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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: 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

December 2016: A New York State Of Mind

Holiday Tips: Last week my daughter and I had a fabulous day in Manhattan celebrating the holiday season in true New York style — eating and shopping!

We started the day on a high, scoring a window table for breakfast at the Rock Center Cafe. The restaurant’s wall of windows backs on the Rockefeller Center ice rink and faces the famous Rockefeller Center tree. Photo below of the tree taken from our window. (Yet, while the tree was glorious, the fun was in exchanging joyful waves with the skaters.) We also liked the outdoor soldier-musicians. Photo below. And the nearby festive storefronts and windows. Photos below. (All Manhattan photos printed here with permission of Jessica Amsterdam.)

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drummer

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As for shopping, among other things I found a lovely — and dishwasher safe — coffee mug that spoke my name. It makes me smile every morning — Italian elegant simplicity in white with a touch of vibrant red. Photo below. (Available from Eataly with decorative handles in a variety of colors.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, a tip for the garden: Since I’m in a New York state of mind, I recommend an outstanding native New York shrub, Rhododendron calendulaceum (Flame Azalea). This Spring-blooming deciduous Azalea (most frequently associated with the Appalachian Mountains) has flourished for 13 years in my organic garden. R. calendulaceum can be quite variable in flower color — shades of red, pink, orange and yellow are possible. Photos below of my beautiful salmon-orange bloomer.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Wishing you all a joyous holiday and a happy, healthy New Year!

2016 Garden Treasure: Cornus kousa ‘Milky Way’

As recently reported by The New York Times, the Yao people of Mozambique have formed a working partnership with wild “honeyguide” birds: After communicating through an exchange of sounds and gestures, the birds lead the Yao to beehives hidden high up in trees. After the tribesmen subdue the bees and extract the honey, the birds happily eat the leftover beeswax, a good source of calories.

Impressive! But these wild birds have nothing on my helpful, domesticated Grandpets. Consider my Grandcat, Callie. When there is computer work to be done, she is always ready to lend a helping paw.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

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And sometimes more than a paw.

Callie on Computer.one

 

 

My Granddog Zoe, on the other hand, has no interest in computer work.

zoe

 

But when there was a Donkey invasion, she rose to the occasion by bravely facing down the enemy.

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I treasure my “helpful” Grandpets.

 

And when I choose plants for the garden, I treasure those that truly work for me, not the other way around. One of my favorites is the Kousa Dogwood, ‘Milky Way’. As a general rule, kousas bloom in the month of June. The amazing Milky Way blooms continuously from June through August—oft-times into September. That is flower power! (June, July, August photos below.)

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

When the flowers finally fade, the tree produces an abundance of green lollypop-like fruit that eventually turns scarlet red. Irresistible to songbirds. And in the Fall, Milky Way’s dark green foliage turns glorious shades of autumnal orange. Moreover, when established, the trunk bark exfoliates like a Stewartia. A stellar multi-season performer.

Kousas are free of the dreaded anthracnose disease that has devastated our native dogwood population, Cornus florida. Indeed, for the twenty years Milky Way has graced my garden, it’s been entirely disease-free. Provide rich, acid, well-drained soil.

NOTE: August heat-waves and drought create problem conditions for plants. But not for the August blooming, shrub-like, hardy perennial, Hibiscus ‘Jazzberry Jam’. This is its fifth season in my garden and every year–regardless of weather–the huge, gorgeous flowers attract hummingbirds, bumble bees and me!  A late-summer WOW plant.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Spring 2016: A Singing Bird May Come

According to an ancient proverb: “If you keep a green tree in your heart, a singing bird may come.”

Last month, at a rally in an indoor arena filled with thousands of jubilant supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, a tiny songbird suddenly appeared and flew over to the podium to be with Bernie. A joyous and magical moment.

Talking about birds, did you know that a group of Flamingos is called a Flamboyance? I found this delightful nugget of information in a small gem of a book released this year by Ten Speed Press: Maja Safstrom’s “THE illustrated COMPENDIUM OF amazing ANIMAL FACTS.”

