Garden Blogs

Reluctant Membership: A Gardening Oops

I’m a reluctant joiner… a characteristic that prevents me from jumping onto some fly-by-night bandwagon. But my hesitancy to join groups – I have many excuses: too chummy, too cliquey, no time – kept me from sending membership dues to a valuable organization. This is my December 2011 GOOPs, my Gardening Oops, when I confess/share a  mistake, an oversight, or a general faux pas I’ve made in my gardening life. There are many. This link to previous GOOPs posts proves it.

I share my GOOPs to prevent you from walking in my mis-steps or … to offer some camaraderie if you’ve already muddied your gardening shoes on the same path. Then I offer you a chance to share a GOOPs you’ve made, if you are willing and comfortable enough in your gardening skin to confess a blunder.

First, my GOOPs.

What’s the valuable organization that took me too long to join? The Connecticut Horticultural Society (CHS). After being a member for just a few months I wonder why I waited to join.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The mission of the Connecticut Horticultural Society is education. CHS’s goal is to encourage enjoyment, appreciation and understanding of plants and the art and science of growing and living with plants and their/our environment. They do so through newsletters, presentations and programs during regular meetings (open to the public for a small donation), and separate educational events, garden tours and an annual symposium.

At the first regular meeting I attended, Margaret Roach (learn more about Margaret through her wonderful blog, A Way to Garden) humorously and thoughtfully discussed and shared photos of her 365-day garden. If you get a chance to see Margaret speak, don’t pass it up. I even purchased her book, and I shall have some peace there,  at the meeting. Love the book and super enjoyed listening to Margaret describe her gardening life. There are many days, Margaret, I would love to walk in your boots.

Subsequent and future speaker presentations include shade gardening (Judith and Dick Tyler who created a wonderful garden on their wooded Virginia land), soil science (Thomas Rathier), sustainable lawns (Tom Christopher), planting natives (Larry Weaner), water gardening (Tim Jennings), sustainable solutions for garden pests (Nancy DuBrule-Clemente) and autumn plants (Stephanie Cohen).

But meetings may also include unexpected presentations. For instance, November meeting attendees learned tactics to save storm damaged trees from immediate demise and when storm damage is tree-fatal … a timely subject following the massive, state-wide tree and shrub damage caused by tropical storm Irene and the snow of the October Nor’easter.

The program meetings alone make membership worthwhile. But, in my best cheesy TV infomercial imitation, ‘wait, there’s more!’ CHS sponsors garden-related trips, holds a plant auction, displays at the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, P9040313 Thumbsponsors scholarships and maintains a lending library.

It only took attending a couple of meetings for CHS to turn my reluctance into enthusiasm. I’m already signed up for the CHS-sponsored movie night showing of A Chemical Reaction (December 6 at the Portland Library, pre-registration through CHS) and I look forward to seeing the line-up of gardening gurus at CHS’s spring symposium (Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery, Kerry Ann Mendez of Perennially Yours, and horticultural educator and landscape designer Nan Sinton).

Why did I wait? This is my GOOPs.

No chiding needed, I’ve done ample self-scolding.

Are you, too, a reluctant joiner? Tell your tale in a comment below, or share a link to your GOOPs post – on this topic or any other – on your blog. Just be sure to leave a teaser in a comment below so we know how to find your GOOPs.

Garden thoughtfully and may my GOOPs not be yours.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Joene Hendry

Celebrate Autumn Gardening in East Haddam

This is one October weekend when locals don’t have far to drive to find great garden bargains or an intriguing garden. That’s right East Haddam residents … all can be found within town boundaries.

For garden-related bargains it’s tough to beat one of the tag sales run by Ballek’s Garden Center. If you missed their summer tag sale you missed out on some great plant deals. But don’t fret, you have a second chance this Saturday and Sunday, October 8 and 9, 2011. Ballek’s staff start filling the tag sale area early Saturday morning and continue adding goodies – plants, shrubs, trees, ornamentation, pots, and other garden stuff – throughout the weekend. The photos here show Ballek’s before their last October sale. You’ll have to visit to see what’s waiting for you this year. Get directions to Ballek’s here, and if you miss the tag sale you still have the chance for 20% off deals on most perennials and all shrubs, trees, outdoor planters and outdoor furniture, and up to 50% off some other items.



