France’s best kept secret garden and other programs from PHP

The Amherst Garden Club received an invitation from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society announcing a number of enticing upcoming online programs. Click the text links to learn more or register, and let the Programs committee know if you discover a great lecturer!

Vaux-le-Vicomte, France’s Best Kept Secret Garden
Event Date: Wednesday, January 20
Event Time: 12 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Houseplant Parenting 101
Event Date: Tuesday, February 9
Event Time: 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Nature as Gardener: For Beauty and Reduced Maintenance
Event Date: Thursday, February 11
Event Time: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Yes, You Can: Growing Vegetables in Containers
Event Date: Tuesday, February 16
Event Time: 4 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Roses: A New Approach
Event Date: Wednesday, February 24
Event Time: 12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

Irish Country House Gardens
Event Date: Tuesday, March 2
Event Time: 12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

Lush Life: Tropical Plants in Temperate Climates
Event Date: Tuesday, March 9
Event Time: 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Beautiful, Sustainable, and Abundant Flower Gardens
with Jennie Love

Event Date: Wednesday, March 24
Event Time: 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.


Rachel Carson Documentary on PBS

Scientist, activist and watchdog, Rachel Carson, sounded out the warning cry against toxic chemicals affecting the environment, especially pesticides that killed birds, insects and disrupted the eco-system. Her landmark book “Silent Spring” begat the early, global environmental movement. PBS will air a film on her life on “American Experience” on 1/25, 1/26, 1/27 and 1/28.  Check your local listings.

Notes from here and there

Susan Kierstead offers the following thoughts (in italics) on our current drought and how to best mitigate the damage in your gardens:

Recent Propagation Workshop conducted by Susan Kierstead

This drought has been making me crazy. That is the understatement of the year. We have  2 wells, but even then we can only water for less than 1.5 hours in AM and PM using 3 sprinklers. If we did all the gardens, it would take 7 or 8 days. Thus I am going into defensive mode. Remote gardens are on their own. Vegetable garden takes precedence. Gardens I see from my coffee nook take precedence. And it’s still not enough. I am sending you my drought letter, which I know I have sent many times before. One thing I have added is cut half of each leaf in big leaved plants. I am starting that now.

New Hampshire has experienced several periods of drought over the last several summers.  During these dry periods, plants experience physiological strain due to water deficit.  At least one inch of water a week is essential for maximum growth. This applies to herbaceous perennials, trees and shrubs. Seedlings are most susceptible to drought because they have shallow root systems which dry out quickly.

        Plants are constantly transpiring (giving off water through the leaves) and absorbing water from the soil. Warm windy days increase transpiration.  When plants give off more water than they take in, a stressful situation occurs.  At night,  water absorption exceeds transpiration and the plant will regain water from mist or dew only to be depleted the next day.  If the leaves are wilted first thing in the morning, then that plant could be in trouble.

        If water is not replaced in the plant cells quickly,  the cells degenerate and die causing different effects in different types of plants.  The weakened plant is now a target for insects and disease which may be the final cause of plant loss.

        Prevention is the best defense for drought stress.  Soak the root  ball if it appears dry before you plant.  For trees and shrubs, fill the hole with water first.   Always water seedlings and transplants.  For perennials, water well the whole  first season, even if it is a drought tolerant species.  For trees and shrubs, plan on a 5 year period for them to become established with extra watering.  When dry periods occur,  start watering about 2 weeks after the last heavy rainfall.  It is best to give thorough waterings less often, than to just wet the surface layer.  As I’ve said before, check that you’ve watered deep enough.  Stick your fingers in the soil. We use a lot of natural mulches and not only do they feed the soil,  they prevent water loss due to evaporation and will regulate soil temperatures.

