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A Summer of Severity!

August 12, 2010 Tags: , , , , Blog No comments

This summer has certainly been tough for people in the horticulture field, and plants-alike!  We went from receiving average moisture in the early summer, followed by a drought period for about a month.  For a week or two, we had begun to receive average rainfall again.  And for the last few weeks, we haven’t been getting as much as we did then, going more toward another drought.

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No matter how long the winter, SPRING is sure to follow!

April 15, 2010 Tags: , , , Blog No comments

Spring is definitely here now!  The weather has been somewhat unusual compared to previous years.  We were going through a ‘warm spell’ for awhile.  Many of the plants that flower in the spring are about two weeks ahead of normal flowering time.  Some plants have really been effected by the rapid change in temperature and have not bloomed reliably.

Aside from simply monitoring the weather and it’s effect on flowering, I have been partaking in several major activities that have been invaluable to my experience here in the Longwood Gardens Professional Gardener Program.  A few of them include; Implementing our 2010 garden design and beginning to construct our garden in the new Student Exhibition Garden area, Preparing my 825 square feet of garden beds for growing vegetables this year on Red Lion Row (Student housing area), Sowing, growing and transplanting large quantities of vegetables in preparation for supplying the Terrace Restaurant with “low-input”, locally grown food (Restaurant located in Longwood Gardens proper), And work rotations, working in various departments within the garden.


Spring has kicked off the construction process in our section of the garden.  After a cold, snowy winter, we were able to mark our desired path dimensions and hardscape material locations.  This picture was taken on March 11th, with snow still remaining.

Final grade has already been established after the sub-contractors finished their work.  The soil has been amended and worked down to around 24″ deep before the final grading.  The next step in our construction schedule was to excavate our pathway and install steel edging, geotextile (weed) fabric and rice chips (standard pathway gravel).  Below is a picture of the garden space in early April with the path excavated, and later, the edging and stone installed.

Our pathway was meant to be 3′ wide.  The garden is temporary (only about a 6 month display), we simply excavated about 5″ deep (and beyond the 3′ width), and installed our steeling edging at that depth, since the steel edging was about 5″ deep.  We chose not to add compacted base stone below the path.  We were able to measure and cut the 16′ long steel edging sections into the dimensions that we needed.  We started on one end and side of the pathway and went from there.  Where there was a corner, we measured that dimension, cut the bottom portion of the edging about 3/4 of the way through the piece, and were then able to bend the edging at a 90 degree angle for our corners.  One the cuts and connections were made, geotextile fabric was laying down below and our gravel was placed on top.

Next, we plan do roto-till our bed areas once more before planting.  A majority of our plant materials have come in, some tender and some perennial.  After our beds are tilled, we plan to place our custom designed and built wooden container boxes.  We are currently working on priming and painting the boxes.  Pictures will be coming soon!

Our opening day for the Student Exhibition Gardens should be around June 1st.  All plant materials are planned to be installed by mid-May.

Aside from our new Student Exhibition Gardens, I have been caring for my personal garden space on Red Lion Row, where I am living on site.  I had planted garlic this past fall, which is doing well in my garden, currently.  I was unable to cover crop my garden this fall and it had become over-run with henbit (a winter annual weed).  I pulled most of the henbit from my garden in early March and continued to cultivate the surface of the soil to reduce any new, emerging weed seedlings.  I roto-tilled my garden space earlier this month (April) and amended it with some compost.  I plan to amend it with another yard or so of compost and till it once more before planting.  When I first started last spring, half of my garden space was a compacted turf area.  I want to be sure that I till thoroughly and amend the soil with compost so that I have good porosity, lower bulk density, better cation exchange capacity (CEC) and better water holding, all ideal conditions for successfully growing vegetables.

Here are some pictures of my vegetable garden from this spring.

Below you can see my garlic plants.  This past fall I simply used about two bulbs of garlic and separated the cloves from the sides (with shoots emerging) and planted them about 4″ deep.  You can also see my seedlings of beets, lettuces and radishes.

Here are two rows of peas that I planted.  Pisum sativum ‘Sugar Snap’.  I plan to train them upward with twine, later supported by my fence.  Another row of peas is reflected on the reverse side of my garden.

Here is a view of my ornamental garden.  I have decided that this year I will convert a majority of this 15′ x 15′ section into an ornamental vegetable garden.  This will help me practice applying vegetables and edible plants in a setting that could be similar to one near a house in an urban landscape.  (Although we are very fortunate to be provided with healthy, well-amended garden soil beforehand.  Some of the emerging perennials pictured will later be removed and replaced with vegetables following a unique design.

