Thursday, November 1, 2012

Interpretation, gardening, and programs

In my trajectory as a garden educator, interpreter, and teacher, I've found a couple of basic truths. (I had a lovely experience this morning doing a program for 20 graduating Master Naturalists at the Garden).

It's not about the information, rather it's about connection.

It's about engagement, not content.

It's not about what you know, but how you teach.

And taking advantage of teachable moments, where ever they happen is key.

We saw a Cooper's Hawk today in our morning walk, probably attracted by migrants coming through the Garden. I certainly hadn't seen one in the Garden before.  It first sat on a fence rail above the Duck Pond and then swooped below one of the ginkgoes up the slope, trying to nab something beneath a Salvia clump.

We couldn't see if the hawk was successful, but s/he then perched on top of a nearby sign for awhile.

A teachable moment, for sure.  I wouldn't have known that it was a Cooper's Hawk, but a naturalist (Tim Lee) from a local state park was part of our group (he's one of the regular teachers).  He knew.  So I was able to look up more information from the field guide apps on my iPad, etc.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fall planting

I'm an answer person periodically on a call-in radio program for our university's Your Day Public Service Radio feed that goes throughout the state.  It's fun, and I'm glad to encourage gardeners of whatever knowledge level to learn more and have fun doing it.  I pitched in today as a last-minute guest for my friend and colleague, Bob Polomski (and substitute for a much more well-known gardening 'personality') - Felder Rushing, whose Mississippi radio base needed to switch their focus to Hurricane Isaac.

Today's calls were typical, from ornamentals to vegetables.

I'm always reminded (and try to encourage folks) that learning about plants is fun, and rewarding.  Before adding landscape plants, learn about them.  Vegetables, ditto.   If you've  inherited an overgrown landscape, learn about what you have and prune things back judiciously.

Talk to your extension agent, too. He/she often knows a lot about what you're interested in planting.

(This was a duplicate post from my blog, Natural Gardening).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A pileated woodpecker

Behind my office is a Southern red oak in decline.  Limbs have been trimmed and the top has already broken, although we're not inclined to take it down just yet.

My colleague pointed out to me this morning that a pileated woodpecker was busily working a cavity high up on the trunk - what a great sight.  This is a blurry image from early morning (cropped, of course!).

It's probably a feeding cavity based on my bit of research, although I'm hardly an expert on bird behavior.  Not the time of the year for a nesting cavity, certainly, and pileated woodpeckers forage in dead and dying trees in search of a favorite prey item, carpenter ants, according to All About Birds, Cornell Ornithology Lab's online field guide site.

(This is a duplicate post from Natural Gardening).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hunt Cabin Open House

The Hunt Cabin is a historical treasure located in the Botanical Garden.  Over the past year we have been opening the Cabin to the public at least one Saturday a week.  So many people have peered through the windows over the years and are delighted to have the opportunity to come inside and look around.

Our plan is to interpret life in the mid nineteenth century when there were ten inhabitants of the Cabin, and three enslaved African-Americans who lived on the property.

Age in 1850 Census
Ransom Hunt 46
Martha Hunt 47
Grandma Mary  Dalton 89
Charles Hunt 22
Harriet Hunt 18
Samuel Hunt 16
Emeline Hunt 14
William 10
Melissa/Matilda Hunt 7
Mary  Elizabeth Hunt 4

Who lived on the property
Female slave 18
Female slave 14
Male slave 1

We began in January 2012 beside a roaring fire.  People were drawn to the Cabin by the smell of wood smoke and the colorful and beautiful quilts displayed on the porches.  Jennifer Bausman a renowned local storyteller and former Garden employee joined my daughter Chloe and I dressed as costumed interpreters for the period.   Jennifer told stories, encouraged everyone to dance and as we got more used to the cabin, Jennifer started to cook over the open hearth  To date we've had popcorn, warmed apple cider, hoe cakes and yummy  beans.

One day we talked about fiber production and clothing.  Chloe demonstrates an early and rare hand cotton gin in the photo above, and a student from PRTM, Paul Nelson, took us through the stages for preparing flax for linen production.  Look for flax to be planted in front of the cabin in the Spring (I hope!) In September 2012 we will again focus on fiber production and fiber arts and give the opportunity for people to experience carding and weaving , and other such practical crafts, and learn about clothing in this period. 

Visit the Garden's calendar for more information on upcoming programs. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Vegetable transplants at the SCBG plant sale

We have a fabulous collection of native and ornamental garden plants available at the Friends Spring Plant Sale on April 20 (2:30-6 pm) and the SCBG Public Sale on April 21 (9 am-1 pm).  You can download the list here.

We'll also have an excellent selection of warm-season vegetables and herbs and will be providing advice about growing vegetables in the Upstate at our Garden Fest table.

