still among my favorite gardening books for practical advice and tips

Yes, I have written about these books before. I wrote about them in 2014 in connection to my recipe about making a “rose smoothie.” (A rose smoothie is something I feed my roses, incidentally.)

But I was prompted this morning to mention these books again because someone in my gardening group with a local restaurant who is a friend of mine kindly offered her old egg shells to gardeners who use them to amend the soil.

Decades ago at this point, I read about these books by Margaret and Bridget Boland in the Wall Street Journal. Yes, the Wall Street Journal. Truthfully, over the years some of the best US gardening articles I have ever read have been out of the Wall Street Journal on occasion. When I originally bought these books I bought them from Trevian Book Shop in Massachusetts.

These books are fun little volumes, and well, some of it literally is lore. As in why people planted things how they planted things and even charms to protect the gardener. There is a funny little section in Gardner’s Magic and Other Old Wives Lore about weather predicting creatures, specifically frogs. And how if a frog looks pale yellow the weather is going to be fine if it’s going to be wet the same frog will turn dark brown or green.

Old Wives’ Lore for Gardeners contains more practical garden magic. It was in this little book that I learned about adding banana skins to the soil for roses. It is what intrigued me in the article about these books I read in the Wall Street Journal- it was one of the things that the writer spoke about in the books. Of course also in this book I learned again about the benefits of tossing old soapy water – as in dish soap – onto your roses and flower and vegetable beds to help control things like aphids that don’t like the soapy water. People refer to this a lot of the time as “gray water” and we aren’t speaking of dishwasher detergent or clothing detergent, but plain old dish soap. Now my older relatives always used to speak of tossing the old dish soap onto the flowerbeds.

People tend to gravitate always and first towards the shiniest and new with glossy photographs gardening books. But inside little old volumes like these there is also a lot of knowledge to be had. These books are still enchanting today and interspersed throughout the lore are invaluable bits of old-fashioned wisdom and gardening tips. If you are a gardener you would love these books.

You can still find copies of these books which were published in the mid-1970s. I checked this morning and I saw them on both eBay and Amazon. They are skinny little volumes so they won’t take up much room. Originally they were very inexpensive. Now they are collectible but they aren’t beyond anyone’s reach you just have to check the listings. I have seen them for sale in both paperback and hardcover format.

I have all of the Bolands’ books (they were a mother and daughter) including Gardeners’ Lore: Plantings Potions and Practical Wisdom.

I will note that I discovered this morning there is also an edition of the first two books which combines the first two volumes into one.

I guess that the moral to this story is don’t overlook the vintage and older gardening books. Like older and vintage cookbooks you find things in these books you don’t see any place else. You learn the practical magic of gardening that our grandparents knew.

The last word I will have in this post is if you live in the Chester County area, the best place I have found locally to consistently uncover old and vintage gardening books is Baldwin’s Book Barn in West Chester. Have a great day….spring is coming!

a recurring theme?

I was out taking photos in the snow in my garden and I had to laugh because I realized I have three Buddhas.

The thing about shade gardens and even shade into Woodland Gardens is some of the most beautiful gardens like that I have seen have been Asian-inspired gardens.

I guess my subconscious has been leading my garden in that direction, given what I have planted.

My first Buddha came from my sister. But he had to relocate into a patch of ferns and pachysandra because the chipmunks chewed holes in him. Yes that Buddha is officially a chipmunk condominium.

The other two Buddhas sort of found me in my travels. I love taking their photos in the snow.

Thanks for stopping by.

a gardener in winter

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Part of my winter reading selections.

One of my neighbors was laughing at me yesterday.  He drove down the street saw me outside with my hands on my hips staring at my giant pile of frozen woodchips. (Yes I know, like I was mentally willing them to thaw and lay themselves down.)

Sigh.

I was also staring with a scowl on my face because when you are piling woodchips, you can aim when they are being dumped, but they also just slide. This year they swallowed up my Kerria Japonica. Sadly, while a super tough shrub, I do not know if it will survive.  I think I have to source another.

129763a6c730afaeded0240129bc29abI have also been going over the Go Native Tree price list again.  I am a believer in reforesting the woods and I want to plant hickories and American Chestnut too.  I found out they won’t have American Chestnuts ready until at least the fall of 2019. But I am going to go ahead and buy 2 Shagbark Hickory seedlings and 2 Black Haw Viburnum.

RareFind Nursery will help with with my quest for Kerria Japonica. And I am also getting a Camellia japonica ‘Hokkaido Red’, Rhododendron ‘Mountain Marriage’ , (Witch hazel) Hamamelis  ‘Beholden’ and (Witch hazel) Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Rochester’.  All of these I think are for the back.  Edge of woods or thereabouts.  Jenny Rose Carey  got me interested again in witch hazel and Catherine Renzi of Yellow Springs Farm is the first person who introduced me to them years ago. And Catherine will laugh at me, but I had forgotten I had planted some other witch hazels until I rediscovered them this summer on the edge of the woods. (Yes that happens when you have a plant habit!)

Read about witch hazels on FineGardening’s website and Sir Monty Don has written about it  too.

