the time is now ; how to have the best fall garden ( first in a series of 10)

the time is now to do many things that athough they may seem tedious , trust me, when you look back on this date from the glorious garden in September you will be glad you fit in a few minutes a day to carry them out.

Let’s start with the hardest chore  ( emotionally) of them all…. shearing.

I would venture to say the biggest contributor to a garden that looks tired and past it’s prime is old foliage. After a long season of bug attacks, slug infestations, drought and disease exposure, many plants have brown , dry or tattered leaves. This alone can make the garden look like the season is over even when we have a full three months to go! . Taking a careful assessment, both now and in the month of July, and cutting back plants that are looking ragged  can make a big impact.  It is soooo difficult to cut back fully grown plants and leave a temporary hole in the garden but it is all for the best so buck up and cut !

If I had to chose one chore that in a time presssed situation I would place high on the prioroty list it would be this. other things can wait as after this task is complete  you need time to get everything to grow back

Here are a few of the things I cut and the results and  reasoning behind the dratic measures

Perennial geraniums aka cranesbills and geranium macroryhzum : After they finish blooming they often  splay out and get very leggy, plus it is a pain to deadhead them. Instead, shear them back to the ground and for two weeks you will maybe regret it, but then miraculously they will shoot out fresh foliage that will last until frost. You may even get a second bloom if you are lucky.


Salvias I cut back hard after bloom as here they tend to get slug damage an d again, it is easier tahn deadheading

Catmint doesn’t even need to finish blooming for me to shear it back, the minute it spreads it’s lazy arms all over the other plants, it gets a hacking and again, fresh foliage follows and new flowers too.

If a clematis ( of the pruning group 2 or 3 varieties)  is showing a fungal diseas or extensive browning of the leaves it also gets cut to 12 inches or so. Dead and brown leaves do nothing for the plant anyway so no harm done to cut it down, Many clematis growers routinely cut back just about every clematis after bloom for plant health, although i would just stick to the mangy ones

In years of especially bad drought or slug damage I cut all daylily foliage back after bloom: result is  fresh new foliage for Fall that looks all nice and green. Othe victims could be kalmeris or Indian asters, hosta if dreadfully bad, pulmonarias, dianthus ( pinks)  candytuft,silver mound artemesia, bearded iris that is diseased or has borers, bee balm with any powdery mildew ,Lady’s Mantle  is a must do  as the new foliage is nothing short of divine ,and never forget trandescantias   (spiderworts ) as  they can look dreadful after blooming. All these  cutbacks need to happen pronto after blooming, don’t delay or the plant  will not have time to regroup and resprout for your August through November viewing pleasure.

A modified form of shearing is what is known in the UK as the Chelsea Chop. Named for  the timing ( late May is the Chelsea Flower Show)  it refers to the process of cutting late summer bloomesr back by a third or half to make bushier plants that flower  later in the season. You can do this to perennial mums, asters, joe pye weed, garden phlox, tall artemesia cultivars , heleniums, boltonia and chelone ( turtle head). I follow the major holidays and do a little chop on Memmorial Day, Father’s Day and the Fourth of July …NO LATER or you will loose bloom alltogether!

You can take this even further ( and I do ) by staggering the plants in a grouping. Say you have a large planting or even 3 or 4 tall garden phlox, cut one section in May, one in June, and one in July, and maybe leave one alone. You can even do this to stalks on the same plant. Now you have extended you bloom time over many weeks , often lasting very very late in the season. VIOLIA! Garden perfection.

here just the front few stalks of the phlox are getting trimmed. These will  stay shorter and bloom later than the others on the same plantDSC_0006 DSC_0005 DSC_0003

every time I cut a plant back it gets extra water and often ( especially with the clematis and anything that was cut back for health reasons) a dose of liquid feed or even a slow release fertilizer application. Shooting out a whole new set of leaves can take a lot out of a plant for sure so extra care is essential.

The second chore I try to make time for is deadheading. Although this task may prolong bloom times and stop the plant spending valuable energy in seed making, it is not as time essential as shearing  from which the plants need to regrow to fill their space.   A few things you may leave the seedheads if they are interesting ( another post on that is coming!) but as a general rule , dead brown and squishy rotting flowers are not so attractive.

Weeding is a pain but can make a huge differnce in the shape of a valued plant if they are being shaded  by an unwanted specimen. Water and nutrients are  not being competed for wether in a well weeded space.  Get your headphones on, find your groove and weed for your gardens sake.

