Sunday, December 27, 2015

Labyrinths Offer Homeowners a Pathway to Peace

It took 5,000 square feet of bluestone to create the labyrinth which is set in lush fescue.
Photo by Dorothy Hong for WSJ.

By Amy Gamerman          

“All I asked for was just a little place to walk the walk,” said Ruth Ann Harnisch, a 65-year-old philanthropist.

What she got—after a massive, two-year earthwork project at her home in New York’s Hamptons—is an 86-foot tripartite path of hand-cut stone, set in lush fescue grass.

It took 5,000 square feet of North River bluestone to create the intricately winding walkway—called a labyrinth—which has 18 looping turns and is encircled by a 300-foot-long fieldstone wall. The pavers were set in dry-pack mortar on top of concrete wire mesh, to hold them in place. An underground irrigation system was installed to keep the grass bright and shaggy.

Thirteen mature Yoshino cherry trees, trucked into the site, ring the labyrinth. In the springtime, they shower its walkways with white blossoms. “It’s magical,” said Bill Harnisch, 69, president and CEO of Peconic Partners, an investment firm.

Labyrinths—circular paths for walking meditation that have been widely adapted by churches, hospitals and retreat centers—are now popping up in upscale American backyards. “There are 3,740 labyrinths in the U.S.—it’s really blossoming,” said Lauren Artress, author of “Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice.” Some are simple, such as the 30-foot spiral of desert stones that Andrew Weil, the physician, author and founder of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, built at his home in Tucson. Other, more lavish walkways evoke the 13th-century labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral in France.

See full article, video and slideshow of labyrinths built around the US at:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Town & Country Garden Club Takes Holiday Tour of Governor's Mansion

Members of the Town & Country Garden Club toured the Raleigh Governor's Mansion
 for their last meeting of 2015. The mansion was decked and trimmed
for the Christmas holidays. Photos by Becky Wood, T&C Garden Club.

Rooms from the Governor's Mansion.
Members of the Town & Country Garden Club of Durham, NC.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

2015 Poinsettia Project Sets Record Sales

Poinsettias border the VA chapel's piano. Photo by Marcia Loudon.

The Heritage Garden Club of Durham would like to thank all who participated in the annual Poinsettia Project in beautifying the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center chapel for Christmas.

Poinsettia Project sold a record 112 plants! The chapel can accommodate 100 plants, so 20 poinsettias were displayed in the CLC dining room. After the holidays each plant will be gifted to a veteran in residence of the medical center.

Every year, Durham Council Vice-President and Heritage Garden Club member Marcia Loudon makes multiple weekly visits to the chapel to individually water all 100+ poinsettias during the project from Thanksgiving to New Years. Thank you, Marcia, for all of your time, mileage, parking and loving care!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sustainability: How do Insects Survive Winter?

Two soybean aphid eggs laid next to the bud scales of buckthorn.
 Photo by Marlin E. Rice, Iowa State Extension.
From the Currituck County Extension Center

As the days get shorter and cooler in the fall,insects enter into an inactive state of arrested development called diapause. During the winter an insect’s metabolic rate drops to one-tenth or less, so it can use stored body fat to survive. Many insects also produce alcohols that act like antifreeze. These insects’ bodies can reach below-freezing temperatures without forming cell-damaging ice crystals. In the spring, as temperatures rise, diapause is terminated and insect growth and development return to normal.

Even with all of these adaptations, extreme cold and temperature fluctuations can indeed affect insect survival depending on how low the temperature dropped, how long the cold persisted, and if snow cover was present. Other factors to consider are microclimates and how protected insects are in their hiding places. So where do insects hide during the winter?

Insects spend winter in various life stages. Aphids overwinter as eggs laid in the bud scales of woody plants. Bagworm eggs are safely tucked away inside a bag. Tent caterpillar eggs can be found in a mass on branches. Bean leaf beetles spend winter as adults under loose bark or fallen leaves. Lady bugs congregate under firewood. Japanese beetle grubs hide deep in the soil, and some butterflies overwinter as pupae in a cocoon or chrysalis. Each insect has its own way of dealing with cold weather. As much as we would like to think that a rough winter will take care of those pesky insects, most will survive.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

BOOKS: American Horticultural Society Pruning & Training

Editor's Note: As the garden goes dormant with freezing temperatures, now is the time to research the appropriate time to prune!

