Sunday, March 30, 2014

Gardeners Help Trees, Flowers and Shrubs Recover from Winter

Nurseries expect high demand, as gardeners replace plantings damaged by the freeze and all that salt
Daffodil bulbs at Longfield Gardens, a Lakewood, N.J.,
supplier, benefited from many weeks of
sub-35 degree temperatures.

WSJ, March 25, 2014
The good news is that winter is officially over. The bad news is waiting for you in the garden.
The seemingly endless winter has created more than the usual amount of cleanup and damage-repair projects in backyards this spring. Below-average temperatures and significant snowfall east of the Rockies, and warm winter temperatures west of the Rockies, have each led to their own types of problems in your yard. In some cases, there are benefits. But mostly, the effects are negative.
Weeks of heavy, wet snow weighing on tree and shrub limbs may have opened them up to breakage, disease and structural problems. And unseasonably cold temperatures have left foliage burned and brown on many usually evergreen plants, such as the creeping fig plants that cling to brick walls in Charleston, S.C.
The plant should be actively growing around this time of year, says Amy Dabbs, horticulture agent with Clemson University's Cooperative Extension Service, who fields gardeners' questions from Charleston County. She tells people who see signs of new growth on a brown plant to carefully trim the burned leaves with hand pruners. If there is no sign of new growth by the end of April, she says, it may be time to replace.
Nurseries are expecting higher consumer demand for replacement trees, shrubs and perennials this year. Many, though, are expecting to feel a squeeze because spring's late arrival means there are fewer weekends of nice-weather selling before Father's Day, typically the end of the retail season. And many nurseries are facing a tighter supply of plants, a result of their own suppliers' snow- and ice-related losses.
"There are going to be plants that are just cooked. I hate to say it," says Rob Turnbull, president of Turnbull Nursery, in North Collins, N.Y. He is uncertain about how his half-dozen acres of raspberries, which propagate by sending up new shoots from stems and roots underground, fared with the ground frozen so long and deep.
Late-winter and early-spring freezes also can kill tender buds of camellias, magnolias and other early-spring bloomers, diminishing floral displays later on. Mold diseases may take hold on lawns as a result of long periods of snow cover amid cold, damp temperatures of 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
And during months of snow cover, deer have been reaching higher and ranging wider for plant material to munch. Gardeners are finding their shrubs bare of leaves up to four feet off the ground.  
Daffodil bulbs at Longfield Gardens.
"This winter will have devastated our flower beds and front entry shrubs," says Stephen Zehala, 75, a retired engineering manager in Galena, Ohio. "The deer ate the yews, rhododendron and holly bushes," whose tough evergreen foliage they avoided in the past, he says. "Prickly holly isn't fun for a deer to eat, I'm sure. They were pretty hungry." He expects to spend as much as $7,000 to have a nursery remove and replace the plantings.
Some garden elements, though, benefited from the winter. Spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths need at least six weeks of near-freezing temperatures or else they look flimsy, says Hans Langeveld, co-owner of Longfield Gardens, a Lakewood, N.J., bulb distributor. The ideal, he says, is between 10 and 12 weeks of temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Parts of New Jersey were below 35 degrees for 7 1/2 weeks, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
And certain insect populations may have been driven back by the extreme cold, entomologists say, including the harlequin bug, which feeds on cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli in the South. Even so, Don Weber, entomologist with the U.S. Agriculture Department's Agricultural Research Service, cautions against getting too comfortable. The surviving insects will start laying eggs by May, he says.
Salt damage will be significant in many gardens this year. With so much spread on icy roads, steps and walkways this winter, many nearby plants have damaged foliage. Salt may also have affected the surrounding soil chemistry. Sodium ions replace other nutrients in soil and prevent uptake by plants.
Eric Barrett, an educator with the Ohio State University Extension in Youngstown, Ohio, suggests holding off on pruning salt-damaged shrubs and snow-damaged tree limbs until mid-spring. "You may think it looks dead, but it just needs more time for new foliage to emerge," he says. He suggests local gardeners replace roadside plantings that are truly dead with species that are more salt-tolerant, such as hollies and junipers. And next year, he says, "Put down sand instead of salt."
Winter in many places west of the Rockies was drier than average, meaning gardens there may be later to bloom and plants may be shorter in stature. In San Francisco's 4 1/2--acre Gardens of Alcatraz, Shelagh Fritz, garden manager, says the agapanthus, chasmanthe and calla lilies are two-thirds their usual height and blooming about a month late. "They all look dwarfed this year," she says.
This year's extended cold follows a warm winter in 2013 which was the 20th-warmest on record, according to the NOAA, and the winter before was third-warmest. As a result, many gardeners are selecting plants that once were thought to be only marginally hardy for their growing zones. The windmill palm is somewhat cold-hardy, growing reliably as far north as coastal North Carolina, says Tony Avent, owner of Plant Delights Nursery, in Raleigh, N.C. "In the mid-90s I couldn't keep them alive. Now you've got people growing them in New Jersey," he says.
During a recent mild winter, Bill McLaughlin, curator of plants at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., decided to plant a hedge of 75 gardenias. "We have been looking quite Southern in our gardens," he says. "We wanted to go for it."
It will be a few weeks before he knows whether the gardenias are really dead or not, Mr. McLaughlin says. Either way, they won't look their best for visitors this spring. "The drying injury is significant," he says, evidenced by so many brown leaves. He plans on pruning them by about one-third which should clean up their appearance.

