The Fall 2015 issue of Country Gardens just went on sale with TWO different cover images. Let us know which do you like better (and why)…and don’t forget to like Country Gardens magazine on Facebook!
Omaha is home to thousands of refugees from South Sudan, Burma, Bhutan, Somalia, Burundi, the Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, among others. Laura Weiss, an Omaha native and volunteer ESL teacher, was moved by her students’ stories of the lives they left behind, and the lives they dream of here. One common thread emerged: many said they missed gardening and farming. So, with borrowed land and a small grant from a foundation, Laura started the Root Down Community Garden on the Southwest corner of 32nd and Webster, just west of the Creighton University campus, giving these recent arrivals a way to literally and figuratively put down roots in Omaha by growing organic vegetables and herbs. That’s me above with Laura and some of the many refugees she works with at the Root Down Community Garden. The Country Gardens crew—including photographer Jacob Fox—was there a few weeks ago to produce a story for the early Spring 2015 issue.
While Laura originally intended the garden to encourage her students to pursue a favorite hobby, and give them a taste of home, she also realized that the economic hardships they endure restrict their access to nourishing fresh foods. Ultimately she hopes gardeners, who are primarily women from Bhutan and Sudan, will be able to sell some produce at summer farmers’ markets or teach cooking classes representing their traditional cuisines. In the meantime, the gardeners are getting to know each other – and their new community – better. “This project is bigger than Omaha, bigger than the individual people, and bigger than simply the beauty of a community garden,” said Laura. “This project will change the lives of people who have struggled and suffered for far too long. Refugees arrive in the United States and immediately enter the poverty level. With these economic dynamics, access to nourishing foods is extremely restricted. Root Down promotes compassion, community health, self-sustainability, and cultural understanding.” You can see we found a new green thumb and green-hearted friend of Country Gardens!
The United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 69 years ago, bringing about the end of World War II and ushering in the atomic age. Last fall, I was fortunate to be invited to attend a Japanese flower show dedicated to world peace in the shadow of Nagasaki, the last city to survive a nuclear attack. This was Japan’s fourth annual Gardening World Cup, held in a slightly surreal 18th-century Dutch-inspired theme park called Huis Ten Bosch, complete with canals and windmills and wooden shoes. Getting there wasn’t easy. After the long transpacific flight to Tokyo, I faced another two-hour flight plus a lengthy train ride to get to the southern end of the country, near the city of Sasebo. After more than 30 hours of travel, I finally found myself—rumpled and exhausted—at the Hotel Europe, one of several well-appointed hotels within the theme park. Sixteen designers were chosen for the exhibition—six from Japan, two each from New Zealand and South Korea, and one each from England, France, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, and the United States. The designer representing the United States was my friend Michael Petrie, a veteran of many Philadelphia Flower Shows. The theme was “A Prayer for World Peace through Gardens and Flowers,” especially fitting for a flower show so close to Nagasaki. I met up with friend and photographer Rob Cardillo, and we decided to focus our attentions on our five favorite garden designers and their entries: Michael Petrie (United States), James Basson (France), Xanthe White (New Zealand), Lim In Chong (the inspiration for each of their thought-provoking entries. Malaysia), and Leon Kluge (South Africa). Check out the results of our visit in the Fall 2014 issue of Country Gardens, on sale now!
I saw this in my lawn today. It’s a slime mold, which is not something you see very often, although it’s more common than most realize. These are some of the most fascinating, bizarre living things in existence. They move around, albeit slowly, like the Blob (of the old movie) and they look like the Blob too. What are they doing? Well, not much. Just cruising around, digesting organic matter (i.e. decomposing grass and the like). They only appear when it’s moist, such as after a rain. Often, they appear at night, when it’s dewy and humid, but shrivel away in the bright warmth of the day. They are disgusting-looking, without a doubt, and have rightfully earned the colorful nickname “dog vomit fungus”. Even so, it’s one of the fun little surprises that nature sometimes offers up.
Everyone’s heard about the unusually rough winter we had in the Midwest this year. I lost several plants that were marginally hardy here in Zone 5, which had survived for a number of previous winters, but gave up the ghost this time around. Something especially interesting happened with my redbuds. I had four kinds: generic, Forest Pansy, Burgundy Hearts and The Rising Sun (shown here). The Rising Sun (my fav!) and the generic redbud grew out this spring unscathed. Forest Pansy and Burgundy Hearts—well established specimens—were killed. This illustrates the natural variability within plant species, and why the variety and source matters. When you’re growing a plant near its hardiness limit, it doesn’t take too severe of a winter to push it over the edge.
There are two lessons here: first, do your homework and choose varieties known to be relatively winter hardy. Sometimes these exist, sometime not, but it’s worth checking, especially for high value plants like trees. The grower of The Rising Sun, Green Leaf Nursery, told me that they believed it was slightly hardier than the average redbud. Sure enough, it lived where others died. (Japanese maple is another example of a species that varies a lot in hardiness.)
Second, the geographical origin of the tree’s genetics, known as its “provenance”, matters. A flowering dogwood growing in the forests of Missouri will most likely have better cold tolerance than one growing naturally in, say, Florida. Each is adapted to its environment, and a colder environment means that trees from there will be better adapted to cold. Thoughtful growers act on this by seeking plant and seed sources from northern areas, when possible, and conscientious garden retailers try to stock plants from such growers. On the other hand, many retailers stock trees and shrubs grown in warmer regions. You can tell because they’re selling leafed-out specimens when the native landscape is still bare, a dead giveaway that the plant just arrived on a truck from, perhaps, hundreds of miles south.
If a plant is rated for one or more Zones colder than yours, this probably doesn’t matter. But if a plant is rated only to your Zone, it may pay to be choosy.
By Abbey Barrow
After a long, sometimes treacherous, winter, the first signs of spring are beginning to emerge. The temperature is slowly climbing, parks and outdoor hotspots are packed, and the first buds are blooming on our trees and in our gardens. But one of the most welcome signs of spring is that of the songbirds are chirping in the trees. Their melodies make for early morning greetings and a reminder that the full-fledged beauty of spring is right around the corner.
Just in time, The US Postal Service is celebrating the sounds of spring with their collection of songbird postage stamps. Featuring a wide array of 10 different birds from across the nation (including the Mountain Bluebird, Baltimore Oriole, and American Goldfinch), the collection is sure to add a little dose of joy to the mail. The beautiful songbird images, created by illustrator Robert Giusti, feature each bird perched upon a branch accented with buds, leaves, and flowers.
But the timing of the stamp collection also correlates with a dangerous time in the life of a bird as several of the species featured on the stamps will be migrating within the next couple weeks. Besides marking mail with a beautiful songbird to raise awareness of the migration trials, there are other ways to help out our avian friends during this challenging season.
In fact, the American Bird Conservancy has released a list of migration season dangers and suggestions for how we can help the birds in our areas thrive. These include everything from making sure cats are inside, to applying treatments to prevent birds from hitting your windows when they’re travelling. The ABC even suggests ways you can foster a bird’s habitat with a backyard native plant garden. This area will supply a native insect population for the birds to eat, helping the area’s species to thrive. But perhaps the best way to help the birds is one of the simplest: watch them. Take note of their patterns and develop an appreciation for just how amazing these creatures are. To purchase the Songbird Collection of Stamps, head to Usps.com/stamps or US Post Offices nationwide
For more information on spring migration, see the rest of the American Bird Conservancy’s tips here (http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/140320.html)