Monday, January 19, 2015

Question: How can I control mealybugs on my Japanese hollies?

How can I control mealybugs on my Japanese hollies?

First, make sure those are mealybugs on your Japanese hollies (Ilex crenata). Some species of scale insects resemble mealybugs, but they require different methods of control. If you've established that your pests are mealybugs, there is a relatively safe solution you can make at home that should work. Make a 50:50 solution of isopropyl alcohol and water in a 1.5 liter spray bottle. Add about 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Mix well. Spray to cover the mealybugs. The treatment may need to be repeated several times over the course of a few weeks to destroy eggs and emerging insects.

Take care, though, that the liquid dish soap not be too strong. A stronger concentration than that recommended can damage to foliage. If in doubt, try the spray on a few leaves not readily visible to see if the solution causes damage before covering the entire plant.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Must-Have-Plants: Canna 'Cleopatra'

Canna Cleopatra
Canna 'Cleopatra'

Must-have plants are among the best plants for appropriate garden situations. When you need great garden plants for ground cover, naturalizing, wildflower gardens, perennial borders, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, herb gardens, heritage gardens, cutting gardens, woodland gardens, shade gardens, bulb gardens, container gardens, bog gardens, water gardens, rain gardens or xeriscaping, look for the best among our must-have plants.

Name(s): Canna x generalis 'Cleopatra', Canna Lily

Flower Color: Yellow/red.

Bloom Time: Summer to fall.

Foliage: Herbaceous, green.

Height/Spread: 30 inches x 16 inches.

Climate Zones: Hardy in zones 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.

Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full sun.

Soil Condition: Organic, pH 6.1 to 6.5.

Planting Depth: 4 inches to 6 inches.

Features: Colorful flowers, bold foliage.

Uses: Container gardens, mass planting.

Comments: 'Cleopatra', a dwarf selection, produces yellow and red flowers. Depending on your climate zone, you may have bloom from June or July through November.

Cannas are perfect for mass plantings. The large flowers and foliage make a bold statement in the garden. They are also excellent for containers, for those who have limited space.

Cannas are hardy in USDA climate zones 7 to 11. Plant outdoors 4 inches deep and 16 inches apart when danger of frost is past. Gardeners in colder zones should lift the rhizomes in the Fall and transplant in Spring after the last frost. Cannas grow in partial shade to full sun, preferring organic soil and plenty of water.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, Bishopville, SC

Mr. Pearl Fryar with the author
The Man

A visit to Pearl Fryar's topiary garden is not complete without a visit with Mr. Pearl Fryar himself. He is a "people person" with a positive attitude. Like other home gardens, his is a reflection of his own creativity, ingenuity and personal philosophy.

The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden is located in Mr. Pearl's yard and adjacent lot in what might otherwise be a typical but unremarkable suburban neighborhood in Bishopville, SC. Before visiting in late December, we understood that visitors are welcome to stroll about the property so long as they respect the Fryar's privacy and don't inconvenience the neighbors. We were strolling about when Mr. Pearl arrived from running errands, parked his car, got into his Gator utility vehicle and pulled around to greet us. He introduced himself as the man "who created this monster."

Mr. Pearl Fryar

The average homeowner who is loath to prune his shrubs more than once a summer would agree that Mr. Pearl's yard is, indeed, a demanding beast. All topiaries are pruned every four to six weeks, inspected more frequently, and it seems that every living plant is topiaried. But this has been his pet project for over 30 years, and he has no plans to give it up.

Foundation plants. Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, Bishopville, SC
Though he itched to do something creative, Mr. Fryar was employed in a mundane business to provide for his family. Eventually he established this home when it was in "nothing but a corn field", and began landscaping. That's when he began to carve a niche for himself. In fact, his creative self began cutting lots of fantastic niches in his shrubs and trees.

Fantastic topiary forms. Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, Bishopville, SC
Mr. Pearl acquires most of his plants from local nurseries, but seldom pays full price. Here in the south, nurseries tend to pitch the remains of diseases, damaged and dying plants onto piles at the edge of the woods. That's where he looks. Then Mr. Pearl brings some home, nurses them to health, and turns them into something unique. Rather than yank out the annoying "volunteers" that spring up in his garden, he lets them flourish and turns them into topiaries, too. He prefers to work with plants proven to succeed in the Deep South, but isn't afraid to experiment with plants such as Weeping Blue Atlas Cedars (Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula') and Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca) that aren't supposed to do around here.

