Category Archives: POPULAR INTEREST

One of Our Own

by Elsa Johnson

One of Cleveland’s own, landscape designer Bobbie Schwartz, has written a book: Garden Renovation, Transform Your Yard into the Garden of Your Dreams (Timber Press, 2017). In case you cannot tell from the title, the book is written to the homeowner who isn’t prepared to just hand the whole task over to a designer or landscape architect with the invitation to “knock my socks off—do something spectacular.” Which is almost everybody. So the book is not one of those drool-over-pretty-pictures-of-high-end-gardens type books (the kind our bookshelves are so chock full of ) ….and though there are plenty of pretty pictures in this book, some of expensive landscapes, many are of small scale gardens and spaces easier to replicate. So in many ways this book is aimed toward the do it yourself gardener.

The first chapter, Choosing Change, covers all those ordinary reasons that lead one to undertake a re-do, and I will skip over them, but I like that the final paragraph in that chapter introduces the not so frequently seen goals (in garden design books) of gardening for sustainability, permaculture, and diverting storm water run-off to on-site uses, although these are not explored nearly a fully as they could be. I was/ am much taken with the picture here showing a hillside that hides a children’s play tunnel charmingly disguised as a hobbit house.

The second chapter, Understanding Landscape Essentials, gets down to business by mentioning the obvious (which surprisingly, isn’t so obvious to many people): unlike houses, unlike architecture, landscapes change, natural environments change, so the first step in any redesign is taking stock of those existing on-site elements that will affect a garden’s success — soil, light, drainage, wind, microclimates, animals (deer and other pesky wildlife, but also one’s own pets), water, drainage, slopes, retaining walls, steps (and safety thereof) electrical access, lighting, and maintenance. There is a tidy little section on what Schwartz calls design “themes” – i.e., those defining and unifying concepts a designer uses to integrate a garden’s parts, such as rectilinear, diagonal, curvilinear, and arch and tangent. Thorough, but not overwhelming. Lots of helpful pictures.

The third chapter, Working With Hardscape Elements, covers all those garden parts that do not change – sidewalks and paths, driveways, patios, decks, fences, walls, fire-pits, hot tubs, arches and pergolas – but must come together into a harmonious whole to create enjoyable outdoor spaces and ‘rooms’. One brief section dwells on illusions – always a nice touch.

The chapter Assessing and Choosing Plants starts with a brief discussion of natives vs. exotics, invasive species, and what she calls “plant thugs” (interesting word application, that). This is a bit of a slippery slope for garden designers these days and Schwartz begs the question a bit (the question being: what is native?) (in my own practice I aim for 60 percent natives, and of that 60%, most must be species or cultivars with flowers attractive and accessible to pollinating insects). Oh well. Trees, shrubs, and perennials are a garden’s living components, and the book does a nice job of offering ideas and possibilities without becoming encyclopedic.

The next to last chapter is the practical how to’s: how to start (with the soil, then pick the plants); how to add plants to existing beds; how to choose and work with perennials.

Finally we come to the concluding chapter, titled Success Stories. This is the chance for the author to show her stuff, and she does not disappoint. She shows us a series of front yards and backyards in their before and after personas, as they successfully mature over time. (I do not know that they are all her own designs but I assume most are). My favorite is a low slung ranch style house deck and backyard re-designed with a distinctly minimalist, contemporary feeling, with the once closed-in deck opened up and flowing down to a low maintenance yard of stones and gravels of varying textures and sizes laid out in blocks like a Japanese grandmother’s quilt. Nice. This stands in stark contrast to another redo in which the only pavement is the broad walkway leading to the front door – all the rest is planted with low shrubs, perennials, many types of textural grasses. Also very nice. Kudos to Bobbie Schwartz for a book many will find helpful and useful, rather than intimidating.

Meet Bobbie at Loganberry Books on Sunday, November 19!

Of Birds and Bugs and Trees

by Elsa Johnson and Tom Gibson

A few years back I was cruising on Facebook and ran across a posting that showed a humming bird gripped in a praying mantises’ claws. They looked about the same size and it wasn’t clear the mantis was going to win a meal. Reading further in that posting I discovered it turned out that the hummingbird got away – that time. But that image stuck in my mind, and so one day I sat down and wrote a poem about it.

Lady Mantis Prays Before Lunch

Dear Lord                       I am devout          about            devouring

Every day          I raise my arms         and pray                    claws

clenched tight                 please    send me      something bright

and beautiful       to bite                                        I am no different

than the stealing fox            or soaring kite                       Send me

red twig gossamer                                            a dainty damselfly

in flight                                   I’ve heard   she  is a mighty huntress

too                  though     I do not understand         her weapons

Dear Lord                                     how much      better       beautiful

tastes to bite                                     Just yesterday           as I clung

to a branch                     one bright     bejeweled     hummingbird

flew by and           snap !              oh!         the joy       of the green

struggle !                              I held him for a long      long      time

feeling the heat of his heart                                   We both prayed

Then very recently my co-editor Tom Gibson sent me a link to a story that tells how some praying mantises routinely prey on hummingbirds, complete with pictures of the gruesome feast. I include that link here. Perhaps it is time to think about where we hang our hummingbird feeders that is nearly impossible for mantises to climb or jump to. Not this year, of course … the hummers are gone. I hope they missed the hurricanes.