Sadly, we aren’t all blessed with Flamingos, but we can easily achieve Spring Flamboyance in the garden by planting Rhododendron ‘Amoena’. This gorgeous, old-timey evergreen azalea is a hardy, vigorous shrub, and a reliable May bloomer. Mine flourishes in sandy acid soil in shade. (Photos below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

If you prefer understated elegance, one of my favorite early Spring bloomers — sharing the same culture requirements as Amoena — is the evergreen native shrub, Chamaedaphne calyculata ‘Tiny Tom.’ In April, Tom’s elegant wand-like stems are cloaked with dainty, snowy-white, dangling bells. (Photo below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

For long-blooming elegance, you can’t beat Helleborus — my  hellebore flowers opened in March and continue to bloom despite subsequent snow storms and frigid weather. Helleborus does best in sweet soil. I amend my acid soil with lime and wood ash. (Photos below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

HOT TIP: To ensure success in the garden this year, plant Trifolium purpurascens and enjoy a steady supply of lucky four-leaf clovers. (Photo below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Trifolium purpurascens is not widely available. My well-grown healthy plants were purchased by mail order from Bluestone Perennials, in Ohio. (bluestoneperennials.com; Phone: 800-852-5243).

2016: March Madness & The Stumpery

After our oak trees produced a record number of acorns, I expected a long and frigid winter to follow. It was anything but. While we had loony temperature swings — 50 degrees one day and 2 degrees above zero the next — for the most part we enjoyed the warmest winter in years.

Following the February snowstorm depicted in the photo below (taken from my kitchen window) it was pretty much smooth sailing into Spring.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Here are some March highlights from the garden:

The first daffodil.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

White flowering Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ and pink flowering P. japonica ‘Valley Valentine’ blooming a month earlier than usual.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Early Pussy Willows (catkins) of the Goat Willow (Salix caprea).

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

The stunning magenta flowering Witchhazel (Hamamelis ‘Amethyst’).

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And, then, just one week later, it was Spring! (Spring photos of the garden below)

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Spring photos??? Huh???

I guess Mother Nature could not resist a Last LOL.

Hot Tip: Beetles killed one of my beloved, half-century old, majestic pine trees. Instead of having it hauled away, I honored the tree by creating a garden Stumpery with its trunk. (Photos below.)

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And please indulge my re-cycled oak tree, Spider Man, who rightfully demanded equal blog time. (He has managed to come thru many a winter with hat and sunglasses intact!)

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Simple joys in a time of vicious terrorist attacks.

2015 Year-End Beauty/Spring Promise

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

The sun will soon set on 2015. After the last brutal winter, who would have thought the final days this year would be so unseasonably warm? Morning air even smells of Spring. No wonder the plants are confused. Forsythia and Rhododendron flowers have jumped the gun and opened 4-5 months early. I wish they had exercised a modicum of restraint. Hopefully, others will not follow them like lemmings, for the killing frost will surely arrive any day.

 

Yet, no call for restraint is necessary or appropriate for the fragrant flowering evergreen ground cover , Erica darleyensis ‘Mediterranean White’ and ‘Mediterranean Pink’ (Heath).

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

For twenty-five years these low-growing, shrub-like plants have bloomed continuously from November thru early Spring, unfazed by frost or snow. Amazing! Moreover, they are easy care, disease free plants. Provide well-draining soil, regular water, and in order to maintain their compact, dense growth, prune after flowering. There is one downside: voles love ’em! (To avoid vole damage, see my Post, April 2, 2012,”Hot Tips: Vole Damage Prevention”.)

 

 

Another dazzler, Rhododendron ‘Marshy Point’s Humdinger’, has been flowering since Fall and will continue to bloom until frost. Then, after a well deserved rest, this wonderful evergreen azalea will produce abundant bloom again in the Spring. (Spring and Winter Photos below of Humdinger showing off in the garden and in the house. For detailed culture information see my Post, March 1, 2013, “Azalea ‘Marshy Point’s Humdinger’.”)

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Colorful berries and buds also add interest and beauty to the December winter garden. Like the yellow-orange fruit of Crabapple X that the birds planted in the garden years ago. (Truth be told, all the crabs I planted have died from cedar apple rust disease, but, for some unknown reason, the bird-planted-crab flourishes. Needless to say, I don’t know the cultivar name and the birds ain’t talkin’. Photos below include Crabapple X’s beautiful buds and flowers as well as berries.)

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Camellia ‘Crimson Candles’, a hardy, vigorous, disease-resistant variety, is bursting with buds that are just beginning to take on the showy, rich-red color they will flaunt all winter. (Photos below. For more information and a photo of Crimson Candles’s rosy-red flowers, see my Post, “2015 What’s New? Camellia Forest Nursery”.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Pieris flower buds are also showing color, as in the photo below of Pieris x ‘Spring Snow’. (I have already written extensively about a number of shade-loving, deer-resistant, fragrant-flowering Pieris, including Spring Snow. For culture information and flower photos of P. x ‘Spring Snow’ as well as P. japonica ‘Mountain Fire’, see my Post, April 2014, “Spring 2014: Snow-White Extravaganza”.)