Friday, March 28, 2014

April Calendar of Triangle Gardening Programs

NC Botanical Gardens
Location: 100 Old Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, NC.

The J.C. Raulston Arboretum Third Annual Spring Egg Hunt 
will run from April 12-21.
(Russian Easter eggs not included.) 
Get Ready for Summer: A Vegetable Gardening Workshop
April 6,  1:30-3 p.m.
Get ready for summer! The Carolina Campus Community Garden (CCCG) is the learning laboratory for this workshop. We’ll cover what vegetables to plant for a summer garden; when to start planting; tips on trellising, staking and organic methods of pest control; and how to get a large harvest from a small space. Following the workshop, plan on staying to volunteer with the CCCG volunteer corp! Fee: $15 ($10 NCBG members; Free to UNC Students) For directions to CCCG:

Sweet Peas - Seed Surprise
April 9, 10-11 a.m.
Share a morning of discovery with your growing “sweet pea” and nurture their natural curiosity for the world around them. Each class will focus on a different nature theme, and may include stories, songs, mini-hikes, crafts, and puppets. Space is limited. No strollers or non-registered siblings, please.
Lunch and Learn: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Waterwise Landscapers
April 10,  Noon-1 p.m.
Bring your lunch and join us for a free lecture! Water—it’s a resource our community can’t take for granted, and it is essential for the health and vitality of our landscape. Patrick Davis provides an overview of water use in our community and the importance of water conservation. Seven key strategies of waterwise landscaping will be discussed—strategies that help achieve a beautiful, healthy landscape that needs minimal supplemental irrigation and that does not result in adverse runoff to our streams and lakes.
Behind-the-Scenes tour: Green Building of the LEED Platinum Education Center
April 12, 1-2 p.m.
In recognition of National Environmental Education Week (, April 13–19, join us for a free behind-the-scenes tour of North Carolina’s first state-owned LEED Platinum building. One of the most environmentally friendly buildings in the Southeast, the Garden’s Education Center provides a unique opportunity to learn about green building practices. On this 45-minute tour, you will learn about the Education Center’s energy conservation, renewable energy use, stormwater management systems, and site-appropriate landscaping. Begins in the Pegg Exhibit Hall of the Center. Free, but space is limited, so please register in advance.
Sims Native Plant Lecture, 'Wildflower Ecology: A Step Beyond Identification'
April 13, 2:30- 4 p.m.
While it’s fun to know the names of wildflowers, it’s also satisfying to learn about the many interesting ways that plants adapt to their environments. In this presentation, Tim helps us learn to interpret common features of native plants. For example, have you ever wondered why flowers are so incredibly variable in size, color, shape, and fragrance? Why fruits change color as they age, and why some fruits are sweet and others are not? Seeking answers to such questions adds a powerful new dimension to your understanding and appreciation of wildflowers as well as another layer of fun! Tim Spira is a plant ecologist, native plant gardener, hiker, and professor of botany at Clemson University, where he teaches field botany and plant ecology. Tim received a PhD in Botany from the University of California, Berkeley. Most recently, he is the author of the award-winning Wildflowers and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont (UNC Press, 2011). Tim and his spouse, Lisa Wagner, divide their time between Clemson, SC, and Asheville, NC, where they’ve transformed their lawns into meadows, shrub borders, and woodlands featuring native plants. Free, but please register in advance. Reception and book signing follows lecture.
Cultivating a Backyard Medicine Garden
April 26,  9:30- 11:30 a.m.
Planting a medicinal garden is one of the most effective ways to beautify and enhance your landscape while improving health. Plant herbs outside your door to use in making a tea or adding to your spring salads. From immune system boosters to seasonal allergy remedies, there is an amazing world of plants that can reduce common ailments and boost your overall energy—come learn about it with us! Join Bountiful Backyards and Vital Bloom Botanicals as we explore the Top Ten Easy-to-Grow medicinal plants for shade and sun and answer your questions. Participants will take home potted plants for their own gardens. Fee: $35 ($30 NCBG members).

