Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Natural fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides

More and more manufacturers are bringing alternative products to the marketplace. Fertilizers with seaweed and hen manure or lawn applications with corn gluten to inhibit weed growth are all on the rise.
Reclaiming unwanted land for ornamental gardens
Amid shrinking government coffers and few willing to take up their cause, gardens in public spaces are often left to languish. But there are signs that this is shifting. With the help of passionate advocates and funded with the help of a business plan that promised profitability, New York's impressive new promenade, called the High Line, opened in 2009 (and is being extended in 2011) on an abandoned railroad platform three metres above the streets in west Manhattan. Read about its history and be inspired at
Green/living roofs and walls
Green roof technology has actually been around in Canada for many years, but it has only recently been catching on for residential applications. There are certain important considerations (i.e.. roof pitch, load-bearing capacity and maintenance provisions) but there are many energy, ecological and beautifying benefits. An indoor green wall was recently unveiled at Minto Place in downtown Ottawa and there is an outdoor living wall at the Vancouver airport.
Creating, managing backyard ecosystems
We are increasingly resisting sanitizing our gardens. The result is that the vibrant cycle of life encompassing good and bad bugs, disease, visiting creatures and unpredictable weather is teaching us valuable lessons about backyard ecology and life.
Community gardens sprouting up everywhere
Did you know that there are 25 community gardens in Ottawa, with the largest of these boasting 355 plots? That's one city. There are more all over the country from Victoria to Victoriaville and beyond.
Biodegradable, reusable gardening products
We're thinking twice before tossing things, choosing rather to reuse, repurpose, buy quality or return our efforts naturally to the earth.

Movements revitalizing gardening world

You say trends. I say top gardening movements for 2011.
In my view, gardening trends are often seen as short-lived, much like the roll-out seed carpet, upside-down tomatoes or the Fruit Cocktail tree.
Fads and gadgets come and go in the gardening world, but I would suggest worthwhile changes usually take place over time and are better characterized as movements rather than trends. Here are my 11 picks for the coming year that will continue to gain momentum.
New plant introductions
Black petunias, early-blooming day lilies and a march of shrubs sporting new colours and more compact dimensions are all coming to the marketplace. Some will prove themselves over time and others will fall by the wayside. But, whatever their ultimate benefit, yearly introductions are here to stay.
Hassle-free planters
Plants, like ornamental grasses, succulents and other coddle-free offerings, (think no dead-heading, cutting back, heavy fertilizing or replacing) are now becoming the first choice for planters.
No-lawn front gardens
Not the high maintenance cottagey gardens of the past, but nevertheless, homeowners continue to look for alternate ways to cover the ground in their front gardens. The lawn continues to shrink.
Aging gardener-friendly gardens
As we get older, the dream of spending our retirement lavishing attention on our gardens has been replaced with creaky knees and lazy afternoon naps. The search for easy-care perennials, polite shrubs and trouble-free container plantings has begun in earnest. For tips, take a look at longtime gardener and writer Sydney Eddison's newest book entitled Gardening for a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older, available in paperback this spring.

"Introduction to Landscape Design"

"Students will work on their own individual design," O'Neil said, "and also walk around from student to student to learn what they are doing."

The typical walkway that often is found leading to new homes is an example of a project that some students have tackled in class, O'Neil noted.

These walkways are usually narrow, wide enough for only one person, and often start at the end of the driveway up by side of the house.

"You have to go all the way up the driveway to get to the walk," O'Neil said. "That's not much curb appeal."

Suggestions to make the walk more welcoming could include giving the walk a wider width so two people can walk side by side, O'Neil said, and maybe starting the walk halfway down the driveway.

"Plant a bed full of interesting plants or maybe shade trees along the walkway," he added.

O'Neil said he will review landscape design principles - ways to give the garden shape and form. He will discuss plants in general, such as color and form.

"Not specific plants," he explained, "but what plants can do. "Many want to think of plants first, but you have to think of design first."

Winter gardening withdrawal

The holiday festivities are almost over, but Norfolk Botanical Garden has plenty to keep your spirits bright in dreary January and February.

Though you can't start digging in the ground for a few months, you can plan and dream to your heart's content.

