There is no clearer evidence that the end of Winter is drawing near than the realization that Adams Fairacre Farm’s annual Garden Shows are only days away. Each year in late February through mid March, the Adams Landscaping crews design and install an amazing backdrop of patios, ponds and walkways for hundreds of flowering spring bulbs, annuals, trees and shrubs in their greenhouses. Vendors, knowledgeable staff and garden experts from throughout the region attend the shows to answer all questions with regards to planning your spring gardens and landscape projects. The Garden Show is free to attend and also includes seminars, giveaways and free raffles.
Some of the designs that will be on display at the Poughkeepsie show this year include: Rosetta Patio with Firepit featuring Adams’ new line Rosetta Hardscapes, which offers the look and feel of nature; a Stone River Mosaic designed and created by Adams Landscaping using Connecticut stone, crushed bluestone, barn red stone and small river rounds with a Unilock Brussels dimensional border; Rosetta Pond and Waterfall featuring the Rosetta Outcropping Collection Pond Kit and bordered with Rosetta Belvederre; Cedar gazebo and foot bridge designed and custom-built by Adams Landscaping; Unilock Fireplace and Patio with a Unilock Elements Tuscany fireplace – a pre-built modular, fully functioning wood- or gas-buring fireplace – and Unilock Beacon Hill flagstone for the patio and Unilock Brussels Dimensional bluestone caps on the walls and pillars. Be sure to attend the family-friendly Garden Shows at all four Adams’ locations and get a taste of Spring!
by Cheryl Hearty
Everyone who has a garden or lawn has faced weed problems at one time or another. Weeding is arguably the least favorite part of gardening, most likely because it is needed all season long. How can you reduce the number of hours spent weeding? Knowledge and persistence are the keys. Know thine enemy and you will have the advantage. My favorite book for weed identification is “Weeds of the Northeast” by Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal and Joseph M. Di Tomaso. It has great color photos of the weeds, including seedlings and flowers. Know that weed control is an ongoing effort and that there are many things you can do to keep them under control.
So, we have to begin with defining the enemy. What is a weed? It is simply defined as a plant growing in a place you do not want it to. Weeds can be naturally occurring or they may be introduced. They can be brought in by animals who have ingested and passed the seeds or have seeds stuck in their fur that drop off. Gardeners who have worn a fleece jacket or sweater in the garden have seen how easily weed seeds can hitchhike. Sometimes weeds come in deliveries of topsoil or in the soil of plants shared by friends. Weeds can also come from compost that didn’t get hot enough to kill weed seeds. Sometimes, much to the chagrin of new gardeners, plants they purchase can become weeds. There are many commonly sold perennials that either reseed heavily or are aggressive spreaders. It is good to research the characteristics of every plant before adding them to your garden. An aggressive spreader might work very well in a large area that you need quick coverage but would be considered a weed in a mixed perennial border.
Like your garden plants, weeds can be annuals, biennials or perennials. Annuals complete their life cycle in one year, biennials in two years and perennials can live for more than 2 years. Most annual and biennial weeds are prolific seeders. The secret to controlling them is to remove them before they flower and set seeds. Weed seeds are often long lived and can stay dormant in the soil for decades. Perennial weeds have strong root systems that help them deal with any adversity. Those with deep taproots are drought tolerant. Those that send out underground rhizomes have extensive root systems. In either case, if you weed and leave any roots intact, they will regenerate. Plus, if left untended, they can also bloom and set seed like the annuals and biennials.
When considering options for controlling weeds, always opt for the least toxic method first. Hand pulling is the first line of attack. Weeds are easier to pull if the soil is moist. Tools can be very helpful to loosen plants, especially those with taproots. Weeds can also be smothered when creating a new garden bed. You can cut them back and cover them with layers of newspaper or cardboard, followed by a layer of organic matter, such as compost. Cut holes in the paper or cardboard for plants.
Choosing whether or not to use herbicides is a personal decision. You should always read and follow the directions carefully. They should never be used when there is a breeze, as they can drift and damage desirable plants. Timing is an issue too. If applied at the wrong part of the season, they may be ineffective, wasting money and possibly contaminating the environment unnecessarily. More than one treatment may be necessary. Types of herbicides include:
• Pre-emergents: these herbicides prevent weed seeds from germinating. An example of a pre-emergent herbicide would be crabgrass preventer. Once the seeds have germinated, these are ineffective.