JC Raulston Arboretum
Location: Ruby C. Mc Swain Education Center, JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University, 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, NC.

Raulston Blooms! A Garden Festival for All Ages
April 5, 9–5 p.m.
What is it? Fun for the whole family! Learn, shop for your garden, get great ideas, and enjoy gourmet treats at Raulston Blooms! We 're rolling out the red carpet for members, home gardeners, families, and children by offering a day that's packed with garden and nature activities, shopping, and outdoor fun.

A birdhouse competition for all ages will be
 on April 5 during the Raulston Blooms Festival.
  • Spring Plant Sale
  • Birdhouse Competition
  • Children's activities
  • maze
  • storytime
  • games
  • hands-on learning activities
  • Gardening talks and demonstrations
  • Arts and crafts vendors
  • Food trucks
  • NC State's Howling Cow ice cream
  • Thousands of plants in our world-famous gardens
April 19, 10-11:30 a.m.
Leah Chester-Davis, Extension Communication Specialist, NC State University
Cost: Free for Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum members, NC State University students (with ID), and Department of Horticultural Science faculty and staff, all others $5.00.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St Durham, NC 27708  Please call 919-668-1707 to register.

Zoom in Series: Magnolias
April 2, 5:30-7 p.m.
Explore plants from a “Zoom In” perspective. In this outdoor lab you will look at the architecture of a plant, learning what makes each unique. Learn to distinguish a variety of plants and about the amazing structures that make each plant unique. Join us for one “Zoom In” session, or all. Enjoy meeting one of the oldest flowering plants, the Magnolias, with Robert Thornhill, local plant ecologist. This ancient plant seems to have evolved before pollinating bees came on the scene. Robert will give you a glimpse into ancient times and how the magnolia survived.
Location: Meet at the Doris Duke Center.
Participant limit: 12. Fee: $15; Gardens members $12. Sign up for the entire series for $50; Gardens members $40. Information/registration: 919-668-1707 or

Farm-to-Fork Garden Picnic Dinner
April 3, 6-8 p.m.
The beginning of spring is something to celebrate. Join us at the Gardens for an al fresco picnic dinner paired with fresh wines for the new season in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden (weather permitting). The menu by Ricky Moore of Saltbox Seafood Joint will feature include fresh, sustainably caught fish and seafood skillfully prepared by smoking, pickling, cooking or grilling. It will also feature garden-sourced vegetables, salads and relishes.
Taste a lineup of six picnic-friendly wines from Wine Authorities from crisp, vibrant whites and bright, lively ros├ęs to lithe reds that show that you can host the dinner you want and satisfy all wine palates, too! The food and wine will be discussed as each selection is served family style at the picnic tables in the garden. Enjoy an amazing dinner and pick up a few ideas for your summer backyard feasts. Fee: $70; Gardens members $55.

