Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Seed Swap, Symposium & more!

Our Annual Houseplant & Seed Swap event is just around the corner. This year it is on Saturday January 30th from 9:45am - 12:30pm. Bring your seeds and houseplant cuttings to this popular event to trade with other enthusiasts. There are speakers, refreshments, and more. See our Seed Swap web page for additional details and registration information!

In case you're wondering, the bloom above is from an orchid cactus I got last year at the Seed Swap. There truly is something for everyone!

We also have just added on-line ticket purchases to our Spring Garden Symposium webpage - be sure to give yourself an after-the-holidays gift and buy yourself a ticket! Our Symposium this year features Claire Sawyers talking on "Cultivating a Sense of Place" and Bruce Zaretsky speaking on "Doctor's Orders: Take a Walk (in the Garden!)." To get you in the mood and excited for Bruce's talk, we have added an article to our website titled "Gardening for Your Health." We hope you enjoy it!

We've also added a new service - Private Garden Consultations. Here you can work with some of our experts and instructors on your own garden needs. See our new Garden Consultations web page for more details!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

let there be light

Wayside Garden Center has a terrific assortment of Christmas trees and it is the place to shop! Owner Carol Sorbello was kind enough to donate this beauty for our holiday tree lighting class with Michael Hannen. Many thanks, we appreciate your generosity!

Once I watched Michael decorate this tree, I realized my problem-I was severely underlighted. More lights! See how he is neatly wrapping them up? He showed us many helpful techniques in addition to showing us how to repair them ( I never knew that you could) Without a doubt he is the man to see for gadgets and tools for such problems.

If you didn't attend, this is an event you won't want to miss next year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Join us at the Castle for a Christmas Party!

Christmas Party with Michael Hannen
Wednesday, December 2, 6:30-8 p.m.

The Castle will be all decked out for Christmas - join us for some mulled cider and yummy desserts, and a tree lighting party. And - if putting up those holiday lights on your trees has always been an exercise in frustration, don’t miss this opportunity: in winter-time the multi-talented Michael Hannen is a professional installer of holiday decorations. He will show us his proven methods for putting up holiday lights without tearing out your hair or ruining your marriage. $15.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall Harvest Dinner and Dance

Our first harvest dinner and dance on October 4 was a great success! The historic carriage barn at the Ellwanger Estate was lovely – old-time stalls converted for fine dining, dancing to the wonderful Zydeco music of Lil’ Anne and Hot Cayenne. Director Christine Froehlich and RCGC pal Nellie Gardner did an outstanding job of decorating the barn to the nines with the richness of the fall harvest.

Many thanks to all of you who worked so hard to make this happen, from the crew who cleaned up the barn to the floral designers, the furniture movers, the people who baked all those wonderful appetizers and desserts, the dinner and cleanup crew…it took a lot of us to pull it off, and it was worth it!

From Director Christine Froehlich, who deserves a huge amount of credit for all her creativity, excellent planning and hard work: “A million thanks for all of your hard work and creative efforts. We couldn’t have pulled this off without your help. I really enjoyed working with all of you! Thanks Again, Chris”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Spiffing up the Castle

For the past several weeks Dennis from the Monroe County Parks Dept has been working on the Castle, painting what used to be ugly siding in the courtyard and now cleaning, winterizing and painting the windows - and taking really good care of us while he's been here. Hopefully he won't be done for a long time because we will miss him!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How grows your garden?

Hopefully it has been a wonderful growing season for your gardens! The extra moisture this summer seems to be appreciated by many plants....ok, my tomatoes have resented it, but it seems to be appreciated by many. I have even seen some plants hang on for longer than normal due to the extra moisture - I can still surprisingly find both trillium and bloodroot leaves on some hikes here and there. Normally these spring visitors vanish with the heat and dryness of summer.

