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Flowers

Flowers from a boxwood hedge. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

When botanists speak of flowering plants, many people think of really showy plants such as rhodies or Kwanzan cherries or Montauk daisies. But most of the plants we commonly grow are all flowering plants; it is just the flowers are really tiny, sometimes so tiny we hardly notice them — really inconspicuous. Nonflowering plants include ferns (reproduce by spores), conifers (cones) and moss (spores).

Oak trees

Like many flowering plants, the oak has separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Note that this is true of squash. Some flowering plants, like holly and gingko, have male flowers on one plant and female on another. To get those beautiful red berries on holly, you must have at least one male plant in the area. And, some flowering plants have male and female organs in the same flower, like tomatoes. Now, back to the oak tree. There are hundreds of species of oak trees. The long-lived tree is a symbol of strength.

In 2004, the oak was adopted as America’s national tree following a vote hosted by the Arbor Day Foundation. Oak trees do extremely well in Long Island’s acidic soil so grow here natively. Oak trees produce male flowers known as catkins, a string of tiny flowers hanging off the branches, before the leaves appear, usually in April. People allergic to oak pollen soon begin to have symptoms. The female flowers, which are incredibly tiny, come out after that. They are so small, notes the University of Tennessee Extension Service that they “require a magnifying glass for identification.” Then, the fruit of the flowers, that is the acorns, form developing over the summer and falling to the ground in fall. Very few acorns survive to sprout since they serve as food for wildlife. Unprocessed, acorns are rich in tannic acid and are not edible by humans. They can be processed and made edible, however. I once had acorn cookies, made by an expert. To my taste, they were dry and not very tasty, but definitely edible.

Dogwood

Looking at dogwood, the white (or pink) flowers we see are actually not flowers but modified leaves known as bracts. The flowers are the really tiny yellow centers. This is also true of poinsettias. The showy red petals are not petals at all but modified leaves. A hint, when selecting poinsettias, look for ones with the yellow centers (the flowers) still tightly closed. Ones that are open and spreading pollen are more mature and won’t last as long in the house.

Boxwood

Another plant that has really tiny flowers is the boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) hedge. The cold hardy, evergreen varieties are native to Europe.

According to the American Boxwood Society, the first planting of boxwood in the Americas was on Long Island’s own Shelter Island at Sylvester Manor in 1653. Boxwood plants are usually used as hedge plants due to how easily they can be pruned to keep them at a given size. Without pruning they can easily reach 15 or more feet. Because boxwood are usually pruned to a given height or shape, we rarely see the flowers that develop in June. Boxwood are so easy to prune, that very overgrown and woody hedges can be cut back almost to the ground, usually a foot or so, and they will grow and fill in nicely, rejuvenating them. The society notes that they do best in a soil pH that is only mildly acidic (6.5 to 7.2) through neutral to mildly alkaline. Despite this, it’s been my observation that boxwood planted near me do extremely well in any soil pH.

Although boxwood can be propagated from stem cuttings, I’ve had a number seed themselves on my property despite the fact that I’ve planted none. For more information on boxwood, go to The American Boxwood Society at www.boxwoodsociety.org. Many other trees and shrubs have very inconspicuous flowers including that of the maple (which sheds its seed pods, the “helicopters” or “whirlybirds” that seem to be everywhere) and mulberry. A really strange flower is that of the fig tree — the figs actually form around the flower so you virtually never see the flower itself. How’s that for tiny?

Next week, not only inconspicuous but unwanted flowers on common plants will be the topic.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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Fungus on dead tree stumps helps to break down the dead wood, returning the nutrients to the soil. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

One of the things that a gardener needs to do is to identify fungi on plants and take appropriate steps to control the fungi (if possible) if it is detrimental to the plant. But not all fungi will kill plants. Some just make the plant look bad. And some actually are beneficial.

In the past, I’ve had several trees which didn’t survive because of fungus. My beautiful mimosa trees died due to a fungus (mimosa wilt) which could not be stopped at the time. Leaves turned yellow in midsummer and dropped. The tree never sprouted the following growing season. The trees literally died within a few weeks.

A rust killed a mountain ash I had. I was really disappointed, and missed the beautiful orange berries the tree bore and which persisted on the tree well into winter. Mountain ash is a native of North America and has white flowers in spring.

Cedar apple rust can also be found on trees on Long Island. It particularly attacks cedar, apple and crabapple trees. The fruiting body develops as a brownish growth on the tree. Then orange tentacles emerge from the growth. The rust is not fatal to the tree but definitely unsightly, almost looking like something out of a sci-fi movie. Remove the growth making sure to sterilize gardening tools afterwards, so as not to spread the pathogen to other trees.

Orange ‘tentacles’ emerge from the cedar apple rust fungus. Photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden
Orange ‘tentacles’ emerge from the cedar apple rust fungus. Photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden

Now for some generalities on fungal diseases and their prevention:

First of all, weak plants are more prone to getting a fungal disease than strong ones. So, make sure you feed and water your plants appropriately.

Plants that are crowded with no air circulation are also more prone to fungal diseases.

