Spring 2023 Act 1: Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.

You know how it is with an April day

When the sun is out and the wind is still,

You’re one month on in the middle of May.

But if you so much as dare to speak,

A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,

A wind comes off a frozen peak,

And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”

Robert Frost


We have had our share of topsy-turvy weather, yet the 2023 early Spring garden does not disappoint. The usual suspects — daffodils, pieris, forsythia, rhododendrons — fill us with joy every single day. (Photos below.)

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld



Moreover, there is one plant which enriches and celebrates my April Spring garden like no other: Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’.  (Photos below of Merrill’s ghostly aura in early morning; Merrill blanketing the landscape with snowy-white beauty and rich fragrance later in the day; Merrill’s multi-petal flower.)

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

The first Merrill magnolia was bred at the Harvard University Arnold Arboretum in 1939 and in 1952 was named after Dr. E.D. Merrill, a former Arboretum Director. At that time, the Arboretum considered the deciduous tree to be “one of the best and most vigorous of the early white flowering magnolias.” This observation is entirely consistent with my Merrill’s thirty year performance in the garden.

Merrill has much to recommend it: the tree is hardy in Zones 5-8 and is disease-resistant and deer-resistant; before the herbal-scented leaves drop in the Fall, they turn a lovely autumnal gold;  Merrill blooms at a young age with masses of sweetly fragrant flowers and in Autumn produces plump red fruit, a favorite of migrating songbirds.

Wonderful tree! Try it, you’ll like it.

Next post: Spring 2023 Act 2











































2023: Honeysuckle & Roses

“And because the Breathe of Flowers is far sweeter in the Aire (when it comes and goes, like the Warbling of Music) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for that delight than to know what be the Flowers and Plants that doe best perfume the Aire.” Sir Francis Bacon.

As you think about enriching your garden with new plants, welcome two “that doe best perfume the Aire” and benefit from the joys of Aromatherapy in your own backyard:

Lonicera periclymenun ‘Serotina’ (Late Dutch Honeysuckle) Z. 5-9

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

Celia Thaxter, author of An Island Garden, suggested that “nothing refreshes the human heart” like honeysuckle’s “wreath of heavenly trumpets breathing melodies of perfume to the air.” That is as true now as when An Island Garden was published in 1894.

Moreover, the vine’s exquisite fragrance is but one of many assets. Award-winning Serotina’s long-blooming, colorful, tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and bees, and when the flowers fade the vine produces clusters of red berries adored by songbirds. An added bonus is its pest and disease resistant foliage. Provide organically-rich, moist, well-drained soil and a support for the honeysuckle vine to climb.


Rosa ‘Lyda Rose’ Z 5-9

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

My beloved Lyda Rose was bred in the U.S. and named for the breeder’s daughter. It has flourished in my organic garden for many years in a container in part shade and its pure, delicious fragrance sweetens the air. From late Spring until frost bees are besotted with the pollen and nectar from the beautiful flowers. Lyda’s foliage is resistant to black spot, rust and mildew.

Provide organically rich, well-drained soil and monthly fertilizer—roses are hungry plants. (Tip: Avoid fertilizer with alfalfa. Yes, roses love alfalfa but so do rabbits. IT’S RABBIT FOOD!!! I speak from experience: My garden quickly went from zero rabbits to attracting a rampaging horde of plant-eating bunnies.)

Lyda Rose is an uncommon beauty not widely available in commerce. My shrub was purchased from my go-to mail-order supplier of healthy, own-root roses, Roses Unlimited:; phone: 864-682-7673.

2022 Assess, Adjust, Savor: Part 2.

“The North America sylva — our tree flora — is the grandest in the temperate zones of the earth, and in some ways the grandest anywhere . . . . Almost every tree in our sylva has made history, or witnessed it, or entered into our folkways, or usefully become a part of our daily life.” Donald Culross Peattie, author and preeminent chronicler of our native trees: A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central America (Houghton Mifflin 1950). In recent years, there has been heightened interest in planting native trees in the home garden. Please consider one of my favorites:

Oxydendrum arboreum (Sourwood Tree) Z 5-9

Rightfully celebrated as one of our most beautiful deciduous trees, Sourwood is an all-season performer: In Spring, it produces large lacquered, dark-green leaves, followed in Summer by fragrant, weeping sprays of white bloom beloved by bees. According to Peattie, you can hear “the roar of the bees gone nectar-mad” for the flowers. In Autumn, the tree’s lustrous foliage turns dazzling shades of red and purple. Photo below taken on November 5.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

For more than two decades my Sourwood has been pest and disease free and it has attained a height of about 25 feet. Plant in well-drained, organically rich, moist, acid soil in sun or partial shade.

