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  • Friday, December 15, 2023 4:48 PM | EMILY LEVAN (Administrator)

    Originally published in The Garden Path, Winter 2024.  If you would like to get The Garden Path, we invite you to JOIN US as a member.

    A Winter's Sleep

    by Sue Hagan

    “To die, to sleep — to sleep, perchance to dream …”

    Hamlet was not sure what was going to happen to him if he chose death. Was there nothing — just “sleep”? Or was there life after death, perhaps in the form of bad dreams? Maybe death just held the appearance of nothingness, but was truly a step toward something new. Hamlet was not sure.

    In nature, we know that plants die. But in winter, what looks to be dead and brown is often merely sleeping and waiting to take that step to something new. Think of a day lily. The foliage has turned brown and now lies atop frozen soil, and perhaps under a layer of snow. But underneath, that bulb is waiting. It has stored the energy from last season’s sunlight that helped form the stems, leaves and flowers. All the lily needs is a nudge — some warmth and longer days — for it to awaken and reach back up through the soil.

    The maple tree’s branches, which awed us in autumn with their reds and golds, are bare now, creating a stark silhouette against the sky. But they, too, are full of life. As the leaves lost color, their energy was being reabsorbed into the twigs and branches. The energy is still there, hidden, and waiting for the springtime triggers of light and warmth to push out as new leaves.

    Life is everywhere, even if it is hard to see in the grays and browns of winter. And not only does it lie waiting in dormant plants, it’s present in those leaves and fallen trees that have truly died. They are breaking down to nourish the land and give life to new plants.

    The energy cycle continues, and the magic (or I guess, science) behind it is fascinating. It tells us when to prune, when to expect buds, and how long it will be before the plants erupt into springtime glory. And just knowing all this helps us make it through winter itself, when so much seems to be dead … but is only sleeping.

    [NOTE: See the links below for information on the energy cycle of plants, along with a guide on when to prune various plants.]

    Why Do Plants Go Dormant In The Winter?

    When To Prune - Trees, Shrubs & Vines

    Shrub Pruning Calendar

  • Tuesday, November 28, 2023 2:07 PM | EMILY LEVAN (Administrator)

    Originally published in The Garden Path, Fall 2021.  If you would like to get The Garden Path, we invite you to JOIN US as a member.

    Open the Door to Autumn Color

    by Sally Ruth

    October in Ohio is like a rotating color wheel flashing a multitude of hues that change through the 31 days of the month. Mother Nature's wheel of color is much more than an elementary school's primary, secondary, and tertiary color wheel. To the trained eye, there are leaf tinctures of yellow named: honeyed old gold, autumn gold, lurid and gamboge or camboge. There are also reds and purples like claret, scarlet, crimson, carmine, ferrous red, maroon, or russet. Orangish values may have monikers of amber, carnelian, tiger, tangerine, or squash. As leaves die, you'll see lurid, tannin, brackish sepia, tortoiseshell, peach-tinted parchment, bitter chocolate, mushroomy buff, burnished copper, and feuille-morte (French- dead leaf).

    Everyone sees color a bit differently and an autumn leaf usually shows more than one distinct color on a tree or even a leaf. Much like human skin color that changes a bit as we sun ourselves and age - the possibilities are endless. But each shade is important, beautiful, and interesting.

    Experts in autumn color are called 'Fall Color Foresters', I bet you've never heard of one. ODNR Fall Color Forester, Jamie Regula, reported via video weekly in 2020 detailing where the best fall color in Ohio for that week was and what colors you might see. There is also a chart that lists state parks, forest, or areas by Ohio region and gives a code to where in the color change cycle each location is for that date: Color Condition Key: Mostly Green - no real fall color seen. Changing - still mostly green, less than 25 percent color. Near Peak - significant color showing - anywhere from 30 to 60 percent color. Peak - peak colors - as much as 85 percent showing. Fading - fading from peak conditions, and leaves falling to forest floor.

