Garden Projects for You

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A Recipe for Replicating Valuable Shrubs and Perennials

Wouldn’t you love to have more of your favorite shrubs and perennials on your property, especially deer-resistant natives? But perhaps the price tags at the garden center gave you case of sticker shock.

One goal of the Garden Club is to help communities increase the number and variety of native, non-invasive, deer-resistant plants, which increase pollination by beneficial insects and birds and benefit the overall health of the ecosystem.

To that end, GCI co-president Renee Shamosh recently hosted a propagation workshop at Greenburgh Nature Center. Participants were Horticulture Committee members of clubs in GCA’s (the Garden Club of America)  Zone III, New York State. Renee demonstrated how to grow new plants from cuttings of existing ones in preparation for the Plant Exchange, a juried competition to be held at “Growing Connections,” the 2025 Zone III Annual Meeting, which GCI will host next June.

Renee demonstrates misting the potted cutting with water before sealing it up.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Have ready a small plastic pot (with drainage hole) filled with moistened sterile potting mix or seed-starting mix.
  2. On an angle, cut a healthy 6-inch twig or stem from an actively growing shrub or perennial (see the attached PDF list). The cutting should have at least two nodes, places from which new growth is sprouting.
  3. With a single-edged razor blade or your fingernail, scrape off about ½ inch of bark or outer layer from the cut end of the stem. Dip the end in rooting hormone powder.
  4. With a chopstick, poke a hole near an edges of the pot and insert the cutting about 2 inches deep (after having removed any leaves that would be in the soil). Firm the soil around the cutting. In wider pots you can poke several holes and insert several cuttings.
  5. Mist the cutting(s) with water. Label the pot with the date and plant name. Cover the pot with a plastic bag that’s propped up with wooden chopsticks or skewers and set in a saucer or dish of water.
  6. Set the entire thing in a shady, protected area and leave it outside, undisturbed. When it has a healthy root structure, it’s ready plant in the garden. If you’re overwintering it, bury the pot in the soil.

Two pots covered with a plastic bag that’s propped up with wooden chopsticks and set in a saucer of water.

Remember that when first planted out, all plants should be protected from browsing, as deer will often test new plantings. According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, “No plant is completely deerproof. When they’re hungry, deer will eat almost anything. But a deer-resistant plant is generally ignored.”

“It was wonderful sharing cuttings and conversation, connecting new and seasoned members from other clubs,” Renee said. In addition to GCI members, attendees included members of The Little Garden Club of Rye, Rye Garden Club, and Millbrook Garden Club.

Participants L-R: Alison Gilmore, Josyane Colwell, Renee Shamosh, Sarah Chabon, Linda Azif, Ellen Petersen, Dorrie Bernstein, Anne Myers, Cena Hampden, Amy Pane, Rosario Benavides Gallagher, Laurie Thomashow. Sarah, Amy and Laurie (returning to GCA) are up for provisional membership. GCI has full access to the greenhouse pictured in the background at the Greenburg Nature Center. Photographer: Margo Ressa.

Attached PDF: Deer Resistent Natives for Plant Exchange List

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Build a Hotel for Bees

Much of our recent gardening focus has been on incorporating pollinator-friendly plants as a welcome mat for the wildlife that keeps gardens healthy. The more we learn about the birds and insects that pollinate our gardens, including bees and wasps, the more we can help provide their survival needs, including native plants and water features. Bees — specifically cavity-dwelling female bees — need places to deposit their eggs, places where their offspring can grow.

What Are Cavity-dwelling Bees?

Ninety percent of bees do not live in hives or communities of any kind. They are independent opportunists who seek out nesting spots in stems, spaces under tree bark, and holes in logs. Unlike yellow jackets and wasps, solitary bees are not aggressive and usually don’t sting. And solitary bees are very efficient pollinators. Female mason bees visit thousands of flowers a day with 99% pollination rate. They carry pollen in hairs on their bellies and belly-flop into flowers.

