Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.
— Alfred Austin
I don’t know enough about the English poet Alfred Austin to understand why he thought he could divine who, or more precisely, “what”, someone was simply by looking at their garden. But he makes an interesting point. Having toured many more gardens than I usually do this summer, I’ve really been struck by the vast differences in the look and feel of people’s yards.
Modern straight lines vs. curving cottage beds, shady oases vs. sun-drenched plots for edibles and brightly colored perennials, cherubs and ornate statuary vs. gnomes and silly flamingos. And probably not surprisingly, a near tie between the number of gardeners who like plant tags and the ability to see the soil between each plant and those who would never consider plant tags and prefer a more wild, overlapping look.
What would Austin make of this? “What” are these people? Does orderly equal neatnik, control freak or professional organizer while wild signifies some kind of messy, disheveled, devil-may-care personality? Maybe. But that seems too simple since, once you get to know most people, they often turn out to be much more complicated than they first appeared. He must have meant something more. Might we consider how each gardener’s parents and grandparents gardened? Where they grew up? Whether they need to grow food to put food on the table?Read More»
No one will ever make a reality show about gardeners. We tend to be sweaty, disheveled and a bit dirty for starters. Our shoes are functional. We wear big, floppy hats. We’re pretty keen on shorts, pants and sometimes vests with lots of handy pockets. And we love, love to gather together and talk about plants, plant problems and bugs.
“Does milk really help stop powdery mildew?” “Is aster yellows caused by a virus or a phytoplasma?” “Why that is the largest scale bug I’ve ever seen! And you removed it using a power washer, amazing!”
Yeah, we couldn’t even sell the Gardeners Gone Wild topless version of this stuff.
But we could use your help with a current topic that’s come up this year. Some gardeners around Minnesota have reported seeing Japanese beetles feeding on geraniums and then acting, well, drunk or stoned or something. Jeff Hahn, an entomologist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service says it’s really unusual for Japanese beetles to feed on geraniums because geraniums contain a toxin that “intoxicates” the beetles to the point where they can be paralyzed for hours. (Read more of Jeff’s interesting updates on garden pests here.)
Apparently, this experience isn’t half bad because once they recover the Japanese beetles go right back for more. So, if you have Japanese beetles getting blackout drunk on your geraniums, Jeff and others with Extension would love to see some photos. Please email your photos to me, or send me a link to Flickr or wherever you post photos, and I’ll forward them on. Let me know what state you live in, and how long you’ve been seeing Japanese beetles on your geraniums, too.
Oh, and one more thing. Several master gardeners have been wondering whether it would be a good idea to interplant geraniums with roses, grapes and other plants Japanese beetles love in hopes that they would flock to the geraniums and leave other plants alone. Unfortunately, Jeff Hahn says that research has shown that the strategy doesn’t work. In fact, even more beetles show up than before. The upshot? You may not want to plant a geranium beetle bar in your garden unless you want them to party at your house.
Okay, just kidding. We’d probably keel over if we had to get the garden in shape for a tour every year. But it was a really fun day and if someone asked, we’d probably offer up our yard again for a tour in the future. Even though it was in the 90s with extremely high humidity, the 9-hour day went by fast and we honestly could have gone on yacking with visitors for at least another hour or two after the 4 p.m. closing time.
The numbers have been crunched and it looks like we had 367 people touring the 11 gardens on display—that’s the biggest year yet for the annual Hennepin County Master Gardener Learning Garden Tour. Our garden is small and the paths are narrow, so we were worried that visitors might feel cramped and rushed in a way that would keep them from experiencing the garden as it’s meant to be experienced.
Luckily, people trickled in throughout the day and meandered down the paths looking at everything. Everyone was smiling and happy and had a lot of questions. It’s mostly true that mean people don’t garden, and this day was a testament to that. Love fest would be a good way to describe the day, really, and who doesn’t want more love?Read More»
Two days from now, on Saturday, somewhere around 300 people will be coming to check out our gardens as part of the Hennepin County Master Gardener Learning Garden Tour. Our house is one of 11 stops on the one-day tour, and we have been working like maniacs for three solid months to get the place in shape.
Truthfully, as you’ll see from the photos I’m posting, we’ve been working on our yard for six summers in a way that would probably seem nutty to most people. But when I volunteered us for the tour, we really had to kick things into high gear and we have now completed EVERY project that we had on our to-do list for the yard. Had it not been for the tour, we probably would have stretched those projects out over three years or more. So while we’re exhausted, we’re also really glad to have little more than weeding and watering to do next summer.Read More»
It’s a good thing shrubs can’t talk because, boy, if they could, some of them would have some mighty hateful words for their tenders.
I go on walks a lot, so I see shrubs all the time that have been scalped, sheared and otherwise dismembered in all manner of ways. But this sad lineup really took my breath away. I’m sure this gardener means well and has trimmed and denuded these shrubs for years in an attempt to keep them in a neat, hedge-like formation.
As you can see, though, things aren’t working out as planned and he’s (I’ve seen him at work) ended up with bare sticks topped with foliage that looks like unruly hair pieces rather than lush shrubs. What did he do wrong? Well, too much to explain well here without making your eyes glaze over. So, instead, let me give you some links to a few good resources that explain pruning in understandable, easy-to-follow terms.
Too often I hear garden gurus say pruning is easy, blah, blah, blah. What? I’m here to tell you that that’s just not true. Sure, once you get the hang of pruning things get easier and easier. But understanding the best ways to prune different types of shrubs and trees takes time to learn, and you learn even more by experience. The most important thing to remember is that you want to maintain a shrub’s natural shape as best you can. So comparisons to “haircuts” are off the mark.
I hope these links are helpful.
Virginia Cooperative Extension: This publication offers good descriptions and illustrations.
University of Missouri Extension: Check out the explanation of different tools.
University of Minnesota Extension: Good info. on pruning trees and shrubs.
Utah State University Extension: Very helpful 5-minute video.