in the garden: planning ahead

Gardens in our area have been tested this spring and summer. Lots of rain, with hideous heat and humidity in between.

I learned a lot about what my garden can and cannot tolerate with this weather. I lost almost all of the 60-year-old garden phlox because of all the rain. A gorgeous Blue Baron azalea survived my township snow plow guys to have its roots rot in all of the rain, and just today I noticed due to rain and borers I have also lost a David Austin rose, and a Blue Boy azalea out back. Even some of the ferns I sourced this year are starting to rot from the rain.

I hate losing plants, but I have learned to look at it differently instead of taking it as a personal failure. This is the natural attrition of nature, and if you lose something it’s an opportunity to put it back or try something different.

Weather extremes are also an opportunity to learn. I planted hatch green chilies from seed this year. I have grown them in pots and grow bags. I wasn’t sure how they would do given they are something I associate with New Mexico which is a climate different from ours. However, as I have known people who have lived there, New Mexico is a study in weather extremes. So my hatch chilies have done surprisingly well, even if I probably should have started the seeds earlier.

But now that the summer is drawing to a close I have done things like schedule my fall tree work. As we are mostly in the woods there is always a lot of trimming and tree maintenance that needs to be done. We are getting to a place where I’m hoping to only have to do tree work once a year, but it just depends. We had trees that really were not pruned about 50 years.

If you want to know who is doing our tree work, look no further than Treemendous Tree Care. They guarantee their work, they have safe and knowledgeable crews, are actual arborists, and they have the bragging rights to champion tree climbers. Because of the positioning of our woods, we don’t have woods you can take trucks into, we need climbers. They are also neat and careful with my gardens. They actually appreciate and know what I have planted.

Tree pruning is something a homeowner has to budget for. It’s necessary for your tree health, and it also is preventative given the way a good old Chester County winter can go (queue the infamous 2014 ice storm.)

This fall I am not only having pruning done, I am culling the herd as it were. We have an overabundance of different kinds of wild cherries which have grown over the past five years. They are a softer wood, and the rain and heat has caused some of them to get blighted. As they are also growing in the path of more valuable trees, I am going to thin out some of these young trees. However in our woods, we will also be planting saplings from Go Native Tree Farm in Lancaster, PA. I believe in restoration planting of woods. And I want our woods to remain predominantly hardwoods.

The trees I have chosen as saplings to plant in my woods are Amish Walnut, Burr Oak and Chestnut Oak. I fell in love with the leaves of Chestnut Oaks this spring at Jenkins Arboretum, the Arboretum I belong too. I have always loved the acorns of the Burr Oak. The Amish Walnut is basically a native cross tree which has occurred up in Lancaster County and no one has really studied but it’s a great tree. My tree saplings will be delivered after I have my tree work done.

Go Native is an amazing resource and I encourage folks to check them out. They also carry native shrubs I like including witch hazel and flame azalea.

Later this fall, bulbs will arrive. They will go into the back garden beds this year. I ordered bluebells and lots of different cultivars of daffodils. I don’t plant tulips because the squirrels just dig them up and eat the bulbs.

The other thing I am going to plant this fall are peonies for the spring. They will arrive in tuber form, or bare root. I am ordering from A & D Nursery and Hollingsworth Nursery. The ones I have chosen are Baroness Schroeder, Green Lotus, Duchesse de Nemours, Moon of Nippon, Immaculee.

Except for Green Lotus they are all white peonies. Yes it’s a little Sissinghurst white garden, but they will give pretty pops in my spring garden next year. My mother loves an all white garden, but I like white as an accent versus being the color anchor.

I also have a couple of hydrangeas left to plant, some echinacea, gentians, day lilies, and a new deutizia cultivar. In between the rain I have started to pull out the plants that aren’t working, or as is the case with the majority of my garden phlox, the plants that have drowned this summer.

I planted a Chicago hardy fig, and a native azalea (From Yellow Springs Farm) and something I am very excited about. A seven sons tree – a Heptacodium. You can read about Heptacodium on the Morris Arboretum website. I purchased mine from Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market.

The garden is a constant evolution. Trial and error. A learning process. I still think gardening is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself. It’s connecting with nature on a basic level, and there is nothing better I think than digging in the dirt. It is truthfully therapeutic.

My garden has gotten big enough that I do need a little help every now and again now and I’m glad to have it. Another resource I have to share is Design Build Maintain, LLC. They do great landscaping and hardscaping work, and I use them for things that I need help with physically like all of the wood chips I put down in the back because it’s so shaded grass won’t grow. They will also be helping me down the road with a little grading back on the other side of our storage shed to help the rain water run off the driveway versus pool at the bottom of the driveway.

As I mentioned in another post, I have also had some folks from multiple organizations approach me for inclusion on garden tours in the future. After Fine Gardening Magazine featured some of my garden photos online this summer it seems people are truly interested. That is super flattering but I am not sure my garden is what they expect when they arrive.

