Ear to the Ground: The Insider Dirt to Gardening in Upstate NY

This trip sells out—purchase your Odyssey tickets today!

A wonderful spring tradition—inspiring gardens shopping at great nurseries—unusual plants—gorgeous scenery—a delicious Herbal Lunch and…a surprise treat compliments of Crafty Cathy!

Read more about this trip here.

ONLY $77/person.


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Garden Hose Guards

by cathym on March 28, 2017

by Cathy Monrad

MATERIALS PER HOSE GUARD
2 foot piece of ½ inch rebar
1 foot length of ½ inch copper pipe
½ inch copper pipe cap
1 cabinet door knob; type with bolt attached

TOOLS
Scrap wood
Pliers
Drill and bits
Hammer or mallet

1. Place pipe cap upside down on scrap wood and hold in place with pliers. Use small drill bit to create a pilot hole. Increase bit size and redrill hole until knob bolt fits.

1. Place pipe cap upside down on scrap wood and hold in place with pliers. Use small drill bit to create a pilot hole. Increase bit size and redrill hole until knob bolt fits.

2. Insert knob bolt through cap hole and add nut. Use needle-nose pliers to grasp nut inside cap while turning knob to tighten.

2. Insert knob bolt through cap hole and add nut. Use needle-nose pliers to grasp nut inside cap while turning knob to tighten.

3. Place cap on pipe.

3. Place cap on pipe.

Craft4

4. Pound rebar in the ground with hammer leaving 8 inches visible.

Craft5

5. Slide finished hose guard over rebar.

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and the self-proclaimed garden crafter for the Upstate Gardners’ Journal.

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New York Owls

by cathym on March 25, 2017

by Liz Magnanti

Great horned owl. Photo courtesy Flickr: Nigel

Great horned owl. Photo courtesy Flickr: Nigel

Last winter offered some great opportunities to see many of the owl species we have here in Upstate New York. Owls are birds of prey that are primarily nocturnal. They are characterized by their large, forward facing eyes, circular flat faces, and sharp beaks and talons. Owls’ eyes are so large that they cannot move them in their sockets. In order to see in all directions, owls have specially adapted vertebrae that allow them to rotate their head 270 degrees.

Although owls will swallow their prey whole, they cannot digest the whole animal. The bones and fur of their prey are regurgitated as “pellets” that can often be found under the tree the owl is using as a roost. Owls are mostly nocturnal, solitary hunters. Their feathers are specialized to minimize the noise they make while flying. If you look at the tips of an owl feather, you will see that they are fringed, which cuts down noise when flying. Owls do not build nests, but instead take over nests and nesting cavities of other birds. During the day you are most likely to see an owl perched in a tree overseeing its hunting grounds.

There are eight different owl species that are commonly found in New York State. Some of these species are migratory and are only around seasonally, while others can be found here year round.

The smallest of the owls found in New York is the saw-whet owl. At seven inches in length, they are about the size of a soda can. Although small, these owls are fierce and dine on mice and other small rodents. Saw-whet owls are migratory, and can be found here in the early spring. They are known to roost in conifer trees and will nest in tree and man-made cavities. When searching for owls, look for their signature droppings, or “whitewash” on the trunk of trees. Usually this is easier to spot and the owl won’t be far away.

The eastern screech owl is the most common owl in our area. They can be either gray or brown, but in our area they are most commonly gray. Brown morphs are more common out west where they blend in better with the reddish-colored trees. Screech owls are eight to ten inches in length and will roost during the day in hollow trees or screech owl boxes. You may have head a screech owl and not even known it. Their call sounds like a horse’s whinny, not the traditional “hooo.”

The barred owl has populations that are expanding nationwide. They are large, with a length up to 24 inches and deep brown eyes. Their brownish-gray coloration gives them great camouflage in old growth forests, where they are most common. Their signature “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” call can be heard through forests at night, and sometimes during daylight hours.

Short-eared owls are migratory owls you may find here in the winter. They are most commonly seen in February at dusk flying low over farm fields where they hunt for small mammals. The short-eared owl is one of the most widespread owls you will find and can be found all over the world. Here in New York, however, this bird is endangered due to habitat loss.

Snowy owls have been widespread in our area this winter. Food scarcities bring them south where they hunt for small mammals and birds. These “interruptions,” when animals appear in large numbers outside their normal range, happen sporadically some winters. The best places to look for snowy owls are around the lakeshore, where they stop to rest after crossing Lake Ontario, and airports.

Long-eared owls are very secretive and hard to find. They roost high up in evergreen trees and blend in very well with the trunks. These migratory birds are mostly here seasonally, when they pass through in March and April. They rarely nest here but when they do they tend to take over crow nests.

The barn owl is a species rarely found upstate. They will inhabit and nest in barns, as their name implies, but are a more southern species. They tend to prefer an agricultural setting or field, which makes them prone to nesting in barns. Barn owls have pale feathers, long wings, and dark eyes. They are widespread throughout the world but, just as short-eared owls, they are declining due to habitat loss.

Great horned owls are perhaps the most distinct-looking owl we have. With a length of 25 inches and a wingspan of 55 inches, it’s no wonder how this owl got its name. Their ear tufts, or “horns,” are actually feathers and not ears at all. The call of the great horned owl is five distinct hoots that sound like “You awake? Me too.” This large owl is known to attack prey larger than itself and is one of the only natural predators of the bald eagle.

