Garden Club of America Citation

Thanks to all of you in the local community for supporting my work with our trees and our landscape heritage. I am honored to have been given an award by the Garden Club of America!

Club Horticulture Commendation

For your outstanding work at The McVickar House, your dedication to protecting Irvington’s trees, and your leadership in promoting and protecting urban forests.

The original letter from the local Irvington Chapter reads as follows:

Mrs. Ellen Peterson
Garden Club of America
14 East 60th Street, 3rd Floor
New York NY 10022

Dear Ellen:

On behalf of the Garden Club of Irvington-on-Hudson, it is my pleasure to nominate Mark Gilliland for the Club Horticulture Commendation. Mark is an Irvington resident and landscape designer who has donated a great deal of time over the last several years working for the protection of Irvington’s trees, pesticide free gardening, and beautification of our downtown area.

In 2002, when the Irvington Historical Society was restoring and renovating our village’s second oldest surviving structure (the McVickar house, built on Main Street in 1853) Mark volunteered to design the gardens. He researched landscape design of the period, the particular features of that property, and the plants used in that era. The eco-friendly gardens he created and implemented helped the McVickar House to receive a 2008 AIA Citation Award in the category of Historic Restoration/Adaptive Reuse.

Mark has also been very active in preserving and protecting Irvington’s trees. He has been on the village Tree Commission for several years, and as Chairman has lead a restructuring and reframing of the tree statute and its implementation. Club members on the Commission say he has been an inspiring leader.

Mark has also been a leader in fighting our power company’s poor pruning practices as they work to keep electric lines free from falling trees and limbs. In particular, he organized - overnight - a protest of their planned pruning of an allee of Sycamore trees at the south entrance to the village, on Route 9/Broadway. When the Con Ed and tree company trucks arrived, there was a crowd of people to greet them. The upshot of this was that they came back another day, with better crews and supervision, and Mark on hand, to do a much less intrusive job. Mark has carried this last endeavor beyond Irvington, to our town and county, and is working hard to revise Con Ed’s practices in the entire region.

For all these reasons, and more, we sincerely hope you will approve Mark Gilliland for the Club Horticulture Commendation. The citation should read:

For your outstanding work at The McVickar House, your dedication to protecting Irvington’s trees, and your leadership in promoting and protecting urban forests.

A copy of the Club Award Form accompanies this letter. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Gerry Gilmartin
Awards Chairman
Garden Club of Irvington

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Eco-Friendly Gardening

With Michelle Obama starting an organic garden at the White House, shouldn't we all care about being eco-friendly in our own gardening practices? Why? In order to protect the health of our families, friends and future generations; to safeguard our native plants and animals by protecting their habitat and food supply; to improve the overall quality of our local environment by preventing excessive soil erosion, ensuring a healthy tree canopy to combat global warming, and reducing the risk of water contamination by fertilizer and pesticide runoff.

Becoming an eco-friendly gardener is easier than you think. The first step is to change your mindset. Your garden is more than a collection of flowers, paths, decks and shrubbery: It's a habitat, a home for beneficial animals like birds, bees and butterflies. Is your garden designed to attract and support them? Does it feature some local flowers whose nectar they can sip? Are there brushy areas where birds can safely nest? A good goal to set is to choose about 50% of your plantings from among regionally native species (or their cultivars), which helps support the locally evolved food web. [See SIDEBAR for a sampling of native plants.] Even the soil itself participates in the food web, as it is rich with insects, microorganisms and fungi that help release nutrients from the soil. If you kill them, you kill the soil!

Getting to know your soil will save you time, money and stress. It's important not to over-feed your soil with chemicals-plants will not benefit and the excess will likely end up in our local water supply. To learn what your soil really needs (and what's a wasted or even counterproductive to add) have it analyzed. Call the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Valhalla: 914-285-4620 to get instructions. The entire process is simple, fast and costs only $10. You'll learn your soil's pH (how acid it is), soil type & structure, nutrient content, and so forth. Add only those fertilizers or other amendments the report says you need (you'll save money and protect the environment), and try to go organic-based slow release fertilizers, including bone meal, green sand and other natural amendments. In addition, compost, compost, compost! If you don't want to buy compost, keep a small pile--you'll reduce your garbage while you build and maintain your soil. Throw on your fall leaves, grass cuttings, old vegetables and produce scraps. (Don't add any meat or dairy-that will make the pile smell bad and potentially introduce harmful bacteria.) Mulch your beds 2-3" deep with your compost, shredded leaves or other organically rich commercial mixture (such as Fundy Blend enriching mulch by Coast of Maine).

