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Fall 2018

Issue 49

The Real Dirt

Workshops: Seeds! Seeds! Seeds! One of My Favorite Things Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference Workshops: Behind the Scenes at Longwood Gardens Show-Stopping Dahlias! Grow your own Heirloom Vegetables What’s Bugging You?

The Garden Club of America’s Quarterly Horticulture Publication

A Note from the Editor Preparing to settle in for a long winter’s nap….

Fall is always such a busy time. As we prepare our gardens for bed, the days get shorter while our list of garden chores seems to grow longer. There is always one more bulb to plant, tuber to dig up, vegetable to harvest, or perennial to divide. Then of course there are always the weeds!   Some of us were lucky enough to be able to take a break from our garden chores to attend the Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference this past September. Ginny Levy, Vice Chairman SMHC, The West Chester Garden Club, Zone V, put together an amazing conference with support from her garden club and The Garden Club of Wilmington.  Over 250 GCA club members gathered at Longwood Gardens for two glorious days jam-packed with fascinating speakers, dancing fountains, garden tours, hands-on opportunities to learn more about wide range of horticultural topics, as well as taking "selfies with Shirley."   Over the next few issues we will share with you some of the information we learned in the fabulous workshops, and show you a few of the sights we were able to enjoy. Hopefully this will entice you to join us next September in Colorado!  Quite frankly, the only downside to attending the SMHC was returning home to my very neglected gardens and seeing how wild they had become. Perennials may enter dormancy in fall, but they don't stop growing and neither do the weeds! Then the other day I noticed a significant increase in the number of birds in the yard. It seems the further behind I fall, the more my fine feathered friends come to visit.  Suddenly gardens gone wild doesn't seem to be such an eyesore after all! Susan Schieffelin The Real Dirt Editor, Greenwich Garden Club, Zone II

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Fall 2018

In This Issue….

A Note From The Editor

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News - Freeman Medal

page 3

One of My Favorite Things - Peony

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Selfies with Shirley - What I learned at the SMHC workshops: 1. Behind the Scenes at Longwood Gardens’ Nursery 2. Saving Vegetable Seeds: Grow your own heirlooms!

page 6 page 7 page 8

3. What’s Bugging You? - Integrated Pest Management

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4. Grow Show-Stopping Dahlias

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Sage Advice: Caring for Tubers

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Workshops: Bulb Forcing Update Seeds! Seeds! Seeds! Book Review - Listen to the Land by Louise Wrinkle HortCuts

page 12 page 13 page 14 page 16


Freeman Medal Applications Due December 1st!

Since 1995 The Garden Club of America has presented annually the Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal: GCA Plant of the Year. It is the only award presented by the GCA to a plant. The medal is awarded to an outstanding or unusual species or cultivar of North American native plants worthy of special recognition. To learn more of the history of this very special award, click here. The medal will be awarded to a tree, shrub or woody vine in 2019 and the award will be accepted at the GCA Annual Meeting by the group or individual nominating the plant. To nominate a plant or see a list of previous winners, go to the Horticulture Committee web page. WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Do you have a past Freeman Medal winner planted in your yard or near by you? We want to hear from you! Contact us at

Photographs: On the Cover: Garden ornaments on a path at Chanticleer Garden. Photo by Susan Schieffelin.

Page 2: Fountains at Longwood Gardens, photo by Helen Wagner. Jane Curtis, Kingslea von Helms, and Meg Tapp share a secret with Shirley. Special thanks to our photographers in this issue: Anne Bigliani, Julia Dunn, Nancy Linz, Susan Olson, Meg Tapp, Helen Wagner, Lydia Wallis. GOT PICTURES? QUESTIONS? IDEAS FOR ARTICLES? Contact us at or to submit click here

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One of My Favorite Things…..

By Leslie Purple, Wissahickon Garden Club, Zone V

Single Pink Paeonia

to delicious jewel tones coming in yellows, magentas, corals, greens, and the elusive deep purple and almost everything in

I love peonies! Yes, they are ephemeral,

pricey, they droop in the rain, ants love them and the leaves can get moldy.

