being a good land steward


I had a plant impulse buy at Yellow Springs Farm on Saturday.  A Chestnut Oak. I fell in love with the tree at Jenkins Arboretum, and also purchased some last year from Go Native Tree Farm in Lancaster, PA.

When I joined Jenkins Arboretum as a member, one of the things they gave me was this guide to their trees and shrubs and plantings.  Chestnut Oaks thrive on their grounds and I love the leaves and bark and sheer majesty of them.

So I planted my latest Chestnut Oak this morning.  When my arborists were  here a few weeks ago they planted my Black Gum Tree (from Go Native) for me because of my severe allergies to poison ivy and the like, but today I had to suit up, spray in advance for ticks and what not and go into the woods.


I love my woods but once the poison ivy comes out, I have to watch where I go and what I touch.

When I was in the woods I noticed I have a patch of native Solomon Seal growing.  The native plants like that delight me each and every time I see one. I also seem to have some volunteer dogwoods and holly trees starting to grow.

IMG_4700But being good land stewards doesn’t mean clearing every square inch of undergrowth like I see people do, but removing invasives and allowing what should live there thrive. Don’t just plow your woods under to clear out brush.  You must be selective and careful.

We have had to take down trees because woods age and trees die.  But instead of allowing all soft woods to take over (like wild cherry trees and tulip poplars for example), I have made the decision to re-forest with species that are native to the area.  Like Chestnut Oaks.  I have also planted a Black Gum, Amish Walnuts (a crazy crossbreed which occurs in Lancaster County), Hazlenut, Hickories, Bur Oak, and understory trees like Sweetbay Magnolia.


I hope everything survives, but it is the woods so you never know.  I plant everything well and stake the trees to grow as straight as possible.  I utilize old pieces of wire fencing around them and spray for deer too.

So far so good.  If you are interested in native species and re-foresting your woods join an arboretum as well as a land conservancy where you live. They are a marvelous resource.  I also recommend Yellow Springs Farm and Go Native Tree Farm.

I will note after playing in the woods, everything including myself, spear headed spade, gloves and boots gets a Tecnu bath.  I also do a thorough tick check.

Thanks for stopping by.


container gardening

There is something so cheerful about flowers and herbs peeking out of pots. Above is just a simple geranium in a pot and it’s lovely. Or I think it’s lovely.

People don’t realize however, that you don’t have to just plant every day annuals and your pots and containers. You can plant pretty much anything in a container.

For example, on my deck I have a wonderful hydrangea in a four-season planter that sits up on pot feet. Pot feet are these little lifts you can buy that keep the pot off the deck and draining better.

I also plant my vegetables that I grow in containers because my sun is limited and I have found I could grow chili peppers in pots just as easily as a raised bed.

I know people who have small and dwarf Japanese maples growing in pots and they under-plant them with things that trail like variegated ivy or vinca and so on. I have some big old and super heavy crocks I don’t want to ruin by draining so I have plastic liner plants I plant and pop in the crocks – The liners sit each on a single brick in the base of the planter which makes it easy to pull them out and drain the crock.

I also have a couple of incredibly heavy vintage cement pots that I acquired – one was a gift and one was a barn sale find. They are planted with hostas and heuchera as they are in the shade and woodland gardens.

As a matter fact I love planting planters with perennials because that means in the spring half of my work is finished and all I have to do is spruce up the pot with whatever annuals I might want to add. Or I can add nothing and let them go on their own.

This year I discovered a great trailing plant I hadn’t used before. It’s called Dichondra. Dichondra is a small genus of flowering plants in the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae. They are prostrate, perennial, herbaceous plants, with creeping stems. The cultivar in some of my pots is silver and almost fuzzy like lambs ears.


Now other favorite trailing plants for containers include prostrate rosemary and creeping Jenny. I also use creeping Jenny as ground cover!

Creeping Jenny

People think planting pots and containers can be boring, and I think that is far from it. You just have to be creative. For years I had essentially, a little courtyard garden. So I planted lots of containers. I experimented with all sorts of combinations and that’s when I really started to look at British, Irish, and other European gardens.

This year I put more perennials in pots. As I previously mentioned in the shadier areas I planted hostas with heuchera, ferns, variegated and thin leaf ivy, creeping Jenny, Dichondra, day lilies, and even bacopa.

Not my container, but a lovely example of what to do.

And in sunnier spots I have also planted hostas but also traditional annuals like geraniums. I’m on a red geranium kick, and I have even combined geraniums with yarrow in a pot, and prostrate rosemary. I have also planted pots with Monarda (bee balm), traditional herbs like sage, rosemary, thyme, and lavender.