• Selective: these herbicides are formulated to kill certain types of plants, such as broadleaf weeds or grasses. (By the way, there is no herbicide that can tell the difference between “good” and “bad” plants.)
• Non-selective: these herbicides will kill or damage any plants they are sprayed on. They are often used to clear large areas of weeds or used on woody plants like poison ivy.
Once you have removed the weeds, PREVENTION is the key to keeping them under control. If you follow good preventative practices, each year you will have less of a problem than the year before. Key practices for reducing weeds are:
• Mulch bare soils: There are many types of mulches, which include organic materials like wood chips, shredded leaves or straw as well as synthetics like landscape fabric or plastic mulches.
• Improve growing conditions: Weeds are opportunistic. They are very adaptable and grow in what might be stressful conditions for desirable plants. Make sure you plant the right plant in the right spot. If it is healthy and vigorous, it can outcompete the weeds. This is especially true of turf grasses. Don’t cut the grass too short and use a mulching mower blade to return clippings back to the lawn to improve soil quality and fertility.
• Spacing: Properly space so there aren’t large gaps in between plants. As the plants grow, they will shade the soil, reducing weeds and saving water!
• Diligence: Remove any weeds as soon as they appear. A quick sweep through the garden once a week is best.
Cheryl Hearty is the Community Horticulture Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension, Dutchess County. Visit http://www.ccedutchess.org for more information.
by Luanne Panarotti
When I was a child, one of my favorite places to play was alongside a shrub tucked into the semi-shade of our backyard. This shrub had a certain magic about it; its flowers were impossibly maroon-brown, the petals stiff, not silky. Best of all, these other-worldly blooms gave off a delicious aroma, like melons, strawberries, pineapple. Sometimes, I would pluck off a flower or two to carry around in my pocket, pulling them out to breathe in the luscious smell.
At times throughout my adult life I thought about that wonderful shrub, never encountering another, and began to wonder whether it had been a figment of my youthful imagination. Then, joining the staff at The Phantom Gardener, I rediscovered it, very real and in the yard: Calycanthus floridus, known by the common name Sweetshrub or Carolina Allspice. An old-fashioned heirloom, it produces its first flowers on naked stems, continuing its perfumed offering as the lustrous deep green leaves emerge and into late spring.
Planting a Calycanthus is one way to quickly add beauty and fragrance to your landscape. “Take a chance on something more festive than forsythia,” advises Phantom co-owner Norbert Lazar. “If you want to add instant interest to your landscape, look to the many wonderful native shrubs. They’re underused, easy to grow, and very wild-life friendly, offering food, shelter and nesting spots for songbirds, pollen and nectar for butterflies and bees.”
Some of the loveliest native shrubs offer food for the human animal as well. The Highbush Blueberry, (Vaccinium corymbosum) has many desirable attributes, in addition to its delectable fruit: lustrous blue-green foliage, pink-tinged bell-shaped flowers favored by Monarch butterflies, wonderful fall color. The American Cranberrybush (Viburnum trilobum) produces lacy, pristine flowers in spring, spectacular autumn color and brilliant red fruits that persist into late winter. Spreading to form a living fence, the American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) has gracefully arching branches, and fragrant clusters of creamy, star-shaped flowers in summer followed by dark purple berries.
Bee populations have been severely impacted in recent years by pesticides, mite infestations and habitat loss. Plant shrubs of particular interest to bees and you will be rewarded not only with lovely plants, but also with the gentle hum of these important pollinators at work. Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) provides a crucial first meal for emerging honeybees, with tiny yellow-green flowers blooming along bare branches in spring. Plant a Lindera of each sex to achieve brilliant scarlet fruit amid the bright yellow fall foliage.
Another bee favorite is Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), with fragrant white flowers in finger-like racemes that wave delicately above textured foliage. Similar in its lovely flowering is Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), an easy-to-grow native that thrives in heavy shade, full sun, wet or dry soils. The cultivar ‘Henry’s Garnet’ enhances the fall landscape with its brilliant reddish-purple foliage.
Fothergilla’s honey-scented flowers occur in unusual bottlebrush inflorescences, and its dark blue-green leaves turn shades of bright yellow, orange and red in the fall, with all colors represented on a single leaf. If you’re looking for an impressive shrub to colonize a large area, Lazar recommends the Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora). Its eight to twelve-inch inflorescences contain hundreds of white flowers with pink stamens, all held upright above beautifully textured foliage that turns a rich yellow in the fall. It prefers moist, well-drained soil, but flowers abundantly in both shade and sun.
