Archive | 2017

Autumn 2017: Snap, Crackle and Pop

“Autumn is a second Spring”, said Albert Camus, “when every leaf is a flower.”

Sadly, not every leaf. This year our oaks, colorful superstars of Autumn, are clothed in dry, brown leaves that never turned their usual vibrant shades of orange and red.

Yet, with the looming threat of deadly Oak Wilt Disease (see post of July 3, “Summer 2017: Roses & Clematis”) we are grateful that our trees are still alive. Moreover, other showy plants have taken up the slack, like Enkianthus and Japanese Maples. Photos below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Adding to the snap, crackle and pop is the fiery autumn foliage of the native Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina. Our shrub (small tree?) was a welcome gift from the birds. (Thanks to the Cornell Cooperative Extension for the ID!) Photo below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

In addition to the Camus ‘leaf flowers’, there are real flowers to admire and celebrate in the Fall. Standouts in my garden are the repeat-blooming evergreen azaleas. Consider my long adored Rhododendron ‘Marshy Point’s Humdinger’, a time-tested reliable Spring/Autumn bloomer with disease-resistant foliage. Photo below. (For additional photos and for more information about Humdinger, see posts of November 2011, March 2013, and December 2015.)

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And new to my garden is the handsome evergreen azalea, Rhododendron Bloom-a-Thon Pink Double. The shrub possesses a winning combination of abundant ruffled, pink flowers in Spring, Summer and Fall, and healthy, dark green foliage. Photo below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

{Note: Most Rhododendrons form flower buds in the Summer and Fall and bloom only in the Spring. A few of these plants are beguiled by warm weather spurts in the Fall and Winter and are seduced into bloom—as in the photo below. When the emerging flowers are zapped by the cold, Spring bloom is diminished if not destroyed altogether. Heartbreaking. A lawyer should sue Mother Nature for wrongful death.}

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, homage must be paid to Rosa ‘Belle Vichyssoise’, a Noisette rose that started to bloom in June and continues to produce intoxicating, fragrant flowers to be enjoyed in the garden and in the house. Photos below. (For more information about Belle and Noisette roses see post of June 2012.)

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Autumn 2017: Fig Fundamentals

A good news story: Eyebrows, Lily Belle, and Swiss Cheese worked hard all season on a woodland reclamation project in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York. Their job? Eating massive amounts of poison ivy and invasive species.

“They were very productive”, said the project’s chief landscape architect.

No wonder. Endowed with very large stomachs, they can eat 25% of their body weight every day. Yup, Eyebrows, Lily Belle, and Swiss Cheese are goats, and they provided Prospect Park with an environmentally safe option for clearing land. Kudos to the Park for not choosing the popular, faster and cheaper option, the toxic herbicide Roundup. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found that glyphosate, the principle component of Roundup, is “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

Moreover, the goats were a big hit with Park visitors.

Another good news story: For over 25 years, the fig, Ficus ‘Hardy Chicago’, has been a big hit in my organic garden. I am often asked for information about growing figs so I’d like to share a few tips:

Figs require alkaline (sweet) soil. I raise the pH of my acid soil by amending with lime and, when available, wood ash from the fireplace.

With a leap of faith I planted Hardy Chicago in the ground, rather than in a container I could move inside at the first sign of frost. Yet, fearing winter damage, I provided protection by surrounding the tree with chicken wire and dumping loads of oak leaves into the enclosure. In the Spring, the fig stems were alive but I was left with an unpleasant mess to clean up. So much for winter protection. I decided to trust Hardy Chicago to be true to its name.

And so it was. Over two decades the tree prospered without protection. It did suffer winter damage twice, but each time recovered in the Spring and produced fruit. That is until 2016.

After an extraordinary, abundant harvest in 2015, the tree stems died to the ground in the winter of 2016 and the sparse, new stem growth in Spring produced no fruit. Not one fig.

A major disappointment.

Therefore, in December of 2016, I covered the small, bare fig stems with conifer branches — a winter protection method I have used successfully with container roses. And it worked. No dieback in 2017 and we are once again enjoying figs a-plenty. (The first photo below shows the 2016 dead stems along with the vigorous new growth, and the second shows the tree now loaded with fruit.)

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

This winter I’ll provide protection, but not with conifer branches: The tree is now much too tall and wide. But if you are growing a small fig in a container and want to leave it outside over winter, cloaking it with conifer branches could work for you. I may return to the messy drown-in-oak-leaves-approach.

