Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) provides nectar and food for many pollinators, moths, butterflies and aphids in the sustainable landscape.

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) provides nectar and food for many pollinators, moths, butterflies and aphids in the sustainable landscape.

Creating and looking at landscapes in a sustainable way is coming to the forefront much the same way that organic foods, farmers’ markets and eating locally sourced foods have gained traction with the general public over the last ten years. Albeit, the idea of sustainable landscapes has a long way to go before it is has any degree of acceptance like the previously mentioned buzzwords in the minds of today’s consumers. Chiefly to be accepted, the idea of sustainable landscapes needs to have a common definition and a broad enough scope that it can be applied to many different types of gardens on a wide range of scales from home garden to municipal parks. Sustainable landscapes, if they are thought of in a “do no harm, repair previous harm” way, can be created by most (if not all) gardeners. This expansion of the definition in a broader and more encompassing way makes sustainable landscaping approachable for many more gardeners (who hopefully will become staunch supporters of the idea).
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has stepped up and created a definition of sustainable landscaping that is broad and encompassing, and makes sense. On their website they say, “Sustainable landscapes are responsive to the environment, re-generative, and can actively contribute to the development of healthy communities. Sustainable landscapes sequester carbon, clean the air and water, increase energy efficiency, restore habitats, and create value through significant economic, social and, environmental benefits.” Nothing in this ASLA definition of sustainable landscapes precludes even the smallest garden.
With that definition, many gardeners can now champion the idea that sustainable landscapes are regenerative, restore healthy communities, and create value. But how do we evaluate sustainable landscapes, certify that it is being done, and reward those who are doing it? This is where the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) comes in. This program was developed by the United States Botanic Garden, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the ASLA. The SITES definition of a sustainable site includes the following: “Like green buildings, sustainable sites use less energy, water and natural resources; generate less waste; and minimize the impact on land compared to conventional design, construction and maintenance techniques. Yet unlike buildings, sustainable sites can give back by cleaning air and water, sequestering carbon, reducing pollution, restoring habitat and biodiversity – all while providing significant social and economic benefits to the immediate site and surrounding region.”

Certified Sustainable Landscapes

As of December, 2014, 34 landscape projects have been SITES certified with a rating of one to four stars, based on their sustainable features and practices. A four-star rating was granted to Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), in Pittsburgh, PA.

Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

A 4,000 square foot lagoon holds stormwater and uses plants to filter the runoff at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh

Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

Marsh plants provide a habitat for wildlife and act as filters for the stormwater runoff at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes

Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh is the first four star (top rated) SITES certified project.

Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

Chamaecrista fasciculata (Partridge Pea), planted in masses at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, is an annual legume native to eastern United States. It is a good cover to prevent erosion, produces nectar for bees and adds nitrogen to the soil.

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes is the first and so far the only project to receive the program’s highest level – a four-star SITES certification for the building and landscape that surrounds it. The 3-acre site was formerly a paved, city public works maintenance yard with low concentrations of hazardous waste in the soil. Challenges on the site included brownfield damaged soils, a steep bluff with erosion issues, and previous dumping areas for construction waste and urban fill. The site now manages sanitary waste, has a LEED Platinum certified green building, has reintroduced 150 native plant species, and has net-zero energy and water use. A 4,000 square foot storm water lagoon, surrounded by a boardwalk, is the focal point of the landscape design and can accommodate up to 3.3 inches of rain in twenty-four hours. Rain gardens, a green roof, and compost tea use have been incorporated in the landscape.

Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

Looking down from the rooftop garden at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh at the stormwater lagoon and terraced landscape.


Challenges that were overcome at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes site included brownfield damaged soils, a steep bluff with erosion issues, and previous dumping areas for construction waste and urban fill.

The achievements at this site, open for public visitation at the Phipps Conservatory, are impressive. They are generating all of their own energy, treating and reusing all water captured on site, just use rainwater for irrigation, have installed permeable paving, have a wetland water treatment system, have Net Zero Energy Building Certification, LEED Platinum Certification, WELL Platinum Pilot Certification (a protocol for measuring human wellness in a building).


