Which one did I buy?

Toward the end of the growing season, I picked up a witch hazel plant on a mark down sale at a local nursery. The plant was labeled Hamamelis virginiana, the common witch hazel that blooms in late fall in eastern North America. This understory native tree flowers about mid-fall and may continue through December when no other flowers are in the landscape.

Several of these small trees grow along the wood line across the street and I love seeing the splash of color beneath the conifers as both the leaves and the flower turn a golden yellow. It’s a pretty smart plant to bloom when there isn’t any competition for pollination by insects. Bees are buzzing late in the season around these trees… and the fragrance? It can be intoxicating on a fall day.

Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana

My tiny witch hazel, planted late in the season, has just become visible after a big snow melt and it is beginning to bloom during the final days of February. I think the label was correct. It probably is a Hamamelis virginiana that is blooming late the first year. But could it be mislabeled?  There are some witch hazels that bloom in February, the Vernal witch hazel and hybrids…. one of which I grew in Virginia, Hamamelis vernalis, Diane’ with a bright red and beautiful bloom.

Secretly, I’m hoping the witch hazel is mislabeled and I have an early spring blooming Vernal witch hazel. Fingers crossed….but just maybe, someone who knows lots more than I do, can verify this plant’s identity.

witch hazel

A Garden with Bling!

I love ornaments in a garden. Art enhances and enlivens, adds whimsy and visual interest. I developed garden islands and paths in Virginia where one might turn a corner and discover a surprise… water bubbling in a container, or statuary, or a small frog hiding in the leaves. It’s a fun way to personalize a garden.  On our last move, we sadly surrendered most of our garden art, saving just a few favorite pieces for the limited space we have now.

So it was with delight that with a Rolling Green Nursery outing for all employees last August, I was able to visit Bedrock Gardens in Lee NH where nature and art are spread over a 20-acre themed landscape. We meandered on paths through a variety of gardens with wonderful names like Dark Woods, Spiral Garden, Shrubaria, Conetown, Wiggle Waggle, The Fruit Loop, all enticing  you along the pathway to the next garden space.

One-of-a-kind art and sculpture claim a larger than life presence in each garden, well-placed, whimsical, abstract and sure to bring a smile. Horticulture is breathtaking with unusual trees, shrubs, grasses, all placed perfectly in well-designed gardens. Amazingly, this garden is the magnum opus of two talented owners, Jill Nooney, the artist (and much more) who creates and designs, and her husband, Bob Munger, the retired doctor who makes it all happen for her. They have enhanced the natural beauty of their gardens reflecting the passion and personality of each of them.

Visiting the horticulture and garden design is an absolute destination by itself but add in the art and it’s like stepping into another world for those interested in everything: landscape, sculpture, and art. Read more at their website, Bedrock Gardens.

Jill Nooney’s barn full of farm implements and more just waiting for the next project.

We were fortunate to be guided through the gardens by our co-worker, Hobson, who pointed out unique horticulture and the various art sculptures. Hobson is a faithful volunteer at Bedrock Gardens.

Hobson Jandebeur, co-worker and Bedrock volunteer

The gardens have a playful quality about them and it set the tone for our merry band of garden and horticulture experts. Sounds of laughter were heard everywhere and smiles were seen on every face during the day as we strolled. If the intent of the owners was to educate, entertain, and amuse in an atmosphere of tranquility, they succeeded. The garden certainly worked its magic on us.

Click photos to enlarge:

The gardens have recently been taken over by the Friends of Bedrock Gardens, a group that is transforming private gardens into public gardens and a cultural center.

My Ten Favorite Photos of 2014

Les over at A Tidewater Gardener annually posts his ten favorite photos from the year and he challenges readers to do the same. Since we have downsized and no longer maintain our acres of gardens, I’m not as serious about garden photography and rarely carry my heavy 35mm camera around my neck. But I do carry the world’s most popular camera in my pocket at all times. My iPhone! Not sure about these being my favorite photos but they jumped out at me while scrolling through hundreds!

