Friday, January 30, 2015

February Calendar of Triangle Gardening Programs

North Carolina Botanical Gardens
100 Old Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, NC.

Darwin Day Presentation with Dr. Rob Dunn, 'The Wild Life of Our Bodies'
Thursday, Feb. 12,  7:30 - 9 p.m.
'Bearing Witness to the Miracle of Monarch Migration'
will be presented Feb. 22, 2:30-4 p.m. at the NCBG.
Celebrate the birthday of Charles Darwin (and Abraham Lincoln!) with a presentation by Dr. Rob Dunn on “The Wild Life of Our Bodies.” Dr. Dunn, biology faculty at NC State University, studies the not particularly well known species that occur in our backyards, bedrooms, and in or on our friends, family, and ourselves. Charles Darwin would have been delighted at how many of these species co-evolved with humans and their importance to our overall wellbeing! This event is free and includes a reception, but advance registration is requested.

Wildlife Garden Design
Feb. 14,  1:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Event is Full: Accepting Wait List Registrations
This workshop focuses on the vital components of a garden designed to attract and sustain a diverse cross-section of wildlife species. Special attention will be paid to specific plant families which boast a diverse contingent of wildlife-attracting species. In addition, we’ll discuss how to provide refuge and sustenance for all stages of the insect life cycle, the vital role of water in the wildlife garden, and the important part native grass and sedge species can play in a landscape devoted to wildlife. $20 ($15 Member).

Weeds 101
Feb. 15, 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Every gardener and homeowner can tell you what they consider to be a weed. Too often, one person’s weed is another creature’s critical food source or shelter, while another person’s prized plant might be the next ecological disaster. Discussion will include a brief history of weeds and their impact on ecosystems and our economy. This workshop focuses on ways to identify your weeds and strategies for their management, whether they be friend or foe. Management practices include time-tested approaches and some new techniques we employ here at NCBG, with an emphasis on environmentally responsible gardening. Participants are welcome to bring in their own specimens for identification. $20 ($15 Members).

Winter Backyard Birds - Family Workshop
Feb. 21, 10- 1:30 a.m.
It’s National Bird Feeding Month! From yellow-bellied sapsuckers to Carolina chickadees, learn to identify common winter birds by sight and sound. We’ll visit our bird-feeding station for up-close encounters and then make recycled feeders to take home. Find out how you can attract birds to your backyard and participate as a citizen scientist in Project Feeder Watch. NOTE: One adult per child please. Dress for the outdoors.

Get Ready for Spring: A Vegetable Gardening Workshop

Feb. 22,1:30-3 p.m.
Get ready for spring! We are excited to have the Carolina Campus Community Garden (CCCG) as the learning laboratory for this workshop in our Home Gardening Series. This workshop covers what vegetables to plant for a spring garden, when to start planting, how to grow your own vegetable seedlings, tips on protecting plants from freezing, and how to get a large harvest from a small space. Following the workshop, plan on staying to volunteer with the CCCG volunteer corp! $15 ($10 Members; Free to UNC students.

Bearing Witness to the Miracle of Monarch Migration
Feb. 22, 2:30-4 p.m.
There are few undertakings on earth that amaze and inspire us more than the epic annual migration of the Monarch Butterfly across eastern America. As they begin their journey northward this February, peer into the life cycle of this species including their autumn journey, one that is fraught with peril but buoyed by optimism, and join millions of them at their winter destination in Mexico. $15 ($10 Members).

Climate Change in the Forest: Effects of Urban and Global Warming on Trees and Pests
Feb. 26, 12-1 p.m.
'Winter Backyard Birds' - Family Workshopwill be held
Feb. 21, 10- 1:30 a.m. at the NCBG.
February is National Bird Feeding Month.
Trees are essential to our wild and urban landscapes. They purify the air, cool the environment, provide wildlife habitat, and benefit human health. City trees, however, face serious stresses, including the urban heat island effect. Cities are warmer than the surrounding landscape, and research shows that urban hot spots favor insect pests. This talk will examine how urban warming helps pests and harms trees, and asks whether global warming will cause similar issues in rural forests. Free, but pre-registration required. 

