Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter-Spring Catalog is available on-line

You can view the new catalog now on our website at:

The paper catalog should be in mailboxes soon, and on-line registration will be available after the first of the year.

As always, you can also call, fax or email to register or for more information: phone 585-473-5130, fax 585-473-8136, or email

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wreathmaking Class

This year's wreathmaking class with Nellie Gardner was a blast, as always! Tons of fun, and everyone's wreath turned out great.

Nellie setting up the room - what a huge assortment of natural materials she brought in her little truck.

Some wreaths in progress:

Everyone's wreath came out different!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


"Hearts-a-bursting" or strawberry bush or Euonymus americanus is the Botany Photo of the Day for today November 19, 2008 at the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research out of Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. It is a wonderful site full of plant information and beautiful botanical photos. You can even sign up here to have the Botany Photo of the Day emailed to you. It is inspiring to see all the beautiful pictures of plants plus you learn a bit about each plant that is featured as well. It is a site not to be missed by lovers of plants and all things green.

Perhaps it is inpiring enough to encourage you to take your camera out in the garden or on walks with you. Refer to your camera's user manual to see if it has a setting for close-up pictures. My camera has a little flower icon next to the button that will put it into "macro mode" or in other words set it so it can focus on close-up subjects. Here is an easy to understand article from DIY on taking botanical pictures to get you started. Google will also be able to get you even more information if you search for something like "camera macro."

Hopefully you've enjoyed some of my botanical photographs that have been sprinkled through this blog and the Rochester Civic Garden Center's webpages - including the picture above. The above picture is of common toadflax, Linaria vulgaris, or my favorite name for it, butter-and-eggs. Although most who are not herbalists consider it an alien weed, it is a gorgeous photo subject. It's not a weed to me. I love their late summer color and ability to grow in the leanest and driest waste places on my property. Just how could you hate that?


Thursday, October 9, 2008

What are you doing for HerbDay?

HerbDay is coordinated series of independently produced public educational events celebrating the importance of herbs and herbalism. HerbDay was conceived of by five nonprofit organizations with interests in herbs and herbalism to raise public awareness about the significance of herbs in our lives and the many ways herbs can be used safely and creatively for health, beauty care, and culinary enjoyment. In 2008, HerbDay will be held on Saturday October 11th. People wishing to hold an herb-related event can register their event with the HerbDay organization but they are not required to. Check out the HerbDay website for a schedule of events to see if there is a registered event being held near you.

Since the event is young and still growing you may not find an event being held near you. If that is the case, you can still celebrate HerbDay. Go to your favorite local park with woodland hiking trails and look for wild herb plants. They will be all around you. A good book to take on your travels would be Peterson’s A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America by Duke and Foster. It is my one of my favorite books on herbs. You may also wish to take a list of some plants to look for. Here is an Herb List for Western NY State (PDF document) that I put together which includes many wild herb plants as well as a few garden herb plants that you may come across in your travels. It is by no means a complete or exhaustive list but it should give you a starting place. And please remember to NOT pick the plants you find unless you have permission and KNOW exactly what you are picking. That warning is as much for your safety as it is for stewardship of wild places and plants. Besides poisonous and toxic plants, there are many wild medicinal plants that are at risk from overharvesting. See United Plant Savers for more information on 'at-risk' medicinal plants.

If stomping through the wilds is not your cup of tea, perhaps you could plan an herb garden for next year. Your herb garden could feature culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, follow a theme, or any other thing that strikes your fancy. There are many books on herb gardening and your local library or the RCGC's Horticultural Library can certainly help locate one of these books for you. But if you need something to get you thinking now, I wrote an article Starting an Herb Garden which may be of interest to you.

However you wish to spend HerbDay, I hope you enjoy yourself and at least give pause to consider all the wonderful things herbs have given human beings down through the millennia.


Friday, September 12, 2008

The Littlest Sister in My Garden

Every year is an interesting experience in the vegetable garden. Unlike last year, the melons, squashes, and cucumbers produced rather dismally this year. My poor-performers of last year, beans, did wonderful this year. In truth, more than wonderful. The Seneca, who are the Haudenosaunee people who live in this part of NY State, call corn, beans, and squash “The Three Sisters.” The Seneca name for the Three Sisters is Joh-heh-goh which means “These Things which Sustain Us." The littlest sister, beans, has been quite sustainer in my garden this year. For the very small footprint in my garden dedicated to beans, it has produced many grocery bags full of food.