A nostalgic addition to any landscape is Hydrangea arborescens, a lovely mounding shrub that’s perfect for the mixed border. Newer cultivars have enhanced the showiness of this native, as seen in the huge white blooms of the “Annabelle’ hydrangea, or the even larger mopheads of the ‘Incrediball.’ Both will take as much as 3⁄4 shade, and will bloom from June well into fall, offering bountiful cut flowers that can be enjoyed fresh or dried.
This year, I’m going to buy a Calycanthus, and find just the right spot for it in my own backyard. My children are a bit too old to play games of pretend within the embrace of its delicious perfume. But maybe someday, I’ll find some of its sweet blossoms tucked into a grandchild’s pockets.
Luanne Panarotti fills her days with work at The Phantom Gardener, preaching at area churches, mothering, cat wrangling, and cryptic crosswords.
by Luanne Panarotti
While I slept you stood in the
colorful night market
with pyramids of bright
fruit piled high
Where those who loved you,
rushing back to their intimate stalls,
held out pears that had been
dreamed for you…
The juicy Comice, a classic foil for a crumble of tangy blue cheese. The petite and freckled Forelle, sized for tucking into a lunch sack with a sandwich of Black Forest ham and swiss on pumpernickel. The brown-skinned Bosc, its crisp, honeyed flesh perfect for nestling into a crust of buttery pate brisee. The d’Anjou, adding unexpected citrusy notes to a salad of peppery arugula. Each unique variety of pear is a perfumed delight on its own; each is elevated to a new culinary height when paired with a befitting complement.
The pear trees themselves benefit from pairing as well. Plant a single tree, and it may yield some limited fruit; a Bartlett may even set a decent crop. For the most part, however, pear varieties are self-unfruitful. They need cross-pollination, with a pear of a different variety, in order to produce viable seed, which in turn leads to the development of the mature fruit.
People are a lot like pears (and not just those of us with somewhat regrettable body types). We can, without a doubt, achieve, create, accomplish things on our own. Some, like the Bartlett, may even be fairly successful at it. Most of us, however, do better in relationship. We can flower in the nurture of family and friends, or in the rich company of inspiring colleagues. And, if we are lucky enough to chance upon the right one, we can sometimes attain our best fruition in the intimate community of two.
Of course, it can’t be simply any pear tree, just as it can’t be simply any relationship. For cross-pollination, you need to plant a second tree that’s of a different, yet compatible, variety: a Bartlett with a d’Anjou, for example, or a Seckel with a Comice or Bosc. You need some diversity to keep things interesting, enough difference in genetic make-up to keep the resulting seeds from devolving into inbred weakness. At the same time, you need to make sure that there will be overlap in their flowering, that there’s enough commonality to make the relationship work. A Kieffer pear’s pollen is similar enough to be compatible with a Bartlett, and different enough for diversification; yet, the former’s flowers bloom too late to effectively share their pollen with the latter.
Our romantic partnerships need a sort of cross-pollination as well. We need some otherness to enrich us emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, to help us see that our thoughts and feelings are not the only way to view and interact with the world. In appreciating those differences, our imaginations are captured, our hearts and minds expanded, our relationship strengthened. By the same token, there needs to be some commonality – of values, of world view, of expectations – to provide a foundation on which the relationship can build.
Right now, snow is falling, laying a thick blanket over the contours of the landscape. Before long, however, vernal warmth will thaw the frosty earth, and it will be time to plant once again. Once the soil can be worked without it sticking to your shovel, dig two holes for your pear trees, as deep as the root balls and twice their diameter. Keep them far enough apart to allow limbs and roots to spread, yet close enough to ensure that bees will travel between them, bearing the pollen of each to the other. And sweetness will ensue.
Luanne Panarotti fills her days with work at The Phantom Gardener, studies at Yale Divinity School, mothering and cat wrangling.
by Brian PJ Cronin, photo by Kristen Cronin
There’s a frost warning on the television and a dozen deep green tomatoes in a brown paper bag on the counter. The beets and carrots were dug up two weeks ago, shriveled and worthless. The summer and winter squash vines that grew all season without bearing a single squash are withering away and it’s hard to feel sorry for them. The watering cans and long handled weeders have been stowed away, the cover crop laid down. If you’re still in the earth by now, you’re on your own.
