Monday, November 24, 2014


Not to get too personal, but certain members of my family have a hoarding issue. Well, one in particular. So, yesterday, when I saw an apple caught up high in the canes of climbing rose, I figured that our family hoarder had just parked a piece of fruit so that he could enjoy a snack later after completing his outside chores.  Our family hoarder likes to collect windfalls from a neighbor's apple tree, and this fruit looked just banged and bruised enough to be from that harvest.

But after our hoarder denied all knowledge, I thought back to the other caches of food that I've found in the boughs of this rose bush.  I think that this apple must be an example of hoarding from another branch of the animal family. My hunch is that this apple represented a grey squirrel's scatter hoard. The rose bush served as the perfect larder: the apple could be secured on a thorn, it was out of reach of hungry competitors, and the wrapping of prickly canes served as effective protection.
Sorry to spoil some creature's seasonal feast, but after pruning back the rose bush yesterday, the larder is no more. And, myself, I've hoarded the last few red rose hips for a fall arrangement.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Daffodil inventory

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that, after several years of blithely shovelling dozens and dozens of daffodil bulbs into every available garden bed, when it came to placing this fall's bulb order, I had less than a total recollection of what had been planted where. I knew that there were lots of different varieties of daffodils and that some have petered out over the years while others are going strong. Great.  A few beds sport a single variety of daffodil--"Mount Hood" skirts the back property line and pheasant's eye "Poeticus" hugs the side of the house--but other beds are an absolute jumble.

So to bring some order to this horticultural chaos, I quickly pulled together an inventory of daffodils by location with bloom periods, order history, and remarks noted.  (For a slightly better view, click on the image above.) My goal is to use this reference to better insure coverage in a range of shapes, heights, and colors (well, the latter, perhaps not so much) over the spring months. And I've already started to think about next year's order!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lobelia: les liaisons dangereuses

Maybe I didn't know this?  Or I didn't care? Or I thought that I could make it all be different?  Oh, the stories that we tell ourselves!

The Great Blue Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica that I tucked several years ago into the crook of the rain garden has adapted marvelously well. The parent plant is healthy and, this time of year, heavy-blooming. All it seems to need is moist soil, a cool corner, and a measure of sun and shade.  For these favors, I have been generously repaid.  Thanks, right?

Well, gratitude has not yet tipped to grievance, but I can see gasping out a curse or two in the future as I am buried under this bounty of riches. Seedlings of various ages have colonized this bed.  At present, I am happy to see their blue spires inhabiting a difficult space that is otherwise pretty rough and tumble.  I am weeding out all the other interlopers in order to make room just for these privileged upstarts . . . and at the same time wondering what dangers I'll be facing by my lobelia infatuation.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

I love living in a blue state . . .

. . . and I'm not limiting myself to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. No, I mean the blue--or almost blue--tones of late summer flowers. Sadly, I've got the blues this year from some of my favorites' failure to thrive: the larkspur has been effectively eliminated by rabbit predation and the blue flag iris sent up only a single flower.  But other cultivars have fared fair better.

    Salvia farinacea "Victoria Blue"

Spiky clumps of annual blue salvia flourish just about anywhere they are planted.  They look great--even when menaced by storm clouds--at the front of a mixed bed.

Phlox paniculata "Blue Paradise"
This garden phlox, "Blue Paradise," continues to bloom into September.  The individual flowers change color depending upon light conditions: a deeply saturated blue violet at dawn and dusk, a paler purple at midday. The petals stripe and blotch and cloud with different tones.
Great Blue Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica

I need to cleave out more space for this Great Blue Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica, which is busily colonizing the inner angle of the rain garden. The fellow was picked up two years ago from Bartram's Garden outside of Philadelphia. Yes, its growing habit is uncouth and its flower heads are large and coarse--but, oh, that color!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sweet end of summer

Cool temperatures this past week have stirred up conversations about an early fall.  The plant world, too, seems to be pushing the seasons forward.

The end of summer is sweetened by the sight and scent of the appropriately named Summer Sweet Clethra alnifolia "September Beauty." Because these natives flourish in damp, acidic soils, several are sited adjacent to the rain garden and another next to a down spout. This time of year, they are over-loaded with intoxicating pure white racemes. Bees and butterflies flit, land, and sip like reeling, happy drunks. No complaints from that corner.

Clethra alnifolia 'September Beauty'

Even though they are hardy to Zone 3, I don't see Summer Sweet growing in gardens around here. Local gardeners may be put off by the late leafing out of these plants--in New England, a habit that translates into bare branches until well into May. But what handsome leaves to wait for: deeply colored, glossy, and neatly serrated.

Because Summer Sweet blooms on new wood, I wait until spring to prune. The seed capsules, which look like little peppercorns--and give the plant its other moniker, Pepperbush--are also best tidied away in the spring.  I've read that over-wintering birds enjoy these seeds but can't say that I've ever noticed any avian diners. After a harsh winter, Summer Sweet definitely needs to be cleaned of broken and frost-killed twigs. This clipping clean-up and a good tailoring of the bushes' expansive, sloppy style are on my spring agenda.

Peppercorn-like seed capsules

Last week, I figured that the perfume of these flowers would fill a room, so I cut a handful of racemes, added some stalks of northern sea oats, and plonked the whole handful into a ceramic vase. Immediately, the air was saturated with their sweet, sweet scent. No complaints from this corner, either!

Natural air freshener