Plants of Distinction: The Terraces Preview
April 15, 2:30-4 p.m.
Learn about spectacular plants that offer both beauty and functionality. “The Terraces Preview” will be led by Mike Owens, curator of the Duke Gardens' Historic Gardens. The Terraces are re-planted several times over the course of a growing season. Walk through this garden with Mike to learn which plant combinations to watch this season. Sign up separately for each Plants of Distinction session to learn about a new group of beautiful and useful plants, or take all four sections.
Location: Meet at Doris Duke Center. Fee: $7; Gardens members $5. 4-class series: $24; Gardens members $16.

“Ginkgo: The Tree that Time Forgot”
Thu, April 17, 2014, 6:30-8 p.m.
Ginkgo trees have been here since the time of dinosaurs. Widespread throughout the world until glaciation, the ginkgo was once thought to be extinct. But this plant survived the ice age, becoming a little-known living relic that was rediscovered in China some thousand years ago. Sir Peter Crane joins us for this annual Taimi Anderson Lecture to tell of ancient times, natural history and people, weaving a tale that the New Scientist says will make you want to go out and hug a ginkgo. We will supply a map to all of the Gardens’ ginkgo trees.
Sir Peter Crane is dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and professor of botany at Yale University, former director of the Field Museum in Chicago (1992 to 1999), and former director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (1999-2006).
Co-sponsored by the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University. Location: Doris Duke Center. Fee: $15; Gardens members $10; Duke students $5.

Durham Garden Forum
Meetings are held at Sarah P. Duke Gardens on Tuesday Evenings from 6:30-8 p.m.
Membership is $25 for the year (which runs April – March) or each lecture is $10. No preregistration is required. Contact information is

Plants and Preservation 
Tue, April 22, 2014, 6:30 PM to 8:00 p.m.
Rob Evans, plant ecologist with North Carolina Department of Agriculture.

Durham Co. Master Gardeners & Durham Cooperative Extension Programs

Starting Seeds
This class is free / Registration is required.
When: April 6, 3-5 p.m.
Where: South Regional Library, 4505 Alston Avenue, Durham
Contact: Cathy Starkweather 919-560-7410
Garden Journals: Past, Present, and Future
Strategies to help you accomplish your gardening goals. This class is free / Registration is required.
When: April1 3, 3-4 p.m.
Where: North Regional Library, 221 Milton Road, Durham
Contact: Shelley Geyer (919) 560-0237 | Fax (919) 560-0246

Briggs Avenue Community Garden Series – NC Sweet Potatoes: From Bed to Table
Make plans to grow these favorites in containers or garden. This class is free / Registration is required.
April 26, 10-11:00 a.m.
Where: Durham county Cooperative Extension, 721 Foster Street, Durham
Contact: Pana Jones 919-560-0525 or

Friday, March 21, 2014

Speakers Bureau Topics Available for 2014-2015 Garden Club Programs

"Durham Gardening for Yankees" focuses
 on techniques like raised beds. Photo by Leanna Murphy Domo.
Garden Club Program Chairs have a wonderful resource at their fingertips in planning next year's programs - simply reach out the Durham County Extension Master Gardeners Speakers Bureau! 

Durham County Extension Master Gardener (EMG) Volunteers are gardening enthusiasts who complete advanced, research-based consumer horticulture courses developed by NC State University and volunteer 40+ hours annually. EMG Volunteers assist Durham’s Consumer Horticulture Agent, answering public questions, offering research-based advice and sharing horticulture knowledge.