Where I have changed it up this year in pots is with scented geraniums, nasturtiums, and some really cool salvias I purchased at the herbs sale yesterday I attended for the Herb Society of America, Philadelphia Unit.

The salvias and nasturtiums are all reds like the geraniums I potted up. I am on this bright color kick. Sometimes I think it is in response to having been forced to garden like I lived at Sussinghurst in England with my parents garden. My mother always had me doing shades of white and pale as if Vita Sackville-West lived with my parents. I seriously found lack of color back then restrictive, although it didn’t stop me from gardening.

Another example of all you can do with pots!

But with this garden now I still show some restraint of color as I want the range of colors to be harmonious. Except for a few ditch lilies you won’t find many colors like orange in my garden for example.

Scented geraniums are not something I can find every year and I don’t have enough room to overwinter them properly. So when I found of this year I went a little crazy. I bought some at the herbs sale yesterday and I also bought a few elsewhere. They sent I chose is rose. I really love the peppermint scented geranium but I couldn’t find any.

With all of the rest of my garden that I have to tend to, every year I say I am not going to do containers. But every year when I look at the garden before the containers are planted, it looks like the garden is missing something.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your containers. Don’t just put the predictable in your containers. Change it up. It makes it much more fun to look at. Containers give gardens that extra pop of color and texture.

Happy gardening!

new life for an old structure and other thoughts

Life is a juxtaposition of experiences. Last night, while I was at a supervisors’ meeting at my township building, the app on my phone went off telling me there was a house on fire on the road on which I live.

In that moment my phone which was on airplane silent exploded anyway with people messaging and texting were we OK. Yes, my house was OK, but neighbors of mine didn’t fare so well. They had a fire.

It was in that moment last night as I’m first just seeing on my emergency app that there is a “structure fire” on my street with no house number that I realized how lucky we all are for our volunteer fire companies.

I literally watched firefighters leave the meeting and heard the trucks pull out and knew exactly where they were going. And that’s the thing of it, you just don’t know what it feels like until it hits a little close to home like this.

Thank goodness none of my neighbors were hurt in the home that had the fire. I can’t even begin to imagine how they are feeling and it’s a definite process to rebuild part of their home. And a lot of that process will be deeply emotional I am sure.

So after what we all experienced in my little neighborhood last night I decided today that I was going to do something happy so I decided to go to the Herb Society of America Philadelphia Unit herb sale at Historic Yellow Springs Village. It’s a bit of a rainy and yucky day but I had a wonderful time. I love Historic Yellow Springs, and the village was so alive today between the art show and sale and the plant sale.

At the herb sale I saw a friend of mine’s mother that I have not seen in years. I am such a dork I got a literally all verklempt I was so glad to see her. I also saw several members of the Chester County Ramblings Gardening Group! I also saw my friend Catherine from Yellow Springs Farm. (They have an open farm weekend this weekend!)

At the herbs sale I bought nasturtiums, and several wonderful salvias and some other things.

From the herb sale I wandered in and out of the art show and down to the Jenny Lind House. I was so excited to see the restoration in progress at the Jenny Lind. The wonderful folks at Life’s Patina have taken on Jenny Lind as their next project.

So as I said, life is a juxtaposition of experiences. From the awful to the sublime to the just happy experiences of every day life.

One of the other things that made today so special is it was so nice and enjoyable to be around so many happy pleasant people. Those herb society ladies are among the nicest women I’ve met.

Thanks for stopping by!

shades of green

Hostas and Heuchera

I have to giggle when people are talking about their gardens and complaining and saying that their garden is “too green.”

Why? Because it begs the question of is your garden too green or just too one shade of green?

Tonality. They need tonality.

There are so many shades and tones and variations of green in the garden that even in the shade garden you get color and contrast. You just have to work for it a little bit.

This beautiful red Japanese Maple is glorious now!

I have spent years looking at other people’s gardens and going through gardening books and even saving things on Pinterest, but there are so many shades of green, like there is a rainbow of other colors.

I have had to get creative with my greens because a good portion of our property is woodland and shade gardens. Along the way I have also discovered plants with other kinds of leaves – reds, variegated green and white, variegated yellow and green and so on. For example there is nothing better than the deep crazy red of a Japanese maple.

This week all of my azaleas have basically popped except for some of the deciduous and native azaleas which will bloom in a couple of weeks. The azaleas are providing quite the show this year, and it’s lovely.

My new and bare root roses are also doing well. The one in the photo with a little pink bud is a found rose that came from the Antique Rose Emporium in Texas. It’s called Caldwell Pink after the town it was discovered in. The other rose pictured is one of my new David Austins.