In my organic garden, in addition to showcasing native plants, I make every effort to attract the trifecta of pollinators: Bees, Hummingbirds, and Butterflies. Bees are happy with a wide range of plants. Hummingbirds and Butterflies are more discriminating. This year the Hummers and Butterflies voted for their favorite Annuals: Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’ (Hummingbirds) and Lantana (Butterflies) won hands-down.

When grown in organic potting soil, in containers kept well watered, no dead-heading, fertilizing, or spraying is necessary for either plant. Both are disease and pest free and bloom continuously from Spring to frost. Photos below of Cuphea on June 2 and November 15 and of Lantana on June 2 and November 7. Welcome these fabulous flowering plants to your garden and bask in the company of our precious pollinators.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

Wishing you all a wonderful December holiday celebration and a Happy, Healthy, New Year! Looking forward to gardening with you in 2023!

May 2022: A Magnolia & A Camellia

I love Bumblebees.

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

They are chubby, fuzzy, buzzy, and beautiful. By nature, these native pollinators are docile, non-aggressive insects — totally absorbed with flowers, not with stinging. (Wasps, on the other hand, harbor evil intent: They lie in wait for a gardener to walk by and then pursue and sting to kill — for no reason. Ask me how I know this.)

Back to the bees. I recently discovered another reason to love them. Like me, they appreciate their morning cup of coffee.  Studies have shown that bees prefer naturally caffeinated flowers like those from coffee and citrus plants. And caffeinated bees have improved memories, helping them to find nectar. I’ll have to up my caffeine intake!

Bees and gardeners are now safer since toxic glyphosate has finally been removed from the herbicide Roundup — but, regretfully, removed only from Roundup formulated for home and garden use. Roundup for agricultural purposes will still contain cancer-linked glyphosate. And new toxic chemicals have been added to the formula for garden use.

Why play Russian Roulette with your health and the health of the wildlings gracing your garden? You can successfully garden without herbicides, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals. Plants can and do flourish in organic gardens. Consider these April/May blooming beauties:

Magnolia denudata ‘Yellow River’ Z 4-9

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

Though this cold-hardy China native is small in stature — after many years in my garden, it’s only about 6 feet tall — it produces an abundance of large, fragrant, showy, buttery-yellow flowers. Yellow River has been a reliable bloomer and hasn’t suffered any disease or insect problem. Provide acidic, organically rich, well-drained soil in sun or shade.

Camellia japonica ‘Korean Fire’ Z 6-9

                                                                                                                                                                      copyright 2022  Lois Sheinfeld

I am beguiled by Camellias. I can’t resist them. But too often they are killed by voles and by dramatic shifts in the weather. I swear then never to buy another. Yet, this year, I bought six gorgeous plants. Can’t help myself: I’m addicted.

I celebrate here — and urge you to consider — the long-lived, award-winning Camellia, C.j ‘Korean Fire.’  It has flourished and flowered prodigiously for over a decade in my organic garden. The shrub has glossy, disease-free, evergreen foliage. And it is very cold-hardy — not surprising since the original plant was collected from an area in Korea with frigid weather conditions. Masses of fire-engine-red flowers are produced in Spring.

I planted Korean Fire north of the house in acid, well-drained, organically enriched soil, following the advice of the Camellia guru, William Ackerman. His book, Beyond the Camellia Belt, is an essential reference for anyone growing cold-hardy Camellias.

My go-to mail-order source for Camellias is Camellia Forest Nursery,; 919-968-0504; And do check out their singular selection of trees and shrubs. 