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, the natural splendor of a mossy cushion.

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

From my garden to yours: Have a joyous, healthy New Year!

July/August 2015: Summer Fragrance

Smart-phone technology marches on. No, your phone won’t be able to walk the dog or wash windows, but thanks to intensive research and development you will soon be able to send and receive a variety of scents along with your e-mails. If that sort of thing appeals to you.

I’m not a fan. As a general rule, I find synthetic scents harsh and uninviting. For me — as my readers are aware — nothing can match the real thing, namely the captivating, natural fragrance of plants in the garden. Here are a few choice beauties for the summer garden:

Rhododendron ‘Weston’s Lemon Drop’ is a deciduous azalea that produces masses of pale-yellow, fragrant flowers in July. Despite the oppressively hot and humid weather this summer, Lemon Drop’s delicious perfume carried on the air for about three weeks. (In the photo below, the flowers appear white, but they are actually pale-yellow. If rich-butter-yellow, fragrant flowers are more to your liking, try the wonderful Spring-blooming deciduous azalea, R. ‘Narcissiflora’. For Narcissiflora photos, click onto my Post of Jan. 2014, “2014: My Favorite Deciduous Azaleas”.)

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Passiflora ‘Incense’ will add an exotic and dramatic element to the garden. I planted this sultry, fragrant climber almost twenty years ago. In my Zone 7a organic garden, tropical plants — including other passion flowers — die in winter never to return. Incense, on the other hand, dies down with frost, yet every summer returns with a vengeance. And the plant produces passion fruits! Amazing! (Recent photos below of flowers and fascinating spiked buds. For earlier Incense photos, including one of passion fruit, click onto my Post of Aug.11, 2012, “Hibiscus ‘Jazzberry Jam’ and Passiflora ‘Incense'”.)

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, a Hot Tip. Every summer my driveway is overrun with weeds. I treasure and protect the volunteers of foxglove, iris, and the like, but I’ve devoted many hours hand-plucking the undesirables. My thanks to a member of my garden club who recommended using undiluted vinegar to kill the weeds. I tried it and it worked. I recommend it without hesitation. (Before and after photos below.)

BEFORE VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

BEFORE VINEGAR
copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

BEFORE VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

BEFORE VINEGAR
copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

AFTER VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

AFTER VINEGAR
copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

AFTER VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

AFTER VINEGAR
copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

2015: Hot Tips & Rhododendron ‘Weston’s Aglo’

Good news alert: Coffee is the new blueberry.

Contrary to the belief that drinking coffee is bad for your health, studies involving about three million participants found otherwise. Persons with moderate consumption — two to six 8-ounce cups of caffeinated coffee a day—had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and stroke, as compared with those who drank none. Ditto for several forms of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Type 2 diabetes. (The New York Times, May 14, 2015, p.A3, “A Surprising Consensus on Coffee’s Health Benefits”)

Hurrah! About time we discovered that something we thought bad for us is actually good. Usually, it’s the other way around. (Remember margarine?.)

And now, not so surprising bad news: In December of 2013, European Union regulators announced that neonicotinoids, a particularly lethal class of pesticides that were temporarily banned in Europe in order to protect bees, may also affect human children’s nervous system. A Japanese study raised similar concerns in 2012. Forms of this pesticide, namely, Imidacloprid and Acetamiprid, constitute the active ingredients in garden products like Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control and Ortho Flower, Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer, still available for sale and use in the U.S.

Unlike the Europeans, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done nothing to protect children or the bees from these substances. (Since my prior Posts on neonicotinoids — May 2013, “Beauty & The Bees: Going, Going, Gone?,” and December 2014 “Bee Update” — 42.1 percent of bee colonies in the U.S. were reported lost in 2015, a significant increase over the 34.2 percent loss in 2014. And still the EPA refuses to act.)

More troubling news came in March of this year when the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a respected arm of the World Health Organization, concluded that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s very popular herbicide Roundup, was a probable carcinogen. In the U.S., Roundup enjoys widespread use both in home gardens and commercial farms.

