What does it take ?

bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)July 5, 2011

Just wondering what's required to be considered as a gardener on this forum. Seems as though one person can talk about or show a photo or two of some fairly common, and, honestly, sometimes (not always though) boring subject, yet the responses are numerous and complimentary. Someone else may post about something more unusual and interesting, and it's barely recognized. Could it be that most folks are too nice to say something negative, or maybe that they shy away from the unfamiliar? I know that many people on this forum are friends, and have met at various gardening gatherings, which of course is really nice. But for some, myself included, it's mostly contact through this message board. And so it seems that there are very few newcomers here, and I think that it would be so nice to hear other opinions, and get some fresh points of view. Lack of new ideas leads to stagnation, and that's not very interesting.

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asarum(z6 Boston)

Bill: You are actually touching on several different subjects. All it takes to be considered a gardener here is to write in and say you are gardening.

On a forum that all gardeners can post to there will inevitably be many posts that are not particularly interesting to me, and posts that I submit may only catch the eye of a small subsection of the people who check in here. If I post a question about problems with tomatoes, I will get a big response due to large number of people who are growing tomatoes. If I post a question about why my michauxia don't overwinter, I may get no response. It could be I am the only one growing michauxia.

I don't see any need to say anything negative on a gardening forum since I assume it is all a matter of having fun. I am glad that this is not a forum with a lot of negativity.

I remember posts from you where I didn't respond due to not having any answers/knowledge. You have some some special interests and maybe are frustrated because the pool of individuals to trade info with is too small.

There have been other posts in the past that have discussed the seeming decline in the number of participants in this forum. I don't have any additional insight except that I am busier than ever at work, and until I can retire, don't have the time to participate in many of the discussions.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 1:20PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Bill, I consider anyone who grows something to be a gardener, whether it's a few containers or elaborate, mature gardens such as Idabean's or Arbo-retum's.

When I participate in forums on the Internet I try to be diplomatic and supportive. If I don't have something nice to say, I usually don't say it. I am not sure if a poster will respond well to a contradicatory or critical analysis, even if it is diplomatic and constructive?

For example, last year there was a poster on some forum who posted very elaborate and expensive design plans for foundation plantings around their home (inlcuding many shrubs and small trees). I manage property (both residential and commercial) and am not a fan of vegetation near structures. Although she had obviously invested a great deal in her plans for the home, I explained why all the elaborate foundation plantings were not necessarily a good idea, and suggested she make a bed out front for some of the plants. She disappeared and never returned to the thread! I am not sure if I offended her or what?

Actually, I was noticing that there were quite a few new posters to the forum this Spring...

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 2:40PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Then apparently it's just that there really aren't that many readers of this forum overall, and anything that is even slightly "specialized" probably won't evoke much, if any, interest. Too bad in a way because this could be such a great venue for not only exchange of information about some of the commonly grown and the tried and true plants, but also for stimulating interest in new and different ideas as well. In the positive side, I do think that this forum actually gets quite a bit of activity compared to some others that I've read on occasion. Some of those have not had new posts in months.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 3:22PM
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spedigrees z4VT

I don't think negative posts add anything to the quality of a forum, esp on a topic as subjective as gardening.

Although Terrene, I wouldn't think that mentioning some possible problems with shrubbery next to a house, such as roots damaging the foundation or house siding, would really qualify as negative, especially since the poster was still in the planning stages and the shrubs were not yet in the ground. That person may have had any number of reasons for not returning to the forum totally unrelated to anyone's response to her post.

There are plenty of flowers I don't like the look of, so I just comment on those that I do like, or on the aspects of a garden that appeal to me, while keeping silent about design aspects I don't care for. If I do post a favorable comment, you can be assured I mean what I write. When I do express a dislike of a particular plant or style of garden design, it's only in a general way, never a response to someone's photo of their own garden.

I've found this forum extremely informative over the years, although I visit somewhat sporadically. Pests that plague our garden plants, for instance, and best methods for dealing with them. Also I've purchased several varieties of plants because I was introduced to them via photos on this group. It's very helpful to have a group that is just about gardening in New England.

