Monthly Archives: July 2012


July is the most two faced decietful underhanded double dealing month of the year. Every June 30th, I am in a good gardening place, usually quite pleased with the way things are going here. After all, the roses and peony  are in bloom, the clematis is at the height of the early bloom cycle, foliage is generally clean and whole and gardening feels like the relaxing hobby I romanticize it to be.

Then the calendar page flips….and so does my mood.

First the bugs descend; sawflies on the roses, ants everywhere tunneling and spreading weed seeds, beetles of very description attacking ornamentals and edibles without nary a thought given to the gardener who would like to enjoy them and may I add PLANTED them to begin with. Horn worms, caterpillars, leaf miners, you name it, they are here munching away.

My early mornings and evenings are spent circling the garden with what I refer to as my “Slug Cup of Death” which is a red plastic cup full of soapy water to drown the japanese beetles and slugs I handpick off the plants.

The bunnies are up to their tricks again as new litters crop up everywhere in this cruel month ( and cruel it will be to them as well if we find their burrows….we are over the cuteness ….we have seen the destruction… we will cull as needed to keep the population explosion in check.)  The skunks arrive digging for bugs , flinging plants out willy nilly as they forage and root around the garden beds.

Just to add to the feeling of despair, the wasps are out in full force. In this full-of-flowers garden the pollinators outnumber the humans about a billion to 1 and we all seem to live in harmony until the wasps move in. They are building nests in the patio furniture, behind the downspouts, in the empty birdhouses. The ground dwellers and diggers ( great black wasps and golden diggger wasps) have dug large holes in the entire front bed and walkway,  and there is hardly a place I can walk by without being warned by the sentries of the ground hornets to back off. July always brings the first of what will be many stings, but this year the first sting resulted in an unfortunate reaction that leaves me now needing an epi-pen so the next sting will not be my last. I have always let the wasps that were generally out of the way of traffic do as they please, especially the diggers  because they feed the grasshoppers ( yet another plague) to their young. But this year their numbers are very large and now I am allergic so I need to erradicate nests that are too close for comfort and I am not happy about it.

Moving on to the plants, the cold wet  extended spring started an avalanche of fungal spores , and plants that were just recovering from that  are now facing the effects of the very hot very dry weather that followed. Crunchy is the word of the day in these parts. Even with all the hand watering I did many things are still suffering.

Then , just when my days feel like one endless garden catstrophe after the next, we get a few rainstorms and things start to perk up, the beetles finish up their eating/mating frenzy and dissapear, the late summer bloomers start to shine, and I walk around here with a smile on my face and a song in my heart as I watch the butterflies and hummingbirds frolic amoung the blosssoms…, wait…that’s  not me…that was a TV commercial or a Disney movie flashback. Who am I kidding? I walk around here with maybe a hopeful glimpse at a beautiful flower, but knowing full well  there is a slug on it somewhere and that even though it feels much  better in The Burrow today than it did yesterday, nature is not done with me yet.

( July in photos…click to enlarge )


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Good things really do come in small packages


It has been so very hot and dry in these parts for the last few weeks that most of my time has been taken up with watering. I feel like the hose may actually become a permanant appendage it has been sitting in my hand for so many hours. Of course , after I water , the cursed weeds spring right up  and have to be pulled lest they take the precious water from the desired plants. In an effort save some of my sanity, I have also been transplanting things that needs lots of water to beds right near water sources , which in effect has made me loose more of it  as I try to keep the transplants watered until they settle in.

Needless to say, there has not been alot of picture taking or garden enjoyment here in the Burrow, but last night I got the chance to visit a wonderful garden in Quincy,MA tended to by fellow Master Gardener Paul Cook. He and his spouse John own a 1930′s era home on just a quarter acre that is absolutely packed with trees shrubs, perennials, tropicals, containers, bulbs, and the cutest two King Charles spaniels as a bonus.

They have done an incredible job carving many intimate spaces and cozy nooks all literally brimming with interesting plant material. I have to scoot back outside to move the hose again, so will leave you with pictures I took as the light was fading and myself and about 30 other MGs were enjoying a little piece of paradise.

After you look at what was blooming at Paul’s…head over to May Dreams Gardens to see what othe garden bloggers have in their July gardens.

As always thanks to Carol for hosting!

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Clematis vitacella

As I get ready for another summertime presentation on Clematis, I am struck by how much I rely on the smaller species, specifically the vitacellas, to carry me through the gardening year. Yes, those massive blooms from the large flowered hybrids sure are showy, but they come and they go and this year especially , given our cold wet spring and the amount of wilt they have suffered here, they have mostly been on the “go” side of that equation.

Not the vitacellas though. They are , as always keeping up their end of the bragain, in which I devote space, time, water and fertilizer to any given plant, and  said given plant gives me pretty flowers in return.

Clematis vitacella originated in the area of the world that is modern Italy, and if you think in that vein, it is so much fun to say… try it …..see? Pronunciation and fake italian accent aside, they are one of the easiest and floriforous clematis around. I have vitacella cultivars here that bloom up to 16 weeks non-stop! AND as far as pruning, they all get cut back hard to about 12 inches in late winter or early spring, and many of them will self prune ( meaning you will go out pruners in hand only to find the stems all broken off at just the right level….amazing!) Immediately they spring into action putting up inches and inches of growth before your very eyes, and start blomming and keep blooming until you are tired just looking at them.

The flowers are on the smaller side and are for the most part bell shaped, but the sheer volume of them makes up for that.

They also do not get wilt, and sport clean beautiful foliage all season long. they are everything I ask for in a plant.

