Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Damage To Landscape Plants

Should you knock snow off trees and shrubs or leave it?

Birches can bend to the ground like this and still fully recover. This is a case when waiting until the snow melts is a better solution.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to cleaning heavy snow off shrubs, and both have their own merits. One school feels you should leave things alone until weather improves, since there is a high likelihood of breaking extra branches with your attempts. Worst of all, would be cutting off some bent branches that will eventually spring back when weather improves.

No need to be in a rush on this cherry, since it will probably have to be completely removed

The other school of thought is the sooner you get heavy snow off shrubs the better.

First, some trees and shrubs in the Arborvitae family don’t fair well in heavy snow storms anytime. As soon as snow starts to build-up on these fragile evergreens, branches begin bending. Once they are slightly bent, they become susceptible to even more snow build-up and breakage.

Second, would be if you have some neatly pruned pom-pom evergreens in your yard. It is far too easy for ‘sticky’ snow to build-up on these expensive specimens and either lay them open or bend them over. Neither situation has a good outcome.

Third would be the trees and shrubs with softwood. You know the ones; they break first in every storm. Ornamental Pears come to mind first, but are usually too tall to effectively knock the snow off.

Ornamental Pear ruined by heavy snow accumulation

With either method, being pro-active or re-active to removing snow from plants, they often have excessive build-up before you are able to act. If they are bent to the ground and frozen, it is probably best to leave them. However, if it is just a few big blobs of snow holding them down, strategically removing that snow will allow many branches and trees to begin straightening. Do not use a shovel to remove the snow or hit a branch hoping to knock the snow loose. Use a broom to gently brush accumulated snow away from the branches of evergreen or deciduous plants.

Once spring arrives it may be necessary to stake and/or wrap some of the plants that received the most damage. The best material for bundling multi-stemmed plants back together is that green stretchy tape sold at most garden centers. Otherwise a decent strength twine will do, just be sure to check your plants periodically to see if the twine may need loosened.

As for the plants that had to be removed, you may want to consider replacements that handle snow storms better. Most nurseries can help guide you through the varieties they have available. Weather can humble a gardener faster than anything and snow is just one of the many ways.

This evergreen would benefit from having the major snow knocked off the top, allowing branches to somewhat rebound.

I found this article while perusing garden blogs online. It's from Bob's Blog maintained by Robert Donnan Landscape. It seemed very appropriate for our first major snowstorm of the season. Check them out online at

Article and photos from

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wreath Interpretations

Contemporary Wreaths On View in Central Park

Once again we participated in the New York City's Parks and Recreation department 28th annual Wreath Interpretations. Here are some of the wreaths from the exhibition.

For All Farmers by George Kroenert; apple cardboard, snap ties, mason's line

The City's Parks and Recreation department opened its 28th annual Wreath Interpretations exhibition at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park on Thursday, December 9. The show runs through January 6, 2011.

In modern America, a wreath is a mark of the holiday season. Round boughs of evergreens adorned with acorns, berries and ribbon--essentially the little sis' to the Christmas tree. But Wreath Interpretations pushes the boundaries of tradition. There are 30 wreaths on display this year and there’s not a traditional one in the bunch. Each one is an artistic interpretation of what a wreath is. The only common theme is the circle pattern.

Celestial Celebration by Larry Hagberg; hammered steel

“The ones that are hanging up run the gamut from really lighthearted to religious to darker things that we don’t traditionally see in holiday decorations,” said Adam Kaufman, a Parks and Recreation employee at the exhibit. “There’s not one definition of the holidays and all these pieces express a range of emotions that are all just as valid and speak to the holiday season as much as any of the others.”

