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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even your friendly neighborhood blogger geeks out occasionally

so I saw this

 

So….Mike McGrath is one of my gardening idols.  He’s kind of like Pennsylvania’s Monty Don, right?  I have listened to his show off and on for years…long before I knew there was a Monty Don, truthfully (Sorry Monty!)

Anyway, if you follow their Facebook page for You Bet Your Garden With Mike McGrath you get all sorts of fun stuff to check out and learn…just like by listening to his shows.

So I saw that post I screenshot above and thought what the heck and sent the show an email expressing interest in calling in. And O.M.G. Mike McGrath e-mailed me himself!! (Yes, the inner and outer gardener start to geek out simultaneously.)

So today I spent time chatting with Mike McGrath (inner gardener and outer gardener are completely geeking out now all hope is lost!)  Yes ME. Ordinary rabid gardener ME.

He is SO cool.  He is every bit as welcoming and nice as he sounds on the air when you listen.  Having had a rather different experience this week when I was on a local talk radio show after being asked to call in, this was a welcome change. It was like he was sitting at my kitchen table having coffee.

So we talked about growing tomatoes and I learned something new which was super cool .  And we talked about my closed gardening group Chester County Ramblings Gardening Group.

Now I did not get to get his advice on Bishops Weed and ask whether or not there are actually true red cyclamen or if growers just feed pink ones dye. I did not get to tell him about my favorite seaweed feed Irish Organic Fertilizer….  Which is a bummer.

I admit I kind of did a wee short circuit like a teenage fan girl of David Cassidy or something.  Dork city in other words. BUT nevertheless apparently I am on the show they will air on February 23.

If you have never checked out his show – you should – here are the times:

Saturdays at 10am
Mondays at 3pm
Wednesdays at 5pm

Episodes Available On:
Stitcher

Podbean

iTunes

Where can you listen to YBYG?

Click here to find your local station.

He is one of what I like to call my garden influencers.  Here are the others:

Jenny Rose Carey Senior Director at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Meadowbrook Farm 

Glorious Shade  is her book and every gardener should have a copy!

Suzy Bales who passed away in 2016 –  two books in particular Down to Earth Gardener: Let Mother Nature Guide You to Success in Your Garden, The Garden in Winter.  My unexpected pen pal for a short time when I wrote to say thank you for her garden writing.  Her books can be found with used book dealers on Amazon and other places.

David CulpThe Layered Garden – I have a layered garden in places so his book was invaluable. Haven’t seen Brandywine Cottage in Downingtown would love to – here is his website.

Monty DonGardener’s World Magazine and BBC show.  Author of a whole slew of books.  I own Down to Earth and The Complete Gardener.

Gene Bush – Shade Garden Expert.  Visit his website. (you’ll be glad you did)

Other influencers?   Some of the growers and nursery folks I know.  And gardens I have visited and gardens I have had. My current garden is a little bit of all of those.

Also another treat for you today? People I buy plants from…yes….plant resources:

Black Creek  East Earl PA Mennonite owned,  Facebook page and sort of a website 11 E Black Creek Rd  East Earl, Pennsylvania 17519

https://reallancastercounty.com/markets-2/flowers-gardens/black-creek-greenhouses/?fbclid=IwAR1l2EOKyVH_r7m2nHaBZrl9WJiQueluSxY5_Y8yxjpRJ3SsxnIRse7hX4o

https://www.facebook.com/Black-Creek-Greenhouses-163960706964555/

Black Creek is my spot for herb plants, vegetable plants, old fashioned perennials and annuals that no one else has and much more.  They also sell supplies and tools fairly reasonably.  They are the only place I will buy a pre-made hanging basket from.  The best times of year to go? Spring until full-on summer hits and then the fall.  The greenhouses are PACKED with plants.

Yellow Springs Farm Chester Springs PA (amazing native plants and the best goat cheese ever)  https://www.yellowspringsfarm.com/

Yellow Springs Farm is owned by Catherine and Al Renzi.  Native plants organically grown and I have planted with them through three gardens.  Catherine helped me do my first sort of riparian buffer. And they raise goats for award winning goat cheese.

