in which the house becomes the garden

in april it gets a little tough to be a member of my household. Space, always at a premium here, becomes in demand by the resident gardener in a way that tends to annoy the family . With no greenhouse to start seeds and such, the need for growing space  requires  me trying to form a tricky balance between available sunlight and a place to eat your breakfast.

I start my many of my dahlia tubers in April so I will have at least a few blooming in June , and although at this time these very big and thirsty plants only need a small pots to get going in,  the pots need sun and that means they get a place in front of my sliding door where they will get lots of it, and as a bonus make coming and going difficult as well creating the added challenge of getting anything out if the baking cabinet . DSC_0008

Our big window in the living room is another great source of all day sun, so several trays of seeds will circulate in and out of there, and the plants that are overwintered there , like the very large and thorny bougainvillea , will get moved closer to the chairs so TV watchers can enjoy the occasional poke .the bouganvillea threatensDSC_0004 DSC_0005

In years I am starting many new seeds ( which ,if we are honest, that is every)  trays and pots  take up every window sill, and some take a prominent position on the hearth  under grow lights .DSC_0001

As if things were not bad enough , I need to clean and organize the trug that holds my day to day tools ( soil knife, by-pass pruners, gloves, etc) so that is sitting on the kitchen table patiently waiting for me to find timeDSC_0010

new plants that need hardening off cycle in and out of the kitchen DSC_0007

the plants that summer outside are chomping at the bit to get out into the sunshinethis calladium wants out

many of them need cuttings taken  , and some already are overdue for potting .DSC_0009

eventually all the mayhem gets to a point that it even bothers me, luckily by then it is usually time for everything to head outside

as soon as we near the end of our “3 kids in college at the same time”  years, I am starting my campaign for a greenhouse.DSC_0002

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

DSC_0010It s garden bloggers bloom day,  but there will be no diary of flowers here ……today was the first day I got to spend from sun up to beer o’clock in the garden and work was the name of the game.

Now, instead of feeling super-dee-dooper behind, I feel just regular behind.

The dogs garden got a spring clean and a few perennials divided and moved.

I painted my benchDSC_0002 (2)

A few of the garden ornaments got brought out, but most did not make to their place yet DSC_0003 (2)

and I cut up a dwarf alberta spruce ( the playhouse will be sadly leaving soon)DSC_0001 (3)

Still left to do is the rock garden, which is silly beyond measure as all of the earliest bloomers live there , and about 50% of the back 40.

geum trifolium trying to look fabulous despite the mess around it

geum trifolium trying to look fabulous despite the mess around it

What prevented me from starting where I should have is the fact that we are still working on the pool re-do and the fence is going in this week. These projects make a terrible mess.

when the posts were being dug I got a reminder of what we call “soil” in these parts

sandy sand

sandy sand

I asked the nice fence guy in my sweetest voice if he could pretty please be as careful as he could amidst the emerging plants. He looks like Super Mario or maybe Luigi and  has the kind of smile that makes his eyes sparkle , so it was hard to get mad at him when he said in his Super Mario voice “Well, you gotta do what you gotta do”.

Here is the tiniest of sneak previews of  one of the sidesDSC_0012

 

about me

I was gently reminded the other day that maybe my ” About Me ” page here on the blog needed updating so this morning I set to the task. It was quick really, a few minor changes, but it got me thinking about the whole idea of the page itself as well as the biography I am so often asked for. I find these things difficult to write. Impossible , really. I don’t know what to tell, what to keep to myself.

I refuse to re-write the bio today, it is just to hard. But I will add some fun facts  here just because I can. So what do you want to know?  It doesn’t matter..instead, here is what I am going to tell you ;)

 

I have cold feet. Always. Don’t know why, and despite this fact I am most always barefoot ( indoors and out) , hate socks and wear shoes only because it is the social norm. I take them off the second I can. My feet are cold with or without them.

I am allergic to the sting of certain bees and wasps, as in deathly so. I don’t know which ones until I get stung which makes my chosen work and hobby a challenge.

I have an irrational fear of snakes, compounding the challenge of life in the garden. Seriously, some days this fear keeps me inside. I have been forcing myself to look at pictures of them all winter. I actually let a few National Geographic photographers grace my Instgram feed ( WHY do they like snakes so much?)  so every day I have to look at a few and not scream . I know they are photos and not the real thing, but trust me, it is a start toward acceptance .Overcoming this , if it ever happens , will take many baby steps over a long period of time. Never ever try to help me by bringing me one to touch, hold or be within 10 feet of, I am not there yet and  you will set me back in my quest for peaceable co-existence with these vicious despicable creatures. Then we can’t be friends anymore.

