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Spring buds are beautiful before blooming

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog tulips yellow'Suncatcher' is a pretty bi-colored tulip from Longfield Gardens that pairs well with grape hyacinths. Photos by Doug Oster

The spring garden changes daily and it's a chance to see flowers getting ready to put on a show. Sometimes they might be more beautiful before they completely open.

I love tight budded tulips, they hint at what they will look like when the sun warms them up to bloom. 'Suncatcher' and 'Moulin Rouge' are both varieties from Longfield Gardens. They both are spectacular at this point and will look wonderful when blooming too. Both of these varieties pair well with grape hyacinths.

blog moulin best'Moulin Rouge' is one of the prettiest tulips in my garden. It grow tulips in the vegetable garden behind a fence to thwart the deer.

It's been fun to watch a pink flowering crabapple grow over the last 16 years. It's right outside the kitchen window and was a scraggly little tree when we first moved in, but with yearly fertilizing it's become a healthy specimen. I even dug out a sprout a few years ago and it's blooming in the other side of the garden. For a week the buds are rose colored and when open a soft pink. I love them just before they open.

blog flowering crabapple upOne of my favorite sights from the kitchen window is the pink flowering crabapple.

This is the first year for 'Stolwijk Gold' clematis (alpine clematis). I found a couple plants at Hahn Nursery at the end of the year they were selling cheap. It's my new favorite clematis with chartreuse foliage, purple stems and blue flowers. The buds are deep purple and are set off by the leaves.

blog clematis budI'm in love with 'Stolwijk Gold' clematis.

Take a close look at the plants in your garden. Azaleas, mountain laurel, viburnums and more all put on pretty buds. Even a big hosta like 'Empress Wu' is beautiful as it emerges. The texture of the leaves in morning and afternoon light is spellbinding.

Enjoy every day in the spring garden, because tomorrow it will look different.

blog mountain lauralMountain laurel is preparing to bloom. I've lost the buds to the deer the last two seasons.

blog azalea bloomAt least these azalea buds are above the browse height for deer, they love to snack on them.

blog viburnum budsbViburnum buds are blushing pink and the deer don't prefer them.

blog empress wu'Empress Wu' is a huge leaved hosta which is beautiful at it emerges.

 

 

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Western PA Mushroom Club offers events and free walks

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog tight mushroom b1

Foraging for mushrooms needs to be done with experts, especially if you're a novice. Wild mushrooms can be dangerous and even deadly. That's why I always recommend tagging along with my friends from the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club.

Here's a list of walks and meetings with the club for the month of May 2015:

WALK:  Saturday, May 2, 12:00-4:00 PMPine Ridge County Park, Indiana County.  Morel Mushroom Walk (Joint with Indiana County Friends of the Parks).  Meet Bob Sleigh at the Pine Ridge Lodge at noon.  Bob will be giving a presentation on Morels and leading a walk. Morels are one of the most sought after and elusive mushrooms. Slides will illustrate Morels as well as poisonous look a likes. Proper cleaning, storing and cooking techniques will be covered.  Pre-registration is required at 724-463-8636.  The event is free.

 

WALK:  Saturday, May 9, 10:00 a.m.  Harrison Hills Park, Allegheny County.  Meet WPMC Identifier Joyce Gross at the Watts Overlook parking lot.  It is located at the end of the road that bears to the left after the park entrance.

 

WALK: Sunday, May 10, 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.  The Great Morel Quest II.  Meet John Plischke III at McGuffey Community Park, Claysville (Washington County) to begin the quest for morels at multiple locations.

 

WALK: Wednesday, May 13, 10:00 a.m.  Hartwood Acres.  Meet Moni Wesner at the Mansion parking lot.

 

WALK: Saturday, May 16, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Sycamore Island Spring Survey, Verona.  Join WPMC Mycologist La Monte Yarroll and the Allegheny Land Trust for a species survey of Sycamore Island. The Allegheny Cleanways pontoon boat will be shuttling participants from the Verona Public Dock (located at 101 Arch Street) to the island, starting at 10:00 a.m. To register, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 412-741-2750 x 207.  There will be a collection to pay for the boat. (Last time it was $8 per person.)

MEETING:  Tuesday, May 19, 7:00 p.m. Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve, 614 Dorseyville Road.  Topic: Mushroom Cultivation.  WPMC Mycologist Jim Tunney and friends will show WPMC members how to grow their own Oyster Mushrooms. Bring your WPMC membership card and a clean plastic shopping bag. You must be a current WPMC member to receive a mushroom kit.