My gardens are not formal. They are woodland gardens meet cottage gardens and they are layered. But I am not precisely David Culp’s Layered Gardens layered, either. I couldn’t be — his Brandywine Cottage gardens are a marvel and inspiring to me and my garden but his gardens are unique to his property. I still haven’t been there in person but I have studied his book extensively and love to check out his website . (Yes I have submitted a contact form a couple of times to ask if I could see the gardens in person, but haven’t heard back.)

My garden also isn’t fussy with fancy water features or a pool like I always see on garden tours. It is very individualistic and my personal vision. I have my inspirations as I have mentioned in the past, but my gardens are my own.

I also don’t label every single plant in the ground. That was a criticism of one group which toured the garden for a tour inclusion and I will admit that put me off. They also criticized how I hadn’t pruned a young Japanese maple. They didn’t seem to get that it did not have enough growth on it to be pruned at this point. When you prune something is very important to consider with younger plants in your garden. When you prune and how much you prune ensures whether it will survive and succeed or not.

I do not have a formal Arboretum, it’s my personal garden, and while I am happy to share, I will not plant a forest of plastic stakes for anyone. While I would be honored to be included on local garden tours, my garden is my garden. I want people to be able to just experience the nature around them. To be able to pause and enjoy it. To take a seat on a garden bench and just enjoy a garden.

A garden should be lived in. I love my garden for what it is and what it isn’t.

I can tell everyone what I have planted, can I remember every cultivar name? No, not at this point, and I’m fine with that. I want to inspire other gardeners, but in my opinion individuality is key in a garden and a lot of times people seem to forget that.

You put in the time, you put in the hours and you enjoy the flowers.

I will admit I am so over the rain. Everything is waterlogged. But when it finally stops it will be time to start the fall clean-up.

Thanks for stopping by.

magnifica azalea is magnificent indeed

 

This azalea is gorgeous! I purchased it last year from Applied Climatology in the West  Chester  Growers Market.

I am having a love affair with my garden again. We were having a love hate relationship the past two weeks because of the weeds that seem to grow by the hour and then by the minute because of all the rain.

The spring bulbs are done, the azaleas are blooming, the viburnum are starting to pop, and the roses are all budded out for their first bloom cycle.

The hostas have popped up everywhere and the ferns are luscious this year. I did lose some things with the weird weather we had over the winter including some echinacea  that I thought were bulletproof.

The hydrangea are struggling this year a bit. They were fine until that last little cold snap that fried their new green buds just emerging from their winter’s sleep.

Haven’t seen a lot of the annuals I like other than herbs, so there will be less of those in the garden unless some have self seeded. The lilies of the valley my neighbors gave me are gorgeous and very happy. They are growing with Creeping Jenny under a tree.

New for this year I have decided to go after a slope that slopes down to the woods on one side of our property. It has nice light and I separated it into sections. One section closer to the house has been planted with lilacs. I envision a beautiful hill of blooms and lilacs perfuming the air in a few years.

Next to that I will be planting some more azaleas and hydrangeas and I’m not sure what else. On the other side of that is my even bigger experiment. I have planted raspberry and gooseberry and thornless blackberry bushes. I have Elderberry that is going crazy along with one surviving currant  plant on the other side of the garden, so in a few years I will either be making a lot of jam or the birds will be really, really happy.

My garden has now grown enough that the people who are professionals in the gardening industry like to come see my garden. Some are growers from whom I have bought beautiful plants, others are looking for inspiration for gardens they are helping their customers design. It’s the being a whole inspiration thing that I am torn about.  

I have always designed my gardens to suit me and be unlike any other that I see out there. So I really am torn as to how much of an inspiration I want my actual garden to be as far as the design goes. I don’t know that I want to see my garden multiplied and versions of it growing on different properties. After all it’s all my sweat equity and labor that has gone into my garden.

I’ve bought all my plants , I’ve planted them all myself, I’ve learned from trial and error what works and what doesn’t work. So while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, do I really want to see my garden style multiply?

Don’t misunderstand me, I love helping other gardeners. But I want to inspire people to seek their own creativity, not copy mine.  Gardeners by nature are generous people. I am just torn on this issue because it’s my sweet equity, and it’s not like a landscape architect is saying to me that they love my garden and they will give me even credit recognition, they just want to see what I have done. 

I have been through this before with other gardens and while  I want to share sometimes it just bothers me that someone else will copy what I did and take the credit and not give credit where it’s due. It’s not even about money or a shared commission, it’s about saying hey I didn’t dream this up but someone I know did.