Title: American Horticultural Society Pruning & Training
Authors: Christopher Brickell and David Joyce
Series: American Horticultural Society Practical Guides
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: DK; 1st American ed edition (August 1, 1996)
ISBN-10: 0864387652
ISBN-13: 978-0864387653
ASIN: 1564583317

Review from

Although primarily a reference text, Pruning & Training is also a stroll through an arboretum, intertwining beautiful and descriptive photographs with explanatory text. If you've ever wondered how a tree, shrub, or vine was trained or formed, this book will explain every how-to for every plant that stirs your experimental side. If you're saddled with an overgrown orchard, poorly maintained landscaping, or heavy frost damage to trees and shrubs, you can renovate them through pruning. Solid background material is provided, including growing habits (and how to take advantage of them), advice on pruning tools, and basic and specialized pruning techniques.

The reference is organized by ornamental trees, fruiting trees, ornamental shrubs, soft fruits, climbing plants, and roses. Each section discusses specialized methods for the subject plant type and includes a plant-by-plant dictionary. With the American Horticultural Society's stamp of approval, you can be sure that Pruning & Training does not neglect pollarding, coppicing, and pleaching. Step by step photographic sequences and before and after shots provide invaluable visual clues. Drawings showing pruning locations frequently feature a silhouette that illustrates the end result of the pruning method. If you'd like to try your hand at espalier or topiary, many training methods are also addressed at length. This is no guide for the casual pruner, but if you want a reference to answer any question you will ever have about the subject, you've found your book. --Molly McElroy

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Keep Durham Beautiful: Letter from the Executive Director

We are thankful for each of you: our volunteers, partners and supporters who help to make our organization successful. Durham is a great place to live, and much of our community is both unique and beautiful. But we still have work cut out for us to obtain the resources needed to clean up and improve our community-wide appearance.

Keep Durham Beautiful is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and financial donations to accomplish our mission. Your financial contributions enable us to host more litter cleanup events, tree plantings, waste reduction efforts, and help our community become better environmental stewards.

Please consider making a year-end tax-deductible donation to Keep Durham Beautiful!
  • $10 buys ten pairs of gloves for volunteer work days
  • $20 buys 40 heavy-duty trash bags for litter collections
  • $50 buys one 6-ft tall street tree for an underserved community or school
  • $100 buys 15 litter grabbers, our most popular tools
  • $500 funds a competitive community beautification grant
Visit our donation page to support the mission of Keep Durham Beautiful in a way that is meaningful to you and your family.
Thank you for being an integral part of the solution.


Tania Dautlick
Executive Director
Keep Durham Beautiful, Inc.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Holiday Decorating at Home: The Power of the Flower

Generous foliage can lend a sense of being in a garden
to floral arrangements. Photo by James Robert Fuller for WSJ.
See full decorating steps at:
At the dining table, bear in mind that high arrangements
can cut off the flow of conversation.
Photo by James Robert Fuller for WSJ.
By Sarah Rose
ENERTAINING at the holidays is a perennial joy, but festive flower arrangements can be an annual puzzle. “It should feel effortless,” says florist Emily Thompson, who says she believes flowers aren’t just for the table and can be used in every room in the house.

Choosing one type of bloom or a dominant color to repeat through the house goes a long way toward taking the stress out of choosing flowers, says Ms. Thompson, the New York-based florist whose clients have included the White House. “There’s beauty in a feeling of coherence and continuity.”

In her floral designs, Ms. Thompson insists on using plants in season to evoke a sense of time and place. The same branches that bud in spring are laden with fruit in autumn, and locally sourced cuttings will be less expensive than hothouse blossoms that must be flown in.

In winter, garlands of evergreens easily lend themselves to repetition throughout the house. They can be placed over doorways and on mantels, as well as in wreathes and bouquets. “Evergreen lasts and lasts and smells wonderful,” she says. Pine, cedar, spices and citrus are evocative of winter holidays.

