Gardening with Children

Learn how to get children interested in gardening on this podcast episode with Anna Harrod

Episode 26: Gardening with Kids

Enjoy this delightful conversation with Anna Harrod to learn how to get children interested in gardening. Then listen to a discussion about Pests and Pathogens about Houseplants with Dede Terns-Thorpe. The episode wraps us with Joan Satterlee with some useful books about perennials (Tools of the Trade).There is something here for all ages!

Hosts: Tim Kennelty and Jean Thomas

Guest: Anna Harrod

Production Support: Linda Aydlett and Teresa Golden


Gardening with Kids: Cornell Cooperative Extension | 4-H & Youth Development ( ;

Houseplants (Pests and Pathogens with Dede Terns-Thorpe): Cornell Cooperative Extension | Houseplants ( ; IDL Factsheets | Insect Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University ; What's wrong with my plant? : Garden : University of Minnesota Extension ( ; IPM for the Home.pgmr6.5 ( ; Common Houseplant Insects & Related Pests | Home & Garden Information Center ( ; Houseplant Problems ; What You Need to Know about Reading a Pesticide Label (

Books about Perennials: (Tools of the Trade with Joan Satterlee): Essential Perennials: The Complete Reference to 2700 Perennials for the Home Garden: Clausen, Ruth Rogers, Christopher, Thomas, Detrick, Alan L.: 9781604693164: Books ; Gardening with Perennials Month by Month by Joseph Hudak ( ; Perennial All-Stars: The 150 Best Perennials for Great-Looking, Trouble-Free Gardens: Cox, Jeff: 9780875968896: Books


Welcome to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Our team's goal is to present science based information about gardening and all things nature in New York's Hudson Valley. Hosts Jean and Tim, along with team members, Teresa: and Linda, are Master Gardener Volunteers for New York's Columbia and Greene counties. So if you're interested in gardening or nature or nuggets of information about what's happening outside your door, settle in, enjoy the conversation. Whatever the season, we have something to say.

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Tim: Hi, I'm Tim Kennelty.

Jean: And I'm Jean Thomas. And welcome to another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Today our guest is Cornell Cooperative Extension's Anna Harrod and she's here to talk about gardening with kids.

Tim: Yeah, this is a great interview, I think because, first of all, Anna's lovely, but she also really talks about the kinds of projects to do with kids in terms of gardening and all the things they can learn from gardening.

Jean: And she goes into the big picture learning where children learn about nature and taking responsibility and a whole lot more things than just sticking a plant in the ground.

Tim: Yeah, it's really it's a great interview. And it's really helpful if you have kids about where you can start and what kind of projects you can do. So I'm looking forward to it.

Jean: And if you're even a little bit reluctant to go into gardening with children, listen to Anna, she is so enthused, it's contagious.

Tim: Yeah. And it's kind of like us asking questions, because we're like kids, right?

Jean: Very much. Maybe that's why she was so cool.

Tim: Yeah, that's it. That's what we liked her.

Jean: There you go. And we also have Dede and Jackie joining us...

Tim: for another episode of pests and pathogens.

Jean: They're talking about houseplants.

Tim: Yeah. There's lots and lots of pests on house plants. I have lots of pests on my house plants.

Jean: Yeah. And they're very carefully avoiding chemical fixes.

Tim: Yeah, I mean, but probably the best thing you can do is you can do prevention, you really want to make sure that your plants are healthy, they want to be you want to make sure that they've got good air circulation. But then if you do have them, they say that you should really try to avoid chemicals by doing things like insecticidal soap and spraying them with water and things like that.

Jean: Just like any other pet hands on is always better.

Tim: Yep.

Jean: And then,

Tim: and then

Jean: Joan Satterlee.

Tim: Yeah, she's gonna talk to us again about tools of the trade. And I know you're gonna like this gene, because she's talking about not some crazy technology, but books.

Jean: I love books.

Tim: Yeah, I love books too.

Jean: And, and I call them plant pornography.

Tim: She's talking about some of her favorite resources on perennials, and there are a jillion out there, but there's some great ones.