2021: Late-Summer Notables

Famed British gardener/author Christopher Lloyd said of gardening: “Look after late summer and the rest of the year will look after itself.” Here in the U.S., this summer’s oppressive heat and humidity — not to mention a hurricane or two — made the “looking after” quite a challenge. Still, the following plants met the challenge and then some:

Coleus breeders have outdone themselves, producing scores of worthy, vibrant, multi-colored annuals. My Coleus plants, pictured below, flourish in a large north-facing container in shade. I worried when they fell over, pounded down by recent heavy rain.  But they just picked themselves up with no help from me and will carry on into Fall.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


Another late-summer standout annual is the Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas). Few plants can match its vigorous growth and its versatility.  I bought one four-inch pot in May and planted it in a container with a rose. In the blink of an eye, it grew into the flamboyant, problem-free-spiller pictured below. It loves heat and will thrive in sun or shade until frost.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


If you plant silver-leaf Pulmonarias, you will delight both in the enchanting early spring flowers and, thereafter, in the elegant simplicity of the foliage pictured below. It’s a win-win perennial. My plants are grown in moist, well-drained, organically-rich, acidic soil in shade. I mix in sharp-edged grit to the planting soil to repel voles.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


Many plants produce unique seed heads that add interest and beauty to the late-summer garden. Consider the showy seed heads of several Rhododendrons, which, in time, age to woody-like ornaments—attractive enough to pluck for decorative home display. A happy bonus! Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


Finally, I agree with one of my favorite garden writers, the American journalist/author Celestine Sibley, who wisely said of gardening: “The doing is the thing. And if by some happy chance you should have a little success, ah, the satisfaction that is!”

MAY 2021: Rhododendrons

Mother Nature loves to garden in my tennis court! (See Blog post, “Spring 2021: Mother Nature’s Gifts.”) Let me bring you up to date with her most recent contribution: Three distinct plants — all in a row. Pretty remarkable, even for Mother Nature. Photo below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


Rhododendrons in May are also pretty remarkable. Here are three of my favorites:

Rhododendron ‘Amoena’ is a showstopping, evergreen Azalea, entirely cloaked in vibrant, magenta/pink blossoms beloved by bees.  Amoena struts her stuff at the entrance of a garden path — and into the garden path. OK by me. I have a ready source for fabulous cut flower bouquets for the house. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


On the opposite side of the path, fragrant-flowering, evergreen Rhododendron ‘Helen Everitt’ holds court, competing with Amoena for the bees’ attention. They must have played Simon Says because Helen is also gobbling up path space. Lucky me! More flowers for the house. Helen Everitt is a C.O.Dexter hybrid and, in my opinion, one of the best in flower form and fragrance. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


Another outstanding Dexter hybrid, tall evergreen Rhododendron ‘Xerox’, produces Brobdingnagian-sized buds and gorgeous flowers. Photos below. [For information about C. O. Dexter and his extraordinary plants see my earlier Rhododendron posts and the excellent reference, Hybrids and Hybridizers ( Harrowwood Books, Newtown Square, PA. 1978.)]

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


For many years these three beautiful, Mozart-playing ornamental shrubs have been healthy, reliable bloomers in my organic garden. They have flourished in acid, rich, well-draining soil.

And they make me happy.

Early Spring/2021: Expectations

Spring is a season ripe with expectation — and trepidation.

As soon as the weather allowed, I ambled about the garden hoping against hope that I would see tulip bulbs popping up. YES!!! Thus far, they have escaped the ravenous attention of voles, the garden’s underground terrorists. And while daffodils aren’t usually on the vole menu, I was very glad to see them too. What would Spring be without daffodils? (Photos below.)

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


I did discover that a few Rhododendron suffered the loss of limbs this winter. Heavy oak branches fell on them. Still, the shrubs are healthy and heavily budded so they should produce abundant bloom in May. All in all, it appears to be a very good flowering year for Ericaceae plants, especially for Rhododendron and Pieris. (Photos below.)

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


I’m looking forward to April/May when I’ll be adding wonderful new plants to the garden. I’m excited about the reported flower power of the award-winning Proven Winners Annual, Salvia longispicata x farinacea Rockin’ Playin’The Blues (‘Balsalmispim’) Z.7-10. Because it’s sterile and doesn’t devote energy to producing seed, the plant will bloom from June to October. The upright, blue-purple flowers bring color impact as well as beauty to the garden. Like other Salvias, the plant attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, and its fragrant foliage is deer/rabbit resistant. Playin’The Blues grows best in sun or part sun, in rich, well-draining soil. (Photo below.)

