Archive | 2020

Spring 2020: Rhododendron Elepidotes

As though we don’t have enough trouble with a killer virus, now we have to deal with killer insects — the Asian Giant Hornets a/k/a the “murder hornets.” They decapitate bees and then feed on them. They can wipe out a hive in a matter of hours.

And they don’t stop with bees. In Japan, hornet stings have killed up to fifty people a year. Beekeepers are especially vulnerable; a hornet’s stinger can easily puncture a beekeeping suit. (As one beekeeper described the stings: “It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh.”)

Asian Giant Hornets are aggressive killers and now they are in the U.S.  Several were found in Washington State. Thankfully, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, they have not migrated East — yet.

For more info on the hornets — and for all other horticultural inquiries — call the Cornell Phone Help Line: 631-727-4126, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-12 noon. Or email: sib7@cornell.edu or aw242@cornell.edu.  An invaluable resource.

Before moving on to my summer garden, I want to feature, for your consideration, a choice group of May-blooming, large-leaf, evergreen elepidote Rhododendrons:

Rhododendron ‘Loderi King George’ is one of my all-time favorite plants. Bred in Great Britain, King George received an Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. From pink buds the shrub produces masses of gorgeous, large, richly-perfumed snow-white blossoms in May. The fragrance carries on the air in the garden — and in the house. Photos below.

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

For decades in my zone 7 organic garden the plant has been a hardy, reliable yearly bloomer. The evergreen foliage does suffer winter damage but it is quickly replaced in Spring by new green growth. Provide acid, well-drained soil in a shady site sheltered from wind.

 

Rhododendron ‘Mario Pagliarini’ is another sweetly fragrant, hardy May bloomer. Dressed in healthy evergreen foliage and abundant, large, lilac-pink flowers — that age to white with traces of pink — Mario is a wondrous sight to see. And to smell — the fragrance carries on the air. Photos below.

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

After 15 years or so my shrub is now about eight feet high and nine feet across, so provide adequate space for Mario to express himself. R. ‘Mario Pagliarini’ thrives in shade and rich, acid, well-drained soil.

 

Rhododendron ‘Vinecrest’ is a multiple-award-winning shrub bred for extreme winter-hardiness. I can attest to the breeder’s success. After suffering single-digit frigid weather, Vinecrest’s evergreen foliage remained in pristine condition and its flower buds were undamaged.  Winter hardiness is an essential attribute. Yet, for me, it is the ethereal beauty of the May butter-yellow flowers and peach-colored buds that make Vinecrest irresistible. Provide shade and rich, well-drained acid soil. Photos below.

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

(Note: R.’Vinecrest’ is not fragrant, though some have suggested otherwise.)

 

Embrace the exciting world of Rhododendrons. Your garden will thank you.

 

Finally, my Grandpets would like to say hello. In order of appearance, my beautiful Grandcat, Callie — who never met a box she didn’t like — followed by my lovable Granddogs, Sammy and Zoe. Rescue pets all.

copyright 2020 — Jessica Amsterdam

copyright 2020 — Jessica Amsterdam

copyright 2020 — Ashley Cox

copyright 2020 — Ashley Cox

 

Be well. Stay safe.

Spring 2020: Mezitt Rhododendron Chorus Part 2

Part 2

All of the Mezitt Rhododendron lepidotes featured here are very cold-hardy, disease/insect resistant, and do well in both sun and shade:

Rhododendron ‘Mrs. J.A. Withington 111’

I adore R. ‘Mrs. J.A. Withington 111.’ In April/May this flamboyant blue blood is entirely draped in a glorious cloak of purple powder puffs. Quite a sensation. As a bonus, the shrub’s evergreen foliage turns bronzy-green in the Fall.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rhododendron ‘Lilac Crest’

R. ‘Lilac Crest’ is like a lilac-pink-white mini Mrs. Withington. It is more compact and its May flowers resemble little pom-poms. The semi-evergreen shrub’s flower buds are white with lilac-pink tips; when the white flowers fully open, they are flushed with color.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rhododendron ‘Landmark’

Garden literature often styles R. ‘Landmark’ as a long-awaited red-flowering lepidote. In the right light and at a distance the flowers may look red. But, in truth, the showy May bloom is a rich dark pink — highly attractive to bees. In Autumn the evergreen foliage turns mahogany-bronze.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

For decades the chorus of six captivating Mezitt Rhododendron lepidotes featured here and in Part 1 have flourished in my shady, organic garden and I treasure them all.

My friend the late Hank Schannen, founder of Rarefind Nursery, was also an accomplished Rhododendron hybridizer. Here is Hank’s famous take on Rhododendron plant culture:

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 HIGH
  12. Hmm—More DRAINAGE

Be well. Stay safe.

