the best fall garden ever…container plantings

Before I start with this weeks installation, can I just telll you ARGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

We have a few baby bunnies in the garden and they are destroying everything, So far an enitrie 4 ft.  mallow, two mint family plants ( a salvia and luecospermum) which is a bad sign, several epimediums, an entire astrantia , it is enough to make  a gal  want to give up and cry.

To add to the mayhem a mouse family wanted to move into a whiskey barrel planter so it chewed through the stem of a very large mexican sunflower. I killed one of the buggers , but know the rest are still there. Yet another family of chipmunks is out back jettisoning plant after  plant out of the places they want to burrow, and the weather has been hot with an ever present dessicating wind. Not one drop of rain has fallen, every storm passes us by. Watering is my life.

There, I vented and now I feel a little bit better knowing you may be feeling some of my pain.

Onward  to container plantings!

There are many ways to go about using containers in the garden. Here, I plant many pots  with things that need rabbit protection( not usually mints!), I plant a few with long blooming annuals, and a few are left to plant for fall interest.

Many magazines and books will direct you to pot up something for early season ( late spring and early summer) and then instruct you to take out the “tired looking” plants and re-pot up with mums etc for late season . Well, you know that is not where I am gonna go, it is very unlike me to follow the rules.

The pots are I am going to tell you about are cheap, easy and very natural looking…..and they are started in the earliest part of summer.

First off,  get  large pots, I am talking knee to thigh high and very wide. They will cost you a bit, but the time you will save watering is worth the investment. I use both self watering and regular pots depending on the location. these from Mayne are perfect.Mayne Fairfield 20-Inch x 20-Inch Patio Planter in Black

The pots you are planting are destined to hold only late season plants so don’t even think about putting early bloomers in them, there won’t be time or space.

I think a spring garden is pretty darn easy. So many shrubs and trees in these parts naturally bloom then, daffodils are beyond simple to grow, and many of our native spring ephemeral plants are in flower as well. With loads already going on in the garden, having a large pot or two that is basically empty  will hardly be noticed when glancing into the garden.

Now, get several packets of seeds ( I order mine online in the winter when I have time to really think about it) maybe a few late blooming plants like mums  bought in plugs ( which are small and cheap) peacock orchid bulbs and dahlia tubers and then scout the garden for late blooming or foliar interest plants you can steal a bit of.

Plant the dahlia tubers and any small plants and divisions first. This year I used a perennial  called Red Birds in a treee, and cardoon, both of which I started from seed under lights inside but you could buy small plants of both on ebay for a few dollars apiece and mums, asters and sedums.   You will  need to cater your selection for where the container is sited. Mine will be baking in the hot sun all day,  these plants can all tolerate heat drought very well ( with the exception of the mums).

Sedums of all types are great plants for containers , and many of them will tolerate a little shade too. If you grow any, the late spring is the perfect  time to go around to your plants and divide off little chunks of them and stick them in your  fall container. They will be huge before you know it.

Asters and mums  , are another perennial you can steal a piece off exisiting plants and stick in there, as well as ornamental grasses ( just use a soil knife to carve away a small segment near the edge of the clump) , hosta if you get it early enough so you won’t ruin the shape of the plant in the garden, lirope, japanese forest grass, really just look at what you have and try to use it. After you have the tubers and little plant sections in there, now add any seeds. I use nasturtiums which will fill out much earlier and help the container look good longer, tiger paw asters, tons of cosmos,species petunias, annual salvias, amaranth varieities, and usually an annual vine or two depending on the container.Now, tuck it in the garden and just remember to water it .

If you cover the bare soil with rice hulls AFTER the seeds have sprouted you will need to water much less.DSC_0001

By late July your container should be pretty full, and any annuals you planted will probably have started to flower. Viloia! Perfect fall containers for almost nothing money wise, and very little effort time wise.