copyright Proven Winners. Used with permission


I’m also hopefully anticipating the return of old perennial favorites. When I received the March/April 2021 issue of The American Gardener magazine, I was reminded of fragrant lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis): The magazine front cover featured the dazzling variegated foliage of the cultivar Convallaria majalis ‘Striata’. My variegated cultivar C. m. ‘Albostriata’ is similar—if not the same as ‘Striata’ — and has been a reliable bloomer and trouble-free for years, both in the garden and in containers. (Photos below.) (See also post, “March/April 2019: Early Spring”.)

copyright 2021 — American Horticultural Society. Used with permission

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

The American Gardener article about lily of the valley, by C. Colston Burrell, is both interesting and informative and can be accessed by clicking on The 6 bi-monthly issues of The American Gardener are a benefit of membership in the American Horticultural Society and are not generally available to non-members. In my opinion, it is one of the best garden magazines for the home gardener.


Good news on the environmental protection front: The New York Times reports that the Biden administration is drawing up a list of Trump regulatory decisions warped by political interference in objective research. “It’s a response both to the reality of the scientific abuse that occurred and also important to agency [E.P.A.] morale”, said William Reilly, the E.P.A. administrator under the Republican President George H. W. Bush. “There’s no precedent for the attack on science”, he added, “the sweep of it, the blatancy of it that we saw in the last administration.” ( The New York Times, 3/25/2021, p.A19)


Finally, I’d like to celebrate the environmentally correct, re-cycling genius of my Grandcat Callie: She turned an old cardboard box into a table for her meals, and when she isn’t eating, she uses the same box as a chair. Yea Callie! (Photos below of Callie eating a snack and Callie on her chair contemplating world events.)

(Note: arthritic cats — and dogs — appreciate having their food raised off the ground.)

Autumn 2020 Playing Mozart: Epigaea repens

“Autumn stays the marching year one moment,” said Edna St. Vincent Millay, and it is a time to “compute, refute, amass, catalogue, question, contemplate and see.”

I’m all in. Autumn days spent closely observing and evaluating the plants in my garden led me to a new appreciation for a native plant that plays Mozart, but doesn’t flaunt it. Understated, it adds value with quiet beauty, multi-season interest, longevity — and even historical significance:

Epigaea repens (Mayflower; Trailing Arbutus) Z 4-9

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld


This Eastern North American native has trailing, thin, woody stems covered with thick, green leaves. Found in pine and oak shaded woodlands in well-drained, moist, acidic soil, Epigaea grows into a dense, evergreen, mat-like groundcover. (As shown in the photo above, in my garden the advancing foliage is about to overtake one very concerned fella.) The plant does not like to be disturbed — successful transplanting is all but impossible. If you are fortunate to have it, admire it in place.

In early April, Epigaea’s sweetly fragrant, wax-like, pink and white flowers appear amid its rusty, weather-worn foliage.

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld


In her book, The Fragrant Path (1932), Louise Beebe Wilder wrote that it was one of “the earliest and perhaps the most beloved of our wild flowers.” Perhaps it was too beloved. The plants’ survival was threatened by unchecked collecting. The flowers were in great demand.

Mrs. William Starr Dana — author of the very popular guide How to Know the Wild Flowers (1908) — recalled taking a walk in the forest and finding trailing arbutus: “I denied myself the pleasure of picking more than one or two sprays of these flowers” she said, “singularly tempting though they were, so fearful am I of the extermination of this plant, the especial pride, perhaps, of our spring woods, and the peculiar object of the cupidity of ruthless flower pickers.” Dana, According To Season (1924).

Hmm. Makes one wonder. Apart from the “ruthless flower pickers”, how many Epigaea fans exercised restraint and plucked only one or two sprays? It adds up, doesn’t it?

In 1918, the Mayflower (Epigaea repens) was officially adopted as the Massachusetts State Flower. In 1925, the Massachusetts State Legislature placed the plant on the endangered list and prohibited wild harvesting. Violators paid a $50 fine. (The fine was doubled if the perpetrator was “in disguise” or did it “secretly in the nighttime.” Shades of Agatha Christie!)

It is believed that the Pilgrims named the plant Mayflower — same name as the ship that brought them to Massachusetts in 1620 — because it was the first Spring flower they saw, a hopeful sign after an arduous trip at sea and a hard winter on land. In 1856, John Greenleaf Whittier wrote about it in his poem The Mayflowers. In part:

‘God be praised’ the Pilgrim said,

Who saw the blossoms peer

Above the brown leaves, dry and dead,

‘Behold our Mayflower here!’