Herbaceous Paeonia ‘Big Ben’

Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’

But I just can’t help but love them. They are so beautiful that I don’t mind putting up with any of the downsides. They are like fragrant, dancing tufts in the garden, in glorious colors ranging from subtle pastels

Paeonia ‘Do Tell’

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between. However, they aren’t prima donnas and most are fairly easy to grow. They are often long-lived, 50 to100 years in some cases. Native to Asia, Europe and western North America, they can be grown in a wide

Paeonia ‘Green Halo’

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range of horticulture zones from 3 to 8 or even 9. Even Alaska has over 40 peony farms. They are great in flower arrangements and they are widely available at local nurseries, florists, and online. In my zone 7a garden I usually get 8 or more weeks of bloom. My first peonies are the woodland varieties that grow in part shade. Paeonia obovata and Paeonia japonica often appear in mid-April, followed by the tree peonies, then herbaceous varieties and finally, at the end of the season in late June, the Itoh intersectional hybrids.

Itoh Paeonia Yellow

I always try to put peonies in gardens I design. They are beautiful in perennial borders and the tree peonies are especially effective as standalone features. Even after blooming, their lush foliage is attractive for a large part of the growing season. Make sure you leave plenty of room for growth as some become quite large. Photographing peonies is a delight. Early morning or late afternoon light is the best time to capture the romance of these beauties in the garden.

Paeonia ‘Krinkled White’, ‘Sarah Berndhardt’, and Angel Cheeks’

They also make wonderful still life subjects indoors. For inspiration in creating your own Dutch Master still life with peonies, turn to Seizing Beauty (The Monacelli Press) by Paulette Tavormina. Her captivating images may inspire you to grow and photograph these stunning and elegant flowers.

All Photographs were taken by Leslie Purple, former Photography Committee Chairman, and landscape designer, in her garden. Paeonia suffruticosa White Tree Peony

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Selfies With Shirley! What I learned at the Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference In addition to garden tours, lectures with fascinating speakers, seed share, and opportunities to visit with friends, this year the SMHC offered over 35 workshops for delegates to choose from.

Shirley and Trish Reynolds take a moment out of Roger Davis's class for a photo op!

Over the next several issues The Real Dirt will continue to highlight these workshops and the incredible information shared in the classroom and throughout the conference. Scroll down over the next few pages to see what goes on behind the scenes at Longwood Gardens, learn about pest management, how to grow dazzling Dahlias, and more. If you were lucky enough to attend the conference and have some photos or memories to share, contact us at If you were not able to attend, click here for all the workshop notes. For another opportunity to visit Longwood Gardens, consider joining GCA On The Road on March 8, 2019. Longwood CEO and GCA Honorary Member, Paul Redman, will host you for lunch and you'll learn more about the Seed Your Future initiative to grow interest in horticulture and plant science careers. Then take a behind-the-scenes tour of their current exhibits. For more information on this and other programs click here .

Lydia Wallis and Shirley enjoy a quiet moment.

Shirley & Kathy Shepperly, Horticulture Committee Chairman

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Dawn Long and Kae Bolling, catch up with Shirley.


Ray Rogers and Marianne Pollack head into a workshop together.

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Behind the Scenes at the Longwood Gardens Nursery

By Nancy Linz, Horticulture Committee Zone Representative, Garden Club of Cincinnati, Zone X