Until the United States EPA steps up and does its rightful regulatory job of protecting us from harm, instead of protecting the bottom line of mega-billion-dollar-corporations, we have to do that job ourselves as best we can. In order to make an informed choice, check the ingredient label on garden sprays and chemicals to see if they contain these deadly poisons. Even better, why not make your garden a toxic-chemical-free zone? It is possible to have healthy plants and a beautiful garden without them. And the birds, bees, and butterflies will thank you.

In my organic garden, Mother Nature’s recent, relentless, devastating, winter onslaughts are the real problem. So, I’ve been keeping track of the garden do-gooders, plants that have survived and thrived despite the loony weather. The divine, May flowering, evergreen beauty, Rhododendron ‘Weston’s Aglo’ is at the top of the list. (Photos below.)

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

Hot Tips: Something Old and Something New . . .

Something New Up First.

You can never have enough hydrangeas. What would summer be without them? And I’ve just acquired a recently introduced sensation: Hydrangea macrophylla Let’s Dance Starlight ‘Lynn’, z 5-9. Quite a mouthful, but it’s quite a plant, the first lace-cap hydrangea that blooms on old and new wood. A rebloomer and a beauty.

Lynn’s large showy flowers are ph sensitive: pink in sweet soil and blue in acid. Mine arrived pink (see photo below) but in my acid soil I expect the blossoms will eventually turn shades of blue and purple. Among her other virtues, Lynn thrives in sun or shade, and at a compact 2-3 feet would be ideal for large or small gardens. Provide rich, moist, well-drained soil, and encourage new growth and maximum bloom by removing spent flowers.

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

I bought Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lynn’ at Lynch’s Garden Center, 175 North Sea Road, Southampton, N.Y., phone 631-283-5515, which has an extraordinary selection of plants and garden supplies. Local one-stop shopping at its best. Also worthy of mention is the helpful and knowledgeable staff.  (Thank you, Jessica.)

 

Clethra barbinervis, Z 5-7  (Japanese Tree Clethra) is the old-timer in my garden. I guess it’s about fifteen years since I purchased a small plant from Broken Arrow Nursery (Blog Link) at the recommendation of Broken Arrow’s owner, renowned plantsman and mountain laurel guru, Richard Jaynes.

I don’t understand why this fabulous tree is not better known, or at least as popular as its kissin’ cousin, the fragrant flowering native shrub, Clethra alnifolia. My tree is now about 16 feet and displays exfoliating bark that reveals stunning patches of burnished cinnamon, much like Stewartias and Crapemyrtles.  Its foliage is a lustrous dark green and in July and August the tree dazzles with an abundance of fragrant, panicles of snowy-white flowers. (Photos below).

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

C. barbinervis thrives in shade. Just provide rich, moist, well-drained soil.

And I’m happy to report that it hasn’t suffered a whit from the nightmarish, mega heatwave we are currently suffocating under. Unlike this gardener.

 

 

Hot Tips: Osmanthus x fortunei ‘UNC’

On a beautiful autumn day in October, some years ago, my husband and I visited the J.C. Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina and were immediately captivated by the most wonderful floral fragrance.  We searched all over the Arboretum for the source.  Finally, quite a distance from where we started, we found it, the sublimely fragrant shrub, Osmanthus fortunei ‘UNC’.

Earlier, on the recommendation of others, weighted with the promise of flowers with “overpowering” scent, I rushed right out to buy Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Gulftide’ and O.h. ‘Goshiki’.  How very disappointing. Sure they have fragrance, if you stick your nose into the flowers.  But fragrance on-the-air, blossoms filling the garden with their delicious perfume?  Not!

Don’t get me wrong.  They are both nice plants.  Gulftide has lovely glossy green foliage, and is very cold hardy;  Goshiki has beautiful green and gold variegated foliage.  As I said, nice garden plants. But on the fragrance front, the raison d’etre for my purchase, they fall far short.

Yet on the other hand, another variety, Osmanthus fragrans, delivers on fragrance but isn’t cold hardy here.

Which brings me back to Osmanthus x fortunei ‘UNC’, a hybrid of O. heterophyllus and O.fragrans, and for me the very best of both parents.  This hardy beauty sports handsome, evergreen, holly-like foliage and in autumn produces abundant clusters of tiny white flowers that waft their exquisite perfume all about the garden.  This year the flowers opened mid-September and now in mid-October are still releasing their intoxicating fragrance into the air. ( photo below).  Can’t beat it.  Aromatherapy in my own backyard.

These easy-care plants flourish in well-drained acid soil in sun or shade.  (Mine are in shade.)

