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

2014-Open-Gate-Garden-Tour,-Dryden,-NY

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Name this plant!

mystery1 mystery2

A native ornamental, it grows to 50 feet tall. It sports handsome foliage and bark, and white flowers in panicles, late May to early June. At Lilac Hill there is a pink-flowered variety, which Ted Collins obtained from Coldwater Pond Nursery (and Ted Hildebrand, no fair guessing). This is an underused gem, great as a lawn specimen.

The first reader to guess correctly will win a lilac from Lilac Hill Nursery. Submit answers to jane@janemilliman.com or by calling 585-733-8979.

We already have a winner, but if you want to guess, leave a comment below.

Answer from last issue (May-June 2014): The Pepperidge tree, also known as black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

 

 

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By Cathy Monrad

Vertical gardens are a great way save space while adding height variation to a bed. With this project, you can also utilize extra containers you may have on hand.

tipsyGarden

There are numerous ways to personalize this concept to match your style. Try painting the pots different colors, adding house numbers to the containers, placing a bowl  atop the final pot to act as a birdbath, or swapping out flowers with herbs if your planter is near the kitchen.


Materials

5 standard terra cotta pots in the following sizes:
14″, 12″, 10″, 8″, and 6″

A 2-cubic-foot bag of potting soil

One 48” sturdy garden stake (bamboo or plastic coated)

Soil Moist granules (optional)

Annual plants


 

1.Determine where to place the planter and insert the garden stake at 12-14 inches into the ground for stability.

2.Thread the 14″ pot on the stake and fill with moistened potting soil to just about 3 inches below the rim. Water in to settle the soil.

3.Thread the 12″ pot on the stake, angling it as much or as little as you wish. You may have to pat down the soil, or add more under the pot to achieve the desired angle.

4.Fill the 12″ pot with soil.

5.Repeat steps 3 & 4 with the remaining pots, alternating each pot’s angle until all the pots are threaded and filled with soil.

6.If the garden stake sticks up more than an inch above the final pot, you can trim it off using a saw or tin snips, depending on the type of garden stake you are using.

7.Plant as desired.


 

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer for the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.

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Tombs image of the beloved katsura tree (Cercidphyllum japonicum) in Rochesters Highland Park.

Tomb’s image of the beloved katsura tree (Cercidphyllum japonicum) in Rochesters Highland Park.

By Michelle Sutton

Images copyright Michael Tomb

Michael Tomb’s mesmerizing “Skin of the Arboretum” image series began in early 2008, on a tour of Rochester’s Highland Botanical Park Pinetum with horticulturist Kent Milham. Tomb became fascinated by both patterned and abstract expressions of bark on the trees; he now exhibits truly arresting photos and photo collages of them. As with “The Hobbiton of the Bark” (see photo), he frequently employs an element of trompe l’oeil in both the subject matter and the convincing, apparent picture frame. 

Tomb identifies as a digital media artist, rather than a photographer. He has taken an average of 50 pictures a day over the last 15 years. Many of his images employ HDR (high dynamic range) software that takes multiples of an image and eliminates the “noise” from each one to get a wider range of exposure and maximum 3-D effect. 

“Many of my finished images are not one photo—each is as many as 12 or 13 frames on top of or extending each other,” he says. “Virtually every image has been manipulated. I don’t believe in the idea that there’s a clean image that’s somehow sacred. All digital cameras are computers, after all, so a program is involved in any digital photography.” 

He continues, “I’m after the image. I like to use any method available to me—so were many of the most famous film-based photographers. They often used analog tools such as filters on the camera or the enlarger and dodging and burning, even combining multiple images into one. I experimented with all those techniques back in my darkroom days. But the image still begins in my mind’s eye and works its way slowly towards a surface of some sort. There is no happy accident involved here; I know what I want and when the image finally lines up with my internal expectation, it’s finally done.”

Michael Tomb's “Hobbiton of the Bark” employs trompe l'oeil in both the image and the “frame.”

Michael Tomb’s “Hobbiton of the Bark” employs trompe l’oeil in both the image and the “frame.”

The tour where “Skin” was birthed was organized for the Highland Park Neighborhood Association, an organization with whom Tomb and his wife Marcia, residents of the neighborhood, have been very active since 2006, when a fatal stabbing of a young person 300 feet from their door galvanized them. 

Tomb says, “Marcia and I had a conversation. It was like, if we’re going to stay here, we need to get more involved. I’m a lifelong committed pacifist so I wasn’t going to suggest we get armed. The one thing I knew we could do was work toward giving the neighborhood a higher profile in arts and culture. I wanted us to make the neighborhood more special, with the hopes that that would help make it ultimately safer.” 

Using his digital media skills, Tomb had been doing some volunteer work for New Orleans recovery post Katrina and had been heartened by the level of community action he saw there. He decided to invest these skills in earnest in his neighborhood, though he and Marcia still make frequent trips to their beloved New Orleans.  