At any time of year you may be lucky enough to have an encounter with one of these amazing birds. The great horned owl nests early in the year and will already have nestlings at this time. Other species do not nest until April or May. As the weather gets warmer, listen for their calls late into the night as they search for mates.

 

Liz Magnanti is manager of The Bird House in Brighton.

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plantasia-logo

 March 23–March 26, the Fairgrounds Event Center in Hamburg

All seminars to take place in the large seminar room unless otherwise noted.
Large seminar room is located to the left of the concession stand.
Small seminar room is located to the right of the concession stand.

THURSDAY , MARCH 23, 2017
11 am: Don’t Just Gawk—Learn on Garden Walks – Connie Oswald Stofko, Publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com

Noon: Pruning 101 – Steve Sypniewski, CNLP, ISA Certified Arborist; Buffalo State College

1 pm: How to Care for Your Lawn – Walt Nelson, Cooperative Extension Monroe County

1 pm: (small seminar room) How to Safely Use a Chain Saw – Nate Buckley, For the Love of Trees Company

2 pm: Container Gardening – Lyn Chimera, Lessons from Nature

2 pm: (small seminar room) Demonstration: How to Make a Terrarium – Kristy Schmitt, Erie County Botanical Gardens

3 pm: Ornamental Grass – Sharon Webber, CNLP; Horticulture Instructor, Niagara County Community College; Earthlines

4 pm: Helping the Honeybees – Erin Masterson, Masterson’s Garden Center, Inc. & Aquatic Nursery

5 pm: Drought: The Killer of Trees – Brian Sayers, Tree Doctor

6 pm: Making Your Landscape Come Alive with a Splash of Color – Dan Robillard – Horticulture Instructor, McKinley High School

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017
11 am: Shade Gardening with Tips, Tricks and Suggestions of What to Use – Tim Zimmerman, CNLP, Robert Baker Company

Noon: Garden for the Caterpillars – Dave O’Donnell, Eastern Monarch Butterfly Farm

1 pm: Perennials for WNY Gardens, Best Choices & Best Care – Sally Cunningham, CNLP, Author; Lockwood’s Greenhouses

2 pm: Design Your Own Landscape – Richard Tedeschi, Jacrist Gardening Services, Inc.

3 pm: Ken Brown Hour—Horticulture Questions Answered

4 pm: Picture Tour of the “Drave’s Arboretum” – Tom Draves, Draves Tree & Landscape

5 pm: How to Identify Emerald Ash Borer and What You Should Do – Tandy Lewis, U.S. Department of Agriculture – APHIS Division

6 pm: Victorian Language of Flowers – Kristy Schmitt, Erie County Botanical Gardens

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 25, 2017
11 am: Succulents: Small and Mighty – Jackie Albarella, Albarella Media, Channel 2

Noon: Gardening Through the Ages – Dawn Hummel, BeeDazzled Media

Noon: (small seminar room) A Moment in Time Floral Designs – Dorothy Julius, Along Gardens Path

1 pm: The Useful and the Beautiful in the Landscape – Nellie Gardener, Flower Fields; Darwin Martin House

2 pm: The Ancient Art of Moss Ball Gardening – David Clark, Instructor, Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens

3 pm: Your Yard (and the Birds and the Bees) Needs Native Plants: How to Choose and Use Them – Sally Cunningham, CNLP, Author; Lockwood’s Greenhouse

4 pm: Edible Wild Plants – Ken Parker, CNLP

5 pm: Manipulate Your Landscape to Attract Wildlife – Russ Lis, Aquatic Ecology Instructor, McKinley High School

6 pm: How to Design a Japanese Garden – Matt Smith, CNLP

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 2017
10 am: Which Hostas Where – Hostas in the Landscape – Mike Shadrack, Smug Creek Gardens

11 am: Feng Shui Your Garden – Applying Ancient Formulas & Symbols to Modern Gardens – David Clark, Instructor, Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens

Noon: Making More Plants (Propagation for the Home Gardener) – Carol Harlos, Master Gardener

Noon: (small seminar room) Demonstration—Insects, Diseases & Weeds, Oh My! Household Products Used for Home Remedies – Michael Klepp, CNLP, The Plant Man

1 pm: What’s that Bug? In Your Garden and in Your House – Tom Mitchell, Horticulture Instructor, Niagara County Community College; Mitchell Landscaping

2 pm: Container Gardening—Beyond Thriller, Filler, & Spiller – Carolyn Stanko, CNLP, Horticulture Instructor, Niagara County Community College

3 pm: New Shrubs and Perennials for 2017 – Tim Zimmerman, CNLP, Robert Baker Company

All seminars to take place in the large seminar room unless otherwise noted.
Large seminar room is located to the left of the concession stand.
Small seminar room is located to the right of the concession stand.

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The Tree of (a Secret) Life

by janem on March 23, 2017

story and photos by John Ernst

As it stood in February of 2016.

As it stood in February of 2016.

