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October 2016
October 2016


Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Derek Fell, Cedaridge Farm, 53 Iron Bridge Road, Pipersville, PA 18947
and 760 Cardium Street, Sanibel, FL 33957

October 2016

A VISIT TO AMY GOLDMAN’S HEIRLOOM VEGETABLE GARDENS. Amy Goldman, author, heirloom gardener and artist, has made a name for herself in horticultural circles as a result of three colorful award-winning books. These are titled Heirloom Tomatoes, Melons for the Passionate Gardener and The Compleat Squash, all in full color with detailed descriptions of varieties that have involved a lot of historical research to uncover the origins of featured varieties. Her latest book, Heirloom Harvest, includes 175 artfully composed black-and-white photographs by Jerry Spagnoli of heirloom vegetables grown on her 220-acre farm near Rhinebeck, New York. All of her books have been honored by awards from the American Horticultural Society and other organizations. She has been profiled in the New York Times and Washington Post newspapers and she has served on the board of the Seed Savers Exchange for more than ten years, half of that time as Board Chair. She now serves as an advisor to Seed Savers. A fifth book, about heirloom peppers is in the works in addition to updates of her previous books about tomatoes and melons.

Amy is a passionate advocate of seed saving, plant breeding that involves open-pollinated varieties, and the preservation of heirloom fruits and vegetables. At her farm she not only cultivates three large areas devoted to researching heirloom varieties, but also maintains a herd of cattle, free-range poultry and beehives. Gregory Long, president of the New York Botanical Garden has described her as “Perhaps the world’s premier vegetable gardener.”

Avant Gardener journeyed to the Hudson Valley to take advantage of a rare open day, organized by the Garden Conservancy. This provided an opportunity to walk with Amy through her vegetable plots, several flower gardens, greenhouses, herb gardens and other theme areas, even making a short visit to the kitchen in her private home to see samples of her sculptures which consist of creating limited edition replicas in bronze of mostly heirloom squashes, gourds, melons, pumpkins and tomatoes. All of this started when she became fascinated by the novelty and diversity of heirloom vegetables. “I fell in love with them,” she said, “Because of their good looks and flavor – as well as their history and deeper meaning. The more heirlooms I grew the more I became dedicated to their conservation.”

Our tour began by turning onto a long, meandering driveway that descended through woodland and open meadows to the first of her three test plots devoted to growing vegetables. This is a walled enclosure with a long pergola to support varieties of gourds, including snake gourds, dipper gourds, bottle gourds and Hercules club gourds. Laid out in a circle, the entire soil surface is covered by a porous horticultural fabric that controls weeds, conserves soil moisture and maintains a warm soil temperature. Creeping over the surface are long vines of watermelons, cantaloupe, summer squash and pumpkins for evaluation and photography. Everything looked incredibly healthy with no sign of disease or insect damage, but we were told by Shannon, vegetable garden manager that when any vines show signs of disease or insect infestation the infected parts are immediately removed, and sometimes the entire plant is eradicated. Just that morning she had detected wilt in a treasured heirloom known as an English giant marrow. A vegetable related to zucchini squash but eaten when the fruits reach maturity, the one large fruit that had formed was harvested and taken to a greenhouse near the house for display on a table that Amy later used to sign books. Out in the garden, beside the wilted vine was a healthy vine with another fruit that Shannon hoped might grow even bigger than the one they harvested.

Parts of this squash garden were also devoted to heirloom tomatoes, asparagus and sweet potatoes, while a caged area of blueberries and raspberries protected berry bushes from birds and critters.  The tomato plants were loaded with fruit from the size of currants to monster sizes such as ‘Big Rainbow’ (a bi-colored yellow and red variety) and ‘Delicious’ (a world record-holder for size). For her heirloom tomato book she grew 1,000 tomato varieties for evaluation, to feature 200 of the most desirable.

Shannon explained that the soil is kept in good health by cover cropping during winter with barley, hairy vetch and short season rye after the season’s harvest is cleared from the site. A soil test is taken and usually this calls for the addition of phosphorus and liming. Plants are mostly transplanted after seed is started in the greenhouses and hardened off in cold frames. The young plants are also subjected to organic copper and sulphur sprays to protect from fungus disease. If insect control is needed, the offending pests are dealt with by rigorous hand removal, and in severe cases by applications of organic pyrethrum or neem oil, both derived from plant parts.  To ward against borers, many of the susceptible squash varieties have their lower stems wrapped in shiny aluminum foil. Shannon noted that one year the entire squash crop was infected by a virus disease that required the destruction of every plant, and replanting.

