Time to turn to and get the garden in hand while there is still daylight. Summer is just a memory now, and for those so inclined, gardening interests take other forms.
Press release from Chuck Wiley
The Holly Society of America's 62nd annual meeting: "It runs 10/22-10/25 based out of the Mansion House. We will have a sprig contest in one of the common rooms beside the main desk. Members display cuttings of many different types of hollies and it makes quite a show. We welcome the public to come and see them and encourage any interested people to become members of the Holly Society and to attend this meeting. They can contact me or go online to the Holly Society. We have two days of touring various sites on the Island and three lectures on Saturday at the Mansion House. On Sunday we will have a guided tour of heritage museum and gardens and an open house at an incredible home full of hollies at Bill Cannon's house in Brewster. He has hundreds of hollies at his house. If you have any properties with great hollies I'd be interested in seeing them."
Tree planting: New paradigm
"Hortus" no. 91 contains a report from Hugh Johnson, the noted garden writer and wine authority, on the latest advances in tree planting and care at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, from the members of the International Dendrology Society (IDS). Mycorrhizae are important, and should be added to every planting hole. (For more on mycorrhizal fungi go to en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Mycorrhiza.) There are about a dozen different products to choose from on the market.
No more "fifty cent tree and five dollar hole" planting advice: square planting holes, scarcely deeper than the root balls they are to accommodate but four times as wide, are the current thinking. Round holes are now thought to encourage circling roots, also a major defect of container grown stock. Adding organic matter to the hole is discouraged; backfill with the mineral soil only. No fertilizer either: it kills mycorrhizae.
The use of airpots was strongly recommended by the IDS (superoots.com/ air_intro.htm) to control circling roots and promote healthy root systems in nursery production. Airpots are plastic, with a surface of holes and cones, looking something like a hedgehog. Contact with air dries the root tips when they protrude through the holes in the sidewalls. The portion within the airpot, in the planting medium, branches out as a result, producing a dense, compact root ball. In addition, IDS recommends planting out as young as possible. Treegators (bags with leaky bottoms holding 20 gallons of water placed around the trunks of newly planted trees) are highly recommended for good establishment.
Updates on Narcissus, Quince
From the October edition of the "Avant Gardener" comes information about daffodils. Many gardeners have noticed that certain plants grow poorly when they are planted to cover the dying foliage of narcissi (daffodils), after the bulbs flower. Now Missouri State University has conducted field and greenhouse trials to determine the effects of narcissi on the growth of snapdragons, annual asters, coleus, zinnia, basil, parsley, and other plants.
Impacts on growth were stunning, to some of the plants as well as the researchers. Germination of snapdragon seeds was reduced 60 to 80 percent and delayed two to three weeks when planted with certain narcissi. Coleus was stunted up to 50 percent, basil plants suffered reduced growth and chlorosis, and cosmos and zinnias were slow to reach flowering stage. Gardeners would do well to keep narcissi separate from garden beds to avoid disappointment.
Also from the "Avant Gardener:" a report on the renewed interest in the beautiful orchard trees, quince (Cydonia oblonga) and Chinese quince, (Pseudocydonia sinensis). The USDA-ARS National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon, is growing a collection of more than 100 clones of the so-called "golden apple" that have been collected from 15 European and Asian countries. Many exhibit greater hardiness, faster ripening, resistance to fire blight, and larger, more flavorful fruit, some of which can even be eaten raw.
Organic lawn care was given a big boost with Anne Raver's article (New York Times "The Grass Is Greener at Harvard," September 24, 2009) about Harvard University's shift to organic management on the properties it manages. The trees and heavily used lawn of historic Harvard Yard were unable to thrive with the orthodox lawn care they received from the university's ground crews. A decision to treat a battered, heavily compacted, one-acre pilot plot in Harvard yard with compost tea was so successful that now the University has decided to transition to organic management on the 80 acres it maintains, within the next two years, and to produce compost with all its yard waste at the Arnold Arboretum.
Even as gardens are winding down, some less commonly encountered plants provide interest in the fall garden, including hardy cyclamens, gentians, and fall-blooming bulbs. I am happy with the cyclamen I have purchased from Seneca Hills Nursery in Oswego, N.Y., varying strains of Cyclamen hederifolium, coum, and purpurascens, and the way in which they are establishing themselves. They are situated at the base of large oaks and a white pine. The white ones pictured growing at Polly Hill Arboretum are unlabeled, although I know Polly Hill herself prized them.
The electrifying blue of gentians spices up fall gardens. My experience is limited to G. septemfida, an easy-growing late summer/early fall bloomer suitable for a sun-to-shaded site in the woodland garden. It and the native bottle gentian, G. clausa, are difficult to propagate from seed but accommodating once started, according to William Cullina in "Wildflowers" (Houghton Mifflin, 2000). Gentian resents root disturbance, eliminated by planting container-grown gentians. Provide moist, fertile soil with a few hours of non-afternoon sun.
Those who have seen the grassy meadow areas at Chanticleer, the garden in Mainline Philadelphia studded with fall-blooming colchicums, know the effectiveness of a large scale planting of these bulbs. Flowering in shades of white, pink, lavender and orchid, some colchicum species exhibit checkering on their petals, adding to the interest. The leafy parts of the bulb grow in spring with strappy foliage that misleadingly resembles young corn plants. This dies down over the summer and then the flowers suddenly appear, like large naked croci.