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Home & Garden

Gung Hoe Gardener: Time to Clean Out the Garden and Plant Bulbs PDF Print Email


Sep. 25, 2013:  September is a quiet time in the garden. You should be cleaning up plants that are finished for the season. Daylilies and hostas are the first that come to mind. 

With the dry, hot weather we have had this summer, many plants are unsightly. Use your fingers to comb through the daylilies and remove the dead leaves; in some cases there will not be much of the plant remaining--this is ok.  If your hostas are turning brown, remove the dead leaves and the flower stem or cut them down and clean up the area.

Now that this is done, pull out your bulb catalogues. I recommend John Scheepers, which can also be found online. You can plant your bulbs anytime through the end of November, as long as the ground does not freeze. 

Be creative this year. Daffodils are tried and true, but you may already have enough of these. Try alliums or Leucojum for a change. I stay away from tulips because they usually bloom only the first year, they are smaller the second year, and then they peter out and stop blooming. Deer, squirrels, and bunnies also love tulips.

When planting your bulbs, refer to the instructions that come with them for depth, and plant them in groups.  Never plant bulbs individually. Dig a hole that will accommodate five or six bulbs, not touching, add a little bone meal, cover, and wait for a surprise in the spring.

Photo by N. Bower

Mayor Marvin and Moi Appear on Martha Stewart Show with Produce in Hand PDF Print Email


Oct. 5, 2011:  On Wednesday morning, September 28, in the darkness and pouring rain, Mayor Mary Marvin and I set off on a mission.  We were to be guest participants in the audience of The Martha Stewart Show that was to air live at 10:00 am that day.

A stroke of genius, on my part, which is rare for me, came the day before, and I hired my older son, Billy, to drive us to the show and pick us up afterwards.  We set out at 7:00 am and had to stop on the way at the farmers' market on 57th and 9th in New York City to pick up our very fresh produce from the market of the farm that we were representing.

We were all to bring baskets filled with local goods, and the mayor and I were representing the Bronxville Farmers' Market (BFM) vendor Morgiewicz Produce Inc., since their farm in Orange County was devastated by Irene and they could not take a day off to sit in a TV studio.

We met Ellen Concklin, Rich Concklin's wife, from The Orchards of Concklin in Rockland County at the studio at around 8:00 am, all three of us now weighed down with produce from the two farms.

This whole adventure started when I received a phone call from the audience supervisor of the show in early September saying that one of the assistant producers from the show attends our market regularly and thinks it's the BEST market around.  So after speaking to my farmers, it was decided that the two farms and I would attend.  I then invited the mayor, since she was key to getting the market going with me 11 years ago.  Being the good sport she always is, she said she would love to go.

In the holding room before the show, the mayor had been chosen one of the very few to be a potential person to ask Martha a question at the end of the show.  As luck would have it, the next person to be asked would have been the mayor, but time ran out.  However, we were on Martha's website that day in one of only 12 pictures!

My true mission is to get the show to come to Westchester and go to a few farmers' markets and show the different types that are now in existence.  When the Bronxville Farmers' Market opened 10 years ago, there were about 4 farmers' markets in the county--now there are 40 so-called farmers' markets.  The sad aspect of the growth of the markets is that you have to search far and wide to find a true "green market," as we are.

So, hopefully some day you may see The Martha Stewart Show van at the BFM!  A word of advice--don't expect Martha to talk to you or have a photo taken with you.  Both big no-nos.  And Mary, Ellen, and I are experts at clapping, ooohing, and ahhing on cue.

Pictured here: (L to R)  Mayor Mary Marvin, Mary Liz Mulligan, and Ellen Concklin with baskets full of produce on their way to The Martha Stewart Show in the New York City fog.

Twenty-Five Local Landscapers Gather at Bronxville Village Hall on August 9 PDF Print Email


August 24, 2011:  Twenty-five landscapers from throughout southern Westchester gathered in Bronxville Village Hall on Thursday, August 9, for a meeting and a demonstration sponsored by the Bronxville Green Committee and attended by Mayor Mary Marvin.