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One of my witch hazels starting to bloom.   It is an orange one.     I believe I purchased this one from RareFind Nursery.

Now the Audrey Hepburn quote.  She was a gardener.  Years ago I had these VHS tapes called Gardens of the World With Audrey Hepburn. They got lost in a move.  I wish I could find online or in a new DVD set.   Only used sets are out there and they are outrageous in price for a used DVD set that may or may not work.

Anyway, I continue to wander around outside check on things.  It’s what gardeners do in the winter.  I also stop and listen to my birds.  Some days they are very chatty.  I noticed recently a mockingbird and today I saw the little bluebirds. And above, hawks circled calling to one and other.  The cycle of life in the woods.

Out front I am mentally rearranging some plants.  Like the shorter version of Joe Pye weed. Eupatorium dubium does not keep itself to 2-3 feet tall and in a front bed it is taking up too much real estate.  So come spring I will dig it up, move it, and plant a new bare root David Austin rose.

Some of my roses have struggled because the damp wet summer bought borers.  I lost one in the fall.  I have two bare root David Austins coming – Benjamin Britten and England’s Rose.

How else do I get through the winter as a gardener? Reading.  I subscribe to Gardeners World and Fine Gardening. I also have a gardening book problem. Like cookbooks, I love them.  A lot of what I love is kind of out of print.

I have written many times of my appreciation of the late Suzy Bales, whom I wrote about a few times and most recently in 2016.  There were a couple of her books I wanted but did not have.  One of which was titled Gifts from Your Garden published in 1992,  and before I get to that, there is a lovely archive of other articles she wrote on the Huffington Post website.

So Gifts from Your Garden arrived the other day.  In her acknowledgements for this particular book she thanks Ken Druse. I never knew that connection and he is an author, gardener, podcast master whom I like and follow.  As a matter of fact, his book The New Shade Garden is also on my winter reading list.  She introduced this book in the following manner:

“For a time, I was a closet gardener.  Friends would call to invite me to play tennis, swim, or come for lunch.  In the beginning, I tried to tell the truth. ” I’d love to, but I have some things I planned to do in my garden.” They felt gardening was a chore, and it was all but impossible to make them understand that I really loved gardening.”

I totally, completely, 100% understand that sentiment.  I know many people out there who think I am completely bonkers.

Now my husband thinks I am bonkers when it comes to my little bits of garden art. Or my concrete zoo as he likes to call it.  Oh the face when I purchased Chubby Checker from Brandywine View Antiques.  Ok first of all, the squirrel was quite reasonably priced, and second of all WE HAVE LOTS OF SQUIRRELS some of which are quite rotund so this made me giggle.

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Chubby Checker the chubby squirrel purchased from Brandywine View Antiques in Chadds Ford, PA

So yes, that is what I do. I wander around the garden mentally placing new plants where I think they will go and rearranging in my head where existing plants should be moved to. And I will twitch about it until spring arrives and my shovels can hit the dirt once again.  And I find garden accents…well let’s be honest, I do that all year round but I am picky.  I do not add just anything.

I am also mentally planning out my pots and I am thinking of switching more to of the resin variety which are not as unattractive as they used to be if you buy the ones that are supposed to look like stone.  I am getting tired of hauling pots in and out every year.

I also have to start my seeds.  I start them in a highly scientific manner. No not really, just on my dining room table.  Tomatoes and hatch chilies.  That’s it.  I am not a truck farmer and don’t have much veggie room so they grow in pots and grow bags and move around following the light.  Well I have to, we are half in the woods, after all.

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Photo taken October, 2018

Gardening books are so much fun especially in winter.  Locally, places like Baldwin’s Book Barn have a marvelous selection.  Balwin’s could use our support right now as they were recently burglarized which offends me on so many levels. How do you steal from people who are so nice? How do you steal from a place that is an institution locally?

Gardening I think is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  That connection to the earth, and the creative process of creating your garden. As in YOU create it, not a landscaping service.  Put the time and work into a garden, and it will reward you every day of the year.

I look at my garden and wonder if in the future if someone will appreciate my handiwork.  Will they love my garden as I do now? Will they care about what I planted? Will they keep up with what I have done? I hope so. My garden gives me so much joy.

The last word is my pussywillows are starting to bloom already.

Thanks for stopping by.

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in the winter garden

Camellia buds!!!!

Yesterday was not a fun day in the garden because sadly tree guys working at a neighbor’s property took out our electric fence in our woods while taking down dead trees in our neighbor’s woods. But all is not lost as I heard from the company owner today and they told me they are going to pay for my repair, so I will take them at their word.

But it’s stuff like this that happens in the garden that drives me bananas. And we live in the woods so it’s happened before. It was an accident, and it could have been worse, because the tree that came down came down 14 inches from our shed (give or take an inch.) And thankfully the tree when it came down didn’t damage any of my plantings or younger trees.

I am much more Zen about it today, yesterday afternoon not so Zen.

Today I knew I had to put out deer repellent. I have had a herd of more than 10 going through the very back of our woods at our property line every day for weeks now. Truthfully, I’ve never had such a big herd go through back there. So if I don’t keep the repellent up and alternate repellant come spring I may have a munched plant problem. But while I was out today putting out anti-deer stuff I had a reminder that life still is pretty cool in a winter garden!