        If you can’t water, then your best defense is to do nothing.  Do not cut plants back or fertilize them to give them a boost.  Both helpful acts have a negative effect on stressed plants.  Fertilizing burns the stressed out root hairs.  Cutting back seems more logical, but once cut, a plants’ natural growth pattern is to replace the cut off limb with two branches where one was previously.  Symptoms of stress such as browning, or curling of leaves, or even yellowing are part of a plants’ natural defense system, and in the long run are the only defense if extra watering is not feasible.  And I admit, it is extremely difficult to constrain oneself and not cut back.  It really hurts to see brown leaves, but it is part of a built in mechanism that plants have perfected over the years.  Of course, if the plant has to suffer drought repeatedly, it will not be able to cope. I watched a particularly favorite aster dry up, top to bottom. It was hard not to do something. When it rained in late August, leaves sprouted up all along the stem. No it didn’t bloom, and yes it survived the winter of 2015,’16.  Now an exception to the ‘do nothing’ rule is plants with large leaves. Here I go around and cut off half of each leaf. This way the plant does not feel the need to make more leaves, but there is less leaf area to lose water. It’s unsightly, but it works. This is a regular occurance with a hellebore that is in too much sun. The leaves were flat on the ground for days before I bit the bullet and trimmed. It stood straight for the rest of the summer, and gave it’s best bloom ever the next year. Wonder what will happen if I have to repeat this yearly?

        Woody plants stressed by drought may also not be as winter hardy as they need to be to survive a particularly harsh winter.  If it has been a dry summer, make sure the plant has been given a good watering before the ground freezes, and maybe even a pine needle mulch to help get through the winter.

Also, thanks to Jeanne Nevard for providing this beautiful photo she took in Pepperell, MA (which she also submitted to the Channel 5 News).

Turbulent clouds & bright sun with wildflowers- red bee balm & pink fireweed.
Turbulent clouds & bright sun with wildflowers- red bee balm & pink fireweed.

Hemlock Invasives Triple Threat

Interested in learning more about the triple threat to the Northern New England Hemlock? This instructional presentation by Jennifer Weimer, Forest Health Specialist with the NH Division of Forests & Lands will cover the impacts of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA), Elongate Hemlock Scale (EHS), and Sirococcus tsugae. Jennifer will be joined by local forester Charlie Koch and ACC commissioner and certified Master Arborist Lee Gilman to share their boots on the ground experience with these invasives. This presentaiton will also look at how the invasive triple threat impacts the ACC Forest Management Plan for town owned parcels and participants will get a chance to the impacts first hand on the nearby Hemlock Trail.

Sponsoring Organizations: Amherst Conservation Commission, NH Division of Forests and Lands, Amherst Recreation Commission

Cost: Free, but registration required. Click here to register!

Location: Peabody Mill Environmental Center, Amherst, NH

Details: January 12, 2016 from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

What to Bring: Dress for the weather if participating in the field trip portion (Hemlock Trail) of the event

Questions? Contact Jen Weimer at 603-464-3016 or


Identify Flowers Visually Using Your Smartphone

Marti Warren passed along a tip about a great new gardening app called “Like That Garden” by JustVisual Inc that is available from iTunes.  According to the description, you can simply hold up your smartphone or tablet and snap a picture of an unknown flower or plant, and the app uses image recognition technology to provide you with high resolution photos, detailed species name and descriptions and useful information. Can’t wait to give it a try!

Pumpkin Planter and Water Garden Information

Pumpkin plantersFor those who are unable to attend either the evening meeting on November 13 or the pumpkin succulent planter workshop of November 20, assembly and care instructions are available on the Horticultural Hints page.  (Thank you Sue Alger and Deb Ferrelli!)  Also just posted on the Horticultural Hints page: Peter Servier’s instructions for constructing a water garden.  (Thanks, Peter!)

Ideal Compost Information

From Fran Kelley:

ideal compost logo
Some members expressed an interest in prices for bagged compost and/or mulch from Ideal Compost , the company in Peterborough that Martha uses for her beautiful gardens. I contacted the owner about special pricing for bulk loads. Here’s the answer:
>> Bulk pricing is available for full pallets of bagged products. Delivery of the pallets to Amherst costs $80 and requires a forklift for unloading.
>> Compost: a pallet has 40 bags of the 40 quart composts bags. The pallet is $6.00 per bag, a total of $240, as opposed to $10.00 per bag for fewer bags.
>> Mulch: a pallet of 40 bags at $5.00 per bag, a total of $200, instead of $8.00 per bag for fewer bags.
>> If we use our own truck, we can still buy pallets at his place for that price. He will forklift the pallet on our truck and we unload ourselves.
>> Regular prices for bulk non-bagged products are listed at the website,

>> I hope this information is helpful. Perhaps we can discuss possibilities at the next full meeting or at the Perennial Group meeting.