Born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Shannon is in her twenties and previously worked at organic farms in California and Alaska. She was delighted that the vegetable plots could be shared that day with the public, and pointed the way to a second sunny research plot at the top of a nearby steep hill. This was enclosed in a high deer fence and not only contained more varieties of squash, but also a huge trial of heirloom peppers, both sweet and hot. Among sweet peppers we noticed a healthy crop of ‘Charleston Giant,’ a 67-day, large-fruited, blocky bell pepper that was introduced by the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in 1998. In appearance the fruits are similar to ‘Keystone Giant,’ each fruit weighing approximately ¼ lb and measuring 3 x 5 inches. Developed by plant breeders at the USDA research farm near Charleston, South Carolina, it is the first nematode-resistant sweet bell pepper. Many growers in Southern states find it impossible to produce a decent crop of bell peppers because of nematode infestations in sandy soils, and so ‘Charleston Giant’ now makes it possible for organic gardeners to grow bell peppers without the need for sterilizing the soil. We noticed many new vegetable varieties in the trials, and were told that – unlike most garden writers (who consider an heirloom to be any variety that is more than 50 years old) – Amy considers any open-pollinated variety to be an heirloom irrespective of its date of introduction, hence trial space devoted to a number of new ‘blue’ tomato varieties from breeding work conducted at Boar Farms, California.

Among hot peppers we noted many kinds of long red cayenne varieties and ornamental kinds that form their fruits on top of the plant, facing up like cone-shaped candles. Earliest to ripen was an heirloom variety labeled ‘Fiery Eruption,’ referring to its explosion of fruit and also its explosive hot flavor.  All the tomato and pepper plants were planted inside circular wire towers so their fruits are kept clear of the soil.

The road from the pepper plantings skirted a lake planted with water lilies, through deciduous woodland and then opened out to a sunny hillside where the main house provides a view of the lake. Close to the house on a gently sloping hillside is a model kitchen garden with neat rows of vegetables – mostly salad crops, root crops, legumes and sweet corn – mulched with finely chopped yellow straw and enclosed by walls or picket fencing to keep out animals. In between the kitchen garden and a cluster of nearby greenhouses,  an immense herb garden featured an urn on a pedestal at its center, the plot brimming with mostly culinary and medicinal herbs laid out within a cartwheel design formed by red brick paths.  Amy’s herb garden was designed by herbalist Lisa Cady, using 100 species. Overlooking this area is a solidly built pergola with field-stone pillars designed by Mary Riley Smith, and covered in hardy kiwi vines that bear bushels of sweet fruit in the fall. It separates the cultivated gardens from a rectangular swimming pool, the poolside plantings designed by Edwina von Gal. A flagstone observation platform at one end of the pool offers a spectacular elevated view of the lake which was long ago created by former owners by damming a stream to flood a swampy area. 

At the rear of the Gothic-style greenhouses, a pleasant sunny patio area has tables shaded by umbrellas, and nearby a rectangular, formal lotus pool contains a colony of plants that flaunt large white flowers above umbrella-shaped leaves. Several ‘Brown Turkey’ fig trees in terracotta pots were covered in ripe fruit, adjacent to a small library building where Amy likes to read and write. These figs enjoy outdoor air circulation during frost-free months and are moved into the greenhouse during winter.

Amy retired from her profession as a doctor of psychology after her daughter was born to devote full time to garden writing, and her meticulous research results in detailed descriptions that are not only informative but also sparkling with wit and good humor. In her description of ‘Delicious’ tomato, for example she explains that “The heaviest ‘Delicious’ on record is the seven-pound- twelve-ounce monster grown by Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1986; this earned Graham a second Guinness World Record (the first was for growing the largest tomato plant: a 28-foot-high, 53 ½ foot wide colossus from a ‘Sweet 100’ variety).” She adds other fascinating tid-bits of information, like naming the late Ted Torrey of Burpee Seeds as the breeder, and how it is similar in appearance to Burpee’s ‘Supersteak Hybrid’  using ‘Delicious’ as a parent, which itself was a selection of ‘Ponderosa.’.