Avoid using pesticides. Train yourself to tolerate a little bit of insect damage, but if bugs get too destructive, try horticultural oil, insecticidal soap or neem-or simply spray bugs such as aphids off your plants with a hose. Set out beer traps to catch slugs. Try introducing beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and tiny predatory wasps, which eat aphids, larvae and other pests. Mammals, too, will certainly take their piece of the garden pie, so use organic repellants (such as Deer Solution or Deer Stopper) and fencing to minimize overly aggressive browsing. Be understanding: there is a complex food web at work in and around your garden beds. No garden can be completely bug-free. If simple solutions don't work, treat an insect problem with a specific remedy so as to minimize side effects on other insects and microbes. Read labels before applying anything! Consult with your local garden center, nursery or the Cornell Extension helpline before using any over-the-counter pesticides.

Interestingly enough, some plants can be more destructive to your garden and to our local habitat than insects. They crowd out local (native) plants and don't feed local birds or insects, so they're a double-whammy to the environment. Learn to identify and remove invasive plants in your garden beds and in surrounding woodland or scrub areas of your yard. [See SIDEBAR for a list of invasive plants in our region.] Ask your neighbors to do the same, explaining that by doing so, they are helping to protect our native butterflies, songbirds, and the forest itself.

Learn proper care of your plants including how and when to deadhead or cut back perennials (and whether or not to leave them "up" - uncut - for a winter-time food source); how and when to properly prune your shrubs (with a focus on removing dead and diseased wood first); when to water (using drip irrigation to minimize evaporation and water waste). Take care that your automatic irrigation system is set to function in a reasonable, water-conscious manner. There is no need to water after a good rainfall. And water needs change by the month/season.

Reserve some areas of your property as undisturbed natural buffers, where possible. Let the fall leaf litter lie under your trees or wooded margins to break down naturally. Stop using leaf blowers to remove every scrap of fallen leaf debris from your beds and groundcover areas. By not cutting back in the fall, you'll allow native seeds and berries to be produced and consumed. Leave some shrubby brush areas, brush piles and dead or downed trees - all of which provide protection and winter shelter for birds, animals and insects. Hang up birdhouses in safe locations. And if possible, supply a source of water, such as a bird-bath. Keep it fresh and larvae-free by changing the water every few days (if it is not free-running).

Taken as a whole, these techniques and methods will help you and your garden achieve an eco-friendly natural balance. You'll feel good about helping our planet in seemingly small, yet effective ways. All of which will grow into making a big difference as more and more of us (your neighbors) follow suit. The birds, bees and butterflies will thank you.

SIDEBAR: Top Ten Invasive Plants in Our Region

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus)
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica)
Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)
Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)
Oriental Bittersweet ( Celastrus orbiculatus)
Porcelain Berry Vine (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

SIDEBAR: Regional Natives with High Wildlife Value

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
American Holly (Ilex opaca)
Easter Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
White Pine (Pinus strobus)
White Oak (Quercus alba)

Shrubs and small trees:
Shadbush (Amelanchier arborea)
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
American Elderberry (Sambucus Canadensis)
Arrow-wood (Viburnum dentatum)

Perennials, ferns and vines:
Ladyfern (Athyrium filix-femina)
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
New York Aster (Aster novi-belgii)
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)

Mark Gilliland is the owner of Garden Artistry, a landscape design firm in the Rivertowns area. Website:

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What's Blooming in the Garden?

The first flush of Spring is over. Most of the native ephemerals & early bulbs have bloomed and are beginning to die back. Now, the next wave is beginning - here is what's happening in my gardens mid-May as I walk around between the occasional rain drops:

The Chinese and Japanese Tree peonies are in full bloom! If you have never tried to grow these, they are much easier than one might imagine. However they do require the correct location: tree peonies do best in part sun to part shade (preferring direct morning sun only) and need to have soil with good drainage. After all, they grow on mountain slopes and hill sides natively. In terms of watering, my experience is that they need average amounts, but don't let them dry out in summer heat. Do not prune tree peonies except to remove dead wood or to maintain shape. Unlike herbaceous peonies, tree peonies are woody and leaf out & bud from last year's stalks/branches. They can become a large shrub up to 4'-6' hxw (based upon cultivar).

