Garden In The Burrow

plants and rants by gardening diva Cheryl Monroe

  • Oct 29

    This week I had the good fortune of speaking to the Norwood Garden Club. This delightful group is made up of very dedicated and educated gardeners ( 9 Master Gardeners are in their ranks) and they are also very committed  both to the success and mission of their club as well as serving the town they live in.

    The topic they chose was “Shrubs For Year Round Color and Interest” ,and as I like to do whenever I can,I brought along some colorful arrangements to raffle off to the members. Given the topic, the arrangements were made using all materials from the garden with a focus on the shrubs that were outlined in my presentation. I grow so many different shrubs and when choosing them follow a carefully laid out selection process based on their ultimate size, site and maintenance requirements ( I prefer minimal pruning and flexibility in moisture and soil needs)and their usefulness in making indoor arrangements . I like to have as much “stuff” as possible year round to cut and bring in and with careful planning  you too can have your own year round cutting garden too. On February 8 ,2015 at 1pm I will be giving a talk at Tower Hill Botanic Garden on growing, cutting and arranging .If you are interested, details will be in their next education brochure and on their website  for registration closer to then. I will post a link when it is available.

    For now you can look at the three arrangements  I brought with me.

    009 014040 (2)This first one is a sweet little side table decoration composed of the reddish bracts from a Heptacodium minconoides tree, red dogwood stems from Cornus alba (dogwood) ‘Ivory Halo’, the delightful pink berries of symphoricarpos (coral berry)  ’Amethyst”, foliage from a spirea called ‘Firemound”, rosa glauca and  physocarpus opulifolius(ninebark) ‘Coppertina’ and the only flowers are those of a Chrysanthemum called Sheffield Pink.001

    004The second one is done in traditional centerpiece format, and has foliage from Euonymous fortuneii ‘Gold Splash’, greens from several different chamaecyparis ,more red twig dogwood, crab apples, little red peppers ( from the japanese  four color pepper) and again the only flowers are a Chrysanthemum , this one called ‘Red Mammoth’.032 (2)036

    The last one is a kitschy piece of fun I duplicate in some format every October for my Halloween dessert table. this year I used a plastic tumbler from the dollar store that I spray painted it with chalkboard paint so I could write on it (BOO!)  The berries are from  the calliarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’, and Ilex verticellata ( a deciduous holly)  ’Winter Gold’, the pods are from baptisia australis or false indigo,  toward the back there is a  scary-spiny  stem of  solanum quitoense ( from seed I got from Nan Ondra at hayefield.com) in the center is a stem of yellow twig dogwood  and the flowers are yet another Korean  chrysanthemum called’Copper Penny’. I added some fluffy seed heads from clematis tanguitica ‘Bill McKenzie’ right when I was leaving to look ghost- like, but forgot to snap another photo.

    After my talk, the club raffled off these three as well as 5 shrubs the club’s president and VP brought in , including my #1 favorite hydrangea “Twist and Shout” Congrats to all the winners!

    One more photo before I go and a reminder that if you have any annual vine seeds leftover from this season to pop a few in a container and get them in a sunny window pronto…here is morning glory ‘Sunrise Serenade’  blooming in my picture window today.

  • Oct 17

    So, I missed GBBD graciously hosted every month on the 15th by maydreamsgardens.com, but I am going to share with you today a mini-post anyway.

    Today I finally had the time to get out and plant the rest of the several hundred bulbs I bought ( tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and chionodoxa, and dogs tooth violets if you must know) , and while outside I noticed a few surprise garden happenings that warrant some acknowledgement.007

    This clematis, Ernest Markham, came into bloom in May and has not spent one single day out of bloom since. Polite golf-clap if you will for its status as MVP in the garden this year.

    002A coneflower I just had to have, called ‘Green Envy” has done anything bit make anyone envious as it rarely blooms at all. This year it has waited until this week to start flowering , so I believe that some positive reinforcement may encourage it to try a little harder next year.019

    The feverfew which usually only blooms once a season, is is full bloom again and this little stem was broken in a wind storm yet has continued on despite the injury. Good effort, my friend, good effort.004

    Despite several light frosts which usually mean the end of the annuals, they are still standing and today I ripped many out just because, frankly,  I am  tired of them.  Cosmos, morning glories,dahlias verbenas,coleus,  the list goes on and on of stalwart survivors.020

    One of my favorite roses, Julia Child, is cycling through yet another bloom cycle. Record year for her too.

