Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March Wind


Crocuses that looked so pretty a week ago have slammed shut.

The biting March wind is both a blessing and a curse. It helps dry the soggy ground. It turns dry leaves into wild whirligigs.

I managed to capture some leaves from under the shrubs in my garden tote this week. I dumped them in leaf pile next to the compost bin and weighed it down. During the summer the leaves will be added to the greens in the bin.

I used my little plastic rake to get under bushed and in corners, but -


no amount of wind will blow the leaves out of the azaleas. They had to be picked out by hand - one by one.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

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Dan Schantz Greenhouse

Miles of Mums. Loads of Lilies. A plethora of Pansies.

Twenty-five acres of greenhouse space stretched in front of us on a cold March morning in Zionsville, PA. I visited one of four greenhouses in the Lehigh Valley owned by Dan Schantz.

This is the birthplace of ‘Dan’s Favorite’ tomato I wrote about last summer.

The computerized and automated process is a marvel of modern technology. Temperature is monitored by computer system. An alarm sounds if the temperature gets too high or too low. Most of the watering is programmed using recycled water. Hanging baskets move slowly overhead to the watering nozzle.
But much is done by hand. The greenhouses employ hundreds of workers.

Thousands of lilies are checked - one by one. The lily buds are measured against a template. If the bud gets too large the plant is moved to a cooler location to slow the process. All the lilies must bloom simultaneously for Easter.

Each tiny tomato seed is placed by hand in a grid of starting mix.
Tomatoes flourish in various stages of growth, from newly planted seed trays to small plants in neat rows. It is all timed to be ready for shipment in April or May.

The plants from Dan’s wholesale operation are shipped to big box stores and garden centers up and down the east coast. Retail stores are located on Lehigh Street in Allentown and W. Union Boulevard in Bethlehem.

It runs like a well-oiled machine and I saw how Dan’s favorite tomato got its start.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mophead Hydrangea

I’ve been busy enjoying spring flower shows, meetings, tours and classes. Garden cleanup has suffered as a result. Cold spring winds and rain have also put a crimp in my gardening style.

We did manage to prune the pussy willow on one glorious 70 degree day.

Another pile for the city compost.

Deadheading the hydrangea is next.

I’m never in a hurry to deadhead the mophead. I wait for the growing buds to be obvious. Sometimes buds will be killed off by a late frost. It's easier to tell if a branch is really dead if I wait.
If they bloom on old wood like this mophead (Hydrangea macrophylla), I trim off old blooms down to a growing bud and cut out dead wood in early spring.
I don’t usually prune the hydrangea. If it needs to be pruned for shape or size, I’ll do that in summer (before August) – even though that may mean cutting off some of the flowers. (The flowers look pretty in a vase or floating in a crystal bowl.) That way I won't be cutting off next year's blooms.

It’s snowing now so no garden work will be done today. I won’t look out the window and maybe it will go away.
(Pruning information from University of Virginia on my March 9, 2011 post here.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

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Philadelphia International Flower Show

Phildelphia Water Department - Three examples of urban stormwater management: a sidewalk stormwater planter, porous pavers and a downspout planter in Philadelphia Water Department’s “Green City, Clean Waters

To me the heart of the Flower Show has always been in the educational displays.

Through the Office of Watersheds, “Green City, Clean Waters” program is a huge step in the right direction.

I’m not sure why anyone thought that raised planter beds in parking lots were a good idea.
Mounded high, water runs off the beds and adds more waste water to the paved surface. The raised beds dry out faster and make it tough for trees and plants to survive. Don’t even get me started about the cones of mulch piled around trees. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the planters at or lower than the paved surface to accept some of the runoff and filter it through the soil.

Runoff from parking lots, yards, farm fields and streets picks up pollutants such as trash, leaky engine fluids, animal waste, excess lawn chemicals, etc. and washes them into the storm drains to creeks and streams.

So the Philadelphia Water Department’s L'art de l'eau (The Art of Water) was a welcomed surprise. Capturing some of that runoff using flow-through planters, porous pavers, and vegetated curb bump-outs, reduces the amount of pollution entering storm drains. If municipalities require sustainable practices in storm water management, they will contribute to clean and reliable water for fishing, swimming and drinking.

Philadelphia is making a difference.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Philadelphia International Flower Show

Can Can at the Bistro in miniature.

“Springtime in Paris” - Tres bien!

Under the iconic Eifel Tower, carousel animals set a festive mood for the Philadelphia Horticulture Society extravaganza. Another year of a celebration in flowers.

(Carousel animals designed by Valley Forge Flowers, Wayne PA.)

Waldor Orchids, Linwood, NJ created a laboratory showing the orchid-cloning process pioneered by a French grower. Masses of orchids filled planter beds around the exhibit.

