Monthly Archives: May 2011
Bloom Day

Tulips—surreal and otherwise


Enjoy them while they last. I wish everything could be like bulbs. Last month I dragged a bunch of big pots out of my garage; this month they’re providing a bright ribbon of color around the otherwise immature green of my back garden. In the front yard, the combination of tulips, late daffodils, and early perennials make the last big pop before the deep shade of the surrounding maples takes over.


This week the NY Times Magazine had a salute to tulips from an unusual perspective—the air above Holland. Here’s the slide show by photographer Julian Faulhaber. Images like these make me wonder if I should take a more formal or minimalist approach—choose 3, 2, or even 1 colors and stick with a plan. It will never happen, of course. What does happen is that the bulbs themselves guide me in certain directions. All the clusiana are very reliable returners so I will likely keep planting them, even though I don’t love them as much as the whittali. I should probably give up on the acuminata and the humilis “alba coerulea oculata.”


And I’ll always have my fads. Right now I’m in love with t. gregii “Fire of Love.” My big “what was I thinking” this season is the inexplicable pairing (in a couple containers) of Prinses Irene and Synaeda Amor. I thought it would be orange and purple, but it’s more like orange and pink—the kind of dull, muddy pink I don’t like. Ouch.


In the Times piece, the comment was that tulips keep us sane when winter doesn’t quite want to loosen its grip. That was certainly true in the dreary chill of yesterday, which also happened to be Bloom Day. For me, the 5/15 GBBD will always be about tulips, as much as I love brunnera, epimedium, hellebores, pulmonaria, and all the other early perennials—not to mention shrubs and trees—they will always be the context, not the stars. But the context is important. (Eventually a big field of tulips gets kind of boring. Even from the air.)

Posted by on May 16, 2011 at 5:00 am.   This post has 7 responses.


This is my country garden: 


To me, it's the most beautiful place on earth.  Nonetheless, it is not at all what I envisioned.  When I proposed to my husband 9 years ago that we solve our city-mouse country-mouse problem by buying two houses, I fully expected to be in the country whenever my kids were out of school. 

That worked well enough when my kids were small.  But they are not small now, and it has been a constant struggle even to arrive at my beautiful garden, which is only 45 minutes away from my city house, even to harvest my gorgeous vegetables.  I have one child who rides horses here in my small city of Saratoga Springs, another who does ballet madly and always has some performance or another, and a third child who considers school a total misery aside from the classes he audits at Skidmore College up the hill.

For the last two years, getting anybody to come with me to the country has involved a tug of war.

Nonetheless, Mother's Day weekend was the rare weekend without any ballet obligations–and I was ready to head eastward at noon on Saturday, after my daughter Georgia finished riding,to check on my asparagus, spinach, and rhubarb and to plant broccoli, cabbages carrots, chard, and a million other things. When, to my horror, Georgia informed me that she needed to be back in Saratoga first thing Sunday to get ready for a horse show.

And all at once, in an instant, I just gave up, and started tearing up the sod in my city yard.

This is what I've got to work with:

Dog photo

Not as big, not as beautiful. It's unlikely that I'll be growing wheelbarrows' worth of potatoes here. But this plot does have the peculiar advantage of being situated right outside my kitchen door.  

In the country, I'll plant cover crops.  

And I'm sure a vegetable garden will really raise the tone of the city yard.  Before it didn't have much purpose, other than as a repository for unhappy grasses.  

I'll let you know how it goes.

Posted by on May 13, 2011 at 5:26 am.   This post has 36 responses.

My Yard Is a Carnival


Posted by on May 13, 2011 at 3:20 am.   This post has 8 responses.

Madhur Jaffrey Will Make Your Garden Meaningful

Jaffreycookbook Here is my latest Kirkus post…and we are giving away two copies of the amazing cookbook to the right to the two best comments.

It’s a simple truth: Vegetable gardeners need great cookbooks.  If you’re adventuresome in your planting, the most valuable thing in the world is a cookbook that can help you turn that into adventure on the plate.

My favorites are the Indian cookbooks written by the Indian-born writer and actress Madhur Jaffrey. Many of Jaffrey’s dishes are delicious stews, yet the vegetables somehow remain brightly flavored within even highly spiced curries.

The taste of Jaffrey’s food is miraculously rich and garden-fresh at the same time.  I spoke with Jaffrey in April and learned that for her, too, cooking and gardening are completely intertwined.