Five Things          

  • Choose a dominant color or flower to lend coherence to party bouquets.
  • Focus attention on entryway and dining-room arrangements, the most memorable spaces.
  • Think about perfumed and scented flowers, especially in the guest bathroom.
  • Locally grown flowers, branches and vines will evoke a sense of season and place.
  • Potted plants can be sent home with guests as gifts.

Think of the flowers for your party the way guests might, says Ms. Thompson. The first thing they see is the entryway arrangement; the dining table is where guests spend the most time. You will get the most blossom for your buck if you emphasize the flowers in those rooms.

In entryway arrangements, call attention to flowers with a large, dramatic display. Use branches to give the display size and be generous with foliage, to suggest the experience of being in a garden. Tucking flowers between vine leaves as if they were hidden in the undergrowth brings a sense of the wild indoors, one of Ms. Thompson’s hallmarks.

At the dining table, repeat some of the entryway flowers or colors, bearing in mind that high arrangements can cut off the flow of conversation across the table. For a long dining table, create groupings of arrangements so that every guest has a slightly different view. Ms. Thompson suggests combining cut flowers with potted plants such as homey topiaries, herbs or African violets.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Charity Bridge Games Raise Funds for Maple Court Veterans

Maple Court.
By Robin Marin, President
Town & Country Garden Club

THE BRIDGE ACADEMY and Durham-Chapel Hill Bridge Club held special "Charity Games" on November 9, 11 and 13. The games were in support of the veterans at Maple Court, a transitional housing community whose purpose is to provide affording housing and services for vets who are transitioning from being homeless to self-sufficient. The owner as well as the directors at The Bridge Academy contributed a percentage of game fees from each player that participated that week. Players brought in clothing and donations as well. 
With proceeds from the Charity Games, Maple Court administrators purchased six large office chairs for the facility.

Members of The Bridge Academy and Durham-Chapel Hill Bridge Club present a check to administrator of the Maple Court. Members of Bridge clubs include members of the Town & Country Garden Club and Homestead Heights Garden Club of Durham.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December Calendar of Triangle Gardening Programs

Making your own Holiday greenery decorations will be offered at two different times at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on Dec. 5.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St., Durham, NC.
Please call 919-668-1707 to register.

Holiday Greenery 
Dec. 5, 10-12 p.m. and 2-4 p.m.

JC Raulston Arboretum
Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, NC.
Friends of the Arboretum Lecture "Poinsettia: A 200-year Journey from Gangly Mexican Shrub to Christmas Icon"
Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.
James E. Faust, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Clemson University              
Open Studio: Exploring The Winter Garden
Dec. 5, 12 p.m.
Preston Montague, Artist and Landscape Designer 

Poinsettia Open House
Dec. 6, 1–5 p.m.

North Carolina Botanical Gardens 
100 Old Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, NC.

Dec. 4, 12-2 p.m.
Bring your lunch and join Nicolette Cagle for a discussion of Annie Dillard’s nonfiction book, 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek'. This story is a first-person point of view, detailing the narrator’s explorations of nature and life in the area of Tinker Creek in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. The book records the narrator's thoughts on solitude, writing, and religion, as well as scientific observations on the flora and fauna she encounters. No prerequisite Fee: $15 ($13 NCBG member)
Dec. 5, 2-4 p.m.
The Village Band performs a selection of pre-Christian and Christian winter carols. The Village Band was organized as a non-profit community concert band to promote classic town band music in the region, and includes about 60 members, from their teens to their 90s. Free. Pre-registration required.
Dec. 6, 2-4 p.m.
Event is Full: Accepting Wait List Registrations
December is a great time to enjoy the trees of the UNC campus. Ken Moore will trace the footsteps of well-known horticulturist William L. Hunt who enjoyed leading an annual UNC Winter Campus Tree walk. Among the impressive mature specimens of broad-leaf evergreens and conifers are an amazing collection of evergreen holly species and cultivars. In addition to relating some of Mr. Hunt’s “tree stories,” Ken will use a selection of vintage photographs to show how the campus landscape has changed during the past 100 years. Fee: $15 ($13.50 NCBG members) Limit 20.