Now is the time for quiet reflection, to gaze over the empty plots and contemplate the big questions. Namely, what the hell happened? Did we really do worse than last season, a season of blight, torrential rain, freezing temperatures, locusts, and rivers of blood? Did we really almost NOT sign up for a vegetable share in our local CSA this Spring, because we thought we’d be able to grow enough for ourselves this year? Thank goodness we did, or our June column would have been replaced with “We regret to inform you that we will no longer be running Brian and Kristen’s column as they recently starved to death and were eaten by their cats.”
And so we begin six months of Monday Morning Quarterbacking. The soil is still too dense. The fence is too short. The layout is too cramped. The rotation needs to be rearranged. We planted too much. We planted too little. Locusts.
We have shied away from using raised beds because trucking in soil from other places and growing on top of this tiny plot of land that we own seemed to miss the point. We wanted to get to know our own soil, taste our terroir. But now we know that our terroir hates us. Also, we’ve noticed that every single successful vegetable garden we’ve visited in the past two years has used raised beds. They have also had fences taller than ours. We have some building to do. It will take some time.
Probably more time than we have right now.
The perennial herb garden, which already seems like an old reliable friend, will stay where it is. But we will spend next year rebuilding the rest of the garden from scratch. We will carve out more of the yard so that the plants can be spaced out. We will look for sturdy, tall permanent fencing instead of whatever the big box stores have on sale that day. We will build raised beds, gates, cold frames. But what we will not be doing next season is planting. We do not want to rush ourselves to get things ready for Spring and end up with another year of stunted carrots. The only way to honor the time and effort we have already put into this is to now take the time to get things right.
Like all right decisions, this was not an easy one to come by. We will miss terribly the smell of tomato vines after the rain and the thrill of watching miniature peppers flower and swell. We will miss eating something that was still growing just a few minutes ago, and thinking about all the hard work that got that yellow crookneck from a seed to our plate. But if we want to have that experience more than a few times a year, despite planting dozens and dozens of plants, we will need to push ourselves to do better.
As much as we will miss enjoying the fruits of our labor, in the end the fruits are not the point. We think back upon watering the garden in the early morning dew as the sun crests over the mountain. Feeling the soil warm in our hands in the Spring. Weeding, putting things in order. How the necessities and chores of gardening has brought us just a little bit closer to the earth’s rhythms and cycles. We have enjoyed the labor as much as the fruits, and there is much work to be done.
Winter will come. The garden will sleep. We will dream.
Brian PJ & Kristen Cronin live in Beacon with their cats and garden. Check out their blog A Rotisserie Chicken and 12 Padded Envelopes on this site, and view more of their photos at www.flickr.com/teammoonshine.
by Luanne Panarotti
“Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’” The Talmud
Well, one good thing can be said about this summer’s drought: it sure kept the lawn from growing. As fall approaches, however, it’s time to devote a bit more attention to your turf to keep it healthier, and hopefully more self-sufficient, next year. Norbert Lazar of The Phantom Gardener offers the following tips:
Aerate Unlike our garden beds, the soil in our lawn areas is never cultivated. This, combined with foot traffic, leads to compaction of the soil, which in turn restricts the movement of air and water to the root zone. Aerating your lawn every other year will create more porous soil, and a more deeply rooted and vigorous lawn. Engine-powered aerators may be rented for large expanses; for smaller yards, purchase spiked aerator shoes or a foot press aerator, a fork-like tool that removes thin plugs of soil as you push it into the soil. Maybe you can convince your kids that it’s a new kind of pogo stick….
Renovate If you have some troublesome patches here and there in your lawn, now’s the time to overseed. Begin by mowing the areas as closely as possible, then raking up the clippings. Create a more receptive surface by scratching the soil with metal garden rake, then sow seed at twice the recommended amount. Apply a thin layer of topsoil or fine mulch, then water daily until germination.
When choosing grass seed, assess the conditions (e.g., sunlight, usage, etc.) and the level of maintenance you want to invest, then visit a reputable garden center for their recommendations. Using seed mixes rather than a monoculture will increase lawn diversity and, with it, resiliency. Blends of cool season plants such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye and fescues tend to work well in the northeast; another option is a “low-grow” mix of mounding fescues to minimize mowing.
Consider seed of endophyte-enhanced grasses. These grasses have a symbiotic relationship with an indwelling fungus, and tend to be more vigorous, drought tolerant, insect and disease resistant (one precaution: do not use endophyte-enhanced grasses where farm animals will graze, as they can become ill).