O. x f. ‘UNC’ is not widely available — and for a time was not available at all.  I found and purchased my shrubs at Camellia Forest Nursery (See LINKS) which currently offers small, well-grown plants that should reach blooming size in one or two seasons.  Grab them before they fly out the door.

You’ll thank me for this one.

OCTOBER 2013 UPDATE : My small plants bloomed! (Hope yours did too.)

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Hot Tips: Vole Damage Prevention

Some say when the earth comes to an end rats will be the sole survivors. My money is on voles.

Voles are underground terrorists and my garden’s Public Enemy No.1. They may look like cute, plump mice but these rodents are the spawn of the Devil and guilty of outrageously bad behavior.

After burrowing under ground they are active day and night eating plants, bulbs, roots of trees and shrubs —most everything really, they aren’t picky. Laburnum, styrax, edgeworthia, roses, camellias, azaleas, lespedezas, astilbes (Big-Mac for voles), epimedium, daylilies, woodland orchids, and even toxic hellebores and foxgloves have been ravished and killed. I could go on and on. Nothing is safe.

Female voles as young as 4-6 weeks can mate throughout the year—-that is, when they aren’t eating. Once pregnant, gestation is only about three weeks, and each litter can have 3-6 young. (One reference said up to 10 young). Do the math: With that sort of reproductive ability they can, in a very short time, overrun a planet, much less a garden. Pretty darn horrifying.

What’s an organic gardener to do?

While I harbor murderous intent, poisons and traps that also endanger beneficial wildlife (not to mention beneficial family members) are out of the question.

We have had some success with Sonic Molechasers that repel voles and other borrowing rodents with penetrating underground sonic sound at 15 second intervals. (Despite the name, moles are not my problem; they eat slugs, not plants, though voles are opportunists and will take over the moles’ sub-soil tunnels). But Molechasers are powered by batteries and therefore useless in winter when batteries run out and can’t be replaced. I was heartbroken one Spring — when the snow finally melted— to find several beloved camellia plants, loaded with buds, lying on the ground rootless and dead.

What’s an organic gardener to do?

Well, I found a natural solution that works: VoleBloc, a non-toxic soil additive consisting of coarse particles of slate,  protects plants because voles have sensitive skin and avoid tunneling through abrasive material.

So far so good. Here it is April and my camellias are still rooted and happy. Ditto for all the plants treated with the repellent. (Note: while this winter was unusually snow free, for purposes of an accurate test I did not replace any of the Sonic Molechasers’ dead batteries. VoleBloc was on its own).

Protecting plants from predator damage is never ending. Experience tells me that nothing is foolproof at all times and in all circumstances. So with that caveat, I’m happy to say that VoleBloc is working now. I’ll keep you advised.

Addendum April, 2013: I can no longer recommend VoleBloc. Not only has it become prohibitively expensive, but the voles ate the roots of two VoleBloc treated plants this past winter. I’m now trying something new. More about that soon.

August 20, 2013: I now highly recommend 3/8 Burgundy Red chip, sharp particles of stone that reliably protects plants against voles, at less than a quarter of the cost of Volebloc. I purchased the stone at Southampton Masonry in Southampton N.Y., (631) 259-8200.

2015: The Burgundy Red chip stone still works. For maximum protection, place the plant on top of a layer of stone in the planting hole, mix some stone with the planting soil, and then, after planting, place a layer around the plant.

More 2011 Successes and 2012 Obsessions

2011 Successes
 

copyright 2012

Everyone needs an occasional bit of sunlight to chase away the winter blues. I’m no exception. So when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, I bask in the warm glow of Pinus densiflora ‘Burke’s Variegated’. Endowed with green needles banded in gold, this dwarf conifer resembles one of my long-time favorites, Pinus wallichiana ‘Zebrina’, but when its foliage matures and turns a luminous pale yellow, there’s none can match it in the winter landscape. My own burst of sunshine.

 

 

copyright 2012

Whenever I see a plant with dazzling trumpet-like flowers I’m breathless with longing.  It’s a case of lust at first sight.  (See “Hot Tips: Great New Plant”).  British Dame Penelope Lively understands.  “For me,” she said, “gardening is a sequence of obsessions — the tingle of discovery, the love affair with the latest acquisition.”  And so it was with me and Begonia ‘Bonfire.’  I filled three containers with this glorious annual and was rewarded all summer with a sea of vibrant orange flowers.  They made me happy.  Bonfire is a keeper.