    As for what else is blooming, the list is long. Sheffield mums ( both the standard pink and the variety called Copper Penny), ‘Ruby Mound’ ‘Lilac”and ‘Centerpiece’  Chrysanthemums, Montauk Daisies, ‘Major Wheeler ‘honeysuckle, dahlias, the Drift roses, monkshood , asters, persecaria,agastache, cupheas, verbenas, geranium ‘Rozanne’  sedums, petunias…053 052 050 042 047 049 036 035 032 028 029 030 027 025 023 017 019 022 015 014 013 009 011 012 008 007 006 ‘Bloomerang’ lilac, Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’, nasturtiums, roses ( New Dawn and an unknown red climber)  a smattering of hydrangeas, berries on the symphoricarpos, callicarpa, viburnums and hollies, …did I miss anything? Oh yes! I am still picking ‘Heritage’ Raspberries, apples and grape tomatoes! Not bad for a New England garden in mid October.005BTW….I will be giving a talk Sunday in Lancaster, MA on successfully blending native and non-native plants in the garden..wish me luck!

    DSC_0008

     

  • Move in Day

    Filed under Posts
    Sep 16
    seeds are in , plants next!

    seeds are in , plants next!

    Two weeks ago , Wil, and I headed up to New Hampshire with Erin for her very first move-in-day at her new college home. The weather was perfect and we had the car all loaded the night before . We happily headed off early in the morning  for what turned out to be a very pleasant day indeed. Upon arriving at campus, we were placed into three  lines to wait  as only 16 cars at a time went to unload in front of her dorm. When it was our turn, a  cheery co-ed sent us on our way to the small road in front of the dorm which  was lined with many more cheering co-eds including the football team (and other fall sports athletes), all  shouting , waving and clapping for the incoming freshman. Very sweet! Even sweeter still , as we pulled up in front of the doors a swarm of said athletes jumped to the car grabbing each and every bag, box, suitcase and stuffed animal to carry up to her room leaving us to trail behind  with our baby in tow and just take it all in.

    New adventures await her and although I miss her here, I know she is going to just love  campus life and all the opportunities that will present themselves while she is there.

    Back here in The Burrow, a different kind of move in day is happening altogether for which  there are no cheering studly football players, no smiling co-eds,  no helpers of any kind.

    I have been closely watching the weather so I will be aware of temperature drops below 50 . Loads of plants that live indoors in the winter are right now still blissfully enjoying their summer vacation outdoors, but the jig is almost up. Night temps on Acu-weather have been predicted to be in the 50′s for as far out as they guess. but this morning on the news the weather person shared that some communities have, and did , dip into the 40′s overnight. Which communities these were and will be was left to the imagination so of course I got to thinking that it will most certainly be mine the minute I decide to leave plants outside for another week, so in they must go!

    I am not ready for this, not at all. The garden is beautiful right now with many very intensely colored plants that just shine so beautifully  in the waning  late summer sunlight. The houseplants are thriving and growing and  most certainly do not want to come back into the doom and gloom so soon, but it is inevitable ..so  began the Great Houseplant Move in Day of 2104.

    The proper way to do this is to plan ahead, clear and clean the spaces the plants will be going and find all their plant stands and drip trays. Then a solid day should be spent grooming and de-bugging everyone so they are at their best for their new home and no critters come along for the ride.

    However,  it always ends up here  with me just grabbing , plunking, and maybe swearing a little as they all come in as is, leaving curled dead leaves in their wake from the door to the window sills , and slugs and sow bugs being jettisoned off by hand at the door and whipped onto the lawn. Not a pretty sight. Then I will have to deal with the fact that they have all grown and now new places need to be found to accommodate their ginormousness   and/or generous haircuts will need to be given so they can all squish in. ( look at the size of this ‘Firesticks ‘Catus??!!)

    Firesticks cactus

    Firesticks cactus

     

     

    There are just too many to list. Some, like this huge bougainvillea, just overwinter inside as they are more at home in a garden setting. This rambuntious thorny vine will now reside on the window seat ledge behind one of the recliners where I am sure it will cause some discomfort during TV watching to an unwitting  human.

     

    007

     

    Some are true houseplants that have just been enjoying some fun in the sun

    begonia

    begonia

     

    013

    spadafolium

    spadafolium

     

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    And some are just ridiculous things, like this poinsettia ( now blocking my  printer) I have grown into a small shrub and hang onto for no reason other than the fact that it is still alive and well  and my ego likes the bragging rights.DSC_0010

    Anyway, they are all inside now…no football players needed.