He says, “One of the first things we researched together was the urban planning concept called ‘Placemaking’. The residents themselves re-design their common public living spaces to make them more inviting and special. The results are places that the community creates and owns together. The idea is both old and new; in fact I discovered an article written in 1882 in one of Rochester’s most beautiful (if forgotten) horticultural journals, Vick’s Illustrated Monthly Magazine, that described what is now known as ‘Placemaking’. And when I republished it on our neighborhood’s online ‘Virtual Scrapbook’, links to it were retweeted by national experts who support the movement. This is now something I’m totally committed to as a way to develop cities.”

 

Snow on the trunk of a London planetree (Platanus x acerifolia) in Tombs Highland Park neighborhood.

Snow on the trunk of a London planetree (Platanus x acerifolia) in Tombs Highland Park neighborhood.

Tomb’s mother’s family was based mostly in Rochester but at an early age, he experienced a huge cultural upheaval. His Sicilian grandfather, Frank Mully, a mason by training, had moved with his wife and family from Rochester to Bristol in the 1940s to live on a farm and eventually started that rural area’s first Italian restaurant, on Route 64. Tomb grew up on the attached farm, and growing vegetables with his grandfather kicked off a lifelong interest in gardening. After his grandfather Frank had a severe stroke, Tomb’s family literally moved into the restaurant building to help out, and thus commenced many years of Tomb’s immersion in the restaurant trade, of which he has happy memories. 

Tomb’s mother, Gemma, was only one of two college educated members on either side of the family; she was passionate about music and the arts, and about science. “She could tell you the life history of all the great classical composers, and she could play the most rollicking version of ‘Sunny Side of the Street’ on the piano,” he says. 

Gemma passed her love of the arts and sciences on to her children including her son, who in his teenage years developed passions for photography and astronomy. She also took an action that had hugely positive consequences for Tomb and his sister, who needed a more rigorous academic environment. Gemma Tomb approached the Harley School, an esteemed secular private school in Pittsford, with the result being that both children received full scholarships to attend. Tomb started at Harley in 1969 and finished in three years. “I got exposed to this amazing nurturing educational experience I wish so many kids could have,” he says. 

Among the courses he took was filmmaking, and he even had after-hours access to the school’s refrigerator-size computer. Tomb used “unshielded radio noise” from the computer to score one of his animated films. He took to computer programming, eventually developing his own personal video games. In 1972 he started attending Franklin and Marshall College, because they had a strong Astrophysics program. He became the photo-editor of the college paper and continued to school himself in computer programming. In his senior year, he had a bit of an identity crisis and dropped out and returned to Rochester where he’d hoped to work as a photographer, but he spent more of his time evaluating choices in life and the result was a renewed desire to complete his education.

Eventually one of Tomb’s best friends at Franklin and Marshall, Paul Marttila, convinced Michael to go back to college and finish his degree. They are still close. Marttila says, “We connected through a shared sense of humor; I’m proud to call him one of my closest friends for 40 years. Michael is a brilliant guy, a renaissance man. In college, we would go camping with our friends and Michael, already at that phase an advanced astronomer, would spend hours describing constellations and planets in a way that was fascinating to us. In recent years, I’ve seen him give multimedia presentations on astronomy that were amazing.”    

A collage of bark images from Tombs “Skin of the Arboretum” series.

A collage of bark images from Tombs “Skin of the Arboretum” series.

After graduating college, Tomb came back to Rochester and worked for two small computer scientific programming firms while continuing to practice his photography craft. As a requirement for designing one of the world’s first toxicity prediction systems, he expanded his training in computer graphics because of the need to represent and input molecular structures on the computer screen. 

In 1992, he started his own consulting business, helping clients with their statistical, health science, and engineering computational and programming needs. “When I went out on my own, I felt as if I had just jumped from the end of a gangplank and before landing in the water, I had to learn how to swim,” he says. The first year was lean—they ate mass quantities of zucchini and Swiss chard from their garden that summer—but he’s now very much sought after for his skills in solving problems related to new technologies, including writing software. 

 

Lamberton Conservatory Desert Room Panorama by Michael Tomb.

Lamberton Conservatory Desert Room Panorama by Michael Tomb.

Tomb’s one of those lucky people who is passionate about his work. He is also passionate about the horticultural history of Rochester and has launched a series called The City of Flowers Collection that he exhibited for the Highland Park Neighborhood Association. 

“I found that there was this amazing series of printing companies employing hundreds of immigrant artists that did all this folk-ish, beautiful commercial botanical art, often unsigned. This was a flourishing industry here, one that handled the visual aspects of Rochester’s nursery and seed industries. Rochester invented a new kind of commercial art called ‘plates for the nurseryman’—a nursery rep would come to the lithographer and say, I need prints of these 200 varieties, and a book of lithographs would be put together. These compilations were like the precursors of seed catalogs.”