Jean: And the ones she talks about specifically are from two of my favorite publishers for gardening things. Rodale has been around for a bajillion years and Timber Press has been around for quite a while.

Tim: They have some great books.

Jean: They have the best books.

Tim: But it's the she has a book that talks about month to month, which perennial she has a book that's encyclopedic. And then she has one called Perennial All Stars, which is one of my favorites because it talks about plants that have like these certain characteristics that make them all stars in the garden.

Jean: Did I mention that I love books/

Tim: You did mention that so you're gonna really like this segment.

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Tim: Here we are, again at Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Gardening with kids is a wonderful thing to do. But it can be daunting if you think about it too much. Anna Harrod McGrew is with us today to help demystify this process. Welcome, Anna. Before we start, could you fill us in on your job title and how that makes you an expert on this topic.

Anna: Thanks for having me. Very excited to be here. I am the 4-H Natural Resources Educator, so I work primarily in 4-H but overlap a little bit with our natural resources department. I'm not sure that I'm an expert in anything, but I'm very good at finding out information and sharing that with kids.

Tim: That's half the battle.

Anna: There's an answer to every question, even if it's 'I don't know'.

Jean: Okay, I guess it's not really scary to think about gardening with kids. What I mean is it's easy to start with some seeds and somewhere to plant them. They don't lose interest for at least 45 minutes. How do you keep them engaged beyond that?

Anna: Gardening is a great activity to do with kids. because it's so hands on. And it takes that need of an educator to capture their attention. And it's built into the lesson plan, essentially. Kids, even if they initially are a little timid about dirt or insects, once they get into it, it's hard to pull them away. So gardening, whether they're, we sent one of the examples of programs that we did is a lot of kids couldn't access their gardens during the pandemic, it just wasn't allowed. So we were sending kits, we were partnering with friends of Clermont to create these gardening kits that we would then send in, and each child in the classroom would receive a kit, and had have some sort of gardening surprised, and they started to look at it as like a gift they would receive each month. But we did one that was a turnip that was locally grown, that they could carve. Because I don't know if you know this, the original jacket lantern was actually a carved turnip. We did microgreens growing and just like a little, essentially a strawberry container that had been cleaned out a little bit of soil and some seeds and a little spritz bottle that they could grow. But just individual bags, but anything you give them that they really can dig into and explore and dissect on their own, they get very excited about and so I feel like with gardening, that's one of the easiest things to teach in terms of holding kids attention, because they get right into it. And they get more and more curious as they go along. They have questions, they want to move on to the next stage. So it's actually an easy one to capture kids attention.

Tim: So if you're at home, and you're gardening with your kids, what do you think are kind of the best things to start with? Seed growing? Seeds in a milk container or out in the garden planting plants? What do you think is kind of the best way to start?

Anna: I think it depends on the space that you have. But gardening can come in all shapes and sizes, right? It can be a small plant that you have that you care for, or can be a large garden in your backyard. The easiest thing that we've done with kids maybe microgreens in terms of a guaranteed or a high rate of success. You can even use a recycled if you buy strawberries, save the container, put some soil on the bottom, sprinkle your seeds densely in the microgreens and then just kind of spritz them, close that top, allow for some airflow. And that's an easy activity. We also did paper white bulbs. That's another great, very rewarding activity to do with kids. We sent kits with to paper white bulbs into classrooms, and two containers, and then soil and rocks so they could see how they grow differently in different mediums. And then we also send some information to the teachers about research that Cornell did about stunting paper white growth. If anyone's grand paper, right? Yes, it's vodka. So if you use a one to 10 solution of vodka to water, it will keep a paperwhite much shorter, and so it won't grow as tall and flop over. So we left that through to the teachers to decide if they wanted to do with not suggesting of vodka or tequila as I've used but rubbing alcohol for the second graders you know, but for adults on the podcast, yes, tequila or vodka. Keep to pay for white short.

Tim: Never knew this. I think I was using the tequila and vodka for other things. What about you Jean?

Jean: Yeah I was wondering if you warn the teachers about the aroma? To a lot of people that smell like dead rats?

