For the week of March 22-28th the following plants were in Bloom in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. Cornus officinalis, Cornus mas, Hamamellis vernalis, ‘Angelly’, ‘Arnolds Promise’, Lonicera fragrantissima, Jasminum nudiflorum, Corylopsis pauciflora, Forsythia ‘Meadowlark’, Forsythia ‘Happy Centennial’, Buxus ‘Vardar Valley’, Corylus avelana ‘Contorta’.
Trees include Acer rubrum ‘Red Sunset’, ‘Burgundy Belle’, Magnolia stellata in the city is in bloom surrounding areas it is just showing color. The same with Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merill’, and Wada’s Memory. Prunus ‘Okame’ is the first cherry to show any color. Buds have not opened but they are showing color.
Daffodils have exploded this week. Galanthus is still showing bloom, Scilla siberica with it’s tiny blue flowers facing down are in bloom. Chionadoxa is also in bloom but facing up at you. Ranunculus ficaris with its yellow blooms and shiny low foliage is also starting to bloom this week. This plant is very invasive and please do not dig it and move it into your garden!
Helleborus x hybridus is still in bloom. Many colors from white to deep purple. Now is a great time to go shopping for Helleborus so you can buy them in bloom to get the color you want! Helleborus foetidus, the green Hellebore is also in bloom but green is the only color it comes in.
For months now I have contemplated writing a horticultural blog which focuses on practical and scientific observations of what works in area gardens–”what works” being defined both in terms of cultural practices and aesthetic success. Very few other fields or hobbies are as fragmented as gardening. Organic interests war with those who choose chemicals, native enthusiasts oppose growers of exotic plants, and within each sub genre of gardening members bicker amongst each other over the most arcane of subjects.
For me, and for this blog, the premise is this: Any garden is better than no garden, and any squabbling amongst gardeners that discourages more gardening is practically treason. To take a field such as gardening, which is more or less the practice of bringing the beauty and bounty of nature closer to home to be better admired, protected, and understood, and to bind it in ideology and to bludgeon others with our supposed greater understanding of it is irony to a great and tragic degree.
I am a fairly simple guy. I am not particularly impressed with trends or gimmicks. I used to be, which is the very reason I am not now. I am skeptical of easy answers. Theoretical assertions without actual in the ground practice and success cause me anxiety. I abhor broad, unsupported, blanket statements. I believe there are always two sides to every story and that neither side has ever got it exactly right. I want to see results and see those results over a period of years, decades sometimes. I love experimenting. I believe in trialing, but only in moderation in proportion to the overall garden. Ultimately, I believe in scientific data, old, healthy specimens of plants, and gardens whose beauty and health I can see with my own eyes.
Success stories, examples of proven plants and techniques, and solid scientific information is what I want to convey with this blog. and done so with a positive, gentle tone. I invite discourse, alternate views, corrections, and argument, but only if they are presented in a positive, informational, and friendly manner
I hope this blog will be useful to others. I have gardened intensively and have worked professionally in the field for many years, I have several certifications, and I am surrounded by great resources. I can promise that each post will present information or observations that will provoke thought and learning. I won’t always be right, but I can assure you that I am surrounded by far too many friends and colleagues–many who are much smarter than I am–to get away with too many outrageous statements or mistakes.
I expect this blog to take me to new places and levels in my horticultural journey. I have found that two things have raised my game in the past which are fairly simple and not at all surprising: 1) Try new things; 2) Put myself in a position to learn. This has included trying new types of plants, new types of gardens, joining groups, meeting new gardeners, studying, reading the books of the best horticulturists, and, more recently, writing articles and giving talks. In the several posts I have already written (but not yet posted), I have already noticed that many are simply me finding answers to questions that have nagged me for years. On the subjects I felt I already knew pretty well, fact checking has modified, reinforced, and fortified that knowledge.
Many thanks to the folks at www.plantplaces.com for allowing me this forum. I hope you’ll enjoy the posts and that they spark motivation to go out there and do more and better gardening!
Scott Beuerlein, Cincinnati, Ohio,
The Cincinnati area is blessed with a rich horticultural heritage that extends into the present day. Many groups and institutions provide a wealth of excellent gardening information and experience to the general public.
The Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and Ohio Valley Horticultural Events Calendar would like to assemble all the many area horticultural events into a single one-stop-shopping location as part of our mission to promote good horticulture in the region. Classes offered to the public–free or otherwise, walkabouts, meetings, seminars, plant sales, society events, nursery sales, nature hikes, or any other similar event will be included. Often, these source from agricultural extension offices, plant societies, nurseries, arboretums, public parks, public gardens, and other institutions. If you are sponsoring or know of an event that is not yet on our calendar, please forward details to: email@example.com.
Of course, this calendar will make every attempt to provide correct and up to date information, but we cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of all the information. We suggest that after learning of an even on our calendar that you verify details with the sponsoring organization.
Scott BeuerleinJanuary 22, 2011
I had the opportunity to visit the Lloyd Library in downtown Cincinnati yesterday. This is a resource that, despite being world-renowned in certain quarters, goes quietly unnoticed amongst most in the local community.
But what a gem of a place! A ridiculously unfairly loose and brief description is this: In the late 1800s, three Cincinnati brothers owned a pharmaceutical company. At that time, virtually all medicines were derived from plants, so the brothers were fully immersed in botany. They traveled, they took photographs, and they collected a world-class library of books and journals. Just as importantly, they left an endowment that ensured that their collection of materials would be secure and available to the public in perpetuity. Moreover, they ensured that it would grow. Today, the collection is unrivaled for historic and current volumes on “pharmacy, botany, pharmacognosy, herbal and alternative medicines, natural products, horticulture, and eclectic and sectarian medicine, as well as a few other related areas.” Books date back to the 1400s. Equally amazing is the collection of artwork, a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to plant collector Andre Micheaux, a copy of a book owned by Russeau with handwritten annotations, and countless other artifacts of extreme rarity and historical value.
For a far better description of the place, go to www.lloydlibrary.org. Or better yet, go there yourself. Before you do, however, it is important to plan ahead. The Lloyd is a closed-stacks library. You can’t borrow books and you can’t roam the shelves. So peruse the catalog online before you go and make a list of things you’d like to see. The staff is wonderful and will assist you in your quests.
We’ve added Color to the PlantPlaces.com search engine! Simply visit the search page at http://www.plantplaces.com/perl/SearchPlants.pl , and select a color from the drop down box labeled “Find plants with this color”.
If you’re looking for a plant with a specific fall, flower, or foliage color, be sure to come to PlantPlaces.com! We have color indexed a small percentage of our entire collection of 2000+ pictures, and we’re indexing more every day.January 29, 2011
A week or so ago I learned of the death of Fred Case, author, plantsman, conservationist. A resident of Michigan, Fred was great authority on native orchids, trilliums, and other wildflowers. He was a very sought after and well-known author and lecturer. Many in our local horticultural community have known Fred for many years and have expressed to me the great loss his passing means to them and to our understanding and appreciation of plants. For a better biography of Fred Case, link to this blog:
Just in December, a friend of mine informed me that Dick van Hoey Smith passed away at his home in Tompenburg Arboretum, Rotterdam, Netherlands. Although Dick lived on another continent, his sphere of influence was far and wide. Several of my friends called Dick van Hoey Smith a good friend and were terribly saddened by his loss. Dick had been a founding member of the International Oak Society and the International Dendrology Society. He had written a well-known encyclopedia of conifers and published many articles and photographs over the years. I’ve been told he was as generous with his time and expertise as you could ever imagine.
Last year, we also lost gardener/designer/garden writer Wayne Winterrowd of Vermont. To be honest, I was unaware of him and his work until I read a post from a friend on a chatboard. I have no idea how he had escaped my radar. Nevertheless, the news gave me pause.
Every month it seems we learn of the passing of another legend of horticulture. The closing of another specialty nursery due to the loss of an old-school plantsman is now a regular occurrence. Attending plant society meetings, while always enjoyable and educational, makes this 50 year-old feel like a teenager. There’s no denying, we are losing a “greatest generation” of expert gardeners and horticulturists.