I admit to neglecting a number of my gardens this summer (only so many hours in the day!), but some gardens did get my attention. One garden that did was my vegetable garden. Normally my vegetable garden is full of all sorts of oddities and unusuals that I'm trying out and things that I intend to eat and use but never really seem too. This year I cut those out and focused on the things that I consistantly use. As such, most of my vegetable garden was planted with tomatoes (roughly 20 different varieties), peppers (mostly hot and about 12 varieties), corn ("White Eagle"), beans (14 varieties), onions ("Copra", "Red Zeppelin", "Sterling" and "Ailsa Craig"), and few other miscellaneous herbs and vegetables.

In order order to get more food socked away for the winter months, I doubled the amount of beans I usually plant. Beans are not only prolific and consistent producers, string beans blanch and freeze marvelously. I planted my beans (all string or fresh-eating varieties) in two major plantings and I'm currently in the middle of harvesting from the second planting. I have already picked and frozen 18 quarts of beans - and that's not counting the beans eaten fresh. The beans I grew this year were:

"Frijol" - I picked up numerous packets of this bean for $.010 a packet last fall. Excellent and tasty green bean with a fair second harvest.
"Dragon Tongue" - a yellow bean with purple mottling. Very tasty and prolific heirloom variety. It is a 3-year favorite.
"Jade" - a large tasty green bean that produces exceptionally. Another 3-year favorite. Open Pollinated.
"Soleil" - A new bean this year for me. This is a yellow french/filet bean. While I found this bean to have great taste, I would opt for other beans next year. The beans were much tinier than I like. Pick this one if you like dainty, baby veggies. Open Pollinated.

Pole - While I grew up with only bush beans growing in our vegetable garden, pole beans have become my favorite bean to plant. They are so varied, robust, prolific, and make the best use of garden space.
"Garden of Eden" - A new bean to the garden this year. Sweeter than the average flat, romano-type green bean. I'll plant this variety again. Heirloom.
"Helda" - is another green romano-type of bean. This one is another variety that I go out of my way to plant. Tender even when large. Open Pollinated.
"Purple Trionfo Violetto" - a deep purple bean that changes to a green color when cooked. I find this variety indistinguishable from the "purple podded pole" I usually plant. Either way, not only is this bean a good eating bean, it is very beautiful and ornamental. Heirloom.
"Trail of Tears" - a historic bean carried by the Cherokee people on the "Trail of Tears". A nice snap or dry bean. I like this bean so much from the last two years that I'm trying out another Cherokee vegetable variety this year, "White Eagle" corn which also was carried on the "Trail of Tears." Heirloom.
Rattlesnake - While those that are not fans of "legless reptiles" may not like the ophidian name this one has, its purple specked green pods are ornamental and of good taste. Another bean used for snap and dry beans. Heirloom.
"Gold of Bacau" - Another yellow romano bean I'm first trying this year. I find it indistinguishable from a long-standing favorite of mine "Goldfield." Heirloom.
Purple Podded Pole - A regular in my garden. The purple of the beans are so intense and yet it vanishes to be replaced by green so magically in the cook pot. Very good tasting and beautiful. Heirloom.
Goldfield - One of my favorites. The seed is not easy to find - I only know of two seed vendors that carry it, but I go out of my way to get the seed. I am a long-time fan of wax much so that any yellow bean is sure to become a favorite of mine. This is a romano type with long tender beans. This even second crops well.
"Kentucky Wonder Wax" - Another new one to the garden this year that will become a regular visitor I think. Long, fleshy, tender pods. This one can be used for "shelly" beans as well. Heirloom.
"Anellino Pole" - 'gold & green mix' - A perfect example that beans are viable for a number of years since I bought these two-three years ago. These are small beans but in an interesting crescent shape - a different look than most other beans have. A nice small-sized snap bean. Heirloom.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and maybe next year you'll find a little corner of your garden for a few of these wonderful beans!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

adventure to avon-RCGC garden tour

It rained, but that didn't deter most people from enjoying the gardens. The gardens were all unique and very inspiring. Here are a few comments from folks that enjoyed the tour.

“Just had to express my thanks for a wonderful garden tour on July 11. Both my friend and I felt it was one if not the best tour we have been on. Each garden was unique and held delights. The hosts were gracious and full of information.”

“It was a lot of fun, even in the rain, with some great locations.”