JC Raulston Arboretum
Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, NC.
Plantsmen's Tour: "Winter Perennials"
Mark Weathington, Director
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 1-2:30 p.m.

The garden doesn't go dormant in our southern gardens, plenty of perennials keep the show going all winter long from ferns to gingers and plenty in-between. Free for members, $5.00 for nonmembers.

Gardening Basics Course: "Using Science to Grow Better Petunias"
Wednesdays, Feb. 4 through March 25, 7–9 p.m.
Bryce Lane, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Emeritus and Lecturer Emeritus, Department of Horticultural Science, NC State University.
Whether you are new to gardening, a seasoned gardener, or new to this area, this eight week gardening class will help you be more successful in all your gardening endeavors! By understanding plant classification, growth, soils, and reproduction we will learn how to be better at propagation, plant selection, planting, pruning, fertilizing, and pest management.
Propagation Workshop

Saturday, Feb. 7, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Mark Weathington, Director, and Lizzi Lathers, Research Technician
Join Mark Weathington and Lizzi Lathers in this hands-on workshop and learn how to asexually propagate some of your favorite plants in the JC Raulston Arboretum's collections via hardwood cuttings. Participants will go home with a greater knowledge of plant propagation and with many freshly propagated plants. Techniques discussed can be done at home. Note: Many of the newly propagated plants will remain in our greenhouse for a few weeks and can be picked up at a later date, but some will go home with the participants. Cost$100.00 for members, $125.00 for nonmembers. The cost includes all materials needed, however, lunch is not provided. Please bring a lunch.
Friends of the Arboretum Lecture:  "Magnolias for the Southeast"
Thursday, Feb. 12, 7:30 - 9 p.m.
Cheryl Kearns, JCRA Board of Advisors and Magnolia Society International Member.
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.

North American Rock Garden Society (Piedmont Chapter) Lecture: "Wildflowers of the Croatan National Forest"

Saturday, Feb.14, 10 - 11:30 a.m.
Tim Alderton, JC Raulston Arboretum.

 "Magnolias for the Southeast" will be presented Thursday,
Feb. 12, 7:30 - 9 p.m. at the JC Raulston Arboretum.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St., Durham, NC.
Please call 919-668-1707 to register.
Mushroom Logs
Saturday, Feb. 7, 10 - noon and  1-3 p.m.
Instructor: Andy Currin, avid vegetable gardener and Duke University campus horticulturist.

Participant limit: 15 each session.
Enjoy fresh shitake mushrooms grown in your own garden! Each participant will be supplied with a 12-inch section of log, pre-drilled and ready to “plant” with mushrooms. Andy Currin will take you through the process of seeding the log, sealing it with wax, and then maintaining it for the six months it will take to grow your first crop of mushrooms. Each log should produce mushrooms for several years. Fee: $35; Gardens members $30.

Walk Through Time at Duke Gardens
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2 p.m. thru Thursday, Feb. 19, 3 p.m.
From the opening of the first iris beds to the latest addition of the Japanese stream gardens, much has changed in 75 years. Learn the history of Duke Gardens’ development. This topic is also available for groups to reserve for their preferred date. Please call 919-668-1707 for details.

Durham Garden Forum - Bulletproof Plants: Tough Nuts for the Landscape
Tuesday, Feb. 17, 6:30 - 8 p.m.
Speaker: Bryce Lane, a two-time Emmy Award winning television personality, retired horticulture instructor at N.C. State University, interim director at the JC Raulston Arboretum and accomplished garden speaker.
Landscape Plants for North Carolina Gardens: Winter
Wednesday, Feb.18, 3 - 5:30 p.m.
Course meets for 3 sessions.
Each season this class covers another group of approximately 60 plants suitable for North Carolina gardens. You will learn identification skills and design use, and understand the culture of each plant. Winter introduces plant silhouettes and evergreens. Each student receives a digital portfolio of plant photos.