One summer during college, I worked as a landscaper at Genesee Valley Park. I savored the chance to work outside. Each day I would drive my Gator through the misty sunrise at 5 a.m., surveying the park and ensuring that all was well before hikers and picnickers arrived. And each day, I marveled at the mighty branches lying on either side of the trail. It was a bitch to mow and weed whack, so other employees let the grass grow, giving it a wild and unkempt appearance. A few weeks into my job I learned it was called the “tree of life,” and that it had been struck by lightning, breaking it in half, years before. Feeling an odd sense of connection with the tree, I started taking better care of it.

Years later, my attempt at research on the tree has borne little fruit. Its only online remembrance seem to be a photo gallery on the University of Rochester’s website commemorating the tree’s life, and a memorial page on Facebook. I learned that it was struck by lightning on July 4, 2010 and before it fell, it looked like a pair of hands opening to the sky. I also learned how genuinely Rochesterians loved it. Both the photo gallery and memorial page highlighted that.

For more information I called the Monroe County Parks office, which referred me to Chris Kirchmaier, Supervisor at Highland Park. He told me that he was actually on the forestry crew that cut down the tree the day after it was struck. “I’m not sure that there is a recorded history,” he said, “just a popular tree and a cool structure. Every day I drove by there were four, five, even ten people sitting in it or climbing it.” He told me that he’s only 36, and that his older co-worker Joe Bernal, the tree crew supervisor, might have more answers for me.

“Well, it’s a white oak,” Bernal told me when I asked what he knew about the tree. “It had a perfect crotch, probably eight or ten feet up in the air.” Frederick Law Olmsted designed Genesee Valley Park in the late nineteenth century, and Bernal figured the Tree of Life predated that. “That would make it over 150 years old, and that wouldn’t surprise me,” he said. Earlier in his career, Bernal removed tags from the trees Olmsted had planted, but didn’t remember the Tree of Life having one. He expressed similar fondness as Kirchmaier had for the fallen tree. “Even when it was busted in half, I tried to keep the character in both sides and moved it down to the path.” He said that he’d like to see the tree preserved: “White oak is a wood that lasts,” he said. “But if we really wanted it to last, we’d have to lift it off the ground, get the bark off, and maybe coat it with some preservative.” As Supervisor, Bernal doesn’t have the time to take on a project like that, but hopes somebody does—perhaps a group of volunteers or students from the U of R. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said before signing off.

Tree rings

Tree rings

I decided to revisit the tree and count the rings myself. I had forgotten how huge it was; heaving it up and preserving it would be no minor task. I set to counting the rings on the stub of a lopped branch. Many were so close together that they were indistinguishable, and the cracks didn’t make it any easier to count. I deemed it impossible to record any sound empirical data using this method, but I counted over a hundred rings. Maybe Genesee Valley Park’s ancient oak has no recountable history, but the Tree of Life has earned its nickname.

 

John Ernst is a passionate writer, hiker, and video gamer born and raised in Rochester. He is currently developing his website, nerdofearth.com.

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How Trees Respond to Water

by janem on March 22, 2017

by Rob Barrett

Droughted dogwood. Photo courtesy Jerry Giordano, CCE Westchester County.

Droughted dogwood. Photo courtesy Jerry Giordano, CCE Westchester County.

In Upstate New York we have learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to weather. Many times it’s the mildest of winters, other times it’s the summer with no sun. This time, we are talking about the drought of 2016. We had higher than average temperatures, but not unbearable. The real issue was the staggering lack of rainfall, it seemed as though it would never end.

Trees are complex plants, and through evolution, species have adapted to conditions present in their respective zones. This does not make them invincible. The urban landscape can be unforgiving, full of multiple stresses. It would be foolish to think we, as humans, could alleviate all stress on trees and shrubs. There are, however, quite a few things we can do to lessen their effects.

Let’s first discuss the importance of water and how too much or too little can matter. We need water, plants need water; it is a critical component of life. Trees and shrubs use water for transpiration, moving from the smallest roots, through the trunk or stem, and out through the leaves. Along the way, its used to build and protect plant tissues, and through photosynthesis in the leaves, it is converted into the air we breathe. The essential nutrients in the soil can only be accessed with adequate moisture. These nutrients are then shuttled up the plant along the water columns to areas where they are required. Water is even used to move the carbohydrates synthesized within the leaves. This may all seem redundant and obvious to plant lovers, but it deserves repeating every now and then.

There is such a thing as too much water. Yes, yes there is. In many cases, too much water causes quicker and more terminal injury to trees and shrubs. All species tolerate saturated soils in different ways. Read planting labels when choosing plants for wet or dry areas. Some trees can tolerate wetter conditions, such as some birches and willows. These same locations would mean certain death for most evergreens. Also, keep in mind that soil conditions can change; new development greatly changes drainage. This has led to many clumps of spruce in backyards to drown.

How can plants drown? Good soil structure requires adequate pore space for air as well as water. Supersaturated soils have their pore space filled with water rather than air; conditions become anaerobic, transpiration ceases and roots rot. Another factor is the soil itself, whether it is sand, loam, or clay. Soils are typically some combination of these. Sandy soils are well drained and those with clay often retain water.

Back to the matter at hand though: the drought. We have discussed how water is important. What happens to plants when water is scarce? Over time, trees have adapted to cyclic rain events. They know that typically in our region, soils will be moist in late winter from the melting snow and low temperatures. In spring, during and after bud break, we receive quite a bit of spring rain. They know summer can get hot and dry, they hope for a few thunderstorms now and again. They also expect cooler temps and more precipitation in the fall. Last year what they knew was thrown out the window. Our winter was mild, our spring was dry, the thunderstorms didn’t develop, and on top of that our summer pushed right into fall. This kind of pattern would stress the most established landscapes, not to mention newer plantings, or those under other stresses already.

