Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bulk bulb order from Janis Ruksans' catalog

From John Gilrein, Plant of the Month Coordinator:

The Adirondack Chapter is going to coordinate a group order from Janis Ruksans nursery in Latvia. Some of you will remember Janis, the well-traveled speaker at our October 2007 meeting. He has traveled extensively throughout the area formerly behind the Iron Curtain -- including Eastern Europe, Turkey, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia -- hunting for plants. Ruksans nursery specializes in exotic geophytes, including bulbs, corms, tubers, etc. Geophytes are plants that have developed means to store energy underground to carry them through difficult growing conditions, usually involving drought, cold, or heat. We’ll ignore the scientific designation and refer to geophytes as bulbs in this article.

The nursery grows bulbs that are rare, unique, and/or unavailable from other sources, catering to collectors and gardeners with a taste for the unusual. Prices in the 2007 catalog (which are listed in Euros) vary from a modest 1 Euro to 70 Euros for a really rare specimen. We’ll continue to promote the group order for a while, but we plan to get the order in relatively early, since quantities are limited, and we’re more likely to have our order filled if we order in the Spring. Most of the bulbs will be summer dormant, and thus will be shipped in the summer. If you’re interested in ordering, it would be wise to consider the native conditions of the bulbs you will purchase. Some of the bulbs offered are easy to cultivate, others may need special growing conditions, for example withholding watering in the summer (and protecting from rain).

Catalog offerings include: many Alliums (flowering onions), Anemones, Arisaemas and Arums (jack in the pulpit relatives), Crocus, Corydalis, Fritillarias, Geraniums, Iris, Tulips, and many others. The catalog is enjoyable to peruse with the great variety offered and lots of beautiful photos. For questions about ordering, contact me at: or (315)-477-8419. We’ll have to work out some of the details, such as the exchange rate, closer to ordering time, and I’m sure we’ll need payment at the time of the order.

The catalog is available online at this site:
For hardcopies of the catalog, send $5 US to:
Janis Ruksans, Dr. Biol.
P O Rozula
LV – 4150 Cesis Dist.

March Plant of the Month

From John Gilrein, Plant of the Month Coordinator:

We’re going to continue with our plant of the month, beginning with our March 15 meeting with John Lonsdale, Edgewood Gardens, Exton, Pa., and it will be buy one, get one free. This is only one of the worthwhile benefits that our chapter members receive. I’m still working on the plans for the plant of the month order, which will depend on the subject of the talk given by John. Our goals include expanding the horizons of our members, as well as getting enjoyment out of some new plants.

Check back for more details closer to the March meeting date.

Time to renew your membership?

If you haven't rejoined for 2008, it's fast and easy.  Just download this membership form, fill it out, and mail in your check.

Seed germination references

From Carol Eichler:

Growing from seed this winter? These websites has fairly extensive seed germination information:

Tom Clothier's Garden Walk and Talk

Ontario Rock Garden Society Seed Germination Index

The Seed Site

The definitive work of course if Norman C. Deno's "Seed Germination Theory and Practice, 2nd edition and his First and Second Supplements. They are available through the NARGS Book Service.

National NARGS News

From Carol Eichler:

As Chapter Chair, I keep getting reports from Dick Bartlett, President of our parent organization, NARGS National, about the communication problem he has with the Chapters and general membership. Consequently, I’ve decided to take on the role of facilitating this communication by posting regular “National News” articles. Here goes!

NARGS Annual Seed Exchange: Get an early start to the gardening season by starting seeds this winter. This year’s seed exchange includes an impressive 4,570 separate species listings and 34 pages of 2-column print! If you’re a National member, there’s still time to order. The order deadline, now extended one week, is Feb. 20, 2008.

Not a member and want to participate? It’s not too late to join concurrently with your order. The list, instructions, and order form can be accessed at the NARGS website: Only 10% of NARGS members donate seed. You’ll notice some familiar Adirondack Chapter names among them.

Hint: Even though I got the printed copy, I downloaded the lists onto my computer from the website, combined both “collected” and “wild” lists into one Excel document, and began my process of selection from there, where I could easily record notes. When I was ready to commit my first and alternate choices, I merely sorted by the “number” column so that the plants were in sequence and easily copied – by hand - onto my paper order form.

Norman Singer Endowment Fund 2008: Have an idea for a community rock garden or other project? NARGS awards grants through the Singer Fund, in order “to be a resource in support of special, one-time projects that advance the art and science of rock gardening.” Guidelines may be accessed at Applications are due by April 15, 2008 and should be sent to Phyllis Gustafson, 250 Maple St., Central Point, OR 97502 or Grant recipients are notified after the NARGS Annual Meeting in June.