Plants of Distinction: Hellebores in the Winter Garden
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2 - 4 p.m.
Learn about spectacular plants that offer both beauty and functionality. Sign up separately for each session to learn a new group of beautiful and useful plants, or take all four sections. Instructor: Jason Holmes, curator of Duke Gardens’ Doris Duke Center Gardens. Fee: $7; Gardens members $5. Fee to register for all four: $24; Gardens members $16

Traditional Japanese Tea Gathering: First Voice of Spring Tea
Saturday, Feb. 28, 10:45 a.m. to noon and 1 - 2:15 p.m.
Take a moment of respite in the Duke Gardens teahouse, where, as a guest to tea, you will experience the warmth of a traditional Japanese tea gathering. Guests will meet at the Doris Duke Center to be escorted to the teahouse for these intimate gatherings. Daytime teas are open for children age 6 and older with an accompanying adult, at the family rate. Participant limit: 10

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pressed Flowers as Sculpture: Madrid Artist Creates 3D Floral Objects

Spanish artist Ignacio Canales Aracil creates vessels reminiscent of upside-down baskets using nothing but pressed flowers.

The art of flower pressing dates back thousands of years; pressed flowers were reportedly discovered in a 3,000-year-old coffin of Tutankhamun’s mother in Egypt, and both Greek and Roman botanists were known to preserve plants using techniques that continue today.

Aracil’s method is a bit different, relying on large cone-shaped molds into which carefully woven patches of hand-picked flower stems are placed. The pieces dry for up to a month without the aid of adhesives and are sprayed with a light varnish to protect the sculpture from moisture. The final pieces, which could be crushed with even the slightest weight, are rigid enough to stand without support.

Aracil currently has work as part of a group show at Lucia Mendoza gallery in Madrid through the end of February.

Limonium statice flowers work well for dried arrangements. 
Statice bloom in spring and summer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Medicinal Herb Spotlight: Arnica

Arnica Montana
The flower of the Arnica plant is used to create supplements and medicines, commonly as an anti-inflammatory. 

Topical gel  products of Arnica are applied to the skin for pain and swelling associated with bruises, aches, sprains, and arthritis. It is also applied to the skin for insect bites, muscle and cartilage pain, chapped lips, and acne. It is also taken by mouth for sore mouth and throat, insect bites, painful and swollen veins near the surface of the skin (superficial phlebitis), sore gums after removal of wisdom teeth, and for causing abortions (1).

In foods, Arnica is a flavor ingredient in beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins, and puddings.  In manufacturing, Arnica is used in hair tonics and anti-dandruff preparations. The oil is used in perfumes and cosmetics (1).

Arnica belongs to the family of the sunflowers and consists of about 30 different herbaceous species. The Arnica is a genus which is derived from the Latin word ana which means the lamb, this is because of its distinguishing features of the having soft and hairy leaves. The Arnica genus is mostly found in the temperate regions of the western North America and they originate from Eurasia. Arnica is known to be associated with the tribe Senecioneae because of its fine bristles on its surface.  Arnica consists of certain species like the Montana and chamissonis which are known to be helpful in making anti-inflammatory products against the bruises. The Arnica species serve as a source of food for some insect larvae (2). 

Arnica is distinguished by having deep roots and erect stem with no branches. The consist of leathery type ovoid leaves and have large yellow and orange colored flowers which are 6-8cm wide, which have quite a pleasant scent. It is also contains very small seeds like fruits on its branches (2).
Precautions to Taking Arnica Supplements(1):
Allergy to ragweed and related plants: Arnica may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before applying it to your skin. Do not take arnica by mouth.

Digestion problems: Arnica can irritate the digestive system. Don’t take it if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers, Crohn's disease, or other stomach or intestinal conditions.

Fast heart rate: Arnica might increase your heart rate. Don’t take arnica if you have a fast heart rate.

High blood pressure: Arnica might increase blood pressure. Don’t take arnica if you have
high blood pressure.