 MO:  Why are your cookbooks are so rewarding for gardeners?

MJ: India is a nation of great vegetables, totally seasonal, really local, with so much variety.  So Indians eat a lot of vegetables.  Meat is only a small part of the meal.  And don’t forget, one-third of the country is vegetarian.  It’s so much a part of our history.  India has the best vegetarian food in the world.

MO: Your latest cookbook, At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, includes photos of a lovely country garden.

MJ: What you see in the book—down to the plates, cups and saucers—is actually my house in upstate New York.

When I started working on the garden, it was nothing.  A house in field.  I began with flowers.  But as I’ve gotten older, I have developed the same passion for the vegetable garden as my father had–my father grew all our vegetables.

The vegetable garden began with a fenced 20 by 20 plot. It was too small, so I turned it into a berry patch.  Then I made an enclosed garden just for vegetables, 30 by 30.  That was not big enough, either, because I wanted to grow corn.  But not sweet corn, instead the maize that we used to roast on a fire in India.

Nobody grows it, or they grow it for putting up at Halloween, and it was difficult to find the seeds.  So Alice Waters sent me maize seeds.  It was so delicious that I ate all the maize, such stupidity, and didn’t save the seeds.  And I didn’t have the guts to ask Alice to send them again!  Eventually, I built another plot just for maize.

MO:  I usually find your recipes pretty efficient. I can make a single meat and vegetable dish in 45 minutes, which makes your cookbooks well suited to weeknight cooking.  But your latest cookbook speeds up the process even more.  It seems to be an answer to people who say they don’t have time to cook, yet it’s all fresh.  It steers clear of that hideous Sandra Lee “semi-homemade” factory food territory.

MJ: People say Indian food takes time to make. Well, every county has dishes that take two days to cook.  But people also cook simpler dishes, and that it is the way I cook for everyday life. 

Over time, I have also worked out techniques to simplify recipes.  For example, with a curry, I used to brown everything in order on the stove, the onions, the spices, the meat, and it took time.  Now, I just put all the spices and seasonings on the meat, let it marinate, and then bake it in the oven, so it all browns together.  It takes less time for the same results.

MO: Do you plant any specifically Indian varieties of vegetables?

MJ: They don’t always do well in my climate.  I planted winged beans last year, but I’ve given up—they were such stubby little things.

Don’t tell Customs, but I do bring back seeds when I travel.  For example, I have planted an Indian cucumber that is pencil-sized and slightly curly.  I brought back seeds from Barbados for a chili that is like a habanero without the heat.  It has a delicious aroma.

MO:  One of the things I like about your cookbooks is the suggested accompaniments at the top of the recipes.  The surprising thing is that you’ll often recommend mixing traditional American fare with Indian dishes.

MJ: I cook everything and I grow what I love.  It all goes with everything else.  Anything people say should not be done—probably should be.

Posted by on May 12, 2011 at 3:03 am.   This post has 29 responses.

LED light–we have a winner!

The light we were giving away goes to Jennifer, who said:

I work in a completely windowless office, which is suspended (without windows) over a noisy shipping plant. All day my cubicle plants and I sit without any real light, listening to the beeping of forklifts, and the endless repetition of Meatloaf's "Two out of Three Ain't Bad" (I don't know why, but they seem to play it on the plant floor non-stop). While this light won't do away with the noise, screwed into my little desktop lamp, it would enable me to grow something with flowers–which might be enough to distract me from the noise (one out of two ain't bad…)

Thanks for playing, everybody!

Posted by on May 11, 2011 at 6:12 am.   This post has 3 responses.
But is it Art?

Would You Kick This Out of Your Greenhouse?

Sculpture by Tess Dalhgren PHOTO BY DEREK LACTAOEN

That's what happened at Humboldt State University, home to the largest undergraduate botany program in the country.  The sculpture was placed in the greenhouse as part of a campus-wide sculpture walk designed to display student art at 60 different locations around campus.  It's up to the campus building coordinators to decide whether the art submitted to their building is appropriate.  In this case, the greenhouse manager himself thought that, being a college campus, art should be seen and discussed, but no, it had to go.

Here's a smart and well-reasoned discussion of the issue from journalism professor and columnist Marcy Burstiner.  She thinks that student art needs to be exhibited, failing any concerns about safety, space limitations, logistics, etc.  As it is, this piece has been moved to the university gallery so that it can, in fact, be seen.

