Monthly Archives: April 2013

A few proud moments

I think the reasons we garden are as numerous as the people who garden. Everyone has their own reason to start cultivating their little piece of the world , but it is what happens after we start that determines whether we go one. Nothing succeeds  like success and each victory, from the first bloom on a tricky clematis vine, to the satisfaction of cooking dinner with the veggies from your own veggie plot pushes onward to the next challenge .

Lately, my challenges have not been positive ones like trying  new plants with zone pushing limits, or growing 6 months of fresh lettuce, but instead negative ones like how to end up having ANY plants at all given the bunny population and how to not give in to the deep desire to throw in the trowel and pave the whole thing instead.

Two things have been stopping me from an acre of black asphalt., the first is my new wealth of feathered friends. It may take a lot of imagination to those of you who live where many have lived before, but here in The Burrow, the entire 100 acres around us had no houses, no farms, heck no grass, no trees, no wildlife at all ( not even ants) for the eons since the last ice age. Once the houses were put in it became my goal to one day be standing in my yard listening to birdsong which you never realize you miss until you actually live where silence of the really silent kind abounds. My gardens were planned with that in mind so we have lots of  evergreen shrub cover , a few brush piles, food aplenty and water to make the perfect habitat. Slowly ,over the 16 years we have been here ,the birds have arrived, starting with the usual suspects of blue jays and cardinals and expanding until we are now hosting well over 30 species of birds including the arrival last year of redwinged blackbirds and this year of pine siskins. Now it gets crazy loud around here, and sometimes I rue the day I invited them here, but there is always some fascinating thing to learn  that makes me forget I am now awake every day at 4:30 am.

Last week I was rudely jarred from sleep by what were clearly three redwinged blackbirds in the willows surrounded by a flock of what turned out to be the female of the species. I did a little research and found  out  the males attract a harem of up to 12 females and as any of you who have spent time at a home dem party or a garden club meeting, that many females together= lots of cackling. Given my experience with cardinals and mourning doves who have just the one significant other, frankly I was astounded to discover the whole menage a douze thing.

Redwinged blackbird habitat is usually marshes or ponds where they can be found perched on cattails when they  wake up the neighbors up at 4 . I am still very unsure what has lured them here, although there is a small pond nearby. If you are ever curious about birds and their habitats, calls and migration, birdnote.org is a great place to start learning002

The second thing that is keeping me gardening are a few marginal success stories in the bunny/critter department. I am using  commercial growers tubes tubearound the clematis to protect the bunny accessible parts , and they work remarkably well, and after waking one morning last spring to half my tulip bulbs freshly dug out I installed this wire fencing around the garden in the pool area.001 This spring I got to fully enjoy my “flaming purisima’ tulips without worry. Everything else in that garden including  the asters ( leaving them the only asters remaining here in the ground) was also protected.( Pause for applause and back-patting). I still miss the old pre-bunny days, until I remember that they were also the pre-bird days and the  tree-with -skin- instead-of-bark days too.

Just in case you were wondering, the owl in the photo does SQUAT ( see post here ) to deter anything , it just scares my dog and I kind of got used to it sitting there so I never removed it.

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A plant profile …. Spicebush

..or more accuratley a shrub profile…It is not often that I pick out one plant from my garden and give it it’s own special post ( unless it is a clematis of course) ,but  after a busy week speaking including two lectures that were all about shrubs added to the fact that the forsythia is in bloom here there end EVERYWHERE I though this one deserved a calling out.

The shrub is Lindera benzoin, or spicebush as it is commonly called ,and it is a real winner in the border. It’s attributes are many, starting with the fact that it is native to the east coast and thus not on any invasive plant list

- it is perfectly happy in light shade( at the edge of a woodland garden for instance)

-it is perfectly happy in the full sun  ( my garden for instance)  where it will grow dense and rounded and have the best fall color

-and perfectly happy in the full shade although there  it may grow with a more  open spreading habit .

-it grows to about 6-10 feet and rarely requires pruning

As if that were not enough, it has vibrant yellow-green flowers that emerge before it leafs out and approximately the same time as that ubiquitous harbinger of spring  ,forsythia, but the shrub itself is far more attractive in form and thankfully I have yet to witness any ridiculous pruning to it as  the poor maligned forsythia is subjected to. Some say the name comes from the spicy aroma released when the stems are bruised, some say the smell is from crushed leaves. I struggle to find a scent strong enough from either to warrant the name, but no matter, it has so much else going for it.019

Wait, there is more!  The leaves are a lovely bright shade of green  all season long , then turn a buttery yellow color in the fall.