Some of the detail in Amy’s descriptions is fascinating and one wonders how she is able to unearth some of her most interesting historical claims. Opposite a rather ugly-looking photograph of a puce-colored heavily corrugated gigantic tomato weighing 3 ½ lbs picked from her trial garden, she relates the saga of ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter Tomato,’ explaining that the term ‘Mortgage Lifter’ is a generic term that applies to a whole series of large-fruited tomatoes. Radiator Charlie was a gentleman named Charles Byles who worked on a North Carolina farm as a boy. Without any schooling he learned to fly, delivered mail, and invented a garden tiller. He also repaired radiators. To augment his income and pay off his six-thousand dollar mortgage, in the 1940’s he sold his tomatoes for a dollar per plant, and paid off most of his loan within six years. Amy then explains that she admired the shape of his monster tomato so much she decided to make a sculpture of it, cast in bronze. Today a ten-pound replica sits on her writing desk, available for purchase on-line through her website.

Amy also has a talent for describing the flavor of heirloom melons in terms that made Martha Stewart want to savor every variety. For example, here is what Amy says about an heirloom French cantaloupe, ‘Petit Gris de Rennes,’ a small luscious orange-fleshed cantaloupe resembling a ‘Charentais’ type melon that has a grey skin before it turns golden when ripe: “The ‘Petite Gris de Rennes’ is so good it gives me the chills. As wonderful as Charentais is, ‘Petite’ goes a baby step further, making it la crème de la crème of French melons. You will blink your eyes in disbelief when you sample its sweetness, which is more like brown sugar than white. It will melt on your tongue, and your mouth will water for more.” She further explains that the melon originated in the garden of the Bishop of Rennes four hundred years ago, and that the Rascan family of Cesson- Sévigné has grown it for market for seventy-five years, grafting it onto squash rootstock to confer wilt resistance; also raising the fruit off the ground to discourage rodent damage. Cultivated this way, it is a lot of hand labor but French gourmands and celebrity chefs will pay premium prices to obtain the genuine article.

Another fascinating melon described in her book is ‘Early Frame Prescott,’ a muskmelon that originated in England and became popular in both England and France for growing in cold frames. “Within the creamy, pumpkinlike shell, marked with streaks of green and occasional warts, lies what I can describe only as a melon confit preserved in its own sweetness,” she writes.  Although she does not mention it in her book, it is a variety immortalized by the Impressionist painter, Claude Monet in his painting titled, ‘Still Life with Melon’ showing a beautiful specimen cut open to reveal its juicy orange interior and posed among peaches and grapes. Ironically, British seed catalogs often refer to it as ‘Paris Favorite.’

Watermelons of different colors – red, pink, yellow, orange and even white – grace 34 pages, concluding with ‘Moon and Stars’ which she describes as “…the poster child of the heirloom seed movement.” Her photograph, by Victor Schrager, shows two fruit – one round and the other oblong with an almost black skin marked with a constellation of yellow dots resembling stars, and one large circular spot representing the moon. Originally introduced by the Peter Henderson seed company as a novelty, Amy explains how the variety was almost lost to cultivation but for the resourcefulness of Kent Whealy, the co-founder of the Seed Savers Exchange, who received seed from a seed saver, Merle Van Doren after he saw Kent conduct an interview on television. That was in 1981.

During our visit, a refreshment table behind one of the greenhouses served cold beverages and what appeared to be slices of ‘Fordhook Gem’ melon. Introduced by Burpee Seeds in 1967 and named for their research farm in Pennsylvania, Amy’s description could not be any more mouth watering, stating: “A rush of superlatives comes to mind when I envision Fordhook Gem. This is a melon that’s easy to love. Looks, taste and pedigree combine to make it the winningest…Fordhook’s green flesh, encased in silvery filigree, varies between shades of sea foam and growing grass, with salmon lining for emphasis. Your eyes conjure melting, sugary, peach-like flavors. Your nose discovers Reisling. This Gem is dessert material: lime juice is optional.