Now, we move on to  one of the most important things I have gleaned from my stalking of all things Great Dixter: Back-up plants. As the season goes on , try to at least twice start some more seeds. I keep a tray of pots near the hose and in late June and the again in mid to late July  throw in some more seeds.  The garden tries it’s best to throw every curve ball it can to me to see how I handle it…..rabbits take down entire plants, things bloom and then die or never bloom at all, voles and chipmunks dig plants  up, a testy irrigation system refuses to water an entire area when no rain has fallen in weeks. Be prepared.

Just a few days ago I seeded  purple basil which is a stunning foliage plant, more amaranth, more cosmos, tucked in more nasturtiums seeds to those containers in which they are growing, and a few yellow hyacinth beans. The heat will get these babies huge in no time at all and they will await the latest disaster  that will dictate their new home.DSC_0002 DSC_0004

DSC_0003Now. let’s talk further benefits of starting late container gardens like this.

a.) if you put in more seeds than you need to ensure germination, any extras that sprout can be taken out of the container once they are big enough and planted in the garden or given away to friends. I have loads of coral amaranth in the gardens because I overseeded the pots .

b.) when frost threatens in October , your pots can be moved into a garage or shed if they are light  ( i use a small hand truck to move some bigger ones) or easily covered with frost cloth or even a sheet . Then you pop them back out where they will continue to thrive in the glorious autumn sun after other gardeners have given up.

c.) critters are easier to control. Chipmunks may try to dig in some pots but gravel on top can deter this, or I sometimes use a cloche for stuff I really would hate to lose to them. Rabbits can’t reach tasty treats ie your valuable plants, and slugs appear at a level that requires no bending to pick them off.

d.) if you have crappy soil  like I do , potting soil is much easier to grow many things in. For example, dahlias in pots here are flourishing, those planted in the ground get off to a much slower start.

e.) with pots you can grow things you may usually not be able to . For example, if you have a shady garden and a sunny driveway, pots are perfect for growing the summer flowers you dream of  ( just make sure no cars will hit them) Here it is really sunny and much of the shade involves competing with tree roots, so again, pots solve the problem, allowing me to grow things I normally can’t

f.) if I am going away, I can put all the pots stacked right next to the hose for whoever is watering for me. A little secret…..I often do this anyway so I can keep them watered easily during dry spells and only place them in the garden when I need to.

Since it is only July, this year pots are in their teenage years so to speak. The annual seedlings are awkward but filling out, the dahilas are just starting to flower, the mums are still quite small, but the sedums always look good.

In the big pot with the cardoon and Red Birds in a tree ( scrophularia macranta) everything is getting quite large and I went out to snap a few photos and caught this juvenille hummingbird hanging out and snacking. He was on happy camper.DSC_0006 DSC_0010 DSC_0011 DSC_0007 DSC_0009This container from last year is divisions of aster and sedum, self seeded verbena bonariensis and petunias

This one was planted in June and the coral amaranth has gotten huge , I will be cutting it for vases as time goes on, and the  daucus carrota and dahlia are still pretty small. By  September it will be overfull.DSC_0016This tall red tom pot has a single dahlia and both love in a puff and ipomea lobata or firecracker vine climbing the tripod in it. Once it gets going only frost will stop it.DSC_0018this is sedum with yet another vine, purple bell flowerDSC_0017

and yet another sedum, this time Purple Emporer , agastache and a just starting to bloom perennial mum. ( photo from 2015)DSC_0014This crazy container has two dahlias, tri-color amaranth, petunias,more daucus carrota, creeping jenny and a vine that has just started to grow up the birch branch I stuck in there. (excuse the craptastic photos , the light was bad when  I was trying to get them) the vine is a late blooming clematis, the dahlias are both reddish varities and by late August the creeping jenny will be draped down the front …it lives there permanently and I trim it back to stubs in the springtime.

DSC_0003 (2) DSC_0004 (2) There are so very many easy options to fill containers for late season interest that don’t involve pincushion mums from the store. Put your thinking cap on and get to it!

the best fall garden ever….long blooming plants

What fun it is that today we get to talk about long blooming plants. You have lots of choices regarding the plants you pick to grow, and a little time spent thinking about which ones get to live on your land can reap great rewards

When you go to the nursery to buy something, say a rose, you can choose one based on many factors; bloom time, fragrance, growth habit etc.

