I’ll admit it. With so many other more interesting plants to choose from, I’ve never been a big fan of common Impatiens, unless the foliage had something interesting going on, and I do not mean the blight. You’ve no doubt heard about the blight affecting Busy Lizzies (Impatiens walleriana) and Balsam Impatiens (Impatiens Fusion series). Downy Mildew, introduced from Europe, has swept the US, and without constant use of a fungicide, most plants will succumb before summer’s end. The disease is air borne, so healthy plants purchased and planted in pristine soil can still catch the problem. If you must have Impatiens (and it is true that not much else will produce so much flower power in the shade), New Guinea types, including the new Sunpatiens (Impatiens) seem to be resistant. We’re trying a few selections of the Sunpatiens (they also can stand shade). Can’t say I love them, but they may have their place.
My suggestion for bold color massing in shade: Coleus…especially varieties with yellow and gold coloring (the deep reds can get a little muddy looking in shade. And don’t forget about all the tropical foliage plants….yes they need heat, but there are so many options. And for containers, there’s so many fun hardy plant combinations to try: Hakonechloa, Heuchera, Hydrangea. Take a look at a few options.
There are tons of more options, if you don’t need waves of shocking red, orange and white. Have you any thoughts on interesting alternatives to Impatiens?
Do you do what I do, even though we should know better? Do you get seduced by the bulb catalogs, and then place an order without knowing exactly where you’re going to plant these babies. When the box arrives, will you walk around the garden with sacks of bulbs trying to imagine where you’re going to need jolts of color?
This year it is going to be different.
I am taking images of what my garden looks like now and will continue to do so as the spring progresses. I will make notes. These images and notes will be my reference library when I begin to put my bulb order together. I’m going to take into consideration what perennials and shrubs are also providing early season interest, and plan for partnerships. No more lonely Hellebores or Galanthus. My goal is for an early spring symphony.
While we’re waiting for the Hakonechloa and Hosta to emerge , how about some more purple here?
And don’t you think some little purple tommies will set off the lime green blossoms of this species Hellebore?
Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!
I have some Snowdrops to move. We forgot their location when we planted a prostrate Chinese Plum Yew, and now they are hidden….
How about next to a black hellebore?
I’ve taken a number of images for my reference library but won’t bore you with them now.
Next spring I’ll show off my “after” pictures, and let you ooh and ah then.
Fairy Wings, Bishop’s Cap, Barrenwort, Horny Goatweed: all delightful common names which are applied to the genus Epimedium (well maybe not Barrenwort and Horny Goatweed). Barrenwort refers to the medicinal properties of Epimedium, reportedly used to suppress pregnancy. I bet you can guess what Horny Goatweed will do for you. Bishop’s Cap, (referring to the long spurred forms, perhaps?) reminds one of headgear worn by certain religious leaders. My vote for best common name is Fairy Wings. The magical looking blossoms conjure up images of fairy tale flowers carpeting the forest floor. I’ve noticed when children visit our nursery and gardens, they pause as they pass by our Epimedium collection. “What are these?” they ask. The curiosity factor kicks in: here are plants which do not offer the more familiar flower shapes of daisies, saucers or spikes.
Botanically speaking, Epimedium are members of the barberry family, Berberidaceae, (no,they do not have prickers, but there is a similarity when you observe the flowers). There are Epimedium species native to eastern Europe and northern Africa as well as Japan, but the most species are found in China.
The basic Epimedium flower structure is composed of 4 outer sepals, 4 inner sepals (sometimes in the form of spurs) and 4 petals (the “cup” part) inside which you will find the stamens. Of course there are variations, depending on the species or crosses of these species of this large genus. Some selections have very short outer sepals, some have extra long inner sepals, and vice versa. Some forms have double sepals. Some forms have sprays of dozens of small flowers per stem, while others boast larger blossoms in both large numbers and small. The more you explore this genus the more subtle or extreme variations you will discover. Over the past 30 years numerous new selections have been hybridized and introduced by Darrel Probst of MA and Robin White of the UK, and we are indebted to both for making more of these great plants available.