I had to take another picture of my Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’ this year.  This was one of the first shrubs to leaf out in our area, I noticed.  It was like a golden beacon on a hill!  The above picture was actually taken about a week later, but it shows you how bright this plant can be immediately after leafing out!  I have already added this plant to my plant pallet for when I am designing gardens.  A few other plants I am becoming more fond of that are great to use in the landscape are Hydrangea quercifolia, Viburnum sp. (my favorite), Physocarpus (P. ‘Diablo’, P. ‘Summer Wine’, P. ‘Dart’s Gold’), Lindera glauca var. salicifolia, and Sambucus sp.

My class (PG Class of December, 2010) has agreed to grow produce for the Terrace Restaurant earlier this year.  The restaurant had formulated a list of fruits and vegetables in which they would like us to grow for them.  We selected productive, well-known cultivars from two different suppliers (Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Seed Saver’s Exchange).  Some transplants were started around mid-late February.  Below is a picture of some of the transplants we have started including different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, swiss chard, tomatillo and various herbs.

More photos, information and updated to come!  Thanks for reading my posts!! 🙂

Every Mile is worth two in Winter…

February 3, 2010 Tags: , , , Blog No comments

…Well, it seems that way, anyhow.  This winter feels like it has been going on for quite some time, although spring is right around the corner!  Apparently we have about six weeks left!  I am very fortunate to be in my third semester in the PG program during this time.  I rarely have to face 8 hours of cold weather each day, like some of the gardeners here… But I must say, the semester has been quite intense thus far.  Below is a list of the classes I have been taking for the past five weeks and a brief description of each…

Turfgrass Management– Study and practice the fundamental aspects of Turfgrass science including identification, propagation, fertilization, pest control, and other soil-plant relationships.

Arboriculture and Pruning– Study and practice the concepts and techniques of arboriculture, such as climbing, pruning, cabling, bracing, planting, evaluating trees for hazards, and safety. This course prepares students for the International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist Examination.

Plant Propagation– Study and practice the propagation of ornamental plants by asexual and sexual methods, including seed, cuttings, grafting, and micro-propagation.

Landscape Design and Construction– Landscape Design & Construction assists students in developing a basic framework for observing, analyzing, and creatively combining basic elements of garden design. Students learn basic construction skills needed in landscape designs by designing and then constructing a seasonal garden installation in the Gardens proper. Students also will complete construction documentation, plant procurement, and interpretive material for their display gardens.

Conservatory Plant Identification and Management– The identification, culture, and use of indoor foliage and flowering plants, and the management of the interior environment pertinent to home, garden, institutional and commercial applications. Course covers at least 150 plants grown throughout Longwood Garden’s Conservatory.


As a part of the Landscape Design/Construction class, we are also taking part in a student project that will be installed within the ‘core’ of the Longwood Gardens proper.  The nine student in my class split up into four teams and designed four separate gardens.  Longwood has set aside four 20’x 50′ garden plots, each of equivalant size and allowed students to come up with creative ideas in which they will apply the following Spring 2010.  These gardens were ultimately designed to follow the LWG 2010 theme Fragrance.

An elevation view of our proposed planters and heights of the different plants in our borders (From the North side, facing South).

I was partnered up with my fellow classmate; Suzanne Caron.  We decided our garden theme would be ‘The Four Corners of the World’.  We split our individual garden into four recta-linear quadrants-North, South, East and West.  Each geographic location represents a certain cluster of continents; North-Europe, South-Africa, East-Asia/Australia, and West-The Americas and Canada.  Within the four sections of our garden, we gave each section a container, or group of containers which will display fragrant plants from their assigned geographic area.  The plants that will be planted in the beds will also be fragrant (most) and also serve to add color and variety to the garden space.  To separate each of the four sections, we designed plants with blue, or neutral colored foliage to represent the ocean water separating the continents (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ and Heliotropium arborescens ‘Alba’).  Below are some pictures of our design and proposed plants used.  Another post with more details and pictures will follow!

Picture of the site BEFORE the construction crew arrived to excavate and re-design the garden layout.

This is a picture of the site during construction.  The area has been graded, topsoil amended, and the arborvitae screens that separate each of our gardens have been installed.  You can see our section of the garden below.  To reference to the design photo above; the East section of our garden is the one closest to the camera where the seating wall appears.

And this is a picture of our section still under construction from the other side.

