Monday, November 26, 2012

Horticulture at Smith College

My daughter, Kady, decided to take a course in Horticulture at college this semester and is learning quite alot.   As soon as she decided to take such a course or when she told me about it, instead of being negative which is always possible for me(I could have focused on how much I am paying for something I could have taught her for free),  it made me so happy that one of my children was interested in my passion and career.  She got a part time job at the nursery where I work, she worked for me, and she was open to my pedantic side.  The day after Thanksgiving, we walked around looking at woody plants: she knew oaks, maples, cherries, white pines, Rosa multiflora, bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle, poison ivy. m Ishowed her various other species and explained somewhat how to identify them in the winter which is not as easy as when they have leaves.

On the way back from North Stonington, CT where my wife's sister and her husband live and run Wytchwood Farm (turkeys), I stopped at the Conservatory at Smith in Northampton, Mass.  They still have their annual Chysanthemum show so I looked at some of those amazing, huge greenhouse Chrysanthemums, cascading ones and the rest of the greenhouses.  I had a long chat with the volunteer on duty at the conservatory, Dan Fitzgerald,  mostly about black currants which are a passion of mine.

Gardening for a Lifetime-How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older by Sydney Eddison

Gardening for a Lifetime is so good (and so apropos(sp?) for me) that I finished it in 2 evenings.  Sydney Eddison's basic thrust is to help people figure out how to cut down on the size of their gardens- this is a book for plantaholics.  As I remember it , and I read it a couple or three days ago: get rid of alot of different perennials- especially ones that aren't pretty for 3 seasons.  Get more shrubs.   Keep Sedum 'Autumn Joy', Siberian Iris, old fashioned German Iris, Peonies, Nepeta, grasses, Amsonia.  Accept imperfections such as slightly messy edges, slightly shaggier plants, meadows rather than gardens.  Get help.  When you can't manage your garden, get rid of it (accept defeat). Accept change- particularly that as the trees all get bigger, there will be less sun but shade gardens are less weedy.

In any case, her writing is delightful even though the subject is a little sad.

Lilac Pruning

Three things happened to me or more correctly I noticed over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I read a fairly new book by Sydney Eddison about downsizing large gardens as one gets older and I spent time showing my daughter all the trees and shrubs growing in North Stonington, CT which was to help her with her course in horticulture at Smith College (I was quite impressed as she seemed to recognize everything except Fraxinus and Sassafrass).

The third thing was I noticed how vigorous and healthy the lilacs at the Vermont Welcome Center on Rt. 91 in Guilford were. All the plants there get heavily pruned--way more than I would ever do it even if I had plenty of time to prune and/or money to hire people to help me do it.  The lilacs are doing very well and are particularly well budded for next May.  Suckers have either been removed or there just aren't very many- the plants look like a dark purple one -perhaps 'Monge' which doesn't sucker prolifically anyway.  The main "trunks" which are about one inch in diameter are cut off at about 4 to 6 feet--there about 6 per plant. There are many many very prime looking flowering shoots coming off each one of those trunks- I predict excellent blossoms nest spring.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

putting things away for the Winter

We are covering all the potted plants at the nursery these days.  First we have to tip the pots on their sides so water doesn't accumulate in them which can rot them over winter.  Then we put insulating blankets over them and finally white plastic over top of that which we weigh down with gravel and tires so it won't blow off during the winter.  We still have some planting to do-- there is no problem installing trees and shrubs but plants in little pots tend to be frozen solid so it can be hard to get the pots off the plants.  We've been cutting plants down so we don't have to do that in the spring when the ground is very wet and squishy.  Sometimes we leave things for "winter interest" but as I get older I cut more things down in the fall when I'm not so busy.  We have also been mulching- it can be easier now when the ground is frozen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Flower Arranging in November

The pickings are getting very slim these days although there have been Calendula and Johnny-jump-ups still blooming in my garden as of Monday.  Today they may be done- I didn't check this morning and it got quite cold last night.  My large church altar arrangement still looked OK with winter berry, beech foliage (now tan and dead but still pretty) and grasses- maybe I'll leave it and rejuvenate it slightly Sunday morning.  Instead of my large silver-plate rose bowl which I have been using for several years, I tried the large white ironstone tureen from my grandfather's farm which I don't have to worry about (it being stolen, that is).  I wish those robins had left my winterberry alone this year but they ate most of the berries.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

trip to King of Prussia and Bryn Mawr

This past weekend my wife and I went down to the Philadelphia area to go to the Bryn Mawr College family weekend to support Libby (our daughter).  There is such a variety of oaks there- I noticed willow and laurel oaks and beautiful specimens of mossycup oak,  I noticed the new dwarf varieties of Cornus doing very well there- I think better than they do in this area probably because it is warmer there.  I also noticed lots of knockout roses growing very well and getting bigger than I have seen them around here.  They seemed to get about 5 or 6 feet high and wide there whereas around here,  they are often a 3 to 4 foot bush.

Now that I am back it seems colder and a lot like November which is my least favorite month.

On our way to Penna.,  we stopped in Northampton to see Kady (our other daughter) and briefly visited the Smith College conservatory.  I drew a Stanhopea oculata (orchid), saw a show of beautiful prints made from  actual leaves(I had met and talked to the artist a couple weeks ago),  and peaked at the preparations for the Chrysanthemum show (huge Chrysanthemums are not my favorite flower but they are amazing)