Real Gardens, Unusually Clever People

Deep-Rooted Wisdom for the Holidays

     I skipped Black Friday again this year. I shop at Christmastime only under duress, but as days grow shorter, my noose tightens. Yuletide suffocation draws nigh. There is no way I’m going to the mall, but I hate to be all Bah! Humbug! This year I found a holiday remedy to please all those on my list: […]

Posted by  on December 10, 2014 at 5:01 am.   This post has 9 responses.

Meadow Day in Maryland

Meadows are HOT these days, thanks to anti-lawn sentiments, concern for pollinators, and some smart designers and plant researchers.  I encountered all of the above one day last month. University of Maryland at College Park First I attended a talk+tour at the University of Maryland about the meadows on...

Read more in: Designs, Tricks, and Schemes, Lawn Reform, Unusually Clever People
Posted by on December 5, 2014 at 9:44 am

Winter Soundscapes

Winter offers less visual stimulation. I find myself noticing smells and sounds more. Maybe it’s just that every little bit of sensory input is more important, there being less overall. For the most part, it is a season of quiet. Snow and fog muffle the sounds of vehicles. People...

Read more in: Designs, Tricks, and Schemes, Gardening on the Planet
Posted by on December 3, 2014 at 2:01 am

In lieu of

Sad fact—as the years go by, there are more wakes and funerals to attend. Increasingly, we have been recognizing the passings of friends and relatives, or supporting our friends and relatives in their losses. Acknowledging death is just another part of living, but it’s not one of my favorite...

Read more in: It's the Plants, Darling
Posted by on December 2, 2014 at 7:49 am

Lawn Alternative Update from the Scott Arboretum

Years ago I visited the Scott Arboretum to learn about alternatives to lawn and see the ones they were growing there.  (Here’s my 2008 report.)  Last month I returned for another event but made time to revisit their lawn-alt plants, too.  (Wonder if we can get that term to...

Read more in: Lawn Reform
Posted by on November 28, 2014 at 8:39 pm

New Roots is Planting Seeds of Change for Refugees in America

Guest post by Kimberly Bryant What difference can a garden make? To newly arrived refugees in America, the answer is plenty. It’s no secret that gardening is a pleasant way for the average person to get in touch with nature, but it holds an even deeper meaning for those...

Read more in: Eat This, Guest Rants
Posted by Kimberly Bryant on November 27, 2014 at 7:53 am


This year is a special year for me. The day after Thanksgiving, I will celebrate half a century on this planet, so I am being extra thankful. I am thankful that one day, 22 years ago, I walked outside of my newly purchased home and started looking at the...

Read more in: Gardening on the Planet, It's the Plants, Darling, Unusually Clever People
Posted by on November 26, 2014 at 12:44 am

Lake effect

Weather—we gardeners live and die by it. It may be a universal favorite as a water cooler topic, but when the chat is over, most can pretty much forget about it and move on. Not if you’re a gardener. Even now, when the work of the season is over,...

Read more in: Shut Up and Dig
Posted by on November 24, 2014 at 8:00 am

Can a Garden Contest Teach and Inspire?

We bash Homeowners Associations regularly for their crazy, backward-looking rules against growing edibles, eliminating lawn, growing wilder-looking plants (horrors!) and more. But what if a condo or coop association used their collective power and authority to improve the yards under their jurisdiction? Could get radical! The 1,600-townhouse cooperative community...

Read more in: Designs, Tricks, and Schemes
Posted by on November 21, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Swarthmore: One of the Most Beautiful Campuses in America

I first visited and fell in love with the Scott Arboretum, covering the entire campus of Swarthmore College, back in 2008 when I visited for a talk on lawn alternatives.  I finally made a return visit last month when I attended its annual Perennial Plant Conference, where some of the top...

Read more in: Public Gardens, Real Gardens
Posted by on November 20, 2014 at 6:07 am

Snow: Lessons in Perspective

Why is it that, after a snowfall, the landscape looks so much better, even if nothing has changed underneath? Snow offers the opportunity to view your garden with new perspective and insights that can make it more enjoyable in every season. When you hear the phrase “winter interest,” you...

Read more in: Designs, Tricks, and Schemes, Real Gardens
Posted by on November 19, 2014 at 12:51 am

Possibilities vs. limitations

As I finish potting up bulbs against the winter, rejoicing in the new space for it I have now that I’m using the attic, it occurred to me that the effort to do more, to go beyond the perceived limits, is my favorite thing about gardening and it’s also...

Read more in: Taking Your Gardening Dollar
Posted by on November 18, 2014 at 9:00 am

Disabled Veterans Memorial Shines Despite its Location

A new memorial opened last month in D.C., this one honoring Veterans Disabled for Life. I’ve watched its progress from the U.S. Botanic Gardens across the street, and seen it presented to a reviewing agency, so was excited to finally see it open. Here’s a fun 2-minute video of...

Read more in: But is it Art?
Posted by on November 13, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Travels with Rufus

  John Steinbeck crossed the country with Charley in 1960. I rode to Louisville last month, from Pennsylvania, with Rufus. Steinbeck, who wrote Travels with Charley, made the road trip with his standard poodle in a camper truck. I took Rufus home in a rental car. I met Rufus...

Read more in: Real Gardens, What's Happening
Posted by on November 12, 2014 at 7:01 am

Protecting Turfgrass from Springsteen Fans is One Huge Job

Tonight, in celebration of Veterans Day, one huge concert will take place on the National Mall, with headliners like Bruce Springsteen, Rihanna and Eminem. You can watch live it on HBO if you’re a cable subscriber, whether or not you pay extra for HBO. Or if you live nearby you can...

Read more in: What's Happening
Posted by on November 11, 2014 at 8:42 am

My sort-of conservatory

Having just read a series of books about nineteenth century (and earlier) estate gardens, I don’t find myself in the least bit envious of the expansive acreages that these property owners had to tend. But I do long for a refuge where I can enjoy flowering plants throughout the...

Read more in: Designs, Tricks, and Schemes
Posted by on November 10, 2014 at 8:55 am

Garden clean-up for dry-climate groundcovers

Lawn replacement is getting some well-deserved buzz and I’m an advocate myself. Unfortunately, ground’s gotta be covered, so what groundcovers do the job with few or no inputs and little to no care? (Something other than English ivy, please.) That’s the big question in the less-lawn movement, and it’s...

Read more in: It's the Plants, Darling
Posted by on November 6, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Piling Leaves and Stacking Functions

There’s a permaculture concept called “stacking functions.” It refers to choosing strategies that have several benefits or accomplish multiple goals. Take, for example, a strategy I’m fond of: smothering lawn with fallen leaves to create new planting beds. I have done and will continue to do this in different...

Read more in: Designs, Tricks, and Schemes, Real Gardens
Posted by on November 5, 2014 at 5:34 am

Oh, TM/® symbols? Don’t use ’em; don’t have to

Over the weekend, Susan and I heard from a garden writer who worried that he was about to be attacked by the Conard-Pyle company for not naming the Knock Out rose line the way it prefers (all caps with a ®). Instead, the writer was using the single quotes...

Read more in: Ministry of Controversy
Posted by on November 3, 2014 at 8:05 am

Surprising Garden Design Choices from 1930

As I mentioned in this post about hedges, there’s an unusual amount of them in my New Deal town, and they’re associated with our launch in 1937.  So if we care about preserving our history, are we stuck with hedges? I’m not a fan, so I was thrilled to discover a gardening...

Read more in: Designs, Tricks, and Schemes
Posted by on October 31, 2014 at 7:57 am
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