Fertilize Every time you cut your grass, you remove a portion of its photosynthesizing system, limiting its ability to produce its own nutrients. Leave clippings on the lawn, allowing them to return nutrients to the soil as they break down. Additionally, a bi-annual application of an organic fertilizer – once in fall, then again in spring – will give your lawn the boost it needs to stay greener and more resilient. Dr. Earth’s Lawn Fertilizer contains micorrhizae to enhance the absorption of nutrients; Organica’s Lawn Booster includes beneficial microbes to improve soil biology and corn gluten, which offers slow release nitrogen and inhibits crabgrass germination in the spring (do not apply corn gluten to areas that have been reseeded with grass until after the seed has germinated).
Perfect pH The pH of soil – a measure of its acidity or alkalinity – affects the availability of nutrients for the plants grown in it. For turf, the ideal pH is 6.8. Test soil using a purchased kit, or bring a sample to your county’s Cornell Cooperative Extension for more detailed analysis, then amend accordingly. If ph is too low, adding lime will make the proper adjustment; if too high, you can increase acidity by adding sulfur.
Turf Wars Your best defense against pests and weeds is a robust lawn; yet, despite your best efforts, problems will emerge. First of all – relax. A bit of crabgrass or a few brown patches shouldn’t lower your property value, or your self-esteem. Remove weeds manually, or spot treat with an organic solution. St. Gabriel Organics’ Burn Out II employs the caustic qualities of citric acid and clove oil to kill unwanted vegetation, while Pharm Solutions Organic Weed Killer uses food-grade cinnamon and rosemary oils. Be aware that these and other defoliants don’t know a dandelion from a delphinium, so be sure the spray comes in contact only with plants you want to eradicate.
The grubs that will emerge as next year’s Japanese beetles are already chomping away underground, severing grass plants from their root systems. They, in turn, attract predators such as voles and skunks in search of – well, some grub, who in the process of foraging will do their own damage to your lawn. Treat your lawn now with milky spore (a naturally occurring bacterium) or beneficial nematodes (which parasitize the grubs) to build up reserve forces in your fight against the pests.
One more time… With the weather moderating, you can lower your mower blades; about 2” is an appropriate height. End-of-season sales make it a good time to invest in a new mower; try a gas-free rechargeable, or better yet, go totally “green” with a manual mower.
Less is More Perhaps the most important thing to do when it comes to your lawn is decide how much you really need. “Lawn care can be the most labor and energy intensive of any gardening activity,” says Lazar. Consider letting your woodland edges naturalize, or replace turf with a walkable groundcover such as thyme. Carve out portions of lawn for beds of low-maintenance ornamental grasses, flowering shrubs or edibles. Bluegrass or blueberries? You be the judge….
Luanne Panarotti fills her days with work at The Phantom Gardener, preaching at area churches, mothering, cat wrangling, and cryptic crosswords.
by Brian PJ Cronin, photos by Kristen Cronin
Small sample size. Every baseball fan knows what it means in the Winter, and forgets what it means in the Spring.
Your team calls a kid up from the minor leagues with little fanfare but from the moment he first steps up to the plate it’s clear: Brother, this kid is a masher. He’s driving balls into the gap, over the opposite field fence, working deep into the counts. The coaches rave that he’s a natural born hitter, with the kind of skills you just can’t teach. Two weeks in the big leagues and his batting average is hovering just shy of .400. You’ve ordered his jersey, changed your email password to his name and number, and pasted his face onto your box of Wheaties. But the roar of the crowd that comes with every bases-clearing triple drowns out that little voice in the back of your head that keeps saying: Small sample size. It’s only been two weeks.
Sure enough, once the kid has amassed a nice body of work, the league catches up to him. They study him on film, figure out he can’t handle the inside heat, and start by drilling him up and in. Then sliders in the dirt, changeups that stop time, filthy stuff, and the kid whiffs at all of it. Eventually, he’s trudging back onto the shuttle to Buffalo or Wilkes-Barre, but it might as well be to oblivion. The announcers shake their heads and lean back in their chairs. “The book got out on the kid,” they say.
