Jackie wins! Thanks for playing, everybody, but most of all,
thanks for your often hilarious and provocative comments.
Just for fun, here are some of the strange or not-so-strange things
people mentioned having seen at garden centers and nurseries.
Air plants (tillandsias) glued (ouch) to plastic fairies. I
can’t even imagine what that looks like. Coincidentally, our randomly chosen
winner Jackie mentioned those.
Booze. A lot of places have little wine bars and cafés. I
can kind of get behind that. A glass of wine while shopping for plants? Sure.
Llama fibers (from Deborah). I still don’t understand that
Reading Dirt mentioned
life-size elk and lion sculptures (made of iron!).
Common Weeder talks about miniature John Deere equipment for kids. That may not be
strange to many of you, but I’ve never heard of it.I looked for it on the web, though, and found a JOHN DEERE BARBIE. Check out her boots! I loved all the little mini-tractors and stuff, too.
Kat talks about perfume (they have that at my favorite
nursery actually, but it also has great plants), while LauraBee has seen 25k
oriental rugs. Marie found a rug made out of stones.
Many commenters mentioned horribly tacky holiday décor, from
fake trees with fake spiders hanging from them to Easter eggs the size of
Katxena found textured wallpaper, Elizabeth could
do without the hand-painted silk scarves and PlantingOaks wonders why, why, why
the decorative table lamps.
I think the saddest things, even sadder than the dead plants
(which we’ve all seen) are the plastic ones.
Oh, and on moving merchandise. Yes, we understand seasonal
changes and moving stuff to pique the interest. What we don’t get is hiding or discontinuing basic garden
supplies—which is what started this whole rant.
Again, thanks, and may your next trip to the garden center
be enjoyable, whether you find what you are looking for or not.
… how I would feel if someone came by in the middle of the
night and cut down my garden. That’s what happened to a gardener
in Shreveport, Louisiana, who was growing vegetables on the strip between
sidewalk and road in front of his house.
And here’s more easeway news, though in Minnesota they call
it the boulevard. HT Peter Hoh for drawing my attention to this cute dino/hosta
landscape (detail above) in the boulevard spot. It’s a neighborhood
Who knew that such a small patch of land could generate such
rage and creativity?
Or I would visit a small, locally-owned toy boutique. Regardless, I can assure you, I would
not be looking for them at my local nursery.
Nonetheless, that’s what I found the other day, right where
they always used to have the bamboo stakes. Little furry birds that make
authentic noises. I asked a staffer where the stakes were and he looked at me
in puzzlement. I asked another, and she looked at me in puzzlement. Finally, we
unearthed an old-timer who knew where the bamboo and wire stakes were kept, way
back in the corner behind the cocoa matting, sort of near where the pond
supplies used to be.
It’s not just nurseries and garden centers. Stock is moved, sent back, and replaced on
a daily basis in almost every retail establishment I frequent. Entire departments
are torn apart and relocated regularly. They even do it at the liquor
store—what’s the point of that? The assumption is that all consumers have ADHD,
unable to bear seeing the same merchandise in the same place longer than 36
hours. I’m afraid to tell friends
about a great shopping find, because I’m almost positive it won’t be there a
So be it. But will there come a time when I have to mail
order such boring garden necessities as stakes, ties, and cheap terra cotta,
while resin fairies, wind chimes, and stones inscribed with profound messages
can still be had at my local garden center? Look, I know that stores need to
carry what sells. But when the basics are relegated to obscure corners, it’s
only a matter of time before they disappear altogether. People may need them,
but sometimes it takes good customer service to explain to customers exactly
what they need and why.Maybe a
new generation of gardeners will assume that oriental lilies were just destined
to lie on the ground.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen for sale in your
garden center? I will draw from
the responses and the winner will receive the eminently practical Eleanor
Perenyi’s Green Thoughts—a brand new edition from Modern Library. Contest ends tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern.
First and foremost, growing vegetables is really, really interesting, and FUN. (Who knew? Oh, yeah, almost all of you.) Once it warmed up these babies grew like crazy, like this humongous cucumber that appeared out of nowhere and was especially surprising because the label said "squash".
And my experiment in growing them in containers on my deck has raised the question of how to support these big boys. It would be great if the containers came with suggestions about what types of plants to grow in them and what size tomato cages (or other supports) to use.
Take these tomatoes, for instance. There are two plants here, both labeled as "patio" size, so I thought they'd stay compact, but noooo. So the 4-foot-tall cages are practically useless. If the privacy screen hadn't been there to tie the plants to, the whole shebang would be flopping in the wind.
Next, what's wrong with this eggplant? Squirrel or insect damage?
And how about these variegated eggplants – cool, huh? But are they full-size and ready for harvesting?