     

    DSC_0009

  • Aug 28

    Let’s face it, I have a love – hate relationship with Botanical  Latin. As someone who people turn to for help identifying or finding plants, common names can be the bane of my existence. For instance, right now in late summer many non-plant people will refer to every blooming yellow daisy shaped flower as a black-eyed Susan. They may be , they may not. When I teach, I make it clear as day that we need the established system of binomial nomenclature written in  scientific Latin so  everyone understands  the exact plant we are referring  and I actually use two rudbeckia ( ahem, black eyed-Susan) species as  examples  of what can happen when we don’t.

    I get it,…. I so get , that’s why I teach Botanical Latin , use Botanical Latin,   and encourage others to do the same. But it  doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    Right now blooming outside are two wonderful examples of why I adore using  the common names of garden plants over the Latin.

    Love lies Bleeding

    Love lies Bleeding

    Love-lies -bleeding: amaranthus caudatus is an annual plant I grow to use in flower arrangements. In the Victorian language of flowers it is used to represent hopelessness in love ( or otherwise) and it’s long blood red tassels are certainly a very  dramatic representation of  that  emotional state. Weeping out of a container planting it will catch any eye that walks past.  Although there are cultivars that look like dreadlocks or ponytails, I stick with the common one because it  makes my heart feel weepy too.  In  many situations in my eccentric little life, I sing a little tune appropriate  to the circumstances ( a trait I inherited from my Dad and wickedly passed along to my children). When I am in the garden and walk by it ,this plant always gets a few words  of Funeral for  a Friend by Elton John. The whole song is 11 minutes long , but it is the chorus that will stick in your head for days.( You are welcome ;) )

     

    Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate

    Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate

    Kiss me over the garden gate:  persecaria orientalis I may not seem the romantic, but trust me, I am to the core , and any plant with the words “Kiss Me” in it’s name gets a place in the gardens here.The lipstick pink flowers of this knotweed  arch atop long stems that if planted near a garden gate will flirtaciously  drape over , hence the common name.  How nostalgically delightful to think of two young sweethearts parting for the evening sneaking one last kiss over the garden gate . In a time when sex and sexual innuendo permeate absolutely everything I pine for the simple romance of the past , and this conjures it by the bucket-load. How about a little Sixpence None the Richer to help set the secene?  Perfectly old fashioned , lemonade on the porch drinkin- kissin over the garden gate music.

    Latin can’t even compete.

  • Aug 26

    003I know some people have difficulties with morning glories. Some of their relatives can be very pesky indeed( think bindweed) , and some Morning Glories  if sown in the right  location they can re-seed vigorously and be a super pain-in-the neck. But I adore them and plant them every year  (no re-seeding ever happens here) and by late summer they are a happy little addition to the gardens.This year I planted my usual ‘Heavenly Blue’ and ‘Grandpa Ott’ ‘ and then added ‘Crimson Rambler ‘ and an unusual variety called ‘Sun Serenade’ which is not blooming yet. The Crimson rambler is happily rambling into a Little Leaf Linden tree, Grandpa Ott is doing me a favor by flowering into a Knockout Rose that died down to the roots this winter and is barely hanging on,  and Heavenly Blue is where it always is, right outside my kitchen window.

    As I am out walking around looking at them , of course I am singing “What’s the Story , Morning Glory” ( the telephone song) from “Bye -Bye Birdie” in my head. I would sing it out loud, but the neighbors already think I am weird enough ;)

    Grandpa Ott

    Grandpa Ott

    Crimson Rambler in the tree

    Crimson Rambler in the tree

     

    Grandpa Ott in a rose

    Grandpa Ott in a rose

     

    017Crimson RamblerCrimson Rambler

    Heavenly Blue

    Heavenly Blue

     

     

     

     

  • Aug 21

    For those of you who use Facebook, you may be aware of a trend on Thursdays to post photos from “back in the day” of your kids, your pets, house , friends, or events you were attending .It is called Throw Back Thursday , or TBT ,and it is kind of fun to see the  old photos and have a fond memory brought to mind. Also, if the pictures are of me, I like to see how young and/or skinny I appear compared to now even if my hair was big enough to deserve it’s own zip code.I have posted a few TBTs , but  I especially like the ones of the garden.

