things look pretty good around here

2017 has been pretty good to the garden so far ( am I jinxing myself?)

a pretty mild winter and late spring meant no late kill of buds on trees and shrubs and we had minimal loss of plants in general, there are even flower buds on ALL the hydrangeas! ( please don’t anyone eat them !)


unlike the past few years we had a wet spring so everything got of to a good start and I actually had time to compost and fertilize like I should instead of battling hoses and watering routines ( I like rain, let it rain, to whom should I direct my rain dances?)

at the start of bunny sex season( does that ever even stop?) when it seems litter after litter of the little buggers appear hellbent on garden mayhem,we had a visiting owl who left their beheaded carcasses all over the walkway Apparently , owls eat the brain and head and leave the body which is frankly disgusting even to this bunny hater but it meant the plants could get growing and bigger plants tolerate their chomping better. ( is there anything worse than rabbits ? , did I just invite it here by claiming victory?)

it is not all fun and games though as gypsy moth caterpillars did quite a bit of damage to the river birches and wisteria  , rose sawfly larvae attacked a rose with vicious determination , and a wet spring always means apple scab and dropped leaves for one of my crabapples that is not resistant to it. ( that seems like such  a short list, have I missed something?)

Blooming right now are 10 different roses with more in bud, within the week a bunch of  new clematis should open, with any luck the peony show will still be going , lots of weigelas are in flower   , we still have lilacs and hellebores whose show started in April , and  salvias, foxgloves, dianthus, gaillardias, sedums, smooth hydrangeas, penstemons, yarrow, lillies, mock orange, columbines, siberian iris, trandescantias, comfrey, spirea, geraniums of all sorts, honeysuckles, wisteria, calycanthus,  are all giving the bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators just what they are looking for.


DSC_0001 DSC_0002 DSC_0005 DSC_0013 DSC_0015 DSC_0020 DSC_0012 DSC_0014Should I be waiting for a powerful storm or hail or onslaught of deer or whatever fresh hell may be  around the bend so I can eat my words . Isn’t that always the way in the garden?

On Sunday June 25th  the garden is part of Tower Hill Botanic Garden’s City Places, Country  Spaces tour from 10-4.  If you are local you can get tickets on their website and come visit .

Seriously?   i am so happy to see  beautiful roses, peonies and clematis all blooming in tandem and right behind them all the summer bloomers gearing up for quite the show. Because it all looks spectacular, I am , of course, very worried.

. One week, one week, one week….that is all I need with no new threats of weather or varmints…one blessed week  is that too much to ask? Until then I shall be knocking on wood, crossing all my fingers and toes, looking for 4 leaf clovers, collecting horseshoes and searching for rainbows,

and weeding , always weeding ;)

ps every day I post to Instagram , you can follow my feed here to get a daily dose of beautiful blooms!

file this under “things that are hard for me”

2016-11-29 23.12.33 2016-12-01 06.39.18 2016-12-01 06.40.02 2016-12-01 06.40.17 2016-12-01 06.41.26 2016-12-01 06.42.23 2016-12-01 06.42.41 2016-12-01 06.47.25 2016-11-16 08.29.58 2016-11-25 02.19.03 2016-11-25 02.18.39 2016-11-25 02.18.25 2016-11-25 02.17.41 2016-11-25 02.17.09 2016-11-25 02.16.55 2016-11-25 02.16.19 2016-11-25 02.13.52 2016-11-25 02.13.37 2016-11-16 08.26.47 2016-11-16 08.26.38 2016-11-16 08.25.30 2016-11-16 08.20.11This spring , something really exciting( for me) is finally happening. I have been working with several other Master Gardeners in the Mass Master Gardeners organization to bring our training class to Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston. It all sounded good when we planned it, the class material, homework , and instructors  and are already established . so I just needed to scheduled the physical classrooms, line up some helpers and we would be off! Well, in reality those few things were the least of my work.  We require lots of apprenticeship hours for our students and those all needed to be planned and staffed, a few instructors needed to be replaced so I had to research interview and hire,  a budget needed to be made and followed, we needed a projector and laptop and books and name badges and dry erase markers etc., the schedule and paperwork needed to written and loaded on to flash drives,  and on and on and on. None of these things ( except the shopping) are my forte, I hate to type and hate even more document formatting, I am not great on the phone , and generally write my emails in a very informal style often eschewing capitals and correct punctuation. Contracts necessitate an attention to detail I lack.  Needless to say the amount of hours that I have put into this is astounding, and has been the focus of my time.  It has taken over  the free time I have for garden visits and photo taking and writing here.