Pole beans are a climbing, vining variety of bean that need a trellis or poles to climb on. I think they are a good vegetable choice for people with small plots of land since they grow mostly vertical. Poles in the back of a sun-filled garden location along with ample moisture is all that these beans require. In planning your gardens for next year, why not include some veggies such as pole beans? They will surely sustain you as well.

One of my rows of pole beans was the ultimate seed cleanup grab bag. I took 6 – 8 different types of pole beans that I had little bits of and planted a row. That row offered a huge variety in color, flavor and long harvest time. By far the stellar performers in that row were the Kentucky Wonder (H), Purple Podded (H), and Cherokee Trail of Tears (H) beans. All good tasting and highly productive beans. I also enjoyed dedicated rows of Dragon Langerie (H, bush), Red Noodle (OP, long bean), Helda (OP, pole), Goldfield (pole), and Jade (OP, bush) beans. Goldfield is one of the few vegetable varieties that I go out of my way to get each year. It produces flat yellow beans that are 10” long and about an 1” wide which are tasty and tender even at the larger sizes.

Fish Pepper

Some other garden favorites this year include the following.
Note: (H) = Heirloom and (OP) = OpenPollinated

Tomato: Zapotec Pleated (H), Lemon Drop (OP), Red Currant (OP), Thai Pink (H)
Tomatillo: Mexican Strain (OP)
Basil: Siam Queen (Thai type). Tasty and pretty enough for the flower bed.
Pepper: Fish (H). 4 year favorite! It is a beautiful variegated plant with small, striped, tasty hot peppers. Edibile and ornamental!
Calendula: Solis Sponsa (H). Calendula is always in my veggie garden for attracting pollinators as well as medicinal herb use. This is a wonderful orange variety with dark centers.
Lettuce: Reine des Glaces (H)
Fava: Guatemalan Purple (H) - my garden "snack food" that never makes it to the dinner plate. A 5 year favorite.

I suppose I've rambled enough but be sure to check out the links and book sources below for Three Sisters stories and Native American Gardening information.


Sources for Three Sisters and Native American gardening information:

Gaedago:h (In the Garden) by Pearl Henry
Native American Gardening by Gilbert Wilson
Native American Gardening by Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
Three Sisters Garden
Cornell Article on Iroquois Three Sisters Gardening
Three Sisters Gardening (including background and plans)
Three Sisters Story

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Garden Tip #1 - Buckets of Fun

I have found children's sand buckets to be a marvelous and very inexpensive garden tool. I have used them to mix potting soil, water individual plants (when you don't want to drag the hose out), and to carry harvested items from the garden whether they be herbs, tomatoes, beans, and more. The small size keeps the weight down - a blessing if you're not built like Charles Atlas. One caveat, the handles can be flimsy so keeping the load light becomes a requirement.

You might not see the purple and green plastic sand pails in a Smith and Hawken or Martha Stewart Living photo spread, but these little buckets are useful and inexpensive. Perhaps there are some already about your house....

Herbs - Oregano, Mountain Mint,
Comfrey, Lemon Balm, Sage,
Sang Ye, Raspberry leaf, and Dandelion Leaf


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lunchtime with Gardeners

For many years I worked in IT, mostly as a Unix System Administrator. Lunch time spent with peers and co-workers usually saw the conversation slip to the tech-topic of the day, fishing, hunting, family, and things that use gasoline. Now that I’m working at the RCGC, the lunch time conversations are of quite different themes. Sometimes it is about new plants we have in the garden or how our tomatoes are growing. Sometimes it is about nurseries we’ve visited or where to buy “turkey grit” so it can be used as a soil amendment . Yesterday it was about how some people (nurseries included) plant/pot trees too deeply and if you use the rule of thumb (as I have) to plant as deeply as it was in the pot, you could end up loosing trees. They don’t die right away. They could linger on for a few years and then wham! Dead tree. (If you are curious as to what is the proper way to plant a tree try one of these two sites: the first has more visually-oriented instructions while the second is more verbal.) I have learned much in these lunchtime conversations with my co-workers and fellow gardeners.

Native trees: sassafras and eastern white pine

My lunchtime education reminds me much of all I have gleaned from the questions asked by other students in the classes I have taken through the RCGC. The instructors and their course content for these classes are truly exemplary. The classes showcase both the breadth and the depth of the instructor’s skill and knowledge. And as a testament to each instructor’s expertise and acumen is how they answer the students’ questions. Students often bring their garden and landscaping queries with them to ask the instructor who not only answers the questions, they often use them to illustrate the different objectives of the class. This makes each class a unique opportunity for learning.