The green roof gardens conserve energy, slow rainwater and attract wildlife. Planting beds on the roof of the building have 8″ of soil depth to allow for optimum plant growth.



The roof of the Center for Sustainable Landscapes houses an energy recovery unit (background) and garden. The green roof retains 85% of the annual rainfall.


Phipps Conservatory and the Center for Sustainable Landscapes are open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm daily (later hours on Fridays). The Conservatory is surrounded by Schenley Park and near the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Museums and the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Phipps Conservatory, One Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 (412) 622-6914 (phone).

Bird-Friendly Winter Gardens

Gardening for the Birds

Nothing helps relieve that “cabin fever” feeling during a long winter better than gazing out the window and watching birds play tag at the feeder or feeding on savory seeds plucked straight from your shrubs. Making your property more bird-friendly can attract and keep birds longer and create a pleasing landscape for you to enjoy too. For birds to make their winter residence in your garden, they need to have the basics: food, shelter and water. Shelter is easily managed with a few evergreen or conifers to provide protection from winter winds, ice and snow. Providing food and water is decidedly more challenging for birds when temperatures drop below freezing and the snow starts to pile up. Designing a garden to be bird-friendly during the winter months is no more difficult than designing an attractive year-round garden that contains persistent berries and seeds.

A bird-friendly garden (at any time of the year) can be accentuated by using a diverse group of native plants, designed so there are many layers of dense plants to attract a wide spectrum of ground dwelling to treetop birds. The ideal backyard bird habitat also has limited open areas where birds are exposed to predators and contains feeding stations, birdhouses and watering holes. A tidy garden where every inch is trimmed, blown, raked or swept leaves little of interest for birds. For birds, messy is better – so leave some dead branches upon which to perch, seedheads for food, and leafy debris to entice insect food.

Blue Jay in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario Canada

Blue Jay in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario Canada

Get to know the birds that stay around during the winter and their food preferences. This will allow you to select the best mix of plants for your landscape and maximize the food potential that your plants give. Observe which birds like to frequent the ground level, which ones prefer thorny shrubs or conifers and who likes to perch up high? Designing your garden with the favorite foods of your winter season birds will pay off with a steady stream of avian friends. For ground-level birds like mourning doves, juncos, sparrows and towhees consider planting perennials with overwintering seedheads, ornamental grasses and low shrubs like chokeberry or gray dogwood. For birds that like to be at shrub-level such as cardinals, finches and jays plant larger shrubs or small trees like bayberry, winterberry, sumac or vernal witch-hazel. To attract treetop birds such as the titmice, goldfinches or chickadees plant hackberry, hawthorn or conifers (also for tree trunk frequenting birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches or wrens).

Overall, though, design a garden that suits you. Don’t select all wild, natural shrub forms if a formal garden is what you want. There are still lots of formal-looking plants that are bird friendly if a formal garden style is what you want.

Female Northern Cardinal in the garden. Photo by GeoffClark

Female Northern Cardinal in the garden. Photo by GeoffClark

Don’t worry that you can’t include a favorite food plant for every bird that might visit your garden. The National Bird-Feeding Society reports that there are over 100 species of birds that visit bird feeders throughout the United States. You can’t attract a huge variation of birds from owls to hummingbirds to orioles to bluebirds to a small property. It’s not possible to get all the plants (food sources) and environments perfect for such a diverse group of birds. Narrow your garden design plan down to target the birds that are common visitors to your area and the ones that you like best.

In addition, don’t forget that using organic growing methods and non-toxic cleaning products and building materials outdoors will benefit your avian visitors.

Tips For a Bird-friendly Winter Garden

  1. Create several vertical layers of plants to attract a diverse range of birds.

Groundcover layer: mosses, partridgeberry

Perennial layer: thistle, golden rod, columbine, ornamental grasses


Appropriate for the perennial layer is the attractive Columbine plant which produces seeds that attract birds in the garden.


