Monday, July 27, 2009


With all of our rain, this year has sprouted a bumper crop of moss. Green patches are flourishing on the north-facing stone walls . . .

. . . tracking along the concrete courses between bricks . . .

. . . with some leafy liverworts, eddying around the base of Siberian irises . . .

. . . and even sheltering under a spray of yarrow leaves.

I like moss. We all benefit from having our hard edges softened, and moss smooths over the rough places in a most serene manner. My mind was opened to the possibilities of what I had previously considered a nuisance by this array of mosses displayed at the gardens at Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion, in Kyoto.

In Japan, even the mosses are arranged by status. The sign below reads "Very Important Moss (Like V.I.P.)." At the other end of the hierarchy are the "bad" mosses. Too bad the individual plant labels are in Japanese. I'd like to know who rates the most respect. Maybe sugigoke (Polytrichum commune)?

You can just make out the undulating moss-covered hillside on the opposite bank of this pond at Ginkaku-ji. Serenity.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Daylily days

Late July means that the daylilies are roaring along full throttle. Their bed can barely contain its mix of boldly colored tetraploids. These plants came in one of those discount grab-bags of unnamed cultivars. Occasionally, I'll see a photograph in a plant catalogue that resembles one but then, on closer examination, the match just misses.

Nothing blends and none concedes a supporting role to its neighbor. The red flowering plants have been increasing their hold while the yellow ones disappear. Anonymous, unrefined, pushy: "Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

First harvest

"Sungold" cherry tomatoes just picked, sweet and summery, from the vine!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Revitalization movements, spirea style

Back in June, the spirea hedge was rambunctious with bloom. Now that that excitment is over, it's time to start pruning, so that next spring's blossoms can set on this year's wood.

All the authorities say to clear out deadwood and cut back about 1/3 of the branches each year to spur new growth. I usually have time to don a long-sleeve shirt and wield my loppers against a mere fraction before the weather turns too hot for pruning in protective gear. This year, the cool weather has extended the season.

Earlier this spring, I clipped off some dead spirea twigs to serve as supports for a few sweet pea plants. How very eco-friendly, I thought: recycling the old to benefit the new.

However, with our recent cool, rainy weather, those spirea twigs have stirred from the dead and suddenly burst into leaf and bloom. Are they flowering on last year's wood, I wonder, or on this year's? Ahead of the game, or just catching up?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

100 days of spring

Usually, spring in this part of New England flashes by between a lengthy frozen winter and a blast of summer heat. This year, however, we've had raw April showers in June and soft May breezes into July. Some plants--I'm thinking tomatoes and roses--have had difficulty with the chill and damp, but cool-weather plants like sweet peas and this purple-flecked larkspur seem to welcome a longer, slower season. Me, too!

The long spring has also smoothed late-season planting, such as the three Ilex crenata "Sky Pencil" hollies that were slipped in to screen a wooden fence.

The established summersweet Clethra alnifolia "September Beauty" bushes in front of these new hollies will now have to be repositioned to smooth the line. But that will have to wait until early fall, before we're hit with the usual 200 days of winter.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


Stands of astilbes are scattered around corners of the garden--a patch of white here, glimpse of pink there--so it's nice to see the flowers gathered together in an old-fashioned bouquet. The cultivars represented are Astilbe x arendsii "Bridal Veil" (white), Astilbe x arendsii "Rheinland" (deep pink), and pale pink Astilbe x rosea "Peach Blossom" (thanks to a gift from my favorite Texas peach, RPL).