Flesh scented flowers, leaves that catch insects, and natural compounds that will make you hallucinate for days. There are countless marvels and oddities in the plant world, and here are just a few: The giant amazon water lily, with its 10 foot diameter and ability to hold up to 70 pounds. The enormous gunnera, with leaves 6 feet wide and 8 feet long. And the saguaro cactus, towering icon of the southwest.
Nanda Devi is India’s second highest peak and shelters the Bhyander Valley, home to the remarkable Valley of Flowers. The UNESCO World Heritage site is home to 600 plant species, as well as rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear and the blue sheep. Covered in snow most of the year, the valley gives way to a short summer of blooms from the Brahmakamal to the Cobra Lily. The Valley of Flowers has played a role in literature for over a century, and made numerous appearances in the history of the Hindu religion.
Especially after the extreme aridity of this year’s relentless summer, I appreciate a good wash of color. I refuse to water when nature herself is holding back, so all amongst my garden beds, my flowers are echoing the wildflowers: grizzled crowns of dried up petals, foliage pale with streaks of powdery mildew, seeds woefully dry and empty. But there is one still putting on a show- Lespedeza thunbergii, commonly known as bush clover. Seriously drought tolerant, undeterred by most pests, and erupting forth in a fountain of rose pink flowers come mid August, this plant is seriously easy to grow (which is one of the top qualities I look for in a garden plant. No fussiness allowed). The plant blooms on new growth, so keep it short and stocky or let it rip into a towering deluge of purple rain.
I can rave all I like about this plant, but Matsu Basho says it best:
Bush clover in blossom waves
a drop of dew
Although they are present year round, the American Goldfinch is really easy to see come August. It’s at this time of year thistles, milkweed, and sedges start to produce abundant seed, bringing these bright, feathered acrobats out into the open. In fact, the gold finch adheres to what might be the strictest all-seed diet in the ornithological world- a characteristic that means that brood parasites that require insect food, like cuckoos and cowbirds, rarely survive in a gold finch’s nest. To attract these birds to the garden plant almost any native species belonging to the daisy family (Asteraceae). They especially love sunflowers and are a wonder when seen in a group, dangling from the plant’s seed head, bright yellow wings taking the place of vanished yellow petals.
A rose by any other name…? Actually, a rose doesn’t smell quite as good if it comes from Colombia or Ecuador. Responsible for the export of some 78% of cut roses sold in the USA, these two flower powerhouses breed roses for hardiness, durability, and uniformity rather than scent. But I know it’s easy to fall for roses. Or any other flower for that matter. Opulently squeezed cheek by jowl lining the benches of a local grocer, they are, for me, the ultimate impulse buy. The perfect bouquet sitting on the kitchen table = purest joy.
Problem is, not only are most flowers guilty of contributing to global warming (shipped from thousands of miles away as they are) but the South American floriculture business uses a brew of noxious chemicals to keep roses thriving and cranking at high production levels year round. Approximately 20% of these chemicals are illegal here in the USA. In fact, most roses are dipped in a final preservative prior to being loaded onto the refrigerated vehicles which take them to their final destination. Although shipments are inspected for the usual contraband (cocaine, stowaway bugs and pests) no chemical residue assessments are performed.
But summer being the season of the wedding, I know flowers are a must have. So check out the sites below for cut flower alternatives, or follow this link to find a local, organic flower farm near you.
Since its inception in 2000, Mrs. Meyers Clean Day products have staked a place in our hearts, cabinets, and front-row window displays of supermarkets and corner stores alike. The retro, monochromatic labels and wholesome slogans (‘Wishing You a Clean and Happy Home, Cleans Like the Dickens!’), not to mention cruelty-free, low-impact manufacturing, has made the Mrs. Meyers brand all but irresistible.
It’s hard to have a brand this is drawn on horticultural, and more so, sustainability and green ethics. Wilder is always inspired by companies that are managing to deliver the goods. It’s one reason we wanted to work with Mrs. Meyers for our Summer 2012 issue. That and their amazing community gardening program that includes seeds, events and inspiration.
We spoke with Kim Chisholm, VP of Marketing of Mrs Meyers, about their experiences.
WQ: For our readers who may not already know, who is the real Mrs. Meyers?
She is the founder’s [Monica Nassif’s] mother, Thelma Meyer – a Midwestern mom of nine kids. She is also turning eighty-years-old this August, so watch for some celebrations this month.
WQ: Does she have a major hand in creating product recipes, and/or the way products are marketed, or is she primarily a company totem?
She’s not directly involved in the day-to-day product development or marketing of the products but we are inspired by her values – things like being neighborly, practical, uncomplicated and hard-working. [Those things] really are the truth behind the products and brand. Whenever possible we like to feature true stories from her everyday life (like a recipe, craft or experience). I think she keeps us real and grounded in what’s important. She’s an amazing person and it’s easy to be inspired by her.
WQ: How are the products made?
The products are developed in-house (we have a great lab) and the products are made largely in a 100-mile radius of our office. They contain plant-derived essential oils and ingredients that are powerful against dirt and grime, but leave your home smelling like a garden. Most people are often surprised that [ours] work as well as conventional cleaners — and also by the uplifting aromatheraputic scents. We truly are inspired by the garden and think it’s practical that products have strong utility, so we work both these points into our messaging whenever possible.
