The Buzz on Bees, the Comings and Goings of the Queen of Pollinators
Dan Conlon, Warm Colors Apiary, South Deerfield, Mass.
Dan Conlon is a full-time beekeeper and co-owner of Warm Colors Apiary in South Deerfield, Mass. Along with Bonita Conlon, they produce varieties of local and regional honeys and beeswax products, and provide pollination to Pioneer Valley farms and orchards. Dan has been president of the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association and Franklin County Bee Association and served on the Eastern Apicultural Society’s Board of Directors.
Dan was recognized as 2004 Beekeeper of the Year by the Eastern Apicultural Society, and as the Massachusetts Beekeeper of the Year in 2005. Dan and Bonita support sustainable land use and the preservation of farmland and open space. Dan’s beekeeping experience includes 45 years of management, honey production and crop pollination.
Currently Dan is establishing a Russian honeybee breeding program that will meet the requirements and strict protocols to become certified by the Russian Queen Breeder’s Association. Warm Colors Apiary is among 12 apiaries selected to maintain the 18 genetic lines of Russian honeybees under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Russian honeybee offers excellent disease and pest resistance. They are an important part of the solution to today’s challenges facing honeybees and beekeepers.
photo: White Flower Farm
Yesterday’s Herbs for Today’s Gardens
by Colleen Fitzpatrick Michelson
Lungwort, bloodroot, snakeroot. Flax, digitalis, ornamental onions. You may not think “herbs” when you see the names of these plants, but Ruth Rogers Clausen does.
Her definition of an herb is broader than the commonly held one: a seed-producing annual, biennial or perennial plant that dies down each year and has culinary, medicinal or aromatic qualities.
Clausen views herbs through a simpler, more expansive lens, one informed by a medieval sensibility: an herb is any plant that is useful to people, she says. Herbs include dye plants (indigo) and plants whose fibers can be made into clothing (New Zealand flax) or yarn (some yuccas). They include plants that lure butterflies into gardens and plants that lure moths out of clothes closets.
It is precisely because of their usefulness that these plants have endured over the centuries, she says. “They have survived because they were valuable to people.”
Clausen has been familiar with the practical aspects of plants ever since she started gardening, and she’s been gardening for as long as she can remember. Gardening “was not anything I thought about consciously. I did it by osmosis,” she says. “I didn’t have a choice. That’s what we did; that’s what my mother, my grandmother did.”
Born in Wales, she moved to England when she was a year old. After World War II started and her father joined the army, the women redoubled their vegetable- and fruit-growing efforts. “What you didn’t raise, you didn’t eat,” she says.
Clausen was trained in horticulture at the former Studley College in England, a women’s school where the students did everything, from planting, to lugging coal and tending the hand-fired boilers to keep the greenhouses warm, to digging drainage ditches. She received her master’s in botany from Kent State University in Ohio. Since 1976, she has freelanced as a teacher, lecturer and author in the United States and Canada.
Her prolific writings demonstrate the vastness of her horticultural knowledge. Her first book, “Perennials for American Gardens” (Random House, 1989), co-authored with the late Nicolas Ekstrom, was awarded the Quill & Trowel award from the Garden Writers of America Association in 1990. Her most recent book, “50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants,” was published by Timber Press in 2011. She was horticultural editor for Country Living Gardener magazine for more than seven years and has written or consulted for many other periodicals and books.
Clausen, who lives in Westchester County, N.Y., has been a judge at flower shows, including the Cincinnati Flower Show, the Capetown, South Africa Flower Show and the Ellerslie New Zealand Flower Show.
She serves on the advisory committee for the School of Professional Horticulture at The New York Botanical Garden and is a member of the Corporation for The New York Botanical Garden.
Eat the View: Relocalizing the Food Supply to Our Own Backyards
by Colleen Fitzpatrick Michelson
You’ve heard of the commander in chief. Well, there’s also a “noisemaker in chief,” a title Roger Doiron says he held as he tried to convince the folks in the White House to replant a kitchen garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Media writings credit Doiron with having had a key role in inspiring first lady Michelle Obama to create the White House Kitchen Garden—the first occupant to plant such a garden since President John Adams in 1800, although Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly had a small victory garden plot during World War II.