(PHS Award of Distinction, American Orchid Society Trophy, Special Achievement Award Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania - Education)

Stony Bank Nurseries, Glen Mills spectacular apple and pear tree espaliers highlighted the sustainable garden bursting with herbs, flowers and vegetables.

(Mayor’s Trophy, Garden Club of America Award, Special Achievement Award Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania - Conservation)

Yes, it is a live Shekel Pear Tree espaliered.

A bank of Rhododendron “Chez Daniel” by Repich & Associates, Holicong, PA epitomized the softness of spring. The Repich family created a picture of Eden as a tribute to their father, Daniel Repich, who passed away in January.

(Special Achievement Award Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania - Horticulture)

The exhibits almost defy description. Certainly my pictures can’t do justice to the beauty and amazing details of the show.

Beaautiful fleurs! Heureux les jardins!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lehigh Valley Blogs

A Garden in Bethlehem Pa has been nominated for Best Blogs in the Lehigh Valley in the "Neighborhood" Category.

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A big thank you for the nomination and votes!

Voting closes March 27, 2011 .

Friday, March 11, 2011

Allentown Flower Show

The Valley Flower and Garden Show runs March 11-13.

A list of exhibitors and scheduled speakers.

A few quick pics -

A waterfall and pond by Ridge Crest Design Koi Creations.

A talking robot driving a ladybug car and a dog house with a green roof by Penn State Master Gardeners.

Garden ornaments and gazing balls by Henninger Nursery and Garden Center .

Pennsylvania Gardener Magazine – a new magazine for gardeners in Pennsylvania.

other impressions

I hope local gardeners have a chance to visit Agriculture Hall at the Allentown Fairgrounds this weekend for a "Symphony of Spring".

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Pruning Shrubs

It’s time to prune shrubs.
We pruned the Crepe Myrtle last weekend. First, I checked the University of Virginia pruning publications. The best time to prune crepe myrtle is January, February and March. Virginia is in hardiness Zone 7 but it’s close enough to my zone 6 to use with only slight adjustments. It’s a great resource.

Crepe myrtle blooms on new wood so cutting back the old wood shouldn’t hurt the blooms. Ours grows by about 1/3 each year. We cut a little more than 1/3 to keep it in bounds. We also cut crossover branches.

Here are the links to the University of Virginia Publications:

Guide to Pruning Deciduous Trees
Deciduous Trees Pruning Calendar
Guide to Pruning Evergreen Trees
Guide to Pruning Shrubs
Shrub Pruning Calendar

I will be away this coming weekend. Part of the weekend will be spent at the Philadelphia Flower Show. It’s always exciting. This year’s theme is “Springtime in Paris”. Ooh-la-la!

The Valley Flower and Garden Show runs March 11-13. I’ll try to stop in before I leave. It’s fantastic to have a flower show back in the Lehigh Valley after a few years cancellation.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

March on the Paths

March is the month I love my garden paths the most.

I have a long list of things to do in the garden from March through May – cleanup leaves, branches, dried plants; prune the crepe myrtle, pussy willow, euonymus, japonica, roses; divide liriope, black-eyed susan, phlox, daylilies, mums. Soon there will be mulch to spread and weeds to pull followed by deadheading and planting. As the snow melts, the temptation get on with the job is overwhelming.

But the ground is soft and spongy

Good soil consists of 45% mineral materials and 5% living and dead organic materials and 50% pore space for air and water. All are necessary for good plant growth. Damp soils compact easily, squeezing out air and water. Roots have trouble growing and taking up nutrients. I try not to walk on the spongy soil (or on the sleeping perennials hidden under the soil).

This is when I really I appreciate the paths in the garden. I can reach a lot from the paths. Some paths are for wandering from place to place but almost every garden that is wider than 4 feet has a path for maintenance. That way I can keep my big feet out of the garden and march on the paths.

More information from the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension “Combating Soil Compaction.” (PDF)


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Urban Gardens

“Community Gardens in an Urban Setting” was the topic at the Master Gardeners Spring Garden Series last Saturday . Community Gardens provide an opportunity to grow vegetables in the city. A lot of dedicated people work to organize and provide supplies to the gardens.

I know the benefits of raising fresh vegetables in taste, nutrition and cost saving.

But, I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming testament of a simple peripheral benefit. Pride and satisfaction comes from working with other members of the community – learning from one another, laughing, complaining, sharing stories and garden tips, tools and bug spray.


Many stories are heartwarming - A neighborhood kid who knocked on doors to report an trespasser walking on the gardens – A grandmother with her own garden who plants a community garden plot for the interaction with other gardeners and donates the produce to local food banks and soup kitchens.

The rewards of Urban Community Gardens are greater the weight of the produce.

Find local gardens and contacts by zip code at American Community Garden Association Local Harvest or call your local county extension office.