Now, we are going to talk about what are called remontant , or re-blooming roses when we talk about shrubs, but for today our focus is long blooming. So immediately you steer away from old fashioned once blooming roses, that are divine, but not the goal here, and you look for ones that may not be as voluptuous  or fragrant, but meet this criteria. It is hard to do , trust me. So many delights in front of you , yet I am asking you to narrow your search. And not just with roses , but with everything. Get it?

So we begin.

I adore honeysuckle, I have a few that I could stare a all day with lovely cream and white heavenly scented flowers. Sigh, I miss them already, why? because  they are done for the season. Then there is lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’ . The Major has smaller red  blossoms that lack any fragrance, but it comes into bloom in late May and I will still be cutting flowers from it in December. That is a long time my friends. So , for the criteria of long blooming? A winner and a great hummingbird plant as well.002 (7)

Now , since we were talking of them before, let’s pick a rose. You can knock the konockouts all you want, but for long blooming the double pink   wins above all others. It self cleans ( drops it own petals) and just keeps throwing out flower after flower after flower.No down time at all  Here it is in the SNOW!


I have profiled Verbena ‘Annie!’ here before.  Blooms and blooms and blooms save for the very few humid weeks in August when it may take a short break, then it is back at it until frost.

The clematis ”Betty Corning ‘ blooms here for a straight 18 weeks. Yes, I said 18 weeks. That is just incredible. No deadheading needed with this one either.DSC_0022

Blanket flowers, or gallardia, don’t start until summer is really here and the heat is on, but then they will go on even after the first few frosts take many other things out. I do trim these guys and cut off the spent flowers ocassionally so they don’t get too leggy, small price to pay for the weeks and weeks of flowers I’d say. It is pictured here with gentian.DSC_0026

The secong longest blooming clematis is ‘Roguchi’ .This one is non-climbing, and easy to grow in conatiners or in the ground and is a blooming machine.

c. roguchi

c. roguchi

Astrantia major and it’s many cultivars, , with it’s lovely bracts and umbel of small flowers will carry on all the way through summer and fall . It can be grown in shadier conditions and only asks for a little water for all the joy it gives back. (photo from


Most of the groundcover geraniums , often called cranesbills, get hacked back after bloom to prevent leggy yellow stems and leaves and encourage a small rebloom. Not geranium ‘Rozanne’. She just keeeps weaving through the garden , blooming and blooming , not a care in the world. Part sun is a-ok with them too.

Many botanic gardens have interns and staff that run tests of plants to determine garden performance. You can spend time searching around their websites to see the results . Chicago Botanic Garden did a study on garden phlox a few years ago and determind the following varieties to be very long blooming

phlox ‘Flieddertraum’ early Aug to Nov

p. ‘Empty Feelings’ early July to early Oct

p. ‘Frosted elegance’  mid July to early October

p. ‘Midnight Feelings’  early July to early Oct

p. ‘Shortwood’ mid July to early Oct
I don’t know about you, but I might hesitate to plant something named ‘Empty Feelings’, but am on board with the “Midnight Feelings ‘ for sure.

Dahlias, although they may be tender here, are certainly worth wintering over in the basement for the length of their bloom. Started in pots in the house, mine start to bloom by the end of June and will go non-stop until hard frostDSC_0002 (2)

i always make sure to grow a few  in decorative pots so they can be brought into the garage for the frst few frost. Often the weather is actually very nice in October save for a few spotty nights when good ol’jack visits .  If the pots are inside at night they will be spared and can enjoy Indian Summer still flowering.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of long bloomers, matter of fact it barely scratches the surface. Each and every plant has varieties that bloom for extended periods of time and are worth growing for that reason alone. When you have decided to plant something from an astillbe to a yarrow, take a little extra time to see if you can’t find information on cultivars that bloom longer and then add those to your mix. every second you spend doing so ( which is now unbelievably easy online and a great way to occupy a snow day)will pay off big time in your best fall garden ever.