But, we have made it through the initial set up and first few weeks and things are starting to get a little easier. We are making list after list of things we will change and do differently to streamline  and make it a better experience for all. I see a light at the end of the tunnel and am back to spending more and more time in my own garden and my work researching , writing and planning new presentations ( including a day long lecture on perennial growing for the class)   and  speaking to loads of garden clubs and other groups which is my favorite kind of work.

One of the best things that  happened  in the midst of all this, is that the weather was simply fantastic in early April and since we host Easter dinner at our house every year including an egg hunt and King Egg contest outside, I felt a great sense of urgency  to get the garden up and running so by the early part of spring the pool was opened and all the furniture out and the garden cleared and ready for it’s spotlight. Physical labor felt oh so much better than sitting at my desk typing and answering emails  so a few long days of cutting, chipping, raking and burning   were actually a joy.  Now, we have been having cooler and wetter weather so all the transplanted perennials are happy and I can just stare out at all the spring bulbs , trees and shrubs that are going gangbusters and not feel the need to grab the rake or hose.


Speaking of the weather,  the odd  weather made my usually pitiful spring garden look lavish as the few spring plantings all erupted at once making for a spectacular display, since I have been on hiatus posting this was zero fun as I could not get the photos to load properly ( that is why they are at the beginning) , words were suddenly changing to italics and I gave up trying to fix it all. Going back to the garden to bend things to my will:)


hey February…I ain’t playing

Dear February,

You got it all wrong. All 28 (or29) days of you I have a plan, and it doesn’t involve the garden.

I call BS on the daffoldils sproutingDSC_0003

the lilac buds showing greenDSC_0010

the honeysuckle leafing out.DSC_0012

I am furious at fully open pussy willowsDSC_0004 DSC_0007

and almost missed the witch hazel bloom DSC_0019

and seriously never care that I don’t see the snowdrops because where they are planted they are covered with snow usually until MayDSC_0027

February, you need to embrace who you really are……snow, cold , and most importantly down time for those of us who garden intensely for so many of the other months of the year. I have things to knit, a stack of books to read, classes to plan and seeds yet to order. Heavy sweaters, hot cocoa, shoveling and dormancy. That is what I expect from you..Get it together,

I don’t need to be obsessed with all the snow and ice damage and certainly am not ready to face the fact that ALL the  young fruit trees were girdled by rabbits despite their tree guards. DSC_0007 (2)

You need to give me back my snow cover and my peace of mind that all is well out there at least for a little while longer.

Maybe March will give us what you so clearly could not be bothered to provide, I am Ok with that, I will will tell it how appreciative I am for stepping up to the plate.

February, I am very dissappointed in you, although I do love what you have done with the heatherDSC_0021

seasonal arranging

December is usually a pretty light work month for me  which is nice because I get to focus on other things. This past weekend I had got to cross an item off my bucket list when my sister, nieces, daughters and I hit NYC to see the  Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Show with the Rockettes  and we had a fantastic time.  We have also already decorated the house and tree and made our annual visit to Symphony Hall to see the Boston Pops, so I am well into the holiday spirit.

Tonight I will be speaking at the Bet Shalom Garden Club in Needham  about seasonal arranging, so it was time to get back to the life without sparkly dancers in long kick lines and peppy christmas music.

This time of year is probably the toughest time for seasonal arranging. It has been c-c-c-cold ( a few nights in the teens and single digits) and  three snow events  , with the most recent one giving us about 4 inches. Add to that  the stuff I force and grow inside is not yet ready and I find myself  hunting for the elusive spark of inspriation that will start the process of creativity.