Anna: Oh, paperwhites. I don't but I enjoy the smell of paperwhites. So that might be personal preference.

Jean: Okay, since you're involved in four h in the schools, why don't you fill us in on some of the basic things that 4-H does besides gardens.

Anna: So 4-H stands for a head, heart, hands and health. And historically, it's been looked at, as my boss and I like to joke, cows and cooking. Yeah. And what's been continuous about 4-H is that it's always been hands on active learning. Our motto, one of our mottos is learned by doing. So that's always continued. But we've I wouldn't say we've moved away from agriculture, education. But instead of that being kind of the sole focus of 4-H, we've definitely moved into promoting youth development as a whole within schools, after school programs. We have a lot of STEM curriculum that we either have camps that kids can attend, national conventions kids can attend, or we have kits that we can provide to clubs in our area, to school groups. So STEM is a major piece of what we do. But kind of the four pillars are agriculture, still very much a part. But we moved into working on healthy living, civic engagement and STEM and those are kind of our four pillars right now. But that learned by doing is really that basis of 4-H.

Jean: Are you going to the Cairo Youth Fair. Have you been to that?

Anna: Yeah, this year was my first year going to the fairs. I was hired 2019 so I missed the first round of fairs. So it was nice to be able to join in this past year and you get to see all the projects that kids have worked on. Yeah, it's amazing the animals they've raised.

Tim: So it's a whole competitive thing with the animals. I know that kids win prizes at the at the Youth County Fair is there a similar element with gardening like the biggest pumpkin or tomato competition or anything like that?

Anna: they do. So they can present their projects, it's a slightly different category than their animals, the animals that they're showing at the fair, so they can present a project. And that includes both decorative pieces like floral arrangements or house plants. And they can also present any vegetables that they've grown throughout the year. So if they're really proud of their eggplants, they can present those, their peppers, their pumpkins, and then sometimes we'll have contests for the biggest pumpkin, or during 2020, when there were no fairs, we did a plant to plate contest. So they decided to grow three things that they would then cook once they were grown. And we had a lot of kids growing basil and tomatoes and then making a delicious spaghetti sauce that then they then sent photos in of. So we do try to do prizes along the way related to gardening,

Tim: And is there a connection between gardening and then I know there's a lot of forestry study here, taking the kids into the Model Forest and tell us a little bit about that.

Anna: We're trying to grow our forestry program a little bit more. And we've had a bit of a hiatus and being able to take students into the Model Forest. But beyond gardening education, I do our natural resources education. So we do have a fair amount of school groups that hopefully will return to the Model Forest. But we were just starting to do a lot of education in the Model Forest where schools would come after school, and do programs throughout the year. Or we do have our Environmental Awareness Days in the Model Forest as well, for Greene County, and those happen every fall for Greene County. And we have we tried to get all the sixth graders from all the school districts to come in 2020 We obviously weren't able to do it. We did bring it back last year, but only with one school. So we're hoping to grow that in future years.

Anna: Like a bio blitz or something very similar. Oh, great. Yeah, they scooped for macro invertebrates, though, learn about tree ID, we had a beekeeper come. Yeah, we have all sorts of amazing, amazing, talented volunteers that come and share their knowledge with the kids.

Jean: That's pretty awesome thing. Okay, are the differences in approach between urban and country schools, like the attitudes of the kids, or the novelty of fresh produce?

Anna: I haven't noticed too much of a difference. I think the main piece I've noticed is, if kids grow up growing things, if they grew up on a farm, or if they grew up with a garden, their familiarity with fresh produce, with growing things, you know, they've, they've had it around them their whole lives. And so it just is very familiar to them. And they know things naturally, and they know the process. Even if they've never thought about that process. They've seen it done so many times that they know, you know, put the soil in the pot, put this much soil in, put the seed in, you need to water it. And so I think that disconnect comes with if you work with kids that have truly never grown anything they really don't know. And they've never, they've never grown up anything from seed. And so you do have to go through every step because it's all brand new. And fresh produce I think is a noticeable difference. Anybody that grows up with a garden, it's just right there for them, versus growing up in a more urban environment where it's, you just don't have the same access to it.

