas, is seduction and gooseflesh on the arms?
The bare earth in between plants begs for growth. No matter if you are a proud plant specimen spacer, or rely on mulch (the tinted concealer of the garden world) to fill the void, nature abhors a vacuum.
You can plant re-seeders or you can let nature take its course (chaos grab bag). Either way, what appears without any creative blurp from me often looks looser and more natural—imperfectly perfect as Mirabel might say. The opportunist has grown into its place.
We know that less tidy gardens are better as habitat for insects and wildlife. When insects thrive, the whole system does. And allowing natural re-seeding keeps the dreaded tedium of bare patches of earth from exposure, drying, and weed takeover. Again, plant the re-seeders (weeds) you want to see.
A little chaos brings something intangible…call it vibe or atmosphere. Maybe don’t call it anything. The buzzing and humming of indigenous garden inhabitants stream an awesome soundtrack, don’t they?
The earth has her chaos, and the natural chaos of tornado, tsunami, earthquake…any of her big acts… inevitably brings change, sometimes big change. I can’t help feeling these current times and events are an act of nature…a seed launch into new territory. Perhaps we need to learn a gentle tolerance for the chaos within ourselves and the world.
Designed for change.[Mirabel Osler was the author of 8 books on gardening and travel. She died in 2016.]
Mary Vaananen shelters in place in Louisville, KY. She is the North American manager for Jelitto Perennial Seeds, headquartered in Germany.
via Blogger http://wendyimmiller.blogspot.com/2020/07/a-gentle-plea-for-chaos.html
July 01, 2020 at 11:51PM
The SEO Garden: A Letter to the Midwest
June 26, 2020
Well, as your letter writing skills are obviously taking second place to your Facebook overshares, I thought I would pick up the baton (as most women must do in this life), and nudge you with its slightly nubby end.
I enjoyed your latest Rant about things in the gardening world that you love and loathe, but erased my pithy comment about 600 characters in, feeling it was better to start a new, more focused, discussion on the things that also make me crazy as a gardener and garden writer in a new(ish) digital age.
As almost all of them involve a laptop which is not particularly photogenic, I’ll entertain you with pictures of the garden right now instead.
There are many things to love about the digital age of course – my word processor for one, my digital SLR for another. Hell, my iPhone camera at this point. But I know, in a little tiny corner of my mind which I often close for comment, that each is working with the passage of time to make me lazier and less clever. Depth of field nuance? Grammatical flourish? Tricky spellings which tax the brain? All casualties to algorithms and sweet sweet convenience if I allow it. And I so often do.
And these are skills we should be loathe to lose. A writer friend wrote the following on syntax, which I have pinned up in my office on a 3×5 card to remind me of the fun of it all – the reason if you will to turn off Microsoft Editor, and Yoast, and the specter of your fourth grade teacher insisting that you will be pitched into the fires of hell if you start a sentence with a conjunction:
It’s no sin to tax the grammar.
The Scots would point out, quite rightfully, that the last word negates the gist of the thing, but I like to feel it is penned in the style of Ogden Nash. Perhaps you might prefer CAKE’s more modern approach with the lyrics of John McCrea in Stabbing Shadows:
Adjectives on a typewriter, he moves his words like a prizefighter.
That last line’s gotta resonate with the man who just penned 722 words (I counted) on high octane gasoline.
So if we allow these things to ‘help us,’ will they eventually hurt us instead? Which brings me to the issue of the modern ropes, however silken, that tie us in knots and limit the creative [horticultural] mind. I wonder if you’ll agree.
Do you know how long it takes to thumb-type Aechmea fasciata into a phone with muddy hands? Do you know how much I’m forced to drink when I then read ‘Arch fascists’ on a text I’ve just sent to a botanist friend who is probably wondering how much news I’ve been taking in lately – and from which websites?
Wait a minute, of course you do, you’ve got at least a decade on me. At least I can see my screen at this point.
All said, it does tend to limit the amount of times one wants to thumb-type Achmea fasciata into a phone with muddy hands. Easier to type ‘urn plant’ and pray there’s only one.
Which, like its evil brother, Autocorrect, does not understand botanical nomenclature and turns a simple task into ten wasted minutes of your life you will never get back. Here’s a great example from today: Tripsicum dactyloides to the folks at Apple is “trips to come back to the ladies.”
And, if I type it in, and forget to hit that top left “Yes, that’s damn well what I typed” word suggestion, I get something equally incomprehensible courtesy of Autocorrect. Unless of course, I’ve typed it before. Or not. Depends. Meanwhile, the tripsicum has spread four inches.
I imagine Dr. Fauci and his lot are struggling with the same issues: “No! I said remdesivir – the polymerase inhibitor, you idiot machine, not ‘REM death severe.’ Holy hell – like the President needs to think sleep will kill people at this point. Somebody get me a new phone.”
Writing for SEO
I do believe I dislike this most of all. Not simply because of the articles that have been butchered by editors with their hungry marketing eyes fixated (quite understandably) on key words and their synonyms awkwardly repeated 16 times in 900 words. Nor because of one-sentence paragraphs that can no longer hold their heads up proudly and call themselves paragraphs. But because of the nuance that is lost when all this happens – particularly when it comes to clever, teasing titles.