It’s better to water plants at ground level, especially in the evening, so leaves don’t stay wet overnight. A drip irrigation system works well sending water to the roots and not the leaves.

Look for fungus-resistant plants such as rust resistant apple and crabapple trees, tomatoes which are resistant to tomato blight, roses resistant to black spot, etc. The tomato blight, for example, will prevent you from getting a decent crop of tomatoes. So this one definitely falls in the bad category.

Know that some trees are prone to the fungal disease anthracnose, but generally it is more unsightly, than dangerous. Maples and catalpas in particular develop it in humid weather. The leaves look like they are covered with a white power. Unless the tree is very old and weak it will usually survive with no treatment at all. So, this is a case of ugly, but not really dangerous. When anthracnose develops on the native dogwood (Cornus florida), however, it is much more serious. This is why some recommend planting other varieties of dogwood.

Replace plants that are prone to fungal diseases with those with similar attributes but which don’t contract certain diseases. For example, impatiens in recent years have been attacked by a fungus. They are annuals that do well and bring color to shady areas. Instead, plant coleus which are also annuals that do well and bring color to shady areas but are not prone to fungal diseases.

If you see a fungus growing on a live tree, check out that tree carefully. Usually large fungi only grow on dead or dying trees. I missed this important sign a number of years ago. An enormous section of one of my maple trees broke off the tree and landed across the street. An arborist gave me the bad news that my tree was dying and needed to be removed. I now check periodically to see if any large fungi are growing on my trees.

Now for the good: Some edible fungi, such as chicken fungi (Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus), grow on dead or dying trees or tree stumps. Be very careful here, as most fungi are not safe to eat. Make sure you check this out with an expert. Also, fungi with large, visible fruiting bodies help to break down dead wood, i.e., the cycle of nature, returning nutrients to the soil. Toad stools growing in the grass help to break down organic matter as well.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

‘Lily,’ Oil on Linen Board, by Daniel van Benthuysen of Huntington

By Talia Amorosano

On the sunny afternoon of Saturday, June 18, in conjunction with the beginning of summer, the juried art exhibition, Of a Botanical Nature, organized by the Smithtown Township Arts Council, opened at the Mills Pond House in St. James. For the first time this year, the general public was afforded the opportunity to immerse themselves in a gallery full of art representative of the intricacies of local and nonlocal flora. 

‘Camellia,’ Watercolor, by Lynn Kinsella of Brookhaven
‘Camellia,’ Watercolor, by Lynn Kinsella of Brookhaven

The exhibit, which will run through July 20, features 60 works of art from 49 artists, 22 of whom hail from various nonlocal areas of the country including Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas and California. The remaining 27 represent the Long Island and New York City area. 

The artists
Mark Attebery
Ross Barbera *
Arthur Bernstein *
Stephen Brucker
Carol Ceraso *
Lisa Conway
Caryn Coville *
Debra Crawford
Audry Deal-McEver
Granville C. Fairchild *
Margaret Farr
Beverly Fink
Ingrid Finnan
Kathy Folino
Elizabeth Fusco *
Janice Marie Gabriel *
Kristine Gaier
Kelsey Gallagher
Vivian Gattuso *
Maureen Ginipro *
Patricia Greenberg
Stella Grove
Jillian Hauck *
Katherine Hiscox *
Kathleen Hollan
David Jaycox Jr. *
Lynn Kinsela *
Amanda Lebel
Katherine Lechler *
Madeline Lovallo
Patricia Luppino *
Louis R. Mangieri *
Lucy Martin
Kelly McLeod
Gary Mulnix
Lois Perlman
Pat Proniewski
Judith Scillia
Irene Paquette Tetrault *
Monica Ray *
Lynne Rivellese *
Robert Roehrig *
Alisa Shea *
Gisela Skoglund *
Gunter Stern *
Susan Tango *
Daniel van Benthuysen *
Camille Warmington
Sharon Way-Howard *
*Long Island artists

The works that appear in the show were chosen by Juror Wendy Hollender, a botanical artist, illustrator and author who currently instructs botanical drawing classes at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. An accomplished illustrator, her work has been published in The New York Times and Good Housekeeping magazine and exhibited at the Royal Botanical Gardens in the UK and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. 

Regarding Hollender’s selection process, the executive director of STAC, Allison Cruz, said, “She really picked a broad range of artwork based in reality. She was looking more for realism, but she did take a couple of pieces that are more abstract.” Accordingly, Hollender awarded first and second place to artists whose works exemplify a command of a photorealistic style of portraying traditionally botanical subjects: respectively, Colorado-based artist Patricia Greenberg for her pencil drawing, “The Flower Loves the Rain,” and New York City-based artist Ingrid Finnan for her color illustration, “Blue Hubbard Squash.” These two artists will go on to participate in a winner’s show next year,  which will also be held at the Mills Pond House.

Honorable mentions were awarded to Margaret Farr for various botanical illustrations, Gary Mulnix for a larger-than-life wooden sculptural representation of “Lupine” and Lois Perlman for a richly saturated color illustration of a “Parrot Tulip.”