Giant Sea Serpent Wreath by Takeshi Yamada; taxidermy jaws, galvanized steel, acrylic paper, synthetic polymer, sands of Coney Island

Birkenwald im Winter by George Pisegna; natural birch bark, balsam wood and artificial greens

Man's Potential Over Time by Abigail Malate; luan plywood, ink

Year 360 by Barbara Wallace; paper, acrylic paint, cardboard, wire

Wishes by Vilde Kleppe Braanaas; wire, paper mache, squash seeds

Wreath of Corks by Leonora Retsas; wire, corks, foam, ribbon

Article and photos by Perry Santanachote: WNYC Culture Desk

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Planting Good Cheer

Is it worth it to replant a live Christmas tree after the holidays?

Image from Martha Stewart

The urge to spare a tree is strong, but buying a live Christmas tree will likely turn you into a grinch — and it won’t do much to help the environment, either. According to Christmas tree farmers, only about half these trees survive the holidays. Sheltering a live tree indoors poses several challenges: A 6-foot tree should have about a 24-inch root ball and will weigh about 250 pounds; you must be vigilant about watering (indoors, trees dry out quickly); time is definitely not on your side — after 10 days, you should get it back outside and in the ground. That’s a short life for a Christmas tree and extra stress for you, just to plant an evergreen. Also, unless your property is quite large, you’ll run out of space in a few years; eventually, all the popular Christmas trees become huge.

A better solution is buying a Christmas tree from a local tree farm; it’s more convenient and ecologically sound. Cutting farm-grown Christmas trees is no worse for the environment than harvesting a field of broccoli. In fact it may be better, because these evergreens remain in the ground for 8 to 10 years, during which time there’s usually no cultivation and thus less soil erosion. Alternatively, you could grow your own trees to cut. Evergreen seedlings are inexpensive and take about 8 years to reach harvest size. They require little care beyond mulching, irrigation, and pruning in midsummer for a more compact shape. If you’re set on a live tree, there are a few tips to improve its post holiday prospects. Dig a hole now, before the ground freezes solid, making it a few inches wider than, but the same depth as, the root ball (the planted tree should rest at ground level). Fill the hole with dry leaves or other mulch, and cover the dirt for backfilling so it won’t freeze before you’re ready to plant

Article from Garden Design online
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Friday, December 3, 2010

When Frost Threatens

After reading all the indicators, you determine that frost may hit your garden tonight. What can you do?

Cover plants to retain warmth and moisture, and to protect them from drying winds. Use old sheets or blankets, newspapers, pine branches, straw, inverted flowerpots, or water-filled cloches. The more opaque the cover is, the better it protects the plants. Plastic, surprisingly, does not hold heat well. Because Earth starts cooling down before sunset, get the covers on early. And be sure to cover each plant entirely.

Protect lettuce, arugula, chard, beets, and mustard from the wind and they will survive near-freezing temperatures.

Mulch carrots and other root crops well before a frost to keep the ground from freezing hard; then harvest when ready.

Wave the white flag on truly tender plants. Tender annual flowers (such as impatiens, gomphrena, and zinnias) and edibles (such as basil, melons, and corn) will not endure frost.

Dig up tomato plants and hang the vines (with unripened fruit attached) inside a garage or shed. If you keep them warmer than about 60°F, they will ripen.

Transplant peppers into pots and bring them inside to a brightly lit room. Remove the unripe peppers and cut back the stems when you transplant them. Keep them moist through the winter and then replant them the following spring.

Article from Organic Gardening on line

Friday, November 26, 2010

At the Feeder

Preparing our feathered friends for the winter ahead...

Fall is the time to clean and stock feeders and to stock up on birdseed. Here's what they'll need.

  • Repair any feeders that need a makeover. You may need to pound in a loose nail or replace a cracked bottom piece.

  • Put out several suet feeders so all your resident birds get a turn. A single woodpecker can monopolize a suet feeder for most of the day.

  • Stock a very low tray feeder (1 foot or less above the ground) with cracked corn for mourning doves, who gather in flocks to feed in fall.

  • Keep the birdbath brimming. Fresh water is vital year-round.

  • There are plenty of ways to provide bird treats in your garden in the fall. Try some of these ideas.