    Why and how does spectacular autumn leaf color happen? A leaf's job is to create food for the tree. Through a process called photosynthesis, a tree takes in water and minerals from its roots and they travel to the leaves.  The leaves take in sunlight and carbon dioxide through tiny holes called stoma. These molecules, along with the chemical chlorophyll help the leaf make sugar. Chlorophyll allows the leaf to absorb sunlight in the form of red light and blue light. Green light is reflected, hence, trees have green leaves in spring and summer. Autumn brings with it shorter days signaling that winter is coming. The tree relies on stored sugar to survive. Twigs and buds are equipped to survive the freezing winter temperatures, but fragile leaves are not. The vein system in the leaf is sealed off and chlorophyll production is reduced and finally the chlorophyll breaks down. the natural pigments of the leaf begin to show: Anthocyanin (reds and purples and bronzes)begin being produced as chlorophyll is broken down. Carotene (oranges) are covered by chlorophyll, but when it is reduced, the oranges are no longer 'covered up'. Yellows get their color from xanthophyll. One type of xanthophyll is lutein which is good for eye health.

    It is time, sit out on your porch, go for a drive, and get ready for Mother Nature's intricate color wheel show.

    Vist ODNR website, or go to and search ODNR Fall Color Forecast.

  • Tuesday, November 28, 2023 1:53 PM | EMILY LEVAN (Administrator)

    Originally published in The Garden Path, Summer 2022.  If you would like to get The Garden Path, we invite you to JOIN US as a member.

    Are you from around here?

    by June Gebhardt

    "Where are you from?" or "Are you from around here?" is usually the first question asked when you first meet someone. I had the pleasure of traveling across Ohio in April and May to join many regional meetings. The people I met were sometimes local folks that lived in the area their entire lives. Other times they were transplanted from an entirely different state or region. If you want to know places to visit or the history of an area, the natives are the ones that specialize in that knowledge.

    Native plants are now the talk across most garden news. Do you know what plants are native to your area? Of course, we can't ask the plants, but we can find out before we plant something in our garden. Just as local people support the community they live in, native plants support everything around them too.

    These important plant species provide vital food for other native animals, insects, birds, and butterflies. This native plant database, will give you every native plant or tree in your area just by inserting your zip code. It shows the birds you may attract by planting from your local list.

    Native species of plants, animals, bugs, and birds thrive in an environment that they love. Let's care for our local species by planting a pot, garden, or meadow of native plants that provide crucial habitat. A green lawn supports nothing but every little bit of life that coevolved with native plants can obtain nourishment from a native species. Native plants are the ecological basis upon which life depends.

    Be sure the plants you purchase are not treated with chemicals. After you plant the food source, please do not use pesticides, herbicides, or other harmful substances on your plants. It's a death trap for those you are trying to nourish.

    "Are you from around here?" takes on a new meaning when it is applied to nature. We are all interconnected by complex systems that sustain our lives. Whether you live close to where you were born or you are a transplant, support your natural community by planting native.

  • Monday, November 27, 2023 8:06 PM | EMILY LEVAN (Administrator)

    Originally published in The Garden Path, Spring 2023.  If you would like to get The Garden Path, we invite you to JOIN US as a member.

    BRASH by Hal Mann, Wild Ones 

    There’s a growing awareness of how important native plants are not only for wildlife but for us humans as well. Consequently many are wondering how to incorporate these plants into their home landscapes without causing some eyebrow-raising skepticism by their neighbors.

    You can actually garden with native plants the same way as non-natives. You can go anywhere from extremely formal, highly maintained plantings, to wild, almost unmanaged landscapes. However, when trying to fit into a neighborhood, it's a good idea to consider the BRASH approach. This acronym coined by Bret Rappaport, an attorney and early President of Wild Ones, gives us a system to consider. (Wild Ones is a national not-for-profit conservation organization with local chapters that teach the many benefits of growing wildflowers and other native plants in your yard. As of this writing, there are over 8,000 members in 76 chapters located in 29 states.)

    Borders tell viewers the planting is purposeful, providing a sense of order. This can simply be a sharp cut edge separating the garden from the lawn, or something more elaborate like a stone wall.

    Recognize the rights of others. While we have a right to the kinds of flowers and plants we want in our yards, our neighbors have a right to grass and other plants they want on their properties. Being respectful goes a lot further than causing conflict and animosity. After all, we’d rather convert them to the benefits of natural landscaping than have them look with distaste at our ecological landscaping.

    Advertise what you’re doing. A small sign can help explain the garden is helping to save and clean water, eliminate the need for poisonous chemicals, giving pollinators what they need to thrive, and make a habitat for butterflies and birds. There are many durable signs available for this purpose.