The garden is offering a wheelbarrow full of education classes in January and February for the frustrated winter-bound gardener, the neophyte gardener and even the armchair gardener.

Choose from classes such as "Introduction to Landscape Design," for the person who really wants to re-make a portion of their yard into something beautiful, or "Gardening From Scratch," for the person who wants to start, say, a vegetable garden or butterfly garden.

There's even a program called the "Language of Love," where you can learn about the hidden meaning behind certain flowers.

Other programs and classes include everything from "Botanical Origami" to "Hobby Greenhouses," from "Orchids 101 " to "Care of Houseplants." Classes in photography, art, yoga and dancing are among other choices.

Betty Ann Galway, the garden's lifelong learning manager, is especially high on the "Introduction to Landscape Design" class that the garden offers twice a year.

Led by senior gardener Linda Saunders and director of horticulture Brian O'Neil , the class will help students start from scratch to draw a plan for part of their own yard and learn the principles behind what kinds of plants to put where.

The program is complete, Galway noted, from learning how to draw up plans on a grid to understanding what kind of plant will work in different habitats, such as flat, shady and moist areas.

"It's a thoroughly wonderful program," she said.

Students will not only learn how to design and carry out their own plans, but they will also learn from each other's garden scenarios, which could be anything from how to hide a garbage area to how to work around a tree, Galway noted.

National Gardening Expert Fran Sorin to Join Forces with Popular Garden Weasel Brand

The makers of Garden Weasel, the innovative garden tool line, are excited to announce a joint venture with Fran Sorin, a nationally known and respected gardening expert. Sorin, the CBS Radio News Gardening Correspondent and author of Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, will be serving as the media spokesperson for the Garden Weasel line of products.

Fran Sorin, a nationally known and respected gardening expert, is the new media spokesperson for the Garden Weasel line of products. (Photo: Business Wire)

"As someone who has been digging in the dirt since I was a teenager and been a keen gardener since I was a young mother, I understand the importance of using well made, effective and comfortable gardening tools in order to get gardening jobs done efficiently and to your satisfaction," says Fran Sorin, gardening expert and author. "I'm impressed with the quality of Garden Weasel's tools and its mission to continue to improve and expand its line of tools; even welcoming innovations from the public."

As Garden Weasel's media spokesperson, Sorin will appear on the company's behalf at the upcoming National Hardware Show in Las Vegas (the hardware industry's biggest trade show) where she'll greet attendees and autograph copies of her book at the Garden Weasel trade show booth (#12446). The partnership also includes speaking engagements, TV and radio appearances and blogging.

"I'm excited to be partnering and endorsing Garden Weasel products and look forward to sharing gardening information, ideas and inspirations on Garden Weasel's new blog, Groundbreakingtips (, where I will be contributing posts twice a week," says Sorin.

Webster Thompson, Vice President of Sales for Garden Weasel, says that the company is excited to bring Sorin's passion and expertise to its customers. "Fran is a greatly-respected name when it comes to gardening and landscaping, both to consumers and those of us in the gardening and hardware industry. We are pleased to be able to bring her knowledge and love of gardening to the Garden Weasel family."

Fran Sorin, a nationally known gardening expert and communicator, is the author of Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening published by Hachette Books. Fran is the Garden Contributor for CBS Radio News and the Co-Creator and Producer of Gardening Gone Wild, a highly respected and trafficked blog of renowned gardening authors and photographers from the U.S., England, and Ireland. She has been a Contributor for USA Weekend and Radius Magazine and a Regular Contributor on The Today Show as well as making appearances on Regis and Kelly, CNN, Discovery, HGTV, DIY, and Comcast. Fran's website, consists of a plethora of gardening information and inspiration. For more information, please visit or

Gardening wish books bring dreams of summer

Nancy Umbaugh, an avid gardener from Parks Township, can't wait to add beautiful new plants to her garden every spring. And until then, she can enjoy perusing the brightly colored catalogs arriving in her mail.

Umbaugh, 73, intently reads about the flowers and fruits, looks at the pictures in the catalogs, and fantasizes about where she will plant them in her yard. She unwinds at the end of the day with the catalogs, and practically reads them as a bedtime story.

"I just received three yesterday. I get tons of them," she says. She gets catalogs from companies including Spring Hill Nursery and Breck's. "I look at every one. ... It is relaxing. It is a wish book.