  • Keep an eye on any berries or fruits in your yard. They're prime foods for birds that may alight during migration. The Virginia creeper that sprawls through the garden as a groundcover offers its midnight blue berries in early fall, right when vireos and orioles are passing through. The vines of fox grapes winding among the treetops attract later migrants like rose-breasted grosbeaks and tanagers.

  • Listen for the quiet twitters and sharp chip! notes that betray the presence of song sparrows, white-throats, and other hard-to-see native sparrows around your yard. In the fall, a bounty of ripening seeds on garden plants, grasses, and weeds brings flocks of these LBBs (that's "little brown bird" in birder talk) to backyards. They may stop at abundant seed patches for a morning or a whole week, but they're small, quick moving, and wary of people, so you'll hear them more often than you?ll see them.

  • Check garden centers and nurseries for viburnums, bayberries, and other shrubs that are already full of berries. Cart them home carefully so as not to dislodge the fruit, pop them into the garden, and the birds will reap the benefits immediately.

  • If you love a bargain, check the end-of-season sales at nurseries and garden centers. Trees and shrubs—usually the biggest investment you'll make when creating a bird-friendly yard—are often available at half price. Although the selection may not be as big as it is during the spring, the savings are hard to beat!

  • Article from Organic Gardening on line
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    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Majestic Trees

    This British company prides itself on having produced a revolutionary new growing system called the Air-pot, which promotes trees to develop a vigorous, fibrous root system. Majestic Trees also incorporates the highest environmental standards in all its planning and investments. Check them out for yourselves, below is a comparison from their website on commercial tree production.

    The secret to finding a tree that will flourish when planted is to look down as well as up! Trees can absorb water from the tips of their youngest, finest roots, so an undisturbed, fibrous, non-spiralling root system will serve you best.

    It is very easy for an unscrupulous grower to sell trees at knock-down prices by skimping on root cultivation, the best advice is to ALWAYS check the root specification before buying a tree, see below for an explanation of the main options available.

    The choice you make when buying a tree:

    Air-Pot Grown

    The AirPot is a proven, revolutionary growing system which overcomes the root-spiralling problem of conventional container grown production. It is truly ingenious design solution, made of a sleeve of recycled and recyclable HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) that is textured like an egg carton, with small holes at the tip of each cone.

    airpot_roots1As the outward growing root tips reach the boundaries of the Air-Pot, the cones funnel them towards the holes, where they eventually dehydrate upon exposure to the air. The effect is a constant, gentle root pruning, which stimulates the root system to send out lots of lateral roots, similar to pruning the branches of a shrub.

    The result is a highly robust, densely fibrous root system composed of thousands of water absorbing white tip roots. Essentially Air-Pot grown trees are bursting with vitality. They can be planted any time of year with a virtual 100% success rate, are the fastest and easiest trees to establish, and will become far superior specimens over time.




    Field grown trees are cut out of the ground and soil shaken off to economise on weight. Cheap and cheerful, that's fine for easy-to-root varieties and broad scale planting (woodland planting, young hedging), where a high failure rate is acceptable. Bareroot trees can only be planted in winter. Expect a significant failure rate – up to 50% or even higher at times. Bareroot stock is seldom guaranteed.



    Field grown trees are cut out of the ground and wrapped in Hessian sacking with the soil left intact. Quality growers will have regularly transplanted and undercut the stock before the final lifting for sale – but skimping on undercutting is an easy way to cut costs. Rootballed trees have had their roots cut at lifting, so they have lost most of their fine fibrous roots, and can only be planted in winter, take longer to establish, and have a significant failure rate, varying by species. Using rootball stock can be an economic way of planting easy-rooting species, but requires careful aftercare provision to ensure success.


    Conventional Container Grown

    Field grown trees are lifted and planted into plastic containers to allow roots to regenerate prior to planting. A more expensive but better value method, compared to bareroot and rootballed, with a good success rate that enables year-round planting. The main disadvantage of the container method is that it does not promote production of fibrous root system, but rather the familiar ‘pot-bound’ effect of thick, spiralling roots, which are not very efficient at water absorption.