Since we spent most of the winter under a blanket of snow, I thought I should add at least one photo of the beauty it can bring. Taken on February 8, prints in the snow show where animals come to the stream banks.

Click on photos to enlarge.

IMG_8150I love photos that tell a story and there’s one here. Peaceful demonstrators in Keene NH braved the elements for several hours for a cause on February 7. I can almost hear them talking amongst themselves…. maybe seeing whose turn it is to get some coffee.. among other more important things.

Make Love, Not War!Keene NH also provided another photo that I like. A rainy, gray day was brightened only by taillights at a stoplight on April 15. With family in Keene, we visit this area on a regular basis.

IMG_9886We ventured out of the Granite State for this photo. Two lovely ladies in straw hats were admiring a seaside garden on the rocky shores of the Atlantic. We toured several Cape Neddick Maine gardens on this day during Garden Conservancy Days, June 22.IMG_1338Anyone who knows me knows I am interested in insects and have hundreds of photos and IDs The plump fellow below, the jumping spider, claimed the watering hose as his own at Rolling Green Nursery this summer. These are brave and scary looking spiders, but, oh so harmless. Whenever I moved in, he moved closer. They stalk prey and can pounce a few inches but I just give them a puff of air and they fall to the ground and scamper away. I really like these spiders because they have personality plus. July 12.

The second photo below was a two-for-one. I was photographing the tachinid fly and didn’t see the second insect until I downloaded the photograph. The tachinid is a nectar eating fly as an adult, but one that lays eggs in insect hosts. This time the lowly hover fly is the victim seen just below her body. I don’t like these flies very much as butterfly caterpillars are often victims. July 16.

IMG_1635 IMG_0712Rain drops on vegetation after an all night soaker is always interesting to me. The new growth on this spirea is an especially nice color. May 19.

rain dropsThe sunflower below was a volunteer from our bird feeder. Several seeds that the birds overlooked germinated but only this one grew tall and straight and eventually fed the chickadees many ripe sunflower seeds. (Staring at the center long enough may hypnotize!)  August 26.

volunteer sunflowerFinally, the highlight of 2014 was a vacation with the youngins to Bethel, Maine. Below are two photos from that hiking, swimming, boating trip in August.

IMG_2741IMG_3346

Flower Containers 2014

It’s getting to be the custom each summer for me to take a snapshot of flower containers that catch my eye at shop entrances and downtown homes. This summer I walked through Portsmouth NH and Exeter NH with my trusty smart phone. As usual, colorful petunias and sweet potato vines were predominant in most arrangements. I’d call the cities about even in attractiveness, however, my favorite container of all was one in Portsmouth at Stonewall Kitchens.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Portsmouth NH:

Exeter NH:

What the garden center didn’t tell me….

Being responsible caretakers of our environment, we removed a 12-ft. tall invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus) from our foundation after buying our home a year ago. It is illegal to sell them in New Hampshire. The seeds are scattered by birds and the plant is out competing native plants in the wild.

The burning bush was replaced with a native arrowwood viburnum, one of which grew in my Virginia gardens. It produces lacy white flowers in the spring and berries for the birds in the fall. I thought I tackled the right questions about this beautiful shrub at the nursery but we already knew a bit about their versatility. The shrub is tolerant of sun or shade, all soil types, wet or dry areas, and is pest resistant. It sounded like a perfect addition to our shrub border…. that is, until this week.

Japanese BeetlesIt seems the shrub isn’t so resistant to insects. Japanese beetles love this species of viburnum!  Never in Virginia, but here each morning, it’s a mating and dining Japanese beetle playground. And there’s evidence of a more sinister insect at work, the Viburnum Leaf Beetle. This is a beetle that I have not encountered before. Now I’ve spotted a couple of the insects and witnessed their telltale pattern of holes in the leaves.