Shrub layer: dogwoods, nannyberry, spicebush, witchhazel, viburnums, sumac, cotoneaster, pyracantha, mountain ash, junipers, flowering dogwood, weigela, bayberry, roses, quince, winterberry

Staghorn sumac seedhead photographed in Hamilton, Ontario Canada

Staghorn sumac seedhead photographed in Hamilton, Ontario Canada

Vines: grapes, Virginia creeper (if it isn’t invasive in your area)

Tree canopy: crabapples, pine, spruce, fir, maples, elms, oaks

  1. Select a variety of plants that will provide food during the fall and winter months.

For the fall migration season, many southbound birds such as the thrushes, vireos, warblers and tanagers need fatty fruits to build up reserves for the long flight ahead. Good fruiting shrubs include dogwood, spicebush and mapleleaf viburnum.

For the overwintering birds, such as the finches, sparrows and waxwings, persistent fruits are needed when food supplies become scarce because of snow cover. Shrubs such as winterberry, snowberry, sumacs, viburnums and highbush cranberry will hold their fruit into the winter for birds.

For early spring, northward migrating birds such as bluebirds, robins and thrashers need persistent food (or uncovered food when the snow and ice melt) such as conifer seeds, bayberry, hawthorns, crabapples and sumac fruit.

  1. Plant clumps or groups of the same species so that good pollination takes place. This is especially important for dioecious plants such as hollies, bittersweet vines, fringe tree, spicebush, and mulberries with separate male and female plants. For larger dioecious trees such as mulberry, willow, and ash planting more than one may not be an option, so determine (if you can) that your plant is female and will produce fruit and not a male that will only produce pollen.
  2. Include some conifers or evergreens to provide shelter for birds to roost and safely ride out winter storms.
  3. Avoid using invasive non-native plants that crowd out native plants and reduce landscape diversity. These include avoiding using Norway maple, Chinese privet, European buckthorn, Oriental bittersweet, white mulberry and purple loosestrife.
  4. Plant spiny plants (such as evergreen holly or thorny barberry) under feeding stations to deter predator animals. Also consider putting squirrel baffles on bird feeders to keep squirrels and cats away.
  5. Include a year-round source of water for birds to drink and bath in. During below freezing weather use a heater to keep ice from forming on top of the water. Place the water 10 feet away from dense shrubs that could hide predators, close to an electrical outlet and hose, and in view of your windows. If heating the water is not an option, don’t worry, birds can get their daily allotment of water from their food and snow, but this requires a lot of energy for them.
  6. Put out bird feeders to supplement natural food. Keep feed replenished in the feeder so that wild birds become accustomed to finding food there. Set up feeders (more than one will be needed to provide the different mixes of feed needed to attract several bird groups) in late fall and maintain them through early spring until natural food sources are plentiful again.
Red-headed woodpecker at the bird feeder

Red-headed woodpecker at the bird feeder

About Commercial Birdseed Mixtures …

There is a considerable difference between commercial seed brands – both in what they contain and the birds they attract. The season that you are feeding should also determine what food is provided since bird needs change with their activities. Watch for commercial brands that have been bulked out with fillers like beans, cracked corn, wheat, milo, red millet, dried rice, lentils and halved peas. Only some larger birds can eat these dry ingredients. Oats in the birdseed mixture are also a nuisance to clean up below the feeder. The better ingredients to have in birdseed mixtures are sunflower seeds, and corn or peanut granules which all have a high fat content.

Mix Your Own Winter Bird Feed

Instead of purchasing commercial pre-mixed birdseed which may have a lot of filler, you can custom mix your own. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology suggests the following make-it-yourself recipe:

25 lbs black oil sunflower seed

10 lbs white proso millet

10 lbs cracked corn

Mix in a clean garbage can with a broom handle. Cover tightly to keep out water and rodents.

