Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

Posts by James A. Baggett

We were delighted last week to host contributing editor Debra Prinzing while she was in town to produce a local flower story at PepperHarrow Farm, just a short drive south and west of Des Moines. The farm sits on 20 acres nestled among the covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa, and sits above the Middle River Valley. This is home to Adam and Jennifer O’Neal, their three children, two acres of cut-flower and produce gardens, honeybees, 12 acres of pasture for heritage breed cows and chickens. Who knew such a cool cut-flower farm was just a short scenic drive away? That’s me with Adam and Jennifer taking a break during our two-day photo shoot. We can’t wait to share our story with you on this impressive organic and sustainable family operation.

It is with bittersweet emotions that we say goodbye to friend and colleague Jane Miller, who has announced her early retirement as garden Editor of Better Homes and Gardens. A much of us gathered in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden last week to pay our respects, including many of the original SIM Garden Group (it was a department of 23 when I was hired in 2004). Here are, from left to right, Samantha Thorpe, Doug Jimerson, Heather Knowles, Jane Miller, Jarrett Einck, myself, Susan Appleget Hurst, Nick Crow, Sandra Gerdes, and Luke Miller. Jane, we thank you for years of green-hearted friendship and collaboration and we will miss you to pieces.

Please know that I am not a very good photographer. But I do want to share with you a handful of images I took of feathered friends during my recent trip to London and the Chelsea Flower Show.

This first curious bird is an Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus) found at Kew Gardens. Related to the shelduck, this pale brown and grey goose has distinctive dark brown eye-patches and contrasting white wing patches in flight. It was introduced as an ornamental wildfowl species and has escaped into the wild.

This is a handsome Greylag Goose (Anser anser), also at Kew Gardens. The ancestor of most domestic geese, the greylag is the largest and bulkiest of the wild geese native to the UK and Europe.

The Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)  is a very large white waterbird. It has a long S-shaped neck, and an orange bill with black at the base of it. Flies with its neck extended and regular slow wingbeats. The population in the UK has increased recently, perhaps due to better protection of this species. This elegant swimmer was in Kew Pond, London.

I saved my favorite for last. This cheeky little European Robin (Erithacus rubella) hopped up to me while I was sipping a beer at Kew Gardens. This is the UK’s favourite bird, with its bright red breast it is familar throughout the year. Males and females look identical, and young birds have no red breast and are spotted with golden brown. Robins sing nearly all year round. The American Robin was named after the European Robin because of its reddish-orange breast, though the two species are not closely related.

To me, there’s nothing more satisfying than digging in the dirt with a young person. So I jumped at the chance a few weeks ago to visit an Edible Schoolyard in Brooklyn, New York—actually P.S. 216, The Arturo Toscanini School on Avenue X—to produce an story for Country Gardens. I was excited to spend the day in the garden with a rainbow of elementary school kids as well as with photographer Rob Cardillo and writer Hali Ramdene. Edible Schoolyard NYC partners with public schools to transform the hearts, minds, and eating habits of young New Yorkers through garden and kitchen classes integrated into the school day. Established in 2010, Edible Schoolyard NYC is a nonprofit organization committed to bringing Alice Waters’ vision to New York City public schools. When Ms. Waters—acclaimed restaurateur and food activist—created the Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley, California in 1995, she knew the best way to teach children the connections between food, health, and the environment was by integrating an edible education program into our schools’ everyday curriculum.

Look for the story in the Spring 2017 issue of Country Gardens. Oh, this program in Brooklyn has been such a wonderful success, they are now working at six schools in three boroughs and providing support for educators to create and develop their own programs at schools across the city.

With all the buzzing, chirping, whirring, zitzing, and general insect noise here in Central Iowa, it’s hard to do anything else but listen. Late afternoons begin with the annual cicadas (scissor-grinders here in Iowa), at dusk the male crickets begin rubbing their wings together creating their signature chirp. Late at night the last signers take over, the katydids. That’s one I found hiding out in a daylily in my front yard last week.

Then, last Friday, the electrician pointed to the side of my house and asked me, “Is that a decoration?” No, but it most certainly was a green and glowing Luna Moth! Adult Luna Moths only live for about a week, long enough only to mate and lay eggs. I tried to get a picture of it. That’s it, above. Who’s been visiting your garden?

Just returned last week from Bailey Nurseries’ 2016 Media Preview in Portland, Oregon, where our friends at Bailey proved to be unflappable hosts to a small crew of consumer and trade magazine editors.

That’s Bailey President Terry McEnaney and her son Ryan welcoming me to their impressive Yamhill Farm operation, where we learned all about their container and bare-root production surrounded by millions of pots of garden-worthy roses, trees, and shrubs.

We also toured their growing fields on Sauvie Island and walked through acres of Endless Summer hydrangeas and Easy Elegance roses and First Editions plants. Bailey Nurseries’ West Coast operations consist of five bare root production farms of more than 3,000 acres, more than 150 acres of container production and some 8 acres of propagation greenhouses.

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