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How to plant a hummingbird garden

Hummingbirds captivate spectators with their beauty, grace and peculiar flight patterns. There’s something almost magical about spotting one in your garden. However, if you’re not offering favored conditions, the tiny Houdini will disappear as quickly as it came.

Hummingbird sightings don’t have to be a rare occurrence. An abundance of food, water, nesting sites and perches will attract them to your garden.


The first thing you want to consider if you are planting a new garden is location. Hummingbirds are drawn to openings in the forest and forest edge, so they are drawn to suburban and rural gardens that offer a mix of trees, shrubs and stretches of lawn. Situating your garden near different landscaping elements will make it more attractive hummingbirds who discover your property.

When choosing your location you should also consider situating it near a window or patio door, so you have a good view.

What to plant

Many plants can attract hummingbirds to your garden. The most successful plants have red, tubular flowers, as they alert hummingbirds to a good food supply. Hummingbirds are also attracted to orange and pink flowers, but find yellow and white blossoms less attractive.

While color and shape are important to consider when planning your garden, it’s even more important to select native plants for your yard and garden. Fortunately, there are plenty of native hummingbird plants that provide a reliable source of nectar.

Exotic flowering plants, such as Japanese and Tartarian honeysuckles, are attractive to hummingbirds but can invade neighboring fields and woodlands.

Native hummingbird plants

The following plants, suggested by The National Gardening Association and cross-checked using the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plant database, are native varieties that attract hummingbirds.





You can also choose to include some fuzzy plants to make your yard even more desirable to nesters as hummingbirds like to line their nests with soft plant fibers. Two favorites are cinnamon fern and pussy willow, but you can also choose to leave some thistle or dandelion in your yard.

Planting tips

Here are some additional tips from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for selecting and planting your hummingbird garden:

  • Select plants that bloom at different times of the year to provide nectar from the beginning to the end of hummingbird season.
  • Plant patches of the same species to provide larger quantities of nectar.
  • Prune your plants to encourage flower production.
  • Plant vertically by using trellises, trees, garden sheds, or other structures to support climbing vines or add window boxes, wooden tubs, or ceramic pots to create the same effect with a variety of preferable hummingbird plants.
  • Avoid insecticides and herbicides as hummingbirds can ingest poisons when they eat insects and flower nectar.
  • If your garden does not include trees or shrubs and there are none nearby, position perches within 10 to 20 feet.
  • Include some sort of water source. Hummingbirds enjoy garden misters, drip fountain devices and small waterfalls.

Activity cycle

The best times to attract hummingbirds to your garden occur during midsummer after young hummingbirds fledge and during fall migration. By understanding their annual activity cycle, you can plan your garden better and attract hummingbirds with ease.

Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension offers a step-by-step guide for planting for hummingbirds throughout the season.

Additionally, you can track hummingbird migration at to get a better idea of when they will visit your garden.



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Looking Back on Southside: Leaving a Thumbprint

The month of April brings with it a kind of “newness” to all things and a sign that spring has finally sprung. A change in scenery as well as a change in temperature welcomes the lover of the outdoors. April is also known to host Virginia’s Historic Garden Week which Bassett Historical Center was honored to take part in last year, 2016. The Center was a canvas not just for local and family history that week, but also for the breathtaking arrangements that were housed here by local Garden Club members.

When April turns the corner, many of us remember a prominent landscaper who left his thumbprint on many gardens throughout the Commonwealth. This well-known person was a man by the name of Charles Freeman Gillette. Born in 1886 in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, he developed an early fascination and talent for landscape architecture serving as the apprentice for Warren H. Manning. Gillette quickly established and was known for an original regional style known far and wide as the “Virginia Garden”. He was known to take special consideration with every aspect from house paint colors to outdoor accessories when integrating architecture with his landscape design.

Gillette is known for planning and designing many historic gardens in Virginia. Helping to revamp the Kenmore garden, which was once the home of Fielding and Betty Washington Lewis of Fredericksburg, Gillette served as the landscape architect for the Garden Club of Virginia on this project in the early 1920s. Gillette’s plans were also used when the gardens were restored at Montpelier, the home of James Madison. His work may also be seen on the campus of Washington and Lee University in the landscape of both the Lee Chapel and the Lee House garden. These mentioned gardens just begin to scratch the surface of the work that he did during his life, but let’s mention a few that may fall a little closer to home.

