Tomatoes from a community garden
Image by Timothy Kennelty

The Community Garden in Coxsackie. NY is the topic of this podcast episode

Episode 19: Community Gardens

Community Gardens are a timely topic for this episode where you’ll hear from Kim Bender and Eliza Spear on the how the Community Garden in Coxsackie, NY was founded and maintained. They also touch upon the very popular Coxsackie Farmer’s Market. Then learn all about irises with Linda Levitt (Flower Power).This episode concludes with coral being the color of the day in a conversation about Heuchera and Native Honeysuckle on the latest Cover Up segment with Jean Thomas and Tim Kennelty.  Enjoy!

Hosts: Tim Kennelty and Jean Thomas

Guests: Kim Bender and Eliza Spear

Photo by: Tim Kennelty

Production Support from: Linda Aydlett, Teresa Golden,


Community Gardens: Coxsackie Community Garden - Home | Facebook ; keepcalmandplanton@gmail.comCommunity Gardens presentation

Farmer’s Market: Coxsackie Farmers Market - Home | Facebook

Irises (Flower Power with Linda Levitt):;

Heuchera and Native Honeysuckle (Cover Up with Jean Thomas and Tim Kennelty): Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle) | Native Plants of North America ( ; Honeysuckles To Consider | Vines: Climbers & Twiners | U of I Extension ( ; Home - Coral Bells, Foam Flowers and Foamy Bells - Research Guides at New York Botanical Garden (


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.

Musical segue

Tim: Hi, I'm Tim Kennelty.

Jean: And I'm Jean Thomas.

Tim: And welcome to another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Today our guests are Kim Bender and Eliza Spear to talk about community gardens.

Jean: Kim Bender is one of our master gardeners and she and Eliza, with a great core of people in the Town of Coxsackie, have built their own community garden. And we got deep into what a community garden is and how much work it takes, which is a phenomenal amount. And we looked at the history of it as well. It goes back to the 1700s in Sheffield, England right up to today where we have squads with people with beds that they can rent and grow their own vegetables. The Coxsackie garden is setting up a system of classes and education hands on with vegetable growing. It's wonderful.

Tim: Oh, that sounds so cool. That's great. And Linda Levitt’s here with another edition of Flower Power, right?

Jean: Yep. Today's irises

Tim: I love irises, do you?

Jean: Which kind of Irises?

Tim: I, you know what, I love bearded irises, but I find that they don't last very long in my garden. And it's so beautiful. And there's so many different cultivars. Most irises are deer resistant. Most irises are those kinds of plants that I love. They come back year after year after year. And they're beautiful. They just don't bloom for very long.

Jean: They were reblooming ones now, Linda talks about those, it's interesting. It's always a surprise when they do a second bloom.

Tim: And what other brilliant people are talking today. Oh, that would be us for The Cover Up. Right? Us again. What are we talking about today in The Cover Up Jean?

Jean: Well, I am talking about ground covers.

Tim: Yeah, what kind of ground cover?

Jean: Heucheras.

Tim: See, I don't even think of those as ground covers. But when you talked about it, it makes sense because they do spread and they are low growing and they do you know they can act as groundcover. So you kind of, of course, have a unique perspective on that.

Jean: And I'm right as usual.

Tim: And always. Yeah, the connection here is they're called coral bells, right? That's one of their common names and I'm talking about something with coral and the name too, coral honeysuckle. Native honeysuckle I'm talking about not the invasive shrubs or the invasive vines, which you never, never want to plant but there's beautiful, beautiful, native honeysuckle or trumpet honeysuckle, which the hummingbirds love. It's a vine it comes back year after year. It's kind of semi evergreen, in fact, mine stayed green that I have a yellow version of it that stayed green all winter long with beautiful. Okay, so it sounds like there's a lot to listen to today, right?

Jean: Yep. We better go take our seats.

Tim: Yeah, let's do it.

Musical segue

Jean: Hi, this is Jean Thomas.

Teresa: And this is Teresa: Golden.

