hey February…I ain’t playing

Dear February,

You got it all wrong. All 28 (or29) days of you I have a plan, and it doesn’t involve the garden.

I call BS on the daffoldils sproutingDSC_0003

the lilac buds showing greenDSC_0010

the honeysuckle leafing out.DSC_0012

I am furious at fully open pussy willowsDSC_0004 DSC_0007

and almost missed the witch hazel bloom DSC_0019

and seriously never care that I don’t see the snowdrops because where they are planted they are covered with snow usually until MayDSC_0027

February, you need to embrace who you really are……snow, cold , and most importantly down time for those of us who garden intensely for so many of the other months of the year. I have things to knit, a stack of books to read, classes to plan and seeds yet to order. Heavy sweaters, hot cocoa, shoveling and dormancy. That is what I expect from you..Get it together,

I don’t need to be obsessed with all the snow and ice damage and certainly am not ready to face the fact that ALL the  young fruit trees were girdled by rabbits despite their tree guards. DSC_0007 (2)

You need to give me back my snow cover and my peace of mind that all is well out there at least for a little while longer.

Maybe March will give us what you so clearly could not be bothered to provide, I am Ok with that, I will will tell it how appreciative I am for stepping up to the plate.

February, I am very dissappointed in you, although I do love what you have done with the heatherDSC_0021

seasonal arranging

December is usually a pretty light work month for me  which is nice because I get to focus on other things. This past weekend I had got to cross an item off my bucket list when my sister, nieces, daughters and I hit NYC to see the  Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Show with the Rockettes  and we had a fantastic time.  We have also already decorated the house and tree and made our annual visit to Symphony Hall to see the Boston Pops, so I am well into the holiday spirit.

Tonight I will be speaking at the Bet Shalom Garden Club in Needham  about seasonal arranging, so it was time to get back to the life without sparkly dancers in long kick lines and peppy christmas music.

This time of year is probably the toughest time for seasonal arranging. It has been c-c-c-cold ( a few nights in the teens and single digits) and  three snow events  , with the most recent one giving us about 4 inches. Add to that  the stuff I force and grow inside is not yet ready and I find myself  hunting for the elusive spark of inspriation that will start the process of creativity.

I put on my boots and headed out to the garden, and immediately was reminded that nature does all the work for me and there was loads of beauty to work with. I cut

stems of red and yellow dogwood

these beautiful stems of Flamingo willow IMG_20161212_144416193

chamaecyparis and euonymous’ gold splash’IMG_20161212_144352163

branches of Harry Lauders Walking Stick (complete with mysterious animal hairs I really don’t want to think about)1481639281889-1924477952

the last few flowers on the daucus carrota ‘Dara’ from the pot I had thrown in the garage in November and some foliage from a “not dead yet” scented geraniumIMG_20161212_121656992

cardoon and santolinaIMG_20161212_121632586_HDR

blue spruceDSC_0006


stems of ilex vercilata ‘Wintergold’IMG_20161212_121716424

pinecones from  mugo pine

and some branches of a Korean boxwood called ‘Green Velvet’ that curiously get these lovely yellow edges,randomly as far as I can tell. No one seems to be able to define why . It is not all of the leaves on any plant, nor for that matter every plant, nor does it seem to have to do with stage of growth or temperature . Must be garden fairies at work I guess.IMG_20161212_144554647

Once inside I still felt I lacked a direction so I headed back out and stumbled upon a rose called ‘Carefree Spirit’ ( you may have heard me mention in one of my talks) that was sporting this amazing redish foliage , glossy and perfect despite the cold. Violia! IMG_20161212_144325110

DSC_0016Back inside I hit the office where overwintering plants live and cut a few stems of coleus and a few leaves from the Red Shield Hibiscus

IMG_20161212_144335859_HDRonce I had all the foliage ready , I headed out to the market and spent $4.99 0n a bunch of white alstromeria , and put it all together. I ended up keeping the winterberry out as I like the reds and golds alone IMG_20161212_164718272_HDRDSC_0038DSC_0032DSC_0037DSC_0025now I have the rest of the day until I leave for Needham to wrap presents while singing Christmas carols with my new friend Winston. He loves Christmas music! One more reason I believe I was meant to be his bestie !

the best fall garden ever…..inspiration

Now that we are well and truly in the thick of autumn, vibrant foliage, and cushion mums  abound….it is time to look at what others are doing to make their fall gardens so spectacular.