Anyway just some random thoughts on another rainy day.

little lime hydrangea

little limeThis hydrangea is a wonderful cultivar.  It is called Little Lime.  It has puffy and conical shaped pale green bloom that fade to white or cream. In the fall the blossoms also become tinted with pink on the edges. This is a fairly compact hydrangea that is about 4 to 5 feet in diameter.  It is also very winter hardy, and came through the winter better than the rest of my hydrangeas.  I purchased mine at Applied Climatology in the West Chester Growers Market

Here is their inventory for this coming Saturday (as in tomorrow):

August_16th_Inventory

Sad and to be mentioned in local nursery news is that one of my favorite nurseries is consolidating their business to their Chadds Ford, PA location.  Woodlawn Nursery which is on the old Potter’s site at Sugartown Road and Paoli Pike in Malvern is having a consolidation sale. I will miss them when they are gone from Malvern, but am glad they are keeping their Chadds Ford location.  They do excellent work and their plants have been amazing. Plus they are super nice people.

Oh and just so you all know, this is not a compensated blog. If I post about goods and services it’s because I want to, it’s not a services swap or direct compensation. There is nothing wrong with bloggers who do that, but I want to be clear about my own blog.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you are enjoying this amazing day!

the trouble with pachysandra…..and other gardening tales

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The trouble with pachysandra is if it likes a place, it loves the place. And pachysandra is very happy in my gardens.

Where we live has well established pachysandra that grows like it is on steroids. It’s common name is Japanese spurge and is in the boxwood family. When we moved in, the flower beds weren’t so much flowers anymore as they were pachysandra ponds. Pachysandra was everywhere. So if you wonder what my first garden inspiration was, it was to break up the sea of GREEN.

My mother loves pachysandra and maybe part of my intense dislike was having to plant it for her too many years. (Yes, as much as I love my mother, her idea of gardening was to supervise, not actually plant things.) I did not want the pachysandra to go to waste, so what I have done is relocate it around the property. Waste not, want not when it comes to the garden.

I have become an expert at liberating pachysandra from planting beds. I cut it out with garden clippers and a sharp shovel edge like strips of turf or carpet and roll it up. All you have to do is plunk down the sections where you want it next and water it in. I have relocated my liberated pachysandra to bare spots on the edge of the woods and it regrows nicely and chokes out the weeds.

This weekend I had stopped at Home Depot in Frazer and noticed a lot of plants were on sale. A lot of the sale plants looked horrible because they needed watering, but along the side of the store where the “nursery” is were a ton of day lilies at $3.00 a pot. They were decent cultivars and were from their Vigoro line which is grown by Bell Nurseries in Maryland. Bell has their own land and a network of growers. They are all along the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

And incidentally, if you are looking for plant nurseries, the Eastern Shore of Maryland has some amazing places. One nursery I used to go to is called Pumpkin Shell Nursery on Route 213 in Cecilton, Maryland. They used to have the most amazing boxwood and trees, shrubs, perennials.
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So anyway, I found a bunch a day lilies that had bloomed but were still vigorous and healthy plants. I will be honest I don’t really buy too many plants from Home Depot, but I will look for things in the Vigoro line like hydrangeas and day lilies when they go on sale to use to fill in spots in the garden. The day lilies I bought were the same cultivar, “Baby Moon Cafe“.

……BUT before I planted the day lilies I had to liberate more pachysandra. And the formation I ended up planting the day lilies in was not what I originally envisioned because I also discovered today that the concrete path along which I wanted to plant was well, a foot wider than I originally thought. So I spent quite a while excavating the path and trimming pachysandra along other borders too.

I also noticed my deer friends have been munching a section of garden I planted near the woods this year that I hadn’t sprayed with Deer Out. Apparently my oak leaf hydrangeas are even more yummy than my hostas.

Ah yes, Deer Out. My friend Melanie (who has a gorgeous garden) told me about this stuff. It smells vaguely minty and it is working…..where I sprayed it of course LOL. (I had forgotten about this particular planting area, so they ate the buds off the day lilies and topped one of the oak leaf hydrangeas.)

Right now the late summer flowers are blooming. The garden phlox is just delightful and smells amazingly fragrant especially in the early morning. The phlox was inherited with my house, I can take no credit for it. Three different shades of pink, pink with white edges, and white. It’s old school , tall garden phlox and as opposed to more newly introduced cultivars it is fairly mildew resistant. I have split a lot of this up as well. When we first moved in it took up almost the entire front half of an old perennial bed, so I split it and replanted it all over the garden. Same with the inherited yellow lilies and flag irises.

I also cooked up a batch of hummingbird food (nectar) today. It’s easy. Four parts water to one part sugar, bring to boil in a pot on the stove, cool completely and fill your feeder. You can store the nectar in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a few days per batch. When temperatures reach the 80s and higher you should change the nectar in your hummingbird feeder every couple of days, and it works best when the feeder is in a more shady location. For more information check out the Wild Bird Shop website.