And for any of these, are you supposed to prune away any of the extra foliage, especially when it's shading the produce? (Bear with me, experienced veg-growers.) I read up a bit on pruning tomatoes and honestly, it didn't make any sense to me.
Finally, here's another edible that seemed to appear overnight. So despite my ignorance and some logistical challenges, I'm starting to think Michele's Owens is right – that this stuff is damn easy to grow.
Here's Amy's how-to turn in America's Sunday magazine, called "Get a Beautiful Garden Now". It's full of tips and myth-busters from two of our favorite hort profs – Jeff Gillman and Linda Chalker-Scott. Now let's discuss among ourselves.
– A gardening friend actually cornered me at the July 4th Parade to express her shock that the article recommends up to 6 inches of coarse mulch around vegetables, so I promised to ask about the research behind that one.
– Protecting young fruit from pests by stapling plastic bags or hosiery around each one is easy?
– And Amy, serious kudos to whoever's handling publicity for your book!
If you missed the big gardening news this week, here's the summary version:
After the not-surprising attacks on the organic nature of the garden from the lobby group for Big Chem, this latest attack came curiously from the left. It started with a story in Mother Jones claiming that the garden, with its 93 parts per million of lead, is "contaminated", supposedly due to the composted sewage applied to the land during the Clinton years.
Then a Huffington Post writer took that ball and ran with it: The Obama Organic Family Garden: Swimming in Sludge? Here's a quote [bold added]: "Recently the National Park Service discovered that the White House
lawn, where the garden was planted, contains highly elevated levels of
lead — 93 parts per million. It's enough lead for anyone planning to
have children pick vegetables in that garden or eat produce from it to
reconsider their plans: lead is highly toxic to children's developing
organs and brain functions — however, it's below the 400 ppm the EPA
suggests is a threat to human health."
First, the 93 ppm finding was known by the Park Service months ago and made public back in March when the garden was announced. And who says 93 ppm is enough to stop people with children from growing food in it?
But to the rescue of good science and journalism is my favorite DC food blogger, Eddie Gehman Kohan, author of Obama Foodoramama. She got the old-fashioned notion of contacting soil scientists – 3 of them – and their responses are detailed in her post: The Only Thing Toxic about the White House Kitchen Garden is the Rumors: Scientists Correct the Record on Contamination". There she calls the attack "the latest from the pooposphere of poor fact checking on Huffington Post". And she finds it interesting that "some of the people who are most likely to take media stabs at the White
House Kitchen Garden are those who profess themselves to be champions
of environmental stewardship and of a food system that's local,
sustainable, and organic," citing the author of the MoJo story in particular.
And she goes on to indict lots of bloggers: "Many other food and gardening blogs posted about the Mother Jones sludge/lead contamination, too, without fact checking. Even very reputable ones." Okay, who was it?
The other bizarre element to the whole bashing thing is that anyone who
thinks the White House left a single stone unturned in planning the
garden is…what's the most delicate, diplomatic, term? Oh yeah, silly. The White House was well aware that the first food garden planted on the campus since WWII was going to be big news. Of course all details were accounted for. Of course
appropriate testing was conducted. The White House has the finest minds
in America, experts in every field, available for consultation. It's
beyond silly to imagine that the garden wasn't thoroughly "vetted."
That's exactly my impression of the garden gang at the White House (see earlier post about how smart the whole project is).
Oh, and here's the link to the Mother Jones story. When I tried it, an error message came
up saying due to a fire, the server was down, but check back for news
of Sarah Palin and "MoJo's scoop that the White House garden has been poisoned by sewage sludge". Still, after all the debunking!
SHOUT-OUT TO A SUPERBLOGGER This is yet another example of bloggers getting it right after mainstream or print media get it wrong. In this case, Eddie's a career food policy writer and consultant, so it's no wonder she knows a thing or two. [Photo of Eddie on the "Today Show".] And get this – she got herself invited to the White House Easter Egg Roll – by continuously bugging the Press Office – AND the White House Correspondent's Dinner. I'm so jealous.
MORE ATTACKS In a close reading of "ObFo", I see that Politico and the Drudge Report have also "bashed" the "WHKG". It's just more proof that gardening's (finally) a hot topic, so let's enjoy it!
I just found out about WeFollow, a service that lets you find other Twitter users who share your interests. Here's their list of gardening Twitter users; anyone can add themselves to the list. I don't know any of these top gardening Twitterers–I'm off to check it out.
I missed this list when it came out, but a copy arrived from my publisher the other day. Of course, I've got a vested interest in the contents of such a list right now, but it's also interesting in a broader sense. So what does the Indie Gardening list say about gardeners who shop at independent bookstores?