Visitors kiosk. Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden
Pearl Fryar's creative streak doesn't end with topiaried plants. He also fashions wonderful "junk art" sculptures and features them in his garden. The first one we noticed was an embellished barrel near the street that silently begged me to open it and explore. Inside were garden brochures and a jar for visitors to deposit donations. Mr. Pearl operates on the "honor system", expecting donations to stay in the jar until he gets around to emptying it. I took a brochure.

His sculptures are made of scrap metal left over from industries and stuff he scrounges from junk yards. Many of them were designed with interchangeable parts that he can pop off from one and replace on another creating a slightly different look. Some are fountains, some have messages welded on, one celebrates music, some mean nothing at all. Noting that "junk art" has become popular among collectors, Mr. Pearl doesn't sell them, though people have begged him. He said it takes too long to make one, so doesn't want to be bothered replacing them.

Many of us can understand and identify with Mr. Pearl's life story. As a little boy, he liked messing with things and being creative. He took academic achievement tests with mediocre results, but, he explained, tests don't measure creativity and passion, so he just got on with life doing what he had to do. He didn't do what he really wanted to do until he had enough money and the time to get on with it. That's when he started "cuttin' bushes" because he wanted to win a local "Yard Of The Month" contest.

Free-form topiary sculptures, traditional clover leaf and fountain.

When you're cuttin' bushes, you have time to think. Reflecting on his experience, Pearl Fryar considered that there are lots of young people who are just as he was. Because they don't test well, their callings in life elude them. Face it, academic scholarships go to the highest academic achievers. The rest either trudge along or give up. He decided he could try to help. So, he established a charitable organization to grant scholarships to "C-students" who exhibit creativity and gumption, attend a local technical college, and commit themselves to succeeding.

After awhile, people began to notice his works. The word spread near and far. Mr. Fryar has been given the ceremonial keys to three cities. Two separate days have been declared Pearl Fryar Day (once by the SC House of Representatives and once by the Mayor of Bishopville). He has won numerous awards for accomplishments, been featured in publications such as The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine, twice in the Charlotte Observer, Guideposts magazine, National Geographic and the local Lee County Observer, and on Martha Stewart's show.

A documentary movie, A Man Named Pearl, was released in 2006 to critical acclaim, and has been shown many times nationally. But, you gotta know, pearls can be overlooked even in their hometowns. Mr. Pearl told us about a young lady, a native of Bishopville living way across the country, who saw the documentary and called her mother in Bishopville to tell her about it. "Oh, Dear, you must be mistaken. There's nothing like that here in Bishopville." Well, the young lady flew more than a couple thousand miles to visit and show her mom Pearl Fryar's famous topiary garden nearly around the corner.

Mr. Pearl has been invited to speak to plantspeople at important venues around the country. He is amused that he often shares the stage with professional horticulturists. Though he claims he don't know nothing about plants, he once spoke at such an event at Harvard University. "They wouldn't even let me in there academically, but they invited me to speak 'cause I cut up bushes!"

Mr. Pearl Fryar discusses Eleagnus pungens espalier

We wandered with Mr. Pearl to a back corner of his yard. There was a fresh restroom with a plaque attributing it to Coca Cola and a local government's generosity. As we discussed an Eleagnus he was training to espalierg, my wife asked about the restroom. Apparently, here's how it happened; some well-heeled visitors needed to pee. He probably would've invited them into the house, but they declined to impose. But one of the visitors knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody else in the Coca Cola company and made a call. Within a few months, the restroom appeared magically with attributive plaques. He said, "You don't just write a letter to Coca Cola and ask them to build a restroom in your back yard."

When we arrived at the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, I spied Mr. Pearl's old iconic ladder platform that he used to prune his taller topiaries. I took a picture of it. "How quaint", I thought. Later on during our visit, he said he doesn't use it any more. It's there for show. He wanted us to see his new platform. Before long his apprentice came roaring out from behind the grown-up hedges on a humongous crane-like vehicle. So, where did that come from? Well, he explained, some visitors appreciating his art, age and philosophy of life couldn't bear the thought that he might fall off that old ladder, so they pitched in and bought him a new platform.

Apparently, Mr. Pearl is a regular customer at the nearby Waffle House. We noticed their toparies on the way into Bishopville. Well, the Waffle House in Bishopville, SC has paid to publish a calendar featuring the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden. The profits benefit Mr. Pearl's local scholarship program. He had a small stack of calendars in his vehicle. I bought one and contributed more.

Pearl Fryar recently celebrated his 75th birthday. Naturally, we asked who will continue his work. Apparently his family is not that interested, but the Garden Conservancy is, ensuring that the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden will be preserved for many years to come.