One more picture.  The plants seen on the bank below include: Clethra alnifolia, Itea virginica, Ilex verticillata, and Magnolia virginiana.  These plants were selected because of their tolerance of wet conditions.  Because of the hill and surrounding topography of this area, moisture tends to build up towards the bottom and low-lying places.  We needed plants that would be able to absorb a good amount of moisture to reduce overly saturated soil conditions in our adjacent garden plots.

Spring Forward, FALL back

December 3, 2009 Tags: , , , Blog No comments

It has been awhile since my last post on here…Fall has since set in, and now winter is right behind it.  Daylight savings has ended, and the days are now much shorter, leaving less time for gardening.  Although there isn’t as much ‘light’ time for outdoor gardening, it seems like most of the work has come to an end for this year.  I have dug out my tropicals to over-winter them.  I had two medium sized banana plants (Ensete ventricosum and a Musa acuminata ) and some hedychium roots.  All of these have been removed from my garden, shaken loose of most soil particles, put in a black garbage bag and left dry in my basement for the winter..  I know it is late, but I still need time to dig out a Brugmansia that someone is letting me have for our capstone garden project this coming spring.  As for the rest of my garden there are three main tasks I have to complete yet for this fall/winter.  1-I need to cut back the remaining perennials and remove the debris, 2-I need to pull some winter weeds (tilling is probably not an option because it has been fairly wet lately and I do not want to damage the soil structure), and 3- Plant my winter container (pictures coming soon).

WINTER CONTAINER– I have a few guidelines I am following while doing this… First, I will be selecting plants that are hardy to 1-2 USDA zones lower than ours (6) – 1-2 = either zone 4 or zone 5.  So, I have comprised a list of some shrubs, perennials/grasses that would be cold hardy to those zones and that would have some kind of winter or evergreen characteristics.

Here are some pictures of my WINTER CONTAINER!  In the container I used plants with lots of interest; as well as cut greens/berries for color and varied texture.  I did not focus my container on LIVE plants, or-plants that would ‘survive’ in our zones (as previously mentioned above).  Instead I took advantage of the current winter interest the plants/materials offered…

The two main plants that I used were Hydrangea paniculata ‘DVP Pinky’ and Carex flagellifera ‘Toffee Twist’.  For the greens I used: Pinus strobus ‘Hillside Winter Gold’, Pinus wallichiana ‘Zebrina’ and Magnolia grandiflora.  I used Viburnum hupense and Celastrus orbiculatus for red berries.  P. strobus ‘Hillside Winter Gold’ was a great cultivar to use for an outstanding yellow on a pine!  P. wallichiana ‘Zebrina’ was interesting because it had variegated creamy stripes along the needles.  These plants added together made a great combination (in my opinion) and have been offering winter interest and color for several weeks now-and many more to come…

WORK ROTATIONS… So far this fall, I have worked in research, with the arborists and now with curatorial for a second time.

In RESEARCH, I did a lot of re-potting, watering, plant breeding (cross-pollinating etc.), grafting and of course, labeling.  I spent a month in that rotation (October).  I also helped collect ovaries/seeds from the camellia trials.  We collected from three main plants, Camellia japonica, Camellia oleifera, and Camellia -the Ackerman hybrids.  The two most impressive specimens in the trials, with excellent form, standing at about 10′ tall, loaded with flowers and fruit with outstanding dark, glossy-green foliage were the Camellia japonica  ‘Longwood Centennial’ and ‘Longwood Valentine’.  These two plants have been crossed with others to attempt to form a great hybrid camellia that is attractive and cold hardy to this area.

In THE ARBORIST ROTATION, basically, I learned knots!  No, I learned more than that…But learning the appropriate knots is very important.  Some of the knots I learned were; The double fisherman’s loop, Blake’s hitch, Clove hitch, Girth hitch, Anchor hitch, Bowline, the basic Slipknot, a bowline on a bite, figure eight on a bite, a slippery bowline and other various knots.  This rotation was 3 weeks, because Christmas changeover/Thanksgiving vacation occupied most of the 4th week of that month (November).  Along with learning my knots, I learned HOW to use them and WHEN.  The most important knots I had to know, and bascially be able to tie with my eyes closed were the Double fisherman’s loop, blake’s hitch and the slipknot.  I was equiped with a saddle/harness that attached to my waist and legs, which consisted of many straps, loops, carabiners and a split tail system (explained later).  Basically, after I would get my main climbing rope over a selected limb further up in the tree, I would attach one side to a carabiner (with my fisherman’s loop), and bring the other side of the rope down towards my waist.  From there, I would have a short rope (about 3′ long) attached to my saddle, which I would use to tie my Blake’s hitch knot unto my remaining main-line side.  After those were tied, I could slide the blake’s hitch up, put tension on it and it would ‘lock’ and keep the knot from sliding down.  From there, I could grab the main line that the blake’s hitch was on, hip-thrust my way up, one at a time, and slide the blake’s knot up at the same time.  If I would ever reach the limb that I had my line around and wanted to go higher, I would attach my lanyard around a tree, tie in first, then I could take off my knots and throw up to another limb-while safely being secured in the tree with my lanyard.  This is one of those simple ways to safely climb a tree.

