Summer Musings from the Gardener

Every June I take a few days off to visit public gardens of all sorts in the northeastern US to observe firsthand what horticultural trends are new, what design ideas are being expressed, in short what can I glean for inspiration, and incorporate into my own gardens and design practice? This is relaxing, great fun and especially important when considering tactics for crafting educational content geared toward suburban Long Island, NY college students studying horticulture and landscape design who overwhelmingly favor formal gardens abundant with clipped foundation plantings, turf, heat loving tropicals and trendy annuals, supercharged with seemingly never ending inputs of chemicals and water. 

My preference? Informally designed gardens, with sweeping curves, utilizing the practice of designing systems modeled …

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FSC Students Design Sensory Herb Garden at Clark Botanic Garden

“Please tour – even eat – the plants” may not be the advice you’d expect at ta public garden, but in a sensory herb garden visitors are encouraged to explore the prickly and tickly feel of plants, smell the fragrances and even eat some of what is growing there.

It’s the Town of North Hempstead’s Clark Botanic Garden, in Albertson, that will live by such a freewheeling policy, and it is FSC students Michelle Callahan and Dona Damaltis, with guidance and encouragement by Associate Professor Michael Veracka – all from the Department of Urban Horticulture and Design – who will make the sensory garden a reality.

“We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to use the skills and education …

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Reclaim Your Turf, April 14

 

Reclaim Your Turf: Designing Sustainable Landscapes
A Benefit for the Sustainable Garden, Department of Urban Horticulture & Design
Farmingdale State College, Farmingdale, NY Saturday April 14, 2018

Talk # 1: Keynote
Finding Your Niche: Establishing an Ecological Focus in Brentwood, NY
Presenter: Karen Burke, CSJ, EdD
Talk description: Demand for ecologically beneficial landscapes is increasing, but there are few built examples on Long Island one can use as models for inspiration and replication. Offering an ecological and spiritual approach, the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood, NY practice good stewardship of the environment by employing knowledge and skills rarely taught in horticulture and design programs. This presentation guides landscape architects, designers, contractors, and others through what is needed to establish

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Parsley Around the Pig or Serious Endeavor? A Look at the practice of Edible Landscaping

foundtion plantings, sustainability

I’m tired of landscape architects, designers, nurserymen and “flower gardeners” rolling their eyes whenever the topic of edible landscaping comes up. Many of these people dismiss it as the latest trendy fad; an insignificant form of gardening practiced by neophytes or old hippies; a style of garden that lacks true form, structure, aesthetics or meaning; and one that really isn’t worth considering except to chuckle. Professionals trained in design, particularly, seem to believe that building a garden incorporating edible plants as integral devices for giving meaning, structure and use to a garden design, is less noble and worthy than designing a garden of architectural devices: hardscape elements, built structures, symmetry, axiality, and plant materials that serve form – usually formal

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Same As It Ever Was. Renewing the Landscape…

A major rap against landscape architects is simply that they don’t know their plants. They may be able to devise landscape spaces but don’t let them pick the plantings to go with those spaces. Can’t say I disagree with this line of thinking in many cases for LAs often cram together selections that quickly bump into each other, or can’t tolerate the dark, the dank or the blistering heat conditions they’re put in. So plant lovers are often swayed toward the design of gardens by horticulturists whose very training is the understanding of plant requirements for proper growth, seasonal diversity, longevity, etc. Yet many horticulturists build a garden lacking context of a site and solely around plants, often times around …

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Designing With Sustainability In Mind

Each new year is full of good intentions although I hesitate to call them resolutions. I will be more punctual this year. I will exercise more and eat healthier foods. I will start all my favorite vegetable plants from seed. I will not let the weeds get ahead of me – both in my own home garden – now occupied by non-gardener renters — and in the vast landscape gardens that I tend in my job as a resident caretaker of a large estate. I will sustain my gardens and they in turn will sustain me.It’s a challenge to properly care for any garden. But especially middle-age gardens such as the ones I care for. The job requires understanding the

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Oiling a Slippery Slope Toward Economic Ruin or Turning Suburbanites Into Farmers?

I’ve been doing a lot of driving these past few months, after not driving at all for several months. Driving a pickup truck – without hauling goods – and using it like a passenger car is ridiculous and expensive. I’m not the only one weaned on cheap oil. For the past half century Americans fell in love with their pleasure vehicles as rural countryside was transformed from farmland into a landscape of suburban and urban sprawl crazy-quilted together with roadways and super highways. Along the way we’ve gotten lazy, fat, and now suddenly poorer. Goods and services once deemed essential (listen up landscapers) to our personal lifestyles and the economy are becoming unaffordable non-essentials. When W took office a barrel …

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Where Do We Go With What We Have?

“Opinions are like assholes…everyone’s got one” is a saying that rattles around my head constantly these days. I’m not really sure why, for it’s an old familiar quote that I can’t attribute to anyone in particular, though I first heard it perhaps twenty or more years ago while working as a contractor (btw: contractors have more witty and poignant sayings than philosophers, politicans and educators combined): maybe because it’s an election year…or because the war continues to drag on…or because the economy is flailing, like some kid learning to swim in the ocean against the tide…or because the New Jersey Giants beat up on the New England Patriots…or maybe because I have just returned from a winter-time conference listening to …

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