'Hort Society' cultivates growing skills

Novice: If you want to get into gardening, the Horticulture Society may be an even better place to start than the garden shop

In The Garden

April 09, 2000|By Ann Egerton | Ann Egerton,Special to the Sun

There are many ways to become a successful gardener. Find a mentor who will have the time and patience to teach you about such essentials as plants, soil, the effects of various kinds of weather on different plants, garden design, how to use color and texture in the garden, and much more. This will only take a lifetime, and your mentor might have other commitments.

You can of course read books, but which ones? Garden clubs, if one invites you to join, are helpful too, but a thorough and focused way to learn about gardening is to join a horticultural society.

There are horticultural societies in most states in the nation; the Horticultural Society of Maryland was founded in 1969 by a group of serious gardeners, including garden club activist Nancy Boyd, now deceased, the late Elmer Worthley, a University of Maryland botanist, and his wife, Jean Worthley, who was host of PBS's "Hodgepodge Lodge" program and then "On Nature's Trail," all told, for over a decade. Elmer Worthley was the society's first president.

The "Hort Society," as people often call it, meets every second Tuesday, at 8:00 p.m. from September through May, currently at the Trinity Assembly of God on W. Joppa Road. It now has over 300 members, and its speakers and workshops often attract visitors. The open membership is based solely on a shared interest in gardening, and its members include amateur gardeners, representatives of landscape companies, nurseries and members of other horticulture societies. The society has a broad field of knowledgeable gardening people and addresses more sophisticated concerns than many garden clubs. The society meets in the evening and has nearly as many male as female members, while garden clubs generally meet during the day and are usually all female (although there is one local male garden club).

Each meeting has a speaker, often of national or international reputation, who may lecture about a public garden or nursery, or, in depth, about just one kind of plant. Recent topics have been trough gardens, daylilies, orchids and searching for spices around the world for McCormick & Co. Unusual plants are sold after every meeting; the proceeds go toward the speakers' fund.

Annual membership in the Horticultural Society of Maryland is $30. That gets you an eight-page newsletter as well as Green Scene, the magazine publication of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. At an additional cost, the organization offers trips to public and private gardens and nurseries, such as White Flower Farm in Connecticut, and Chanticleer Gardens outside Philadelphia. Proceeds from these activities go to four scholarships to the horticulture department of the Community College of Baltimore County.

Throughout the year, workshops are offered to the membership about such horticultural concerns as Xeriscaping (gardening without additional water), compost and woody propagation.

Scheduled lectures:

April 11: Jim Adams, head of the herb garden at the National Arboretum, on herbs

May 9: Nancy Brewster, Maryland horticulturist and writer, on shrubs

For more information: Write P.O. 4213, Lutherville, Md. 21094-4214, or call Leigh Barnes, president, at 410-785-6059, or check out www.members.home.net/hortmd

Frequently asked questions

* What grows in dry shade?

There aren't many, but Lamium maculatum (spotted dead nettle), Liriope muscari (lilyturf), and Epimedium are reliable plants that cover the ground and briefly flower there.

* What interesting annuals do you recommend?

Ammi visagna, 'Green Mist,' which looks like green Queen Anne's lace; Gomphrena globosa (globe amaranth); new salvias and verbenas; heat-loving pentas.

* What blooms in the shade besides impatiens and begonias?

In the spring there are perennials such as Helleborus, Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox), Galium odoratum (sweet woodruff) and Astilbe, but the begonias and impatiens (both annuals) are most reliable in the summer. Try some hostas or Angelica gigas for variety.

* What can I have that is low- maintenance?

Hostas, Hemerocallis hybrids (daylilies), Astilbes, Rudbeckias (black-eyed Susans) are a few perennials that cover ground, bloom, need little care and are attractive from May through the first hard frost.

* What is deer-resistant?

Helleborus, daffodils, Brunnera macrophylla, (Siberian bugloss) Pulmonaria saccharata (spotted lungwort), ageratum, dahlias, Digitalis purpurea (foxglove), Aquilegia canadensis (columbine) and butterfly bush (Buddleia Davidii).

* What is drought-resistant?

A good bet is native plants, (and there are more than 2000 in Maryland) because they have been tolerating our range of temperature and our rainy and dry periods for thousands of years. Sedums such as 'Autumn joy,' Geranium sanguineum (cranesbill) and Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) are just a few.

* What flowers last a long time after you cut them?

Zinnia elegans, cosmos, Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily) last many days. Change the water and snip the stems every day and they'll last longer.

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