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Beautiful winter rose garden at Renzie Park

Written by Doug Oster on .

Blog renzie4A rose hangs on to its flower in the dead of winter at the Renziehausen Park Rose Garden and Arboretum in McKeesport. Photos by Doug Oster

The Renziehausen Park Rose Garden and Arboretum in McKeesport is one of Pittsburgh's hidden treasures.

It's one of the greatest collections of roses in the country, yet many locals don't even know it exists.

I visited the volunteers of the Garden Club of McKeesport recently for another story and was compelled to walk through the garden even though it was 27 degrees.

They have an unending passion for this place and embrace visitors who want to know more about this historic garden. The stone walls which surround the plants were so well built by the WPA craftsmen in the 1930's, they have never needed to be repointed.

In the garden the roses stubbornly hold on to their blooms. The frigid temperatures have taken their toll, but buds and flowers still show color. Many of the roses have pretty hips which add to the beauty in the garden.

In the butterfly garden milkweed seed pods release their progeny in front of bright orange winterberries. And 12 foot tall Coreopsis tripteris reach towards puffy white clouds.

It quiet, beautiful and something every gardener should see.

Come back again in early summer to see the spectacular show these roses put on and spread the word about a garden that should be anything but secret.

Blog rezie1An over all look of the garden which was first planted in the 1930's.

Blog renzie10Rose flowers make a spectacular show, but so do the left over hips.

Blog renzie8I love the color of these rose hips.

Blog renzie6In the butterfly garden milkweed releases its seed in front of winterberries.

Blog renzie7Tall coreopsis tripteris reach towards puffy white clouds.

Blog renzie2I wonder what color this blossom was before the cold got to it.

Blog renzie15Backlit by the low winter sun, these roses still look beautiful.

Blog renzie13One rose stands alone against the cold.

Blog renzie16These holly trees took a beating from last year's polar vortex, but have come back nicely with the help of garden volunteers.

Blog renzie11I can't wait to visit again in the early summer and see these plants in their glory.

 

 

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#SettingtheSEEN: Our Favorite Things Show!

Written by Natalie Bencivenga on .

I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday with family and friends. But now, it's time to shop 'til you drop for the upcoming holidays! Check out this week's special "Black Friday" edition of Setting the SEEN: Our Favorite Things Show! Sara and I have some great ideas for items to check off of your wish list!

Follow @NatalieBenci on Instagram and @NBSeen on Twitter to keep up with #wheresNataliePG

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Beautiful kale persists through the winter

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog kale persists'Redbor' kale provides much needed color in the winter. Photos by Doug Oster

blog tight redbor kalea

blog garden sunriseWinter sunrise reveals the beauty of the winter garden.The soft orange glow of a winter sunrise illuminates what's left in the garden.

These are the mornings I'm so glad flowering kale got planted at the end of the season. My favorite is 'Redbor.' Originally bred as a food crop, gardeners saw it's beauty and used it as an ornamental. The plant is deep purple, tree like in it's growth habit and thrives in the cold.

Often times the plants will overwinter, bringing color to the garden through spring. What happens then is amazing. Surviving plants put on cheery, little yellow flowers which are set off by the purple foliage. Once they flower and put on seed pods, the plants die.

There are lots of different types of flowering kale. The most popular only get about a foot high and come in shades of pink, purple and white. I've actually seen plants for sale this late in the season. Hahn Nursery had some and if you poke around there might be other places willing to sell them cheap. A container planted inside and then put outside near the house in a protected spot could provide color all winter.

When the starts align in my garden, the pansies live though the winter too. I've got some orange flowers surrounding the 'Redbor' in pots. Their flowers are tired right now, but still add much needed color during the off season. An extended thaw will bring them back to their former glory and if they make it to spring will start to flower in full force.

I'm lucky enough to have an unheated greenhouse and found six flats of pansies at a nursery (cheap) which will happily thrive in their until spring.

Even though most gardeners need the break that winter provides, it's nice to have a few little things to keep us going through the snow.

blog beautiful pansyThese pansies have seen better days, but will perk up during a thaw.

 

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Saving seeds from the winter garden, it's fun and easy

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog garlic chives seedsThese garlic chives have gone to seed and it's easy to see the plant is about to drop them. Photos by Doug Oster

I don't know about you, but I miss the garden already. Saving seeds is a great job this time of the year.

While walking through the flower and vegetable garden, it's easy to see that lots of plants have gone to seed. Even though it's been cold, those temperatures won't harm the seeds.

In my garden, there are garlic chives, marigolds, hostas, beans and more which will give up their seed easily.

All we are doing is mimicking nature by grabbing the seeds before the plant discards them.

There's one important thing to consider when saving seeds. There are two basic plant types, hybrid and open pollinated. Hybrid seeds might be sterile and won't produce the same plant, it reverts to a parent. OP seeds will produce something almost identical as the plant which it was saved from.

Sometimes hybrid seeds can sprout and grow something interesting. In the case of the hosta, one of those seeds could create a brand new cultivar. That's what I hope anyway. In the past, my seedlings always look identical to the plant I've saved the seeds from. But every once and a while a sport will sprout which will look completely different.

It's easy enough to see when seeds are ripe for the picking. Examine each species in an effort to harvest seeds just before the plant drops them. Seeds are living, breathing organisms, it's important they are mature. When they are, it insures the seed will have what ti needs to produce a plant next year.

Beans are an easy plant to start with. My favorite pole bean is the heirloom 'Cherokee Trail of Tears.' It was the first heirloom I ever grew, planted almost 30 years ago. I wrote a story about learning about the plant from the late Bob Janca. He started my life long obsession with heirlooms that continues today. Heirlooms can always be saved from year to year. In the case of beans, once they mature, dry and turn brown they are ready to be saved. The whole pod can be stored and then the seeds can be removed when it's time for planting.

I'll gently pick apart the hosta seed pods, dropping the black seeds into a paper bag. For other plants like garlic chives, they can be shaken into a bag or in the case of marigolds, the seed pods themselves can be saved.

Storage might be the most important aspect of seed saving besides maturity. It's imperative the seeds stay dry after being harvested.

After dropping into the paper bag, the seeds are brought inside, allowed to dry and then put into small paper envelopes.

Those envelopes are then put into a glass mason jar. Each one of my jars has silica gel in the bottom to be sure the seeds remain dry. Some gardeners use rice to absorb any moisture.

The jars are stored in the basement where they stay cool and it's dark.

Each species has different requirements for germinating. Some need a period of cold, others need it to be dark and some want light to sprout.

The hostas will be sown in late winter under lights. I'll know what I have as soon as they sprout. It's fun to tell garden visitors "those were started from seed."

I also love to give away seedlings and even the seeds to like minded gardeners.

Take a look around your garden and find some seeds to save, it's fun and you might discover the next great variety.

blog hosta seeds readyThese hosta seeds are ready to be shaken into a paper bag and saved for the winter.

blog marigold seedsmature marigold seed pods can be saved too.

blog tot seed pods'Cherokee Trail of Tears' pole bean is my favorite. These pods are ready to be picked and saved.

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Free garden books and more Sunday with Doug

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog give a wayI'm giving all of this stuff away on Sunday at 1 p.m.

I've got lots of books, bulbs and other gardening bling to giveaway Sunday. I'm presenting "Preparing the Garden for Spring (things you can do now, for your best garden ever)." I'll also be cooking with oysters all as part of Wholey's Oysterfest in the Strip at 1p.m.

Hope to see you there!

 

 

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