Thursday, April 30, 2015

2015 NC Wildflower of the Year: Fire-pink

Silene virginica Fire-pink
The North Carolina Botanical Garden and the Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc. are co-sponsors of the North Carolina Wildflower of the Year program. In 2011, the NC Botanical Gardens celebrated thirty years of this conservation project, which was initiated in 1982. The project's aim is to actively promote, each year, throughout the state and region an attractive plant that is native to the southeastern United States.

Silene virginica

Fire-pink (Silene virginica), is one of the most stunning native perennials of the eastern United States. A member of the carnation, or “pink”, family (Caryophyllaceae), fire-pink can be found throughout North Carolina and occurs in a variety of habitats from dry, open woods to stream banks to sunny roadsides. The name “pink” refers not to the color, but rather to the frilled edges of many flowers within this family (think of “pinking shears”).

To receive a brochure and seeds of the current North Carolina Wildflower of the Year send a self-addressed, stamped business-letter envelope to:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bee Master to the Rescue: April and May Peak Swarm Time

Bench with swarm
Approximately 20,000 bees swarmed a bench
at a Raleigh shopping center.
By Richard Urich
Durham Co. Master Gardener

On April 6, 2015, I received a call concerning a honeybee swarm in front of Mobley Shoes on Creedmoor Rd in Raleigh, NC. 

Mr. Mobley said the bees were flying everywhere and were starting to congregate on a park bench just outside his store. By the time I collected my equipment and got to the store all the bees had settled on or under the park bench, approximately 20,000 of them. I was able to capture all but a few. They now live in a new hive in my back yard.

This is the time of year when honeybees have a tendency to swarm. April and May are the peak months. They will swarm for a few reasons, but primarily it is due to hive overcrowding. The captured swarm most likely came from a nearby beekeeper. When a hive swarms, they take the queen with them, but leave a third of the bees and a soon-to-hatch queen cell so the remaining hive can
Richard to the rescue
Beekeeper Richard Urich captures bees
 for his backyard hive.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Durham Garden Clubs Place at State Meeting

Congratulations to the following individuals and Durham Garden Club award recipients at the annual meeting of The Garden Club of North Carolina, held April 19-21, in New Bern, NC. The state awards program is run every year with over 170 different project and achievement categories. 

  • Pat Cashwell (Heritage GC) received the prestigious Maslin Award, a top individual award for years of service to The Garden Club of North Carolina. Pat is the State Chair of the NC Highway Wildflower Program with the NCDOT.
  • Youth Awards (100+ point division) went to the Croasdaile Junior Garden Club and Walking Roots
  • Heritage Garden Club won for best Christmas Decorations of Entrance for event
  • Council President Marcia Loudon earned a certificate for Engagement Calendar Photo Award
DCGC won three awards at the state meeting: 2nd. for Yearbook (Membership Directory); 1st for the Potting Shed Party; and 1st for the Blue Star Memorial installed last April in front of the Durham VA Medical Center. The Durham Council also won a second honor for the Blue Star Memorial which was 1st place at the South Atlantic Region annual meeting under the National Garden Clubs.
The Council was represented by seven members at the state meeting in New Bern--six from Heritage Garden Club: Pat Cashwell, Jean Gurtner, Ardith Pugh, Martha Sanderford, Holly Hatch and Marcia Loudon; and from Homestead Heights Garden Club Past President Laurie Renard.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring Maintenance: Tips and Tasks

Spring is the best time to divide perennial plants.
By Jeana Myers
NC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener

Spring is a gardener’s busy time of year!  Along with soil preparation, weeding, and mulching, spring is a great season to plant perennials, shrubs, trees, and spring vegetables.
  • Find a quality compost or mulch source. For new gardens, loosen soil and add compost before planting.
  • In established beds, top-dress with 3 to 4 inches of mulch to reduce weed germination and add organic matter. Remove weeds before mulching! Perennial weeds and Bermudagrass will grow right through it.
  • If adding compost, mix in a 1- to 2-inch layer and then soil test!  After April 1, soil testing is free at the NCDA&CS Soil Lab. The soil test report will indicate if you need lime or fertilizer.
  • Always choose healthy plants— bargain plants may introduce pest problems.
  • Dig up, divide, and replant your perennials now so they will have enough time to reestablish before summer.
  • Shrubs and trees can be planted in spring, but do not plant too deeply! The soil will settle, and you don’t want the flare of the trunk below soil level.
  • Mulch new plantings and give them water during summer dry spells.
  • Plant spring vegetable transplants or direct seed those that like cool weather, such as peas and radishes.
  • Start warm-season vegetables by seed if you have a sunny indoor spot.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Flower Arrangement Inspired by Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter’s 2009 painting ‘Bouquet’
Photo: © 2011 Gerhard Richter, All rights reserved. 
Eucalyptus foliage gives this arrangement (above)
a sense of movement, while tulips and lilacs mimic
 the hues in Gerhard Richter’s 2009 painting ‘Bouquet.’
L-R:Texture and Copper-Wash Texture Vessels, $185 each,; middle: Stylist’s own.
                    Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson for WSJ,
Flower styling by Lindsey Taylor,
Prop Styling by Carla Gonzalez-Hart.
By Lindsey Taylor        
WSJ, April 17, 2015

