Friday, December 28, 2007

New Board Member at RCGC

...that would be me.

Right before Christmas I joined the board of the Rochester Civic Garden Center, an organization I dearly love and have had close ties with for years. I'm very happy and flattered that they wanted me.

To learn more about the RCGC, visit their site and/or blog. Oh! And be sure to block out some time on January 26th to join us at the castle in celebration of National Seed Swap Day.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Good Day to Get Outside

The forecast calls for rain and wind, but also a high of 58 degrees! I'm planning on getting out there and doing all those little things I didn't get to before we got dumped on by snow. There are still containers to be emptied and stored, can you believe it, and even those hoses aren't all put away.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


My column in Saturday's Democrat and Chronicle is about spices and herbs. Near Christmas I always try to talk about plants that have to do with the holidays, and spices and herbs are all, obviously, plant-based, so that's my topic.

All the spice research got me remembering this recipe card I have from my great-grandmother Elsie May Rogers Helms, a wonderful little slice of history that I always find strange and funny, yet oddly familiar. Grandma Helms wrote out recipes the same way I do. Here is the recipe, for soft gingerbread.

The first part that always gets me is the line about 1 t. spice (double for Jim). First of all, what "spice"? I realize this is a recipe for gingerbread, so you'd think ginger, but at the bottom of the card ginger is added, in pencil, obviously an afterthought and without a quantity. So what's the spice? I have no idea. I do know who Jim is—he's my uncle, Eunice's grandson. Apparently he likes his gingerbread spicy.

Moving on, notice 1/2 c. fat, melted. I have to assume this is [cough] suet, 'cause it ain't Crisco, I can tell you that much. I prefer to use butter in baked goods, but maybe Eunice knew something I don't, something I'm never going even allow myself to learn. Although I always keep a jar of suet in the fridge (I know, gross, right?) in case Dean's making gravy and the roast beef just doesn't give off quite enough.

Right above the line about the fat, Grandma Helms has written out water as h20, which I also always do. But the best part of it, for me, is the complete lack of instruction. Temperature of oven? Whatever. How long? Who knows? In which way are the ingredients combined? Well if you have to ask, should you really be messing around with this thing, and the fat, and the spice? Why don't you just toddle off, dear, and let Grandma make you a batch just the way she knows you like it.

Do you think maybe Jim was her favorite?

I hope my great-grandchildren enjoy my recipes as much. When I write out a recipe for my own use, it's in as few words as possible, usually because I'm transcribing. When I'm done, I never copy it out onto a fresh recipe card or page. Even if it's on the back of a gravy-stained envelope, it goes into a clear sleeve and right into the binder. I think I like this because every time I look at the recipe, it reminds of the first time I ate that thing, and how I liked it so much I had to get the recipe right away, and how my friend gave it to me, right away.

Then there's the lazy person, Eunice's descendant, who writes recipes just for herself, and because she know what she means by "spice," doesn't have to spell it out. Like this one, on a post-it stuck in the binder probably five years now, one I frankly should be able just to remember. It doesn't have a title.

RCGC Symposium Announced

March 1, 2008, Karen Bussolini and Gordon Hayward will be the featured speakers at the Rochester Civic Garden Center's annual Spring Symposium. New! You can now buy tickets online! For full details, go here.

Symposium tickets would make a great last-minute gift for the gardener who has everything. Come to think of it, so would a membership. (Did you know that every member gets a complimentary subscription to the Upstate Gardeners' Journal? Well they do!)

GardenScape Presale Tix Available on Web

GardenScape is just around the corner, and from now until January 1, you can buy tickets online at a $2 discount here. Seeing as how the show is attended by around 20,000 people every year, I'd wager they'd probably make an excellent Christmas gift for someone you know.

This year's theme is "'It's a Garden Life,' illustrating ways people can enjoy 'living in their landscapes.'" (That's a lot of nested quotes.)

I took this picture at last year's show. It was probably my favorite display, though there were a lot of beautiful gardens. This one I loved for its pure sweetness and because early, early spring is my absolute favorite time of year. The days are sunny, the crocuses are pushing up through the snow, and you can still ski. In a t-shirt. Plus my daughter was born in March, during the night following an absolutely perfect, snow melting-away kind of day during which I walked MILES and MILES in the sun trying to bring on labor (it worked!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Art at Urban Roots [Buffalo]

Submitted by Urban Roots.