The interwebular connection gives you acces to all sorts of eye candy to help you figure out what to grow and how to grow it . Here are a few of my favorites.

Chanticleer: Although these two books about Chanticleer and their visionary garden designers should most definitely be on your shelf and be welll dog eared ,

the staff there also has  well managed social media including an instagram for the garden itself as well as a few from individual designers

chanticleer Instagram

Chris Fehlhaber

Austin Rae Elscheld

The fall garden there is nothing short of amazing and the accompanying accurate plant ID from knowledgeable plantspeople is a valuable thing indeed.

Others I follow that you are sure to love are Joseph Valentine ( of Juniper Hill Farm in NH), Kelly Norris, Page Dickey, Northwind Perennial Farm,  and really I could go on and on, but get on Instagram, follow the few I have listed here and then click through to their profile to see who THEY follow and then follow those people too. Then your daily scrolll through instagram will be filled with incredible inspiration to draw from,

Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening has a penchant for one particular fall interest plant, colchicums. You can check out her blog for loads of info on this underused  plant.

Another blog, May Dreams Gardens, hosts a monthly Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. if you read the post Carol puts up ,at the end of it will be links to MANY other bloggers who write a dedicated post on the 15th of each month detailing what is blooming in their gardens. A quick click on each link will tell you who is gardening  in a climate like yours and  you can make note of what you like.

Of course anything written by garden deity Piet Oudolf  will give you more information than you could ever use in designing a home garden.  He aslo has great social media presence and should be followed on any format he posts.

If you are itching to get out and about visit Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston Ma to see loads of well designed spaces and useful plants for multi season interest. Their Carey Award winners are all wood plants for our area that win that merit award based on just that.

Wave Hill, New York Botanial Garden, Coastal Maine Botanical  Garden, all worthy day or weekend trips this time of year , with notebook and camera in hand.

Note New York and Coastal Miane are BOTANICAL gardens while Tower Hill is just BOTANIC . This means nothing to our purpose, but I just find it confusing and kind of funny and wanted to point it out ;)

and of course, you always have me! You can search here for lots of photos and lists of what I grow for September through December interest, and if I ever forget to label just ask!!!!



the last pear

the last pear

DSC_0003 DSC_0004 DSC_0005

'Samba" mum

‘Samba” mum


sheffield mum

sheffield mum

DSC_0019 DSC_0024



the here and now

Late  September though October is probably my favorite time in the garden.

sure, I love the peonies and their brief yet bombacious bloom time is the stuff of my winter dreams.

and the first flush of roses…..just as dreamy  , and even better when they explode along with the bulk of the early clematis

But it is at this time of year, when things are winding down, that I find it so much easier to walk about in the gardens and just enjoy. I know I have at least until the end of  November to clean up the garden for winter , and other than bulbs there is usually very little planting to be done. If something looks ratty it is A-Ok to just cut it back or rip it out as the time for tours is over and no one will see the hole except me.

( just a pause here to wonder why we stop garden touring when many gardens still look so fantastic )

With  fewer plants left that have yet to flower, it is a treat to see buds and anticipate things yet to come.


Now is not the time  fret over slugs or fungus, now is not the time to plan , now is the time to just look and appreciate a season well grown.

coral amaranth

coral amaranth




lablab purpurea or hyacinth bean vinelablab purpurea or hyacinth bean vine


sedum and artemesia

sedum and artemesia


castor bean ( carmencita)

castor bean ( carmencita)


eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'

eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’


Coral Daisy mum

Coral Daisy mum


 allium senescens var glaucum

allium senescens var glaucum


dreadlocks amaranth

dreadlocks amaranth


a self seeded portulaca

a self seeded portulaca



Nora Leigh phlox

Nora Leigh phlox



clematis terniflora

clematis terniflora


sedum and turtlehead

sedum and turtlehead



a seedling hydrangea paniculata

a seedling hydrangea paniculata


viburnum plicatum f.tomentosum "summer snowflake'

viburnum plicatum f.tomentosum “summer snowflake’



heritage raspberries

heritage raspberries


heptacodium miconioides

heptacodium miconioides


salvia ' greggii'cold hardy pink'

salvia ‘ greggii’cold hardy pink’