Whole Foods has launched a Dark Rye Tumblr today – a companion to their video magazine that focuses on contemporary cultivators, foodies and outdoor enthusiasts. Wilder’s Horticultural Editor, Molly Marquand, is a contributing writer for the site. Her first piece is all about perennials:
Not all plants are created equal. Perennials are the tenacious stalwarts of nature, resiliently springing back each season. Simply put, they’re the gift that keeps on giving, and for gardening enthusiasts, they’re golden.
The secret to the perennial’s re-appearing trick lies hidden below ground, where the plant stores food to carry it into the following year. Growing from a bulb, corm, rhizome or root, perennials can be easily spread or replanted, as long as you know the magic of how they make more of themselves.
Read the rest of the article here.
Next week I’m headed westward. Not for beaches, not for california’s good sunny weather, and certainly not for any bright lights or city fun. Next week I’ll be climbing on an amtrak and making for the mountains- Washington’s North Cascades, to be specific. Horticulturalist and author Dan Hinkley first turned me onto the plethora of beauties blooming in the hidden cracks of the mountainous Pacific Northwest, and since then I’ve realised this place is virtually location numero uno for wildflower tourism.
And for good reason.
Come July alpine meadows erupt with color: orange indian paintbrush, magenta fireweed, violet monkshood, and uncountable shades and sizes of native lilies adorn the rumpled peaks and open spaces of this range. Trails lead the way to great sites and camping is easy. It’s a chance to get up close and marvel at mother nature’s kaleidoscopic handiwork, and to draw a little inspiration from the big garden where it all began.
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
Longwood Gardens was a partner in our Summer edition, so we had the chance to visit their current installation, Lights. The show is dazzling! We spoke with the garden’s director, Paul Redman, about the genesis of the program and the relationship that Longwood, as one of the leading voices in horticulture, has with the arts in general.
There’s a place where fiber-optic flowers and 200-year-old elms are living in harmony, at last. Nestled in Pennsylvania’s southeastern corner, the world-renowned Longwood Gardens is hosting Lights (through September 29th), a one-of-a-kind, site-specific installation by UK artist and light designer, Bruce Munro. Twenty-three of the conservatory’s 1,077 masterfully cultivated acres are devoted to Munro’s fields of twinkling orbs, acrylic stems, pastures of color-changing towers, iridescent raindrops fashioned from tiny bulbs, and greenhouse chandeliers of bundled glass balls.
The outdoor pieces are, for the most part, integrated into the natural landscape, peeking or sparkling through drifts of black walnut trees, English gardens, and grassy banks, provoking a sense of alien familiarity. For instance “Water lilies” is a series of large resplendent disks constructed from recycled CDs that share one of the garden’s lakes with the real variety, floating together in harmony. However, in other cases, a very different approach is take. For example, “Water Towers,” is made up of sixty-nine cylindrical towers placed throughout one of the central meadows each built from plastic water-filled bottles, fiber optics and a sound system that stimulates synchronized color change. It is in a piece like this where the suspension between nature and Munro’s artifice come together to create something entirely new.
Longwood sits upon land purchased by a Quaker family from William Penn has had several lives. In the past 250 years, it has been cultivated for farming, arboretums, nature preserves, and finally, to include a full-blown research institution and horticultural wonderland that draw thousands of visitors each year. Like many botanic centers, Longwood’s mission is to maintain the likes of rare clematis and fruit orchards, and engage in research toward preserving rare and endangered plants.
Unlike other garden’s, Longwood’s other big mission is to make the natural world comprehensible to the public. Redman, who became Longwood’s director after a long tenure at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, says, “I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to connect the people with the plants in the most meaningful way possible. You don’t want to dumb it down. And it’s not like a museum or a science center — you’re trying to interpret the story of a living, ever-changing ecosystem.” It was this principal that led him to working with Bruce Munro, after one of Redman’s colleagues came across an exhibit of his in the UK in 2008.
“At the time,” says Redman, “we were embarking on a quest to find something that could help our guests to see Longwood differently — hopefully to a create an entirely new view of the garden altogether.” Throughout the installation process, a nearly two-year collaborative effort between Munro, Redman and the rest of the gardens’ curatorial team, Redman recalls, “The site and spirit of the place informed every part of the installation. We just had to keep asking, ‘How can we get people to see Longwood in a way they’ve never seen it before?’” The team had the unique task of blending two forms, a historically architected garden with sculpture, into a comprehensible dynamic, that both revealed things about Longwood’s flora and the artist’s work in its own right.
Redman enjoys bringing fine arts into conversation at Longwood, though he doesn’t believe that his love for a particular landscape artist necessarily warrants seeking someone out. “My goal is to find artistic partners — it’s about finding artistic partners who understand the gardens specifically. I never, ever want to impose something upon them. When [landscape art] is not imposed, it becomes part of the landscape, it has a life.”
Young Farmer’s Coalition: What’s up the hold up with the Farm Bill?
Wanna do something? Instructions on who and how to call your respresetnavie are over at the Sustainable Food Center website.
Opening up in fields from Canada to Georgia and west to the Pacific, are the brightly colored petals of goldenrod. Irresistible to almost every kind of pollinator, bees, butterflies, beetles, and flies can be found foraging on these plants, which in turn attract predators like crab spiders and praying mantids. If I had to pick just a single flower to grow in my garden, this might be it (not least of all because a finger doesn’t have to be lifted to encourage their reliable blossoming)! Goldenrod knows how to get along with that bluest of blue late summer sky and comes into its robust, prolific display right as everything else in the garden is beginning to let appearances slide a bit. A dependable plant for people in tough gardening situations, it’s also a wonderful way to mark time and keep a slice of wild, native life at home with you.
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