Surgery: Arnica might cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using it at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

1. WebMD,

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Witherspoon Rose's Witherspoon University Begins in February

Why Witherspoon University?
With more than 60 years of rose care experience, our Witherspoon team is the source for expert guidance. Classes are informative and relaxed. Questions are welcome and encouraged! Experience real-time demonstrations in the gardens at Witherspoon in Durham and Charlotte!

What Happens When I Finish the Course?
If you attend all five classes you will receive a Diploma PLUS a Graduation Gift of:
  • Atlas Gloves
  • A Vase
  • Vase Brace
  • $10 Gift Card from Witherspoon Rose Culture 
Only made it to 4 classes by December 5th? Don't worry... you will still receive a coupon for 20% off your entire regularly priced order! (Limit of one gift/coupon per family)
How Does Witherspoon University Work?
  1. Pick up a course booklet at one of the Witherspoon Garden Shop locations.
  2. Attend a total of 5 classes to receive 5 punches in your booklet.
  3. Once you reach 5 punches bring in your booklet to receive your Graduation Gift!
Joining in Mid-Year? Don't worry! There are 14 opportunities during the year to accumulate 5 punches.
Does Witherspoon University Cost Anything?
All Core Classes are FREE! Electives are the workshops, so the cost will be determined by the supplies needed for the finished product.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America

Raining winter days can't help but make gardeners think of springtime growth to follow.

For some, that includes mushroom trekking! Consult Langdon Cook's account, The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America, before you head out in search of those North Carolina 'shrooms.

From Amazon...
The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America  
Author: Langdon Cook     
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (September 10, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0345536258
ISBN-13: 978-0345536259

In the tradition of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, and Mark Kurlansky’s Cod—a renowned culinary adventurer goes into the woods with the iconoclasts and outlaws who seek the world’s most coveted ingredient . . . and one of nature’s last truly wild foods: the uncultivated, uncontrollable mushroom.

Within the dark corners of America’s forests grow culinary treasures. Chefs pay top dollar to showcase these elusive and beguiling ingredients on their menus. Whether dressing up a filet mignon with smoky morels or shaving luxurious white truffles over pasta, the most elegant restaurants across the country now feature an abundance of wild mushrooms.

The mushroom hunters, by contrast, are a rough lot. They live in the wilderness and move with the seasons. Motivated by Gold Rush desires, they haul improbable quantities of fungi from the woods for cash. Langdon Cook embeds himself in this shadowy subculture, reporting from both rural fringes and big-city eateries with the flair of a novelist, uncovering along the way what might be the last gasp of frontier-style capitalism.

Meet Doug, an ex-logger and crabber—now an itinerant mushroom picker trying to pay his bills and stay out of trouble; and Jeremy, a former cook turned wild food entrepreneur, crisscrossing the continent to build a business amid cutthroat competition; their friend Matt, an up-and-coming chef whose kitchen alchemy is turning heads; and the woman who inspires them all.

Rich with the science and lore of edible fungi—from seductive chanterelles to exotic porcini—The Mushroom Hunters is equal parts gonzo travelogue and culinary history lesson, a rollicking, character-driven tour through a world that is by turns secretive, dangerous, and tragically American.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Winter Pest: the Pine Vole

Pine voles (microtus pinetorum) attack
the root systems of woody plants in the winter.
Photo from
Tunnels and ground damage in the garden almost always indicate a furry pest--whether it be the wandering neighbor's pet or an undomesticated critter like a vole, gopher or another rodent. In North Carolina, the pine vole microtus pinetorum has been observed to cause much underground damage to the urban landscape, and its activity is regularly seen in the winter months.

To learn more about the pine vole and how to control it, see the following excerpt from Wildlife Damage Notes from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.
Figure 1. A: Damage below the ground indicates pine vole activity;
B: Damage above the ground indicates meadow vole activity.
Illustration by Sandy Shultz.

Voles in Horticultural Plantings
Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Prepared by:
Peter T. Bromley, Specialist-in-Charge, Wildlife Extension
William T. Sullivan, Jr., Research Assistant, Department of Zoology
Michael L. Parker, Extension Specialist, Horticulture

Signs of Vole Activity

It is important to be alert for signs of vole damage. If vole activity is detected, the nature of the damage will reveal the type of vole present. As discussed later, that information is essential in selecting a control strategy.

