MARGARET ROACH public
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History is full of stories we think we know. They are old and dark, but time has robbed us of perspective and clarity. They've become obscured and misunderstood. Which is why this series exists: to dig deep and shed light on some of history’s darkest moments. To help us better understand where we’ve come from. To make it Unobscured. Each season pairs narrative storytelling from Aaron Mahnke, creator of the hit podcast Lore, with prominent historian interviews. Season Three: Jack the Ripper
 
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In a recent conversation with Doug Tallamy about ecologically minded fall cleanup, he raised the name of Heather Holm, and how some of the pollinator research she’s been part of lately is informing how he shifts his approach to garden maintenance this time of year, and again in spring. I wanted to hear more, so Heather’s here today to talk about ho…
 
What the word “groundcover” means has really changed in the years Ken Druse and I have been gardening. And I’ll admit right here, some of the choices that I made to do the job of covering the ground under shrubs and trees at my place are now plants I want to be rid of. Last time Ken Druse, author of “The New Shade Garden” and 19 other books, was he…
 
One of the ways many of us have been getting through the last few months is by taking comfort in the outdoors, in all that nature and the garden has to offer—by slowing down, looking around, and connecting. One person I know who does that as her 24/7/365 life practice is today’s guest, wildlife rehabilitator and artist and author Julie Zickefoose. …
 
I think of them as investment plants, plants that might not be hardy where I garden, but that with a little extra work and the right strategy can be carried over year to year, even without a greenhouse or the perfect spot to do so. Nobody I know has more investment plants than the list of 1,600 unusual annuals and tropicals that Dennis Schrader and…
 
When I last talked to Doug Tallamy in February around the publication date of his latest book, “Nature’s Best Hope,” I didn’t want to go on and on about the advice in it about smart fall cleanup, which is one of the ways I know I’ve dramatically shifted the way I manage my own garden compared to 10 or even five years ago. But we were looking ahead …
 
The word “downsizing” was spoken more than once when Page Dickey and her husband were making plans a few years back to leave their beloved home and big old garden, called Duck Hill, in Westchester County, New York, for a new one. Well, the new piece of land turned out to be bigger than the last, and it has fostered in Page a whole new relationship …
 
Who are you going to tuck in with this fall and winter, as the garden starts to rest and we are all indoors more? Do you have any hand-me-down houseplants from a relative maybe, or plants that you bought that have been with you since college or your first apartment? Marc Hachadourian, Director of Glasshouse Horticulture at the New York Botanical Ga…
 
I have a running joke with today’s podcast guest, a joke I suspect thousands of other former customers just like me email him about regularly, too. Every spring cleanup I come up with more distinctive turquoise plastic labels in my garden that were the signature of Dan Hinkley’s former mail order nursery called Heronswood. And I write to tell him s…
 
Maybe you can feel it where you garden, too. A slight shift in the weather, which combined with shortening days, means summer is loosening its grip. It’s not fall yet. It’s not cleanup time, but what time is it in the garden right now? Ken Druse and I are each under way on projects that are just perfect for this moment, for the in-between time. Fro…
 
A reader emailed me not long ago, asking if I’d ever written a story or done a podcast about dried flowers—which ones to grow and how to dry them and so on. And no, I hadn’t, I had to admit, so I called Jenny Elliot of Tiny Hearts Farm, a farmer-florist friend. And that’s what our topic is today: what you can dry that you’re growing now—yes, even y…
 
I suspect that you each have several mail-order bulb catalogs on hand, and also that each catalog devotes page after page to gorgeous photos of Narcissus and tulips, often right up front. Don’t get me wrong, I love both of those. But today with help from Matt Mattus, author of the book “Mastering the Art of Flower Gardening,” we’re going to look pa…
 
A new book came my way recently with a title that just said it all. “Lawns Into Meadows” is what it’s called, and its author, landscape designer Owen Wormser, gave me a short course on meadow-making in a recent conversation we had. “Lawns into Meadows: Growing a Regenerative Landscape” is his book’s full title, and its approach is focused on sustai…
 
Today’s show came out of a phone conversation that Ken Druse and I were having the other day, when I found myself confessing to him that I’d let things in my containers get, shall we say, a tad overgrown this season without the pressure of any visitors and tours to keep me in line. And how I was finally trying to get them back into shape for the re…
 