Early Alliums are also now opening up. The more common ones are white and light purple, although later blooming varieties include blues. Alliums include many unusual species from the Mediterranean area, Turkey and elsewhere. Like family members Chives, Garlic and onion, Alliums are not favored by deer, typically being left untouched due to strong taste and smell. Alliums create a natural "upper level" of interest in the garden, giving an airy 3rd dimension to bed design. And once flowered, the drying seed head "fireworks" can be left in place for extra interest.

Of course, late Spring is the time for Bearded Iris to begin their season of display. It's best to prevent seed formation - allowing the tubers to concentrate energy for next year. Cut off faded blooms individually, and when all buds on a stalk have blossomed, cut the stalk off down close to the inner leaves. As summer heat builds, quite often iris leaves will flop over and become less of a textural accent in the beds. Typically, I wait a few weeks after bloom display has completed or until I get tired of floppy leaves, then I cut back the leaves to an 8" fan. The iris will begin to push new leaf grown up from the fan, often lasting through mid summer until the leaves begin to flop again. (In the fall during clean up, I always "fan back" my iris. I also pick up any dead leaves and pull off any yellowing or browning leaves. All of this debris gets bagged, not composted to prevent spread of Iris Borer.)

Elsewhere, vines are beginning to bloom such as early blooming clematis and native honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). I haven't seen any hummingbirds yet visiting the hot pink and yellow throated flowers, but certainly expect them soon!

There's always some much confusion about pruning Clematis (Type 1, Type 2, Type 3 and so forth...). I, for one, forget to keep the plant tags and so am never quite sure about which one is which. I have found, though, that with a little observation over the year, one can figure out what sort of growth habit the particular cultivar or species has, thus how best to prune. My early bloomers don't seem to mind getting a trim-back to control height and spread. And certainly, later bloomers won't mind a Spring trim. I have found in general it's best to focus on shape and size (for example, to keep vine on a trellis), not to worry about affecting blooming. In terms of main care concerns: keep clematis roots cool (in shade of perennials, for example) while the plant really blooms best in full sun. Clematis vines are very fragile and prone to breaking or folding/creasing. Typically this sort of damage happens during Spring clean-up, bed mulching or weed-whacking during lawn care. Placing a small 18" wire cage (or some other protective device) around the base of the vine often prevents sad catastrophes.

Spring shrubs are also beginning to bloom now. In my beds, the scent of the early Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) are fading while later species are still opening into full display. Weigela is also opening up its pink trumpets. My favorite Weigela is the dark purple-leafed Weigela 'Wine and Roses' or its smaller cousin Weigela 'Midnight Wine'. Just remember that these area not deer proof in most regions and thus require repellant sprays to eliminate or reduce foliage browse.

In the woodland areas, several native species of Viburnum are beginning to put on a show. Native viburnums are a versatile group handling sun and fairly heavy shade, as well as dry to moist conditions, quite well. Virbunum provide a good source of food and habitat for native insects and song birds. Berries can come in colors from scarlet red to blue-black.

On the now sun dappled floor of the woodlands, late Spring bulbs and ephemeral native wildflowers can be found such as Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Spanish Bluebells (Scilla hispanica), Crested Iris (Iris cristata) and Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis). The scent of a patch of Lily-of-the-Valley fills the air with an indescribable sweetness!

This article has focused so far on blooms, but we should not forget that at any time of the season, leaf color and texture is typically the most enduring visual feature of our gardens. This pair of photos shows two sides of a brick entry walk planting - one in full sun, one in full shade. Yet the colors of the leaves and various textures can be seen to "echo" between the two micro-climates. In the sun area: yellow-leafed Spiderwort (Tradescantia x anders 'Sweet Kate') with its tri-petalled purple flowers and dark purple-leaved Heuchera "Palace Purple". In the shade area: Spiderwort, golden Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis 'Gold Heart'), Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta) and Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum var pictum 'Pictum'). Note that some of these plants are not deer resistant and so I simply spray these beds with repellant (Deer Stopper, Deer Solution or Bobbex) periodically during the season.