Narrative. We've got your Kingsolver, your Pollan, your Wild Trees by Richard Preston (about redwood trees and the people who study them), a cool new book of botanical history called The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, and Our Life in Gardens by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd.
Local. It's all local, isn't it? Here's the Sunset Western Garden Book, Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, and Audubon's guide to eastern trees, all of which have to be doing well in their own regions to make a national list.
Veggies. Almost half of the books on the list concern themselves with growing food.
I went through the list and realized that I own or have read 17 books on the list. Has anyone got me beat?
*Vining Edibles used architecturally for edible shade growing up columns: Chayote squash, Chinese red long beans, grapes, hops, Persian cucumbers, Crenshaw melons. Heirloom tomatoes: 10
Focal Point edible
plants:"Purple Romanga" artichokes, "Rosa Bianca" white
eggplants, "Shishito" Japanese
peppers, Bell peppers, Scallop
Fruit Trees (Either dwarfs, espaliered, or specially grafted
to save space): Apple (including one that's 6 grafted varieties in one),"Pluot/Peach/Nectarine/Apricot/Plum" (special
grafted 5 varieties), Olive, Pomegranate (Wonderful and Nana), Strawberry
Guavas, Citron (Buddha's Hand), Meyer lemon
shrubs, Clementine, Oro Blanco
grapefruit, Mandarin, Nagami
Kumquat, Calamondin, Mexican
An unusual foxglove in Mary Barnes' garden. Digitalis lanata?
Mary Barnes of Slate Hill Farm Daylilies is my kind of gardener: a mad scientist. I love her for allowing my kids to be mad scientists, too. She lets them hybridize daylilies and then gives us the seedlings to grow out, so they can see the fruits of their fun.
When we arrived there last Saturday, she had a milk crate full of seedlings for us, all labeled with a number indicating the cross and the name of the kid who decided that a plant called something like 'Screaming Meemie' desperately needed to exchange genes with another plant called something like 'Pants On Fire.' Subtle their crosses are not. They usually result in flowers so big the plant can hardly hold up its head and colors from a Velvet Elvis painting. I'm going to give these monster hemerocallis their own bed in the country.
Mary's own experimentation takes not just the form of professional daylily breeding, but also non-professional fooling around with seeds of all kinds. She saves her vegetable seed. She's growing quinoa and flax seed for her cereal. She's able to plant really unusual flowers, including a very tall and thin white and brown foxglove, because she raises them from seed.
On Saturday, she showed me precisely the thing that makes seed saving so fun.
Behold a poppy produced by saved seed:
Here is the poppy's much better-looking brother:
And here are lettuces from seed she saved:
The ones on the right are all from the same variety of lettuce. They all have the same trout-patterned leaves. But some of them are red-spotted chartreuse. And some of them are an even mix of red and green.
I love the idea of selecting my own flowers and vegetables, too, and breeding the better-looking lettuce. I've got an enormous parsnip sending out flowers while we speak in my vegetable garden, just because I want to observe the natural behavior of this biennial. But I frequently intend to save seed and then never get around to collecting it.
Too busy raising the results of previous experiments involving my husband, I suppose.
We’ve been talking a lot about color clashes at Garden Rant. The worst in my garden this year centered around the pale, pale pinks of two classic plants: ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony and ‘New Dawn’ rose. ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ is one of the tallest of peonies, with fluffy flowers of silvery pink. She is a real supermodel, stunning on her own, a problem in combination with any other flower in my yard because she makes them all look muddy and unappetizing.
My ‘New Dawn,’ too, is so healthy and beautiful that three of my neighbors have been inspired to seek out their own ‘New Dawns.’ However, her flesh-toned pink color seems not to complement any other color, but instead, to compete with them and make them look bad because she is so delicate and pure. We’ve all met this kind of girl and found her intensely annoying.
I thought she needed some gothing up. So I bought a maroon clematis for ‘New Dawn.’ Nope. That is not the solution. In fact, trial and error and fits of crazy shovel-work moving stuff doing perfectly well here over to there–which is what I use instead of color theory–left me empty-handed.
But on a visit to the amazing Slate Hill Farm Daylilies this weekend, I posed the question to owner Craig Barnes, who not only grows and breeds fields of gorgeous daylilies, but is also a painter.
“Lavender,” he said instantly. “Slatey blue. A blue with a lot of white in it, like the rose.”
I went delphinium shopping. Whereas my instinct would always be to pick out the darkest or most intense and dramatic ones, I instead went for the lighter, grayer ones. I also bought a pale blue baptisia and the palest lavender veronicastrum. ‘New Dawn’ looks very pretty indeed, surrounded by these acolytes.
This is why painters’ houses are always nicer than mine, too.