During the weekend of December 1 and 2, Urban Roots Community Garden Center will feature handmade artworks by six Western New York artists. Birdhouse maker Karen Sirgey will be in residence to demonstrate and discuss her work on Sunday. Sculptures by Dale Anderson and Paul Gallo, photographs by Eilleen Graetz and Darlene Gray, and ceramic tiles by Jo Ann Brenner will also be on display. Works by all six artists will be available for sale during the annual festive shopping/walking tour, and year round.

The annual Holiday Open Studios and Galleries is sponsored by Artists In Buffalo, and features a free guidebook and map—available at Urban Roots—with all of the locations of the event listed, including Urban Roots. It is an opportunity for people to see artists at work, and to perhaps purchase a meaningful, handmade gift during the holiday season.

Sirgey's "Avian Architecture"—birdhouse designs—are wonderful gifts for the gardener, or anyone who would delight in a fine quality, unique birdhouse. Since 1989, she has been designing and making a variety of designs ranging from small, one-room schoolhouses to
three-story, Queen Anne Victorians, complete with stained glass windows and turrets. Custom designs also allow her to recreate an existing house, cabin or workplace.

Paul Gallo makes creative metalwork for home and garden. Dale Anderson makes welded metal designs. Eileen Graetz' cards featuring photographs taken in her garden. Darlene's Grays framed photos feature gardens, including Buffalo's Japanese Gardens. Jo Ann Brenner's tiles depict Cottage District homes with front gardens.

Demonstration: Sunday, December 2, 12 pm to 4 pm. Sirgey will be at Urban Roots, demonstrating the birdhouse-making process. Homemade cookies and beverages will also be available.

Also on Sunday from 12 to 4, free gelato tastings will be offered by Gelato G's, which will soon be opening a retail space in the storefront next door to Urban Roots.

Urban Roots is a community owned cooperative business which has been open for retail business since April of 2007. Its mission is to provide quality products for gardening in the City of Buffalo and be an active and enriching member of the community.

Urban Roots Community Garden Center

Store hours:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10am-5pm
Thursday& Saturday 10am-7pm
Sunday 11am-5pm
Closed Tuesday

428 Rhode Island Street
at Five Corners
Buffalo, NY 14213

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Scotland in September

I can't even believe I haven't mentioned this yet! Please join Dean and me on our tour of Scotland's finest gardens—and castles—September 12-20, 2008. We are going to have a wonderful time.

Download an itinerary here or e-mail me: ettg AT janemilliman DOT com.

Among the planned stops are Inerewe Gardens (followed by a boat ride on Loch Ness, of course), Cawdor Castle and Gardens (home to MacBeth), and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Botanical Gardens Event location

Anyone considering a location for a meeting, event, consider the Botanical Gardens. Staff is easy to work with, very helpful, eager to make your event or party a success.

Botanical Gardens Shower

Had a wedding shower at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, lovely setting for any event. Taking a few minutes from hostessing, I took some pictures in the rainforest area, orchids and bromeliads....and not being a bromeliad expert, can someone help with the names of these? Thank you.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's a Jungle in Here

Call it tradition; call it procrastination���������I never bring my houseplants in until the afternoon of the first day the forecast calls for an overnight frost. This year, that day is one full month after the latest I've brought them in before, ever. It will take me a week or so to get all the saucers in, clean and dry, and to get everybody set up in his winter home.

The bottom image is, I know, spectacularly bad. But I wanted to show off the big, beefy buds on that Christmas���������er, Thanksgiving, I guess���������cactus. Dean's grandmother asked me to adopt it a year ago and it was a pretty sad little bug. I can't resist Christmas cactus. It's one plant I seem to have some sort of finesse with. Now, cyclamen: Please don't give me a cyclamen. (Unless you already have, in which case, thank you, and I'm sorry but it's dead.)

There is something very fresh and wonderful about the way houseplants look when they first come in from their shady summer digs alongside the house. They're so healthy and a kid who spent the day at the beach and whose mother applied the proper amount of sunscreen. Not fried. Dewey.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Urban Roots [Buffalo] Fall Events

Submitted by Urban Roots.