Pine Voles

Pine voles damage trees and plantings below the ground (Figure 1A). When the damage to a particular tree, shrub, or broad-leaved plant is extensive, the plant will be severely weakened and may die. The trunks of small trees or shrubs may be severed from the roots, making it possible to pull the top of the plant out of the soil. Upon close inspection of the plant, gnawing marks can be seen just under the soil line. In apple orchards, the damage to the tree may not be sufficient to kill the tree, but damaged trees produce less fruit. Careful observation beneath the tree may reveal piles of earth (3 to 4 inches wide) and tunnels that are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Look under the tree for hollow shells of apples, eaten from the underside. If pine voles are living under the tree, a network of tunnels approximately 3 inches under the soil can be located by probing with a 1/2- to 3/4- inch- diameter stick or rod.

Meadow Voles
Signs of meadow voles are found mostly above the ground (Figure 1B) in taller grasses and cover. Look for trails in the grass and grass clippings, and check for feces at the base of large clumps of grass. The feces may be brown or green in color, are shaped like wheat grains, and are frequently left in small piles.

Typically, meadow voles girdle trees and saplings at the ground line. Close inspection of the damage will reveal paired grooves left by their chisel- like teeth. The grooves will be about 1/16 inch wide. Girdling completely around the tree trunk will kill the tree, so any indication of above- ground damage is cause for instituting a control program.

Rabbits also chew on young trees, but the girdling begins several inches above the soil line. Rabbits have much larger incisor teeth than voles, which will be reflected in the size of grooves on the girdled tree. Rabbit damage can be controlled with a plastic tree guard, but these devices will not prevent meadow vole damage.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Voles

Sound principles of integrated pest management (IPM) require that pest populations be monitored before any control measures are taken. Homeowners and managers of grounds with shrub and flower plantings can use the apple sign test to determine if voles are present. Control measures can then be restricted to those locations.

Developed in Virginia, the apple sign test has been verified at the Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center at Fletcher, North Carolina. This test for voles is inexpensive and does not require much time once the monitoring stations are established.

The Apple Sign Test

The apple sign test was developed to monitor vole populations in commercial orchards. The test permits the grower to detect vole populations before damage becomes severe. It also encourages economy and reduces exposing nontarget animals to control activities. Because the test shows where control is needed, areas without voles are not treated, saving time, money, and environmental risk. For these reasons, anyone who has invested in ornamental landscaping or a home orchard should establish and maintain an apple sign test.

The apple sign test is easy to do. The original method used 1-foot-square pieces of asphalt shingles, placed throughout the orchard and particularly where old fields, woods, and shrubs joined the orchard boundary. The gardener can use brown shingles that will blend in with the mulch or leaves or sections of 1- to 2-inch-thick pieces of board painted to match the background color of their flower garden or plantings.

Step 1. Prepare enough of these shingles or wooden pieces to scatter them strategically along the edges and throughout plantings at 15-foot intervals. Sketch a map of the grounds, especially if you have extensive plantings.

Step 2. To establish a test site, place a shingle on the ground, if possible over a hole caused by a vole. If you are monitoring for meadow voles, the shingle must be rounded in a tent-like fashion or propped up 3 to 4 inches off the ground so that the animal can go under it.

Step 3. After 5 days, place a 1/2- inch cube of apple under each shingle. After 24 hours, check whether or not the apple has been removed or eaten. On the map prepared in step 1, mark a simple + (to indicate that voles are present) or - (to indicate that voles are not present). Leave the shingles in place for future monitoring (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Tunnels made by pine voles under a shingle at an IPM monitoring site.

Step 4. When monitoring has been completed, you can determine the locations where vole damage may occur and can direct control activities to those areas rather than treating the entire planting.

Step 5. File the recording sheets with the dates of monitoring and the locations at which control measures have been used.

Step 6. Conduct the apple sign test in the fall and spring each year and 21 to 30 days after each rodenticide application.