Go Native Tree Farm in Lancaster County PA  https://www.gonativetrees.com/

Go Native is so cool. The owner literally forages in woods all over including places like West Virginia for seed and seedlings.  I have bought Chestnut and Burr Oaks from them and they have a micro species called an “Amish Walnut” which when cut has a tiger grain – it is a natural cross between a walnut and I forget what but you only find them in Lancaster County.

Rhododendrons Direct in Oregon  http://oregonrhododendron.com/  Yes you can visit if you go across the country.  The guy who owns it is named Jim.  He had all my crazy red rhododendrons I wanted.  His shipping is impeccable and plants are flawless.

RareFind Nursery in NJ  https://www.rarefindnursery.com/  Mail order and in person – native plants – amazing

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs   https://www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com/  Mail order. Best bulbs

Camelia Forest Nursery  https://camforest.com/  Ok in NC and you can visit I have only done mail order.  There was a winter hardy Camelia created by Morris Arboretum years ago I wanted they grow Sochi tea plants.

Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market    appliedclimatologyllc@gmail.com  -they are on Facebook and in season you find them Saturdays at West Chester Growers Market https://www.facebook.com/AppliedClimatologyLLC Chris Sann is a walking encyclopedia of plant interesting – he is like my gardening father.  And I have gotten some amazing plants from him.  He gets me to go out of my comfort zone and try new things like green Japanese peonies.

Morningstar Daylilies in Woodstown NJ http://www.morningstardaylilies.com/ Mary Burgents.  Open Farm days and mail order.  And she manages Delaware Valley Daylily Society.  LOVE her daylilies

Crownsville Nursery and Bridgewater Gardens for hostas and some woodland perennials  https://www.crownsvillenursery.com/  in person  and mail order in Virginia – I only use mail order – awesome plants

New Hampshire Hostas   https://www.nhhostas.com/  in person and mail order – only have used mail order – also great plants. Unusual cultivars and old favorites.

Pickering Valley Feed on Gordon Drive in Exton.  They have a Facebook Page. Plants, Supplies, and more….love them

West Chester Agway. Matlack Street in West Chester. They are so awesome and great plants, garden ornaments, supplies, garden carts and more. They also have a Facebook Page.

Uhler’s Feed & Seed Lancaster Ave Malvern. Plants. Supplies. Bird seed. Love them. They have a Facebook Page.

Somerset NurseryTwo locations to blow your mind Glenmoore and Zionsville. 

Please note I list the resources I have used as a regular customer.  I am not compensated for my opinion.

Bye now! (I have a cake to bake)

in the garden, what inspires you?

 

When you are working in your garden, what inspires you? Who inspires you?

A garden is a labor of love, an artistic expression. To me, my garden is like a living artist’s palette. And that is why I think sometimes I get twitchy about my garden. It’s my creativity and sweat equity. Ideas that begin in my head, take shape out of the earth from my hands. 

I love to inspire but I do not wish to see my garden recreated everywhere necessarily. 

Inspiration is very different from copying.

No one designed my garden for me. I used no landscape computer program. I took what I have loved in every garden I have ever had and inspiration from garden writers I admire from Gertrude Jekyll to Rosemary Verey to Penelope Hobhouse to Suzy Bales to Chester County’s David L. Culp. With my current garden the last two garden writers have been particularly influential.

David Culp’s The Layered Garden is not only visually a thing of beauty but so informative as well. The whole concept of a layered garden appeals to me because a layered garden has many different elements. It’s not just one dimensional, it’s multi dimensional. It’s a feast for the eyes and senses.

Then there are the books by Suzy Bales. I made Mrs. Bales acquaintance via email a few years ago after reading her book  Suzy Bales’ Down to Earth Gardener: Let Nature Guide You to Success in Your Garden. Again, a visually beautiful gardening book, but more than that. It is loaded with practical advice.

When I decided on a whim to write Mrs. Bales and tell her how much I loved her book and how she was inspiring me, to my delight she wrote me back. We corresponded here and there and she sent me autographed copies of her other books. I treasure them.  Her other book I refer to often   is The Garden in Winter: Plant for Beauty and Interest in the Quiet Season.

