HORT travels

Exploring the horticultural beauty in every adventure.


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Don’t Worry…Mother Nature’s Got This

Tightly curled in protection, the leaves of Rhodendron exhibit the 'droop and curl' of thermonasty. This allows the shrub to survive winter winds and light. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, PA

Tightly curled in protection, the leaves of Rhodendron exhibit the ‘droop and curl’ of thermonasty. This allows the shrub to survive winter winds and light. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, PA

Whether you watch TV, listen to radio or just venture into any retail establishment you are well aware of the many elixirs, potions and formulas available to cure all sorts of ills both real and perceived. The same is true in the plant world. Any garden center you visit will have shelf upon shelf of chemicals, organics, salves, sprays, drenches, repellents, amendments and the like.

One that I have never understood is the use of Wilt-Pruf and other anti-dessicants on plants in the landscape. Sure, I sold it to folks as a young garden center employee without any knowledge of the way plants work, but were I in the same position today I would tell the friendly garden center shopper to save their money. Mother Nature’s got this…

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Blueberries

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Many Stages of Blueberry Fruit

Many Stages of Blueberry Fruit

“Girls, can you run outside and pick some blueberries for the pancakes?”

was a question common in our house each June and July Sunday. We would grab a cup and head out to the woods, not the garden, the woods, to pick as many blueberries as the cups would hold, presenting them proudly to mom and dad who were in the kitchen whipping up pancake batter while we stalked the wild berries. If I remember correctly, it was “2 for the cup one for me”, or maybe the other way around. I think about this during a recent visit to western Maine as I squat down to examine small blueberry bushes, with diminutive fruit on them. These are similar to those we harvested beneath the oaks and pines in NJ but are a far cry from the behemoth berries I picked a week ago from a friends farm in Northern NJ.

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Spicebush

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Spicebush brightens up an early spring forest.

Spicebush brightens up an early spring forest.

If I had 100 acres of my very own to garden in any way I wanted…I might plant a forsythia. I dabble in cut flower arrangements and there is something so hopeful and encouraging about a pretty vase with a tall forced branch or two of forsythia in full bloom in February on your toilet tank. (Yes, toilet tank. My first floral design teacher told me nothing says “class” like flowers in the bathroom and that has stuck with me through the years). But I would only plant forsythia if I had that much space. And I don’t. Forsythia has a characteristic that I do not tolerate in my gardens; 1 season of interest. There’s no room in my yard for a plant that is only interesting for a couple weeks.

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Beech

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Buds of the young beech tree protected by leaves hanging on through the winter.

Buds of the young beech tree protected by leaves hanging on through the winter.

Once again I am searching for signs of Spring. It is a rainy day and I am hiking in a park close to home. Like a lot of you, I’m sure, I am a sucker for woodland wildflowers. I get so excited when I find them. I am constantly on high alert for tiny spots of yellow, purple and even white breaking up the monotony of the leafy forest floor. But on this dreary day, there are no bright spots. Not one! The last of the snow hasn’t cleared from the shady spots and ice is still on the reservoir. So I lift my gaze from the ground to take a closer look at what is right in front of me.

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Bear’s Breeches

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Bear's Breeches (Acanthus spinosus)

Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus spinosus)

I coveted these fascinating plants the entire length of my summer high school garden center job. I mean they were BOLD in your face plants, like nothing I had seen. I wanted a bunch of them. I envisioned a portion of the space my parents let me garden in the yard laced with these spiny, spiky monsters. But they were expensive. I couldn’t afford one. So as soon as I got my first real job and my very first yard, I bought one of these and planted in the rich garden soil that had been trucked in by the previous owner to grow lawn.  I didn’t research this plant, I was smitten with its architecture, I was instantly taken in by the plant. I brought it home and planted it in my garden and watched it slowly die.

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