I have to say–I find this piece to be not in the least bit shocking.  Like, not at all.  We've got a torso, we've got a big vine, we have an obvious statement of some sort about plants and sex–so what?  A greenhouse is lurid enough already; this hardly tarts it up more than the orchids and pitcher plants already do.

Your thoughts?

Posted by on May 11, 2011 at 5:21 am.   This post has 29 responses.

What an organic golf course looks like


Good news from the world of golf!  No, I'm not thinking of the huge decline in its popularity over the last decade or so, though many lawn-haters see that as a good thing.  I'm thinking of the move toward more naturalistic and less thirsty links-style courses, especially out West but even here in the East.  And having recently heard Jeff Carlson speak, I'm thinking of golf courses that are going all-organic – Carlson being the superintendent of the now-famous Vineyard Golf Club that's winning awards and great press.    IMG_2304

(Here he is in a big hurry to get to the airport immediately after his talk – no time for Q&A!)

How the Vineyard course became organic in the first place is surely a sign of the times – the locals demanded it.  They didn't really want 235 acres of pristine island property developed at all, but decided that golf was preferable to the other alternative – 148 new homes.

So organic it is, and here's how Carlson manages does it – by focussing on playability over visual perfection, for one thing.  (The occasional "dollar patch" flaw?  Get over it!)  But there's lots more to it.

Now you won't like this at all but producing decent turfgrass organically requires full sun, no shade at all, so all nearby trees had to go – 30,000 of them!  (Could I have heard that right?  For 235 acres, maybe so.)

Still, where there's moisture there will be fungal disease, and Carlson's team works hard to keep the grass as dry as possible.   That means "dew control," accomplished by frequent mowing and daily rolling, which pushes the dew into the ground – and has the nice side effect of making the course faster.

When all else fails, they use organic fungicides.

The best organic weed control available, as we all know, is a nice thick turf, but until it filled in, Carlson's crew did a whole lotta hand-weeding, which cost $2,800 per acre.  For killing off all vegetation before seeding Carlson recommends the Waipuna machine, which spews foam and hot water.  (Hopefully it'll eventually replace Roundup as the primary method of removing invasive plants.)  Carlson says that for large jobs, vinegar is too expensive an herbicide.

Caddyshack His biggest challenge?  Insects, especially white grubs, for which he uses nematobes and pheromones, which disrupt their mating.  But there are far larger animals out there tearing up the turf – not groundhogs or gophers but black crows and skunks.  (Since being introduced to the island in the '60s, skunks have been breeding like crazy.)  So the local sheriff has been hired to capture and kill skunks for the golfers, for which he earns $40 each, and killed 150 of them last year for a tidy $6K.

Bill Murray, shown here in a scene from Caddyshack, has actually played this course, no doubt to much hilarity and some great photo-ops.

Member reaction
Carlson says the female members have become great supporters of the all-organic methods, but what about the men?  "Environmental harm doesn't register with the men golfers at the club".  The fairways aren't perfect-looking but they ARE a great play surface, so even the men have adjusted.

Here's the official version of the member reaction from the club's website

As a result of consistent communication and education from Carlson's team, Club members have embraced the program. Players' shoes and equipment are sterilized regularly to limit the spread of disease and fungus; and members understand that if disease pressure is severe, the layout may not be as pristine, putting surfaces may not be lightening-quick and pathogens such a dollar spot may leave their mark. Nature's challenges enhance the complexity of play at the Vineyard Golf Club. (Italics added.)

In selling organic methods to typically Augusta-loving golfers, it's obviously fair game to employ a little PR bullshit wordsmithing.

Jeff Carlson is shown leaving the home of Rachel Carson in Silver Spring, MD.  It's now headquarters of the Rachel Carson Council.

Posted by on May 10, 2011 at 5:00 am.   This post has 7 responses.
Taking Your Gardening Dollar

A plant search tool I really like—so far


As advertised, it is simple. Just type in a couple key words and filter by categories like hardiness zone, exposure, and soil. What you’ll get is a list of plants, each with its needs and features and a short description, plus the nursery that provided the information. This is a consumer-oriented plant-finder, not an online research encyclopedia, and it’s by no means close to comprehensive. Yet.