The Speakers’ Bureau presentations and demonstrations listed below are FREE and can vary in length from 30-90 minutes. Content may be customized to fit the audience interests or talk length.
EMG talks are available for garden club, civic, faith, or workplace groups.
Program Chairs can contact EMG Nan Len: (919) 620-0226, email: to schedule their speaker events. (One program is available per club per year. Please offer two club dates to give the best flexibility to working and business-traveling EMGs.)
General Gardening Topics
  • Durham Gardening for Yankees – New in town? Learn about the Piedmont climate, soils, water, light and plants. 
  • Gardening 101 – New to gardening? Get off to a good start in the garden with these fundamentals.
  • Backyard Chickens – Build a coop, care for, and feed chickens in accordance with Durham County regulations.
  • How to Start a Community Garden – Want to establish a community garden, but don’t know where to begin? Here’s why, how and where to build a community garden. 
  • Gardening with Children – Learn ways to share your passion with the next generation of gardeners! We’ll suggest activities to help make gardening fun for all ages. 
  • Trees in the Urban Landscape – Locate, choose, and plant trees successfully in Durham County… and avoid common mistakes! 
  • Landscape Workshop: Creating Curb Appeal – Create a pleasing curb appeal design for your home using a few design basics. 
  • Rain Gardens – Understand, plan, and install a rain garden.
  • Tips and Preparation for a Spring Garden – Put together your spring gardening “to-do” list.
  • Attracting Birds, Bees, and Butterflies – Invite birds, bees, and butterflies into your garden. 
  • The Buzz about Bees – Learn the basics of beekeeping 
  • Worms in My Garden: Vermicomposting – Use worms to recycle organic materials into a valuable soil amendment for plants and crops. 
Beautiful Blooms and Beyond
  • Cultivating a Garden of Acid Lovers: Azaleas, Rhododendrons, and Camellias – Provide the perfect environment for these southern favorites.
  • Gardening with Native Plants – Discover the benefits of native plants, and then be inspired by a pictorial sampling of both shade- and sun-loving plants. 
  • Ornamental and Sensory Plant Design – Choose plants that will introduce emotions, symbols, and colors into your garden. 
  • Bloom Sequence – Choose and cultivate a variety of flowering plants that will provide color throughout the year. 
  • Plan and Plant a Cutting Garden at Home – Plan, prepare, and plant a cutting garden using annuals and perennials. 
  • Edible Flowers – Identify, grow, and prepare edible flowers. 
Remedies to Garden Dilemmas
  • Outsmarting the Critters: Deer, Moles, Ants, Rabbits, and other Creatures – Deter and manage pests through Integrated Pest Management techniques. 
  • Weeds: Friends or Foes? – Manage weeds effectively through proper identification. 
  • Dealing with Drought – Arm yourself with a variety of tools that will help you cope with drought.
  • Fire Ants – Learn all about fire ants and how to control them.
  • Deterring Deer – Utilize multiple approaches to garden successfully in “deer country.” 
Vegetables and Herbs 
From the novice to seasoned gardener, there’s a vegetable gardening talk for you! Choose from any of these talks:
  • Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Durham County 
  • Planning and Planting a Cool Season Garden 
  • Cool Season Vegetables (Spring and Fall Crops) 
  • Growing Culinary and Medicinal Herbs 
  • Love that Lettuce 
  • NC Sweet Potatoes: From Bed to Table 
  • Summer Southern Favorites: Tomatoes and Okra 
  • Crawlin’ Cucurbits: Gourds, Squashes, Pumpkins 
Container Gardening

Interested in gardening but you little space? Want to dress up your porch or patio? Do you like to have culinary herbs just outside your doorstep? There are many reasons to try container gardening!

Available talks include:
  • Container Gardening – Blooms, Herbs, and Vegetable
  • Container Gardening – Focus on Herb
  • Vegetable Gardening in Containers
  • Container Gardening and Water Container Gardening
  • Container Garden Design Around the World 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Arbor Day Celebration at Rockwood Park, March 21

Keep Durham Beautiful will be hosting
Arbor Day activities for the entire family.
The annual celebration of Durham Trees takes place at Rockwood Park on Friday, March 21 from 10:30-1 p.m. Please join us for this event which is free and open to the public. Bring a picnic and your friends. Activities suitable for all ages. Tools provided.


  • Plant a tree: Community Tree Planting of 30 Trees
  • Tree Seedling Giveaway
  • See Tree Pruning and Tree climbing demonstrations
  • Youth can climb a tree using ropes and a harness
  • Talk with Durham Master Gardeners
  • Get information on clean and healthy creeks from Creek Week Sponsors and conduct a “Creek Investigation”
  • Participate in creek and park litter cleanup

Location: Rockwood Park, 2310 Whitley Drive, Durham, 27707.
Questions: Email or 919-354-2729

Special Thanks to City of Durham Urban Forestry and County Strategic Plan for providing the Tree Seedlings!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lucky Shamrock: Not All Varieties So Lucky

Oxalis spp.
The shamrock plant is the revered botanical for all things St. Patrick's Day, however, the common term "shamrock" has been associated with seven different species of plants.

