Showing posts from January, 2009

Targeting Invasive Plants

My latest article, Plant Pests, is featured in the Green Thumb Guide of the Spring 2009 issue of Nature’s Garden, one of the most popular Better Homes and Gardens gardening magazines, on newsstands now. The Nature’s Garden website offers a place to share your nature photos, to keep a journal, or to participate in garden forums. Take a few minutes now to check it out. For those of us in the conservation trenches, it’s a watershed moment when magazine editors acknowledge that some plants that are still being sold in garden centers across the nation are actually thugs that can drive out native vegetation and destroy habitat. Let’s support those who do. But many invasive plants have been here so long that people mistake them for natives. One of the earliest harbingers of spring (just 50 days away) in our area is the invasive Garlic Mustard (Photo credit: Olivia Kwon) . Like many plants that have taken over our woodlands, Garlic Mustard arrived in Ame

Gardening as Process: Zeroing-in

At this point, you should have a bubble diagram that shows: Your planned activity areas, both hardscape and plantscape; an inventory of what will be left once you’ve moved, or removed, what you don’t like; and a rough indication of where you want various types of new features and plants --- trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. For some, the next step is the most difficult: Choosing how you want your garden to grow. Do you want to look out on masses of a specific color? Do you want to collect a variety of the same species of plants, such as roses, or hostas? Do you want to create a particular kind of garden, such as an alpine garden, a Japanese garden, a vegetable garden, or a cutting garden? Do you want the garden to have a casual look, like a swath of rough grass and meadow? Or do you favor a formal look with edged beds or parterres framed with boxwood? Each of these choices calls for a different selection of plants. Once you’ve made these decisions, it’s time to break out the re

Gardening as Process: Editing

Over time, we change, our taste changes, the availability of various plants changes, the amount of time we want to spend in the garden changes and, most telling, our capabilities to manage the physical tasks of gardening changes. What this means to every gardener is that the garden should be periodically edited. When? When it no longer functions as intended, when the flower beds have grown too shady, when the kids no longer use the sandbox or swing set, when the swimming pool lies idle 99% of the time, when the garden no longer gives you the pleasure it once did. And, sadly, when we can no longer maintain what we have. Edit your garden to suit your lifestyle and your budget. As with everything in life, gardening happiness is directly proportional to the difference between our expectations and our ability to achieve them. If you can only afford a $2,000 per year gardening budget, it’s unrealistic to hope that you’ll have a $100,000 landscape at the end of your five- year plan. Better

Gardening as Process: Gardening Resolutions for 2009

Whether your garden is old or new, part of the planning process needs to be defining your destination so that you not only know how to get there, but also when you’ve arrived. And many of us don’t get more than six to eight months to do it, because our “year” is the growing season. So let’s get started! Stuff happens. This fall, a 75-foot wild cherry tree blew down across our newly-installed rhododendron garden on the east side of the house, taking with it the deer exclosure and our electric and telephone lines. After Dan lopped off the top of the tree and repaired the fence, I crawled around on the trunk and noted that, if he cut off another piece small enough to carry away, the remaining trunk would crush nearly every one of the 12 large rhodies we’d just planted! No problem. Come spring, we’ll dig out all the plants that are at risk, cut up the tree, then put the rhodies back. At least we don’t have to dig new holes. Next on my agenda (but not Dan’s) is the lavender garden expansi