Would you rather read “The Necessity of Underwear” to gently introduce you to the painful subject of staking, or scroll through yet another “The One Crazy Trick Great Gardens Have in Common – Sure to Shock You!”
Had this SEO nonsense been the norm eighty years ago, it would have completely obliterated most great garden literature, including the scratchings of His Royal Highness, Monty Don. Loathe as I am to mention great British garden writers in light of your sensitivity on the subject, I feel an example is necessary.
One of Christopher Lloyd’s Country Life articles “Shun the Invisible Worm” (found in In My Garden) is a piece about succession bloom in late summer borders; and somewhere, deep in the meat of it, he comes to the threat of introducing the phlox eelworm into one’s garden. Then, just as quickly, back to love of plants, and of hybrid rhododendrons. The worm was just a blip; but in finding it and moving through the article, the reader-gardener is transported deep within Lloyd’s kingdom.
I simply wouldn’t have fallen in love with that garden (or that wit) without that journey. One feels the garden. One begins to know the garden. His articles are a mix of straight-to-point and linger-a-little. Both are necessary.
The great American garden writer Henry Mitchell wrote similarly, as did many others in the days before newspapers threw out their garden columnists onto hard pavement — forcing them to sell their souls in a world run by Yoast and its little red frowny faces.
New 2020 title for Lloyd’s piece: The Terrifying Pest That Will Destroy Your Garden!
Notes from 2020 editor: Remove rhodos and summer border options. Not relevant. Need some keyphrase headers. Can you make the worm more terrifying?
Notes from Lloyd: [annoyed muttering]
Those frowny faces say impertinent things like “Keyphrase has been found less than four times.” “42% of your sentences contain more than 20 words.” “82% of your readers have started scanning their Instagram feed.”
I wonder if those who don’t blog or write content for websites (all fifteen of them) understand how much has been lost in a one-inch-deep marketplace. 20 words folks. That’s what Yoast and Google think of our ability to read at this point.
For the benefit of future employers/editors reading this letter, I feel compelled to add that I am fully versed in SEO and will absolutely sell my soul in a world run by Yoast and its little red frowny faces. The pavement is so very hard. Scott, I’m sure you’ll join me in my abject groveling.
Writers gotta hustle in a COVID world.
Or rather, the new need for us to use exclamation points in texts, emails, or prose — or risk pissing someone off with our disembodied, obviously snotty, tone!
You probably wouldn’t understand because you’re so “good-natured” and “sometimes humorous,” but some of us don’t have to work that hard to make others believe we’re using a snotty tone, so we’re forced to use more exclamation points!
To friends! To colleagues! To people we’ve never met before! I die a little bit each time I do it! To those who flatly refuse – I deeply respect your stance! But maybe you’re grumpy! I can’t tell! And see paragraph above!
Can we all just agree to stop using them?!? Can we all just agree that an slightly uplifted tone is implied in all correspondence, no matter how short?!? Please!
Insane misinformation, perfectly SEO’d
Insane. And because I have no idea if it is libelous to quote these people, I won’t. Instead I’ll make up something that I may, or may not have recently read, by someone who may, or may not have 45 thousand followers, of whom 44 thousand may, or may not, be Russian bots.
“Plant green healthy taro! The healthy leaves are awesome in the garden! And good for you! You can eat the green healthy leaves in tons of ways! People say the leaves are medicinal – I’m sure they totally are! They just LOOK healthy! And green! Why not try it? Plant medicine is good medicine right? Right!”
There’s those exclamation points again.
Yeah buddy. You’re right. Taro leaves do happen to be edible. Boiled. Boiled hard. Just don’t make one of those “tons of ways” chomping on the raw leaves with a steaming cup of ashwagandha before you start your sun salutations, or your throat will swell shut. And then you’ll need something other than plant medicine to realign your chakras.
While I give everyone and anyone a free pass to make mistakes in life and in print as we all do, I cannot get over some of the utter horseshit I see out there. I suppose I should be thankful that it’s mostly Russian bots scanning it.
What was my SEO header keyphrase again?
Speaking of plant medicine, it appears to be time to close up this fabulously clever word processor with all of its little demons and frowny faces, and mix myself a G&T – though I know we disagree on the sticky issue of what to pair with one’s tonic. Your penchant for Vodka is unsettling, but I will assume a Vodka tonic pairs well with a Vodka jello square after a long day keeping the elephants off the phlox. Personally I don’t see why you don’t use Everclear and save a bit of cash.
Yours in the sublime brilliance of tonic at least,
P.S. Just rebuilt the carburetor on my edger with the help of a friend. I too loathe this gasoline dance we do, but at Stihl’s exorbitant European-esque fuel prices, I’ll continue to use my additives.
P.P.S. The irony of having to mess with the SEO of this letter to achieve Green-Face Nirvana has sent me to my second G&T.
via Blogger http://wendyimmiller.blogspot.com/2020/06/the-seo-garden-letter-to-midwest.html
June 27, 2020 at 05:51PM
Groundhogs in my Garden!
I suppose most suburban gardeners have some mammals to deal with in their garden – squirrels, rabbits and deer being the top nuisances in my area, so far. That is, until this fat-and-happy groundhog took up residence under my neighbor’s shed, and we think it has a mate, too. (We’re not sure – they all look the same to us.)