Epimedium are easy to grow, but although they are often mentioned as a groundcover they do not spread that rapidly. They prefer a rich humus soil with partial shade, where they will grow most luxuriantly. That being said, Epimedium are quite adaptable and will perform well in dry conditions in deeper shade, making them useful subjects under trees and shrubs. Most Epimedium like a neutral to slightly alkaline pH, but I’ve been told that the grandiflorum selections prefer slightly acidic soil conditions. The foliage of Epimedium, besides being deer proof, is always attractive and offers interesting variations of size and coloring: small, elongated, mottled, banded, serrated and more. Some species are evergreen in milder climates, but the hardiest forms are usually deciduous. In either case, it is best to cut back last year’s foliage in early spring, before new growth and flowering shoots emerge, so last year’s blemished leaves do not mar the display. Blooming period, depending on what zone you live in, begins as early as March and continues well into May. Plant height varies depending on which cultivar you are growing, but most form low clumps suitable for the front of the border. Epimedium make excellent companions to spring blooming bulbs and perennials, such as woodland Phlox, hellebores and ferns, There are forms of Epimedium which are hardy into zone 3, but most selections fall into the hardiness ranges of zones 5-8.
Here are a few selections we are enchanted by. Perhaps you will fall in love with them too.
We acquired many of our Epimedium from Garden Vision, a nursery specializing in Epimedium, begun by Darrell Probst and Karen Perkins.
Garden Vision has a web page but it is not active for online ordering. Karen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for the current list.
Even though the sun was shining today, I was still feeling discouraged by yesterday’s snowfall. As I went out to make sure all the greenhouses were properly closed for the day I caught a glimpse of pink, shimmering in the late afternoon light. Greeting me with optimistic charm was the pink pussy willow Salix chaenomeloides ‘Mt Aso’ . I had planted one last fall, and it was set off quite dramatically by the freshly fallen snow.
Salix chaenomeloides is the Latin name for giant pussy willow. It is native to Japan but adapts well to a wide range of garden situations including sandy, average and even quite moist soil. Plants can get quite large, 15’ or more, but in order to have a steady supply of branches which will bear the rosy red catkins (which are male flowers by the way, are you surprised?) you should coppice (cut back to 1-2” above ground) every 2 or 3 years. This will keep plant size a more reasonable 6-8’, and provide you with an ample supply of cut branches for winter arrangements
Salix chaenomeloides ‘Mt Aso’ is hardy to zone 4. We took cuttings last year and will have a crop coming along for fall sales, but if you can’t wait, let me pass on another great mail order source in northern New England. The Vermont Willow Nursery, owned by noted plantsman Michael Dodge, offers dozens of species and cultivars, plus lots of willow lore to boot.
You know you want one. Go for it. I guarantee that if you plant ’Mt. Aso’ this year, you’ll be smiling next March, even if “return to winter” weather tends to make you grumpy.
I’ve always been curious about a plant’s namesake.
About half dozen years ago I had acquired a handsome dwarf Rhododendron with brilliant purple flowers named ‘Jonathan Shaw’. As coincidence would have it, not long after I was at a plantsman’s meeting and heard this name mentioned in a discussion at the next table, and I was all ears. Mr. Jonathan Shaw, a fellow member, was not at that table, but the folks who were had been discussing his fabulous collection of Galanthus (Snowdrops). Not hundreds of one or two cultivars, but hundreds, thousands of many, many cultivars. I knew right then that I wanted to meet Jonathan or Jon as he prefers to be called, and perhaps get invited to see this magical collection.
Jon is a soft spoken gentleman with a lifetime of accomplishments in both horticulture and education. His first career was as a teacher and school administrator. His second career, (yes, I tell my sons, you can have more than one) was as an administrator of two Botanic Gardens, first the New England Wildflower Society in Framingham MA, and next, in a totally different locale, the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. If you read between the lines you can deduce that horticulture and gardening activities were part of Jon’s life long before his second career began.
