Posts Tagged ‘wildflowers’

Slow Gardening

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Okay, so I’ve been slow to add my two cents on “Slow, Easy, Cheap, and Green,” the piece on Felder Rushing’s adorable brand of “slow gardening,” which appeared in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago. But slow is the name of the game, right?

If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look. Felder is a hoot. The self-described “lounge lizard,” who hosts a weekly radio show on Mississippi Public Radio, is the bad boy in the otherwise boring world of “garden communicators.” Picture Jerry Garcia with a pitchfork, kicking back among his plastic pink flamingos and recycled tire planters when not driving his “container garden on wheels,” a beat-up brown-and-white Ford F150 pick-up truck with a garden planted in the back. The effect is circa 1966 commune, with the sweet scent of Cannabis wafting through the air.

Felder is the leading proponent of slow gardening, which of course was inspired by the slow food movement. The idea is to stop stressing out about the lawn. Pass up Echinacea ‘Mac ‘n’ Cheese’ ($21.95 a pop), or anything “NEW!” from the White Flower Farm catalog. (“I’m not into the latest and greatest,” Felder told the Times reporter, speaking of the dowdy ornamentals like gladiolas and dusty miller that fill his garden.) Channel your inner Dale Chihuly by creating bottle trees with Bud Lite bottles from your last barbecue. Grow lettuce in pots, instead of in the ground, for easy maintenance. (Best line in the article: Felder’s quip that “lettuce is embarrassingly easy to grow. I grew some in a hanging basket last year. All it took was a squirt of vinaigrette, and I didn’t even have to bend over to eat it.”)

I was just warming up to this vision of the good life when, in a most unfortunate bit of timing, Rick Griffin, a local landscape architect who, we learn, helps Felder with garden design, arrives on the scene. According to the Times, “The men stood in the garden, debating a design element to fill space around an art installation made of three large glass circles.”

Oops. Maybe Felder’s idea of gardening isn’t so laid back after all. I mean, forget about the gladioli and the container garden on wheels. If you really want to slow down, plant a native wildflower meadow if you have sun, or some native woodland shrubs, wildflowers, and ferns if you have shade trees on your property, then let nature take care of most of the maintenance. To keep yourself out of trouble, plant some fruits and veggies, preferably in containers or raised beds, by your kitchen door. And/or some potted flowers by the patio to attract butterflies and other pollinators for free entertainment all summer long.

Native Plants: A Green Industry View

Monday, April 6th, 2009

As anyone looking for native plants can attest, the selection available at the typical retail garden center is still pretty pitiful. According to Garden Center Magazine, last year 10 percent or less of the plants at about a third of retailers nationwide were natives. Only a fifth of all garden centers said that more than 50 percent of their plants were native. Why? What do wholesale and retail nursery owners think about the market for native plants and the best way to make it grow? 

Thanks to Robert F. Brzuszek and Richard L. Harkess, researchers at Mississippi State University, we have a snapshot of what they think, at least the nursery owners in six southern states. The two developed an email survey and sent it to members of the Southern Nursery Association. The survey results and recommendations are in the latest issue of HortTechnology, the journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science.

When asked why they carry native plants, the nursery owners cited client requests (25.6%), followed by ecological reasons (17.8%), the plants’ adaptability to difficult site conditions (16.3%), and their low maintenance requirements (13.2%). They said they believe customer interest in native plants is increasing and—native plant advocates take note!—they are very interested in finding more effective ways to market them. Among the ideas they came up with: Develop better information and more sources of information on native plants for the general public, especially specific marketing campaigns and point-of-purchase information. They also said that presentations and displays at nursery trade shows could help growers and retailers learn more about natives.

Sounds like native plant advocates and nurseries should put their heads together.

 

Linking Food & Native Plants: The Hybrid Yard

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Tom Springer writes:

To me, the logical approach (although certainly not novel) is to combine the two: promote the use of manageable and hardy native plants that are attractive, make for good landscaping, and are also edible! Service berries, gooseberries, wild strawberries, wild blueberries, and hazelnuts are some examples.

He points out, too, that native trees often seen as “weeds”—such as sassafras and hackberry—can be pruned and shaped to make attractive shade trees, and that these species are not hard to find, even locally. 

He suggests that we resist the temptation to be purists:

To really make this mainstream, I think we have to forgo the notion that most people are going to quit having a yard entirely, or pull out their tulip bulbs and grandma’s favorite lilac. What we’re really talking about is a hybrid yard, where people more and more get comfortable with natives. If we could increase by just 25 percent the amount of natives planted across a community, what a difference that would make! And, having natives that you can eat—and readily use for cut flowers, as is the case with prolific natives like black-eyed susans and purple coneflowers—seems like a great way to get started.

Enlisting the help of a landscape designer at a local mainstream nursery would make all of this a lot easier, says Tom. It would be a big help for people just getting interested in natives if such a person could draw up a basic landscape plan that includes plenty of native plants. ”Once they have a plan in hand,” he says, “people can fill it in as the seasons come and go, whenever they get the money or energy to plant more.” 

Public Garden Trend Alert—Virtual Flower Fixes

Friday, March 13th, 2009

As spring sweeps across the country, some public gardens are capturing the spectacle of blooms online. Anyone in need of a bluebonnet fix can check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Bluebonnet Cam, updated hourly. It’s too early to tell whether anyone will top Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s 2008 tour de force, a time-lapse video of 3,000 photos of its famous cherry tree collection—from the early buds to peak bloom—complete with original music.