Jean: And our conversation today on Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley is with Kim Bender and Eliza Spear of the Coxsackie Community Garden. Welcome, ladies. Our listeners would love to hear about how such a project came into being. I know the Coxsackie project started about five years ago when our fellow Master Gardener volunteer Kim Bender and Donna Taormina participated with a group of Coxsackie citizens to wrangle permission and funding from the village of Cosackie to create a community garden. Kim, why don't you give us the origin story.

Kim: First, I just want to say thanks for having us today, Jean. We're really excited to be here and we love the podcast and everything the Master Gardeners do. So the idea for the community garden started like five or six years ago. It had been tossed around for years. It wasn't until I met some like-minded people that wanted to get it off the ground that we started the process. So we had chatted at the Coxsackie farmers market myself and Donna Taormina and a bunch of other friends in town. And we started meeting in the winter of like 2017 or so just talking logistics and what we would needed to get started. And we scouted lots of locations and decided that we needed a few basics, good sunlight, decent soil and access to water. And hopefully parking. Not an easy fit. But we found a perfect location that we loved right in the center of town. So we found some property that was co-owned by the town in the village. So that meant we had to go to board meetings and plead our case to everybody, which everybody was excited about. We went through the town and got signatures and then got permission to use the space. So we went to the town meetings, and everybody was excited for the project. But in order to get it passed by both the town and the village, we kind of had to gauge community excitement, which there was a lot when we got a lot of signatures and they gave us permission. So we moved on to fundraising. So we send out letters and knock door to door and businesses and we ended up getting quite a bit of money to put up our fencing and build the boxes. And I think by spring of 2018, we started construction. And then by summer of 2018, we threw some plants in the ground to see what would work and we donated pretty much everything we grew that year to the food pantry. And then by 2019, we had a full slate of renter's, which was great. And volunteers.

Teresa: Kim, you were also involved in the Farmers Market in Coxsackie, as well. So did both of these start at the same time? Or one is was one a natural outgrowth of the other?

Kim: They didn't start at the same time. But yeah, I did start the farmers market that started back in like 2008, we were talking about starting the farmers market. I had lived in Rochester, which has a huge, really awesome farmers market and then moved to Catskill, which had a really sweet, small Riverside market. And when it came to Coxsackie, we didn't have anything. So I kind of wrangled my sister. And we got it started. And now it's been running for over 11 years, I think. And I think one of the biggest things that I wasn't expecting was people coming to us with gardening problems, like how do I grow my own tomatoes? And what do I do with these bugs and all that stuff. And at that point, I was in the Master Gardener program, and I spoke with Jean, and we got a table going. You guys came every week, pretty much and which was amazing. And all the customers loved it. I know they brought soil samples and always had lots of questions, which then sprouted an educational series. So we had like our, our vendors, like the beekeepers and, and vegetable producers, they would give classes on you know, their specific field. And the people really loved it. Although we kept hearing about how the deer were eating everything and they didn't have sun or good soil. So you know, all those conversations kind of sprouted the community garden project.

Jean: Tim is not here today, but he would be sure to make me remind you of the Chili Cook Off. Of course, we must have the Chili Cook Off mentioned when we talk about…

Kim: Yeah, everybody loves the Chili Cook Off.

Jean: Eliza, let's step over to you. I know you've stepped up to help keep this huge community garden project thriving. What's your title? And what are your responsibilities?

Eliza: Well, I like to call myself a volunteer coordinator or helper wrangler. I moved to Coxsackie I'm in 2021. I am originally from Windham, New York, just not that far away. And I was thrilled when I saw the community garden. Thank goodness, it's in such a central location driving by when we were looking for houses. And I said I can't wait to join that garden. So I came to the first meeting, boldly introduced myself, and I'm gonna help because I really like to join people who like to do things. I like doers. I like, you know, people who want to get out there in the community make something happen together. So this year, and last year, I've been working on communication, which is important when you want to get people together. So getting the email going, our Facebook group, or working on our Instagram, and all those are going to be points of information. People can say, hey, is there an event in the garden? And that's another thing we're going to work out. We'll talk about that later. But we're gonna have a lot more events this year.