Doiron succeeded where others such as chef Alice Waters and author Michel Pollan failed during the 1990s. Doiron attributes his success partly to timing and to the fact that ordinary Americans rather than celebrities fueled the 14-month campaign: 100,000 people signed a petition asking the first family to turn over some sod to underscore the importance of eating from a locally grown supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.
His work earned him Hearst Media's “Heart of Green” award and recognition by the editors of Fast Company magazine as one of the “10 most inspiring people in sustainable food.”
Doiron’s project these days is Kitchen Gardeners International, the nonprofit network he founded and directs, and which comprises 29,000 people from 100 countries who are taking a hands-on approach to growing their own food and “relocalizing” the food supply.
He has been immersed in recent months in KGI’s Sow it Forward grant and partnership program, which helps nonprofit entities, such as schools and food pantries, start or expand food garden projects that benefit their communities. He was expecting the 50 grant recipients—from a pool of 900 applicants from 48 states and 11 countries—to be announced in late February or early March.
Doiron is firmly grounded in his local food system in Scarborough, Maine, but has experience and remains interested in international food issues. During the 1990s, he was the head of the Friends of the Earth’s European office in Brussels during the furor over mad cow disease. He was also part of the American delegation of nongovernmental organizations to the United Nations World Summit on Food Security in 2009. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., and earned his master’s degree in international relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
Doiron will combine hands-on gardening advice with a multimedia presentation that he says connects the dots “between small gardens and big-picture problems such as global food insecurity, climate change, peak oil and tasteless tomatoes.”
He linked the recent surge of interest in the local food movement to the economic slump (“When the going gets tough, the tough get gardening.”) and encouraged people as the economy improves not to “lose sight of what we’ve gained in the last five years or so. The question for Connecticut to think about is how you can keep the momentum going in your state.”
Download the plant list from Jerry Fritz's talk.
Cutting-edge Plants for New England Landscapes
by Colleen Fitzpatrick Michelson
When Jerry Fritz was little, his grandmother would admonish, “Make your bed or else you’ll be out there turning the compost.” It wasn’t much of a threat; he liked turning the compost.
Thankfully for gardeners, the use of gardening chores as discipline did not dissuade Fritz from pursuing his love of horticulture. Nor did it diminish his love for his grandmother, who, he says, was the biggest influence on his becoming a plantsman, one of the best in the country, as it turns out.
Fritz grew up mainly on Long Beach Island, N.J. His first job, at age 12, was at nursery center in Ship Bottom. He earned a bachelor’s degree in ornamental horticulture from Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture in Doylestown, Pa., and then began work with Gale Nurseries near Philadelphia.
In 1989 he founded Jerry Fritz Garden Design Inc. and has focused on providing clients with original and innovative concepts and plants. He and his wife Amy founded Linden Hill Gardens in the northern Bucks County, Pa., town of Ottsville about 10 years ago to show clients possibilities for their landscapes and to learn from the plant trials he conducts. The farmstead encompasses more than 20 acres and has greenhouses, barns, display gardens and a pond. About 40 garden groups visit Linden Hill each season, he says.
Five years ago at Linden Hill, he started a Friday afternoon farmer’s market that features produce and products from local farms and food artisans. There are seafood, poultry and meat vendors, and Fritz’s staff will grill up purchases, which people can savor while listening to live music. The market has become “the social hangout of upper Buck’s County” and was voted the best farmer’s market in the region, he says.
Fritz belongs to several organizations, including the Perennial Plant Association, the Hardy Plant Society, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, The New York Botanical Garden, the Royal Horticultural Society and the American Nursery and Landscape Association. He has been a guest on the “Martha Stewart Living” show.
In his talk to CHS, he will describe some plants that are “coming down the pipeline.” Fritz travels the world in search of plant rarities for his clients and nursery, collecting stock from breeders and conducting trials. He offers unusual, exceptional new plants for sale a year or two before they hit the tables of most nurseries, he says.
Asked for a teaser, Fritz says his list of cutting-edge plants includes cultivars that come in fantastic new colors and offer longer bloom periods in the hardy geranium (Geranium) and red hot poker (Kniphofia) genera.