I purchased my beloved Ficus ‘Hardy Chicago’ mail order from the nursery Edible Landscaping in Virginia. Check out their online catalog selection of fabulous fruit, berry, and nut producing trees, shrubs, and vines.

2017: Summer End Game

On a recent walk about the garden I was startled to see the distinctive upside-down-baseball-bat like seed heads of the butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa. Photo below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

I guess I have a bird to thank. Over the years I’ve planted a slew of A. tuberosa but they all died–probably from a combination of lack of sun and an overabundance of voles. I join the butterflies in hoping this plant survives. (Note: I never saw the midsummer flowers because the gravel path in that area of the garden was then overgrown with vegetation laced with ticks and had to be avoided.)

My late summer garden is a showcase of interesting seed heads like the singular display of Clematis ‘Minuet’ and the golden pinwheels of Clematis ‘Duchess of Albany’. Photos below. (For flower photos and information about these vines see my last two blog posts.)

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Another showy seed head is produced by the hummingbird magnet, Canna Lily Tropicanna a/k/a Canna indica ‘Phasion’. Photos of the seed head and flowers below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Tropicanna is no longer in flower so the hummingbirds have moved on to a vibrant orange flowering geranium and the gorgeous purple-stemmed, blood-red flowering, Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’. Photos below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, to celebrate summer’s splendid End Game, a fragrant bouquet from the garden.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

Summer 2017: Clematis & Gardenias

I love tulips but I don’t have any in the garden. As soon as I plant the bulbs the voles invite all their friends over for an eating orgy. So, imagine my surprise and delight when I recently discovered a tulip-look-alike substitute, the award-winning vine, Clematis ‘Duchess of Albany.’ Zones 4-9. (Photo below.)

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

Don’t know what took me so long — the Duchess was introduced to commerce in 1894. And she possesses many assets, including profuse flowering from late July to September, and thereafter showy golden pinwheel like seed heads. The plant blooms on new growth and once established can grow 6-12 feet after hard pruning in the Spring. Moreover, the vine is so hardy and easy-care that it is on the International Clematis Society’s “Clematis For Beginners List”. Provide rich, well-drained soil and water on a regular basis. With adequate support, the Duchess grows well in the ground or in a container.

 

I love gardenias and I treasure Gardenia ‘Chuck Hayes’ (Zones 7-9) in my garden. (Photo below.)

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

Before Chuck, I tried about 7 or 8 different gardenias and none survived . Then ten years ago Chuck arrived on the scene with the promise of cold-hardiness in my U.S. East Coast Zone 7. But when winter frost arrived that first year, I was so taken with the plant’s beauty and fragrance I rushed Chuck indoors to safety — and put him back outside the following June when the danger had passed. That’s been the modus operandi every year since.

My organic garden’s health relies heavily on beneficial insects and birds to control the damage caused by pests. Needless to say, those garden helpers don’t live in my house. I was taking a risk with Chuck since many other house plants didn’t make it. But he surpassed all expectations: No pests and no disease. A Super Hero!

Chuck is an evergreen shrub with deliciously fragrant double flowers from July to October, and lustrous, dark green foliage. He flourishes in a large container with acidic soil and regular water. He does grow quite big–about 3 feet tall and wide-and I’ve had to prune him back a couple of times.

I have been tempted to leave him out over winter, protected with conifer branches — the method I use with container roses — but these days Mother Nature has been too crazed and erratic. Maybe someday.

Summer 2017: Roses & Clematis

Trouble in Paradise:

A pox on ticks!!!! Our gardens are harboring thousands of these blood-sucking vampires. It’s impossible to avoid them. My husband and I have already suffered 4 debilitating bouts of Lyme Disease. (And I shuddered when I read that in northern New England large numbers of moose have been killed by ticks.) Enough already. WE NEED A VACCINE!!!!

