Busy Bees

germantown academy pollinator visit

Beekeeper of the future in training at PHS Meadowbrook Farm.

By Marion McParland

A group of students from Germantown Academy Day Camp stopped by PHS Meadowbrook Farm recently for a get-your-hands-dirty-day filled with beekeeping, planting and lots of learning.

Campers donned protective beekeeping veils and practiced using the smoker to  calm the bees by masking their alarm pheromone. Meadowbrook is currently home to between 60,000 and 100,000, very gentle, locally bred honeybees of Italian descent. They live happily in four hives on the property under Beekeeper Lou Naylor’s care.

The campers also toured the pollinator and vegetable gardens, where they planted flowers and learned about the environmental importance of pollinator gardens. The group toured the greenhouse, then planted sunflower and zinnia seeds in small pots to take home.

PHS Meadowbrook Farm is located at 1633 Washington Lane in Abington Township, Pennsylvania. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call 215.887.5900 or click here.


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Campers plant in the gardens at PHS Meadowbrook Farm.




Rose Lovers Beware

rose-rosette virus

Rose Rosette Disease affects all roses. Bright burgundy leaves are one sign of the disease’s presence.

By Marion McParland

Are your rose bushes not looking up to par? Check them closely for signs of the Rose Rosette Disease (RRD).  PHS members and staff have reported a strong presence in south Philly and the waterfront. While certain areas of our region have been unaffected, other areas including Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College and Morris Arboretum have lost a significant amount of their collections. Most susceptible are the “Knock Out” rose, but all roses are at risk.

Have you noticed that the stems and leaves on your roses have a bunched, distorted appearance? Do you see more thorns, giving the appearance  of a bristle brush? New growth of bright burgundy leaves not turning green is also an indicator of the disease’s presence. Buds may look smaller or distorted and may fall off without blooming. Eventually it will become apparent that the plant is dying. The disease is sometimes called witches’ broom because of the way it causes new shoots to grow straight up and close together in broom-shaped clusters.

Sadly, there is no cure for Rose Rosette Disease. It is caused by a tiny mite called an eriophyid that feeds on roses, then travels on the wind to other roses, spreading the disease. This disease is systemic, making it impossible to treat once the rose is infected. Once diagnosed, the only solution is to remove your rose bush. Removal will slow down or stop the spread of the disease by making it harder for the mites to travel. Remember, when you remove a diseased plant, remove it completely, including the roots. The plant should be bagged and sealed before placing it by the curb for garbage pick-up.

While the “Knock Out” rose is disease resistant, no plant is disease proof. As with any garden or landscape, diversity is best. RRD affects all types of roses, not just the “Knock Out.” When you are ready to plant something new, follow a few recommendations. Do not plant a new “Knock Out” where one has been removed. Instead, plant a different type of plant in its place as the disease only affects roses.

PHS staff have stopped planting roses for now because of the virus. If you have your heart set on planting new rose bushes, make sure you plant them on six-foot centers. Roses should not touch. Planting roses too closely to one another creates a bridge for the disease-carrying mites to travel from plant to plant.

PHS Meadowbrook Farm currently has healthy rose hybrids for sale, but they are not resistant to the disease. Breeders in the United States and Germany are working on discovering RRD resistant/tolerant roses, but there have been no successful releases yet. In the meantime, it is important to keep your gardens disease free. Only buy clean nursery stock and remove any wild roses nearby. For more information, contact PHS Meadowbrook Farm at phs-info@pennhort.org or Ask PHS.            .




An Annual Tradition

new guinea impatiens 2

New Guinea impatiens produce much larger flowers than other varieties of impatiens.

By Marion McParland

Are you looking for a quick and easy way to fill in your flowerbeds or close some gaps in your garden? Annuals come in a colorful mix. With dozens to choose from, you can select the varieties that will work with your sun, shade and soil conditions. They will also add a pop of color to your windowbox plantings and container gardens.

PHS Meadowbrook Farm is having a Father’s Day sale on annuals this weekend, June 13 through 15, with all annuals 25% off. PHS members save an additional 10%. Choose from petunias, calibrachoa, geraniums, sweet potato vines, New Guinea impatiens, coleus, caladium, and many others.

An annual plant is a plant that completes its life cycle, from germination to the production of seed, within one year, and then dies. Summer annuals germinate during spring or early summer and mature by autumn of the same year.

sweet potato vines 2

Ornamental sweet potato vines work well as summer ground cover. They can also be trained to climb a trellis or other support.