April is often a time of foggy, gray days and premonitions of rain, as the land—at least here on the East Coast—stirs to life. I happen to love this time of year for what I call its “carwash” effect: The misty landscape, dotted with impressionistic dapples of color, reminds me of the view through wet, soapy glass that you get while driving through a carwash, when everything seems to be just a bit out of focus.

The paintings of German-born artist Gerhard Richter have a similar effect, especially the abstract works he makes using a squeegee. In his 2009 canvas “Bouquet”—one of my favorites and the inspiration for this month’s arrangement—he has painted a small cluster of flowers with a brush, then deliberately obscured it by raking red and green paint across the image, until it resembled a streaked windshield. As I attempted to capture the canvas’s essence and color palette with blooms, I would at times clearly see the flowers he depicted as if it were a straight representation; at others, I would see only the surface abstraction. Like a ghost, the image seemed tangible one moment, gone the next.

For the arrangement, I selected three vertical ceramic vessels that were heavy with glaze and had the texture and tones of a gessoed canvas. I like to cluster vessels together before filling them with flowers, nudging them here and there to create a still-life of their own—it’s a refreshing alternative to the no-brainer lone vase.

I also took inspiration from Mr. Richter’s squeegee technique and left a certain amount to chance. I couldn’t tell what kind of flowers were hidden in the painting, so I focused on matching its colors using tulips in salmon pink, orange and cherry red. The nearly white, soft pink-colored lilacs offered a foil to the stronger colors while the eucalyptus foliage hinted at the semi-visible stems and approximated the painting’s gray-green tones.

For me, the horizontal rhythm of the trio of vases and the repeating flowers brings to mind the ephemeral, sometimes blurry nature of this rainy season, when the windows of your car are streaked, somehow comfortingly, with April showers.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

“ARTIculture” Floral Designs and Horticulture at Burwell School, May 16-17

ARTiculture: where gardens and art flourish” is the theme for Hillsborough’s spring garden tour scheduled for May 16-17. This semi-annual event will feature 12 inspirational gardens plus many displays of art and informative sessions.

This tour promises to be so much more than just a tour of gardens! Other supporting elements will include a country tea at The Inn at Tear Drops, floral design display and horticulture show at Burwell School including a People’s Choice Awards, plant sale and garden vendors at Visitor Center, special floral art exhibit at Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery, children’s activities sponsored by library, and poet readings at historic Ayr Mount. Tea at Teardrops and interior tour of Ayr...
Mount require a separate ticket.

Informative sessions expected in the various gardens will include bee keeping, composting, native plants, water features, plein air artists, proper pruning demonstrations and more!

Plant sale:
• Friday, May 15, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
• At the Hillsborough Visitor’s Center, 150 E. King Street, Hillsborough.

Tour hours and information:
• Saturday, May 16, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
• Sunday, May 17, 12 a.m. – 5 p.m.
• Tour begins at the Hillsborough Visitor’s Center, 150 E. King Street, Hillsborough.
• Tour Tickets ($16 advance/$20 day of event) are available online at this site, and at Hillsborough Visitor Center.

Tea at Teardrops information:
• Saturday, May 16, 2 – 4 p.m.
• Sunday, May 17, 2 – 4 p.m.
• Tickets for the tea may be purchased by calling the Hillsborough Visitors Center at 919-732-7741 or by coming by the office located at 150 E. King Street.

Tour sponsored by Hillsborough Garden Club, the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough and Hillsborough Arts Council.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The D.I.Y. Tomato: A Financial Analyst's Breakdown

Editor's Note: Warning, this article does not quantify superior taste nor included are municipal water rates during NC drought summers...

                     A non-gardener's cost analyst of tomato growing.
Illustration by Zoë More O’Ferrall.
By Adam Bonislawski
WSJ, April 2, 2015

Ah, the life of a gentleman farmer. Fresh air, fresh food, the feel of the earth between your fingers—and not having to worry about small budgets. Growing your own food, it turns out, can be expensive.

