How’s your garden growing?

You aren’t the only one interested in when your redbud blooms or the red maples leaf out in your neighborhood. Scientists want feedback on the simple observations you make in your own yards, neighborhoods and parks throughout the year. Specifically, the USA National Phenology Network keeps track of the behavior of plants across the country as winter turns to spring, spring to summer, and so on. Phenology is the study of the changes in plants and animals in response to seasonal cycles. To become a volunteer observer, reporting data from your neck of the woods, visit www.usanpn.org and click on “Observe” for all the details. Once you set up an account, you can choose among 200 species to monitor. Project Budburst (www.windows.ucar.edu/citizen_science/budburst), another monitoring project under the NPN umbrella, welcomes individuals, students and educators to participate and has a more user-friendly online setup. Both sites allow you to keep up with what your neighbors, far and wide, are observing.

Fireside read

"Paul Green's Plant Book: An Alphabet of Flowers and Folklore" is an engaging fireside read for any Tar Heel plant lover. Green, who died in 1981, was a homegrown Harnett County playwright and professor. He collected folk wisdom of the Cape Fear Valley and documented flowers, shrubs and trees found within. Many readers will encounter well-known plants in a familiar vernacular—rabbit tobacco, heal all, dog fennel, creasy greens, maypops, poke salad and cow itch, to name a few—while newcomers will receive a delightful introduction to these native treasures. Green recounts bygone botanical remedies for human miseries and livestock ills. There's even a family recipe for persimmon beer. For this work, published in 2005, daughter Betsy Green Moyer gleaned and compiled the plant-related entries from her father's "Wordbook: An Alphabet of Reminiscence" and adorned them with her splendid, expert photography. Published by the Botanical Garden Foundation, the 144-page book is sold in the N.C. Botanical Garden's gift shop or can be ordered online at www.ncbg.unc.edu

Hort Shorts

  • Bare-root plants can be substantially cheaper than potted plants, they are easier to handle and plant, and they establish readily. Fruit trees, roses, asparagus, raspberries and strawberries are commonly offered in this form. Bare-root plants are dormant, with soil removed from roots. Buy plants as soon as shipments arrive in stores, avoiding any that already have leaves. The roots should be moist and plump, with an earthy smell.
  • The new year is a perfect time to design a wall calendar like no other. Take a photo of a plant in your garden each month and then compile them all at the end of the year for a custom calendar for the following year. A homemade calendar is a fun way to anticipate what's due to arrive in the garden each month. Photo outlets, arts and crafts stores and online sources offer convenient ways to put your art in finished form.
  • Nature journaling is a popular pastime that can encompass more than the written word. Even the most rudimentary of sketches can enhance your observations. Public gardens, arboretums and science museums frequently offer courses in botanical illustration suitable for both the budding artist and the seasoned pro. Check with nearby organizations about their upcoming calendar of events.
  • A $10 donation to the Arbor Day Foundation will net you 10 bare-root trees for your landscape. Visit www.arborday.org and click on "Become A Member." You may type in your zip code to see what trees you may choose from. Sample selections, offered in packages of 10, include "Autumn Classics," "Wild Bird Garden" and "Flowering Trees."

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