The Rise and Fall of Two Great Trees
by Colleen Fitzpatrick Michelson
The American elm and the American chestnut: two magnificent trees whose twin histories are marked by a rise to prominence and a tragic demise due to fungal disease.
Eric Rutkow, a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School who is pursuing his doctorate in American history at Yale, addresses these and other trees of the North American forest in his book “American Canopy: Trees, Forests and the Making of a Nation” (Scribner, 2012). The book expresses Rutkow’s belief that trees “are the loudest silent figures in America’s complicated history.”
The idea for the book stemmed from Rutkow’s desire “to rethink the broad narrative of American history to try to privilege trees in this country,” he says. Given that so much of the continent was forested when the Europeans arrived, “I wondered, what if I asked in a broad way how much of America’s history was shaped by the relationship to trees?”
The undertaking combined his love of narrative history – he’s a fan of author David McCullough – and of nature. Rutkow grew up in Marlboro, N.J., and attended The Lawrenceville School, whose campus landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted helped to design. Rutkow enjoyed backpacking trips to the Catskills, Adirondacks, White Mountains and the Delaware Water Gap.
“I was spending a lot of time in the forest, and I would stumble across a stone wall in the middle of the woods. I thought, there’s no way someone built a stone wall in the middle of a mature forest,” Rutkow says.
He decided to focus his talk to CHS on the American elm (Ulmus americana) and American chestnut (Castanea dentata) because of historical parallels shared by the trees and because they claimed opposite ends of the functional spectrum for society. The elm is a spectacularly beautiful tree whose magical form – winding limbs and arched, vase-like canopy – lined countless streets and sidewalks by the 20th century and virtually defined the look of the American city. The tree’s purpose then was almost entirely aesthetic.
The chestnut, on the other hand, was the workhorse tree of the eastern United States, integral to the national economy. “Wood fencing, rail ties, telegraph poles, furniture – there was nothing this tree couldn’t do when it came to American needs,” Rutkow says.
What fascinates him about both trees, he says, is the length to which people will go to protect or preserve them. In New Haven, a.k.a. Elm City, arborists with giant syringes can be seen inoculating elms, while enormous effort has been dedicated to breeding blight-resistant American chestnut trees.
There is no program meeting in December, but please join us for our annual potluck dinner and slide show, Friday, Dec. 14, 6 p.m., Keeney Memorial Center, 200 Main St., Wethersfield. Bring a dish (and serving utensil, if necessary) to share with eight friends, and up to 12 loose slides or a prepared PowerPoint of no more than 12 photos of horticulture-related adventures.
Questions? Call the CHS office at 860-529-8713 (Tuesdays and Thursdays) or send an email.
Rooftop Farming at the Brooklyn Grange
by Colleen Fitzpatrick Michelson
New Yorkers are famous for describing distance not in the number of miles it takes to get somewhere but in the number of city blocks.
So ask rooftop urban farmer Ben Flanner about the altitude at which he grows vegetables, and instead of an answer calculated in feet you get a quintessentially New York variation on a theme: We have a 1-acre farm in Queens, which is seven floors high, and a 1.5-acre farm in Brooklyn, which is 12 stories high.”
Flanner is the head farmer and president of the Brooklyn Grange Farm. An industrial engineer with a background in business and marketing, he made the leap into farming after working on a marketing project at a winery in Australia.
“Once I was back in New York, my interest (in farming) slowly but steadily increased, and I began reading books, visiting farms, and planning the switch to begin organic farming,” says Flanner, a native of Milwaukee, Wis., who earned his degree in industrial engineering from the University of Wisconsin.
In 2009, he cofounded Eagle Street Rooftop Farms, the first rooftop soil farm in New York, and then went on to start the Brooklyn Grange. In two years, that business has yielded more than 40,000 pounds of vegetables, herbs and honey on over 2 acres of intensive green roofs. The farm sells its produce and products through restaurants, farmer’s markets and community-supported agriculture operations.
Brooklyn Grange is recognized as an exceptional green and community minded business, he says. It received the LICBDC Green Business Award in 2010 and the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Award of Excellence in 2011.
