Archive for the 'Gardening For Life' category

Planting A Tree: Chionanthus virginicus

May 12 2010 Published by under Gardening For Life

I went to the Morris Arboretum plant sale last Friday. As a member, I got a "bonus" plant for free. The "bonus" plant is a lure to bring you to the plant sale. You pick up your bonus plant at a special tent at the very back of the plant sale, so you have to walk past the tables of annuals and perennials, the dozens of herbs and scented geraniums, seedling tomatoes and peppers and swiss chard, the long aisles of potted shrubs and trees, the section showcasing the offerings of the Rhododendron Society, the little clump devoted to clematis and native the time you get to the bonus plant tent you are weak at the knees, all rational thought has left your brain, and you are certain - certain, I tell you! - that you could easily incorporate two dozen or so new plants into your landscape with ease. Ease! Despite the fact that you still have half a dozen or so potted critters languishing at home from the last plant sale you visited, desperately hoping you will, any day now, create a suitable earthly home for them.
Last year's bonus plant was a fothergilla, and I wince to think that it spent all summer hastily tucked into a container in the backyard while I dithered about where to plant it before even more hastily chucking it into a barely dug hole in a semi-suitable spot last September. It leafed out this spring, though, and who knows, it may thrive!
This year's bonus plant will not tolerate such neglect.

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18 responses so far

Weeding the Forest

Apr 23 2010 Published by under Commercial Lessons, Gardening For Life

Sharon Astyk hates Earth Day. Really hates it. There she was, publicly hating it on its 40th anniversary, no less.

And most Earth Day programs send the same message. They say "you too can make a difference...and it will be convenient, mostly involve shopping and won't change your life. Here, take some baby steps, change your lightbulbs, plant one tomato" and come listen to some folkie music!"

Well, that can't be right, can it? Sadly, yes. As I commented on another of Sharon's posts,

Just saw a tv commercial for a compostable potato chip bag. According to the commercial, I can totally save the earth by eating those chips! Curly haired blond children were frolicking over grassy bucolic hillsides, all because of the chip bag. It was amazing.

Those grassy bucolic hillsides, by the way, did not appear to be infested with either garlic mustard or multiflora rose, or any of the other pests on this list of invasive species in PA.
I spent Earth Day weeding the forest edge that borders the back of my property. Specifically, I pulled out a metric fuckton of garlic mustard, along with a several nice handfuls of Star of Bethlehem. The former is much more satisfying to weed than the latter, because you can generally pull out the entire plant and its whole root system, whereas the Star of Bethlehem needs to have its bulb dug out and good luck if you can. And I just discovered a patch of what I am pretty sure is multiflora rose, which has me gnashing my teeth in despair. A giant bucket of Agent Orange would not be a sufficient aid in doing battle against that enemy. I could scorch my hillside and leave it open to erosion and next spring, no doubt, that multiflora rose would be back.

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30 responses so far

A Circular Life

May 31 2009 Published by under Daily Struggles, Gardening For Life, Scientiae Carnival

Scientiae wants to know what keeps us moving forward in our science, work, and life. I am not a practicing scientist right now, and I don't have a job, so I guess this will have to focus on life.

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3 responses so far

4/17/09 at the Morris Arboretum: Magnolias and Patrick Dougherty's Fantastic Sculpture

Apr 29 2009 Published by under Gardening For Life

A week ago Friday I spent the morning traipsing about the Morris Arboretum. The magnolias were in full bloom and Patrick Dougherty had just finished his newest sculputure, The Summer Palace. The twig and sapling sculpture will remain in place until it decays away. I can't describe to you the feeling one has walking around inside it. If you have the chance to be in Philadelphia over this summer I urge you to visit the arboretum and see this sculpture.
if you can't make it here....try to make do with my meager photos. I hope you will also enjoy the magnolia shots that follow. I make no claims to be a photographer (I think I fall in the "takes snapshots" category) but I just want to share a little of this beauty with you.