Millionaire Hybrid (Japanese type)
Asian Trio (long purple, white, magenta)
Violet Prince

Ancho San Martin Hybrid Pepper
Corno Di Toro Mix
Corno Di Toro
Sweet Jemison (sweet Italian) OP
Sweet Abundance (sweet bell-shaped pepper) OP
New Mexico Big Jim (ancho/poblano type)
Jalapeno 'Jalafuego'

Tomato Hybrids: Beefsteak/Slicing/Salad
Big Beef VFFNTA Hybrid
Better Boy VFN hybrid
Lemon Boy VFN
Big Boy hybrid

Paste tomatoes
Super Marzano VFNT hybrid
Roma 'Pompeii'
Principe Borghese (OP)

Cherry tomatoes
Super Sweet 100
Sun Gold Hybrid
Sweet Million FNT Hybrid

Chianti Rose
Brandywine Tomato
Cherokee Purple
German Giant
Pink Brandywine
Black Cherry
Hawaiian Pineapple

Verde Puebla

Parsley (Italian)
Parsley (Italian 'Gigante')
Parsley (Moss curled)
Basil (Italian pesto)
Basil (Profumo di Genova)
Thai Lemon Basil
Stevia (sweetener herb)
Bulbing Fennel 'Trieste'

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring nights

I'd scheduled a spring full moon hike for April 6, not realizing that it was Good Friday (so maybe not such a good time for Christian observers), but then again, it may be a lovely evening to connect with nature and spirit.

A previous (almost) full moon
The warm season in the Southern U.S. --spring, summer, and fall-- is magical with night sounds.  Insects and frogs (of many species) are the primary players in the nocturnal symphony, with birds punctuating the transition from dusk to dark, and perhaps some of the night flying birds (such as owls) will be calling out.

The exceptionally warm winter and early spring means that the nocturnal symphony is playing earlier than normal.  Enjoy!

(This is a duplicate post from my blog, Natural Gardening).  Here's a link to previous posts about night sounds, with some excellent resource links. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Spring wildflowers

If you have a chance to visit the Garden, you'll find spring definitely well along.

I've made a number of posts about early spring wildflowers on my blog, Natural Gardening, over the last couple of weeks (here's one about Hepatica) from late February). 

Some of my colleagues have posted on the Garden's Facebook page about sightings of Oconee Bell, Hepatica, and others.

This last week has seen flowers of bloodroot and trout lily, among many other early-flowering species from around the world.

Here's a trout lily blooming today in the Woodland Wildflower Garden.

Erythronium americanum (Trout lily)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

American beech

American beech trees are a ghostly presence in winter.  Their leaves persist until expansion of new buds pushes them off in early spring.

Shade-tolerant, young beeches became established and persist as saplings in the understory of mixed hardwood forests in the Piedmont of the Southeastern U.S., and maybe elsewhere, too.

beeches near the old sawmill in the Schoenike Arboretum, SC Botanical Garden
In a mild winter, other hardwood species retain their leaves, too.  Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana), also known as musclewood or American hornbeam, is a beech look-alike in winter guise this year along the stream near Crucible, apart from the distinctive long buds signifying beech.

There are a lot more beech saplings in the understory today than were present five years ago -- it's something I've noticed particularly this winter.

I'm thinking that the easing of the decade-long drought might have encouraged a 'cohort' of establishment (first seedlings and now saplings) in the understory of our mixed hardwood forests, where seed-producing beeches were nearby. 

This is evident both in woodland/forest areas near the Meditation Garden, as well as beyond the powerline corridor, where the photo (above) was taken (adjacent to the beech grove).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hunt Cabin Open House

Starting in February we are opening the Hunt Cabin once a month.  These are pictures from our first event.
We had about 60 guests over the course of the time (10 am to 2 pm) and we had fun eating popcorn cooked on the fire and drinking apple cider warmed on the hearth.  There was dancing, storytelling and playing  fun (and historically appropriate) games.
Our next open houses are
March 10th, 10 am to 2 pm
Open hearth cooking with Wayne Link
Secrets of cabin construction
April 14th, 10 am to 2 pm
What to wear? Cloth and clothing in the 19th C upcountry
May 5th, 10 am to 2 pm

Ready for visitors

Games to play

A roaring fire of welcome!
Wintery Outside

Pam Kline - lovely spinning

Playing Graces.

Storyteller Jennifer Bausman

Boy Scouts playing

Learning to write with a dip fountain pen

Tessa and Helen (l to r)

Tessa - an English Sheepdog

Learning to play the washboard

Visiting with Pam and learning about the past

More stories

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Early flowering and phenology

" Phenology is derived from the Greek word phaino , meaning to show or appear. Phenology refers to recurring plant and animal life cycle stages, such as leafing and flowering, maturation of agricultural plants, emergence of insects, and migration of birds.  It is also the study of these recurring plant and animal life cycle stages, especially their timing and relationships with weather and climate."
~ USA National Phenology network.