Tomb has been collecting, mostly from eBay, prints of this botanical art, along with trade cards and early seed catalogs, all printed and designed in Rochester. He scans or photographs the images, digitally restores them, and reproduces them at a bigger scale, which enhances the folk art and even pop art aspects of the images. “This isn’t something I seek to make money from,” he says. “I wanted to pay homage to these largely unknown, incredible folk artists.”  

Tomb is also known for his work photographing Highland Park’s Lamberton Conservatory’s  interior and exterior, including on those nights during the holiday seasons when the building is open one evening a week and festooned with lights. He hopes to publish a collection of these Conservatory photos.

The Skin of the Arboretum continues to be the series that gets the most attention. Friend and former colleague Pat Mann purchased prints of two of Michael’s fine art. She says, “I was so enamored and transfixed to the spot with two of his pieces from the Skin of the Arboretum at his opening that I just had to have them: ‘The Hobbiton of the Bark’ and ‘The Nude of the Bark.’” 

“Nude of the Bark” by Michael Tomb.

“Nude of the Bark” by Michael Tomb.

She says, “‘Hobbiton’ just jumps out at you … Michael captured an artifact of nature in such a way as to evoke a magical essence. And ‘Nude’ reminds me of Jean Arp’s ‘Sculpture Classique’ (1960), capturing the female form in very sleek simple lines, but Michael’s art and technique is even more brilliant in extracting and showcasing it from nature. His addition of color gives the feeling of a cloaked figure, uncovered, revealing the female form. I just love it. I’m glad to see Michael is pursuing his fine art; his energy is boundless, and his passion is contagious!”  

Tomb adds, “It took decades for these images to make it to my eye. I grew up in the rural Bristol Hills and many old trees, abandoned orchards, and pockets of isolated forests were like remote friends that I and my dogs visited alone. And yet it wasn’t until 30 years after I finally left Bristol that I really started seeing the surfaces of trees as beautiful abstractions. Now I can’t stop. To me the Arboretum within Highland Park is not just a collection of special trees and shrubs but these are open air rooms in a living museum of art.” 

Michelle Sutton is a horticulturist, writer, and editor based in New Paltz, New York (michellejudysutton.com). 

 

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By Janet Allen

John Allen marveling at the luxurious growth of a large patch of knotweed along a road near our home in Syracuse, NY. Each time we pass this knotweed stand, we remark on its continuing growth and, so far, unchallenged spread along more and more of the roadside.

John Allen marveling at the luxurious growth of a large patch of knotweed along a road near our home in Syracuse, NY. Each time we pass this knotweed stand, we remark on its continuing growth and, so far, unchallenged spread along more and more of the roadside.

My husband, John, has an enemy – a persistent, aggressive one, taller than he is – up to 10 feet or more. After battling this foe on our church grounds for an entire summer, he believes he may be conquering it, albeit slowly. That enemy is Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum, or Reynoutria japonica) also known as fleece flower, crimson beauty, Mexican bamboo, or reynoutria. Those who know it most intimately call it “killer bamboo.”

Japanese knotweed was introduced from East Asia to the United Kingdom as an ornamental plant in the early 1800s, and from there to the United States in the late 1800s. Despite its “bamboo” characterization, it’s actually a member of the buckwheat family. This upright, shrub-like perennial has smooth stems, swollen at joints where the leaf meets the stem. Its large leaves are somewhat heart-shaped. Its sprays of tiny greenish-white flowers in summer are followed by small winged fruit containing lots of tiny seeds.

Japanese knotweed has invaded disturbed areas of the eastern U.S., some Midwest and western states, and even Alaska. It tolerates a wide variety of conditions, including full shade, high temperatures, and high salinity. Although it tolerates drought, it’s often found near water sources.

It spreads primarily by rhizomes, but it can also spread by water- or wind-borne seeds. It can even sprout from discarded cuttings. It spreads quickly and crowds out native vegetation, even more aggressively than most invasives. It’s extremely persistent. And it’s tough, having been known to push up through pavement or disrupt house foundations. It greatly alters native ecosystems.

Knowing what a nasty plant this is, imagine our horror when we saw it featured in a garden tour a few years ago! A professional landscaper had actually installed this monster – and some garden center had actually sold it! Any of the native alternatives listed in the sidebar would have been at least as beautiful in that landscape.

The USDA’s National Invasive Species Information Center offers an online video at invasivespeciesinfo.gov/plants/knotweed.shtml. (Oddly, the video features Gabriel Fauré’s lovely Pavane as background music; Paul Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice would have been more appropriate.)

Eradicating knotweed

There are many ways to attempt to eradicate knotweed. A brief overview of some methods is described below, but if you’re preparing for battle this year, it would be wise to further explore the details as you plan your attack. You probably will need to use more than one of these methods and definitely over a long period of time. As one commentator put it, “Prepare to make its eradication your new hobby.” And remember, cuttings can regenerate, potentially spreading the problem beyond your yard, so regardless of the methods you use, thoroughly dry or burn any stalks or rhizomes prior to disposal.