In The Burrow I grow Alba Luxurians, Betty Corning, Purpurea plena elegans, Polish Spirit, Kermesina, Huldine, Etoille Violette, and Venosa Vilocea, but have plans to add many more.

Some of the other cultivars are Mdme. Julia Correvon, Flora Plena, Minuet, Emilia Plater, Black Prince, Abundance, I am Lady Q, Little Nell,Royal Velours, and Blue Angel.

I do not add videos of my own making here as a general rule , I have tried and am just not really great at making them, but I will share this link with you Vitacella Video. It is , of course, from Gardeners World in England and highlights a number of the cultivars I have listed. The woman in the video has a lovely british accent( which my son CJ says I should adopt so I will instantly sound  like a highly repected clematis speaker), and my love of hearing british people speak enables me to forgive her for saying clem-A-tis which is wrong no matter what your accent.

If people tell me they have no luck with clematis, I always tell them to plant a vitacella. If people ask me what clematis to try in the shade I also reccomend a vitacella. If people want an easy carefree plant ,a  vitacella. A long bloomer for your border? A vitacella. Get it????

Good….now plant it!

P>S if you attended my presentation at Elm Bank tonight I brought two patio clematis, flueri and cezanne and called them by each others names when I sent them around ……. mea culpa…..flueri is dark reddish purple and the light lilac-y colored on was cezzanne


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The English just do it better…


In my quest to transform what was once a large sandpit into a thriving healthy bursting at the brim voluptuous garden, I have come to realize my greatest resources for inspiration , plant suggestions, garden tools, and even gardening clothes are all based in the UK.  Here in the US there seems to be some sort of disconnect reagrding my ideals and requirements and what is available for information, inspiration and purchase.

Let me start where I always do,with  the rabbits. Here in our country  we have crappy worthless repellents , ugly hardware cloth, and basically useless traps. In England  they have these beautiful bamboo cloches to cover vulnerable seedlings, AND useful systemic treatments to make plants unpalatable. Sadly I have not been able to import either…..yet! Determination is my middle name ( well really it is Marie, but I like determination better) and I WILL find a way to get them  .

Moving on to tools, I have worked my way through a variety of edgers  and pruners, until I stumbled upon these made by a company in the UK. Not only are they beautiful and tools I would not mind leaving scattered about the garden like little works of art, but they are FUNCTIONAL!

The angle of the pruners makes  working with them a pleasure, and the edger…well that is plain magic I tell you. It cuts cleanly and easily through the sod leaving the perfect deep spearation between lawn and bed. I use to have  a stockpile of edgers in the garage….manual and power….. all terrible…hard to push through the ground and frustrating as hell…all place in the dumpster after this one arrived here . It is amazing that I should feel so happy when a tool actually does what it is supposed to do , but that is the curse of living in the USA. I showed it to neighbor who gardens almost as much as I do and she was in the car  in a heartbeat, on her  way to the only location in our area that carried them where she  bought their last one. Another neighbor chuckled when Bill offered to lend it to him after seeing him struggle with his, only to have him come back to return it saying he was absolutely floored at how well it worked and sorry he doubted Bill’s word.

Funniest part about it, the company that sells such an item has two websites, one where they sell these beautiful wonderful tools to the lucky people across the pond, and one where they offer a whole bunch of nuthin’ to those of us here in the states. That is just riduculous and condescending, and patronizing and makes me wonder if they are still mad about that whole revolution thing.

As far as information and inspiration  go, well ,we can name drop…Vita Sackville-West, Christopher Lloyd, Rosemary Verey, Gertrude Jeckyll, Helen Dillon ( Ireland counts as the UK ), Beth Chatto, Beverly Nichols, David Austin ( for roses and Mary Toomey for clematis , why even Prince Charles shows up on my Great English Gardeners/writers short list! Two publications The English Garden and Gardens Illustrated are on my must read list monthly, and get poured over, dog eared, and highlighted , then place on a bookshelf where they will be re-visted all over again when I am stumped on a garden design or feeling garden deprived in winter. Here in the states I  crave only Tovah Martin’s quirky and entertaining writing style and occassionally Valerie Easton, Suzy Bales  or Ken Druse for inspiration. All our other  writers seem to confuse preachy -organic-native-homesteading-mumbo jumbo with ornamental gardening. They are two quite disparate entities, and the former does nothing for me. I want to dream in flowers, live in flowers,  revel in flowers and count on my garden to provide  oodles of them for me to do so.

If TV is your thing BBC always has great INFORMATIONAL programming , and beautiful garden tour DVDs for you to get lost in when you can’t be in your garden. The closest thing we ever had here was Gardener’s Diary with Erica Glasener, but that got cancelled in favor of insta-makeover shows where the quick design matters more than the plants and how to grow them well. I think a better show might be a call back to one of the “gardens” made on  a show like Yard Crashers  (HGTV) so we can see just what happened to those poor helpless plants that I am sure never make it past week one .

Which brings me finally  to pretty clothes … try to find THIS is the US of A...Garden Girl clothes are everything a gardening gal could want and then some. Carhartt may be warm and functional, but pretty? I think not!

I have always been certain I was born in the wrong century. I long for a simpler time , where life was difficult but rewarding, and hard work ,honesty and family were respected ( I just happen to also like antibiotics and the telephone, so there is no going back for me!) , but lately I  feel as if maybe I was just born in the wrong country and a house just like Hidcote or Sissinghurst  with all their accompanying history  as well as the to die for gardens  may be just the ticket to happiness for me. Think I can convince Bill to move?

ps here are some garden glam shots :)


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