    Start small. As enthusiastic as you might be to going “all-in,” considering developing an overall plan but implementing it in stages. This gives you a chance to learn more about the plants and start to experience the life that your planting attracts. By implementing this in small bites you’ll also be giving your neighbors time to become appreciative of your efforts.

    Humanize your garden. We tend to think of us being here, and nature over there. However, in fact, we are a part of nature. In putting some human elements in our gardens, we’re telling our neighbors and the rest of the world, we’ve made this garden on purpose. Structures like a birdbath, birdhouse, trellis, or bench, will let others know we’ve designed this landscape and put part of our personalities in it. You can read a little more about BRASH along with some other interesting natural landscaping articles in this early Wild Ones Handbook.

  • Monday, November 27, 2023 7:59 PM | EMILY LEVAN (Administrator)

    Originally published in The Garden Path, Summer 2023.  If you would like to get The Garden Path, we invite you to JOIN US as a member.

    Grow Plants, Not Skin Cancer by Marcia Lawyer (Region 7)

    Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC–most common and treatable skin cancer) Squamous and Melanoma are obviously ugly red/purple irregular patches, right?

    I’ve had BCC twice beginning January 2022 from being burned at the beach, perfecting my tan or gardening? A pencil-tip red forehead dot slowly grew, seeped, bled, scabbed and repeated. I knew it was cancer. COVID had just begun, so in April I told my Primary Care Physician (PCP) during a Telemedicine Consult. In May my doctor examined my “DOT”, but didn’t call it cancer. He also said it could be frozen off, BUT HE DIDN’T. Trusting him, I wrongly ASSUMED it wasn’t serious. Due to COVID, few doctors were doing procedures. My October check-up with my PCP labeled it cancer and contacted a dermatologist.The biopsy was BCC and in December, under local anesthesia, Mohs Surgery created a dime-sized hole and 3 ½ inch scar on my forehead.By the way, cauterized skin does NOT smell like flowers!

    Deja Vu, March 2022, small raised skin-toned bumps grew beside my nose. In May, my PCP said it wasn’t the same as 2020. Fast-forward to November 2022, my PCP again contacted a dermatologist–BCC AGAIN!

    January 2023 another Mohs resulted in a large pea-sized hole and triangular scar into my cheek, along my nose and beneath my nostril. When biopsied twice, both surgeries were very deep.

    Dermatologists say PCPs are NOT trained to recognize skin cancer. My face is bisected from my hairline to my nostril. My Mom’s PCP treated her squamous as psoriasis for a year and then she needed a skin graft! Believe me, a FEW months makes a difference from scraping/freezing to Mohs surgery. We all know someone who has or had skin cancer. Maybe ourselves.Be an Advocate.Get a Full-Body Skin Exam annually. YOU make your Dermatologist appointment ASAP. The QUICKEST I was scheduled was 7 months!

    Where are our hats? Hopefully, we are wearing sunscreen year-round. Google skin cancer-the pictures aren’t pretty and skin is the largest organ of our body. Check Dermatologists’ Websites!

  • Monday, November 27, 2023 7:55 PM | EMILY LEVAN (Administrator)

    First published in the Summer 2023 The Garden Path. If you would like to get The Garden Path, we invite you to JOIN US as a member.

    Coco Coir by Mary Lee Minor, Region 7

    Back in February while potting up paperwhite narcissus, two circular cakes of coco coir were included in the planting project. The directions were to add water. These cakes expanded to fill a 2-quart container. A moist and airy, rich and dark heap of material emerged.

    This medium brought curiosity. Our yard compost and this coir have many of the same characteristics. Both have spongy texture, expanding air spaces and the capability to hold moisture. Backyard, garden created compost breaks down rapidly in the soil. This brings a need to reapply more each growing season. Coco coir is described as lasting years in the soil.

    What really is coir? It comes from or is actually the husk fibers torn from the coconut shell. Tiny grains of coir are extracted and then pulverized becoming packageable. Coconuts go through a retting process, a curing method which naturally decomposes the husk pulp. Traditionally the husks were immersed in water for 6 months or longer. Today retting can be completed in a little over a week using modern mechanical techniques.

    Next the coconut fiber is removed from shells with steel combs in a process called defibering. Once the coir is gathered from the husk it is dried in the sunlight. This takes months and the material lies on a concrete floor, which reduces the moisture to about 18% of what it was originally. The coir is then pressed into bales, bricks, discs such as I used, or coir pots, with automated hydraulic compression. It is of course bagged as loose mulch, too.