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2 responses so far

Cherry Blossoms

Apr 08 2009 Published by under Gardening For Life

Sunday was absolutely gorgeous, sunny and warm, and the Morris Arboretum was teeming with people out to enjoy the spring blossoms. Still, Mr. Z and I had this cherry tree and the blue sky above all to ourselves for a little while.
cherry tree [640x480].JPG
I know it's not a native tree but it's simply stunning, isn't it?
The folks from Yellow Springs Farm are coming today to consult on my yard and develop a landscape plan for me. Yay! Native landscape at home, manicured arboretum next town much gardening joy. I love spring!
UPDATE: they were here! and a full-fledged plan is in the works!

3 responses so far

Links for 3-10-2009

Mar 10 2009 Published by under Blog I Am Reading Today, Gardening For Life, Linkfest

I found Light-skinned-ed Girl via Acmegirl's blogroll. Lots of good stuff about the process of writing, quotes from writers, and the experience of being biracial. I like her idea about the Oscars for books. That is an awards ceremony I would definitely watch!
Black on Campus has a post about Lisa Jackson, chemical engineer, and head of the EPA, with links to several articles about her. Also check out the post on (Not So) Affirmative Action, wherein names are named of the selective admissions schools who admit Black students at a lower rate than other students. You don't hear the likes of Roger Clegg and David Horowitz complaining about that though, now do you?
Via Urban Science Adventures! I found The Urban Birder. Don't tell Grrl, but until recently I was not very much for birds. My younger sister has been a big fan of birds for a long time, though, and a few years ago she moved to a place where she is not allowed to erect a bird feeder or even have a waterbath for the birds. (I think this sort of restrictive renter's rule should be illegal.) When I was still living in Kansas, I acquired a birdbath and a feeder and pole, and began ministering to the local birds in a haphazard fashion, mostly in honor of my sister who could not feed them. Being the complete bird idiot that I was, I did not realize that it was a bad idea to start feeding the birds for the winter unless you were going to dedicate yourself to tending to them regularly all winter long. So this past winter I invested in more and better feeders, a wider variety of feed, and set myself to a feeder replenishment schedule. And darn if the little birdies haven't captured my heart. My sister gave me a bird book and I have even been using it to identify a few of the creatures who've shown up at my feeder, including the American Goldfinch and the common woodpecker. There's another woodpecker who's come by a few times but I haven't identified what kind yet. Of course I get cardinals, male and female, and there are some sort of largish dove-like creatures that search the ground for feeder-droppings. So I've started putting out a plate of seed for them. (They share with the squirrels.) Mr. Z has taken to calling me Bird Mama. I'm really completely ignorant about birds, except I know that watching them at the feeder gives me pleasure and lowers my blood pressure. And when the folks come from Yellow Springs Farm in two weeks to do my landscape consulting, I'll be asking them to consider how to make the yard more bird-friendly. Wow, this totally turned into a bird post! Here's a picture of the critters at my feeder during the last snowfall we had.
bird2 [800x600].jpg

4 responses so far

Witch Hazel at the Morris Arboretum

Feb 27 2009 Published by under Friday Fare, Gardening For Life

A week or so ago I went for a walk at the Morris Arboretum on a day with lovely weather, when it had warmed up just enough to make a winter walk delightful. I came around a bend in the path and encountered a cloudy vision of yellow - a witch hazel in full bloom.
M A witch hazel.jpg
It's not the best picture, but mind you I took it with my cell phone. This closeup didn't come out too bad:
M A ultra closeup.jpg
Isn't that pretty? Witch hazel blossoms are such amazing things.
And yet -why, why, why, I wondered, why is the Morris Arboretum's witch hazel in such a glory of bloom, while the best my witch hazel can do is produce a few straggly blossoms in a sea of bare branches?
my witch hazel 1 [320x200].JPG
Granted I am no professional gardener. Clearly my witch hazel is not as beautifully pruned. But is it too much to hope that maybe next year, I could get blooms on most of the branches instead of just a few?
Note those wooden stakes around the witch hazel in the first photo. I am going to have to add something like that to my shrub soon, to keep the deer from rubbing their antlers on it. The other day Mr. Zuska and I saw SEVEN of them waltzing their way through our backyard.
I bought the witch hazel at one of the Morris Arboretum annual plant sales, for two reasons. One, it is about the only thing that will bloom at this time of year, and it's so nice to have something to bloom when everything is so bare. (That is, if it blooms!) And two, because it is a native plant, although the particular cultivar I have may or may not be close to the properties of the true native Hamamelis virginiana. In any case, according to the PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, it has "low wildlife value". Oh well. I still want it to bloom. Maybe next year.
Just thinking about past MA plant sales got me all excited, and I went browsing on their website to get info about this year's. Sadly, there is no Morris Arboretum plant sale this year, due to construction of a new Horticultural Center - plant sales resume next year. Now where am I going to go dump all my plant cash? I know! On that native plant landscaping plan I want from Yellow Springs Farm!
Here's hoping that if you have a witch hazel, it is blooming gloriously for you.