    Similar to the container method, bags are used for ease of handling (and manoeuvrability). Convenient, but as shown in the photograph, roots typically hit the sides of the bag and are deflected downwards. Better than bareroot, rootball or a conventional pot, but greatly inferior in root development to an Air-Pot grown tree.


    Visit Majestic Trees online at

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Plant Picks

    Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger'
    Tiger Eyes cutleaf staghorn sumac

    Lemon-lime foliage, fuzzy stems, and intense fall color make this sumac cultivar a standout. It grows into an upright, rounded form about 6 feet tall and as wide. New growth emerges chartreuse. Fall brings leaves of yellow, scarlet, and orange. Flowers are yellowish green and followed, on female plants, by hairy, dark red fruit. This plant spreads by suckers and can be invasive. The species is native to North America.

    Noteworthy characteristics:
    Eye-catching foliage in spring, summer, and fall.
    Care: Pick a site in full sun for best autumn color. Grow in moist but well-drained, moderately fertile soil. May be invasive.
    Propagation: Sow seed in autumn in a seedbed. Take semi-ripe cuttings in summer, or root cuttings in winter. Separate suckers when plant is dormant.
    Problems: Powdery mildew, Verticillium wilt, wood rot, leaf spot, blister, canker, dieback, caterpillars, scale insects.

    5 to 9
    6 feet tall and wide
    Growth Pace Invasive/Aggressive Grower; Moderate Grower
    Full Sun to Partial Shad,; tolerates average to poor soil
    Moisture Medium Moisture
    Maintenance Moderate
    Characteristics Attracts Birds; Native; Showy Fall Foliage; Showy Foliage; Showy Fruit
    Bloom Time Early Summer; Late Summer; Summer
    Foliage Color Colorful/Burgundy Foliage
    Flower Color Green Flower; Yellow Flower
    Uses Beds and Borders, Naturalizing
    Style Woodland Garden
    Seasonal Interest Summer Interest, Fall Interest
    Type Shrubs,Trees

    Article from: Fine Gardening August 2010
    For the complete article:

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Hudson Valley Seed Library

    Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

    Our friends, Ken Greene and Doug Muller, founders of the Hudson Valley Seed Library were just featured in a wonderful article in The New York Times on October 6. The Seed Library has been operating for the past 2 years to help maintain and distribute locally grown seed.

    Ken was quoted in the NY Times article....'The mission of the library, Mr. Greene said, is “to collect New York heirlooms and the cultural stories that came with them.” As with other seed libraries, his also aims to encourage biodiversity, to offer an alternative to the genetically modified seeds produced by large corporations and to make money.'

    The Hudson Valley Seed Library currently offers over fifty varieties of locally grown seeds, and 100 varieties of northeast adapted seeds. The uniquely shaped Art Packs are designed by different artists from the greater New York region. Each pack celebrates the diversity and beauty of heirloom gardening. The Library Packs contain seeds grown on the Hudson Valley farm, by member farmers, and dedicated home gardeners. The seeds are hand-crafted, using traditional techniques for collecting, winnowing, threshing, and cleaning. The Garden Packs contain seeds that were obtained from responsible seed houses.

    Art Pack of cherry tomatoes

    This December, The Horticultural Society will host an exhibition of original works from the Hudson Valley Seed Library Art Pack Collection, featuring the 16 new designs from this upcoming season. Look for more info on our website at

    To view the article:

    Visit the Hudson Valley Seed Library at

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Pickles, pickles, pickles...

    I have a friend whose love of pickles rivals the joy of a child getting a new puppy. Will the pickle be crispy? spicy? sour? To the true pickle lover these are serious questions. There are some basic differences that can make a pickle something amazing, besides the perfect blend of herbs and spices.