Plant Lust was started by Loree Bohl (Danger Garden), Megan Hansen, and Patricia Cunningham. It’s designed to connect gardeners to plants they might want as quickly and simply as possible. So far, there are 8,000 plants, with information contributed by a handful of nurseries, mainly in Oregon, but also including Plant Delights, Annie’s Annuals, and Tidwell.

I’m more of a researcher than consumer when it comes to this kind of search—my garden is just about stuffed full—but I was enchanted to type in “boehmeria” and instantly get 3 results. It’s not a plant most will have heard of, and it reflects the high quality of the sources used here. I love the idea of a beginning gardener using this site and getting talked into buying cool perennials they will never ever find at the big box.

Plant Lust. Check it out, and tell them—and us—what you think.

Posted by on May 9, 2011 at 4:28 am.   This post has 18 responses.

Half the Rant to Meet-up at Rodale

Michele will be on stage at Rodale this coming Friday night with two other Rodale authors – Stephen Orr and Derek Fell – and Organic Gardening editor Ethne Clarke will be moderating.   That's a combination I can't resist, so I'm driving up!  Hope to see some Rant readers there, too.

Here's the link
for the event.

Posted by on May 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm.   This post has 3 responses.

Rant on the Road: Southern California

Hey y'all–I'm heading to LA this week.  Get your wicked bugs on at one of these events–I'd love to see you there.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 7 pm
Vroman's Bookstore
Pasadena, CA

Friday, May 13, 2011 10:30 AM
Laguna Beach Garden Club
Laguna Beach, CA

Posted by on May 8, 2011 at 10:43 am.   This post has one response.

The Second Best Time of Year

Tulips house
Okay, my favorite moment in the garden is September, when the summer vegetables are still going strong and the fall crops are starting to come in and there is never a better moment all year to cook gorgeous meals.

But second best is this moment, which has nothing to do with dinner: the moment when the hybrid tulips, the species tulips, the euphorbia polychroma, brunnera, and white violets are all going at once.

Of course, if you want a big show of tulips in May, it will cost you.  The 'Purple Prince' tulips and whatever consort I choose (this year, it's 'Princess Irene') are really annuals that have to be replaced every year. Completely convinced that more is more, at least where the Prince is concerned, I've started buying him in boxes of 100 from Van Engelen, the whole arm of John Scheepers.

Tulips viola
Fortunately, some parts of the show are free: the white violets and euphorbias are seeding themselves like mad.  I know that many people consider these common violets a weed.  I do, too, as soon as they finish flowering.  But right now, these tiny pristine flowers add the most piquant possible contrast to the big colorful tulips.


Posted by on May 6, 2011 at 9:07 am.   This post has 16 responses.
Eat This

Prince in town to promote sustainable farming

If you wondered why Prince Charles was here in DC just 5 days after the really big show in London, it was to speak to a conference about food.  And if this report is accurate, his views are awfully sympatico with my own – except he's been saying all this for decades now. 

It seems that his concerns are being taken more seriously these days – compared to as recently as 2007, when the New York Times reporter sent to visit his organic farm scoffed at it.

Here's a clip. 

Posted by on May 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm.   This post has 8 responses.

Tropical Plant Lust

Grow tasty tropical plants

This piece first appeared on Kirkus Book Reviews gardening blog. Check out the current post featuring Michele's interview with Madhur Jaffrey.

At some point in every gardener’s life comes a longing for a conservatory.  I’m not sure what brings this on.  I’d say that it was middle age, but I think age is more a correlation than a cause.  For me, the longing for a conservatory began when I spent a night in a French countryside home that had what our hostess called “a winter room”—a glassed-in room that held citrus trees, tropical plants, tender perennials that required shelter in the winter but otherwise lived outside in a courtyard, and an aviary filled with tiny, brilliantly-colored birds. There were armchairs, and little tables where one might set one’s glass of pastis in the afternoon.

 This might have seemed pompous, or overly fussy, at one time in my life.  But at that moment, I stood in the winter room and thought, “Oh, yes. I need one of these.”

And so began my tragic journey through the world of indoor citrus.

 I’ll spare you the gory details.  Let’s just say that mistakes were made.  In spite of my best efforts, I managed to kill three of four potted citrus I purchased when I got back from France. They were beautiful in November, lush in early December, and by the cold grey dawn of the new year, they had begun their inexorable decline.   Only the calamondin survived—barely. The rest withered and died while I stood helplessly by.