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Stanley were both very impressed with the work of Charles Gillette. So much so that Gillette, along with Earle Sumner Draper, served as the landscape architects that designed the grounds of Stoneleigh over an astounding thirty-one year period. Both Mr. and Mrs. Stanley were actively involved in all aspects of the design and installation, and thanks to their granddaughter, Lizz Stanley, we have copies of both the correspondence between Gillette and the Stanleys during this process as well as copies of many of Gillette’s blueprints of the landscape plans here at the Center. When Thomas B. Stanley was elected Governor of Virginia and the Stanleys moved into the Governor’s Mansion in 1954, it did not take long for Mrs. Stanley to realize that the garden behind the Mansion needed serious attention. She called, once again, on Charles Gillette to give the garden a serious facelift. Brick walkways, a formal balcony, and a terrace were added to the landscape to give it just what was missing. This so-called renovation project took nearly two years to complete – just in time to be featured on the 1956 Virginia’s Historic Garden Week tour.

Other examples of Gillette’s design work locally, including private residences, civic institutions, religious and educational affiliations are in various areas of this County. For Stanleytown the home of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh H. Chatham was listed. In Bassett, there are residences that were landscaped by Gillette, one of which was the home on Ridgewood Road built by Mr. and Mrs. H. Russ Barnes. Other residences in Bassett were those of Mr. and Mrs. J.P. McClellan, Mr. and Mrs. Spencer Morten, Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Prillaman, and Mr. and Mrs. G.R. Hart. In the Ridgeway area, Drewry Mason High School is listed as having Gillette’s landscaping used in 1959.

In the City of Martinsville, some records show also that Gillette’s landscaping architectural work was done for Mr. and Mrs. George W. Box, Mr. George Heaton, Mr. and Mrs. Victor C. Lester, Dr. Donald W. Richman and Mr. and Mrs. G.T. White. The new First Baptist Church (1955-1959) prior to the first service in January 1960, Boxley Farms in 1956, and Martinsville General Hospital in 1946 had Gillette’s landscaping touch encompassed in their areas.

In researching for this article, we found it astonishing that Charles F. Gillette “never drew a plan in his whole life. It was always his ideas that someone else put down on paper”. However, every plan drawn in his office bore the name of “Charles F. Gillette” in the corner.

Charles F. Gillette continued to beautify Virginia until his death in 1969. Even after his death, his touch on Virginia’s landscape remains.

(Used in this article were “Historic Virginia Gardens: Preservation Work of the Garden Club of Virginia 1975-2007” by Margaret Page Bemiss; “Genius in the Garden” by George C. Longest; files from the Gillette Papers at the University of Virginia; “Landscape Interpretation: a Method for the Adaptive Reuse of an Historic Site” by Lizz Stanley and files at Bassett Historical Center.)

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See 7000 tulips blooming at Brookby Estate’s restored historic gardens

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Aquinas College is inviting the public for a first look at the restoration work being done at the historic Chinese Gardens at the Brookby Estate, 250 Plymouth SE.

Aquinas College, which has been restoring the estate grounds, will sponsor a rain-or-shine open house to celebrate the restoration from 11 a.m. – 2p.m. on Saturday, April 29. Admission is free but guests are asked to register at:

The gardens, designed by the Olmsted Brothers, with acclaimed landscape artist, Percival Gallagher, were completed in the early 1930s for lumber baron John W. Blodgett Sr. and his wife, Minnie.

Aquinas, which assumed ownership of the estate in 2011, has been restoring the grounds since last year with the assistance of the Kent Garden Club and Katerberg VerHage, a West Michigan landscaping company.

So far, the path from Fisk Lake to and around the estate’s Chinese Garden have been restored along with the entry court.

The Chinese Garden, which was anglicized in the 1940s, was named for the Chinese theme that can be seen throughout the interior of the manor house.

Last November, Aquinas science faculty, biology students, volunteers from Kent Garden Club, AQ grounds crew, and staff from Katerberg VerHage planted 7,000 tulips that are now in bloom. 

Following the blooming of the tulips, the Chinese Garden will be restored to its original plan, with over 1,700 varieties of flowers and plants being planted in late May.

Brookby Estate was built by John W. Blodgett Sr. and stayed in the Blodgett family for decades, until Edith Blodgett sold it in the early 1990s. In 2011, Sam and Janene Cummings donated the estate to Aquinas College, where it serves as home to the college’s president.