‘Cactus Flower,’ Oil on Canvas, by Louis R. Mangieri of Mount Sinai
‘Cactus Flower,’ Oil on Canvas, by Louis R. Mangieri of Mount Sinai

According to Cruz, this exhibit features a particularly wide range of artistic mediums. In addition to two-dimensional works in watercolor, acrylic, oil, wash on paper and colored pencil, the show includes six three-dimensional sculptural works made of bronze, black walnut wood, glass mosaic, steel and clay, among other materials.

Subject matter depicted ranges from close-up, scientific-looking views of individual flowers or plants with monochromatic backgrounds (Kelly McLeod’s “Wilted Alstroemeria,” Kathleen Hollan’s “Autumn Leaves”), to still life images of staged indoor plants (Katherine Hiscox’s “From the Garden,” Granville C. Fairchild’s “Reaching to Heaven”), to garden landscapes (Pat Proniewski’s “Morning Azaleas,” Carol Ceraso’s “Spring Affair”), to abstract representations of natural subjects (Lisa Conway’s “Grey Swan,” Arthur Bernstein’s “Sprout”).

However, all of the pieces in some way reflect the organic spontaneity of life in the natural world within the ordered structures of scientific classification, together forming a show that fosters an appreciation for the small examples of natural beauty that often go unnoticed in our day-to-day lives.

Cruz said, “There are a lot of watercolors by the nature of most of the flower illustrations, but it really is a broad range … I have everything in this show except photography and digital art. It’s a beautiful mix of media.”

The Smithtown Township Arts Council will present Of a Botanical Nature at the Mills Pond Gallery, 660 Route 25A, St. James through July 20. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. (closed July 3). Admission is free. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.stacarts.org.

‘Dahlia Sunrise,’ Transparent Watercolor, by Alisa Shea of Northport is on view at STAC’s Of a Botanical Nature exhibit
‘Dahlia Sunrise,’ Transparent Watercolor, by Alisa Shea of Northport is on view at STAC’s Of a Botanical Nature exhibit

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A healthy crape myrtle in full bloom. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

There’s an old saying, “to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” When the weather turned cold last autumn, I believed in tomorrow, that is, next spring, and believed that my plants going dormant would grow again as the weather warmed.

Well, going outside this spring, and looking at my plants with their new little green buds, I was particularly concerned that my beautiful crape myrtle showed no signs of life. As time went by, it became obvious that the plant didn’t survive. Although associated with the southern part of the country, the variety I planted was supposed to be cold hardy on Long Island, as it was rated for U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 6 and Long Island is zone 7. In addition, it had survived the previous two extremely cold winters — remember the polar vortex? So, why did it die?

The most likely answer is cold damage. I had noticed last summer that the plant didn’t look as healthy as it had in previous years. When temperatures drop below 10 degrees for any length of time, crape myrtle tends to die back down to the ground. By mid-May the plant should have begun sprouting, at least from the ground, but, it’s been a cool spring, so it’s possible that the recovery was just slow. As the warm weather really arrived, however, it still showed no signs of growth. That means that the roots died and the plant needed to be replaced.

To replace crape myrtle with more cold-tolerant varieties, there are some which are cold tolerant to zone 5. Consider:

— Pure white: ‘Natchez,’ which reaches 18 feet, or ‘Kiowa,’ which is considerably smaller at six to eight feet

— Deep red: ‘Okmulgee’ at eight feet; ‘Cherokee’ also at eight feet; ‘Tonto’ at just six to eight feet

— Lavender: ‘Zuni’ at 10 feet tall; ‘Blue Lavender’ at 16 feet; ‘Catawba,’ darkest violet purple; and ‘Apalachee, 20 feet, a pale lavender

— Watermelon or coral: ‘Tuskegee’ reaches 25 feet; ‘Miami’ also at 25 feet; ‘Comanche’ at 16 feet

— Pink: ‘Choctaw at 20 feet; ‘Hopi’ at just 8 feet tall

A close up of crape myrtle flowers. Photo by Ellen Barcel
A close up of crape myrtle flowers. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Note that the maximum heights indicated above refer to plants that have not died back to the ground over the winter. A crape myrtle that has the potential to reach 20 feet, will only do so if the top part of the tree doesn’t suffer from winter-kill.

Crape myrtle bloom in mid to late summer with a stunning array of flowers. Some varieties are bushier and some more tree-like. Once established they can tolerate some drought, but prefer a warm, humid climate. You’ll get the most flowers if planted in full sun. They do well in most soil types but prefer slightly acidic soil. Prune your crape myrtle in spring, removing any dead branches. Also remove succors during the growing season if they develop on tree-like plants. Some develop fungal diseases (powdery mildew or leaf spot). If yours develops any of these diseases, use an appropriate fungicide. The problem of root rot is usually not anything to be concerned about with our sandy soil, which easily drains.

Winter-kill affects many other plants, particularly Hydrangea macrophylla, which frequently die back to the ground in a very cold winter. The older varieties produce flowers on old wood; so if yours has died back to the ground, you’ll have lots of green leaves in summer but no flowers. When replacing old H. macrophylla, look for reblooming hydrangeas like ‘Endless Summer,’ which blooms on both old and new wood.