Planning ahead, I have also reserved my next pile of bulbs. Daffodils and Narcissus from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia. I also might have to take another peek at the bargain hosta bin at Bridgewood Gardens , also located in Virginia. I will also be waiting to see what else Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market has to tempt me with between now and fall!

Gardening is one of my favorite things. It is a great thing to be able to connect with nature, and it is a creative outlet. Anyone can garden. You just have to try. Start small, experiment with what you like. Get your garden on a routine and it really starts to take care of itself. I realize I garden more than a lot of people I know, yet what I am doing is not so unusual as I see a lot of similar plantings and groupings of plants in my friend Abbi’s garden in Northern New Jersey. Abbi is an artist among other things so her garden is very cool. And she does her own gardening as well.

Digging in the dirt is fun!

Thanks for stopping by, and please let me know how your garden is growing as well!

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time to put the garden to bed

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It’s November.

Hard to believe that the growing season is done, and in a couple of weeks it will be Thanksgiving. All this means it is time for my garden to go to sleep for the winter.

I have been doing it in bits and pieces, planting bulbs, mulching, trimming things back, raking leaves, piling leaves into the beds to give them an extra winter blanket.

I have been a little under the weather the past couple of days, so I haven’t been doing as much as I should have. But today I decided I needed to do a little more work in the garden, as among other things I had some clay pots and ceramic pots to empty and bring in.

Today is also a weird day for myself and members of my family because today marks eight years since my father passed away, and six years since a cousin we were very close to passed away. So I decided I needed to occupy myself with something I love to do. I love to garden.

When I was a little girl, gardening was something I did with my father. So it was only fitting in fact if I did do a little gardening today.

I harvested some remaining herbs to hang in the basement to dry. I love the smell of lavender, thyme, and oregano as it dries. I emptied out and washed out the remaining clay and ceramic pots that need to be put away inside for the winter. I also did a little trimming.

Now my garden moves into it’s late fall and winter mode. A garden in late fall and winter is a mere skeletal bit of itself, but nonetheless interesting.

I accomplished a lot in my garden this year, and hopefully my hard work will pay off next spring and summer. It is always a bit of a crapshoot to see if everything will survive over the winter, and all those bulbs you plant will come up. But I am hoping for the best. With the exception of the bulbs and a few other things, my plants are locally sourced.

The two places I buy from the most are Woodlawn Nursery and Garden Center on Paoli Pike in Malvern, and Applied Climatology which is from Delaware, but they can be found at the West Chester Growers Market.

I buy bulbs from places like Brecks and also a place called Brent and Becky’s Bulbs out of Gloucester, Virginia . I buy Hostas from Bridgewood Gardens which is near Strasburg, Virginia. For things I can’t find anyplace else I can always rely on White Flower Farm. They are located in Litchfield, Connecticut. But White Flower Farm is only an occasional habit as they are extraordinarily pricey I think.

I know a lot of people do not do their own gardening anymore, and I almost feel sorry for them. They have no idea the experience they are missing.

Gardening, overall, is so rewarding. It is good for your head, it is good for your soul, and it is a creative outlet. Digging in the dirt is a very primal thing, but there’s nothing better than to be able to sit back and watch what you’ve done grow…. literally.

When you garden you’re creating your own personal haven. Who can complain about that?

My garden is definitely one of my happy places. And that’s all year-round.

There is always something to be done in the garden. And even if it’s cold and snowy outside, I can plan and dream and wish for next season inside.

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confessions of a garden addict

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I thought I was finished for the season. I really tried to be finished for the season.

And then my friend Rebekah from Woodlawn Garden Center and Nursery texted me that shrubs and perennials were 40% off, and roses were five dollars each.

Hello Gardenholics Anonymous?

So now I am planting yet another car full of plants! And how can I resist?

Ever since two major rose growers went out of business, a lot of the old classics as far as roses go no longer exist after a couple of years. And there she was one of the grandest grandiflora roses ever: Queen Elizabeth. She was struggling in her pot, yet still stood regally tall and had blooms. (Her flower is what is in the photograph above.)

They had one of my favorite daylilies of all time: Joan Senior. Tall with a large pure white flower, she is quite beautiful in the height of summer. had other amazing daylilies like Francis of Assisi.

They also had Lucky Charm Tradescantia with its pale green leaves and violet blooms, and my favorite Clematis Henryi – pure white flowers and a hearty grower.

Woodlawn is loaded with fabulous plants looking for homes before winter sets in. Trust me, their prices can’t be beat. They are as good as Applied Climatology from the West Chester Growers Market, which always has great prices along with fabulous plants due to their low overhead.

I have taken a bit of a break on this cool and damp fall day, and I am covered in mud. But I am so happy. To dig in the dirt and garden is blissful indeed. So I’m going to get back to it.

Enjoy your afternoon everyone, and even in the midst of a grey day enjoy the fall foliage colors.