The first plants to fall victim to groundhogs were Echinacea purpurea, which were sheared to the ground (sorry, goldfinches!) and the spent flowers of comfrey – which I don’t miss at all. That’s all so far in my back yard.
My front garden is just starting to show groundhog damage, most obviously the sweet potato vine here in before/after photos taken just a day apart. So fleeting! And I’d taken that “before” photo so I could brag about how great this pairing looks, proclaiming “Look Ma – no Flowers!” or some such. Ha!
Our resident groundhogs have also defoliated several Morning Glory vines I’m training as privacy screening, among several other vines (Crossvine, Sweet Autumn Clematis and Purple Hyacinth Vine) but Morning Glory is the most vigorous of them all. Or was until the ‘hogs got ’em (a fitting nickname, given their appetite).
These select few plants (thankfully) among the many I have on offer for resident mammals are right in line with what my research reveals about their preferred diet. For example, I found this list of plants eaten by groundhogs in the Pennsylvania garden of the blogger Cosmos and Cleome. Echinacea, sweet potato vine and morning glory are all there! The good news is that they’re the only plants on this list that I’m growing this year, so that gave me hope.
Until I did more research and learned that “In the wild, groundhogs can live up to six years with two or three being average.” Probably more like six because we’re short on groundhog predators around here (just the occasional red fox).
Interestingly, “When alarmed, they use a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of the colony, hence the name ‘whistle-pig’. Groundhogs may squeal when fighting, seriously injured, or caught by a predator. Other sounds groundhogs may make are low barks and a sound produced by grinding their teeth.” Have a listen.
What’s hard to find are research-based lists of what they eat, beyond “primarily wild grasses and other vegetation, including berries and agricultural crops, when available…sheep sorrel, timothy-grass, buttercup, tearthumb, agrimony, red and black raspberries, mulberries, buckwheat, plantain, wild lettuce, all varieties of clover, and alfalfa.” Never heard of some of those! We DO have clover all around us (though not in MY lawn-less garden.)
From another source: “They especially like certain garden crops like carrots, beans and peas. They will even climb trees to eat apples and pears. Groundhogs have been known to decimate an entire garden by taking a single bite out of a dozen different zucchini or peppers. They do the same to pumpkins ruining farmers’ seasonal chance of selling them at Halloween.” Glad I’m not trying to feed any humans from my garden.
On the subject of groundhog damage, it’s disheartening to read that “An adult groundhog will eat more than a pound of vegetation daily. In early June, woodchucks’ metabolism slows, food intake increases, their weight increases by as much as 100% as they produce fat deposits to sustain them during hibernation and late winter.”
But enough reading – time for action! I bought some of this repellent and am spraying the remains of my most vulnerable plants.
And my neighbors and I have decided to pool our resources and hire a wildlife-trapping company to take our ‘hogs away. And not just for the sake of our gardens. We’re learning about possible damage to the homes and sheds they live underneath.
So to our chubby, voracious underground neighbors I say – “Safe travels!”
via Blogger http://wendyimmiller.blogspot.com/2020/06/groundhogs-in-my-garden.html
June 26, 2020 at 10:51PM
Shaking Up the Center of Classic Charleston with a Wild Heart
Plantsman and author, Jenks Farmer, in his first Guest Rant, tells a story of a dream come true.
How do I describe that sensation of not feeling the effects of the atmosphere? When for a moment, there’s skin and air and self and the world seem as one? When I’m in it, that equilibrium, there’s a moment before awareness; that’s the best. Those moments come on Maine mornings, Seattle summer afternoons and twilight in the fall, anywhere. Down in low lying, normally humid Charleston I feel one dawn in May. Walking through this park I’m in it for a few seconds. Then the thought registers, and way up overhead, a scratchy, rustling noise of palmettos leaves reminds me. I feel it move a curl of hair against my ear. I smell it, that breeze brings down a rosy fragrance mixed with a brown smell of funky marsh mud and sea grass.
This downtown park couldn’t be anywhere else. It’s always been a singular, odd thing. Even South Carolina’s famed novelist, Pat Conroy wrote, “I grow calm when I see the ranks of palmetto trees pulling guard duty on the banks of Colonial Lake.”
If you read what he didn’t say, or if you ever passed here anytime from 1900 to 2016, you know the palmettos because there really wasn’t much else to see. That quote is a romantic description of a place that was sparse grass, sidewalks, a murky, saltwater lake, and rows of naked palmettos. In my lifetime anyway, that was it. Oh, wait, there was an ancient lobbed off chaste tree and some weirdly pruned balls of pink oleander. To be fair, the people who walked their dogs probably liked it. Fishermen who don’t have boats love saltwater fishing right downtown. And, each Thanksgiving, local firemen floated a lighted Christmas tree onto the lake and then on New Year’s Eve, someone would drive their car right into the muck.
Since the 70’s, I’ve spent a good bit of time in Charleston visiting family and then later working as a horticulturist. I’ve sought rare lilies in cemeteries, visited great gardens and even collected plants on condemned housing projects. I’ve known more than a few adventurous plant people. Since the 70’s no one ever said, “
Let’s check out Colonial Lake.” Not once. Ever.