“I always enjoy the tour but some stand out more. This year, Pastoral Pleasures will be remembered because of the beauty of the countryside and the glory of the gardens and joy of their owners.”

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Come celebrate Summer with us - Annual RCGC Summer Garden Tour is Today!

Saturday, July 11 2009
10am - 4pm
Rain or Shine!
What better to do on a beautiful summer day but to enjoy beautiful and breath-taking gardens! Today is the annual Summer Garden Tour. This year's garden tour, Pastoral Pleasures - A Garden Retreat to Avon, offers an opportunity to visit an area rich in tradition and history, with access to several unique properties that date back to the early 1800's. The surrounding countryside provides an idyllic backdrop for a variety of gardens that each have something distinctive to offer.

You may purchase tickets today for $20 at the following locations:
  • 1211 West River Road, Caledonia 14423 - Get Map
  • 1374 Jenks Rd., Avon 14414 - Get Map
  • Charlton Bed & Breakfast Inn, 310 East Main Street, Avon 14414, 585-226-2838 - Get Map

We hope you enjoy the tour as much as we enjoy offering this unique experience to you!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tennessee Coneflower

A few years back, my sister tried planting an herb garden at my place. She had a collection of seeds she planted but it didn't fare so well. She tried using one of the garden beds I had yet to renovate - that bed had been used by the previous owners for vegetables and the soil was poor and spent. Most of the seeds refused to germinate. So I popped a few plants most gardeners I can't stand to see empty garden beds! Most of the plants I got from local nurseries as they tried to unload their nursery stock in mid- to late summer. But one of the plants I picked up as a local home and garden place was going out of business. (I miss Chase Pitkins!) was a Tennessee Coneflower.

It's taken it a few years to come into its own - especially after my sister stopped trying to "weed" it out thinking it was a weed. But it's turned into a nice plant. Unlike other Echinacea like E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, and E. pallida, its petals flex up, not down. While I like the backward curving and somewhat "droopy" petals of the other coneflowers, the Tennessee Coneflower is charming.

Like many native plants, it is hardy and needs no special care. It does not require rich garden soil or even fertilizer for that matter - I have never renovated that garden bed! Pests seem to avoid it but the butterflies and other pollinators love coneflowers. The small seed eating birds love the coneflower seed heads. (I have to beat the birds to the seed of purple coneflowers I have to collect any seed!) It is an endangered flower in its native range. Perhaps you have room for this charmer in your garden?

Here's the PlantFiles page on the Tennessee Coneflower.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Have you plarned yet?

Plarn is the plastic yarn made from plastic grocery bags. (See how to make it here.) It's my new garden twine of choice. It's plentiful, free, and re-uses something that would have otherwise just been put in the recycle bin.

Since plarn is far from picturesque, I've included a picture I took the other day at Powder Mills Park of wild yellow flags and buttercups. If you look close, you'll see the faint blue of forget-me-nots in the background. Simply beautiful. Take your camera and go out for a visit this week. If you have younglings, take them too and be sure to stop at the fish hatchery in the park. There are fish food machines and a few quarters will provide your kids with tons of squeals (as the trout jump and splash getting the food) and you with many terrific photo opportunities.

By the way, if you like my nature photography (all through the RCGC site and this blog), be sure to check out my other favorite blog, The Friends of Ganondagan and the Gallery pages on their website. My pictures are scattered through the blog and the website. Plus I've been creating a slideshow about once a month for their Gallery pages. Many of the pictures feature wild, native plants. I hope you enjoy!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What's blooming in your garden?

What's blooming in your garden today? Here's a picture from mine and a favorite garden visitor of mine - I love watching bumblebees as much as butterflies.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pix from our recent events

Director Christine Froehlich created a really beautiful and compelling display for RCGC in the main GardenScape exhibit hall – on short notice and a shoestring. We had streams of visitors picking up Garden Center info, and lots of new people contacting us about our programs.

Guy Coppola ready to greet the public.

Book signing with Tracy DiSabato-Aust
Tracy was such a gracious guest and lots of fun! The book signing was a success all round.