Gardens North Seeds

From Carol Eichler:

In completing my request for the NARGS seedlist, I came across a great resource - Gardens North, a nursery out of Ottawa, Ontario that sells seeds. Their website ( is a great resource in that you can look up plants from their on-line catalog. Under the "perennials" category for instance you can look up a plant to see a picture and description plus information about germination and hardiness. Even though this is a Canadian nursery they use USDA Hardiness Zones, hooray! There's even one section on seeds from Ruksans' nursery (not extensive, but presumably Gardens North has done their research on hardiness).

Perhaps I should explain how I "came across" this nursery. As part of my selection of seeds from the NARGS seed exchange, I was using the Google Images search engine to look up plant pictures and other information. By clicking on a particular image I also got the link to the "parent" webpage. To the extent that I allowed myself these side excursions, Gardens North wasn't the only great find. Among others I found a great tourist agency out of the UK that offers wonderful accommodations and tours to the dolomites in Northern Italy. I've been dreaming about a trip there ever since Harry Jans' talks. :)

2007 Financial Report

At our January 19 board meeting, our treasurer Carolyn Yaeger reported on our Chapter's finances. In summary, Carolyn says, "The Chapter finances continue to be stable and income continues to exceed expenses. Extra funds are moved to a savings account to be used for special projects in the future. If you have any questions please contact me at the February meeting."

You can view the spreadsheet (.pdf file) here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tips and Tricks to Seed-Starting

From Carol Eichler,  revised from Green Dragon, February, 2004.

While I make no claims to be an expert, I’d like to offer some tips and tricks from my own experience with growing plants from seed and more specifically from the NARGS seed exchange.

1. A sturdy four-shelf “workshop” shelving unit works well as a growing stand, is inexpensive, and provides a lot of growing space for small plants without taking up a lot of room. A sunny window simply does not supply enough light.

2. Use 2-row fluorescent shop lights – no need for the more expensive full-spectrum “plant” lights on the market. Mount them to the bottom of each shelf.

3. I keep the lights on 24/7. It’s just easier – a no-brainer. And it’s especially helpful to guarantee that seedlings enjoy literally life-saving “sunshine” as they emerge. They can get weak and leggy if they’re deprived of this early light.

4. Position the lights 3-4 inches from the top of the plants. Hang them from the shelving with a chain to allow you to adjust the distance from the plants as they grow.

5. For potting medium you can’t beat commercial seed starting soil mix. It holds moisture
well – critical for seed germination, doesn’t compact, and it helps promote vigorous root growth.

6. I fill small pots – 4-inch is my preferred size– with potting medium to about 1/4 inch from the top. I like to sow the seeds in rows. The “organization” makes it easier for me to handle small seedlings at transplant time. However, this may not be possible with really small seeds. Again the pot size allows plenty of space for root growth. These individual pots are then placed into plant trays. Be sure to label your pot with plant name and date.

7. I don’t cover small seed but do pat them firmly into the soil so there is good contact. Then, I mist over the top, In the past I have layed a sheet of plastic over the tray to help keep the soil constantly moist but have found this tricky to navigate. Instead, I now buy a plastic cover that’s made to fit over the plastic plant tray and it has worked beautifully.

8. I check once or twice a day to see what needs tending. Water? I mist to avoid over-
watering which seems to be my biggest pitfall. Have seedlings emerged? I cheer. Do the lights need to be raised? Does anything need to be transplanted?

9. When seedlings are ready to transplant (first true leaves appear), I switch to a gritty soil mix that alpines prefer – adding coarse sand or perlite whatever I have on hand – to commercial soil-less mix, operating on the premise that this medium is still a temporary home for the plant.

10. I transplant to 2-inch pots and can fit 2 dozen or more into a tray.

So what do I do with the pots of seed which haven’t germinated? I know some alpine seed can takes months to years to germinate as well. I dutifully to care for them, take them outdoors when the weather allows, and let nature take over (with no success, I might add). For now, I’m content to play the odds and go the easy route. I am rewarded with enough success that I have more plants than I know what to do with. I bring the excess to the Chapter seedling exchange and that problem is quickly solved!

Western Winter Study Weekend

Plant Treasures for New Millennium
Western Winter Study Weekend
February 29 - March 2
Hosted by The Alpine Garden Club of British Columbia
At Richmond, (so Vancouver) Canada
More information on speakers, registration, workshops and accommodations.

Related post: Information on the Eastern Winter Study Weekend.