Like most other wildlife, they have been experiencing habitat decline due to development, inhospitable gardening practices, and climate change. Many of us now avoid garden clean-up in the fall so we don’t disturb pollinator nests. If we cut back our perennials and grasses, solitary bees and wasps will have fewer inviting spaces in which to nest. Stems of Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) and goldenrod are perfect places for mama bees and wasps to secret their eggs to allow for development over the winter. But bee hotels can be even more effective.

Bee hotels at Irvington’s O’Hara Nature Center, where we held our workshop

What Is a Bee Hotel?

Like the hotels we stay in when traveling, bee hotels are not permanent residences. They’re spaces in which the female deposits her eggs one at a time, walling off each egg from the others with its food supply of leaves and pollen. The eggs remain and mature in the hotel until the following spring, when they exit their cocoons, chew their way out of their sealed nests, and enter the world.

Leaf-cutter bees, which nest in hollow stems or holes in wood, cut a C-shape out of leaves. The leaf slice becomes the wrapper for a deposited egg

Baby bees within the cavity.

CJ Reilly points out the space in a hollow stem where eggs are nesting

Male bees exit the hotel first; females a week or so later. They mate, the males die, and females spend quite a long time finding a space for their eggs, depositing them one at a time, and providing each with food. But how does the female know which eggs are male and which are female so they can exit in the correct order? She facilitates the sex of the egg! After mating, she holds the sperm the spermatheca within her body, then deposits a sperm on an egg when she wants to create a female. Males therefore have half the chromosomes that females have.

Make Your Own Bee Hotel

Tools needed: saw, electric drill, metal eyelet, heavy-duty wire, goggles to protect your eyes.

  1. Find a fallen trunk or thick branch of a softwood tree, like pine or spruce, which will make drilling easy. Saw the wood into slices that are at least 8 inches deep.
  2. Using the electric drill, make many holes in the wood, drilling as far as the bit will go, but not all the way through. To attract a variety of bees and wasps, vary the sizes of the holes. Drilling can be done in any pattern you choose.
  3. Screw a heavy-duty eyelet into the top of the hotel to facilitate hanging. Use wire to hang it facing south or east. Try to place it near a bed of native plants so the female doesn’t have far to go to get food — leaves or pollen — for her eggs. Give the hotel some overhead protection from the elements. If hanging it in a tree, insert the hanging wire through rubber tubing to avoid damaging the tree.
  4. Replace every year or two.

Our Bee Hotel Workshop

Last fall, Dorrie Bernstein and Lisa Guggenheimer, Garden Club of Irvington Horticulture Committee chairs, began investigating how to make our own garden habitats welcoming to solitary cavity-dwelling bees. CJ Reilly, director of the O’Hara Nature Center, where our club meets, shared all he’d developed on this topic for his educational programs. In February. he generously transformed the meeting room into a workshop for our members.

Before sawing and drilling, Lisa Guggenheimer (l) and Dorrie Bernstein presented information about native solitary bees, explaining their lifecycle and how members’ bee hotels can figure into the cycle

Each participant was offered safety goggles, gloves, and a shared cordless drill. Each workstation had a thick slice of red spruce gathered from the nearby woods. CJ Reilly provided information about the hole size that would attract specific bees, and members chose appropriate drill bits.

For many of us, it was the first time we’d ever used a drill.

The room setup for the workshop

Once drilling was complete, the participants inserted large metal eyelets in the top of each hotel to enable hanging in an appropriate east- or south-facing spot. Because they did not create a roof for the hotels, we hung them in a sheltered location.

Each participant was given a copy of this chart, “Identification of Common Cavity-Nesting Bees” by CJ Reilly.

Dorrie’s bee hotel in a tree in her native plant garden, with a water source nearby

Here are links to sites where you can learn more about this fascinating topic:

Video with O’Hara Nature Center director CJ Reilly

Nesting resources

Video by Christine Casey of the Bee Haven at UC Davis

Video produced by Elliot Riseman, an Irvington High School student


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It’s Not Tough to Be a Trough Gardener

by Renee Shamosh

Although “trough” is one of the weirder one-syllable words in the English language — shouldn’t it be spelled tr-aw-ff ? — troughs are not tough to put together and can endure many years as garden focal points. Like miniature landscapes, they feature an array of compatible tiny plants — usually succulents, evergreens, or other rock garden plants — arranged with small rocks and top-dressed with fine gravel.

