Archives

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!

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

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.

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.)

tree-close-from-window

drummer

saks-window-4_closer

saks-window-1

 

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!

July 2016: Summer Fragrance

Health Alert: A new study has found a link between exercise and a reduced risk of 13 cancers. People who exercised moderately had significantly less risk of developing cancer than those who were sedentary. And increased exercise dramatically reduced the risk.

While formal exercise is a non-starter for me, I hope to reap health benefits by working endless hours in the garden. Natural beauty and intoxicating floral aromas are good for the soul as well as the body.

I’d like to share with you a sampling of outstanding summer-blooming fragrant plants that have been time-tested in my garden:

Rosa ‘Compassion’ is an award-winning, very fragrant, repeat-blooming climbing rose. With disease-resistant foliage and beautiful apricot-pink flowers, it’s always a hands down favorite when I lecture on roses. I grow Compassion in a large container set beside an arch. In December, I cloak the entire plant with protective conifer branches. (Photos below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rhododendron ‘Weston’s Lollipop’ is a deciduous, hardy, summer-blooming azalea with mildew-resistant foliage. Numerous pink flowers possess a lovely sweet fragrance. Provide moist, well-drained, acidic soil. (Photo below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Daphne x transatlantica ‘Blafra’, a/k/a Daphne Eternal Fragrance, is an ideal plant for a large or small garden. For a shrub of modest size — 2 to 3 feet tall — it packs a wallop of a return: masses of small, white, intensely fragrant flowers with a long bloom season from Spring to Fall. Be aware that Daphne has a well-earned reputation for being temperamental and unpredictable, ofttimes dying for no discernible reason. But so far — five years and counting — Eternal Fragrance is happy growing in shade in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Maybe this cultivar is the exception — eternal after all. (Photos below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea) is a winter-hardy, trouble-free, native shrub, with multi-seasons of interest. In Summer, it produces large panicles of showy sterile and fertile white flowers. When the fertile flowers open in July, they release a delicious fragrance that carries on the air. The sterile flowers slowly change from snowy white to pink. And in the Autumn, the foliage turns vibrant shades of red and orange. In addition, as a special bonus, when the shrub is established in the garden its woody stems will exfoliate.

Oakleaf Hydrangea can grow quite large — 6 to 8+ feet tall, and the same across. (The shrub is stoloniferous so volunteers pop up around the mother plant adding to its girth.) My plants thrive in shade with compost-rich acid soil. (Photos below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Finally, the native woodland wildflower, Chimaphila maculata (Striped Wintergreen a/k/a Pipsissewa), comes and goes in the garden beds and in the gravel paths and driveway. This diminutive charmer has tiny, nodding white flowers with a green button eye. The flower’s luscious perfume is to die for. Wish I could bottle it. (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

 

NOTE: I have been asked the name of the gorgeous, long-lived peony I mentioned in the Post of Jan.27: “2016 What’s New: Klehm’s Song Sparrow”. The peony’s cultivar name is ‘Largo’. (Photo below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Spring 2016: Beautiful Gardens of Virginia

A recent study concluded that viewing pictures of nature can help people recover from stress. According to Magdalena van den Berg, who led the study at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the effects would probably be magnified if someone could visit nature and see actual greenery.

I can attest to that. My garden is a constant source of comfort and pleasure. And at the April 2016 American Rhododendron Society/Azalea Society of America Convention in Virginia, I was afforded the opportunity to tour many fabulous gardens. Here are a few highlights:

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden had a number of interesting design features.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Walls were adorned with Lady Banks roses (Rosa banksiae).

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And extraordinary trees were showcased, especially the Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia).

 

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

[Note: The Ginter added this surprising No No to the usual list of visitor guidelines:” The Use Of Drones Is Prohibited.” A sign of the times.]

 

Striking in design was a private, Japanese influenced garden, with a tea house by a pond surrounded by colorful Japanese Maples. Especially lovely were the images of the maples reflected in the water.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Further enhancing the beauty of the garden were the pink double blossoms of the elegant Japanese Cherry Trees (Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’).

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

In another private garden, a dazzling Viburnum drew many admirers — including my husband. (Note the wonderful blossoms marching two by two up and down the stems. My kind of buddy-system!)

 

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And then there were the glorious flowering Azaleas. Notable among them:

The fragrant flowering deciduous native Azalea, Rhododendron austrinum ‘Escatawpa’.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And the evergreen Azalea hybrids, R. ‘Herbert’ and R. ‘Linwood Lavender.’