Mr. Pearl Fryar's neighborhood.
Enthusiasm is infectious. Inspired by Mr. Pearl's work, several of his neighbors have begun cutting their own shrubs and trees into fantastic topiaries. (Actually, Mr. Pearl helps prune their shrubs, too.)

Isn't that the way it works? No matter where you're from or where you hope to go, if you have a creative spirit and gumption, aspire to do well, will climb the ladder, meet and greet, share your passion, get a little help from friends and family, and have fun along the way, you should succeed. Why not?

His Garden

This is what happens when you really want to win "Yard of the Month" contest.
As mentioned before, Mr. Pearl began cuttin' bushes because he wanted to win the "Yard of the Month" contest. A driveway that looks like the one above doesn't give others much of a chance.

Juniperus chinensis 'Hetzi Columnaris'
Some plants' growth habits lend themselves to particular forms, such as these upright Green Columnar junipers (Juniperus chinensis 'Hetzii Columnaris'). The arch in the foreground was formed over curved PVC pipe.

Hollywood juniper (Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa'), foreground.
The naturally twisted shape of Hollywood Juniper, aka Kaizuka, as seen above, is another example that lends itself to sculpting.

Water Oak (Quercus nigra)
The native Water Oak (Quercus nigra), above, appeared as a seedling volunteer. Neither it nor the native Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), below, are typical subjects for topiary. But Mr. Pearl will work with just about anything that suits his fancy.

Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)
Grafting detail. Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, Bishopville, SC

In the grafting detail (shown immediately above), you can see how Mr. Pearl has taken branches on either side, bent them, wrapped each one with wire and lashed them against the main trunk. As they grew, the branches and trunk self-grafted. At which point, he removed the wire forms. As you can see on the the left branch, he left that wire on a bit too long resulting in scar-like marks. He uses the same basic technique with other plants on which he forms arches, loops and twists.

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) pollarded. Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, Bishopville, SC
This gnarly Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) is pollarded, a pruning technique often used in European cities to control the size of street trees. Mr. Pearl said the reason he prunes it so is simply because he doesn't like raking leaves from deciduous trees. One good trimming each fall enables him to dispense with the leaves and trimmings in one fell swoop.

Still Life Snag with Inverted Clay Pots. Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.
If a plant subject dies, he could yank it out, or trim and adorn it. Pearl Fryar doesn't worry about failures, but sees them as opportunities.

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Our Community Poll ending January 1.

Our Community Poll ending January 1 asked the question, What is your favorite resource for gardening information?
  • 7% of respondants voted for United States Department of Agriculture,
  • 13% of respondants voted for the Cooperative Extension Service,
  • 20% reported a specific botanical garden website,
  • 27% indicated a horticulture organization website (such as AHS, RHS, AAS, ARS),
  • 13% said they refer to garden books,
  • 20% said they prefer other sources.
Let your voice be heard! Come on over to and participate in our current community poll. You'll find it in the right-hand side bar.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Foam is bubbling out of my Chinese elm. Any ideas?

Foam is bubbling out of my Chinese elm. Any ideas?

The foam is called "slime flux." It occurs sometimes when a tree is wounded and sap is exuded. Bacteria growing in the sap causes it to ferment and foam. Insects might be attracted to it to feed. Before long you have a stinky mess. If left untreated, the slime mold can weaken the tree to the point of death.

To treat it, remove any bark that may be covering the wound, then wipe away as much of the slime mold as possible. Brush the area with rubbing alcohol or a dilution of plain household bleach and water - 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. You will probably have to repeat the treatment several times to keep the slime flux in check.

Tree wounds may result from pathogens such as those that cause cankers. More often, mechanical damage from string trimmers, lawn mowers, garden tools and poor pruning cause wounds.

Prevention is the best medicine. Try to keep your plants in good health, and avoid mechanical damage.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Winter gardening tips?

Do you have any winter gardening tips?

Yes. Think spring. When you do, you'll be ready for it. Here are some specifics, which should come as no surprise:

  • Put your summer garden to bed;
  • Reflect on the past year's gardening experience, taking note of your successes and failures to learn from them;
  • Dream about something new you'd like to do in the garden, research and plan for it, or forget about it if it won't work;
  • Peruse seed catalogs when they arrive in the mail, make a wish-list before you fill out the order forms, then face the fact you don't have room in your garden for all that, and shorten the list;
  • Clean and sharpen your tools so you won't be kicking yourself come spring because you didn't do it before;
  • Winterize your gas-powered tools, so you won't be kicking yourself come spring when you're taking them to the shop for carburetor repairs;
  • Continue adding to your compost pile;
  • Read blog articles at

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Savannah Botanical Garden, Savannah, GA

Savannah Botanical Garden

Escape the frenzy of mid-town Savannah, GA in the Savannah Botanical Garden. Begun in the late 1980s as a cooperative volunteer effort by local garden clubs, Savannah Botanical Garden provides a peaceful place for reflection. It's easy to miss, however.