For those of you who have visited Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, you know their world-renowned gardens are magnificent! But many visitors don’t get the chance to look behind the scenes at the expansive nursery operation that supports these gardens. Kevin Murphy, who led our tour, started as an intern at Longwood 20 years ago, and today he is a greenhouse manager. There are 13 full-time employees and two managers who work in 15 hoop houses and numerous fields producing many of the plants used throughout the gardens. Every plant grown here has a label indicating the date it was started from seed, cutting, or tissue culture, the date it was potted, and its location. Longwood grows 100,000 to 150,000 seasonal crops, with a maximum of 400-500 of any one cultivar. For its fall seasonal display, Longwood grows so many chrysanthemums that two full-time growers are dedicated to their production. Some mums, trained as tall pagoda trees, are formed by grafting mums onto Artemesia annua, also known as wormwood (center photo). A massive chrysanthemum tree that will be a focal point in the conservatory will eventually have over 1,000 blooms! This year the nursery is also growing mums in the shape of a Japanese fan. According to Mr. Murphy, if all goes well, it will be covered in white mum flowers with a red circle of flowers in the center to look like the Japanese flag. Longwood Gardens has an impressive and extensive recycling program. There are two fulltime employees on the soil and composting team that compost all trimmings, woody stems, and soil that is discarded by the landscaping and nursery crews. Even the nursery pots are compostable! Mr. Murphy explained that even though these pots are more expensive, the cost is sustainable. Longwood is also working to install solar panels with the goal of being completely energy independent by 2020! The Real Dirt


Fall 2018

Saving Vegetable Seeds: Grow your own Heirlooms! By Anne Bigliani, Vice Chairman Propagation and Seed Share, Garden Club of Englewood, Zone IV and Mimi Carrington, Garden Club of Morristown, Zone IV

Tomato seeds must be separated from their Tim Erdmann, former cheesemonger and forager, oversees the vegetable and herb collections in the Idea Garden at Longwood.

surrounding gel by a fermentation process which involves letting the seeds stand in water for a few days. Afterwards, wash the seeds and let dry on an open surface for a few days.

Squash seeds: Wash the seeds to remove the strings and flesh. Cure the seeds by laying them on a paper towel to dry.

Tim’s source of the best seed saving secrets:

Tim’s Tips on saving veggie seeds: 10 seeds from 10 plants are better that 100 from 1 plant. Growing seeds from multiple plants prevents inbreeding and promotes hybrid vigor. Mark your strongest, best-producing plants with a string or a knife cut, to harvest late in the season. Save those plants’ seeds for the best produce

Small seeds that dry fully on the plant can be collected by bagging the plant, pulling it up, and dumping the whole plant into the bag. The seeds will collect in the bag. next season. Collect seeds that are fully mature. Let pods dry completely before harvesting. This will often be much later than when you would harvest for the table. Dry the seeds after removing from pods. Wet seeds must by thoroughly cleaned and dried. Read up on best practices for drying individual vegetable varieties. The Real Dirt

Tim’s bible for vegetable seed saving, Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening.

The Real Seed Catalogue, including: Tips for Beginners, Drying your seed, and How to save seed. In particular read “Easy Home Seed Drying & Storage” to learn how to dry seeds with heat dried rice in a sealed jar to produce bone-dry seeds which can be stored safely in a plastic bag for several years! And even better, Tim reminds us that dried seeds keep better in the cold, especially in the freezer. Keep your seeds in an airtight glass container in the freezer or refrigerator for best preservation.

See Seed Savers Exchange for more information For workshop handouts click here.


Fall 2018

What's Bugging You? SMHC Workshop on Integrated Pest Management helps find the answer! By Helen Couch, Hor/culture Commi3ee Zone Representa/ve, The Palme3o Garden Club of South Carolina, Zone VIII Integrated Pest Management at Longwood Gardens is a fascinating tale of extreme plant diversity and the battle to keep those plants healthy. Longwood has four full-time employees who systematically scout every single plant on the 1,100 acre property looking for pests. Becca Manning and Beth Pantuliano, two of the IPM Technicians, gave us a detailed look into their work lives.

Pests to Watch for:

Beneficial Insects

Thrips, Spider mites, Aphids, Mealybug, Whitefly, Hard Scale, and Soft Scale Here are their four steps to a healthy garden: 1. Identify the plant and its pest. 2. Note where the pest is in its life cycle. 3. Determine how to eradicate the pest with the least impact on the plant and the environment. 4. Introduce the solution and monitor for success or further intervention. The technicians also note plant health as a preventative measure and address accordingly. This includes using compost tea and noting growing degree days as heat can precipitate problems. They provided an excellent handout detailing the main garden pests – their key identification features, signs and symptoms, where to find them on the plant, life cycle - and a list of the beneficial insects Longwood uses to target each of them.