Until now. Every single trip, in any season, no matter how many other things are on my agenda, I plan time to walk the park around Colonial Lake. This naturalistic style, ever changing garden, full of people and plant friends, is now the horticultural highlight of Charleston, SC.
Jim Martin, a friend and mentor, brought on this change. That’s just Jim’s way. He has done the same in three South Carolina cities: Columbia, Georgetown and Charleston. Jim turned this place of compacted soils and suffering palmetto trees from byway into an iconic planting that tells a story of the deep South’s coastal plains plants, our horticultural history and makes a statement of the state of our native plant movement.
For planting design, Jim took a cue, a small cue from New York’s Highline, Chicago’s Millennium Park and similar public plantings. There was no duplication of those gardens. Those famed naturalistic plantings draw on meadows which makes sense for where they are. The cue he took was to tell a story of natural habitats to people who rarely see them, right in the middle when they walk, bike, stroll and walk their pets.
We don’t really have meadows in the deep south. The equivalent here is pine savannah or a marsh. Look across a pine savannah, under a soaring canopy of long needled pines there a sea of chest high grasses and thick leaved perennials. It looks like sweeping monotony. But smaller grasses and sedges grow underneath. And an incredibly diverse herbaceous and annual layer intermixes too. There are few woody plants as lightning induced fire suppresses them; woodies being more prone to fire damage. But occasional low spots are too wet to burn, which protects a few shrubs. These spots, called pocosins, protect emerald green wax myrtle, inkberry holly and thorny swamp rose. Thin Carolina jessamine vines climb the shrubs and Tarzan-thick supple jack lianas hang from trees.
Endless summer heat, soils enriched from burns and decay and sun make this a productive habitat.
Today around Colonial Lake broomstraw and panic grass, bull rush, white top sedge and even some European sedges mimic that unifying layer of blades. Perennials jump, lean, overflow and remind that climate produces massive growth rates. It’s a climate of maximum growth where plants are really wild and messy in ways that scare some people.
Jim knows how to grab attention with just the right mix of the beauty he sees in the wild and the kind of beauty most people expect. His spectacular pairing of plants from similar climates and similar ecosystems from all over the world lets plants do what they do in our climate and also lets most visitors fall in love with the verdant style.
When Monty Don, England’s premier horticulturist, ecologist and TV-gardener did shows, a PBS series, on American gardens, he walked through the park, during the opening scene under those old once naked palmettos. At his head level, as they would be in the wild, the shredded-wheat textured skin of the palmettos looked bare. Today this is one of Charleston garden moments — the place to pose for prom pictures, to propose to someone or if you’re a famous TV garden show host, to open your show. Today climbing up, cascading down and spritzing the whole park with that rose-milk fragrance — the one that reminded me at dawn that I’m part of this place.
Of the new planting style Jim says,
“The inspiration was the marsh and the savannah. We wanted to push the envelope. To tell an ecological story. So many visitors come to Charleston but they can’t get out into the swamp or marsh to see the native crinum, hibiscus or coral bean flowering. We want to connect to that for them. We want to challenge them too. But this IS a city park. We have a gardening level to meet. There was a history here to be acknowledged too. We included some elements of what’s referred to here as ‘traditional Charleston’ gardens. And we found plants from similar habitats that spiced it all up a bit.”
It’s a bland name but Broad Street is a landmark here. It’s a tight two lanes downtown that quickly turns residential and today it’s lined with multi-million-dollar collector homes. Then trees reach over it when you get to the park. It’s a street paved in overly romantic novels with layers of allure. Pat Conroy made the street name part of one of his novels. To keep in sync with the homes and allure, along Broad, Jim included azaleas and camellias and even a serpentine podocarpus hedge. Structural perennials like Asiatic crinum mix with plumbago and a few natives. “We tried, we really did. It was more than a nod to the area” says Jim.
The first fall after planting, Hurricane Mathew flooded the entire park. New plants, beds, sidewalks, benches, even the lake itself sat three feet under saltwater. You see, for all the allure of Charleston’s Broad Street, it was once simply marsh with brown creeks running through. Today it’s barely above sea level and if anywhere in town is going to flood, it’s going to be the Broad Street at the corner of Colonial Lake Park.
After that first flood, as soon as the water receded, Jim and his crew ran irrigation constantly, trying to flush out the salt. But all that newly planted Asian stuff, all those nods to traditional gardening shriveled up and died. That caused more than a bit of disappointment in the new park renovation. TV news made it a sensational story. People wrote letters to the editor. As for the naturalistic planting style, there’s a crowd of traditionalists who long for the clipped and tidy “Charleston style” (ironically, that was defined by a New York garden designer using mostly Asian plants back in the 1940’s and 50s).
That caused more than a bit of disappointment in the new park renovation. As has the naturalistic planting style. There’s a crowd of traditionalists who long for the clipped and tidy ‘Charleston style’ (ironically, that was defined by a New York garden designer using mostly Asian plants back in the 1940’s and 50s).