Historic gardens at lumber baron’s estate get restored to original splendor

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Marin garden calendar for the week of April 22, 2017


Gardening classes: The Mill Valley Public Library offers free seasonal gardening classes most Saturdays and occasionally on Sundays. Call 415-389-4292 or go to

Workshops and gardening classes: Armstrong Garden Centers in Novato and San Anselmo offer free classes to gardeners of all skill levels most Saturdays. Call 415-878-0493 (Novato), 415-453-2701 (San Anselmo) or go to

Workshops and seminars: Sloat Garden Center has five Marin County locations that offer gardening workshops and seminars on a weekly basis. Check for schedule, locations and cost.

Workshops and seminars: The Marin Master Gardeners present a variety of how-to workshops, seminars and special events throughout Marin County on a weekly basis. Check for schedule, locations and cost.

Workshops and seminars: Marin Rose Society presents monthly lectures on growing roses and good garden practices. Check for schedule and locations.

Seminars: The Marin Orchid Society presents lectures on raising orchids at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 215 Blackfield Drive, Tiburon. Call 415-895-0667.

Gardening volunteers: Marin Art Garden Center in Ross seeks volunteers for maintenance, weeding, transplanting and mulching. Call 415-455-5260.

Gardening volunteers: The Novato Independent Elders Program seeks seasonal volunteers to help Novato seniors with their overgrown yards Tuesday mornings or Thursday afternoons. Call 415-899-8296.

Nursery volunteers: Volunteers are sought to help in Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy nurseries from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays at Tennessee Valley, 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays, or 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays at Marin Headlands Nursery; or 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at Muir Beach, 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Marin Headlands. Call 415-561-3077 or go to

Nursery days: The SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) native plant nursery days are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and weekends. Call 415-663-8590, ext. 114, or email to register and for directions. Go to for more information.

Garden visits: Marin Master Gardeners and the Marin Municipal Water District offer free residential Bay-Friendly Garden Walks to MMWD customers. The year-round service helps homeowners identify water-saving opportunities and soil conservation techniques for their landscaping. Call 415-473-4204 to request a visit to your garden.

Garden volunteers: Marin Open Garden Project (MOGP) volunteers are available to help Marin residents glean excess fruit from their trees for donations to local organizations serving people in need and to build raised beds to start vegetable gardens through the MicroGardens program. MGOP also offers a garden tool lending library. Go to or email

Around the bay

Landscape garden: Cornerstone Gardens is a permanent, gallery-style garden featuring walk-through installations by international landscape designers on nine acres at 23570 Highway 121 in Sonoma. Free. Call 707-933-3010 or go to

Olive ranch: McEvoy Ranch at 5935 Red Hill Road in Petaluma offers tours, workshops and special events. Call 707-769-4123 or go to

Botanical garden: Quarryhill Botanical Garden at 12841 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen covers 61 acres and showcases a large selection of scientifically documented wild source temperate Asian plants. The garden is open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $5 to $10. Call 707-996-3166 or go to

— Compiled by Colleen Bidwill

The Trowel Glove Calendar appears Saturdays. Send high-resolution jpg photo attachments and details about your event to or mail to Home and Garden Calendar/Lifestyles, Marin Independent Journal, 4000 Civic Center Drive, Suite 301, San Rafael, CA 94903. Items should be sent two weeks in advance. Photos should be a minimum of 2 megabytes and include caption information. Include a daytime phone number on your release.

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Column: Rethinking the traditional lawn


Angie Hong

Angie Hong

When my dad moved to Palm Springs in 1987, the residential landscape there was eerily Midwestern. There were rows of tidy lawns in front of every house, petunias in the gardens, and pots of pansies on front porches. If it weren’t for the palm trees, one could have almost pretended they were in a town in Wisconsin or Ohio.

Of course, neither lawns nor petunias are well suited for the desert, and people in the Palm Springs area eventually realized their landscape aesthetics would have to change. Over the years, when I headed south to visit my dad, I noticed that petunias had given way to desert blooms and many people had replaced their lawns with rock gardens. Landscaping in common areas began to change as well. Cities and homeowners’ associations transitioned to drought- and heat-tolerant xeriscaping and installed high-tech irrigation systems to reduce water usage.