In addition, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology suggests that birds will relish leftover squash, pumpkin or melon seeds even more than black oil sunflower seeds. Just spread the harvested seeds out on trays to air dry. Once dry, they are ready to put out for the birds. Smaller birds will have trouble eating the bigger seeds and so the seeds can be run through a food processor first to make them easier to eat. The Cornell Lab also suggests that “Birds such as robins, thrushes, bluebirds, and waxwings don’t usually show up at feeders because seeds are not a major component of their diet. But you can still tempt them to dinner with an offering of fruit. Soften dried raisins and currents by soaking them in water, then offer them at your feeding station. Mockingbirds, catbirds, tanagers, and orioles will also find sliced fresh fruit attractive. You can offer fruit on a platform feeder or simply on a plate on the ground.” For more in winter bird feeding, including a handy chart given the preferred and readily eaten commercial seeds that the common winter birds eat, visit

Seed eaters (siskins, sparrows, grosbeaks, redpolls and crossbills) will also eat suet but prefer unsalted sunflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts or chips, thistle/niger (Nyjer) seeds, raw crushed peanuts, millet and wild grains.

Insect feeders (chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers) should have animal fats, peanut butter (mixed with melted animal fat and cornmeal or rolled oats to cut down on the stickiness) or suet. Don’t use a mesh bag to hang your suet (birds can get trapped in the mesh).

Fruit-eating birds (pine grosbeaks and bohemian waxwings) rarely visit feeders but when the snow covers their natural food source (highbush viburnum, blueberries or dogwood berries) they will resort to a feeder if grapes, apples, banana slices or softened raisins are present.

And lastly, don’t forget to give birds some grit. In the winter when snow cover is prevalent, birds still need to eat grit to grind their food. So frequently put out some crushed eggshells, course sand, or commercial grit.

What is Niger/Nyjer?

The shiny, black oilseeds that finches adore was originally called niger for more than 40 years (named for the area that the African yellow daisy (Guizotia abyssinica) plant that produces the seed originally grew). The name was changed to Nyjer (and trademarked) in 1998 by the Wild Bird Feeding Industry to help clarify the pronunciation. Purple finches, goldfinches, song sparrows, pine siskins, buntings, redpolls, juncos and mourning doves readily eat Nyjer, a seed that is high in calories and oil content.

The prolific flower is commercially grown in Africa, India, Myanmar and Nepal. It is heat treated upon arrival in the U.S.A. to prevent selfseeding and weed seed germination (this APHIS requirement was put into place in 1985 after a shipment was found to be contaminated with dodder, a Federally designated noxious weed).

Nyjer is around 35% fat, 18% protein, 18% fiber and 12% moisture and since it has such a high oil content it can go rancid quickly. If it has an off smell or birds don’t flock to it, it may have gone bad. Sunflower and safflower seeds and other nuts can also turn rancid if stored too long or in a hot location.

Nyjer feeders have very small holes to prevent the seed from running out and limit birds to just one seed per visit. The holes are often placed below the perch for upside-down feeding (an acrobatic feat that is easy for goldfinches and pine siskins). Mesh or socks are also popular inexpensive feeders. The thick mess made by the hulls under a Nyjer feeder can often choke out grass and perennials.

After 20 years of research, Glenn Page has developed two EarlyBird varieties of Guizotia abyssinica that have short maturation requirements and are now commercial crops that are being grown in Minnesota and other North American locations. These niger seeds are frequently sold live and are not required to be heat treated to kill weed seeds like the imported types.


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, phone: 800-843-2473, website:

Wild Bird Feeding Industry, P.O. Box 502, West End, NC 27376, phone: 888-839-1237, website

Titan Arum, the World’s Tallest Flower Blooming at Niagara Parks

Update on May 28th.

Morph is blooming! The flower started to open about 9:00 pm on May 27th with the spathe unfurling to reveal a beautiful maroon colour inside. By the next morning, the full glory of the spathe could be seen.

The Titan Arum in full bloom at 8:00 am on May 28th, 2014 at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse.

The final height at blooming was recorded at 96 inches (2.4 m). And yes, the Corpse Flower name really does apply to this flower. As Morph opened, the putrid smell of decaying flesh got more intense – especially when climbing a ladder to get a top down photo!

The female flowers can be seen through a cut out window of the Titan Arum bloom at Niagara Parks. Male pollen from Ohio State’s Titan Arum was used to cross pollinate the flower this morning in the hopes the

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The Hydrangea Show at the Floral Showhouse

The Hydrangea Show at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse

In May the floral show is all pinks, blues, purple and white in the Floral Showhouse during the Hydrangea Show.