Teresa:Today, members and or renters must acknowledge rights and responsibilities in the contract at the beginning of the season. Tell us how someone would go about acquiring a lot. And what defines a lot.

Eliza: While are lots we're calling them boxes, there, I believe eight by four, I think some of them are a little bit bigger. And it really all you need to do is email us and we'll get you set up. It's a $25 fee for the season. And then there's a deposit of $25. So at the end of the season, if you've cleaned out your box, it looks great, you get that $25 back or you can put it towards next year, and just keep going with your box year after year. We're trying now to amend our soil a bit, so that year after year, when people have the same box, it doesn't deplete the soil. And so we're working on that too. But really, the rules are very minimal. And we just say you know hey, don't spray any poisonous stuff. Don't steal fruit from other people's boxes. That's all they need to do.

Teresa: So how many lots or boxes are there?

Kim: There's like 25 or something?

Eliza: Yeah.

Kim: We just put four more in at the end of last year.

Eliza: Yep.

Teresa: And how about access to the disabled? I hear there's plans in the works for special needs raised beds or, or special needs beds for seniors and wheelchair bound people.

Eliza: Yeah, we are trying, we're working on putting in a better pathway from the parking lot to the garden. And hopefully this year, we can put in some waist high beds. So when you're sitting, you know, it's easily accessible to get around the entire box.

Jean: Yeah, I've seen some really good designs. So that's going to be wonderful. Okay, now, being the history geek I am, I got curious about the actual history of community gardening, Donna Taoramina And I wrote a PowerPoint talk. And that's going to be available on the website. And that was, of course, pre COVID. Nobody's actually seen it, but dawned on me, it's on the reference list anyway, in a nutshell, starting in 1730, in Sheffield, England, where the Industrial Revolution was beginning, the city rented lots to the general populace to grow food. This was a result of a lot of different economic stimuli, including people moving into the cities to work at the factories and not having access to their own food. But it was the beginning of Britain's allotment system, which is still going strong today, where you see all the British shows and someone says, Oh, yes, he's out at his allotment. And that's what it is, is his version of the community garden. The PowerPoint moves forward through several recessions and depressions as well as both World Wars. At each challenge, local and sometimes even federal government stepped up to provide seed and land sometimes labor and water facilities. You've heard of victory gardens during World War Two. Turns out that was part of a long history of people helping each other in times of hardship. Sadly, it's also historically documented that each time community gardens were a response to a need, they fell apart once prosperity returned. So it seems like the community gardens were reinvented over and over. This question is for either both of you -- do you think the current community garden and Coxsackie is meeting such a need? Was it a response to a particular local problem?

Kim: Aside from deer, I think that's our biggest problem. These days, we have these ravenous, ravenous deer in Coxsackie. Very hungry. But I don't think it spawned out of like a need, you know, we have lots of local producers, and obviously the market, the farmers market, allies and I were talking the other day, just about how COVID has really spurred on this at home gardening, everybody wants to grow their own food and stuff like that. So we've been seeing, you know, an uptick in people wanting boxes.

Jean: So it's like nesting.

Kim: Exactly.

Jean: I know, I know that the food pantry in Coxsackie, I don't know, do they have boxes, that they're growing things in? I know they receive a lot of produce from you guys.

Kim: Yeah, when we first started, obviously, we, as just the community garden members, we were just growing stuff to grow it for us. And we were donating a lot of stuff. And they came and helped us. They do have a box there that they can maintain if they want. And we also will donate a box if anybody's interested. We've gotten you know, people from the food pantry who want to learn how to grow their own food. So that box is there for them to use as they like.

Jean: Oh, that's a great idea.

Eliza: Currently, it has a big strawberry bramble going in it, which does produce a lot of fruit. But we need to kind of clear out half of that. And then we're definitely here and ready for anybody who is, you know, maybe has needs and doesn't want to pay for the garden. And we're going to have those available for them. We want it to be accessible to everyone.