The responses of plants to these conditions can vary; they can often attempt to protect themselves during these less than favorable situations. Sensing a lack of soil moisture they may slow transpiration through a variety of methods. Sometimes we see leaf curl, as in the dogwood family that reduces the leaf surface area and slows down transpiration. If water is short during leaf development, very often we see smaller leaves and shoot growth. Some species can regulate their stomata, openings in leaves used in gas exchange. Still others will prematurely drop interior, less important leaves. We saw this a lot in birch species last year. Another coping mechanism may be activation of anchor roots, which tap into moisture reservoirs in the subsoils. Some of these ideas are relatively new and not well understood, but these adaptations may very well be the basis for success in certain species.

What happens to a plant under drought stress? Very often we are amazed that trees “seem” unaffected, when the turf has gone into dormancy and been brown for two months. I will tell you that the tree has put on a brave front. They will attempt to mitigate the stress the best they can; they will use up critical energy stores and slow other metabolic processes. This can lead to tissue death within the root system, as well as the vascular system, and into the canopy. The lack of water has weakened their defenses. They are now susceptible to an array of secondary attacks. Insect pests can now penetrate the bark and attack. Boring insects are opportunistic and take full advantage of lone birch trees and pine forests alike. Most fungal pathogens flourish in wet weather. Unfortunately there are some that only attack drought-weakened tissue. Canker diseases are some of the more common drought induced diseases we encounter in plant health care. The fungus lies in wait until the plant becomes so weak it cannot stop the fungus from entering the weakened tissue. Once inside, the plant has little or no defense. This can either lead to dieback or a very slow death. Under dry conditions, the fibrous roots experience dieback as well. They are now candidates for fungal diseases as well. The scariest part of all this is, we may not see symptoms of the stress created by the drought for a few years. Trees especially can take a longtime to fail; we often use the analogy of construction stress. We often take great measures to save mature trees near construction sites, only to see them deteriorate in three to five years.

Black knot canker on cherry.

Black knot canker on cherry.

What can you do? If you are seeing signs of damage, or know that injury has occurred, do whatever you can to aid in recovery. This will most likely be making sure the planting has adequate water, treating for any insects and disease. Fertilizing a stressed plant may not be the best option, but certainly adding organic mulch would help. If you do fertilize, use a low nitrogen rate fertilizer with a low salt index. You are pretty much attempting to limit as many stresses as possible, and giving the landscape it’s best chance to recuperate.

Going forward, it would be best to plan ahead, as this will certainly not be the last dry season we have. Having your entire landscape evaluated is a crucial part to any plant health care program. Knowing which plants have special requirements, or are prone to insect or disease damage, will allow you to prevent problems before they arise. Pay attention to weather patterns and rainfall in your area. Periodically do a walkthrough checking for changes in leaf color and texture. Check soil moisture and prune dead branches as needed. Look for anything out of the ordinary. Maintain an organic mulch layer under your plants and trees, and water as necessary.

The drought of 2016 was disheartening for all of us plant lovers. We will never be able to prevent the stresses associated with drought, but if we pay attention and take action, we will make a difference. That being said, I’m sure the weather will be perfect this year!

 

Rob Barrett is the manager of Plant Health Care at Ted Collins Tree and Landscape in Victor, NY.

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Exploring Asia at the Botanical Gardens

by janem on March 22, 2017

story and photos by Katie DeTar

Buddha displays mundra

Buddha displays mundra

Great landscape design transcends simple greenery and creates sacred space. It provides a place for contemplation and education, and transports visitors into an artful, beautiful world. The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens achieves such a feat with this year’s opening of two new exhibits, the Aquatic Garden and Asian Rainforest.

The new spaces opened on January 14, following renovations that began in in 2015. Located in Buffalo’s historic South Park, The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens are about six miles south of downtown Buffalo. The magnificent structure—built for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition—is one of only two remaining tri-domed glass conservatories in the world. The gardens house more than 4500 plant species, including cacti, palms, orchids, and medicinal plants.

Water lily

Water lily

The new exhibits expand on this collection, and introduce even more new species, focusing on plants native to Southeast Asia and Australia—two of the most diverse and botanically significant regions in the world.

“This space gives us an opportunity to introduce varieties of plants not in the collection,” says Executive Director David Swarts. “It also provides us an opportunity to talk about culture and educate our visitors.”

Wide pathways wind through exotic gardens complete with more than ten varieties of bamboo, tropical pitcher plants, white palms, and fruit trees. Regular garden visitors will also notice the bonsai collection has been moved and incorporated into the new spaces.

The Aquatic Garden and Asian Rainforest exhibits also include sculpture and cultural elements that align with the overall theme. Visitors step through a moon gate as they pass along the walkway. Circular architectural elements are common in Chinese gardens. A traditional teahouse perches in the far corner of the space, while a large Buddha statue displays a mudra—a symbolic hand gesture—communicating discussion, intellectual argument, and the flow of energy and information.

The moon gate, walkway curbs, and waterfall (the North Dome’s stunning centerpiece) were all hand-carved and hand-painted. Close examination of the realistic looking rock reveals an incredible level of detail, textures, and colors.