 

A corgi dog will always be near me. When we loose a pet the pain can be unbearable. I used to say I would never ever put myself through that again, but truthfully , when they cross the rainbow bridge to doggie heaven they leave a huge dog -shaped hole in your heart that can only be filled by another of their kind. They drive me absolutely bonkers some days ( corgis are followers and need to be where you are at ALL times) and they can be expensive, but I can not be without one …or two….I haven’t tried three at a time yet , but it could happen.DSC_0021

I have very definitive garden likes and dislikes. You can mostly tell my likes by the blog and what I write about, what I speak about, and photograph.

There are certain plants I do not “get”, like Japanese Maples, tropical looking foliage plants ( like rogersia, gunnera, , palms ,etc) and 98% of  the alpine plants meant for the rock garden. Others seem to enjoy them , and that is fine. I always appreciate a well done garden  and do not object to them in those spaces, but  you will never see them here.

Another garden design feature that will never grace The Burrow is an artificial  pond. If Mother Nature floods the place, I will deal with it, but  until then, no pond.

As much as I like  the idea behind Piet Oudolf’s natural prairie style , it is not for me. I like bigger flowers, fewer grasses, and a more defined garden area with nicely shaped shrubbery and a few  formal elements to spruce the  place up. Like Vita Sackville-West and  her famous garden Sissinghurst …blowsy yet contained. If my yard ever looks like a prairie, worry about me. I have gone missing or hurt and no one is keeping up with the weeding.

favorite flowers: Clematis, roses , dahlias, mums, lily of the valley,lilacs  and peonies

favorite woody plants: viburnums, hydrangea, honeysuckles , and willows of all kindsDSC_0001

favorite tree: any birch

favorite garden writer : It is a toss up between Henry Mitchell and Christopher Lloyd

New plant obsession: Mosses , liverworts ,and lichens…..really …really obsessed.

Also, someone asked me the other day if I recycled pictures, in other words did I post things here or on any of my social media from the garden past. The simple answer is no, or rarely. If you see a photo here on FaceBook or Instagram they almost always were taken that very day and unless I say otherwise they were taken here. I am pretty proud of what I have accomplished on my little acre and love to share it, and I have an ego the size of Montana . What you see is my work and current .

 

 

 

 

I am just not ready yet…….

The gardening season has begun early this year, too early for this gardener who enjoys her months off and would prefer things stayed as they always were  without disruption of the natural rhythm I have grown quite accustomed to.

I see on social media that gardeners are out gardening, flowers are jumping the gun, ….. someone apparently yelled “GO!” while I was still perusing garden magazines and catalogs in front of the fire.  I am not ready.

I pulled out my garden log from last year, there was ( as there usually is) snow on the ground and still two storms yet to come as of this date.

While the gardens here may still be very far behind many I am reading about in locations that are a tad bit warmer,they are still way ahead of their normal schedule

We  have iris reticulata , including the lovely Katherine Hodgkins blooming in the rock garden ( in the last photo, where you can also see the stalks that were left after some flower picking with my great nieces on Easter Sunday)DSC_0001 DSC_0002 DSC_0004 DSC_0007 DSC_0003

Katherine Hodgkins

Katherine Hodgkins

few hellebores, (  no photos ) siberian squill, DSC_0001and in more sheltered locations the tete a tete daffodils are bloomingDSC_0003the pussy willows are also at the peak of perfection  for picking. DSC_0002 (2)In a few days the chionodoxa out back will be in full swing as will  a few more varieties of daffodils, with hyacinth and tulips not far behind. I have gone out in the few moments of spare time I have had to clear off leaves and dead stuff from around the early bloomers but there is so much more to do and with no remaining snow cover there is no way to hide the messiness.  Oh well, it will get done when it gets done.

This weekend I will be speaking twice at the Western MA Master Gardeners Symposium ( on Clematis and Hydrangeas)  in Holyoke and I can’t wait! Western MA is a much easier commute than where I usually speak,  and meeting some fellow MG’s will be a treat.