daucus carrota and coral amaranth

daucus carrota and coral amaranth






magnolia virginiana seedheads

magnolia virginiana seedheads


dahlia 'Gingersnaap' and mina lobata

dahlia ‘Gingersnaap’ and mina lobata


platycodon gradiflora

platycodon gradiflora


DSC_0002 DSC_0005DSC_0001 DSC_0021 DSC_0026 DSC_0028 DSC_0033 DSC_0050 DSC_0053

the best fall garden ever…..berries and seedheads

There are many shrubs here I grow for their berries, not all have late season ineterst though. Viburnum, for evxample , has lovely berries, in some species berries appear early on the in summmer and some late, but ALL get eaten by the birds as soon as they ripen .I have seen viburnums planted ( usually en masse) that keep berries longer but here they are gone in a flash. therefore they do not qualify for this post.

Other berries and fruits need to go through frost and thaw cycles to become palatable for the birds to snack on ,some remain bitter and are eaten only when the birds  are very very hungry, and it is usually those that give us garden interest in the fall.

Reminds me of when I was little and my mother would go to the grocery store on Saturdays. All the good snacks, like fresh fruit, or  that little yogurt cup you tipped upside down and pierced the bottom with a fork so  the fruit on the bottom would become the topping like an ice cream sundae, would dissappear immediately and by Wednesday you were reduced to snacking on graham crackers . These berries are the graham crackers of the bird world.

Anyway here they are in no partiular order

Snowberry/Coral Berry: Symphoricarpos  (spcs) are deciduus shrubs that grow naturally all over the northern parts of the Us and Canada, The are not only very hardy, but they tolerate just about any conditions you can throw at’em. Moist woodland? check. Sunny and dry ? check. Dry shade ? check.Wherever they are  growing they will be smothered in tiny flowers that the beees love all summer, and the in the late summer and into fall they produce chubby little drupes or berries  that are eaten by mostly mammals as opposed to birds ( although grouse and pheasants eat them). Over time they will sucker and form a little thicket that most certainly does not require your attention, and you almost forget it is there until the berries appear. Breeders have been using this old fashioned back door shrub to cross and get plants that produce berries of brighter color and bigger size and the result is plants like Amethyst Coral Berry ( symphoricarpos x dorenbossii) and the yet to be relaesed Proud Berry Coal Berry (coming in 2017.)IMG_20160922_110414122

I have been growing Symphoricarpos albus ( white berries) here for many moons and i is often asked about on tours because people remember it from their grandmother’s garden yet never knew what it was or where to find it. I added Amethyst Coral Berry a few years ago  and have been pretty happy to use it in lots of fall floral arrangements since.DSC_0032 (2)

Next up is beauty berry, other wse know as callicarpa (spcs). I grow callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’ ( apparantly amethyst is a popular plant name now)  because I find the shrub itself to be a little more capable of fitting in my landscape than some of the larger ones. They can be sort of wild and rangy looking, so be warned.  The berries on Early Amethyst are smaller and in tight clusters, it also blooms a little earlier than the other species.   The berries are metallic purple and are virtually ignored unti after mid-winter. they look phenomenal covered in snow.cc


Last for berries  is a fall favorite, Ilex vercilliata ‘ Winter Gold’. This shrub I adore due to the fact that has the easy care of a holly, yet it’s berries are a goldy-orange that go perfectly well with all things autumn…….fading foliage, bronzy grasses, and pumpkin spice anything ;) . The red berried hollies are just fine, but I prefer those in winter and snow. This 5-8 ft shrub is another I never pay any mind to , even in this drought, until the berries appear and light up the back 40. Once the robins descend it will be stripped in a matter of hours, but that is usually aafter December or even into the new year.ccss ccsx

For seeds heads, I ALWAYS leave those from any rudbeckias for the goldfinches, and it is the picture of birds perching on them ,swaying and eating ,that make them valauble to the fall garden.