Make a specific time that you  will rigidly adhere to  for a garden walkabout to catch little problems before they become insurmountable. Aim for at least two weekly walks with your un-rose colored glasses on to inspect  all garden subjects and make note of disease, pest and pruning problems.

Catching a few diseased leaves and removing them with of without a follow up of neem or another remedy may stave off whole plant disfiguremnet. Squishing of adult bugs and looking for  larval infestations, noticing aphids  or mites  and quickly using a hose on full force dilodging the evil critters  can mean foliage and flowers are preserved. Shrubs and trees can quickly cause too much shade and plants may get  leggy while they despertely reach for daylight, a littel judicious prunig would keep everyone happy .Walk and make note.

In very dry years make a triage list of things that will need hand watering to remain their goodlooking sleves. Some plants tolerate drought, some will bounce back, others will be done for the year if you let them get to the point of no return water wise. make a list, water those who you know will not recover first, others if and when you can.

Be vigilant about bugs and slugs. Clearly, no garden will or should be bug free, but things like the red lily beetle and slugs need to stay in check and eyes on the garden every few days will alert you to when action is needed. I am a huge fan a walking about with a large red solo cup full of soapy water to drown japanese beetles, slugs and other vicious herbivoires with many legs.DSC_0008

Next Friday in this series: my list of absolutely can’t live without herbaceous  plants for the late season garden!


getting my mojo working for fall

in the past few weeks I have written and ditched several posts here. Sometimes it can be a challenge  to try to stay fresh and ineresting while also maintaining life  outside the garden.

In an effort to catapult myself out of the doldrums, i am going to be writing a series of posts that are actually part of one of my presentations called “The Best Fall Garden Ever “. The goal of the presenatation is to teach tips and tricks,from  plant selection to maintenance that will ensure your garden in August , September  and into October and November even is just as inviting and interesting as your early summer space. DSC_0014

In New england it is the greatest thing we can do for ourseves as gardeners to extend our season.

Each post will appear on  Friday, starting this one June 24  with  some June  chores that will help you out later on.

other topics will iclude:

annual vines

top longest blooming perennials ( sun and shade)

my top picks for can’t live without late season plants

container plants on the cheap that look amazing in the late season

my top picks for easy to grow annuals that lengthen the season

shrubs for autumn interest

trees that make Fall sparkle

hips, berries, seed pods and seed heads

Places to visit to see Fall Garden inspiration

and anything else i feel like jabbering on about.

I hope you follow along !!!!

today’s adventure

IMG_20160621_125634the girls and I took a little trip today , and like anytime we spontaeously decide to take off and see garden or two we call  it an adventure. It sounds much more exciting that way , and plus it always involves stops for lunch or ice cream, or both ,and maybe a little shopping too if there is time.
Today’s adventure was to Elizabeth Park in Hartford CT. Elizabeth Park is just over 100 acres of lovely gardens icluding a very formal bedding garden ,  a perennial garden , lots of beautiful open space for recreation, and a beautiful rose garden as it’s pièces de résistance.  I have had this trip on my must do list, but rose gardens in New england peak in late June early July and that time of year is never particularly free for me. So i dream all winter of how I can possibly fit it in, and finallhy this year had time and made the trek.

We did, in fact ,stop to smell the roses, every variety. We also took pictures of the labels on those considered potential additions to The Burrow. Throughout the girls would delight in the color of fragrance of  a particular rose ( Faith leans toward the traditional  look of the floibundas and Erin toward the wild and crazy ramblers)  and say ” this one would be good” to which I would often respond ” we have that one. It became clear to me that although I think there are many roses here it is a case of the familiar “too many yet not enough “syndrome that strikes every garden.IMG_20160621_125233

IMG_20160621_125936093Some roses can be finicky plants and here those that are grow in mixed borders for the most part so if they are not behaving other flowers and foliage will cover their sins. Mostly I grow them to go out and pick for the house or carry around and sniff as I work.   There are also many easy care varieties here, like loads of the Drift Roses from the breeders of the ubiquitous Knockouts, and several knockouts in both pink and red, Magic Carpet roses, and a few from the Earth Kind list put out by Texas A&M.

But the fussier ones are often a little more difficult to chance upon as you stroll, you have to know where to look. I hesitate to add more when I take a second to think about the losses ( Ebb Tide, Baby Cheryl, two William Baffins, Lion’s Fairy Tale, Golden Celebration, 2 of three Christopher Marlowes, Yellow  brick Road, Sharif Asma, Coral Magic Carpet, Pink Home Run, Don Juan, Several Iceberg climbers, the list could go on and on). Some were lost to rabbits ,, some to weather, and a few, including my favorite that I can’t find a replacement for ,Kiss Me from Easy Elegance.  were lost to the fence/pool construction.