Seven Faces of Shamrocks
  • Trifolium dubium, Lesser Clover
  • Trifolium repens, White Clover
  • Trifolium pretense, Red Clover
  • Medicago lupulina, Black Medick
  • Oxalis acetosella, Wood Sorrel
  • Trifolium spp.
  • Oxalis spp.

One species, Oxalis spp., is actually categorized as a poisonous plant! As an oxalate, it hails from the same family as sourgrass and wood sorrel. While the Irish more commonly associate lesser clover, Trifolium dubium as their true shamrock, scientists list the poisonous Oxalis spp. under the common name "shamrock."

Data Facts on the Shamrock
Common Name(s):
Shamrock, lucky clover, good luck plant
Poisonous Plants
Annual or perennial herbs; leaves long-stalked with 3 leaflets; flowers 5-parted, white, yellow, lavender, or rose; fruit a capsule.
Americas and South Africa
Throughout the Americas
Poison Part:
All parts.
Poison Delivery Mode:
Ingestion, but no documented cases in humans.
Caution: large quantities may cause trembling, cramps, and staggering as in grazing animals.
EDIBLE PARTS: Small amounts of leaves, flowers, seeds, tubers/roots eaten raw are not dangerous. Leaves, flowers, seeds, tubers/
Toxic Principle:
Soluble oxalate.
Found in:
Houseplant or interiorscape; weedy in disturbed areas, lawns; landscape in flower gardens as herbaceous perennial.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Greenhouse Effect: Homes Add a Greenhouse for Leisure Pleasure

Slide Show: Green With Envy View Slideshow
To move this 1937 greenhouse from a property in Woodside, Calif., to a Napa Valley vineyard, a team disassembled, moved, sandblasted, repainted and then reassembled the structure. Drew Kelly for The Wall Street Journal
WSJ, March 13, 2014
For the first time this January, Charles L. and Joan Blanksteen soaked in their steamy hydrotherapy pool while gazing at the deep banks of snow around them. Separating the Blanksteens and their pool from the freezing weather was a 616-square-foot, all-glass structure with slate floors and space for a dining table that can seat 20. Soon, they will be sharing the space with a small jungle of orchids and fresh herbs.

Construction on the Blanksteens' luxurious greenhouse, which adjoins their 18th-century home on 17 acres in Millbrook, N.Y., began in August and is nearly done. "Halfway through, my wife joked we should call it 'Charlie's folly,'" says Mr. Blanksteen, because of waterproofing challenges and delays. So far the costs have totaled about $250,000; the couple plans to begin displaying plants in it in a few months.
The first greenhouses were built by the ancient Romans. In Victorian England, possessing a room where citrus trees could bloom midwinter was a luxury that few but the Downton Abbey set could afford. Hobby greenhouses enjoyed a boom in the U.S. a few decades ago, but as middle-class homeowners have struggled in recent years, the industry has contracted.
Now, greenhouses are returning as a feature of luxury homes. And many of today's greenhouses aren't just for plants. They're highly personal "green rooms" for reading, dining and entertaining as well.
"We used to sell a lot of greenhouses to the average homeowner, but over the last 40 years, that has changed," says William Orange, president of High Falls, N.Y.-based Under Glass Manufacturing. "It's only people with a lot of money who are building greenhouses." While a hobby greenhouse starts at under $15,000, Mr. Orange says his company's average project is a custom greenhouse costing closer to $100,000.

James F. Zoppo, a 66-year-old horticulturalist, added a custom Victorian-style conservatory to his home in Sharon, Mass. Over the past year, he and his wife, Sharon, have also built a 4,000-square-foot commercial greenhouse for their collection of exotic plants. For the personal "green room" attached to their home, the Zoppos added a wood-burning stove to keep their dining guests toasty in the event of a power outage.

