There he goes again!

A brother in Virginia emailed this fall that he was beginning to build another outbuilding that he designed. He’s the brother who designed and built two other outbuildings in their beautiful landscape. If you’re interested in checking them out, I boasted posted some words and photos about this one and about this one in earlier blogs.

The original one is the largest and has a pull-down ladder to an attic large enough to stand up in. He designed it after seeing one like it in Williamsburg VA, our hometown. The second one, built to mirror the first one, is smaller and houses his lawn mower, trimmer, and other gasoline powered equipment. Not too long ago he said he needed an even smaller outbuilding to house the whole-house generator he purchased after going through Hurricane Florence. Really? Another outbuilding?

generator outbuilding

It seemed to me that with one emailed photo he was starting to construct the building and the following email a couple of weeks later was full of photos of the painting of the finished product. He designed the smaller generator shed to match the other two on the far side of the home with his ‘signature 8/12’ roof.

Richmond 2018

The louvered doors taken from a large estate were found at a local salvage dealer… a dealer who knows him by name by now as he’s been a steady customer through the years. I have not seen this latest outbuilding in person and was a little confused where the heck it exactly sat on their property. He answered that it’s located right where a 40-year old boxwood was located…. a huge shrub I do remember…. that he dug up and moved to a spot front yard. Oh my!

generator 2018

He just shared a photo of his new generator outbuilding from his window after a mid-Atlantic snowstorm blanketed the area. The generator outbuilding is the showpiece he hoped for and truly looks as though it’s been there since colonial days.

Generator building snow 2018

I’m proud of this talented bro and boasted posted about him and my sister-in-law here and here, too. I’m a lucky gal.

My First Topiary

Winter weather has arrived and everything in the landscape is covered with a 2″ layer of white stuff. Some of the shrubs have been sculpted into snow topiaries. They’ll bounce back when this current snowfall melts, but those few snow topiaries remind me of the real one I had this past summer.

“Eugenia 2-Ball Topiary” is all the tag read. It was sold at every box store and grocery store around here last spring. I don’t know too much about the eugenia species. I know it’s related to the myrtle and that it can reseed readily but certainly not in New Hampshire. I thought the topiary would look great in my large urn out front giving me a touch of formality at the entrance.  The price was right so I bought one… my first topiary.

Eugenia Topiary

I came home and immediately googled eugenia and found its hardiness zone is 10-11, a semi-tropical shrub that could reach 15 to 20 feet in height and can serve as a bushy hedge in the right zone. It’s readily available in box stores and nurseries, potted and sheared as a topiary form into interesting shapes like balls, spirals, or cones. The leaves are small and delicate and respond very well to trimming. The small flowers produce red berries that attract birds but there’s a warning that berries do stain walkways. The good news is that these are much more affordable than the perennial boxwood topiaries.

It simply thrived in our entry urn with sedums filling in to cover the soil. The emerging new leaves were an attractive shiny bronze shade. After several weeks into the heat of summer, the plant actually bloomed! It never developed red berries as it does in warm climes but it seemed to be quite happy at our 70-80 degrees in partial sun.  I snipped off uneven growth all summer to maintain the ball shape.

Eugenia uniflora

As soon as fall weather arrived and temperatures dropped, it was time to say goodbye to the eugenia. If I had a nice greenhouse, I would definitely choose to overwinter it. All I have for overwintering tender plants is a garage that stays fairly mild during winter. And that’s where I’m trying to save our eugenia. It’s repotted and placed in the sunniest garage window.  Alas, it may not be enough. The plant is alive but the leaves are beginning to wither and drop. It’s not in the best of health, but I’m not giving up on it yet.

Most websites advise bringing the plant indoors in cold weather but our forced air vents beneath almost every window would have the plant dropping leaves all winter. I loved the plant enough that just may end up buying a fresh one every spring.

*Eugenia blooms photo: Forest & Kim Starr


 

Enkianthus

Enkianthus…. I remember thinking it was a funny name for a plant when I was a child and heard my mother talking about the Enkianthus campanulatus in her garden. Now I have two Enkianthus campanulatus in my garden and I still think it’s a funny name…. and it’s fun to say!

It’s a native of the Far East, growing in mountainous areas of Japan and China. The Enkianthus campanulatus or the redvein enkianthus is a desirable woody plant for our zone 5-6 but for some reason it seems to be a rather uncommon choice for gardens around here. In early springtime the plant shines with heavy clusters of small pendulous bell-shaped blooms, white with red veined streaks. Bees of all kinds love them. Butterflies love them.

wikipedia photo, KENPEI's photo, 5 May 2008

 

In the summer, it’s a nice green backdrop for other blooming plants. As glorious as it is in springtime, right now, the end of October, the shrub gives us its best display. Fall hues of coppery red and orange light up the border and bring you to a halt while walking through the yard. The fall foliage for me is more of a showstopper than the blooms of spring, a time when so much else is in color.