After learning how to work around trees, both in them and on the ground, I was able to take it a step up and do some pruning, brush removal, chipping and more.  A few of the tasks that I completed that were in this step were crown raising, developemental pruning, dead-wooding, and general christmas light installation/repair.  Most of my time in this rotation was spent doing christmas lighting, on trunks/branches of trees and also setting up the ‘cones’ of lights in the palownia allee etc.  Although I wasn’t able to do as much pruning/chainsaw work as I had liked, being around the christmas lighting environment created a more safe place to work where I could ask more questions and observe basic skills needed when being an arborist.

Currently, I am in the Curatorial rotation and I will be here for under 3 weeks.  I will mostly be working on mapping trees on the Abbondi property with a gps system, correcting/labeling accession tags, and working with BG base.  Working in curatorial is a great way to see the behind-the-scenes work done here at Longwood Gardens.  It helps you understand the accessioning and work involved in each plant and how important it is to make each plant a priority so that correct identification and records can be made.

After our Christmas vacation in early January, I will begin a new class semester.  My classes will include Turfgrass managament, Plant propagation, Arboriculture and pruning, Conservatory plant identification, Landscaping design & construction, along with other evening continuing education classes, yet to be determined.

Here are some pictures from the Christmas changeover.  I worked mostly in the East Conservatory, planting blue Colorado spruce, plectranthus, artemesia, amarylis, and paper white narcissus.

Remember September

September 30, 2009 Tags: , , , , Blog No comments

September has been a great month here.  We have seemed to have a steady amount of moisture so far.  We had a pretty decent cold front come through the last few weeks.  It warmed up a bit at the end of last week, but another front is coming in and we are now feeling the chill again.


Most of the plants in my herbaceous section are still flowering and are healthy.  I have had a few losses, mostly due to overcrowded plants.  Next year I will definitely have to thin out my plot, move a few things around, and possibly plant less annuals.  I was pleased with my Verbena bonariensis, but things such as gomphrena are ones I may skip next year.  So far I have learned that annuals can be very important in providing constant year-long color and depending on their vigor or aggressiveness, can be very effective in filling up empty spaces in a short amount of time (which seems to be typical of most annuals).

Becoming one of my top smaller shrubs.  Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’


My banana plants have grown a lot this year, Sometime soon I will probably need to remove them and store them in the basement for the winter.


I have planted some fall annuals into my fall container, but still need to finish it off with more plants for Monday’s grade on our ‘fall container’.  I have added a pink chrysanthemum and a Pennisetum (millet) into the container so far.  I would like to remove my bachelor’s button and place some kind of large annual, or maybe an ornamental cabbage of some-type as a plant that likes cooler weather.  We will also be preparing a winter container in the next month or two, so I am also brainstorming ideas for that.

Other than having to deadhead, cut back dead/ugly growth and occasional watering to my container, no other significant changes have been made to my herbaceous plot in my garden.

Helianthus ‘First Light’- This is finally blooming.  I couldn’t wait for fall to see this bloom.  Here it isn’t even at it’s peak.. To the left you can see a raspberry plant I have staked up after letting it growing outwards all summer.  Some of the stems were around 6 feet long!


My vegetables have been slowly fading, and I have removed most of them after they have reached their peak.  I have removed all of my beans and corn which took up a majority of my garden.  I used the corn stalks and a few extra dried ears of corn, bundled them up and tied them to the ends of my fence posts.  Once I removed many of the spent veggies from my plot, I weeded and then mulched the entire area.


The newest addition to the plot is garlic cloves (underground-now sprouting) and some leaf lettuce.  I still have some carrots left that are continuing to mature.  I have harvested my early crop of carrots a few weeks ago, they turned out nice!  One thing I would recommend to anyone who wants to grow carrots-which is a very fun crop to grow by the way (if you know how to grow them properly).. Sow carrot seeds directly into loose, well drained (even-sandy) soil.  I planted mine in my raised beds which improved the drainage and pore space, which allowed for easier penetration for the root and a larger/well-formed carrot.  Some people have trouble getting the seeds to germinate consistently.  One thing you can do to compensate for this is wait until they are larger and easy to transplant, thin them out and move excess plants to areas that are more sparse.  If you want to be a naturalist about it, just sow it and grow it. 🙂


My lettuce crops are all growing at about 6″ currently.  This time, I decided to harvest more frequently, taking less at a time.  This past spring I let them get too large and had to cut excessive amounts at a time.  I did not have a problem with bitter leaves, but just simply too much lettuce!  The deer seem to enjoy walking through my rows/patterns rather then nibble on them.