During our visit I reminded Amy that it was during her tenure as chairman of the board of the Seed Saver’s Exchange that I pointed out their catalog listing of the heirloom bean known as ‘Lazy Wife’ was incorrect and a substitute heirloom bean was being sold as an imposter. Amy instructed the catalog department to correct the error using stock seed of the true original supplied from Avant Gardener’s test gardens after we had saved seed for more than 45 years. She was also interested to learn that it was during a visit to Europe that I discovered the Fiskby edible soybean in the early 1970’s, developed by a Swedish plant breeder, and which became a popular new vegetable for home gardeners after Thompson & Morgan seedsmen introduced it for its hardiness and high protein content.  Amy herself is no dilettante gardener relying on others to do all her bidding, for she starts her own seeds to produce healthy transplants, which are then hardened off in cold frames, and she enjoys working the soil. 

As we toured Amy’s garden we made a note of some of her ornamental selections among annuals, perennials and woody plants. Bordering the kitchen garden were large white flower clusters of Hydrangea paniculata cascading over white pickets, while strategically planted in her herb garden were blue-flowering spikes of Vitex agnes-castus.  Grown for cutting along a sunny retaining wall below an orchard of apple trees is a mixture of dahlia-flowered, cactus-flowered and bi-colored zinnias. We also found a dish planter with a colony of vibrant Australia ‘flapjacks’ flaunting their succulent orange pads, positively glowing when backlit. Adjacent to the lotus pool is a sunken rose garden featuring heritage roses, and uphill the path transitions into a Japanese-style rock garden planted with a choice selection of evergreens.

Opposite the entrance to the main house is a rock garden that ascends a steep hillside where healthy colonies of Japanese woodland grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’) contrasted elegantly with what appeared to be ‘Blue Angel’ hostas and several kinds of native ferns. Explosions of Russian sage displayed misty-looking blue flower sprays at strategic intervals throughout the garden, including the flagstone edging of Amy’s rectangular swimming pool. Specimens of lemon grass cascaded from pots, and a top-knot of fruiting calamonden orange rose on a single stem from a planter brimming with the tender succulent known as blue sticks. Several kinds of coneflower colored the herb garden in addition to clumps of the tall, gleaming, purple-flowering umbellifera botanically kown as Angelica gigas, and dusky pink Joe-pye weed that was alive with bees and butterflies.

Our tour began at 10am and ended at 2pm. Look out for future opening days through the Garden Conservancy next year as we can guarantee one of the most interesting garden tours you are ever likely to enjoy. For more information visit www.amygoldmanfowler.com.

LANDISVILLE FLOWER TRIALS SPOTLIGHTS NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN ANNUALS AND PERENNIALS. Every year we visit Penn State University’s Landisville Flower Trials, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania to evaluate new varieties of annuals and perennials. The first test garden was established in 1933 at the main University Park campus, but when the site was needed for expansion of university buildings, it was moved to farmland that the University owns near Landisville. Admission is free to view these open-air trials that represent work from plant breeders from all over the world. They include annuals and perennials mostly grown from seed, but some grown from cuttings. In the greenhouse rooted cuttings are received from late March to Mid April from breeders who wish to have their plants evaluated. They are immediately planted into 4 in. pots, hand watered and fertilized. They are also hand pruned to maintain a compact, spreading habit. Outdoor planting occurs in mid-May with the help of 100 Penn State Master Gardeners and Floriculture Advisory Board Members. All 927 varieties were planted into beds in full sun and replicated in containers. A number of color combinations in hanging baskets is also displayed. A separate trial of mostly shade-loving New Guinea impatiens, Heuchera and Begonias are grown under shade cloth. Here are some of the varieties that captured our attention:

Although common impatiens known as buzy lizzies are absent from the shade trials because of their declining sales and susceptibility to mildew disease, the trials had a formidable display of the wilt-resistant New Guinea-type impatiens which showed up the superiority of Sunpatiens Tropical Orange since it is a unique color combination with large deep orange flowers above bi-colored foliage that is yellow in the center and green around the leaf edge. They are ever-blooming until fall frost in sun or shade and one plant in a container can outshine most other container plantings. It should be noted, however, that only New Guinea impatiens grown from cutting show the resistance to mildew. Seed-grown varieties do  not.