Savannah Botanical Garden is located on Eisenhower Drive, a busy four-lane east-to-west thoroughfare. In a hurry like the others, I barely noticed it for over 20 years.

Visitors to the garden are first invited to enter the historic Reinhard house, a 19th century farmhouse. It's one of only two surviving antebellum farmhouses remaining in the  Savannah area. The charming Reinhard house, built of heart pine with gingerbread trim, has been moved twice; first to make way for a cemetery, last to make way for Truman Parkway. Today, the Reinhard house serves as an office, gift shop, and venue for events such as weddings.
Historic Reinhard House, Savannah Botanical Garden
The garden features nature trails, a two-acre pond, formal herb parterre, perennial garden, fern collection, vegetable garden, native plant collection and the Ann Douglas White Memorial Rose Garden. Seasonal attractions include the exuberant floral beauty of azaleas in spring, and wonderful camellias in bloom throughout fall and winter. Members of participating garden clubs are responsible for the various garden areas.

Any day is a good day to visit Savannah Botanical Gardens. Whether rain or shine, every season displays something of beauty. Admission is free, though donations are happily accepted.

Hydrangea serrata 'Fuji Waterfall'
Pond, Savannah Botanical Garden
Basin, Savannah Botanical Garden
Garden walk, Savannah Botanical Garden
Children's garden, Savannah Botanical Garden
Children's garden, Savannah Botanical Garden

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Small-scale Composting for a Raised Bed Patio Garden

I want to make compost for my raised bed patio garden. I live alone, so I don't produce many kitchen scraps. I live in a townhouse with almost no yard. How can I get enough stuff to compost?

It seems to me you only need to compost on a small scale. A compost heap or bin will probably be impractical, taking too long to fill, taking up too much space, and possibly offending neighbors. I suggest you chop your fruit and vegetable scraps, pulverize egg shells, then store them in a lidded plastic container - the 45 oz. size like buttery spreads come in - until it's filled. Then bury the contents directly in one end of your patio garden. Cover immediately with a few inches of soil. The next time you have a full container, bury the contents beside the first batch. Eventually you will have a row of compost in the making. As you collect more material, begin your second row, and so forth. Within a few months, you should be able to plant vegetables or annuals directly in your first row of finished compost, then later into the second row, etc. As time goes on, you should have a very fertile patio garden.

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Must-Have Plants: Japanese Ardisia, aka Marlberry

Ardisia japonica aka Japanese Ardisia, Marlberry

Must-have plants are among the best plants for appropriate garden situations. When you need great garden plants for ground cover, naturalizing, wildflower gardens, perennial borders, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, herb gardens, heritage gardens, cutting gardens, woodland gardens, shade gardens, bulb gardens, container gardens, bog gardens, water gardens, rain gardens or xeriscaping, look for the best among our must-have plants.

Name(s): Ardisia japonica, Marlberry, Japanese Ardisia.

Flower Color: White.

Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer.

Foliage: Evergreen, leathery.

Height/Spread: 6 inches to 12 inches x 12 inches to 18 inches.

Climate Zones: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.

Soil Condition: Well-drained, loamy, pH 5.1 to 6.5.

Features: White to pale pink flowers followed by long-lasting red berries, drought tolerant, deer resistant.

Uses: Massed planting, Asian plant collections, medicinal plant collections, naturalizing, ground cover, shade gardens.

Comments: Ardisia japonica, also known as Japanese Aridisia and Marlberry, produces leathery, evergreen foliage. Variegated forms are available. White flowers appear late spring to early summer, followed by long-lasting red berries. Maximum height ranges from 6 inches to 12 inches, and it spreads rapidly via underground rhizomes.

Ardisia thrives in full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 6 to 10. Loamy, well-drained soil with pH ranging from 5.1 to 6.5 is recommended.

Ardisia is an excellent ground cover for full sun or partial shade, massed plantings, Asian plant collections, medicinal plant collections and naturalizing.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

All-America Selections Announces the First Vegetatively Propagated AAS Winners
SunPatiens® Spreading Shell Pink - Image courtesy of AAS

After more than eighty years of trialing only seed-propagated varieties, All-America Selections (AAS) began trialing vegetatively propagated varieties early this year. With the 2014 trial season now completed, AAS is pleased and honored to grant the AAS Winner status to two impatiens that performed exceptionally well in the AAS container trials for vegetatively propagated annuals.