In his talk to CHS, he will describe the farm and logistics involved, including the crops grown and how the produce is sold.
Not surprisingly, the two biggest challenges of growing vegetables on urban roofs are wind and soil.
“We grow in compost mixed with stones, which is very similar to loamy soil,” he says. But soil is heavy, and “the wind can stress the plants over time, and also causes us to take extra time in staking and providing extra support for many crops. The lesser depth (of the soil) plays into staking and supporting, and also into the importance of soil maintenance and nutrient replenishment, (i.e.) composting!”
Flanner currently is developing sustainable energy technology that he says is “fueled by friendly, Midwestern charm and the elongated ‘A’ in the Wisconsin accent.”
Special narcissus bulbs will be available for sale before the Oct. 18 meeting. Come early for the best selection!
The World of Peonies
by Colleen Fitzpatrick Michelson
Somewhere there exists a video of a small Dan Furman, at age 3 or so, tripping around his parents’ nursery in springtime, pointing at red shoots pushing out of the earth and proclaiming, “Look, that’s a peony. That’s a peony. There’s another peony.”
If Furman didn’t imprint on a peony, it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. His parents, David and Kasha Furman, moved to Thomaston from New Haven in 1988 and began their quest to bring high-quality Chinese peonies to the United States. It was in that environment, at Cricket Hill Garden, that Dan Furman was raised.
Furman, 26, went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in history from Johns Hopkins University. He also learned how to read, write and speak Mandarin, a skill that comes in handy when Chinese-Americans from Brooklyn and Queens visit the nursery with their parents and grandparents. Within the last year, he began working full time at Cricket Hill, as nursery manager.
Peonies are unrivaled in terms of flowers, he says. Their big, lustrous blooms and fragrance contribute to the plant’s elegance and allure, and a short growing season only enhances the mystery surrounding the genus.
In his talk to CHS, Furman will discuss three kinds of peonies – tree, herbaceous and intersectional (a hybrid cross between tree and herbaceous peonies) – and their culture and propagation, and he will describe some of his favorite cultivars. He will also talk a bit about the history and cultural significance of the genus.
Peonies may satisfy the soul’s need for beauty, but Furman is also interested in growing plants that satisfy the body's need for sustenance. He is expanding the nursery operation to include some fruit trees that are unusual for Connecticut: jujubes (the Chinese version of a date), figs, persimmons and Asian pears. He expects to offer young trees for sale next fall or in spring 2014 from the two-acre orchard he is planting.
“For people getting into gardening, especially my generation, the focus is on edibles,” Furman says. “Certainly, there’s the aesthetic aspect of horticulture, but many people are also looking to do a little harvesting.”
Peonies fit the edibles bill, too, although perhaps not always as a first choice. In lean times, Chinese people reportedly extracted oil for cooking from peony seeds. The plant’s roots long have been a staple of Chinese medicine. Furman recently supplied some peony blossoms to a tea shop in Madison, and they can also be used to make wine.
In fact, some peony wine he made was fermenting recently. Asked how the process was going, he said, "it smells very, very floral.”
The Layered Landscape and the New Wild Garden
by Colleen Fitzpatrick Michelson
When Rick Darke gazes at landscapes, he looks for ghosts. Ghosts are the patterns in the land and vegetation that linger longer than one might imagine and that reveal things about the ecological and cultural history of a place, he says.
To him, such patterns are partly what make a landscape intriguing. “A lot of what I’ve known and loved about local, happenstance landscapes has to do with pattern and framing, nuance and distance and mood, …things that imbue the landscape with value and wonder and have nothing to do with the moment of bloom,” he told supporters of the High Line, the elevated park along New York City’s West Side, last year.
Learning to read the land in such a way is important because it’s the first step toward creating what Darke calls “livable landscapes.” Such spaces embrace “the notion that gardens can be personal, intimate spaces while simultaneously celebrating community and the joy of connected landscape.” They encourage and sustain “spontaneous, sensual everyday living, preserving local uniqueness while evolving toward a universal language of landscape stewardship.”
The blend of cultural geography, horticulture, ecology and art in Darke’s design and management of landscapes has earned him widespread acclaim as a photographer, author, lecturer and consultant.