GCA flower shows often have succulent and mixed-container categories with rules like this: “A collection of three or more shade-loving perennials exhibited in a trough 12″ or less made of hypertufa, cement, or a natural material. Minimum of six months ownership.” (That means the plants must be grown in your  garden for six months or more; you can’t run out and buy and plant them a day or two before the show.)

Several GCI members met my patio patio to plant a trough of grow shade-loving perennials. Here are step-by-step instructions:

1 EmptyTrough

1. First, prepare the trough and the soil, which must be free-draining. Recommended is a layer of fine gravel topped by planting mix with a generous amount of Perlite added. This is Renee’s 12″ cement trough:


2 Plants

2. Next, line up all the plants you’re considering. In this case, four members contributed small rooted offshoots of tiarella, astilbe, heuchera, sweet woodruff, miniature hosta, and ferns.


3 Arrangingfrom Above

3. Start arranging plants the trough, moving them around until it looks like a natural miniature landscape with a pleasing blend of leaf shapes, colors, and textures.


4 Arrange with Hands

4. Get in there to make sure the roots are planted. Proper tools are a tiny shovel and nimble fingers. Small scissors are used to trim any brown edges or errant stems.


5 finished trough

5. Rinse the arrangement off with a gentle shower from a garden hose, touch up (we used clumps of moss), and admire. Let the plants settle in a protected location.



Renee made this beautiful, larger cement trough with succulents from Oliver Nurseries, now marked with botanical names and top-dressed with fine gravel.



Horticulture co-chair Ellen Shapiro planted her compositions in small molded plaster containers and Mexican pots. When working with Semperivum tectorum (hens and chicks), we learned during a field trip to Oliver Nurseries in Fairfield, CT, the  “chicks” can be gently removed from the “hen” and planted separately. Thus, one $6.98 plant, most of which is in the “tree-trunk” planter at left, yielded babies for all the containers shown below.

Lots more information is available on the website of the North American Rock Garden Society.


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Make Your Garden More Bird-Friendly

by Nora Galland

The birdhouse shown here has an opening of 1-1/8 inch, which is attractive to small cavity nesting birds including wrens, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, finches, and downy woodpeckers.

Birdhouses simulate tree cavities and are sometimes also called nest boxes. Many birds that nest in tree cavities will nest inside wooden birdhouses if the boxes are mounted at the height appropriate for the species’ habitats and their entrance holes meet the dimensions favored by the species.

Here are some tips for a successful birdhouse project:

• The size of the hole and the size of a birdhouse will determine which birds are attracted to it. Here is a handy chart:

• To protect the birdhouse from the elements and make it an even more charming garden focal point, paint it with weatherproof paint or stain. You can decorate with twigs, bark, and other natural materials. Do not paint the inside.

• Locate your birdhouse in a shadier, rather than sunnier, spot, and hang or mount it at the correct height in order to attract the bird for which the house was designed.

• Placing a water source (birdbath) and/or a food source (birdfeeder) nearby will help attract an occupant.

• When the birdhouse is occupied, don’t get too close. Never touch the nest or eggs, or the nest may be abandoned.

• With a little luck, a mated pair mated pair of birds will enter your birdhouse and gather articles to construct their nest. They are in constant motion, taking the materials into the nest box. Soon you notice that the activity has stopped. Now you only see one of the parents come out of the nest box at a time. They are caring for their eggs. A few days later you hear high-pitched chirping. The eggs have hatched! Now the fun is waiting to see the hatchlings emerge from the nest box. There are few backyard birding experiences as satisfying as this one.

• Nest boxes should be monitored — pests and predators must be detoured.

• At the end of the season, remove the nesting materials. Birds do not re-use them. Clean out the box and leave it in place—you never know when they may come back.

• Good luck. and enjoy the birds and the garden!

For additional information, please visit, and