Finally, I am relieved to report that the Rhodos are beginning to leaf out after suffering the worst deer damage last winter that I have ever seen in my garden beds... (I was getting pretty depressed seeing all the naked twigs left over from endless deer browse.) I will most likely wait until mid-June before I decide to prune any dead wood from the Rhodos, hoping that additional budding (leaf recovery) will occur. Repellants applied in late fall did not work well last winter. So perhaps next winter I will need to wrap or fence off the Rhodo beds. I haven't given up yet!

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AIA Award for The McVICKAR HOUSE, Irvington, NY

This project is the preservation and rehabilitation of the second oldest structure still standing in historic Irvington-on-Hudson, the McVickar House built in 1853. After continuous use for about 130 years, the house was abandoned and sat empty until 2002 when the Village of Irvington acquired the property. After restoration and adaptive reuse, the facility now houses the Irvington Historical Society and incorporates museum exhibition spaces, a children’s educational resource center, conference space and offices for the curator and village historian. The jury commended its successful restoration, transformation and subsequent listing on the National Register of Historic Places.


Client: Village of Irvington Historical Society


Planting Plan

Layout Plan

McVickar House Gardens
Narrative by Mark Gilliland

Originally, in the late 18th or early 19th century, the McVickar House was situated on a much larger plot, a small farmstead located in what would eventually become the village of Dearmann (later, renamed Irvington). At this time, there was a vegetable garden on the east (right hand) lot and an orchard in the rear (north). The property had an ironwork fence along Main Street. Behind this fence, a walkway led from the front steps to the garden area. As time progressed, the village slowly grew up around the farm and land was sold off. Eventually, only a small plot remained with multi-story buildings closing in tightly.

In recreating the McVickar House landscape, it was physically impossible to replicate the original, early 19th century grounds. Most of the land is no longer available. Instead, I decided to design a garden with the flavor of this period. This was an exciting time in landscape design - the imported European style of formal gardens (such as would be evident at Colonial Williamsburg or Monticello) was no longer the only option. Now, a new more free-form style was being promulgated along the Hudson Valley by Andrew Jackson Downing and others. This "great estate" style emphasized flowing curves and large expanses of naturalistically planted landscape. (Examples can be seen at nearby Lyndhurst or Olmstead's Central Park.) Around this time, Downing also published a series of "model books" providing the newly emerging middle class an inventory of historical styles which they could use to build their own mini-estates. These plans often included sample gardens and landscapes complete with plant lists.

In my landscape design for the Historical Society's new home, I decided to combine and contrast these two historic garden styles: in the front yard, behind an restored ironwork fence and hedge line, there is a formal oval display bed for annuals and tropicals. Bedding out seasonal displays was a long-standing practice imported from the formal gardens of European estates. Contrast this with the more natural feeling beds on the left (west) of the property. Here, a curvilinear walk leads back to a secluded sitting area. Although the general plantings in this garden area are open and free-form, a traditional touch is provided by the Hostas (Plantation Lilies) which border the walk on either side, providing a strong visual gesture into and through the narrow shady side space.

With regards to plant materials, my research of this time period (utilizing historical documents such as original nursery catalogs available at the NYBG research library) revealed that many of the wonderful species we use today were also available to the 19th century landscape designer. The range of material is truly astonishing and new varieties, species and cultivars - many from explorers returning from far off China and Japan - were being introduced each year. In keeping with the spirit of garden adventure, I have made use of modern cultivars echoing many of the most popular species on sale through the existing nurseries at that time (in the Bronx and on Long Island).

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10 Point Spring Gardening Checklist

Now that it' s Spring and the weather is warming up, you are probably starting to plan what needs to be done in your garden. Here is a 10 point checklist of important tasks:

1) Clean up old leaves, broken branches and debris left from the winter. (If you are working in woodland beds or beds with Spring bulbs, carefully lift leaves by hand.) Such leaves can be shredded and used as a summer mulch (2" -3" deep), especially around Rhododendron, Andromeda and other woodland shrubs.