Next week is Containers planted for late season interest


the best fall garden ever…annual vines

this week we get to some of my favorites plants, annual vines.

Annual vines are three things….cheap, easy, and glorious. For leass than the third of the cost of one perennial plant  you can buy a packet of annual vine seeds and grow many fantastic ground or trellis covering vines. That is quite the bargin.

I grow many  and change them up every year (which is  another great thing about them) but will focus on the ones that add the most to my late season garden

The first is by far the  biggest of the bunch, cobea scandens. Planted by seed this baby will get to at least 20 ft by late summer. It has little sticky tendrils that can grab onto anything, they even can climb vinyl siding with zero damage done when they are pulled off. Before i grew this I had read on the interweb  volumes of complaints railed against cobea scandens because it blooms very late if started by seed after frost. Well, you can start it indoors or a greenhouse if you have one, or you can quit your crabbing because…HELLLO! the late bloom is the point of the thing.

Most  years I grew the straight species, and it’s adorable ittle flowers that look like tiny tea cups on saucers, ( hence it’s common name cup and suacer vine) adorn the front of my garage for the better part of August-October. It is divine. This year I have the cltvr.’Alba’ and I am a little less than impressed with the flowers as they don’t stand out as much , although if you are close up they are great. The garage just needs a jolt of color …note for next year. You could actually overwinter this plant if you cut it back and bring it inside as it is a tender perennial not  technically an annual. I have one growing in morning shade/afternoon sun and one growing in  part shade all day into a birch tee.

DSC_0004 (2) DSC_0001 (3) DSC_0005 (3) DSC_0001 (4)

Hyacinth bean is another stunner with it’s lilac to white flowers and electric purple pods. This vine can be seed started directly in the ground after it is warm outside ( here June 1) and the heat will make it soar. I have used it in many places here and find the direct sown plants perform MUCH better than any I start early indoors. the foliage is lovely on this one as well. I must mention though, that is is a full sun plant.

hy2 hy

Morning glories get a bad rap, but with all the new varieties you can find on ebay, as well as the tried and true like Heavenly Blue  and Grandpa Ott, there is no reason not to include them in your garden. I find only the older ones will reseed , any I pay many $$ for a few seeds  never do. Some have nicier foliage than others ( picotee comes to mind) and some are just HUGE. Last year I grew Vega Star and that ting was a monster! With most varieties I would seed at least 4 or 5 vines in a space to get a good display, but this one a single plant will do.DSC_0010

Grandpa Ott

Grandpa Ott

Vega Star

Vega Star

vega star

vega star


Moon Flowers are anothe ipomea species ( related to morning glories) and are easy as pie, and the flowers are as big as one to boot. They are dreamy planted near any place you spend time at night  as they open then , although they also open on cloudy days too,mnfl

Rhodochiton astrosanguineum is an mouthful of a name for a very sweet plant with cool looking bell flowers ( common name: purple bell flower vine) that has the added attribute of liking a shady position. This year I have it growing in three places, all in containers to raise the flowers up to eyeball height.IMG_20160707_100814611


You can read an awful lot about annual vines on my blog, and I encourage you to plant as many as you can. When you think of how late they bloom, remind yourself that

a. they take up very little space in the ground so can be added amoung many other earleir bloomers and

b. late blooming is what we are after here.

How come no one ever complains about how early daffodils bloom????


and then yellow happens

and poof! one evening you are out for a little stroll in the garden and ,looking around you see it has all gone yellow.DSC_0037

Yellow and gold flowers prominently appear around every corner, yellow in the foliage is heighetnened by their glow.

Yellow , yellow , near something yellow, yellow new growth on something, yellow , yellow , yellow in the varieagation, yellow , yellow

it is the only color  that I can see , even though there are so may others, the yellow just takes center stage this time of year.