We had lots of great feedback on the Symposium. Tracy DiSabato-Aust and Bruce Zaretsky are both dynamic and articulate speakers, and we left en
ergized with new ideas for plants proven to be well worth using by one of America's best designers, and inspired with ideas for gardening in more environmentally concious ways.

Some of Guy Coppola's pictures

Friday, April 3, 2009

Things to Make Your Garden Greener

A month or two back I came down with a cold. While it is never fun to get sick, it sometimes offers us a chance to do things we wouldn't otherwise get a chance to do - like read. I read an article titled The Green Path by Stephanie Kaza (Shambhala Sun, January 2009). It is an article excerpted from her new book Mindfully Green. The book is about incorporating "green living" into all aspects of your life - it is not about just putting a blue recycle bin by the curb once a week. It is about letting a deep compassion and responsibility for the well-being of our planet color your every action and thought. It is a path to follow throughout your life. I must say that this book has garnered a place on my "must read" list.

As gardeners, we have at least one foot firmly on that "green path" but maybe there are more things that we could do to make our ever-abiding love and passion for gardening more green. Here are a few things for you to consider. Even adding just one item from the list can make a difference!

Make your garden greener by:

  1. Reduce, Re-use, & Recycle - These are the core tenants of eco-friendly behavior. Look for places to re-use plastic pots and containers. Cut strips of fabric from old clothes to use for ties. Buy products made from recycled items. Old watering cans, wooden boxes, and more can make creative planters. Look for a creative use for an item before putting it into the rubbish or recycle bin - you are only limited by your own imagination!

  2. Compost - Landfills do not need to be burdened with your kitchen waste or yard clippings. Start a compost bin. Your plants will love the black gold that comes from the compost bin! Here's a document to get you started.

  3. Skip the pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers - These poisons are very earth unfriendly things and they have no place in your garden. If you do absolutely need such a product, look for products that could be used in organic gardening or for items that aren't broad spectrum in nature. Broad spectrum pesticides kill the beneficial insects as well as the problem ones.

  4. Grow your own food - There is a growing movement to "eat local." While much of this focuses on supporting local farmers, your own veggie garden is part of that too. If you don't have the space or desire for an entire vegetable garden, why not tuck a few edibles into your flower beds? Some vegetable plants are quite beautiful. There are peas and beans with colored blossoms, kales and chards for nice foliage, peppers for ornamental fruits, and even some variegated varieties (ex: fish pepper and variegated tomato). Check out this list from the 100 Mile Diet site to get some encouragement to grow your own veggies or at least visit the local farmers' markets.

  5. Try some native plants and/or some heirloom varieties - Native plants are well-suited to the climate and growing conditions. They will need little to no special care - no pesticides, fertilizers, excessive watering and more are needed for them. They also great restorers of natural habitat for butterflies and other wildlife. Heirloom varieties are old varieties of plants with terrific qualities, history, and genetic diversity. Give them a try and save some seeds for next year's planting too! Here's some reading on native plants and some reading on heirlooms.

  6. Harvest rainwater - Why not? Barrels by your downspouts provide you with free, soft water for your plants. While you are at it, household "graywater" can also be used in your gardens. See this page for more information on graywater. On the topic of water, be water-wise. Use water-wise plants, mulch to conserve water, water early in the day to minimize evaporation, and cut lawn-watering completely or to a minimum. Less watering will encourage the grass to send deeper roots.

  7. Less lawn - Less lawn reduces mowing and resource needs. Mow the grass longer to protect the roots. Leave more "wild" areas for habitat and beauty. Or plant trees and shrubs as they are the great carbon dioxide burners of the planet.

  8. Use eco-friendly garden furniture - Look for salvaged wood or sustainable wood. Skip teak unless salvaged or reclaimed. Choose woods like oak, sweet chestnut, western red cedar, larch, or douglas fir that can be used outdoors without treatment. Recycled materials are also a big plus.

  9. Go local for your garden needs - Less shipping and resources required. Shopping at your locally owned and operated garden centers and nurseries also helps to support your local economy and business people. These nurseries and garden centers are staffed by people who know and love plants. It is also my experience that they have much better quality plants than your MegaMarts.