Chicago gardens

From Carol Eichler:

Over an extended October week-end to visit family in the Midwest, I strategically squeezed in a free day to allow myself a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden, located in Glencoe, approximate 20 miles north of downtown Chicago. (There is also train access most of the year) It’s a wonderful place that I soon discovered can easily require more than one day to fully explore.

At the November meeting, I presented a few slides of the Malott Japanese Garden, Sansho-En as well as two personal favorites – the Waterfall Garden and the Sensory Garden.

Sansho-En translated means Garden of the Three Islands. Designed as a "stroll garden" with curving paths, it discloses its plant treasures gradually, never at once. Pines are pruned to open up distant landscapes, framing perfect views of lakes, grassy hills, woods and gardens beyond. Nature imitates nature as shapes and forms repeat themselves.

The 385-acre Chicago Botanic Garden features 23 display gardens and 3 native habitats, uniquely situated on nine islands surrounded by lakes. The overall design is stunning. If you’re planning a trip to Chicago, this place is a must see at any time of year.
I also discovered there are other Japanese garden “in the vicinity.”

Osaka Garden is located on Wooded Island (Paul H. Douglas
Nature Sanctuary) in Jackson Park, near the Museum of Science and Industry. It is constructed for the 1893 World’s Fair.

A bit farther afield but ever so exquisite are the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois (about 85 miles north and west of downtown Chicago). There are two very distinct gardens on the 12 acre site – one a formal garden in the style of the Kamakura period, 1185 to 1333 A.D. The second, the Garden of Reflection, is a contemporary international garden with a strong Japanese influence. The Gardens were a gift of Linda and John Anderson in 1988 and are currently open to the public from May 1st through October 31st.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Calendar of Select Spring Garden Events

Via Carol Eichler (with thanks to Maria Galetti for some of this information):

February 27-March 2: CNY Blooms, Syracuse Flower and Garden Show;

March 2-9: Jazz it Up! Philadelphia Flower Show;

March 13-16: It's a Garden Life, annual Rochester, NY Flower Show

March 28-30: Rock Gardening for the Future, NARGS Eastern (Winter) Study Week-end Hosted by the Berkshire Chapter NARGS, held in Hartford, CT:

April 26: Stonecrop Gardens Open House and Plant Sale, Cold Spring, NY;

May 11 Rare and Unusual Plant Sale, sponsored by the Friends of the Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Canada;

May 17 -18: Trade Secrets - A Rare Plant and garden antiques sale and garden tours, Sharon, CT;

June 12-15: NARGS National Conference and Meeting, Ottawa Canada, sponsored by the Ottawa Valley Chapter, NARGS (more information forthcoming)

Monday, January 14, 2008

2008 Eastern Winter Study Weekend

The Berkshire Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) is sponsoring the Eastern US Winter Study Weekend which will be held at the Marriott Hotel in Farmington Connecticut the weekend of 28-30 March, 2008. The registration fee, including all meals, is $220 for NARGS members before 2/28/2008, $250 from 3/1/2008 onwards. Non-members will pay an additional $30 to be credited to NARGS membership for one year. Rooms will be available at a steeply discounted rate of $99 for the 28th & 29th but must be booked prior to the end of February.

A number of stellar speakers have been signed up including Alan Bradshaw, Frank Cabot, Geoffrey Charlesworth, John Good, Priscilla Twombly, Elisabeth & Rod Zander and Zdeněk Zvolánek.

Additionally there will be 5 workshops and an open forum with the speakers and several of the vendors from across North America. The late March date was chose in part to reduce the time between purchase and planting.

Visit the Berkshire Chapter website for registration and more information. Or contact Jacques Mommens PO Box 67 in Millwood NY 10546. Or you may call him on 914-762-2948 to register with a credit card.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Board Meeting

Saturday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m to 2 p.m. at Billie Jean Isbell's in Brooktondale.

Bring a dish to pass.

Directions to Billie Jean's:

Billie Jean lives in the village of Brooktondale. 534 Valley Road. Follow the road sign on Rt. 79 to Brooktondale. 2 miles will take you to the Post Office. Proceed about another mile. Her house is between the Community Center and the church. Please park in the church parking lot and enter Billie Jean's house through the greenhouse.

American Primrose Society

This comes to us from Lee Nelson:
Are you a gardener with many interests besides rock gardening? Then the American Primrose Society may be of interest to you.

New England chapter of the American Primrose Society invites you to join them. Our 'Annual Primrose Show' provides a great venue to showcase your prized plants and compete for ribbons and awards. Garden tours and educational lecture meetings throughout the season provide a great learning experience and the opportunity to meet with enthusiastic gardeners. For more information contact: Lee Nelson. or 607-648-5995.
Visit the American Primrose Society website.