Roundleaf Hepatica

Oconee Bells

First emerging Mayapple
Phenology has been on my mind this week as we have enjoyed several days over 70 degrees fahrenheit.  It seemed unseasonably warm for late January as I shed my jacket and rolled up my sleeves looking for signs of Spring.  Early in the week I learned the USDA had changed the plant hardiness zone map to reflect data collected over a period of 30 years, more sophisticated mapping techniques and the warming trends we have experienced over the past few years. (  Clemson has moved from zone 7B to 8A, a zone that,until this new map was issued, belonged to South Carolinians living below Columbia. I wondered what might be happening in the garden in the beginning of February, in light of this shift in our designated climate zone.
In the Woodland Wildflower Garden I  discovered life was stirring already, perhaps three weeks earlier that I expected (although I have never kept written records).  There were several signs of spring: Hepatica, Violets and Oconee Bells in flower.  In front of Crucible, after a somewhat intense search, I discovered an emerging MayApple.  I love this plant, just for the way it unfurls like a beautiful glossy green umbrella.  I have never kept phenological records, but perhaps this might be an interesting and valuable project for Garden visitors.  The US National Phenology Network is monitoring many species of plants and animals and would welcome the efforts of citizen scientists to gather data visit their website for more information.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A excited Ruby-crowned Kinglet

A very excited Ruby-crowned Kinglet attacking his reflection in my car mirror this morning.

A brown thrasher - so beautiful!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Robin flocks

It's been busy at the hollies over the last few days.

Large numbers of robins (200+) have been devouring the berries on the row of Ilex opaca cultivar hollies above the education building at the garden where I work. They visit the hollies, collect berries, then retreat nearby to eat them, then repeat.

This morning, in rain, before I began a program, the circuit from holly to perching trees nearby  (in this case, large Cryptomeria and Southern Magnolia) was in full swing.  Their continuous melodic murmurs were more than evident outside, but at a lower level from inside the building.
a robin eating fruit (from a royalty-free photo used in The Nature of Clemson)
The year-round vegetable gardening class participants were fascinated, and we peered outside for a bit before we started the class. 

By the end of the morning, the flock had moved to the lower row of hollies (also Ilex opaca cultivars) below the nature center (the lower level of the building), presumably finished with the upper row after 4 days of feasting.
(This is a duplicate post from Natural Gardening).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Red shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered hawk near Discovery Center
Red-shouldered hawk

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Winter: A great time to watch birds

English Robin
Winter is a wonderful time to watch birds. The leaves are off the trees which makes observation much easier (especially for this novice). Everyday this week I have been able to see a large red shouldered hawk puffed up, sitting in the oak trees behind my office in the Botanical Garden. He or she also make a great deal of noise as they watch the other birds and squirrels.
Every time I drive to and from my office n the Garden a mixed flock of birds fly up from the meadow. Recently my attention was captured by a bird with a bright white rump heading up into the trees from the meadow. Once it alighted in the woodland edge, it perched like a woodpecker. I saw this several times in a row, and eventually tried to figure out the identity of this intriguing creature. I asked myself "What kind of bird would be on the ground and then perch like a woodpecker?" Research (consultation with the Garden's Interim Director, Patrick McMillan) revealed that this bird was, in fact,a woodpecker, a Northern Flicker. Further research at Cornell's All About Birds website explained why a woodpecker would be on the ground in the meadow. The Northern Flicker eats main ants and beetles, digging them from the ground with its curved beak. Mystery solved!

I, of course, do not have pictures of the hawk and flicker -I was driving after all (you can see them a All ABout Birds). However, I did take some pictures while I was in England over Christmas of a couple of common and cheerful British Birds: a robin, and a blue tit.
Blue Tit

Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter vegetables

Turnips and turnip greens are staples of southern vegetable gardens.

I've grown lots of kale, collard, and mustards, but hadn't grown turnips myself, but Kathy Bridges sowed some Purple Top turnip seed late last summer in the Snell Vegetable Garden next to the visitor center.

We've harvested quite a few of the greens already to contribute to our local food bank, including many of the turnips, which had sized up nicely last fall, as have the Master Gardeners in their Plant-a-Row for the Hungry in the Heirloom Vegetable garden site.

But, a number were left in the ground (supposedly, turnips 'sweeten' with frost), and this was the largest of the bunch, harvested yesterday afternoon.

Turnip on grocery bag
 Yikes, this turnip is on a LARGE grocery paper bag (not a lunch bag).  It was big.
An extra-large turnip
But amazingly, it wasn't woody, and roasted, it was quite tasty (I figured that I'd better see if it was edible before taking it over to Clemson Community Care.

Summer turnips are often fibrous and bitter, but not this one, and its greens were very tasty, too, in spite of their size.   We'll be able to harvest the rest for the food bank, after all!  And, we've also got plenty of arugula, purple mustard, and broccoli to contribute, as well.