The Hydrangea Show at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse features hydrangeas (naturally), delphiniums, foxgloves and fuchsia. A beautiful combination of calming pinks, blues and white blooms.

The Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse is just south of the Falls on the Niagara Parkway, in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada. More details are at the Niagara Parks website.

The Easter Show at the Floral Showhouse

Easter and Spring are centre stage in the Floral Showhouse at Niagara Parks!

More than just plants, birds and turtles … chicks (and bunnies) too!

The Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse is just south of the Falls on the Niagara Parkway, in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada. More details are at the Niagara Parks website.

The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm

The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm: A Cultivator’s Guide to Small-Scale Organic Herb Production By Peg Schafer

The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm is the first cultivation guide of its kind and presents information for growers interested in producing high-quality efficacious herb in all climates, with the historical connectedness of ancient practitioners. It is becoming increasingly important that we transition to local and domestic medicinal cultivation and author Peg Schafer, a longtime grower and teacher has put together this manual of valuable information about the propagation, cultivation and harvesting of 79 Chinese medicinal herbs. Peg Schafer is recognized as one of the pioneers and leaders in the field of the cultivation of Asian herbs. Now eating your medicine is more accessible than ever.

Cultivating “Wild-Quality” Herbs

It’s an intern day at the Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm, and Peg Schafer is sitting down just long enough to

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Break Out of Your Hardiness Zone

The Launch of a New Garden Hardiness Zone Map

Are more gardeners developing a fixation for hardiness zones and comparing notes across the back garden fence? The recent launch of an updated plant hardiness zone map probably is causing more people to ponder the fine print on the plant label looking for the height, spread and hardiness zone details. Why the fixation with hardiness zones? Plant hardiness zones are valuable pieces of information that can save gardeners from lots of grief.

Not infallible, hardiness zones are far from 100% accurate though. There are restrictions in the types of data that are being used to create hardiness zones and most often these are just average minimum temperature weather records. It should be noted that plant hardiness involves so many more factors. Whether a plant survives the winter may be because it is growing in a microclimate right in your garden.


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Monet’s Passion

Monet’s Passion: Ideas, Inspiration & Insights from the Painter’s Garden By Elizabeth Murray

Monet designed this gracefully arched wooden bridge—a prominent feature of the water garden—to span a narrow part of his pond. The 18-foot structure was inspired by one of his Japanese woodblock prints. In 1911, following the devastation of major storms and flooding, he repaired and enlarged his water garden, adding the iron arbor. He planted the white Chinese wisteria on the lower handrails and the long lavender Japanese wisteria on the arbor; when in bloom, they create a canopy of lace. The reflections of the bridge are magnificent in the pond below.








Excerpt from Chapter One The Garden Monet Created “This is where Claude Monet lives, in this never-ending feast for the eyes. It is just the environment one would have imagined for this extraordinary poet of tender light

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The View from Great Dixter

The View from Great Dixter; Christopher Lloyd’s Garden Legacy Fergus Garrett, long faithful Great Dixter gardener, writes in the Preface: This book is centered around one incredible man and his way of life. Christopher Lloyd was born and lived most of his life at Great Dixter. He was an extraordinary character, a kind, generous, intelligent man who loved people but at the same time didn’t suffer fools gladly. His garden has remained a place of pilgrimage for adventurous gardeners throughout the world and his spirit and style lives on here and in his writing. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest garden writers and gardeners of all time and his influence is immense. His words in print remain his legacy and his influence is immense. His words in print remain his legacy and his influence burns bright in all of us he breathed life into. He changed our lives and

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75 Years of Horticultural Excellence in Niagara Falls

The Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture Celebrates 75 Years

Celebrating 75 years in 2011, the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture Lecture Hall and Administration Building

There have been a lot of weeds pulled, roses deadheaded, vegetables harvested and grass mown during seventy-five years of training horticulture students. But every so often, it’s time to take off the secateurs, put on walking shoes, and take a stroll to really delight in the beauty of a very special garden. The garden – the home of the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture.