In a future column, we’ll take a look at other reasons why plants die unexpectedly. So, where am I off to now? A local nursery to replace my crape myrtle.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

Plant a row of beans every week or two to prolong bearing time. Photo from All-America Selections

By Ellen Barcel

Well, Mother’s Day has come and gone, a heads up that it’s time to start planting your more tender veggies. Plants that fall under this category include corn, tomatoes, certain herbs, beans, squash and melons.

Corn does well on Long Island, if you have enough room. You need enough plants so that they can pollinate the ears. For the home gardener, plant the corn in a square format. Ears grown on the edge of the square may not fully pollinate.

Tomatoes

Just about every gardener puts in a few tomato plants. When selecting plants put in several that are very early bearers, like Early Girl and Early Cascade (at approximately 55 days or so, you should have tomatoes by July) some that come in at a later time and some that bear fruit in late summer. Better Boy and Big Girl produce fruit in about 70 days — by the end of July. Beefstake tomatoes come in even later but are definitely worth the wait.

How soon you get tomatoes depends on how big the plants are that you select. If you buy plants that already have tiny green tomatoes on them, you’ve got a head start.

Remember that tomatoes are tender plants. They will not set fruit unless the night temperature is above 50 degrees, which is why the gardener is told not to put out tomato plants until after Mother’s Day (or better yet, Memorial Day). Night temperature above 75 degrees and day temperature above 85 to 90 tend to keep fruit from setting as well since high temperatures render the pollen no longer viable. Tomatoes are self-fertile so you can even grow one of each variety and not worry about having a second plant to pollinate the first.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders so apply fertilizer. Photo from All-America Selections
Tomatoes are heavy feeders so apply fertilizer. Photo from All-America Selections

Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so make sure you either use sufficient compost or compost tea or a chemical fertilizer. Always follow manufacturer’s directions when using a chemical fertilizer. If a little is good, a lot is not necessarily better. You could burn the plants doing that.

Also remember to provide enough water for your tomato plants as well — not soggy, but evenly moist and well-drained soil is ideal. Don’t let the plants dry out.

Squash

Squash should also be planted now. There are many varieties, so consider what you and your family enjoy eating. There are two main groupings of squash, summer squash and winter squash. Summer squash are squash that are harvested in summer, when the rind is immature, soft. Summer squash include zucchini, yellow summer squash, pattypan squash and crookneck squash among others. Squash are low in calories and are great served with a tomato sauce. I steam them (sliced) in the microwave.

Squash can be grown in large containers. Since they are vining plants, they can grow up trellises or fences. They’re easy to grow in a variety of soil types and climates. They have both male and female flowers on the plant, so don’t be surprised if all of the flowers you see don’t produce fruit — the male ones just provide the pollen.

Winter squash are basically squash that are more mature than summer squash and have a hard rind that is not edible. Winter squash include butternut squash, acorn squash, hubbard squash, spaghetti squash (great served as a low-carb spaghetti replacement) and, of course, pumpkins. As with the summer squash, they are low in calories. My favorite way of preparing butternut squash is to cube it, simmer in chicken or beef broth with onions, thyme, salt and pepper and add in cooked sausage.

Green beans

It’s also time to begin planting your green beans. Don’t start beans inside as they don’t transplant well. Don’t plant them all at once, but row upon row every week or two until midsummer. This last planting should provide you with beans well into the fall. Plant them one-inch deep in full sun. Keep them evenly moist but in a well-drained area. A soil pH of 6 to 6.8 is ideal. Since this is only slightly acidic, you may need to add lime to your soil. Test your soil first.

There are basically two types of Phaseolus vulgaris, bush beans and pole beans. Pole beans need some sort of support, such as a trellis, while bush beans don’t. There are many varieties of each. In general, bush beans mature in 50 to 60 days while pole beans take 60 to 80 days. Like corn and squash, they are native to the Americas — particularly Mesoamerica and the Andes region. P. vulgaris comes in a variety of colors besides green, including purple and yellow. The yellow ones are commonly called wax beans or butter beans.

Tender herbs, like basil and cilantro as well as melons should be planted now as well.

All of these are ideal plants if you are gardening with children or grandchildren. They can check day by day to see how their plants are coming along. You may also be able to get them to eat more veggies — fresh and right out of their garden.

It is my personal preference to grow veggies and fruits organically and definitely without pesticides. If, however, you must use chemicals, read the package directions and follow them carefully. They will indicate how long before harvest you can still apply the chemicals and be safe eating the produce.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

White flowers from a catalpa tree put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

Gardens reflect the personality of the gardener. Some gardeners like to grow specific colored flowers. In the past I’ve done columns on chocolate gardens, for example, and red, white and blue patriotic gardens and even gardens filled with red-leaved plants. Suppose you want a garden filled only with white flowers, which make a stunning contrast against the dark green of leaves. If you enjoy your garden in the evening, white flowers really stand out at night while the brightly colored flowers seem to fade into obscurity as the sun sets. Here are some suggestions for a garden filled with white blooms.

Spring

Flowers that bloom in the spring are generally shrubs and trees. If you have very acidic soil, like most of us do, consider white rhododendron and white azaleas. Both generally bloom in May.