Head to Staehly Farms with kids in tow to stock up on Staehly-grown apples, winter squash and other vegetables, choose pumpkins, gourds and Autumn decorations, grab a few gorgeous mums, and find end-of-season bargain perennials. Staehly’s has a large supply of Jack-o-lantern ready pumpkins just waiting for a home and plenty of unusual, even bizarre, shaped large gourds for the more adventurous Jack-o-lantern carvers. The kids will get into the Halloween spirit after a walk through Staehly’s special Halloween maze. Pick up a gallon of cider, choose fresh CT-made pies and cheese, and try one of Staehly’s jarred condiments. A visit to Staehly’s (directions here)  is the perfect Autumn family outing. My granddaughter calls Staehly’s Gail’s House … Gail and Chris really know how to welcome kids.



Gardeners and garden lovers looking for inspiration and, maybe, some ideas on how to use their newly found plant bargains have a rare opportunity on Sunday, October 9, 2011. From noon until 4pm, East Haddam gardener and garden writer Lee May opens his Asian-inspired, herb, sedum, and ornament gardens to visitors. You’ll have to pay $5 for the privilege, but collected fees do good, they support educational programs offered by The Connecticut Horticultural Society (CHS). In addition to the many wonderful educational meetings CHS offers to members and the public, CHS ran multiple tours of private gardens this year. Lee’s garden happens to be the last of the season. Visit CHS Garden Tours for more information on the tour. Maybe I’ll see you there. If you can’t make it to the tour you might get some peeks at the garden at Lee May’s Gardening Life.

A beautiful weekend is forecast so get out and enjoy the local offerings.

Garden thoughtfully,


Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Joene Hendry

Newsy Notes: Growing Organic Veggies, Invasive IDs, an Artificial Leaf

Here’s a list of few opportunities for local gardeners and wanna-be gardeners to hone their organic veggie growing skills and for those seeking outdoor invasive plant ID training, plus there’s a peek into a new and very cool technology.

color from the gardenGrowing Organic Vegetables
Want to grow vegetables organically at home but don’t know where to start? Bill Duesing, the executive director of CT NOFA (Connecticut Northeast Organic Farming Association), will share his hands-on experience on April 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm at the Kellogg Environmental Center in Derby, Connecticut. Bill is an organic farmer when he is not advocating for healthy environmental land care practices. A CT DEP press release offers more information and registration contacts. With a $4 donation ($2 for students and children) you’ll learn organic gardening practices from one of the best, plus it’s hard not to catch Bill’s enthusiasm for organic growing.

Other Organic Gardening Sessions
Connecticut Organic Gardening Education Day – April 2, 2011 is a CT NOFA sponsored event at multiple locations, offering education on soils, compost and starting seeds. Growing Food in Small Spaces – April 9, 2011 in New Haven – offers tips on growing edible plants in a variety of containers.

Japanese barberry2-4-29-10Identifying Connecticut’s Invasive Plants
A few hardy souls will have the chance to attend either of two one-day, hands-on, in the woods sessions on identifying invasive plants. Why is it important to do this now rather than wait until everything leafs out? Clearing invasive plants is best done when the soil is no longer frozen and most plants and trees are still dormant. But knowing which plant is invasive takes some practice and training, information field botanist Bill Moorhead will impart on a limited number of attendees during the April 1 and April 8, 2011 workshops. Read more about these sessions at the CT NOFA blog.

I must admit when the headline Debut of the First Practical ‘Artificial Leaf’ caught my eye it conjured up something like the aluminum Christmas trees Charlie Brown and Linus passed by in their search for a real tree, but the artificial leaf this article refers to looks nothing like a real plant leaf. It’s actually a new type of solar cell, about the size of a playing card, that converts sunlight and water into energy much like a leaf does – it photosynthesizes. Lead researcher Daniel Nocera, PhD, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reports the current solar cell design built on lessons learned a decade ago during development of a similar solar cell. The beauty of the new version is its use of readily accessible and inexpensive materials. The solar cell produces electricity by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. Extra energy is then saved in a fuel cell. Besides the coolness of this concept – it can be used in underdeveloped regions, works under simple conditions, and is stable – I’m particularly struck by Nocera’s quote, "Nature is powered by photosynthesis, and I think that the future world will be powered by photosynthesis as well …"

What a concept … since nature is powered by photosynthesis, we might learn and succeed by copying nature. Nocera et al follow this concept in creating their solar cell. Less technologically-inclined folk can copy nature simply by gardening organically.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Joene Hendry