I was thinking about Mrs. Bales’ books again as I was preparing to write this post and quite sadly I discovered she passed away this March from cancer. What a loss. She was so kind to me every time I wrote to her about gardening. You can find an archive of some of her gardening articles on Huffington Post. What a nice lady and an amazing gardener. And so generous with her time and knowledge.

So my point? Don’t copy someone else’s garden or think some landscape computer program is all you need to have someone else plant your garden. Being inspired is not copying what someone else does including acquiring all of the cultivars they have. Being inspired means crafting your own vision. Getting your hands dirty learning from trial and error.

This is part of the fun of doing your own garden– you can try your ideas out and it’s much more cool (at least to me) than walking around after some random landscaper has put their commercial version of your vision to work. It is just more satisfying.

Anyone can garden. Truly. Buy yourself some basic gardening books so you learn techniques. Join an online gardening group. I joined my first online gardening board easily 2o plus years ago. It was the rose gardeners board on AOL. I made friends on that board from across the country that I still am connected to today. I even started a gardening group on Facebook of my own that has over 500 gardeners in it. We share photos, ask each other questions, inspire each other.

Gardening is truly individualistic. I literally stand outside  (when I probably should be weeding) and day dream about what I would like to see. Gardening writers like Suzy Bales and David Culp really help my envisioning because of their practical advice and beautiful gardens which leap off the pages of their books.  I don’t want their exact garden in my garden, they inspire me to be creative on my own. I figure if they can do it, I can do it.

Occasionally I have help if something is say too big for me to handle planting  on my own. I also don’t do lawns, I kill lawns. I have an experienced arborist. So I do have help, although I do most of my gardening myself. I have learned to tell people I am employing to help me what I want specifically, that way everyone is happy especially  me since it’s my garden. And the people who occasionally help me know I am a benevolent dictator who gets her hands dirty and her face smudged with dirt. 

Bit by bit my garden is coming to life on all four sides of our home. It is trial and error. Some plants don’t make it so I either try them again, or try new ones.  And I am definitely layering. For size , smell, type, bloom cycle, season, colors. It’s a crazy quilt of my own design. Inspired by other gardens and gardeners, but uniquely my own. I don’t pretend to know everything or every proper Latin name. I plant what I like. Sometimes I have researched the plants and a lot of times they are impulse buys because I like the way they look and can envision them in my garden.

So think about it: what inspires you in your garden? Let me know!

  

winter gardening

gardeningAhhh, I know all of you, you were hoping for a winter gardening post.  Hoping that in the midst of all this I may have discovered something amazing outside this morning.

Nope.

Just a little winter gardening humor from a friend.  After all, it is like the freaking Tundra out there…. so there is no winter gardening.  Only a fervent wish for all my plants to survive and thrive in the spring. Once spring gets here, that is.

Inside is not much better.  My rosemary plant has given up the ghost and so has my beautiful bay leaf tree and the Mandevilla vine I inherited from the previous homeowner is not faring much better.

My inner gardener is VERY frustrated with this winter.  And I say that knowing that a very cold winter is actually not the worst thing for the garden. Except right now is the ugly phase of the winter garden.  Everything is ice, snow, frozen mud and cold.  And it is too early for the snow drops to emerge. I hope all my hostas make it through the winter, but only spring will tell me that for sure.

So I think I will pick out my virtual herb garden for the spring today.  I tuck herbs in everywhere I can – in pots, in beds, along paths. I love Colonial Creek Farm for the things I cannot source locally.  And I might look for one more rose…..a climber for the side of the house….David Austin of course.

It is time to begin the plant wish list for spring.

I go to my favorite nursery sites and I choose what I want and print out the order list.  I am not ordering today, but I want a list of what cultivars intrigue me. I know, I know I am creating plant wish lists….but it makes dealing with the Tundra temperatures so much easier that way!

After that I will peruse my copy of Suzy Bales’ The Garden in Winter.  It was one of the books she sent to me and I think today is a day where I have to find my love of my winter garden again.