So if you haven’t taken an RCGC class yet, give it a try. There is so much to learn for so little. Each quarter there are also classes and "brown-bag lunches" that are free to RCGC members. (See the course catalog for more details about these offerings.) Or if you have already taken a class from us, how about another class on a different topic? They are always changing. Or perhaps you could take a favorite one again. Some of the classes, such as the hands-on Pruning classes with Mike Tanzini, can be taken over and over again with each one being a very unique and learning experience. I’m sure you’ll go away with some new learnings...kind of like me at lunchtime.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Attention Greedy Gardeners

Maybe you're like me-I always want more plants than I can fit into my garden, so shrubs that can be cut back are big on my list . I wasn't aware of many of the varieties available (like Fuschia Magelinica) until I started talking with Jerry Kral about some of the shrubs he has experimented with. Did you know that many "tender" shrubs can be over-wintered and treated like hardy perennials? Jerry really knows his plants, and his garden never fail to inspire me. It's a treat to go there. Don't miss Tender Shrubs and Botanical Treasures on Wednesday July 16, 7-8:30pm.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"Is This a Plant or a Weed?"

Being a plant person yourself, perhaps the title amuses you as much as it does me. A weed is a plant but some act as though it is something alien and very unplant like. There has been more than one post to GardenWeb's Name That Plant! Forum that has had a subject line similar to the title of this post. I giggle each time I see one of those subject lines. Humor for plant nerds, I guess!

Perhaps you're of a different mind, but I think a weed is merely a plant in the wrong place. A weed is neither good nor bad. It just is, albeit in the wrong place. This reminds me of a recent conversation about weeds with a 7-year old who was saying "Weeds are bad!" I went on to tell him about some of the "weeds" that I use for "plant medicine," i.e. herbalism. Plantain (Plantago major) was there and handy at the time so I told him about "nature's band-aid" and how mushed-up plantain leaves can help take the sting and itch out a bug bite. I've used it and it works. Besides being useful, weeds can have the most interesting nick-names, history, and traditions associated with them as well. Plantain, for example, is euphemistically called "White Man's Foot" because it seemed to follow in the white man's footsteps in the New World. A Mohawk herbalist I saw speak about medicinal plants said to use only the round, fat, "female" plantain leaves, never the thin, pointy, "male" leaves. The female were medicine while the male ones were poison. I know I prefer the round, fleshy ones myself.


One of my all time favorite weeds is the infamous dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). The word "dandelion" comes from the French dent de lion or "lion tooth" and it aptly describes the jagged, toothed leaves. Out of all the herbs I harvest for medicinal use, dandelion root and leaf top the list. I end up with pounds of dried root and leaf each year. One of the medicinal uses for dandelion is evidenced in some of its most colorful nick-names which concern themselves with "urinating in the bed." It is used as a diuretic. Besides its medicinal values, dandelion is a well-known and nutritional green that is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. It is no wonder that our ancestors sought this food plant for their spring tonics and dinner plates! And let's not forget dandelion wine made from those pretty yellow early spring blooms. Mmmm...good stuff.


There are so many more wonderful weeds to learn more about. If this interests you at all, please consider joining us at RCGC's Your Backyard Herbal Medicine Chest class on August 9th. Arleen Oliver, program director at the historic Buckland House, will lead the class on a tour of the medicinal uses of your garden weeds. Please see our education page for more details and registration information. I hope to see you there!


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Odyssey To Ithaca 2008

I had a marvelous time at last Saturday's annual Odyssey to Ithaca trip. I got to meet new people, make new friends, buy plants, take pictures of plants, have a wonderful "herbal lunch" at Baker's Acres, buy some more plants, take more pictures, visit nurseries and gardens I hadn't been to......and oh yeah, buy more plants!!

Robison York State Herb Garden

The tour started out at the Cornell Plantations. It was a beautiful day to wander amongst the variously themed gardens, taking pictures and answering a question here and there. My favorite garden was the Robison York State Herb Garden - not a hard guess given my herbalist nature. One plant that seem to catch alot of attention there (confirmed by some of the purchases I saw at nurseries throughout the day) was the herb angelica (Angelica archangelica). It was in flower and it is quite spectacular while in bloom. Many people wondered as to its herbal uses. A nice on-line resource for getting that information is the Plants for a Future database and I encourage you to check it out.

Cornell Plantations - Masterwort

Pipevine. Aristolochia macrophylla. Someone asked me about a vine that was blooming at the Cornell Plantations and at Baker's Acres that I didn't know off the top of my head. This is what it is. I would have posted a picture here but my pictures of it turned out less than optimum.

