plains farms need trees


Check out this fantastic WPA poster found in the American Memory Collection hosted online by the Library of Congress. Like many people, I’ve always been fond of WPA posters because of their collaboration between quality artistry and common sense practicality. We could use a little more of that these days, don’t you think?

Though I’ve perused the offerings on the LoC website before, this poster was brought to my attention because of a book review for American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation by Eric Rutkow. The review was good and the book, just like the poster, seems right up the Plants Are Not Optional alley.

Back to the poster: don’t miss the great line at the bottom, “Trees Prevent Wind Erosion, Save Moisture, Protect Crops, Contribute to Human Comfort and Happiness.” That’s right folks, trees make you happy!

summer solstice

My cosmos are blooming! I went out to water the garden this evening after a fist-of-the-season, first-day-of-summer blazing hot day, and found that the cosmos I planted from seed in May have begun blooming. I’m quite excited as I tried them last year but planted too late. I like the delicate texture of the leaves and flowers as well as the bright color palette of the mix I bought.

Here at Plants Are Not Optional Headquarters, we are celebrating the Summer Solstice with a Thai shrimp dish that features Thai basil from the garden and a crisp sauvignon blanc.  I hope you are marking this special day in your own way. Cheers!

WaPo strikes again

The Architect’s tomatoes from The Washington Post 06.14.12

Another fantastic, informative and humorous, piece in the Washington Post this morning by garden writer Adrian Higgins on the various approaches to training + containing (or not) tomato plants.

I’m not growing any tomatoes this year, though this article has me seriously contemplating a trip to the garden center this afternoon. And if that materializes, I’d put my money on me fitting “The Urban Farmer” profile. I’m pretty tempted to live up to “The Architect” however, mostly because I want to  “create the two-dimensional vertical vegetative plane” as I do love a vertical vegetative plane. The one time I was in charge of tending large beds of tomatoes was in 2009 when I was gardening and researching at Dumbarton Oaks, the estate in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood. Things got a little unruly (The Hippie) prompting me to spend a week with stakes, string, and pruners to create more respectable looking beds (The Gardener). Coincidentally, I was interviewed by the very same Adrian Higgins about that vegetable garden and my research on bringing agriculture back to the estate. The Washington Post has archived the article, but if you’d like to read it let me know and I can send you a pdf.

So, what kind of tomato grower are you?

making the highway a little less ugly

Back in May, I was running errands one day and noticed that a set of the oft-wasted interstitial triangles of land, created by clover leaf highway entrances + exits, was full of bright red poppies! This particular installation is at the grade-separated intersection of Routes 50 and 28 in Chantilly, VA and, due to rain, this photograph was taken a few days after the peak bloom.

I will totally confess to getting onto the Route 28 overpass just so I could take this photograph. I will also admit that at that time I realized I could do even better, so I videoed my descent from Route 28 back on to Route 50. Yes, I was that excited. You can watch it here:

I just love the dynamic reveal of the carpet of red as you come around the bend.

eye-catching color combination

I noticed this plant for the first time a few days ago as I walked past a neighbor’s yard. I’m quite taken with the intense contrast between the icy white-blue foliage and the eye-popping yellow flowers. I saw it again by the neighborhood pool, leading me to think it’s common, but I still haven’t identified it – do you know what it is?

getting started

One could read and write tomes on the ecological, economic and social importance of plants. At the most basic level, we need plants to produce oxygen to breathe and food to eat, but you know that already, and still you forget about the importance of plants in daily life. And so, I’m opting to use beauty, and unabashed geeky plant-lover curiosity and knowledge, to sway you to care, to advocate for and to make places large and small where plants, and people, can thrive.