Mr. Zoppo compares adding a conservatory to adding a wine cellar, calling it a lifestyle and an aesthetic decision. "I've tried vacations, but they don't work as well for me as days in the greenhouse," he says, explaining that he often spends his days in his greenhouse and his nights in his conservatory. The conservatory cost about $100,000; the greenhouse will cost about $200,000 when it is done.
When guests enter the greenhouse of the Oakville Ranch in Napa Valley, they step into a formal palm room featuring Phoenix roebelenii (pygmy date palms) flanking the table where visitors sometimes enjoy a glass of wine. The wing to the right contains the orchid collection. To the left is the "tropical room," with a koi pond and a ceramic fountain. The ferns and succulents are "a collection that would make Dr. Seuss feel right at home," explains the room's designer, San Francisco-based Dat Pham. The greenhouse belongs to Mary Miner, who is the owner of the Oakville Ranch, according to the ranch's website and employees of the ranch.
"It's like a chandelier at night when it's lit up," says Gary Brandl, who was Mrs. Miner's contractor for the project.
Mr. Brandl recounts the greenhouse's unusual history: In the spring of 1996, he says, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison reached out to Mrs. Miner, the wife of the late Oracle co-founder, Robert N. Miner, with a proposal. Knowing she was a plant lover from England, Mr. Ellison offered to give Mrs. Miner the 1937 greenhouse on a property he had purchased in Woodside, Calif.—as long as she would arrange to move it before its scheduled demolition date. 
Mr. Brandl went to take a look. The greenhouse had been manufactured by Lord and Burnham, the American manufacturer behind New York Botanical Garden's Haupt Conservatory, San Francisco's Conservatory of Flowers and many notable residential greenhouses. While much of its original glass was gone, the superstructure of steel, cast iron, and cypress "ribs," as well as the delicate cast-iron fleur de lys, were intact.
Numbering each of the hundreds of pieces, Mr. Brandl's team disassembled, moved, sandblasted, repainted and then reassembled the structure at her 350-acre Oakville Ranch, whose vineyards produce wine and overlook the Napa Valley. According to Mr. Brandl, Mrs. Miner wanted to locate the greenhouse near the estate's gated entrance.
The problem was that the ideal spot for it was, at that time, a steep gorge. So, Mr. Brandl and his crew terraced the drop-off and created a level site for the roughly 1,200-square foot structure, which has a center room and two wings. Overall, the project took about a year and cost $250,000 to complete, Mr. Brandl says. Now, the Oakville Ranch's greenhouse is one of the estate's centerpieces. (Mr. Ellison's spokesperson said she isn't familiar with the greenhouse. Mrs. Miner declined to comment.)
Anglophilia led to Thomas Bertelsen's decision to build a conservatory and greenhouse onto his home in Ross, Calif. Mr. Bertelsen, 74, a financial executive, was traveling frequently to London for business and was charmed by the traditional British conservatories he saw there.
Mr. Bertelsen and his wife, Sandra, added a conservatory with a dining area off their kitchen, with an internal door leading to a greenhouse filled with succulents. The two rooms have different climate zones, and both have radiant heating. Altogether, he estimates the project cost about $500,000 when it was completed about 15 years ago. Mr. Bertelsen, whose favorite plant in his collection is the Agave attenuate "variegata" (or variegated fox tail agave), likes to listen to Bach while reading in the conservatory.
To house their plants, and themselves, Esther and Brian Dormer built a pair of 400-square-foot greenhouses on their 150-acre farm in Bulger, Pa. One is a traditional greenhouse where they grow lettuces, flowers and herbs. "It smells really fragrant in there," Mrs. Dormer says. The other is used an indoor/outdoor reading room from the spring through the late fall, and it features an iron bird from Africa, cherub lights and other whimsical touches. In that room, they also house hardier evergreen plants. Built around eight to 10 years ago, the greenhouses are insured for $200,000 each.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring Garden Maintenance during March-early April