Enkianthus 2018

Enkianthus is a slow-growing plant but I hope to be around long enough to train the shrub into a small tree with layered branches to replace the Styrax japonicus, my Japanese snowbell tree that grew in this spot and died suddenly.

 

Ice on the pumpkin

These days it’s dark when we wake up in the morning and dark when we sit down for dinner. Alas….winter weather has arrived and we’ve had a few nights of very cold temperatures. It seems too early for freezing weather but, yes, it’s here. Overnight last week I lost my annuals.  I don’t plant many but ‘Hawaii Blue’ ageratum is a must. It’s a dependable plant that flowers all summer and carries the color of my lavender through other areas of the garden. I always buy two flats of seedlings at a local nursery.

This was a couple of weeks ago:

ageratum Blue Hawaii

This is after the first hard freeze:

ageratum Blue Hawaii

Oh well.  It’s all in the life of an annual. The cleome or spider flower that was glorious and fed the monarchs and bees not long ago melted into a heap of green and brown slime overnight.

cleome 2018

Not all is lost. In with the cold weather arrived our delightful winter birds! Juncos and white-throated sparrows blew down from the northern climes with one of the coastal storms. Flocks of bluebirds have stopped for a visit for the last two weeks. Some might venture south. Some might stay with us for the winter.

Grasses in the garden are giving us a show… especially my favorite native switchgrass, ‘Northwind,’ upright and 5′ tall in full bloom right now. Soon the blades will turn a golden shade and be glorious in the winter garden.

'Northwind' switchgrass 2018

I added some ‘Shenandoah’ switchgrass to another area of the garden this fall and anticipate the winter foliage will turn a lovely burgundy as promised. It’s not as tall and not as upright as ‘Northwind’ but just as hardy. Let’s hope it does not disappoint.

And so we seem to have more overcast days, more wet weather, snow in parts of the state but we are ready. The furnace is working. The fireplace is clean. Wood is stacked…. and our new addition is finished and furnished.  Life is good.

Garlic Chives

They’ve been a powerhouse of white blooms and a bee magnet for weeks but their time has drawn to a close. They began to bloom for me in mid-summer just as the allium Millenium in the background had reached its peak of color.

Garlic Chives 2018

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) aren’t as common in gardens as regular chives (Allium schoenoprasum) but are just as easy to grow. Known in Asian cooking as Chinese chives with a flavor in cooking more like garlic than onions. We don’t use them as much as we should in the kitchen but the leaves are great for garlic butter spread, in soups, and salads. For us they mostly serve as an ornamental accent in a short walkway border and as nectar for insects.

garlic chives

These plants were a pass-along from a neighbor who grew tired of pulling up a multitude of garlic chive babies in her borders. The plant is a prolific self-seeder just like regular chives and a gardener must be on top of deadheading before the seeds are dispersed. For me, planting them in pots helps keep them contained.

Garlic Chives 2018

All those beautiful blooms have since developed late summer seedheads. But before the seeds dropped, I removed all of the dried seedheads. I first cut the few with seeds ready to drop and didn’t lose a one.

Garlic Chives 2018

It’s easy to deadhead the bunch. Just pull them together and cut… almost like a ponytail.

Garlic Chives 2018

The neighbor who passed along the garlic chives to me can see the pots from her window. Last summer she came over and took photos. She’d never thought of putting them in pots at her house and thought they were beautiful on our pathway.

PS: I didn’t offer to give them back.

Cleome

Cleome. Some people hate it. I always loved the old-fashioned cleome in my Virginia garden. A prolific self-seeder, it was fun every spring to see where it chose to pop up in my large gardens. And to see the different colors of blooms was exciting, too, since the babies could vary from white to purple, quite different from the parent.

Complaints according to those who avoid cleome in the garden:
Nasty odor
Spines and thorns
Sticky excretion that could irritate
Tall and leggy later in the season
and a self-seeder

cleome 2018

All those criticisms have become passé with new varieties on the market. The hybrid cleome I grow is compact…. only a foot tall and an annual. No thorns; no odor; no seeds (sadly); smaller blooms than my Virginia plants but just as floriferous all growing season; bushier than my original; planted in my soil/compost border and seem to be happy there; still loved by insects; still visited by hummingbird moths and hummingbirds. No good reason I can think of not to consider it for your garden…. unless you just don’t like the color!

cleome 2018

 

I learned to love nepeta

There are certain plants I thought I’d never grow in my borders. Nepeta is one of those plants. Who in their right mind would want something in the mint family spreading in their garden? Then, of course, I became better educated about varieties while working at Rolling Green Nursery. I was still wary of nepeta but as I tended the plants, I was learning why so many gardeners asked for it.