My Camelia japonica “Bloomfield” has flower buds!!! I am so excited! This was an experimental shrub for me and it was developed at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia originally.

Also super cool? One of my new winter blooming Witch Hazels also is loaded with buds! I lost the tag I think the cultivar is named “Diane”.

I have bought a bunch of different Witch Hazels now after being inspired by Jenny Rose Carey and her own personal garden. I have bought my Witch Hazels from three sources:

1. Yellow Springs Farm

2. Rare Find Nursery

3. Go Native Tree Farm

The Camelia came from Camellia Forest Nursery.

I also checked on my rhododendrons today. Rhododendrons and azaleas can take a beating in the winter and I lost my blue azaleas last year except for one. I for the most part have red rhododendrons that I have planted, but I also bought two yellow ones to experiment with.

How my yellow rhododendrons survive in particular it will be interesting because they are towards the front of the property and I put up reflective markers so my Township snow plows don’t plow them over (fingers crossed!) Yellow rhododendrons can be a little finicky in general in our planting zone of 6A, so we shall see.

Most of my rhododendrons come from Oregon and the nursery is Rhododendrons Direct. A couple of rhododendrons I have came from Applied Climatology who are at the West Chester Growers Market in season.

Other things I checked on included my new Japanese Maples – Acer palmatum ‘Orange Dream’ which also came from Applied Climatology. We are at the end of January and so far so good.

I know spring is coming because I got my David Austin Roses catalog. I am in a holding pattern on roses I might order one but that’s all.

I also got my newsletter from the Delaware Hosta Society . If you live in the greater Philadelphia/ South Jersey /Wilmington area and are a hosta fanatic like I am you should consider joining. It’s very reasonable for the year and they have lots of great events with interesting speakers. And they always have raffles at their events. I have some very cool hostas from them!

My other plug goes to Jenkins Arboretum. I have been a member of Jenkins for a few years and it is one of my favorite local arboretums, if not my absolute favorite local Arboretum. Jenkins does events and classes and workshops all year round, and if you go through their events calendar you will also notice they have events for children as well! It was because of Jenkins Arboretum I fell in love with Chestnut and Burr Oak trees. I live for their winter emails there’s always something fun to learn.

If you decide to join the hosta society or Jenkins please make sure and tell them you read about their organization on this blog.

Also note I’m not compensated for talking about any of these places. I belong to both Jenkins and the Delaware Valley Hosta Society, and the nurseries I mentioned I am a regular customer of.

I have also been gobbling up streaming British gardening shows. I find them through Amazon Prime streaming.

Well that’s it for me for the day. Take the time to enjoy your winter garden, it’s bones are skeletal but it has form and life all on its own. And plant some witch hazels if you have the room!

Thanks for stopping by!

Witch Hazel flower buds!

january in the garden

January in the garden. Branches bare of leaves reaching skyward. Walking in the woods the leaves are soggy because of all of the rain.

I really should be spreading more wood chips while they aren’t a giant frozen lump, but I just don’t feel like it. I love my garden but it’s time for it to go free range for a while.

My rhododendrons are very happy right now. They are setting big, fat buds for spring. Hopefully they will get through the winter unscathed. It has been a strange winter thus far. So weird my pussy willows are popping.

Anyway, the Eagles won and Outlander is on. Thanks for stopping by.

gardening reading for the winter

My garden is wearing her winter structure already. Harder angles, the stick shapes of shrubs like my red twig dogwoods. Giant pussy willow boughs naked of leaves and catkins bobbing when a breeze blows. Looking up, the trees and their limb structure look like giant arms outstretched, and everywhere are squirrels’ nests (and even a squirrel box for our Eastern Flying Squirrels!)

Our annual tree work is done and the flower beds are resting comfortably under piles of oak leaves. I pruned the rose bushes a few weeks back, and planted my bulbs. I still spray for deer every few weeks, however.

Now as we enjoy the remainder of the Christmas season and are headed towards New Year’s Eve, I have already started the countdown to spring and wondering what the garden will look like because every year as my garden matures, it’s a little different.

As we head further into winter months, my inner gardener always gets twitchy. It’s hard to dig in the dirt when the ground is frozen, after all.

So how do I bide my gardening time until it’s spring? Gardening and seed catalogs and gardening books.

This winter’s reading list for books will be as follows:

  • Down To Earth by Monty Don
  • The Complete Gardener by Monty Don
  • The New Shade Garden by Ken Druse

Read a review of Down to Earth HERE. You can buy new and used copies on Amazon and eBay.

The Complete Gardener has been out quite a few years now. My edition is 2003. But it is worth the purchase. My copy came from eBay and a British book seller. Also available through many sources including Amazon.

The New Shade Garden by Ken Druse first came out in 2016. I had to do a bit of a search to track down a copy of this book. It’s a little pricey too. But it is an awesome book thus far. The book has suggested plant lists which I love. The author, Ken Druse, also has a website which is terrific.

Anyway, these are the books I am delving into while I wait for spring.

Thanks for stopping by.