Jean: Like kids with cucumbers, when they pick one off the bush, they waaaaa, it's got stuff all over it and you have to scrape off the little barbs, they have no idea that they were gonna be there.

Anna: Yeah, it's always amazing to see a kid witness a plant growing for the first time. Because I feel like this is true with adults too, that we don't always consider how something grows. Like artichokes. I remember seeing an artichoke growing for the first time and being very surprised that it's coming up in the middle of a plant on a stock. And I'd never I'd never thought about it. So I didn't have an idea in my head of how it grew. But it surprised me nonetheless when I saw it for the first time.

Tim: So we're gonna be talking soon to your coworker, Becky Palmateer. about food insecurity in the Twin Counties. Do you think teaching children about growing food can make a dent in the demand for healthier food?

Anna: I don't know that it will make a dent in the demand, but I think it instills in kids the importance of healthier food, and that it's not this unattainable thing, that they can grow it in their communities, they can grow it in their schools. And I think it will lead to greater food justice down the road that once kids have an understanding of what it takes to build a garden and work within their community and grow those vegetables. I think people will be more willing to get involved in their community and try to create opportunities to grow, fresh food to bring fresh food to their communities. And you'll see an increase in, in healthy foods within communities.

Tim: Are some of the schools doing community gardens or school gardens? And can you talk a little bit about that?

Anna: Yeah, we have a couple of really strong community gardens. We work with a lot of the schools in both Columbia and Greene counties. Not everyone has a full garden. But one great one in Greene County is EJ the elementary school in Athens. They have a fantastic garden, and Desiree Patrick, who is the lead educator on that she does a fantastic job, believe she teaches third grade, but I think other grade levels are allowed in the garden. But they'll grow last year they grew potatoes, they grew peas, they had a great strawberry patch growing, and kids are able to go into the garden and pick fresh produce and eat it. They even had a they even started seeds and then sold them as a fundraiser. So they do it, they do a fantastic job. And there are a lot of teachers out there in our schools that have really taken it take it on to create the garden, not necessarily as a part of their job, but just something that interests them and something they think their kids will get a lot out of. So that's a great example of a garden. Down the road from that the Athens library has a fantastic garden. I think that's a little bit in flux due to construction right now. So we'll see how it turns out once they finished construction. Hudson has a nice garden. But I think those are the highlight ones.

Tim: So it makes a big difference if that if the school has access for those kids to be able to in a space for those kids to be able to garden, is what you're saying,

Anna: Absolutely. Yeah, the space is a big deal. Although we can provide part of our school partners and gardening program, we can provide materials to build beds or soil to start a new garden. They just need a teacher that's really motivated to build a garden club and administrative staff who are willing to let them do it. And then we'll help them along.

Tim: Is there a kind of an age range? Do you can you start kids really young and our high school kids interested in this kind of where's this sweet spot for that?

Anna: It can be for gardening can be for all ages. It can be as simple as little kids digging the dirt looking for insects or worms or moving into high school, you can get more into the science behind growing and get deeper into you know, the pH of the soil and what can we grow here, the angle of the sun. You can really add in a lot of that STEM education. It's a great example of a teen program that's not actually in our county, but the YMCA in Kingston where I actually live in Ulster County has a great program that includes teenagers. They call it the YMCA farm, and it's a small farm/big garden, but they actually sell the produce at a local farmers market. And so that's a business opportunity as well for them. So there's all these pieces and opportunities for growth pun intended within kids gardening, that you can start them with really simple things. And there's so much potential for growth.

Tim: What do you think it adds? What do you think it does to help kids I mean, just kind of, in general, when they learn to plant a seed or have a garden or or tell us, kind of, what does it instill in them?

Anna: I love garden education, because I think at any age, even adults, when you see people plant something, I don't know what it is psychologically, but people love to plant things. They love to see things grow. And there is a connection offered. Between you and that thing growing that is so vital. And it provides I think it provides mental health stability in kids. It's almost a meditative activity to garden to grow things. It helps ground them also pun intended. Sorry, if they're too much.