It’s no coincidence that baseball season and gardening season overlap. Both depend on warm weather and move at a glacial pace, and just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on both of them, the bottom drops out of a 3-2 slider and you’re walking back to the bench. Early success is not a guarantee of future returns.
photo by Kristen Cronin
For our first garden last year, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but we were able to coast by on rookie’s luck. This year despite better planning, more preparation, and warmer weather, there are days when we walk in our garden and wonder if we’re still playing the same game. Last year we had more cucumbers then we knew what to do with. This year the cucumber vines just sit there in a pile, refusing to climb up the trellises. Last year we had bushels of basil and mint; this year a swarm of mysterious copper-colored beetles that have resisted all attempts at identification flew in and chewed them down to the stalks. Last year our peppers grew slowly but still bore fruit. This year something has been digging them up. Our three-foot fence, not exactly the Green Monster, is no longer a deterrent.
It has the potential to get much worse. A suburban legend states that it takes deer three years to figure out how to jump your fence. Deep into our second year, there are mornings when we walk out to our garden in Beacon and see a scattershot clump of deer down the hill, staring at our garden hungrily, their brains furiously piecing together the final pieces of the puzzle.
It would appear that the book is out on us.
Brian PJ & Kristen Cronin live in Beacon with their cats and garden. Check out their blog A Rotisserie Chicken and 12 Padded Envelopes here on Hudson Valley Mercantile’s website, and view more of their photos at www.flickr.com/teammoonshine.
by Brian PJ Cronin, photograph by Kristen Cronin
Gone. Just days after we transferred three squash seedlings from our dining room to the garden, one of them was completely gone. No hoof prints, no sign of digging. The trellis was intact, but the seedling was missing. The perp may have not left any evidence, but it forgot the rule about not returning to the scene of the crime. As we looked out over the garden and tried to figure out our next move, a monstrous crow swooped down, plucked off two golden sage branches, and flew off.
The birds. The birds were against us. Well, it’s not like Hitchcock didn’t warn us.
We wrapped the trellises with twine, but still they found their way inside. We hung CDs from the trellises so that sunlight reflecting off of them would scare the birds away. It was nice to finally find a use for those terrible Wu-Tang side projects, but the crows were undeterred and the seedlings kept vanishing. It was time to unleash the big guns. We opened the front door and let Dusty out.
Dusty is our eldest cat. He is the only one we let outside because he is, to be blunt, the only one smart enough to find his way back. We had been trying to keep him inside since he has a habit of bringing back fleas and ear mites with him, but perhaps a Dusty-free yard was just the opportunity the crows had been looking for. We pointed him in the direction of the garden so that he could act as a living scarecrow. He took off for the garden, and the birds scattered to the trees.
We never thought he’d actually catch one, because birds can, you know, fly, which Dusty can not (last we checked). But the next day, he trotted up to us with a dead Eastern Kingbird clenched firmly between his jaws. Not a crow. We probably should have shown him a picture of the suspect before we hired him for the case. Despite the mistake, we petted him and praised him, which is what you’re supposed to do when your cat brings you a gift. If you scold him, your cat will interpret your displeasure as being unimpressed, and resolve to catch something bigger. The last thing we need is to find Dusty dragging a Chihuahua down the street.
We were not thrilled with Dusty’s gift, but getting upset with him would have been useless. He’s a cat. We pointed him in the direction of some birds. Our intention may have been to have him simply frighten the birds off, but it would have been naïve of us to assume that those were Dusty’s intentions as well.
We may pride ourselves in trying to grow organically and bio-dynamically, but sometimes in order to work with nature you have to fight back. If we did not have a fence, the deer would pick our garden clean in twenty minutes. The birds are just trying to eat and build nests, and our cat is simply following his natural instincts. We are all just trying to survive. All of our food, even the things we don’t grow, is at the expense of other life. Whether it’s the hungry deer that are fenced off from our CSA, the groundhogs who have their warrens plowed over by tractors, or the cows on our local farms who are destined for the slaughterhouse. They may be humanely raised and grass-fed, but they still have to die in order to feed us.
None of us like to think about this much. Joseph Campbell famously wrote that all primitive religions arose from this “shock of the food chain”; the realization that our ancestors had that without the death of others, there would be no life for us. Modern life has made it very easy for us to ignore this fact, as the majority of us are totally cut off from the production of our food. The dead bird at our feet was a potent reminder of this. Maybe that was Dusty’s real gift after all.