Years ago, a friend who founded a botanic garden in Massachusetts took me to visit a landscape that he had long loved and admired. It was not just beautiful, but a designated National Historic Landmark—and one that was also a cemetery, on land that was consecrated for the purpose in 1831. Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts is still a…
 
A surprising number of people ask me about whether this plant or that plant in my garden or theirs is poisonous. And so when I saw news from the New York Botanical Garden about a just-published, fully-updated edition of a reference book on the subject, I thought, “Why don’t I learn more about this?” (Meaning, why don’t we learn more about this toge…
 
Ken Druse and I both love leaves, and so do the naughty furbearing herbivores who have been visiting our gardens with a vengeance this season—but that’s another story. Today’s topic is leaves to love from the gardener’s point of view, not the woodchucks’ or the rabbits.’ Ken Druse, friend of many years, and author and photographer of 20 garden book…
 
Season Extending with Niki Jabbour – A Way to Garden with Margaret Roach – July 13, 2020 Longtime gardeners and first-timers went all out in this craziest of years, bringing the expression “victory garden” back into the headlines. We all planted in spring like mad—in fact, so much so that seed companies were swamped, and even ran out. But planting …
 
As more gardeners shop for native plants each year, more plant descriptions in catalogs and on nursery labels use the blanket phrase “pollinator-friendly” to catch our attention. But is that the whole story behind each plant that’s so labeled, and how do we choose among the many named coneflowers or asters or heucheras, and figure out which one doe…
 
When I got my copy of the new “Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America,” I tracked down the author’s email address at once, and sent him a message: “I’m mad for woodpeckers,” I wrote, and Stephen Shunk wrote back: “Mad for woodpeckers is a very good thing.” I suspect if you are not already, that by the end of this story and podcast…
 
Summer: It’s what I refer to as the season of dragging hoses, and for me at least this year, the fact that it seems to have stopped raining with any regularity or measurable impact is making it worse. This is the season when we must all pay strict attention to watering, but how, and how often, and what to give our attention to most and why? I talke…
 
The world is shifting focus again now toward opening up this time, several months after much shutting down. But as we do, I for one hope we won’t turn too quickly away from awareness of the solace that the garden has provided and that it offers for us at all times, bad or good. Adrian Higgins Today’s guest has been taking note of that in various wa…
 
Garden designer Bill Noble starts his new book with this promise, “I’m going to tell you a story of the pleasures and challenges, both aesthetic and practical, of creating a garden that feels genuinely rooted to its place.” His book, called “Spirit of Place,” profiles the making of his own garden in New England, but at the same time teaches us to t…
 
The beloved wildflowers of springtime—the trilliums, the mayapples, the Virginia bluebells—are probably gone till next year, but don’t despair. Here comes the next cast of players, the wildflowers of summer. The acclaimed naturalist Carol Gracie looks beyond their surface beauty in her new book on the subject, into their life histories and even cul…
 
I was crawling around weeding the other day and there it was, yet another turquoise colored plastic label I knew was from the original Heronswood Nursery near Seattle, which has been closed about 15 years. No plant, just a label. I found three such lonely turquoise labels that day, as I do each spring, reminders of plants I loved and lost. Yes, pla…
 
If you’re a bird person, as I am, you may feel as if you know today’s guest, because one of his field guides, illustrated with his artwork to help you figure out who’s who, is probably within reach at all times alongside your binoculars. In recent weeks I’ve been keeping company with David Allen Sibley’s latest book, which is not a traditional fiel…
 
Tomato Success With Craig LeHoullier – A Way to Garden With Margaret Roach – May 21, 2020 Every gardener has his or her own tomato secrets, tips, and tricks they’re sure will bring earliest fruit or the biggest harvest. Some of us swear by staking others by caging, some let their plants sprawl and then there’s to feed or not to feed and what about …
 
I’m grateful that when I began gardening, I fell in with a bunch of plant nerds who spoke not in common names but in botanical Latin, and turned me on to oddball mail-order nurseries whose entire lists were likewise written that way. Necessity was therefore the mother of invention. I absorbed at least a rudimentary command of the official language …
 
