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

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From the Publisher: January-February 2017

by janem on February 3, 2017

Hello and thank you for picking up this copy of our 2017 Directory—it marks the start of our twenty-third year in publication.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve been focusing on my new role as editor-in-chief at (585) magazine, Rochester’s best culture and lifestyle publication. If you’re unfamiliar, please pick one up.

I’m also pleased to announce that I’m newly the editor of IRISES, the quarterly bulletin of the American Iris Sociey. If you’re into irises, check it out at ais.org.

More news? The Association for Garden Communicators will have its annual conference right here in Buffalo this summer. Our beloved Cornell Plantations has been renamed Cornell Botanic Gardens. And the Rochester Civic Garden Center has a new executive director, Carrie Remis. We are looking forward to everything that 2017 has in store and continuing to bring you the best in upstate gardening news and information.

Please thank our sponsors for making this annual directory possible.

And thank YOU, again, for reading.



The Directory 2017 issue is available online!

by janem on February 2, 2017

Click here to view!


Annual Winter Photo Contest is back!

by cathym on December 21, 2016

It’s officially winter… and time for our annual winter photo contest! After a hiatus last year, we are pleased to roll out a new online submission process. See contest rules and enter here: UGJ Winter Photo Contest page


Near or Far: November-December 2016

by Megan Frank on November 14, 2016


Location: Bovara, a village nestled in the olive groves on the slopes near Trevi, Italy.

Name: Sant’ Emiliano (that’s the name of this individual tree—it’s a thing, in Umbria)

Genus/species: Olea europaea

Common name: Olive tree

Age: 1,000 years (Or 700 years, or 1,700 years. Or something)

Submitted by: Reynolds Kelly

Reynolds says: Umbria in Autumn is as beautiful and peaceful a place as you will find anywhere in Europe. Lacking the high-wattage tourist appeal of nearby Tuscany, Umbria busies itself harvesting grapes (in August and September) and olives (in October), and having homey local festivals celebrating the local sausage, or local truffles—even the humble local celery.

Driving through a landscape filled with beautiful vineyards and cascading olive groves never gets old, but those olive trees themselves? They do. Umbria’s oldest olive tree, Sant’ Emiliano, is said to be 1,000 years old, and continues to produce a healthy crop of olives year after decade after century. It’s a little odd for a tree to have a name. Here in the Umbria Valley, Saint Emiliano was an Armenian monk who served as bishop in Trevi in the 4th century, during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. The legend goes that Emiliano was tied to an olive sapling and beheaded, and that sapling became the tree that bears his name. That’s a conventionally gruesome martyrdom story, and if it is to be believed it would make the tree about 1,700 years old. Other accounts place the tree at 1,000 years old (a suspiciously round number) or 700 years old. I couldn’t find any account of a core being taken to verify the stories, but my first-hand report is that this is one very old tree.

Surrounded by much younger siblings (or cousins, or great-great-grandtrees) it’s easy to see how much older is our friend Sant’ Emiliano than its brethren. Signposts help you find it among thousands of acres of trees, and a stone walkway and rustic fence provide a dignified setting for this eminent geezer of the groves. No matter how old the tree really is—and may it keep growing, that we should never learn—the peaceful setting in groves of trees that have turned out fine olive oil for centuries is a fitting monument to the modest industry that is Umbrian olive oil.

If you visit Umbria and our friend Sant’ Emiliano, do stop at the bottom of the hill at the local oil cooperative. If you have time, stay for lunch Umbrian style. If not, buy as many bottles of the cloudy green oil as you can carry. You’ll thank me.


Arborvitae Stamped Gift Tags

by cathym on November 14, 2016


Pre-made blank gift tags, about 2 by 3 inches Ink pad in desired color; I used “pine”
Arborvitae cutting about 2–3 inches long
A few pieces of scrap paper
Piece of wax paper, slightly larger than arborvitae cutting
Fine tip marker in desired color

1. Remove a few rows of foliage from bottom of arborvitae cutting to reveal stem.

2. Place cutting face up on scrap paper. Press finger on stem to hold cutting in place, then dab cutting with inkpad until fully coated.