Japanese lilac put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Japanese lilac put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Cornus florida is the native dogwood on Long Island. That means that not only will you have beautiful white flowers, but, since it is a native plant, you’ll have less work to do as it’s already adapted to our summer heat and winter cold. ‘Cloud 9’ flowering dogwood is an improved version of C. florida with larger white flowers.

Cornus kousa is also a white flowering dogwood. It blooms later in spring than the C. florida and tends to be a bit more disease resistant.

Rhododendrons do extremely well on Long Island. They thrive in our acidic soil and there are a number of rhodies with white flowers. ‘Baroness H. Schroder’ is an old cultivar, white with burgundy splotches. ‘Blanka’ has pale pink buds that open up to reveal white flowers. Other varieties are white with yellow throats.

Azaleas also do extremely well on Long Island. ‘Bloom-A-Thon White,’ ‘Girard’s Pleasant White’ and ‘Delaware Valley White’ are just a few of the many white varieties available. Some primarily white varieties have flowers tinged in pink.

The advantage of both white rhodies and white azaleas is that the shrubs are evergreens, making them ideal as foundation plants or plants to create a living wall.

Other white spring flowering shrubs include bridal wreath, viburnum and some varieties of white lilacs.

Summer

Montauk daisies put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Montauk daisies put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Come summer there are a number of white flowering plants. Big showy shrubs with large white flowers include a number of hydrangeas. Snowball hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) produce large white blooms early in the season. They are the native hydrangea to North America. Oakleaf hydrangeas (H. quercifolia) are also native to North America and produce enormous white flowers. Their enormous leaves resemble those of the oak tree. The leaves of many varieties turn a deep burgundy in the fall.

Japanese white lilacs are deciduous shrubs. They bloom later in early summer, later than spring lilacs and produce clusters of delicate and fragrant white flowers.

If you’re looking for climbing plants, consider climbing hydrangeas with their delicate white flowers or moonflowers. Moonflowers are annuals, related to morning glories but they open in the evening, rather than during the day as morning glories do.

Other white flowered plants include varieties of astilbe, white geraniums and the really unique Peruvian daffodils. Consider also the white scented Nicotiana (flowering tobacco), which will provide a beautiful scent.

White roses are stunning in the garden and some will rebloom later in the season. ‘Wedding Dress’ is a ground cover rose while ‘Moonlight Melody’ is a shrub rose with single blooms. The latter blooms freely all summer long.

Fall

Peruvian daisies put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Peruvian daisies put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Fall is known for its blazing colors, trees and shrubs filled with yellow, orange and red leaves, but, fall also has some really nice white flowers. For fall, the ideal white flowering plants include Montauk daisies and some white varieties of mums.

Remember the rule of 100 when pinching back Montauk daisies and mums to make nice busy plants. You begin pinching them back when you first see little green leaves appear. Stop 100 days before expected bloom date. For both of these, that means stop around July 4th to give the plants time to form blossoms.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

Passionflower vines are a nice addition to a garden. File photo

By Ellen Barcel

Last week, we took a look at climbing plants in general and specifically annual vines. This week we’ll examine perennial vines, productive vines and vines to avoid.

Perennial vines
I love perennial plants since they’re a plant once and enjoy for many years thereafter plant. Perennial climbing or vining plants include:

Trumpet vines add some color to a garden. File photo
Trumpet vines add some color to a garden. File photo

Trumpet vines produce lots of orange colored, trumpet-shaped flowers. It needs little care but can get out of control, so be careful. It’s a vine that does well in some shade. The trumpet shape is a tip-off that it can attract hummingbirds.

Clematis is another vine that does well with some shade. There are several basic varieties, those that bloom in the spring and those that bloom later in the season. Know which one you have since this determines when you are able to prune it back if needed. The rule of thumb to control a plant’s size is to cut it back immediately after a flowering plant blooms, so as not to interfere with next year’s blooming cycle. Clematis are known for their beautiful flowers, making them ideal as decorative plants on a trellis.

Climbing hydrangeas are beautiful plants but can get very large since they grow up as well as sideways. Be prepared to prune it to the desired size and shape. It can take some shade, but the flowers appear where the sun reaches the plant. As a result, you will see lots of greenery closer to the ground and lovely white flowers up near the top. This is an ideal plant for a chimney, for example.

Native wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) is native to the eastern part of the United States. It is much less aggressive and therefore easier to control than Asian wisterias. It’s a perennial, woody plant in the pea family. Like the Asian variety, it has clusters of purple flowers and grows in hardiness zones 5 to 9. In addition to being less aggressive, its flower clusters are smaller and the overall size of the plant is smaller.

Productive vines:
If you have limited space and want your vines to do double duty, consider vines that are productive.

Cucumbers are easy to grow and generally very productive. Plant them where their tendrils can grasp onto something, like a chain-link fence, a trellis or wire support of some sort. They do need plenty of water, so don’t let the plants dry out during times of summer drought. Cucumbers are annuals, so you need to replant them each year.

Clematis can be a good addition to the garden. File photo
Clematis can be a good addition to the garden. File photo

Another productive, and perennial, vine is the grape vine. See my column of March 10 for more detailed information on growing grapes. Make sure you know how you plan to use the grape so you can select the appropriate type (table grapes, jellies, wine, etc.)