The Aquatic Garden features not only plants, but also water itself as a landscape element. A large fountain sits at the entrance, swirling water into figure eights as it gently flows through large leaf-shaped bowls. Dozens of koi, donated by a local organic gardener, swim under a footbridge in a large pond.

Fountain

Fountain

“[The aquatic elements] stress the importance of water in our lives, and its serenity and peacefulness. Water is healing. It’s a sensory experience to visit the garden,” says Swarts.

The plants and garden also present opportunities for conservation education. The expanded collection helps to ensure the survival of rare plant species threatened by deforestation and climate change in their native lands; pest and fungal control for the entire collection are now managed with the help of purposefully placed beneficial insects, rather than entirely through pesticides. It’s part of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens’ policy of preserving plants for future generations, and to be stewards for education.

For the home gardener, the beautiful and exotic new spaces spark inspiration. Luckily, in many ways, the same look and feel can be recreated at upstate backyards. Here many of the same varieties of tropical plants will flourish outdoors in the warmer months as potted plants that can be moved indoors in winter. Many varieties of bamboo grow well outdoors, but should be reserved for containers too because they can be very invasive. Ponds, sculpture, and fountains can also create an Asian theme at home.

The new Aquatic Garden and Asian Rainforest exhibits offer a peaceful and vibrant place for relaxation. Go there to meditate, experience a new culture, and to find inspiration for your sanctuary.

Moon Gate

Moon Gate

Waterfall

Waterfall

 

Katie DeTar is the host and producer of the television travel series, Fringe Benefits – airing now on Public Television Stations. Learn more at www.katiedetar.com.

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story and photos by Michelle Sutton except where indicated

Native plants for shade at Amanda’s Garden

Native plants for shade at Amanda’s Garden

Ellen Folts

Ellen Folts

In 2016, Amanda’s Garden celebrated 25 years of growing and selling native plants in Livingston County. Raised in Lake Placid, Amanda’s owner Ellen Folts remembers hiking with her mother and aunts—lovers of wildflowers—in the vast forests of the Adirondacks. Folts recalls being transfixed by her first sighting of Dutchman’s breeches in the woods along the shore of Meachum Lake near Malone, NY. “I thought they were the coolest thing ever,” she says. As a teenager, Folts went out botanizing by herself with Peterson Field Guides. Her early passion for native flora set the course for her future vocation.

For 25 years, Amanda’s Garden was located in Springwater at Folts’s home property; the new location in Dansville officially opened in the spring of 2016. Folts and her husband Ron bought the new property in 2013 after carefully scoping out the site to make sure it would provide the right conditions for the nursery. She says, “We knew that this property typically keeps at least a foot of snow in the winter, which we need to protect overwintering nursery stock.”

The reason for the move from the Foltses home nursery to the Dansville location? The oak tree canopy at the home site had filled in; the dense oak shade was a problem for production as was the root competition from the oak trees with young plants in growing frames. Folts also wanted the acreage to make the nursery more of a destination, complete with hiking trails, a pond teeming with frogs, and abundant wildflower gardens featuring the more than 150 species she grows.

The extended Folts family, including daughter Amanda (30) (the nursery’s namesake) and son Cassidy (27), is key to the success of the operation. Family reunions are held annually in spring at the nursery, where the practiced hands of the volunteers do several days of potting and propagating while family get caught up with each other.

For this jamboree, they make their own potting mix from leaf compost, rice hulls, composted bark, and an organic preventative biological fungicide product that helps protect the roots from diseases. “We grow most of our plants from seeds or spores, rather than dividing them, to encourage genetic diversity,” Folts says. “In the case of the fern spores, we grow them in plastic containers on a light stand at home, then when they get potted up to 2 ¼-inch containers, we bring them up here to the nursery.” The nursery trays used for seed propagation are made from pressed peat, they’re compostable, and they last about three years. This is a strategic choice, because blue cohosh takes three years to germinate—the longest of any plants in her stock.

Folts grows from seed she collects—including seed on the nursery property, which sports many indigenous plants—and by buying from nurseries in the same
ecoregion, called the Laurentian. She grows mostly plants native to the Northeast, with a few outliers from further west as far as Illinois and south to North Carolina. “I limit the range so that I can keep the genetics found in the local ecoregion; I sell very few plants from outside that region.”

In addition to selling at the nursery and at Rochester’s Proud Market and Gathering of Gardeners symposium, Folts sells native plants online, orders that average $40-50 each, and ships them bare root. She also sells to nonprofits like state parks and land trusts; customers have included Central Park; Clark Reservation, Letchworth, and Knox Farm State Parks; the Chautauqua Institution; the Roemer Arboretum at SU NY Geneseo; and the Town of Perinton. Even though the paperwork was daunting, becoming a certified woman-owned business helped Folts secure large orders from New York State. Folts also teaches courses on all facets of native plants, with propagation as her favorite.

 

Jenny Apple, Associate Professor of Biology at SUNY Geneseo and Chair of the Spencer J. Roemer Arboretum Advisory Board, on Amanda’s Garden
I help maintain the Spencer J. Roemer Arboretum on the SUNY Geneseo campus. The Arboretum is a 20-acre woodland undergoing ecological succession since it ceased serving as pasture in the 1960s. As an ecologist interested in promoting biodiversity and controlling invasives, I have been eager to plant more natives in our Arboretum.