So the question remains ……add more  and deal with growing struggles and loss or stick with what is working ? The answer , as you could probably guess is add more!

i really like ordering from David Austin Roses , so will probably stick with them , As we speak the catalogue is on my desk and the post- its are ready to stick. I was really drawn to the wine/purple  colored flowers today so will try to any in those colors to my list,. I may also branch out to look for one that especially struck me today called  Easter Basket .It  is a floribunda bred by Meilland and supposedly widely commercilly available, It also gets high marks for performance from The New York Botanical Garden which is a no spray rose garden .easter basket

Tonight I took a walkabout when we got home with the camera to see what’s going on here rose-wise  and things are not too shabby.  There are many ( maybe a dozen or so) that are still in tight bud, but those that are blooming are looking A-OK.

all the rageDSC_0003 (2)DSC_0005DSC_0006DSC_0008white magic carpetrugosa albachristopher marlowenew dawnrosa de'le'heyjulia child??crown princess margeretaDSC_0023can't find the tag, quitness maybe?DSC_0026 (2)drift pinkDSC_0032DSC_0037


open day

come for a visit! dd


This year the peonies are late and the clematis are early  so it seems prime time for an Open Day. Blooming today are salvias, wiegelas, lilacs, clematis, peonies, roses, honeysuckles, baptisias, mock orange, penstemon, dianthus, verbena, columbines, alliums, calycanthus, catmints, iris, geraniums, and a whole host of other stuff is ready to open any day.

The only part I would like to stretch a large paper bag over is the rock garden, which suffered it’s usual battle with the voles and then to add insult to injury  ,became the victim of a not so careful fence installer . Oh well, it is never going to be perfect until the day  cover it all in artificial turf and pavement lol.

If you need more info , drop me a  line using the contact button

there will be, as always, lemonade and cookies


just an FYI, I have another day scheduled July 30th, and may still do a September date this year, we will see!!!!

i don’t want to miss a thing

last week there was sort of a lull in the garden. Once growing season starts these lulls are few and far between and seriously last a couple of days at most, although they feel like eons to me.

Well, I left here for  3 days and came back to a bloom-splosion! Columbines, azaleas, clematis, daisies, calycanthus, lilacs, lilacs, and more lilacs, , the red horse chestnut tree, catmint, bearded iris all over the place, geraniums, honeysuckle, verbena,  moss phlox, the many ajuga varieties, baptisias , lupines;the list goes on and on

the garden looks amazing and the fragrance is divine wherever you go.

these are the times i am glad t be a gardenerDSC_0001 (2) DSC_0001 DSC_0002 (2) DSC_0002 DSC_0003 DSC_0006 DSC_0011 DSC_0013 DSC_0015 DSC_0016 DSC_0019 DSC_0023 DSC_0024 DSC_0027 DSC_0028 DSC_0030 DSC_0031 DSC_0033 DSC_0035 DSC_0038 DSC_0039 DSC_0040 DSC_0042 DSC_0001 DSC_0003 DSC_0015 DSC_0026 DSC_0028 DSC_0032




Wil and I visit a lot of gardens, it is his favorite activity ;)

This weekend I dragged brought him to Trade Secrets in Northwestern CT , which is often described as the “Northeast’s garden event of the season” to shop at all the vendor booths on Saturday and view the four gardens on tour Sunday.  The vendors are usually quite high end with unusual garden antiques and plants and the gardens are most certainly not your typical suburban plots to say the least.

In the 6 years of this blog I think I have yet to  write a post describing another garden , although in the course of that time I have seen probably hundreds. I seldom take pictures when on tours either. I think that it is because I know that these places are meant to be enjoyed in the moment, and most certainly the one thing they all have in common is that with each passing day they will look quite different than they did today.

having your garden on tour always brings up the fact that, if you are public in anyway, either in books, a website, or via  Open Days , your visitors have set images in their mind of what they will be looking for. That can make you crazy as the flowers grow, bloom and sometimes disappear altogether on their own course and you can control none of it. Add in the fact that we gardeners are always changing things up, shuffling things around and re-staging areas  and no garden ever looks the same year to year. If, for instance you see my presentation on vines and then come looking for the scene of one of the photos/combinations that may have inspired you, chances are very good you will not see it. Every year I change the vines I grow, mostly to trail new things to keep my presentations fresh and updated, but also out of boredom.