Seed Saving Workshop: Heirloom Vegetables, Herbs, and Ornamentals—How to choose varieties for preservation, pollination, isolation, seed harvest and storage information
This workshop is led by Richard Price, head of Faerie Seeds, a seed saving Buffalo-based business.
4pm Saturday, September 29, 2007
A huge amount of the genetic diversity in our food supply has been lost in the past few decades as large seed/chemical conglomerates switch to hybrid vegetable varieties, increasing their profits and forcing the farmer and home gardener to return each year to purchase new seed.
Members of organizations such as Seedsavers’ Exchange have assumed the job of saving from extinction those oldfashioned vegetable varieties selected by generations of farmers, gardeners, and early seedsmen for their yields, unique flavor qualities, adaptation to local growing conditions, etc.
This presentation provides basic seed-saving techniques enabling the gardener to preserve, indefinitely, those heirloom varieties he or she prefers to grow, not necessarily those currently available commercially.
Reservations recommended—RSVP to 716/362-8982

First Annual Fall Festival
11am - 4pm Saturday, October 6, 2007
• Revel in the glories of fall: pumpkins, gourds, apples, straw bales, and scarecrows
• Art projects for children and families
• Concurrent with our Third Annual Fall Plant Swap
Urban Roots Community Garden Center will host our First Annual Fall Festival, an opportunity to extend our connection with nature through October, this festival highlights the season for harvest. Events for children include pumpkin painting, tile carving, and leaf rubbing. The day will also include our Third Annual Fall Plant Swap, an opportunity to share the plants you are thinning, and to add plants to your garden free of cost. Urban Roots had its first Plant Swap in the spring of 2005, hosting two annually, it is one of our signature, community serving events. The Plant Swap is a chance to share your love of plants with conversation and the living thing.

Fall Wine & Cheese Tasting Party
7pm – 9pm Saturday, October 6, 2007
• Music by John and Mary, wine tasting by Niagara Landing, and seasonal gelato by Gelato G
The evening Fall Wine & Cheese Tasting Party is for adults to mingle and celebrate one of Buffalo’s most exciting new businesses.

All events free and open to the public
At Urban Roots Community Garden Center
428 Rhode Island Street, Buffalo NY

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why Not Conifers?

That's the answer I received when I asked the Canadian woman sitting next to me at dinner Friday night what had brought her to the American Conifer Society's Northeast Region's Annual Meeting. I figured she must be an obsessed collector like so many of the other 150+ attendees. But she was just interested in learning more about plants. And why not conifers?

Why not indeed? They're fascinating.

Friday's dinner was followed by a presentation from Dr. Richard L. Bitner, whose new book "Conifers for Gardens" has just been published by Timber Press. In the morning, after breakfast (at 6:30!!!), we hopped on three buses and after an inexplicably circuitous trip arrived an hour and a half or so later at Cornell Plantations, one of my Very Favorite Places in the Whole World. It looked as good as ever.

From Plantations we traveled north, through Skaneateles to Sycamore Hill, the gardens of George and Karen Hanford. This amazing place is only 15 years in the making from what I understand. It's not open to the public except for at certain times, so if you see a chance to get in there, grab it. The conifer collection alone is astounding, but there is a lot more going on, too. Ponds, fountains, statuary, all variety of trees, shrubs and perennials, and lots and lots of little areas���������it's really a wild place. (And by wild of course I mean wildly cultivated.) I won't get too much farther into it, because Michelle Buckstrup is actually profiling the garden for our January issue. Watch for that.

The Maze.

The Ruins, a work in progress.

Ah. I loved this. My favorite plant of the day. It looks like golden afternoon sunlight is reflecting off the needles of this spruce. In fact, the day was quite gloomy. This is Picea mariana 'Golden', which glows all on its own.

After dinner Saturday night came the silent auction results, and then the live auction which was as raucous as promised. I did snag a plant, though not a conifer. It was a Japanese maple, 'Atrolinaire', donated by Diana Smith at Topiary Gardens���������many of the group had visited her Friday and raved about the place. I am looking forward to stopping there the next time I am Syracuse way.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Scottsville Garden in National Magazine

Here's the latest issue of Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living, on your newsstand now. I wrote and took the photographs for a story in it called "12 Design Tips for Your Landscape." I had a blast with it. For one thing, the garden is absolutely beautiful, and while photographing it I got to really take my time and explore every bit. Also, the gardeners—they live in Scottsville— are friends of mine, and they are just a lot of fun and very sweet. The story turned out great; I hope you'll buy a copy! (My mom found one at Wegmans today.)