  10. Skip the peat moss – Peat can be derived from different materials and what is usually available in the United States is from Canadian sphagnum moss. These mosses grow in specialized wetlands (bogs) or “peatland” and are home to many rare and specialized organisms. The peat moss is commercially harvested or “mined” from these bogs. The harvesting process involves digging a network of drainage ditches and settling basins so that the water drains away from the wetland and the bog begins to dry out and die. Once that happens, all surface vegetation is removed and the deposit is ready for drying and harvesting procedures. While some say that peat can be sustainable harvested, it largely is not - peat accumulation is only around one millimeter per year! There are very good alternatives such as Coconut Coir - it is free of bacteria and fungal spores. Here's some reading on peat from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. (Picture of a pitcher plant at the Zurich Bog - a very special place in our own backyard.)

Hopefully this gives you a few things to consider. And unlike Kermit the Frog, it is easy being green!


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hydrangeas for the North

Hydrangea pro Tim Boebel has created a very nifty myspace page with pictures of his favorite hydrangeas for the north, as well as a slide show on how he constructed a container (pond) big enough for lotus to thrive for years. Check it out at

I'm looking forward to Tim's class at RCGC, Winning Hydrangeas for Rochester Gardens, Wednesday, March 18, 7-9 pm: "Tim Boebel, nursery manager at Wayside Garden Center, has been studying this charismatic flowering shrub for years, both at Wayside and in extensive trials in his home garden. Tim will discuss the merits of the up-and-coming introductions for ‘09 and ’10, and will also give you the lowdown on the established varies which rank high in overall beauty as well as performance in our cold climate. Have you been frustrated by the lack of bloom on supposedly hardy varieties? Much of the information about hydrangea culture was developed for areas much warmer than Rochester. Tim has perfected a very different method for getting reliable blooms in our climate and will detail the steps in this slide-lecture with handouts." See the Education Pages on our website for registration info.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reuse your Christmas Tree

Don't toss your Christmas tree! It's a handy design tool. Use it to mimic plants you think you want in your garden. You can easily drag it around and locate anywhere you want (unlike the real thing).
With a little imagination you can fantasize how a new tree or shrub might look.
In my  case, I want more conifers. I"m not quite sure where yet, so I'm experimenting. Give it a try. It's a great way to recycle the tree and formulate your next garden plan.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Our Connection to Our Horticultural Roots

Is is commonly accepted that agriculture started in various locations around the world 10 to 11 thousand years ago. Since those earliest times, human beings have been seed savers. They saved seeds of the best and most favored plants or perhaps those with new and more desired traits to plant the next growing season. Those simple choices allowed our ancestors to develop a stunning range of varieties of plants and foodstuffs.

Farmers continued seed saving and swapping through the millennia since with little change until relatively recently. In the middle of the 1800's seed began to be produced commercially in the United States. This changed the face of agriculture forever. The early 20th century saw the introduction of commercial hybrid seed and more recently, the introduction of genetically modified (GMO) seeds. The seeds collected from hybrid (and GMO) plants do not produce plants true to the quality of the parent plant. Between this and the easy availability of seeds to buy, seed saving began to fall out of common practice.

Beans - "Anasazi"

Even so - and thankfully, some people still saved seeds from varieties of crops and flowers handed down through their family for generations. Some of these varieties can now be had through sellers of open-pollinated and heirloom seed varieties. While much can be said for disease-resistant and robust hybrids, the open-pollinated varieties offer flavors and colors not found on your supermarket shelves. I find these old-varieties so pleasing that at least 85% of my vegetable garden last year was devoted to heirloom and open-pollinated varieties.

Interested in trying something different in the garden this year? Well the RCGC is holding a houseplant and seed swap on January 24th. It is a wonderful way to not only reconnect with our horticultural roots but a great way to get unusual varieties you will not find at your local lawn and garden centers. The seeds will surely include vegetables, herbs, garden flowers, and wildflowers. The event is also a great place for indoor gardeners to trade houseplant cuttings and starts. Our event also includes two speakers and refreshments - a little something for everyone!

Please see our 2nd Annual Seed and Houseplant Swap webpage for full details and how to register online! See you there!