 
 
 
 
 

copyright 2012

Ditto for Rhododendron ‘Mrs Furnivall’, an oldie introduced in 1920 but new to my garden. No demure Mrs this one. More like a Las Vegas showgirl flaunting her stuff: a luscious display of saucy pink flowers splashed with red.  She doesn’t need trumpets to be irresistible. (The bees agree).

 

 

2012  Obsessions

This year I’m after Fuchsia ‘Pour Menneke’, an annual with captivating, long, slender, soft orange trumpet flowers. (Yup, those trumpets again). An ideal  plant for a container, Pour Menneke will be available this year in England, but as far as I can tell, not available here. More’s the pity, but it takes time (Drat!) before their best newbies reach us. (Yeah, yeah, I know. HAVE PATIENCE).

NEWSFLASH: Just read an alert about the Fuchsia gall mite from Andrew Halstead, Principal Entomologist with the Royal Horticultural Society in England. He warns that this predatory insect is a “devastating microscopic pest of fuchsias that will probably eventually spread throughout Britain. Because the damage cannot be controlled, it may  lead to a decline in the popularity of this valuable garden plant.” (He’s right about that. ‘Pour (Poor?) Menneke’ is no longer on my wish list.)

No problem whatever with the fabulous shade plant, Heuchera ‘Stainless Steel’, from the breeding program of Charles and Martha Oliver of The Primrose Path, Pennsylvania. With silver foliage (flipside reddish-purple) and lush sprays of white bell flowers on chocolate stems in May, this unique beauty is nothing short of sensational. Grab it while you can.

credit: The Primrose Path

And thank goodness for Dan Hinkley, plantsman-explorer extraordinaire, who teamed up with Monrovia to offer a select group of his plant hunting finds, The Dan Hinkley Plant Collection, which will be available in nurseries and garden centers this Spring. Topping my wish-list is the lovely and rare Golden Crane Hydrangea, H. angustipetala ‘MonLongShou’. Not only does it flaunt showy white and chartreuse  lacecap flowers with scalloped-edged petals, this hydrangea is intensely fragrant.

credit: Dan Hinkley

Finally, I can’t wait for my Genie to arrive. While this one doesn’t live in a bottle, she is magical. Magnolia ‘Genie’ has reddish black buds and masses of plum-red (dare I say magenta?) flowers in the spring with repeat  bloom in the summer. She flowers at a young age, only grows to about ten feet, and is already an award winner. As the song goes: ” Who could ask for anything more?”

credit: Rare Find Nursery

Hot Tips: Orchids

Years ago, when we lived in California, friends gave us a gift of an exquisite  orchid plant, which was bred by a highly regarded specialty nursery and  arrived with a written pedigree as long as your arm.  In no time Her Orchidness checked out her new surroundings, concluded rightly that she had been adopted by peasants, and promptly committed suicide.  We were devastated and vowed  that  hereafter orchids were persona non grata.   And we  kept that vow for over forty years. 

So consider my husband’s surprise recently when, at the supermarket, an orchid waved its lovely flowering stem at him as it rolled merrily by in my cart.  I confess:  The devil made me do it.

The seductress in question is a moth orchid (Phalaenopsis), a variety now widely available, even in supermarkets, and enormously popular because it is free-flowering  and easy to grow.  Mine  flourishes with benign neglect.  And the colors.  Ah, the colors.  Magenta, buttery yellow, chocolate, white,  lime green, and bicolors with blotches and freckles and every which thing.  Who could resist?  Clearly, not I.

And now for the great  tip I read about in a British garden magazine.  For increased flowering, when the blooms fade don’t cut the entire stem; rather, cut the stem just below the lowest flower, about an inch above the next node down.  The plant should then rebloom in a month or two.  Let me know if this works for you.

 

Hot Tips: Winter Protection for Roses

Container gardening is very popular but container plants are extremely vulnerable in winter, even if they are hardy when planted in the ground.  One option, of course, is to bring them inside but that is often not convenient or possible.  I have adopted a successful method of protection for my roses in containers; it can also be used for other plants. In December, Garden Centers and such will  be selling evergreen conifer branches for inside holiday decoration. White pine branches work well for outdoor protection. Cover the plants top to bottom with the branches and tie them in. Move the pots together in a group, and that’s it. Unlike other methods (as for example, the use of synthetic cones), conifer branches allow for air circulation, and they look good and smell good. (Check out the photo for the looking part). And, most important, this works.

Copyright 2011