I put on my boots and headed out to the garden, and immediately was reminded that nature does all the work for me and there was loads of beauty to work with. I cut

stems of red and yellow dogwood

these beautiful stems of Flamingo willow IMG_20161212_144416193

chamaecyparis and euonymous’ gold splash’IMG_20161212_144352163

branches of Harry Lauders Walking Stick (complete with mysterious animal hairs I really don’t want to think about)1481639281889-1924477952

the last few flowers on the daucus carrota ‘Dara’ from the pot I had thrown in the garage in November and some foliage from a “not dead yet” scented geraniumIMG_20161212_121656992

cardoon and santolinaIMG_20161212_121632586_HDR

blue spruceDSC_0006


stems of ilex vercilata ‘Wintergold’IMG_20161212_121716424

pinecones from  mugo pine

and some branches of a Korean boxwood called ‘Green Velvet’ that curiously get these lovely yellow edges,randomly as far as I can tell. No one seems to be able to define why . It is not all of the leaves on any plant, nor for that matter every plant, nor does it seem to have to do with stage of growth or temperature . Must be garden fairies at work I guess.IMG_20161212_144554647

Once inside I still felt I lacked a direction so I headed back out and stumbled upon a rose called ‘Carefree Spirit’ ( you may have heard me mention in one of my talks) that was sporting this amazing redish foliage , glossy and perfect despite the cold. Violia! IMG_20161212_144325110

DSC_0016Back inside I hit the office where overwintering plants live and cut a few stems of coleus and a few leaves from the Red Shield Hibiscus

IMG_20161212_144335859_HDRonce I had all the foliage ready , I headed out to the market and spent $4.99 0n a bunch of white alstromeria , and put it all together. I ended up keeping the winterberry out as I like the reds and golds alone IMG_20161212_164718272_HDRDSC_0038DSC_0032DSC_0037DSC_0025now I have the rest of the day until I leave for Needham to wrap presents while singing Christmas carols with my new friend Winston. He loves Christmas music! One more reason I believe I was meant to be his bestie !

the best fall garden ever…..inspiration

Now that we are well and truly in the thick of autumn, vibrant foliage, and cushion mums  abound….it is time to look at what others are doing to make their fall gardens so spectacular.

The interwebular connection gives you acces to all sorts of eye candy to help you figure out what to grow and how to grow it . Here are a few of my favorites.

Chanticleer: Although these two books about Chanticleer and their visionary garden designers should most definitely be on your shelf and be welll dog eared ,

the staff there also has  well managed social media including an instagram for the garden itself as well as a few from individual designers

chanticleer Instagram

Chris Fehlhaber

Austin Rae Elscheld

The fall garden there is nothing short of amazing and the accompanying accurate plant ID from knowledgeable plantspeople is a valuable thing indeed.

Others I follow that you are sure to love are Joseph Valentine ( of Juniper Hill Farm in NH), Kelly Norris, Page Dickey, Northwind Perennial Farm,  and really I could go on and on, but get on Instagram, follow the few I have listed here and then click through to their profile to see who THEY follow and then follow those people too. Then your daily scrolll through instagram will be filled with incredible inspiration to draw from,

Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening has a penchant for one particular fall interest plant, colchicums. You can check out her blog for loads of info on this underused  plant.

Another blog, May Dreams Gardens, hosts a monthly Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. if you read the post Carol puts up ,at the end of it will be links to MANY other bloggers who write a dedicated post on the 15th of each month detailing what is blooming in their gardens. A quick click on each link will tell you who is gardening  in a climate like yours and  you can make note of what you like.

Of course anything written by garden deity Piet Oudolf  will give you more information than you could ever use in designing a home garden.  He aslo has great social media presence and should be followed on any format he posts.

If you are itching to get out and about visit Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston Ma to see loads of well designed spaces and useful plants for multi season interest. Their Carey Award winners are all wood plants for our area that win that merit award based on just that.

Wave Hill, New York Botanial Garden, Coastal Maine Botanical  Garden, all worthy day or weekend trips this time of year , with notebook and camera in hand.

Note New York and Coastal Miane are BOTANICAL gardens while Tower Hill is just BOTANIC . This means nothing to our purpose, but I just find it confusing and kind of funny and wanted to point it out ;)

and of course, you always have me! You can search here for lots of photos and lists of what I grow for September through December interest, and if I ever forget to label just ask!!!!



the last pear

the last pear

DSC_0003 DSC_0004 DSC_0005

'Samba" mum

‘Samba” mum


sheffield mum

sheffield mum

DSC_0019 DSC_0024



the here and now

Late  September though October is probably my favorite time in the garden.

sure, I love the peonies and their brief yet bombacious bloom time is the stuff of my winter dreams.

and the first flush of roses…..just as dreamy  , and even better when they explode along with the bulk of the early clematis

But it is at this time of year, when things are winding down, that I find it so much easier to walk about in the gardens and just enjoy. I know I have at least until the end of  November to clean up the garden for winter , and other than bulbs there is usually very little planting to be done. If something looks ratty it is A-Ok to just cut it back or rip it out as the time for tours is over and no one will see the hole except me.

( just a pause here to wonder why we stop garden touring when many gardens still look so fantastic )

With  fewer plants left that have yet to flower, it is a treat to see buds and anticipate things yet to come.


Now is not the time  fret over slugs or fungus, now is not the time to plan , now is the time to just look and appreciate a season well grown.

coral amaranth

coral amaranth




lablab purpurea or hyacinth bean vinelablab purpurea or hyacinth bean vine


sedum and artemesia

sedum and artemesia


castor bean ( carmencita)

castor bean ( carmencita)


eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'

eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’


Coral Daisy mum

Coral Daisy mum


 allium senescens var glaucum

allium senescens var glaucum


dreadlocks amaranth

dreadlocks amaranth


a self seeded portulaca

a self seeded portulaca



Nora Leigh phlox

Nora Leigh phlox



clematis terniflora

clematis terniflora


sedum and turtlehead

sedum and turtlehead



a seedling hydrangea paniculata

a seedling hydrangea paniculata


viburnum plicatum f.tomentosum "summer snowflake'

viburnum plicatum f.tomentosum “summer snowflake’



heritage raspberries

heritage raspberries


heptacodium miconioides

heptacodium miconioides


salvia ' greggii'cold hardy pink'

salvia ‘ greggii’cold hardy pink’



daucus carrota and coral amaranth

daucus carrota and coral amaranth






magnolia virginiana seedheads

magnolia virginiana seedheads


dahlia 'Gingersnaap' and mina lobata

dahlia ‘Gingersnaap’ and mina lobata


platycodon gradiflora

platycodon gradiflora


DSC_0002 DSC_0005DSC_0001 DSC_0021 DSC_0026 DSC_0028 DSC_0033 DSC_0050 DSC_0053

the best fall garden ever…..berries and seedheads

There are many shrubs here I grow for their berries, not all have late season ineterst though. Viburnum, for evxample , has lovely berries, in some species berries appear early on the in summmer and some late, but ALL get eaten by the birds as soon as they ripen .I have seen viburnums planted ( usually en masse) that keep berries longer but here they are gone in a flash. therefore they do not qualify for this post.

Other berries and fruits need to go through frost and thaw cycles to become palatable for the birds to snack on ,some remain bitter and are eaten only when the birds  are very very hungry, and it is usually those that give us garden interest in the fall.

Reminds me of when I was little and my mother would go to the grocery store on Saturdays. All the good snacks, like fresh fruit, or  that little yogurt cup you tipped upside down and pierced the bottom with a fork so  the fruit on the bottom would become the topping like an ice cream sundae, would dissappear immediately and by Wednesday you were reduced to snacking on graham crackers . These berries are the graham crackers of the bird world.

Anyway here they are in no partiular order

Snowberry/Coral Berry: Symphoricarpos  (spcs) are deciduus shrubs that grow naturally all over the northern parts of the Us and Canada, The are not only very hardy, but they tolerate just about any conditions you can throw at’em. Moist woodland? check. Sunny and dry ? check. Dry shade ? check.Wherever they are  growing they will be smothered in tiny flowers that the beees love all summer, and the in the late summer and into fall they produce chubby little drupes or berries  that are eaten by mostly mammals as opposed to birds ( although grouse and pheasants eat them). Over time they will sucker and form a little thicket that most certainly does not require your attention, and you almost forget it is there until the berries appear. Breeders have been using this old fashioned back door shrub to cross and get plants that produce berries of brighter color and bigger size and the result is plants like Amethyst Coral Berry ( symphoricarpos x dorenbossii) and the yet to be relaesed Proud Berry Coal Berry (coming in 2017.)IMG_20160922_110414122

I have been growing Symphoricarpos albus ( white berries) here for many moons and i is often asked about on tours because people remember it from their grandmother’s garden yet never knew what it was or where to find it. I added Amethyst Coral Berry a few years ago  and have been pretty happy to use it in lots of fall floral arrangements since.DSC_0032 (2)

Next up is beauty berry, other wse know as callicarpa (spcs). I grow callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’ ( apparantly amethyst is a popular plant name now)  because I find the shrub itself to be a little more capable of fitting in my landscape than some of the larger ones. They can be sort of wild and rangy looking, so be warned.  The berries on Early Amethyst are smaller and in tight clusters, it also blooms a little earlier than the other species.   The berries are metallic purple and are virtually ignored unti after mid-winter. they look phenomenal covered in


Last for berries  is a fall favorite, Ilex vercilliata ‘ Winter Gold’. This shrub I adore due to the fact that has the easy care of a holly, yet it’s berries are a goldy-orange that go perfectly well with all things autumn…….fading foliage, bronzy grasses, and pumpkin spice anything ;) . The red berried hollies are just fine, but I prefer those in winter and snow. This 5-8 ft shrub is another I never pay any mind to , even in this drought, until the berries appear and light up the back 40. Once the robins descend it will be stripped in a matter of hours, but that is usually aafter December or even into the new year.ccss ccsx

For seeds heads, I ALWAYS leave those from any rudbeckias for the goldfinches, and it is the picture of birds perching on them ,swaying and eating ,that make them valauble to the fall garden.


For clematis know this: a general rule is that the smaller the flower, the better the seed head.  Clematis tangutica  and orientalis ( let’s not get into a discussion of the taxonomy here harumph) , , in particular have great seed heads that persist after frost .

the seedheads of c. texwnsis 'Gravetye Beauty'

the seedheads of c. texwnsis ‘Gravetye Beauty’



flower of "Bill McKenzie'

flower of “Bill McKenzie’

seedhaeds of 'Bill Mckenzie'seedhaeds of ‘Bill Mckenzie’


c.'My Angel Flower'

c.’My Angel Flower’

Look for ‘Bill McKenzie’, ‘Helios’  and a favorite here,’My Angel’ .Keep in mind these are large vines with a penchant for seeding about in warmer climes,

ps remeber when I made an entire wreath of clematis seedheads?

You have many many more options of things to try for berries and seedheads: rose hips, acnanthus, mountain mint, ornamental grasses just to name a few. When you are planting any type of plant ,a little research into what they do AFTER they flower is always helpful when planning the best fall garden ever.

Next up is Places to Vsist for Inspiration for your BEST FALL GARDEN EVER

so i have this one apple

This has been a pretty difficult growing year . We are down 7 inches from our usual rain total and have had 12 days over 90 degrees so far this summer. There is now a mandatory water ban and many plants are suffering from the dry heat.The focus has been on triage watering and cutting back  things that can go dormant , which for while made me forget about “The great fruit crisis of 2016.”

Way back when the fruit trees were just budding up , we had two nights that the temps plummeted to 18 degrees. In my yard that meant cherry and peach blossoms were toast and, unusually, it also affected the apple and pear  trees. The big apple tree out front is a biennial bearer and had a bumper crop last year so the crop was expected to be on the smaller size, but you have to look way up into it to see the very few apples( less than 10) that are growing there,DSC_0003

and the pear nearby has only a couple dozen small dry pears. DSC_0004DSC_0003

The apple tree in the Rock Garden has only a  few apples that  are small and malformed ( I think from lack of water).

Of the 3 espalliered trees , only one has fruit, and even then it is just three apples.  Of those three , one looks entirely perfect and it is killing me watching it ripen.

The chipmunks, voles and rabbits prevent me  from ever enjoying the fruits of my labors. Off 6 blueberry bushes I ate maybe 4 blueberries,  from the bazillion strawberry plants I got not even one.( Next year they are beng moved to vertical planters). In the only good news , the raspberries which were  very late in flowering and are just starting to be pickable now and no critters bother them.  Last year at this time  all the espalliered fruit trees were hijacked by chipmunks right before I was ready to pick them .

My one perfect apple is on an espalliered tree that is visible to me from my seat on the couch in the living room. Whenever I get a chance to sit and knit or binge watch netflix ( did you see Stranger Things or Marco Polo??? You must!)   I have a direct sight line to it

view out the window from my seat on the couch

view out the window from my seat on the couch

.One perfect apple, so many threats. It might even be better if it was hidden out of sight so I could forget about it. Watching and waiting , worrying and wondering if and how I should protect it  is getting to me. It is my apple, my one perfect apple….. I may just pick it and eat it unripe.DSC_0006 The stress is giving me a stomach ache already so what do I have to loose?

the best fall garden ever….annuals

well,mostly….. but not really.

Annuals are a plant form that starts as a seed, grows roots and leaves, then flowers and fruits and dies , all in one year. many of the plants we grow here as ‘annuals’ are actually herbaceous perennials in the warmer parts of the world. We grow them through one season then usually compost them, BUT  with the knowledge  they are indeed non-hardy perennials we are  able to overwinter choice plants indoors and save $$.

A few that fall under this annual yet perennial heading that may be worth saving are  are petunias, coleus, and persian shield.

But let’s start with plants that are easy to grow from seed, fabtabulous bloomers, and  then headed for the compost bin.

Cosmos and zinnias make huge impacts in the late season garden Both are available in many heights and colors, both can be started from seed by even the most inexperienced grower, both flower profusely  and do so until frost if deadheaded routinely. Ths year I focused on many different cosmos and didn’t even grow any zinnias ( a decision I now regret)   . They cosmos though, are  getting going after some nice rain and are  just the perk the garden needed now.

Verbena bonariensis is a very tall see through plant with strong  stems and a profusion of small purple flowers .It works well when let to seed in between other plants , which it will relaibly do every year once you have planted it for the first time. Butterflies adore it,. I want to add that for some people this plant can reseed quite vigorously and down south it is actually escaping cultivation , but here is easy to thin and control. ( photo :Annies Annuals)

Verbena bonariensis

petunias often get looked down upon by experienced gardeners, but I say what’s not to like?

They bloom like crazy,

if they get leggy or even if you forget to water them , you can give them a haircut and they will spring back to life

very few pests bother them, here the rabbits leave them alone and only occaisionly I get tobacco worm caterpillars I need to pick off

if you don’t like the commercialized ones, there are many you can grow from seed. I have talked about petunia exserta here before. It is a lovely red that is hummingbird pollinated and again, super easy to start from seed

This year I have added some from the Sparkler seed mx and they are going like gangbustersIMG_20160803_094229

and every year I have many self sown pink ones that fill containers for me everywhere. They will tolerate quite a bit of cold and persist very very late into October.

Amaranth is another plant I start from seed and there are so many I try new ones every year.

This year I am growing tri-colored amaranth both in the ground and in containers20160805_110338

coral amaranth


and I also tried one called ‘Deadlocks” which is doing  horribly and I don’t know why.All the plants are very small and they look more like goofy  drumsticks. I am hoping they get going soon20160805_105845

Now onto ones you may want to  winter over.

For foliage you can’t beat coleus, and the varieties available  to us now are outstanding. After the season you can take cuttings to root in soil or water and overwinter , or   hack them back and grow them on indoors. I had one pruned into a tree form for years but lost it this winter .20160805_110251

Persian Shield or stobilanthes dyerianus is beautiful but can be pricey , so ,again, overwintering a cutting or two can save you lots. ( it is a very easy to grow houseplant as well)20160805_105715

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ is a garden and  houseplant that blooms in the fall and winter and really comes into it’s own as days get shorter. It has the added bonus of flowering in shade ( photo from pinterest)

caladium bicolor is a bulb often grown as an annual . Tthe emerging plant ,although it loves full sun, will perform very well as a foliage filler in almost full shade. It is planted in this container with nasturtiums and another bulb , eucomis. I bring the pot in and let it either go dormant or sometimes keep it leafed out depending on window space


Hypoestes phyllostachya is another lovely shade foliage plant that delivers a punch of color all through the growing season. There are many color variations out there, and this guy also will prform well as a houseplant

An interesting plant( although be aware the seeds are very poisionous) is castorbean  or ricinus communis . Where it is hardy it is a massive perennial shrub but here it is grown as an annual.
Super easy to start from seed, this dangerous baby will shoot to 9 feet with tropical plamate leaves and colored stems  . There are many purple and dark  leaved varieties available  and the fuzzy fruits are really cool too. It makes a very useul filler in the garden and will certainly elicit some response to both folaige and fruit, as well as the  story of how it is where the nuerotoxin ricin comes from20160805_110010

I am growing three different ones ths year , none are flowering yet so the second photo is from Annies Annuals and the cltvr is ‘New Zealand Purple’ Talk about drama!

i have read that it takes 3-4 seeds to kill a rabbit I just can’t figure out how to make them eat them lol

slavia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ is a non stop bloomer that the hummingbirds love and has quite the presence in the garden right through to frost. I have overwintered this successfully  inside as well

I think these days many gardeners dimiss  the use of annuals as beginner stuff and look past them to perennials and shrubs, but  we can add loads of interest to our garden by adding in a few non-hardy plants . You may be able to find some interesting choices at a nursery near you, or you can cheaply order seed from Plantword, Chilterns, ebay and  to name just a few

For plants , a  source I ALWAYS reccomend is Annies Annuals who has very interesting choices and does a superb job at shipping. Their catalogue is fun to look at and always gets lots of post-it-notes added here during the winter.


the best fall garden ever….trees

Since i am so busy in the garden, this is a good week for the shortest of these posts, trees.

Trees for late season are easy in New England. So may of our deciduus trees having brilliant fall color and are a little bit of a no-brainer. BUT there are a select few we can plant that add something else besides foliage.

To top the list is heptacodium miconiodes, or seven- son- flower. This small tree  , which will grow 15-20 ft ,has beautiful smooth bark which exfoliates during the winter, a good reason to keep it limbed up for viewing, although you can grow it as a multi stemmed tree if you like. It has a nice branch structure , and in the late summer is absoutely smothered with white lightly scented star shaped  flowers, seven from each bud ,hence the name . After the petals drop,  what remains are very small fruits surrounded by cherry red calyces which most certainly add some drama to the garden.(photo from Bluestone Perennials)Buds each with seven white stars

It will live in full sun or dappled shade making garden placement easy.

Another small tree variety  to include is  disease resistant crabapples for their fruit display. A few favorites are ‘Tina’ which has very brightly colored fruit and stays very small ( under 10 ft), ‘Mrs. Robinson’ with it’s dark leaves and darker fruit, and’Prairie Fire’ which also has dark purple leaves, good fruit display and all have outstanding resistance to apple scab. Crabapples are highly ornamental from early spring bloom right through winter and  if you have room an allee of them would be spectacular. DSC_0024

For fall color  i will just add only my three top picks

amelanchiercanadensis ‘Autumn Brilliance’  or service berry, another fantastic small tree that offers  spring bloom, summer fruit  birds love , and intense red fall color on the leaves all while asking very little  in return. It is an easy to grow native , full sun to part shade and very resiliant in drought here.

although this ia a biggie-to 40 ft, nothing beats parrotia persica, which appears aflame in October especilally when  planted in our acidic soils.(photo from greatplantpickscom which is a suberb resource for discovering garden worthy plants.

Bookmark it for those boring rainy days,


and sweet gum, or liquidambar styraciflua, which can get large , but is a highlight of any garden when the colors change in cooler weather. It is the only one on the list I don’t ( yet) grow , but it is on my radar as a replacement for a tree we are taking down in the next few years

today we are getting the very first rain of July, it is beyond dry here, despite irrigation the ground throws up puffs  of dust every time I pull a weed  . Wroking in the garden  I remember  haunting  pictures of forlorn farmers in desolate barren landscapes , clouds of dust in the air. Having studied that era of our history in a class in college,those images have forever been seared into my memory, Draught is serious business, and it is scary to think how little control we have over it and other disasterous weather.

Happier thoughts!  Tommorow  is an Open Day here and I do love company, so stop by if you can.