I am never sure how I feel about this “yellow phase” of the garden. I love clear yellows and buttery yellows, am not so much a fan of golden yellows.

unknown daylily

unknown daylily



Moonlight yarrow

Moonlight yarrow






Julia Child Rose

Julia Child Rose

Yellow Knockout Rose

Yellow Knockout Rose


five leaf aralia

five leaf aralia




loostrife' Fieworks'

loostrife’ Fieworks’



DSC_0011 DSC_0001 DSC_0016



DSC_0005 DSC_0006 DSC_0008 DSC_0010 DSC_0011After walking around for a while and marinating a bit on wether there was too much yellow, I did what any good gardener would….. I joined the partyDSC_0014

a little clematis tour

there are a few weeks here when the bloom of many clematis plants overlap. Some are just finishing, some just gathering steam, and all combining together to make the garden look fantasitic. Here are some shots of who is bringin’ it today.DSC_0006
ps..we got rain! It wasn’t a lot, but it did give me time to do other things instead of watering and that felt darn nice!

Star River opening

Star River opening



a very young ville de lyon

a very young ville de lyon

Polish SPirit on the new fence

Polish SPirit on the new fence

etoilee violette in crabapple tree

etoilee violette in crabapple tree

etoille violette

etoille violette

comtesse de bouchaud

comtesse de bouchaud

Betty corning

Betty corning

c. roguchi

c. roguchi

Betty Corning

Betty Corning

either Rosemoor or Niobe

either Rosemoor or Niobe

Polish Spirit on bench arbor

Polish Spirit on bench arbor

bud of integrifolia 'Rosea'

bud of integrifolia ‘Rosea’

Star River

Star River

Elsa Spaeth

Elsa Spaeth




Gravetye Beauty

Gravetye Beauty

sold to me as c. hexapetala but probably c.recta

sold to me as c. hexapetala but probably c.recta



herbaceous plants for the best fall garden

Ok , now for the fun part….PLANTS!!!

Today we will focus on only herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees will come later .

Most garden websites and magazines will throw at you the usual suspects fothe fall garden…..asters, mums, solidago, coneflower etc , and not that I do not like and grow these but let’s shake it up shall we?

Below is a list of some of my favorites, both old and new to try in your garden for late season interest. i can’t list them by favorites because i love them all. You may have to look harder to find these than your local nursery but they are all worth it. ( an aside …TELL your local nursery people the kinds of interesting plants you would like them to carry, maybe we can change the world!!)

Let’s start with a new favorite of the past few seasons….cardoon. Cardoon is techinically a vegeatable, and an annual but DO NOT LET THAT DISSUADE YOU FROM PLANTING MANY!!!!! You can start it very easily from seed  or some places sell little plants in the spring. The spiky fuzzy textured leaves with make a huge presence in the garden that is not to be missed. Here they never have flowered or made little artichoke like fruit, but they look fantastic until late December. yes, December. Beautiful foliage in December. Get it , plant it , love it.DSC_0023

Salvia is another  new great love of mine , (starting with the realization that the rabbits leave it alone )and after reading lots about it and having my eyes opened to the fact that so many more are hardy here than I thought, lots of them like shade ( are in fact woodland plants) and quite a few bloom very late in the year. Salvia glabrescens’Momobana’  is fantastic for a woodland setting, starts blooming here in October. Salvia nipponica has yellow varieagted foliage and yellow flowers, again in Fall(.Photos from Plant Delights Nursery, a must visit online ) You can score many great salvias from Flowers By The Sea . Their website is one of the best around for search-ability ( by zone, color, culture, etc) so you can find all the late blooming shade loving salvias that will grow in your zone in just a few clicks. The plants they ship are just FANTASTIC.