Another extensive trial features varieties of coleus. The variety, Coleusaurus is a big, bold coleus with broad, serrated, pointed, velvet-like leaves that are a rosy-red flecked with yellow, presenting a shimmering appearance. Plants are slow to go to seed and are easily propagated from tip cuttings placed in a jar of water. At the other extreme is a series of dwarf coleus with slender, serrated leaves that create a neat dome. Fancy Feathers has a similar color pattern to ‘Coleusaurus’ but it grows low and compact, ideal for container combinations partnered with callibrachoa such as Harvest Moon which is a unique bi-color. We liked its relatively large terracotta petals and prominent dark brown eye zone at the center. Indeed, there were so many callibrachoa that it was impossible to evaluate them all except to pick out outstanding colors from the common yellows, reds and blues.

Lofos White and Lofos Wine Red are fast growing annual vines native to the mountains of Mexico and Guatemala. The trumpet-shaped flower clusters resemble the trumpet shaped blooms of our native trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) that can be trained to climb, cascade over walls or spread across the ground as a weed-suffocating ground cover. Botanically known as Lophospermum, these annual forms were developed by Suntory Flowers.

It was Sakata Seeds, of Japan that first discovered the commercial potential for a cultivated variety of the native, wild swamp mallow, Hibiscus moscheutos. However, when Sakata Seeds discontinued their Southern Belle hardy hybrid hibiscus series, several plant breeders have tried to fill the gap with replacements that never quite produced the commanding presence in the landscape of the original Southern Belle. But now, a new threesome called the Cordial series outshone everything else in the trials with flowers the size of dinner-plates in a riot of bloom. Cherry Brandy is dark red, Peppermint Snaps is a pink with red streaks and Brandy Punch is a bright pink, all with dark eye zones. Hardy to zone 5, they are perennial, but will flower the first year from seed as an annual if seed is started indoors 10 weeks before outdoor planting. The species grows wild in marshy terrain from New England to Florida, mostly in pale pink and white.

The Inca lily (Alstroemaria) from the waysides of Peru is a favorite cut flower among florists but too tender to overwinter outdoors in most northern locations. However, we were pleased to see that the variety Indian Summer proved hardy enough for Landisville’s zone 6, having survived a fairly severe winter to re-bloom at the same time as the hibiscus. Introduced by the Dutch firm of Hilverdakoij, its clusters of bronze and yellow bi-colored flowers flecked with black on strong stems make it ideal for cutting and a stand-out in the perennial border.

Another outstanding perennial, from North Creek Perennials was a double-flowered Helianthus x multiflorus named Sunshine Daydream with larger flowers than traditional varieties. It stood tall at 6 ft., and in future years we would love to see a dwarf version of it, like a dwarf Heliopsis we saw in the annual trials. We have long wanted to see a low-growing, bushy form of Heliopsis (commonly called perennial sunflower.) A popular hardy perennial with large yellow daisy-like flowers, the common varieties grow too tall, its heavy flower stems usually bending over to produce an inelegant display, unless staked. Heliopsis Sole d’Oro is a new dwarf form growing no more than 2 ft. high and no shrinkage in flower size. It looked for all the world like a golden marguerite but hardier and larger flowered: a remarkable breeding achievement from Kientzler of North America.

Pentas is a bushy flowering annual widely used in Southern gardens because of its heat resistance, and though it will last the season in Northern gardens until fall frost, it is not widely planted. A wide color range of Pentas was on display, but the one that stood out was Bright Lipstick from Syngenta. The clusters of bright cherry-red flowers resemble small hydrangeas and attract hordes of butterflies.

Vinca breeding until now has been confined to producing bigger flowers and disease resistance, but Vinca Soiree is a new series from Suntory where the flowers are individually small, but masses of them occur on cushion-shaped plants so from a distance they seem to be mounds of aubretia. Like aubretia they are ideal for edging, but longer lasting with their flower display and heat tolerant into the bargain. Bi-colored Peppermint, a pink and white bicolor is the newest color.

