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Connecticut Garden Journal

Celery
John Sheldon (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Celery is an ancient and trendy vegetable. Wild versions from the Mediterranean, were used medicinally in 850 BC. Relatives of celery, though, can be found around the world. The Italians started growing it as a vegetable in the 17th century creating taller stalks that weren't as strongly flavored. Today, celery-based smoothies are popular for detoxing the body.

A scene from the 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show
The West End (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Indoor flower shows are a very unique American phenomena. It all started in Philadelphia when gardeners got tired of winter and began holding events to show off their prized indoor houseplants and flower arranging skills. What started as a simple get together among garden clubs has bloomed into a huge industry. The biggest show is the Philadelphia Flower Show, but I like the smaller local shows like the one in Connecticut.

Do you know where your roses came from?
Han N (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Valentine's Day is the traditional time to give and get cut flowers. But it might be good to be a discerning shopper when buying cut flowers. 

Charlie Nardozzi has some tips about planting and growing trees.
oatsy40 (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Americans are moving less. In 2019 less than 10 percent of the population changed homes and locations. That's the lowest level since 1947. For gardeners that means it's an opportunity to plant more longer lasting plants like trees.

Houseplants.
F. D. Richards (Flickr) / Creative Commons

It seems everyone is growing houseplants. But with their popularity, comes problems. Not all houseplants are easy to grow and some are more prone to dry indoor conditions, lack of light, and insects. Here's are some solutions to your houseplant problems.

You can help pollinators like butterflies, bees and other creatures.
oatsy40 (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Many gardeners are familiar with the plight of native butterflies, bees and birds. Pesticides, habitat loss and climate change have dramatically decreased wildlife populations worldwide. Often gardeners feel like there's little we can do to help these creatures. But garden enthusiasts in Connecticut have a plan and you can help!

Gloxinia.
Eric Hunt (Flickr) / Creative Commons

This common florist plant originated from Brazil. The original species featured large, bell-shaped, lavender-colored flowers on plants with big, hairy leaves. Through breeding there are now selections ranging in colors from pink to dark purple with single or double flowers. This potted plant can be grown as a summer annual and as a houseplant. It's the gloxinia.

These are specially designed wheelchair accessible garden beds.
Irene Scott / AusAID

Many gardeners are tired of bending, kneeling and squatting to garden. If you're looking for a better way to garden that's easier on your back and legs, try elevated raised beds.

As we enter a new year, what new vegetable varieties should you try growing?
julie (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Happy New Year. I'm looking forward to another outstanding gardening year. To kick it off, I make lists of new vegetable varieties to try. Here are a few that caught my eye!

Fungi aficionados can easily grow mushrooms indoors.
Dominick Guzzo (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Collecting wild mushrooms is a great treat, if you go with an experienced veteran who can distinguish good fungi from bad fungi. You can also cultivate your own mushrooms outdoors in beds, but that takes time. To get a quick fix of the taste of wild mushrooms without hunting or cultivating, grow them from kits indoors.

Anthurium, also known as the flamingo flower.
Bernard Spragg. NZ (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Many people are growing houseplants again to create a lush, green oasis in their home or apartment. But it doesn't have to just be green houseplants. There are new varieties of easy-to-grow houseplants that feature colorful leaves and flowers and some even grow in low-light conditions. Here are some of the best.

Even though red still dominates the poinsettia market, new varieties are coming out.
Debbie R (Flickr) / Creative Commons

In 1828, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, could never have imagined the impact he'd have on the holidays by simply bringing back a local plant to the United States.

Terrarium
J E Koonce (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Holiday gift shopping is in full gear. It's always a challenge getting the right gift for gardening friends and family. Some gardening items, such as gloves and hand tools, are very personal. I usually avoid giving those. But here are a few items I think any gardener will appreciate.

Growers have figured out a way to get an amaryllis bulb to grow without soil, water or fertilizer.
Gerard Stolk (Flickr) / Creative Commons

As December approaches, it’s time to think about gift giving. One of the flowers of the season is the amaryllis. This bulb is a beautiful holiday symbol adding color and brightness during these dark, short days.

Tamarack tree
Cindy Zackowitz (Flickr) / Creative Commons

November isn't known for colorful fall leaves in Connecticut, but there's one tree that always impresses me as it's the last to drop its foliage. The larch or tamarack tree is unusual. It has needles like a pine, but it's deciduous and drop its needles in winter. The late fall golden color is striking especially since is occurs after all the other deciduous leaves have fallen.