 The two Vegetative Winners are:
The truly unique genetic background of SunPatiens® Spreading Shell Pink delivers unsurpassed garden performance with season long, soft pink flowers that never slow down. Strong roots take hold quickly after transplanting and these impatiens thrive under high heat, rain and humidity. The AAS Judges loved these vigorous spreading plants that keep their shape all summer, plus, they do just as well in full sun as in shade. These low-maintenance plants are perfect for gardeners looking for impatiens that are resistant to downy mildew.

Bounce impatiens provides gardeners with shade garden confidence. Bounce looks like an Impatiens walleriana in habit, flower form and count, but is completely downy mildew resistant, which means this impatiens will last from spring all the way through fall. Bounce Pink Flame boasts of a massive amount of stunning, bright pink bicolor blooms with tons of color to brighten your garden, be it in shade or sun. And caring for impatiens has never been easier: just add water and they’ll “bounce” right back!

Both are available in plant form only.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

I'm in zone 8a. Should I wait till spring to plant Asiatic Jasmine?

Good question. Here in zone 8b, I prefer to plant in fall because roots continue to develop in winter even when above-ground parts are often dormant.

Asiatic jasmine is plenty cold-hardy in your climate zone. You needn't wait until spring to plant. The temps don't drop enough long enough to be a problem. Furthermore, once planted and irrigated deeply, newly planted plants don't require as much irrigation during our cool seasons.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

All-America Selections Announces Winners of the 2014 Display Garden Landscape Design Contest

Three years ago, All-America Selections (AAS) launched a new contest for almost 200 Display Gardens to encourage new and exciting landscaping ideas with AAS Winners. The success of the program has been beyond expectations and continues to grow and impress every year.

2014’s contest asked participants to expand on a theme of using containers in the landscape. This contest is a landscape design contest incorporating AAS Winners, past and present. Each garden is responsible for creating and executing the design, generating publicity surrounding the contest then submitting the photos, proof of publicity and an overall description of their design. All-America Selections is extremely pleased with not only the number of gardens that participated but also the broad range of garden types: large and small public gardens, seed companies, community gardens, master gardener programs and university gardens. All-America Selections salutes all the gardens and their impressive efforts to produce an attractive display of AAS Winners.

There were three categories, based on number of visitors to the garden in one year:
Category I: fewer than 10,000 visitors per year
Category II: 10,001 – 100,000 visitors per year
Category III: Over 100,000 visitors per year

All-America Selections recognizes and thanks the contest judges who are industry experts in the field of horticulture and landscaping:

Jeff Gibson, Landscape Business Manger, Ball Horticultural Company
Bruce Hellerick, Senior Horticulture Specialist, The Brickman Group
Susan Schmitz, Trials and Education Manager, Ball Horticultural Company
Barbara Wise, author and Director of Floriculture, Landscape Services, Inc.

(A complete collection of photos from all contest entrants can be found on the All-America Selections Flickr and Facebook accounts.)

Category I: fewer than 10,000 visitors per year

First Place Winner: University of Wisconsin Spooner Ag Research Station, Teaching and Display Garden, Spooner, Wisconsin. “Down on the Farm” was the theme for this Display Garden, celebrating family farmers who survived through hard work and ingenuity. Using salvaged typical household items, they organized and planted garden rooms then filled and interspersed those items with AAS Winners to provide a riot of color. Judges gave this garden high rankings because of the number of AAS Winners used along with the unique props that helped tell an educational story. Then to top it off, Spooner did a fantastic job of spreading the word among their local community via Social Media, radio, newspapers, their own website, e-newsletters and with the University of Wisconsin’s Extension programs.

Second Place Winner: Noelridge Park Gardens, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Beautiful, elegant and artistic is how the judges described the AAS display at Noelridge Park Gardens. Highlighting this garden were the many structures and containers handcrafted from native willow branches—all done by their volunteers!  Multiple groups collaborated together on this project that not only resulted in a beautiful community garden but also numerous articles by local media, informational sessions by Master Gardeners and ongoing Social Media updates about the garden and events being held at the garden.
Third Place Winner: Purdue Extension Tippecanoe County Display & Idea Gardens, Lafayette, Indiana. This Display Garden used an impressive 60 different AAS Winners, including Gold Medal Winners from past years, in their 24 Idea Gardens. To garner community participation, garden planners invited the public to participate in a Container Design contest where they granted awards in each of these categories: Best Use of AAS Winners, Most Colorful, Most Unusual and Overall Best Plant Display. An Open House held in August showed off the AAS flowers and vegetables at their peak.