"When it's snowy like this, you get kind of depressed, and looking at those catalogs makes you cheer up," she says. "You think of spring, and that this is going to be over soon. I can't wait to see those little bulbs peeking out."

This time of year, spring gardening catalogs are packing people's mailboxes -- just like fall catalogs come in the late summer. The glossy, colorful, magazine-like catalogs are bursting with a kaleidoscope of flowers and other plants, along with the trees or bushes that produce yummy-looking fruits, like blueberry, cherry and apple trees. Many of the catalogs feature vegetable seeds, with tempting pictures showing perfect results from planting the seeds.

You can't actually plant anything yet, but, perhaps, that makes the catalogs all the more appealing during the cold and dreary winter months. Many gardening enthusiasts are glued to their pretty, picturesque catalogs, while they fantasize about what they will plant in a few months, and where in their garden the plants will fit.

"The colorful pictures really make us think about the warm days of summer, when we had our gardens full of flowers," says Margie Radebaugh. She is the director of horticulture and education for Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland. "This time of year, anything is possible. We can plant what we want ... and everything will look like it does in the catalog.

"You see these perfect flowers, and it's so powerful," Radebaugh says. "It's such a contrast to the monochromatic landscape we have this time of year. I think it reminds us of the past summer, and that it's coming again."

Dan Golden, 64, of Ligonier, used to fish discarded gardening catalogs out of office trashcans, when cleaning at work. In the winter, the lifelong avid gardener likes to check out the marigold seeds, Thai hot peppers, tomatoes and more.

"I just keep looking through them, and think, where's my summer headed, and where's my spring headed?" Golden says.

Patricia Hughes, 69, of Allegheny Township, devours her catalogs, including the ones from Jung Seeds & Plants.

"I love it when they come, and I go from cover to cover," Hughes says. "I fantasize about what I'm going to order."

She usually gets one or two plants a year that she doesn't already have, along with products for wild birds.

"They're very, very neat to look at," Hughes says of the catalogs.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Gardening club back

After that date the meetings will take place on the second Thursday of each month in the same venue at the same time. New members are very welcome. There is no membership fee and no committee so everyone comes together to share ideas swoop plants, and anything else of common interest.

Thursday evening we will be looking at the year ahead and making plans for member's gardens. Come along and get some ideas for your garden or come and share your knowledge of gardening with Avondale Gardening Club.

Vegetable gardens are the top of the agenda for Thursday. There will also be other aspects of gardening covered. Members enjoy a cup of tea or coffee after the meeting so come along and make some new friends who you share a common interest with.

BRIEF: Learn how to interest youth in gardening

The Kerrville Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will host "Gardening with Children" as part its next monthly program at 7 p.m. March 1 at the Riverside Nature Center, 150 Francisco Lemos St.

Speaker Stephen Brueggerhoff is vice president of education for the Native Plant Society of Texas state board, and he will offer ideas to help adults get children involved in gardening.

This free program is provided by the Kerrville Chapter of NPSOT as a part of its monthly program series. Guests are invited to come early for refreshments and socializing, followed by the program starting promptly at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome.

