Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A gardening books author has suggestions that let you warm to the idea of winter landscaping

"Think about trees beyond their flowers," Simeone said.

By paying attention to particular elements of plants -- branch structure, bark texture, berries, fruit and seed pods and foliage -- gardeners can pick plants that provide year-round interest, he said.

"Then there are environmental conditions. The landscape is lit differently in the winter, so the shadows are different. Throw a little ice and snow in there... The garden is always doing something, even in the middle of winter."

Simeone's list of recommended plants is a starting point for those who want to extend their garden's appeal to year-round.

Gardeners need to keep in mind the needs of a particular plant and its growth habit. Check with local nurseries for help in finding suitable plants. Ask about plants that provide winter interest.

Some visual details, such as peeling bark, might not show up until a tree is older, while the vibrant redof the Redtwig dogwood is typically due to younger branches, so regular pruning to spur new growth is a must.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has many of the plants on Simeone's list, so Richmonders who want to see how the plant performs in this region might want to pay a visit to the garden.

"These broadleaf evergreens like the hollies are certainly something that we get a chance to enjoy in our winter landscapes," said Tom Brinda, Lewis Ginter horticulture director, during a walk through the garden.

"I go home to Minnesota. There is winter stem color, bark color, fruit color, but we don't have broadleaf evergreens [in Minnesota]," Brinda said. "So that's one good thing we have in our climate. It is an important component of our Virginia landscapes. The hollies, both native and the English, the Japanese camellias, rhododendrons, natives and hybrids, they are one part of the winter landscape."


A gardening books author has suggestions that let you warm to the idea of winter landscaping


Richmond Times-Dispatch

It's not just Northeasterners, overwhelmed by 50-plus inches of snow, who might be weary ofwinter weather.

Landscapes that are various shades of uninspiring brown can be a real downer no matter where you are.

Horticulturist Vincent A. Simeone thinks gardeners are too quick to write off the winter landscape as inevitably dismal, resigning themselves to not being able to do much about it.

"The winter landscape is something ... that I think is underappreciated," said Simeone, speakingat a recent Virginia Horticultural Foundation program in Virginia Beach.

Simeone, director of the 409-acre Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay, N.Y., is also author of several gardening books, including "Wonders of the Winter Landscape."

Despite recent rough spots, such as the so-called snowpocalypse that dumped more than 20inches of snow in New York in late December, "The winter landscape really is a beautiful time and can be in your own landscape," Simeone said.

He drew "oohs" and "ahs" from the audience as he illustrated his talk with photographs from his book. In the images, splashes of color are provided by variegated foliage, tree limbs lined with bouquets of berries and evergreens with a tint of chartreuse.

"Whether it's looking at it from the bay window or the front door, or going out into the garden trudging in 18 inches of snow, there are a lot of things that can enhance the winter landscape," he said.

Winter's tendency to strip nature down to its essence, he said, means much of the beauty will be in the finer details.

"You begin to appreciate plant growth habit a lot more in the winter. The beautiful Japanese maple that has that nice gnarled growth habit. You get to enjoy that a lot more in winter months."

Or take tree bark. Trees with exfoliating or peeling park can, under the right conditions, provide some horticultural eye candy.

"I had a non-horticultural employee come to me and say, 'I love that army tree outside.' Army tree, what are you talking about?" Simeone recalled asking. With a little probing he figured out the employee was referring to a Cornus kousa dogwood with peeling bark in shades of brown, tan and green that looked like camouflage.

Promote community gardening

Albritton said that garden would complement existing projects at the Georgia K. Battle Center and Southeast Elementary School.

The garden could also "multiply the effects" of other proposed streetscape improvements for MLK, such as the forthcoming traffic circle.

"Most of these out-of-town travelers aren't going down Herritage Street, they're going down MLK and King Street, and they're seeing a Kinston that is very unattractive, and certainly not what most people would think of when they think of an All-America City," Albritton said.

The group's founders also hope to reach out to fellow gardeners in Greene and Jones County, and promote gardening, cooking and nutrition at a regional level.