Jean: And with food prices, particularly produce, are you seeing more responses I'm sure.

Kim: Oh, yeah.

Teresa: Victory Gardens are still a big thing in Boston. My son lives up there. But I find that, I would say, maybe half the lots focus on vegetables. The other half focus on flowers. Is it really just vegetables in the community garden or how does that work?

Eliza: Our boxes right now are people mostly growing vegetables, but along the side, we have a very long bed. It's maybe 20 or 25 feet long. And we're working on getting that to be our pollinator garden/wildflower, bramble, whatever you want to call it. And we're actually working to get it on the registration of pollinator beds, I believe.

Kim: Yeah, it's like a national registry for pollinator garden.

Jean: I didn't know that existed till this year.

Kim: So we're working on expanding that to and using the perennial bed inside and then maybe doing the whole perimeter in annuals.

Jean: Sunflowers werethere last year, right?

Kim: Sunflowers are always there. We'll definitely do a lot more this year in support of Ukraine and you know, all of that, but we're hoping to do a bunch more this year.

Jean: So you have a pollinator garden and you have veggie beds. Are you noticing or observing better pollinationamong our plants, with the pollinator garden being there, and encouraging all that?

Kim: I would say might be a little hard to tell because we just started planting the pollinator bed kind of last year, maybe some some of the perennial plants have been there for two years, but we do have a good amount of pollinators coming through.

Eliza: I saw a ton of butterflies in our Zinnias last year, and I had planted lemon cucumbers, which was something new for me. And it they were pollinated like crazy. So I have to assume my bed being directly next to the pollinator bed that I benefited from it.

Jean: Okay, so you're seeing lots of honey bees?

Eliza: I did see honey bees. I'm no bee expert, but I think they were there.

Jean: Once they show up, they're going to be. Was there talk at one time of having a beehive?

Kim: I mean, there's a lot of expansion ideas, we just need volunteer power and a little time.

Jean: Okay. Tell us some of the plans that you've got, tentative plans in long term long term.

Kim: Gosh, well, I mean, the one off the top of my head, you know, we had talked earlier about the classes at the farmers market. We originally were hoping to bring those to the community garden. So free educational classes for the community, and like beekeeping and vegetable growing and, and all that kind of stuff. So we would hope to bring that back.

Eliza: Yeah, for sure. And along the lines of just fun events. We had thrown around the idea of having a garden tea party. So sometime in June and July, the weather's beautiful. Everything's blooming. It's gorgeous. We want to show off our hard work. So we thought why not have a garden Tea Party, you wear your nice garden hats. You stroll to the garden with your friends checking it out, you have some free tea, maybe the Girl Scouts could sell cookies, tea and cookies. It can we can have like a violin quartet. I'm really going big. Fun, classy, right? So we're, we want to do that in June or July.

Jean: Oh, that's great. So you're you're you're just expanding into the community. And bringing the community back.

Eliza: We're here. We want everyone to come in. We want everyone to check it out. You know, the fence is closed for the deer. It's open for people.

Jean: That sounds fair enough. Well, people have opposable thumbs.

Teresa: Are there other festivals and celebrations planned?

Eliza: Well, we talked about last year doing an autumn thing as well, because then you can have, especially when the farmers market had moved to the village parking lot, which was just a few doors down from the community garden. So we thought they sell a ton of pumpkins there. Why can't we do pumpkin decorating in the garden or something that coordinates on the same time Wednesday evening afternoon with the farmers market? So that's on an on a long list of hopeful and going to be awesome events?

Teresa:What's the response from local government?

Kim: It's been good. I mean, we when we first pitched the idea to them to use this plot of land, they were excited, and they they still love us being there. And you know, we hope for their continued support over the years.

Teresa:So how do we reach you?

Eliza: Well, we have a Facebook page, of course, you can just search Coxsackie Community Garden. If you also search Coxsackie Community Garden on Instagram, it will pop right up. And then we have an email. So email is

Teresa:I love it.