A famous gardener Ken Druse and I know often says this one-liner: “Anyone can do spring.” What he means is: and then what happens after that? What happens after the current tender colorful parade of beauty, with flowers everywhere and fresh green foliage expanding by the minute without our effort, is up to us gardeners—and that’s the harder part. T…
 
I’m mad for birds, so much so, that I’ve been looking expectantly lately at the interactive migration maps on the BirdCast website and browsing reports coming in from ares to the south of me on eBird.com, wondering when my fair-weather, feathered friends will be joining me in livening things up in this strangest of springs. Photo of great crested f…
 
Cook With What You’ve Got with Lukas Volger – A Way to Garden with Margaret Roach – April 20, 2020 Just before things shifted in our world, I bought a new vegetarian cookbook called “Start Simple,” by Lukas Volger. Little did I know that just weeks later, its promise of “an uncomplicated approach to cooking that allows you to use what you already h…
 
One of my favorite books by our friend Ken Druse is called “Making More Plants,” and though it’s about all kinds of propagation, Ken and I talked the other day about what is maybe the easiest way of all to make more plants, which is by dividing them. In most of the country this spring 2020, we’re not out shopping at garden centers, browsing for new…
 
Yes, yes, I know; you plan to grow the usual rows of zinnias, but what other among organic flower farmer Jenny Elliott’s must-grow list of cutting varieties do you have lined up and ready to sow, or have a source of starts for? I asked Jenny for her list of flowers you shouldn’t garden without. Copake, New York-based Jenny is a farmer-florist with …
 
Seeds and Sunflowers: Before the weeks got darker, Ken Greene and I had planned a chat about a sunny subject: sunflowers. Ken is co-founder of Hudson Valley Seed Company and also of the nonprofit called Seedshed, and though he and I did get to do some sunflower dreaming, we first veered into how seeds figure into such tough moments as we are curren…
 
Garden as Refuge: It’s Thursday, March 19th, 2020, as Ken Druse and I are taping this show from our respective homes via Skype. In my weekly newsletter last Sunday, I said I didn’t know just what to say, or how to begin, since nothing seemed the same as it had a mere seven days prior to that. All I came up with was this thought, and it’s how we’ll …
 
Compost Smart: What’s your composting setup? Bin, tumbler or open pile—or maybe even an ingenious set of three pits in the ground? And most important, how is it working? More effective composting tactics, along with other timely advice to prepare for spring, was the subject of my conversation with New York Botanical Garden instructor Daryl Beyers. …
 
Pollinator Gardens: One of the most common questions that garden centers and other garden professionals are asked these days: How can I add more pollinator plants? Kim Eierman designs ecological gardens with such beneficial insects in mind, and is the author of the new book “The Pollinator Victory Garden,” and I got some advice from her on subjects…
 
Women and Plants: I’m a woman who’s made a good portion of her career in the field of horticulture, specifically in the journalism end of the plant world. But until I read the new book “The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants,” I hadn’t really visualized myself as part of something quite the way that I see in i…
 
Gardeners including myself want to add more, more, more native plants to their landscapes to support pollinators and birds and other native wildlife, but if our beds and borders are already established? Do we have to erase them and start over? Making room for habitat-style planting, even in an established garden that includes many “collector plants…
 
Seed Stories: Call me a seed nerd and I won’t mind because yes, I’m obsessed with where seed comes from and specifically how critical it is to support organic seed breeders and farmers with our seed-shopping dollars. I’m also drawn to the stories of particular seeds—and not just old varieties or heirlooms, but the stories of new varieties, too. I r…
 
Doug Tallamy: “Nature’s Best Hope” is the title of University of Delaware professor Doug Tallamy’s new book, and the subtitle reads like this: “A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard.” In other words, you and I are nature’s best hope. Our actions count, and they add up to counteract a fragmented landscape and other challenges to th…
 
Seed Starting: What really matters when we start seeds? What tweaks to our process or our gear can actually move the needle from so-so results or worse to closer to pro? My friend Joe Lamp’l wondered that, too, and undertook batch after batch of experiments to test a lot of the conventional wisdoms out there—many of which conflict with one another,…
 
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