Next week I will be at Tower Hill in Boylston for the Home Hort series and in Concord  ”Hydrangeas for the Northeast” on 4/4

The rest of the month:

Peterboro NH “Shrubs for Year Round Interest” 4/11

Boxboro Evening Garden Club  ”Grow it! Cut it! Arrange it! ” 4/12

Hopkinton  ”Design with Vines” 4/19

Bridgewater  ,MA   “Get Ready! The Spring Garden” 4/27

and I will be at the Garden Federation of MA  Programs Forum on 4/13  at Tower Hill in Boylston and  4/19 at Elm Bank in Wellesley

 

 

color when we need it most: 2 plants in the plant profile spotlight

Late February tends to be the most dull and depressing  of all the months. Very little green ,lots of brown, and usually ( although not this year) dirty snow piles to further dampen our spirits.  It is the month I treasure the shrubs I grow with colored bark the most as  they are what I can see peeking out of a blanket of snow providing that vivid jolt of color to brighten the day.DSC_0011 DSC_0016 red twig dogwood

this year though, because we have had so little snow, I am also getting to revel in the glorious color of two ground covers . After a day of torrential rains , the ground is now bare, and boy are these two showing their worth!

the first is a pig squeak ( how adorable is that name?) otherwise known as bergenia  ’Bressingham Ruby’. Sporting polished green leaves in the summer that turn a lovely burnished red in autumn, this low growing perennial is a keeper. I starting adding more and more varieties of bergenia after realizing the rabbits were leaving it alone and i am sure glad I added  this one! I saw a photo somewhere of’ Bressingham Ruby’ planted en masse at the base of red twig dogwood bushes . A phenomenal design idea, but here in winter  when both plants are at their most colorful, the bergenia will usually be under snow . i figured at least in late winter and early spring before the dogwoods fully leaf out I would reap the color benefit of these two together, and started with just a half dozen plants to see how it went. Now I want 50. It looks great, is truly a no-fuss plant, and still remains un- grazed by our little furry friends.  Pigsqueak is also dry shade tolerant  so I plan to add more of this variety to the back woodland walk this year.

Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’ is hardy to zone 4 , can tolerate full sun to almost full shade,  and will bloom in the late spring ( which is just s bonus , it is the foliage color we are after here). The only place it will sulk is a wet or boggy soil.

With my apologies for the lack of a great photo, it is very windy here today and hard to keep the camera focused, but i wanted you to see how great it looks under the dogwood. The second photo is from Bluestone Perennials where you can purchase it online.bergenia 'Bressingham Ruby'

Out front I have a little raised bed that has become the bane of my gardening existence. The voles LOVE to set up house there are have proven a formidable foe. The small bed in front of the rocks I was hoping to fill with interesting low growers but have really struck out with many of my choices and have replanted there too many times to count. Last year I planted 5 little shrubs  as yet another test , and I believe we have a winner!DSC_0028DSC_0023

Calluna vulgaris “Firelfly’ is a heather with brilliant fall/winter color that looks spectacular right now. In the summer the foliage was a bright sort of lime green with a bit of yellow added in. As autumn settled in, Firefly started to change into terra cotta-y orange and seemed to just glow, and I was in love. Now exposed from it’s blanket of snow, it is pretty darn near brick red and has firmly secured it’s place in the front garden,  Add in the fact that maintenance is just a quick shearing once a year to keep it neat and compact and that means all other plants currently living  in that cursed bed  will be jettisoned in the spring to make way for more of this lovely small shrub.

Calluna vulgaris ‘Firefly’ is hardy to zone 4 or 5 , will show it’s best color in full sun but will tolerate light shade, grows to less than 2 ftx 2 ft  and sports lavender flowers in late summer ….but who cares about that?? …look at that foliage!!!! My plants came from Digging Dog Nursery mail order  and they will be available this year from them as well .

DSC_0020

snow

It is one of the great wonders to me why many  people who live in New England don’t like the snow.DSC_0003

I get that it certainly disrupts the regular hum of life, but so do many other things that do not leave such beauty in their wake.DSC_0007

I get that it is accompanied by cold temperatures, but most of us are lucky to watch it from warm snuggly homes and even better yet , in front of a roaring fire.IMG_20160123_153130049DSC_0025

I get that shoveling is hard work, but personally I relish getting my cardio outside instead of on a treadmill, you can’t beat the views.DSC_0019

Maybe it is because I garden that I love the snow.  Seeing the splendor of the winter garden with all its exposed shapes and forms and knowing the plants are all asleep for a time giving me a chance to take it all in without feeling compelled to work.DSC_0024