Smothering is one approach. Cut down all the old canes, and cover the patch with a large, sturdy tarp or overlapping tarps. This method has the virtue of being organic and also offering the possibility of gardening in raised beds right on top of the tarps. You might as well garden on top of them. Research suggests that rather than dying, knotweed has the capability of going dormant for up to 20 years or possibly longer.

Another method is to apply glyphosate as a foliar spray in late summer or early fall – or even repeatedly throughout the growing season to slow it down.


 Want to do good AND eat well? Check out this recipe sent in by the great Kimie Romeo for Apple and Knotweed pie. Not even kidding.


A third method is to dig out the rhizomes, attempting to get every bit, since it can resprout from even the smallest piece left in the ground. Of course, it’s not likely you’ll get every bit since the rhizomes of an established stand can spread 12-15 feet and 6-9 feet deep. Some advise against this method since—besides being a lot of work—it spreads the rhizome fragments and disturbs the soil, making it easier for new knotweed to get established.

A local nature center appears to have had some success with another method. They immediately cut down any emerging sprouts throughout the entire growing season, with the goal of starving it to death.

Inspired, my husband faithfully traveled to church with his scythe each week last summer. He scouted for each new sprout popping up and chopped off its little head. As doubts crept in toward the end of summer, he escalated the battle, carefully applying glyphosate on the cut stems.

He has engaged his enemy on the church ground battlefield again this year, (somewhat) confident of eventual victory. And he has changed his method. Instead of cutting down emerging shoots, he’s pulling them out. He claims the knotweed is much less vigorous this year than last and predicts that after this year, he’ll need only to monitor the area occasionally. In fact, he’s already making plans to use this reclaimed area for native plants.

Who will win – my husband or the killer bamboo? Wifely loyalty demands that I bet on my husband, but more objective onlookers may have doubts. Poor guy. I’d better have a nice cup of tea waiting at home for him.

Native alternatives:

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)

Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)

Silky dogwood (Cornus amomum)

Sweet Joe-Pye-Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

Queen-of-the-Prairie (Filipendula rubra)

Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)

Maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina)

Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica)

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Recipe: Apple and Knotweed Pie

by janem on July 1, 2014

Sent in by Kimie Romeo

Kimie sent this in literally minutes after we’d gone to press on the print edition…bummer! But we’re grateful to have it regardless.—Jane

For more on Japanese knotweed, see here.

APPLE AND KNOTWEED PIEFrom SHOOTS AND GREENS
OF EARLY
 SPRING in Northeastern North America
Japanese knotweed’s sour flavor complements all sweet fruits, and it does a great job in this nontraditional apple pie, with an unusual herb-flavored crust, and a filling sweetened with the herb stevia instead of sugar or honey.
Crust

2 cups buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried spearmint, ground
1 tsp. coriander, ground
1/4 cup almond oil, or as needed
1/2 cup apple juice, or as needed

Filling

2-1/4 cups tart apples, sliced
1/4 cup Japanese knotweed shoots, sliced
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tsp. liquid stevia
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, ground
1/4 tsp. cloves, ground
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup each black walnuts and English (commercial) walnuts, or 1/2 cup English walnuts
3 tbs. Tapioca

1. Chill all crust ingredients.2. Mix the flour with the seasonings.

3. Cut in the oil. Mix until you have the consistency of wet sand.

4. Slowly mix in the cold apple juice until you have a dough that’s elastic and pliable, but not mushy, and knead.

5. Press this into an oiled 9 inch pie pan. Save the excess dough to use on top of the filling.

6. Mix all filling ingredients together.

7. Prick holes in the crust with a fork, then fill it with the filling.

8. Place the excess dough on top, lattice style.

9. Bake in a preheated 425 degree F oven 10 minutes, checking that the crust doesn’t burn.

10. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F, turn the pie pan to distribute the heat more evenly, and bake another 30 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and the filling is bubbly.

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JULY

In the food garden:

Cut off those curly garlic scapes and use them for garlic pesto or stir-fries. Doing so will encourage larger garlic bulbs.

Protect your berries from the birds with bird netting. If some berries look moist or misshapen, check them for the maggots of the Spotted Wing Drosophila, a new fruit fly pest. Remove decaying fruit to help minimize your fruit fly populations. Also look out for another new pest, the marmorated stinkbug.

Keep your food plants weeded, watered, and mulched. Blueberry bushes are particularly sensitive to drought. A five-gallon bucket with tiny holes in the bottom, next to each bush, provides an easy way to water and measure how much water you’re applying (10 gallons each is good in drought situations, once or twice a week).

Keep tomato branches inside cages, and guide melon and squash vines.

