GARDENING WITH AMERICAN ROOTS, NICK & ALLISON MCCULLOUGH
This week on Cultivating Place, we continue with a fall/winter planning and planting this time with a focus on design, in conversation with Nick and Allison McCullough – of McCullough Landscape & Nursery, a design, build, and maintenance firm based in New Albany, Ohio. Their new book American Roots, Lessons and Inspiration from the Designers Reimagining our Home Gardens, out now from Timber Press, is a transcontinental tour diverse modern home garden design offering lessons and inspiration- seasoned with playfulness, passion, and purpose.
The 20 gardens featured in the book are inspiration indeed for a diversity of garden styles and purposes for anyone to add specific vocabulary to their own garden goals. All together, the book and the gardens and gardeners it highlights give a prismatic snapshot of what it means to be an American gardener in these times.
Follow the McCullough's and American Roots online: http://www.mccland.com/, and on Instagram: @nickmccland/
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JOIN US again next week, when we round out the month of October, in conversation with artist and green spirit Louesa Roebuck, whose newest published work Punk Ikebana, reimagining the art of floral design is a wonder of wild gratitude and abundance perspective setting the table for the season of grounded gratitude. Listen in!
Speaking of plants... and place:
Speaking of plants and place and American gardens, especially starting from a Midwestern place in the autumn, it’s hard not to be taken by the Honey colors and dynamic play of our seasonal prairie grasses. And for me in this moment in the garden it is the Bouteloua gracilis, also known as blue grama grass, or mosquito grass and sometime eyelash grass.
Drought, heat, and elevation tolerant, Bouteloua gracilis is listed by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension as hardy from zones 3a – 10 a. With a generous native range across much of western and central north America into Northern Mexico, Prairie Moon native seed and plant nursery in Minnesota reminds us that not only is this native clump grass a solid non-native thirsty turf grass alternative, but that it is the host plant for Leonard's Skipper and the common branded skipper.
The Bouteloua genus is noted by the Flora of North America as having upwards of 40 annual and perennial species across the Americas. The genus is named or Spanish botanists of the 1700s, and in much of the west the genus includes a whole handful of our important prairie and wildlife forage grasses, Bouteloua gracilis – gracilis, meaning graceful, as well as Bouteloua artisoides, needle grama, and Bouteloua curtipendula side-oats grama, which is native to the west, central and eastern US down to Southern Mexico and up southern Canada.
There are patented or trademarked clonal selections and cultivars such as "Blue Grama Blonde Ambition", the low growing selection B. 'Hachita', which High Country Gardens out of Santa Fe recommends as a good mown grass choice, and 'Angel Eyelash' grass available in the trade. But harkening back to Uli Lorimer’s and other guests noting the importance of the biodiversity that straight species offer, the straight species Bouteloua gracilis is indeed graceful and a solid choice.
As a warm season grass it greens up a little later in the spring than a cool season turf grass; when its flowering stems shoot up and its inflorescences emerge they have an inky blue purple tint to them that slowly unfurl to their full shimmering honey colored eyelash effect by late summer - as they are in my back garden right now, and they will hold this striking effect against the deep evergreen of a manzanita and a dwarf rosemary through much of the winter. Fall and winter is a good time to seed or plant plugs of blue grama grass as ground cover or as accents. You will be happy you did come next year this time when the ripple of a fall breeze and the low golden fall sunshine lights them up and has them dancing in your American Rooted garden.
Thinking out loud this week:
So, I’m thinking about the idea of gardening and supposed garden rules, and design or in planting. And I’m thinking about my trip A few weeks ago to Oxford, Ohio where I spent the day visiting with graduate students in environment and sustainability studies at Miami of Ohio.
At one point in a visit to the research projects at the ecology research center there, one of the young PhD candidates said to me of her Prairie restoration project: it’s kind of "ungardening." Which struck me as interesting.
And I asked her, what do you mean by ungardening? And maybe more to the point when you use that phrase, what does that mean you consider the word gardening to entail? And we had a fascinating back-and-forth on what gardening does and does not include, can and cannot include.
And you have heard me say this before, the complexity and dilemma and baggage around the word garden and some of the connotations that come with the word in our world, but I will tell you that in my experience interviewing and researching gardeners, researching growers researching historic cultural relationships with land and plants, the word garden is capacious and includes all manner of relationship, it is a tending and a shepherding, it is a midway thing, and it is a directing. It is a partnership and it is a love relationship. I say we reclaim the word gardening to mean all of these things in all of their beauty and richness. But I would love to hear more about what you think? In this very vein of what it means to Garden and what it means to ungarden, or perhaps unlearn old conceits in constructs attached to the word garden, I am a closing plenary session speaker at this year‘s California Native Plant Society‘s conservation conference focused on the theme of rooting together, and my panel will focus on the many faces and ways of relationship to seed in our environmental and conservation worlds.
I will be joined in this session by a panel of remarkable people, including Brook Thompson, a Yurok and Karuk Native from Northern California, fighting for water and Native American rights. She is working toward her MS in Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, and consulting on the revegetation plan of the undamming of the Klamath River; Andrea Williams, Director of Biodiversity Initiatives (including the CNPS Seed Strategy) for CNPS; Cris Sarabia, emeritus Chair of the board of CNPS and Conservation Director for the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy; and Pat Reynolds, Director of Native Seed and Nursery Program and General Manager of Heritage Growers – producers and distributors of native seed in northern California (heritagegrowers.com). It will be a great germination of a panel, I think. I will fill you in on how it goes, and if you happen to be attending the conference, please make sure to come and say hello!
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