As I understand it, to be a member of this forum, one need only to garden here in New England. There may be other forums devoted soley to exotic or unusual garden plants, but I don't think this is it.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 5:21PM
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whitegarden(Z5 MA)

bill, there are all kinds of forums on Garden Web on more specialized topics. I go to other forums for interests like "white gardens" (obviously), hostas, clematis ... Maybe one of your special interests is covered. As for "negative" posts, I dont shy away from giving constructive critcism if someone is asking for input. I never believe in blowing smoke up anyone's ...

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 6:49PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I also visit other forums for topics that I'm especially interested in. The vegetable forum and the organic gardening forum is usually hopping with activity and I was amazed recently when I asked a question and got 40 responses in one day. On the other hand, some forums have very little activity. I posted to the Vines forum weeks ago and still haven't got a response.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 5:02AM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

Bill, I sympathize; but one forum can't handle all subjects. I remember reading (with interest) your accounts of the spring flooding of your place and what you did about it. You've made many postings worth reading, thinking about and replying to.

It's good to think of the New England gardening forum as our neighborhood. I had hoped from more activity in Coastal New England but it's not happening. I'm a reader (and occasional poster) in New England, Antique Roses, Vegetables, Alliums, Fruit Trees, Tomatoes, Greenhouses (oh if I had one!), landscape design, and a few others. It's as if New England is my neighborhood, and specific plants or problems are my clubs I visit.

You wouldn't get friendly only with your next-door neighbors, would you? You'd also have friends across town and down Rt. 95 too.

So, tell us: how's your garden going this year?


    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 9:43AM
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Sometimes it takes a little shaking the tree....Once or twice I've posted there are hardly any answers, so I've re-posted with something like "anyone out there?" If there's very few answers, it is often vacation season or a holiday week. And then there are cycles of activity, people leaving and newbies being too shy to post, and lurkers who love us but will never make themselves known.

I was a little surprised at your note, because I had the impression you'd gotten a fair number of responses to your posts and seemed very "integrated" into the community. I'm almost positive I remember your photos from last year, which is saying a lot considering I can't remember my own kids' names sometimes.

Did something in particular irk or frustrate you? What were/are you looking for that you haven't gotten from GW, or at least the NE Forum? I am being nosey here, so of course you don't have to answer, but do you feel excluded by the off line friendships developed over time through chat and swaps?

I don't want make a big deal out of your post, but there seems to me to be an undertone of unhappiness and I'm trying to figure out if we have unintentionally appeared less than welcoming. I sure don't want that. I love new people. I especially love having them within throwing distance of all my extra plants.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 2:29PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

There was no negative intent for my original post, just wondered about the response level, or lack thereof. As for going to forums about exotic items, that would be defined by one's location. A lemon tree in New England might be exotic, but not in California. As far as that goes, many, if not most, of the plants that we grow in our gardens have origins in exotic locations.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 3:10PM
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I, personally, didn't think you were being particularly negative about the forum but it did seem something wasn't satisfying (I see that as very different from "negative.") I too have felt dissatisfied with every forum at one time or another. No subject of interest, missing former intelligent and provocative participants, a tone of voice that consistently irritates me. I don't take myself too, too seriously.

Summer can have slow periods. People are in the garden until 9 pm, on vacation, having relatives visit. But most of us are still alive and kicking, just kicking something else for a while.

Glad you pursued this topic, Bill. I found it helpful.

Marie /Idabean

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 11:42PM
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Hi Bill,

I used to hang out all of the time on the shrubs forum (I was obsessed with fragrant, flowering shrubs) and sometimes here on the New England forum. Then for a couple of years I was off the Garden Web completely for a variety of reasons (--one being Lyme disease. Both my husband and I got it multiple times --and it was a nightmare.) But now I'm creating new beds and found myself missing the forums. When I posted here I did get the feeling that many here are friends who have known each other for years, but I also felt very welcomed. I've been really quite impressed by how responsive and helpful everyone is.