It wasn’t until a Garden Conservancy Day Open Day in Maine a few years ago and I really met borders of nepeta that I actually fell in love.

Nepeta, Jonathan King and Jim Stott, founders and owners of Stonewall Kitchen

Home of Jonathan King and Jim Stott

Jonathan King and Jim Stott, founders and then-owners of Stonewall Kitchen, invited in the public to wander their home gardens. To make a long story short, nepeta and I have been together since.

I decided on ‘Walker’s Low’ that we sold at the nursery. It’s a very well-behaved plant and blooms for many months from late spring into fall. My worries about spreading like mint was unfounded. You will see a few babies during the summer near the mother plant. You can pull them out or let them go. I usually allow them choose where they want to go.

The plant starts out as a tidy rounded mound in the spring and eventually reaches about 15 – 18 inches tall in my garden. It is lacy and dainty and, yes, it can flop. No problem. Leave it or trim it. It will encourage re-blooming.

nepeta "Walkers Low" 2018

I planted drifts of nepeta along a garden path to soften the look of boxwood, to add some color, and to enjoy the aroma when brushed. It does prefer full sun but does quite well in my partly shaded location.

Nepeta is very easy-to-grow and the bunnies in the neighborhood steer clear. Not even a taste. Another good note is nepeta is an excellent source of nectar for honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Right now, with fading blooms in the late summer garden, our nepeta is doing the trick.

nepeta, bumblebee 2018

 

Goodbye Summer

It’s still August but I’m learning just how short the growing season is in New Hampshire. Summer is fast shutting down. I don’t mean seeing preseason football on the telly or all those fall decorations I’m seeing in stores. It’s the plants and nature that are showing signs of ending their cycle of growth.

Our tomato plants look ratty but there are a few pink ones still hanging on. I’ve been picking the green tomatoes that are certain not to ripen. I’ve sliced, breaded, and fried them up in bacon fat as my southern roots dictate. If you’ve never tried this treat, you’d be surprised at how tasty it is. mister gardener, born and raised in Ohio, once turned his nose up at this delicacy but now can’t say not to this treat. I think we’ll be eating more as the month comes to a close.

fried green tomatoes

On a drive through Vermont last week, we noticed a few species of trees are beginning to show color. In our garden, our Little Lime hydrangea shrubs are entering the color phase of late summer and fall. The booms emerge green in the spring, turn white through the summer, and finally present a lovely blush of pink in the fall. It’s happening now and it’s beautiful.

Little Lime Hydrangea

The crickets, grasshoppers, katydids, and cicadas are sounding the calls of fall. It can get noisy out there this time of year. Spider webs are festooned across much of what grows in the garden… and with egg sacs full of little “Charlottes” ready to greet the world in the spring.

katydid

We’re seeing the birds begin to gather for their annual migration. Several of our male hummingbirds have already left. It seems early for migration but the number of males around the feeders are fewer.  We are keeping the nectar fresh for the females, the young, and those few that may wander through during migration. The nuisance around the nectar these days are the yellow jackets….. not a bee, but a pesky wasp that is drawn to sweets as the summer wanes.

yellow jacket

The sun is rising a little later and setting earlier these days bringing some refreshing cool nights. We’ve dragged out the down cover for those nights that drop into the  50’s.  I wish this time of the year lasted longer. It’s amazing to think the first frost in this part of the state can occur in less than an month!

garden gloves 2018

I love all the seasons but maybe not equally. I must admit I’ll be sad to put away my garden gloves for another long New England winter

 

 

Too much of a good thing…

Daily headlines on my weather apps are “Stormy Weekend Continues,” “More Coastal Flash Flooding Possible,” “Expect Pop-Up Showers,” “Downpours in the Forecast.” The month of August has greeted us with more than ample rain. It seems we are locked in this wet, humid and warm pattern with a good chance of showers, thunderstorms, or heavy fog daily. I read in a news release that, should the rain pattern persist, Concord New Hampshire is due to pass the last wettest August on record. They are only ¼” behind their last record set in 1892.  New Hampshire is a small state. We can’t be too far behind.

rain

We had a slight drought in July but that’s long gone. Thirsty plants been replaced with abundant greenery and a Jurassic-like growth in our landscape. Even wildlife has proliferated. Chipmunks are masters of all that we survey. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dinosaur crash through our tropical growth.

fog

Waterhogs like clethra and hydrangea have flourished, doubled in size, and bloomed better than ever. Greenery in the shade garden is looking a little like Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors.

The soggy soil has not helped our grass at all. We developed small pockets of blight on the lawn with the cool nights and hot humid rainy days. I’m trying to be on top of this and have treated it… but once started, fungal diseases are difficult to stop. So far, it’s been two weeks and no sign of it returning.

fungus

I do worry about waterlogged roots in the garden. Much of the garden is raised but to help the wet, compacted soil, I’m taking my garden fork and driving the tines into the soil for several inches. I hope this will provide more air to roots and perhaps dry the soil a little quicker.