Although Rex begonias are tender, turning to mush at the slightest hint of frost, they have exotic leaves and look dramatic when used as companions in container groupings. Of the many kinds displayed under shade cloth at Landisville we thought that the variety Red Splash from Ball Horticultural was most appealing with its angel-wing shaped foliage and silvery sheen contrasting with a bold red patch at the center of each leaf. Also under shade was a large trial of giant wax begonias with names like Megawatt, Big and Whopper. Easily three feet high and three feet wide, the red or pink flowers hang in generous clusters above green or bronze leaves and are best used as a temporary hedge.

Blue flowers are not common among annuals, but an Evolvulus named Blue My Mind presented a mass of deep blue flowers on mounded plants that reminded us of baby-blue eyes, but bolder. Similarly, we admired a free-flowering deep blue browallia cascading from containers. Called Endless Illumination, it is ever-blooming and ideal for featuring in hanging baskets as well as container combinations. A paler blue annual that caught our attention was Perovskia Caspian Blue. Four plants were growing in individual pots and looked to be half the height of regular Perovskia, commonly called Russian sage.

We saw several varieties of ever-blooming blue fan flowers (Scaviola) but none more densely-flowered than Classic Blue from Suntory. Petunias were well represented in the trials and the one that we admired the most was the Supertunia from Proven Winners named Pretty Much Picasso. Plants were covered in small petunia-like flowers with purple throats and green petal margins. Grown in a container to be admired close-up on a deck or patio, and ever-blooming, it makes a good conversation-piece. 

Four examples of ornamental peppers presented an explosion of color from their myriad fruits, confined to pots. The best was Sangria which forms a mounded plant with hundreds of red and purple slender pointed peppers, while a companion named Chilly Chili made a strong impact with slightly larger pointed fruits in red and yellow.

Melampodium is an under-used annual in flower gardens. The flowers resemble miniature zinnias on low cushion-shaped plants ideal for edging or growing in containers. Jackpot Gold from Takii Seeds seems to grab all the sunlight and hand it right back to you. Moreover, the flowers are larger than previous varieties and the plants are ever-blooming to fall frost. 

Adjacent to the Landisville Flower Trials is a series of demonstration gardens, including an herb garden, vegetable garden and a butterfly garden. A demonstration of growing vegetables – such as bush beans and cucumber – in straw bales looked like a disaster. Although the bales showed decomposition in the middle and should have been a suitable growing medium, the plants were stunted and looked pathetic.

Similarly, a demonstration of the German planting system known as ‘Hugelkultur’(pronounced HOOgull cult-yer) or mound gardening, did not look impressive. An educational plaque explained that the system is the latest technique to attract the attention of gardeners, and that it is actually an ancient system of building a raised bed in the shape of a mound. To arrive at the mound shape you must take lengths of log and pile them one on top of each other to form an ‘n’ shaped pile. Diagrams suggested planting the mound with turf grass and meadow wildflowers. Eventually the logs rot and the mound settles, but for a number of years it can create a berm. 

The butterfly garden was a riot of color, mostly from the use of vibrant annuals such as Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in orange and yellow, and dahlia-flowered and Lilliput zinnias in mixed colors. Perennials evident included masses of coneflowers including the common purple and the newer reds and orange-colored kinds. Verbena bonariensis was covered in swallowtail butterflies, and monarchs flitted among various milkweeds, including the pink swamp milkweed and the orange butterfly weed.

By far the biggest number of varieties represented in the trials was from Calibrachoa in a rich assortment of colors. Resembling miniature petunias, they provide a color range possibly as extensive as bearded irises and tulips. On mounded plants, some were covered in so many flowers they almost completely hid the foliage.  It was hard to pick a favorite, but two stood out from the rest: Calipetite Mid Blue from Sakata Seeds and Harvest Moon, a bi-color with terracotta petals and a maroon throat. Both were extremely free-flowering but the blue was intense and like nothing else we had seen in annuals. It should be noted that the best colors in Calibrachoa are grown from cuttings. There is a series called Kabloom that can be grown from seed, but germination is erratic and the color range not nearly as extensive as calibrachoa grown from cuttings.

PENN STATE UNIVERSITY POLLINATOR TRIAL IDENTIFIES THE BEST PLANTS FOR POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY GARDENS. The Penn State Horticulture Department has partnered with the Xerces Society (a conservation group dedicated to protecting threatened beneficial insects) to test native plants and determine which are the most efficient in attracting pollinators such as butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. We noted that many of them (like Joe-pye weed and yellow cone-flower) were rather too tall for a home garden, but silvery Monarda fistulosa and mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) – with its silvery leaves and low growing habit – could certainly add ornamental value to any mixed planting.