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

All are winter hardy in my area, Northeast Zone 7a. Sadly, not so for my two favorite Azaleas: R. ‘George Lindley Tabor’ (a\k\a ‘Taber’) and its sport R. ‘Mrs. G.G. Gerbing’. (The large, showy, pure-white flowers of Mrs. G.G. Gerbing are so irresistible, I’m tempted to ignore her zonal shortcomings.)

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

 

Finally, I loved the winter-hardy shrub, Kerria japonica, a golden-flowering Diva flaunting her stuff in a private shady garden.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Kudos to the hosts and organizers of the 2016 ARS/ASA National Convention for an outstanding, rewarding experience!

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).

February 2016: Natives Only? Humbug!!!

The frantic media chatter over this month’s South Carolina Primaries brought to mind my sweet South Carolina connection, the lovely azalea, Rhododendron ‘Keowee Sunset’. About fifteen years ago, I planted Keowee as a companion to the red-flowered Rhododendron ‘America’ — a Dutch hybrid import — and they grew together and flourished.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

My garden is a colorful mix of native and non-native trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, supporting a wide range of wildlife, including birds, bees and butterflies. Yet the native-only-gang (hereafter nog) insist that only native plants can support wildlife in general and pollinators in particular.

Recently, this assertion was proven groundless. A Royal Horticultural Society’s multi-year, controlled scientific trial/study concluded what we home gardeners know from personal experience: Diversity of plant origin — flowering plants from different countries and regions — is a strength, not a weakness, in supporting pollinating insects in gardens.

The nog are guilty of the Sharpshooter Fallacy: They shoot first and draw the bulls-eye after. First they reach a conclusion and then chase after something or anything to support it.

Consider the arguments put forward by a leading nog spokesman, Douglas Tallamy, a professor at the University of Delaware. He would like to ban non-natives and fill gardens with native oaks because they support 557 species of caterpillars — and some caterpillars provide food for some birds.

Responding to the worry that all those caterpillars will defoliate trees, he pointed to an experiment he conducted with a white oak in his garden: “I counted 410 caterpillars, of 19 different species, just walking around this oak for half an hour one July day last summer,” he said. “It wasn’t defoliated. You couldn’t see the holes.”

HUH????

It simply belies reason that 410 caterpillars caused no damage. Gypsy moth and Cankerworm caterpillars defoliated and killed six of my large oaks, and severely damaged many other plants, including the Japanese Maples. This has been the common experience of gardeners in my area. The nog can’t have it both ways. The more caterpillars you have, the more they chomp. That’s a given.

Furthermore, Tallamy also contends that while non-natives may provide nectar for butterflies, their leaves are unpalatable to caterpillars. I guess the butterflies cut class and missed that lecture. In my garden, the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars love eating ornamental Japanese Cherry Tree foliage. And when they mature, the butterflies flock to non-native Buddleia (Butterfly Bush). (Photo below.)

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

The RHS trials, my own garden experience, and the hands-on experience of other gardeners, provide ample proof that bees, butterflies and birds don’t discriminate against non-natives. And while I share Tallamy’s concern for bird survival, perhaps maintaining bird feeders in winter — when there are no berries, fruit or insects available — is a better way to go.  The birds think so.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

All the birds.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

But I believe in live and let live. As long as wildlife is not endangered by the use of toxic pesticides and chemicals, everyone is entitled to have the garden of their dreams. Tallamy and the nog with natives-only, me with a generous native\international mix. Each to his\her own.

Autumn 2015: Flora Electric

This autumn the garden was—and is still— beautiful, splashed-painted like a Jackson Pollock in shades of orange, red, pink, purple, and gold. And, not to be outdone, the local farm stands produced an extravaganza of magnificent pumpkin displays.

Now, in an unsettled time of international, brutal terror attacks, Mother Nature’s gift of beauty is especially welcome:

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Family, friends, the garden. Much to be thankful for.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Sept./Oct. 2015: Early Autumn Delights

A FEW GARDEN CREATURES:

Was Mother Nature a bit tipsy when she designed the odd, multi-featured, Large Tolype Moth, seen here attached to our kitchen screen door? So strange, I could scarcely believe my eyes. Gotta love it!!!