Ornamental sweet potato vines are a beautiful and reliable addition to any landscape or container garden. These hardy annuals will thrive in the heat of summer. You will find Ipomoea batatas Illusion® Emerald Lace, Ipomoea batatas Illusion® Midnight Lace and Ipomoea batatas ‘Sweet Caroline Bewitched’ in stock, among others, at Meadowbrook Farm.

Coleus, also known as flame nettle, painted nettle and painted leaf, is excellent as a border in shady areas or interspersed with shade-tolerant perennials that bloom for only a short time. It draws attention with its brightly colored, boldly patterned leaves in shades of red, orange, yellow, green, pink, purple, and white.


Coleus will add rich, vibrant color to your garden.

Calibrachoa is closely related to the Petunia genus. There are more than two dozen species from South America and parts of the southern United States. While they are evergreen perennials, they are primarily grown as annuals or short-lived perennials. Shaped like a petunia, calibrachoa produces sprawling foliage and thrives in the sun or part-shade. You’ll find them in hanging baskets at Meadowbrook Farm, as well as in 4.5 inch individual pots. These easy keepers are low maintenance because you do not need to dead head, or remove dead flowers, like you do with a petunia.

Visit Meadowbrook Farm this month to find these annuals, as well as veggies, herbs, annual grasses and an assortment of hanging baskets all on sale. Remember, PHS members always save 10% on plants. Become a member on site and enjoy additional savings on your purchases.

PHS Meadowbrook Farm is located at 1633 Washington Lane in Abington Township, Pennsylvania. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call 215.887.5900 or click here.

calibrachoa MBF

Calibrachoa is on sale this weekend at PHS Meadowbrook Farm. Choose from mixed hanging baskets as well as individual pots.





The Grass is Always Greener, Bluer, Blonder

sporobolus heterolepis

Lobelia cardinalis, a native cardinal flower, in a bed of Sporobolus heterolepis, or prairie dropseed, at Chanticleer in Wayne. Photo courtesy of Chanticleer.

By Marion McParland

Ornamental grasses add color, texture and interest to any landscape. Ranging from compact plants, or sedges, to tall billowy grasses, they come in many heights, textures, foliage colors and leaf shapes. PHS Meadowbrook Farm has a wide selection of annual grasses to choose from this month. These easy-keepers look great all summer, require little maintenance, and will continue to add beauty and color to your garden into the fall.

These plants require little pruning or maintenance and many varieties billow out to create volume and fill in spaces as they grow. Most ornamental grasses handle heat well and don’t require a lot of watering. They are not subject to diseases or pests and they do not require pesticides. These environmentally friendly plants also grow well on slopes, preventing erosion.

Meadowbrook Farm carries a great selection of ornamental grasses, including the following:

Sporobolus heterolepis, also known as prairie dropseed, is easily grown in a wide range of soils, including heavy clays. Flowers have pink and brown tints, but are known mainly for their coriander-like fragrance. Prairie dropseed is a lovely addition to large rock gardens as well as to foundation plantings and borders.

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Prairie munchkin, another sturdy choice, provides steel blue foliage throughout the summer.

Schizachyrium scoparium, or prairie munchkin, is another sturdy grass. The steel-blue
foliage lasts through the heat of the summer. In the fall, flowers appear and the foliage slowly turns pinkish, then tawny through winter.

Sesleria autumnalis #2, or autumn moor grass, grows narrow stems with silvery-white inflorescences by midsummer and is yellow-green in the cooler seasons. A drought-tolerant choice, it can be planted in full-sun to partially shaded landscapes. Fun fact: Plants in the Sesleria genus are named in honor of Leonardo Sesler, a noteworthy figure in the 18th century botanical world.

Another great choice is Bouteloua gracilis, or blonde ambition, a native grass with an unusual look. Its horizontal eyelash-like chartruse flowers  appear in mid-summer. By fall, they age to blonde seed heads and remain on the plant through winter for added interest.

Carex flacca, or blue zinger #1, is best used as groundcover. Its blue-grey foliage spreads to form a mat and will produce unusual black flowers in March. This drought-tolerant plant thrives in full sun to partial shade.


Carex oshimensis everillo #1 will add a bright spot to your landscape, living wall or window box.

