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Sally Cunningham


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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 …

Gusto

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…

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February is orchid season for orchid lovers, and it could be for you too. First come the shows all over the country, attended by thousands. If you can travel, the New York Botanical Garden is presenting its 16th one (through April 22). If you’re getting to the Philadelphia Flower show, also see the thousands of orchids at Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square, Pa.) until March …

Gardening

Winter doldrums, the time of wishing and waiting – that’s February for most gardeners. It’s a fine time for planning and reading, but there are some practical things to do as well, both outdoors and in. First, go outside when the sun is shining. You can go do these things outside when it’s cloudy too, but a February warm-up is the time you’re most likely to put on the w…

Gardening

It may seem early for you to think or read about your lawn – or turf, as it is called in the lawn and landscape business. February is indeed too early for us to do anything about the lawn, but it’s necessary to talk about it this soon for one reason: The lawn care ads begin this month. They glamorize perfect lawns and press you to commit to product lines that are allegedly…

Gardening

Last week I attended the Tropical Plants Industry Expo in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It isn’t just for Southern gardeners. The vendors and exhibitors are mostly wholesalers (just a few retailers) including 6,000 attendees from 45 states and 34 countries. They influence and sell to stores all over the United States where most people buy plants and plant-related products. I lu…

Gardening

How quickly we forget. Only two weeks ago, there were 2 feet of snow on many of our driveways and porches. My house had a 2-by-2-foot ice dam column, roof to deck. Cars and sidewalks were buried, and people – many who shouldn’t be shoveling – put hours into uncovering them. Then it melted and typically everybody moved on and forgot the stresses (until the next time). …

Gusto

Gardeners and homeowners are asking about the effect of this deep freeze, especially if they invested in new trees and shrubs recently. I spoke with a Spectrum customer service rep in North Carolina this week (who solved my problem very well by the way) and even she was worried about her plants – just different ones. Which plants will be damaged depends upon the spec…

Gardening

We’re in the depth of winter. Extreme cold challenges people and animals. Discarded holiday trees are collecting on the roadsides. The piles of snow make pickup difficult for road crews but most towns have programs to collect the trees and turn them into mulch. If you live in a house and have a yard you have an alternative to putting the tree on the curb, and you can pr…

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A man walks into a garden center. It’s Dec. 24. He asks the sales person, “What should I get for my … ?” Here the story can go several ways. The gift could be for (a) his wife because he is late (again), (b) a dinner party, (c) his mother in the senior residence, (d) his tennis partner who gardens, or (e) his niece the new chef. He doesn’t know anything about plants, and h…

Gardening

The next two weekends are good times to buy a cut Christmas tree, preferably fresh from local farms. The Western New York Christmas Tree Farmers Association lists 17 member growers in Erie County and seven in Niagara County and surely there are others who aren’t yet members. You might consider hurrying out to a farm this year a little sooner than in the past. While a snowf…

Gusto

For at least one day colorful gourds have a prominent place at the table. They are associated with harvest. Maybe they spill from cornucopias at the Thanksgiving table or harvest dinner, or they hang on autumn wreaths on the door. These plants have history and many uses, well beyond the decorative crafts you’ll find on Pinterest. They’re all worth growing for next season, …