This is the last month to plant these veggies for a fall crop if you are in zone 5: snap beans, peas, cukes, carrots, kohlrabi, summer squash, early sweet corn and green onions, among others. Zone 6 gardeners get a couple more weeks of growing season.

Time to renew or move the strawberry bed. Moving the plants allows a thorough weed removal, and then there’s still time to plant a succession crop (see above).

Keep the asparagus bed weeded.

To maximize basil harvest and prevent blooming, cut plants back by one-third, rather than just plucking leaves. This can probably be done 3 times, thus avoiding having to start new plants from seed. If you grow basil in containers, you can overwinter a few plants on a warm sunny windowsill (ditto for parsley, which can take your cooler windowsill).

Handpick conspicuous pests such as Japanese beetles, Colorado potato beetles, and so on. Look for the eggs of insect pests on the undersides of leaves. Use Bt on cabbage family plants, but judiciously. Remember it will also kill the caterpillars of desirable butterflies; instead, grow extra parsley, dill, or fennel, to have more black swallowtails. Leave common milkweed in rough areas for the monarch caterpillars.

Don’t panic if you have few apples or crabapples this year. Last year’s apple crop (2013) was enormous due to the hard frosts in the spring of 2012, that killed the flowers. Last year, the trees put most of their energy into fruit, rather than forming the flower buds for spring 2014. If weather permits in the spring of 2015, we should have another very large fruit set. Thinning the fruit next year may reduce the tendency to biennial bearing that might result.

Black knot is a fungus disease that affects some plums and cherries. Refer to the factsheet for control, but if you haven’t planted plums yet, seriously consider the hybrid plums that appear to be resistant. Most of these are the product of plant breeding in the upper Midwest, so they are hardy to zones 3 or 4.

Ornamentals:

It’s finally OK to remove narcissus foliage that seems to hang on forever – but removing it prematurely really does have a negative effect on flowering. This is also a good time to move the bulbs, or you can dig them up and dry them off, for planting in September.

Early July is a good time to move Colchicums. The dormant foliage should still allow you to find them. Try growing plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, as a fall-flowering groundcover with the Colchicum. The foliage will help support the Colchicum flowers and keep them out of the mud.

A good rainy day chore is sorting the seed packets. Also, if you forced bulbs this past winter, you can take them out of the pots and store them dry and cool for the summer (except for delicate ones like snowdrops).

Leggy annuals may need to be pruned back to encourage new growth and more flowering. Some annuals don’t take hot weather and may need to be replaced.

Continue to go on garden tours at private gardens and arboreta. Be sure to take your camera and notebook, because you are sure to get ideas for your own garden.

Invest in a rain gauge and keep track of your rain. This is not only helpful, but fun as well.

Watch your viburnums for viburnum leaf beetle adults, especially if the larvae defoliated them. Consider a pesticide treatment to save the shrubs. Do NOT cut back branches just because the leaves have been eaten or damaged. Scratch the bark with your fingernail. If it’s green underneath, the branch is alive. Dormant buds under the bark just need time to develop into sprouts and leaves. If the leaf defoliation isn’t too bad, an organic control method is to snip off the twigs that contain the VLB eggs. Although the egg-laying sites are most obvious in the fall, one actually has until April to trim the affected twigs. See the VLB factsheet for details.

This is the last month to fertilize woodies, without encouraging tender late growth that may not harden off in time for winter. It’s also the last month to prune woodies, for the same reason – except for dead or diseased wood, which can be pruned any time.

Mark colors of phlox or daylilies in case you want to propagate them for friends or Plant Sales.

Deadhead some perennials, either for continued bloom, or for improved foliage.   For more details, consult the excellent book by Tracy DiSabato-Aust: “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden.”

Bearded irises can be divided and replanted now. It’s best to get this done by Labor Day, to allow sufficient time for rerooting. If you want to order more, do so right away. Late-planted bearded irises may heave out of the ground and die in the winter, but if they have enough time to root, they are very winter-hardy. A tip from the Southern Tier Iris Society: put a brick on late-planted rhizomes to prevent heaving.

Spring-planted woodies need to be watered every week unless there is an inch of rain. Ten to 15 gallons per plant is recommended. If you haven’t protected them from deer yet, start planning how to do it.

AUGUST

In the food garden:

This is the last month to plant these veggies if you are in zone 5: early broccoli or cauliflower transplants, leaf lettuce, spinach, and turnip.

The easiest way to expand the veggie garden is to sheet compost now with flattened cardboard boxes. Overlap the edges and then cover them up with whatever you have – grass clippings, woodchips, spoiled hay, or bags of leaves. By spring, most of the weeds will be dead. This is also a good way to prepare the ground for shrub borders, berry plantings, or flowerbeds. You can also use thick newspapers, but they take longer to apply.

Harvest garlic when the leaves are yellowing. Next you can weed the area and plant a late crop (see above). It’s best to rotate where you grow garlic, so pick a new spot with lots of sun and good drainage. Maybe, sheet compost the new spot now (see above), until planting time in mid-October.