Our Oaks are also in need of help. A deadly fungal disease, Oak Wilt, is killing the trees by cutting off their supply of food and water. Last year the disease spread to six new locations in New York, including the East End of Long Island where I garden. The catastrophic loss of oaks would be devastating to our landscapes and to our wildlife. As yet, there is no cure, but there are preventive measures suggested by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation:

Oak Wilt is spread by insects, especially sap beetles, which are attracted to fresh tree wounds. Therefore, prune oaks between October and February — not during the sap-flowing growing season. And learn to identify the symptoms of Oak Wilt, which include discoloration around the leaf edge and a sudden, substantial loss of summer foliage. For more information, contact the DEC Forest Health office: 1-866-640-0652; or e-mail photos of tree symptoms to: foresthealth@dec.ny.gov

Pretty In Pink:

On to happier thoughts. The roses are in their glory, releasing intoxicating fragrance about the garden. I am partial to the disease-resistant Kordes roses, like the enchanting, multi-award-winning climber, Rosa ‘Jasmina’. We revel in her delicious perfume, which travels on the air all the way to our upper house deck — over 20 feet high. Photos below. (For more about the Kordes Nursery and roses see the post: “July 2014: Celebration of Roses.”)

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

I do grow and treasure one non-fragrant rose, another multi-award-winning Kordes beauty, Rosa ‘Larissa’. If you are looking for a repeat bloomer that is über hardy and disease-resistant (disease-free for me), and will flourish in a container, look no further. Albeit non-fragrant, I love Larissa’s small, densely-petaled, cotton-candy-pink flowers. Photo below. (Larissa is still in bud. Photo from last year.)

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

Speaking of a hardy, healthy, floriferous bloomer that will thrive in a container, consider Clematis ‘Minuet.’ This small-flowered  viticella Clematis does not suffer from the dreaded Clematis Wilt which plagues large-flowered Clematis. A big plus. As a general rule, viticellas are extremely hardy and disease-resistant. And pruning is a piece of cake. Minuet blooms on new growth, so in early Spring I prune the old stems down to the ground. (I wait until there is no risk of frost because the old stems provide protection for the crown of the plant — and birds appreciate any remaining seeds.) In the wink of an eye, new stems emerge and the vine produces masses of charming, purple-pink edged white flowers. Photo below.

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

Note: In his 1597 Herball, John Gerard did caution gardeners about the viticella Clematis: “it climeth aloft,” he said, “and taketh hold with its crooked claspers upon everything that standeth nere unto it!” Ergo, keep to a safe distance.

Wishing you all a fabulous Fourth of July! a fabulous and.

Spring 2017: Fragrant Radiance

We live in an extraordinarily trying time.

Mother Nature has been almost as erratic and misguided as the Ruling Class in D.C.

Yet, this Spring, she seems to have had a brief change of heart: The garden has never looked as splendid, bursting at the seams with awe-inspiring bloom. Especially impressive are the Rhododendrons, like the purple-flowering variety shown below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

A few Rhododendrons possess both spectacular bloom and fragrance. One of the finest is the award-winning R. ‘Loderi King George’ (Zones 7-9). In 1920, this beauty was hybridized by Sir Edmund Loder in England and it has been prized ever since. (One of George’s parents, R. fortunei, is discussed in the previous post.) Large snowy-white blossoms produce fragrance that carries on the air and fills the garden with intoxicating perfume. The shrub’s foliage does suffer winter damage, but the plant quickly produces new pristine green leaves in the Spring. Photo below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Another intensely fragrant Rhododendron is the native deciduous azalea, R. ‘Choptank Rose Seedling’ (Zones 5-8). This seedling comes from a group of natural hybrid azaleas (atlanticum x periclymenoides) discovered along the Choptank River, on the Maryland/Delaware border. With a seedling, you never know for sure what the flower will look like. I lucked out. Photo below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Joining Spring’s sweet symphony, the Broom, Cytisus scoparius ‘Moonlight’ (Zones 6-8), produces an abundance of fragrant, creamy-yellow, pea-like flowers. When the flowers fade, purple seed pods add to the dazzle. Moonlight is an easy-care, drought-tolerant shrub that requires sun and well-drained soil. While Broom has a sorry reputation for being short-lived, my plants are over twenty years old and are still going strong. (Just protect against voles!). Photos below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

If you are looking for a fragrant flowering, shade-loving, deer-resistant, perennial ground cover, consider Convallaria majalis’ Albostriata’ (Zones 3-7). About forty-five years ago, while touring the Lake District in England with my husband, a sprig of enchanting lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria) graced our table at dinner. I was smitten and now treasure them in my garden. The variegated form, Albostriata, is relatively new to me and is certainly worth having for the foliage alone. Note: It may occasionally revert to an all green leaf. Photo below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, an exciting plant from a warmer clime. My friend Dee lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and sent me a photo of a showy shrub blooming in her garden: Caesalpinia gilliesii (Desert/Yellow Bird Of Paradise).  This red-tongued Diva is native to Argentina and Uruguay and thrives in Zones 8-11. It isn’t fragrant but Hummingbirds love it. And so do I!  Sometimes the grass is greener.