Spring 2020 Floragloria Chorus: Rhododendrons

In 1899 a musical, Floradora, opened in London and was a smash hit. After a long run in England, the show crossed the pond and opened in New York to equal acclaim. The show’s fame was largely due to its Floradora Girls, a chorus of women — clad in pink, carrying frilly parasols — who captivated audiences.

In 2020, in my Spring garden, we treasure the chorus performance of Mezitt Rhododendron lepidotes — a captivating, flowering extravaganza in pink and purple:

Part 1

Rhododendron ‘PJM’

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

The Mezitt-Weston Nurseries’ breeding program was launched with the introduction of the rightly popular Rhododendron ‘PJM’, named for Weston’s founder, Peter J. Mezitt. In April, glowing lavender-pink blossoms — favored by bees — blanket the shrub, and in Autumn\Winter the evergreen, small-leafed foliage turns a deep mahogany-black.

PJM is very cold-hardy, disease and pest-resistant, and thrives in both sun and shade. (Note: All of the Rhododendrons featured here share these attributes.)

 

Rhododendron ‘Weston’s Pink Diamond’

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

This luminous, semi-evergreen beauty starred in the 1983 sixtieth anniversary celebration of Weston Nurseries. Graced in April with luxuriant, ruffled, double silvery-pink flowers, and then in Autumn with resplendent foliage in shades of red, orange and gold, R. ‘Weston’s Pink Diamond’ has been celebrated in my garden for twenty-five years.

 

Rhododendron ‘Weston’s Aglo’

As Pink Diamond’s flowers fade in May, its garden side-kick, R.’Weston’s Aglo’, comes into its own with abundant clusters of radiant pink flowers with vibrant red flares. Bees love the flowers as much as I do. In the Fall, the glossy evergreen foliage turns a rich bronze-green. R ‘Weston’s Aglo’ has flourished in my organic garden for more than two decades. (The shrub is a sibling of the popular R.’Olga Mezitt’—Aglo is Olga spelled backwards.)

A copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

Stay Tuned: Part 2 Next Post.

Be well. Stay safe.

2020 Spring Fragrance: Pieris, Skimmia, Magnolia

Insects Rule!

A recent scientific study revealed that when insects chew on organic fruits and vegetables the plants respond by significantly increasing antioxidant compounds. If insect feeding triggers a plant’s defenses, ultimately resulting in more nutritious, healthier produce, must we now seek out insect-damaged food?

An interesting conundrum.

Not, however, my focus here. With the deadly Coronavirus currently shadowing our lives, I want to celebrate and share with you plants that nurture the soul: Spring-blooming, beautiful, fragrant, disease/pest-resistant woody ornamentals:

Pieris x ‘Spring Snow’ Z 5-7

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

P. x ‘Spring Snow’ is an evergreen, compact, early-Spring-blooming cross between P. japonica and the U.S. native P. floribunda. From showy pink buds the shrub produces luminous, snowy-white upright flowers that release their fragrance on the air, attracting bumble bees, butterflies and this gardener. After more than twenty-five years my shrub is now only about three feet tall, ideal for both small and large gardens. It has been a healthy, reliable bloomer despite frigid winters and hot, humid summers. Foliage new growth is bronzy-red before turning dark green and is toxic to deer, so they leave it alone. Pieris x ‘Spring Snow’ is insect-resistant as well. (Grow in shade and you won’t be troubled with lace-bug. In my shady organic garden all the Pieris have been deer-proof and insect-free.)

Provide organic-rich, well-drained, acid soil and regular water.

 

Skimmia japonica Z (6)7-8(9)

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

Skimmia is as close to perfect as a plant can be. The shrub’s magnolia-like, thick-textured, dark green leaves are evergreen, and if rubbed or bruised emit a strong herbal scent that effectively repels deer. In early Spring, Skimmia produces masses of fragrant flowers–even as a young plant. It has flourished and bloomed for me every Spring for more than thirty years, filling the garden with delicious perfume. In late summer/fall the female plants produce decorative clusters of fat red berries. (Skimmia japonica is dioecious and requires both male and female plants for fruit.)

The shrub does well here in zone 7, despite periods of horrific weather. Zone 6 may be iffy, but with global warming — and a little protection — surely worth a try. Essential requirements include moist, acid, well-drained soil, and, most important, SHADE.

 

Magnolia ‘Pegasus’ Z 5-8

 

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

This lovely Magnolia was named after the Greek mythological winged horse Pegasus, which, according to legend, sprung out of the gruesome monster Medusa’s neck when Medusa was killed. (Pretty imaginative, those Greeks.) I’ve included photos of the Horse and the Magnolia so you can judge for yourself whether the name fits. To my mind it’s more of a match when the flower opens wide. Earlier, the flower looks more like a tall tulip.