Tim: No, it’s a good pun.

Anna: But I think it does help ground them. And it gives them this hands on activity. You know, there's a lot of use for screens, for technology. But there's something about connecting with real things. And I think the other thing that I love about kids and gardening is, we live in a very fast paced world, and we tend to expect results really quickly. And with gardening, it's the greatest teacher of patience. Because you really can't rush through things, like there is a timeline. And if you experiment one spring with something, and it doesn't go well. It's hard to just try it again because the weather is going to change, right? So you really have to wait until the following year. And you have to learn this other level of patience, I think. And that's something that kids don't necessarily get in their day to day lives. I do think gardening is this wonderful teacher of patience because you can screw something up and then you just have to wait until it's the appropriate time to plant again. If insects really destroy a vegetable that you're growing, you don't necessarily have the opportunity to start again. It might be too late in the season. So it is what it is. So patience and learning to let go. There are all these great lessons that gardening can teach.

Tim: I want to be in one of your classes because I think I could learn some patience . How about you, Jean?

Jean: It's so philosophical. It's profound stuff.

Tim: I think it has, I think it has implications for adults, too. I think that's why gardening is probably becoming so popular now is because it is almost meditative. Right?

Anna: Yeah. As frustrating as it can be sometimes. Yeah. Even though gardening can be tricky, depending on where you are. It's this process that is known, like, you know, step one, step two, step three, and you might have to go back but yeah, it's a meditative process and, and hands on non screen activity that people can step away from their screens and enjoy growing something.

Jean: I don't think we can ask Anna anything else, because she's pretty much covered the whole philosophical...

Tim: No, and you've inspired us.

Jean: Absolutely.

Tim: Thank you so much for being with us today. And we really appreciate it.

Anna: Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed joining today.

You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.

Stay tuned for Pests and Pathogens.

Dede: Hi, my name is Dede Turns-Thorpe and I'm a Master Gardener Volunteer from Columbia and Greene counties with Cornell Cooperative. I'd like to introduce you today to Pests and Pathogens. This is a recurring segment of our Nature Calls podcast where we'll cover a variety of pests, diseases and other nuisances that will affect your plants both in and outdoors. Today, we'll stay inside and focus on our house plants.

Dede: Insufficient sunlight is a common problem with indoor plants. But another problem is bug infestations. If your house plant is not doing well, and you can't figure out why chances are you have an insect problem that can damage and even kill a plant. In a nutshell, the best way to control insects and related pests on houseplants is preventing them. But if you are noticing bugs around your plants the first step in control is to isolate any plant suspected of being infested and work to identify the pest. Then you can start to address the issue. It's important to keep the plant separate from other house plants until the pest is completely controlled. This process unfortunately may take several weeks or more. Due to limited time today we are mostly focused on non chemical controls. I recommend that before you start looking for a chemical solution to a pest problem, effective alternatives should be considered. Early infestations can often be removed by hand picking, scraping with a fingernail or addressed using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Spraying a sturdy plant with water or an insecticidal soap will often remove many pests. If you opt for a chemical control don't expect the problem to be solved with one application. Some of these alternatives require persistence but they can give good control.

Dede: One of the most important things when you're using a chemical control is to follow and read the directions well. Some of these alternatives require persistence but they can give good control. Let's start with some very common household plantpests, aphids. Aphids or small soft bodied pear shaped insects. They're usually green, but they can look pink from black, white or yellow with spots that appear on all plant parts of the plant. Some aphids have a woolly or a powdery appearance because of a waxy coat. Adults may or may not have wings. They weaken plants by sucking on the stems and the leaves typically on the new growth or the undersides of the leaves, but some do feed on roots. As they suck the plant sap, you may notice spot yellowing and misshapen leaves stunted growth in some deformed buds when they feed aphids excrete a sugary material quality honeydew which makes leaves shiny and sticky. A mold fungi may grow on the honeydew, producing dark splotches on the plant surfaces. Aphids can reproduce so quickly that an infestation will cover the plant in days but as aphids are soft bodied, they can be killed quite easily by a strong blast of water, wiping them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or repeated sprays of an insecticidal soap. Remember, however, that insecticidal soaps are contact insecticides, which means that they're only effective when they make their direct contact with insects. Once the soap solution dries, it has no effect against pests. Regardless of which control method you use, aphids are persistent, so you need to be diligent to rid your house plants of these pests.

