Monthly Archives: March 2012

Happy Spring….Get Ready for Autumn

Happy Spring! So how should we celebrate the vernal equinox here in The Burrow???? hmmmm, I know….Let’s plan for autumn!

All too often I hear  gardeners( and the general public too ) complain that late summer and fall  hold in store  a sad garden that is past its prime , brown and dull. Well that is just poor planning my friend. And when, do you ask ,is the right time to gear up for August and September? Why, it’s March of course!

Right now you should be assesing any downtime you may have had last fall and looking through nursery lists and of course shopping  for plants to fill the voids.

In late springtime , when the soil is drier and workable, it will be the time to plant out all the lovely perennials that will make your fall garden an absolute joy…and you need to be prepared!

Luecanthemum species, or mums as we call them are the obvious first choice, BUT most nurseries will only sell  them in the fall, when they are in bloom, and when they will likely not survive transplanting. They also sell varieties that are not winter hardy here in the North East  and are doomed to death at hard frost.

The trick, my gardening friends, is to order them direct from a grower or catalogue , and plant them now giving them time to establish before winter. The great thing is that almost all of them….though planted as teeny tiny starts….will grow and bloom within their first year, causing excited utterances upon viewing in September. Faribault Growers in Minnesota has quite a lovely selection, and extremely reasonable prices, and the plants arrive healthy and every single one of them I have ordered and planted in spring has bloomed that fall and overwintered just fine. An added  bonus is that Faribault  gives in their catalogue description the expected weeks of bloom for each plant so you can order several  varieties to have blooming over many weeks. How great is that?

Lest you think I am abandoning my  favorite plant, now is the time you should also be scooping up as many clematis plants as you can afford to add lots of color to the fall garden.Plant them to grow through lilacs,  forsythia, hydrangeas, once blooming roses, hollies……really just about any shrub for a much needed infusion of drama on your green blobs shrubs in August and September. Here is a partial list of who was blooming in my garden late last year…..

Comtesse de Bouchard


Elsa Spaeth

Pope John Paul II

sweet autumn (terniflora)

vitacella ‘Betty Corning’

texensis ‘Gravetye Beauty’



.                                                                     .                                                                                           ‘Dr. Ruppel’


tanquitica’Bill McKenzie’ and two herbaceuos species, joiniana’Mrs Robert Brydon’ , and integrifolia ‘Rosea’ ( all with no photos , guess I got lazy)

Not bad for a dull fall garden huh?

Don’t forget roses either. Spring is the only time to order and plant bare root roses and last year I had  lots that carried the garden right into late October .The latest were the knockouts- double pink and red, the drift roses both’sweet’ and ‘pink’, the polyantha “The Fairy” and  the magic carpet roses

Ending right before them were the David Austin’Christopher Marlowe’, ‘Carefree Spirit’, Easy Elegance “Yellow Brick Road’, ”Seafoam’ and climbers “New Dawn’ and “Iceberg”…who says roses are only for June???

Other easy to grow plants for late summer/fall are caryopteris or blue mist shrub which has many new variegated and yellow leaved cultivars, the new cultivars of Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon) many of which are sterile  so no seeding issues, late season hydrangeas like h.paniculata ‘Limelight’ and it’s new dwarf cousin ‘Little Lime’ , turtle head or chelone galabra, tricyrtis or toad lillies, and Naked Ladies or lycoris squamigera.

One plant I pot up now and play the ” indoors-outdoors game”, ( which is when you lug pots inside the house when cold or frost threatens and leave them outside on sunny warm days, and is only fun for spying neighbors who get a kick out of your wackiness), is dahlias. This plant is waaaay underated for the long season of bloom it can give you. Started indoors and easier than any seed you will ever grow, the dahlia tubers sprout quickly and grow very fast and are blooming quite early on here and last until several frosts finally  kick them down. Wether or not you overwinter the tubers inside, they are still a bargain for the amount of blooms per plant per season and great for cutting and arranging.

Those are my faves….do you have any I need to add?

Let’s  get planning!  Spring is here!


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Love the first Bloom Day of the year!

It is so exciting to think we are on the cusp of a floral explosion around here. First the hammamelis (witch hazel) ,snowdrops  pussy willows and crocus, followed quickly by siberian squill,  daffodils and quince, next thing you know its early tulips ,hyacinth forsythia, spice bush (lindera)and flowering fruit trees.  Then the list expands rapidly….magnolia, azalea, euphorbias,moss phlox, violas ,iberis…… is all too much to think about because the garden is awake and calling loudly for its mother!!!!!!