The 10 top plants for total pollinator visits over three years were the following: Pycnanthemum muticum (mountain mint), Solidago rigida (erect goldenrod), Eryngium yuccifolium (rattlesnake master), Solidago nemoralis (gray goldenrod), Eupatorum hyssopifolium (thoroughwort), Liatris microcephala (dwarf blazing star), Eutrochium dubium (coastal plain joe-pye weed), Ascclepias incarnate (swamp milkweed), Monarda fistula (wild bergamot), and Symphyotrichum (smooth aster).

The next 10 best plants for pollinator visits over three years, are as follows: Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset), Veronicastrum virginicum (culver’s root), Helianthus annuus ‘Lemon Queen’ (annual sunflower), Helenium autumnale (Helen’s flower), Symphytotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies (aromatic aster), Monarda ‘Peter’s Fancy Fuchsia’ (bee balm), Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’ (tickseed), Monarda punctata (spotted bee balm), Coreopsis tripteris (tall tickseed), and Symphyotrichum nova-anglie (New England aster). It should be noted that these choices were for the North-eastern US, and a different set of pollinator-friendly plants would apply to other climate areas such as the Desert south, Pacific Northwest and coastal California, information that is available through the local extension service.

A brochure explains that pollinators are in trouble from loss of habitat and gardeners can help by following some simple guidelines. These include the planting of nectar food sources (essential to hummingbirds and butterflies) and larvae food sources for butterfly caterpillars. A pollinator friendly garden also should provide water and it should be free of pesticide use and invasive plant species. Choose plants native to your region since native plants are often four times more attractive to pollinators than non-natives. Choose plants with a range of shapes and colors since this will attract the widest range of pollinators. Plant in drifts since pollinators can more easily find plants when they are in a colony of at least three or more. Plant heirloom varieties and avoid hybrids (especially double-flowered kinds) since many have their petals so tightly packed they lack pollen or nectar. Don’t forget that many flowering trees (such as serviceberry and redbud) and flowering shrubs (such as pussy willow and fothergilla) provide nectar early in the season. For more information about pollinator garden for the Northeast visitors are encouraged to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

MIAMI’S UNDERLINE GREENSPACE WILL TURN 10 MILES OF URBAN BLIGHT INTO A LINEAR PARK. The City of Miami is proud of its rapid transit system known as the Metrorail since it is a 25 mile elevated rail line that connects north Miami with south Miami. Now, plans are moving forward to turn ten miles of under-utilized land that sits in the shade of the rail line into a 10 mile linear park that includes walking and biking trails, recreation areas, and provides a living canvas for art. The transformation will extend from the Miami River to South Station, creating more than 100 acres of green space including restored natural habitats obliterated by the original construction of massive expanses of steel and concrete.

Through a competition process, James Corner Field Operations of New York City was selected to create the master plan, with input collected from surveys and public meetings.

Friends of the Underline is a non-profit organization that has partnered with the Dade County Parks Department to seek funds. The board of directors includes architects, landscape designers, urban planners, biking clubs, marketing experts, philanthropists, members of the legal and accounting professions, business leaders, rear estate developers and others. The project gathered momentum when Friends of the Underline founder, Meg Daly broke both her arms and was forced to use the Metrorail to travel. During her journeys she realized that the shade of the elevated tracks created a cool environment for plants and a pleasant place for people to walk or ride their bicycles, and so she decided to enlist local support for a linear park.

Working with James Corner Field Operations will be the Fairchild Botanic Garden, a sub-tropical oasis south of Miami. The plan calls for landscaping with a diverse plant palate and since Miami is in zone 10 on the USDA climate map, it is expected that sub-tropical plants will predominate, such as coconut palms that can reach up into the sunlight, and exotic gingers that relish shade.

Total cost is expected to be $110 to $120 million: $80 million to be spent on establishing two trails with lighting, seating and other amenities; $20 million for green space improvements at 30 intersections and $20 million for destination parks, raising the value of real estate along the line and creating an estimated 1,000 new jobs from construction that will take place in phases and may take ten years to complete. In addition to drawing local residents, the project is also expected to draw tourism.