Compost Tea Ingredients:

Compost Fish hydrolysate (feeds fungal ac7vity) Humate (neutralizes chlorine) Soluble kelp (feeds fungi and bacteria) Water To read the en7re Pest Management handout and more click here.

From the tallest tree in the woodland gardens to the smallest succulent in the conservatory, pest management is an integral part of keeping the gardens pristine for all to enjoy.

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Fall 2018

GROW SHOW-STOPPING DAHLIAS! By Liz Lavezzorio, Vice Chairman Partners for Plants, Lake Forest Garden Club, Zone XI

Roger Davis, Senior Horticulturist For Longwood Gardens, offers great growing tips at the SMHC.

In celebration of the National Dahlia Show at Longwood, dahlias were the main plant featured in the Trial Garden.

Most forms of Dahlias should be staked. Stakes should be placed in the ground at the time tubers are planted in spring. Build a mound to plant your tuber. 

We saw about 21 different Dahlia forms planted in various combinations. Roger shared with us some tips and inspiration to design and plant Dahlias in our own gardens.

Order new tubers by December in order to get them in time to plant in spring. Look for award winners from The American Dahlia Society that are grown in your Zone.

Dahlias are native to Mexico and were introduced to Europe in the late 18th century. A member of the aster family, the Dahlia is related to species such as sunflowers and chrysanthemum. The American Dahlia Society addresses Dahlias in three groups according to purpose: garden type Dahlias, exhibition Dahlias, and border or container Dahlias.

Grade #1 are the largest size and will produce a fuller plant with more stems and blooms. Container grown Dahlias height should be 2”-3” tall. “Mystic Series” is a good variety for containers. Be sure to plant with other aggressively rooted plants like salvias. 

Dahlias add a bright and bold statement to any garden setting in late summer when many flowers start to fade. 
 Dahlias grow from tubers and must be dug up from the ground after the first frost. 
 Dahlia tubers should be planted in spring around the same time as planting tomato plants. You can start in containers then transplant. Tubers should be firm, not wet (rotting) or too dry (getting wrinkled).

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For more information on Dahlias, check out: The American Dahlia Society: and The Greater Philadelphia Dahlia Society: http:// To see Roger Davis’s detailed handout, click here.


Fall 2018


What is a tuber and how should they be treated in the fall?

Tubers are enlarged structures that act as storage organs for nutrients to survive the winter or dry months. There is no basal plate and the outside tends to be leathery. Tubers have eyes, or growth nodes, from which the new plants grow. To propagate plants all you would need to do is dig up the plant and cut off healthy pieces of tuber, each with about three eyes on it. In addition to peonies and Dahlias other examples include: daylily, anemone, cyclamen, caladium, and potato.

Peony tubers should be divided in the fall.

When peony leaves start turning brown and droopy, it’s time to lift old tubers and plant new ones. Although peonies happily grow and bloom in one place for decades, you may want to divide older plants to fill empty spaces. Wait until the foliage dies down in late August or September. This is your signal that plants are entering dormancy.

Dahlias: It’s fine to allow your Dahlias to be killed back by the frost. It’s actually really good for them. After the first heavy frost, you can cut the plant back to within four inches of the ground. Be sure to keep the label with the plant root mass, so that you don’t lose the name of that variety. Wait about a week before digging to give the tuber time to develop next year's sprouts. Using a pitchfork, dig about 8” away from the stem so you don’t pierce the tuber and lightly dig it up. Clean off the tuber clump and allow it to air dry slightly. You can use a Sharpie pen to write the cultivar name right on the tuber. Trim back the stems to one inch then gently place in bins of mulch, sand, sawdust or vermiculite so it doesn’t dry out completely. It is better not to allow tubers to directly touch one another. Store in a location that’s going to be cool but not freezing. About 40 degrees is perfect. A root cellar, cool basement, or an attached garage are good choices. Dahlia tubers are usually divided in the spring before planting. Be sure each divided tuber has a piece of the crown with an eye.