Over the summer a crew from Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living was in Buffalo, and they photographed one or more Garden Walk gardens, so be on the lookout for that next year.

I'll be scouting gardens again this fall for possible inclusion in a future GIOL (or one of its sister titles—they all are under the Better Homes & Gardens umbrella). If you know of a garden that really stands out in the autumn, please let me know and I'll check it out.

Image courtesy of Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living magazine, Meredith Corp.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Great Hosta Massacre—A Happy Ending

You may remember my crazed post earlier this year about the savagely rototilled hostas. Here are the survivors; they're doing very well, and I plan to give them permanent homes this fall, now that I can see what they all are. Yay.

Upgrade: Village Garden Store

They've been busy over at the Village Garden Store in Mendon, completely revamping the display areas, product, and basically everything. I spent a good amount of time there chatting with Ann Marie, a former worker who's come back this year. She is full of energy and knowledge. I asked her what plants she was really into right now, and she headed straight for this Japanese holly 'Helleri', a sweet, petite spreader along the lines of a dwarf boxwood. Cute!

Here is the new sales area.

It doesn't look like much, but I love it just the same

I'm talking about my hardy fuchsia. I don't know why I'm so attached to this damned's really not so exciting. This May at the Chelsea Flower Show I met the enthusiasts behind the Hardy Fuchsia Society, and I guess their passion wore off on me. Though I don't build mine little tunnels to live in over the winter. Anyway, here's my first acquisition, purchased at Ballantyne Gardens in Liverpool, near Syracuse.

I also have a variegated one, just coming into bloom, and a chartreuse-leaved variety. Both came from Deb Lampear at Bedlam Gardens in King Ferry. She told me the secret to overwintering them is to a. plant them at a depth equal to the width of your hand when your fingers are spread apart and to b. take cuttings. My correspondent in the U.K. agreed, though HE said to plant them deep, yes, but not to fill the hole with soil until late fall. We'll see. Specimen #1 has lived through two winters already and I did none of these things. Also Jerry Kral has one in his garden he brought from Ireland 30 YEARS ago. Of course he does!

Here's the one at Sara's in the display garden:

Kathy has a fabulous design sense.

Garden scenes this week

Monarch on 'Honeycomb' Buddleia

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It's Mine! All Mine!

I have finally laid my grubby hands on this decade's must-have ground cover for shade: Mukdenia rossii 'Crimson Fans'. I blogged about my lust for this plant exactly one year and one day ago, and I've been patient, waiting. Waiting. Well I got an e-mail from Kathy at Sara's in Brockport a while ago, asking did I want one still, as she has a few in stock. Yes, please! I went over there yesterday and picked it up. I didn't mean to arrive during their 40% off customer appreciation sale, but, um.... Seeing as it's an expensive little thing to begin with (24 bucks!) I don't feel too bad about it.

Want one? Yesterday there was the good part of a tray left.

There are actually many, many great deals to be had out at Sara's right now, and in fact at most nurseries. I loved this mountain mint and regret not buying it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cool Fence

I was up in Osceola, on the Tug Hill Plateau, over the weekend, and I saw this excellent fence. It was installed by the town highway department to corral their dirt pile (which is according to the young kids the most fun thing to play on EVER). Our camp happens to be right next door to the highway department (don't ask), so we have extreme close personal access to the dirt!

Fall Garden Faire Update

A reader recently made a very good point: If you do a google search on "Fall Garden Faire," an old blog post of mine comes up—one from last year, stating that the FGF is cancelled. The reason this happens is that the post got picked up by Garden Voices, so it got a lot of views. If you continue reading that post you'll find corrected information in the comments. But that was last year. This is now! The FGF, now known as the Fall Garden & FARM Faire, is on, Sunday September 9, 10 to 4 at the Roycroft campus in East Aurora. Admission is free.

This has consistently been a great event, and I urge you to come by. Look for us with the newest UGJ, hot of the press.

Friday, August 31, 2007

New Blog on the Block

Check out the new RCGC blog! I have to say I'm impressed by the frequency with which Judy and Debbie have been posting. You're making us look bad, girls!

Warner Castle, home of RCGC

Love it or Hate it?