All in all, if I had to choose between a drought and abundant wet weather, I’d choose the wet any day. I’d rather fight the fungus, the mosquitoes, the slugs, the chipmunks than a sun baked and hot earth that much of the world has experienced recently. Counting blessings….

 

Summer Hummers

Summer 2018 in New England has been as glorious as I can remember since moving here. With so many areas suffering the most catastrophic conditions imaginable around the globe… from heat and drought, floods and tornadoes, volcanoes and fire…. we are swaddled in comfort with enough moisture, sunshine, and pleasant temperatures that I feel almost apologetic writing about it. We had a stretch of dry weather earlier in the summer and have suffered in the past with an abundance of weather extremes but, so far… summer 2018 has made the living enjoyable for gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts. With a warming climate, all summers won’t be like this so we will savor it while it lasts.

Plants that we trickled water on for survival during a 3-year drought are now bursting with growth. Every shrub and tree and flower and vegetable in this yard is fuller, taller, and more floriferous. With these favorable conditions, we’re seeing more insects and birds and in our yard… especially the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that have proliferated wildly around here. We now have the adults and their offspring jetting through and around the garden performing acrobatic maneuvers to guard their territory.

With such movement, it’s impossible to count how many hummers are out there but there’s a way to guesstimate, according to bird banders. Count how many you see at one time and multiply that number by 6. That would mean there are about 20-25 hummingbirds coming and going and perhaps almost parting our hair when we get too close to the action. Other residents in the neighborhood feed hummingbirds so they are moving between our homes. It’s fun to see such activity and much better numbers than the total 8-10 we counted during drought years.

hummingbird July 2018

We have the feisty males with their bright red gorgets displaying territorial rule and their mating prowess but the feeders look to be dominated by females with the white throats. That can be deceiving. There are more females than males but the young males we are seeing have not developed their telltale ‘ruby’ throat. They look much like females until we are close enough to see faint lines or striations on their throats. Next year, they’ll display their bright gorgets.

Hummingbird July 2018

We’re keeping the feeders spotless, making fresh nectar (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) often and just watching as the hummers are bulking up preparing for their long migration at the end of the summer. Males will leave first, followed by females and young.  We will keep the feeders clean and half-full with fresh nectar after they leave because you never know when a migration straggler will venture by and need a couple of days of nourishment before continuing on.

The harvest

We don’t grow many vegetables due to space constraints but in the coolness of a New England spring, leaf-lettuce is one we can depend on even in the heat of summer if we are careful.  We have enjoyed the bounty of our lettuce crop for lunch and dinner for several weeks.

lettuce 2018

Lettuce is so easy to grow! We plant trays of lettuce as early as we can in as many places as we can. Some grow in full sun for cool weather picking and others grow in containers with annuals, both sunny and shady. They look pretty and we can harvest a few leaves at a time but never more than half the plant.

IMG_2965

IMG_2963We planted as much as we could around the tomatoes. With dappled afternoon shade beneath the tomato plants, they’ve thrived during our current heat spell with temps in the 90’s.  That’s NOT the weather lettuce likes.

lettuce and tomatoes

lettuce 2018

Despite watering, some lettuce in full sun has begun to show signs of growing tall in the heat. So we harvested much of this lettuce before it bolted, ate a lot and shared a lot. A good amount of our organic lettuce was welcomed for tasty salads at two dinner parties we recently attended.

Some of the roots, we washed and replanted in good potting soil. They’re sending up new leaves and we hope to harvest a second crop, a first try for us. Wish us luck!

 

 

 

Goodbye Spring, Hello Summer!

Spring is a beautiful time of year and we were fortunate that our 2018 spring was enjoyable with enough rain to turn everything lush and green. Today summer has officially arrived bringing heat and humidity and the first flush of WEEDS. All kinds of tiny weeds have sprouted in lawns and in borders around this neighborhood.

I’m not crazy about the idea of dousing the property with chemicals so I’m laboring a little each day to pull them out before they form seed heads. I find the single best way to rid oneself of weeds is the good old-fashioned pull-them-out-by-hand when the ground is moist and the plants are young. That’s when it’s easy to pull the entire weed up because if you don’t get the root out, it’s probably going to grow back. I simply grab a weed close to the ground and slowly pull straight up. If the ground is dry, I find the second best way to remove weeds is with a triangular blade hoe. You’ll find no Roundup used around my yard!

Our association lays down mulch in our neighborhood and those are the weeds I tackle first.  A few inches of compost/mulch mix makes it easier to pull them out, roots and all…. even the young pokeweed below that will develop a huge taproot that will go deep and spread horizontally later in the summer.

