I don’t feel old, and I’m not, really, ( figure I have a little less than half my life ahead.) The thing is, I have noticed I get into an old person funk during January and February. I sulk and grumble when I never use to, especially when the sun’s not shining. No doubt that’s why some older folks make the winter exodus to warmer and sunnier climates. They are seeking optimism, the kind that plentiful sunshine allows.
But self-pity is unbecoming…and I’m a take action kind of gal. I know the best remedy is to get out and absorb some sunlight when the winter skies allow. Today the sun is bright, and the reflection off the pre-New Year’s Eve snowfall made my eyes squint. It’s 15 degrees F outside, so perhaps I won’t plan a long walk…maybe just once around the garden, and then into the greenhouse where we overwinter all of our tender plants.
Ahhh…the the luxury of a winter greenhouse. We keep a 100′ poly house heated to 50 degrees at night, and in it are stored all of our tender succulents and stock plants. Mostly, plants are in a semi dormant state, and are not very pretty, waiting for longer days to spur growth. The greenhouse is packed to the brim. Each time I walk in, I feel the promise of spring, plus a few midwinter surprises: plants (often from the southern hemisphere) that choose to bloom in January and February. The little Boronia above is in bloom. Here is what else presently greets me.
We still have this Mimulus selection brought back from the now closed Western Hills Nursery in CA. It blooms on new growth all year round, but can be a little temperamental if kept too wet or too dry. It also ships poorly, so if you ever want one, come visit us at the nursery.
Anybody know the name of this Orchid Cactus?
You gotta grow everything to really appreciate funky plants like this Rhipsalis. Specifically bought one of those face pots where this can be planted as the wig, come spring.
All the succulents that we buy as little plants take on larger proportions with age. This Paddle Plant erupts into bloom in winter.
Our office needed a replacement plant for the window sill, so I brought in this Beschnorneria. Bechnorneria are commonly called False Agave, and are hardy to about 15-20 degrees. We bought this unspecified selection from Cistus Nursery a good 6-7 years ago , and at last it has bloomed. It’s a shorter form with narrow tubular pink/red/green blooms.
We’re not open for visits during the winter months. Perhaps there is a little greenhouse operation near where you live, or one kept open at your local public garden. Plan a winter visit to support them, and get your sunshine fix. Your purchases and membership dues help pay the heating bills, and they offer you a retreat when you can’t make it to a southern climate.
I was trying to ignore the holidays this year. A visit to the west coast for our son’s mid year college graduation filled our calendar in early December. I had started to rethink the winter containers before I left, but didn’t get very far. Upon returning home there was a ton of unfinished business to attend to. We aren’t hosting a Christmas gig this year. No little children to dazzle and excite. A part of me said why do you want to give yourself more to do?
Then, last night, while driving home, passing house after house decked with holiday lights and showy front door entries, I really felt let down pulling into our driveway. No lights to greet me, no glow of a Christmas tree inside. Does anybody live here? That was the message our place was saying. Not a good one.
Here’s what I got done so far this morning.
Finished the wreath for the front door. It’s not good lighting for a photo right now, but maybe tonight, with a few Christmas lights!
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Winter Solstice Greetings to all!
Just took a break from fall cleanup chores and went to grab my camera to capture a few images. I went to upload into my November 2012 image folder, and noticed the November 2011 folder right next to it, so I had to look. Same day, same garden, different year. Yes, we did some garden editing this spring, but what struck me is the dramatic color difference in the Japanese Maple Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’.
It would be a difficult choice, but if I had to select one deciduous tree for my garden, it would have to be the Korean form of Stewartia pseudocamellia, and this is why: here is a small tree (25-30′) with striking interest in all 4 seasons. In winter, a mature Stewartia pseudocamellia var koreana shows off its handsome narrow pyramidal shape, which broadens a bit with age, and lovely exfoliating bark, exposing shades of tan, pink and gray. In spring, it breaks anew with fresh dark green elliptical leaves, arranged alternately along its branches. In early summer, lovely 3″ white camellia like flowers are displayed. Each blossom only lasts a short time, but there are so many produced over several weeks that you never feel it is not performing. In autumn, Stewartia pseudocamellia is truly mesmerizing, flashing you with foliage in shades of brilliant red, orange, gold and green.