 NYT article about praying mantises and hummingbirds

I miss their background chitter – one day it is there, omnipresent in the air, and then it’s not, and that’s how I first know they’ve flown. But every year there is one humming bird that lingers on for about another week after the others have flown south, and that little bird and a neighbors’ locust tree inspired another poem about humming birds. It anthropomorphizes the tree (oddly—not the hummingbird) which of course is a ‘no-no’, except I think it’s legitimate to look a something and try to imagine it’s inner life. I’ve never been particularly compliant about ‘no-s’ — why start now?

Black Locust     Missing Hummingbird

For two days she sat                                 and watched a swarm of

honeybees       lay waste her feeder                         golden bodies

fuzzed over its sticky surface                                 avid for syrup 

while she perched                                           at the very top of me

chipping her feisty song of chitter                                         that all

summer long                   my leaf-ears      loved        to listen to  

this time in such protest!                                  (and a long journey

ahead of her                    the ways deep                       the weather

unpredictable                                                        her kin       already

flown)                      Why  so many ? !            In the morning when

my heartwood woke          its         slow          fall          awakening

she’d flown                                            perhaps hungry because of

bees            My leaves grieve                  All around me        the air

is vacant                                              Only the hard of me endures

Then in the August of  2016 my street got hit particularly hard by the min-tornado or micro-burst that went through, which was especially damaging to the black locust trees – of which, on my street there are many, very old, very tall, and very brittle. And the locust that every year succored the last hummer before she left had its head struck off, allowing me to ‘see’ that loss through the eyes and heart of the hummingbird. A little over the top — it is, after all, a projection of my own feelings. We cannot really know what the hummingbird feels.

Hummingbird Missing Black Locust

He lost his head            you see                          Soon after dark

when that    sudden     wind came through         like a smack

to the face                     He was there                  then he wasn’t

I did love him                      the way a bird       does        love

a tree                    sitting      way up       high      in his green

top-most branches                           chitting             about    how I

could see     everything     up there                                 my cousins

forever            fighting                                    over the stiff         red

nectar flowers                                 at that big blue nest    where

the two-legs live       across the street                                His head

cracked                            then fell                    crashing onto another

two-leg nest          shattering him            smashing that nest

awry                                    I think the two-legs miss him     too   

If he could grow another       head                           I wish he’d try

The Peripatetic Gardener Visits the Jersey Shore

by Lois Rose

Jersey Shore?  You gotta be kiddin me.

I am going to refute that impression I hope with a description of a recent trip over Labor Day to Long Beach Island, about two hours south of New York City.  Naturally there was traffic—gimme a break, it was Labor Day weekend. Surprisingly, cars never stopped moving and we arrived in the afternoon at our rental house at the very end of the road on the sand bar island. 

(picture of the lighthouse, then the balcony with chairs overlooking the state park)We were at the edge of the 32 acre Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. Barnegat is from a Dutch word for breakers of which there were apparently many when the light house was constructed to prevent grounding of ships in the area. The light has been restored after many years in darkness, and the original fabulous prisimed light is on display down the block at the museum.

 

Houses here are raised with many sets of stairs on the outside of buildings between wrap around porches on two floors or more—even on the roof for a great view.

 Older houses do not have the storm surge protection which is now probably required, or at least desired. In our place, bedrooms were on the first floor and kitchen, dining area and living area were on the second.

We were very close to the excellent tram line which ran from several nearby streets to the beach through interesting trees and shrubs and sand happy perennials.

 

 We could walk fifty feet and jump aboard and be near the crashing—or somewhat modulated breakers—in ten minutes. Some of the family saw dolphins. Sand castles, shore birds, not crowded.

Poison ivy unfortunately flourishes along the tram line.

 

  There are areas with a wooden board walk but mostly if we didn’t use the tram we walked on shifting sand.  A well-illustrated trail guide near the lighthouse (217 steps up a yellow spiral stair case with not enough room for two large people to pass each other in either direction) was instructive about the usual suspects. 

There was a lot of pitch pine, 

and Russian or Autumn Olive, a seriously invasive plant which curiously is featured in many yards on the island.  I saw few well-tended or diverse plants in the area where we stayed.  I did see a strange juxtaposition of pokeweed and the often planted and flourishing Crape (or Crepe Myrtle) trees. 

 The island forest is dominated by Black Cherry, Sassafras, Eastern Red Cedar, Cedar, and American Holly. 

I found a few beach plums to munch on—as soon as I started eating them a ton of nearby tourists jumped in and finished off the crop. 

I had better luck with the Russian Olive.  I found it on a walk with my granddaughter—stopped and picked enough to make a small recipe. I packed it into a carry on but TSA decided it was suspect and examined it for explosives.  I got it home eventually.