Gardening expert had a way with plants and people

Dan Pratt, a Sacramento nurseryman who dispensed popular gardening tips as a longtime Bee columnist and media personality, died Dec. 25 of injuries from a recent fall. He was 78.
A California certified nurseryman, Mr. Pratt was a respected authority on horticulture. He spent 24 years helping customers with gardening problems as a resident expert at Capital Nursery on Freeport Boulevard. On many spring weekends, the doors opened to a line of people carrying dying plants and seeking his opinion for a cure.
He was a past president and board member of the local chapter of California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers. He taught adult classes on landscaping for the Sacramento City Unified School District, led clinics on pruning trees at Capital Nursery and promoted horticulture at trade show appearances.
"One of his best skills was telling stories," said his son, Mark. "If somebody had a problem with a plant, he could always pull from his repertoire a story about a similar experience."
Mr. Pratt's engaging personality and easy-to-follow advice won him many fans. He dispensed advice as the "Garden Doctor" on KFBK radio for 19 years and wrote a weekly Bee column, "What's Bugging You?", from 1979 to 2003. He appeared in gardening stories on local TV shows.
He was a regular speaker at garden clubs, where audiences groaned at his signature bad puns. He led garden tours in Great Britain and published an annual calendar that was sold at many Northern California nurseries.
"Dan had a particularly good way of explaining things simply," said Don Shor of Redwood Barn Nursery in Davis. "He kept up with all the science but could talk about it in a way that was easy for people to understand."
Daniel Henry Pratt was born in 1932 in Vallejo, where his parents owned a nursery started by his grandfather.
He worked in the family business, served two years in the Army and settled in Sacramento in the 1960s. He earned a teaching credential at UC Berkeley and was active in Rotary Club activities in Sacramento.
He married and divorced three times and had two children. A railroading enthusiast, he enjoyed touring train displays.
Mr. Pratt retired from an active role in the nursery industry several years ago. He split his time between Sacramento and a family home in Napa before moving permanently to Napa about two years ago.
He loved sharing his knowledge of gardening -- which he said does not require a green thumb for success.
"Just be observant," he told The Bee in 1985. "There are a lot of people who talk to their plants but few who listen.
"If this morning two of your fingers fell off, it would arouse some curiosity. Yet, when six leaves are lying on the carpet, many people don't even wonder what's wrong with their plant."


Q:My daughter would like to plant a pomegranate tree. When is the right time to plant them in our area?
A:Early spring would be the appropriate time to plant the pomegranate. Most of the nurseries will have them at that time.
Q:How cold a climate can the Golden Dwarf Duranta plant take? Will they freeze? If they freeze, do they come back in the spring? Do I have to cover them in 35 degree weather?
A:This plant will be fine here. As long as it is above freezing the plant will be evergreen.
A frost or light freeze will defoliate it; a hard freeze will kill it to the ground but its roots will survive and it will come back.
Here are a couple of great gardening educational opportunities, for both youth and adult going into the New Year.
Give the gift of gardening to a youngster in 2011 with educational opportunity at the Children's Vegetable Garden Program.
Texas AgriLife Extension Service provides an opportunity for children 8-13 to learn about gardening by growing their own vegetables through the mentoring of Bexar County Master Gardener volunteers. Each child is allotted a plot at the beautiful San Antonio Botanical Garden.
Children will have fun growing different types of seeds, herbs, vegetables and ornamental annual flowers. Weekly educational gardening presentations will stimulate these young minds.
The children will also participate in fun, hands-on Junior Master Gardener activities.
The spring session will be conducted every Saturday, starting Feb. 19 and end June 4.
For more information and an application for the spring session, call the Texas AgriLife Extension Service-Bexar County office at 467-6575.
Do you want to be a better gardener in 2011? How about becoming a Bexar County Master Gardener?
Texas AgriLife Extension Service will be conducting its spring master gardener class No. 53 for adults interested in gardening/horticulture and related topics. They then return their knowledge and time by providing educational outreach support for youth and adults.
Deadline to register is Feb. 21. The cost is $200 with classes running every Wednesday from noon-4 p.m., March 2-May 25 at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service conference room, 3355 Cherry Ridge, Suite 208.

Lecture in Newtown is about Victorian gardening

NEWTOWN -- Marie Hayes will present a program on Victorian gardening Tuesday at 1 p.m. in Cyrenius H. Booth Library, 25 Main St.
Hayes' slide-show presentation depicts American gardening from 1836 to 1901 at such places as the Harriet Beecher Stowe house in Hartford, the Vanderbilt mansion in Hyde Park, N.Y., and Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, N.Y.
A master gardener and former head gardener at White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Hayes has specialized in perennial borders and cutting gardens for 25 years.
She is a member of the Hartford Landscape Design Council and provides garden consultation and customized floral designs through her business, Gardens Unlimited.
She has spoken about Victorian gardening and other horticultural subjects to historical societies, garden clubs and botanical gardens throughout New York, Florida, Delaware and Connecticut.
She created and installed a garden along the Nile River in Luxor, Egypt.
The lecture, sponsored by the Garden Club of Newtown, is free and open to the public. Registration is not required. For more information, call 203-512-7320.
In case of bad weather, the talk will be canceled if Newtown public schools are closed Tuesday.