Thirty years later, some people in the Midwest are starting to wonder if traditional lawns make sense anywhere, even here in our temperate climate. According to various estimates, there are about 40 million acres of lawn in the United States, 32 million of which are irrigated. In fact, there are more irrigated acres of lawn than corn!

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates Americans use nine billion gallons of water per day irrigating lawns. In addition, lawns use three million tons of fertilizer per year, 30,000 tons of pesticides and 800 million gallons of gasoline.

If we were to go back in time about 75 years, however, yesterday’s lawns looked a lot different than today’s.

Before broadleaf herbicides were invented, it was considered normal (even desirable) to have a lawn full of clover. Most families didn’t waste water on lawns, and if they did water the grass, it was only once or twice during the hottest weeks of the summer.

Today, even here in Minnesota, we are beginning to feel the strain of excessive water use. We see lake levels dropping during extended periods of drought, and cities building expensive new well fields to meet summer water demands.

As we begin to rethink the “traditional” lawn, some people are advocating a return to simpler ways when lawns were lower maintenance. Locally, the Pollinator Friendly Alliance has worked with the University of Minnesota to create a bee-friendly lawn mix that is low-growing and provides nectar for honeybees and native bees. To overseed an existing lawn, scalp the grass to within 1 inch, rough up the soil with a rake, and then seed with a mix of 4 lbs. fine fescue, 7 tablesppoons white Dutch clover, 2 tablesppoons creeping thyme, and 7.5 tablesppoons self-heal per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Water for the first two weeks until the seeds germinate. After that, a bee-friendly lawn will not need water or fertilizer and only occasional mowing to keep it at a height of 3-4 inches.

Low-mow is another option that works for sunny or partially shady lawns. Composed of fescue grasses that only need to be mowed once or twice a year when they go to seed, low-mow lawns don’t need to be watered or fertilized and will naturally block most weeds. Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin ( is the most popular place to purchase low-mow seed mixes, although low-mow is also sold locally at Gertens and Minnesota Native Landscapes. To establish a low-mow lawn, kill off your existing grass in late August and seed the low-mow mix around Labor Day.

Even if you’re not ready to make a transition to a bee-friendly or low-mow lawn, there are a few simple changes you can make to save yourself time and protect water resources. First, resist the urge to apply fertilizer in the spring. Fertilizer makes the grass grow faster (forcing you to mow more often) and tends to promote blade growth instead of root growth, making the grass less tolerant to drought during the summer. Set your mower blade higher (3-4 inches tall) to encourage deeper roots, and mow less frequently or not at all during dry spells in the summer.

If you want to apply fertilizer, Minnesota Extension recommends one application around Labor Day. Get your soil tested first to ensure you don’t waste money or give your lawn the wrong nutrients ( Most Minnesota lawns can survive without irrigation, but if you have an automatic system, install a rain sensor or soil moisture sensor and program your irrigation system to deliver no more than one inch of water per week. On weeks it rains, the lawn might not need to be watered at all. For more tips, download “What to ask for from your lawn care provider” or the “Blue Thumb Year Round Guide to Yard Care” at

Interested in learning more about lawn alternatives and water-friendly gardening? Attend a free landscaping workshop in Oakdale (April 18), Hugo (April 27) or Forest Lake (May 2):

Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water, Contact her at 651-330-8220 ext. 35 or [email protected]


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Water Conserving Landscapes

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Janet Laminack, Denton County Extension Agent-Horticulture

by Janet Laminack, County Extension Agent-Horticulture

In the summer months, our landscapes drink up a lot of our good, clean water. People bristle when this gets mentioned. “Please don’t make me turn my beautiful lawn into gravel,” they are thinking. Many people even tell me, “I don’t like cactus and I’m not going to do zeroscape.”

I’m a horticulturist, so that means I like plants, not gravel. And the term is actually xeriscape, not zeroscape but the point is well taken — we misunderstand what drought tolerant and water conserving landscapes are and we don’t want them besides.

These days, we are getting away from the confusing and scary term xeriscape and moving into terms such as “smartscape” “water smart” and Earth-Kind. These are all approaches to gardening and landscaping, practices that focus on healthy and beautiful lawns and flower beds. Earth-Kind not only seeks to conserve water, but to reduce the amount of fertilizers and pesticides used in landscapes.