‘POINT PELEE’ MUM POPULAR FOR AUTUMN DISPLAY. Bred by Cornelius  P. Vanderberg, of Salinas, California, the most popular garden chrysanthemum is ‘Point Pelee’, a robust dome-shaped plant with large, bi-colored single-petalled daisy like flowers. The petals are yellow with a russet red edging and a bright yellow button center. Plants form a dense dome of long-lasting flowers ideal for autumn display in containers and as mass plantings. The 1-2 ft. high plants are also ideal for cutting. Although a perennial, ‘Point Pelee’ is not cold hardy except in zones 7,8 and 9. The original ‘Pele’ cushion mum was introduced in 1992, while the improved ‘Point Pelee’ was developed from it and introduced in 2006 to wide acclaim from nurseries and garden centers who saw the plants snapped up by customers in preference to most other cushion mum varieties.

A VISIT TO THE LOIS BURPEE MEMORIAL HERB GARDEN. The Henry Schmeider Arboretum and Gardens on the campus of Delaware Valley Agricultural College, Doylestown, Pennsylvania displays stately trees and extensive gardens, including a gazebo garden of annuals and flowering vines, adjacent to the Lois Burpee Memorial Herb Garden . Entered through archways of hop vines and enclosed by a white picket fence, the formal layout of red brick paths features culinary, medicinal, fragrance and dye plants. Lois Burpee (1912-1984) was the wife of David Burpee, dean of American seedsmen and lived with him on an adjoining property called Fordhook Farm. She was an expert cook and produced the recipes for a cookery book titled Lois Burpee’s Gardening Companion & Cook Book (Harper Row,) now out of print.  A co-founder of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation (her parents were missionaries in the Middle East,) she met her husband at a flower show and obtained a job with his company, conducting research. Each year she cultivated her own personal small-space vegetable garden next to her home. She died after suffering a stroke aboard a transatlantic flight from London to New York, after concluding a pleasure tour of British gardens, and shortly after the death of her husband.

BETTER BILT GARDEN TRELLIS IDEAL FOR VERTICAL GARDENING. The idea of growing UP rather than OUT to save space and labor is appealing to many gardeners who can either make their own trellis for support, using lumber or bamboo, or purchase a variety of ready-made wooden and plastic trellis. A more aesthetically pleasing and more durable kind of trellis is made by Better-Bilt using galvanized metal. Sold in packages of four folding sections or panels, the sections easily lock together to create a strong wire fence for placing flat against a wall, or placed in a zig-zag arrangement to be free-standing. Using similar panels, but not so high, Better Bilt also offers a square metal compost bin that easily assembles to create a single compartment or a multi-compartment system. The trellis panels are strong enough to support many vigorous kinds of vining vegetables – such as pole beans, indeterminate tomatoes and grapes - and also woody flowering vines such as climbing roses and clematis. For more information contact www.betterbilt.com.

AUTUMN FLOWERING DAFFODILS. The current issue of the Daffodil Journal, official publication of the American Daffodil Society, contains a fascinating article about autumn flowering daffodils, of which Narcissus serotinus seems to be the only one that is offered for sale on the internet. This daffodil flowers mostly in October on short stems, usually below 6 inches, with a six-petalled white flower that resembles an Actaea daffodil, but with a yellow cup rather than orange. They are native to islands of the Mediterranean and also to coastal areas of North Africa, including Morocco and Israel. The flowers are sweetly scented and they like gravelly, well-drained soils. The species Narcissus obsoletus and Narcissus miniatus are also autumn flowering but with an orange cup instead of yellow, otherwise similar in appearance.

IN THE NEXT ISSUE: How much does the presence of trees increase the value of a residential property? Studies in Australia and Texas give some very precise amounts. In this issue we review some major advancements in ornamental woody plants, notably small trees and shrubs based on performance in a leading Michigan nursery’s trial gardens. Want a meadow garden of vibrant native wildflowers? We spotlight three plant families that give the biggest bang for the buck. We also present some of the most beautiful milkweeds to grow that will not only light up your garden but provide essential habitat for Monarch butterflies. Also, we describe wild plants we should be eating more of, according to a Denver-based nutritionist. AND MUCH MORE

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