Bouteloua gracilis Blonde Ambition

Blonde ambition will delight you with its unusual look throughout summer and fall.

Carex oshimensis everillo #1 is another ornamental grass available at Meadowbrook Farm. This dramatic statement plant will brighten up shady spots or add a pop of color as edging along a path. It will also do well in a living wall or window box.

Visit Meadowbrook Farm this month to find these and other great grasses to add to your garden. Remember, PHS members always save 10% on plants. Become a member on site and save on your purchases.

PHS Meadowbrook Farm is located at 1633 Washington Lane in Abington Township, Pennsylvania. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call 215.887.5900 or click here.

Memorial Day Weekend Sale at PHS Meadowbrook Farm

hanging basket for mbf blog

By Marion McParland

Take some time out of your busy holiday weekend and stop by PHS Meadowbrook Farm for some fresh air and sunshine. Gather inspiration and advice for your yard and gardening projects as you stroll through the beautiful grounds. Select from an assortment of bountiful  baskets at 30% off to adorn your porch or deck this summer. Also, enjoy 50% off select annuals including pansies, violas and Viola Hip Hop, featured on the PHS Hot List.

You will also be amazed at the assortment of gardening gadgets and gizmos you will find. Stock up on tools of the trade, including PHS custom-made garden tools, hand-forged by the blacksmiths at Red Pig Tools in Oregon;  ergonomically designed pruners and garden scissors by Dramm; and garden hods by L’il Maine.

Dramm garden scissors

Dramm garden scissors

Get your summer veggie garden started with Meadowbrook’s homegrown peppers, eggplant and herbs. Plus find great varieties of tomatoes, including Early Girl, Indigo Rose, Indigo Apple, San Marzano, Sweet 100, Yellow Pear, Hillbilly Potato Leaf, Cherokee Purple, and Blueberry.

Remember, PHS members always save 10% on plants at Meadowbrook Farm. Become a member on site and save on your weekend purchases!

PHS Meadowbrook Farm is located at 1633 Washington Lane in Abington Township, Pennsylvania. Meadowbrook Farm will be closed on Memorial Day, Monday, May 26. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call 215.887.5900 or click here.

Tomato Mania!


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The new tomato in town, Indigo Rose, is filled with anti-oxidants and is the darkest tomato ever bred.


By Marion McParland

You say tomato, I say tomahto….. let’s get to PHS Meadowbrook Farm this weekend and buy our plants! Yes, it is tomato time at Meadowbrook Farm. Our tiny seedlings have grown up and are now healthy young plants ready to settle into your garden. Choose from many varieties, including Early Girl, Indigo Rose, Indigo Apple, San Marzano, Sweet 100, Yellow Pear, Hillbilly Potato Leaf, Cherokee Purple and Blueberry.

No garden is complete without tomato plants. In fact, 93 percent of gardening households in the country grow tomatoes. With more than 25,000 varieties to choose from, tomatoes are not only versatile and delicious, but healthy for us as well — packed with vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium, and carotenoid lycopene, which can lower your risk of cancer.

A new variety, Indigo Rose, is the darkest tomato bred to date, making it exceptionally high in anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins are powerful anti-oxidants. In the early stages of development, Indigo Rose develops a dark purple pigment in its skin with exposure to direct sunlight. Green when unripe, purple-red when ripe, these one-to two-ounce, cocktail-sized tomatoes have good flavor with plummy overtones. Indigo Rose was developed by Jim Myers at Oregon State University using traditional plant breeding techniques. Meadowbrook Farm has grown them, and all their tomatoes, organically with seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

 Early Girl tomato plants are here!

Early Girl tomato plants are here!

Tomatoes are thought to originate in South America. From there, the tomato spread to Mexico where the Aztecs called it xitomati,  meaning “plump thing with a navel.” When the tomato was introduced to Europe in the 1500s, Italian physician and botanist Pietro Andrea Mattioli referred to it as “pomi d’oro” or the “golden apple.” The French called it “the apple of love” and the Germans called it “the apple of paradise.” The scientific term for the common tomato is lycopersicon lycopersicum, meaning “wolf peach.”

And while you are at Meadowbrook, pick up some other plants for your garden, including peppers and watermelon, as well as many herbs.

PHS Meadowbrook Farm is located at 1633 Washington Lane in Abington Township, Pennsylvania. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call 215.887.5900 or click here.