3. Carefully lift cutting by stem, then place inked side down on clean area of scrap paper. Cover arborvitae with wax paper to keep fingers clean.

4. Use finger to hold wax paper and cutting in place. Use other hand to gently rub cutting from bottom to top to ensure ink is transferred to paper.

5. Remove wax paper and cutting to reveal result.

6. Practice steps 2 through 5 until you are happy with the outcome.

7. Once technique is mastered, stamp gift tags as desired.

8. When ink is dry, use fine tip marker to embellish design or simply write greeting on tag.

Use arborvitae to stamp designs on plain wrapping paper, gift bags or notecards.


Upstate Pairing: November-December 2016

by Megan Frank on November 14, 2016

Brussel Sprout Carbonara with Fettuccini

Yield: 4 servings


8 ounces of dry fettuccini 2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb brussel sprouts, cleaned and chopped (but not too small)
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 ounces smoked bacon, chopped into small pieces 2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 ounces grated parmesan cheese

1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. When it reaches a medium high heat, add the shallots and garlic and sauté for a minute.

2. Add the sprouts, cook until they are browned and become a little softer (not too soft though, you don’t want them to be mushy, but to retain a little bite). Start cooking the pasta when the sprouts are nearly finished. Follow the instructions on the packet for timings.

3. When the sprouts are cooked, move them to the outside area of the pan and add the bacon to the center, allowing it to cook for a couple of minutes, turning a couple of times.

4. When the bacon is cooked, mix it through the sprouts and add black pepper and a little salt. Careful with salt as the bacon and the parmesan will also add a salty flavor.

5. When the pasta is ready, bring your two pans close together on the stove. Then, with tongs, grab the pasta and drag is swiftly into the pan with the sprouts. By doing this you take in some of the pasta water. This water helps bind and create your sauce. You don’t need much, in this case probably about 2 tablespoons worth. This dragging technique should ensure that you have enough.

6. Turn the heat off under your sprouts and pasta. Add the egg (not directly on to the base of the pan but onto the pasta mixture) add the parmesan. Stir through quite quickly, this will create a creamy style sauce.

7. Check for seasoning, and serve immediately with some extra parmesan, if desired.


Fox Run Chardonnay Reserve 2013, Kaiser Vineyard.


Fox Run Vineyards overlooks one of the deepest parts of Seneca Lake, with fifty acres of vineyards producing a remarkable range of fine wines. The Fox Run Café features ingredients from their neighborhood farmers and producers. Also, an on-site garden is filled with vegetables that are featured on the menu.

The property that Fox Run currently encompasses was a dairy farm for more than a century. The first grapes were planted in 1984 and the Civil War-era dairy barn was converted to a modern wine-making facility in 1990. In 1996, farther up the slope a new facility was completed with

state-of-the-art capabilities and view of Seneca Lake that is unrivaled. The original barn itself is used now for special events, winemaker dinners and our Food & Wine Experience. The tasting room was designed and built around the barn providing two tasting bars, café and market, and gift shop.

Spend time by having lunch in the café and taking a vineyard tour. Fox Run can ship to 30 states. You might even come across a bottle of Fox Run wine when you travel internationally, as it is available in almost ten different countries around the world.


Almanac: November-December 2016

by cathym on November 11, 2016

Preparing for Holiday Decorating

Now that you have put your outdoor gardens to bed, it is time to prepare for the upcoming Holiday Season.  Indoor plants can add beauty to your home during the cold and snowy months ahead.

Amaryllis:  To plant a newly acquired Amaryllis bulb, place a piece of clay shard over the drainage hole at the bottom of a pot that is 1-1 /2 to 2 inches in diameter larger than the widest part of the bulb. A suitable growing medium consists of 2 parts packaged potting soil, 1 part perlite, and approximately 1 tablespoon slow release fertilizer. Place the bulb so that the top half (pointed end) is protruding above the soil. After potting, water thoroughly.

Place the newly potted bulb on a sunny windowsill in a cool room (55 to 65°F). Water only when the top layer of soil in the container feels dry to the touch. If the soil is kept overly moist, the bulb may rot. As the roots develop and fill the container, the top layer of soil will dry more quickly and the frequency of watering should be increased accordingly. In approximately 6 to 7 weeks, flower buds will emerge.

