Cathy Clary



A feather in the University of Virginia’s landscaping cap, The Dell contains plantings that reflect Virginia’s various ecosystems, from waterside to foothills. Photo: Jack Looney

Summer’s song: This season, the garden calls for pollinators

Each season has its sounds and smells. In the quiet of late winter stinky skunk cabbage entices winged insects hungry for carrion. Spring brings birdsong and sweeter breezes although nature continues the rotting meat theme with the lurid  purple hue of paw-paw flowers. As we approach the equinox of June 21, the legendary longest day […]

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Retooling for spring: A good gardener is only as useful as her instruments

My circle of acquaintances happily includes many who make their lives in horticulture. Their answers to my idle query, “What is your favorite tool?”  ranged from humorous—a professional gardener, 5-gallon bucket and a radio—to the obscure, among them the intriguing swan hoe, an ingenious asparagus knife with scuffle attachment and a number of beloved Japanese […]

The pavilion gardens at the University of Virginia are a great example of a landscape’s architecture—that is, what’s left when the flowering plants have gone into hibernation. Photo: Robert Llewellyn

Lovely bones: A garden with lasting appeal takes planning

What does it mean for a garden to have “good bones”? Like a beautiful woman or a handsome man, it’s what remains when the bloom is gone. Some believe good bones reveal character, or perhaps it’s just a matter of chance. We know it when we see it, however, in gardens as well as faces. […]

Trees for the ages: Marking an occasion necessitates constant care

Trees for the ages: Marking an occasion necessitates constant care

The weeping willow and sourwood, gifts for our wedding, died early on. The Austrian pine marking the birth of our grandson, Sean, (replacing the original Japanese paperbark pine accidentally mowed down) seems to be succumbing to some kind of tip die-back 16 years later, and ever since I heard about the depredations of the ambrosia […]

Garden phlox

June in bloom: For a labor-saving summer garden, work smart

The lure of the long-blooming, low-maintenance garden is perennial in the gardener’s heart. After the rush of early spring has subsided and we are no longer smothered in an eruption of dogwoods, azaleas, peonies, iris and daffodils, thoughts inevitably turn to riding that wave of flowers on to first frost. But we don’t want to […]

Plant your daffodils, like these in southern Albemarle, around Thanksgiving. Photo: Robert Llewellyn

Turn, turn, turn: Getting your garden prepped for autumn

Until the equinox on September 21, we bask in late, late summer. Walnut leaves are yellowing, black gums turn scarlet at the edge of the woods and the soil is warm as a sunny lake on Labor Day, more hospitable to root growth than the cold clay of March. Ample rainfall makes for ideal conditions […]

(From foreground): Purple barberry, Mexican feather grass, black-eyed Susan, phlox and varied foliage fill out this hell strip at the Senior Center in the city. Photo: Cathy Clary

Harrying hot spots: From hell strips’ challenges arise opportunities

Unlike the devil, it’s impossible to mistake a hell strip for anything else. Sterile concrete medians, inhospitable sidewalk patches and blazing afternoon decks do not appear in disguise. They differ from ordinary sunny garden sites in their sometimes polluted but always harsh exposure to reflective heat from asphalt and walls bereft of the buffering effects […]

To help develop buds for next year, azaleas are best fertilized with a slow-release product. File photo.

Ground control: Prepping your garden for its spring awakening

Spring comes to us variously—covered in mud, blasted through on dry winds, smuggled beneath the skirts of late freezes. It has been known to rise gloriously from a burgeoning earth like the first day of Eden, which seems likely this year. Abundant moisture from rain and snow portend a spectacular flowering of classic favorites: dogwood, […]

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Wake up call: The garden awakens the gardener, ready or not

After a prolonged wet winter, there will be mud. In the long run, this is a good thing, as steady moisture nurtures roots and flower buds for what should be a spectacular show this spring. Many tasks await as gardeners make their first stirrings, but beware trudging about in the muck too soon. Digging or […]

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Got leaves? Then it’s time to recycle them

It’s not all a jungle out there, and for that we should be grateful here in the red clay heart of Virginia. Ceaseless growth and decay below the equator harbors no winter sleep or spring awakening. Only deciduous forests of the middle latitudes change into seasons other than rainy or dry. In the northern hemisphere, […]