WALK:  Saturday, May 23, 10:00 a.m.  Sewickley Heights Borough Park.  Meet WPMC Identifier Fluff Berger to look for morels.

WALK: Saturday, May 30, 10:00 a.m.  Hartwood Acres.  Meet WPMC member Jim Wilson at the Mansion parking lot.

Admission to all walks is free.  For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit wpamushroomclub.org.

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Join Doug on a trip of a lifetime to see the gardens of Paris

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog eiffel towerI shot this from the top of Notre Dame the last time I was in Paris. Photo by Doug Oster

I've been taking gardeners all over the world for the last two years.

London, Italy and the Netherlands were amazing places to see and experience with other gardeners.

In August I'm headed to Paris and would love for you to come along.

This is the first trip I've helped build using what I've learned from the last three.

First off, we're taking Delta's direct flight, that makes life easy. The last time I used it I got from my doorstep to my apartment in Paris in just 12 hours and that's after sitting in traffic once I got there.

We'll see Monet's Garden, the Palace and Gardens of Versailles, Luxembourg Gardens, Notre Dame and even have dinner in the Eiffel Tower. We're also going on a road trip to the Champagne Region. One of the things I've built into the trip is a day to get lost in Paris with me. It's the best way to learn a city and its culture. We're going to have fun!

It will be a small group, I never take more than 32 travelers.

Here are all the details.

 

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Kids and gardening are a great mix

Written by Doug Oster on .

I had so much fun today on Pittsburgh Today Live planting a container filled with edibles with the help of some kids. Their parents all work at KDKA and it was bring your child to work day.

Get those kids in the garden!

Here's the segment on Pittsburgh Today Live-

 

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Earth Day; 10 easy steps for you to make a difference

Written by Doug Oster on .

Earth Day 2015The earth is a pretty cool place to live. Do your part to make it last, it's easy. Photo courtesy of NASA

1. Go Organic

There's no reason to use chemicals in the garden. I've haven't sprayed anything in my garden for nearly 30 years and my garden thrives. Feed the soil, not the plant and you'll always have a great garden. Compost equals a green thumb.

When I made the switch decades ago, I read everything I could get my hands on about organic gardening. I found out EVERYONE was an organic gardener before WWII, as there were no chemical pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides.

2. Don't obsess about killing bugs

Unfortunately Madison Avenue has vilified insects. My radio partner and bug expert Jessica Walliser says this, "99 percent of insects in the garden are either good or benign." When you use a chemical pesticide, you kill the bad bug, but you also kill good bugs and soil life too. Mother Nature does a pretty good job of creating a cycle of life where good bugs control the bad. You'll always be a more successful gardener working with nature instead of against.

Dill is the number one plant to attract beneficial insects.

3. Nothing Grows Better Than Grass When It's Happy

That's why we try so hard to keep it out of our flower beds and vegetable garden. When a lawn has the correct pH and fertility the grass will outgrow anything. A soils test from the Penn State Extension Service is under $10 and will tell you everything you need to know about your soil and how to improve it.

4. Plant a Tree or Shrub

Trees are good, they take carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen, make shade and are beautiful. Flowering shrubs do the same thing.

5. Don't Panic

When there's a problem with a pest or disease in the garden figure out what's going on and target the problem specifically in a way that doesn't disrupt the balance of nature.

6. Water Smart and Mulch

"Water is our most precious resource." That's a quote from every filmstrip or video we ever saw in school and it's true. Mulch your garden to preserve moisture and keep the soil evenly moist. When we don't get enough rain, soak the plants in the morning at their base.

7. Help Pollinators and Birds

Plant lots of flowers for pollinators like bees, butterflies moths and more. Create an attractive area for birds, they eat lots of pests. Birds need some cover for staging and nesting, something to eat like sunflower seeds and water. Not only do they help you garden, birds are fun to watch.

8. Get Help

Not sure what to do when there's a problem in the garden. Every good garden center has people who will help. They also have a slew of organic solutions to solve those problems. If you're bringing in insects or a diseased plant, make sure it's in a sealed plastic bag.

9. A Small Difference is Still a Difference

Don't think you're organic garden can change things, guess again. Every step in the right direction moves us all to a better place to live.

10. We All Live Downstream

Use your big brain to make decisions which will benefit you, your family, your pets, your neighbors and the environment.

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