    In reading about this coco coir I learned that it has a high lignin content. Lignin is a substance that along with cellulose forms the main makeup of woody tissue. Lignin does not break down readily. In the soil then, lignin is the secret to coir's longevity. Its life span ranges from 5 to 10 years. Coir out-performs peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite as a soil amendment. It does make you wonder why the gardening world has not marketed this coir abundantly. Does the world have a limited supply of coconuts? If so, planting more palms might be an entrepreneur's paradise. Research suggests that technology in the last few decades is making coco coir available anytime and anywhere in the world. And it is abundant. And further, coir is a disease-free growing medium which retains moisture yet never becomes wet or soggy. That makes it nearly perfect for seed starting. Coir is free of weed seeds, diseases and pathogens. It has antifungal properties. Coir has other virtues including its ability to hold seven times its weight in water, it cannot be compacted and that aeration property fosters root development; coir does not become waterlogged. Most insects will not settle into the coir. Using coir in our gardens could be a good move when you consider that peat moss comes from peat bogs which will one day be exhausted.

    Coir is a renewable resource, repurposed from coconuts. It is soilless. In the meantime it is my hope that seed starting efforts in the garage will bring high success. Without statistics right now, I recommend you find this material and make your own observations about its efficiency.

  • Saturday, December 31, 2022 10:56 PM | EMILY LEVAN (Administrator)

    The Importance of Native Plants In Your Landscape

    by Victor Wang

    It may be tempting to surround your home with exotic or show-stopping plants, but those plants come with risk and responsibility. Your landscape should complement all aspects of your home’s exterior. Using native plants has many benefits, not only for the environment but also for the time you spend working outdoors.

    Low Maintenance

    Long “to-do” lists mark our days as we balance work, family, chores, and time for ourselves. While gardening is therapeutic, you still want time to sit back and enjoy your garden. Choosing native plants for your landscaping means you’ll spend less time tending to them. Low-maintenance native options are already well adapted to the Ohio environment and soil conditions, and often need little to no extra watering. They are hardy to last through the season and usually thrive when they aren’t fussed over.

    Support Local Pollinators

    Butterflies, bees, and other Ohio pollinators are sure to visit the native areas of your yard. These vital parts of our environment help to create healthy plants and support the fragile balance of the ecosystem. Planting native options, such as goldenrod or purple coneflower, invites these pollinators to stop and stay awhile as they gather nectar.

    The natives also preserve Ohio’s biodiversity. Local birds and wildlife depend on native plants for their food source. Invasive plants often crowd out the native species, robbing the local wildlife of food and habit.

    Cut Down On Water Usage

    The Buckeye State experienced abnormally dry conditions in 2019, with 12% of the state in a moderate drought. Water conservation efforts are gaining momentum in all 50 states as more people realize the value of this natural resource. Doing your part by planting native flowers, shrubs, and trees in your yard will help cut down on the need to water.

    Less Expensive

    Gardening and yard work are great ways to beautify your home, but they also come at a cost. Choosing native plants to surround the house is a great way to save money. Native options often are cheaper than other varieties at the local garden center, thanks to their abundance in the area.

    You can also ask for starts or cuttings from neighbors or friends who have an abundance of native species. You’ll save money and add a sentimental aspect to your gardening as you remember who gave you the plant.

    Native Vs. Invasive

    An invasive plant is one that can cause economic or environmental damage in Ohio. Their natural predators often weren’t imported with them, so it’s easy for them to spread out of control. Ohio is fighting back against nature’s enemies, by banning 38 species of exotic plants. The Japanese honeysuckle, autumn olive shrubs, fig buttercup, and others that steal water from local species are now illegal to sell in Ohio. 

    You can still find plenty of intruders at your local nursery. Before buying any plant that isn’t native, ask yourself if it’s worth inviting the invasive bugs sure to come with it? Support Ohio’s first Native Plant Month in April 2020 by planting some wild geranium or black-eyed Susan.

    Victor Wang grew up in Central California, plucking tomato worms from his mother’s heirloom tomato garden, and is now a master gardener and freelance writer. His areas of expertise include landscaping, pest control and, of course, gardening.

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