2) Examine your shrubs for winter damage and prune, as required. When pruning, go for the 5 "D"s: dead, damaged, diseased, diminutive (too small), and diverging (growing into or across other branches, for example). Be careful, work slowly and deliberately. Stand back often to see the effects of your work. If in doubt, don't prune until plant has fully leafed out and/or bloomed.

Note: learn about your shrubs! Don't prune Spring bloomers until after they bloom. Some plant families have more complex rules, such as Hydrangea: H. macrophylla (Lace Cap or Mop Head types) bloom on old wood and should not be pruned except later in the summer after they bloom. H. quercifolia (Oak Leaf) don't really ever need pruning except if a branch is damaged. Finally, H. paniculata or H. tartiva types can be pruned in the early Spring as they bloom on new wood.

3) Cut back any grasses (except evergreen types such as Carex), ferns and perennials left standing over-winter.

4) Start a fresh compost pile using these cuttings and any extra fallen leaves left over from the fall. (Exclude Peony, Iris, Sycamore and other disease-susceptible leaves from the pile). Add grass clippings during the season to increase nitrogen (green) content within the compost pile.

5) Fertilize your shrubs and perennials. For shrubs, use a general purpose organic fertilizer. For perennials, a rich compost is probably best.

6) Lime your Lilacs (about a cup per bush), sprinkled around the root zone and gently "scratched in" to the top inch of soil.

7) Divide any perennials which were over-grown or too crowded last season.

8) Apply new summer mulch (2"-4") to beds. Shrubs benefit from an un-dyed, shredded bark mulch. Perennials prefer a more organic mulch with a high compost value.

9) Apply your first round of deer repellant. Since many shrubs are just beginning to leaf out (a time when deer find the leaves very tasty), be sure to adequately spray even "bare" branches. For perennials, spray around the crown and emerging leaves. Since this is a time of rapid growth, spraying every week or so would be most beneficial. Consider using a granular repellant broadcast directly onto the beds for this early Spring emergent period. (I use Milorganite which is also a general purpose organic fertilizer.)

10) Start your seeds now. (Some can be sown directly outside, others need to be started indoors.)

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Waste Water Issues for Westchester & NYC

I attended a Conservation Cafe recently at Pace University (sponsored by Westchester DEP and Department of Planning?). The discussion was about waste water handling in the county, septic systems and the NYC watershed, impacts of outflow on LI Sound and the Hudson.

One interesting, though not surprising? thing to come of this is that even with MS4 regulations for wastewater handling, there still is nothing being done to manage dissolved medical wastes (from flushing of discarded pills and/or urine and fecal release.) So all of that (often estrogenetic or psychotropic) material is being released into our waterways post-sewer plant processing.

There is a Weschester program offered during household waste clean-up days to accept unwanted (residue) prescriptions. But for hospitals, nursing homes, etc. there are no permanent disposal programs. This stuff should be taken to the solid waste processing center for burning. (Currently, it is claimed that a call to the DEP about unwanted or out-of-date prescription drugs results in the advice to simply flush the stuff down the toilet. WRONG! Concerned citizens and municipalities should certainly be working to get THAT piece of advice changed ASAP!)

There was an recently published federal study looking at a handful of municipalities around the country, specifically at the impact on fish populations in the watersheds around the outflow of sewage treatment plants - and of course all of the fish had detectable amounts of medical products in their flesh. Based upon this result, a larger federal study of 140 municipalities is planned. (Supposedly, the doses found in the fish flesh are nowhere near levels currently regulated for human consumption... But of course, the COMBINED impacts of trace medicinals has not been studied in any detail, nor are there any specific "combinatorial" dose regulations.)

It is interesting to note that medicinal byproducts have been detected in the drinking water supply of over 46 million Americans... There is less concern for us in Westchester in that treated waste water released by sewage plants which flows into the estuary and then, based upon tidal cycles, gets disbursed up and down the Hudson, does not form part of our drinking supply. That is to say, currently, communities in Westchester do not get their drinking water from the Hudson.

However, there are many locations around the country which in fact draw water from (river or lake) sources which are "downstream" from other communities' treatment plants. Thus, they are drinking medical wastes. And actually, in Westchester, especially in northern parts of the county where there is a high percentage of septic-based waste processing, the potential for intake of medicinal waste products (including estrogenetics, anti-depressants and other compounds) due to contamination of well-drawn groundwater is much higher. Extensive testing for this risk is not typically done and is not in fact required by law. So the full impact is unknown.