DSC_0013Maybe it is because I knit that I look forward to winter. During a cold snap I will happily curl up at night with squishy wool and needles and make something usefulIMG_20160208_205918

Maybe it’s because these guys love it so much that I can’t help but be compelled to share their  delight .DSC_0003 (2) DSC_0020

We ventured out to the Clark Art Institute last weekend and I came home with this postcard of Camille Pissaro’s ” Piette’s House at Montfoucault” to put on the bulletin board above my desk . We have had less snow than normal this year and I missed the white winter landscape of  January February.DSC_0027

On the way we drove through some amazing scenery in the western and mountainous part of our state. We did not stop to take pictures  except for one…..IMG_20160130_160050138_HDR

seems the ultimate irony  to live in a place called Florida  that looks like this , although honestly it is the only Florida i would ever consider living in.

and the answer is……

today I have found out the answer to the question, “What happens when you try to force branches in to bloom during a very warm and un-snowy winter?” …. the answer?forsythia DSC_0003 DSC_0005

magic

All of the branches I brought in are bursting into bloom and leaf with ease.  I cut the first batch when I posted here  exactly two weeks ago. I have changed the water in the vases once, and misted the buds NEVER which is unusual for me , and yet I have honeysuckle, forsythia, magnolia, azalea and pussy willows all starting to open this morning. When they are all in flower further pics will be on my instagram and Facebook… links  are to  the right.

If you live in the Northeast, where we are currently experiencing extremely warm temps (, today is in the high 50′s, yesterday was in the 60′s), you have no excuse , you heard me , none, but to get out  and cut at will. There is no snow to plow through, you need but a light cardigan over your shoulders, and the sun is shinning to replenish  your  depleted vitamin D level.

Go!

Cut!

Arrange!

Smile :)

hiatus interuptus

IMG_20160119_145332784 just because I said out loud I was on hiatus,  life dictated otherwise. On today’s calendar, besides hanging around to wait for the dishwasher repairman for the umpteenth time , I left a message for my future self to force branches. IMG_20160119_153600I always go ahead in time and do this when I first schedule  an  event that  will require flowering branches and looking ahead I see a Grow it! Cut it! Arrange it! presentation on the calendar in February . During this talk I will bring  a vase or two (or three)  things that can be easily grown in the garden  that people can use to arrange in the house. Obviously this is easier at some times of the year and more difficult at others . But I know the drill and to have the branches flowering they need to be cut today, or at least in the next few days.  Of course we  given that deadline , it had be below zero with gusty winds of the sort  that take your breath away all day,…..  uncomfortable to be outside in say the least. Looking ahead the week stays arctic cold and we shall end it with a grand nor’easter bringing us at least a foot of snow according to the latest models, so out I went.

I am always thankful i am a knitter and have many pair of warm mittens, lots of toasty cowls and scarves, and hats galore to make outdoor activities comfortable.mitts I also kept reminding myself as I tried to stay on my feet that last year I was doing this while trudging through many feet of snow,

I have concerns about branch forcing this year. Many flowering shrubs had their buds already swelling on the branches throughout our very warm early winter. It has only been seasonably cold here for a very short time and the plants may not have met their dormancy requirements yet. Only time will tell.

In light of that, I cut only the branches I can reliably count on for easy bloom; azaleas, forsythia, pussy willows, honeysuckle, and then a few twigs of yellow and red dogwoods and some sprigs of euonymus that are evergreen. I will head out again next Tuesday to repeat what I cut today, then after that  start adding other later blooming  branches to the list ( like lilacs, viburnums and cherry).IMG_20160119_150649110azalea, magnolia and pussy willow branches DSC_0005

On my way back in I walked by the pots of tulips that usually sit outside for 14 weeks after which a note again on the calendar will tell me to bring them in to start. This year I may actually postpone that by a week or two to make sure they were cold enough for a long enough time period to bloom.tulip pots

In December I actually brought in this pot of ‘Golden Fragrance’ muscari that had already emerged and were about 2 inches tall. I figured, why risk it?  Muscari in January are just as nice as muscari in February and March, and I was worried the cold would kill them and I would have none at all. By next week I shall have loads of fragrant blooms which is a happy thing indeed!muscari

 

lazy and unfocused

For no discernible reason, I am in a gardening slump. Seed catalogs and the most recent issues of  Gardens Illustrated and The English Garden remain unopened and un-highlighted on my desk, The seed packets from Chiltern’s in the UK I was so excited about  remain in the elastic bands that bound them upon arrival.  DSC_0001 DSC_0003 I have yet to go out to cut any branches to force, I have bought no new bulbs to start for indoor winter bloom haven’t even cracked open the  two new garden books i received for Christmas ( Highgrove ; An English Country Garden and   The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer ). . The garden seems a distant a foreign entity I neither dream about nor visit. It is , in a word, weird.

