Monthly Archives: June 2016

seven sisters, or not

There is a rose that grows over the arbor headed to the back 40 here that is an both a puzzle  a royal pain, yet owns my heart .The puzzle:  It bothers me that I do not know it’s  correct name . The pain comes form the millions of thorns on its 20 ft long canes that sprout up in every adjacent shrub, plant and into the path as well aitning to snare the casual visitor and gardener alike. DSC_0039

It is a rambler, and for years I thought it may be the Seven Sisters Rose, but upon further research I have discovered that  Seven Sisters is a common name given to may unidentifiable ramblers and to the real deal has very distinct hairy leaves and a scent that mine lacks. It could be Dorothy Perkins, maybe, After getting mired in page after page of rose descriptions , I give up  but maybe someday a visitor here on this page or oto the actual garden may have the answer.

For now, I am going to return to calling it Grammy’s rose,which is our families common name for it , but I will in honor of its former name-in-my -head I give you seven reasons NOT to try this rose in your own garden,

1. It is a rambler, probably wichuranan, and grows 20+ feet in all directions. Currently, it is spread into two garden beds and completely blocking the pathway it marks.It is a  monster.

2.It is viciously thorny. Pruning it requires , truthfully, a plastic bubble around you and all your parts. It will rip your clothing, hook into your skin, and stick into  to your gloves when you grab pruned branches so deeply you almost want to just put the gloves  in the compost along with the thorns rather than try to free them. Even after it has been pruned and  sitting on the burn pile for a full year the thorns will still cause distress to the unwary person who picks them up.

3. It looks so dreamy with it’s mass of carmine bundles of flowers all dangling over the arch and path that you can’t wait to get up close, stick you nose in and smell….prepare for epic disappointment, it is scentless.

4.It gets black spot horrifically. I have tried over the years every method ever written about to stop BS on this rose, I have even cut it to the ground, removed every leaf from the area , took out the topsoil and mulch and replace it with new soil and mulch only to watch the BS spread like wildfire as soon a the canes reemerged. I don’t even try anymore I just ignore it as it certainly does not affect the vigor of this rose in any way

5. Some years the sheer weight of it on the arbor threatens to pull the whole thing  over during  bad storms , in others It suffers considerable dieback  and therefore must be pruned quite hard and we have already discussed the misery that accompanies that effort.

6. When it is done blooming , all seven million of the dead flowers remain firmly stuck on the canes in brown squishy ugly masses. This ,as it turns out ,is yet another time you need to suit up and prune. O!, the suffering

7.Despite all the care it requires, it blooms only once a year for maybe three weeks

So you might be wondering why I don’t shovel prune it and replace it with a lovely disease resistant and mannerly climber?100_0522

Well, it was my gram’s rose. She received it as a gift from her parents as either a wedding or housewarming gift, the story remains unclear. For the maybe 60 years it grew in front of her little house on High Street it was a source of pride for her as those who drove by ALWAYS commented on it when she saw them in the market, or at church or about town, Her children all knew of her attachment to it and were ever careful not to play football near it ( although seriously if they had ever touched it before they would not have given that a thought) and not to cut it when mowing around it. It did not live in a garden, just planted squarely in the center of the front lawn growing up and over a poor little white trellis of about 3 ft that groaned under the weight  and virtually disappeaared during bloom time.DSC_0065

In my lifetime, I only remember it being referred to as ‘Grammy’s rose”  , though it may have has another name before she was actually a grammy.065 (3)

I took cuttings from it when I was a complete novice gardener, and by some divine intervention , they rooted and now the rose lives here. For the record, other than the three  cuttings I took way back then ( one lives at my Aunt’s house) I have never successfully rooted it again.

A few years after I took the cuttings, I remember oh so very clearly the year my Uncle, up on a visit from Missouri, cut  grammy’s rose back citing the vicious tangle of thorns and branches that made every effort at mowing the lawn  an excercise in self-inflicted pain as well as a misguided belief that it would make the rose perform  better.. The anguish she felt when she found out it had been hacked to the ground  became the talk of every family gathering and persisted long after the actual act as the rose never bounced back. At first it developed Black Spot, then completely lost it’s will to take over the world , and finally  was removed . Sigh.DSC_0030

Yet it lives on here, and will continue to do so  in her memory. When it blooms so spectacularly in late June/early July  all is forgiven .


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the time is now ; how to have the best fall garden ( first in a series of 10)

the time is now to do many things that athough they may seem tedious , trust me, when you look back on this date from the glorious garden in September you will be glad you fit in a few minutes a day to carry them out.

Let’s start with the hardest chore  ( emotionally) of them all…. shearing.

I would venture to say the biggest contributor to a garden that looks tired and past it’s prime is old foliage. After a long season of bug attacks, slug infestations, drought and disease exposure, many plants have brown , dry or tattered leaves. This alone can make the garden look like the season is over even when we have a full three months to go! . Taking a careful assessment, both now and in the month of July, and cutting back plants that are looking ragged  can make a big impact.  It is soooo difficult to cut back fully grown plants and leave a temporary hole in the garden but it is all for the best so buck up and cut !