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

I’m watching and speculating what our next step should be. Sadly, this beautiful shrub may need to be removed in the fall and replaced with a more insect resistant variety of viburnum.  Sigh….

 

Garden Conservancy’s Open Days 2014

Earlier this spring, I was working in the perennial gardens at Rolling Green Nursery, greeting customers and tending to the plants when I met the owners of one of the gardens on the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days.  I was already holding 2 tickets for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour of private gardens in Cape Neddick, Maine and was looking forward to unforgettable experiences.

This local tour and many others across the country take place on different days to raise awareness of the Garden Conservancy’s work to preserve extraordinary gardens and to educate and inspire the public by opening private gardens on Open Days. Four remarkable private gardens were open this year. Three homes and fabulous gardens offered panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean with mighty waves beating on craggy shorelines. We saw rock gardens, rose gardens, shade gardens, pool gardens, perennial gardens, pond gardens, vegetable gardens, pergolas, container gardens, and even experienced a young eagle swooping low over our heads and landing in a near tree at one home.

Click on all photos to enlarge:

Awestruck is a good word to describe how we felt about these gardens. And I was very excited to visit the fourth garden, the home of Jonathan King and Jim Stott, founders and owners of Stonewall Kitchen, the two shoppers I encountered strolling through the perennials at Rolling Green Nursery.

We stopped for an early lunch at their business, Stonewall Kitchen, a favorite destination of ours for good food and lovely gardens.

Approaching by foot along a graceful curved drive, we could see that the property was a wonderful blending of home and garden. Hornbeam trees and a cedar pergola acted as a screen in front of the house.

Every inch of the entry garden was filled with delight. A mix of cottage-style gardening in one area and clean lines of formal boxwood with connecting pathways added variety and invited visitors to linger here and enjoy the colors, textures, shapes and function of the different garden beds.

We peeked inside the ‘glass house’ and thought… yes, this would be a lovely addition to our home. Magnificent!

We enjoyed the raised-beds in the vegetable garden supported not with wood, but with granite slabs… then on to the inviting pool area with built-in fire pit, containers overflowing with blooms, and handsome pool house.

But the most fun of all was the poolside Meet & Greet by the owners. Down to earth, personable and friendly, we both enjoyed the hospitality of the hosts… and their sweet pups!

I am always amazed at the generosity of folks who throw open their garden gates for a good cause.  We had a fabulous day exploring the wonders of gardening in Maine.

Aging Well in the Garden

In my garden, hydrangea blooms that were bright blue and pink during the summer months are fading and turning papery. Blooms have taken on an aged, antiqued look in shades of burgundy, pink, green and blue. Today was the day I cut the best candidates, those that were the perfect blush, more mature and paper-like, for drying.

hydrangeaMany people put their hydrangea stems in water and allow the water to evaporate as the flowers dry, however, I remove the leaves, then allow the blooms air dry naturally just as my mother always did. I have dried the blooms both ways and for me, there is no difference in the color, however the air dried blooms seem a bit more fragile.

hydrangeaMy hydrangeas will be soon be arranged in a container, no water, and the colorful blooms will become a centerpiece on our dining room table for the winter months. When spring arrives, the bouquet will be ready for the compost pile.

Anything but crabby: the crabapple

Crabapple trees (Malus sp) are lighting up our neighborhood this week. Shades of rich pink and dazzling white dot the landscape and are buzzing with activity from bees and birds. Old bird nests are wedged in the junction of branches, and birds, especially robins, are busy inspecting them, and applying fresh twigs to reinforce the weary nests of last year if not too far gone.

malus

bumblebeecrabapplecrabapplewhite crabappleRelated link:

A Tidewater Gardener: Norfolk Botanical Garden “Grandmother Malus”

Forsythia in bloom…

Plenty of people I know look down their noses at forsythia. I admit that I once dug up and discarded a lovely forsythia shrub because I was influenced by negative opinion from a more experienced gardener. But I’m more confident now and I plant what makes me smile and forsythia really makes me smile. It brings back memories of my childhood, the full, naturally arching boughs that invited playtime beneath the branches.  It’s just beginning to bloom in this yard and although someone has pruned it into a sad light bulb shape, those tiny yellow blooms still capture the magic of spring.

