Gardening: What’s this grey mould destroying my plants?

Hannah Stephenson offers the lowdown on grey mould, one of winter’s most prevalent plant diseases.

It’s already blighted my cyclamen in pots, has enveloped the leaves of my ornamental cabbages, and left the base of other plants in soggy tatters.

Grey mould, or botrytis, is one of our most common winter problems, a nuisance fungus that emerges during damp weather, invades greenhouse plants in cool and humid conditions, or attacks plants that have an open wound left by something else.

What are the symptoms?

It covers stems, foliage and fruit with a soft grey fluff and can seriously damage crops. While outdoor attacks are most common during wet weather in summer, when high temperatures and humidity prevail, in winter grey mould is most likely to happen under glass, when plants are at the lowest point of their annual growth cycle, producing a mass of vulnerable decaying foliage.

Which plants are affected?

So many plants can be hit by botrytis, including chrysanthemums and gladioli, tomatoes, onions, geraniums and a host of other plants.

It is common on apples, grapes, strawberries, raspberries and currants, while vegetables affected include beans, brassicas, cucumbers, lettuce, peas, potatoes and celery and carrots in store. Once it

Read More

As their family (and their landscape) grows, the owners of Zook & Oleson Gardening adapt their spaces for plants and people

THE TREES ARE big, the house is small (but very cool) and the gardens are always growing.

Ben Oleson and Jen Zook are owners of Zook & Oleson Gardening ( and parents to Indie (15) and Jesse (12). Two dogs, Joaquin and Fiona, and an “ancient” cat named Vincent, complete the household.

An avid plantsman, Oleson’s approach to garden design is grounded in plants. “I’m a gardener. If you want a garden, I’m your guy,” he says. “I only design what I can install — and I’m not that handy.”

I politely disagree as we walk among several Ben-built projects on the family’s large corner lot in West Seattle. The landscape is abundantly planted but prioritizes family life. Built features, like decking, an interesting dog-friendly fence (it has windows at canine height) and outbuilding storage solutions for the active family’s outdoor gear, are integrated with ornamental shrubs and perennials, edible gardens and berries.

Bisecting exuberantly planted garden beds, an informal boardwalk leads to a citrus yellow front door. The canopy of a truly impressive silver maple (Acer saccharinum) envelops the front garden and bustles with life. “The tree is a community of animals, the only ecosystem

Read More

Terrarium a great way to add plants to indoor landscape

If you are feeling the winter doldrums this year even more than before, you are not alone. With the holidays behind us and the pandemic still with us, it’s not easy staying upbeat.

a man sitting in front of a window: Mike Hogan

Mike Hogan

But there are simple ways to help boost your spirits, such as by adding eye-catching plants to an indoor space to provide a little extra comfort.

Consider building a terrarium: Many different sizes and types of containers can be used, from an old pickle jar you might have in the basement to a vintage vase or antique container. Really, any clear glass or plastic vessel will work, as long as it has an opening wide enough to accommodate your hand.

You can even choose containers that match the decor of the room you wish to spruce up, and then complete the terrarium with small accent pieces or even heirloom items that will complement the decor as well.

Design features of terrariums can complement the decor of any room in the house.

© Unsplash
Design features of terrariums can complement the decor of any room in the house.

Making your own terrarium is easy and can be a great indoor-gardening activity for all family members, with each person choosing the type of container, plants and decorative items

Read More

Help plants survive winter weather

If you’re like me, you buy new perennials, trees and shrubs every year. Most plants sold locally are hardy, but not all. It’s good to know the “zone hardiness” of plants before you buy them, and how the zone maps work. In a nutshell, the colder the climatic zone, the lower the number.

a green plant in a garden: Blue Moon wisteria blooms on new wood, so it's not bothered by cold winters.

© Henry Homeyer
Blue Moon wisteria blooms on new wood, so it’s not bothered by cold winters.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has created maps showing the climatic zones of all states and regions. They are based on many years of temperature records, and each zone is rated according to the coldest average temperatures. Summer temperatures are not considered in creating the hardiness zones.

Each zone covers a 10-degree range of temperatures. The coldest zone in New England is Zone 3, which includes places where temperatures range between 40 and 30 degrees below zero each winter. Some maps include an “a” and “b” designation to further describe the zones. An “a” is 5 degrees colder than a “b”. So Zone 4a is minus 25 to minus 30, and 4b is minus 20 to minus 25.

Trees and perennial plants that survive in Zone 4 — which includes

Read More