Quinn Dombrowski (Flickr) / Creative Commons

November is for wrapping up the garden and protecting plants from winter. One plant that often needs protection are roses.

What begonias make sense to bring indoors?
Raul P (Flickr) / Creative Commons

This common flower originated in Central and South America and is named after a famous botanist Michel Begon. Gardeners love the wide variety of flower and leaf shapes, colors and sizes and its tolerance of shade. This plant is called the begonia.

A thin layer of leaves on your lawn can help the soil and grass.
Aarthi Ramamurthy (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Fall is great for shuffling through layers of dried, fallen leaves. I love the smell, sound and feeling of the leaves underfoot. But leaves are also a great resource for your garden, lawn and yard. So, let's look at five ways to use those leaves in the garden.

Chris J (Flickr) / Creative Commons

It's getting closer to the big day. Halloween rivals Christmas for the amount of money spent on decorating, costumes and parties. However, with all the things you can buy for Halloween decorations, the pumpkin is still at the center of all the action.

Japanese barberry.
Calin Darabus (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Fall is a great time to watch birds enjoy the various wild berries, as they get ready for winter and migration. However, some of the plants the birds enjoy are not good characters. There are a number of invasive shrubs that are spread by birds eating the berries and then pooping out the seeds. These shrubs can take over habitats, crowd out natives and make the environment less hospitable for wildlife.

Leonora (Ellie) Enking (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Fall is in full swing. The perennial flower gardens are taking on the colors of autumn with colorful berries, foliage and flowers. While we all know about goldenrod, asters and chrysanthemums as traditional fall flowers, there are other perennial flowers, hardy in our area, that can increase the fall color range and interest.

A new cognitive garden at UConn's Avery Point campus.
Annette Montoya

When I was a young boy growing up near my Italian grandfather's farm in Waterbury, every day my cousins, and neighborhood friends, would spend hours in the farm fields and forest playing. We'd make up games, go on adventures, or simply lie in the field and dream. Little did I know that we were creating better cognitive functioning for our brains.

Sunflower.
metin.gul (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Sunflowers are gorgeous this time of year. New varieties feature colors such as gold, white, burgundy and bronze. While most sunflowers grow tall, some new varieties are short and bushy. Sunbelieveable fits well in containers with its bushy growth and produces hundreds of small, yellow flowers all summer.

Chrysanthemums.
Dave Crosby (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Fall is for mums. Chrysanthemums adorn front porches, window boxes and containers from September until frost, providing beauty and color that compliments our fall foliage. But this traditional fall plant can be more than a short-lived decoration.

Amaranth.
Kristine Paulus (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Some late blooming annual flowers are really shining this time of year. One of my favorites is amaranth. If that name sounds familiar, you're probably munching on it in the morning, as the grain is a popular breakfast cereal.

Pears.
Forest Starr and Kim Starr (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Pears are great backyard fruits. New Englanders have been growing pear trees since the 1600s. While the commercial industry has shifted to Washington and Oregon because of better growing conditions and fewer disease problems, pears still make great backyard fruits.

Sneeze weed.
Virginia State Parks (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Some plants have unfortunate common names. Take sneezeweed for example. Sneezeweed, or helenium, is a native perennial that's blooming now with colorful flowers on 3 to 5 foot tall plants. It's great to grow in your garden because it flowers as the summer perennials, such as bee balm, are finishing but before the fall perennials, such as sedum and asters, begin.

A garden after the first freeze.
woodleywonderworks (Flickr) / Creative Commons

I've been rereading an old classic, 1973 gardening book by a former Redding, Connecticut resident Ruth Stout. In her book, No Work Gardening, she touts using deep layers of organic mulches as the solution to pretty much everything in the garden. She uses deep mulching for weed control, fertility management, and pest control and got huge yields with little work. Ruth passed many years ago, but her book got me thinking about simplifying my garden work.

Tomato hornworm.
Christine Kalina (Flickr) / Creative Commons

I remember my first encounter with the tomato hornworm. I came back after being away from my garden for a few days and noticed the tops of my plants were all munched. I naturally blamed the deer, but after further inspection I came face to face with this 4-inch long, green monster. It was happily munching away on the leaves. I swear I could hear it chew.

Chokeberry.
Dave Lage (Flickr) / Creative Commons

If you have a wet area, a pond or stream or live near Long Island Sound, finding an attractive shrub that grows well in wet conditions can be difficult. Luckily, there are some easy to grow shrubs -- beyond winterberry and shrub dogwoods -- that can take wet and, even salty soils, and thrive in your yard.

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