Ellen came out to our site and prepared an excellent report providing recommendations for plants to use in different areas, ranging from the understory beneath a grand old oak tree, a more formal flower bed to be replaced with natives, and an open meadow dominated by exotics and aggressive perennials where we wanted to establish a diversity of plants to attract pollinators and monarchs.

She gave very thoughtful suggestions to ensure that floral resources for pollinators were available throughout the season along with a variety of colors and flower types for their aesthetic appeal. Thanks to her suggestions and the many plants we have purchased from Amanda’s Garden, our Arboretum’s gazebo garden is filling out nicely, with lovely colorful blooms from spring into late fall.

Ellen has been incredibly generous with her knowledge. In her consultation, she also provided strategies for trying to suppress invasives and unwanted vegetation and promote the success of our plantings. She pointed out plants we already had that we could collect seeds from for propagation on our own. At a workshop she gave at the Rochester Civic Garden Center on propagating native perennials, I learned many tricks and tips for collecting, prepping, and planting native seeds, which I put into practice with student volunteers.

My own yard has also benefited from her inventory and her great suggestions. I appreciate all her efforts to spread the word about the many benefits of native plants. I can’t get enough of observing and photographing all the incredible and beneficial insects they attract!

 

Laurie Hunt, Rochester
I was inspired to make my first trip to Amanda’s Garden because of a Facebook post saying it was National Pollinator’s Week. She gave me a tour of the grounds and everything pretty much looked the same to me, what most people might think of as weeds. I dubiously took home a few plants and started my love affair. Ellen did a home visit and identified which plants in my wooded backyard to keep and which to remove. She recommended plants to create diversity in the landscape. My yard is now primarily planted with native plants from Ellen and I keep adding more. People now come to me for advice! And I can’t walk in the woods without identifying native plants and pulling out invasives. It’s all Ellen’s fault.

 

Ryan Bass, Garrison
I’m an avid birder, and Amanda’s Garden has helped me design a bird-friendly garden. I’ve noticed a marked increase in birds in my native habitat garden vs. other areas of my property. It is no mystery that native plants attract insects and insects attract birds. Sometimes, public perception is “bugs are bad, so what can I spray on them?” In contrast, Ellen’s approach educates the customer on what plants are “larval hosts” to ensure butterflies and moths can sustain future generations. She recommends species that attract predator insects for those “problem” bugs. Finally, she promotes creating a diverse habitat (not a monoculture) to attract wildlife and foster a harmonious environment. I also have really valued her consultation on problem sites where so little will grow—dry shade, poor drainage, or areas of high deer browse. I’ve found that once established, if a native plant is sited in the right location, it is virtually maintenance free.

 

 

New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) brings bold colors to the fall garden.

New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) brings bold colors to the fall garden.

The delightfully showy wild ageratum (Eupatorium coelestinum)

The delightfully showy wild ageratum (Eupatorium coelestinum)

Hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolpendrium)

Hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolpendrium)

A SHORT Q&A WITH ELLEN FOLTS

What do you recommend for those with construction-ravaged or otherwise infertile non-native soils, and what role does mulch play, if any?
Incorporate leaf compost or manure into the top 6” of soil and then mulch with a thin (no more than an inch) layer of compost or pine bark; you don’t want to mulch so deeply that you cause perennials to rot or you prevent plants from self-seeding. The fall leaf drop can stay atop your garden to provide insulation to your plants; in the spring, go out there and gently rake most of the leaves off and compost them. In that way, you keep the butterfly and other larvae that overwintered on the leaves on your property. (The few leaves that remain in the garden can contribute organic matter to the soil over time.) If you have spring ephemerals like Dutchman’s breeches coming up in March, be careful you don’t pull those right out when you’re raking. After raking each spring, put down a fresh inch of pine bark mulch to eventually break down along with the leaves.

What are some of the most underutilized native plants?
Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) grows in a beautiful mass and has a great smell. Barren strawberry (Geum fragarioides) can grow in sun or shade, it’s evergreen and makes an excellent groundcover, and it has little yellow strawberry-like flowers. It’s not particular about soil and it’s not invasive—it’s easy to pull up.Flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) has pretty flowers and handsome leaves. It can be invasive but for filling up a bank, it’s perfect. Canada anemone (Anemone canadensis) has beautiful white flowers and can take over a conventional garden but it’s great underneath a maple tree where it’s dry and you can’t get anything to grow, plus it attracts beneficial insects.

The underutilized mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum)

The underutilized mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum)

What are some of the easiest-to-grow, and some of the most particular?
The ones I call “the woodland staples” are fairly easy to grow if given some shade: ferns, sedges, wild geranium  (Geranium maculatum), early meadow rue (Thalictrum dioicum), Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), and wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum) will grow anywhere, sun or shade it’s happiest in a ditch or other wet place, but in the hot dry sun it will just stay shorter. Marsh grass of Parnassus (Grassa parnassus) needs sandy soil and full sun, yet needs to be kept fairly moist. Hepatica (Hepatica americana) has to be on an incline— when you see it in the woods you’ll notice it’s always on its little hummock or hill. Without that, its crown will rot. The lilies like Turk’s cap (Lilium superbum) and Canada lily (Lilium canadense) you have to situate correctly—they like well-drained but moist soil and about two to three hours a day of direct sun.

