15 episodios

The Horticulturati is a biweekly-ish gardening talkshow cohosted by Austin-based landscape designers Leah Churner and Colleen Dieter. Join us for gossip, gripes, and fun plant facts!

The Horticulturati The Horticulturati

    • Naturaleza

The Horticulturati is a biweekly-ish gardening talkshow cohosted by Austin-based landscape designers Leah Churner and Colleen Dieter. Join us for gossip, gripes, and fun plant facts!

    Garden design

    Garden design

    On this mega-episode, we’re tackling garden design--our approaches, our anxieties, and our gripes about “expert” sources of mystifying advice and misleading photography. Garden design books are rife with the jargon of art theory. How well does this translate to the living medium of plants in the landscape? Google Image Search puts pictures of every plant imaginable at our fingertips, which is great...but also not so great. Hashing it out at length, we agree on some basic aesthetic tenets, then throw the rest out the window. Maybe it all comes down to climate, maintenance, and solving problems with plants. First up, Leah describes a real-life botanical nightmare that sends her down memory lane. Last, Colleen shares a listener letter from a Buckeye gardening in the southwest.
    Leave a voice message on the new Horticulturati Hotline! The number is 347-WAP-HORT. 
    Or drop us a line on our website. 
    Mentioned in this episode: 
    The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg, here’s the illustration Leah’s referring to, and her 1991 home video of her interview with Chris Van Allsburg; Landscapes in Landscapes by Piet Oudolf; Gardens of Japan by Tetsuro Yoshida, and his excellent illustration of balanced grouping of stones; Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Volume 2 by Brad Lancaster; Texas Wildscapes by Kelly Conrad Bender.

    • 2 h
    Ammonium Nitrate

    Ammonium Nitrate

    Why are we putting explosives on our plants? On this episode, Colleen charts the history of ammonium nitrate, the synthetic fertilizer that propelled the rise of industrial agriculture in the 20th century--cheap to manufacture, but spectacularly costly in terms of lives lost. This highly explosive compound has caused some of the worst industrial accidents of all time (Oppau, 1921, Texas City, 1947, Toulouse, 2001, West, Texas, 2013, Tianjin, 2015, and Beirut, 2020) and was the terrorist weapon used in Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. 
    Nitrogen is critical to all life, and as any farmer or gardener knows, is the first ingredient in fertilizers (the “N” in the N-P-K). Plants can’t naturally pull nitrogen out of the air without the help of soil microbes; it wasn’t until the invention of the Haber-Bosch Process in 1910 that humans found a way to cut out the microbial middlemen and provide nitrogen to plants in synthetic form. 
    We discuss the role of nitrogen in plant life, the disastrous toll of the Beirut bombing, Trump’s rollback of EPA regulations on fertilizer facilities, and how going organic (“teaming with microbes”) can help save the planet. 
    ...And then, to lighten things up, we read a listener letter! Horticulturati fan Mike has a bone to pick with us about our Xeriscape episode and pooh-poohing of “Martian landscapes” filled with rocks, but we agree his use of rocks in dry-creek bed design is the exception that proves the rule. 
    Drop us a line at www.horticulturati.com
    Here’s a YouTube playlist of the ammonium nitrate explosion videos discussed and a YouTube playlist of Leah and Colleen’s Central Texas Gardener appearances on KLRU-TV. 
    Mentioned in this episode: 
    “Arson Blamed For West Fertilizer Explosion,” Texas Farm Bureau (May 11, 2015); “West unveils memorial six years after fertilizer plant explosion killed 15,” The Texas Tribune (April 17, 2019); “Trump EPA eases safety requirements enacted after West explosion,” The Texas Tribune (November 5, 2016); Beirut blast: How does ammonium nitrate create such devastating explosions? Live Science (August 5, 2020); 
     Organic Manifesto by Maria Rodale (2011); “Fertilizers: A Long HIstory of Risky Business“ in Modern Farmer (April 2013); “Many Fertilizer Plants are Poorly Located And Regulated, Says Report,” New York Times (January 29, 2016); “Extension Corner: Strike Fertilizer Facility Explosions Off Worries List,” The Gadsden Times (May 15, 2013);  “EPA Delays Chemical Facility Safety Regulations Inspired by West Fertilizer Plant Explosion,” Texas Monthly (June 15, 2017); “Texas town holds no grudge against exploded fertilizer plant owner,” Reuters (April 23, 2013); Teaming With Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis (2006). 
    In remembrance of James Hand (1952-2020). Thank you a lot, Slim, for your music.   

    • 1h 8 min
    Armadillo!

    Armadillo!

