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Sally Cunningham


Gardening

Thousands of people have been looking at other people’s gardens this month. During at least 15 Buffalo Niagara region garden walks, the Open Gardens event, and now all around the big one – Garden Walk Buffalo July 28-29 – we hear the question: “What is that?” Some of the plants are commonly known to gardeners – hostas, daylilies and coneflowers for instance. But not all…

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We recently experienced extremely hot and humid weather, and summer had only just begun. We can expect more days like that – often called “dog days” – so let’s get ready for them. The hottest weather is rough on people and dogs, but it also kills or damages plants. Our flower baskets, vegetable beds, or home landscapes are investments, and precious to us. And we can tak…

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Buffalo is one exuberant gardening city, widely known for Garden Walk Buffalo, America’s largest garden tour, and increasingly for all the other community garden walks and open gardens. But even gardeners who decorate their porches and yards just for themselves and summer gatherings have advantages in Western New York. Our garden centers and nurseries offer fabulous flo…

Gardening

Something is missing in many garden lessons. The instructor or writer addresses “right plant, right place” and goes on about site analysis: Know your sun or shade, soil, wind, and drainage etc. and choose plants that suit that location. What’s missing: how the plant behaves over time, as it grows. Does the plant stay compact? Does it get tall and floppy? Does it form a …

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Spring came late to Western New York and then, whoosh, everything leaped from the soil. Bulbs were glorious, but all too briefly. Sudden warm spells made some of them open too far and finish too soon. Perennials have stretched so quickly that many gardeners didn’t have time to divide or thin the clusters. The grass turned green, sending homeowners to stores looking for …

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo proclaimed May 6 to 12 to be Compost Awareness Week. The proclamation (an edited version here) reads: “Whereas, the Empire State supports environmentally-friendly initiatives … such as composting … through more than 190 regulated facilities in New York State that process more than 700,000 tons of organic material; and “Whereas, organic materials mak…

Gardening

It’s April and usually that means lots of rain. “April showers bring May flowers,” indeed. In an ideal world plant roots absorb water with nutrients that travel through the plant’s vascular system and trigger production of shoots, leaves and buds. Plant roots absorb much of the rain, and the soil – replete with organic matter and microorganisms – holds the rest of the mois…

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Bulbs have been on my mind all week. Last Friday I was in Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands, where about 5 million tulips and other bulbs provide breathtaking plantings over a 70-acre park. This year’s theme: The Romance of Flowers. Five indoor pavilions provide education on tulip history and science as well as exciting plant introductions. If you love flowers, this …

Gardening

I have been just two days in the Netherlands, but how suitable that the first excursion from the river boat took us to a tulip farm. This trip on Ama Waterways will take my band of 15 travelers to visit historic villages and the city of Gouda, to learn about building a country half below sea level, and to see windmills and a spring flower show called Floralia. The trip’…

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As I patrolled my yard this week I had the feeling that St. Patrick’s Day must be soon. Yet the calendar says it’s April. In the yard and garden everything is happening slowly, which is not a bad thing. Gradual seasonal changes are ideal. We often lose some flowers and fruit when a premature warm spell causes plants to plump up their buds and then ‑ boom ‑ a deep freeze…

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As I wrote in this column last week, natural habitat is almost gone, replaced or degraded by human development and by invasive species. One direct result is an unprecedented rate of species extinction (up to 1,000 times normal rate) with implications we can barely grasp. Native insect plant-eaters are central to a complex food web (supporting birds, fish, amphibians and mo…

Gardening

Last weekend the Western New York Land Conservancy and Erie County Master Gardeners hosted the leading American spokesperson for ecological health, Douglas Tallamy. His messages are crucial for everyone, but he was speaking largely to audiences who already care about ecology and environmental issues. It’s my job to tell you about it – and your job to help me and professor …

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The 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show’s theme was “Wonders of Water.” Even if you wandered in, urged by your gardening partner, without knowing the topic, you would have figured it out: Water, water everywhere! Walking through the entrance garden was a fantasy stroll beneath a rainforest canopy. The PHS (Pennsylvania Horticultural Society) chief of shows explained, “We want…

Gardening

Did you laugh at me last Friday when my column showed bluebirds (of happiness) and little spring bulbs? It was sunny and exhilarating weather that hinted at spring – and then the snow came. That’s March in these parts. It’s normal and most Western New Yorkers know how to live with it. A late snowstorm, however, does present some danger to trees, and sometimes to people. …

Gardening

During the last month I caught myself thinking “Why do I live here?” The ice dam over the deck was beyond my control. I had to get garbage cans over the snow drifts to the road. In town I was tiptoeing to avoid slipping on ice. Windstorms were threatening old trees, and I was tired of bundling up just to go to the car. Then the darkness was creeping in long before dinne…