The tiny, striking marsh grass of Parnassus (Grassa parnassus)  Photo by Ellen Folts

The tiny, striking marsh grass of Parnassus (Grassa parnassus)
Photo by Ellen Folts

Can you tell us a few interesting things about your propagation techniques?
-We do most of our seed sowing in trays and leave them out all winter because many native perennials need stratification.

-The ferns we do in plastic boxes; we put half an inch to an inch of soil in there, moisten it, then sterilize the medium in the microwave for five minutes. When the medium cools down, we sow our spores using a piece of paper to gently tap them in. If the box gets contaminated by moss or algae we sometimes lose ferns, but you also have to be careful they don’t get too dry. We sow them in January and put them on a light stand; they’re not ready until two years later.

– Some plants like doll’s eyes (Actaea spp.) don’t even come up the first year and bloodroot (Sanguinary canadensis) sometimes comes up the first year, but sometimes doesn’t. We sow all of our woodland wildflower seeds, like those of bloodroot and trillium (Trillium spp.), as soon as the seed’s ripe, because a lot of them are hydrophilic and if they dry out, they will take an inordinately long time to germinate.

fern-propagation

Fern propagation takes careful monitoring of light and moisture levels.

 

• • •

This article barely scratched the surface of Folts’s knowledge and offerings. To learn more about her and Amanda’s Garden, see amandasnativeplants.com.

 

Michelle Sutton (michellejudysutton.com) is a horticulturist, editor, and writer.

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Almanac: March-April 2017

by janem on March 17, 2017

March Edibles
Start onion/leek/celeriac seeds early in the month. Consider getting a heated germination mat. After the seeds germinate, take the plants off the mat and place about 4 inches below hang fluorescent or LED lights.

Start pepper, eggplant, and parsley seeds late in the month if you are in zone 6 or a warm microclimate of zone 5 (otherwise, early April). Soak parsley seeds in lukewarm water for a few hours first. Use the germination mat. Move to the light setup as soon as the seeds sprout.

If you have overwintered vegetable plants in a cold frame, make sure they don’t get overheated. If there are root veggies in the garden, dig them up as soon as you can before they resume growth or rodents get to them. Harvest overwintered leaf veggies (FEDCO Seeds has a great list of extra-hardy veggies that can be wintered over with the help of a cold frame or low tunnels or mulch.) Egyptian onion, also known as perennial or walking onion, needs no winter protection and provides an early harvest.

It’s time to start pruning fruit trees (except peaches) and grapes, before they leaf out. If you grow fall raspberries, and prefer to get the large crop in late summer and fall, prune all the canes down to the ground. ‘Polana’ is a great variety that fruits for over two months starting in mid-August. I avoid ‘Heritage’ due to late fruiting and susceptibility to Phytophthora root rot.

March Ornamentals
Observe where the snow melts first. This is your warmest microclimate. Consider putting your earliest spring bloomers there, such as snowdrops, winter aconites, and hellebores. Also, keep track of where the snow lingers longest. This is your coolest microclimate. When designing  your landscape, consider this site for plants that tend to sprout too early and get damaged by late spring frosts. By mulching heavily and siting them in a cooler spot, they will stay dormant later and hopefully avoid such damage.

Watch out for water that accumulates on top of frozen ground. Consider covering sensitive alpines with a bucket or plastic box to prevent this. Water puddles can kill evenwinter-hardy plants such as purple poppy-mallow. Plant them on a slope to allow the water to drain away.

Winter is a great time to plan garden improvements because the architecture of your design is most apparent then. Take a photo of an area of your garden, and print it out on 81/2” x 11” paper.  Tape a sheet of tracing paper over the photo and, with a pencil, sketch shapes and sizes that you might like to add to the picture. Sketch circles and sweeping lines of various lengths for shrubs and grasses. Use a stick and ball to represent flowering perennials. Is there a view you would like to maximize or hide? Use colored pencils to enhance your design.

Now is also a good time to evaluate and prune your ornamental trees and shrubs, except for species that are considered ‘bleeders’. Maples, birch, yellowwood, magnolia, linden, willow, and nut trees are just a few trees that should be pruned a little later, after the sap is finished running.

This is a good time to repot houseplants and resume fertilizing lightly. Look for problems such as insects. Leggy plants such as angel wing begonias can be pruned and the cuttings rooted.

April Edibles
Start tomato, broccoli, cabbage, and basil seeds indoors in mid-month (if you will have enough space under your fluorescent lights). Start fava beans in individual cells or pots late in March or early in April, depending on your microclimate. This is a bean that tolerates light frosts, so plant the seedlings outside later in the month, to get production before hot weather.

In late April, move pepper, eggplant, and basil seedlings to individual pots indoors. Consider applying black plastic or IRT (infrared transmitting) mulch to warm up the soil in the veggie garden where you want to plant heat-loving crops.

If spring weather permits, direct-seed cold-tolerant veggies such as peas, spinach, lettuce, radishes and carrots around midmonth.

Finish pruning fruit trees (except peaches) and grapes before they leaf out. Prune berry plants per recommendations. Consider applying row cover on strawberry plantings. Fertilize blueberries with an acid fertilizer such as ammonium sulfate (NOT aluminum sulfate) and/or apply elemental sulfur to keep the pH acid enough.