The Yellows Have It!

After days of warm, dry weather, a cold front moved into Virginia over the weekend, dropping temperatures to the 50’s and bringing us a trace of rain.  We woke this morning to a landscape filled with attention grabbing golds and yellows. Here’s what I saw on my walk today:

It won't be long before the ginkgos leaves drop

It won’t be long before the ginkgo leaves turn lemon yellow, then all fall in a day’s time to cover the ground like melted butter.

Crepe Myrtles frame mr. gardener's fence in yellows and golds

Crape myrtles frame mr. gardener’s winter vegetable garden in yellows and golds.

Yellows from maples, poplars, and hickories greet you on the lane.

Yellows from maples, poplars, and hickories greet us on the lane.

Old maples carpet the lawn.

Old maples carpet the lawn.

Young maples vie for space

Young maples vie for space

A young sassafras gets in on the act.

A young sassafras gets in on the act.

fern

Netted chain fern (woodwardia areolata) yellows beneath evergreen holly.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Sunshine On A Cloudy Day

Daylilies….
Orange Clockwork: Bill DuPaulIf your idea of a perfect summer garden is drifts of colorful yet carefree flowers, then daylilies are the flower for you. They are a forgiving plant, easy to grow, long-lived, low maintenance, salt tolerant, accept soil from sand to heavy clay, and are ranked among the top five drought resistant plants.  They are perennial and can be used as ground cover, in drifts in borders or used as accents in the landscape. No green thumb is needed to enjoy summer-long blooms in a vast array of colors.

The invitation came from a neighbor, Bill DuPaul, to visit his glorious daylily gardens.  A scientist recently retired from Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Bill is now devoting more time to the science of growing and hybridizing daylilies in Martian Sunset: Registered by Bill DuPaulWare Neck.  He is a 1st class grower who has a strong desire to share his knowledge and his plants with others.

Despite inclement weather, mister gardener and I were delighted to join Bill for a drizzly excursion through his daylily gardens.  Just gazing at the vibrant colors brought us a bit of sunshine beneath the clouds. As we walked we learned more about substance, texture, colors, sizes and forms of daylilies.  We have certainly come a long way from the common orange ditch daylilies that are seen on roadsides, fields, and around mailboxes.  Today’s shades range from yellows, oranges, pinks, purples, near whites, to vibrant reds and one with a unusual touch of blue he is hybridizing.

Bill is meticulous about his methods and choosy about registering the hybrids he develops.  Only the very best of the best will heWare Yellow: Bill DuPaul register with the American Hemerocallis Society.  To date he has registered four but some of his daylilies are local favorites and hotly sought after.  To have a ‘Ware Yellow‘ in your garden gives you certain bragging rights.  Ahem.  Yes, I have two.

You can find Bill’s daylilies for sale at the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, May through October.  Bill’s wife, Jaye, is a member of the Garden Club of Gloucester.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Save

Fireworks Every Day in the Garden

Every two and a half weeks I stand in line at Costco along with other bulk shoppers, their carts full of king-size supplies of food and my cart containing only two items….two king-size bags of sugar, 50 lbs. of sugar to be exact, just enough to fill 7 hummingbird feeders with nectar for about 18 days.  There is a formula to estimate how many hummers reside in an area by the amount of nectar they consume but we aren’t interested in knowing.  We only know we have oodles of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds that are drawn here year after year by an abundance of food, water, and nesting sites. Suburban and rural gardens are ideal hummingbird habitats with trees, shrubs, open areas of grass or meadows, water and flowers.  With the addition of the right flowers, most gardens will attract these miniature thespians to entertain you in the garden.

leucistic Ruby-Throated Hummingbird in Ware Neck VAThese “glittering garments of the rainbow,” as John James Audubon called them, are the most colorful and prolific bloomers in our gardens from early spring until late fall. We recognize the same individuals as they arrive each spring, not only by their familiarity with us, but by unusual markings on some of them.  Several of our hummers are leucistic, a condition of reduced pigmentation in the feathers.  As new generations are born each spring to these birds, it is interesting to see the white leucistic variations on the heads of the offspring.

