Archive | September 2015

Great 21st Century Plantsmen

Donglin and kevin parris_2015

Donglin Zhang, Ph.D., on the left and Kevin Parris on my right.

Over my career I have had the good fortune of meeting many plantsmen and plantswomen who have made invaluable and innumerable contributions to horticulture. This morning I had the good fortune of spending an hour with two of them in the SC Botanic Garden in Clemson, SC. Dr. Donglin Zhang is the Michael A. Dirr Endowed Chair Professor for Woody Plant Instruction and Introduction at the University of Georgia in Athens. My friend, Kevin Parris, is the Horticulture Instructor/ Arboretum Director at Spartanburg Community College. Kevin is an internationally recognized magnolia breeder who has introduced a number of plants to the industry, namely Kay Parris southern magnolia, which he fondly wrote about in a Journal of the Magnolia Society International article in 2010. Here’s an excerpt:

“As time has gone by I have been pleased that “Kay” has taken a place alongside the other M.
grandiflora matriarchs such as ‘Claudia Wanna- maker’, ‘Edith Bogue’, ‘Phyllis Barrow’, and ‘Margaret Davis’. Knowing that there are real people behind the inspiration and existence of cultivated plants makes the hope of future discoveries and honorary tributes a noble endeavor in my mind. It is very difficult to describe the reward of seeing a whimsical notion come alive and make its way across the waters of this earth. In North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia, Australia, Belgium, the United Kingdom, China, Canada, Colombia, and elsewhere, people may be saying, “Who in the world is Kay Parris?” Now you know.”

We toured the Garden and admired a wide array of plants, especially the deciduous and evergreen magnolias. Gentlemen, it was an amazing experience for me. Thank you.

Turn your landscape into a “foodscape.”

Over a quarter century ago, Rosalind Creasy published The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping which popularized the concept of landscaping with edible plants: “a yard that is both productive and beautiful.” Her seminal book erased the lines that separate edibles from ornamentals and ultimately changed how Americans look at fruit trees, squash vines, and flowering herbs.

Covers Round 2_rev.indd

Paperback, 176 Pages. $24.99 paperback. ISBN: 978-1591866275 171 color photos. Published by Cool Springs Press: May 6, 2015

Many Southern gardeners embraced this concept, including the first lady of the University of South Carolina, Patricia Moore-Pastides. On a fall visit to the Columbia campus last year, I marveled at a flower bed of cool season annuals growing cheek-by-jowl with an attractive assortment of red cabbage, Swiss chard, and kale.

Following Creasy’s footsteps is Charlie Nardozzi with Foodscaping: practical and innovative ways to create an edible landscape ($24.99 paperback; ISBN: 978-1591866275; 171 color photos; Cool Springs Press, 2015). He sums up the premise of his book in the Introduction: “Foodscaping is integrating edibles into your gardens without sacrificing beauty. It’s a great way to produce food for yourself and your community and still have the beauty and functionality you want in the landscape.” Nardozzi writes with a reassuring tone and gains your trust immediately. The author makes you believe that it’s possible to grow food without sacrificing beauty.

In Chapter 1, Ways and Places to Grow Food, Nardozzi encourages us to re-imagine our front and backyards by blurring the boundaries between ornamentals and edibles. I have to admit that using edibles in foundation plantings or hedgerows seems ludicrous, but the luscious images that complement the text makes it work.

The second chapter, Foodscaping 101, is a crash course in designing with edibles, evaluating and retrofitting your landscape with edibles, and learning how to substitute ornamental plants with “foodscaping plants.” Nardozzi reminds the reader that edibles can taste as good as they look. His lists of “Foodscape varieties with interesting leaf colors” and “Foodscape plants with seasonal color interest” makes me want to venture away from the traditional backyard vegetable garden and to the front yard. If it’s a violation of subdivision covenants to integrate vegetables and herbs in my foundation plantings of coneflowers, four o’clocks, loropetalum, and milkweed, so be it.

In Chapter 3, My Favorite Foodscape Plants, Nardozzi discusses 43 of his favorite vegetables, herbs and flowers, edible annual flowers, groundcovers, berry shrubs, vines, and fruit trees that “taste great.” Despite the national scope of this book, Nardozzi reaches out to Southern gardeners. He writes about southern highbush and rabbiteye blueberry varieties in “Blueberry” and muscadines in “Grapes.” Thankfully, there’s plenty of room in the margins of each page for jotting down additional varieties and ideas for your foodscape.

Finally, when I got to the last chapter, I knew I was hooked. The author knows that as well in the first line of Chapter 4, Plant, Grow, and Harvest, “Now that you’ve gotten inspired….” Nardozzi covers the nuts-and-bolts of site selection, pre-planting, planting, pruning, watering, fertilizing, harvesting, and composting. I enjoyed his discussion of Integrated Pest Management and foodscaping, rotating vegetable families, and attracting beneficial insects with vegetables and herbs.

Nardozzi admits that his book is not the ultimate resource for foodscapers, so he provides a section on Supplies and Resources for gardeners to delve further into specific variety recommendations or cultural practices. Rounding out this 176-page book is the USDA Hardiness Zone map, Glossary, and Index.

Charlie Nardozzi’s Foodscaping will help you create an edible landscape that tastes as good as it looks.

© Bob Polomski 2015