"My client gets very angry when a few leaves blow across his lawn from a neighbor's yard," said a landscaper at the meeting.  His complaint was echoed by several of the other landscapers who appeared at the meeting.  Some of them complained that clients seem to want their lawns as pristine as a golf course.

In contrast, some landscapers outlined measures that would save time and money.  The expenditure can be significantly reduced by shredding leaves into small pieces and leaving them on lawns.  This process has come to be known colloquially, particularly in Westchester County, as "love 'em and leave 'em," and the slogan is endorsed and used by the Bronxville Green Committee, chaired by Mary Liz Mulligan.  

The process was described in detail by Tim Downey, proprietor of Aesthetic Landscape Care in Hastings.  He also replied to skeptical landscapers in the audience.  He recalled years of backbreaking labor collecting and carting off leaves and contrasted that hard labor with his present practice of shredding leaves and leaving them on the lawns, thereby alleviating the need to blow, collect, and dispose of them.  Leaves can be shredded into very small pieces by a mulching mower, a shredder/clipper, or a vacuum shredder.  This process can reduce leaf volume to one-tenth the volume of leaves that have not been shredded.

There are many advantages of shredding leaves and leaving the fine pieces on the lawns.  The cost to the village of removing leaves would be reduced, thereby reducing taxes to homeowners.  Dumping fees to the village are currently $30,000 and, when added to other costs of removal, including labor costs and the costs of equipment maintenance, gas, etc., the aggregate cost of leaf removal to the village can increase well beyond $30,000.

Shredding and retaining the leaves on lawns can also foster natural ways of avoiding environmental problems.  Fallen leaves, sometimes spread from the piles left on the streets, block drains and add to potential flooding, whereas shredded leaves left on the lawns would virtually eliminate this problem thereby contributing to flood mitigation.  In addition, the water-holding capacity of soil is increased so that more rainwater runoff is absorbed.

The shredded leaves left on lawns supply vital nutrients to the soil because the pieces break down over the winter and fertilize the grass, thereby also removing the need for chemical fertilizers.  The practice increases the biological activity of earthworms, microbes, and other beneficial soil organisms, all of which contribute to the decomposition of the shredded leaves.  A thick layer of fallen leaves that have not been shredded can smother the grass, noted Mulligan, since such leaves cannot break down as readily as shredded leaves.

Mayor Marvin said rules against seasonal use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers from June 1 to September 30 were instituted as a quality-of-life measure in response to complaints of noise and debris.  Another disadvantage of leaf blowing is that it kills the top soil by removing leaf duff, top dirt, and beneficial organisms.

Following the discussion, a leaf-mulching demonstration was carried out on the front lawn of Village Hall in the midst of a torrential downpour.  The mulching mower, which is equipped with a special blade, did its work on a heap of leaves in several minutes, and landscapers, who were huddled in a doorway to witness the operation, generally approved.

Pictured here:  Mayor Mary Marvin (L) with Mary Liz Mulligan, who organized the Bronxville Green Committee, meeting with local landscapers.

Photo by N. Bower

Nine Beautiful Gardens Displayed at Fourth Annual Bronxville Garden Tour June 11 : See Photos PDF Print Email


June 15, 2011:  Garden lovers celebrated the end of the endless winter at the Bronxville Beautification Council's fourth annual garden tour this past Saturday, June 11.

More than 100 intrepid gardening enthusiasts turned out on the cool misty day to visit the nine distinctive gardens that range in mood from relaxed wooded glades to more formal spaces with manicured hedges and lush lawns.  The event was capped off with a lovely wine and cheese reception held at the home of Si and Vicki Ford, which they so graciously opened to warm the tour attendees.

Successful gardens, like successful gardeners, all have distinct points of view.  But common themes emerge among these green spaces.  At best, they represent refuge and mirror the lives lived inside the walls of the home.  As extensions of the home, they are both welcoming and secluded--truly "rooms" with a view.  Saturday's garden tour included many such examples.