We are entertained by the raging territorial battles to protect their nectar source. They battle each other, bees, birds, the dogs and people.  As the ‘king’ of one feeder chases an intruder, several others slip in to have a sip from his nectar cache. These jewel-colored birds with their explosive and ferocious territorial dances at speeds of up to 60 mph provide us with 4th of July fireworks every day of the summer.

Did you know?

  • The Ruby-Throated is the only hummer to breed east of the Mississippi yet during migration you can see other varieties passing through.
  • Hummingbirds are great pollinators, often better than bees because they feed continuously from dawn to dusk.
  • Hummingbirds do eat insects: gnats, mosquitoes, spiders, aphids, etc.  In the early spring they will look for insects trapped in sap from woodpecker holes.
  • Females do all the nest building, often attaching it with spider silk and pine resin, and camouflaging it with lichens and fungus.  The nest is walnut-sized and the 2 eggs are pea-sized.  The male continues to court other females after mating.
  • Predators include spiders, preying mantis, dragonflies and other birds. I have witnessed a bullfrog in our pond jump a foot straight up to within 1/4-inch of a hummer at a pickerel weed bloom. We have rescued them from spider webs and nursed them from collisions with each other.
  • At night, due to their small size and lack of insulation, hummers enter a state of torpor, a hibernation-like condition where the breathing and heart rate slow dramatically.

Nectar recipe:  1 part white granulated sugar to 4 parts water.  According to Bill Williams of William & Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology, it is not necessary to boil the solution, just dissolve the sugar. Male Ruby-Throated HummingbirdThe nectar solution can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks. Do not use the commercial red dye solution.  Keep the feeder very clean to avoid black mold that can be harmful to the birds.

Bill Williams also states that the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird has recently been documented wintering over in two Tidewater locations.  Is this a new trend? It very well could be he says.

Plants to attract:  hibiscus, flowering quince, currants, weigela, azalea, mimosa, and buddleia.   Flowers to attract: morning glory, columbine, trumpet vine, fuschia, bee balm, bleeding heart, honeysuckle, virginia creeper, and salvia.  Remember, they are attracted to the color red.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Blandy is oh-so Dandy!

To visit my children in Ohio, I simply hop into my car and head out on Rt. 17 in Gloucester and follow it all the way to Winchester before taking Rt. 522 out of the state.  It’s a beautiful drive through Virginia countryside with familiar state treasures that greet me along the way.  One of the most precious Virginia treasurers where I regularly pay a visit is our State Arboretum of Virginia.  Located just 10 miles outside of Winchester on Rt. 17 near Blandy, it beckons me to stop no matter how many miles await me on my travels.

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 12.58.48 PMFounded in 1926 after the property was willed to UVA,  approximately 170 of the seven hundred and twelve acre farm are open to the public.  It contains one of the most diverse collections of trees and woody shrubs in the eastern United States.  In 1986, Blandy Experimental Farm was designated The State Arboretum of Virginia and used by UVA for environmental research and abundant education for the public.

If you arrive in less than ideal weather and you’d rather stay snug in your car, there is a 3-mile loop drive through forests and meadows.  There to see are more than 8,000 trees and woody shrubs and more than half the world’s pine species, one of the largest collections of boxwood species and cultivars in North America, a collection of 340 mature ginkgo trees, herb gardens, azalea gardens, daylily gardens.  You get the picture.