Although all three counties have been designated by the state as Tier 1 rural, poverty-stricken counties, Albritton and Pridgen hope to build on that rural heritage through their program.

"We really want to celebrate our food and farming traditions in new and modern ways," he said.

Albritton added: "There's this growing concern that Christians have in taking care of God's creation and protecting our natural resources."

Common Ground

Kinston native and a relative newcomer to town have teamed up with a handful of other community members to create Common Ground of Eastern North Carolina, a nonprofit effort to promote community gardening, outdoor activity and greater health among local children and adults.
"We decided young people around here were struggling for lack of resources, lack of opportunities and just thought it would be worthwhile trying out some ideas we have been exposed to," said Lee Albritton of Kinston, who recently founded Common Ground with the Rev. Julian Pridgen.
Albritton is a lifelong resident of Kinston, and graduated from Kinston High School in 1980. He currently works as a Spanish-language interpreter for the federal and state courts and at Pitt County Memorial Hospital.
"It's led to a focus on getting kids outside and as a way to support academic achievement," Albritton said of Common Ground. "And also introducing them to vocations like gardening and farming, cooking; there's all kinds of possibilities that can tie into those garden-based activities."
Pridgen is a native of Whiteville and moved to Kinston in 1999 to assume the duties of pastor of St. Augustus AME Zion Church, where he is still pastor.
"I have a particular theological interest in the idea humans come from the earth, according to the Bible, and it is the earth that sustains us," the pastor said. "So we should care for it and I think that's something that we should be very much aware of, the mutual relationship between our human-ness and this earth that we live on."
He and Albritton met through the church -- Pridgen invited him to read Scripture in Spanish during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day service.
"I happen to really like Lee because he appreciates the community that produced him and wants to do something to make it better, and I agree and want to help him," Pridgen said.
Albritton said the group has filed its articles of incorporation with the N.C. Secretary of State's office, and applied to the IRS for 501c3 nonprofit status.
He has been trained through the Lenoir County Master Gardner's program, and has reached out to representatives of the Lenoir County Cooperative Extension and teachers, administrators and central office staff with the Lenoir County Public Schools.
The most recent board meeting was held Nov. 30 at The Gate Community Development Center, with about 19 people in attendance. Albritton is executive director, Pridgen is vice president of the board and Jessica Seymour is board president.
Group leaders plan to work with sixth-graders at Rochelle Middle School on an indoor gardening project this winter, and eventually establish a community garden along MLK Boulevard by the fall of 2011.

Home & garden news, upcoming events

Put your landscaping to work for you. A workshop today will show you how to create both a culinary and craft garden in your yard that can also serve as a haven for conserving natural resources.

"Your own yard can be a handy producer of nutritious foods and unique craft materials and can also serve as a habitat for welcoming wildlife," says Master Gardener Janet Barocco, who will lead the free workshop.

It will run from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Rincon Valley Library, 6959 Montecito Blvd., Santa Rosa. For information call 565-2608 or visit


Do you wonder why some of your citrus didn't bear fruit? Are you flummoxed about what fruit trees will do best in this climate?

Master Gardener Brian Healey will lead home fruit tree growers on a month-by-month tour of the gardening year, offering tips on what to do and when, during a free workshop Feb. 5 at the Sebastopol Regional Library, 7140 Bodega Ave.

Healey will discuss how to prepare the soil, plant and stake container-grown and bare-root trees, prune and think coops and safely manage pests and diseases in the orchard. The workshop runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For information call 565-2608 or visit


No need to feel intimidated about growing your own plants from seed.

Expert Electra de Peyster will demystify the process, and talk about the importance of seed saving, during a free class from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Windsor Regional Library, 9291 Old Redwood Highway, Building 100.

De Peyster will also talk about the efforts of the local Seed Savers Exchanges and show examples of the progression of young seedlings from production to harvesting. For details call 565-2608 or visit


Bruce Shanks, the longtime proprietor of Cottage Gardens of Petaluma, will demonstrate how to prune clematis during a free workshop Feb. 5.