Indeterminate tomato vines keep growing throughout the growing season. They keep setting fruit as long as the weather is mild enough and can get to be very large plants. Tomatoes need plenty of sun and are heavy feeders, so make sure you fertilize periodically.

Honeyberry is a vine that produces edible fruit as does the passionflower. I particularly like the unusual purple flowers of the passionflower and would grow the plant for its flowers alone.

Vines to avoid
There are a number of climbers that are not the best to include in your garden. English ivy is one. It takes over. Many years ago I planted a few tiny plants. I’m still pulling out this terribly invasive plant. It seems to have a mind of its own. While a “vine-covered cottage” may seem charming, you will probably regret planting this one. As a result of its nature, English ivy is on the Management List.

Another is the Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). It volunteered in my garden and, before I realized it, had grown through my stockade fence, breaking it. Once I thought I had removed it, for years later, I found tiny plants springing up where the seeds had dropped. While very pretty, with its red berries that break open to reveal yellow seed pods, it’s a real pain to control. It climbs by wrapping itself around things, like your good trees, strangling them. As a result of its extreme invasive nature it’s on Suffolk County’s Do Not Sell list.

Avoid the Oriental varieties of wisteria that, although beautiful, can become invasive. File photo
Avoid the Oriental varieties of wisteria that, although beautiful, can become invasive. File photo

A third vine that is difficult to control is the Oriental (Chinese and Japanese) varieties of wisteria. This one is filled with beautiful purple racimes of flowers, so is very impressive, but, it too, takes over the garden. If you insist on planting it, make sure you are ready with the pruning shears, so you can keep it under control. It’s a quick grower, which needs little care and seems to have no natural enemies (insects or disease wise). It sends out runners along the ground so can go out as well as up. I’ve seen abandoned houses with gardens gone to weed, but the wisteria is still growing beautifully, even attaching itself to power lines. As a result, it too is on Suffolk County’s Management List — technically legal but do you really want to plant it?

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

‘The Three Graces’ by Lois Youmans will be on view at fotofoto gallery through May 28.

By Rita J. Egan

Spring is here and flowers are blooming all over the island. Yet, whether found in a garden or a vase, the beauty of a flower is fleeting, unless a photographer captures the image of a bloom. Then, not only can its beauty live eternally, but also every nuance can be seen, and the image may even inspire one to see the flower in a new way.

To celebrate the fine art of floral photography, fotofoto gallery in Huntington will present photographer Holly Gordon’s exhibit, FLORAbundance, through May 28. To complement her solo show, Floral Bouquet, with works from individual gallery artists, will be on display as well.

Gordon said that fotofoto gallery, which was founded almost 15 years ago by a group of Long Island-based photographers, is the oldest fine art photography collective gallery in the area that provides a space for professional contemporary photographers to display their work. Each month a group member has a chance to feature his or her art, and Gordon chose the month of May.

Lawrence Chatterton’s photograph, ‘Astilbe Chinensis’ will be on display at fotofoto’s latest exhibit.
Lawrence Chatterton’s photograph, ‘Astilbe Chinensis’ will be on display at fotofoto’s latest exhibit.

The photographer, who explained her work starts out as photographs but grows into something different in the digital “darkroom,” said May is the perfect time of year for her to display her floral images. Gordon said while a young mother she would plant vegetables and flowers and then take photos of her garden. “A lot of my evolution as an artist has evolved from the garden, and I thought May would be a perfect time to let my gallery space explode with the color and profusion of these wonderful blooms after a cold, gray season,” she said.

Gordon said she uses a 35mm Canon EOS 5D camera with a Tamron 28-300 zoom lens or a Sony RX1 with a fixed lens, and she varies her techniques when photographing subjects. She sometimes shoots with a shallow depth of field so the background blends in, and other times sets her camera out of focus so she can capture a more impressionistic view of what is in front of her. She said everything is manual because she feels, “it’s not the camera, it’s the person who is using the camera. I do not want a little box making decisions for me.”

At times, Gordon will take one shot in focus, and then, without moving or changing the focus or depth of field, she’ll keep taking photos. Once she has the photos on her computer, she uses Photoshop to layer them over each other and changes the opacity to make it look almost like cellophane to create an image that is recognizable yet at the same time represents her vision. Many times her photographs have been compared to a painting, which is no surprise since Gordon has a background in that art form, too.

“I’m always looking for creating my own vision, because you can set up a zillion cameras, and let the camera make all the decisions, and all you do is snap the picture, but I want to have a more personal response and reaction to what it is that I am looking at,” she said.

The photographer said she calls the paired exhibits at fotofoto The Focus Is Flowers, and the name of hers, FLORAbundance, is a play on the words floral and abundance. Gordon has 10 of her prints on display, and in Floral Bouquet 10 gallery artists are participating: Patricia Beary, Sandra Carrion, Lawrence Chatterton, Patricia Colombraro, Susan Dooley, Rosalie Frost, Andrea M. Gordon, Kristin Holcomb, Seth Kalmowitz and Lois Youmans.