Honorable Mention, “Best Inspiration” Garden: Kenosha County Center Demonstration Garden, Bristol, Wisconsin. Judges just couldn’t let this year go by without giving an extra special shout out to this first-year Display Garden in Kenosha for their many inspiring garden ideas. In one small plot, they used a rattan chair frame, a wicker wastebasket, a wire trellis, a palette as a vertical garden and other household items to support their theme of “Inside Out.”

Honorable Mention, “Most Creative” Garden: Jennings Park, WSU Master Gardener Demo Garden, Marysville, Washington. The first word used to describe this garden is “Creative” and thus, a special award to Jennings Park for their outstanding creativity. Garden planners used a number of ideas and items to make this garden come alive with color as well as signage that helped show the beauty and usefulness of AAS Winners.

Category II: 10,001 – 100,000 visitors per year

First Place Winner: The Arboretum - State Botanical Garden of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky. Located next to the University of Kentucky’s All-America Selections trial bed, this display made great use of the 2014 container theme. With multiple large, square containers lining the main walkway, and numerous other containers positioned in strategic spots, thirty four AAS Winners gracefully filled the containers and borders with glorious color. Adding edibles to the garden showed how containers, edibles and flowers can seamlessly work in harmony in a well-designed garden.

Second Place Winner: Jardin Daniel A S├ęguin, Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec. With a theme of urban ag, this AAS Display Garden took advantage of the opportunity to promote urban agriculture to their visitors as well as to the general public with their public relations work. By using nineteen AAS Winners and strategically placed container gardens, the garden transformed rigid linear flower beds into beautiful spaces showing how flowers and edibles can peacefully co-exist in an urban garden.

Category III: Over 100,000 visitors per year

First Place Winner: Rotary Botanical Gardens, Janesville, Wisconsin. Rotary knocked another one out of the ballpark with this year’s “Pollinator’s Paradise” theme using almost 90 AAS Winner varieties and repurposed containers for an overall earth-friendly theme. The contest was promoted in the garden’s blog an amazing 17 times, in addition to radio show talks, press releases, local garden magazine stories and more. Judges raved about the creatively designed short, medium and tall containers and the excellent use of color in three separate ways: drifts in the landscape, in the many containers and as solitary specimen varieties.

Second Place Winner: Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, Colorado. Set among the many beautiful areas of the Denver Botanic Garden is the aptly named “AAS Garden” where landscape designers chose AAS Winners in colors to reflect the time of day. The first Sunrise Bed features hot colors that light up as the sun appears. The second Sunrise Bed features vegetables and annuals with a large container as the centerpiece. In the garden area where weddings are held, guests are able to reflect on the Twilight Bed with cool-colored annuals. Lastly is the Sunset Bed where a symphony of colors plays their last hurrah as the sun sets.

Third Place *TIE* Winner: Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington, Ontario. RBG took a formerly flat grassy area and transformed it into an AAS paradise with three large arching beds accented by four creatively designed and placed container gardens. The middle of the AAS Display Garden featured the newest AAS Winners, flanked by two equal sized beds that featured AAS Winners from past years. Artfully positioned in and around these three beds were various containers featuring additional AAS Winners spilling over to make a beautiful floral statement.

Third Place *TIE* Winner: State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Athens, Georgia. The State Botanical Garden took a sensual approach to the garden emphasizing flowing lines and the visual impact it makes when standing on a nearby overlook. AAS Winners were planted in both waves and circles to create a soothing appearance as well as a mix of textures. Judges liked that approach as well as the handouts the garden created for visitors that explain the AAS Mission and trialing process.

Honorable Mention, “Most Artistic” Garden: Norseco at the Botanical Garden of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec. This is the first year that horticulture company Norseco has had their Display Garden in such a high-traffic location such as the Botanical Garden of Montreal. This means a new opportunity to educate a large number of visitors about AAS Winners. They accomplished this with multiple beds artistically designed then named by the dominant colors in that area. Garden designers used some older, taller AAS Winners to provide that visual interest with height.

Each of these contest winners are profiled on the AAS website, under “Display Gardens

For more information about the contest winners or how to participate in 2015, contact Diane Blazek, All-America Selections at

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Can I compost egg shells?

Compost Still-Life with Egg Shells

Can I compost egg shells? I'm including a picture.

Yes, you can compost egg shells, but you should be breaking them up first. Egg shells are mostly calcium carbonate, like the powdered lime you buy at your local garden center for adding to your garden soil. Since calcium carbonate is a mineral, it doesn't decompose like vegetable matter. Egg shells need to be broken down into itty-bitty pieces for full incorporation into your compost. From here on out, let the shells dry after you've cracked the eggs, then pulverize them before dumping into the compost bin.