Typical of an English-style cottage garden was the Ruhanen garden on White Plains Road.  This unique home was built in 1935, and the original stone walls are still present, creating very distinct outdoor rooms and a backdrop for wild and abundant colorful plantings.  A stone fountain and statuary add to the old-world feel of this beautiful haven.  Another old-world garden was the Barr home on Governors Road, with its amazing grove of rhododendrons and laurels and seemingly ancient stately trees.

More traditional gardens included the Scioli garden on Sturgis Road, where the current owners have created a secluded park-like setting surrounding a secret extension of their home that one enters through a rose-covered archway--a true suburban retreat.  A similar retreat was displayed at the nearby Torell residence, where multiple outdoor seating areas welcomed the visitor with lovely specimens in abundance.

The three adjacent gardens along Gard Avenue were a clear demonstration of garden rooms creating extensions of the home and the evolution of the process.  Garden designer Katherine Sutton, along with her husband, Jim (the Council's vice president), have, over time, created a series of charming vignettes, all self-contained, and all different.  The effect is to make this steep hillside seem infinitely larger than it is.  A burbling waterfall seems to have sprung up from beneath the street and softens the ambient noise.  Whimsical touches abound, like twig fences, old windows, and rustic farm tools.

Next door, the Medaglias' recently begun transformation was a true lesson in the value of attention to detail in the out-of-doors through a poster display of their progress.  Further along Gard Avenue, the Wagner home had multiple water features and a lovely dining pergola.  Much of the beauty is new, and one can see how reclaiming overgrown, uneven terrain can create a soothing suburban oasis.

A different conceptual interpretation of the garden room was evident at the Jones residence on Park Avenue.  Here, a very spacious garden has been divided into distinct areas to create a feeling of intimacy.  The lush, curving lawn is surrounded by richly colored perennial beds planted by the property's owner.  Of particular architectural interest is the original 1918 fountain that has been restored in bluestone.  The Coffeys' beautiful retreat offered similar rooms and varied ways to enjoy the out-of-doors with multiple benches, a secret secluded butterfly garden, a shaded pathway under a canopy of Japanese maples, and a parterre with hidden colorful annuals to make it really pop.

Chairing the event this year was Meg Sunier, who was assisted by committee members Cathy Rodriguez (the tour founder), Sugar Generaux, Carolyn Moriarty, Cindy Tether, Cynthia Shively, Margaret Conaton, and Anne Lemberger.

Proceeds from the Bronxville Beautification Council's garden tour go to the group's efforts to preserve and maintain the natural and man-made beauty of our Village.

The Council's efforts are visible throughout Bronxville.  From hanging flower baskets to artfully planted traffic islands, the fountain at the traffic circle, and the ongoing efforts to restore the west banks of the train station, the Bronxville Beautification Council truly keeps Bronxville beautiful.

To see photos of the gardens and those attending, hit the link below:

Garden Tour Photos

Pictured here: Garden tour organizers (L to R):  Cynthia Shively, Cathy Rodriguez, Meg Sunier, and Margaret Conaton.

Photo by A. Warner; photos of the gardens in the Galas and Gatherings page by Meg Sunier.

Fourth Annual Garden Tour Sponsored by the Bronxville Beautification Council this Saturday, June 11 PDF Print Email


June 8, 2011:  The Bronxville Beautification Council (BBC) is sponsoring its Fourth Annual Garden Tour on Saturday, June 11, from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm, rain or shine.  Specific addresses will not be revealed to the public until the day of the tour.

On that day, selected Bronxville homeowners will open their exquisite private gardens for the public to visit and enjoy.  The tour will be self-guided, allowing visitors to enjoy each garden at their own pace.  The event will be capped with a wine-and-cheese reception at one of the garden homes.

The gardens were chosen by the BBC to represent an array of garden sizes, gardening styles, and innovative gardening technologies, and each ranks quite high among the village's many gardens.

The tour will start on the lawn in front of Village Hall where BBC members will hand out to ticket holders tour maps and directions to each home.

Garden Tour tickets cost $20.00.  They are available at area retailers and can also be purchased on the day of the event at the BBC desk in front of Village Hall.

For additional information, contact Carolyn Moriarty at 914-793-6918 or at CLOAKING .

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