Trapping for Positive Identification

Trapping is an effective way to determine if one or both kinds of voles are present. A snap- type mouse trap used with a small piece of apple for bait works well. The trap should be placed under a shingle. To trap pine voles, some excavation will be needed to place the trap down in the run. Place the trap at a right angle to the run. Bend the shingle to form an arched roof over the trap so that the spring will clear the shingle (Figure 3). Meadow voles can be caught by setting traps at right angles to their runways in the grass. No excavation is necessary because meadow voles live above ground. Under North Carolina law, a depredation permit must be obtained from an agent of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission before trapping voles.

Figure 3. A trap properly set for pine voles.

Controlling Vole Damage

Pine Voles

Currently, trapping or rodenticides are the only ways to control pine vole populations in home or institutional plantings and orchards. Careful and routine application of the apple sign test will reveal the locations of pine vole activity. Trapping or rodenticides should be applied only in those areas. After control measures have been taken, the apple sign test should be repeated. Make the test at least twice each year, once in the fall and once in the early spring.

Meadow Voles

Two alternative strategies can be used to control meadow voles. First, if the damage is extensive, you may need to treat the planting immediately with a rodenticide. Second, following successful rodenticide treatment, you can reduce or remove grass thatch to deter meadow vole populations. In mature orchards, a 4- foot grass- free strip on each side of the tree row is recommended, but narrower bands may be used on steep slopes to reduce soil loss. Close mowing will also prevent meadow vole populations from becoming established.

Using a Rodenticide to Control Voles

Currently, chlorophacinone formulated as paraffinized pellets (sold as Rozol Rat and Mouse Killer Pellets) is recommended for use by homeowners and managers of horticultural landscapes for controlling voles. It is effective and safe if used according to the following directions. However, household pets should be prevented from coming into contact with this or any other pesticide.

Place 2 tablespoons of pellets under a covered runway that is actively used by voles. Establish these covered bait stations at 10-foot intervals throughout the infested area. After approximately 21 days, repeat the baiting. After another 21 days, conduct the apple sign test to confirm control. Repeat the baiting process only in those areas still showing vole activity.

After control has been achieved, repeat the apple sign test twice annually, in the spring and fall.

Using Traps to Control Voles

Trapping has been used to eliminate pine vole infestations. Meadow voles have much larger home ranges than pine voles, making it impractical for homeowners to control meadow voles by trapping. As noted above, damage from meadow voles can be all but eliminated in most cases by close mowing or removal of grass cover.

It takes persistence as well as skill to be a successful trapper. Individual traps should be set as outlined previously under the identification section. Remember, when trapping pine voles it is essential that no light from the sky reach the trap site. Another tip is that bait is not necessary if the trap is set across the runway and the trap trigger is expanded. To do this, fix a piece of cardboard (such as is found on the back of a writing tablet) to the trigger. The new trigger should be just slightly smaller than the wooden base of the trap. Traps should be set at 10-foot intervals throughout the damaged planting. They should be checked daily and reset until no voles are caught over a one-week period. In large landscaped areas, you can concentrate trapping in a particular plant bed, achieve control there, and then move the trapping effort to another area.


All rodenticides are designed to kill mammals. Take all reasonable precautions to prevent exposure to humans, pets, and nontarget mammals, birds, and fish.

For the full notes on pine voles, see data sheet:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Sargent-Inspired Winter Bouquet: ‘Lady Agnew’

A cascade of mauve sweet peas and clematis
brings to life the purple sash in John Singer Sargent’s ‘Lady Agnew.’
Vintage Verdigris Urn, $75,
Stephen Kent Johnson for WSJ, Styling by Lindsey Taylor.
John Singer Sargent’s ‘Lady Agnew’ John Singer Sargent,
Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, 1892,
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh ©
Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland.
By Lindsey Taylor
WSJ, Jan. 2, 2015

While frantically running around New York City this past holiday season, fighting ruthless crowds on the hunt for gifts, I happened across a poster that stopped me in my tracks. Announcing an exhibition of masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery at the Frick Collection in New York, it featured the 1892 portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw by American artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). Mr. Sargent’s painting, which depicts a young socialite seemingly without a care or an agenda, promptly put me in a calmer state of mind. Just as promptly, I decided to base January’s arrangement on it.        