Don't worry that the shells already in the compost bin haven't been pulverized. They'll be broken down eventually as you turn your compost pile or begin working the finished compost into your soil.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Houston, TX

Gate, Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens
After having visited Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Houston - or is it in Humble or Spring, Texas - once in mid-July, I've tried to imagine the hardships Thelma and Charles Mercer endured turning 14.5 acres of trees and brush into their garden paradise. Houston is miserably hot and humid that time of year. Who were these people who braved drought, floods, insects and Houston's climate to create such a place?

Like many of us, Thelma Mercer hardly knew one plant from another when they began, but her love of beautiful places and personal vision motivated her to learn. She became an accomplished, amateur horticulturist. Her husband, Charles, a retired communications engineer with the military, shared her vision and, of course, loved to please her.

After retiring, they decided to move to the Rio Grande Valley. Not wanting their former home and gardens to be bulldozed by real estate developers, they sold the property below market value to Harris County provided that the government establish it as a botanical garden and education facility.

Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Garden is divided by Aldine Westfield Road. The East Side includes botanic gardens and the visitor center while the West Side features walking trails through the arboretum. Cypress Creek forms the northern boundary.

Hopefully the following photographic images will entice you to visit Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Garden.


Blue Butterfly Clerodendrum (Rotheca myricoides)
Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
Koi pond
Nile Lily (Agapanthus africanus)
Rock Garden
Prehistoric Garden
Botanical imprints in pavement

Renaissance Garden

Color Garden
Aloe cooperi

Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Garden is a few minutes from the George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

FAQ: What is this? It's a dahlia.

A new homeowner in Maine asks questions about plants he finds growing in his landscape. "What is this?"
That's a dahlia. Dahlias are tuberous-rooted plants that are grown from seed, cuttings or tubers.  Most gardeners start with tubers because they are easily obtained and predictable. I don't know which one judging from the picture, but it could be 'Babylon Red'.

Dahlias require exposure to full sun for at least 6 hours per day, and well-drained sandy loam with pH between 6.0 and 7.5.  Their cold-hardiness varies. In USDA climate zones 6 or 7 they can be left in the ground over winter, but you live in zone 5.

After the first hard frost, cut off the plant stalks close to the ground.  After a couple of weeks, the tuberous clumps can be dug and stored over winter.  Store them in a very cool and dark place.  Care must be taken to prevent them from freezing and drying.  Baskets make excellent storage containers because they allow ventilation along the sides.  Without adequate ventilation the tubers will rot.  Sprinkle with water every week or so to replace lost moisture.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Try inter-planting your bulbs with summer blooming perennials.

I would like to plant a large area with bulbs for spring bloom. The problem is the bulb foliage looks terrible after they finish blooming. I know I'm not supposed to mow the leaves until they dry up on their own, or else I won't have any blooms the following spring. Do you have any suggestions?

Try inter-planting your bulbs with summer blooming perennials. Dormant perennials will produce foliage to hide the spent bulb leaves. The perennial flowers will hide them even more. Not only will your mixed bulb and perennial garden provide a longer bloom season, the bulb leaves won't need mowing. They'll just dry up and become mulch. You didn't mention whether you want to plant in sun or shade. Suitable perennials might include Astilbe, Hostas, Bearded Iris, Daylilies (Hemerocallis), Yarrow (Achillea spp.), Coneflower (Echinacea), Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) and tall ferns.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens, Baltimore, MD

Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens, Baltimore, MD

The Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens, located at the western edge of Baltimore's historic Druid Hill Park, is the second oldest surviving glass conservatory in America. Originally known as the Baltimore or Druid Hill Conservatory, it opened to the public in 1888. America's oldest glass conservatory is San Francisco's Conservatory of Flowers, opened in 1879.

Before exploring the conservatory, it would be helpful to know a little about its historical context. Let's begin with the land and the Susquehannocks. The Historical Society of Baltimore has published an excellent article - The Susquehannocks' Prosperity and Early European Contact by Adam Youssi - that you should read.

According to Youssi, a very large area that included Druid Hill Park was once claimed by the Susquehannocks and surely contested by others. The Susquehannocks had reputedly mastered the art of trade. A Susquehannock party claiming to have authority ceded the land (maybe belonging to other people), to one William Claiborne. Many arguments ensued. Typical of dominant governments, England settled the matter in 1638 by putting its foot down and forfeiting the land to its own George Calvert (1605-1675), Second Lord Baltimore.