Keep up the weeding, watering, and mulching, as needed. Try not to get leaves wet as that might spread disease. Keep a close watch for tomato/potato late blight.

Keep harvesting beans, basil, okra, cukes, summer squash, eggplant, etc., in order for plants to keep producing. It’s OK to leave some peppers on the plant to ripen and turn color.

Fall-bearing raspberries should start producing by mid or late August. If you have the variety ‘Heritage’ and have had problems with early fall frosts destroying part of the crop, plant an earlier-bearing variety. ‘Polana’ has proven successful.

Enjoy blueberries until Labor Day if you have planted the late-bearing variety ‘Elliott.’ Maybe you have room to add it next spring!

Ornamentals:

Nursery stock goes on sale and may be a bargain if it has been well cared for. Be sure to water weekly after planting if rain is insufficient. Keep the watering up until the ground freezes, unless rain is adequate.

The second half of August is a good time to start to move and/or divide some of the hardier perennials. Try to be all done by the end of September.

Order bulbs now for fall planting, to get the best selection of varieties. Lots of spring-blooming bulbs are deer-resistant. Avoid tulips and crocus, and enjoy carefree alliums, winter aconite, snowdrops, snowflake, Siberian squill, glory-of-the-snow, Puschkinia, Fritillaria, and Anemone blanda. Grape hyacinths send up fall foliage, but even when it’s browsed, it doesn’t seem to affect their vigor.

Repot your houseplants to get them established before they need to be brought back inside.

Keep the lawn mowed at a 3-inch height for the strongest root development and drought resistance. But if a drought drags on, allow the lawn to go dormant. It will revive on its own when rains resume.

Late August and early September is the best time to renovate the lawn or to seed a new one.

This is the time to start protecting tree trunks from ‘buck rub’ damage.

—Pat Curran and the Tompkins County Master Gardeners

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Ear to the Ground (July-August 2014)

by janem on July 1, 2014

newJanepiciiHello, all! Summer is here. Time to kick back and enjoy your gardens—and everyone else’s. Be sure to scour our calendar for more garden walks, tours, and events than you can shake a stick at. Then head out for some inspiration. Don’t forget your camera!

JaneSig copyJaneSig copyJaneSig copy—Jane

New York State Invasive Species Awareness Week.

Designed to promote knowledge and understanding of invasive species to help stop their spread by engaging citizens in a wide range of activities encouraging them to take action, NYS Invasive Species Week is July 6 – 12, 2014. We’re doing our part by running an article on Japanese knotweed in this issue. Activities are listed by region: nyis.info/blog.

New Forestry Blog

The New York State Urban Forestry Council has a blog called TAKING ROOT, which should be of interest to all who love trees: nysufctakingroot.wordpress.com. Some recent topics include:
• Historic “Great Trees” of NYC Cloned and Returned
• Oaks for Alkaline Soils, Scoop-and-Dump, and other Research at the Urban Hort Institute
• Phenology, Urban Forestry, and Nature’s Notebook
The editor is Michelle Sutton, a regular contributor to these pages. Also, you can subscribe to the Council’s monthly e-newsletter; by sending an email to takingrooteditor@gmail.com.

Process to Restore Martin House Landscape Underway

Bayer Landscape Architecture of Honeoye Falls has been contracted by the Martin House Restoration Corporation to create the Cultural Landscape Report for the Martin House Complex, with the help of Charles Birnbaum, founder and president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, DC.

Mark Bayer, founder and principal of Bayer Landscape Architecture, said, “The importance of the garden at the Martin House Complex is evident, not only in Wright’s layout for the buildings and grounds, but by the mere fact that Darwin Martin’s vision for his estate included space and infrastructure for the gardener right alongside his home and that of his sister. The gardener’s cottage, the greenhouse – these constructions became important to the Martins as they settled into their lives along Jewett Parkway. They signify the value the Martin family placed on the designed landscape and its maintenance.”

Find more details at darwinmartinhouse.org.

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Spider flower (Cleome hassleriana) is a common, welcome volunteer. Photo by Larry Decker

Spider flower (Cleome hassleriana) is a common, welcome volunteer. Photo by Larry Decker

By Michelle Sutton   My friend Bill likes to say that, for both people and plants, “Volunteers are happiest.” Every year dozens of volunteer vegetable and flower seedlings emerge in my community garden plot, popping up conveniently in corners and inconveniently in the middle of paths.   Either way, I’d always assumed that as volunteers likely reverting to characteristics of one parent over the other (“reverting to type”), their flavor or beauty would be inferior, and I’d rogue them out. But I’m rethinking that now. Last year, volunteer snapdragons were quite showy, and I had some very tasty butternut squash from a volunteer plant.

