Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.
Ambergate Gardens (www.ambergategardens.com) is ending its run.
For 28 years, the plant-only nursery in Chaska has been a destination for gardeners seeking unusual hardy perennials.
But owners Mike and Jean Heger have decided it's time to retire from retail. They announced the news "with mixed emotions" in a recent letter to customers, saying they were "ready to have some free time during the growing season."
"It's bad for our customers, good for us," said Mike in a phone interview. "We're not going to retire from horticulture, but we're ready to put a little different spin on it." He hopes to do more teaching, speaking and writing. "If I can find a publisher, maybe I'll write another book." (His "Growing Perennials in Cold Climates" was published in 1998 and updated in 2011.)
"We want to keep the Ambergate name, but as more of a consulting business."
The Hegers have signed a purchase agreement with Mattamy Homes to sell their 42-acre site, which is slated to become a housing development. "We bought this piece of property with this in mind," he said.
That leaves the Hegers with a whole lot of plants to sell before Oct. 13, when they expect to close Ambergate's doors for good. To that end, Ambergate is holding its "one and only sale" with 25 percent off all stock. "We'll start liquidating next week (on Sept. 10) and sell til it's gone," he said. (Customers who received the Hegers' letter can bring it in for an additional 10 percent off.) "We want our active long-term customers to get the greatest discount."
The inventory includes about 30,000 plants representing 1,000-plus varieties, propagated on site. "We have natives, exotics, sun to shade plants and traditional perennials," he said.
That includes many unusual, hard-to-find perennial species. "There are a lot of really good perennials that don't get into the mainstream," he said, such as Lemon Queen, a sunflower with prolific blooms in a "rich, clear lemon yellow," and unusual natives like wild quinine.
"We do some things nobody else does," he said. "There's definitely going to be a void here. Hopefully, someone else will step in."
The growing season is winding down, but trendwatchers are already looking ahead to how we'll be gardening next year.
So what crops, methods and looks will be hot in 2014? Here are a dozen top trends from the Garden Media Group, presented by trendspotter Suzi McCoy at the recent Garden Writers Association Symposium in Quebec City:
1. Ground up. Food scraps are the new recyclables, according to McCoy. About 25 percent of Americans are currently composting and building their soil from scratch, and more will jump on the compost bandwagon, inspired by new user-friendly compost products.
2. Super Foods Super Models. The veggie-growing renaissance that emerged a few years back is still robust, with more gardeners branching beyond the basics to grow hard-to-find specialty veggies, fruits and herbs.
3. Drink Your Yard. Homegrown goes liquid, with more gardeners growing hops for homebrew, grapes for wine, ingredients for craft cocktails and "green smoothies." Homemade pickles and kimchi also will be big. "Fermentation gardens are the new chickens," according to Rebecca Reed of Southern Living.
4. Dress Up Your Yard. Outdoor living enthusiasts are in the mood to accessorize, using artsy pots, chandeliers and other "garden jewelry" to add flair to their landscapes.
5. Bee-nificials. Pollinators are in peril, and consumers are primed to help, planting pollen-rich natives, moving away from monocultures and adding habitat, both natural vegetation and bee-friendly innovations such as "bee hotels."
6. Cultur-vating. Locavores are taking local to the next level, embracing plants that are local to their region but mixing them with plants from other cultures.
7. Simple Elegance. Gardens are taking a cue from fashion with color-blocking and other simple-yet-high-impact color schemes, including classic black and white.
8. Frack'd Up. Neat clean lines are passe. The trendiest gardens will feature fractional shapes such as triangles, circles and squares. Umbels -- a flower shape featuring spiky stems topped by round clusters of blooms -- will be especially popular.
9. Young Men Get Down and Dirty. Who spends the most money in the garden? Right now, it's young guys, ages 18 to 34, who shell out $100 more than average during the growing season. They're growing food for grilling, hops for homebrew and peppers for homemade salsa.
10. Think Gardens. As more people get the message that plants help us de-stress and work smarter, look for more outdoor garden meetings, indoor gardens at work and even desktop gardens.
11. Fingertip Gardening. Gardening goes digital. Instead of asking friends and neighbors for growing advice, we're now turning to the Internet and mobile apps.
