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From the Editor - Nov/Dec 2014


t’s a bird, it’s a plane … it’s a flash mob of garden writers!

Late last summer 420 garden writers from the U.S. and Canada assembled for their annual symposium and ended up dancing to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” on the lawn in front of the University of Pittsburgh’s “cathedral of learning” (watch the video here: bit.ly/1ttDyjf).

While it may not rank up there with the moon landing, it’s sure to find a beloved spot in the annals of the Garden Writers Association (GWA), founded in 1948 with a current membership of 1500.

Garden writing takes many forms these days and includes not only books, magazines, and newspapers but also blogs, websites, videos, TV and radio programs, e-zine articles, catalogs, photography and podcasts. The GWA welcomes them all.

GWA symposiums are usually worth the price of admission. We schmooze a lot, attend informative seminars and eat a lot of box lunches on buses while traveling between public and private gardens. This year those buses brought us to eight fine private gardens and the Phipps Conservatory with its impressive new LEED platinum certified Center for Sustainable Landscapes. Its roof garden overlooks a most ingeniously designed outdoor space that I can’t get out of my mind. You have to go there and see it for yourself.

All of us need to recharge our batteries periodically, and for gardeners that recharge time is at hand. Maybe you still need to rake some leaves or give the grass one last haircut, but a little R & R is on the way.

Want to be dazzled? Head for Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden or “Illuminations” at The Morton Arboretum, and don’t forget to drive down North Lake Shore Drive and take in the lights on Michigan Ave. You’ll start thinking you live in a fairyland.

Attend some classes. At the GWA symposium the plant geek in me was thrilled to learn about digiplexis, a foxglove hybrid that one of my colleagues called “the hottest plant in the country,” and I saw ‘Little Red’, a cultivar of Joe Pye weed with shorter stems and dark rosy flowers. I now want them both. I also learned some interesting information about road salt. It’s been around since the 1930s (before that we used sand until it started clogging up the sewers), but its use increased dramatically in the 1960s. Why? More roads and more cars. Nowadays our lakes can contain up to 15 times the amount of salt considered safe for wildlife and fish.

The presenter, Dr. Laura Deeter of Ohio State University, provided a handy-dandy chart listing the salt sensitivity of 40 perennials. Many plants are sensitive, with Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ and Achillea ‘Moonshine’ in the “highly sensitive” category. Only Armeria maritima ‘Splendens’ ranked as “highly tolerant,” although the ‘Stella d’Oro’ daylily, the Shasta daisy ‘Becky’ and the fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) at least garnered a “moderately tolerant” label.

So find something that interests you this winter and delve into it. I can’t promise you a flash mob, but it’s bound to be worthwhile.

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questions

Can I grow asparagus from seed? I saved the little red berries from my plants.

I have two strawberry plants in a hanging basket in my yard. I have not had any fruit from them although the vines hang down. I give them plant food once a month and water daily. What am I doing wrong?

I have a dampish area with poor grass and moss that I would like to change to ground cover, but if I have only one plant, won’t it be boring? Can I get rid of the grass in winter or early spring?

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