But most park visitors and neighbors love the new style, so says Charlestonian, John Darby,
“My son lives on the park and we’ve watched it become the place to be. Especially during Covid, it’s a place to get outside safely. Ten years ago, someone going out to walk a dog in the surrounding neighborhoods just walked the dog. Today, they go out of their way to see what’s going on in the park.” Darby has another significant interest in watching the park. As President of The Beach Company, he’s put millions of dollars and hopes into a mixed-use retail, rental and owners complex almost adjacent to the park, “that pristine park is definitely a selling point.”
Colonial Lake and other Charleston parks are the latest of Jim’s overhauling of the city’s look and horticultural vision. By his own accord, Jim will credit every success with a team. Jim assembles, motivates and like nobody’s business. I’ve spent many years on various teams he put together. To give you one solid example of Jim’s ability to motivate, to release people to be more than they know they can be, consider that I am a relatively quiet guy. Once, Jim convinced me to wear a Kermit the Frog suit to an American Society for Horticultural Science convention, to walk through trade show, lectures and coffee breaks as if nothing were odd about it. Back in college, I nicknamed him “Juggernaut Jim.”
On the Colonial Lake project, Jim worked with a team that included engineers, landscape architects and fundraisers. This team and project were assembled by the non-profit Charleston Parks Conservancy, a support group for City of Charleston Parks Department. But, Jim did more than plan and spec mulch. He did what talented garden designers do. Jim visualized the visitor’s journey. He imagined my morning walk in May, a sultry August night, a frigid winter day. And he wrote the story to be told via plants. Some visitors may notice stone choices, concrete color or bench styles, but every single one notices the plants. From the start, Jim also understood that neither landscape company nor park crew could provide the knowledge to care for this planting. He planned to hire a full-time professional horticulturist who could manage a team of volunteers.
“Those Asian plants that died in the first flood might have been ok with another year’s root growth. But I wasn’t going to take the chance of replanting. Today, Kellen Goodell and I look to Florida ecology for inspiration.
Remember? It’s what you and I discussed at the start of this project, ecologically, the coastal plain is one thing, regardless of state lines. We have a few great native nurseries but North Florida has a real movement so we look there for inspiration and new plants. “
Forget designers, consultants and landscape architects and even Juggernaut Jim. If a garden thrives over time, it’s because of one specific professional gardener, the dirty knees and nails person who brings success. Colonial Lake looks like it does because of Kellen Goodell, the young horticulturalist Jim brought on early in the project. Kellen knows where there’s a patch of soil that’s hydrophobic. He knows where the bothersome snail vine lays feet deep in the soil and comes back each spring.
About ten years ago, a young University of Florida student that came to work with me (in a botanical garden) as an intern. Committed to organic food production, Kellen was quiet, unassuming and seemingly unaware that his commitment, earnestness and easy smile inspired people. Kellen didn’t completely give up on vegetables or Florida, but he fell in love with Charleston gardening. He’s been lead horticulturist of Colonial Lake’s gardens since the renovation started back in 2016.
Kellen knows the swooning heat, the humidity that makes mulch stick to your forearms and the mysterious spread of poison ivy bumps. He knows what it is to be immersed in a passion. And Kellen knows heartbreak. He recalls:
“I’m not often despondent, but this was my first huge job, my first commitment to a place. I started in summer 2016. In fall, the city flooded. I saw it all underwater on TV, I just wanted to cry. When I could go down, there was Jim, with a pep in his step as he strolled through all my great compost and mulch, which was running down the street for blocks. He told me you can’t control it. A garden is a living thing. We’ll make it better. Jim teaches when he doesn’t realize it. We replanted. And we thought that sort of hurricane flood was a one-and-done. It wasn’t typical over the past 30 years. Then it happened again the next fall. And that was our turning point.”
That’s when Kellen really started seeking under used, salt tolerant plants both native and from similar ecosystems. He says:
“Now, the Broad street side, which not only floods but gets car exhaust and walk through and so much abuse, has gone from critical to spectacular. He describes it today,
“The elderberry is almost too happy. But under the shade of massive trees, mixed in with banana shrubs and windmill palms, with native red erythrina, it’s magical. And down at the corner sunny spot, panicum, catmint, crinum and later the super tall, super purple giant ironweed colors up in fall and keeps structure through winter.
“On that whirlwind trip you and I did of native nurseries of central Florida, you turned me on to fast growing frog fruit and sensitive vine but I think the biggest impact from that trip took a while to show — Simpson’s stopper. That shrub gives something every season, flowers in spring, fragrance, fall fruit. And it’s a pollinator plant, salt tolerant, urban tolerant. And it recovers like crazy – if a biker falls into it and crushes, it, it sprouts right back. Its native range extends up the coast to about a hundred miles south of us. But we’re not trying to be a natives-only garden.”
Kellen tells me about other professional horticulturists who utilize the park as a botanical garden. “They walk it, look, text me, learn new plants and get inspiration from the place — with no ticket fee, no closing time and no pressure.”
It’s a half mile around the lake. It’s a ton of work. But it was never intended for one person. One humid summer morning, the kind of day when your glasses fog up when you get out the truck, I saw tall, lank, smiling Kellen sitting in the shade surrounded by a crew of dirty, dedicated volunteers. They’ve been gardening all morning with him, now they’re having a little break to celebrate his birthday. Even my Momma sent a pound cake — Kellen is easy to like. He couldn’t keep this garden, this park without these dedicated neighbors. One woman has in her lap, very expensive kid skin gloves. Not only do they do the work here, but they advocate for the park and the sometimes-controversial planting style when they socialize.