If I had to chose one chore that in a time presssed situation I would place high on the prioroty list it would be this. other things can wait as after this task is complete  you need time to get everything to grow back

Here are a few of the things I cut and the results and  reasoning behind the dratic measures

Perennial geraniums aka cranesbills and geranium macroryhzum : After they finish blooming they often  splay out and get very leggy, plus it is a pain to deadhead them. Instead, shear them back to the ground and for two weeks you will maybe regret it, but then miraculously they will shoot out fresh foliage that will last until frost. You may even get a second bloom if you are lucky.


Salvias I cut back hard after bloom as here they tend to get slug damage an d again, it is easier tahn deadheading

Catmint doesn’t even need to finish blooming for me to shear it back, the minute it spreads it’s lazy arms all over the other plants, it gets a hacking and again, fresh foliage follows and new flowers too.

If a clematis ( of the pruning group 2 or 3 varieties)  is showing a fungal diseas or extensive browning of the leaves it also gets cut to 12 inches or so. Dead and brown leaves do nothing for the plant anyway so no harm done to cut it down, Many clematis growers routinely cut back just about every clematis after bloom for plant health, although i would just stick to the mangy ones

In years of especially bad drought or slug damage I cut all daylily foliage back after bloom: result is  fresh new foliage for Fall that looks all nice and green. Othe victims could be kalmeris or Indian asters, hosta if dreadfully bad, pulmonarias, dianthus ( pinks)  candytuft,silver mound artemesia, bearded iris that is diseased or has borers, bee balm with any powdery mildew ,Lady’s Mantle  is a must do  as the new foliage is nothing short of divine ,and never forget trandescantias   (spiderworts ) as  they can look dreadful after blooming. All these  cutbacks need to happen pronto after blooming, don’t delay or the plant  will not have time to regroup and resprout for your August through November viewing pleasure.

A modified form of shearing is what is known in the UK as the Chelsea Chop. Named for  the timing ( late May is the Chelsea Flower Show)  it refers to the process of cutting late summer bloomesr back by a third or half to make bushier plants that flower  later in the season. You can do this to perennial mums, asters, joe pye weed, garden phlox, tall artemesia cultivars , heleniums, boltonia and chelone ( turtle head). I follow the major holidays and do a little chop on Memmorial Day, Father’s Day and the Fourth of July …NO LATER or you will loose bloom alltogether!

You can take this even further ( and I do ) by staggering the plants in a grouping. Say you have a large planting or even 3 or 4 tall garden phlox, cut one section in May, one in June, and one in July, and maybe leave one alone. You can even do this to stalks on the same plant. Now you have extended you bloom time over many weeks , often lasting very very late in the season. VIOLIA! Garden perfection.

here just the front few stalks of the phlox are getting trimmed. These will  stay shorter and bloom later than the others on the same plantDSC_0006 DSC_0005 DSC_0003

every time I cut a plant back it gets extra water and often ( especially with the clematis and anything that was cut back for health reasons) a dose of liquid feed or even a slow release fertilizer application. Shooting out a whole new set of leaves can take a lot out of a plant for sure so extra care is essential.

The second chore I try to make time for is deadheading. Although this task may prolong bloom times and stop the plant spending valuable energy in seed making, it is not as time essential as shearing  from which the plants need to regrow to fill their space.   A few things you may leave the seedheads if they are interesting ( another post on that is coming!) but as a general rule , dead brown and squishy rotting flowers are not so attractive.

Weeding is a pain but can make a huge differnce in the shape of a valued plant if they are being shaded  by an unwanted specimen. Water and nutrients are  not being competed for wether in a well weeded space.  Get your headphones on, find your groove and weed for your gardens sake.

Make a specific time that you  will rigidly adhere to  for a garden walkabout to catch little problems before they become insurmountable. Aim for at least two weekly walks with your un-rose colored glasses on to inspect  all garden subjects and make note of disease, pest and pruning problems.

Catching a few diseased leaves and removing them with of without a follow up of neem or another remedy may stave off whole plant disfiguremnet. Squishing of adult bugs and looking for  larval infestations, noticing aphids  or mites  and quickly using a hose on full force dilodging the evil critters  can mean foliage and flowers are preserved. Shrubs and trees can quickly cause too much shade and plants may get  leggy while they despertely reach for daylight, a littel judicious prunig would keep everyone happy .Walk and make note.

In very dry years make a triage list of things that will need hand watering to remain their goodlooking sleves. Some plants tolerate drought, some will bounce back, others will be done for the year if you let them get to the point of no return water wise. make a list, water those who you know will not recover first, others if and when you can.

Be vigilant about bugs and slugs. Clearly, no garden will or should be bug free, but things like the red lily beetle and slugs need to stay in check and eyes on the garden every few days will alert you to when action is needed. I am a huge fan a walking about with a large red solo cup full of soapy water to drown japanese beetles, slugs and other vicious herbivoires with many legs.DSC_0008

Next Friday in this series: my list of absolutely can’t live without herbaceous  plants for the late season garden!


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getting my mojo working for fall

in the past few weeks I have written and ditched several posts here. Sometimes it can be a challenge  to try to stay fresh and ineresting while also maintaining life  outside the garden.