Pokeweed 2018

 Root System on Young Pokeweed

Chickweed, Hairy Bittercrest, Dandelion, Wood Sorrel, Plantains, Purslane, Pokeberry, Prostrate Spurge, Crabgrass and my worst gardening enemy… Creeping Charlie (in the neighbor’s yard), are all waiting to grow and develop a good root system and simply take over… but, sorry, not on my watch!

wood sorrel 2018

Young Wood Sorrel

Plantain 2018

Young Plantain

Prostrate Spurge

Young Prostrate Spurge

New Shoots of Creeping Charlie

New shoots of Creeping Charlie creeping ever closer to my gardens!

No matter how dreaded a job, we must accept that weeds are part of gardening and be prepared to do battle but never win the war. No matter how many you pull out, nature is constantly reseeding them for you.

 

 

If you like showy….

…. here’s another Flower Power perennial I learned to love at Rolling Green Nursery. It got a lot of interest when blooming and when the blooms were gone, we simply sheared it back and watched it perform again. It’s a low growing variety of campanula, a genus with more than 300 very different varieties. I loved the campanula carpathica “white clips,” and the blue-purple, “blue clips,” still growing strong for me, both massed as a groundcover and as container plants.

Campanula "white clips"

One morning I assisted a shopper who selected several “white clips” for a border along his driveway. Two weeks later he returned with a smile and loaded his big wagon with every last one we had (except one), saying it was the only plant that’s ever done so well in that location. That was the day I bought my first bellflower that I had set aside! Whew… now I have lots!

This low-growing bellflower is one of the most popular ones. It seems to love our New England climate with cool nights during the summer. It’s easy to grow, disease and pest free, good in full sun or part shade. The plants form a neat, low mound of tiny green leaves with a mass of upfacing, open bell-shaped blooms appearing in late spring and early summer. If they are deadheaded when spent, they will bloom for many weeks. It’s a great little plant for front of the border, for rock gardens, and in containers (no thriller, filler, spiller needed).

Campanula bellflower (Campanula carpatica)
Perennial
Zones 3-8
12″ wide
8 – 10″ tall

Strawberry Picking

strawberries 2018.jpg

Nothing screams summer like New England’s June strawberries. It’s the beginning of our pick-your-own season but we don’t really pick them unless we take the grandchildren. Applecrest Farm is just a stone’s throw away where we can buy the juiciest berries already picked and waiting for us. With four acres of berries and a dozen varieties, we can’t go wrong!

It’s a short season and we’re taking full advantage. We’ve enjoyed eating them fresh but also with rhubarb in deserts, as a sauce over ice cream, with simple milk and sugar, and and in salads or a main dish such as the one below, grilled chicken salad with spring lettuce, roasted pecans, blueberries and juicy strawberries, that mister gardener made for us tonight. Deee-lish!

strawberry spring salad 2018

His dressing: 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup veg. oil, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 onion, diced, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper…blended in a mini food processor for about 30 seconds.  Oh so good!

The strawberries came from Applecrest Farm, but the lettuce keeps on coming right out of my small garden. I have several varieties growing in all of my containers whether it’s an ornamental container or tomato trough or some small herb containers. With our cool, wet spring, the lettuce doesn’t show any sign of bolting. We’re taking full advantage!

lettuce 2018

We are almost finished our current stash of strawberries but not to worry. Tomorrow is our town’s Farmers’ Market. I know we’ll see more of the juicy fruit at several of the farm stands. We’ll come home with strawberries and perhaps a few asparagus. Can’t wait.

Alchemilla Love

When I was employed at Rolling Green Nursery, this plant was often requested by shoppers. From one week to the next, when I reported for work, I noticed the plant was practically sold out in my absence. That much requested perennial is Alchemilla… lady’s mantle. I wasn’t too familiar with it as I didn’t grow it in my zone 8 Virginia garden but, now I have fallen under its spell in my seacoast New Hampshire garden. I started with two plants as accents in a border and they quickly charmed me so much that I now use them as a groundcover in another border. Lots of lady’s mantle there and I am rewarded with plant pizzazz!

The blooms of the lady’s mantle are frothy clusters of yellow/chartreuse that cover the plants this time of year. Each individual bloom is about 1/8-inch wide and shaped like a little star. The clouds of blossoms stand erect above the mound of attractive leaves. However, as the blooms become heavy, they can become a bit floppy. That’s when I cut those heavier stems for flower arrangements. They look fabulous alone in a container or stunning as a filler in mixed arrangements. And… a bonus… they seem to hold color for me when they are air-dried.