Kellen doesn’t think about their power and pull in that way. He’s telling them about obligate moth pollination on yuccas. He’s nerdy. But sophisticated. He draws you in. And he doesn’t often realize when he’s teaching.
Right now, at this time of Covid, the volunteers cannot connect physically. Kellen tells me:
“This garden is making it now, with just me taking care of it because it has been properly pruned, mulched and weeded. Jim talks about gardens as places of teaching. And we’re adding more labels and interpretation all the time. But here’s part of the learning too: it’s not just tough, adapted plants but its proper care that pays off. All those volunteers working all those hours over the years set this garden up to make it through a crisis. It’s magical right now and it will be when it gets hot too.”
As I finished this writing, Kellen texted to tell me there was a peaceful gathering in Colonial Lake Park to honor George Floyd and to call for changes to police policy. We have a long way to go to see that kind of transformation. At least in one park, one landscape, one planting, we’ve been able to see that something that seems engrained, unchangeable can become something totally new. And that text made me so happy to know that Kellen and his easy smiles, his love of plants and people, got to be part of a creation of a place that all sorts of people now treasure and trust.
The saltwater still moves with the tide, twice daily, but new flood gate systems keep the water level up. To see a jelly fish in Colonial Lake
To see a few of the plants of the park.
Or Jim Martin and Kellen Goodell on Instagram
Jenks Farmer helped set the vision for South Carolina’s three newest botanical gardens created over the past 25 years. He runs a specialty bulb nursery and has written two books, Deep Rooted Wisdom from Timber Press and Funky Little Flower Farm from his own Plantsman Publications. Jenks was a founding member of the Charleston Parks Conservancy which funds and manages projects like the Colonial Lake renovation.
Shaking Up the Center of Classic Charleston with a Wild Heart originally appeared on GardenRant on June 24, 2020.
The post Shaking Up the Center of Classic Charleston with a Wild Heart appeared first on GardenRant.Via Gardening http://www.rssmix.com/
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June 25, 2020 at 01:51AM
Joe Lamp’l Rants about Mosquito Spraying Services, and 9 More Things
Guest Rant by Joe Lamp’l
I’ve raved about his podcast before but the recent episode “Gardening Pet Peeves – My Top 10″ was particularly on-topic for us. So I asked Joe if we could publish his comments about something not mentioned here since 2007 – the pervasive greenwashing by mosquito spraying companies. Here’s what Joe wrote about them in his shownotes. Susan
Mosquito spraying services are becoming more common, and I cringe just thinking about it. What’s worse is that many of them are now touting their applications as “eco-friendly” or “all-natural”. Wow! Isn’t that terrific? Nope – it’s not terrific. It’s usually greenwashing and misleading, and our beneficial insects are paying a very heavy toll.
Be an educated gardener and look beyond the marketing word salad. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s not harmful. Just like I mentioned in Pet Peeve #1, natural products don’t know the difference between a mosquito and a lady beetle and a honeybee. They just don’t.
A common ingredient in mosquito sprays is pyrethrin. It’s derived from chrysanthemum. What possible danger could come from the delicate bloom of a chrysanthemum? Plenty!
Pyrethrin is broad spectrum. It will definitely kill the mosquitos. It will, also, definitely kill the honeybee and the beneficial syrphid fly and the monarch and the lady beetle. Definitely.
Pay close attention to the details. For example, I checked out the website of one of the larger mosquito spraying services touting their “all natural” and “safe” product. In their own statement, they mention that the rosemary, peppermint and wintergreen oils on which their product is based target the neurotransmitters of invertebrates. Note that they don’t target just mosquitos. All invertebrates – including all the good guys – will be targeted.
They go on to state that the targeted neurotransmitter is the octopamine. The end result is a total breakdown of the insect nervous system.
What the site doesn’t tell you is that same neurotransmitter has been found to play a major role in learning and memory in the honeybee. In other words – even if the affected honeybee doesn’t die shortly after contact – its ability to learn and remember where to find pollen will be detrimentally impacted. That means this important beneficial will struggle to find important food sources. Need I mention the rippling effect of a lack of pollination for our food-producing plants?
I completely understand that mosquitoes can make spending time outdoors a misery, and they can transmit dangerous diseases to humans. I just strongly encourage you to pay close attention before you ever hire one of these services. There are some services which use Bti – Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis.
BtI will only impact the larvae of mosquitoes, fungus gnats and blackflies. It’s the bacteria used in mosquito dunks. It doesn’t affect other species, pollute water or harm bird populations. If any product can truly be labeled eco-friendly and safe, it’s Bti. I urge you to reconsider hiring a company that uses anything else.
More on Mosquito Spraying
Thanks, Joe! And from the UMaryland Extension I learned that:
And on the State of Maryland website:
I also googled “mosquito spraying Maryland” and found NO services that reveal the ingredients of their sprays on their website, despite the many who claim they’re safe and natural. My request for more information has, so far, yielded nothing but a refusal to answer without calling them for a quote.
