The Large Piece of Turf

Albrecht Durer’s “The Large Piece of Turf” features a chunk of soil and weeds that could just as easily have been dug up from the vacant lot down the street from me (here in 2012) as from the German meadow that likely inspired Durer hundreds of years ago.

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Black Walnut Society Officially Unveiled

Do you garden under a Black Walnut tree?  Have you searched the internet seeking lists of species that grow under Black Walnuts only to discover that the lists are sometimes contradictory, or that (even worse) they are waaaaay too short to satisfy your jonesing for plants?

Is your Black Walnut tree interfering with your gardening pleasure, making you irritable, or adversely affecting your overall life enjoyment quotient?

Have you cut down a Black Walnut tree or had thoughts of cutting one down?

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Garden Designer’s Roundtable: By the Sweat of Your Brow Will You Weed Your Bed.

My husband and I moved into our house in Burke, VA (Zone 7a) early in 2003 and immediately got to work on “letting the yard go” for about, oh, 4 years or so.  I’m sure the neighborhood was horrified by our neglect, as I know you will be when you see the “before” pictures.  [Read more…]

ISO Garden Exorcist

Spirits dwell in my garden soil, and they're not beneficial nematodes.

I’m pretty sure my soil is haunted.

In trying to figure out why all the plants in this certain bed in my backyard keep dying slow, excruciating deaths, I have ruled out high pH, micronutrient deficiencies, marine clay, grubs, acid rain, and communist infiltrators.

I figure the only possible explanation for the gradual decline/death of five cherrylaurels, two Itea, three ostrich ferns and a river birch has to lie somewhere in the supernatural realm. 

I took Hort 101 at the local community college, which covered common pests and diseases, but rather egregiously omitted information about planting over indian burial grounds and civil war battlefields, purging your plants of evil spirits, and dealing with neighbors who may be practicing horticultural voodoo or botanical black arts in retaliation for aiming your downspout at their flowerbeds.

In mulling over which of these dark forces may be at work in this garden bed, it occurs to me there is a niche in the marketplace for a more supernatural skill-set.  Garden Coaches have been around for awhile now, but I think a reputable Garden Coach/Exorcist or Garden Sorcerer could get a fair bit of business. 

I definitely need one.

Weedscaping With Mary

Take a look at my designer “cottage lawn,” one of the hottest garden trends of 2012. 

Don’t be jealous.  It’s taken me years to achieve this look.  Note the highly desirable color combination of yellow (dandelions) and sky blue (Creeping Charlie). 

It's not easy to achieve this loose, relaxed, neglected look. But looks can be deceiving. These dandelions are actually in the exact formation of the Horsehead Nebula.

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Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day: Forsythiosis

Mary's forsythia hedge

Now is as good a time as any to talk about forsythia. 

If you live in zone 7, it’s just popped out in all its tacky gold glory, and is either splaying all over the place in a spectacular tangle or — more likely — it was sheared into a giant egg shape in the fall by some doofus (possibly your spouse) so now it can’t fully express its brazen forsythiosity. 

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Slangin’ Delightful Plants

Yesterday afternoon I placed my order with Plant Delights, the nursery down in NC that publishes the best, and most addictive, catalog in all of horticulture. 

My intention was  to buy ONLY a Danae racemosa, with which I was unfamiliar until a local designer introduced me to it a few years ago.  Also called Poet’s Laurel, this small evergreen shrub is said to be “laden with marble-sized reddish-orange berries in fall” according to Tony Avent, owner of Plant Delights, author of its catalog, and “dealer” of delightful plants. 

You have to watch out for Tony.  He might lure you into buying a plant merely through his wry, irreverent, and often provocative descriptions.  For example, Tony introduces Poet’s Laurel with this line: “From Iran and other “axis of evil” countries comes one of our favorite garden plants.”  He closes the blurb with: “Danae was the daughter of King Acrisius of Argos…the dude who became a rock gardener when he was shown Medusa’s head.”

Damn you, Tony.  With your puns AND allusions to Greek mythology how can I NOT buy this plant???

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The Totally Brain-Wasted Botanist?

When I was 13 and a Junior Naturalist at the local nature center (job description: clean the aquarium, wander around) I got really good at leaf identification with the help of this trusty li’l book:

 Do you remember these?  I had a whole collection of these Golden Guides.  Pocket-sized, colorful, and glossy — they were so cute!  I think I also had The Golden Guide to Butterflies and Moths, The Golden Guide to Rocks and Minerals, and The Golden Guide to Pond Life.  But I was definitely missing this volume:


I never knew this one existed, until I stumbled upon it on Amazon.  From the image, it looks like a used library reference book, which is kind of ironic since it’s supposed to be a “field” guide after all.  How will the young folk be able to accurately identify which fungi will wizz them into the stratosphere if they can’t check out the guidebook????

Anyway, even if you’re not into serving up cannabis cannoli or going out to graze on your opium poppies, this group of plants is pretty fascinating.  I think Amy Stewart, one of the bloggers at Garden Rant, should write a book about hallucinogenic plants.  What with her current project, The Drunken Botanist (subtitle: Celebrating Horticulture’s Contribution to Gettin’ Wasted) it sounds right up her alley!  Whaddaya say, Amy?

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