Alchemilla 'Lady's Mantle'

Lady’s mantle does self-seed and some folks will deadhead all the flowers before the seeds ripen. The tiny seeds, one per flower, ripen when the blooms become dry and brown later in the summer. I do allow some self-seeding but cut most blooms. During the heat of the summer, I keep the plants well-watered and after deadheading I am rewarded with a flush of fresh growth in the fall.

lady's mantle 2018

The leaves of lady’s mantle are like shallow rippled cups and have tiny soft hairs that cause water droplets that form either from rain, fog, or evaporation to roll around on the surface and hang on along the edge of the leaf.

My variety: Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) ‘thriller’ – zones 3-8

My All-White Garden

What ever happened to my all-white garden plan? It looked so great on paper but it never materialized. We will soon lose our white focal point in the yard as we say farewell to the striking blooms of the doublefile viburnum. Petals are falling with every gentle breeze and beginning to cover the ground like giant snowflakes. Soon the shrub will be full of red drupes that will turn black in autumn against deep red and burgundy leaves. Great 4-season woody shrub!

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ 2018

We anticipate a fair share of summer whites with Little Lime and Incrediball hydrangea and arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), but somehow in the few years we’ve lived here, I’ve added a little purple, then blue, and eventually pink, and a few yellows. I simply cannot refuse a pass-along plant no matter the color and, of course, I must add host plants for butterfly larvae, like the orange asclepias tuberosa for the monarch butterfly. So, in the end I like to think the colors in the garden are compatible and just what nature intended…. a bit of the rainbow here on earth.

tall yellow bearded iris 2018

Tall bearded reblooming iris

Purple is emerging in the perennial bed with Baptisia australis, commonly called blue false indigo. This tough plant comes in white, blue, yellow, and bi-colors, but this is the only shade that calls to me. I have three of them in the garden… pest free, great pollinator plants and the tall foliage keeps on ticking once the blooms fade.

Baptisia australis 2018

Baptisia

Allium continues to give color to a border where little lime hydrangea and varieties of lavender have yet to bloom. Bees still visit, but now that the rhododendron have opened, I can hear the loud buzzing there.

allium 2018That’s a chunk of what we have in bloom at the moment. Lovely so far but the real excitement is in the anticipation of what’s to come. I like to think of the garden as a Broadway production… Act I, Act II, etc.  It just wouldn’t do to have a grand finale of all the blooms on stage at the same time.

Happy Gardening!

Yes, Spring did arrive…

I was wrong about summer coming early. The sizzling hot temps lasted about two days. It did fry our early red tulips in the birdbath garden but our mid-season white tulips emerged and were greeted by seasonal New England temperatures…. warm days and cool nights.

spring blooms 2018

 

After a day of glorious rain yesterday, we woke today to our customary cool spring today.  White tulips against a groundcover of “Tide Hill” box brightens up this border before any sunlight appears over the woodland surrounding us. “Tide Hill” is a wonderfully compact littleleaf boxwood that is tolerant of our icy, cold winters and does fine during hot, humid spells during the summers. It only grows about a foot in height but will spread about 4 feet in diameter. It’s a perfect groundcover for our garden entry highlighted by a few florals…. and eventually “Karley Rose” fountain grass in a container. Both the box and fountain grass were purchased at Rolling Green Nursery in New Hampshire.

IMG_1380

New to the border this spring is “Starlight Sensation,” a new hybrid daffodil (below) from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester VA.  It won the “Best Daffodil” at the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show so I was on the phone to order that day. This is its first season but eventually we should have multiple nodding blooms per stems.  The buds are a shade of yellow and open to a creamy white.

IMG_1345

IMG_1344

Three shades of muscari will eventually spread and fill certain borders… this one with a backdrop of “Becky” daisies. I worried because the muscari green leaves were perfect fodder for our bunny. They were eaten to the ground several times but we have regrowth and blooms. Bunny has moved on to clover.

IMG_1353

That’s it for the bulbs but herbs are looking good, serviceberry trees are glorious and crabapple tree is ready to burst on the scene with pink blossoms. More to come…..

Autumn frost

Temperatures on the Seacoast of New Hampshire are dropping at night, but warming to the 60’s or 70’s during the day. It’s a favorite time of the year for me. Most of the garden is still green. Grasses are at peak, berries are ripe, lawns are happy, annuals and some perennials are blooming, and a variety of migrating birds are passing through. Each morning, the sluggish fall bumblebees and dragonflies wait for the sun’s warmth before they take wing. It’s all about the beautiful changes in the garden… not the colorful blooms of summer.

Early Fall, Exeter NH 2017

Early Fall, Exeter NH, 2017

No hard freeze yet, but we are having mornings of ‘frost on the pumpkin.’ With nighttime temperatures dropping to the upper 30’s for short periods, the garden wakes to a thin coat of ice on the birdbath and a silvery coating of crystals on the lawn and leaves. Plants don’t seems to be damaged and this hoar frost is a pretty sight to behold in the first light of day…. almost like a sprinkling of sugar or jewels.