copyright 2017 – Dee Finkelstein

Spring 2017: Resplendent Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons are Spring Superstars, gracing the garden with form, color, beauty — and ofttimes fragrance. Here are three distinctive early blooming favorites:

Rhododendron ‘Taurus’ is a standout evergreen shrub. It never fails to capture attention as it bursts into Spring with supersized buds and glowing fire-engine-red blossoms. Nothing shy about this plant. Taurus has healthy, dark green foliage, and can attain a height of six feet at maturity. (Photos below.)

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rhododendron fortunei produces pink buds that open to beautiful, intensely fragrant white flowers. As a bonus, this vigorous, upright evergreen — mine is almost tree-like — sports handsome, paddle-shaped, matte green healthy leaves. If possible, site the shrub near a path in order to fully savor its heavenly perfume. (Photos below. Note: While R. fortunei has lots of buds this year, it hasn’t bloomed yet, so the photos are from last year.)

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rhododendron ‘Hank’s Mellow Yellow’ is a hardy, evergreen, small-leafed shrub that thinks it’s a ground cover: After about ten years in my garden, it isn’t more than six inches tall. However, every year it increases in girth and cloaks the earth with an abundance of lovely pale yellow flowers. For color contrast, I have it edging a pink azalea that blooms at the same time. R.’Hanks Mellow Yellow’ is a unique and special Rhododendron. (Photos below.)

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

R. ‘Hank’s Mellow Yellow’ was hybridized by my friend, the late Hank Schannen, accomplished plantsman and founder of rareFIND nursery. Reproduced below is Hank’s famous take on Rhododendron culture:

Hank Schannen’s 12 Criteria for Success with Rhododendron

1. Drainage

2. Drainage

3. Drainage

4. Drainage

5. Drainage

6. Drainage

7. Acid pH

8. Dappled shade

9. Able to water when needed

10. If containerized, loosen roots (viciously)

11. When in doubt, plant it HIGH!

12. Hmmm – More DRAINAGE!!!

 

How to kill a rhododendron:

1 .Southwest corner of a house

2. Full sun

3. Heavy clay soil

4. Wet – poor drainage

5. Down spout nearby

6. Neutral/alkaline pH

7. Containerized plant is plunked into ground with root ball in pristine condition

8. Ignore Criteria above

2017 Early Spring: Camellias & Honeysuckle

Spring is really here!

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

And Mother Nature is full of surprises.

For the past three years, none of my hardy camellias bloomed and some suffered dieback and death. According to camellia guru, David Parks of Camellia Forest Nursery, the plants don’t appreciate dramatic shifts in weather — which is our new reality. So, reluctantly, I decided: No More Camellias!

Imagine my amazement this Spring when I found Camellia japonica ‘Korean Fire’ — and others — full of flower buds. I don’t get it. Last winter wasn’t much different from the previous two. But I’m not complaining. Hey, when it comes to plants, it doesn’t take much to make me a believer. I fast ordered a new beauty, Camellia ‘Erina’, and re-upped with my local Camellia Group.

Camellia ‘Korean Fire’, an award winning shrub, was raised from seeds collected in 1984 from wild plants growing on islands off the west coast of South Korea. This area endures frigid, harsh winter weather, which clearly accounts for Korean Fire’s winter hardiness; while flowerless for three years, the shrub never sustained winter dieback. Moreover, before being released commercially, Korean Fire was subjected to decades of field trial evaluations for winter hardiness, leaf quality, vigor, etc., and surpassed all expectations. Photos below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Camellia ‘Erina’ is quite unusual.The plant has pink and white buds that produce a profusion of dainty white flowers with golden tufted centers. An elegant plant with perfect miniature camellias. I couldn’t resist. Photos below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

(Note: There is some confusion about Erina’s parentage. Camellia Forest received the plant from a collector as Camellia tsaii v. synaptica ‘Erina’. But the leading authority on camellias, Dr. Clifford Parks, pointed out that Erina’s flowers and leaves are smaller than that species. There also seems to be a bit of an identity mix-up with the Camellia ‘Elina Cascade’.)