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Teacher says: Fall brings new starts with plants

The autumn equinox brings a change of season. Regardless of drought, derecho or whether we believe fossil fuels contribute to global warming, at 10:49 am EDT on September 22, Earth faces the sun straight on before tilting toward fall. Like students at the start of the school year, gardeners can begin a brand new schedule […]

May ABODE: Garden green

May ABODE: Garden green

(File photo) The grocery store tomatoes I bought during the last heat wave have been languishing in their pots as we wait for night temperatures to settle dependably into the 50s. No matter how hot it gets during the day, tomatoes will not prosper in cold soil at night. I knew this when I bought […]

Gardening with native plants in a time of change

Gardening with native plants in a time of change

Trillium, a spring ephemeral, flourishes on gardener Carol Angle’s Albemarle property. (Photo by Andrea Hubbell) Is this the hill? Is this the kirk? Is this mine own countree? —Samuel Taylor Coleridge A fascination with native flora—plants growing here before European settlement—has a venerable history in Charlottesville, and if you can’t guess who it traces to, […]

April ABODE: Garden green

April ABODE: Garden green

UVA’s Pavilion Gardens will be featured as always during Historic Garden Week. (Photo by Dan Addison) Each April, hands are wrung and woe betided over what will be left in bloom for Garden Week. There won’t be any daffodils for this one, judging by ours out here south of town. In mid-March, “mid-season” Butter and […]

March ABODE: Appreciating fragrance, whether native or not

March ABODE: Appreciating fragrance, whether native or not

 The fragrance of Froot Loops permeates the air, wafting from three winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) fortuitously planted at the base of an electric pole out in the east garden between the house and road. Over a dozen years they’ve matured into softly rounded cloud-like forms about 8’ all around, without any pruning other than occasional […]

February ABODE: Nurture bulbs, nurture the gardener

February ABODE: Nurture bulbs, nurture the gardener

Most deciduous trees and shrubs remain dormant during these short, low-angled days, their tight buds still furled over sleeping embryos. Yet mild temperatures teased out coral quince and pale yellow winter jasmine just after Christmas. As the little bulbs lead us into spring we can be grateful for the early flowers of a benevolent winter. […]

In Ithaca we trust

In Ithaca we trust

All modern local currencies trace back to Ithaca Hours, the oldest, largest and most successful system of scrip in the U.S. Established in 1991 in Cornell University’s hometown, it was the spawn of a quintessential “granola community.” Alas, as is the way of many socially conscious movements, a schism occurred and founder Paul Glover’s ithacahours.com […]

If you want to join

SBN currently has around 40 members with an active website and frequent e-mails. Join by clicking on the Yahoo! group’s link on their website (search “Scottsville barter network”), though you don’t have to be a member to access the directory of goods and services (sustainablescottsville.com/barter). The group has an open meeting the first Tuesday of […]

The taxman cometh

The taxman cometh

Looming over the barter economy is the specter of tax liability. Caroline Wilson, enrolled agent and master tax advisor for H&R Block in Charlottesville, says, “Bartering for us from a tax standpoint is very simple: It’s income. Scrip currency is treated for tax purposes as though it were U.S. cash.” She says most people wouldn’t […]

Got scrip?

Got scrip?

Hear that giant sucking sound of greenbacks whooshing down voracious twin vortexes of grocery store and gas station? Consider getting rid of currency altogether and trading directly with your fellow citizens. What I found, taking a dip in the local barter scene, is a bit more complicated. Bartering can be a one-time event or a […]

Your dinner starts now

Your dinner starts now

More features: Local CSA farmsFrom Appalachia Star Farm to Roundabout Farm Trouble in paradiseControversy grows over Horse & Buggy Produce Eat well, do good. How can you go wrong? Local food, it’s no secret, is big around here. Farmers’ markets thrive. So does a lively restaurant scene and a string of grocery stores that cater […]

Shelves of volumes

Shelves of volumes

You drive up a nearly vertical narrow ribbon of black asphalt (“I hate this road in all weather”) to get to Bill Allard’s place in Afton. It snakes past stone retaining walls holding up tipsy perennial beds to the final vertiginous bend where the log house, built by previous owners in 1989, perches above woodland […]