Stewartia pseudocamellia is native to Japan and Korea, and the Korean form is generally considered a bit hardier. The Korean form tends to have a more narrow pyramidal shape than the species found in Japan. In its native habitat, it is found growing with Clethra barbinervis and Enkianthus campanulatus, both exceptional large shrubs or small trees, with multi season interest. Stewartia pseudacamellia var. koreana grows best in sun or partial shade in a humus rich but well drained soil, out of strong wind. It is hardy to minus 20F and grows well in zones 5-8.
Here is a little plant that is versatile, super hardy and foolproof (as long as you grow it in sun and well drained soil). It hasn’t been in the US very long, but already has acquired the common names of “Chinese Stonecrop”, as it hails from Asia, and “Coral Reef” , (still not sure what the Coral Reef reference is). Sedum tetractinum grows only 1-2″ tall, and spreads modestly, rooting into the soil as it creeps along. It is especially dramatic spilling over edges: retaining walls, pottery, troughs, you name it.
Sedum tetractinum is also lovely enough to use in mixed succulent planters. Its rounded olive green leaves turn a lovely copper bronze shade in the autumn, and this color change contrasts well with other shades of succulent foliage. In the planter you see here it is paired with tender Sedum adophii and Euphorbia tirucalli, but it could easily accent hardy Sedum ‘Angelina‘ and Sempervivum. Pale yellow flowers appear in summer, but the blossoms are not the highlight. ”Chinese Stonecrop” takes temperatures as cold as minus 30F (zones 4-9).
Before frosts and falling leaves tarnish my memory, I need to do this post. Here are a few plants that were just AWESOME this season, despite extremely variable weather. (here in MA: Frost free March, 80 degree April days followed by 25 degree nights, very dry spring, hot dry July, cooler wetter August, near perfect September, and thus far, a cooler gray October).
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ is a new annual Globe Amaranth that dramatically surpasses your expectations: it is tough, extremely floriferous, hardly needs deadheading, and is still in full glorious bloom in October from a 4th of July planting. You can learn to love cerise.
Cissus discolor commonly known as Begonia Vine, is an old fashioned conservatory plant that is quite happy to be growing and performing outside of a glass house during frost free weather. It is a vine, so it needs either a tripod or obelisk to climb, or perhaps a big moss basket to cascade from, but however you display it, there will be oohs and ahs from those who walk by. Cissus discolor loves the shade, but can take 1/2 day sun as well.
Meet Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Little Henry’. We’re big fans of end of the summer blooming perennials, and have grown this “little” guy’s big brother ‘Henry Eilers’ for some time. ‘Little Henry’ is not that little…he’s 3-4′ tall, but compared to the 5-6′ his big brother gets, he fits in to more intimate garden settings, (or at least doesn’t spill over as much). ‘Little Henry’ began blooming in late July and even now in October he is still making us smile.
Caryopteris clandonensis ‘White Surprise’ is the perfect small shrub for a sunny well drained spot. The foliage, a lovely aromatic forest green edged in creamy white, is attractive all summer, and in August, when you feel like your garden is starting to lose that “je ne sais quoi “, ‘White Surprise’ surprises you with cerulean blue flowers appearing in whorls along the branches.
Cercis canadensis ‘The Rising Sun‘ has superb heart shaped foliage. The newest leaves emerge a warm coppery amber, brighten to yellow and then age to yellow green. Yes it is a Redbud Tree, and it will get pretty pink blossoms before the foliage breaks in spring, but they seem to pass all too quickly. Why we’re smitten with Rising sun is that it continues all season with this fabulous foliar display. Fall color is a more coppery orange. It is not as weak wooded as other Cercis, and has a small rounded habit, more shrublike than tree, growing 9-12′ tall and 8′ wide. It lends itself to coppicing (above the graft!).
Despite humid conditions in August, when even some of our hardy Sedum flopped and melted in the garden, the container displays of “tropical” succulents just kept getting better and better. The closeup image was taken on Oct .12th when the Euphorbia tirucalli rosea was just beginning to take on fiery tones.
What plants were outstanding in your garden this season? I’d love to hear.
Meet ‘Michael Dodge‘, a golden berried hybrid of Linden Viburnum. He is a cheerful fellow, who shows off in late spring with a bevy of white lacey flowers and then later develops clusters of showy yellow fruit, which is a sight in our garden right now. The birds are leaving the fruit alone, but that is fine with me because the fruit bearing stems are perfect additions to autumn floral arrangements.