As to people's tastes... I once read that there are two kinds of gardeners. You're either a garden designer or a plant collector. I'm sure that's too simplistic, but it struck a chord with me. I'm definitely the latter. I never prune anything. And it shows. And for me it's really about what conditions the plant needs, not what plant looks good with other plants. I envy those gardeners (some are here on this forum) who instinctively understand good design. What fascinates me are the individual plants. I want to know how they grow, how they bloom, how they smell... I get obsessed with odd, not particularly showy, plants (Lewisia, Trillium, Gaultheria...), but then see someone's garden pictures bursting with delphiniums and roses and lilies all working so beautifully together. I really do envy how effortlessly some gardeners seem to accomplish this. I've been working on two shade gardens and trying really hard to plan ahead for a good effect, instead of plunking plants down haphazardly. I'm trying to learn by example from the garden designers.

So, I guess my point is... do you think you fall more into the plant collector category? And maybe others forum members don't have any experience with the plants you're asking about? (Though, like Idabean, I thought you did get quite a few responses to your posts and were quite well integrated into the community. To me, as a relative newcomer, you seemed to have many friends on this forum.)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 11:08AM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

I would say that I would fall into both categories you mention equally. I do like to try some unusual items, but they have to fit into a (hopefully) pleasing garden scene.

I don't really expect to find friends here, but it certainly isn't outside the realm of possibility, and of course it's always nice to feel welcomed. The post wasn't about me, but more of an observation as to why gardeners, in general, don't seem to be interested in anything a little different. How else do we expand our knowledge? It's a good thing our ancestors showed interest in strange, exotic or unusual plants, because today we'd have a far smaller variety of things in our gardens! After all most of what we are growing today as commonplace and well-known good ol' dependable staples of the garden backbone have originated in far-away lands!

I just landscaped an entire city lot next to, but a level above, the house, after having a beautiful stone retaining wall constructed. It's a forty by one hundred foot area. And I have included some dependable and much used things, such as dogwoods, flowering cherry, rhododendron (but one is a yellow which is kind of different), azaleas, mugo and Japanese black pines, grasses, liriope, euonymus and knockout roses, to name some. But I've also added variegated anise (ilicium), variegated leucothe "rainbow", salix Hakuro-nishiki which is a japanese willow that's variegated with pink stems, among others. I also created a rock garden, with large boulders which separates the new upper garden from my lawn area at the house level. I've got an assortment of succulents and other rock and alpine plants. So there are some unusual things there. My flower beds have some really nice coleus and nasturtiums, but then I've also planted two Roscoeas and an Himalayan poppy. These last two are perennials. Out front of the house where it faces south and is in full, blazing sun, I've created a xeric garden with Yucca, cacti, lewisia, delosperma, coreopsis, lavender, and many succulents, as well as one gorgeous lithodora that had the most beautiful blue display this past spring!

So, I guess what I'm saying is, my taste may be slightly eclectic, but I mainly include the tried-and-true. On the other hand, my camellias are certainly considered unusual by most New England gardeners, but for me, since they've been performing for well over ten years, they are in the same category as all the standard stuff we all grow. So there it would seem that what may have started as an experiment with something different has become another plant that we could all be enjoying. But of course we seldom see camellias around town! Just makes me wonder. Maybe if some garden "expert" gave a lecture on growing Camellias in New England, it would be all the rage, and that speaker would get all kinds of praise for breaking barriers. I just mention Camellias as one example, but there are other things of course. My point then is that if we took a bit more interest in the unfamiliar, we may be surprised by what we can add to our garden splendor and enjoyment! So...........there you have it.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 5:42PM
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It's too bad that somewhere there wasn't a format for attempting to make new gardening friends. Any suggestions?


    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 6:36PM
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triciae(Zone 7 Coastal SE CT)

Bill, my name is Tricia. I used to be a regular here on New England Gardening but serious health issues have sidelined me for the past 3-4 years. I live in Mystic, CT, Z7(a). This year, I'm reading the Forum again & this post intriques me.

