Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Merry Christmas

and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Word Origins

While dusting book shelves, I came across an old book - Word Origins and Their Romantic Stories, by Wilfred Funk, 1978 edition.

I felt compelled to stop dusting. I was never fond of dusting anyway.

I paged through trying to find something romantic, or humorous, or fascinating and stumbled across the chapter “Word Histories of Your Garden.” A few excerpts, in 1978 style, follow:

Poinsettia – The Honorable Joel Roberts Poinsett of Charleston, South Carolina, was a distinguished diplomat, Secretary of War in Martin Van Buren’s cabinet . . . appointed special minister to Mexico. It was while there that he became attracted to the large, flaming flowers that we now know so well. He brought some of the plants back to the States and his name Poinsett gave us poinsettia.

Hydrangea – The seed capsule of these showy flowers is shaped like a cup or miniature water-vessel, and when we turn to our Greek lexicon we find the component parts of hydrangea in hydr-, “water,” and angos, “seed” or “capsule.” They look like a “water” cup.

Alyssum – A dainty plant of slender, silvery leaves interspersed with fragrant clusters of small golden or white flowers. The Greeks regarded the plant as a cure for madness and so called it alysson, a-, “not,” and lysa, “madness.”

Tulip – Again among the descriptive names is tulip which, with its showy colors and velvet texture, has somewhat the appearance of a turban. The word comes to us through the obsolete French word tulipan, from tulbend, the Turkish way of saying “turban.”

Other chapters include words about humans, war words, and words of attitudes and emotions, among others.

In the chapter “Where Words about Human Beings Come From”

Fool – Let those who talk too much take care, for the Latin word folis, which gave us fool, means “a windbag.”

I think I’ll go back to dusting.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


The Euphorbiaceae is a widely diverse group of plants having about 300 genera and 7,500 species – everything from invasive spurge through succulents to poinsettia. The plants often contain milky sap. I find the differences astonishing.

The familiar poinsettia pictured here is Euphorbia pulcherrima ‘Fismars’ (Mars™ Red). It is certainly a bright holiday plant.

Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost®' is an annual. The mature height is 12 to 18 inches. I would like to try it in some of my pots next summer. Since the plant is drought tolerant, has a cascading habit and likes full sun, it should do well in the pots on the deck.

All I have to do is find it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sustainable Landscapes

Another movement toward growing healthy plants and reducing the use of fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides is Sustainable Landscapes.

On November 1, 2007 a “Preliminary Report on the Standards & Guidelines Sustainable Sites Initiative TM” was published.
An impressive list of experts worked to create “. . . an interdisciplinary partnership to develop national, voluntary standards and guidelines for sustainable land development and management practices as well as metrics to assess site performance and a rating system to recognize achievement.”

As stated in the preliminary report:


“Establish Sustainable Sites as the standard which recognizes and provides direction for achieving sustainable land development and management through the creation and implementation of clear and rigorous design, construction, operations, and maintenance criteria.

Intended Audience

“The products of the Sustainable Sites Initiative provide tools for the land development and management industries to create positive change and lead the way to a sustainable future. The standards and guidelines are available for those who influence land practices to address increasingly urgent global concerns such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, and resource depletion. Sustainable Sites is intended to stimulate an open dialogue among a broad and diverse group of stakeholders.”

A few additional research projects and publications:

The National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and have combined efforts to create a sustainable, organic lawn area at the National Mall.

Virginia Cooperative Extension published a long Sustainable Landscape Management Series

In 2003, Rodale Institute and Pennsylvania State University started experiments with compost tea on crops.

(Picture: Longwood Gardens at dusk 12/4/07)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Integrated Pest Management


Integrated Pest Management - see

What it is.

A quote from Longwood Gardens:

“IPM does not simply mean that more pests must be tolerated or that pesticide applications should not be made. IPM seeks to find the most effective yet least intrusive way to reduce the potential impact of pests.”

What it isn’t.

It isn’t easy.

IPM starts with selecting the right plant. Healthy plants are less susceptible to stress related disease and pests. Toting mulch and compost are necessary chores. Shrubs and trees need to be pruned – plant litter cleaned up. Weeds need to be pulled. A soil test is necessary to tell exactly what the soil needs instead of fertilizing by month of the growing season. Grass may need to be mowed more than once a week in good grass weather if cut at 2 ½ to 3 inches. Understanding the life cycle of insects is essential in order to use insecticides wisely. There is a lot to learn and do.

Penn State University’s IPM publications offer loads of information for homeowners.

Creating Healthy Landscapes Series (all PDF files)
#9: Use Nature's Signals to Manage Landscape Plants

IPM may generate low maintenance lawns and gardens in the long run. Healthy plants require less upkeep. Choosing plants wisely, planting with care and conserving natural enemies will go a long way to reduce work in the yard.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Longwood - Service Area

As part of our Longwood Gardens tour, we visited the service area directly behind the Main Conservatory. (Yes, we went beyond the sign.) 30,000 square feet of state-of-the-art production greenhouses produce plants used in the exquisite displays.

Huge fans keep the greenhouses cool in summer. Cool air is pulled in from the wooded area behind the greenhouses through the tan, corrugated screen shown here behind the coleus. Miles of pipes, automatic temperature and water controls, gizmos and gadgets make it a gardener’s dream. According to Longwood’s publication, “Each greenhouse is equipped with its own computerized system that automatically controls temperature, bench and perimeter heat, snow melters, and devices for cooling and shading.”

“In the mid 1950s, Longwood began a breeding program to develop new cultivars. Today, outstanding cultivars are continually being selected and regularly introduced.” More than 100 cultvars have been introduced by Longwood Gardens Research Staff – everything from Acer platanoides ‘Stand Fast’ to Wisteria frutescens ‘Longwood Purple’.

The huge greenhouses were almost pristine inside. Believe me, there was no soil or plant litter on the floor.

The greenhouses also serve as a holding area for replacement plants for the display gardens. Tables were filled with red, pink, salmon poinsettias, bright red and white cyclamen, dusty miller.

As we walked through, an intern from Ohio expertly transplanted snapdragon seedlings Antirrhinum majus ‘Appleblossom’. (Picture in bloom ) They should make a beautiful display.

A long row of Velvet Groundsel - Roldana petasitis lined one of the service halls. It is considered a “pest plant” in New Zealand. (Here is a picture in bloom )

It would be fun to return to Longwood in another season to look for the plants we saw in the greenhouses.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Longwood Gardens

I visited Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square yesterday with the Coplay Garden Club and came home on sensory overload.

Pierre du Pont bought the Peirce farm in 1906 and began creating what would become Longwood Gardens. Today, extensive educational programs, plant research, performing arts programs, and displays keep visitors amazed.

After a spectacular lunch, we started in the Main Conservatory which was built in 1919 and houses 20 indoor gardens and over 5,500 plants.

An over-the-top display of pink poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima 'Pink'), grey dusty miller (Senecio cineraria ‘Cirrus’), pink amaryllis (Hippeastrum 'Vera') greeted us in the Orangery. The Main Exhibition Hall fashioned a peaceful splendor with fountain, palm trees and evergreens.

Winterberry enhanced the natural flow of the East Conservatory. The park-like setting is complete with a stream and grass and accented with red cyclamen (Cyclamencoum) and white Easter Lilies, (Lilium longiflorum).

And that was just the beginning of our tour of 4.5 acres of covered gardens. I’ll continue with more of the highlights next time.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Christmas Cactus

The first to bloom. The attractive white/pale pink cactus started to bloom on November 17. The red and orange blooming cacti are setting buds. To be continued . . .