    Refrigerator pickles
    Refrigerator pickles are easier and often tastier than other pickling methods. A few things to consider before you get going, starting with the star of the show: cucumbers. If homegrown cucumbers are not an option, buy organic ones at the farmer's market. Supermarket cucumbers often have edible waxy coatings to help them retain moisture, and this wax prevents the cucumbers from absorbing the pickling liquid. Select cukes tat are free of mold, insect damage, blemishes and soft spots. If you are harvesting them yourself, first thing in the morning is the best time. Plan to make the pickles within a couple of days of harvest or purchase.
    Another nice things about refrigerator pickles is that they don't require a special technique or container. Within a few hours, you'll have beautiful jars of crunchy, delicious pickles to serve or give as gifts.

    The following recipe is from the Rodale Production Kitchen:

    Audrey's Pickles
    1 pound medium cucumbers
    3 cloves of garlic
    1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
    1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seed
    1 teaspoon fresh dill weed
    1 whole dried bay leaf
    2/3 cup brown sugar
    6 1/2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
    6 1/2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

    1. Cut cucumbers into spears or slices and place in a 2 quart container jar with a lid. Add the garlic, peppercorns, mustard seed, dill weed, and bay leaf.

    2. Stir together the brown sugar, vinegars, and water. Pour the mixture over the cukes and shake the jar well to combine. Cover and chill. For the fullest flavor, wait at least 24 hours before serving. These pickles will keep up to 3 months in the refrigerator.

    Article by Brenda McClain, Organic Gardening Aug/Sept 2010

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Plant Picks

    Alliums All Season Long

    Allium schubertii, Tumbleweed onion; Photo: Courtesy of Dutch Gardens

    Deer resistant and dynamic, these bulbs provide color from the first showers of spring to the last leaves of fall.

    Alliums are often overlooked as one of the best bulbs for constant color throughout the seasons. Part of the problem is their common name: ornamental onion, which conjures up images of supermarket onions in shades of lime green or red. Alliums actually come in oval, spherical, or globular flower shapes, blooming in magnificent colors atop tall stems.

    Because good perennial-garden designs are often made up of contrasting shapes, alliums’ rounded blooms make them great components for interesting garden combinations (not to mention that deer generally avoid them—to escape onion breath). Pair them with spikes or other large-leaved perennials to hide any decaying foliage.

    Allium spp. and cvs.

    Hardiness: Alliums can be grown in Zones 3 to 9, depending upon the species and cultivar.

    Alliums aren’t too picky: In most cases, alliums grow in average garden soil and need full sun and good drainage. The drainage is critical because so many of the bulbs are huge and will rot with too much moisture.

    Aside from that, they are easy to grow and come back year after year with almost no maintenance. Occasionally, they need dividing after a few years, when you start to notice a decrease in flower production (usually this pertains to those with small bulbs). One of the best things about alliums is that most animals, especially deer, find the taste unappealing and won’t nibble on the leaves.

    Plant them in fall: Alliums go in while leaves are falling. Average planting depth should be about three times the diameter of the bulb. I have planted alliums late in fall right up to Thanksgiving. Just be sure the ground hasn’t frozen yet so that the bulbs have time to take root.

    Spring blooming...

    Allium moly ‘Jeannine’, ‘Jeannine’ golden onion; Photo: David Cavagnaro

    Allium karataviense, Turkestan onion; Photo: Bill Johnson

    Summer blooming...

    Allium cristophii, Stars of Persia; Photo: Michelle Gervais

    Allium caeruleum, Blue globe onion; Photo: Steve Aitken

    Fall blooming...

    Drumstick allium, Allium sphaerocephalon, Drumstick allium; Photo: Michelle Gervais

    Allium ‘Hair’, ‘Hair’ allium; Photo: Bill Johnson

    Allium thunbergii ‘Ozawa’, ‘Ozawa’ Japanese onion; Photo: Jennifer Brown

    from Fine Gardening 127, pp. 40-45

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