Garden Talk: Comparing This Growing Season to Last Year’s

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

On Garden Talk, Judith Siers-Poisson learns how this growing season compared to last year’s. Plus, how to plan for your best season yet.

Featured in this Show

  • Professional Gardens Can Offer Inspiration, Examples For Home Gardeners

    For those who garden at home as a hobby, it’s easy to look at gorgeous gardens that are tended by trained staff and volunteers and think one could never have something as lovely in the backyard. But, there are things home gardeners can learn and take away from professionally-tended gardens.

    Ed Lyon, director of the Allen Centennial Gardens on the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that as the only full-time person on staff for the two-and-a-half acre space with 26 distinct garden areas, he knows the challenges that the home gardener faces in making the best use of their space and keeping up with maintenance.

    Lyon said he knows that it’s easy to look at a lovely garden and then get dispirited when a person looks at their own.

    “Don’t feel bad(ly),” he said. “I think I’ve got a pretty nice garden at home myself, and then I’ll go into a garden where … it just takes your breath away. And we all joke that we want to go home and rip out our own gardens and start all over again. It happens to all of us.”

    Lyon said that some of the best advice that he can offer is what a technique that he is implementing at Allen Centennial Gardens. He has intentionally divided their larger plots into smaller parcels “that a homeowner might be more likely to utilize.”

    He continued that when a person goes into a large garden, they should ask: “How does this relate to the space that I have at home?”

    He said what looks good on a larger landscape might not scale down as well as a person might like it to at home.

    Lyon said that traditionally, he would recommend that people carry a camera and a notepad in order to both take pictures of what they like and to write down both the common and scientific names.

    “Of course, today, you can do all of that on a phone,” he said.

    He still recommends taking pictures “because you’re going to forget what inspired you.”

    And for taking notes on the names of plants, it’s even more convenient now because not only can a person write on their phone but they can now record audio notes, he said.

    Lyon cautioned that it’s easy to think that a person will remember what they saw and what it is called.

    “I can’t tell you how many times that someone will come into the Gardens, they see a plant that they really love and they ask us what it is … and I know that by the time they’ve reached the gate, they’ve forgotten,” he said.

    Another piece of advice comes from Lyon’s own experience. He shared that in the past, he tended to take a close-up photo of a plant that he liked. But often, what he enjoyed about a plant isn’t just the plant itself. It’s how it combines with the plants around it, or even the light that it’s in.

    That can lead to disappointment in the home garden, he said, because “we forget the context that it was in where we found it.”

    Now, Lyon said, in addition to the close-up photo, he steps back to take a wider show as well.

    “It might be the other colors around it, the other plants around it, the textures around it. Maybe you photographed it in shade and you planted it in sun,” he said.

    What drew a person to a plant may also be the type of mulch around it, or even the garden edging that really set it apart, and a person might want to try and duplicate that if they can. Those finishing touches are often what make the professionally-tended gardens look so well-maintained and welcoming, he said.

Episode Credits

  • Judith Siers-Poisson Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Ed Lyon Guest

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