Jean: Calmness is a good thing. Cash flow is always an issue with something like this because it sounds easy to go plants and stuff. But you need all kinds of hardware and hardscaping and fencing and matting and things who are your donors, other than the help you're getting from the government,

Kim: G and H was one of our biggest donators and Halstead Outdoor Supplies, you know, so we're just kind of knocking on doors to get donations from them. And as we need repairs, and we need to upkeep the boxes and the animals break through our fencing, stuff like that, you know, we'll need continued support. So anybody interested can definitely reach out to us. And if anybody is interested in volunteering, also, the email that Eliza said would be a great way to reach us.

Eliza: Yeah, we've had some really nice support from local community families, and also the Helping Hands group over at a Sleepy Hollow Lake. They were a big supporter of us last year. Yeah. Which is great, so nice.

Jean: Well, that's all pretty exciting stuff. So it was a masterclass in civic responsibility and volunteerism. Thank you. Thank you both for bringing us the story of Coxsackie's community garden past, present and future.

You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Stay tuned for Flower Power.

Linda: Welcome to Flower Power, a regular feature of this podcast that will focus on all things flowers. I am Linda Levitt, a Master Gardener volunteer with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties in New York's Hudson Valley. Approximately once a month, we will cover different types of flowers how to best select plant and care for each of the flowers talked about.

Linda: Today, we will spend a few minutes talking about a group of flowers in the iris family. These elegant flowers bring color to your garden in the late spring or early summer with some varieties that actually bloom again in the fall and those are called rebloomers. These flowers are rugged, reliable and easy to grow. The tall beautiful Iris is named after the Greek goddess Iris who legends have told rode rainbows. The iris is depicted in the French royal standard Fleur de Li and is the symbol of Florence Italy. In fact, pieces of root taken from the dried root of the iris Florencia were considered a cure for blood and lung diseases. And actually teething babies were encouraged to gnaw on a finger of the roots for its natural fluoride. There are about 250 to 300 species of irises, and nearly all species are found in the temperate northern hemisphere zones from Europe, Asia and North America. They grow well in climate zones three through nine growing well here in the Hudson Valley. They grow in many different sizes, ranging anywhere from as small as six inches to four feet tall.

Linda: Irises, however, can be toxic to pets, and a main reason they are not attractive to deer. This group of plants are great for pollinators and hummingbirds. All irises are divided into two major groups, those that grow from spreading rhizomes or those grown from bulbs.

Linda:Let's first talk about the rhizome irises. Within the rhizomatous family are the bearded iris, the beardless iris and the crusted Iris. When you think of iris, you probably think of the bearded iris. These varieties are probably the most widely grown and get their name from the well-defined beard of white or colored hairs and the center of each fall, which is the outer surrounding petals. Many of these varieties will produce multiple flowers on one stem and have a very wide range of colors anywhere from white to almost black. Predominantly the colors however, are you'll see them in purples and pinks. The beardless Iris, including the Siberian, Japanese and Louisiana types, all have smooth petals. The most popular of this group is a Siberian Iris. They are highly adaptable to all sorts of conditions, and a good selection for low maintenance mixed borders. The Japanese and Louisiana irises are best suited in moist to wet soils. Crested irises do best in full sun or partial shade and in moist humus rich soil.

Linda: The second grouping is the bulbous irises. This group includes the Dutch hybrids, dwarf irises, which are mid summer blooms and the Reticulata irises, which are early spring blooms. This group is noticeably smaller than the rhizome irises in both the plant and flower size. This group sheds their leaves unlike the rhizome irises that maintain their sword like leaves if unattended. These irises you might find in a spring floral bouquet. This grouping does well in rock gardens and forcing them in pots.