Did you know that the recommendation for a water conserving landscape is actually 1/3 lawn area, 1/3 hardscape and 1/3 perennials and shrub beds? Hardscape refers to non-living areas such as sidewalks, decks, patios and yes, fields of gravel if that’s your thing. Other best management practices include adding a 3-6 inch layer of mulch to all your shrubs, trees and flowering plants. Mulch helps insulate the soil, reduces erosion, reduces competition from weeds and slows water loss from soils. If you use an organic material such as wood chips, they break down over time, improving your soil. It’s like a slow release fertilizer!

Plant selection is also important. Picking plants that enjoy our hot summers and can survive on minimal supplemental irrigation is important. Indulging in a few high maintenance favorites is allowed, but don’t water your entire landscape just to give those few plants enough water. Group or zone plants according to water requirement and set your irrigation timer accordingly. You might be surprised at the quantity of beautiful, lush and “non-cactus looking” plants that are drought-tolerant.

There are so many opportunities to get more acquainted with water conserving landscapes. On Saturday, April 22, I will be speaking about water-wise landscapes at the Denton Redbud Festival at 10 am. This free event will also feature vendors, activities and local music.

Come shop for plants with the Master Gardeners on April 29. This annual fundraiser is scheduled from 9 am to 2 pm on the grounds of the Trinity United Methodist Church in Denton. Not only is there a great selection of hard-to-find herbs, plants for pollinators and tough perennials, but you can also find pass-along plants from Master Gardeners’ own gardens. And, Master Gardeners are there in abundance to help you make plant selections and answer your landscape questions.

And, if you need even more convincing, come see plants in action at the Denton County Master Gardener Spring Tour on May 13.  You will see five beautiful home gardens and get great ideas on what you can incorporate in your own landscape. This event is the Master Gardener annual fundraiser; tickets are $10 before the tour or admission to a single garden is $5 at the gate. Children 12 and under are free.  For more information call 940.349.2892, email or buy tickets online at Please call ahead if you have mobility concerns because not all gardens may be accessible.

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Middle school’s garden plans shows PTO effectiveness

Ashland Middle School’s Parent Teacher Organization hopes its planned outdoor garden  not only adds beauty to the campus but offers a pollination garden, monarch butterfly weigh station and outdoor classroom. The area will also include 12 benches made from recycled plastic.

PTO president Rhonda Wilson said she hopes the project, which will cost $15,000, will be completed by the next school year. Cost will be covered, in part, as part of school maintenance. The PTO will raise money for plants, concrete and trees, she said.

Wilson said the new addition will allow students to hone their science, technology, engineering and math skills as they learn about the different plants and ecosystems surrounding them.

Wilson said helping with the project also will teach students responsibility and community pride.

To provide the benches, it is up to the students to collect 4,800 pounds of plastic, which will ultimately save funds.

“The benches would’ve run about $7,000 to $8,000. If the kids come up with enough plastic for this project, it will take 12 benches down to $130 a bench,” she said.

Student Technology Leadership Program coordinator John Leistner and STLP students will be in charge of the recycling portion of the plan, including a competition among students to see who can collect the most plastic. The community also can contribute recyclables by dropping them off at the school.

According to Wilson, this is the first year AMS had a “fully functioning PTO,” stating the group’s goal is to improve the school to better students’ education.

Wilson explained the garden will be self-containing and will always have some type of plant in season for the students to study. She said she has been applying for grants to help cover costs and the school has already received some from Wild for Pollinators to purchase seeds. Kim Jenkins of Sweetbay Landscaping also created the school’s landscaping plans for free.

The PTO is taking contributions, in which donators providing more than $50 will have their names on a plaque placed outside the school. Donations can be made to the project’s GoFundMe page at, mailed to 2800 Kansas St. Ashland, KY 41101 or by taking them to the school’s front office.

School gardens that become outdoor classrooms are not a new idea. Other area schools have had them with varying degrees of success.

The revival of the PTO at the middle school is great news. In most elementary schools, the PTOs or PTAs do much to enhance their schools, including raising money for special projects, assisting teachers and hosting festivals and other special events. Most elementary school teachers say the active involvement of their students’ parents enhances their education.

Unfortunately, once students reach middle school, parent involvement in the school tends to decline dramatically. This is partly because students from different elementary schools are merged into one school and transforming from a parent-teacher organization serving students who have always attended the same school to those from different schools is not easy.