In an effort to catapult myself out of the doldrums, i am going to be writing a series of posts that are actually part of one of my presentations called “The Best Fall Garden Ever “. The goal of the presenatation is to teach tips and tricks,from  plant selection to maintenance that will ensure your garden in August , September  and into October and November even is just as inviting and interesting as your early summer space. DSC_0014

In New england it is the greatest thing we can do for ourseves as gardeners to extend our season.

Each post will appear on  Friday, starting this one June 24  with  some June  chores that will help you out later on.

other topics will iclude:

annual vines

top longest blooming perennials ( sun and shade)

my top picks for can’t live without late season plants

container plants on the cheap that look amazing in the late season

my top picks for easy to grow annuals that lengthen the season

shrubs for autumn interest

trees that make Fall sparkle

hips, berries, seed pods and seed heads

Places to visit to see Fall Garden inspiration

and anything else i feel like jabbering on about.

I hope you follow along !!!!

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today’s adventure

IMG_20160621_125634the girls and I took a little trip today , and like anytime we spontaeously decide to take off and see garden or two we call  it an adventure. It sounds much more exciting that way , and plus it always involves stops for lunch or ice cream, or both ,and maybe a little shopping too if there is time.
Today’s adventure was to Elizabeth Park in Hartford CT. Elizabeth Park is just over 100 acres of lovely gardens icluding a very formal bedding garden ,  a perennial garden , lots of beautiful open space for recreation, and a beautiful rose garden as it’s pièces de résistance.  I have had this trip on my must do list, but rose gardens in New england peak in late June early July and that time of year is never particularly free for me. So i dream all winter of how I can possibly fit it in, and finallhy this year had time and made the trek.

We did, in fact ,stop to smell the roses, every variety. We also took pictures of the labels on those considered potential additions to The Burrow. Throughout the girls would delight in the color of fragrance of  a particular rose ( Faith leans toward the traditional  look of the floibundas and Erin toward the wild and crazy ramblers)  and say ” this one would be good” to which I would often respond ” we have that one. It became clear to me that although I think there are many roses here it is a case of the familiar “too many yet not enough “syndrome that strikes every garden.IMG_20160621_125233

IMG_20160621_125936093Some roses can be finicky plants and here those that are grow in mixed borders for the most part so if they are not behaving other flowers and foliage will cover their sins. Mostly I grow them to go out and pick for the house or carry around and sniff as I work.   There are also many easy care varieties here, like loads of the Drift Roses from the breeders of the ubiquitous Knockouts, and several knockouts in both pink and red, Magic Carpet roses, and a few from the Earth Kind list put out by Texas A&M.

But the fussier ones are often a little more difficult to chance upon as you stroll, you have to know where to look. I hesitate to add more when I take a second to think about the losses ( Ebb Tide, Baby Cheryl, two William Baffins, Lion’s Fairy Tale, Golden Celebration, 2 of three Christopher Marlowes, Yellow  brick Road, Sharif Asma, Coral Magic Carpet, Pink Home Run, Don Juan, Several Iceberg climbers, the list could go on and on). Some were lost to rabbits ,, some to weather, and a few, including my favorite that I can’t find a replacement for ,Kiss Me from Easy Elegance.  were lost to the fence/pool construction.

So the question remains ……add more  and deal with growing struggles and loss or stick with what is working ? The answer , as you could probably guess is add more!

i really like ordering from David Austin Roses , so will probably stick with them , As we speak the catalogue is on my desk and the post- its are ready to stick. I was really drawn to the wine/purple  colored flowers today so will try to any in those colors to my list,. I may also branch out to look for one that especially struck me today called  Easter Basket .It  is a floribunda bred by Meilland and supposedly widely commercilly available, It also gets high marks for performance from The New York Botanical Garden which is a no spray rose garden .easter basket

Tonight I took a walkabout when we got home with the camera to see what’s going on here rose-wise  and things are not too shabby.  There are many ( maybe a dozen or so) that are still in tight bud, but those that are blooming are looking A-OK.

all the rageDSC_0003 (2)DSC_0005DSC_0006DSC_0008white magic carpetrugosa albachristopher marlowenew dawnrosa de'le'heyjulia child??crown princess margeretaDSC_0023can't find the tag, quitness maybe?DSC_0026 (2)drift pinkDSC_0032DSC_0037


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open day

come for a visit! dd


This year the peonies are late and the clematis are early  so it seems prime time for an Open Day. Blooming today are salvias, wiegelas, lilacs, clematis, peonies, roses, honeysuckles, baptisias, mock orange, penstemon, dianthus, verbena, columbines, alliums, calycanthus, catmints, iris, geraniums, and a whole host of other stuff is ready to open any day.

The only part I would like to stretch a large paper bag over is the rock garden, which suffered it’s usual battle with the voles and then to add insult to injury  ,became the victim of a not so careful fence installer . Oh well, it is never going to be perfect until the day  cover it all in artificial turf and pavement lol.

If you need more info , drop me a  line using the contact button

there will be, as always, lemonade and cookies


just an FYI, I have another day scheduled July 30th, and may still do a September date this year, we will see!!!!

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