Yes, days are shrinking and the leaves are beginning to drop but for a few weeks until the winter blasts arrive, it’s a delightful time of year. I hope you are embracing autumn wherever you live.

Sedum, Hoar Frost, 2017

Hoar Frost, Oct. 2017

Hoar Frost

Hoar Frost, 2017

Ice on the birdbath, October 2017

Rhody, Hoar Frost

Hoar Frost

 

 

 

Fall Color in New Hampshire

We’re back from the mountains! The leaves were not quite peak color in higher elevations but still breathtaking to us. On our return, we found very little color on the Seacoast of New Hampshire.

However, there was one understory tree that we enjoy from our window each fall that greeted our homecoming with bright yellow leaves. It’s the native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) that grows along our woodline. Step just inside the woods and there’s a riot of witch hazel turning yellow as far as one can see.

The leaves first begin to yellow from the outside edge in.

They eventually turn a lemony yellow before slowly turning brown from the edge again. The leaves soon fall but the tree still presents us with another colorful performance.

With most deciduous trees bare, the witch hazel’s yellow tassels brighten the fall landscape. This is the only tree in North America to have flowers, ripe fruit, and next year’s leaf buds on its branches at the same time. While the blooms are open, last year’s seedpods reach maturity and loudly eject one or two tiny black seeds per pod 30-feet or more. If left undisturbed, the seeds will germinate in two years.On some branches, I can see year old pods open and empty… however every now and again, I spot a seed that didn’t eject last year. I wonder if these old seeds are still viable.

It’s time of year for Halloween witches and goblins so you might think the holiday has some connection with the witch hazel tree that blooms at the same time… but not. The root of the word witch comes from an old English word, wice, meaning pliant or bendable. As lore goes, this tree produces the branches and twigs for divining rods that can locate underground water sources.

Oh what an interesting and often overlooked native tree for the landscape! Do consider this native one or one of the many cultivars if you are looking for a fall blooming woody plant to enhance your property.

 

A few of my favorite things…

This is officially the first full day of fall but I’m not ready to put the garden to sleep for the winter.  No way! Daylight hours will shorten but there’s plenty of garden left to enjoy on the Seacoast of New Hampshire. In fact, fall may be my favorite season. Late blooming flowers, shrubs at peak, and happier grass with cooler temps… all good.

Limelight hydrangea blooms have become a focal point, turning from spring green and summer white to shades of pink and burgundy. Aralia cordata”Sun King” is finally opening its spikes of snow white flowers, purple spikes of liriope muscari blooms attract the late season bees. There is wonderful texture in spent flowers, too… the clethra, the echinacea, the baptisia seed pods, the butterfly weed pods… all display lovely seed heads and the viburnum, juniper, and holly are displaying colorful berries that are being gobbled up by migrating birds. It’s a wonderful time of the year.

I’ve been working as usual around our small garden. With rains and morning dew, it’s a perfect time to overseed the lawn, and it’s time to divide grasses, day lilies, iris, plus a great time to transplant shrubs.  I’ve designed a new sweep of dwarf Russian sage that should become a sea of purple next summer. Finally bulbs that are on order from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs go in the ground in the coming weeks. Yes, I’m in the garden every day!

We all have our favorite garden tools. In my years of gardening, I’ve used a multitude of tools… some expensive, some not. I have a garage full of rakes, hoes, pitchforks, loppers, etc. but I thought it would be fun to share the tools I use daily for gardening these days.

Below are the shoes I use the most… an old LLBean pair… that stay in the garage. I have tried the rubber clogs and the British wellies but fall back to this pair every time. They were once indoor shoes, a lovely Christmas gift from a son many years ago. I think of him every time I slip them on.

Garden Shows

These micro-tip pruning snip from Fiskars are used daily for precision snipping to deadhead or to cut fresh flowers. They were recommended by a horticulturist who spoke to our Virginia master gardeners. I was immediately sold and bought one of the few he brought with him. One side is serrated and the other side a blade. They came with a sheath that clips onto my pocket or waistband. I’m never without them in the garden.

Fiskars

When I opened the Christmas gift (below) from my daughter, my first thought was “weapon.” I wondered if she thought I needed to cut sugar cane, but, no. She insisted this tool would replace several that I cart around the garden. Darn if she wasn’t right!

I’d never heard of a Japanese Hori-Hori knife but that master gardener daughter in Kentucky certainly had. It’s multi-purpose gardening tool that I use all the time. It’s great for popping up a dandilion, but it’s also great for planting small plants in the spring and bulbs in the fall. I can slice open bags of mulch, it easily divides plants, and I can rough up roots on pot-bound plants. It has a blade on one edge and a serrated edge on the other.  This tool I recommend to all gardeners!