Queen Anne's lace in the Coyne/DiNezza garden is embraced as one of the garden's signatures. Photo by Craig Coyne

Queen Anne’s lace in the Coyne/DiNezza garden is embraced as one of the garden’s signatures. Photo by Craig Coyne

With regard to plants of all types, how do we decide the fate of our volunteers? I asked for observations from popular garden writer, consultant, and speaker Sally Jean Cunningham (www.sallycunningham.org); from the co-creator of a multi-acre plant-lover’s paradise in Scottsville, Jim Lesch; and from Rochester Civic Garden Center trustee and owner of Perennial Designs (garden design & consulting), Milli Piccione.

Sally Jean Cunningham: As I have matured as a gardener, I am sadder but wiser about volunteers. I do remember being the young vegetable gardener who cheerfully welcomed a bit of “free” mint (Mentha sp.), imagining mint juleps and believing I had room for a few plants. Truth is: there is no such thing as a little mint.   That’s also true of most volunteer plants. The volunteer maple tree sapling is probably a Norway maple (Acer platanoides, an undesirable invasive plant) and not a coveted sugar maple. The yellow iris that appeared next to the pond is a thug called Iris pseudacorus. And I remember a near disaster when I was working around a free Angelica archangelica (I thought) and a gardening friend pulled me away—as if from an oncoming train—because it was a giant hogweed! So be careful—there is rarely a free, desirable plant.   There are exceptions to my cautionary approach, however. In my companion-style vegetable garden, where flowers and herbs are mixed among the vegetables, I have always allowed several volunteers to remain. Asters (Aster spp.), milkweed (Asclepias spp.), Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum), and seedlings from last season’s cleome (Cleome spp.), dill (Anethum graveolens), or love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) are all great for pollinators or other beneficial insects.   In the Coyne/DiNezza garden in Buffalo (a popular stop on the Snyder-CleveHill Garden View and AAA Motorcoach tours), the gardeners willingly permit Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) to pop up intermittently, quite aware that removing them can be a chore. In this garden, their airy little heads, waving among traditional perennials, have become part of the Coyne/DiNezza garden’s signature.

Jim Lesch: Richard LeRoy and I converted several acres of former farmland in Scottsville to gardens. Behind our property there are still farm fields, hedgerows, and woods. From that reservoir, native plants come unbidden in their effort at succession back to forest. We find volunteer honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) and dogwood (Cornus spp.) shrubs on a regular basis. We keep a handful of these at the edge of our property to blend visually with the hedgerows in the distance.   In the last five years, junipers (Juniperus spp.) have also appeared; these could be either volunteers from native junipers or our own ornamentals reverting to a parent juniper species. We have relocated and kept most of these. They are a bit rangy, but they do have an interesting bluish cast and tight columnar shape. To us they seem more vigorous and likely to survive on our alkaline soil than the named ornamentals we have introduced.   Besides the “volunteers” coming from the fields (and dandelions from our neighbors), some of our ornamentals also spawn volunteers. For instance, many of our maples have sown profusely. We removed a nearly mature Norway maple to end its invasive ways. A hedgerow of Amur maples (Acer ginnala) and a single paperbark maple (A. griseum) have reproduced widely and are thus weeds as far as we are concerned. On the other hand, we were delighted that one of our miniature Japanese maples (A. palmatum) seeded itself close by. We will dig and site it elsewhere or give it as a gift.

Tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis) can create a beautiful stand if allowed the space to reseed with abandon. Photo by Michelle Sutton

Tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis) can create a beautiful stand if allowed the space to reseed with abandon. Photo by Michelle Sutton

A few of our yews (Taxus spp.) seed themselves. We are often unsure whether the new plants are going to be spreading or upright yews, since we have both in our gardens. Pine (Pinus spp.) and spruce (Abies spp.) seeds also occasionally sprout. It is a joyous feeling to see Mother Nature doing so well on our reclaimed agricultural land, but often we cull these offspring to avoid ending up a forest rather than a garden.   Among perennial flowers that spread, the winners in our garden are undoubtedly the violets (Viola spp.). We remove literally four to six wheelbarrow loads from our planting beds each year. If we did not do this, many other perennials could not survive due to unrelenting competition from the violets.   The short woodland grasses and the Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) we’ve planted have volunteered here and there and seem to cheerfully tolerate not just some shade, but dry clay. Last year we removed most of a stand of sea oats to make room for other plants, but we still have some to enjoy. We planted ajuga (Ajuga spp.) in partial shade. It kept sowing itself some feet away in the lawn. Over the years we have removed these volunteers several times to establish ajuga elsewhere.

