Monthly Archives: April 2014

Garden Open Days 2014

It is always with a slightly nervous feeling that I announce the days The Garden in the Burrow will be open for visiting. What about the weather? What if I don’t get everything done? What if things bloom late/early or not at all????? Yikes! Time to stop dwelling on the negative possibilities and pick the days. This year I am hoping to catch the end of lilac season and the start of the peonies in June, and then hit the full on crazy bloom time of late summer (the August  date will be announced in June)gt1

The Garden will be open here Sunday June 8th from 9-11:30 and then again  in the afternoon from 3:30  to 5:30. ( I have to teach a class that day so it will close from 12-3).

If you need directions please click on  Contact Me  above and I will email them to you. Also, please follow the blog a day or two before in case of bad weather or  some other unfortunate  circumstance causes me to have to change the date or time. You can always RSVP to me as well via the comments or the Contact Me and that way I will send an email to you if necessary.

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“Celebrating” Differences of Opinion in the Garden: Plant Profile of Forsythia?

Today, as I see yet another post on a garden blog  dissing forsythia, I feel it is time to jump in and stand up for what is to me one very useful workhorse plant.

Let me say to begin with, that I think forsythia gets it’s bad rap from a couple of things.

First, the insane pruning that some people subject it to . It is a naturally large and arching bush. Left to its own devices it will fill out nicely and cover some space . Pruned into a short squat hedge or round blob it looses all it natural grace and it will never  fill out as densly as boxwood or even privet which both make better hedge choices.

Secondly, it all comes down to the cultivar. Just like many other shrubs, the named varieties are often better than the species .The one I grow had long lost it’s tag , but it tops out at about 8 ft. and has a lovely shape and warm golden yellow flowers.  Forsythia came to be in my yard in a very interesting way. I was installing some large birch and pine trees out back and we had them delivered here. The nursery worker who was lugging them via dolly out back stopped to admire my new rock garden and we got to talking. I was telling him that we were planting the birches and pines out back to mimic the natural landscape around us and I was stuck trying to come up with an front of the woodland understory shrub that could handle the poor soil and  lack of irrigation and block the view to the neighbors . He suggested forsythia, and I went back to the nursery with him and bought them. Fifteen years later they are beautiful graceful shrubs that not only explode with color heralding spring, but tolerate the worst conditions on my property without dropping a leaf. Here you can see them just peeking out from the woods )003

Don’t get me wrong,I adore all other kinds of spring flowering shrubs and grow many including the lindera benzoin or spice bush which I often recommend to haters , ahem, people , as a forsythia alternative ( here they bloom at the same time) .005 They all have their place and they all fill an important role in the garden. Up close and personal, bushes like spirea ogon are cool to look at for their leaves , cornus mas has a lovely shape and looks stellar as both a backdrop and specimen plant, and viburnum carlessii and lonicera fragrantissima have to die for fragrance. But , planted at a distance and backed up by evergreens, nothing beats a line of forsythia exploding into what I like to call “spring YELL-ow”.

I know many of you are on the anti forsythia bandwagon. Even Henry Mitchell, the late Washington Post garden columnist whom I adored (and still reread his books annually), called the large installation of forsythia at Dunbarton Oaks  an “asinine feature”. Sure there are many more “sophisticated ” options to use, but I encourage you as gardeners to open your mind to see how a very common plant can be used very effectively  if  you plant the right cultivar  in the right location . ( Photo below from Bangor Times, yet another good placement!)

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Sometimes the Answer is in Right Your own Backyard … A Plant Profile

At the end of the gardening season last year I spent a number of hours clearing brambles  and cutting lower limbs of some of the trees out back to make one continuous path from the backyard  through the wooded area and back out to the street on the opposite side of the yard. I also had to rake and level mounds of composted grass clippings and sod we dug out when making the flower beds.

After all the leveling and clearing Bill and I put down a deep layer of shredded leaves on the path to keep the weeds down , and now you can walk from one side of the yard to the other and when you step out onto the sidewalk see a little garden area that has been there forever but never gets any attention because of it’s isolation.

Although the path makes me happy, it also presented the problem of deciding what to plant in the dry shady areas under the trees in the areas that now line the path.


I have been pondering lots of solutions, and most of them bring me back to the same issue: the rabbits. Any plant left to fend for itself back there will certainly be foraged incessantly .Also,  dry shade, or rather just shade gardening in general ,is way out of my league as far as plant knowledge. Of course  I know what the horticulture writers suggest and what they show in books and magazines, but I have no direct experience with those plants and no way of knowing which of them Peter cottontail and company will be thrilled to have for dinner. A poor palnt decision could end up costly both in terms of work and money.

I considered epimediums, which up until last year were not browsed by the bunnies, but then late in the season the few I had were eaten to the ground.

I tried christmas ferns (polystichum acrostichoides) in an area near there before….instant bunny lunch.

Hucheras, a favorite rabbit  snack. wouldn’t last a day.

Solomon’s seal (polygonatum) is not browsed by bunnies but  the red  lily leaf beetles eat it

Once I started considering plants I consider ugly and rangy like cottoneaster and mahonia I knew I was in trouble.

I asked around to some gardener friends ,and after a few opinions was considering hay scented ferns (which they will not eat and thrives in dry shade )even knowing full well how aggressive it is and in a year or two from now it will have invaded my whole yard and I will curse the day I invited it here .

Then  in a moment that in my mind’s eye  I saw as a giant light bulb appearing over my head, it occurred to me that the answer was right here in my backyard all along: geranium macrorrhizum.

Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Bevan’s Variety or Bigroot geranium ,’ is a plant I have grown here for quite some time. It has fuzzy leaves that form a very dense mat of neat foliage and is a veritable weed- proof mat. The foliage is highly scented, but like what I can not explain. I neither like nor dislike the fragrance, but I think the bunnies have a firm aversion to it as never, not even once, has a leave been so much as nibbled. It spreads out in a very mannerly fashion and is easy to divide and transplant when you want another little colony of it. In the late spring it will be covered in sweet little pink flowers.  In the fall the foliage turns color aging to a glowing red. The leaves also  remains on the plant through the winter and it just needs a little ruff and fluff to be at it’s best come springtime.

The reason it never dawned on me that this would be the perfect plant for my new path is because everywhere I grow it here is in the full sun, but it will perform equally as well in shadier locations It is truly a very remarkable and adaptable plant !  As an added bonus I can use divisions from areas it already is growing here so it will be free!

It makes me a little sad that this oh-so-useful plant did not spring to mind immediately , and even more sad to realize that although many thousands of photos have been taken in this garden, I could only find one of this little workhorse plant. 055


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