Shanks will tell you what to consider while pruning, the best times to prune throughout the year and how much to prune. The nursery is at 3996 Emerald Dr., Petaluma. To reserve a space call 778-8025.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Gardening up on the roof

IMAGINE being cooped up in an office all day and then returning to your urban home and walking out on to a rooftop which has been transformed into a tapestry of colour, texture and calm.
Rooftop gardening can help combat climate change by lowering surrounding air temperatures, according to a recent RHS survey and, with this in mind, the organisation is encouraging urbanites to make the most out of their outdoor space and help the environment by growing plants.
"Getting planting right in urban spaces, which can be very limited, can have a major effect in not only helping reduce urban temperatures but will also provide other environmental benefits," says Tijana Blanusa, who undertook the RHS research.
Other benefits of green-roof gardening include heat-insulation, water-absorption, providing a safe environment for wildlife and soaking up pollution.
The RHS is showcasing two modern-style rooftop gardens designed by two rising stars, Hugo Bugg, RHS Young Designer of the Year 2010, and Melissa Jolly, winner of a BBC Gardeners' World 2010 award, at the RHS London Plant and Design Show on February 15 and 16.
Their designs are aspirational, but it's not impossible to create your own roof garden, whether you just want a few pots or a raised bed or two, or a more elaborate green carpet, providing your structure is secure. The RHS offers the following advice:. Before designing any addition to a property's roof check if planning permission is required.
. How much weight the roof can take? Large containers full of compost and plants weigh a considerable amount. There will be strict weight restrictions on balconies suspended out from the building.
. Check if the roof is waterproof, using the services of a chartered structural engineer or a surveyor. You may have to modify roof supports if the structural survey shows that support is insufficient.. Use an architect specialising in roof garden design for complex projects.
. Place heavy containers near load-bearing walls or over a load-bearing beam or joist as these can take more weight than unsupported areas.
. The main limitations of roof gardens and balconies are strong winds and sunshine. Take advantage of any existing protection, such as walls or fences, that provide shelter and shade.. Use slatted or mesh screens that simply filter the wind, creating a micro-climate for the plants within.. Containers will dry out rapidly in windy, hot weather so make sure they are a good width and depth.. Choose non-porous materials (plastic, metal and fibreglass) rather than terracotta as they reduce potential moisture-loss.. Ensure the container is lightweight and has ample drainage holes in the base.
. Some companies, such as Green Tech Ltd, offer a range of lightweight soils and composts suitable for roof gardening.. Use a layer of lightweight drainage material at the base of the container, such as polystyrene plant trays broken into 'crocks'.
. If weight is a consideration, fix the container down, so that it doesn't blow over in strong winds.
. Install an irrigation system where cost effective (in larger areas), ensuring excess run-off flows to a drainpipe outlet. In smaller areas, hand water as it's more accurate.
. Feed plants regularly. Controlled-release fertiliser in the compost is the easiest solution.. Top-dress pots annually replacing the top few centimetres with fresh compost.
. Liquid feed any annual plants used in plantings from May to September for best results.
GrowYourOwnCanefruit BARE-ROOTED cane fruits including blackberries, raspberries and hybrid berry canes can be planted up until the end of the month. You'll need to prepare the soil thoroughly by digging a trench along the proposed row and working in plenty of organic matter.

Chesapeake Montessori students take on gardening project

Students at Chesapeake Montessori School in Annapolis planted the first seeds of a sustainable vegetable gardening project that is part of the school's campus expansion program.
Garlic, spinach and lettuce were planted in large containers in late September, with assistance from Severn Grove Ecological Design.
The organic gardening project will ultimately include extensive in-ground vegetable plots where students will grow and harvest a wide range of produce to cook, eat and offer to the community.
The gardening project is designed to connect students to their environment and the community, while exploring the components of operating a small business.
- Effie Dawson, Chesapeake Montessori School