For clematis know this: a general rule is that the smaller the flower, the better the seed head.  Clematis tangutica  and orientalis ( let’s not get into a discussion of the taxonomy here harumph) , , in particular have great seed heads that persist after frost .

the seedheads of c. texwnsis 'Gravetye Beauty'

the seedheads of c. texwnsis ‘Gravetye Beauty’



flower of "Bill McKenzie'

flower of “Bill McKenzie’

seedhaeds of 'Bill Mckenzie'seedhaeds of ‘Bill Mckenzie’


c.'My Angel Flower'

c.’My Angel Flower’

Look for ‘Bill McKenzie’, ‘Helios’  and a favorite here,’My Angel’ .Keep in mind these are large vines with a penchant for seeding about in warmer climes,

ps remeber when I made an entire wreath of clematis seedheads?

You have many many more options of things to try for berries and seedheads: rose hips, acnanthus, mountain mint, ornamental grasses just to name a few. When you are planting any type of plant ,a little research into what they do AFTER they flower is always helpful when planning the best fall garden ever.

Next up is Places to Vsist for Inspiration for your BEST FALL GARDEN EVER

so i have this one apple

This has been a pretty difficult growing year . We are down 7 inches from our usual rain total and have had 12 days over 90 degrees so far this summer. There is now a mandatory water ban and many plants are suffering from the dry heat.The focus has been on triage watering and cutting back  things that can go dormant , which for while made me forget about “The great fruit crisis of 2016.”

Way back when the fruit trees were just budding up , we had two nights that the temps plummeted to 18 degrees. In my yard that meant cherry and peach blossoms were toast and, unusually, it also affected the apple and pear  trees. The big apple tree out front is a biennial bearer and had a bumper crop last year so the crop was expected to be on the smaller size, but you have to look way up into it to see the very few apples( less than 10) that are growing there,DSC_0003

and the pear nearby has only a couple dozen small dry pears. DSC_0004DSC_0003

The apple tree in the Rock Garden has only a  few apples that  are small and malformed ( I think from lack of water).

Of the 3 espalliered trees , only one has fruit, and even then it is just three apples.  Of those three , one looks entirely perfect and it is killing me watching it ripen.

The chipmunks, voles and rabbits prevent me  from ever enjoying the fruits of my labors. Off 6 blueberry bushes I ate maybe 4 blueberries,  from the bazillion strawberry plants I got not even one.( Next year they are beng moved to vertical planters). In the only good news , the raspberries which were  very late in flowering and are just starting to be pickable now and no critters bother them.  Last year at this time  all the espalliered fruit trees were hijacked by chipmunks right before I was ready to pick them .

My one perfect apple is on an espalliered tree that is visible to me from my seat on the couch in the living room. Whenever I get a chance to sit and knit or binge watch netflix ( did you see Stranger Things or Marco Polo??? You must!)   I have a direct sight line to it

view out the window from my seat on the couch

view out the window from my seat on the couch

.One perfect apple, so many threats. It might even be better if it was hidden out of sight so I could forget about it. Watching and waiting , worrying and wondering if and how I should protect it  is getting to me. It is my apple, my one perfect apple….. I may just pick it and eat it unripe.DSC_0006 The stress is giving me a stomach ache already so what do I have to loose?

the best fall garden ever….annuals

well,mostly….. but not really.

Annuals are a plant form that starts as a seed, grows roots and leaves, then flowers and fruits and dies , all in one year. many of the plants we grow here as ‘annuals’ are actually herbaceous perennials in the warmer parts of the world. We grow them through one season then usually compost them, BUT  with the knowledge  they are indeed non-hardy perennials we are  able to overwinter choice plants indoors and save $$.

A few that fall under this annual yet perennial heading that may be worth saving are  are petunias, coleus, and persian shield.

But let’s start with plants that are easy to grow from seed, fabtabulous bloomers, and  then headed for the compost bin.

Cosmos and zinnias make huge impacts in the late season garden Both are available in many heights and colors, both can be started from seed by even the most inexperienced grower, both flower profusely  and do so until frost if deadheaded routinely. Ths year I focused on many different cosmos and didn’t even grow any zinnias ( a decision I now regret)   . They cosmos though, are  getting going after some nice rain and are  just the perk the garden needed now.

Verbena bonariensis is a very tall see through plant with strong  stems and a profusion of small purple flowers .It works well when let to seed in between other plants , which it will relaibly do every year once you have planted it for the first time. Butterflies adore it,. I want to add that for some people this plant can reseed quite vigorously and down south it is actually escaping cultivation , but here is easy to thin and control. ( photo :Annies Annuals)

Verbena bonariensis

petunias often get looked down upon by experienced gardeners, but I say what’s not to like?