I am like you in that I enjoy the tried & true favorites but also can't resist growing something different than my neighbors. This year, I've started a windmill palm. It just makes me smile to envision a 10' palm tree in Mystic. :) The palm 'should' do well. As per the instructions received with the plant we started it in a 10" pot for it's first season. It's a little guy - about 2' with 5 fronds. I will winter it inside our sunroom this year but it goes permanently in the garden come next May. My thought was that starting with a small plant would allow for better adaption...hope I'm right. :)

I'm very interested in camelias. I notice you are in Z6(b) but I don't know exactly where you're located.

From purely a cold hardiness standpoint it would seem if you can grow camelias...so can I. But, I'm concerned about wind. We're right on the water, actually we're practically "in" the water. :) We live on a small penninsula with about a dozen homes jutting into Mystic Harbor so have water on 3 sides & are at 7' elevation. Fisher Island & Mason's Island give us some wind protection but it's still my largest gardening challenge.

My rhoddies & evergreen azaleas seem to have the constitutions of musk ox so they are fine fully exposed to the winds. But, camelias?? How much wind are yours exposed to? Do you winter protect? My health won't allow for a lot of fall fussing such as building A-frames as wind blocks. Our soil is acidic & very high in organic matter since all beds were created with the lasagna method & we top dress every spring with 6" of 50/50 leaf mold & manure as mulch. The beds hold water well. Well enough that I can't grow lavender or rosemary except in pots (the pots overwinter fine though). Also, where did you get your camelias? Are they a particular strain developed for colder zones?

Would love some more info on those camelias.

Another fairly new interest is container gardening. Not just summer annuals. We've discovered that we can grow most all trees, shrubs, perennials in pots & they overwinter just fine. Some are in their 6th season living in their little pot. I especially enjoy roses in pots. They are so useful to move around the gardens when a fresh hit of color is needed somewhere.

Anyway, more on those camelias, please.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 8:10AM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Hi Tricia,

One of my camellias is a very hardy fall blooming variety called "Snow Flurry". I think it will do fine in your area. The others are two spring blooming types of the "April" series. I have "April Dawn" and "April Blush". I got the "Snow Flurry" from Camforest Nursery online. I got "April Blush" at a local nursery who had ordered it in error I think, since they haven't had any since. I got "April Dawn" at Logee's in Danielson. I would suggest looking at Camforest nursery's website, as they offer many camellias for zone 6 and above.

I'm sure they will have no problem with cold in your area, and if you think wind might be an issue (drying winds can be a problem), then I would say a simple protection scheme if four sticks in the ground and a surround of burlap would be more than enough. I don't give mine any protection, but they are planted along a south facing wall and fence.

I also bought a windmill palm this year. It's about 4 1/2 feet tall from soil to leaf tip. It's in a pot and I will winter it over in the basement by a sunny window. I want to monitor temps in my unheated garage this coming winter, and it may be the solution for future years. I don't think I would ever try it in the ground because it will need an elaborate protection scheme I am sure.

Good luck with your efforts!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 7:00PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

I'm located in Providence. Forgot that detail in the previous post!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 9:28PM
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triciae(Zone 7 Coastal SE CT)


Thanks for the response. There will be camelias & palm trees in Mystic next year! :)

What fun I'll have deciding on our first camelia. DH said he'll do the post/burlap thing for a few seasons to get it off to a good start although, eventually, it'll probably have to adapt.

I just came in from the gardens. Gosh, I love the gardening season in New England. This year, for my BD, I received a very large hanging pitcher plant. The pitchers are a foot long & about 2-3" across. It's hanging from a coconut fiber 25' line under a CO blue spruce. Our grandkids are here for a visit this week & they're having mucho fun feeding ants & skeeters to the plant! :)

Thanks again.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 2:37PM
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Hi Bill,

That is a very nice collection of plants you've got there. I've been longing for a Camellia 'Winter's Rose' (Ackerman) but need to site it carefully. No strong Winter winds and no early morning Winter sun. I've also had Illicium on my (many) lists, many times, though it never made the cut. I'm still hoping to try one --because I want to know how the leaves smell, and want to see those interesting flowers. But I don't have that many options for sheltered sites for barely hardy broad-leaved evergreens. I have to choose carefully.

Thanks for listing your Camellias; I'll look them up.