Dede: Mites are also very common on indoor plants. They're actually not insects but are more closely related to spiders. Since they're the size of a pinhead, plant damage is typically the first sign of their presence. If you see yellow colored speckling or red brown spots on the upper surface or leaves or on the leaves or faded film across the bottom of the leaves, mites may be the cause. Both the adults and the less mature forms can damage plants by sucking plant sap. A telltale signal silky web, especially on the inner join to the plant is often seen with heavier infestations and is unfortunately the easiest way to identify spider mites. Unlike a spider's web, the spider mite webbing is used to protect the colony and enable access to different parts of the plant. These pests prefer dry conditions, so adding some humidity to the air might help to prevent them. Like with aphids, to control spider mites, spray the plant forcefully with water, including the undersides of the leaves to dislodge them and break up their webs or to use insecticidal soap. And again, we do follow directions. Follow the instructions on the label but note that it may be necessary to spray once a week for several weeks to control mites. It's been found that plants placed outdoors during summer have a reduced problem with spider mites. If you do opt to do this, make sure to place your houseplants initially in mostly shade to minimize the chance of sunburn until they adjust to the higher level of light.

Dede: Now scale insects and other pests can be found on the stems and leaves which they feed upon sucking plant sap. Adults are small and immobile with no visible legs. Scales vary in appearance depending on their age, sex and species. Some are small, they're flat and they appear like fish scales stuck to a plant. Others can look waxy, like colored masses, you can find both armored scales and so upscales in armored scale has a waxy covering that's not an integral part of its body. The covering can be scraped off with a fingernail to locate the insect living beneath it. In contrast, the waxy covering that is so upscale secretes is an integral part of its body. Adult scales are relatively protected from insecticides by their waxy covering.

Dede: And then there's mealy bugs. Mealy bugs are a specific soft scale that are commonly found on houseplants while small they are distinctive because the adult females cover themselves and their eggs with a white waxy material making them look cottony nymphs, which look like a smaller version of the adults hatch from the eggs. Once they begin to feed by sucking sap, the waxy coating starts to form which helps repel pesticides and makes them somewhat difficult to control. Look for mealy bugs on the lower surface of leaves and where the leaf attaches to the stem. They cause stunted and distorted growth and sometimes plant death. Like with aphids, light infestations can be controlled by removing individual mealy bugs by hand or wiping each insect with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or using an insecticidal soap spray. With a heavy infestation it may be necessary to discard the plant.

Dede: White flies are not true flies, but they are more closely related to scales, mealy bugs and aphids. They are often confused for mealy bugs, but the difference is that they will take flight when disturbed. They are very small and resemble moths with a powdery white appearance, and they do secrete honey dough. The immature stage is scale like and does not move, but they can be found on almost any kind of indoor plant. The easiest way to get rid of these pests is to give them a hard blast of water every now and then. Other insects like thrips leaf miners,springtails and fungus gnats are less common, but they can also be found on indoor plants. To prevent infestations by any of these pests, make sure to examine the plant before you buy it and especially again before you bring it indoors. Use clean pots and potting soil, not soil you pulled from the garden and it's always a good idea to follow the general gardening guidelines. When you're caring for houseplants water moderately but don't let your soil become too dry or too waterlogged.

Dede: By keeping your plants healthy they'll be better at withstanding any pest infestations, which gives you more time to identify and control indoor plant pests. Please again, it's very important to read and follow the directions on any chemicals you might be using. Thanks for listening to this conversation from the Hudson Valley pets and pathogens. Until next time, Nature Calls. Thank you.

You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.

Stay tuned for Tools of the Trade.