It is time for the youngsters (and by youngster I mean anyone under 60) to step up learning all they can from the masters before it is too late. I know younger gardeners with children still at home are terribly busy, but please do all possible to join plant societies. Get to know the older generation of gardeners and plants people in your community. Give these institutions your energy. Lift them with your enthusiasm. Be ready to carry the mantle when the time comes. These many clubs, which range from rose to holly to daffodil to rock garden groups and many others, some of them over a century old, are beacons of knowledge and great fellowship, and their memberships are falling precipitously. They need to carry on. They greatly desire new, younger members and, in my experience, are so incredibly welcoming.
So take a look at what all is out there. Google your favorite group of plants and see if a society exists. Check out our calendar on www.plantplaces.com for horticultural events and go to some. Your gardening knowledge and skill will benefit and you will meet some great people.
In the meantime, we celebrate the lives and the passion for gardening of Wayne Winterrowd, Fred Case, Dick van Hoey Smith, and the other great gardeners that have come before us. There’s something special about people who take the elements of nature’s beauty and turn them into art. More importantly, they always seem to inspire and teach others to do the same.
Copyright 2011January 31, 2011
Even as a huge Midwest ice/snow/rain storm bares down, a sure sign of spring arrived today. Seeds from the Scottish Rock Garden Club were in my mailbox this afternoon.
February is a hard, cruel month. It is probably the worst month except for maybe March. But one of the things that makes it a bit better is little, green seedlings coming to life in flats of media in my basement. (A stroll through a humming greenhouse filled with a new crop of annuals is a similar experience but on a much grander scale.)
So, whether it is alpine plants from a seedlist or vegetable seeds from a catalog, don’t deny yourself the bit of gardening you can do indoors under light in February. It is good for the soul, and with any luck you’ll have nice, healthy plants to tuck into your garden when it really warms up.
Winter is the time of year one appreciates red twig dogwoods. How beautiful they are! Masses of bright stems, ranging in color – depending on the cultivar – from pale yellow-green to maroon to electric apricot.
They aren’t much to write home about the rest of the year, however. Despite resumes that include flowers, fruit, and fall color, and a handful of selections that offer very good variegated foliage, all this is trumped by their large, ungainly, and unkempt shapelessnes the rest of the year. For this reason, I’ve always recommended against using these shrubs in foundation plantings or in tidy beds. Rather, they should be placed out in the landscape in mixed borders. If possible, they should be framed in the view of a favorite window to be enjoyed from a place of warmth in the winter. Always use them in groupings of at least three plants.
There are basically four species that fall under the loose term of “red twig dogwood,” Cornus alba, C. sericea, C. stolonifera, and C. sanguinea. From these four species, come a multitude of stem colors, and, as mentioned before, a number of variegated foliage types. The cultural requirements for all are fairly similar. Basically, these are rugged, suckering plants that prefer full-sun or light-shade. They seem to do well in heavy soils. There may be a bit of variation between species as to water requirements. If your site stays wet, or if you cannot irrigate, check resources for your best choices. All four species are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases, but under good garden care nothing really seems capable of causing serious damage.
Best stem color comes from branches 1-3 years old, so rejuvenation by pruning is necessary. This can be achieved by selectively pruning year to year or by cutting to the ground every third or fourth year.
I can personally vouch for the cultivar ’Midwinter Fire’. I grew this for several years in my garden. The winter stem color was extraordinary. Unfortunately, the plant outgrew its site and had to go. I have dreamt of planting a mass out in a landscape somewhere ever since.
Don’t underestimate the power of winter interest. In our climate, this brings an additional four to five months of pleasure to the garden.
Scott Beuerlein, copyright 2011February 20, 2011
My wife and I just enjoyed the American Impressionists in the Garden exhibit at the Taft Museum downtown. This exhibit is beautiful and interesting and The Taft Museum itself is a Cincinnati gem. Highly recommended. The exhibit runs through May. Please check the Taft website for details:
http://www.taftmuseum.org/pages/american_impressionists.phpFebruary 24, 2011
As my garden has gotten larger and larger and my time seemingly less and less, my approach to garden chores has gotten decidedly more blase. I think the maturity that comes with gardening for many years has also played a role in this. I just don’t sweat the small stuff like I used to. Fact is, plants are resilient. Healthy plants, wisely chosen, planted in good ground are fairly forgiving.