Joe’s 9 Other Pet Peeves
If, like me, you love pet peeve lists, I’ve kept you waiting too long already for Joe’s full list. Here ya go:
1 *how do I kill it?
2 blindly adding fertilizer
3 poor lawn management
4 eco-friendly mosquito services
5 garden soil filled with garbage
6 poor planting practices
7 mulch volcanoes
8 dyed mulch
9 instant gratification
10 tree topping.*
*Asterisks indicate Joe’s TOP pet peeves.
Great list, right?!!!
Joe Lamp’l Rants about Mosquito Spraying Services, and 9 More Things originally appeared on GardenRant on June 19, 2020.
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June 20, 2020 at 04:51AM
USDA Launches Inaugural Urban Agriculture Grants Program
The USDA’s new Office for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production just launched its inaugural grants program, the Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (UAIP) Competitive Grants Program. These grants support programs led by nonprofit organizations, local or Tribal governments, and K-12 schools for the development of urban agriculture and innovative production activities.
via Blogger http://wendyimmiller.blogspot.com/2020/06/usda-launches-inaugural-urban.html
June 19, 2020 at 06:51AM
Random Horticultural Things I’m Either Loving or Loathing, and a Few I Haven’t Quite Decided On
For whatever they are worth, here are some stray observations that have rattled around in my noggin lately when I’ve had too much time to think.
Let’s start positive! Why not? Here’s something I’ve been loving—the Fashionably Early series of Phlox. They’re some kind of hybrid. I don’t know the parentage. I wish I did, but it’s probably one of those things where one could “know too much.” I’m thinking that if I were to find out, someone would have to kill me. Possibly Hans Hansen, who bred them, but maybe not. I would think it’s way more important for Walter’s to keep him in the field and away from the rough stuff, so it makes more sense that there would be another among them who makes the call to the “guy who knows guys” that would set my offing in motion.
I actually met Hans last year at MANTS Show in Baltimore, and, as my good luck would have it, wound up considerably less than socially distanced from him on the packed train all the way back to the airport. This was way back in January of 2020 when it was still okay for people to be within shouting distance of each other. An avowed opportunist, I, of course, peppered the poor guys with question after question the entire journey. He had absolutely no means of escape, and yet, I must say, he was surprisingly gracious.
In fact, I feel like we even connected a little, but that doesn’t really matter. What does is this. These are great new Phlox that more or less look and act like Phlox paniculata in the garden, just shorter, earlier blooming, longer blooming, and possibly a little quicker to become wider clumps. No mildew. Four varieties, ‘Crystal’ (white), ‘Flamingo,’ ‘Princess’ (pink), and ‘Lavender.’
And now, finally, to something I’m loathing. I hate weather forecasters who cheerfully crow about our beautiful, sunny, 5-day forecast when we’re on day whatever of a drought. This kind of behavior is truly clueless and insensitive to all gardeners, farmers, and, I don’t know, maybe some other people, and I often hope and pray that terrible harm comes to them. I think you should too.
For something I’m trying to decide on, I’ll mention the new Stihl gasolines for two and four cycle machines that are now available through licensed dealers. Regular gas station gas is problematic for gardeners. As if they’re waiting to see if the good old days of leaded gas will return, small engine manufacturers apparently haven’t really re-engineered for the higher alcohol levels in gas these days. On top of that, gas goes bad surprisingly fast, and, when it does, it gums up small engine carburetors. You can buy additives. You can buy miracle 2-cycle oil. But in the end the hapless, power tool wielding gardener winds up endlessly agonizing over things like when they might use the tool again, whether to burn out all the remaining gas when the work is done, what to do with leftover gas at the end of the season, who to blame when the engine stalls in the middle of a job and won’t restart, and, most of all, who to kill when your mower, blower, and string trimmer are all DOA come Spring.
A carburetor rebuild costs plenty, between $75 to $125, and it’s aggravating to pay it again and again, but worse is the downtown. The repair takes anywhere from three days (when you don’t really need the tool) to at least a hundred weeks (when you urgently do).
So, now, here comes Stihl with fancy new high tech, high octane, two and four cycle gasolines, which, for me at least, has solved all of those above problems. Haven’t had a machine fail to start since I switched to them. (Knocking on wood. Lord, look at me. I’m knocking on wood!) Of course, I’m admittedly stringing long chains of curses together in my head as I’m paying for the stuff. Thirty freakin’ dollars!. For a gallon of (somewhat classical) gas! Welcome to our Mad Max dystopian future of horticultural hordes hording unaffordable gas for string trimmers and chainsaws courtesy of the Andrea Stihl AG & Company of Waiblingen, Germany. But, on the other hand, how much is less stress worth? Is it worth $30 every time you pull the cord during a season? That’s a tough one.
One loathsome side note. Check out the similarity of the cans for 2-cycle and 4-cycle. Years ago, I accidentally used 4-cycle gas in a 2-cycle machine. Only takes about a minute to destroy a $350 tool forever, and the sounds I heard will torment me forever! This winter, I bought the 4-cycle Stihl gas by mistake. Didn’t even know they made two types. I had filled the tank on my (2-cycle) chainsaw with it when I noticed the can had a red cap for some reason and wondered why. Took a closer look. Then I went and got my glasses, came back, and looked again. 4-cycle gas! I avoided calamity by that much!