Joan: Hi, and welcome to Tools of the Trade, a recurring segment of this podcast that highlights a website, app or book that we as Master Gardeners find to be an essential resource. I'm Joan Satterlee, a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties. It's that time of year again, where we gardeners feel that magnetic pull towards the local garden center or nursery. There on display are rows and rows of beautiful perennials. But which ones will grow well in our garden? And will they bloom when we want them to and will they come back reliably next year? It's a real temptation to buy what's in blue, or what looks nice on display. Or maybe even worse, just buy a bunch of plants without even knowing where we are going to place them. That's why it's good to have one or more trusted guides on perennials to study before we even set foot in the garden center.

Joan: While there's a huge amount of information online about perennials, it can often be overwhelming and many of us still like the feel of a good book in our hands. Fortunately, there are some terrific books on perennials out there and today I'm going to tell you about a few of my favorites. First up is the quintessential guide to perennials and that is Ruth Rogers Clawson and Thomas Christopher's Essential Perennials. This source is appropriately named because if you only have room on your bookshelf for one perennial guide, this should be it. Essential Perennials covers more than 2700 different plants. It's easy to use, as plants are organized in alphabetical order by last name. Don't despair if you don't know the latin name of the plant. There is a handy common name index in the back of the book. Each entry includes a brief description of the plant, along with flower color, bloom time, foliage characteristics and size and light requirements. Many entries include descriptions of popular cultivars. The book also is filled with beautiful photographs of many of the plants. So if you want an extremely comprehensive, thoughtful and beautiful resource, Essential Perennials is the one for you.

Joan: Another one of my favorites is Gardening with Perennials Month by Month by Joseph Hudak. As this title indicates, this resource is organized by plant bloom time. This is especially helpful for both amateur gardeners and professional designers who are looking to provide a spectacular display at a particular time of year in the garden, or who want to be sure that their garden is constantly in bloom by installing a large variety of plants. This resource covers more than 700 different species. And although it may have fewer photographs than essential perennials, it has very good descriptions of the plants characteristics as well as growing conditions and in some cases includes more information about pests and diseases. All in all, a very helpful resource for the discerning gardener.

Joan: A bookthat I use religiously when I was a beginning gardener, and still refer to, is Perennial All-Stars: the 150 best perennials for great-looking, trouble-free gardens by Jeff Cox. Again, the title perfectly describes what this book can do for you, especially for beginning gardeners. This is a relatively inexpensive resource that whittles down the huge selection of perennials to those that are, well all stars, in the author's opinion. In his introduction, the author describes an all star as the long blooming, beautiful foliage, easy to maintain, seldom bothered by diseases or pests, as well as one that grows in a wide variety of conditions and reliably appears year after year. Of course, there are very few plants that do all of that, but the author has done a great job of picking plants with many of those characteristics. The book includes handy lists in the front selection with all stars that are for cold climates, for dry or wet sites, for full sun or full shade, that are deer resistant, attract butterflies are good for naturalizing, et cetera. I really liked the individual plant and trees that include a photo as well as how to grow, how to propagate, where to plant, and suggested companion plants. While it may not cover every plant in the garden center, Perennial All Stars is a nicely done, inexpensive guide that may help you zero in on some really good plants for your garden. I get my books from the Mid-Hudson Library, and all three of the above mentioned books are available in your library. There are many other good guides to perennials out there. Maybe you have a favorite. Whatever you choose next time you're drawn to the garden center by that magnetic pole. Do a little research in your favorite perennial book before you go and you may find that you have a better shopping experience. That's it for this edition of Tools of the Trade. Until next time, I'm Joan Satterlee.

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That concludes another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. We'd like to thank Sandra Linnell and Deven Connolly from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties for production support. And a special thank you to our listeners for joining us on this episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. You can find links to any of the topics mentioned in this episode at our website at Comments and suggestions for future topics may be directed to us at or on the CCE Master Gardener Volunteers of Columbia and Greene County's Facebook page. For more information about Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties, visit our website at CCE Columbia or visit us in Hudson or in Acra. Cornell Cooperative Extension provides equal programming and employment opportunities.

Last updated July 21, 2022