They bloom like crazy,

if they get leggy or even if you forget to water them , you can give them a haircut and they will spring back to life

very few pests bother them, here the rabbits leave them alone and only occaisionly I get tobacco worm caterpillars I need to pick off

if you don’t like the commercialized ones, there are many you can grow from seed. I have talked about petunia exserta here before. It is a lovely red that is hummingbird pollinated and again, super easy to start from seed

This year I have added some from the Sparkler seed mx and they are going like gangbustersIMG_20160803_094229

and every year I have many self sown pink ones that fill containers for me everywhere. They will tolerate quite a bit of cold and persist very very late into October.

Amaranth is another plant I start from seed and there are so many I try new ones every year.

This year I am growing tri-colored amaranth both in the ground and in containers20160805_110338

coral amaranth


and I also tried one called ‘Deadlocks” which is doing  horribly and I don’t know why.All the plants are very small and they look more like goofy  drumsticks. I am hoping they get going soon20160805_105845

Now onto ones you may want to  winter over.

For foliage you can’t beat coleus, and the varieties available  to us now are outstanding. After the season you can take cuttings to root in soil or water and overwinter , or   hack them back and grow them on indoors. I had one pruned into a tree form for years but lost it this winter .20160805_110251

Persian Shield or stobilanthes dyerianus is beautiful but can be pricey , so ,again, overwintering a cutting or two can save you lots. ( it is a very easy to grow houseplant as well)20160805_105715

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ is a garden and  houseplant that blooms in the fall and winter and really comes into it’s own as days get shorter. It has the added bonus of flowering in shade ( photo from pinterest)

caladium bicolor is a bulb often grown as an annual . Tthe emerging plant ,although it loves full sun, will perform very well as a foliage filler in almost full shade. It is planted in this container with nasturtiums and another bulb , eucomis. I bring the pot in and let it either go dormant or sometimes keep it leafed out depending on window space


Hypoestes phyllostachya is another lovely shade foliage plant that delivers a punch of color all through the growing season. There are many color variations out there, and this guy also will prform well as a houseplant

An interesting plant( although be aware the seeds are very poisionous) is castorbean  or ricinus communis . Where it is hardy it is a massive perennial shrub but here it is grown as an annual.
Super easy to start from seed, this dangerous baby will shoot to 9 feet with tropical plamate leaves and colored stems  . There are many purple and dark  leaved varieties available  and the fuzzy fruits are really cool too. It makes a very useul filler in the garden and will certainly elicit some response to both folaige and fruit, as well as the  story of how it is where the nuerotoxin ricin comes from20160805_110010

I am growing three different ones ths year , none are flowering yet so the second photo is from Annies Annuals and the cltvr is ‘New Zealand Purple’ Talk about drama!

i have read that it takes 3-4 seeds to kill a rabbit I just can’t figure out how to make them eat them lol

slavia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ is a non stop bloomer that the hummingbirds love and has quite the presence in the garden right through to frost. I have overwintered this successfully  inside as well

I think these days many gardeners dimiss  the use of annuals as beginner stuff and look past them to perennials and shrubs, but  we can add loads of interest to our garden by adding in a few non-hardy plants . You may be able to find some interesting choices at a nursery near you, or you can cheaply order seed from Plantword, Chilterns, ebay and amazon.com  to name just a few

For plants , a  source I ALWAYS reccomend is Annies Annuals who has very interesting choices and does a superb job at shipping. Their catalogue is fun to look at and always gets lots of post-it-notes added here during the winter.


the best fall garden ever….trees

Since i am so busy in the garden, this is a good week for the shortest of these posts, trees.

Trees for late season are easy in New England. So may of our deciduus trees having brilliant fall color and are a little bit of a no-brainer. BUT there are a select few we can plant that add something else besides foliage.

To top the list is heptacodium miconiodes, or seven- son- flower. This small tree  , which will grow 15-20 ft ,has beautiful smooth bark which exfoliates during the winter, a good reason to keep it limbed up for viewing, although you can grow it as a multi stemmed tree if you like. It has a nice branch structure , and in the late summer is absoutely smothered with white lightly scented star shaped  flowers, seven from each bud ,hence the name . After the petals drop,  what remains are very small fruits surrounded by cherry red calyces which most certainly add some drama to the garden.(photo from Bluestone Perennials)Buds each with seven white stars

It will live in full sun or dappled shade making garden placement easy.