Once growth begins, rotate the pot regularly to prevent the plant from leaning toward the light. If the amaryllis has been grown in a warm room, the flower stalk may require staking to be held upright; take care not to damage the bulb when inserting a stake into the container. For longer lasting flowers, move the plant out of direct sunlight and keep it in a cool room after the blossoms have opened.

After the flowers fade, remove the flowers but do not cut off the flower stalk or foliage. Place the plant back on a sunny windowsill and continue watering thoroughly.  Frequently the bulb will send up a second flower stalk.  After the last of the flowers fade it is essential to keep the foliage growing vigorously since it produces the food for the following year’s blossoms.

Poinsettia:  Place your newly acquired poinsettia in a sunny location, if you have one. Avoid an area where there is a draft or sudden fluctuations in temperature. Do not allow the leaves to touch cold windowpanes. The poinsettia’s flower bracts last longest when daytime temperatures are from 60° to 70° F and there is a slight drop in temperature at night.

When the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch, water the poinsettia thoroughly until water runs through the drainage holes in the bottom of the container. Wait 15 minutes, then discard the excess water that accumulated in the saucer beneath the pot.  Fertilize the poinsettia regularly with a water soluble houseplant fertilizer following label directions.

In order to have a well-shaped, bushy plant for the following year, cut the stems back to 6 inches in height sometime between February and early March.  Be sure to make the cuts just above a node. Contact your local Cooperative Extension for detailed instructions.

Christmas Cactus:  The Christmas cactus is native to tropical rain forests, unlike the vast majority of cacti.  As a result, the Christmas cactus is cared for quite differently from most of its relatives.

The Christmas cactus requires direct sunlight. However, during the summer, the midday sun can burn the stems. Thus, during summer, move the plant a few feet from the window or place the plant in a window that receives indirect light.

The Christmas cactus should be watered when the top inch of soil in the container feels dry to the touch. Soak the soil thoroughly until water comes through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Wait 15 minutes and discard the excess water that accumulated in the drop plate beneath the container.  The Christmas cactus grows best when humidity is high. The best way to increase humidity is to place the pot, with its drip plate, on a tray filled with small pebbles. The water will evaporate from the tray and humidify the air around the plant.

A soil mix consisting of equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and packaged potting soil is suitable for the Christmas cactus. Add 1 teaspoon dolomitic limestone and 1 teaspoon 5-10-5 fertilizer for each 2 quarts of soil used.  Fertilize the plant with a water-soluble fertilizer recommended for flowering houseplants. Apply fertilizer every month at full strength or every two weeks at half the strength suggested on the label. Reduce the frequency of fertilization from autumn until after plants have flowered and new growth has begun.

Christmas Tree Care:  A few simple practices will help maintain tree color, reduce needle fall, and keep the tree moist and fire resistant.  When you bring home your cut tree, stand it in a bucket of water outdoors protected from sun and drying wind, or in a cool place inside.  When you bring the tree inside for decoration, make a fresh cut across the trunk at least one inch above the old cut.  The smoother and cleaner the cut is, the better the tree can absorb water.

Place the tree in a container of water or in a Christmas tree stand that has a reservoir of water.  Luke-warm water is taken up more readily than cold.  A tree in a warm room will absorb up to a quart of water a day; keep the reservoir filled above the base of the tree at all times.  Sterilization of the stand and tree base with boiling water before setting up the tree may also be beneficial in retarding the fouling of the tree’s pores that can ultimately reduce water uptake.

Place your tree in the coolest part of the room away from the fireplace, heaters, radiators, air ducts and TV sets, all of which can dry the needles.


—Sharon Rosenblum, Master Gardener CCE-Monroe County and Amanda Grisa, Horticulture Program Coordinator CCE-Monroe County


Creature Comforts

by Megan Frank on November 11, 2016

by Liz Magnanti

It’s inevitable: snow, ice, sleet, and cold. Winter will be here before we know it. The days become short and the nights are long. Sometimes I think of how rough we have it here in Upstate New York, but in the winter I take one look out the window and see all the life we have outside. While we are snug in our homes drinking hot tea and curling up next to the fire, birds are exposed to the elements every day to find water, food and shelter. There are some species of birds that are here only for the winter as they have migrated from further north. There are a few ways you can make their lives a little easier this winter, and you’ll get a great view of wildlife from the comfort of your home.