    When I first started gardening , my grandmother ,who was undoubtedly my #1 fan, would always walk around the yard when she visited with her little insta-matic camera snapping shots. She would promptly develop the film  ( unlike me who still has undeveloped rolls in my desk from the 90′s) and carefully label the backs of the photos with the location and date. I did not appreciate it at the time  but it has given me a wealth of memories from my first efforts to get The Garden in the Burrow growing, and some pretty great memories of my gram as well.Just seeing her perfect cursive handwriting on the back can send  me back in time daydreaming of busy times here when the kids were little and the the hustle and bustle of life with them and the garden was my entire existence.Scan0018 Things sure have changed, my gram is gone, the kids are older, and the garden unbelievably on the verge of being overgrown in spots which still amazes me considering where we started.

    (Just an FYI for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the beginnings of the garden here, our house was built on a lot that had zero vegetation, not so much as a blade of grass, and no soil, just sand. that is certainly not the case any more.)

    Here are a few photos , some hers some mine , that show some of the gardens along the way ……..

    (the only human is wee little  Erin standing next to the payhouse..she is  headed to college next week )

    The Red Shed Garden

    The Red Shed Garden

    shde2

    The Dog’s Garden

    shed 3

    Pathway to the Pink Garden

     

    The kids playhouse after and before

    The kids playhouse after and before

     

    Part of the rock garden

    Part of the rock garden

     

    The back 40

    The back 40

     

  • Some Days

    Filed under Posts
    Aug 6

    Some days doesn’t it seem that almost nothing could possibly go your way?

    And some days it  feels like every one who could get in your way, undermine you, disappoint you, piss you off or otherwise offend, did just that?

    And some days it feels like the ick will never end, you will never each your safe place ,put on your slippers , grab a  beer and just forget it all went down like it did.

    On those  days you actually know better than to utter “What else could possibly go wrong?” because you know full well something will

    And on  those days I am never more grateful for the garden ( and to be honest for the beer too) and the fact that a quick walk through, even if it is nightfall, will change my attitude, settle my soul and calm my spirit.

    I give you white and gray at dusk…..004007033035001002011016014012019028024032031029036

  • Aug 2

    Fans of this blog may be aware that I have a completely irrational, overwhelming ,and life-pervasive fear of snakes. I hate the way they move and hate their little reptilian faces. I scream like a mad woman  when I find them outside. I have on occasion been known to pulverize them with bats, spear them with spades and smash them with rocks when they startle me in the garden.

    You can read about what happened when one entered my house here….it was not pretty.

    I even imagine them when I see hoses, the striped backs of chipmunks, curvy branches on the ground, and god forbid the stray piece of twine falls on the pathway.

    What makes it all the worse is that

    a. I am afraid of almost nothing else. Bumps in the night, strangers in the woods, spiders, Friday the 13th, heights, all scare me not one whit. I even overcame my fear of flying ( albeit with valium and alcohol) so I could travel with Wil.

    b.I spend almost all of my time where snakes like to be ..the beautiful garden I personally made with rock walls , shady hideouts, warm sunny composting piles and plenty of bugs, mice etc for snacking.

    So , therefore I find it most surprising that a pretty good sized garter snake has made himself a home  right next to the chicken wire structure where the grass clippings are sent to decompose  and I am A_OK with it.

    I think, first of all ,that knowing full well that a  hot pile of grass clippings at the edge of a wooded area was going to be a snake nirvana kept me aware and always thinking one may be there at any time. When I am caught off guard is when the mayhem ensues. Secondly, even though I discovered said snake while weeding out pokeweed 3 inches from his face and not only jumped 6 feet away but screamed like a crazed lunatic, said snake never moved , not even a tongue flick. His calm cool demeanor may have saved his life.

    Mr. Cool Pants Snake, just stayed still watching me, and chilling in his warm grass pile, so I decided to put my big girl panties on and continue to weed  and see what he did.  well, Mr. Cool Pants Snake did what he was doing before…nothing.

    It took every fiber of courage I could muster, but I left him there to do whatever snakey things he does and went back to life as usual. I have had to go out to the back several times since for a minute or two here, and he has been in the same general spot, sometimes all coiled up, sometimes a little lankier and spread over the  grass. Each time I have looked and confirmed his location and that he was still being Mr. Cool Pants and not trying to come anywhere near me, and I have let him be. Granted I was supposed to water all of the area out back this week and may have put that off a smidge as I was feeling a little too over-exposed to all things reptile, but when I did go out yesterday  he was there, all chill and realxin’ , watching me like always , still as can be.