Extremely low does of estrogenetic compounds have been shown to affect amphibians and fish - including affecting normal body development, sexual development, reproduction and sex ratios of populations.

The final area to report on has to due with OVERFLOW of partially treated waste materials from the sewage treatment plants (such as the Yonkers plant's recent extended release due to servicing of a major 54" force main sewer leading to the plant...) The overflow is treated partially - removal of solid materials is attempted as best as possible, and large doses of chlorine are added to kill bacteria. However, note that even with "normal" rainfall events, THIS OVERFLOW OCCURS. The plants may experience anywhere from a 2x to 3x or more overload of capacity during a storm event peak surge. In such cases, the treatment of the overflow becomes minimal, thus quite often the count of dangerous bacteria spikes markedly in the outflow water (and in the "sink" destination around the outflow such as the L.I. Sound or the Hudson...)

Already, for years now, beaches around the Sound are often closed after rain events due to bacteria levels resulting from the overflow.

But what we need to realize is that for our Rivertown area, the same overflow occurs all the time from the Yonker's plant - without any public warning. During the recent repair work, municipalities were warned ahead of time, but I for one did not see any "stay out of the water" warnings from Westchester County's email alert service, nor from Irvington's email listserv. Why not? This sort of health related safety information should certainly be posted / emailed out for timely community notification.

But in addition, it all comes back to public education on how to REDUCE peak water surges into sewer systems during rain events - or even during normal daily activity. It's not rocket science. Many of the guidelines are simple to understand and to follow, but can result in a significant reduction in sewage flow.

Of course, stormwater runoff is also an issue where ever it becomes merged into the sewer system. There are potentially many such "inflows" around our area, especially in older areas of construction before any storm management requirements were legislated. Public education would help ensure that some percentage of property owners would undertake repairs to correct such issues on their own property. Other than that, new construction and existing areas have to be monitored, esp. after rain events, to help detect improper or illegal stormwater connections.

Related to this is the urgent need to control peak flow of stormwater thru the stormwater system - which is another whole discussion.

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Oh, Dear, Oh Deer!

deer fantasy
Bucolic image from recent L.L.Bean catalog cover.

This winter with the extensive snow cover and increased deer populations, winter plant browse damage is significant. Even with an application or two of Bobbex (useful at lower temperatures due to having both a scent and a taste component to the repellant formula), the feeding continues. This underscores the observation that the only way to ultimately "totally protect" your garden from deer damage is via isolation - i.e.: fencing the beds and/or individual plants. If you have extensive landscaping, fencing the entire yard may be necessary.

A truly sustainable design philosophy would be to acknowledge current reality and simply let the deer roam, planting stuff they don't like. This strategy works for awhile, but it seems that each new deer generation acquires the taste for something unexpected. A plant never touched becomes this year's new salad making. I have seen this with iris, hyacinths, forsythia and many other plants over the last few years as deer population densities increase unchecked. (It seems that deer do not read the nursery labels or pay attention to the "deer resistant" plant lists from Cornell or Rutgers...)

A longer-term environmental concern, hidden from most folk's day-to-day perception, is that the deer over-browse is creating a woodlands catastrophe: native wild flowers, spring ephemerals especially, many native shrub and tree seedlings are being chewed into possible extermination. Our woods typically now have no undergrowth or leaves from the 5 to 6 foot browse line down to the ground level. Many forestry studies show that our urban forests are growing older - demographically speaking, reaching "middle age" - yet no new young growth (replacement plant generations) can be found. Everything is eaten. Luckily, however, field experiments show that by exclusion (fencing off acreage from deer browse), the seed "library" which still exists in the soil can sprout, recovery and forest regrowth can begin. That's great news if deer populations can be controlled / reduced significantly to natural "carrying capacity" of the woodland environment.

There is a dark side beyond the question of what to do about Bambi: before any deer exclusion / reduction takes effect, typically there have been years of infestation by invasive species, many of which are not preferred deer food. Thus, invasive removal and control must be another important component for healthy forest re-growth.