Grumblingly yours,

The Frustrated Gardener in Winter

 

 

 

 

snow rose

rose in winterIt is very cool to be seeing my garden in winter covered in snow.  Here is a lone rose hip covered in snow from yesterday. I miss my flowers, but author Suzy Bales is right about the beauty of garden in winter.

She says (and I quote):

Ironically,  winter is when we need color the most but it is the season least planned and  planted for color.  Although a lone  flower blooming in a snowy bed gives my heart a jolt, it’s the complementary  combinations of plants that make a winter landscape endearing.

Winter  is a fascinating season, a time to closely watch changes in plants. It is when  I have seen miracles and been confounded by mysteries. Everything has a story  to tell and secrets to reveal, from the design of a snowflake and the patterns  of frost, to the first flowers piercing the cold ground, their blooms resting  on a snowy pillow.

 

more playing in the garden

So this summer I discovered a gardening book I just loved. Truthfully I have not enjoyed a gardening book as much in easily twenty years. The book is called Suzy Bales’ Down to Earth Gardener.

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Anyway, I had found this book completely by accident and bought it on a whim. I am so glad I did. It was like this author was speaking to me directly and got how I gardened. And the author happened to like a lot of the same plants as I did, including David Austin English roses. I have a friend whose David Austin English roses have move with her she loves the so much, but I digress.

So I have this rose I planted last fall on a whim when I found it on sale at a local nursery – Del Vacchio’s on 352. It was supposed to be a shrub so I planted it adjacent to a walk. Well, it has developed a far more rangy habit and I was faced with either a rigid pruning or moving it. I did not really want to move it. Something in Mrs. Bales’ book as far as her approach to roses made me think – she said she lets her roses grow how they want, so I thought “why not?” and ordered a topiary form for the garden. The form arrived a few days ago and I put it up. So simple a solution and it so works!

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This is part of the fun of doing your own garden– you can try your ideas out and it’s much more cool (at least to me) than walking around after some random landscaper has put their commercial version of your vision to work. It is just more satisfying.

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So today I was almost ready for a truss by the time I got it in place, but I finally found the garden bench I had been searching for. I wanted a small to medium sized vintage concrete or wrought iron bench for a corner that is a little wild but felt right for a contemplative spot.

I have been looking and looking and looking. These vintage benches are not only hard to come by but darn tasty in price most of the time. I have had dealers and pickers and flea market pals on the hunt. Saw a heavy white but slightly shabby chic cast iron bench at Brandywine View Antiques but it was a little wobbly and priced too high for me considering the wobbles. You see I wanted a bench that I could experiment with, but not too dear in price if it only lasted through a few Chester County winters. From a practical standpoint, there is only so much garden furniture I was to shift, store, and cover.

Well this afternoon on a whim I stopped at Resellers Consignment in Frazer. They get a lot of odds and ends of all types of garden furniture in all the time. A couple of weeks ago they had some really large concrete garden benches and I didn’t get them….because they were more than the price I had in my head that they should be and big enough that I had no clue how I would move it off their sales floor.

So outside I saw a bunch of great looking vintage wrought iron furniture and so on outside e front door and wondered if I would just end up with a mesh backed garden bench that I would somehow have to find room to store over the winter, but the little bench I saw was part of a pair and well I definitely did not want to store a pair. One of the owners was on site and offered to split up the pair, but then he said “well I do have one old concrete bench that is a little beat up that hasn’t made it onto the sales floor.”

Music to my ears!!!!!!

He showed it to me and it was love at shabby chic bench. I never wanted anything new, I wanted something I could plop in my garden today, yet had the look of belonging there for years and years. The price was right too: $40 because it did have a little mend in the seat.

So I hauled it home and maneuvered  it into place. Somehow I managed on my own although I shouldn’t have. I have my bench! I have plans to plant daffodil bulbs around the cement bench “legs” and I think in a year it will be like the bench has always been there.

I get so much satisfaction from my garden. It is a simple pleasure, yet so rewarding. Try a little gardening. It is so good for the soul !