 If only I had picked up Growing Tasty Tropical Plants first.  It was in this clear, useful, and beautifully-illustrated book that I learned that wet, cold roots will send a potted citrus tree to the compost pile before you can say “homemade limoncello.”  My trees were in the wrong kind of potting mix, they were too cold in my (mostly unheated) front room, I had made the mistake of fertilizing them in winter, which shocked the roots, and, in spite of my best efforts not to overwater, I had, in fact, overwatered them.  Root rot set in and never went away.

 The fact that I went out and bought two more citrus trees, and attempted to rehabilitate my barely-alive calamondin, can be credited entirely to authors Laurelynn and Byron Martin, who also own Logee’s Tropical Plants in Danielson, CT.  They make the idea of growing exotic tropical plants indoors sound so reasonable, so attainable, so very do-able.  Papaya?  Why not?  Fig?  Absolutely!  Pineapple guava?  Vanilla bean?  Black pepper?   Of course!

Because the authors are nursery owners and growers, they have seen every form of torture a neophyte gardener can inflict upon a potted tropical plants.  They give solid instructions for choosing a pot and potting soil, watering, fertilizing, pollinating (yes, sometimes you need to get in there and do that yourself) and otherwise caring for these odd and exotic plants.  There’s a troubleshooting guide that gives answers to the most commonly-asked questions about tropical plant problems.  And best of all, each plant profile includes a reassuringly honest “potential problems” to let you know what you’re in for. (Those plant profiles also include photographs and charming illustrations, along with recipes, harvesting tips, and critical information such as minimum indoor temperatures, light requirements, and pruning needs, which is important if you don’t want your indoor plants to devour the sofa.)

So here I go again with my citrus.  I’ve got a Meyer lemon and a Bearss lime in full bloom, and last year’s calamondin is struggling mightily to catch up. They are in the right soil, getting the right amount of water and fertilizer, and best of all, they won’t have to face the cold temperatures of my living room for another eight months or so.  (And when they do, I’m going to put heated seed mats under them to keep the roots warm.) 

If these survive, I might go for a myrtle-leaf chinotto, a lovely little sour orange used in Italian liqueurs and sodas.  And then I might try that crazy tree tomato on page 102.  And the black pepper plant on page 116.  Oh, and it might be interesting to grow a cinnamon tree (page 118) and a chocolate tree (p. 106).  I haven’t yet started construction on the conservatory, but it’s only a matter of time.  Someone take my passport away:  if I catch sight of one more French orangerie, I’m done for.


Posted by on May 5, 2011 at 4:41 am.   This post has 12 responses.
Taking Your Gardening Dollar

I Am Totally Digging This LED Light (and you can, too!)

In spite of my recent indoor citrus tree disasters, I've been inspired to try again, thanks in part to a lovely book on growing tropical plants indoors–more about that book tomorrow.  But today, I've got a report on a new LED grow light that screws into any light fixture, making it very easy to use on indoor plants that might be, for instance, sitting right next to the sofa, not tucked away in a separate grow room where any sort of grow light will do.


This is my setup.  I've got a Meyer lemon and a Bearss lime sitting in a Food Map container, which is not really intended as an indoor plant stand–it's designed to be filled with soil and actually used as a planter–but I needed a quick way to get these plants up to window height and this worked.  (There's usually a couch in front of it, but I pulled it away to show you how the pots were situated.)  The Food Map has drainage holes in the bottom, which I covered with duct tape–but of course, the pots are sitting in trays anyway to collect water. (Those two trees are brand new, by the way, which could explain why they still look so good.  They haven't put up with much of my abuse yet.)

Led on calamondin

And here, trained on my poor, bedraggled, nearly-dead calamondin, is an LED light screwed into a regular light fixture.  This was sent to me to test by SuperBrightLEDs, which is, as you can probably tell from its name, a company that sells LED lights online.  They carry a mostly red bulb that, they say, promotes leafiness, flowering, and budding, as well as a predominantly blue one aimed at "rhizome and vegetation" growth.  I went for the red one.

The thing to point out about this light is that, during the day, it does not cast a weird red or purple glow about the room.  In this photo I can see a thin stripe of pink light on the windowsill, but if you're just standing in the room, you wouldn't even notice that.  I've put mine on a timer so it comes on after the sun is up and shuts off before the sun goes down.  Obviously, my poor calamondin would probably prefer longer hours of extra light, but I don't want a weird, purple glow coming out of my windows at odd hours.

