New Adventure

Hi all,

It’s been a bit quiet here because I’ve been working on a new project. I’m launching my own landscape design company called Bluestar Gardens. Take a peek at my website. I also have a blog on the site, so check there as well. I will keep blogging here, but probably not as often as before.

Seed Heads

I’ve had these seed heads on my desk since the summer. I collected them while working in various gardens. The first seed is Clematis pitcheri, commonly called purple clematis, purple leatherflower, or bluebill. Here’s a link to photos of the lovely nodding purple flowers. This clematis is a climbing, twining vine that begins with purple flowers that turn into fluffy Dr. Seuss-looking puffs and then into these stunning seed heads. The star shaped head is fragile, with the individual paddle-shaped seeds breaking off the stem.

The second seed head is from the Hibiscus dasycalyx, or the Netches River Rosemallow. It is a hibiscus that is native to Texas, and is protected because it is only found wild in 3 places along the Netches River. It has beautiful white flowers with red centers. You can see photos here. It grows in wet conditions. The seeds are sweet fuzzy teddy bears and I’m officially scared of screwing up their propagation.

I also saved some Asclepias purpurascens that I’ve put in the fridge to stratify. They are over year old, so I’m not too hopeful. Reference pictures here. I love milkweeds and always try to propagate and distribute them to fellow gardeners.

Is it obvious that I’m dreaming of Spring?

Fall on the High Line


Come and take a peek at the stunning Fall foliage happening on New York’s High Line. It’s worth the trip. The plant above is Amsonia hubrichtii or blue star. It is a perennial plant that is bush-sized and looks amazing almost all year. There are tiny blue flowers in the Spring. The green foliage sways in a hypnotic way all Summer and now it’s just showing off.IMG_3753This is the path going from Gansevoort street towards 14th street. That’s an Amelanchier or Juneberry tree on the far left. They are one of my current favorite native plants to grow. They have tasty berries that look a bit like reddish blueberries.




The other day I was working on the High Line and noticed this little cluster in one of the juniper trees. At first glance it looks as though it could be a kind of pinecone on the tree, but it’s not. It is a case made from silk and plant materials constructed by the bagworm in its larval stage.

If you look closely, you’ll see that there’s an opening towards the bottom of the bag. That allows the larva to poke its little head out and eat more of the tree. Needless to say, this isn’t good for the tree. I looked more closely and the tree was absolutely covered with these bags. The tree next to it was covered as well, but there weren’t any on other trees.

Manual removal is the best method for eliminating this pest. You can just trim the top of the bag from the branch it is sticking to. I think we managed to cut down about 100 bagworms between the two trees!

IMG_3288As I was cutting them down, I dropped them into a plastic bucket. I wasn’t expecting the larvae to emerge from their bags. They kind of poke their little brown necks out and the bag looks an awful lot like a hula skirt. Fascinating and disgusting all in one go.


bagworms from Martha Lazar on Vimeo.

Blooming Butterfly Weed


I’m excited to report that some of my little Asclepias tuberosa aka butterfly weed have started to bloom. I really didn’t expect them to the first year. Butterfly weed is in the milkweed family, which means that it is the food source for the monarch butterfly caterpillars. Milkweed is a truly fascinating plant. The flowers have a kind of trap system in place which causes the pollinator’s leg to slip in a crack and land on a sticky clump of pollen. When the animal tries to wrench its leg out of the crack it pulls the pollen out as well. The downside is that sometimes the insect isn’t able to pull itself free, or pulls itself free, but leaves a leg behind. Yikes! Nature is rough.



It’s about this time of year that I’m completely starved for some color. The crocus are starting to peek out, but not much blooming is happening right now. In comes witchhazel. This beauty is a variation on the usual yellow ones. It is called Jelena witchhazel or Hamamelis x intermedia “Jelena”.

Plant Propagation

(null)My latest class towards my horticulture certificate is plant propagation. We are learning many different ways to grow new plants from existing ones. In addition to the lecture portion, we have hand’s on work in the greenhouse.

We have learned about the different growing requirements for seeds. We’ve made leaf and stem cuttings. And last week we learned about grafting branches and buds onto different plants called rootstock.

Besides all of the great information, I’ve been able to pick some fun plants from the greenhouse at the Brooklyn Botanic garden (aka school) to bring home to propagate. I have many different succulents, a couple of geraniums, African violets, begonias and a dogwood.

The class has inspired me to set up my grow light and heating mat again. I mist the little cuttings several times a day while they are trying to establish roots. My setup is big enough that I’ve put some other plants under the lights. Already my pitcher plants and Venus fly trap look much happier.