I received a nice note from the plant’s breeder, Mr. Michael Dodge himself. He informed me that he made a deliberate cross between V. dilatatum and V. d. Xanthocarpum in hopes of getting a larger fruited yellow form in his days working at Wintherthur in Delaware. Mr. Dodge left Winterthur not long after, but was notified that there were some very nice clones from the seedlings he planted. Harold Bruce, the garden curator at that time, named the best yellow fruited clone after him.
Viburnun dilatatum is of Asian ancestry and although it looks perfectly at home in a naturalistic border, it is not as favored by birds and wildlife (plant V. dentatum and other native viburnum species). What it does do is provide dramatic color in the autumn landscape. Something you should note is that in order for a good berry set you need another cultivar of V. dilatatum nearby. This may sound confusing, so I should clarify. You should plant a different clone for good cross pollination, and Mr Dodge specifically recommends Viburnum dilatatum ‘Cardinal Candy‘, who will put on a show of its own with bright red fruit.
Viburnum dilatatum ‘Michael Dodge‘ will grow 8-10′ tall and wide. He is not fussy about soil, but will certainly appreciate a fertile loam and grows best in full sun or partial shade. ‘Michael Dodge is hardy through zone 5.
As Halloween approaches, our human curiosity regarding death and the afterlife gets played out in various and perhaps even gleeful ways. Macabre decorations adorn our dooways and activities associated with this autumnal celebration fill community calendars: haunted house openings, pumpkin extravaganzas, cemetery strolls. One cemetery you absolutely must consider if you are so inclined is Mt Auburn Cemetery, America’s first Garden Cemetery in Watertown/Cambridge (…more details after the images).
The concept of a garden cemetery came about in 1831, when the citizens of Boston were looking for a practical and aesthetic solution for burying the city’s deceased. The original architects of Mt Auburn Cemetery, Jacob Bigelow, Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn and Alexander Wadsworth drew their inspiration from the hauntingly beautiful Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, remarkable for its rolling hills, ancient trees, winding paths with distinctive “street” names, magnificent sculptures and elaborate grave markers. They envisioned a beautiful and tranquil setting for families to gather and find peace.
A walk through Mt Auburn Cemetery today assures us that the early founders achieved their goal. The landscape of rolling hills, ponds, sylvan paths and garden artifacts offers a tranquil sanctuary for both the living and the dead. Magnificent trees, labeled as you would expect in any arboretum, dominate the grounds. Elaborate and exquisite garden statuary is everywhere. Lanes and paths are named after botanical subjects. On any given day you will encounter folks from all generations enjoying this peaceful escape from urban life: birders, young mothers with strollers, and joggers.
Enjoy this visual stroll, and if you live within a reasonable distance, plan a visit to Mt Auburn Cemetery soon. It is open to the public every day of the year, although the gates close at different times depending on the season.
I have always thought that what makes great visual art is when an object or painting compels you to look at it again and again. I feel the same way about plants and gardens, and containers. Of course, plants are constantly changing, so plantings are ephemeral compositions. Perhaps that’s why we want to take in their beauty all the more.
Here are some planted containers that have looked good all summer, and still do in mid September.
We did a posting of some planted containers in early July. A number of these containers sold, and we hear they still look smashing.
As you can see, it’s mostly about foliage. What are your favorite container combinations from this season?
The longer we garden the more we appreciate both subtlety and contrast… especially when a plant makes you do a double take because of some extraordinary features. Boehmeria platanifolia is one of these plants: unique foliage, size, with late summer pale green flowers. This species of Boehmeria has large sycamore shaped green leaves (up to 5″) with serrated edges and covered with tiny hairs giving the plant a soft glow. The leaves attach to the sturdy stems with contrasting red petioles. Green tassel flowers emerge from the branch tips in August and continue to droop into the fall.
Boehemeria platanifolia performs best in partial shade, in a soil that is evenly moist. Established plants can grow to 5′ tall and 4′ wide. It is a Japanese member of the Nettle family, Urticaceae, and this particular species is quite hardy…reports say to zone 4, but we’ll play it safe in saying it will grow well in zones 5-8.