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

Happily, Autumn also signaled increased sightings of our beloved box turtles, young and old, like this mature turtle with fabulous starburst markings.

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

PLANTS:

Canna Tropicana, featured in my last Post, and purple-leafed Canna ‘Australia’, continue to produce their lovely, hummingbird-magnet flowers. (Photos below.)

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And along with many other red-berried woody ornamentals in my garden, the native shrub Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, and the Chinese shrub Tea Viburnum, Viburnum setigerum, attract both local and migrating songbirds. (Photos below)

(NOTE: Lowbush Blueberry plants, Vaccinium angustifolium, are our native ground cover. The berries ripen in summer but are plucked by the birds even before they are fully ripe. There are no berries left in Autumn. Blueberries are included in this Autumn Post (third photo below) solely at the insistence of the birds. They sent me a singing telegram.)

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Yellow berries are not favored by birds—-at least not when red fruit is plentiful. (It has been suggested that red (and blue) berries recommended for human consumption because of anthocyanins, potent antioxidants, also attract birds for health-promoting reasons.) Their disfavor is a big plus for us: we get to enjoy the extended showy display of yellow-berried fruit produced by the Asian shrub Linden Viburnum, Viburnum x dilatatum ‘Michael Dodge’.

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

I’m always entranced by the striking Autumn beauty of Hydrangea x ‘Sweet Chris’. This plant never disappoints. (Photos below. See also Posts: August 3, 2014 and July 8, 2012 for photos of Sweet Chris’s gorgeous summer flowers and for plant information. Click on at ARCHIVES.)

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, for months now, massive quantities of acorns have been falling from the oaks — often onto our heads — blanketing plant beds, decks, etc.

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

For the last two years, substantial mast output was followed by brutal winters. Many believe there is a connection between the two. If so, it doesn’t bode well. All the more reason to appreciate the remaining days and joys of Autumn.

2015: Late Summer Delights

Fall is fast approaching. BEGONE hot, muggy, droughty, weather!!! All too often I’ve had to drag the hose about in a 90+ degree heat wave. Not a great summer, this.

Yet, I would be remiss if I failed to mention a few late summer joys:

Baptisia australis is a multi-stemmed, shrub-like, native perennial with many virtues. In late Spring, the plant flaunts spires of showy, true-blue flowers, which are transformed in August into large, dramatic, purple-blue seed pods. (Pod photo below.)

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

Pluck a stem, shake a pod, and you have a child’s rattle. Or, better still, if you are a fan of Latin-American music, a maraca. Traditional maracas are dried gourd shells filled with seeds or beans and then mounted on wooden handles. Baptisia maracas are good to go as is. Great fun!

Baptisias are easy-care and attract butterflies. Unfortunately, they also attract root-nibbling voles. (Check out my time-tested method of vole prevention: April 2, 2012 Post, “Hot Tips: Vole Damage Protection.”) Hybridizers have had a go at Baptisia and scores of cultivars are now available with flowers in various shades of blue, purple and yellow.

 

Rhododendron prunifolium is a problem-free, deciduous, native azalea that attracts bees and butterflies. In my shady organic garden, a small plant has grown into a 12 foot tall, 4 foot wide, sensation, reliably cloaked every August with masses of vibrant orange-red flowers. This year I’ve paired it with a container of the equally sensational, hummingbird favorite, Canna Lily Tropicana (a/k/a Canna ‘Phasion’). A fabulous combo. (Photos below.)

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

A strange, beautiful bug visited the garden this summer. I called the Cornell Cooperative Extension and they provided an I.D: Sphinx moth. (Photo below.)

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

Apparently, these interesting, heavy-bodied moths aren’t uncommon here, but I never saw one before. It’s most welcome! If you have a question about a bug or a plant, Cornell is an outstanding resource. Call their free Helpline: (631) 727-4126, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon.

 

And finally, everyone loves our newest summer attraction: Swanee.

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

Fall 2014 Thanksgiving: Outrageous Orange

The academics are at it again.

Earlier this month, while you stood in line waiting to vote, did you notice people sniffing each other? You know, like dogs. A recent study out of Harvard, Brown, and Penn State Universities concluded that we are attracted to the body odor of people with similar political views. (I kid you not. See: The New York Times, Oct. 5, 2014, Sunday Review, p.5.) As explained by one of the researchers: “I believe smell conveys important information about long-term affinity in political ideology that becomes incorporated into a key component of subconscious attraction.”  Oh.