We commend the leaders of the new PTO at Ashland Middle School for their efforts. Creating a garden that is a learning experience shows the value of such groups. We hope the garden plants the seeds that will grow into more parent involvement at the school.

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Turning the Page on Native Plants | Down and Dirty | The North …

If you’ve been wanting to learn more about native plants, here are reviews of seven of my favorite books on the subject (all available in the Humboldt County Library).

Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (2009): If you only read one of the books in this column, choose this one by Douglas Tallamy. Unlike the others, this one doesn’t focus on descriptions of native plants, though it does contain some information about them. But it presents a powerful case for why using native plants is not just a nice idea but crucially important for the survival of wildlife. It explains how native plants and the insects that co-evolved with them are essential to birdlife in particular. This book opened my eyes to the urgency of this issue, and I highly recommend it to all gardeners and bird lovers.

California Native Plants for the Garden (2005): For brief overviews on the history of native plants in California horticulture, descriptions of native plant communities and a discussion of landscape design considerations, pick up this book by Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O’Brien. There is a good chapter on soil preparation, sourcing plants and seeds, planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning and pest management. The bulk of the book is devoted to profiles of more than 500 native plants with a description of each plant, its habitat and range, light/soil/water requirements and related species.

California is a large state with an extremely wide range of habitats. Not every plant included would thrive in our area, but the majority would. Also included are extensive lists of plants for 30 specific situations, such as allergenic plants, plants with aromatic foliage, fast/slow-growing plants, poisonous plants and plants with ornamental fruits. The 450 color photographs include plant close-ups and many enticing pictures of landscaping with natives.

Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes (2008): A comprehensive reference to 530 native plant species that occur in the Pacific Northwest written by Kathleen Robson, Alice Richter and Marianne Filbert. As with the book above, not all the plants described are native to our area, but the majority are. A detailed description of each plant is provided, along with useful information on cultivation, propagation, native habitat and range and related species. It also includes lists of recommended plants for specific situations such as drought-tolerance, shade, wildflower meadows, erosion control, and attracting birds and butterflies. Illustrated with 600 color photos and numerous botanical drawings.

California Native Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide (2012): This book by Helen Popper provides detailed information on planting, propagating, dividing and maintaining plants on a month-by-month basis. For instance, April tasks are listed as: plant and sow; mulch; prune, just a little; take cuttings; manage weeds and celebrate Earth Day. One of the best sources I’ve encountered for pointing out the importance of maintenance for native plants and explaining how and when to do it. The final chapter discusses using natives in garden styles ranging from formal to cottage to Japanese to a children’s garden. There are beautiful color photographs and vivid descriptions of native plants in bloom every month.

Real Gardens Grow Natives: Design, Plant Enjoy a Healthy Northwest Garden (2014): This book by Eileen Stark presents a strong case for using native plants to support birds, bees, butterflies and other insects. It covers design considerations, site preparation and plant propagation. The heart of the book is a portfolio of 100 garden-worthy Pacific Northwest native plants — most of which grow locally — divided into plants for full sun, partial sun, and shade. Excellent color photographs and useful information on the growth habit and cultivation needs of each plant. I especially appreciate the notes on the wildlife value of each native. For instance, for vine maple the author comments: “Flowers attract bees and other insects. Host plant for western tiger swallowtail and mourning cloak butterfly larvae. Seeds are eaten by many birds, including grosbeaks, finches, and woodpeckers, as well as mammals such as chipmunks.”

Designing California Native Gardens: The Plant Community Approach to Artful, Ecological Gardens (2007): This book is divided into 12 chapters, each focusing on a group of plants that occur together in the wild. Authors Glenn Keator and Alrie Middlebrook provide examples of landscape designs for each plant community, including plant lists, descriptions and practical advice on maintenance. It’s an inspiring book with good photographs of both gardens and individual plants. As an added bonus, it includes information on where you can see each plant community in the wild.

Native Plants in the Coastal Garden: A guide for Gardeners in the Pacific Northwest (2003): Though the book by April Pettinger and Brenda Costanzo defines its range as extending from southeastern Alaska to Eugene, Oregon, it is very much applicable to our region. It starts with a discussion of recent trends in naturalistic landscaping and offers sample site plans to show how native plants can be incorporated in landscapes. The authors discuss pros and cons of lawn as well as turf grass alternatives. They offer advice on gardening for wildlife, how to establish and maintain a meadow and how to use natives in a variety of settings, providing a list of plants for each setting. Roughly one-third of the book is devoted to descriptions of various native plant communities — shoreline, forest, wetland, grassland and mountain.