Gordon said photographers will each have one piece on display in the group exhibit, and their signature styles inspired the title Floral Bouquet. “Because each artist in the gallery has his and her own unique vision, that’s why it has become a floral bouquet. That’s what’s so fascinating, and it’s absolutely wonderful, because it just shows so many different approaches to photographing flowers,” she said.

The photographer hopes that visitors to the gallery will look at flowers differently after viewing the exhibit and that serious photographers may even be inspired to share their work with art lovers at fotofoto gallery. “I hope that it expands the way they see. That they look at the world much more sensitively and as a natural work of art, and that it might inspire them to see differently when they use their camera . . . not just to rely on the technology of the camera to snap something, but to be a more active player in choosing what to take and to realize that being an artist is a rare and special gift,” she said.

‘Iris,’ a photographic print by Holly Gordon, will be on display at fotofoto’s latest exhibit.
‘Iris,’ a photographic print by Holly Gordon, will be on display at fotofoto’s latest exhibit.

Gordon said she once read something that Monet said to the effect of “look beyond the bloom.” “What I took that to mean, and maybe that’s something that I would like people to take away from seeing my work, what he was saying, ‘look beyond the bloom,’ see it for more than the fact that it’s a tulip, or a rhododendron, or a rose or a daisy,” she said. “See it as colors and shapes and patterns, and how those colors and shapes and patterns and textures play with all the other colors and patterns and textures around it. And, that’s how I view the world; I see it as art elements.”

The exhibit is the first of a number of events for Gordon in the next few months. The photographer is scheduled to display her FLORAbundance pieces at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Library from June 1 through 30 and will also present a slide show based on the artwork at the library on June 13. Another slide show with Gordon, presented by the Long Island Horticulture Society, is scheduled for Sunday, June 28, at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay.

In addition to her solo work, the photographer is currently working with watercolor painter Ward Hooper on the artistic endeavor, The Brush/Lens Project, which compares Long Island landscapes in both a photograph and painting to show how the brush and lens relate. The Long Island MacArthur Airport Gallery will host an exhibit by The Brush/Lens Project with Gordon’s photographs as well as Hooper’s paintings from July 1 through August 12.

Gordon said an artist reception at fotofoto will be held on Saturday, May 7, from 5 to 7 p.m., and the gallery will also be part of Huntington Village’s first Art Walk taking place on Saturday, May 14. “I certainly hope that people will tiptoe through the streets of Huntington and come back to fotofoto gallery because I’m going to be there, too,” she said.

FLORAbundance by Holly Gordon and Floral Bouquet by fotofoto gallery artists will run through May 28. The gallery is located at 14 W. Carver St. in Huntington and admission is free. For more information on the exhibit, visit www.fotofotogallery.org or call 631-549-0448. To discover more about Gordon’s photography, visit www.hollygordonphotographer.com.

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‘Golden Gleam’ nasturtium is beautiful and delicious. Photo from All-America Selections

By Ellen Barcel

If you have an ugly fence, a plain wall like the side of a garage or any other flat surface that you want to spruce up, consider vining or climbing plants since they grow up, rather than out. They are also great in hanging baskets, for those with limited space. There are several ways of looking at vines or climbers: annual vs. perennial is one. Another is decorative vs. productive. A third is invasive vs. noninvasive, that is, “the good guys.”

Another consideration is how the plant attaches itself (or doesn’t) to the wall or structure. For example, climbing roses don’t really climb up but grow very tall. You need plant ties to attach the canes to a trellis or other structure. We’ll take a look at a variety of vines, how they grow and what you can do with them.

Annual vines
Annual vines grow up and can be trained up a fence or wall but can also be used in hanging baskets or trailing down a retaining wall depending on the plant.

One of the most popular of annual vines is Ipomoea, a genus filled with over 500 different species and countless varieties. The most popular include the old-fashioned, traditional morning glory which twine around a support. The morning glory flowers (usually blue but there are pink, burgundy and white ones) open up in the morning and close at night while the moonflower (white) opens at night and closes by morning. These are nice mixed together. In that way you have flowers round the clock. Morning glories can reseed themselves for the next season. As a result, they are on Suffolk County’s Management list, meaning they are mildly invasive and it is recommended that they not be planted by county agencies or by homeowners near natural habitats.

Another Ipomoea is the cardinal vine (I. sloteri) which is filled with delicate, red flowers. I. butatas is the sweet potato vine, filled with green or burgundy (depending on variety) leaves. The sweet potato vine is grown primarily for its leaves, but you can occasionally find nonedible sweet potatoes in the soil in the fall. I say nonedible because you don’t know how these plants were treated (what chemicals used, etc.) before you acquired them so the potatoes should not be eaten.

Nasturtium is in the cabbage family and has edible flowers that range in color from pale yellow to bright orange. Nasturtium look beautiful trailing out of a basket, window box or over a retaining wall.

Scarlet runner beans have beautiful red flowers and provide edible beans in fall. One of the cool things you can do with these beans is to create a living tepee for children to play in. The tepee also provides shade in the hot summer for them. Take a set of light-weight poles and tie one end together and stake them in the ground in the form of a tepee. Plant the beans around the outside, leaving a space for an entrance. The beans grow quickly, filling first with the flowers and then the bean pods form.