    Today I introduced Mr. Cool Pants Snake to Wil  as he has to mow this morning and I did not want him to get startled when he dumped grass clippings on Mr.CPS. It took us a while to see him as he was all spread out and blends so well into the woody/ grassy location he now calls home . We had almost given up  looking  but when Wil  reached in to grab a weed I saw MR. CPS clear as day inches from his  hand.  I backed up a little but did not scream, I am pretty proud of that.

    It is a small victory , I will grant you that. If Mr. CPS starts to get more comfortable and starts thinking we are friends or approaches me in any manner , things may change rapidly ( and by that I mean he may die a very very violent death). But for now at least I am able to be in his presence and not pee my pants or go hog wild smashing him with a shovel.

    Here he is, all chillaxing …just in case you give me more credit than is due, no, I did not take the photo. That would really be asking too much of me . I stood next to him ( well, about 10 feet away) while Wil did.002

     

     

  • Aug 1

    Those of you who have heard me speak on “Design With Vines” know I am crazy about Morning Glories. Well let’s be honest all Ipomea species really have my heart.001 (4)

    I love Ipomoea quamoclit, commonly called cypress vine for it’s featherly foliage and sweet star shaped flowers.

    I love Ipomoea sloteri ( or x multifida) foe it’s vry cool palm shaped foliage and the hummingbirds love the flowers.006

    But it is the old fashioned morning glory, or Ipomoea purpurea that ranks # 1 for me. So easy to grow, covered in sweet little flowers  in colors I adore, and don’t even get me started about all the new varieties I have yet to try.

    But this post isn’t meant to do homage to my old -timey fav, it is meant as a reminder to get some Morning Glory seeds started in the house for winter bloom.  I may have admonished you not to been stingy in using all the seeds in your annual seed packets, but that came with a caveat to save just a few  Morning \Glories for the first week of August. Well, it is just that, so go find them.004

    Soak the seeds in warm water overnight to soften the outer coating, then stick them in a pretty pot the next morning that has some sort of trellis or small obelisk in it. You can even use three pretty twigs arranged tee-pee style from a white birch tree if you prefer. Place it in a sunny spot near a window and you will be so very happy in December when you awaken on a dreary morning to find your first flower opening with the sun.

    I like the foliage of the variety ‘Picotee’. It is a little fuzzy and thicker than the others, the flowers are very attractive too having that cute little frilly white edge. I have startted Picotee  indoors several times, and even combined it with a second variety for even more color.023 (3)

    One year I placed two in one pot and that worked well .005 (7)023 (2)

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    .This year I plan to try Grandpa Ott 001 (7)and a new one for me called Sunrise Serenade which has a very unique flower form in smashing ruby red. Fingers crossed for this one to bloom like mad.

    If you have other annual vines seeds hanging around and have the space , give them a go as well. Last winter I grew Love-in-a- puff  Halicacabum cardiospermum in the window as well and it climbed and flowered well until late spring.054

     

     

  • Jul 24

    This morning I went out into the garden with the camera. My intent was to take a bunch a pictures and write a long post about how certain areas of the garden really bother me at certain times of year. July is especially tough for the Pink Garden and the Dog’s Garden as the former is planted to be stunning in spring when I need the wake up call from spring to get me out working and the later is planted to knock your socks off in Fall so I don’t dwell on the waning gardening season. Right now one needs deadheading and cutting back and the other is pretty but not even shadow of what it will be in a few weeks.

    Instead, I found myself snapping photo after photo of loveliness .027002

    Could it have been the storms that came through last night ? They seemed to refresh everything after an oppressively  hot day and dry spell.028004

    054Could it be the magic created by filtered sunlight back-lighting the garden ?  The softer light was  all the more enjoyable after days of intense summer sun that seemed to sap the life out of me.008013

    Could it have been that I am always so smitten  by the birds and the butterflies that are my daily visitors? They were out in large numbers today.040007

    017

    Could it be that around every corner there seemed to be a new combination of blooms or flowers  and art that had yet to be seen this season? Certainly these few caught my eye.010

    046

    036Could it be that  sometimes as a gardener you see  the faded blossoms, the need for division,the weeding yet to be done and loose sight of  the beauty in the seed heads,or  the exuberance and bounty in a such a lush garden ?003048 029

    Whatever it was, there was a definite attitude adjustment in the time I wandered around.021

    It is dry and  comfortable , with the heat and humidity gone for a few days so I could take my time and really see what was going on out there….043 038 012

    015.

    ………and it was absolutely delightful.

    Don”t worry though if you missed my ranting, I am reasonably certain it is only only the most brief of holidays and will return sooner than you  can blink!

     

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Garden in the Burrow

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