 

Finally, despite Mother Nature’s assaults, the Fragrant Honeysuckle, Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty,’ blooms reliably every year. From late March until late April the shrub’s creamy-white flowers release intoxicating perfume that carries on the air. A most welcome sign of Spring. Photo below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

I purchased the camellias Korean Fire and Erina, as well as the  honeysuckle Winter Beauty, from Camellia Forest Nursery. You can click onto their website at LINKS.

2017: Year Of The Rooster & Global Warming

2017 is the Year of the Rooster when evil spirits are supposed to be exorcised.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

So where was the Rooster when Mother Nature moved to Crazyville and decided to play topsy-turvy with the seasons? On February 8, in the dead of winter, we were enjoying balmy weather in the 60’s and the flowers of the Witchhazel, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel,’ filled the garden with fragrance.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

On February 9 — the very next day — we suffered a deep freeze along with a foot and a half of snow. The storm was accompanied by thunder, lightning, and strong winds that blew our 6 ft. x 4 ft. metal chimney-cap off the roof and smashed it into a group of bud-heavy Rhododendron, causing untold damage. And the heavy snowfall changed tall shrubs into groundcovers.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Dramatic shifts in weather continued into March when we had another run of unusually warm weather. On March 9th, Hellebores were in full bloom, fat Pieris buds were showing color, Sarcococca bloomed a month early, and the birds were singing love songs — all in hopeful anticipation of Spring. Alas, these hopes were dashed when frigid temperatures returned and heavy snow fell again on March 10th. (Photos below in order of mention.)

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Across the country, climate change has also caused soaring temperatures, blizzards, tornados, severe droughts and wildfires, horrific floods and mudslides. It simply belies reason that despite unimpeachable scientific evidence and real life experience, many of our recently elected representatives refuse to admit that we have a global warming problem.

Worse still, instead of coming up with solutions,Trump & Co. are part of the problem: They are intent on repealing our clean air and clean water protections and the President’s budget mandates sweeping cuts in funding for The Environmental Protection Agency. I don’t get it. Could this be President Trump’s idea of “America First”?

I’m reminded of the ancient saying: “If you keep a green tree in your heart, a singing bird may come.”

Will any birds sing for us?

Jan.\Feb. 2017: Fragrant Native Plants

It’s the start of a New Year but we gardeners don’t have much to celebrate: Mother Nature has again locked us into a dizzying weather roller coaster. And I mean locked. The first week in January we were housebound for five days after a snow storm. With an accumulation of over a foot of snow and freezing cold temperatures, we couldn’t open a door to the outside. Then the weather turned balmy and all the snow melted. Photos below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Warm days followed, then freezing temps again, and snow again, and then a return of the tropics AGAIN! These dramatic swings in weather are driving me and the plants cuckoo. As soon as there is a run of warm weather, the buds of a number of spring-flowering shrubs — forsythia, rhododendron, and camellia, to name a few — open and are zapped by frost. Not pretty. And too many plants just up and die.

When I think about the added stress of coping with deer, rabbits, voles, et al., I’m sorely tempted to throw in the trowel.

Ultimately, though, the pleasures of having a garden outweigh the problems. Especially the priceless joy I receive from fragrant plants providing natural aromatherapy in my own backyard. (Recently, I read about a new fragrance trend in New York City luxury apartment buildings: Lobbies and hallways are saturated with synthetic aromas blown in through ductwork or stand-alone machines. Quite frankly, I think it’s dreadful — too much like being caught in an elevator with someone heavily doused in strong cologne.)

Plantsman William Cullina once said, “My favorite part of winter is spring.” On that note, here are two of my favorite Spring-blooming, fragrant, American beauties:

Rhododendron ‘Snowbird’, a deciduous native Azalea (z 6-8), has deliciously fragrant white flowers and blue-green, mildew-resistant foliage. I grow Snowbird in organic rich, well-drained, acid soil, in a shady area close to a path. Photo below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ (z 5-9), is an award-winning, fragrant, native vine. While the lovely flowers may not be as dazzling as those of its Asian cousins, W. sinensis* and W. floribunda, its reliable bloom and restrained growth are more suitable for a home garden. And my plant does fine in dappled shade. Photos below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

*Note: I have to constantly prune the rapacious roots of my Chinese wisteria, W. sinensis, especially when they sneak into the compost pile. Not to mention that in the wink of an eye its stems wrapped five large oaks in fond embrace.