That is a very long-winded into to the original point of this post… see the “Moments” I captured in the gardens we toured Sunday. If you want to read about their history origin, planting schemes, and owners you can read the many books by the owners who are designers and writers or use google :)

The first garden was that of Michael Trapp, a dealer in hefty imported garden accents/statuary etc whose formal gardens were intended to enhance the  incredible views on the property. My favorite momentsDSC_0001

-This little scene where the tips of the alliums where touching the bottom branches of the carefully espaliered apple teesDSC_0010

-the Montana like big sky , here broken by the barn , silo and cupolaDSC_0007

-this little nook near the reflecting pool to sit and chill


On Carolyne Roehms’ Weatherstone estate , there was much to take in and it was all very spread out. My favorite moments

- In the willow edged parterre there were  what I assume are flowers for cutting (peonies, roses, alliums, and tulips were prominent now) These tulips just happened to be catching the sun behind them during our visitDSC_0030


- a very formal and striking veranda by the poolDSC_0032

-and my favorite of all, the white pine and other seedlings trying to grow atop a moss covered cement pillar that was anchoring a gate DSC_0039

At Bunny Williams, this pretty pink trillium caught my eyeDSC_0049

her property is incredible….new design studio perched on a hill overlooking  the world below

( drool), a to die for pool house with just a big enough kitchen and bathroom area to avoid being ostentatious (double drool)  , a converted barn with a huge hearth and attached sunroom ( triple drool)

but those things , although beautiful, are not in my future.

A stand of copper beeches under-planted with a huchera of  the same foliage color may be thoughDSC_0063

I adore white tulips, and these planted in the box parterre  (anyone who is anyone in northwestern CT has a parterre) were dreamy.DSC_0058

Our last stop was Lion Rock Farm, where we could have spent a million dollars on their  garden ornamnents, stakes and planters. Cool stuff indeed.. It had a pool enclosure that was , to me, just perfect.  One side was a stone wall that looked like a ruin , the back was a pool house  and covered sitting area and the last two sides  were vine covered pergolas…..just…..wowDSC_0044

So, there were my “Moments” of this past weekend. Now I am off to create some here in the Burrow


can we talk about THESE tulips too?????

Wil and I just got back from the northwestern part of CT where we attended the Trade Secrets  show. Trade Secrets is a two day event with fantastic plants and gardenalia for sale by many niche tradespeople,  dealers and plant growers , followed by a tour of four very high end gardens located in the vicinity. I fully intend to write a little something about our visit, but due to the fact that we stayed at an Inn that conveniently forgot to mention the fact that a large wedding would be happening in a tent outside our room  and that ad the ensuing after-party would prevent any rest from happening, we are exhausted and  i am unable to think clearly.

We were actually supposed to stay through Monday, but bailed , and I am glad because the weather is forecast to be 35 tonight and there was lots to cover and bring in which i just did .

Now I give you photos of some of the tulips that were in bloom in a few of the gardens and at White Flower Farm ( where we took a little side trip) before I head to my yoga pants and the couch to watch Gardener’s World then hit the hay.IMG_20160514_140333425 IMG_20160514_140406662DSC_0021 DSC_0023 DSC_0024 DSC_0028 DSC_0058 DSC_0068

can we just talk about this tulip?

last fall I planted some new tulip bulbs. I rarely add more than a few hybrid tulips  here and there because I am kinda meh about them usually,

I mostly stick to the little species tulips in the garden  because they are more  apt to return year after year and also have much less of that ugly dying foliage to try to cover up as they fade. But on a whim I guess , I threw a few bigger bulbs in. I know for a certain I planted ‘White purissima’ . They belong to  the fosteriana group which is typically  better at  persisting ( at least for a few years )after planting. Beyond that I can’t remember a thing about the tulips I added.

Yet blooming now is the one of the most delightful tulips  I have ever encountered.

It starts out  with just hints of green and pink on the petalsDSC_0009

DSC_0015When it is opening  streaks of dark pinky- red  appear and deepen , so  lovely against the creamy whiteDSC_0005

As it opens further the bloom is spectacular , the streaks fading to a  more muted  color and the bloom ruffly and sweetDSC_0006

I cut one to bring inside and placed it in  a bud vase , it makes a  wonderful and long lasting cut flowerDSC_0001

the scent is the clincher though, it is delightful and presently filling the air in the whole garden  area where it is growing

can we talk about how I lost the label??  can we talk about how I may never get to grow the hundreds of these I would most definitely add to the garden?

I guess I should get over it and just get to enjoy this beauty in it’s one great moment .sigh

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