Do your Lewisia come back every year? This is the first time I've had one over-winter and I'm wondering if it will still be there next Spring. I recently read that they should be treated as annuals, but I don't intend to buy them every year.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 10:49AM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Hi Leslie,

My Lewisia was planted last year around June. It bloomed beautifully this spring and it's growing side 'pups' now. It went through it's first winter fine. So it's too soon to say how well it will do long term. The "April" series of Camellias are quite hardy as far as the plants, but they can get bud damage in a very cold winter or cold early spring, especially if the buds have started to swell. Fall blooming types may also be of interest to you, since you don't have as much risk of bud loss. I can tell you that "Snow Flurry" made it through that horribly cold winter of January 2004 (3 weeks below freezing and several nights below zero, including a -6 degrees F here in Providence!). It had absolutely no damage! It's evergreen, of course, and it does tend to spread and flop over a bit compared to other types. The medium-sized informal flowers can fall apart fairly quickly, but they are snow white, and the plant is covered with them, so it's well worth growing. Mine is about 3 feet tall and spreads about 5 feet. I keep it this size with fairly heavy pruning in winter or very early spring. It's a strong grower so it takes pruning no problem.

Actually, a couple of my Camellias do get early morning sun and some afternoon shade. Another two are just the opposite, and one is in full sun. I'd say give some of them a try. Camellia Forest has some small plants that aren't too expensive, and they have a great variety of cold hardy types. I'd say take a glance at the gardening books, but don't take everything as absolute truth. I have a Jasminum officinale that's been growing for ten years. According to the experts it should have died nine years ago! Luckily, the plants can't read books!

Good luck and go for it and enjoy. Worst case scenario, a plant dies. Well yeah like that's never happened to any of us!

Happy gardening!


    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 12:12PM
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Thanks, Bill,

Because you got me thinking of Camellias again, I already checked Camellia Forest this morning (grin). Maybe this Fall... Winter's Rose is a dwarf (3' x 3')--so easier to protect from icy winds, and it's hardy to Zone 6A. I'll check out the Spring blooming camellias too.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 2:59PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Hi Leslie,
I would suggest ordering and planting in spring though. This will give the plants a whole season to get established. If you must order in fall, it might be best to pot them and keep in a cool to cold area (basement or garage?) over winter, and plant out in spring. I'm not sure where in RI you are located, but I don't think these plants are as fragile as you might think. Unless they are exposed to really strong winds, such as may be formed as a wind tunnel between buildings, etc. they should be OK. Maybe burlap around some sticks for the first winter until they get going.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 4:19PM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

How about some photos of your new garden I would love to see a landscape that unlike my own that the visitor doesn't need a machete to walk through it.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 7:57AM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

I would like to post photos, but I need to organize and resize some of them. Then I need to find the easiest way to post them. The construction has only ended a couple of weeks ago and had been going on since March, then we got the blast of the heat wave, so I'm just getting settled a bit. I will try to post soon.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 12:07PM
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I love this forum. I think I may have said this before in regard to a general discussion of blogs/forums, but although I like to see people's gardens in other parts of the country with very different climates from ours, I am most drawn to people's gardens which are in a similar climate. It is like a gardening community which I do not have in my neighborhood.

I read here most every day, even if I don't post. And I think the praising and supporting comments are mostly about pictures we post. I LOVE to see everyone else's gardens -- I don't have a white garden, but I love whitegarden's photos. I love to see Claire's garden and her fantastic pictures of the birds in her yard. Thyme2dig has a magnificent garden -- how can we not offer compliments? And when I see beautiful pics, I want to gush -- just as if I were with that person in his/her garden. Ooohing and ahhing. A picture is worth a thousand words, and who here has time for a thousand words? So maybe we just acknowlege that person with a short compliment. We're gardeners -- we like to be appreciative of another gardener's efforts, even if it is not what we would have done.

I am often on the cottage gardens forum, where there are people from all over the country -- people in the south don't have peonies (poor things), but I have so much zone envy when I see roses which aren't cut out for a zone 5 winter. I think there is a huge amount of appreciation for each other there too. People on the forums are my gardening community. Of course we support each other. One very good reason to come here.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 6:46PM
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