Our next stop was Baker's Acres. Cool place. Great Lunch! With a wonderful selection of plants for good prices. I came away with some gas plants, society garlic, and white baneberry plants. (Yeah, I'm not a petunia and marigolds sort of gal!) If you were wondering what those pretty plants blooming in the gardens near to the Garden Room (where we ate our lunch) were that you didn't know, they were gas plants (Dictamnus albus). I answered a number of questions on them but thought I'd share in case others were wondering!

Baker's Acres

Our next stop was Bedlam Gardens. An interesting little nursery and a great place for peonies! Just wandering around the many, many gardens, which were clearly a labor of love, is worth the trip!

Bedlam Gardens - Pasque flowers gone to seed

Our next and last stop was Dickman Farms - a very nice Garden Center. We had a tour of their production greenhouses and we learned about the millions of plants that they process, grow, and ship. It was a very interesting and informative end to a wonderful day!

Dickman Farms - Production Greenhouse

All in all a wonderful day and a date not to miss next year!


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Saying so long...

Today is my last day at the garden center. It is time for me to move on.
I have met so many wonderful people in my years here at RCGC. Alana Miller said something to me yesterday, “this place is about the people.” And she’s right. Some of you may not realize how much time and effort goes into keeping the garden center alive. RCGC has some of the best volunteers around and I will miss each and every one of them.

I am amazed every day by how much Judy accomplishes and how many balls she juggles at one time. She has become a great friend – to a lot of people I think .

Chris jumped into life at RCGC a year and a half ago with great enthusiasm and a huge heart. She is a dear person.

Yes, RCGC’s mission is horticultural education – but it’s also full of great people.

So for now I am saying so long, but not good-bye!

Hugs - Debbie

Thursday, May 15, 2008

We Need Your Plants

RCGC needs your plants for our booth at the Proud Market Plant sale - Saturday, May 24 (Memorial Day weekend), 8 am till the plants run out. Come early, the best things sell fast. This is a fantastic sale - specialty vendors, great finds and great prices.

Bring us your perennial divisions, extra annuals, etc., during the week before Memorial Day weekend. You can leave them in the courtyard behind the building if we are not open. Try to label them with as much information as you know - name of plant, flower color, etc. Sales at our booth benefit the education program and library. For more information, see our website and the summer catalog.

Courtyard Rehabilitation Project

The installation of the second flagstone walk hit a major snag when this 6 - 8 inch thick concrete sidewalk was unearthed late last year (as the snow began to fly). Ever resourceful and energetic, RCGC volunteer Rhea took it upon herself to start breaking the sidewalk up this morning - by hand.

Love the technique.

Rhea, you're our hero.



By 3pm the sidewalk looked like this

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Trough Planting Demystified

RCGC Director Christine Froehlich has an article in the current issue of Rochester Magazine (May-June 2008) on Betsy Knapp and her incredible hypertufa troughs. Betsy has perfected the art of making these troughs in her own distinctive, immaculately finished style, and sells them on consignment and at Bristol's Garden Center.

Betsy got into trough making to have somewhere to plant the alpine rock garden plants that she has grown to love: "I didn't want one or two, I wanted lots of them." And she has lots of them, planted with everything from alpines to miniature vegetables.

Betsy has a class coming up very soon at RCGC: "Trough Planting Demystified," Saturday May 10 at 10-11:30 am. There is still space in the class; see the Winter-Spring Catalog on our website for more information, and call or email to sign up.

Position Available

Rochester Civic Garden Center
Administrative Coordinator

Part time, 24 hour per week position.
Candidates must have strong computer skills with a financial background and understanding of Quickbooks, Microsoft Office (Excel and Word) and HTML (for website maintenance).
Good interpersonal and organizational skills are desirable. Must have some flexibility to work occasional weekends and evenings for special events.
Send cover letter and resume to: Christine Froehlich at

Thursday, March 27, 2008

2008 Spring Symposium

Some images taken by Guy Coppola at our recent event (as one participant put it, “The best symposium yet.” But they all are...)

Buying raffle tickets

Andrew Fowler and his witch hazels

Gordon Hayward

Karen Bussolini

The Marketplace

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What a Beautiful Dress!

Lucinda Snyder, who has an upcoming knitting class at RCGC, knit this dress for her January wedding. What a gorgeous work of art! The pattern is from Vogue Knitting's 25th Anniversary edition.