Finally, it seems that in the Northeast woodlands, we have been silently invaded by Asian earthworms. These critters have a voracious appetite and eat through the forest leaf litter like crazy. In their wake, they leave large deposits of castings (worm poop) which chemically change the acidity /pH of the soil. Turns out that this change in the top layer of the woodland duff is less conducive to native species re-growth, and more conducive to many invasive species. Studies are now being talked about to figure out what percentage of the loss of undergrowth recovery is due to the deer and what percentage is due to the worms.

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New! Seasonal Horticultural Consultations

Garden Artistry is now providing a seasonal consultation service to keep your landscape "tuned-up" and in top form.

I come to your site three times a year (in the Spring, in early to mid Summer, and in the Fall) to examine and review your garden beds. The goal is to detect problems early, and to provide solutions.

For example, in the Spring, it's a great time to re-examine your beds to determine the need for plant replacements due to age or winter damage. It's also a time to discuss division and re-location of perennials. In the Summer, a visit can be geared towards figuring out how to extend garden color via a succession of bloom times, or to solve specific disease/insect problems. In the Fall, issues of garden clean up, 4 season design, perennial division and new bed expansion might be covered.

Contact me today to establish this valuable service for your home or business landscape.

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New! Garden Tutoring

Now you can also engage me in a program of personalized one-on-one, hands-on training, ranging from perennial care (preparing beds, selection, planting, dead-heading, dividing, etc.) and shrub care (pruning, fertilization, etc.) to hardscape design and storm water management.

Or perhaps you're interested in discussing the structure and layout of your garden? Maybe you'd like tutorials covering topics such as landscape design theory and history?

Contact me so that we can discuss your needs and formulate a personalized training program to fit.

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Index of Published Articles

The following articles have appeared in the Hudson Independent newspaper:
Gardening Basics 101 - Part1 - April 2007
Gardening Basics 101 - Part2 - May 2007
Gardening Basics 101 - Part3 - June 2007
Fall Gardening Primer - Sept 2007
Four Seasons Gardening - March 2008
DIY Home Landscape Design - April 2008
Deterring Deer to Save Your Plants - June 2008
The New American Landscape Design - July 2008
Putting the Garden to Bed in the Fall - scheduled for Nov 2008
Oh, Dear, Oh Deer - April 2009
Eco-friendly Gardening - June 2009

This landscape design history appeared in Spring 2007 issue of "The Roost", the quarterly publication of the Irvington Historical Society:
The Gardens of Paradise - large file (7.8M) due to images.

Here is a feature article about me, my artwork and my landscape design work which appeared in the June 30,2006 issue of The Rivertown Enterprise:
Mark Gilliland - Spotlight on the Arts - June 30 2006

All article titles are linked to PDF versions for download and viewing.

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Lectures and Articles on Landscape Design & Horticultural Topics

I am available to write for publication horticultural and landscape design related articles on a wide range of topics. A sample of my previously published articles are posted above. Please contact me to discuss your editorial needs.

I am also associated with the Westchester County Cornell Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener Speaker's Bureau. I have several lecture topics currently available through this program including ones on Rain Gardens, Stormwater Management and Deer Protection. The CCE Speaker's Bureau has over 50 topics available from a group of highly informed and dynamic Master Gardeners. Please contact the office at 914.285.4620 and ask for Patris Beamon. She will send you out a brochure with a complete list of the currently available topics and speakers.

Finally, I am an instructor at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. I teach a series of lectures and hands-on workshops covering the use of the computer in the landscape design process. Here is the list of classes that I taught at NYBG this winter:

[LAN 280] Intro Lecture on Office Tools and Filemaker Database
[LAN 281] Intro Lecture on Design Tools (Using Photoshop and Illustrator for CAD)
[LAN 284] Marketing Your Business on the Web
[LAN 908] Laptop Workshop: Creating Elevations and Site Details with Photoshop
[LAN 909] Laptop Wokshop: Creating Master Plans with Illustrator
[GWP 230] Garden Blogs - Write On!

I am available to consult with you on any of these topics, to review your business workflow and to make suggest appropriate software solutions. Of course, I can provide one-on-one tutoring & instruction, as needed.

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Sample Planting Plan

Here is a sample Planting Plan sheet which shows the detail and professional quality of the Master Plan Set that we create for your property:

Sample 18x24 planting plan (.pdf file)

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