Posts tagged gardener

“Screaming for attention” Chinese chestnut

Chinese chestnut (photo, Brucemore)

Chinese chestnut (photo, Brucemore)

   Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, shares the following about an amazing tree on the Brucemore grounds:

     It’s time.  It’s blooming.  Brucemore’s Chinese chestnut is screaming for attention.  The first clue that the flowers on this magnificent specimen are present is the unmistakable aroma mingling through the landscape; earthy and spicy.  This perfume emanates from the chestnut’s canopy, which is covered in clusters of long chenille like tendrils resembling skinny hairy

Chinese chestnut in bloom (photo, Brucemore)

Chinese chestnut in bloom (photo, Brucemore)

fingers or spidery legs.  Approximately 50 foot tall and 50 foot wide, this low branching, wide spreading habitat makes it a great shade tree and, purportedly, an ideal climbing tree, though I do ask that you don’t climb our trees when visiting.

     The chestnut worth noting is standing among younger chestnut specimens. Due to this particular tree’s location in the area of the first orchard as well as its apparent age, estimated from the trunk diameter, height and spread of the tree, this is likely one of the oldest Chinese chestnuts in Iowa, if not the nation. Chinese chestnuts were introduced to the United States by seed in 1903. The original Douglas orchard, planted circa 1909, was in this location.  This was also the location of the Sinclair orchard, the estate’s first family.

    With consideration given to these facts and estimates by tree experts over the years, I feel confident about the age assumption and willingly share the information.  I encourage all to visit and view this majestic specimen, especially during the time of year when the Chinese chestnut drapes its branches in pungent, blooming finery.

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Inspiration from living landscape history

Clematis at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Brucemore photo)

Clematis at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Brucemore photo)

The following is from Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:

     I am in a constant state of wonder and awe at Brucemore; every direction I turn stimulates the senses. The birds’ twittering in the wisteria vine mingles with a slight scent of early blooming clematis growing along the grape arbor.  New growth is making its appearance throughout the gardens, as vividly illustrated by the lime-colored sprouts starkly contrasting against the dark green of existing foliage on the old Norway spruce.  Here on the Brucemore grounds, the new and old, past and present are demanding attention, clamoring to be experienced and shared.

     In an effort to appease my senses but also to share Brucemore’s role in American landscape history, I am leading a historic landscape tour. Wear walking shoes and bring a water bottle, this tour will cover a lot of ground and encourage discovery of this quiet, park-like space in the middle of Cedar Rapids.  Brucemore’s 100 years of Prairie landscape history, paired with the burgeoning spring plants, will make for an inspiring hike. Woven into the trek through the 26 acres of grounds will also be discussion of plants (mostly natives), theories of the original design, Brucemore family stories, and issues pertaining to current preservation and property use.

 Brucemore’s Historic Landscape Tour

Tuesday, May 26 & Thursday, May 28 at 6:00 p.m.  and Saturday, May 30 at 10:30 a.m. at Brucemore, 2160 Linden Drive SE.

Admission is $10 per person and $7 per Brucemore member. Please call (319) 362-7375 to register. See: www.brucemore.org

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In search of grubs, and how to treat crabgrass and arborvitae

Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, wrote the following about three of the most frequently asked questions to the Linn County Master Gardener Horticulture Hotline. The HortLine is available to answer questions from 9 am.. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday  and  9 a.m. to noon on Fridays at (319)447-0647.

 

    One of the commonly asked questions in the spring concerns when to apply pre-emergent crabgrass killer.  Master Gardener Susan Long has this response:  Typically, the blooming of the forsythia or the redbud is a good indicator of when to apply pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide.  Pre-emergents must be applied before the crabgrass germinates. Ground temperatures must be a minimum of 50 degrees. If the material is applied too early, crabgrass seeds that germinate late in the season will not be controlled.  If applied too late, some crabgrass will have already germinated.  In central Iowa, this is usually mid-April to May 1.  However, if the weather warms up early or stays cool longer, then adjustments must be made based on the conditions.  Having a thick, healthy lawn that is fertilized, watered and mowed certainly discourages the growth of crabgrass. 

    Susan also answered a question about arborvitae having brown leaves due to winter burn and whether it will recover and/or should be pruned:  Avoid pruning browned, burned areas from evergreen trees and shrubs in the early spring since these branches may still have viable buds that will produce new foliage when growth resumes.  The brown will eventually fall off.  If the buds did not survive, then prune dead branches back to living tissue.  The affected trees and shrubs should look much better by late June or July.  There is no need to fertilize affected evergreens.  However, if the weather this spring is dry, periodically water evergreens to encourage new growth and speed their recovery.

    Another caller wondered what causes a lawn to be torn up at night.  Lawns that have grubs attract raccoons, skunks, and crows which turn over large patches of turf in search of the grubs.  The best time to treat is early in the summer when insecticides have the best changes of working.  The entire lawn may not need to be treated, rather treat grub “hot spots” determined by observation or sampling.  Presently trichlorfor (Dylox or Bayer 24-Hour Grub Control) and Sevin are the fastest-acting, most effective homeowner insecticides for curative grub control.  These must be watered in completely after application.  In many cases it may be preferable to repair the damage through seeding or sodding without treating.  If the old, loose sod is still green it may reattach with adequate watering.