Another small tree variety  to include is  disease resistant crabapples for their fruit display. A few favorites are ‘Tina’ which has very brightly colored fruit and stays very small ( under 10 ft), ‘Mrs. Robinson’ with it’s dark leaves and darker fruit, and’Prairie Fire’ which also has dark purple leaves, good fruit display and all have outstanding resistance to apple scab. Crabapples are highly ornamental from early spring bloom right through winter and  if you have room an allee of them would be spectacular. DSC_0024

For fall color  i will just add only my three top picks

amelanchiercanadensis ‘Autumn Brilliance’  or service berry, another fantastic small tree that offers  spring bloom, summer fruit  birds love , and intense red fall color on the leaves all while asking very little  in return. It is an easy to grow native , full sun to part shade and very resiliant in drought here.

although this ia a biggie-to 40 ft, nothing beats parrotia persica, which appears aflame in October especilally when  planted in our acidic soils.(photo from greatplantpickscom which is a suberb resource for discovering garden worthy plants.

Bookmark it for those boring rainy days,


and sweet gum, or liquidambar styraciflua, which can get large , but is a highlight of any garden when the colors change in cooler weather. It is the only one on the list I don’t ( yet) grow , but it is on my radar as a replacement for a tree we are taking down in the next few years

today we are getting the very first rain of July, it is beyond dry here, despite irrigation the ground throws up puffs  of dust every time I pull a weed  . Wroking in the garden  I remember  haunting  pictures of forlorn farmers in desolate barren landscapes , clouds of dust in the air. Having studied that era of our history in a class in college,those images have forever been seared into my memory, Draught is serious business, and it is scary to think how little control we have over it and other disasterous weather.

Happier thoughts!  Tommorow  is an Open Day here and I do love company, so stop by if you can.

open day

with no rainfall for weeks the garden seems a smaller ,lesser version of itself, but that is par for the course I guess. I had an Open Day already scheduled and am pretty fearless about them at this point , so the invite remains.

Blooming now are daylilys, liatris,, cosmos, rudbeckias and coneflowers ,gallardias , agastaches, dahlias and bee balms. Most of the clematis and remontant roses are on their mid-season break, although a few are flowering and some  of the annual vines have started doing their things. Native plants like  mountain mint and eryngium rattlesnake, summersweet and joe pye weed are in flower and my new collection of eucomis is just starting to throw out flowers .

A note about the back: After battling the bunnies and the lack of ample waterand poor soil  out behind the fence  I have started what will be a major overhaul in that garden . Moving plants right now is a terrible idea, so I have been doing it  anyway ( reallyit is for the greater good) .

Things like tall sedums just cannot withtand the constant rabbit assault,there used to be about 30 out there but now  the few that remain are caged and wll be relocated.

The siberian iris which is superb during draught and rabbit proof got completely mowed down by a family of voles trying to set up shop in the little raised bed back there. I sort  of like the bed visible so may move the iris toward the front.

The rock area toward the back had 5 peonies that have  been moved already and  I am working on a planting plan  and not yet ready to commit to anything. The soil all on that side needs some serious augmentation so in the fall all the plants will be lifted , compost added then whatever new desgn /planting will be installed. What will remain are the roses , the baptisia , and the hollies . The ferns, will be moved and a new small tree will be added.

Under the hydrangea on the juniper side I had geranium samobor , which was ignoredby varmints  for a long time, but earlier this spring was completely devoured, of 10 plants, one remains. It’s replacement will be a dwarf ladies mantle of which little seedlings have been installed that will take some time to mature.The white lillies  that once were a massive stand are down to two week stalks after red lily beetle invasion( I keep up with the ones near the house but often missed those out back) I am gong to try to save the two by moving them after they bloom and will let that area be taken over by the coreopsis  ( weed) that seems affected by nothing. After a sprinkler system glitch was discovered and fixed ,the area behind it is recovering and fingers crossed will bounce back to full steam once we get some real rain.

Anyway , you can check that all out and offer your kind and well intentioned  opinions if you like….or you can just enjoy the rest of the gardens while sipping a cold refreshing drink poolside under the gazebo.ooif all else fails there is always this…….

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!