As we fast approach Thanksgiving, it might be interesting for children to learn about this connection between early American history and native plants in our gardens.

Be well, stay safe. And vote!!!

2020 Summer Fragrance: Roses, Roses, Roses

There was a time in English garden history when the ne plus ultra ornament of a stately home garden was a hermitage and a hermit. Hard to believe, but true. In his play, Arcadia, set in the year 1809 at Sidley Park—a 500-acre country house–Tom Stoppard exposed the absurdity of the practice. Below, Lady Croom and her landscape architect Richard Noakes discuss the hermitage:

“Lady Croom: And who is to live in it?

Noakes: Why, the hermit.

Lady Croom: Where is he?

Noakes: Madam?

Lady Croom: You surely do not supply a hermitage without a hermit?

Noakes: Indeed, madam—

Lady Croom: Come, come, Mr. Noakes. If I am promised a fountain I expect it to come with water. What hermits do you have?

Noakes: I have no hermits, my lady.

Lady Croom: Not one? I am speechless.

Noakes: I am sure a hermit can be found. One could advertise.

Lady Croom: Advertise?

Noakes: In the newspapers.

Lady Croom: But surely a hermit who takes a newspaper is not a hermit in whom one can have complete confidence.”

I can appreciate Lady Croom’s frustration. These days it is difficult for gardeners to have complete confidence in anything. Surely not the weather. Or our good health — or even survival. But we find joy in our gardens, in our plants. Like Noakes, I don’t have any hermits. But I do have confidence in these beautiful, fragrant, healthy roses that have flourished in my organic garden:

Rosa ‘Golden Fairy Tale’ Z 5-9 is an award-winning Kordes rose introduced in 2004. Kordes roses are grown in Germany without toxic pesticides and undergo years of extensive testing before they are offered for sale. Golden Fairy Tale has a lovely fragrance, blooms from June to frost, and enjoys outstanding disease resistance. Yellow roses are particularly prone to blackspot but not this yellow rose. The abundant flowers are large and multi-petaled like old fashioned roses and the shrub can grow to 6 feet. Photos below.


copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld


One morning, I was shocked to find numerous de-flowered stems along with the detritus of the loathsome crime. Photos below.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld


Who done it? The deer? The wild turkeys? The butler? The hermit?

It was SQUIRRELS!!! We caught the rose-chomping varmints in the act.

Five bird feeders aren’t enough? Do they have to eat the roses too? And they didn’t stop with Golden Fairy Tale. Let’s just say that for a time there wasn’t a need for a lot of rose deadheading. Apart from yelling and throwing tennis balls at them, we haven’t yet devised a fail-safe squirrel prevention solution.

Rosa ‘Summer Sun’ Z 5-9 is my latest award-winning Kordes rose addition. This showy, fragrant, recurrent bloomer has clusters of multi-petaled orange-pink flowers with a creamy-yellow reverse, and glossy, dark green foliage with excellent disease-resistance. It has been disease-free and winter-hardy here for four years and running. Lovely in the garden and in the house. The shrub grows to a compact three feet and thrives in a large container. Photos below.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld


Rosa ‘Leander’ Z 5-11 is the first rose I planted in my garden. I saw it on a garden tour and had to have it. That was about thirty years ago. It is a David Austin English Rose introduced in 1982. Austin bred roses for beauty of form and for fragrance. And he succeeded. Most of his roses are fragrant and drop-dead gorgeous. As is Leander. But unlike many other Austins I have tried which were overcome with blackspot, R. ‘Leander’ is disease-resistant — an essential asset in an organic garden. While classified as a shrub, it can be grown as a climber. The rose can grow to twelve feet and in my garden happily lends an arm to grace an arch. Leander has orange flower buds that open to orange flowers that change to apricot and finally fade to white. Dazzling at every stage. Photos below.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

Masses of flowers are produced from late May to early July, but while Leander may produce a blossom or two in the fall, it isn’t a recurrent bloomer. At least it hasn’t been for me. Yet, I would not want to be without it.

For more rose photos and information click on Roses under CATEGORIES.

Finally, many States in the U.S. are now suffering a catastrophic, alarming surge of the coronavirus. New York State is not among them. Thank you, Governor. When you speak, we listen.

All of us.


copyright 2020 – Jessica Amsterdam

Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July!