For instance, this past weekend was a very welcome respite of above normal temperatures in a long winter of week after awful week of below normal temperatures. This created a perfect storm of both an undeniable need to get outside and do something and an outside full of stuff to do.
So I finally got outdoors and my first step was to drag out my string trimmer with a metal blade. The blade looks and works just like a circular saw blade, but it is on the end of a 6 foot shaft with maybe a couple horses of Stihl 2-cycle engine powering it. Great tool to begin cleaning up the garden with! In a few passes, all of my ornamental grasses and plenty of spent perennials were shaved off at the ground. There is always a bit of collateral damage when I use this thing–a young, forgotten shrub might get beheaded or perhaps the bark of a tree gets nicked. But the time it saves and the feeling of accomplishment it brings is well worth that cost.
The next tool that comes out is the ordinary string trimmer, which quickly dispatches any perennials that remain tucked in too close to buildings, walls, and other plants to shear off with the blade.
In the past, it would be at this point that I would rake all the material out into the lawn, gather it all up, and haul it off to the woods. A few years ago, I learned that once the material was in the lawn it was perfectly okay to run over it with the mower several times. All the dried grasses and stems would chop up nicely and I could then blow or rake them back into the garden beds. If I did this early enough, much of the duff would already be broken down by the time spring came around. The remainder is quickly hidden by all the new, lush growth of plants when they grow. Of course, some really huge grasses present too much volume to dispatch like this, but most material disappears like it was never even there. It’s nice.
This year, I saved yet another step. I just mowed over the perennial beds themselves. This was made possible because my old mower needed replacing. I’m hell on mowers, and this one went to its reward very, very young. Oh well. I guess that’s what happens when you beat them by mowing sticks and twigs, amsonia, and big bundles of grasses. My fate, my punishment was to have to fork over enough cash to buy a new one. The silver lining was that my new mower happened to have a much higher setting for the mower deck. It can mow very high, like five or six inches high! It also had a more powerful (and quieter, I might add) engine. It is the perfect tool for pushing overtop Perovskia, perennial geraniums, Japanese anemones, asters, goldenrods, baptisias, peonies, whatever, and chopping them to oblivion. So I mowed all my beds. I ran over everything, and it saved me a boat load of time! In half a day, an entire garden of exhausted “winter interest” was lain to waste.
Yes, it is true there could have been some collateral damage. I was lucky the daffodils were just barely poking up and the crocuses are not out yet, so I could roll right over them; but I did not see my Deutzia ‘Nikko’ in time and might have mostly disembowed it a little. (It has never performed that well anyway. If it had, I would’ve remember it, and this would not have happened! So, really, it was the ‘Nikko’s’ own fault.). And, who knows, I might have knocked off an occasional baptisia, peony, or hosta eye with a wheel. I guess we will have to see, but I’m willing to wager that the garden will come in full and beautiful when the time comes and whatever I destroyed will go unnoticed.
I think too often gardeners lose the forest for the trees. In getting caught up in how to do things right, they often don’t do them at all, or they wind up hating the chores and then gardening. The fact is that in a well-made garden with healthy and wisely chosen plants and good soil, plants are resilient. I said that before, but it bears repeating. Last year’s dried, dead foliage doesn’t really care if it is cut back lovingly with a brand new pair of expensive Felcos or with the whirling, rusty blade of a lawn mower. Whether the spent debris is hauled away or raked in, matters very little. Yes, such detritus might harbor pathogens. You hear that all the time, but it might also harbor the eggs of predator insects that will eat aphids too. Who knows? Who cares? What matters is that gardening is fun, relatively easy, and not a complete blackhole of your time. One of the old, great English gardeners was asked once when was the best time to perform a certain task. I forget the gardener and the quote exactly, but I remember the gist of his answer. He could have harked upon his knowledge and years of experience and given a detailed answer for when it should be done and why, but his answer was simply, “When you have the time and tool to do it and you see it needs to be done.”
And when you get that nice weekend in mid-February, and you have a new mower with a high deck, and your leftover perennials and grasses are all standing around looking like zombies that want to eat your brains, get out there and mow them down!
Scott Beuerlein, copyright 2011