Here is my garden nemesis of the moment: Rudbeckia triloba (or sometimes trilobata). It's a beautiful, carefree plant, perfect in arrangements. I have so much of it, you'd never suspect how much time I spend getting rid of the damned thing. You'd think we were best friends.

See, this biennial black-eyed Susan, sweet though it looks, is actually a bit pushy. It takes up residence, starts producing offspring, and the next thing you know, there's no room for anyone else. And who's paying the rent? I am! Out, Susie!

It does have its place though. So every year at about this time, I go around moving, and chucking, the seedlings. Every year I think I've come up with the grand scheme of where it'll actually be useful next year, and every next year, I realize I've left far too many children and end up having to take even more out. The one place I would truly love to see that yellow, the jungle-like back of the garden, Susie prefers not to settle. It's very downmarket. You know.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Things are Booming at Home

P8030005.JPG, originally uploaded by Jane Milliman.

Upon my return, I was greeted with what looked like the garden I had left behind GONE WILD! Someone's gonna get arrested! Sorry. No, seriously, everything was so big and bodacious, I was a little shocked. Of course, the smaller plants are being squashed mercilessly by the nicotiana and the perilla, even though I thinned everybody out before I left. The giant grass is a new one from Allan Armitage's company, Athens Select. It's called Pennisetum purpurea 'Prince', and even though the propaganda said it was going to get 5 to 6 feel tall and turn more and more purple as the summer went on, I didn't believe it, seeing as how it's a southern plant and all. Well. The thing is ginormous, stately, beautiful and low-care, and I love it. You could buy 6 in a spring and make your own temporary hedge. If you look to the left, you can see 'Princess', a smaller and more demure (of course!) version. Good in a container. The only thing to watch for with these babies is their crazy-big roots, which I think might shatter their pots. If you are mixing them up with other plants, you'll want to give more space and, likely, water.

A Trip to Maine

P7300094.JPG, originally uploaded by Jane Milliman.

The family just got back from our annual Maine vacation. While we were there I met up with and old, old, old friend, old, from when I was in high school. In fact the last time I saw Kavi was 18 years ago. Wow. Well guess what? He looks the same. That's Kavi in the picture. He's the one in the middle.
The reason I mention this is that it turns out Kavi's wife, Sandra, is an avid vegetable gardener, and she BLOGS! Yep! Check it out.
I loved seeing Kavi and meeting Sandra, and I think I'll be making a visit to Pleasant Pond Farm in October. Columbus Day-ish. Maybe I can help Sandra put in her garlic.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Out & About: Cornell Plantations, Ithaca

I love going to Ithaca every other month. This trip was a bit dicey as I had left my wallet at home and was traveling with an often-hungry nine-year-old. Reenie Baker saved me by feeding us both a delicious lunch (a million, billion thanks).

Here are some pictures from our stop at Cornell Plantations.

The Robison Herb Garden:

Bluestem joint fir, a.k.a horsetail, a.k.a. ma-huang, a.k.a. Ephedra

The hardy kiwi vine. It's growing on the highest-class porta-potty structure I have ever seen.

Pineapple in container:

More containers:


Out & About: Genesee Country Museum

I stopped by the museum yesterday because my friend Michael Warren Thomas and his (adorable) family were there, living as pioneers for the weekend. This is a new program and they were the first to be accepted. Another friend, Pat Mead, was their guide, helping Joan especially with the cooking. (With Pat in charge you know it was dee-licious.) They had a great time and I have to admit that I wished I could join them. Maybe you'll see the Millimans on display in the cabin some weekend in the future.

This beverage is made by smashing sumac flowers into a paste and steeping that in cold water. Michael and Joan's daughter Martine made it, adding a little brown sugar and then more water to taste. She made these cool straws, too, out of lovage stems.

Michael's dinner. Peas, new potatoes, a chicken "twirled" by the fire, purslane salad (with vinegar), stuffing Joan made with leftover sourdough bread from the day before, and gravy that smelled heavenly.

Here's Michael looking handsome with his way-beyond-five-o'clock shadow.

Joan in the cabin. She was having a wonderful time, but I think she prefers the division of labor she enjoys in her everyday life. Not quite so divided down gender lines.

I'm not sure how to spell her name, but this is Corinna. Or Karina. Sorry. She's darling! And I heard she was the belle of the ball the night before at the dance.

The gravy. Here's my best Homer Simpson: "Mmmmmmmm"

Here are the rest of the pictures I took.