If the weather is nice, I park and walk a little on the 10-miles of trails as I did in April. As I strolled, I passed families with excited children, shutterbugs, folks with excited dogs on leashes, note takers, a couple of horses and riders, and students from UVA. There was a smile on every face and color in every view as there is no more beautiful time than spring to see glorious native plants, wildflowers, grasses, colorful azaleas and a breathtaking dogwood collection.  On Dogwood Lane, a canopy of two hundred pink and white blossoms line a historic dry stone wall that was restored by the Garden Club of Virginia in 2004.  This is a must to visit in spring and again in the fall when the leaves turn red.

If you haven’t visited your state arboretum, please add it near the top of your list of to-do’s.  Take your children, your friends, grandchildren, or even your horse to enjoy this lasting Virginia treasure.  Oh, and it’s free and open 365 days a year, dawn to dusk.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Summer Solstice and Father’s Day, All Rolled Into One

Mr. Gardener's hobby Today, June 21, is the Summer Solstice, the longest day and the shortest night of the year.  Humankind has known about the relationship between the earth and the sun since the dawn of time and today, as in days of yore, it is still celebrated with bonfires all around the world. Early pagan couples leaped across the flames, believing that their crops would grow as high as they could jump.  There will be no bonfire or leaping in Gloucester today but with the bit of extra sunlight, we can take a Father’s Day peek at my mister gardener’s vegetable garden.

vegetables

We have all heard and read much about sustainable gardening becoming more mainstream in the last few years but there are plenty of gardeners who have forever followed this philosophy.  Guidelines govern what sustainable or green gardening means but in simple words, it means a garden should be part of its natural surroundings and it should exist in harmony with the environment and the rhythm of nature.  My mister gardener built his garden from the soil up by amending with his compost and nourishing it with gifts from horses, chickens and the city of  Yorktown’s compost.  Wastes from the garden are composted and recycled into the soil.  He uses as few chemical resources as possible and he is learning about and using alternatives more each year, such as the principles of integrated pest management.

There is no landscaping rule that says a vegetable garden can’t be attractive or be aGarden ripe for Father's Day part of the total landscape.  Around his vegetable garden, he designed and built a handsome picket fence complete with two gates and an arbor.  Knock Out roses in three shades grace the sunniest side and apple trees bear fruit on the far side.  Inside his garden, friendly wide paths of organic pine needles lead you to the heart of the operation where he shares residency with a family of tolerant bluebirds.

Vegetable gardening for him is reconnecting to the Earth and every swing of the hoe is a satisfying exercise. Just strolling through his well-tended oasis brings a bit of serenity to visitors, but most importantly, these delicious and varied vegetables sustain us all summer.  Is there anything like the taste of a red, ripe garden tomato, still warm from the summer sun?Digging potatoes

Mister gardener and I both agree that the most rewarding aspect of the vegetable garden is passing on the knowledge to the next generation.  Last weekend our 5 year old granddaughter visiting from Ohio was astonished to discover that potatoes grow underground.  The look on her face as she dug and gathered potatoes for our evening meal was priceless.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Save

Am I a horticulturist?

As a GCV member who likes all things technical and a bit of blogging, Nina asked me to be the administrator of the GCV Horticulture Blog.  “I’m not a horticulturalist,” I protested.  “You’re a master gardener…” she countered. “Just write what you know.”  I know all too well that being a master gardener makes me a little knowledgeable about a multitude of things and master of none, but trained to find answers.

I looked up the definition of horticulture: “|ˈhôrtiˌkəl ch ər|,the art or practice of garden cultivation and management.”  Well, maybe I can stretch the definition to include my amateur delight in gardening and I can communicate my adventures and misadventures in the garden.  I love to garden with a special interest all things insect, all things pond, all things photography, and all things birds.

Thank goodness GCV Horticulture Chair, Mary Eades, will continue her important educational ‘Hello’ blog filled with advice, monthly chores, garden instruction, and tips from gardeners in all the clubs. Her ‘Hellos’ will be the heart of this blog.  I will be posting Mary’s blogs, thus relieving Nina to concentrate of her many other duties.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester