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planning a trip

For the past few years Wil and I have been discussing taking a trip to the UK. First  we talked about a trip to celebrate   our 25th wedding anniversary (long past) thena trip to visit to our daughter Erin who was doing a semester abroad in Ireland (she has been home a year.)Now we need a new goal.

Of course we would both like to see many of the historical sites , and you all know my affinity for castles and all things moat related,but we can’t forget all the great gardens there ,and of course great gardens take precedence in the planning.

I dream of visiting  Great Dixter and  Sissinghurst , which for years have topped my list and I was sure those two places would be where I wanted to  start. But now as time has gone on I am drifting in another direction; north.

It all started when I started following a knitting podcast of all things , where the hosts, a married couple named Andrea and Andrew visit Snowdonia in northwest Wales annually. They actually filmed their first episode there,. Now back up a few years to my love of historical fiction and my obsession with Sharon Kay Penman books especially the Welsh trilogy starting with “Here Be Dragons”

Why i am infatuated with all the unpronounceable  names of people and places with too many consonants and far too many ‘Y’s and ‘L’s and errant and unnecessary’E's  is beyond me, but the wild land she described has been calling to me since I picked up her first book many moons ago.  Seeing Andrew and Andrea’s footage while there got me rethinking our original plans.

Then , after a very busy last few months when time has been a blur and I have not been able to do many of the things I love ( like read , blog, and garden)  , I finally have hit the stack of books and magazines that have been awaiting cold snowy days spent by fireplaces and was gobsmacked by the photos in The English Garden magazine (Jan 18) taken of the winter garden in Bodnant. I just can’t take my eyes off them,The Winter Garden at Bodnant Garden

This is a garden that was never on my list to visit, and according to John Rippen, the head gardener there it is not on many other people’s either because of it’s northern location, John stated that if it were more southerly and closer to other touristy stuff it would be in everyone’s top ten. Well ,John, you got my attention for sure!

A quick google search led me to find there are stone cottages for rent , are you kidding me???? Craggy cliffs and ancient forests? yes,please.

it’s like a kid getting to stay at Cinderella’s castle!!!  Add in sweet villages around mountainous terrain with scenery to die for and hiking trials and cafes with homemade scones and clotted cream and a small shoreline and I  feel as though there was a reason our trip has been delayed so I could find all this first.

there are some battles to be fought. Wil  likes amenity filled hotels as opposed to drafty cottages with unknown hosts and iffy mattresses. There is also no way you could stretch your imagination enough to call him “outdoorsy” or a hiker so the appeal of a nine km trek over a small mountain to get a scone may seem far less appealing to him than it does to me. Also we would be far from the touristy UK stuff  in England in Ireland that were in the original plan so some maps would need to be acquired and a great deal of planning be done.

I remain optimist and hopeful. I hope you are all enjoying your winter down time dreaming up new things for the garden, ordering seeds, and maybe planning a trip of your own.

I will be back in full swing here very soon!


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viorna and texensis groups

the viorna group is unusual in that instead of having lots in common, these vines differ in cultivation and appearance. They can be woody vines, sub -shrubs, or more like herbaceous perennials, some need damp soil, some like it hot and dry, and for the most part they all have at least one fussy requirement that needs your attention for them to grow well in a garden setting. I know this is supposed to be about easy to grow plants, but some of these requirements might fit right in with  your garden conditions which will of course make them easier to grow.

interesting fact; many of our native ( to the US ) species of clematis get lumped here including texensis, c. crispa, c adisonii, c. pitcheri, c. viorna c. glaucophylla and c. reticulata   reminding us yet again that just because a plant is native doesn’t mean it will grow either well or easily in your yard.

let’s talk about one of the most beautiful yet frustrating, c. texensis . ph roslina 0409 clematis texensis redClematis texensis is a beautiful bright red and has been used in breeding to attain variations of the color . You will not find the straight species anywhere in retail nurseries as it is most difficult to propagate and rare even among collectors. The hybrids of texensis, however, are often found for sale and are bear striking flowers on the reddish pink side . A few well known varieties are

Duchess of AlbanyImage result for clematis duchess of albany

(image from Brushwood Nurseries where you can purchase many of these plants)

Princess Diana (image from RHS)

Image result for clematis princess diana

Princess Kate (image from crocusuk)

Image result for clematis princess kate

and Gravetye Beauty



All of these vines are  susceptible to powdery mildew which will discolor and eventually defoliate the vines. I tried for years to get Gravetye Beaty to look good in the garden , alas,  this year I gave up and ripped my two vines out before I could change my mind and I really feel good about that decision. It became such an eye sore no matter what I tried and although I loved the flowers , that just wasn’t enough to warrant keeping them. I have had much better luck with Princess Diana and the Duchess of Albany, I would choose these for easy care plants if grown in full sun.

(For clarity I will make what seems like a stupid statement here, clematis texensis gets put in the Viorna group yet  most of it’s hybrids are in the Texensis group. No one said this was easy lol)


Clematis viorna  (AKA vasevine, leather flower) is a species that is highly variable in form and flower and due to some on going field research being done is about to get split into many new species and sub species .  I waiver in my loyalty to either lumping the species together as they currently are (making it easier to remember and ID )and splitting them up which requires me to learn more names but is better for accuracy.

c. viorna has adorable leathery pinkish bells and spectacular feathery seed heads and can be quite vigorous  (read:easy)

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C.crispa, is sometimes called Swamp leather flower , and that will give you a clue what differentiates this one from the group….water. Unlike mot clematis , It likes wet soil and can even tolerate being water logged which would kill it’s cousins. . If you have a spot that meets this requirement I would rate this plant as easy to grow. It sports recurved white-lilac bells and the vine tends to be pretty open and sparse.  The one thing clematis is the viorna group definitely share is the adorableness of their flowers. Petite and sweet.

Photo again from Brushwood. I did finally dare to plant this clematis here in my dry sandy soil, it is right next to the hose and and although not flowering yet , it is alive and growing , fingers crossed.

Image result for clematis crispa

Clematis odoriba is a cross between viorna and crispa. It is and extremely free flowering vine  whose intense pink flowers face slightly upward making them a wonderful addition to my back arbors where we can see the top-most blooms over the fence.  I adore this vine, it is ignored out back and is thriving in neglect .IMG_2547

the crappy picture is from my phone which usually does a better job.

Another from this group I grow here is clematis fusca, which as soon as I figure out just what it is looking for to bloom and be happy I will let you know. So far every location and soil amendment etc I have tried has just shown me what makes it sulk and die back. I look forward to seeing the very unusual flowers in the garden as opposed to plant catalogs



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So keep in mind, if you have wet or heavy rich soil , try clematis crispa.

Baking sun?? plant   any of the c. texenis hybrids

If you have average soil you can easily grow c. viorna and c. odoriba.

and if you successfully grow c. fusca, congrats to you!  Please fill me in on what it likes, I am all ears!!!






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heracleifolia group

now this is a very interesting bunch of clematis given how unlike the typical , or I should say  most well known varieties,look. Instead of thin twiney and grabby vines, the shrubby  heracleifolias have relatively  large leaves, thicker stems,  and a extremely lax way of growing ,

They have no modified petioles to climb with so you can either 1.) tie them onto a support 2.) tie the vines to each other to make it look like a shrub ( whence they will resemble a hydrangea bush) or 3.) let them do as they will and sprawl into the garden or better yet down over a wall.

Here in the burrow I do all three . When letting them find their own way into the garden though, i do find I need to help a little with some careful redirection given that they emerge and really get going after many of the herbaceous perennials are filled out and they need to have their position adjusted so they are either in the middle of or under the other plants and no one gets smothered by all that lovely foliage.

What makes growing this group of clematis so easy is that they are more like the herbaceous perennials in the garden and die back to the ground every winter making pruning a cinch. The leaves are untroubled by the browning and dying off that other clematis are notorious for, instead holding on to their lush green coloring all season long , and they tolerate dry conditions very well.

They bloom in the latter part of summer, August into September and their little white, purple or blueish bell or star shaped flowers ( reminiscent of hyacinths) are a welcome sight when the garden need a pick me up,

Clematis stans is one in this group that you need to grow from seed.  I have never it seen sold  as a plant , but the seeds are  easy to germinate and will flower either that year or at the latest in it’s second. The late-great Christopher Llyoyd famously described this clematis as “bearing flowers of a spitefully non contributory off-white skimmed milk coloring”. High praise indeed!  It just goes to reaffirm a lesson we all need to hear in this day, that you can adore many parts of a person  ( in this case bordering on worship) and still disagree with them on certain things. Given that c. stans is very variable in it’s flower color and fragrance , it is worth sowing a few to see what you get.

This one I started last spring is flowering and looks more lilac colored and is highly fragrant, reminiscent of lilies.DSC_0008 DSC_0006

One clematis in this group I recommend all the time is Mrs. Robert Brydon. (click name to read my plant profile )

Mrs. Robert Brydon, with it’s fancy name,  is more widely available than the other heracleifolias (I have even seen it at big box stores ) and has the same clean and green foliage as others in this group.




The  flowers grow on short stalks in clusters and are lovely both in bud and when open,

buds of Mrs. Robert Brydon

buds of Mrs. Robert Brydon


the further open the flowers get,  the more the stamens protrude  in a little mini firework display. This one wins a cuteness award.


The last clematis  in this group I grow is  it has petite  urn shaped flowers that are said to be highly fragrant, my plant has yet to bloom (although it looks beautiful and healthy) so I will leave you with a tease and a promise to post photo when it does for you to enjoy, a promise I wish could make you about the scent , maybe someday it will bloom on an Open Day.

next week we talk viornas including many of our natives, stay tuned!

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easy peasy clematis

I hear from many people at my talks that they find clematis to be tricky, fussy , or even impossible to grow. that may very well be true for some of the large flowered hybrids with their susceptibility to wilt and siren call they send out to every slug from here to Nova Scotia, but the more you know about this fascinating genus of plants  the better able you are to pick and choose the ones that flower generously and remain more or less trouble free in the garden .

For the next couple of weeks i am going to introduce you to some clematis that are as easy as pie to grow and maintain , and also bring some charm into the garden.

First a little background info. The genus clematis has quite a number of differing species , and these species hail from all over the globe and can be markedly different in their growth and growing requirements. One way growers use to simplify the what and how of each species and their hybrids  is to lump them into loose groups based on parentage.

The four groups I am going to talk about are all full of late season bloomers, with generally smaller flowers  massed on larger vines , they are the Tangutica group, the Heracleifolia Group, the Viorna Group and the Vitacella Group. One a week for four weeks, follow along!!!

This week we start with the Tanguitica group and three  of the easiest clematis varieties you will ever grow.

The Tanguita group holds clematis that have either c.tanguitica, c. orientalis, c.serratifolia, or c. tibetana as a parent, it is sometimes also called the Orientalis group. Many clematis in this group have yellow or orange-y yellow flowers, but also white, cream or even those that look brown, or some that are bi-colored. The clematis in this group also sport some pretty amazing seed heads and many of the vines can grow large enough to cover a shed or pergola.

C.tangutica ‘Bill MacKenzie’ was the first one I ever grew from this group. It can reach 25+ feet and has lovely foliage which never looks ratty  because it is very adapted to living in poor sandy soils and is quite tolerant of drought .I t will sulk in heavy or poorly drained soil so add grit and gravel if necessary in your neck of the woods. I have planted Bill under the one ( out of 20) remaining poplar trees in the yard where it happily has grown into the canopy of the tree and flowers from June to September. After the first few flower pass (usually in July) the vine starts to also show off the gorgeous large silky seed heads that persist until early winter . I press the foliage of this guy a lot for my Pressed Flower card workshops, it is quite fine, almost ferny.

seed heads of bill MAc

seed heads of bill MAc

foliage of Bill Mac

foliage of Bill Mac


This clematis blooms only growth it makes in the current year, so you could in fact cut it down to 12 inches or so in the late winter, but I chose to cut only a few vines back, and to staggered heights at that, to maintain some of the height into the tree and get flowers at many levels.

Clematis ‘My Angel’ is also a very vigorous plant and quite the charmer. I bought mine from Klehm’s Song Sparrow and am copying their description here because it is perfect (photos are mine)

Charming flowers are yellow on the inside and brushed with plum-red on the outside. Clematis My Angel® has plump, round buds that open to nodding flowers over a long bloom period. Each bloom has four showy tepals and is accented with a center of dark plum anthers. Flowers give way to fluffy silvery, seed heads.

my angel

my angel

DSC_0008 (3)

The only thing I will add is that my flowers tend to be the size of a dime , they are beyond adorable.

I word of caution, I have heard this baby will seed itself , but usually near the mama plant. haven’t had it happen here but good to know.

The third member of this group I am growing is new to me this year, and seriously, if you can’t grow this one you should maybe take up a new hobby.

‘Radar Love ‘ had solid yellow open bells and gorgeous seed heads, how do I know this so soon? Started from seed in April, my plants are already blooming and one has seeds too. 4 months from seed to blooming vine, and mind you, I  had almost 100% germination rate so  I actually ran out of locations to put them in the garden and  I left some in pots where they have been deliriously happy .

radar love

radar love

radar love

radar love

radar love seed head

radar love seed head


Doesn’t get easier than this, well, except maybe next week’s group, The Heracleifolias!


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cheap thrills

2017-02-07 23.13.14As the season goes on ( and boy is it ever a glorious one thanks to Mother Nature being generous with the water works)  each day I stroll around eagerly awaiting to see  what has come into bloom around the next corner. We are in prime summertime; coneflowers, black eyed susans, garden phlox, hydrangeas and many a treasured and sought after plant  ($$$$) are sure strutting their stuff,and while I love to see rare clematis and well grown roses,  if is the cheap thrills that get me the most.

There is such a sense of satisfaction knowing you can create a beautiful landscape on a shoestring budget if you just are a little prepared ahead of time in a few ways.

Fist and foremost buy seeds of things that are easy to both start from seed and save seed from when they are done blooming, things like morning glories, love in a puff vine, hyacinth bean vine, nasturtiums, zinnias, amaranth and cosmos. Dahlia tubers also fall under this heading even though it is a tuber instead of seed you save. It may be a teeny bit of work but worth every bit of  effort in the end when you can fill loads of containers and empty spaces in the garden for next to nothing. Almost all of my annual vines are now started from seed I have saved , initial cost was minimal, and now it is only my time that gets spent as I watch for w week or two and gather the seeds to store over winter.

Nasturtium seeds form quickly as the flowers fade and can be collected as soon as you see them big enough , and before the birds get to them.IMG_2187

Hyacinth bean forms cool electric purple pods and these get left on the vine until brown and then dry and then take the seeds out of the pod and store .DSC_0026

Love in a puff  halicacabum cardiospermum makes these cool puffs after flowering and the seeds are in them, but you can just store the puffs after they are brown

love in a puff

love in a puff

I use little glassine envelopes for all most but not all of my seeds. For things like amaranth and even zinnias you can just pop the whole flower head in a paper lunch bag to deal with later in the winter when you are bored and feel like separating the seeds from all the chaff. Just make sure they are dry before placing them in the bag. With the amaranth a quick vigorous shake of the bag in the spring will send the seeds to the bottom of the bag leaving the rest of the flower stalk intact and  you just take out and pitch  the stalk and pour out the seeds.
image image

I have several large containers that are filled using many of these saved seeds .the first key to success is a large pot + less watering+ greater germination and survival rates. Because i save way more seed than I could ever use, I sow heavily and then thin out the seedlings them later if necessary .

This pot has a mum and a sedum that live in it year round and then I pop in seeds after all chance of frost has passed. This year it was actually very late as I used hyacinth bean seeds which I never plant outside until June 1. I also add a single dahlia tuber in there and by early July the pot is full and fresh looking and will be flowering within  the month lasting through frost. Someone on my garden tour this June happened to be standing next to me and the pot when it was all just starting to grow , and commented  ”I see what you are doing here, how clever! ”

large pot with dahlia, mum, sedum, hyacinth bean vine

large pot with dahlia, mum, sedum, hyacinth bean vine

2017-02-07 23.15.37Another pot nearby gets morning glories every year and this year I added the hyacinth bean as well.Within a week with this heat (finally!) it will be outrageously full and blooming 2017-02-07 23.16.03

You can read more about my use of annual vines for late season interest here

The two large pots on the pool area are even easier. These are quite large and are made to hold the umbrellas. (you can see what I did here) . They are heavy and I actually never change the soil in them partially because of the cement , but mostly because the petunias that I planted in it  the first year they were made ( probably 6 years ago) seed readily  and come back for free. I will admit it takes time  for the seedlings to get to any reasonable size so the pots initially remained quite empty until the middle of July but then I started planting lettuce seed in them very early in the season, Now I grow lettuce in one of them , harvest lettuce all spring , and just as it is starting to get too warm for the  lettuce, the petunias are of a decent enough size to take over and the lettuce gets ripped out while they carry on until frost.IMG_2382

In the second one I actually get celosia to self seed as well, so i just pop in few seeds of nasturtiums and call it a day. this year the chipmunks planted sunflowers in there and although I do not like the look of it I will let them stay, cut the sunflowers for inside once they are flowering , and then move some of the other plants to fill in the gap. You may notice that the petunia growing in here is one of those “illegal ” orange ones. This is a very long but very interesting story you can read about here if you like in an article titled “How the transgenic petunia carnage of 2017 began”, but suffice it to say that petunias do not contain a gene for expressing the color orange so some wacky engineering was going on for them to exist. I actually bought one plant for  a dollar to tuck in this pot  very late in the season and I was very surprised to see it come back.




variegated nasturtium

variegated nasturtiums


Which brings me to my second way you need to be prepared, and that is learn what seedlings of your favorite annuals look like and be aware when weeding what you are pulling. Lots of annuals leave seeds that will happily overwinter in some years, sometimes they can get annoying  like Morning Glory sprouting all over the place  but many times it is delightful to find free plants to either leave growing  where they sprouted or lift and move elsewhere. This little nasturtium seeded itself here, IMG_2390and every petunia I grow was a self planted seedling.

Any way to save a few dollars helps and makes it so I can splurge on the cool new bulbs I have been eyeing!


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clematis as cut flowers

IMG_2232 IMG_2228It is not too often that I give a presentation on clematis when the garden is in full swing, but as luck would have it I  am headed out to Rockport to talk to a group there and so I have cut some flowers to bring for show and tell ;) IMG_2204 IMG_2218

If I were to make arrangements with any of these clematis,  I would most definitely cut long stems with multiple blooms  but for this talk single flowers will do.

Here is what I cut today:

Hagley Hybrid

Star River

Dr. Ruppel

Ville de Lyon


Catherine ClanWilliam

Betty Corning


Pink Mink

Recta ‘Serious B;ack’

c. mandshurica

polish Spirit

Elsa Spaeth

Triternata rubimarginata


Purpurea plena elegans

Comtesse de Bouchard

alba luxurians

foliage of Mrs. Robert Brydon

foliage of tanguitica Bill McKenzie

seed head from omishiro

and here are a few I like to for their usefulness  in vases

Let’s start with Star River. ( Zostarri) This clematis was bred by Wim Snoeijer from Holland. It has lovely two toned violet flowers that are actually quite beautiful from both front and behind, is an integrifolia ( herbaceous) hybrid that does not climb so is a set of long and untangled single stems with multiple flowers at the tips, and blooms easily for months.2017-01-30 23.23.28 2017-01-30 23.23.492017-01-30 23.32.23 All of these attributes make it the perfect candidate to cut and arrange with.  I adore this clematis in bud and flower both in a vase  and out in the garden, it’s only drawback is it really looks awful after the flowers start to go past. They fade to a dreadful color and I immediately deadhead them , but that is in a no way meant to dissuade you from planting it as deadheading is actually good for the plant will stimulate new growth and more flowers.

Rocuchi is great in arrangements for all of the above reasons and the buds are really cool too so a definite for textural as well as floral interest.DSC_0079


roguchi bud lower right

roguchi bud lower right

while it is nice to have lots of big colorful flowers, you need also filler and foliage too and clematis mandshirica is a great one for that. It is also an herbaceous form, so again, very easy to cut longer stems which are  act just like baby’s breath filling out  between flowers with a goes-with-everything-white froth.

The foliage of both the tanguita group and the herbaceaous heracliefolias could not be more different but both are wonderful to use when cutiing.

The heracleifolias ( like c. stans,c.  urticifiolia, and the one pictured her Mrs. Robert Brydon, ) grow upright and errect and the foliage  always perfect, never bug eaten or browned in the garden, They are also very large and highly textured, great for flower arranging

Mrs. RBry leaves under the yarrow

Mrs. RBry leaves under the yarrow

The tanguitcas on the other hand are long, ferny and wonderful to drape and let hang, you can see the leaves in the photos above

All of the plants in both these groups are quite large, so you can cut at will and not worry about loosing their presence in the garden.

We are due for another stormy and rainy day, our weather has been perfect for my garden . I am grateful that the sprinkler system is getting a much needed break after the drought last year, although without all the watering I gotta admit I am a little bored.


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clematis tour

DSC_0079this is a marvelous time for clematis, when the early guys are still trucking along and the late bloomers are just starting, makes for lots of flowers that’s for sure!

Elsa Spaeth is a favorite, in my top ten , and blooms start early and carry on for weeks. Only a handful of clemmies get planted more than once here and she is definitly one. The HUGE flowers, that deep color, the vigor of  the plant, all combine to make perfection.

elsa spaeth

elsa spaeth

Betty Corning s another on my top 10 list.I here back from people I have taught telling me how happy they are to have planted her. She is a show stopper because of the sheer volume of flowers at any one time, disease free foliage and 18 + weeks of bloom. AmazingDSC_0065 DSC_0125

Another vitacella, venosa violacea is just adorable but may get a new home give she is being swamped by other plants where she is

DSC_0113Odoriba is a cross between our natives crispa and viorna. It has cool wide recurving sepals  Delicate to look at, easy to grow.



Catherine Clanwilliam has sure taken it’s time getting going here but after a few year is showing a little more vigor. It is rosy pink throughout  and will twist the tiniest bit after opening

catherine clanwilliam

catherine clanwilliam

a tanguitica called ‘Bill McKenzie is currently blooming way above my head in a tree. It is extremely early this year. the seed heads on this one are fantastic


bill mckenzie

bill mckenzie

purpurea plena elegans is a very diminutive vitacella  that really needs to be grown on it’s own to appreciate. It lives here in a large container in the pool area.

pupurea plena elegans

pupurea plena elegans

Polish Spirit has the stamina and strength of my people. It blooms so long and so hard and the vines themselves are huge. I grow it here up a covered bench and over a gate into rugosa roses AND over my black fence  It is that wonderful!

polish spirit

polish spirit

DSC_0121 DSC_0082

etoille violet is another on my top ten list, it is a flowering  machine and can take quite a bit of shade. I grow it into a crabapple tree and up lattice on the north side of the houseDSC_0110 DSC_0084

this guy is clematis triternata rubromarginata  although it is far more dark purple than my other vine of this variety which is more on the reddish side and it has  green in the mid section instead of white.The flowers are very recurved and twisted like a mini-pinwheel.  It is very unusual but an up close and personal plant given it’s small and dark flowers which do not stand out from any distance.DSC_0062 DSC_0064

roguchi is a  reliable long bloomer that does not twine or climb. It’s buds are just as interesting as the opened flowers which are a very deep dramatic purple. Here it grows in a small raised bed under a maple next to and into a yellow foliaged arborvitae.



this one was sold to me as Snow Queen but I am sure it is Hagley Hybrid. It never fades to pale , instead remaining clearly pinky mauve with textured mid-ribs and  those dark anthersDSC_0086

speaking of dark anthers, this is Countess of Wessex  sporting some very dark anthers indeedDSC_0091

on the arbor with her is Huldine who has been in recovery mode for the last two seasons after consecutive rabbit attacks. The flowers are a little smaller than usual but much better than last years. Both grow into a very rambunctious rambling rose.DSC_0095

flueri is a very compact vine bred by Raymond Evision with  very deep dark coloring. This clematis is placed all wrong here, growing under a dark ninebark and barley visible to the world. It is on the to do list to move this next to something variegated and light so it can be seen by all.




These buds  and the one backward facing bloom below are from Burning Love (or Vitiwester’) which is a lovely  deep red  and has the added bonus of being crossed with a vitacella parent so it is disease resistant .


burning love

i am Lady Q is ever so dainty and delicate with a crisp white center and purple-pink edges. This weekend the pop up tent we were using for garden check- in on the tour went flying in the wind and took her obelisk down, but she weathered the storm quite well loosing only one of her vines.

I am Lady Q

I am Lady Q

Normally Dr.Rupell is one of my earliest bloomer, this year it is a bit behind but welcome all the sameDSC_0069

Star River has been performing quite nicely for many weeks now. I must say I do not care for the fading flowers on this one so have been regularly deadheading it.

star river

star river

Rosemoor is another dark beauty . Rosemoor used to grow here on a willow tutuer I made but last year I swapped it out for this white one and now she really pops


Comtesse de Bouchard is another on the top ten list, you will never regret growing this a stalwart plant , easy care, generous bloomer, just a delight

comtesse de bouchard

comtesse de bouchard

Last but not least are two herbaceous clematis. Arabella has been going strong for 4 weeks  , I may start a herbaceous top ten list just so I can add this beauty to it.



C. recta is in full bud and ready to become a froth of bloomDSC_0089

and two that are done blooming for now but showing off some funky see heads













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This weekend the  Garden in the Burrow was open to visitors on the  City Spaces Country Places garden tour to benefit Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston ,MA. Every time any gardener has visitors who are also gardeners it s always interesting to see which  plants get asked about ,and on consistently   there is one that surprises me every tour ; yellow loosestrife or lysimachia punctata.

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This plant from the primrose family  has been grown as an ornamental since Victorian times  and is a very long bloomer. Sometimes called whorled loosestrife because of the arrangement of the strikingly bright yellow flowers, it could just as easily be called the whorled thug, .

My original plants were lysimachia punctata‘ Alexander’ which is delightfully variegated and far less agressive than lysimachia vulgaris (which given good moist soil will take over just about any space very quickly.)

.Image result for loosestrife alexander

The spread  of ‘Alexander’ may have been slower, but like many variegated plants they started to revert back to all green ( green=more chlorophyll=stronger growth)  and although I tried to keep pulling the green shoots eventually I lost the battle in all but one small space. No matter though because just a few minutes during growing season pulling the growth where it is not wanted is all it needs to keep it in check. Be warned , any root pieces left in the ground will sprout into new plants so if you are trying to eradicate it permanently you work will be much more difficult and take more than one season.DSC_0037

where I let it remain in it’s all green leaved version is in front of a black wrought iron  fence where it fills out under   my collection of eucomis or pineapple lily  grown in pots and several very vibrant daylily varieties. Yellow loosestrife produces  no nectar but does offer lots of pollen to bees and flies . This loosestrife joins it’s family member , the purple leaved lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’ which I let spread all over the back 40 as it so easy care, rabbit proof and great for foliage in arrangements( and it gets just as much attention when in bloom).

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While i do not recommend adding either of these to small gardens , in mine they serve a purpose and are definitely eye catching. Every tour I get asked numerous times what the plant is , and I always honestly tell people it’s aggressive nature  so they are informed before they plant. I am sure it turns many away , but they can always enjoy it here.


The second most asked about plant is a little more uncommon and completely different in just about every way from the lossestrife. It is a plant that has undergone so many name changes i actually don’t know where it ended up finally but I bought it as Centaurea pulchra major and after a few shifts the Beth Chatto Gardens website lists it now as Rhaponticum centauroidesNo automatic alt text available.

. It is a lovely yet harmless thistle looking plant with gray jagged leaves and the flowers look very artichoke like except they are quite squishy. Every tour when they are in bloom I never fail to see someone standing there curiously squishing them then looking for a label. I know of no  nursery that regularly carries this plant , nor a reliable seed source to offer you. This year for the first time I am going to try to save and germinate some because the three I have are not enough.

“Thistle” is a sort of general garden term referring  plants that have jagged and often prickly leaves with flowers that have share that unique thistle form we are all too familiar with when we weed. I grow globe thistle ( echinops spcs) and sea holly (erygium spcs) and cardoon (cynara cardunculus)   which all have the same sort of leaves and curious thistle- like flowers and I would love to have more “thistles” scattered throughout the garden as a foil to the more typical flower forms. .




globe thistleEchinops in particular is a pollinator magnet and I have seen some cool cirsiums featured in Garden’s Illustrated magazine , my brain is spinning with thistle ideas and I think a new Pinterest board keeping track of them all is in order.

Back to the tour: we had about 175 visitors who all seemed to enjoy the various garden rooms , the unusual garden ornamentation, and of course the pool.

Curious that very rarely grown plants like the climbing asparagus, the climbing aconitum, the many herbaceous clematis, never get any love. It just goes to show you that  if used well any plant can be a show stopper in a garden and common doesn’t have to be boring.

Thanks for all who visited , your support for Tower Hill is appreciated  and I hope you left if a little inspriation to take back to your own gardens.

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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!

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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:)


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