People were very friendly, especially a woman I ran into while walking the baby—again. She was walking with a huge bouquet of fresh cut flowers, and I stopped and started a conversation. I started naming the flowers—some in Latin—and she said, you must be a Master Gardener. Who else would name flowers in Latin, right?  Turned out she was an MG too. She invited us to visit her back yard, meet her husband (reading in their hot tub) and see her fig trees. 

So, I would say that the trip was very pleasant and also informative with some surprises. The Jersey Shore is newly appreciated in our view.

13th Annual Shaker Heights Gracious Garden Tour

13th Annual Gracious Gardens of Shaker Heights Weekend!

Presented by The Shaker Historical Society

The Shaker Historical Society is hosting its 13th Annual Gracious Gardens of Shaker Heights weekend June 16-18, 2017. This highly popular Father’s Day weekend event attracts more than 1,000 people from across the region. 

The Friday evening Cocktails in the Garden Party is held at a private home with superb historic architecture and gardens. This garden has twice been a highlight of the Gracious Gardens of Shaker Heights tour and was featured in Fine Garden Gardening magazine for its “Curve Appeal.”

On Sunday, visit eight beautiful gardens that are sure to inspire you to create your own outdoor oasis like the designs you’ll see within the city of Shaker Heights. 

As part of the Gracious Gardens Sunday tour, there will be an admission-free open house with lawn games on the grounds of the museum at 16740 South Park Boulevard, where people wishing to go on the Garden Tour can purchase their tickets, visit the museum and art gallery, and enjoy light refreshments.

The Gracious Gardens of Shaker Heights weekend is a major fundraiser that supports the Shaker Historical Society’s commitment to historic preservation, education, and community engagement. This event is also produced in partnership with Cuyahoga Arts & Culture and the Ohio History Connection. 

Ticket and event information:

Cocktails in the Garden Party

Friday, June 16, 2017

6pm – 9pm

Tickets: $75.00 each

Private historic home in Shaker Heights

Sponsorships are available.

Includes cocktails, hors d’oeuvres,

and live music

Gracious Garden Tour and Museum

Open House

Sunday, June 18, 2017

12pm – 5pm. 

Rain or Shine!

Advance tickets for Garden Tour: $20.00 each
Week before tour tickets: $25.00 each

Sunday admission to the Museum will be FREE. Tour the museum and art gallery, purchase your Garden Tour tickets and enjoy light refreshments!

Go to shakerhistoricalsociety.org or call 216-921-1201 for ticket information.

Ticket Sale locations: Bremec on the Heights, Gali’s Florist & Garden Center, J. Pistone Market, Juma Gallery, Shaker Hardware, and the Shaker Historical Society

 

 

 

Reprise of Phenology for Our Snowy Weather

by Lois Rose
 
 
The growing degree days on the phenology calendar (oardc.ohio-state.edu/gdd/) have accumulated somewhat but slowed down recently due to the cold weather. There is damage to buds that had started to develop by the first of March.  For example, look for crocuses  which have had their petals destroyed or badly damaged.  Snow is a blessing when cold air comes—it insulates the plants on the ground.  It is possible that buds of fruit trees and small fruit like currants which were warmed during February might suffer severe damage from the cold we have been experiencing this week. Time will tell. If you are interested in finding out sooner rather than later, you could cut open a bud and see if it is still green on the inside.  A brown interior is not good. Remember that we almost always have frosts and freezes in this part of Ohio until mid-May.

 

Inklings of Spring

by Lois Rose
 
Phenology has become a trending topic—on the national news with the cherry blossoms breaking in Washington a month early.  Here in Cleveland, we can track our own very early blossoms using a link to the phenology calendar by typing in our own zip code to find out what is coming next in the garden. Phenology is the study of events in the garden—biological events in the outdoors—that recur each year and understanding their relationship to weather. People have tracked these events for hundreds of years—perhaps thousands, as in the Bible.  Examples are bird migration, blooming of wildflowers and trees, and appearance of insects, seasonal animal activities for hunting.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
Last year at this time—the beginning of March—we had a different phenological profile—we had not had as much warm weather and plants were not as far along.  These photos were taken on March 1 in Cleveland Heights.  Some of the plants pictured do very well in cold weather—and in fact have been blooming even under snow for months. An example would be hellebores, winter aconite  (yellow blossoms close to the ground ) and snowdrops.  Other plants may be adversely affected by the below freezing temperatures we are sure to experience until the average frost free date in mid-May.  That is two and a half months away. As their buds swell, they are more susceptible to freezes which will damage the cells filled with water.  Insects are also being invited to come out early. The calendar tells you what to expect, for example, tent caterpillars at the ready.
 
 
Magnolias have swollen buds—their time to bloom was approaching fast when this recent freeze began.  Forsythia around the city are already starting to bloom as well and this often occurs at the end of March along with the blooming of daffodils. Daffodils are already opening. So, we are definitely experiencing an unusual phenological event here in northeast Ohio.