Not something that I have found puzzling since spring began is the die back on my dogwood shrubs. I have a lot of them. Variegated green and white red twig, red twig with solid green leaves, yellow twig, variegated yellow and green leaves and so on.

Every single one of my dogwood shrubs lost a lot of branches over the winter. They do not seem to have a pest, there are no borer holes, so I just cut off the dead stuff and will hope for the best.

Now one thing I’m really happy about is the fig tree I planted on a whim last year I thought was a goner. Today when I checked, it was sending up nice strong shoots from the base. The photo is right above this paragraph. The fig is Chicago Hardy.

Today I was also forced to give my Miss Kim lilacs a trim around the stems which are budding and flowering. I had to. These lilacs have turned into monsters this year. It’s like I never trimmed them ever before and they were so out of control I had to shape them a little.

Of course when I was doing that I found poison ivy. I am really getting sick of poison ivy this spring.

Today was a close call because I didn’t have gardening gloves on. And yes I will spray poison ivy with a poison ivy herbicide. I’m very allergic to it so I don’t screw around. And poison ivy, annoyingly enough, is popping up in places where it has never been before.

OK I am going back to look at my garden again. I’m really enjoying it this year so far. It’s nice to see where the fruits of my labor are starting to really come through. That is the thing about gardening— it’s your creation, and it is so rewarding when you have an idea and a couple years down the road you can see how your idea is literally coming to life!

My garden is my artistic canvas! Thanks for stopping by!

Poison Ivy “Rat Bastardous” (I named it)

this is why you garden

This is why we garden. For these perfect moments of complete beauty in nature. My tree peony popped this afternoon and the colors and the blooms are spectacular. I took this picture now because we are supposed to get rain and I’m hoping it doesn’t get beat up.

Above you see in the second photo, the simplistic beauty of a white azalea. It’s just so pretty. You can’t go wrong with a white azalea.

A few years ago I had this idea of wanting wafting scent in the spring so I planted lilacs. Above are some of the ones which are blooming now. They are the re-blooming variety.

I also have two Miss Kim lilacs but they are hit or miss for me as far as blooms. I think I’m going to give them a big haircut after they bloom as much as they are going to bloom this year and see what happens. They are baffling to me because I feed them properly they have the right light and I prune them correctly.

My late mother-in-law had an affinity for red rhododendrons. I have never grown them before so I decided to try them in this garden and I love them! There are many types of reds you can choose from, but this is by far my favorite. My source? Rhododendrons Direct in Oregon and Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market.

And the final photo I will share with you today is of the old-fashioned snowball viburnum. I inherited this shrub from the previous owner, it was planted when the house was built decades ago. It doesn’t have a scent but it produces gobs of beautiful perfect white flowers the size of tennis balls.

Gardening is good for your head, and good for your soul. It’s just a wonderful thing to do. And when you garden, you are rewarded by Mother Nature.

Get gardening!

going back to my rose basics

I was out in the garden again this afternoon.

Remember what I said about patience in the garden this morning? I have lost patience with a David Austin rose I planted a few years ago. But it has been plagued by black spot and borers and I think it’s time for it to go.

I got to thinking about the old forms of roses I used to grow years ago. Many of them are very hardy and disease resistant. They are just hard to find.

I decided I want rugosas. People think of them as beach roses. You can see them all over, especially New England. They are salt resistant and wind resistant and winter hardy.

Now they are among the thorniest of roses and I might well curse them vigorously as they grow BUT hey, they are also naturally vigorously disease resistant (less chemicals yay!)

The prickliness of rugosa roses makes them deer resistant yet friendly to birds and small wildlife.

Rugosa roses are also known for their magnificent rose hips. And people make jam from them.

Rugosas also have smaller, more wrinkled and almost leather-like leaves. Native to the coasts of Japan and Korea, I have decided they would fit with some of my other Asian lineage plants in this garden.

I decided to go to Heirloom Roses for rugosas. They are located in Oregon. I ordered from them years ago. I don’t think the company is owned by the same people any longer, so I will hope for the best. I also like Antique Rose Emporium.

Heirloom Roses is a favorite of Fine Gardening Magazine based upon this article. They sell own root roses, which is what I prefer now having run into problems with grafted roses. I have rambling rootstock that still pops up.

I have bought a white rugosa I owned years ago, Blanc Double de Coubert. The second one is Bayse’s Purple Rose.

Hopefully these roses won’t test my patience. And just as life often comes full circle, so apparently do plants in my gardens.