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Technically, it’s still winter

Several warm and sunny days this week might make us forget that winter is still with us, officially, at least, until Friday. Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, sent the following about this time of year:

Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

  

 

 

 

   From the Brucemore Gardens

 

   The lengthening of the days and the warmer temperatures make me want to go outside and get back to gardening along with the rest of the grounds crew here at Brucemore. We have pruned all the deciduous trees and grape vines. The lawns and garden beds have been raked and the orchard will be pruned this week. While failing to pull the greenery used for holiday decorating out of a still frozen container, a somber realization dawned on me: it is still winter and there is a good month left before the real gardening can begin, and before we know it, the whole growing season will have passed by in a blur of continuous activity.

 

In my haste to hurry up and get busy, I realized that I had almost missed it again—the experience, the wondrous process of late winter merging into spring. With every rain drop and ray of sunshine, change is taking place. We all know this but rarely take the time to observe and enjoy. This year I vow to observe and enjoy with total presence, and I will stay conscious and aware during every season and transition of the year. Through Cindy’s blog, (thank you Cindy) I will share my experiences and offer tips and ideas for you to use in your own gardens.

 

I encourage you and yours to participate wholeheartedly also. Come visit the Brucemore gardens and grounds to experience the seasons this year. Our gates are open during regular business hours, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and often from dawn to dusk. Stroll the grounds, formal gardens, pond, timber, and orchard. Stop by the children’s garden to pick up a monthly activity sheet, which offers suggestions for additional nature study opportunities.

 

I would love to hear what you are doing also!  Please feel free to send me any suggestions, ideas, or tips from your own gardens and explorations.

 

Deb Engmark

Brucemore Head Gardener

2160 Linden Dr. SE

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403

deb@brucemore.org

www.brucemore.org

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Brucemore photos

  Executive Director Jim Kern kicked off Brucemore’s Garden and Art Show by happily announcing that we’d get through the day without rain. He was so right. Not only a rainless day, but a gorgeous one. Head gardener Deb Engmark and her crew had the grounds looking beautiful, befitting the weather.  I’ll try to get as many photos as I can of the event here, and will add more later in the week.  Visitors to the show could buy plants and artwork, including jewelry, paintings, sculpture and more. New this year, the Solid Waste Agency gave away FREE compost – a gardeners delight:)

Pat Nosbish of Kansas City, right, and Mary Corkery, of Cedar Rapids, look at daylillies from K&K Gardens of Hawkeye, Iowa, at Saturday's show at Brucemore

Pat Nosbish of Kansas City, right, and Mary Corkery, of Cedar Rapids, look at daylillies from K&K Gardens of Hawkeye, Iowa, on Saturday

 By the time I was there, the Agency’s Stacie Johnson had filled 99 bags of compost to hand out and I’m sure many more followed. Thanks Stacie!! Shannon Ramsay of Trees Forever and her crew posted the value of a few of the towering oaks and maples on the Brucemore Estate. One large oak had a “price tag” of $81,580, meaning the tree could offer that value – by absorbing stormwater, reducing the need for electricity and filtering pollutants – over its lifetime. And a good-sized crowd chose to sit under that tree for shade. Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens flower shop demonstrated floral arrangements and made it look so simple. Their boss, Chad Rummel, uses bonsai clippers instead of a knife to cut the flowers. Anyone know where those can be found?

Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens
Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens

Brucemore was luckily spared during the historic flooding in June that devastated downtown Cedar Rapids and beyond. But it has been fully supportive of rebuilding efforts and demonstrated its partnership with the rest of the area’s cultural/art world with a panel discussion at the garden show on the importance of art.

Janelle McClain, past owner of CornerHouse Gallery, Joe Jennison of the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance and head cheerleader, art therapist Joan Thaler and Stephanie Kohn, curator of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, poignantly described the value of art, especially in light of the floods. By lifting spirits, acting as therapy in overcoming grief, conducting fundraisers and giving people a reason to stay in Eastern Iowa,  the arts and cultural events are needed now more than ever, they said. Jennison noted that 35 of the 140 organizations in the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance were directly affected by the floods and others, indirectly affected, such as losing Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City as a performance venue for some of the Alliance’s members. Very fitting that Brucemore offered this panel discussion in what has been a rough summer for many in Eastern Iowa.  
I also attended Lori Willett’s “Cooking with Herbs 101” session and “Compost Happens” by the Linn County Master Composters. Look for more on those, including one of Willett’s herb recipes, later on this blog.

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Melinda’s interview

myers.jpg

I had the good fortune to interview Melinda Myers, host of the PBS show, “Great Lakes Gardener,” for an article in The Gazette about the upcoming Winter Gardening Fair. She will be the keynote speaker for the event on Feb. 2 at Kirkwood Community College. Melinda told me about one of her favorite flowers, called cuphea, or cigar plant, which is a favorite of hummingbirds. She also told a fun story about a visitor to her home who was shocked to see a “weed,” milkweed, in the backyard of this gardening expert. Click on the links below to hear these interview excerpts: 

http://www.gazetteonline.com/assets/mp3/cindyaudio1.mp3

http://www.gazetteonline.com/assets/mp3/cindyaudio2.mp3

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