Huh??????

From street smells (See prior Post of September 18, “Fall 2014: The Fragrant Garden” ) to people smells. What will these surprising folks think of next?

Delighted to report that my attention is focused elsewhere, on sight, not smell. We are but a whisper away from Thanksgiving, and Mother Nature has finally given us much to be thankful for: My garden is awash in the dazzling colors of Autumn. This year, orange predominates in spectacular shades of apricot, peach and burnt orange.

First, to set the stage, an abundant pumpkin display at a local farm stand:

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And now a few stars of my autumn garden:

Oaks:

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Dogwoods:

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Parrotia:

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Euonymus Berries:

 

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Japanese Maple:

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And, finally, my husband’s favorite rose, the luscious Rosa ‘Just Joey’:

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Note: Under CATEGORIES click onto Great Recipes for Thanksgiving treats.

 

 

 

Fall 2014: Betula lenta & Peattie’s Native Trees

It began life on the shady east side of the house, this gift from Mother Nature, improbably nosing its way up through a path of dirt and gravel to reach the light.  Even as a seedling, I knew it was special.

Growing straight and tall with no help from me (save supportive adoring looks and whispered sweet nothings), the object of my affection developed into an elegant tree, unlike any I had.

Yet, that’s not entirely true. The lovely tiered branching was similar to a nearby dogwood and the foliage was almost identical to a white-barked weeping birch which succumbed to disease years before.

A romantic dalliance between a dogwood and a birch?  No. I don’t think so.  Besides, no way their progeny could possess the tree’s resplendent mahogany-red, Black Cherry Tree like bark.

Actually, the richly painted bark was a dead giveaway, but I didn’t get it until a tree guru came to visit.  He took one look, broke off a twig, handed it to me and said: “Smell this.”  Ah hah!  Unmistakable.  The delicious, heady aroma of wintergreen.  I should have known.

My treasure, Betula lenta, commonly called Sweet Birch or Cherry Birch in apt tribute to its unique aroma and bark, is native to the U.S.A. For years, the tree was the primary source of the extract, oil of wintergreen, used to flavor medicine and candy.  Author Donald Culross Peattie informs us that the sap was also the essential ingredient of Birch Beer; and in his noted work, A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America (Houghton Mifflin Co. 1950), he shares an old-time recipe:

Tap the tree as the Sugar Maple is tapped, in spring when the sap is rising and the buds are just swelling; jug the sap and throw in a handful of shelled corn, and natural fermentation — so the mountaineers tell us — will finish the job for you.”

(Hopefully, this brew didn’t finish off the mountaineers as well!)

In the foreword of his book, Peattie voices an intention to aid in the identification of trees, and the book includes valuable, detailed descriptions. But he also prized what makes a tree most interesting and important to man. “Almost every tree in our sylva,” he observed, “has made history, or witnessed it, or entered into our folkways, or usefully become a part of our daily life. To tell a little of these things is the main purpose of this book.” And these fascinating, informed discussions make the book a must-read.

Someone once said to Peattie: “I see you could not resist the temptation to be interesting.” Unfortunately, his book is out of print. Do search it out. It’s a treasure.

And so is my gift from Mother Nature, Betula lenta (Cherry Birch).   Photos below.

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2011 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

August 2014: Hydrangeas

An overheard conversation in Manhattan reported in The New York Times Metropolitan Diary on 3\3\1993:

Woman One:  “This morning I listened to NBC. They predicted a very cold day and possible heavy rain or snow flurries.”

Woman Two:  “I listen to CBS. They usually predict much better weather.”

After two horrific winters and a dire future weather outlook owing to global warming, “much better weather” has become a pipe dream. The times they are a-changin,‘ and for successful gardening we need to take note of the plants that survived and flourished in spite of it all — as well as the ones that didn’t.

Hydrangeas, the superstars of summer, present a mixed bag. In general, the Hydrangea macrophylla Mopheads took a mighty beating, suffering considerable winter die back, while the H. macrophylla Lacecaps sailed through winter with little or no damage.  (As a rule, both types bloom on old growth; thus, substantial winter die back means few flowers — if any. The Endless Summer group of Mopheads are supposed to bloom on old and new growth but I’m told they have performed poorly and have not lived up to expectations. I’m not a fan and I don’t grow them.)