As if that were not enough, if planted in pairs ( a male and a female as spicebush is  dioecious) the female will produce red berries in the falllinberry

and last but not least, my favorite part, the Spicebush is an important  food source for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly caterpillar. For the uninitiated, the  aforementioned caterpillar is one of the great surprises in the garden . Open any curled leaf on a lindera in the summer and you are likely to see “staring ” back at you the back end of a very cool caterpillar disguised with two large “eyes” to fend off predators. IMG_20120903_143240

So much fun to show off to garden visitors of all ages! Followed promptly by, what else?  Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies! spsw

For some reason this shrub has found it difficult to get promoted in commerce, but it is worth seeking out. I have noticed it in a few smaller nurseries as of late that are carrying a line of plants called American Beauties Natives, but any large nursery will probably carry it as well.

P.s. did you hear me say ” a harbinger of spring”  given our lackthereof in these parts , I  that deserves repeating dontcha think?

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Finding the good

Here in Massachusetts an horror story is unfolding that is not only frightening, but achingly sad. Starting with disenfranchised young people who feel the only recourse they have in this world is horrific violence and ending with that very thing by way of bombs, guns ,death and mayhem, the whole story is heartbreaking. I am heavy hearted for those who lost loved ones in a senseless tragedy, I am deeply concerned for all the law enforcement personnel  who remain in harms way, I am unbearably sad for a world where any event like this could unfold.

Yet, there is always good in the world. I was reminded of this over and over again as I saw those who ran to help the victims, those who have rallied to support the families affected, and those who are working to catch the killers. Good people, there are always good people.

I was headed out to speak this morning, and feeling like a garden lecture was exactly what no one wanted to hear as the news of more shooting and death was hitting the airwaves.  While struggling with how to present something so frivolous as garden design  is such a serious moment I realized that  had a technical glitch and the show may not, in fact ,go on. In the next few minutes I was reminded as I was offered help above and beyond what I imagined that there are so very very many good people in this world and I count myself lucky to get to meet them every time I step out the door.  Small beans compared to those who are suffering the consequences of the last week, but a bright light to me all the same.

This small act of kindness made me realize that these people and many more like them  are the ones  who will step up in the coming weeks to offer help to those in the Boston bombings, because it is who they are and how they roll.  The kind of people who honestly care, who  will go the extra mile to help those in need, and will put others before themselves. They far outnumber the few who place their own personal agenda over the lives of others and they restore our faith in  goodness , compassion, and  humanity.

and that, my friends, is a super nova of brightness on a very dark day.

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is less really more ?

Often during workshops or lectures on design I will stress the well known adage that sometimes less is more. This is certainly true when as a gardener  you find yourself trying to squash 6 more plants in a space that is quite clearly full and WAS well designed , and now it will look all the worse for the additions that will mess up any sense of  flow or color or spacing and clearly indicate you are a plant collector who has been out on a binge buying plants that have no intended place in your garden.

Less is also more when I am teaching the art of making pressed flower designs, as the beauty is in the simplicity . Trying to jam in too many colors or textures results in a mess and often when participants are staring at their design wondering what went wrong and I speak the mantra of EDIT EDIT EDIT, they realize their original design thought process was everything they had hoped it would be, they just didn’t know when to stop adding flowers. Again, less is more.

Today however, on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, less is , well, less. So very many inches of snow this winter combined with cold spring days with little or no sun have left us with little or nothing to look at  in the garden . Snowdrops ( galanthus spcs) are blooming now, maybe they were before this week but the garden was inaccessible so who knew?004

The Siberian squill has just exploded into bloom and is covering the Dogs Garden with its sweet little bluish colored flowers.001

I have planted a few pansies tentatively ,knowing out temps will still plummet some nights and they may have to be replaced,005006

 

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.and the chionodoxa008 is just starting to show a smidgen of color promising to bloom soon.

That’s it. No more. The end.

There is hope though, as the weather forecast looks promising and fat buds are swelling on the magnolia, forsythia, lindera, amelanchier, cherries, lilacs ( the straight species) , daffodils, hyacinth, tulips and oh so many more plants out there. Then , gratefully, MORE will be more :)

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On the Move

Heading out tonight to speak on Easy Care Roses. Nothing is associated  with the cultivated garden more than a rose, and planting disease resistant own root hardy choices is the way to go for sustainable gardening. Roses that require no chemical  spraying, extra watering or pruning are also easy on your wallet and back, and a little forethought before planting just any ole rose will pay you back in flowers for years to come.

A few of the roses I recommend for here in New england are any in the Kordes Fairy Tale series  including this one clled Lion’s Fairy Tale….dreamy , no?020 (3)

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.The double pink and yellow Knockouts from breeder William Radler ( bred from the dog rose) …both slightly fragrant and EXTREMELY  long blooming roses

and All the Rage from the breeder Ping Lim and the folks at Easy Elegance Roses, a true garden performer.allthOr any from the Griffith Buck “Carefree ” series like Carefree Spirit  . 027 (2)… oh I need to stop daydreaming about roses and get to work !

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