"Lord Baltimore assigned the land to George Buchanan, one of several original commissioners responsible for the establishment of Baltimore City. The Buchanan-Rogers family then cultivated the area as a country estate and plantation." [see footnote].

Eventually, England lost the property in what was to be known as the American War for Independence, confirmed by the War of 1812 and celebrated on Maryland DMV license plates remembering when Maryland aspired to be a freer state.

The land for Druid Hill Park was purchased around 1860 when the nation's city dwellers were passionate about developing large, landscaped urban parks for their enjoyment. Before that, garden cemeteries such as Mount Hope Cemetery, Bangor, ME were popular urban resorts.

America's interest in picturesque gardens was informed by European Romantic ideals as expressed in Edmund Burke's Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, William Gilpin's Observations on the River Wye..., Paris' Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne, and London's Hyde Park. New York's Central Park is a notable American example of those influences.

Rowhouses on Auchentoroly Terrace
In 1888, the newly completed Baltimore Conservatory was within sight of some of the city's finest homes in what is now the Parkview/Woodbrook neighborhood. Mansions built by John Morris Orem, a Baltimore dry goods magnate, were constructed (c.1860-1876) facing Auchentoroly Terrace. Magnificent rowhouses with diverse, intricate architectural features faced the park. Most of them still survive, but age and abuse have taken their toll. Along with Baltimore City, the Baltimore Conservatory suffered financial setbacks during years of decline.

Around the turn of the 21st century, the conservatory was scheduled for renovation. Money became available. The Baltimore Conservatory was renamed in honor of Delegate Howard Peters Rawlings (1937-2003). Rawlings was the first African-American to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates. Read more about "Pete" Rawlings at Wikipedia.

The Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory consists of five "houses": the original Palm House, the Orchid Room, Tropical House, Mediterranean House and Desert House.

The original Palm House is the most imposing structure. Though relatively small in comparison to some conservatories, it has contained a fine collection including the Bismarck palm (Bismarkia nobilis), European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis), cat palm (Chamaedorea cataractarum), Christmas palm (Adonidia merrillii), dwarf coconut palm (Cocos nucifera var. ), metallic palm (Chamaedorea metallica), lady palm (Rhapis excelsa), Fiji fan palm (Pritchardia pacifica), Chinese fan palm (Livistona chinensis), bottle palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis), and foxtail palm (Wodyetia bifurcata).

The modest Orchid Room exhibits a changing exhibit of flowering epiphytes. Orchid enthusiasts will find plenty in bloom.

Visitors to the Tropical House will be acquainted with a diverse collection of species both familiar and unfamiliar. (Follow links for pictures.) The ginger family (Zingiberaceae) is very well represented with Red Tower ginger (Costus comosus),Costus curvibracteatus 'Green Mountain', Variegated Spiral ginger (Costus amazonicus variegata), Torch ginger (Etlingera elatior 'Thompsonae') and Butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium). Two species, Creeping fig (Ficus pumila) and Spikemoss (Selaginella kraussiana) are at their best as ground covers. Other favorite tropicals include:
Blushing Bromeliad (Neoregelia carolinae 'Tricolor')
Firecracker shrub (Hamelia patens)
Philodendron 'Prince of Orange'
Red Passionflower (Passiflora coccinea)

Bird-of-Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
Chenille Plant (Acalypha hispida)
Bananas! (Musa spp.)
While the Tropical House is literally dripping with humidity, the sound of fountains in the Mediterranean House provides sensible refreshment in its semi-arid environment. The good collection of suitable trees, shrubs and herbs include:

Shoestring Acacia (Acacia stenophylla)
Olive (Olea europaea)
Variegated Oleander (Nerium oleander 'Variegata')
Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)
Deserts are among the harshest places on earth, yet they are habitable sometimes by creatures with the most bizarre appearances. You'll discover lots of them in the Desert House, such as:

Tortoise plant (Dioscoria macrostachya)
Hedgehog Agave (Agave stricta)
African Ocotillo (Alluaudia procera)
Euphorbia baioensis
Brain Cactus (Mammilaria elongata 'Cristata')
Feather Cactus (Mamillaria plumosa)
Panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa)
Galapagos Prickly Pear (Opuntia galapageia)
Bunny Ears Cactus (Opuntia macrodasys)
Old Man Cactus (Oreocereus spp.)
Madagascar Palm (Pachypodium lameri)
The botanical garden adjoining the Baltimore Conservatory is quite small, but good displays of some new plants will interest any gardener.

Surrounding the conservatory, Druid Hill Park offers other cultural and recreational opportunities including the developing East Coast Greenway. which passes by the conservatory's front door. Avid bicyclists and serious pedestrians take note!

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