Clean divisions from your garden with a soft brush or dunk them in a pail of tepid water, and then inspect them for signs of rot. Cut away and discard sections of soft or mushy tissue before replanting your peonies. If the ground freezes in your area, get tubers planted no later than six to eight weeks before the average freeze date, which is typically several weeks after the first hard freeze. The Real Dirt

Dahlias are not frost hardy. In temperate areas such as growing zones 8-10 they are often container grown year round or left in the ground to grow in the garden. However, they still need to be protected from winter chills and then can be dug up and divided in the spring.


Fall 2018

WORKSHOPS! Update on Dig In and Win! We are growing together! Over the next few months, we invite you to organize a bulb forcing workshop in your club and then share your results with the GCA. Growing bulbs indoors is easy and fun. To participate simply send us pictures this fall of your bulb workshops. Then send us a final photo of your forced bulb pots on April 1, 2019 (No foolin'). Send us those final photos (whether or not your pots are in bloom) along with the name of your club email to: We'll feature the best individual entry (one pot in photo) and the best group/club entry (more than one pot in the photo) in a future issue of The Real Dirt. Have fun and GOOD LUCK! For more info on bulbs:

For help setting up a workshop and more ideas to participate email us.

Clubs across the country are growing together. It's not too late to join the fun! Host a workshop for your club and send us your photos!

Rye Garden Club, Zone III busy potting up their bulbs.

The Ladies of Late Bloomers Garden Club, Zone VIII

Your club photo could be here!

Garden Club of East Hampton, Zone III having fun at their Bulb Workshop.

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Greenwich Garden Club, Zone II takes a photo break.


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WORKSHOPS: SEEDS! SEEDS! SEEDS! Kathy Shepperly, Horticulture Committee Chairman, Garden Club of Morristown, Zone IV, shares another wonderful propagation workshop idea!

What you need: Bulb crate or milk crate (with slats for drainage) Black weed block material White frost blanket material Chicken wire Zip ties or wire clamps Moistened sterile seed starting mix Hardy seeds that need cold stratification Stakes for labeling seeds

Super Easy Winter Seed Sowing in a Bulb Crate 1. Cut the black weed block material to fit in the bottom and up the sides of the crate. 2. Fill the bottom of the crate with moistened sterile seed starting mix such as Fafard or Promix. 3. Make 1/2” deep rows for the various seeds that need cold stratification. 4. Make stakes with the seed names and the date planted. 5. Plant the seeds and lightly cover the rows. 6. Cut the white frost blanket material to cover over the crate as well as chicken wire with enough to close over half of the crate. Zip tie or clamp down all sides of the chicken wire so squirrels and chipmunks won’t get in and eat your seeds. 7. Place the crate under trees and leave until spring!!! Around April open up and check for rows of seedlings, recover and keep checking back; by June seeds should have emerged and you can thin the seeds and when the second set of leaves emerge, repot in 3” pots with potting soil. Depending on the plant they may require another season in pots and a winter in a cold frame before going into your garden.

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BOOK REVIEW: Nancy Thomas, Garden Club of Houston, Zone IX, shares her thoughts with us on the book

LISTEN TO THE LAND written by GCA member Louise Wrinkle, Little Garden Club of Birmingham, Zone VIII

Being with her as my guide in her very personal garden was a truly memorable experience. I am so very pleased that she has now shared that garden with many others who will have a visit through the beautiful photographs, plant descriptions, and stories of how it all happened as described in her book Listen to the Land. Louise and John moved their family back into Louise’s childhood home, and she wished to rejuvenate the garden, which had been her mother’s, and make it her own.

Nancy Thomas Friend and admirer of Louise Wrinkle The Garden Club of Houston, Zone IX Former President of the GCA I have long been the happy recipient of Christmas cards from Louise and John Wrinkle which show vignettes of their wonderful garden always leaving one wishing for more, but it was not until I personally visited their garden that I realized what a woodland wonderland had been created. I had wandered through many gardens with Louise and marveled at her great horticultural knowledge always learning from her about some new plant, new species of a genus, or just enjoying the beauty around us.