My blue macrophylla Lacecaps never looked better. And the bees adore them. Definitely keepers. (Photos below)

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Ditto for the dazzling Lacecap hybrid, H. x ‘Sweet Chris’, a cross between H. macrophylla and H. serrata. This bi-color beauty is a heart-stopper, as well as a top performer under adverse weather conditions. The bees are quite smitten as well. (Photos below) See also July 8, 2012 Post: “Summer 2012: Heavenly Hydrangeas”.

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, our magnificent native Oakleaf Hydrangea, H. quercifolia, didn’t suffer any winter damage. All my shrubs bloomed well and when the fertile flowers opened they released— as usual— a lovely sweet perfume.  (The photos below include shots of the oak-leaf-like foliage as well as the flowers.)

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Note: I’m happy to report that my fears for the gorgeous purple-leafed mimosa , Albizia julibrissin ‘Summer Chocolate’, were unfounded. The tree met Mother Nature’s challenge and proved that it is a robust survivor. Who knew?  (Photos below include its companion plant, a sweet confection of a Daylily, Hemerocallis ‘Milk Chocolate’.)

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

Franklinia alatamaha: An American Story

Now you see it, now you don’t!

The New York Times reports that United States Supreme Court opinions have cited to materials on the internet that “are very often ephemeral.” In short, you click on and get a whole lot of nothing, and as a result: “The modern Supreme Court opinion is increasingly built on sand.” (The New York Times, 9/24/2013, p. A13.)

Moreover, this disappearing-text-dilemma is not limited to Court decisions; the problem of lost data is universal, affecting all web-users—including bloggers.

My garden club recently visited Longwood Gardens in PA., the former estate of Pierre S. du Pont. There was much to see and admire, including a very fine example of our beautiful native tree, Franklinia alatamaha. Seeing it reminded me of my blog about Franklinia’s fascinating history, so with some trepidation–triggered by the New York Times piece—I re-visited the 2012 post. Worse than I feared: The title, some of the text, and the photos were gone. Simply vanished. A pox on those responsible!!!!!!!

Here is a restored and hopefully permanent post:

I like plants with a back story, a history, and there’s none better than Franklinia alatamaha.

 

copyright 2012  -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 — Lois Sheinfeld

It all began with John Bartram (1699-1777), a botanist and nurseryman from Pennsylvania, who traveled extensively in colonial America collecting native plants for customers in the colonies as well as in Europe, including the English aristocracy. As reported by Andrea Wulf in her fascinating, informative book, The Brother Gardeners, in England, “a landscape garden filled with Bartram’s trees and shrubs had become the way to show one’s wealth and taste.” The Duke of Richmond, for example, planted 400 different American species at his estate.

This “taste” for American plants led to a rash of plant thefts, which in turn, Wulf tells us, led to a Parliamentary Act providing that plant thieves could be sent to an American penal colony. [An American penal colony? Did Wulf confuse us with Australia? I decided to do a little research of my own and discovered that from 1620-1776 about 50,000 British criminals were transported to the colonies in North America to serve out their sentences, primarily as indentured servants. It was not until a decade later that convicts were sent to Australia.]

But I digress. Back to John Bartram and Franklinia alatamaha.

On a plant-hunting trip in 1765, Bartram and his son William discovered Franklinia along the Altamaha river in Georgia. The plants were not in flower, so they could not collect seed. William finally accomplished this task on a solo return trip in 1776, and at the Bartram farm in PA successfully grew plants from the seed.

After 1803 Franklinia was never again seen in the wild; it is believed that every tree now in existence may be traced back to the seeds collected by William Bartram in 1776. Living history in our own backyards!

John Bartram died in 1777 without ever seeing the exquisite flowers of his discovery. (William’s seedlings didn’t flower until 1781.) The tree was named Franklinia in honor of John Bartram’s great friend, Benjamin Franklin, with whom he and other scholars founded the American Philosophical Society. (This prestigious Society was dedicated to furthering knowledge of the natural sciences. In 1803, in preparation for The Lewis and Clark Expedition of exploration, President Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis to the Society to receive instruction from the nation’s leading scientists.)

In rich, acid, well-drained soil with adequate moisture, Franklinia will produce radiant, fragrant, snowy-white flowers in late summer-early fall. (Photo above) In my garden, when the flowers fade, the foliage takes on shades of vibrant red and orange. What a treasure!