Thinking I could potentially save woeful future heartache for other old people just a bit less capable than me, I recounted this whole story to the teenager at the checkout counter at the Ace Hardware when I went there to buy another gallon of budget-busting Stihl gas I had saved up for by raiding car ash trays of loose change in the parking lot. I told him that that he and all the other clerks should point out to each customer which gas–the 2-cycle or the four–that they are buying as a courtesy. Especially to anyone who looks over fifty years old! I told him that this should, in fact, be the Ace Hardware Company’s corporate policy!
Now I have to tell you. If you had asked me to describe myself just before I entered that store that day, I would have told you that I was a reasonably bright, good-natured, sometimes humorous, fairly well-adjusted, high functioning alcoholic. But after the look that teenager gave me in there, even though it only lasted seconds, my self-image became something else completely. Walking out, I was from that moment on a bitter, old codger who watches too much cable news, forgets why he enters a room every single time, rages at strangers about nothing they care about, and who smell like nothing else on the planet. Like there’s not even really anything to compare it to.
Let’s add that kid to the things I loathe.
Probably a good time to swing back to a something I love. Callisia rosea ‘Morning Grace,’ (syn. Tradescantia rosea). A certain friend of mine called Irvin Etienne recently expressed on Facebook, unsolicited and unprovoked, that he hates spiderworts. There is nothing sadder than when a previously loved and respected member of the gardening community soils himself like this so publicly. In that one comment, Irvin was shifted from “a thing I love” to “something I’m deciding on.” Just kidding. I love Irvin. Everybody does. But he’s been under a lot of stress lately. Issues with chickens mainly. Like the class act that I am, I am choosing to give him the benefit of the doubt. And I’m going to assume that he had not yet seen ‘Morning Grace’ before he uttered those terrible words. Thus, his ignorance has absolved him, and ‘Morning Grace’ is simply the most beautiful plant ever. It is a lovely, diminutive, demure, elegant, adorable, sweet, little gem of a plant, and also undeniable evidence of God’s radiant love for each and every one of us! At least for every one of us who grows it. And it requires no special effort to grow. Irvin really should try it. And I think Irvin needs cards and letters from everyone urging him to rethink his opinion on spiderworts. You can send those to Newfields, 4000 N. Michigan Road, Indianapolis, IN. Include a one-gallon pot of ‘Morning Grace’ if you can afford it.
For loathing, again, I submit, my old, 1990s, Sear’s metal garden shed. It was such a nightmare to assemble that I had become a berserk, raging, cussing, wild-eyed, madman by the time it was finished. I remember that distinctly. So does my family. And the neighborhood. And, I’m told, the tale has been passed down now for over 25 years at the Hamilton County Justice Center! A continuous oral history passed from current convicts to new ones.
Fact is, after all that suffering during the assembly process, the damn thing was never any good. The sliding doors stopped sliding almost immediately. I had to duck to get in and out. It was always baking hot and dark and infested with spiders, mice, and wasps, and there was never any good way to organize it. Over the years, it has become a dilapidated, rusty eyesore. On our side, it is generally hidden by shrubs. But it has lately developed the bad habit of showing up rather startlingly in the background of way too many otherwise passable garden shots. So it’s been decided that it must go. I know already that this chore will be awful, possibly even worse than assembly ever was! I’m living in dread.
I could go on and on, especially about things I loathe, which indeed does give me special joy. Garden tour garden descriptions and garden speaker biographies are great topics. Right now annual weeds are an almost daily bane of my existence. Oh, and hoses. I’ll save that one for a special time in the future, but I will say for now that we as a society simply won’t be civilized until someone figures out a way to transport water from spigot to plant without resorting to hoses.
But I’ll finish with one more thing that I like. It’s a battery powered Stihl hedger that I recently bought. As a certified landscaper, arborist, public garden professional, and an award-winning but somewhat troubled garden writer, I am sworn to strictly honor the tenet that one should never shear anything ever. But I do. (Lord, the truth can be liberating!) Fact is, that beyond being all those things, I’m also a busy, stressed out dude who never has enough time. So I shear. A lot. And this thing makes it easy. It’s light, the battery lasts forever, and I regularly turn it loose on our boxwoods and Kerria, and I do so, lately, with no sense of guilt. My plants. Free country. Sometimes I also deadhead with it, shave off the occasional weed, and, once, even tried trimming my toenails. Not suggested.
Should mention here that despite two mentions of Stihl products in this blog that I am not a paid celebrity spokesperson for the Andreas AG Stihl KG company of Waiblingen, Germany, and I’ll prove it by inserting here a mean-spirited and entirely unnecessary bit of snark. As a battery powered machine, this bypasses an engineering accomplishment that has eluded Stihl for forever and day—designing a gas cap that works. Can’t begin to tell you how many tanks of that expensive Stihl gas their worthless caps have allowed to spill to the ground, and, man, that felt good. So there. Boom. Achtung, baby! You couldn’t see it, but I just dropped the mic.
Random Horticultural Things I’m Either Loving or Loathing, and a Few I Haven’t Quite Decided On originally appeared on GardenRant on June 17, 2020.
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June 18, 2020 at 06:51AM