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: 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.

goats!!!

It’s an open farm weekend at Yellow Springs Farm so we stopped by to visit goats 🐐 and pick up a couple of native plants for the garden.

Yellow Springs Farm is open until 4 PM today Saturday and tomorrow (Sunday, September 2 from 10 AM – 4 PM)