I had the light on the two newer, healthier trees at first, and they really did respond.  I saw new growth on both of them, and I had to turn them every couple of days to keep them from growing unevenly toward the light.  Now I've given it the task of helping to rehabilitate my sad little calamondin.

And now we have one of these LED lights to give to you!  If you'd like one, post a comment and tell us what you'd use it for. Extra points for creativity and weirdness.

Posted by on May 4, 2011 at 4:49 am.   This post has 41 responses.

Prince Charles in the garden!

Here's HRH Prince Charles, a long-time advocate of organic farming and community gardens, visiting DC's Common Good City Farm this afternoon.

IMG_2385 People with the foresight to hold a baby or a "Welcome Prince Charles" sign got a handshake.  I got much closer than I'd expected, even without the baby or sign.

Posted by on May 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm.   This post has 13 responses.

Felder Rushing’s ‘Gestalt Gardener’ is a fun listen


A gardening podcast that I enjoy and have been meaning to recommend is by someone long known to readers of gardening books -  the inimitable Felder Rushing.  It's called The Gestalt Gardener and it's produced by Mississippi Public Radio. 

Don't worry about it being as all NPR-ish, though.  It's Felder at his folksiest – pretty damn folksy, given his Southern accent and laid-back attitudes all-round – with lots of listeners calling in and Felder dishing out his super-local advice.  I enjoy the Q&A no matter how irrelevant it may be in my own climate.

Nowadays Felder is gardening not just in Mississippi but also in England, and spends lots of time with gardeners and cooks in Italy, yet manages to tell his listeners about all that without seeming pretentious in the least.

Felder's a lot of fun to chat with, as I did for the April 22 episode of the show, starting at 13:25Felder2 minutes.  We covered GardenRant, Lawn Reform, and my supposed close relationship with the White House gardener.

Can I just take back one thing I said?  That because GardenRant has writers in Maryland, New York and California, that we "have the country covered," which I imagine pissed off listeners in, oh, about 47 states.

For a good time also visit Felder's website where you'll have your mind blown by his front yard  and see Felder's "cheesy" side in evidence everywhere. 

Posted by on May 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm.   This post has 3 responses.

Happy Bug Day!

Today is the official publication date for Wicked Bugs, a date known in the biz as the "pub date," which I believe means I'm supposed to spend it sitting in a pub ordering another round for my friends.

Anyway, Algonquin Books is giving away not just free books, but free bugs as well!  Don't worry, they're the cute, cuddly kind from Giant MicrobesGet over there and comment to win.


Posted by on May 3, 2011 at 8:05 am.   This post has 3 responses.

Sign on for Lawn Pesticide Awareness!

JuenIrwinI hate to ask you to turn your attention to something serious, drunkenly enthralled as you no doubt are with the awesomeness of your garden in May – but just for a second.  Just long enough to ask you to pass along this information to any nonprofit or government group who may be interested in limiting the use of lawn pesticides. 

Paul Tukey, the Safelawns rabble-rowser who's such a thorn in the side of Big Chem, has corralled 68 organizations already to sign a petition for Lawn Pesticide Awareness, naming a day in honor of the truly awesome Dr. June Irwin, shown right with Paul and director Brett Plymale.  (Of the critically acclaimed "A Chemical Reaction".)

From Paul's newsletter:

Friday (May 8) Will be a historic day in the SafeLawns movement when dozens of North American health, environmental, farming and landscaping organizations proclaim Lawn Pesticide Awareness Day in honor of the 20th anniversary of North America’s first municipal pesticide ban and the doctor who helped make it happen

If you’re a member of a non-profit organization, consider having it sign on to the petition to make our planet healthier and safer for our children.

Here's the link to the terrifically entertaining story of June Irwin's successful campaign to ban the toxins that were making her patients sick – plus the list of signers so far.  The Lawn Reform Coalition is there, of course.

Posted by on May 3, 2011 at 4:34 am.   This post has one response.
Guest Rants

Trophy weeding

While I am in Chicago sans laptop, here's a guest post from Kansas blogger and professor of veterinary medicine James Rousch.–Eliz.