WSJ Spread Sheet took a look at the costs involved in one homeowner pleasure—a vine-ripened tomato. So how much does it cost to grow your own?

The short answer: Financially speaking, you’d be better off buying from the store. Good taste is another matter.

Those just starting out will need to invest in gloves ($10), a spading fork ($25) and a hand trowel ($10). Then there is fertilizer ($6 per plant) and, of course, the tomato plant itself ($5 per plant).

Gardening expert Melinda Myers also recommends buying wire cages ($8 apiece) to help support your plants as they grow, which can increase their yield. That totals an estimated $64 in supplies.

Should you need to hire help, figure an hour to plant your tomatoes. After that, Ms. Myers says, 15 minutes a week—primarily spent weeding and watering—should do it for the duration of the growing season, which runs roughly 20 weeks, from the beginning of June to the end of October.

Six hours of work at about $10 an hour is $60 in labor costs. (The average wage for gardeners is $10.01 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.) So, supplies and labor costs total $124. An average plant, says Ms. Myers, yields about 20 pounds of tomatoes, making for a per-pound cost of $6.20—not exactly a bargain given that high-end, grocery-store tomatoes typically top out at about $5 a pound.

The good news is the bulk of the cost is from one-time startup expenses, so your per-tomato prices should drop significantly in subsequent years. They also drop if you add more plants to your garden, spreading your tool costs. And, Ms. Myers says, “there are a lot of ways you can reuse items and borrow tools” to cut costs.

But saving money isn’t really the point, adds Patricia Curran, horticulture educator at Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Tompkins County office. “It’s recreation, something you can do with your family.”

As Doris Fons of Wisconsin, who has been growing tomatoes for more than 50 years, puts it, “The best thing in the world is when you get that first tomato of the season.”

Thursday, April 9, 2015

'Royal Welcome' to the GCNC Annual Meeting, April 19-21
Program Highlights 

Sunday, April 19, 2015
3:00 p.m. - The Trash Lady
An exciting expose of how Craven County Landfill contributes to the welfare of our area.
3:30 p.m. - History of the New Bern Lily
How did the spider lily come to New Bern? 

Monday, April 20, 2015
Luncheon and Program - Noon
John Grady Burns, nationally acclaimed designer and author of floral design books, will outline his latest book. John studied with Ralph Null and will give a unique insight on the art of creating an arrangement. 
A Fashion Show will be presented after the luncheon program by Alluring Illusions. Afterward attendees can visit the Vendor Rooms to shop and purchase. Reminder: some vendors only take checks and cash.

Monday, April 20, 2015
3 - 4 p.m. All About Tea
This is a skit by two local docents from Tryon Palace who will present all about tea in colonial New Bern. Cake and tea will be served. The Tryon Palace docents will mingle with their guests, and rest assured, there will be fun for all! To make it a true “tea party” attendees are encourage to wear hats and gloves, whimsical or proper, all appreciated.

Safe Gasoline Tips for Your Lawnmower

Careful fuel practices will extend the life of your
 lawnmower and be safer for the environment.
Photo by
Before cranking up your power lawnmower this season, consider these fuel facts offered by The Toro Company...

How to Minimize Fuel System Problems When Using Ethanol-Blended Gasoline

While the EnvironmentalProtection Agency (EPA) currently limits an ethanol-gasoline blend of 10% ethanol (or E10) as a standard transportation fuel, the agency recently granted the ethanol industry a waiver increasing the allowable limit to 15% ethanol (or E15) for use only in some motor vehicles. Millions of legacy lawnmowers, snowblowers and other lawn and garden products are in use throughout the U.S., which were not designed to run on fuel blends containing more than 10% ethanol. Ultimately, the use of E15 may affect performance, damage the engine, and cause problems that may not be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

Be aware that even E10 fuel blends will absorb water from the atmosphere and can cause corrosion of fuel system components. Since most carburetors and the gas tank are vented to the atmosphere in some manner, there is nothing to prevent fuel from absorbing moisture over time. Using fresh fuel (less than 30 days old) will help prevent water absorption from becoming a problem, as will adding a fuel stabilizer the day you buy it.