For the vessel, I borrowed a patinated urn from New York floral designer Emily Thompson and fit an inexpensive glass cylinder snugly inside it. I then turned my mind to the world that Lady Agnew inhabited, one I imagined was elegant without being pretentious.

The flowers had to feel feminine. I usually work with seasonal, locally grown blooms, but for this bouquet, I allowed myself to splurge on white peonies and lisianthus to mimic the dress, pale blue delphiniums for the wall color, and mauve sweet peas and a cascade of light purple clematis to echo her sweeping silk sash. (For a more affordable alternative, use white amaryllis and carnations in place of the high-priced peonies, and sub in lilac hyacinths for the sweet peas, which can be costly when out of season.) A taupe-colored pine cone from Australia picked up the wood of the bergère and gave this girlie arrangement a little more weight.

The painting’s colors were my guide for choosing the flowers, but I also tried to convey its languid mood. I crisscrossed strips of floral tape across the glass cylinder’s rim to create a grid that would give me more control over the flower placement, supporting lolling stems at extreme angles. I used all my tricks to capture the sense of serenity the image had given me after I had succumbed to the mania of the season.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

January Calendar of Triangle Programs

Pruning programs will be offered twice in January:
at NCBG on Jan. 24, and by the Duke Garden Forum on Jan. 20.

North Carolina Botanical Gardens
100 Old Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, NC.

Plant Ecology
Sat.,  Jan.10,  1- 4 p.m.; Saturdays, Jan 10, 17, 24, 31 (incl. weather: Feb 7); 1–4 p.m.
Ecological relationships at the organism, population, community, and ecosystem levels are examined, using examples from the rich and diverse North Carolina flora. Students will learn about nutrient and energy cycling within ecosystems, as well as about current threats and trends for the conservation of ecosystems. No prerequisites. $125 ($115 Members). 

Winter Flora
Sun., Jan. 18, 1:45 - 4:45 p.m.
Sundays, Jan 18, 25 Feb 1, 8, 1:45–4:45 pm (Inclement weather date: Feb 15) This course is designed for a broad audience as well as for students who are enrolled in either of the Garden’s certificate programs. Field trips and exercises provide experience in the use of identification keys and recognition of winter and early spring native plants in a natural setting. Enjoy discovering that many trees and shrubs are easily recognized when not covered with leaves! No prerequisites. Fee: $130 ($115 NCBG members). Fee includes copy of May and Tom Watts, Winter Tree Finder.

Rare Plant Ecology and Conservation
Tues., Jan. 20, 1- 4 p.m.
Tuesdays & Thursdays, Jan 20, 22, 27, 29; 1–4 p.m. (incl. weather: Feb 3)
From the tops of the Smoky Mountains to the coastal dunes, North Carolina is home to many rare plant species, each with its own story. The primary focus of this course is on rare plants of North Carolina with additional examples from the southeastern United States. Through lectures, discussions, and the study of selected flora, this course examines the causes of plant rarity, conservation strategies, and the ethics of conservation. No prerequisites. $125 ($115 Members).

The Do’s and some Don’ts of Pruning
Sat., Jan. 24,  1 - 4 p.m.
Participants will be instructed on the different types of pruning equipment and safety, the best pruning techniques, and the proper time to prune. The primary focus will be on, but not limited to, trees and shrubs. Pruning is a beneficial horticultural practice for the overall health of plants, as well as stimulating new growth and flowering. $20 ($15 Member)

Native Plant Studies Networking Session
Sat., Jan. 31,  10:00 a.m. - noon
Nancy Easterling, NCBG Director of Education; Steph Jeffries, Forest Ecologist; David McCloy and Jim Schmidt, NPS Graduates Join current, past and interested students for an informal networking session led by the NPS Advisory Committee student representatives. This will be an opportunity to have dialog with students and student advisors and support the certificate experience and ultimate graduation. This session is a prerequisite for the Independent Study Design Short Course. Free, but pre-registration required. 