Hundreds of plants skillfully arranged in containers greet visitors at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture during the summer to celebrate their 75th anniversary in 2011.

This school, unique in Canada sits on 100-acres (40 hectares) along the Niagara Parkway in Niagara Falls, Ontario and has been the living, teaching campus for more than

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Succulent Container Gardens

Succulent Container Gardens By Debra Lee Baldwin With their colorful leaves, sculptural shapes, and simple care, succulents are beautiful yet forgiving plants for pots. If grown in containers, these dry-climate jewels — which include but are not limited to cacti — can be brought indoors in winter and so can thrive anywhere in the world.

In this inspiring compendium, the popular author of Designing with Succulents provides everything beginners and experienced gardeners need to know to create stunning container displays of exceptionally waterwise plants. The extensive palette includes delicate sedums, frilly echeverias, cascading senecios, edgy agaves, and fat-trunked beaucarneas, to name just a few. Easy-to-follow, expert tips explain soil mixes, overwintering, propagation, and more.

Define your individual style as you effectively combine patterns, colors, textures, and forms. Discover how top designers interpret the dramatic options, in ideas ranging from exquisite plant-and-pot combinations to extraordinary topiaries and bonsai. Expand

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The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic

The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic By Sarah Hayden Reichard

“I believe that a garden ethic reflects the conscientiousness of those who care for land by nurturing gardens,” author Sarah Hayden Reichard writes in the Introduction to this book. She continues, “Gardeners revel in the beauty of a flower, the wonders of pollination turning that flower into a lovely or delicious fruit, the snap of a fresh pea pod picked from the vine and eaten on the spot. They are connected to their plot by a love of the living. But the garden ethic also arises from an increasing awareness that, over time, practices and products have crept into our craft that decrease its long-term sustainability. As we have moved from an agrarian society to one based in urban and suburban landscapes, we have lost contact with habits common to our ancestors—such as using naturally decomposing materials rather than

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Texas Peach Handbook

Texas Peach Handbook By Jim Kamas and Larry Stein An up-to-date guide for commercial and residential Texas peach growers . . . With an estimated one million trees producing almost fifty million pounds of fruit per year, Texas is a leading producer of peaches, and several popular seasonal festivals highlight the widespread enjoyment of and interest in this delicious, versatile fruit. In addition, a recent rise of interest in edible gardens and home fruit production has led more people to think about planting a peach tree in the yard — or paying closer attention to the one they already have. Jim Kamas and Larry Stein, drawing from their many years of experience and the best current research, provide authoritative advice for those who want to improve peach production, whether in a large commercial orchard or on a single tree in the back yard. With discussions ranging from site selection to

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Heirloom Bulbs for Today

Heirloom Bulbs for Today By Chris Wiesinger and Cherie Foster Colburn For those tired of high-maintenance and short-lived plants, Chris Wiesinger, “The Bulb Hunter” shares his knowledge of versatile, sustainable, and low-maintenance bulbs. Heirloom Bulbs for Today introduces the best of the bulb world, addressing common questions and explaining the characteristics, history and ways to use each bulb, whether in the landscape or the home. Chris teams with landscape designer and award winning author Cherie Foster Colburn (Our Shadow Garden) to offer an innovative look at old-fashioned flower bulbs. While most garden guides simply tell the culture of the plant, Heirloom Bulbs for Today also tells the culture of the people who grew the plant, unearthing each bulb’s past and those who loved it.

Gorgeous botanical illustrations and vivid photographs by South African artists Loela Barry and Johan Kritzinger add rich flavor to featured bulbs found flowering with abandon

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Heirloom Gardening in the South

Heirloom Gardening in the South: Yesterday’s Plants for Today’s Gardens By William C. Welch & Greg Grant

A new edition of the classic work, The Southern Heirloom Garden adds 300 more pages of valuable information about heirloom plants belong in Southern gardens. Tough and adapted, tried and true, pretty and useful, these living antiques – passed through countless generations – represent the foundation of traditional gardens as we know them today.