April Ornamentals
Protect early-sprouters from late spring frosts. Candidates for protection include the true lilies, Japanese painted fern fiddleheads, Kirengeshoma species, and crown imperial, all of which have been zapped one time or another in my zone 5 frostpocket location. You can use the same covers that you employ to protect your tomato plants in fall: old sheets and blankets that are not too heavy, cardboard boxes, or upside-down buckets. Avoid using sheet plastic and tarps. Do not rush to cut off last year’s foliage as it does protect the crown and emerging sprouts.

Early April is a good time to divide Solomon Seal before the stems elongate, and bloodroot before it sprouts. Later in the month, it may be time to remove last year’s stalks from mums, and divide the clumps if needed. Also, it’s a good time to divide many hardy perennials such as phlox, Siberian iris, Hosta, daylilies, asters, Helenium, Boltonia, Heliopsis, Shasta daisy, and so on. Bearded irises may be divided, but they probably won’t bloom this year. Lavender, culinary sage, Russian sage, and butterfly bush can have dead wood trimmed off late in the month, when winter damage and live buds can be distinguished.

Protect crocuses and tulips from animal damage. Crocuses are particularly vulnerable because a new corm needs to be formed each year; they do not have persistent true bulbs like tulips. A mulch of pea gravel helps to discourage digging, and then repellent sprays are needed once they sprout. A deer fence helps, but I suspect rabbits may also browse on the foliage.

If the spring is dry, and you have plantings that receive salty runoff, water them heavily to flush the salt down below the root zone. Prune off branches damaged by salt spray, and make a mental note to install a burlap screen to prevent salt damage next winter.

Use your germination heat mat for getting heat-loving tropical ‘bulbs’ such as caladiums started. Use shallow pots until they sprout. Depending on your microclimate, you may need to pot them up again before they can be safely planted outside. Other tender ‘bulbs’ such as dahlias and cannas can be potted up early, but should grow at normal indoor room temperature.

— Pat Curran and the Tompkins County Master Gardeners

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From the Publisher: March-April 2017

by janem on March 14, 2017

In february, longtime friend of the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal Angela Ingraham won a special and prestigious award. reading about it brought me back to the time when the uGJ was in its infancy and made me more than a little nostalgic.

Like everyone in the business, I knew Doc and Katy—they often shopped at Reeves Road Greenhouses, where I worked in the early ‘90s. And I knew angela back in the day, too. When my daughter was a toddler we spent plenty of time in the kids’ garden at Gardenscape, and we visited her often at Bristol’s. In fact, I squarely blame Angela for Kieley’s habit of adopting unusual creatures. Oh, and now Kieley works at Bristol’s (big surprise). If she grows up to be as full of knowledge and sweetness and Angela is, I’ll be a happy mom. She is off to a good start.

Congratulations, Angela!

 

Angela Ingraham recipient of Doc and Katy Abraham Green Thumb Memorial Award

Angela-headshot

Angela Ingraham

The award was presented at the Master Gardeners Spring Garden Symposium held on Saturday, February 11 at Club 86 in Geneva.

Angela Ingraham has been in the green industry since 1978. From her first job gardening with a local lawn maintenance company the summer after high school, she knew she had found her calling. After several years at Gardner’s Greenhouse in Henrietta, she worked retail for eight years at Agway Garden Center in Victor, followed by 8 years in Landscape Design at Wayside Garden Center in Macedon. It was here that she began a 10 year partnership with the Genesee Fingerlakes Nursery and Landscape Association’s (now PLA NT GFLX) spring show, GardenScape, at the Dome Arena in Henrietta. There, she and a small group of dedicated people developed the children’s garden, a themed section of the show designed to provide education and entertainment for kids visiting the show.

In 1998, wishing to return to the retail garden industry, Angela began a career at Bristol’s Garden Center in Victor, retiring from full time employment in 2014 to care for her mother-in-law at home on the farm. During that time, she worked in the perennials department and also ran, for many years, the “Kids Club,” introducing children to the joys of gardening. She continues to enjoy helping out at Bristol’s each spring for a few weekend days and seeing all of her former colleagues and beloved customers.

Over the years, Angela developed many relationships with local experts in garden clubs such as the Rock Garden Society, Hosta Society, Rose and Daylily Societies, and the Perennial Society. With the help of these dedicated and knowledgeable groups of people, she was able to provide the best possible local and up-to-date information possible to her customers.

Although she has worked in this industry for over 35 years, Angela never felt herself to be an “expert” in any one area of knowledge, rather she enjoyed being a “Jill of all trades,” learning a bit about every aspect of gardening and horticulture. If anything, every year, she learned how much she didn’t know, by seeing how much more there was to learn!

One of the things Angela is most proud of is her desire to educate as many people as possible over her career on the use of organic methods of gardening and alternative controls for pests and diseases. This continues today, on her own farm, where she grows the family’s food and continues to mentor others when called upon.

Angela is honored by the nomination of this award, as it is a result of her love of all things growing that led her to a career in an industry that allowed her to spend each workday surrounded by the things she loves. She feels fortunate to have been able to pass that joy onto her customers and to so many children, who now, as adults, can in turn share the love of gardening with their children.

—Russell Welser, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County

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