Hairless Japanese Woodland Sage for sale buy Salvia glabrescens 'Momobana'

Fuji Snow Japanese Sage for sale buy Salvia nipponica 'Fuji Snow'


Lobelia cardinallis; I never was brave enough  to try this plant as it is so very dry here and this guy usually likes moist soil, but I gave it a go and it has  actually done quite well. Lovely red flowers fresh for you in Aug-Sept (photo from Bluestone Perennials)

CARDINAL FLOWER,  An easy wildflower that needs moisture

Begonia grandis is a perfectly hardy begonia that will provide you many a compiment when it blooms in the fall ( photo from Pinterest with no source given)

Franz Hal is a bi-color daylily that is the last of it;s kind to get going here. Starts after all the others are finishing up. Perfect. Seen here with the non stop blooming potentilla020

Joe Pye weed was eupatorium now it is  eutrochium or argeratina or some other thing I forget , either way it toleates a wide range of conditions from wet to dry , sun to shade, and  new introductions like’Chocolate’ bloom very late indeed. As a bonus: butterflies love it!014 (4)

tricyrtis or toad lily make a nice addition to a planting under deciduos trees where maybe spring ephermals once prettied the place up before going dormant. They emerge late and show off their orchid like flowers mid summer to mid autumn.Star-shaped blossoms are nearly engulfed in deep purple spotting.

allium ozawa is an ornamental onion that never fails to delight both me and every bee for miles around in the Fall.allium ozawa and sedun

Corydalis lutea , again for shade , gives a much needed sunny infusion of yellow flowers in the late summer

anemone x hybrida, or fall anemone, ‘Honorie Jobert’ is just a smile waiting to happen when so much else has gone by. Plant very very many … very very happy


a few  sedums: october daphne which has cool foliage and blooms very late ( profile here) and Purple Emporer and Jose Aubergine which add much  needed foliar drama to the garden are

must haves. Jose grows compactly and never flops.sedum octoberdapne

Bradbury’s Monarda is a very early bloomer , but after you cut the seed heads off ( they look great through the better part of the summer) the foliage takes over as the star. It can take sun or shade and the color is just fantatic and NO MILDEW! ( it is a native btw) profile hereDSC_0003

any persecaria amplexicaulis , although ‘Firetail’ and ‘Alba’ are senations

persicara 'firetail'

Bush clover or lespedeza thungbergii is a plant I have grown and painfully miss for it’s froth of purple in fall. It gets sheared to nothing in the sprintime and blooms on new wood  it makes during the season, except here, The rabbits find it completely irresistable. No cage or fence idea I tried could protect this lovely thing so i gave up. if you don’t have them as bad as i do get this plant pronto.

Montauk Daisy or nipponanthemum nipponicum ( no,I did not make that up)  is a large woody plant, almost shrub size, that is covered in pretty daisies  Aug-Oct . Super easy to grow too


Gentain andrewsii is a cool blue for Fall and I like it paired with anything orange that will make it really stand out.gentian andrewsii

kirengeshoma koreana and palmata( yellow wax bells) both have lovely foliage and yellow flowers in the autumn. These plants need space, but if you have a moist wooded or shady area to let them roam then do so.

Lycoris, or surprise lily has foliage that emerges early then dies back to the ground and then SURPRISE! the flowers pop out if the groun on naked stems in late September to October. Only a few species are hardy here but definitely worth growing.

Chelone or turtle head  species are very likeable plants that will do fine in sun with enough moisture or leaf mould worked into the soil, but also dig the shade . The most commonly grown c. lyonii “Hot Lips” is just fime, but you can search out other leeser known varieties to impress your gardening friends

Clematis ‘Mrs. Robert Brydon’ has the very unique and un-clematis like trait of lovely large green leaves that remain unbothered by disease or drought. Mrs Brydon, like my gram and her meticulous hair-do and red lipstick ,  never fails to look perfect and I always wonder how she pulls it off. Add in the fact that she blooms in very late Aug/early Septmeber and she is just the ticket to a great show

leaves of robert bry

Aster latifolious ‘Lady in Black’ is one of very few asters growing here. It has dark foliage and small white flowers on archings stems, Very beautiful .

ater latifolius 'lady in black'

And I will add that I do love me a perennial mum , I have many, and they are all beauties . Favorites here include ‘Wil’s Wonderful’, ‘Copper penny’  ’Pink Centerpiece’ and pacifica. You can read about them here and here.

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 .


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!


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 !!!!

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