Heirloom Gardening in the South is a comprehensive resource that also offers a captivating, personal encounter with two dedicated and passionate gardeners whose love of heritage gardening infuses the work from beginning to end. Anyone who wants to know how to find and grow time-honored and pass-along plants or wants to create and nurture a traditional garden is sure to find this a must-have addition to their home gardening library.

A book excerpt: A Garden in the Wilderness,

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Slow Gardening

Slow Gardening: A No-Stress Philosophy for all Senses and Seasons By Felder Rushing

Thanks to the resurgence of home and community gardening, more and more people are discovering the pleasure of biting into a sun-ripened tomato picked right off the vine, the earthy smell of freshly turned soil, and the cheerful harbingers of spring such as daffodils, irises, and pansies. But they are also discovering that gardening can be a heck of a lot of work. So what happens when keeping up with the weeds turns into a full-time job? What do you do when gardening becomes stressful? Slow Gardening to the rescue! Inspired by Slow Food, an international movement that promotes local food systems and biological and cultural diversity, the slow-gardening approach can help us all appreciate and enjoy our gardens more, year in and year out.

Doing something slowly means savoring what you do. However, in just

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HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden in Rayong

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden

After arriving at the Exhibition Hall, the main entrance to the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden leads visitors to the Lotus Pond.

Just off Highway 36 southeast of Bangkok, on the way from Chon Buri to Rayong is a quiet sanctuary of botanical treasures. The HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden is wedge-shaped property with 20,000 herbal plants grouped into 20 sections by their use. Many of the plants represented on the 24 acres are those used in traditional Thai herbal knowledge. The gardens are designed using an array of meandering walks that gracefully unfold section after section in a pleasing voyage of discovery.

The main entrance to the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden.

One of many interesting plants in the herb garden, Pagoda Flower (Clerodendrum paniculatum var. paniculata)

This garden was the first herb-themed

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The Texas Tomato Lover’s Handbook

The Texas Tomato Lover’s Handbook By William D. Adams A garden-grown tomato sliced and laid across a grilled hamburger … Sweet, plump cherry tomatoes in a crisp, green salad … Sauce made from fresh tomatoes, ladled over a steaming bowl of pasta … Spicy tomato salsa … Savory tomato soup … Mmm, can’t you just taste those luscious tomatoes?

Is there any single vegetable as mouth-watering as the tomato? And yet, as thousands of people tired of mushy, half-green, and tasteless tomatoes bought from supermarkets have discovered, much more is involved in growing your own than simply putting a plant or two in the ground and expecting to harvest juicy, red tomatoes a few weeks later – especially in Texas!

Bill Adams, former Harris County Extension Agent draws on more than thirty years’ experience to provide a complete, step-by-step guide to success in the tomato patch. Growing good tomatoes requires

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Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden in Chiang Mai

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden entrance, in Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, Thailand

In a beautiful location nestled in the foothills of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Mae Rim in Chiang Mai province, in the northeast part of Thailand, Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden is a relative youngster among botanic gardens, having been established in 1993, but the 1,000 hectares has been planned well and shows good diversity even in its teenage years. Thais are proud of this garden, the first one in the country of international standard.

Loading the tram at the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden entrance

The tram ride from the front gate to the greenhouse complex was a delight (it also saved us an hour uphill walk) as we snaked up the hillside past ornamental gardens, paved walking trails and native woodlands.

The greenhouse complex at Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden

The glasshouse complex has 12 houses,

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A Few Favorite Spring Blooming Shrubs

What does it take to get on the top ten best shrubs list? One of the main reasons for growing shrubs is to have a plant that will look great in flower and contribute to the landscape during another season. This multi-season interest is important to become a top shrub. Shrubs that look great for two weeks in May while they are in bloom are nice, but a top shrub must have other characteristics to justify its status in the garden. These characteristics might include: vivid fall color, persistent or edible fruit, exfoliating bark, flower fragrance, or a striking architectural appearance. Surprisingly, some of the best shrubs may not be very familiar to gardeners. It is time for the secret to be revealed and more top shrubs put into gardens.

Glorious Forsythia suspensa in the spring

Forsythia is a shrub that heralds the arrival of spring for many

Continue reading … A Few Favorite Spring Blooming Shrubs