I have lots and lots to do and have started with the myriad of lists that will grace my desk, the kitchen counter and table, and stuck via post-it-note to the cabinets. The bulkhead needs fixing and painting, we have three new  big projects in the works:

-a covered sitting area with fire pit and fountain in the pool area

-the inside of the shed ( including ,but not limited to, wall building, painting, shelving, and decorating)

-the front of the side yard will be lawn- free and tree- full hopefully by the end of spring

As for the screaming garden itself, I have yet to finish fall clean-up….which I know shocks you , and the bunnies are more than active given the warm weather so I have a lot of little cages to build to protect all that tastly new growth they love so much. There are layered shrubs to divide and replant, roses to transplant, and seeds to start.

As for the clematis, I have several more arriving for spring planting ( more on that later) and must cut back all the hard prune varieties including the sweet atumn (terniflora), tanguiticas, all the vitacellas ( Betty Corning Etoille Violette, Kermesina, Purpurea elegans), Comtesse de Bouchard, Gipsy Queen, Mrs. Robert Brydon, the texensis hybrids… eegads…I should make another list!

While I was speaking over the winter there was an emerging theme of  “Gardeners  who only have August Blooming Clematis” ( not a very catchy theme name but its early in the morning here). If you have clematis that bloom ONLY in August and they are not Sweet Autumn (terniflora or it’s new variety mandshirica) ,or  the groundcover c.joinana, chances are its is because you are pruning them when you shouldn’t be. There are many clematis that bloom early on  old wood, then again  in August or September on new woood. they are typically refered to as group 2.  I think many gardeners just always cut back their clematis routinely no matter what variety they are, and in doing so sacrifice what should be a long season of bloom.

Here in the Burrow, I cut back to about 8-12 inches ( leaving just a few leaf buds) all my Type 3 ( or hard prune) varieties and LEAVE THE REST ALONE! If you are really bothered by their appearance, trim them a little, taking away no more than 1/3 of their growth.  When I said this to  someone at a talk  I was giving, she expressed disbelief that the brown vine with shriveled up leaves she had could possibly turn into a viable plant and was inclined to ignore me. That makes me sad a.) because I hate to be ignored and b.) because that clematis will be beautiful in late May-early June if she just leaves it uncut.

Clematis are woody vines, not perennials. Think of those vines more like a lacecap hydrangea  who, unlike an annabelle hydrangea which can be mowed to the ground in the spring and flower later, will loose all its flower buds if you prune it in the spring.Put the pruners down, and walk away. Then email me to thank me in June when your lovely  Henryi, Elsa Spaeth, Crystal  Fountain, or whatever is putting on quite the show precisely at the time of your graduation party-first cookout-garden tour- or whatever else you have planned in late spring.

It is also Flower Show season, and although I have not been to the Boston one( which started yesterday) yet, I have been to Rhode Island and will be in Boston on Staurday and Sunday.

I am putting in the photos I took in RI, and here is my little mini review too…

I loved that most of the displays used spring flowers that would actually in real life be in bloom at around the same time. I get annoyed when I see displays that have summer blooming plants nestled next to the daffodils. Picky? Yes.

I love love love the window box with the clematis. YES you can plant them in containers and window boxes, there are so many available now in smaller sizes for just that reason. AND they will overwinter just fine if left there.

I got a kick out of the lawn speckled with dandelions. and that display ( even though I forgot to look at who did it) won hands down for me. In the pictures it is the one with the best looking forced  fothergilla I have ever seen ( it is loaded with bottle brushes!), the old lawn mower and the window boxes. It was all very real looking and do-able for any gardener and charming to say the least.

Happy Bloom Day! ( and thanks to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens)

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Well ,Hello winter!

After a very warm, very snow free winter…we finally got a nice long two day 10 inch snowstorm.It started last night, here  the first few inches fall around the corgi topiary The  real dogs are in their glory, they love to romp around in the snow.The kids are ecstatic with the first snow day of 2012…..AND…..

The rabbits are  pretty happy too, shamelessly hopping around and eating my plants. Why can’t they feel my hatred for them  radiating through the walls and flee in fear???

I am happy for the garden,  and enjoying the beauty of clean white snow covering everything especially since although it is on the wet and heavy side it does not seem to be too much for the shrubs and trees to bear. Check out the girls “Gardening Guy” snowman here Pumpkin is checking him out….. Tig is not crazy about being outside when the snow is actually falling, he squints his eyes and makes funny doggie facesI used my  snow day to pot up  a few succelents  into a new pretty blue pot ( baby toes fenestraria aurantiaca , borros tail sedum morganianum and mimicry plant pleiospilos nelili) and mount a living teardrop basket/ wreath on a board( that I still need to add some paint detail to) for hanging on the new shed when the warm weather gets here. I did a little knitting on my second thistle mitten, and also took inventory of my seeds and made a mental list for what I still need to order and a contrived sort of a plan as to when I will begin my indoor seed starting.  I hope to still get around to making cuttings from the scented geranium in the background of this photo before days end. All in all a great snow day!

Hope you had a great day too, and if it involved snow, a warm fire, projects ,people and pets you love, all the better!

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