We recommend individuals read the Engine Operator’s Manual and Equipment Operator’s Manual for information on what fuel can, and cannot, be used in their machine and to understand applicable warranty coverage and exclusions. In addition, the following preventive maintenance tips may help you minimize fuel system issues…
• Purchase only the amount of fuel that will be used in 30 days Fuel deteriorates over time.  Deterioration begins with the most volatile compounds evaporating.  Once evaporation reaches a certain point it will be hard/impossible to start the machine.  As more compounds evaporate, the fuel will form brown gummy deposits in the system.  Given enough time the gummy deposits will become a hard varnish.  Gummy deposits and varnish can plug passages in the carburetor preventing the engine from running or causing the engine to run poorly (surging, lack of power, stalls, etc.).  Deposits can also cause the carburetor to leak fuel if they prevent the float needle from sealing properly. 

• Add fuel stabilizer to the fuel the day you buy it Most fuel stabilizers form a layer over the top of the gasoline and greatly reduce the rate the fuel’s volatile compounds evaporate.  They also prevent the absorption of moisture by the fuel.  If fuel stabilizer is added to gasoline the day the gasoline is purchased, the fuel will stay fresh longer. Toro offers a Premium Fuel Treatment to help ensure reliable engine performance and protection against ethanol’s harmful effects. The product is available from authorized Toro dealers or can be ordered from   

• Purchase unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of at least 87 when possible Unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of at least 87 ((R+M)/2 rating method) is the recommended fuel grade for all gasoline engines in Toro products.  Gasoline with up to 10% ethanol (gasohol) or 15% MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) by volume is acceptable.   Ethanol and MTBE are not the same.  Gasoline with 15% ethanol (E15) by volume is not approved for use.   Never use gasoline that contains more than 10% ethanol by volume, such as E15 (contains 15% ethanol), E20 (contains 20% ethanol), or E85 (contains up to 85% ethanol ).   Using unapproved gasoline may cause performance problems and/or engine damage which may not be covered under warranty.  Keep in mind that ethanol fuel blends will absorb water from the atmosphere and can cause corrosion of fuel system components.  Since most carburetors and the gas tank are vented to the atmosphere in some manner there is nothing to prevent fuel from absorbing moisture over time.  Using fresh fuel (less than 30 days old) will help prevent water absorption from becoming a problem. 

• Do not use gasoline with more than 10% ethanol (E10) by volume engines produced to date for use in outdoor power equipment are not designed for gasoline with more than 10% ethanol (such as E15, E20 and E85); using higher ethanol fuel blends may lead to engine damage and/or performance issues.  We recommend individuals read the Engine Operator’s Manual and Equipment Operator’s Manual for information on what fuel can, and cannot, be used in their machine and to understand applicable warranty coverage and exclusions. 

• Consider using gasoline without any ethanol (E0) Gasoline with no ethanol will greatly reduce the amount of moisture the gasoline can absorb from the atmosphere.  Many areas of the country have ethanol-free gas available, and finding it is easy.  Search for “ethanol free gasoline” on the Internet. 

• Gasoline with up to 15% MTBE by volume is acceptable Gasoline with up to 10% ethanol (gasohol) or 15% MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) by volume is acceptable.   Ethanol and MTBE are not the same.  Gasoline with 15% ethanol (E15) by volume is not approved for use.   Never use gasoline that contains more than 10% ethanol by volume ethanol, such as E15 (contains 15% ethanol), E20 (contains 20% ethanol), or E85 (contains up to 85% ethanol ). 

• Do not use gasoline containing methanol.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Garden Spotlight: The Musee Rodin in Paris

The Gates of Hell, based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, is located at the end of the walled garden. Rather than closing off the space, it hints at another beyond.

An Architect Picks His Favorite Paris Garden
Like many people, I have a thing for Paris in the springtime—especially its gardens and in particular the one at the Musée Rodin. The building and grounds were constructed in the early 1700s by a wigmaker turned financier named Abraham Peyrenc de Moras and changed hands many times over the years. Hôtel Biron, as it became known, served as a seat for the papal legate, an embassy for the Russian government, and a boarding school, run by nuns. By the time Auguste Rodin moved in, in 1908, the estate was occupied by artists and the grounds were overgrown.
Rodin was deeply attached to the place and loved the gardens. When the government purchased the property in 1911, Rodin was allowed to stay. After Rodin's death, in 1917, the residence became a museum.

The garden here is hardly the most sophisticated example of landscape design; it’s a simple axial layout with a water feature at the center. Nevertheless, the integration of main structure, outdoor architecture, sculpture, and plants could not be better—or better reflect the museum’s namesake. Rodin cared about history (he was famous for immersing himself in the works and writings of his subjects), he loved plants, and he was obsessed with art and its ability to transform a landscape.

Click here to take a spring stroll through the gardens at the Musée Rodin.