12. Tree-mendous Reversal. Between development and pests, we're losing 4 million urban trees a year -- and we're increasingly aware of what that's costing us -- environmentally, economically and emotionally. Thus, we're going to be planting a lot of trees, trying to restore our arboreal balance.
That's what's in. Here's what's out, according to McCoy. "Fairy gardens are over," she said. (Although I'm not sure Minnesota gardeners are ready to let go of them, judging from the many fairy gardens entered in this year's Beatuiful Gardens contest.)
So now it's your turn to weigh in, fellow gardeners. Which of these trends resonate for you? Which ones will you be embracing? Or ignoring?
Last night I got my first look at Edible Estate #15 since its installation over Memorial Day weekend.
A lot has changed. The tiny seedlings have blown up into big, beautiful vegetable plants -- more than 100 different crops, if you count color variations. The Schoenherrs' front yard in Woodbury is already producing so much food that the family of four can't eat it all. They're sharing veggies with their neighbors and bringing bags of lettuce to work to give to co-workers. "I don't want another salad for awhile," admitted Catherine Schoenherr.
She's most excited about the bright-purple cauliflower now peeping from its leaves. "We knew it was cauliflower but we didn't know it was purple," she said.
Her husband, John, is experimenting with pestos and juices, and their grown kids, Aaron and Andrea, are making salsa. And they're all trying to figure out what to do with chamomile, besides make tea.
Catherine has organized several "gardening nights" when neighbors are invited to come, pull a few weeds and bring home a bag of produce. And she'd like to plan a sauerkraut-making party later in the season. "We're going to have a ton of cabbage."
The garden is not open to the public, but the public can get a peek starting Aug. 8 at the Walker Art Museum, when it kicks off its Edible Estates exhibit, part of artist Fritz Haeg's residency. (Haeg is the creator of Edible Estates and the designer of the Schoenherrs' new landscape.) You can learn more about Haeg and his vision at: http://www.walkerart.org/magazine/2013/garden-all-seasons
We'll be featuring the Schoenherrs' new landscape in Home + Garden on Aug. 7. So what do you think? Would you want to grow this much food in your own front yard?
I've had bees on the brain the last couple growing seasons. I keep adding native flowering plants to my garden, to provide habitat for pollinators, and butterflies, too.
But so far, the mammals are beating the insects to the buffet. Virtually every new bee- or butterfly-friendly thing I've planted this year has been nipped in the bud -- literally -- by hungry mammals. They come in the night and chomp off all the new growth -- buds and leaves, leaving only shorn broken stems.
Coneflowers and swamp milkweed have been especially hard hit. The latest casualty was three cardinal flowers I planted just Sunday evening. By Monday morning, they were half their size (although I've since discovered that the red-leaved variety I bought isn't a native, strictly speaking, but a cultivar.)
I'm not sure if it's deer or rabbits devouring my native plants at night. I suspect deer because they're also eating the buds on taller, non-native plants, like roses and lilies.
I'd still like to provide habitat for bees and butterflies, but at this rate, it's not looking good for this season. Can anyone out there recommend some plants that bees and butterflies like -- but rabbits and deer aren't as likely to eat first?
This last weekend, a good friend joined me in a class at the MN Landscape Arboretum. It was put on by Seed Savers Exchange and changed my outlook on vegetables. In the class, we learned about how plants are pollinated and the importance of plant diversity.
Plants produce seeds differently – and important to making the seed is the flower. The showy flowers of an eggplant and squash have evolved because of how the plants need to be pollinated. They need honey bees to share pollen between flowers.
On the other hand, a bean plant’s flower can pollinate itself – so it stays small and somewhat closed.
Tomatoes, for example, self pollinate and you can help increase plant production by shaking the plant a little bit during the flowering stage to "sprinkle" the pollen within the plant!
Learning seed saving techniques and more about the plant botany was great.
Many seeds are easy to save. Some are more difficult. This photo above is one of the more difficult seeds to save over the years. Take a guess at what these seed pods will produce.
Others, like watermelon are much easier to save -- once pollinated correctly. Yes, you can eat the watermelon and spit the seeds
out. What a fun way to save!
I’ll be bringing some seeds to our plant swap on May 18. I invite others who have seeds to join us. I'll be sharing some tof the things I learned at the class. So I hope to see you at 9 AM next week Saturday.
In the mean time -- what will those seeds on my hat produce????
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