These books contain lists of native plant nurseries and other native plant resources. Another good source of information is, the website for the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society. This website has an expanded list of books on native plant gardening as well as recommended garden-worthy local natives.

Heads Up: Be sure to mark your calendar for the annual Wildflower Show and Native Plant Sale, May 5-7, at the Jefferson Community Center in Eureka. The website above has more information.

Donna Wildearth is the owner of Garden Visions Landscape Design in Eureka. Visit her website at

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Good to Grow: Seeing landscape as a work of art – Charleston Gazette

I’m originally from Colorado, but I’ve lived in West Virginia for most of my adult life and love it. You all weren’t kidding when you called it wild and wonderful. I’ve found no shortage of unique events or fun celebrations to occupy my time.

I attended one such event a few months ago with my fiance: the West Virginia Nursery Landscape Association’s Winter Symposium. I’d never been before and didn’t know what to expect, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was educational, fun and the food was delicious.

The association holds this symposium in Charleston every year in January for its members and any other garden enthusiasts. Whether you’re a hobbyist or a seasoned landscaper, I highly recommend checking it out next year.

My favorite speaker was Allan Summers, a talented landscape architect with the Wilmington, Delaware, firm Robinson, Anderson and Summers.

He discussed garden and landscape design in terms of composition and drawing from the land for inspiration. What resonated most was his comparison of garden design to art. Most would agree garden design is art, but I was new to the idea.

Summers began by discussing the poetry of place, how a garden in Pennsylvania should absolutely look and feel different from a garden in, say, Ireland. Those places have their own history, their own climate, their own rhythm.

I loved this idea, and as he flicked through pictures of landscapes he’d designed while discussing his inspiration, I had a thought. I began inspecting and comparing his work to notable paintings I’d learned about in college.

Drawing from my studies in art and composition, I found striking similarities between an artist’s approach to painting and a designer’s approach to landscaping.

Summers, like many talented designers, whether consciously or unconsciously, follows a set of compositional design rules that closely mirror that of compositional rules in painting.

Some rules in play include those of proportion, color theory and texture. The parallels really start to pile up when you consider composition as a whole.

An artist’s job is to give the eye direction. He or she must tell the eye where to start in a painting, and then guide it through every facet before offering an exit, ultimately giving the viewer a sense of completion.

Every rule can be broken, so you will find artists who intentionally ignore this one to evoke specific emotions. However, on the whole, most notable works adhere to this wisdom.

I never imagined this rule would be used in gardens, but it is. Even if it isn’t done consciously, designers must give you a destination, a focal point. Gardens are meant to draw you in, make you feel something and then eventually let you go.

I found another similarity in Summers’ use of foreground and framing. Of course every garden has tall plants in back and short plants in front, but that barely scratches the surface of what a good designer can accomplish with this concept.

I’ve walked into gardens feeling uninspired and even bored, only to find myself pleasantly surprised on a closer look. Gardens are layered, complex, living things. They unravel and lay themselves bare as you venture into them.

No garden deserves a cursory viewing, just as no painting should be taken in with a single glance. These works need to be absorbed, unwrapped, even.

For every artist, there is an artistic style. This gives life to art, which is why five people can paint the same bowl of fruit and come away with five distinct paintings.

We see this in landscaping, as well. Some designers use broad, colorful strokes, while others dot their canvasses delicately, demanding you appreciate the subtleties.

With thoughts like these, I don’t believe I can ever again see a garden as just a garden. Evaluating landscapes with the same eye for detail and intent that I bring to art museums has opened a whole new layer of understanding. There is so much to appreciate, even about the smallest or simplest gardens.

Blevins is a writer, artist and plant enthusiast living in Charleston. She has recently joined the talented team at Flowerscape as a design assistant.

Blevins can be contacted at

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Karel Edgar flourishes in landscaping business, part-time work for state conservation department


Karel Edgar, owner of Ready to Grow

It’s a busy time of year for area native Karel Edgar as she heads into the spring and summer months at the helm of her landscaping business, Ready to Grow.

“Spring is the time when it picks up a lot,” she says.

Edgar gained an early appreciation for the outdoors from her grandparents.