    Turtle rabbit. Shell possum. Roadkill. Whatever you call it, the nine-banded armadillo is a mysterious, ancient, and unfairly maligned mammal. Find out everything you ever wanted to know (and more) about this Texas icon. Leah traces the armadillo’s bizarre migratory history, its role in medical research, and its rise as a symbol of the Austin music scene. We’ll bust some armadillo myths, meet some famous champions (including naturalist Roy Bedichek and artist Jim Franklin) and discuss the intractable problem of armadillos in the garden. So, spark up a spliff and fill your pantyhose with worms! The next time one wreaks havoc on your flowerbeds, you may just have a little more appreciation for this humble critter. 
    Songs: “Dead Armadillo Song” by the Lost Gonzo Band; “Spanish Moss” by Doug Kershaw; “Armadillo Stomp” by Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen;  “You Look Like the Devil” by Willie Nelson; “London Homesick Blues” by Gary P Nunn; “Beautiful Texas Sunshine” by Doug Sahm. Here’s a Spotify playlist.  
    Mentioned in this episode: 
    Pink Fairy Armadillo; Adventures With a Texas Naturalist by Roy Bedicheck; The Amazing Armadillo by Larry L. Smith and Robin W. Doughty; The Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir by Eddie Wilson Jessie Sublett ; The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock, by Jan Reid; “The Rise and Fall of the Armadillo World Headquarters” doc; “Poster Art of the Armadillo World Headquarters” doc ; A Poem is a Naked Person, a film by Les Blank; Franklin’s story about “You Look Like the Devil” told on Pick Up The Tempo podcast; “Armadillo Man,” (The New Yorker, 1971). Managing Armadillo Damage (Texas A&M Agrilife Extension). 

    • 1h 17 min
    Seeds from China

    Seeds from China

    We dive into the "seeds from China" story and discuss the implications and ramifications in the context of the political moment, which brings us back to an endlessly debatable question: is garden "nativism" xenophobic? 
    Visit us and drop a line here. And check out the Central Texas Seed Savers to learn about how you can get involved in sharing seeds. To hear the story behind Central Texas Seed Savers, and why Colleen is so passionate about seeds, listen to this episode of Hothouse! 
    Mentioned in this episode: 
    Press release from texasagriculture.gov; “Mystery Seeds Mailed From China” by Reese Oxner (Texas Tribune, 2020); Sid Miller talks about seeds (Texas Department of Agriculture Facebook page); “Against Nativism” by Michael Pollan (NYT Magazine, May 15, 1994); Sid Miller’s 2020 Texas GOP Convention video (his Facebook page).
     
     
     

    • 31 min
    Neighborhoods & Neighbors

    Neighborhoods & Neighbors

    Howdy, neighbor! In this episode, Colleen discusses architect Ross Chapin’s idea of “pocket neighborhoods” -- residential blocks arranged around a shared green space, where small homes or apartments face a pedestrian-friendly commons, rather than facing the street.  We imagine how much more aesthetically pleasing and psychologically rewarding landscapes could be if we took vehicles, driveways, and "car holes" out of the equation. Next, Leah brings up a perennial landscape design challenge that comes with having neighbors: screening! How do you create privacy around the home and block unsightly views, especially as growing density in urban areas has created a trend for tear-downs and the construction of taller houses with larger footprints? We share tips and tricks, from tree selection to the importance of sight lines, and ponder whether good fences really make good neighbors. 
    Mentioned in this episode: Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World by Ross Chapin; and the Arborists’ Certification Study Guide, Third Edition, by S.J. Lilly. 

    • 54 min
    Crap(e) Myrtles & Cushaw Squash

    Crap(e) Myrtles & Cushaw Squash

    Crape myrtles are blooming all over the place and Leah is DISGUSTED! What’s triggering this Lagerstroemiaphobia? Perhaps it’s not about the crape myrtles, but rather the living demons of exurban hell? Next, Colleen reports on a storied gourd that vine borers can’t touch: the cushaw squash. Domesticated some time around the dawn of agriculture, the obscure cushaw took on special significance to African American foodways as a “slave food” staple. We discuss plants and memory, the merits of “folklore,” and the importance of heirloom seeds as “living archives” of cultural information. 
    See photos of Colleen’s humongous cushaw plant and drop us a line at www.horticulturati.com. 
    Mentioned in this episode: 
    The Botany Coloring Book by Paul Young; The Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney; Neil Sperry on topping crape myrtles; Nandina ‘nana”;  the “Pool Party Incident” of 2015; Homestead Heart (YouTube); “The Seeds of Survival” (NYT); Kathe Hambrick-Jackson, The River Road African American Museum (Louisiana); Michael W. Twitty, The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty; Farming While Black, by Leah Penniman. 

    • 1h 19 min

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