He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in plant science in 1977, and then worked at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa., for 20 years. He spent half of that time as curator of plants, and his expedition work took him to Japan, South Africa and the Canary Islands, Europe, Latin America, and Australia and New Zealand.
His books include “The Wild Garden: Expanded Edition” (Timber Press, 2009) and “The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest” (Timber Press, 2002). He is an expert in grasses, the subject of several of his books.
His photography and writing are included in two multi-author books published in 2011: "The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening" (Timber Press, edited by CHS incoming Vice President Tom Christopher and reviewed in the Summer 2011 CHS Newsletter) and "Fallingwater" (Rizzoli).
Darke has received numerous awards, including the American Horticultural Society’s writing award in 2004 and its scientific award in 1998. In 1997, he earned a citation from the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta (AABGA).
Over time, as he has traveled, seen successes and failures in his own 1.5-acre garden in rolling piedmont near the Delaware border (and which features “locally native and adapted plants and regional relics”) and in the numerous public spaces he has designed, his thinking about the land has evolved.
“All landscapes are layered in space and time, and landscapes are most livable and conserving when they celebrate the dynamic layering of regional ecologies and cultures,” he says.
In his talk to CHS, Darke will draw “from an array of evolving habitats and cutting-edge gardens to demonstrate how the cultural histories and population dynamics of regional ecologies provide an extraordinary basis for conservation-based design and management.”
FALLscaping: Not Just an Afterthought
by Colleen Fitzpatrick Michelson
Stephanie Cohen likes to remind gardeners just how much the fall garden has to offer.
Not only a time for mums, kales, cabbages and pansies, autumn is also the season to admire the dazzling colors of later-blooming perennials, trees and shrubs, and foliage and berries. It is the time for gathering gorgeous herbs and delighting in splendid grasses and the last of the bulbs.
During her talk to CHS, “we are going outside the box to get you to think of fall as one of your most exciting gardening seasons,” she declares. “No more ‘mumitus’ for educated gardeners.”
A nationally known garden lecturer and writer from Collegeville, Pa., Cohen will splash her talk with her signature brand of humor, which is evident even from her nicknames: “The Perennial Diva” (her moniker on QVC TV) and “The Dr. Root of Perennials.” She is a self-described “vertically challenged gardener,” and jokes about offers of boxes to help her reach the podium on the lecture circuit.
She may be short in stature but not in reputation. For more than 20 years, Cohen has taught classes in herbaceous plants and perennial design at Temple University, where she was the founding director of what is now Ambler Arboretum. She is a contributing editor for Fine Gardening and a regional writer for the Blooms of Bressingham Plant Program. She also writes for American Nurseryman and is on the advisory board for “Green Profit, Green Scene,” a publication of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
Her latest books are “The Nonstop Garden: A Step-by-Step Guide to Smart Plant Choices and Four-Season Design” (Timber Press, 2010, co-written with Connecticut author Jennifer Benner) and “Fallscaping: Extending Your Garden Season into Autumn (Storey Press, 2007, co-written with Nancy J. Ondra). Greenhouse Grower magazine named her one of the top 25 people in the perennial industry in 2008.
She has received awards from the Perennial Plant Association, her alma mater, Temple University, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and, from the American Nursery and Landscape Association, an award for garden communicator of the year 2000.
Cohen got into gardening during the houseplant craze of the late 1960s, when more than 200 plants occupied surfaces in her home. Her children never had the luxury of opening a window, she says. One day, her husband bought a giant box TV. It created a new place to put more plants, but unfortunately she burned out the TV twice while watering them.
Her husband declared a moratorium on houseplants. He suggested she study the plants she loved so much. Cohen did, and turned her obsession loose on the vast outdoors. Soon she was installing thousands of perennials, trees, shrubs “and whatever stays alive,” she has said.
With her vast of knowledge of perennials, both stalwarts and plants du jour, CHS is in good hands with Cohen. And she’s in good hands with CHS. The June program meeting is made special each year by the ice cream social that precedes the speaker’s talk. Cohen doesn’t hide her fondness for the treat. On her website, she welcomes inquiries into speaking engagements, saying, “Let’s talk turkey (or even better, ICE CREAM).”