Hanging geraniums (Pelargonium, not hardy geraniums) are beautiful in a basket. Flower colors range from white to pink and burgundy. Geraniums generally tend to be heat and drought tolerant. This doesn’t mean you can ignore them completely, but they do better in the heat of summer than others. Technically, geraniums are not annuals but are tender perennials, meaning they will die back in our area in the cold but continue to grow in greenhouses or down south, year round. Hanging geraniums will not climb up, like Ipomoea will, since they do not wrap themselves around other plants or have tendrils that wrap around other plants or supports.

Yes, the terminology here is confusing. Hardy geraniums (the genus Geranium) overwinter in our area and spread, while annual geraniums, Pelargonium, are tender perennials, growing year around in warmer climates. It is Pelargonium that are commonly sold as annuals, geraniums or zonal geraniums in our area.

Next week: perennial vines, productive vines and vines to avoid.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

Last year's second-place winner, ‘Tulip Rhapsody,’ by Steven Selles of Huntington

What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than with a Tulip Festival? The natural beauty of the historic Heckscher Park will once again serve as the backdrop for the Town of Huntington’s highly anticipated signature spring tradition this Sunday, May 1, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Amanda Camps of Medford won first place in last year’s Tulip Festival photography contest with ‘Peach Princess.’
Amanda Camps of Medford won first place in last year’s Tulip Festival photography contest with ‘Peach Princess.’

Now in its 16th year, the event was the brainchild of Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D).

“From its inception, the Huntington Tulip Festival has been a free, family-oriented, floral celebration held in Heckscher Park. There is live entertainment for all ages on the Chapin Rainbow Stage,  dozens of booths with fun activities for the kids and thousands of bright tulips planted in beds throughout the park,” said Cuthbertson in a recent email, adding “So come out, bring your camera, and enjoy the day!”

In addition to the more than 20,000 tulips to admire throughout the park, cut tulips will be offered for sale by The Flower Petaler with proceeds benefiting the Junior Welfare League of Huntington and there will be a student art exhibit on display near the Chapin Rainbow Stage.

Volunteers are needed to distribute festival programs to visitors. Any person or community group is welcome to volunteer by calling 631- 351-3099.

Photo Contest
Since its inception, Huntington’s Tulip Festival has included an annual photo contest. Entries by amateur and professional photographers will be juried to select the images most evocative of the beauty and family orientation of the festival and must be postmarked or received by July 31, 2016.  Prize-winning images will be used in festival publicity. For details, visit http://www.huntingtonny.gov/TulipFestival PhotoContest.

Entertainment schedule

‘Water for Tulips,’ last year's third-place winner by Frank O’Brien of Huntington Station
‘Water for Tulips,’ last year’s third-place winner by Frank O’Brien of Huntington Station

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Explore the Heckscher Museum. During this annual collaboration with the Town of Huntington, docents will be in the galleries beginning at 2 p.m.

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ­— Student Art Contest: Building up to the festival was an art contest for area students organized by the Huntington Arts Council.  Award-winning work will be displayed near the Rainbow Chapin Stage.

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Children’s Activity Booths — A diverse selection of free activity booths with creative, hands-on projects for children of all ages will be active in Heckscher Park throughout the festival. Design pasta necklaces, get your face painted, make a windsock, make a handprint Mother’s Day craft, get a tattoo, create a rainbow fish and much, much more.

Noon to 12:45 p.m. — Jazzy Fairy Tales with Louise Rogers on the Rainbow Chapin Stage. The show combines jazz music, storytelling and improvisational theater techniques to teach young children music, literature and social skills.

‘Resting Among the Tulips,’ Honorable Mention last year, by Mary Ruppert of Huntington
‘Resting Among the Tulips,’ Honorable Mention last year, by Mary Ruppert of Huntington

Noon to 4 p.m. — Mask making art activity at the Heckscher Museum. Children of all ages are invited to create a colorful, mixed media mask to celebrate spring and wear at the festival. Free on Museum Terrace.

1 to 1:45 p.m. — Casplash, a Caribbean splash band with Steelpanist Rudi Crichlow, on the Chapin Rainbow Stage. Casplash, a.k.a. Caribbean Splash, plays music made for dancing — from calypso, soca and reggae to pop, funk, R&B and more.  Casplash takes audience members on a fantastic musical escapade via the beautiful sounds of the steel pan, soulful singing and hot tropical rhythms. The band leads audiences in familiar dances such as the electric slide, hokey pokey, conga line and limbo; they also teach a traditional  West Indian follow-the-leader style dance called brown girl in the ring.

2 to 3 p.m. — Songs & Puppetry with Janice Buckner on the Rainbow Chapin Stage. Janice has appeared on radio and television, as well as over 4,000 schools and concert halls.  She entertains audi.ences of all ages with her voice, guitars, puppets and her knowledge of Sign Language for the Deaf.  She is noted for her voice, her creativity and the outstanding quality of her lyrics.

4 p.m. ­— Festival closes (Museum exhibits on view until 5 p.m.)