Linda: Now let's talk about planting these beautiful plants. The majority of the irises grow in full sun exposure for at least a half a day. Many grow in the shade but most likely will not bloom. Although Siberian irises can tolerate partial shade. Both groupings should be planted in late summer to early fall. I have had great success myself planting bearded irises in August here in the Hudson Valley. You must plant them early enough so that the rhizomes can get established and ready to bloom the following spring or summer. The key to successful blooming is to plant the rhizomes close to the surface with a slight piece of the rhizome actually at the top of the ground so that you can see it. The rhizome should be planted on a ridge with roots spread out horizontally and lower than the top of the rhizome, making sure to bury the roots completely, but not too deep. If you plant the rhizome and roots too deeply, they will not bloom. Irises do need good drainage which makes them ideal for raised garden beds. They prefer average to fertile soil neutral to slightly acidic for maintaining beautiful healthy blooming plants. You should cut back the flowering stalks but leave the foliage so that they can gather and store nutrients for the next season. Trim the leaves when they turn yellow in the fall reducing the possibility of over renting diseases or pests. irises are susceptible to Iris borer that overwinter in the leaf debris. The pest is quite noticeable and can actually be seen in the leaves. Remove the damaged leaves and discard them, but certainly not in the compost pile. Apply a low nitrogen fertilizer one month before bloom time. Rhizomes should be dug up every three to five years and divided by breaking apart pieces of the rhizome, typically soon after bloom time. If this is dividing year, don't cut back the foliage. Wear gloves when planting since Iris plants, rhizomes or bulbs have sap that may cause skin irritation. There are so many advantages to adding different varieties of irises in your garden beds. They add a beautiful contrast alongside your early blooming roses peonies, salvia and allium. Plant Iris is where you can watch the butterflies and hummingbirds.

Linda: I hope you've enjoyed this episode of Flower Power Thank you for listening. You will find additional information on our website. Until the next time, I am Linda Levitt. And please remember to stop and smell the flowers

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

Stay tuned for The Cover Up.

Jean: Hi, I'm Jean Thomas.

Tim: And I'm Tim Kennelty.

Jean: And welcome to another edition of The Cover Up where we talk about our favorite ground covers and vines.

Tim: Hey Jean again, we have a theme today. I can't believe that we've been trying to do this? The secret word today is "coral". Tell us about your ground cover you've chosen and how does coral relate to it.

Jean: Coral's wonderful. Today I'm going to talk about heuchera. It's not one of the first plants that come to mind as a ground cover but you challenged me with your choice of a vine that attract hummingbirds. And heuchera is also known as coral bells. Here's where the coral comes in the color of the little bell flowers. The bell flowers are on little thin stems and raised above foliage and they're all in little wiry like deely bobbers. I don't know if you remember deely bobbers. These draw the hummingbirds with their vibrant color. The plant is often used as a standalone specimen and perennial gardens and borders. It does weave into a mixed garden bed beautifully because it's full of just so graceful, making mounds of rounded leaves with contrasting veins. There's a rainbow of leaf color available these days,courtesy of hybridizing. Some of the flowers are white and the most remain in the coral color range to keep the hummingbirds happy. There are about 35 species native to North America, from which growers have hybridized some spectacular varieties heuchera sanguinea is the classic coral bells we all remember from our grandmother's gardens. This is the one that hummingbirds like best. And it's easy to find. A grouping of three to five of these in partial shade will fill out to a tidy mass of pretty low leaves from which clusters of stems emerge bearing the long lasting coral colored flowers. Keep them watered until they're established, and then they'll only need watering in the droughtiest seasons. Once a plant is established, it can produce baby seedlings. Don't hesitate to move the babies away a little bit to increase the size of the colony. Oh by the way, heucheras have a thick fleshy root, so as they age you may need to lift and replant them so they don't get floppy. The only drastic losses I've ever experienced is when they get too wet in the crown rod. Otherwise they can last for years. Oh, and deer aren't very fond of them, but I make no promises. I have seen gardens with a collection of heuchera that look like a leafy patchwork quilt. Massing groups of huger with different colored foliage can give this effect. There are the villosa type of heuchera that are more tolerant of sun and heat than the classic sanguinea type. Many even have larger leaves. So the palette is huge for the color lover. There are many varieties featuring chartreuse foliage that will gleam out from shady places and there are almost black or burgundy types to use as backdrops for other plants with brighter foliage. As the foliage becomes more attention getting though the flowers seem to become less striking. So remember this if you want hummingbird guests. Much might like my own large extended family, heuchera has a bunch of cousins. One is tiarella cordifolia or foam flower tiarella from its resemblance to the Pope's conical tiara. Cordifolia, because the leaves are heart shaped it's a dainty shade lover ideal for borders and woodland edges and has more than a little resemblance to the heuchera. They make a pretty mixed border or ground cover together. They also interbreed well resulting in the heucherella, aka foamy bells, a hybrid with characteristics of both parents. And like many intergeneric hybrids are sterile, so you're not going to be able to repopulate those. You can become a collector pretty easily if you don't watch out, I'm able to control myself because I'm a foliage snob. And because I like big, gaudy stuff, I'm counting my blessings because even so I'm occasionally tempted to overindulge, like amassed mixed planting of all three under an arbor of Tim's honeysuckle, and maybe some tiny blue bulbs under them to flower while the others are waking up from winter.