After all of the snow and freezing in Durham Co. this winter,
gardeners can finally start their annual spring preparations!
By Durham Co. Master Gardeners
Now that chances for snow are finally waning, Durham County gardeners can start getting back to business! 
  • Fertilize shrubs.
  • Fertilize your important shade trees.
  • Fertilize asparagus beds early in March before spear growth begins.
  • Ponds should be fertilized starting this month and continuing through October.
  • Before planting your vegetables, fertilize your garden as recommended by your soil test results. Apply the recommended amount of lime if this was not done in the fall.
  • The average last spring frost date in Durham County is April 15 +/-11days.
  • Plant a tree for Arbor Day! Arbor day is always the first Friday after March 15.
  • Plant your small fruit plants, grape vines and fruit trees before the buds break.
  • March is a good month to transplant trees and shrubs.
  • New shrubs and ground covers can be planted the entire month of March. Be sure to follow your planting plan.
  • Plant seeds of the following perennials: columbine, hollyhock, coreopsis, daisy and phlox. Sweet William can also be planted this month.
  • New rose bushes can be planted this month.
  • Plants of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower should be set out in the garden in mid-March.
  • The following vegetables can be planted this month: beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, Swiss chard, turnips, potatoes,cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.
  • Start any annual flowers or warm-season vegetables inside your home that are not commercially available in early March.
  • Prune fruit trees.
  • Prune spring flowering plants like breath-of-Spring (Winter Honeysuckle) and flowering quince after the flowers fade.
  • Prune roses late in March.
  • Prune shrubs like abelia, mahonia and nandina this month if needed.
  • Pick off faded flowers of pansy and daffodil. Pansies will flower longer if old flowers are removed.
  • Overgrown shrubs can be severely pruned (not needled evergreens).
  • Spray the following landscape shrubs for the following insect pests: euonymus-scale, juniper-spruce spider mites and hybrid rhododendron-borer.
  • Start your rose spray program just prior to bud break.
  • Spray your apple and pear trees with streptomycin for control of fireblight while the trees are in bloom.
  • Begin fungicide spray applications for bunch grapes.
Lawn Care
  • Cool-season lawns may be fertilized with 10-10-10, but NOT with slow-release fertilizer. (F.Y.I., cool season grasses like fescue should be fertilized before March 15 to not promote brown spot fungus patches during humid summer months.)
  • Apply crabgrass herbicides to your lawn late this month to help control crabgrass in the turf.
  • Mow your tall fescue lawn as needed.
  • Seed fescue and bluegrass if not done in September.
  • Continue to divide perennials like daylily, shasta daisy, gaillardia and coreopsis this month.
Specific Chores
  • Check garden supplies like fertilizer, insecticides and fungicides to see if you have adequate amounts.
  • Check all garden equipment, lawn mowers, tillers, hedge trimmers, tools, hoses and sprayers to see if they are in find working order before they are needed.
  • Be certain that old plantings of perennials like peony, hollyhock and phlox are clean of last season’s growth.

City of Durham to Collect Winter Storm Debris: All Residential Solid Waste Customers Can Arrange One Free Curbside Pick-Up; Pick-Up Must Be Scheduled by Friday, March 14

Debris from storms can be processed into mulch!
DURHAM, N.C. – Due to last week’s winter storm, which left a significant amount of storm debris throughout the community, the City of Durham’s Solid Waste Management Department will be collecting storm debris at no charge for non-yard waste customers who receive household garbage collection. 

To schedule one free curbside storm debris collection, customers should contact Durham One Call at (919) 560-1200 by Friday, March 14, 2014, at 3 p.m. Storm debris should be placed at the curb by 7 a.m. on a residents’ normal household garbage collection day. Debris longer than six feet should be cut in half and not placed into bags. 

Residential customers may also drop off storm debris at the City’s Waste Disposal and Recycling Center at 2115 E. Club Blvd., Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at no charge until March 14. Residents are asked to arrive at least 30 minutes before closing. Strom debris delivered after March 14 will be subject to the usual disposal fees. Regular yard waste customers do not have to contact Durham One Call to receive their normal collection service. Additional questions regarding this one-time free service should be directed to Durham One Call at (919) 560-1200.