Note: Franklinia is quite cold hardy (z5) and seems to do better in the Northeast than in the South–its place of origin–where it is said to be short-lived.

Fabulous Bloomers: Halesia carolina ‘Wedding Bells’ & Nemesia fruticans ‘Opal Innocence’

Luther Burbank, the prominent American horticulturist, once said, “Flowers always make people better, happier…they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” So true. Here are two fabulous flowering plants to savor in your own backyard:

Halesia carolina ‘Wedding Bells’ (Carolina Silverbell z.4-8)

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

Halesia carolina is an enchanting, native understory tree, requiring rich, well-drained, moist, acid soil. For over fifteen years, in my shady garden, it has been a reliable and profuse May bloomer with no pest or disease problems. The cultivar ‘Wedding Bells’ flaunts larger snowy-white bellflowers than the species and to my mind is a showier performer. In the Fall, the tree produces interesting 4-winged seed cases which carry on the show until frost. I also grow a pink-flowering Halesia but while the flowers are lovely, the tree lacks vigor.

 

Nemesia fruticans ‘Opal Innocence’ (z.9-10)

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

As soon as I saw this annual dazzler, I was a goner. Moreover, in addition to its incredible color and irresistible charm, Opal is fragrant and in constant bloom from Spring to Fall. Grow in sun or part shade in the ground or in containers. That is if you can find it— I think I bought them all. ( Mine came from Halsey Farm & Nursery in Watermill, N.Y.)

 

Addendum to Post,”Beauty and the Bees: Going, Going, Gone?”

If you invite your bees over for brunch, be sure (bee sure?) to serve coffee. According to a recent scientific study, reported in the British publication, The Garden ( May 2013), bees feeding on nectar containing caffeine—present in the coffee plant’s flowers—have dramatically improved memories: They are three times more likely to remember a flower’s scent, and thus remember a good nectar source. ( A great tip—for the bees. Would that coffee had a memory improving effect on me. I certainly drink enough of it.)

 

Early Spring: Snowy White Dazzle For Shade

PIERIS x ‘Spring Snow’ (z. 5-8)

I love all things Pieris! With handsome evergreen foliage, vibrant, colorful new growth, and fragrant early Spring bell flowers that attract both fat bumble bees and stunning white-edged, dark-chocolate-brown Mourning Cloak butterflies, no wonder it’s one of my all time favorite garden plants. Oh, and did I fail to mention that it’s deer resistant? (Actually, over 25 years, I’ve planted a good number of Pieris and they have all been deer-proof.) Moreover, all my Pieris are grown in shade and have been disease free. (Be aware that Pieris grown in sun is vulnerable to lace-bug attack which can cause serious damage.)

Pieris x ‘Spring Snow’ is a cross between our native Pieris floribunda and Pieris japonica and inherited outstanding attributes from both parents: rich dark green foliage from japonica and masses of upright, luminous, snowy-white flowers from floribunda. But this hybrid-child also surpasses its parents with a profusion of bloom that cloaks the shrub with dazzling, dense, very fragrant white flowers in early Spring.

And Spring Snow is a slow, compact grower, never exceeding three feet in height, making it an ideal plant for a small or large garden. Moreover, it’s a can-do, easy-care plant. Good winter, bad winter—it doesn’t matter. P. x ‘Spring Snow’ will bloom reliably for you every year and its foliage will be bright, healthy green. Just provide well-drained acid soil and shade. And enjoy.

copyright  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright  2013  –   Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013  –  Lois Sheinfeld

 

A few other Pieris favorites are: P. japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ which flaunts fire-engine-red new growth that turns bronze and then dark green; P. x ‘Brouwer’s Beauty’, another floribunda-japonica hybrid with light green new growth, an exquisite contrast with its mature dark green foliage; and P.’Flaming Silver’ which astonishes with scarlet-red new growth that turns pink, then yellow, and finally variegated green and white. All fabulous woody ornamental shrubs.

Finally, please indulge me. Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’ demands a mention—and a photo shoot. So, if you want a beautiful, vigorous, hardy tree, that blooms with an abundance of pristine white flowers that perfume the air with sweet fragrance, at roughly the same time as P. ‘Spring Snow,’ you can’t do better than my “very pushy”, albeit beloved, Merrill. (See also my previous post on M. x loebneri ‘Merrill’, entitled  Identity Theft, November 26, 2012.)

 

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld
copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

 

copyright  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013  –  Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013  –  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.