2 responses so far

They Should Call It "Tree-of-Hell"

Nov 11 2008 Published by under Gardening For Life

At this point in the fall, most things in my garden have closed up shop till next spring. Oh, there are some chrysanthemums blooming, and the Virginia sweetspire and chokeberry tree have put on their fiery fall colors, but there's not much in the way of growth going on.
Except for the evil invasives. Sunday I went out to take a closer look at my beauty bush, which is currently sporting a heavy crop of bright purple berries, and discovered to my dismay about ten or more tree seedlings springing up all around it. Three of them had already grown quite thick little trunks and were threatening to turn into saplings. I pulled out the littler ones by the roots but those bigger ones - about an inch thick - required stronger measures. Mr. Z and I dug out the soil a little around their base, and then cut off the mini-saplings as low as we could. We then immediately painted the exposed cut surface with Round-Up.
Why go nuclear on these plants? Because we are dealing here with Ailanthus altissima, or "Tree-of-Heaven". Tree-of-Heaven is one of the most aggressively invasive plants around. The National Park Service has this to say about it:

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13 responses so far

Friday Bookshelf: An Ecology of Enchantment

Jul 25 2008 Published by under Friday Bookshelf, Gardening For Life

Earlier this year I reviewed Douglas Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home, which inspired me to convert my garden to all or mostly native plants. I swore this year would be a much better gardening year than last. Visions of gardening glory danced in my head. Ah, early spring. Now we are baking in the heat of high summer and my garden sadly disappoints, even as passers-by comment on how much they enjoy looking at it. Yes, I think, if only you could see what it should look like! One-third of the natives I planted this spring, supposedly so well adapted to our climate and soil, have already given up the struggle and gone to that great compost pile in the sky. That includes the hyssop, which grew to a glorious, bushy three feet and then, in one week while I was away, shriveled completely - every single leaf - and died.


Gardening is not for the faint of heart. A gardener needs sources of encouragement and, dare I say, comic relief. That you will find in abundance in Des Kennedy's An Ecology of Enchantment: A Year in the Life of a Garden. Ecology is a series of weekly meditations disguised as a gardening book. First published in 1998, it's easy to see why it's been reissued. On the struggle for the perfect garden:

We've tried our mightiest to reflect a natural pattern of overstory trees, understory shrubs and herbaceous levels underneath. The idea, of course, is to achieve a harmonious composition by playing the vertical lines of trees against the rounded mounds of shrubs and spreading ground-level plants as nature herself would do. I have come to the conclusion that one completes this attempt, if at all, shortly before dying.

That makes me feel a little less bad about not having achieved nature's harmony in my garden this past year! Though I still mourn the hyssop.

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3 responses so far

Four White Flowers

May 07 2008 Published by under Gardening For Life

It's spring, and everything looks great in the garden right now. Well, except for those pervasive Star of Bethlehem invaders that have to be pulled out by the dozens. Star of Bethlehem is a non-native, very invasive plant that can take over your flower bed almost overnight. I spent about an hour or more yesterday pulling it out of my flowerbeds. Its flowers are white, but it's not one of the four white flowers of the post title.
The four white flowers would be: tree peony, woodland phlox, chokeberry tree blossoms, and foam flower. I am not what you would call a photographer - I take snapshots, not photos, I fear. Nevertheless, maybe you will enjoy these flower snapshots!

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10 responses so far

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