Thursday, July 25, 2013

News from the Edible Landscape Demonstration Garden

The sweltering heat of the last ten days has made work in the garden a challenge. Luckily, the staff at the Horticulture Center arrive at the crack of dawn and the gates are open shortly after 6am. July can be a cruel month for plants and humans alike. One can count on certain visitors to the garden, however... Japanese and harlequin beetles. Despite the fact that we saw zero grubs in the soil of the beds this spring, the Japanese beetles have swooped down on the grapes climbing the arbor and are feasting on their leaves. Bag traps are encircling the garden, fifty feet or more away from the beds. They are filled with bead bugs. But still they come to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. This week, we soaked the grapes with garlic spray, a potential deterrent to beetle activity. The scent was incredible, so strong that one's eyes would water. We'll see if that helps to solve the problem.
The harlequin beetles, so colorful but so nasty, have found the kale to their liking, but, interestingly, not all of the kale. They seem to like two cultivars -- Red Russian and Lanciniato. They ignore the curly kale. Go figure! The two favorites have been relegated to the compost pile.  Good looking white eggplant starts will be taking their place tomorrow.

The City Gardens Contest judging date has been set -- Friday, August 2nd. We're busy staking errant plants, deadheading blooming herbs and generally tweaking an already well manicured and beautiful garden. Please stop by for a visit and be sure to sign in at the visitors' box. If you're there at 6:30 am, we'll treat you to coffee!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

West Laurel Hill Cemetery - Horticultural Buried Treasure

By Linda and Sandy Grimwade

Across the Schyulkill River from the famous Laurel Hill Cemetery, is the lesser known West Laurel Hill cemetery in Bala Cynwyd. Less than a mile from City Avenue, this 187-acre cemetery is the largest open space in Lower Merion and is on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to the large number of 19th century notables buried there. But, in addition to the over-the-top Victorian mausoleums, this beautiful area showcases over 2300 specimen trees.

To draw attention to this wonderful collection of trees, the cemetery is running 4 tours – one for each season – led by their arborist, Brian Terraciano. We joined him for the summer tour on June 15, and spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon learning about deciduous tree foliage.

The cemetery is currently preparing to become certified as an arboretum, and is going through the arduous task of identifying and labeling all of its trees. The cemetery is open every day from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM and is free to visitors. There is plenty of parking. Click here for a map. If you are interested in the Fall or Winter arboretum tours, which are also free, email

Tricolor beech Fagus sylvatica 'Roseo-Marginata'
Thornless Honeylocust Gleditsia triacanthos inermis

Mausoleums and acers
Corkscrew willow Salix matsudana
Leaves, stems and branches -- all are twisted.
Sawtooth Oak Quercus acutissima
It doesn't look like an oak, but it has acorns.
Bigleaf magnolia Magnolia macrophylla
aptly named
Kousa dogwood Cornus kousa
in full bloom
Three 100+ year old copper beeches Fagus sylvatica

Thursday, July 4, 2013

News from the Edible Landscape Demonstration Garden

Cardoon in bud
Not only does the calendar tell us summer has arrived, but so do the plants in the demonstration garden. The bush cucumbers are beginning to flower and tiny fruits have just appeared on the vines. The tomatoes are growing rapidly and producing flowers; small husked fruits are also visible on the tomatillos. The cardoon is now almost four feet tall with thistle-like flower buds. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this attractive edible, cardoons (Cynara cardunculus) are a Mediterranean native closely related to the more familiar artichoke. Cardoons are hardy here in the Philadelphia area, liking organically rich, well-drained soil and full sun. While often grown as an ornamental, this attractive food plant has been part of the American vegetable gardeners' lexicon from the early 19th century. The edible stalks are blanched 2 to 3 weeks before the end of the growing season by tying the outer branches together and wrapping the base of the plant -- about 18 inches high -- with newspaper or burlap. At first frost, the stalks are harvested by cutting them just below the crown of the plant. The outer leaves are removed, leaving the white stalks reminiscent of over sized celery which are boiled or steamed. I am told they taste somewhat like artichoke.

Master Gardeners Eldredge Ragsdale and
Mary Ellen Post
Over the weekend we said a temporary good-bye to the collards and Chinese mustard greens. They have been replaced by a second cropping of cucumbers that will be trellised upon a simple A-frame structure made from garden stakes. Plans for the fall plantings are already well underway. Garlic has been ordered and seeds selected for the autumn harvest. These include various salad greens, snow peas and other cool weather crops.

We encourage you all to stop by the garden sometime soon.

Previous blogs on Cardoons