Yet I know I must work my way out f it, and SOON! I have to start getting programs ready for next year, have to pick my Open Days( including one for the Massachusetts Master Gardeners) and must update parts of this website . I never know what force in the universe will drive me out of a slump, one day , out of nowhere will come the creative energy to get going again and then I will probably be annoyingly over-productive and obsessed . Until then , though, i will be happily knitting and doing some much needed work indoors ( you know, the kind that we all abandon when the siren of the garden calls ) .

if you are local please check out the info on the upcoming Home Hort Series at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in the spring. I teach two of the classes, Perennial Culture and Nomenclature, and would love to see a full house for both. I will also be teaching two classes, one on Clematis and one on Hydrangeas for the Northeast at the Western Massachusets Master Gardener Lower Valley Symposium on April 2, 2016, . You can also save the date for the upcoming Mass Master Gardener FIRST annual symposium on October 1,2016 at Westford Academy in Westford, Ma. Our line-up of speakers is fantastic and the committee putting the event together is top notch , so it should be a fun and informative day!

I truly hope you are all snuggled warmly up somewhere, enjoying your time off from the garden!

ps if you want to see any of my winter photos, I post many on my FB and Instagram pages..check them out !

garden in the burrow on instagram  and  Facebook 
DSC_0004

this flock of birds hung around here for days

this flock of birds hung around here for days

 

 

breaking with tradition

since forever ago, I have decorated my house for the holidays in the most traditional  of fashions. I love vintage anything, love the predictable reds and greens ( especially plaid) and go for rustic natural decor using real evergreen cut from the garden, holly and winterberry branches  and  forced paperwhites and red amararyllis bulbs

Last year though, I changed the look of the room right off my office to a lighter color palette , using grayish green, blue and tan ,  so when it came time to do the mantel for Christmas I deviated from my color scheme and went with silver, purple and blue and glitter of all things. Very unlike me, very unlike the rest of the house, yet it worked . I did add birch and evergreen and of course many of the decorations have a vintage feel or are indeed actually very old . This year I used many of the same components, but added in some others to keep it fresh.IMG_20151210_110808

The switch felt surprisingly good. So this year when ordering my amaryllis bulbs ( actually hippeastrum but let’s not go there, it is a festive season and not one for grumbling about botanic name changes)  I also veered off my typical path and chose three that  are most assuredly  not the deep red the has always graced the displays here.

The first to bloom was  the safest of the choices, a miniature reddish -pinky and white called

“Neon”, It has been blooming for probably 4 weeks already and still has two more stalks emerging . Unreal.neon

The second choice was a watermelon pink called ‘Sweet Nymph” that is a huge change up color-wise for me. It is sitting on the bakers cabinet in the kitchen, surrounded by all things rustic and vintage, yet looks smashing . The voluptuous and velvety blooms stop people in their tracks and somehow it just works with the other decor, probably because it is so striking and different. My mom saw it the other night and could not stop doing the same things I have been doing to it ….stare , gape,and  touch. This one is a keeper, especially as it stands only  2 ft tall on sturdy stems that need no staking at all. It too has been in bloom for some time, with yet another stalk emerging to continue the show.amaryllis

sweet nymphThe last is one named” Papilio Improved”, which is a recurving  butterfly amaryllis with blossoms of burgandy, cream and bronze. Also a miniature , it is standing proud on its own stem, no stake to mar the display, and ready to open any day now, DSC_0003The photo below is from John Scheepers  (the purveyors of this years bulbs) . Also of note is the fact that these HUGE bulbs came packaged each in their own little burlap sack tied off with twine and a lovely vintage label bearing their name. That alone is reason to  order from this bulb house every year,  but add in the fact that the bulbs are mature enough to send up multiple stalks with such beautiful blooms means I am hooked.

I will have to remember this feeling, sort of like being a little kid again on the the very holiday that should inspire such wonder  and delight !

I hope you have the most wonderful of holiday seasons and wish you all nothing but mountains of wonder and  delight of your very own in the New Year !!

Fondly,

Cheryl