A post by Carol of May Dreams Gardens, suggesting that a dandelion she had pulled was at least a 4-pointer, got me to thinking that gardeners everywhere need a common scoring system to rate their weeding efforts.  After all, the Boone and Crockett Club has been scoring trophy bucks for decades, allowing armed vicious meat-hunters everywhere to compare and brag about the size of their antlers, so why shouldn't gardeners be able to codify their weed slaughter from region to region?  Think of the possibilities: trophy presentations at monthly garden meetings and at national floral shows; record-winning specimens dry-mounted for home or office display; income potential for gardeners selling weeding rights to prime weed growth areas; competitive teams of weeders vying for world championships;  professional weeders with big-money contracts for advertising endorsements of horticultural products.

Since I claim credit for developing the idea to its full potential, I also feel responsible for creating the rating system for measurement.  I would therefore propose the following as the Professor Roush Official Weed Demise (PROWD) scoring system for domestic horticultural invaders:

A.  # of individual flowers/ flower buds on the weed at the time of extrication.
B.  Length of the longest point of the root system from soil level to tip, in centimeters.
C.  Overall mass of the weed (soil removed by washing) in avoirdupois ounces (28 grams/ounce).
D. Relative adverse environmental conditions during weed collection awarded from 0-10 points, with recent rain and 70F conditions scoring 0 and dry soil and 110F ambient temperatures receiving a score of 10.  If the gardener is actually dehydrated or suffering sunstroke at the time of weeding, a bonus of 5 points may be added.  If the gardener is actually hospitalized after collection, an additional bonus of 5 points is awarded.
E.  Relative removal completeness, scored on a scale of 0-10 points, with full roots and no breakage receiving a 10 score.  Subtract 2 points for ripping off a tap-rooted specimen at ground level.
F.  Use of mechanical devices for assistance are scored from 0-5 points with (-3) points awarded for rototillers and 5 points awarded if the weed was pulled bare-handed.  A ten-point bonus is awarded if pulled bare-handed and the weed causes contact dermatitis or has thorns.  Another ten-point bonus may be awarded if the weed was gathered in close proximity to a fire-ant or hornet nest and the gardener was bitten or stung.

The guidelines above should be sufficient to establish records for individual species trophies. However, for comparison between species, the following category should also be assessed:

G. Relative invasiveness or reproductive potential of the species from 0-10 points, with government-recognized invasive species scoring 10, kudzu 25, Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata) 50 and the common dayflower (Commelina communis) rating 100 points. Zero points are awarded for pulling up Lamb's Quarters during a rainstorm.

The competing gardener should note that careful attention to certain details during weed collection may increase total scores. Therefore, it is advisable to attempt to inflate scores by delaying the actual weed collection until the gardener is actually suffering delirium and muscle cramps, but such acts must be officially witnessed and attested to by a friend or spouse who had previously told the gardener repeatedly what an idiot he or she was. 

So, that's it, the Professor Roush Official Weed Demise scoring system.  On that scale, the above pictured dandelion collected on 4/22/11 would score 6+27+9+2+10+5= 59 PROWD points, presently a world record dandelion (as it is also the only one entered in the official record book).

Additionally, since Professor Roush recognizes the deep competitiveness rampant among gardeners that leads some of them to acts of espionage and sabotage at Rose Exhibitions and Dahlia Shows, any claim for a record-setting specimen is disqualified if the gardener has made any attempt to fertilize or use growth stimulants on an individual weed, or to selectively breed weeds for size and invasiveness. Don't bother to deny it, I know some of you out there were already contemplating how to improve your entries.

Posted by on May 2, 2011 at 5:10 am.   This post has 28 responses.

Better to be a White House gardener/beekeeper than the full-time pastry chef?

YossesNYT I've gone all happy over the wedding announcements of gay Boomers, including Bill Yosses, who happens to be the "executive pastry chef" at the White House.  But on this blog we're all about gardening, so hold on – there IS a connection.

According to the Times, Yosses was tapped for the White House job by Laura Bush in 2007, and in 2009 heard his new boss Michelle Obama saying that “desserts would be rare at family meals and that portions would be scaled down.  And with her emphasis on healthy eating, his responsibilities broadened to included beekeeping and tending the White House Garden.”  Love it!

Photo by Anthony Jalandoni, which I’m assuming is kosher to use because it was released with their wedding announcement.

Posted by on May 1, 2011 at 9:50 am.   This post has 3 responses.