Milli Piccione: I started gardening in earnest in my early 30s. My naive vision was that the gardens were going to be orderly, wellthought out, and totally under my control. After the first season of obsessed planting and weeding, I started to relax ‘just a bit’ and observe and appreciate the habits of my perennials and annuals.   I also began to realize that Mother Nature’s volunteers could sometimes be my allies, not my enemies. The first volunteer of note in my small woodland area was a magnificent biennial—the 5-foot-tall velvety foliaged mullein (Verbascum spp.). I learned that it attracted seed-eating birds and became a believer the next day watching nuthatches zipping up and down the matured flower stalk feasting on the seeds. What a delight!   As I became more experienced and more observant I left select volunteer perennials and annuals in place.In one little section of my rock garden I had planted the dwarf Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum humile) adjacent to a miniature narrow gold-leaved hosta (Hosta sp.). After two or three years, both started to travel and intertwine, forming an utterly charming combination. I’ve tried to recreate this effect in other gardens, the outcome never as successful as nature’s original. Self-seeded annuals and perennials can soften hardscaping as seeds, amazingly, germinate in the cracks and edges of walks and in dry-laid stone walls. The balance between a softening versus an unkempt look is in the vision of the gardener—your garden, your choice.   Self-seeded perennials don’t usually get out-of-hand. Annuals, however, can take advantage of your generosity. My favorites are forget-me-nots (Myosotis spp.), tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis), and nicotiana (Nicotiana sylvestris). These can work if you’re willing to cull them when necessary, especially when the volunteers have to ‘play well with others’. Forget-me-nots are a favorite harbinger of spring—the diminutive flowers form an exquisite pale haze underneath spring bulbs. About three weeks after they have finished flowering, the fresh foliage turns dry and nasty looking. Rip out every plant once the seed has ripened; as you pull the plants you’re automatically broadcasting seed for the following year.

Nicotiana (Nicotiana sylvestris) is one of garden designer Milli Piccione's most valued volunteer annuals. Photo by Milli Piccione

Nicotiana (Nicotiana sylvestris) is one of garden designer Milli Piccione’s most valued volunteer annuals. Photo by Milli Piccione

Tall verbena and nicotiana are 3 and 5 feet tall, respectively, and are both prolific self-seeders. Choosing which seedlings to keep depends on their neighbors and the final effect you want in your garden. The verbena is narrow with delicate purple flower heads that appear to float; it attracts monarch butterflies and other pollinators. Tall verbena is easy to tuck into existing beds, taking up little horizontal space. The opposite in its demands is the nicotiana—one plant can be 5 to 6 feet tall with 2-foot-long leaves and fragrant tubular white flowers. If you have the space they are magnificent as long as you are merciless when thinning, because they can easily shade out smaller plants.

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tulipLawns|
Mow your grass to 3 inches or higher for the healthiest lawn. Longer grass means longer roots below ground and that gives you a healthy thick turf that will crowd out weeds.
Mow frequently, keep your mower blade sharp and leave the clippings on the lawn for added nutrients.
If you have a widespread problem with weeds use a broad-leaf weed killer as the label recommends.
If you only have a few weeds, just spot treat instead of treating your entire lawn.

Flowers
Deadhead spring bulbs and plant summer-flowering bulbs in May.
Set peony supports in place before the growth makes it difficult.
Divide and transplant summer flowering perennials except peonies, iris and oriental poppies.
Plant tender annuals mid-May after threat of frost is past.
Feed roses every two to three weeks and if you had black spot on your roses last season, treat frequently with a fungicide – following the label.
Pinch back hardy mums and fertilize.
Keep an eye on your containers – they can dry out quickly.

Woody plants
Prune spring-flowering shrubs right after they finish blooming.
Prune trees such as maple, sycamore, birch and crabapple from mid-June to mid-July to avoid bleeding and rampant growth of suckers.
Hedges can be rejuvenated and evergreens that were winter pruned can be cleaned up in June.
If you have ash trees (not mountain ash), formulate a plan on how you will deal with Emerald Ash Borer. For more information go to: nyis.info or call your local Extension office.

Vegetables and Fruit
After our cold and late spring, keep an eye on May’s weather forecast and if frost threatens, cover any tender plants you may have put out early.
Prune to remove dead or diseased branches of fruit trees.
Pick your strawberries when they are fully red for maximum sweetness and flavor. You may need to cover your plants with bird netting to keep them for yourself!
Sow beans, beets and carrots every two weeks until the end of June to keep your harvest season going.
Plant out your tomato, pepper and eggplant seedlings after danger of frost is past.
Mulch around your veggies to conserve moisture and keep weeds down.
Check out: http://blogs.cornell.edu/horticulture/vegetables/ for tips on all your crops and to get a list of recommended varieties for New York State.

Houseplants
Most of them LOVE to spend the summer outdoors! Find a protected place in light shade and out of the way of wind and move them when nights are consistently in the 50’s.
Don’t forget that outdoor summering houseplants will need more water if the weather turns hot and dry.
Now that they are actively growing, fertilize with a general-purpose houseplant fertilizer or add a slow-release one to each pot before you set it out. Follow the label directions.

—Karen S. Klingenberger, Consumer Horticulture Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County.

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