Saturday, February 17, 2018

Garden Revolution by Larry Eaner and Thomas Christopher

I am still reading gardening books but I may soon stop as I would have to get more to read. However, we just started tapping the sugar maples at Maple Grove Farm, where I live, then I may go on a vacation and start back at the nursery. I took so many notes on Garden Revolution that I can't tell you all of them but this is one of the best books on "natural landscapes" that I have read. It has alot of philosophical material but also lots of practical suggestions and examples. Natural Gardens change with time is an important maxim. There is quite a bit about Frank Egler who did alot to get the natural gardening "movement" started. He said "Nature is not more complex than we think, but more complex than we can think. Too outspoken and argumentative for academia, he "retired" to his family's 500 acre estate in Norfolk, CT, Aton Forest, where he put his principles into play. These are just a few tidbits: Brush hogging in August favors cool season grasses whereas June mowing favors more desirable grasses such as little blue stem. Keep a shrub area by curring trees and hand applying roundup. Having mother colonies of plants which self seed often works better than seeding. Fertilizing, applying compost and watering can lead to invasive weeds. Don't worry about color clashes in a meadow. Cut rather than pull weeds if there is a dense ground cover. Tilling is usually a mistake. It is alot easier to establish a meadow in old pasture than in a previously tilled or disturbed area. Chipped wood is often better than mulch as the mulch adds nutrients which leads to weeds. Before clearing large areas, do smaller test runs. I don't have time to write everything I gleaned down now. There is step by step guide to creating a meadow.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Hellebores, the Gardener's Guide to Growing by Graham Rice and Elizabeth Strangman

I may discontinue these book reports but I am still into it for the time being. I have been reading 3 books suggested to me by a young English plantsman-this is the last of those. Also, I have been reading several books about "natural" gardening where the idea is to have flowers in meadows instead of "gardens"-this is not one of those. This is a very thorough and carefully researched book about the taxonomy and culture of hellebores. It was written 25 years ago in England so it lacks up to date information about hellebore growers in the US. Those with outward or upward facing flowers may not be so good in the UK with so much rain but I prefer them as they seem to show up the best in the garden. It turns out that the hybrids most commonly available are not H. niger x H.orientalis as I thought as those 2 species do not cross readily. Mentioned in passing is something a young English plantsman, Sam Pagett, told me: seedings are much more vigorous than clones from divisions which is why so many available are strains. Personally, I thinks Christmas rose, H.niger, is the hardiest up here but many of the "x hybridus" hellebores make it. I don't think H.foetidus is hardy here which is too bad. Many people are becoming addicted to Helleborus.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Juice with no added sugar

This last year, all the juices I canned were sugar free. My doctor told me my blood sugar level was so high as be almost diabetic, so now I use no sugar. I have found sugarless fruit juices to be quite palatable-although it took me a while to get used to them and some such as cranberry juice and black currant juice really are just too sour. Including crabapple juice makes a big difference, especially Dolgo crabapple. Our blackberry/ Whitney crabapple juice is excellent and most of the very tart berries mixed with crabapple are good. Sadly, the two spotted fruitfly ruins alot of these berries and the Dolgo crabapples.

The Living Landscape: Designing for beauty and biodiversity in the home garden by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy

I bought this book at a "New England Grows" plant conference in Boston a year or two ago and just finished reading it. The basic idea is that normal suburban yards can be designed very easily to be better for the ecosystem. Rick Darke's photographs are excellent and the writing is very readable. Besides plants; birds and insects are heavily featured. I don't know how much longer I am going to do these book reports. These are a few of the ideas I got from the book: Alot of deer and you end up with alot of spice bush and ferns which they don't eat so much. In much of our are, when there is a tornado say which causes a bare opening, alot of invasive bushes and vines come in. In Florida where the native cycad, Zamia pumila, was largely harvested in the wild for food, the Atala butterfly disappeared completely and was considered to be extinct. However, it was then used widely in peoples yards and the butterfly returned (it needs that cycad to eat). The more species of caterpillars, the more species of birds. Boxturtles are the main dispersal agent for mayapple seeds. Here are a few maxims I got: Our goal is to reduce the introduction of rapid environmental changes causing extinctions to occur faster than new species can evolve. Ecosystem function increases directly with the number of species. You can use all natives some of the time, some natives all of the time, but not all natives all of the time.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Winter Reading: Color for Adventurous Gardners by Christopher Lloyd

I am still trying to do so some reading of quality gardening/plant books this winter. This is the third book I have read by Christopher Lloyd who has a wonderful sense of humour. Color for Adventurous gardners goes through each color flowers can be, describing his favorite in each. It includes mauve, green, brown, and black. His basic tenet is that one doesn't have to worry about color clashes in the garden but maybe he just has an inborn sense of good taste. He says, "In our adventurous borders, the loudest reds and oranges, with which it contrasts so tellingly, can be let loose given green as a safety net." In the very latest issue of the English Garden Magazine, there is a quote from Dr. Jimmy Smart, creator of Marwood Hill Gardrens, in Devon (England): "One never really notices clashing colour in the wild and there are very few occasions when it offends me in the garden." This is the same idea. Lloyd doesn't seem to be a fan of Monarda- one would expect it in the chapter on red. Also, Hemerocallis are not used alot- I would have expected them in the chapter on orange flowers. In his chapter on white flowers, he warns not to use huge expanses of blaring white. His chapter on mauve is interesting: mauve is a color many think they don't like. Magenta, another comtroversial color is included in the chapter on purple flowers. Purple, magenta and mauve run into each other and seem to mean different things to different people- they run into blue and pink also. The only color he discusses which I have not just mentioned is yellow which also scares people. Lloyd is not a timid flower colorist.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Well Tempered Garden by Christopher Lloyd

This is a classic of gardening literature and at least for mee took some time to read- especially as I needed to look up many plants which don't grow here or even in Philadelphia. The book is filled with tons of information and alot of humor, often of a slightly snide type which I love. He writes about propagation, planting techniques, garden design, cultivars of many plants all from years ans years of personal experience. I started marking passages I wanted to mention but don't have time now to do so. A few examples: He has a discussion of sea buckthorn for seaside planting, he talks about using Polygonaum cuspidata as an ornamental,he mentions a controversy about planting Japanese iris in a pond,he talks about pruning the top portion of a plant when transplanting, what about Forsythias?, he questions peonies being easy to grow and what about peony rings, he cautions about planting in even lines. Those are what I noted in 50 pages of a 450 page book.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Christopher Lloyd's Meadows

I am hoping to do more reading of excellent plant books this winter. The first one I just finished last night is Meadows by Christopher Lloyd. I have noticed from plant conferences which I have attended, customers at the nursery, and landscape jobs which our nursery is involved with, that more and more people are attracted to the idea of "meadows". They want areas with more biodiversity for insects (pollinators), birds, and mammals. Also they don't want to "waste" quite so much time mowing and people are growing to prefer a wilder more natural look for their yards. However, creating a meadow or a meadow/prairie garden is not as easy as one might think and hope. Christopher Lloyd describes his meadow gardening with alot of humour and excellent photographs.