Magnolia ‘Pegasus’ has an interesting history. In 1936 Mrs. J. Norman Henry of Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, received seed of Magnolia cylindrica from the Lu Shan Botanic Garden in China. She planted the seed in America and when it germinated, scions were widely distributed. M. Pegasus can be traced back to that original seed. (Note: It is now suggested that there was a bit of Magnolia hanky-panky in Lu Shan; the Henry seed may have resulted from a natural marriage (tryst?) between M. cylindrica and M. denudata. Didn’t think magnolias could be naughty, did ya?)

M.’Pegasus’ is a very winter-hardy, healthy, deciduous tree. It has been a reliable April bloomer, and the flowers have a pleasing soft fragrance. The literature speaks of attractive, bright red cylindrical fruiting cones but I’ve never seen one. (Maybe this year?)  After decades in the garden, my tree is about 10 feet high. Provide moist, rich, well-drained acid soil and sun or dappled shade.

Be well. Stay safe.

Spring 2020: March Magic

I recently read the book Life Happens, a compilation of smart, delightful newspaper columns by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Connie Schultz. In one insightful column, Schultz recalled the time a friend’s teenage son had to pick a language in college:

“He grew up in Miami, so naturally she thought he’d pick the language he’d been hearing, reading, and speaking since he was a toddler.

Spanish, she thought. He’ll take Spanish.

Silly Mom.

He took Italian. ‘The line was shorter’, he said”

Teenagers are unpredictable.

They share this trait with Mother Nature who has moved to Crazyville.  And now, in addition to the horrors of climate change, we have to contend with the deadly Coronavirus. Clearly, there is every reason to retreat to the comfort of the garden and celebrate the awakening beauty and magic of Spring:

Rhododendron mucronulatum ‘Mahogany Red’

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

This upright, willowy, deciduous Rhododendron is one tough plant. Although we had a relatively mild winter this year, my Mahogany Red has been a hardy, reliable Spring bloomer after severe, frigid weather as well. The magenta flowers provide a bright, joyful glow in the March garden. In the Fall, the attractive, small green leaves turn lovely autumnal colors. Provide adequate water and well-drained acid soil.

 

Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

The fragrance of the abundant, small, creamy-white flowers of this twiggy, deciduous honeysuckle carries on the air and fills the garden with heavenly scent. It too is a hardy, reliable bloomer, and isn’t particular about soil pH. Winter Beauty does require regular moisture and well-drained soil in sun or part-shade. No Fall color to speak of, but, oh, that perfume in early Spring is enough for me!

 

I’ve had a number of herbal surprises. My rosemary over-winters outside in a container. It is usually brown and dead about now and needs replacing. But not this year. Photos below of downtrodden rosemary under a pile of snow in December, and the very same rosemary now — upright once again, green, and full of life.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

And the chives in the outdoor herb container made a surprising early comeback in March, along with the oregano. Photos below.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

It’s surely going to be an interesting year in the garden.

 

I highly recommend Connie Schultz’s book Life Happens. (Did I mention that it has two of her columns on gardening?) I also liked and recommend her book . . . and His Lovely Wife, Schultz’s insider’s take on the political campaign of her husband, Senator Sherrod Brown. Perfect reading in this election year.

Finally, in closing, my favorite true story about teenagers:

Mother to teenage daughter: “Your behavior is outrageous. Can’t you act like a normal person?”

Daughter: “I’m not a normal person. I’m a teenager.”

Mother: “Don’t threaten me!”

Happy Spring!

February 2020: A Glass Half Full

Optimism.

According to recent studies, optimists enjoy a lower risk of cardiovascular and other diseases and they have a lower mortality rate in general.  As one researcher put it: “Optimists tend to pursue strategies that make a rosy future a reality.” They live healthier and they live longer.

It was suggested that anyone can decrease the toxic effect of negativity and build a muscle of positive thinking by trying to feel more grateful. Not an easy prescription to fill: Today the United States Senate wrongfully refused to save us from a proven dangerous, self-serving, ethically corrupt President. Scary.

Yet, there is an upcoming election in November and I do believe and trust in the American people’s sense of justice. Voters will surely remove him. As Yogi Berra famously said: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

We just have to survive for 9 months.

As usual, I look to my well-loved garden for insight and support. Consider this: Holding fast for nine months will probably be a piece of cake compared to the survival of the Ginkgo, a tree species that has been around for about 200 million years despite untold horrific insults — climatic and otherwise. Our tree (Ginkgo biloba ‘Elmwood’) gives us pleasure every single day and we are grateful for it. Photos Below.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Ditto for the beautiful Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’) that in brave defiance of winter’s wrath is now in full, fragrant, and most welcome bloom.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Yes, still much to be grateful for.