Tim: Well, I can't believe that I'm actually agreeing with you, I love heuchera, too. And I'm going to talk about a vine that attracts hummingbirds. And that's our native trumpet or sometimes called coral, and there's the coral connection, honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens. Here's an instance where you really want to know the Latin name because if you buy something that's just called honeysuckle, you may be planning something that's really invasive in your garden. And if you're moving into a new house and find a honeysuckle vine you're just not sure about, I'll tell you in a minute about how to tell the difference. Let's start with the Latin name because that usually tells you something about the plant, Lonicera sempervirens. The genus or first part of the name, Lonicera was named for the German botanist, Adam Lonicer, who lived in the 1500s. He was a professor of mathematics and a doctor of medicine. But his true love was that of plants and botany. And the species here, sempervirens, means evergreen. So when I say native, I'm stretching here a bit because even though this vine is hardly down to zone four, it's really actually native to southern states. Since this is such a beautiful, beneficial and well behaved vine, I'm expanding my definition of what I'm calling native today.

Tim: Trumpet honeysuckle is a twining vine that can grow from three to 20 feet with lightly scented showy tubular blooms from spring to late summer and small reddish fruit in fall. The flowers are generally orange to red outside and yellow inside. This is a vine that likes full to part sun and well-drained soil. It can really even take some drought, and it's generally deer and rabbit resistant. Like the name says it's semi evergreen. I've seen some of my green leaves out on my plants even in the middle of winter when there's snow on it. You may want to plant this vine to grow up a trellis fence or railing as it does need some support. I have been planted at my garden gates and they're a terrifically welcoming site in bloom. In addition to being hummingbird candy, trumpet honeysuckle attracts a variety of bees and butterflies and is a host or larval plant for the spring azure butterfly and Snowberry clearwing moth. Its fruit is eaten by purple finches, goldfinches, hermit thrushes and American robins. There are some beautiful cultivars of this vine. Some of my favorites are Major Wheeler, which is covered in orange red flowers throughout the season, John Clayton with bright yellow blossoms, Mandarin and one that I've been lusting after to grow and that is Tangerine Princess.

Tim: Okay, now I'd be remiss in not circling back to the native versus invasive question. Just about all Bush honeysuckles are non-natives, and highly invasive, so please never plant these monsters. There are some key differences between the native and non-native vines. Lonicera sempervirens., the good guy has complete tubular flowers, while lonicera japonica the bad and invasive guy has flowers that are not complete. The petals flare into tulips. And also the native honeysuckle has red fruit while japonica has black fruit. If you already have this plant, try using an ID app like iNaturalist or Seek. And if you're at the nursery, just make sure you check out the last name and make sure you have the right one. But don't let this stop you from getting out there and playing trumpet honeysuckle, a vine that is both beautiful and beneficial.

Tim: That's it for another edition of The Cover Up. Until next time.

Musical segue

That concludes another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. We'd like to thank Sandra Linnell and Devin 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 June 9, 2022