Much of Jon’s childhood was spent in Sandwich MA, at the splendid Victorian home that belonged to his great grandmother, and in which Jon and his wife Eugenie now live. There were horticulture genes in his family tree: a great great uncle had a nursery in Boston and acquired some of the first Ginkgo trees in the US (one of which stands 70’ tall in the Shaw Garden in Sandwich), an uncle who was a science editor for Time Magazine and who presented a young Jonathan with a sapling Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood) , which up until that time had been considered extinct. And of course there was Jon’s mother who like many others planted a Victory garden during WWII and encouraged Jon to make a plot of his own.
It’s rare that a gardener is interested in only one genus, but often a particular group of plants seduces him or her, and he/she wants to seek out as many examples of this group as possible. Jon admits to be a recovering “Rhodoholic”. He has grown and hybridized many Rhododendron cultivars, (although ‘Jonathan Shaw’ was not his selection but one a friend made at his suggestion and named in his and his son’s honor). When he realized that some of his specimens had reached proportions of 30’ in height and width, he had to accept that space was becoming limited. Jon then moved on to a group of plants with smaller proportions, the genus Galanthus.
Jon and his wife Eugenie share gardening duties. Eugenie, who is from Norway, is the enthusiastic vegetable gardener, and is devoted to cultivating her berry crops. Jon tends the vast collection of ornamental plants. A visit to the the Shaw garden in late winter is enchanting: tens of thousands of snowdrops, many quite rare. They carpet the garden under ancient trees, and invite the up and coming Crocus, Iris reticulata and Eranthis to compete for attention. If Jon must pick a favorite, it would have to be Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’, a particularly robust selection.
The Snowdrops in the Shaw garden are a testimony to the promise of a glorious New England Spring. I asked Jon if he had any encouraging words for the novice gardener and this was his reply: “Have fun! Do not make your garden a hospital for sick plants which require constant care and chemical treatments—dispose of them. And last but not least, develop a special garden interest and discover all you can about it!”
Jon just sent me this info, in case you’re interested. Participation is limited, so call first.
ANNUAL SNOWDROP TEA
In the anticipation of spring, Eugenie and Jonathan Shaw offer their annual “Snowdrop Tea” in their historic home and gardens in Sandwich Village to benefit the Shirley G. Cross Wildflower Garden at the Green Briar Nature Center. Visitors enjoy tea served with homemade desserts and tour the gardens, which contain one of the largest collections of snowdrops on the East Coast. The event will take place on Thursday, March 7 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm. The fee is $25, and reservations should be made now for this popular event by calling 508-888-6870.
That silly groundhog doesn’t know anything. February may be short but it is still winter, and March is usually a big tease. If you’re like me, you must be tired from being cooped up and could use a green escape, perhaps to see and smell something verdant.
Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to travel very far. I grabbed my camera, hopped in the car and within an hour and 15 minutes, I was at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, which is located in central Massachusetts just northeast of Worcester. What a tonic for the senses.
As you enter the Stoddard Visitor Center, you are greeted with many options: a book/gift shop to browse, a cafe where you can refuel, a series of glass windows and doors which offer views and access to the newly installed winter garden, and immediately to your right, the beautiful Limonaia, a cathedral like conservatory featuring succulents, camellias, bromeliads, palms and you bet, citrus in bud and fruit.
It just so happened that on the day of my visit, The Worcester Horticultural Society’s annual event Flora in Winter was taking place at both Tower Hill and the Worcester Art Museum (so I made a date with an old friend and caught that show too, but I won’t digress further!) On display throughout the visitor center were exotic floral arrangements by both professional and amateur designers.
But enough talk for a moment, let me show you what I saw.
It is amazing to see the evolution that has transpired at Tower Hill since its inception some 26 years ago. The first planted area was the Harrington Apple Orchard, a collection of heirloom varieties that would someday be lost if it were not for the stewardship here. Numerous new garden areas have been created over the years, and the latest, the Winter Garden, was opened to the public in November of 2010. The bones are in place and already the plantings are taking shape. Come visit for ideas on which hardy plants will add winter color and form to your landscape.
Tower Hill is open year round, Tuesday through Sunday, 9-5 (Closed Mondays). Admission is free with membership, otherwise, $12 per adult (seniors $9).
For much more information, including upcoming events visit: http://www.towerhillbg.org
or call: 508.869.6111
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.