JC Raulston Arboretum
Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, NC.

Plantsmen's Tour: "Stop and Smell the Roses—Evergreen Roses"
Tues., Jan. 6, 1 – 2:30 p.m.
Mark Weathington, Director 
The rose family is filled with more than your typical garden roses. Evergreen rose relatives abound in the landscape. We'll take a look at some of the best for gardens. Free for members, $5.00 for nonmembers.

Friends of the Arboretum Lecture: "Adventures in Plant Breeding from the Deep South to the 45th Parallel"

Wed., Jan. 7, 7:30 - 9 p.m.  
Ryan Contreras, Ph.D., Oregon State University
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.

North American Rock Garden Society Piedmont Chapter Lecture: "Woody Winter Wonderland"

Sat., Jan. 17, 10 – 11:30 a.m.
Brienne Gluvna Arthur
Free for North American Rock Garden Society (Piedmont Chapter) members and Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum members, otherwise $5.00.
Aphrodisiac plants program and book signing will be
 Jan. 27 at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St., Durham, NC.  Please call 919-668-1707 to register.
Organic Vegetable Gardening: Winter
Tue., Jan. 20, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Course meets for 4 sessions; Class series: 3 Tuesdays, Jan. 20-Feb. 3, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Saturday field session - Jan. 31, 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Andy Currin, avid vegetable gardener and Duke University campus horticulturist
Winter allows you time to slow down in the garden, evaluate the season and plan for next year. This class will focus on winter season strategies, including sowing of winter cover crops and extending your growing season with cold frames and other techniques. Class includes indoor discussion and outdoor practice in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden. Class textbook is included for those beginning this series.

Garden Soils Class:  "If You Build It, They Will Come: Understanding and Improving Garden Soils"
Sat., Jan. 24, 8:30 a.m.– 12:30 p.m.
Bryce Lane, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Emeritus and Lecturer Emeritus, Department of Horticultural Science, NC State University
As gardeners, we spend most of our time thinking "above ground". We ruminate about plants, combinations, color, texture, and about light exposure, water, temperature and climate. Gardening success is equally dependent on what is going on below ground. A scientific understanding of soil chemistry, biology, physics, and fertility makes a good gardener a "master" gardener! This class will help us understand basic soil principles, and how we can use that understanding to improve our garden soils, properly prepare garden beds, reduce fertilizer inputs, compost, and maximize growth in our gardens.

Durham Garden Forum: The Dynamics of Pruning
Tue., Jan. 20, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Learn about the internal engineering of plants and how pruning can assist a tree.
Instructor: Kevin Lilley, division manager, Landscape Services Department, City of Durham. Forum members free with annual membership; $10 per meeting for non-members payable to the Durham Garden Forum. For membership information, please email No pre-registration necessary.
Plants with Benefits: Aphrodisiacs
Tue., Jan. 27,  7 - 9 p.m.
Are some plants aphrodisiacs, or is that just a myth? Garden expert and plant detective Helen Yoest takes us on a romp through history, lore and ethnobotany. She explores a roster of 45 plants to uncover how they got their "hot" reputation, and what modern science has to say about it. Discover which common garden plants and favorite edibles have that "something extra," and why. Helen’s latest book, “Plants with Benefits,” is filled with lush photography, growing tips, and recipes for preparing teas, potions and tasty treats for your pleasurable use. Helen’s book, "Plants with Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodesiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies in Your Garden," will be available for purchase and signing after the presentation.

Zoom In: Winter Botanizing
Sat., Jan. 31,  1 - 3 p.m.; Snow date: Feb. 7
Instructor: Robert Thornhill, local plant ecologist
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. The winter season is a beautiful time to identify plants. They are pared down to their essence and you can enjoy the bark and twig colors, the buds holding next year’s growth, and the seeds remaining from the previous growing season.
Join us to examine the structures, identifying features and wonder of the winter landscape.