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Louise assembled a team headed by an outstanding landscaper and horticulturist, Beaty Hanna, and three men who “could construct or fix it all." During the ensuing years, Louise established her dream in this garden - a “personal oasis of calm and serenity.” “Minimalism would be the rule of the place, and still is.” “If you are too restrictive and limit yourself to a certain group of plants, you lose enjoyment of so many others." Louise was greatly influenced by the gardens of Mt. Cuba, the home of Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland, and long considered an exemplary woodland garden. (continued on page 15)

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But she developed her own approach. “If it is native to the Southeastern U.S.; if it presents an attractive picture of color, texture, or form; and if it will grow here, I will try it. If you are too restrictive and limit yourself to a certain group of plants, you lose enjoyment of so many others.” In line with this thinking, she often planted oriental and native species together such as Chionanthus virginicus and Chionanthus retusus. A philosophy of Listening to the Land has led Louise to “focus on letting plants develop as they will and tend to them in a way that highlights the subtle beauties of texture, rhythm, pattern, repetition, and sculptural elements-no matter what challenges may come.” The meandering pathways, wooden railings, stone work throughout the garden, the brook making its way through the lower garden, all look as if they have always been a part of the landscape. There is an infinite variety of trees, shades of green foliage, flowers of subtle colors, none of which intrude on the peace of the place.

people who did not work as planned. She was out of the city when a tornado struck and devastated her garden. John, who is not the green-thumbed member of the family, was frantically calling about what to do. The Christmas card that year shows her standing in her garden with a giant crane behind her and large trees fallen on the ground. The card said “Why is this woman smiling?” Inside it reads, ”After the Tornado, she will have sun in her garden.” She is also the gardener who says you should not give up on a plant until you have tried it in at least three places--in other words killed it at least three times. Indomitable! This is a book which belongs in every garden lovers’ library. Not only is it a garden storybook, but it is also filled with glorious photography and pages of photos and plant information in the “Plant Profiles “section. It is a garden treasure written with wit and wisdom.

“Why is this woman smiling?” Inside it reads, ”After the Tornado, she will have sun in her garden.” Forms from nature are the sculptures in this garden which is grounded in simplicity yet has great strength. An infectious sense of humor has carried Louise through many garden challenges: storms that destroyed areas of the garden, plants that did not work as planned,

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For more information on her book go to

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HortCuts: A quick round up of horticultural news Kimberly Hatfield, The Real Dirt Assistant Editor, Noanett Garden Club, Zone I Dandelion Seeds Prepared for Flight Before you wrestle that dandelion root, consider its sublime seed design. The downy top, known as a pappus, is shaped somewhat like a parachute. But the filaments have an open design that allows for a genius play of airflow and friction creating a vortex of air which pulls the seed up and into flight.

Extreme Botanists In the race to save rare and critically endangered plants, fearless botanists like Steve Perlman venture into sites that are remote and risky. “Each time I make this journey I’m aware that nature can turn on me,” he says of the danger. Learn about the physical and financial challenges to extreme plant conservation in this article from Yale Environment 360.

Leaves Send SOS In stunning videos, researchers at The University of Wisconsin reveal how leaves under attack from pests warn the rest of the plant. Using mustard plants genetically modified to fluoresce, scientists were able to watch chemical messengers light up as they moved from wound sites across stems and leaves. The work shows that despite not having a central nervous system, plants sense and respond to environmental stressors.

3,800,000 Species and Counting Next time mushrooms are on the menu, consider the vital role and considerable challenges that fungi bring to our health and environment. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has released its first-ever State of the World's Fungi. This report sheds light on a kingdom that they believe is on par with plants and animals in its importance and potential to play a role in solving pressing problems in nutrition, energy and medicine.

Moss Monitors Air Quality One of nature’s oldest plants may help us deal with modern problems. Scientists at Arizona State University found that moss’ simple, one-cell thick leaf structure is actually a very efficient sensor of air pollutants. Visible changes to its leaves can occur in as little as ten seconds of exposure. Researchers hope this finding will pave the way for sustainable air quality monitoring systems using live plants. The Real Dirt

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The Real Dirt Fall 2018  
The Real Dirt Fall 2018