Brian PJ & Kristen Cronin live in Beacon with their cats and garden. Check out their blog A Rotisserie Chicken and 12 Padded Envelopes on this site and view more of their photos at http://www.flickr.com/teammoonshine.
by Luanne Panarotti, photo by Luc Viatour http://www.lucnix.be
The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand. ~ Frederick L. Knowles
As children, my cousin and I spent most summer nights catching lightning bugs in our adjoining backyards. We’d punch holes in the lids of mayonnaise jars, gradually filling them with our quarry, and then sit in a hammock to enjoy the gentle glow of the makeshift lanterns. Eventually, when parents and bedtime beckoned, we would reluctantly release the bugs, only to begin the hunt again the following evening.
Recapture the magic of nighttime spent in the backyard. With long work hours and sweltering daytime heat, most of us find ourselves finally getting to enjoy our summer gardens in the evening. Why not create a moon garden near porch or patio, with plants that reveal their true charm after dark? In the delicate radiance of moonlight, bright colors turn to black, while pale blooms and variegated leaves glow; fragrant plants perfume the evening air, enticing nighttime pollinators.
Plants that shine once the sun has set
For a stunning focal point in your moon garden, start with an unusual Wolf Eyes dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’). This compact, spreading tree has large, pristine flower bracts in spring and soft green leaves with prominent white margins; in fall, the foliage turns a lovely pinkish-red.
For shrubs, choose from many white-blooming hydrangeas, including the Snowflake oakleaf hydrangea (Hyd. Quercifolia ‘Snowflake’), the popular Annabelle (Hyd. arborescens ‘Annabelle’) or the White Dome (Hyd. arborescens ‘Dardom’), whose clouds of blooms drift above deep green leaves; its flowers are perfect for both fresh and dried arrangements, and will add winter interest to the garden. Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is a native with sweetly-scented white flowers in racemes that wave above the leafy shrub, followed by peppercorn-like fruit capsules.
For perennials, there are endless choices. White swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ‘Ice Ballet’) attracts butterflies galore by day and glimmers by night. Radiant David garden phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘David’) offers fragrant, tubular blooms from June through September, resisting both deer and the powdery mildew that often plagues phlox. Various cultivars of false spirea (Astilbe x arendsii) put on a snowy floral display in shady areas, with feathery plumes waving above deeply-cut foliage; try ‘Deutschland’, ‘Bridal Veil’ or ‘Snowdrift’. White catmint (Nepeta x faassenii ‘Alba’) draws hummingbirds, bees and butterflies to its fragrant stalks of flowers, while its aromatic foliage will have a euphoric effect on your cat.
For the edge of your moon garden, try one of the variegated hostas; ‘Blazing Saddles’ has medium green leaves, edged in cream. Silver Brocade artemisia (A. stelleriana ‘Silver Brocade’) produces dense mounds of finely-cut, frosted foliage with a gentle fragrance, the felt-like leaves adding texture as well as shimmer.
For ongoing interest, incorporate long-blooming annuals and other tender plants. The dramatic woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) sends up towering stems through basal rosettes of enormous green leaves; the slender, luminous flowers have a relaxed elegance by day, and a heavenly perfume by night. Cleome hasslerana has heavily-scented, spidery blooms held aloft on tall stalks of narrow, dark green foliage; try the ‘Sparkler’ cultivar for a more compact presentation. Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is a climber that can reach 15 feet in a season, its pale, fragrant flowers opening at dusk from midsummer to frost. Alocasia x amazonica ‘Polly’, known as African mask or Amazon elephant’s ear, is a striking tropical with large glossy leaves and dramatic lime-white veining; lift plants from the garden to enjoy inside for the winter.
Maintaining and enhancing your evening garden
As with any gardens, take an organic approach to caring for your plants, and do likewise when warding off nuisance insects. Treat your yard with products such as Ecosmart’s Organic Mosquito and Tick Control spray or granules. For individual protection, Neptune’s Harvest Best Yet spray and Liquid Net’s Ultimate Insect Repellent employ cedar oil to fend off pesky biters, and can safely be used on children and pets.
Some accessories can enhance the comfort and beauty of your outdoor space. Consider a cozy bench or swing from which to view your garden, or a fire pit to bring the rustic warmth of a campfire right to your patio. Soji Solar lanterns add Asian-inspired appeal, turning themselves on by night to cast a festive glow without the hassle of electrical cords – or the need to chase after all those lightning bugs….
Luanne Panarotti fills her days with work at The Phantom Gardener, preaching at area churches, mothering, cat wrangling, and cryptic crosswords.