My sorghum is becoming very large-at about 6 feet high!  I’m almost certain that they will not form seed heads before it gets too cold and there is not as much daylight, but I wanted to grow them mostly for the foliage and corn-like form. (see above pictures)

This coming spring I plant to utilize as much area in my 15’x35′ vegetable section and try to grow plants that I can ‘survive’ from.  I want to produce a majority of the food that I consume and see how I can consistently provide produce for myself throughout the season.  It would be similar to a CSA organization, but in a very small scale and for a ‘test run’.  I want to try and grow plants that are indeterminate producers (produce steadily throughout a long period of time -tomatoes..).  I also want to use the greenhouse space available to grow transplants ahead-of-time so that I can get a head start on producing vegetables.  We will see how this works out.. I will still need to make a crop-schedule so that I am properly prepared to harvest when I need to, and I will also know exactly when I should sow  the seeds indoors or outdoors and when to transplant into the garden.

There’s much more happening here than I could write in a few paragraphs.  I at least wanted to give you all an idea of what I do in my ‘spare time’ here at Longwood.  Well, I guess you can call it spare time :p

Oh, and I now have a groundhog living in one of my raised beds.  I’m not sure if I’m simply going to charge him rent, or send him off to find a new home. We’ll see..


August 18, 2009 Tags: , , , , , Blog No comments

August is flying by very fast.  We have finally been getting some warm weather.  After all of the rain we’ve gotten this spring/early summer, things are finally taking off with the heat!  My Ensete is really growing fast.  When I first planted it about two months ago, it was only a foot and a half tall!  I applied a good amount of Oscmocote when I planted them and I believe that is really kicking in now.  I have only fed the banana plants twice with liquid feed, all other waterings were with straight H2O.  Everything else is really filling out as well.  Early this fall I will definitely be re-arranging some plants due to crowding and different heights.  I have made a few recent additions of some small, common perennials to fill in some empty spaces and to create rhythm, but they are still very small.  My Cleome, Agastache, Canna and Verbena bonariensis are still blooming strong!  I have a purple ornamental kale plant towards the north end of my herbaceous section that is about 3 1/2 feet tall and really neat!  My Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’ has really put on some new growth and excellent chartreuse color.  My Cotinus has also pushed some nice, new, purple growth this year.

One plant that has showed significant decline this month was my campanula.  It is similar looking to Lobelia erinus, but spreads more and has different flowers.  I am not certain of the cause of death, but this will definitely be added to my ‘not to grow’ list for Joyce’s evaluations.  The last thing a client would want is a plant that does not fair well without constant attention and care (unless they are willing to pay us to do it).





For my vegetable section..Things are winding down.  My first harvest of beans and onions have come to an end.  My second crop of beans should be coming in soon after flowering.  I have yellow wax and purple wax beans.  As for my tomatoes, I had to kiss them goodbye.  Most all of the tomatoes in our growing area got blight this year.  We decided to remove all plants to reduce the disease spores for next year.  Once thing that definately contributed to the blight problems was the excessive rain we had early in the season.

Since I have ripped out my over-mature lettuces (left in for ornamental purposes) and some of my other crops, I have begun to fill in with near crops.  I have planted sorghum where my tomato plant were previously.  This sorghum (broom corn) will be used for a fall harvest sale along with other small pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn.  I am also soon going to be ready to plant my fall lettuce, spinach and peas.

My zucchini plants have been producing well and I have kept up with picking them at the appropriate sizes lately.  Both crops -yellow courgette and black beauty slowed down in production about two weeks ago, but are both picking up again.  One problem I have had with my spaghetti squash is that they have mildew problems, as well as bacterial wilt.  My fruits were all close to the mature size, and have mostly ripened.  Because most of us are growing our plants the ‘natural way’, some of my zucchini have gotten the squash vine borer and will soon come to an end.  I would have to guess that I have harvested somewhere around 160 pounds of zucchni from my black beauty alone.

Aside from needing weeded, and a bit of mulch, my veg. section is doing fine. 🙂