One of the most difficult things for birds and wildlife to find in the winter is a source of water. While we have many large bodies of water here, small songbirds need a shallow, unfrozen patch of water to bathe and drink from. Cleaning feathers is very important for birds. Having clean feathers keeps parasites off, and more importantly, allows birds to remain warm. Feathers insulate the warm air trapped in between the bird’s body and feathers. One way to provide birds with water this winter is with a heated birdbath. Heated birdbaths operate on a thermostat and keep water just warm enough so it doesn’t freeze over. You can also get just the heater to put in a birdbath you already have. You will be amazed how many birds will flock to a heated birdbath in the winter!

Providing high fat food to birds and wildlife in the cold months of the year is a great way to attract them to your yard. Throughout the year, and especially in the fall, birds and wildlife will cache away seeds and nuts for the winter. They have a surprisingly high rate of success in finding this food again. Some of these food items, however, is lost or stolen by other animals. An additional source of food can help relieve some of the stresses put on wildlife from lack of sustenance. Black oil sunflower seed or a mix containing a majority of black oil seed will always be a big hit in any yard. Black oil sunflower is a favorite of cardinals and will bring in the most bird diversity of any seed. Look for dark-eyed juncos, one of our winter birds, feeding on sunflower seeds that have dropped to the ground at your feeders. Nyjer seed, with its high oil content, is another great food for birds in the winter. Buy fresh seed. If your nyjer seed is more than a few months old you may want to throw it out and get some new. Because nyjer has such a high moisture content, it can dry out quickly. Goldfinches, who turn a drab yellowish/green in the winter, will feast on nyjer all year long. Pine siskins and redpolls that are here only for the winter, will feed from nyjer feeders as well.

High in fat and calories, suet will bring flocks of birds to your yard. These square blocks of animal or vegetable fat are favorites of woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice. Suet helps plump up birds, giving them the fat they need to stay warm. Peanuts are another great option for the winter. Blue jays, nuthatches and woodpeckers will absolutely love this treat.

Plant cover, bird houses and roosting houses can be great sources of shelter for birds. Make sure any nest boxes you leave out over the winter are clean to avoid nest parasites. Roosting houses are similar to bird houses but inside have perches for birds to sit on. Multiple species will use these at one time to stay out of the elements. Roosting pockets, which are made of woven fibers, are also a great option. These are small hanging huts that birds will fly inside of to stay warm and dry.

There are very few things more beautiful than a bright red male cardinal on a backdrop of freshly fallen snow. It is amazing that wildlife can survive so well in such harsh conditions. By providing some “creature comforts” in your yard this winter you will be amazed how much wildlife you can attract! And they just may reward you by staying long enough to get a great photo for this year’s holiday cards.

Liz Magnanti is the manager of the Bird House on Monroe Avenue in Pittsford. She has a degree in wildlife conservation and has worked as a naturalist at various nature centers.


Stump the Chump: November-December 2016

by Megan Frank on November 10, 2016

by Ted Collins, AKA Doc Lilac



With legumes I’m likely to be compared
“Pinnate,” pods, and all that stuff,
My stems are a little tooth-brush like
But not quite as stiff or rough.

If bigger, like closer relatives,
I’d be good as firewood,
Plus as rot-resistant fence posts,
and I’d take over if I could.

I flower briefly, month of May,
Rose-colored showy, no scent.
The fact that you don’t know me better,
Is, of course, my chief lament.

I’m not sold at Northern Nurseries
or Oriental Garden Supply,
I could be invasive, so they are evasive,
Say John Prince and Al Pfieffer: “That’s why!”


The first person to answer correctly, genus and species please, will win a $50 gift certificate to Aladdin’s. Please call 585/301-7181 or email megan@upstategardenersjournal.com to guess.

We will accept guesses starting November 14, 2016, in order to give everyone a fair chance. Good luck!



The answer to the September-October 2016 stumper: Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis



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