Hori Hori Knife

Talk about tough gloves… these Atlas gloves wear like a second skin and the thick coating of Nitrile makes them stronger than rubber! Nitrile is also used in super glue and that says a lot. Just throw them in the washing machine and they clean up beautifully. I own a dozen pairs, a gift from another gardening daughter when I accepted employment at a local nursery. She knew best!

ATLAS NITRILE Gloves

I love a good sturdy bucket. It is a versatile tool for moving mulch and soil, grass seed, carting tools, collecting weeds and spent blooms, gathering flowers for arranging, and turn it over and it’s a stepping stool for reaching the bird feeder or deadheading tall blooms from the arbor. I bought two of these tough 8-quart horse buckets at a tack store at least 10 years ago and they are constantly in use.

IMG_1541

Finally, the magic shovel… it belonged to my mother, a dedicated gardener and gifted designer and horticulturist. The handle is worn smooth and even a little thin in places. It has a pointed tip, quite sharp, and becomes my tool of choice for edging, transplanting, turning soil or compost. There’s a tiny scar on the blade where it wore too thin. We found a welder nearby to “heal” the blade and it continues to work its magic.

Mother's Shovel

We all have favorite garden tools. Are there ones you couldn’t live without?

I ❤️ Bumblebees

I make a concerted effort to attract bees and other pollinators to our garden. This year, I spent a little more time trying to entice bumblebees to nest in the yard. I already supply a continuous food source during the growing season but I read up on what a bumblebee needs for a nest.I saved dried leaves and grass, and in a corner behind a fence where the soil is dry and shady, I piled the grass clippings and leaves early in the spring. And, lo and behold, one day I watched a large bumblebee arrive, zigging here and there, flying around and around the leaves and fence for a couple of days in the cool spring. At first I thought it may be a carpenter bee attracted to the wood fence but, no, this plump bumblebee was eventually crawling around the leaves. She was a bumblebee queen!

She liked the site I prepared and she proceeded to build a nest, lay eggs and, raise her young. Now, late summer, we have a population explosion of beautiful bumblebees that forage from dawn to dusk. We watch them fly in and out of their cavities in the ground. The nest has been enlarged and there are different entrances now… the main entrance now just a foot from the faucet and hose, but they are unconcerned by my presence. I never bother the nest and they just buzz around me and on to the garden.  In and out, in and out, all day long.

I work along side the bees in the garden. They fly around me, move when I’m tending to a plant, land on me, rest a bit, then fly to the next flower. No stings!

Bumblebees need a continuous food source and we supplied a gap-free nectar source in our bee friendly garden. Bumblebees do have a preference for certain flowers and we took notice and made sure we had enough of their pesticide-free favorites all growing season.

The bumblebees pollinated our blueberries, were all over the clover, and the only pollinators I saw on our tomatoes. They loved the early crabapple and rhododendren blossoms, the summersweet, the allium, hosta blooms, hydrangea, and all the herbs in bloom. Right now it’s all about the garlic chives and Russian sage, but any moment, the showy flowers of Aralia ‘Sun King’ will open and it’s goodbye chives!

It’s been a “buzzy” summer garden but the season is winding down and changes will be taking place. Only the newly mated females will survive the winter, usually beneath ground. The rest of the colony will die later this fall.  Next spring, I’ll try again to encourage another queen bumblebee. It’s been an adventure and it feels right to give a helping hand to a bee that is facing many threats… from habitat loss, pesticides, climate change and disease.

Nature at its best

“I live in the garden; I just sleep in the house.” – Jim Long

Last year we had practically NO RAIN for months on end. Watering our ornamental garden and lawn was prohibited by ordinance. It was a sad situation watching plants suffer with stingy trickles of water saved from rain barrels, from showers, and from our basement de-humidifier. Nothing died but nothing thrived.

We’ve had a delightful change this season. Rain was plentiful in the spring. Plants have rebounded and have skyrocketed. It makes my heart sing to seen healthy plants bursting with blooms all summer. I could hardly tear myself from the garden except to come indoors for the night!

Daisy 'Becky'

Good news: the bees and butterflies are back!  We’ve had weeks of monarchs and a variety of other butterflies flitting around the garden under the summer sun. We plan ahead for wave after wave of blooms on shrubs mainly, followed by summer flowers to sustain the bees and butterflies. Right now the allium and garlic chives are the strongest insect magnets.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Allium.jpg

Male Monarch on allium

White Admiral on Allium

honeybee on garlic chives

We feed the butterflies and bees and we provide hosts for them as much as our small property is able.  Here’s a tiny first Instar black swallowtail caterpillar on parsley.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

And after days of feasting, it looks like this in its third instar:

Black..Swallowtail caterpillar

 

With all the turmoil, chaos, and disasters affecting our world, I find gardening and nature to be calming and healing. This small garden of ours gives so much in exchange for so little. It plays an important role giving me great appreciation for the good and beautiful things that still inhabit my life.