“I’ve always been an outdoor person,” she says. “My grandparents used to take us to the Current River when I was a kid. They had a cabin down there, so we spent all our summers down in the Current River. My grandpa’d take me fishing and my grandmother, she taught me about gardening.”

She now lives in her grandparents’ home on a 2-acre lot in Cape Girardeau, where she grew up gardening alongside her grandma.


Butterfly weed

“When they moved in there in the early ’50s, they put in huge gardens; my grandmother had probably a half-acre garden,” she says. “… My grandmother taught me and my sister how to garden as I was growing up.”

With that experience and a long history working for the Missouri Department of Conservation and at Trail of Tears State Park, Edgar decided to incorporate her knowledge of plants and the outdoors to create Ready to Grow in 2012.

“I’d been kind of dabbling with [landscaping] back and forth for a long time, especially since my son was born; he’s 11 now,” she says. “… I had a hard time finding a job that I could get my schedule to work around him so I’d still be able to see him. So it just kind of happened that I came up with the idea [for Ready to Grow], and I kind of went with it.”

The business started small, but she says it has grown consistently without any real promotion.

“I started out with a little booth at the farmers market, and we did little garden beds, like portable garden beds for people that live in apartments,” Edgar says.

She sold the planters, herbs and small items and promoted the landscaping aspect of the business.

“So that got the word out a little bit,” she says.

She decided to continue her studies at Southeast Missouri State University and started taking horticulture classes to brush up on her skills and knowledge.

“Because I’d always had the biology side of everything, and I took plant taxonomy and botany, and it’s a little bit different than planting ornamental,” she says.

Through her business, Edgar offers anything from planting a tray of flowers to redesigning an entire landscape. She also offers seasonal maintenance and consultations.

Edgar, who will turn 40 in July, has been working at Trail of Tears since she was 19. She began her tenure with AmeriCorps, a program based out of Southeast. She then performed environmental education at the park for two years to earn money for schooling.

“I also worked there as a seasonal naturalist for a couple of years,” she says.

She continues to work in part-time roles with the Missouri Department of Conservation and with Trail of Tears.

During the wintertime, Edgar works at Trail of Tears, performing tasks like removing exotic species of plants, trail construction and maintenance and prescribed burns, where certain parts of forest are burned to control the brush level.

She says there is a plan for every burn, which always has a big crew to make sure it’s safely executed.

“It’s very dependent on weather and there’s very certain parameters that we have to meet to be able to go out and actually set one of these burns,” Edgar says. “The area can vary from 5 acres up to 1,000 acres sometimes, so there’s a lot of people there involved in that.”

She says the controlled burns are just that — controlled. The flames are typically low level and special precautions are taken so the fire on the designated area doesn’t spread.

“It’s not like fighting wildfire, but it’s still really interesting,” she says. “Usually the purpose is different for each burn unit, but usually it has to do with restoring an area to what it once was before human intervention.”

Another purpose of the burns is to rid the landscape of invasive plants not native to Southeast Missouri.

The main invasive plants seen in Missouri are autumn olive, an invasive shrub that was introduced in the 1950s, and bush honeysuckle.

Locally, Edgar says native plants are a growing trend in landscaping.

“Yeah, there’s a big interest in it now, especially with the attention that’s being given to pollinators and bees and monarch butterflies,” she says.

She says monarch butterflies rely primarily on milkweed plants as their food source and to rear caterpillars.

“They won’t lay eggs on any other plant, so if you want monarch butterflies, it helps a lot to plant milkweed species,” she says. “… I try to push as many native plants as possible, especially for pollinators.”

Edgar says she tries to be as organic as possible, avoiding chemicals that could avoid bees or other pollinators.


Karel Edgar, owner of Ready to Grow

“The closer you can get to Southeast Missouri-sourced plants, the better it is for the pollinators,” she says. “… If you can plant a few things here and there that will help them out, it beautifies your garden and helps the pollinators … and the birds, too.”

In the past five years, Edgar says her business has grown more than she expected, and she hopes to see that growth continue.

“The growing process has been interesting for me because I’ve never run a business by myself before, but I love it because it gives me flexibility,” she says. “… I’m going to stick with this as long as I can and learn to grow with it as it grows.”

And when it comes to partnering with local businesses, Edgar says she likes to focus her business on small businesses and woman-owned businesses.

“I work with a lot of women,” she says. “We kind of hold each other up.”


Karel Edgar, owner of Ready to Grow

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