Monday, January 19, 2009

The Myriad Benefits of Gardening

A cross-post from my favorite gardening blog "Garden Rant"...
They came across an article in the U.K. Telegraph referencing a study that found "Gardening Boosts Men's Sex Lives..."
Well, duh! Here's Joel helping me build YET ANOTHER bed at our place (note his golf clubs leaned optimistically against the truck). I am, of course, very grateful for his assistance. VoilĂ !

The article further states "Some people have become so obsessed about their garden that there are worries that people are getting addicted to the pursuit just like they would to gambling or drugs." Yes, but the outcome is soooo much better, don't you think?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Trade Show Tidbits

Green industry trade shows feature acres of hot new plants and products from all around the world. This is a B2B environment - wholesalers selling to retailers, landscapers, garden centers, etc. Lots of orders are placed; much wining and dining occurs between client and vendor. Many gardeners would give their eye teeth to walk the floor of these behemoths to see the latest and greatest; it's actually not that hard to get in - I've given tips on this before in various seminars and talks. The bummer is you can't "shop" the show per se; nothing can leave the floor until the trade show closes. But if you're willing to hang around, you can buy an entire booth of product at wholesale prices - trees, shrubs, perennial plugs, etc., because the vendor's really not interested in lugging it back to wherever.

Here's a few cool things I saw last week at MANTS - the Mid Atlantic Nursery Trade Show, held in the Baltimore convention center (not to be confused with PANTS - the Pennsylvania show). Virginia Tech always has a great presence there - tons of our alumni exhibit at the show, and we always represent with some faculty and staff from Horticulture and CALS.

A flock of Aloe, all in perfectly synchronized bloom just for the tradeshow. From the fabulous Carolina Nurseries, way down near Charleston.

A whacky little thing called Synogonanthus chrysanthus 'Mikado'. Cute but apparently fussy - moderate temperatures, lots of moisture but not water-logged = certain death on my windowsill.

A gorgeous new coleus from the Ball Seed empire - this one's 'Henna'. The darned sales guy would not move away from it long enough for me to brush up against it and...well, never mind.

Friday, January 2, 2009


This past Tuesday night, a powerful windstorm swept through Blacksburg and wreaked a bit of havoc in the garden. Two trees went down: our Picea glauca in the front corner of the garden and some kind of fir ( I think!) bordering the food science parking lot, which took out the tree-form Euonymous directly in front of I guess that makes three down!

Check out some pictures of the carnage...

Ancient Plants of Pandapas Pond

On a recent trip to Pandapas Pond, I strayed off the beaten path and found a little colony of this plant, what I have amateurishly identified as Lycopodium digitatum in the family of Lycopodiaceae, one of the three families occuring within the group, the Lycophytes (The other two are Selaginellaceae and Isoetaceae).

What is so interesting about these little, easy-to-miss plants, you may be asking yourselves... Well, I think of these little plants as time-travel plants. More specifically, whenever I encounter a plant like this, I feel like I just traveled WAY, WAY back in time. The Lycophytes emerged approximately 400 MILLION years ago, although it is thought that most of the extant species within Lycopodiaceae emerged about 80-90 million years ago...still pretty old to me! These ancient plants impart the same profound feeling as when I see an old, beautiful tree; its history and spirit are impossible to ignore!

Other interesting facts about the Lycopodiaceae family per Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach:

[The] oily, highly flammable compounds in the spore wall ignite rapidly into a flash of light and were used by magicians and sorcerers in the Middle Ages, as a flash in early photography, and in the first (experimental) photocopying machines. The spores have been used as industrial lubricants and formerly were used to prevent rubber cohesion in condoms and surgical gloves.

P.S. I wasn't sure whether my old Plant Systematics textbook would ever come in handy, but it sure enough did! Interesting stuff!